Saturday, September 14, 2013

Shaving, Part 9

This post is delivered with sad news. This morning I had a tragic Alum Bar accident. The damage sustained to the alum bar was massive, and I am deeply saddened.

I suppose all is not lost. A simple $8 transaction would fix all; as they say, anything can be fixed if you have enough money.

Many have wondered to what I was referring when I mentioned the gift from my parents in the mail. I knew that my father had (currently has) a stash of old aftershaves and colognes in his dresser drawer (what we at home referred to as a "bureau" drawer). So, I asked my mother ever so kindly if father had any glass bottles of Old Spice, thinking that I would find a late-1970s bottle of Shulton Old Spice as a kind of treasure. Her reply was a hearty yes with the addition that father had two bottles. I immediately requested they be sent to me by post.

After my father paid the near-$20 shipping fee, I received the bottles in the mail. One was aftershave, and the other, a smaller bottle of Old Spice cologne. When I looked to the back of the bottles for dates and so forth, I noted that they were copyright 1997, well after the purchase of the brand from Shulton. A simple olfactory test suggested that this Old Spice, though probably 15 years old or so, was the same sort of stuff that I could buy--and did buy--in the present.

Nevertheless, I treasure the glass bottles. My sadness at the alum bar incident has nudged me toward purchasing some Indian Old Spice (that is, Old Spice made in India) as it is based on the older Shulton formula, apparently nicer in its smell than the modern North American version. Now on to ebay to see if I can find some...

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Writing for the Media

For those of you who have followed my blog at all in the past might remember that I encourage my students in Writing for the Media to create blogs themselves. I often link to those blogs from this very blog. In our class this morning, we spoke about what 100 words looks like on a blog entry, and so here are 100 words or so. It really isn't a lot of writing and, in fact, there isn't really a lot that can be said in 100 words, but it is a start. And that's one of the aims of the course: to begin the process of writing and doing so regularly, and with a framework in mind. And, in case you were counting, the word count is 129 words.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shaving, Part 8

The shaving "adventures" continue. I decided to order a cheap mass-produced razor, a sort of replica of a Gillette Tech razor, called a RiMei. I paid a whopping $4 (shipped), but was not completely impresses by its performance, but thoroughly impressed by the case and mirror! Then, on a trip downtown, and a visit to an antique store, I picked up a Gillette Tech from around 1938 to 1945 (made in Canada, too). I also found a Gillette Rocket Aristocrat Jr., probably from 1949. Both were quite inexpensive, and proved to be comfortable razors.

As an aside, I performed 2 passes with the Aristocrat Jr. this morning, and I suppose I was too flippant in my technique, resulting in some razor burn. Of course, this was nothing that some Old Spice couldn't remedy.

I also took a trip with some friends to one of their family cottages. In the garage, I spied a strop, a leather accoutrement for the sharpening of straight razors. As my colleague was also trying to rid his life of leather objects, he happily passed it on to me. I suspect that this is not a sign of straight razor shaving to come.

Now I am waiting for a special package from my parents with more surprises!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Shaving, Part 7

I realized quite early on that, while I had a brush, a scuttle, and a razor, many blades, a lot of cream, and even some aftershave, I was missing a very important item: a stand for my razor and brush. In doing some research online, I found that a brush stand could be gotten quite easily for an extremely reasonable amount of money, except that there is free shipping from many of these sites only when you spend a more significant amount. You might have figured out by now that I spent quite a bit of money thus far on this little hobby, and so I was reluctant (and even encouraged by those around me) to consider an alternative.

Hanging a shaving brush bristles-down is not a requirement for proper maintenance of said brush, but I thought I would figure something out to make that happen. After a cursory look on the Internet, many made stands from pieces of wood, finely sculpted and stained. Others used wire coat hangers bent into proper shapes. The latter seemed more my style, though I couldn't locate a wire coat hanger in our home (imagine!). But then I saw a bottle!

