Month: February 2014

Birmingham City University graduation ceremony 2014

Yesterday I attended the Birmingham City University business graduation ceremony at the Symphony Hall. I was there as a guest with my boyfriend’s family as his stepdad, John Woodward, was receiving the honorary doctorate in business.

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Donning the Mayor’s chain!

I had chance to meet and speak to Mike Leddy – the Mayor of Birmingham – and many of the Executive Deans at the university which was a great networking opportunity that I didn’t know I would be part of before I had arrived. The Mayor even let me wear his chain!

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John Woodward, CEO of Busy Bees Nurseries

The event was so heart warming and it gave me an insight into what I will be going through in 2015 when I graduate. I cannot begin to imagine how fast my graduation ceremony will come around and I’m not sure I want to wish away my time left at university, but I am very much looking forward to wearing the navy and cream gown and getting my degree certificate on that stage.

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Vintage clothing kilo sale returns on 15th February in Digbeth

Judys Affordable Vintage Fair

Get saving the pennies people. After its success in October last year, the Custard Factory is hosting another Vintage Kilo Sale run by Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair on February 15th. Over 5 tonnes of vintage mass will be piled into the Custard Factory in Digbeth, Birmingham, to create a hip happening hub of hidden gems for you to dive into.

More clothes than you can manage

How does it work I hear you say? Firstly, the collections are placed around a big open space and you browse and dig around, picking up the items you would like as you go. Then when you are finished you can head over to the weighing machines and are charged £15 per kilogram. Item weight varies but this works out on average 4 to 5 items per kilo. BARGAIN. They also have some great deals for the super shopper, if you purchase over 10 kilos the price drops to £10 per kilo.

Something for everyone

There is something for everybody at these events and they cater for all visitors throughout the day by replenishing the clothes and sizes in stages. So don’t worry, all the good ones wont be snapped up by the crazed and super savvy hunters before your alarms even gone off. They also have a heap of accessories for you to purchase per item, you never know what you may find!

For more information, visit the Facebook event page and click the ‘going’ button. This one is not to be missed.

What do audiences do with media?

New media and photography theory – Week 7 2013

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In this week’s lecture we discussed what the audience do with media, rather than the audience being a concept like last week. We discussed the way that audience can manipulate the forms media for their own satisfaction and purpose. We also used the active vs passive theory by Stuart Hall to help us understand the developments in audience theory.

Key theorists in this week’s lecture were Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams and Katz and Blumler. They all have made vital arguments in theorising the different ways in which an audience can consume the media. Moving on from popular and mass culture media effects, we considered the idea that audience consume media to their own uses and gratifications (Katz and Blumler in Long, P 2012:304). Webster also moves away from the effects models and begins to think about the other forms of consumerism “the “marketplace model”, casts people in the role of consumers who enter the marketplace and selects the products that suit their tastes” (Webster, J 1994:27). An example of the audience pursuing their uses and gratifications in photography would be using images that represent their personal identity, such as a smiley face or a football. This moves furthermore onto the idea that groups of people with collective uses and gratifications become a sub-culture or a fandom. (Long and Wall. 2012:314)

Uses and gratifications explores the idea that we as audiences can positively influence our personal media experiences (Lull in Long, P 2012:305) To do this, we have to become active audiences. Rather than the media coming to the audience, Webster explores the marketplace model as the audience coming to the media, knowledgeable of their preferences and therefore chooses specific products (Webster, J 1994:27). In this context, an audience member would seek out a fashion photographer’s work as they prefer that genre. They would not look for landscape photography if that was the case.

The marketplace model and Stuart Hall’s active audience theory share the same key concepts. They evoke the thought that audiences have increasingly more power over the producers. Webster implies that future developments will occur “it is for such an environment that the laws of supply and demand seem best suited” (Webster, J 1994:34)

To further research into the subject of what the audience do with the media I would conduct an ethnographic study of a fandom. I would emerge myself into the culture of becoming a fan and report on my findings. I would conduct interviews with fans, talk about their relationship with the media producers for their product, observe events and habits of a fan with the aim to interpreting the meaning of fandom.

References:

Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Webster, J. and Phalen, P.. (1994). Victim, consumer or commodity?. In: Ettema, J. and Whitney, C. Audiencemaking. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p19-37.

Conceptualising the Audience

New media and photography theory – Week 6 2013

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Week six consisted of critiquing the common-sense approach to the audience. The audience is defined by Long and Wall as “an anonymous and variable collective of individuals addressed (as a group of individuals) by the organs of ‘mass’ media communication” (Long and Wall 2012:488). This week moved beyond the original ideas of audience and into the ideas of the audience being a product of the media (Long and Wall 2012:275).

A realisation that became apparent during the lecture was that without the audience, there would be no media and without the media there would be no profit. The more there is of media, in a variety of outlets and forms, the more competition. This adds pressure to the producers to attract more audiences using a variety of methods to continue to make the profit that they need.