The bottle is a very nice blue colour, and I found some nice embroidery floss that matched the colour of the bottle (I didn't really try that hard, in case you're wondering how long I took on the project). After a few tries tying dental floss around the brush, embroidery floss seemed the better choice. And so my razor and brush stand was complete! And it cost me nothing (except for a few tasty beverages).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Shaving, Part 6

Now onto the enjoyment of wet shaving: there are certain ways of doing things that make shaving actually pleasurable. There is a strange satisfaction that comes from making proper lather, from the cooling sensation of menthol soaps like Proraso green, and from the sound that the razor makes as it cuts stubble from your face. It really is quite enjoyable. The razor burn, though, is not. I have been told over and over again that it should not occur, but the culprit is probably pressure. To use a DE razor, one must have an extremely light touch.

I read about a sort of concoction that further enhances the experience: one should take Williams shaving soap and, just before lathering, add a few drops of Aqua Velva. The resulting lather is called a "Blue Willie," apparently a wonderfully cool thing to do on a hot day, and because of some magical ingredient in the AV, a particularly rich lather. So, off to the local drugstore went I, looking for Aqua Velva. The only one that they had is stock was a Sport scent, but the price seemed right and so I bought it (I didn't smell it).

I should mention here, if my readers are sad and anxious, that the AV does not smell bad. It smells fine but not really nice. Of course, there is a reason why, as children and young people, we used to make fun of people wearing cheap aftershave. It is what it is. But it did make me want to buy more aftershave.

So off I went looking for Old Spice, my favourite "go-to" when I was young (a cheap aftershave wearer that got made fun of). They still make it (though those in the know say that you should look for the Shulton version made in India rather than the P&G version made in North America) and it's in a familiar (plastic) bottle. As an aside, my father is famous (among his wife and children, anyway) for having a stash of old aftershave in one of his dresser drawers. This week I asked my mother if he happened to have any old Old Spice in a glass bottle, and my mother checked and found that he had two. I asked that they be mailed to me immediately.

By the way, I tried the "Blue Willie" concoction. I enjoyed it. I should mention, though, that I apparently used the wrong version of Aqua Velva, perhaps the source of my olfactory dissatisfaction in the first place. I was to use the Ice Blue Classic variety rather than the green Sport variety. I think I will call my version the "Lesser Green William."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shaving, Part 5

After trying to shave with a DE razor, I realized that perhaps 3 passes was too many for my extra-sensitive face. Also, it seems that the evils of cartridge shaving taught me bad "technique": I pressed the razor into my face (don't worry, the injuries were not as graphic as one might think, considering I mentioned pressing). The fine folks at the website seemed to think that lather was a problem, and so off I went in search for soap. And I found lots!

At the mall, I went straight to the shaving aisle, to find some shaving soap. The first thing I picked up was a cheap soap "puck" called "Williams," an old brand that doesn't seem to have much prestige attached to it, though some swear by its ability to produce a lather. Next to it was a blue bowl of soap manufactured by Wilkinson Sword, and so I immediately picked up that as well. These were not particularly expensive products: the Williams soap cost less than $2 and the Wilkinson Sword bowl cost around $5.

I continued the search at a local drug store and found a seeming motherlode of shaving accoutrements, namely a pre-shave lotion (to be used before shaving, obviously) by an Italian company called Proraso (which I had heard all sort of good things about). Beside the pre-shave lotion was Proraso shaving soap and shaving creme. So, I decided to buy all of these products, of course never satisfied with just, say, a $2 puck of soap!

I was also told that perhaps my Feather blades were just too sharp, and so I was pointed to Astra Superior Platinum blades, which could be obtained for around $18 on Amazon. You might not be surprised by now to learn that I ordered 100 of those as well.

I was certainly not going to save money doing this, this was certain, but would it be enjoyable? The answer is forthcoming!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Shaving, Part 4

After the first shave with my new DE razor, following the instructions that I found in the excellent Youtube video, I found that I had cut myself quite formidably. Thankfully, I had also purchased an alum bar, a post-shave solution to razor burn and any nicks or cuts that might have been suffered as a result of lax lathering or sloppy shaving. I should remind you that I had followed the instructions in the video. I performed 3 passes with the razor, at 4, 4, and 2 (the settings on the Merkur Futur adjustable razor). I only realized later that 6 is the most aggressive setting; that is, more of the blade is exposed above the safety bar of the razor.

The alum bar is a bit of an aesthetic conundrum: it is obviously utilitarian, shipped to me in a simple cardboard paper box, not unlike a bar of soap. But it is a beautiful thing to look at, and a nice thing to touch too. Plus, when you wet it and apply it all over your face, it stops the bleeding.

It seemed, though, according to my friends at Badger and Blade, that I was unable to lather. It might not even have been technique, though there are very helpful tutorials available there. I needed to go shopping. Again.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Shaving, Part 3

You may recall that I ended the last post suggesting that my visit to Badger and Blade was a bad one. This is not necessarily the case. If one considers the bottom line according to my pocketbook, then one would have to agree that the visit was not necessarily a good one. But there are other factors to be considered.

After visiting Badger and Blade, and reading various posts, I decided that I would invest in a Safety Razor, one of those old fashioned razors that my father doesn't seem to remember using (nor do I remember ever seeing him use) which come with a removable and replaceable blade. I visited Fendrihan, a Canadian retailer, and found a "kit" that included a particularly expensive (at least to this new shaver) razor and a purported 4-year supply of (very sharp) blades.

I happily received my new Merkur Futur adjustable razor, and eagerly tried it out, following the prescribed advice on the following video:

Unfortunately, a minor bloodbath ensued...

Monday, August 05, 2013

Shaving, Part 2

You might recall that the last entry explored my dissatisfaction with contemporary shaving tools and their monetary costs. My concerns were not allayed by what my wife bought me for Father's Day in 2013, but her gifts made me think strongly about how to solve these problems. At the very least, it made me consider spending more money, which was not the intent.

In any case, about a week after Father's Day, I received a package in the mail which contained some shaving items. The items were a few "pucks" of shaving soap, a rather plain-looking boar bristle shaving brush and a really beautiful shaving bowl (otherwise known as a "scuttle"). The package was from an Eastern Canadian company called Anointment Natural Skin Care, and the scuttle was homemade from a Prince Edward Island potter called Right Off The Bat Pottery.

With my new items in tow, I went eagerly to the sink, in order to begin my new shaving routine, with a brush, and soap in my scuttle and so forth. My first difficulty came with lather, but I figured that I was doing something wrong. I then went to check on technique at Badger and Blade. This turned out to be a rather fortuitous move for me, though it did cost me a bit of money...

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Shaving, Part 1

I thought I would begin and document my transforming world of face shaving. While this might not seem to be the most exciting thing to write or read about, it is certainly an interesting subject and experience to work through. To force myself to write about something, I thought, why not shaving? So, here is the first entry of many that chronicles my foray into what is called (by those who know) "wet shaving."

For those of you who might wonder why it is called "wet shaving," when the other sort of shaving (the regular way) also uses water, I can't really answer that question. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that water is used to create the lather; regular, everyday, contemporary, mainstream shaving uses creams and foams that need only a splash of water to function. Soaps and creams used in so-called "wet shaving" require lots of water and lots of time.

So, at the start, I thought I would show you what my world (and those of my contemporaries) is (was?) like. I used a cartridge razor with three blades on a single "head," and my particular model had a small motor in it that allowed it to "buzz" while I shaved. The "buzz" was apparently to "wake up" the hair (vibrate it into standing on end) in order to achieve a closer shave.

I never complained about the quality of the shave; I was never really concerned with the close, "soft as a baby's bottom" shave, much to the chagrin of my wife. Rather, I was not particularly happy with the cost of cartridges. While I used the same cartridge for a month or so (I was never sure how long one could actually use a cartridge effectively), I was always saddened and dismayed when it came time for me to purchase new cartridges. The cost for four of said cartridges was around $16 to $20, and so I would skimp on the foam required, my go-to favourite, Foamy Lemon-Lime, which only cost a couple of dollars.

Because of my dissatisfaction with buying cartridges, I decided to subscribe to a monthly shave service, that sent blades to my address for a small cost: around $7 a month. I figured that I would have a small stockpile of blades in no time, and that I could cancel the service and live off of the spoils for years.

I decided early on that I wasn't happy with the quality of the blades, and cancelled the service, but continued to live off of those spoils.

Then I got a gift for Father's Day in 2013...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Some thoughts on U2's Linear

I stumbled across an email conversation I had with my colleague Michael Gilmour, also from Providence University College. In our conversation, from the Spring of 2009, we discussed U2's film Linear, which accompanied their album No Line on the Horizon.