Long describes how we are not always aware of being part of an audience, no matter how many millions of consumers are also sharing the same experience at the same time. (Long and Wall, 2012:279) Whilst Mattelart describes it from the perspective of producers “each media institution has its own specific way of positioning the viewer, regulating certain aspects of the production of meaning and production of emotional responses, and so forth”.(Mattelart, A 1992:82) Audience unawareness and power or manipulation by the producer implies in this case the vulnerability and passivity of consumers. I wonder how many people notice the ‘how are you feeling today John?’ question that appears in the box before you write a status on Facebook. Again this first person text positions its audience into feeling unique and influences them in some cases to carry out the producer’s desired response of a status and therefore, more time spent on Facebook.

That however, is not comparable to the possible media effects and influence from propaganda. It is an active manipulation of ideas, information and aims to inject its desired effects into its audience by restricting and misinforming them of other options. (Long and Wall 2012:286) Mattelart discusses the role of active minorities in manipulation of inert societies and discusses The Frankfurt School in their belief in the omnipotence of the mass media (Mattelart, A 1992:73). Nazi Germany used it to achieve large influence in world war two. However, the same concepts –if not slightly subtler- are still being used today in the likes of President Obama’s political campaign.

My two readings have altered my view on possible media power. I want to research further into modern day examples of moral panics created by new media. Fast paced and immediacy of the new media industry can create news before it has even been officially reported by the press and therefore the effects on the audience can be elevated.

References:

Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Mattelart, A and Mattelart, M. (1992). New paradigms: The procedures of consumption. In: Translation by Cohen, J and Urquidi, M. Series editor: Bolton, R Rethinking media theory: Signposts and new directions. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. p72-86.

Representation, Discourse and Power

New media and photography theory- Week 5 2013

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This week’s lecture explored the subject of Discourse, a polysemantic term which has been defined in the core text book as “discourses are practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (Foucault in Long, P 2012:489). We discussed that discourse is closely linked to representation and aims to analyse texts within their surrounding factors, social and cultural.

In the lecture, we studied how discourse analysis has developed through various channels, leading to it becoming a term with many meanings and definitions. It is a method of helping us as media scholars to analyse the reasons for the production of a certain text.

A key theorist who is mentioned in both of my readings for this week is Foucault. His view is that we can only understand the meaning of something if we have knowledge of it (Hall, S in Wetherell 2001:73) Smith and Bell explore a similar angle of a products meaning by suggesting that a media product can only be analysed successfully if its social context is taken into account. In photography, a still image capturing only part of a scene or event can be analysed using discourse to fully understand its meaning.

Smith and Bell believe that what we read, see and hear should not be taken for granted (Smith and Bell 2007:81). Both of the readings link discourse directly to power and that discourses can be a misleading representation. When presented with an image, we are immediately confronted with our own responses. This leads me on to Stuart Hall’s encoding and decoding model (Hall in Smith and Bell 2007:82) To understand the image properly, we have to consider the social context of the shot, production and processing of the image, the text itself and then how we might interpret it ourselves in our context. Discourse are then, as Hall defines “a subject-position, from which they all make sense”(Hall S in Wetherell 2001:80)

These readings have made me think about the ways in which I consume and respond to images without any knowledge or context to apply to them. For a suggested research method, I would do a discourse analysis of a poster image by Nazi propaganda. Things to consider would be the power relationships between me – the audience-, the context of the era of the image, my own personal feelings and my context as an adult from the 21st century. This will help to prove a greater understanding of the photograph.

References:

Smith,P & Bell,A. (2007). Unravelling the web of discourse analysis. In: Eoin Devereux Media Studies, Key Issues and Debates. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p79-100.

Hall, S. (2001). Foucault: Power, Knowledge and Discourse. In: Wetherell, M Discourse, Theory and Practice. A reader. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. p72-82.

Genre: Textual Meaning, Producers and Audiences

New media and photography theory – week 4 2013

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This weeks lecture aimed to develop our thinking into understanding the use of genre by organisations. Genre is defined by Paul Long as “recognisable groupings, subsets or types of media forms comprising the the paradigmatic elements (stories, rhetoric, signification) that are drawn upon in the creation of individual syntagmatic texts” (Long and Wall 2012:489) The reasons we discussed as to why producers are conforming to genres were for profit maximisation, its economic incentive and to inform or entertain its audience.

Genre theory explored the various codes and conventions used by producers of the media to fall into the various categories and the reasons why they do so. In photography, there is genre examples such as fashion, portrait, vintage, black and white, landscape, documentary and beauty (to name a few). Via creating their work to the codes and conventions of these genres, the artefacts made by producers can be recognised, known and looked for by consumers.