We both seemed to notice the emphasis on travel and movement throughout the film, as well as a series of binaries. Dr. Gilmour put it as follows: "urban to rural; black and white to colour (and back); Europe to Africa. The motorcycle is classic symbol of liberation and interesting to watch the main character escape his job (police) and his city and the shallowness of his world (all the XXX salons in the opening song, etc.) and discover the open road (a very Kerouacian image). Maybe the police represent the establishment and conformity, which he escapes, burning the bike and eventually losing the uniform." I noted those binaries as well, especially the binary between urban and rural. The beginning and end of the film, in which the protagonist is in a "city" (it's unclear whether it's a city at the end, but it certainly isn't rural) are in black and white, while the section of the film in which he is traveling, stopping at rest stops to eat/look at women with facial hair is in colour. It is most interesting that, once he gets on a rowboat to row to Africa, the film doesn't once again change into colour. Of course, all of this assumes a certain "positivity" associated with colour as opposed to black and white. Such a connotation is not necessarily warranted; in any case, the use of colour in contrast to B&W is striking, especially when the B&W scenes take place in urban settings.

Gilmour noted that the film was disorienting: "When you finally see U2 performing, they are blurry on the TV with poor reception. Maybe this disorientation is positive, suggesting a break with established (European?) patterns of thought ... a little reminiscent of the psychedelic movement. The African cloud appears to be an epiphany of sorts." He also mentions that the film is certainly not a music video, and that the songs are out of order compared to the track listing of the album, with a new song thrown in as well. The disorienting idea is interesting; for me, U2 on the television set is interesting for me because the band is doubly mediated. Even if we saw a crystal clear image of them, they would still be "apart" from us, mediated twice by the context of the story (once through our own televisions and once through the one in the film). The fact that the image is also distorted adds even more distance. I would read this as ambivalent.

Gilmour wrote about the "epiphany" moment and the "African cloud." The three images in that sequence are: Africa in the clouds, the biker evoking Christ crucified, and the the number 1 in the clouds. This is one of the clearest sequences of symbols in the film, but what they might mean strung together like a sentence is difficult.

I would suggest that there are also deliberate links between musical moments and visuals as well. While I only watched the film once, I often find that the images from the film remain in my mind when I hear the songs. I did a very little bit of research on the film, at it seems that there is also the context of racism, immigration and unrest in Paris which informs the first part of the film. The graffiti that the biker sees on the wall at the end of the first song is derogatory towards police, and seems to set him off against his profession and to seek out north Africa, presumably where he himself originates.

In the end, neither of us concluded anything (I think Michael admitted that he enjoyed the film but didn't understand it at all), except that the film did give us a appreciate of the music of the album.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Paul Virilio

This quote reminds me of Walt Disney World:
Take the simulated reality. According to Jean Baudrillard, it stops there. But I have always argued that a simulated reality will change and end up substituting itself for itself to become a different reality. It will integrate its simulation.

From Paul Virilio, The Administration of Fear (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012), 58.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 11

PW, this is the final post for this course.

Does Jesus actually say anything like "there is no 'I' without desire, and no desire without the 'I'"? (248) It seems Hawk is referring to self-identity ("I"); I'm not sure of the link between her comment and Jesus, but surely it can be unpacked at length (by someone, but perhaps not us).

Does Echo transcend desires? (249) What about her relationship with Ballard? Can the "I" function at all without some sort of desire at work?

The last part of the paragraph at the top of p.250 is important. I like the sentiment, but I'm not sure I accept it.
No longer caught in the subject – object dyad, Ech enacted a truly queer relationship by allowing deeper penetration – unshackled to sexual reproduction or hegemonic heteronormativity – than is possible for any human subject. Her post humanity allowed for, and, indeed, necessitated, a rearticulation of the fulfillment of desire. She was able to transcend desires as well as the physical and mortal constraints of humanity by integrating the man she loved into her very self.
Apple is posthuman, not only post-PC. Are our very being mapped onto social networks? I suppose.

These last two articles have been refreshingly complex and clever.

New Media - Gaming

PW, you are more the expert at this than I am, I think.

The reading for this final week is available here.

The prevalent attitude regardint the "third place" of games is that “media are displacing crucial civic and social institutions.” That is, the Internet allows connection over time and space (good) but the Internet also enables “pseudo comunities” (bad). But not all Internet use is the same, something which the above claims suggest

The notion of “Third place”
Relationships are fostered at home, and at the workplace (2 places); relationships are also fostered at a new “third place” for informal sociability (pubs, coffee shops) - there has been a decline in participating in “Third place” sociability. MMOs or Massively Multiplayer Online Games are a place for increasing social capital, and a new “Third place.”