Long and Wall believe that the three key concepts when analysing genre are codes, conventions and context. They all play a part in the overall outcome of a specific genre, or could contribute to the creation of a new genre.

My found reading for this week provided me with a case study for the image of the ‘Migrant Mother’. This particularly interested me because I knew of the picture and its iconic history but never knew why it was famous or of its origins and purpose.

The photograph was taken by Dorothea Lange whilst working on a project for the government-run company called The Farm Security Administration (FSA) (Wells, L 2004: 39). Through the codes and conventions and clear context, we can see that the genre of the image is that of documentary photography. This has been defined by Profoto as “taking of photographs to provide a record of social and political situations with the aim of conveying information.” (Photography glossary n.d.)

The case study links to the points made by Long to analyse how genre and narrative combine to make meaning. (Long and Wall 2012: 95) “while photographs capture a movement in ‘media res’ they invite interpretations in terms of the narrative they present- however posed the situation”(Long and Wall :94) The case study considers the situation in which the image was taken of the ‘Migrant Mother’ and the photographers approach.

To research further into genres, production and audiences I would conduct a rhetorical analysis of some images that fit into the genre of fashion photography. Discussing the different codes and conventions that are used and how they define the image, hoping to find trends in both in my report.

References:

Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Price, D. and Wells, L.. (2004). Thinking about photography: debates, historically and now.. In: Wells, L Photography: A critical introduction. 3rd ed. New York : Routledge. p37-48.

Photography Glossary n.d. Available: Last accessed 16th March 2013.

Media production in a global age: regulation and production practices

New media and photography theory – week 3 2013

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Globalization was the topic of this weeks lecture and is defined by Anthony Giddens as “the intensification of world-wide social relations, which link distinct localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice-versa” (Giddens, 1990 in Long and Wall 2004:245)

The first point which was outlined was that there is high media usage in the western countries and much less in other countries such as Africa and the Middle East. Factors which could be contributing to this are gender, income, race and location. (Couldry in Long and Wall 2004:190)

In my further reading the same view is explored “we were committed from the start to an exploration of ‘the complex and dominative relationships of Western media systems to those of developing countries. That problem – ‘the West and the Rest’ – remains with us to this day”  (Editorial, 1979: 2 in Punathambekar, A 2013:5 ) supporting the conclusion that there is a digital divide in the media behavior in the west, and then the rest.

The link between political economy and globalisation is argued by Punathambekar “Globalization has been articulated in the trajectory traced by Sparks within a political economy frame” (Punathambekar, A 2013:5) “Since the start of this century the focus has again shifted – this time to the internet and its potentialities as a public sphere in light of globalization and accelerating mass access to the internet, cell-phone and social media all over the world” (Punathambekar, A 2013:6).

The media forms, listed here are what make globalisation of new media products/ideas so simple. For example, a member of the public will witness a disaster and is able to take a picture on their phone, uses Twitter and Facebook to document and comment about the issues which are then available on cyber space for the world to view.

The further developments and adaptations of media organisations and their products can help them to become globalised.  Actions like becoming active on social media, providing their audience with applications for their phones, having YouTube channel and many more lead them on the path to reaching people around the world.

For further investigation on this topic I would use the methodology of an organisation study to determine the growth and development of a media company to a global level. To do this, I would have to visit their website and any texts that they have produced. To go into strong academic depth, I would contact the company for any contributing factors and analyse the adaptation in their products over a period of time.

References:

Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Punathambekar, A. (2013). Back to the future: media and communication studies in the 21st century. Media Culture and Society . 35 (1), p3-8.

Russell Brands ‘My Booky Wook’

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Today I will be flying From the UK and going on an adventure to Singapore for two weeks. My chosen little bit of literature for the journey is by the weird and wonderful Russell Brand.

Watching him on tv shows like Alan Carr or Graham Norton I have some crazy obsession with the way he thinks and talks. His personality draws me in and I find myself believing I can change the world in the blink of an eye. So I thought what better time to pick up his ramblings, as mother Drake just so happened to purchase me the book last Christmas, legend!

I don’t get much time to read, which I completely begrudge, if I’m honest. However it makes me really appreciate the rare journeys that I can sit and get lost in a book.

Especially when the first paragraph and every other word that I have read so far has made me smile or tickled my tummy.

So here goes…. My journey with my Booky wook.

“you might have a glass of wine, or a joint, or a big delicious blob of heroin to silence your silly brain box of its witterings, but there has to be some form of punctuation, or life seems utterly relentless ” Russell Brand

Industry & Institution: Political Economy

New media and photography theory 2013

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Week one concentrated on the concept of political economy, which has been described as “The study of social relations and power relations that mutually constitute the production, distribution and consumption of resources” (Long and Wall 2012:490). This approach is one way of justifying and explaining the formalities carried out within the media and the influences that they have over media products. Political economy has been challenged by other concepts such as cultural studies.

Larger companies are said to create products suitable for a mass audience to achieve profit maximisation (Long and Wall 2012:176). As a result, they become potential power figures and could hold large influence over the factors of production, distribution and consumption. Long and Wall cover this, explaining how the smaller firms are regularly disadvantaged by the domination of larger companies (Long and Wall 2012:179). Natalie Fenton supports this by saying that power figures within the media have the ability to sustain or extend that power successfully, and by any means, through their high position and wealth (Fenton, N:13). Once they have positioned themselves close the market’s geographic core they can then be readily available to a larger audience. (Hotelling in Long and Wall 2012:176)

It can be said that Google is a prime example of this as it has monopoly over the search engine industry and other industries. It has few competitors in Yahoo and Bing and controls a large percentage of its media sector. Size is said to give advantage, through domination (Long and Wall 2012:179), and conglomerates such as Google will most likely out-compete other smaller firms. Janet Lowe agrees “Google appears to be an unstoppable online giant, capable of growing as fast as the internet grows. On a corporate level, Google challenges everyone remotely near it.”(Lowe, J 2009:262)

To research political economy in more detail, I would conduct an organisational study on Google. My primary focus would be the head office team, mapping out their roles and delegation of company plans. I would aim to analyse how they are tackling competitors and keeping their company strategy at its peak and make a report on my findings.

References:

Long, P and Wall, T (2012) Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context (2nd Edition), London:Pearson.

Bridging the Mythical Divide: Political Economy and Cultural Studies Approaches to the Analysis of the Media. Fenton.N

Lowe, J (2009). Google Speaks: Secrets of the world’s greatest billionaire entrepreneurs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. New Jersery: John Wiley & Sons Inc. p262.

Bloc Beatz meets Disorder Boutique

August 13

The Bloc Beatz team took a trip down to Disorder Birmingham on Needless ally in the city centre to chat to Mark Howard, the founder of the Boutique. If you ever got bored of the norm, wanted to stand out more or liked being a trend setter? Disorder is for you. A beautiful store with a niche range of apparel.

 

One of the artistic T's in the boutique

One of the artistic T’s in the boutique

Mark designs and produces the products sold in store and said that travelling has had a huge influence on his pieces.

“I go to Burma a lot, because of its old connections with Britain, it has an eastern twist on modern British architecture. I just sit and draw. All of my clothing has a story to it, it’s rooted.”

If you have never stepped into the store, it is like stepping into another realm, full of vibrant colours and exclusive patterns that scream out from all over the world.

Quirky face - showing off the accessories in the store

Quirky face – showing off the accessories in the store

Disorder Boutique – where fashion meets fine art

As well as selling clothes and accessories, Disorder Boutique has a collection of Mark’s own artwork taken from his passion for art galleries. Mark’s paintings adorn the walls and add a true character to the shop, acting as a reflection of his own perspective.

“for me, painting should be about turning everyday things upside-down and re-looking at something. I wanted to set up an art gallery but then realised it was easier to sell clothes, they are a more accessible form of art. My shop is like my own little gallery.”

Disorder – breaking trend

Believing that society has become more about conforming, Disorder aims to provide a space in our second city for the creation of something unique.

The boutique, originally located in China town, is now situated down a quirky alley close to the high street. Now, we don’t think there is much competition from the high street brands, but Mark knows that there are pressures

“We are a niche store and as we are competing with the big brands, we have to provide an edge. These days people are totally seduced by big brands and they judge themselves accordingly. You can’t have a dynamic economy without new people coming through, there needs to be a place for that. I think our underground positioning makes us a little bit more interesting and gives us an edge”.

Disorder is a flagship for the underground scene of Birmingham, the products have attracted people all over the globe and national awards have given it recognition for its prowess.

“We want to surprise people and break down barriers”.

Surprisingly, the Disorder owner is not into fashion. “It is so difficult to be creative and so few designers make it nationally.”

Denim, Denim, Denim

Denim, Denim, Denim

The beatz behind the brand

“I love music, a whole mix, I love going to a place where you can dance. I try not to pigeonhole my taste, but I love psychededia, the music is quite random and experimental, I like it when you can tell that somebody has put time into making a track.”

Mark joked,

“We often have mix tapes dropped in by various DJs, I don’t always know the genre, but I know that I like it”

But, when it comes to designing, who doesn’t love a little bit of Jimmy Hendrix eh?

“sometimes you put music on, it fades out and you will get into the zone. His music is free and imaginative, I like that”.

Which person would you love to represent the Disorder brand?

Now, aside from the fact that the legend is deceased, Hendrix was Marks immediate response, alongside David Bowie who he defined as “incredibly clever with the things he did and how he did them.”

Describe your brand in three words

“Oh”
“My”
“God”

and at Bloc Beatz, we totally agree.

Photography by Sophie Drake Imagery