Such places are neutral ground: individuals are free to come and go with little obligation to interact with others. These places are levellers: an individual’s rank and status outside are not important. Conversation is main activity: playfulness and wit are collectively valued. There is the notion that these places are accessible and accommodating: they are easy to access and accommodating to those visiting (not sure this is exactly true). There are regulars (people who frequent the place, inviting newcomers and provide a mood), and the place has a low profile (that is, the place is not pretentious). The mood is playful: frivolity and wit abound. It is like a home away from home: home-like - rootedness, feelings of possession, spiritual regeneration, feelings of being at ease, and warmth.

So is an MMO a “third place”? Consider what the authors suggest: an MMO is a “third place” in all areas except accessibility (it costs to have access) and low profile (although it works in terms of conversation, but not in terms of “physical” settings). Are virtual communities really communities, or is physical proximity necessary? (This seems like an age-old question.)

Social Capital (again): this is like financial capital, but for social and personal gains rather than financial. Bridging social capital is inclusive; individuals from different backgrounds make connections between social networks (large, weak networks). Bonding social capital is exclusive; strongly tied individuals provide support to one another (small, strong networks). Bonding social capital was much rarer than bridging social capital.

“MMOs are new (albeit virtual) ‘third places’ for informal sociability that are particularly well suited to the formation of bridging social capital.”

“Perhaps it is not that contemporary media use has led to a decline in civic and social engagement, but rather that a decline in civic and social engagement has led to retribalization through contemporary media.”

The lack of bridging relationships, the opportunity to expand the social structures of which one might be a part, can be looked at as extremely negative. From this point of view, any technology which suggests greater bridging social capital might be seen as extremely worthwhile and perhaps beneficial: “Without bridging relationships, individuals remain sheltered from alternative viewpoints and cultures and largely ignorant of opportunities and information beyond their own closely bound social network.”

Is there a Christian view of games? Christians have often weighed in with medieval and early modern critiques of games: evils of games of chance; slothfulness attributed to gaming; addictive nature of games; avoid leisure and do work instead (“idle hands do evil deeds”). At one point, Dungeons & Dragons was considered a game which opened one up to devilish influences. Once this died down (ironically coinciding with the decline in the popularity of the game), Christians became concerned with video games.

Do we really need a "Christian" game industry? What do you think of this statement, that "gaming is a God-given potential"?*

*Citation: Quentin J. Schultze and Robert H. Woods Jr., eds., Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2008), 208.

Dollhouse - Week 10

Shuster begins his essay by pointing out an essential aporia, a moment of contradiction, in the show:

1) "There was sopme bodily essence that constantly asserted and reasserted itself, even in spite of imprinting and global wipes,"
2) "We saw precisely how disposable bodies were." (233)

Shuster states, interestingly,
Dollhouse found itself in the strange predicament . . . of decrying the objectification of women while lavishly promoting itself by means of Eliza Dushku's scantily clad body. (235)
I always found this interesting, but more so in the context of third-wave feminism.

So, Shuster argues that aporia exist at both the level of the narrative and at the institutional/organizational level of the television show on FOX.

The citing of Adorno is interesting. I applaud this but I wonder: Dollhouse depicts a fictional genocide (though horrific) but Adorno is referring to an actual genocide (see pg. 237).

I would simplify this article into the following statement: Dollhouse juxtaposes many elements which result in the construction of an atmosphere (or space) of ambivalence.

Further thoughts on this interesting article?

New Media - Religion on the Internet

Take a look at (there is some information about it here). Beliefnet has sections dedicated to many different religious movements, and articles such as Charles Colson's “Spinning Yarns That Deceive: Harry Potter books are not as dangerous as ones that directly undermine Christianity,” (an article against Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass), and Anthony DeCurtis' “Bono: The Beliefnet Interview” (DeCurtis is a Rolling Stone interviewer).

Casey’s article is here.

The article opens with a dichotomy:
- the idea of a physical experience of the sacred (eg. walking into a Hindu temple in southwest India)
- the idea of visiting a webpage which attempts to recreate that experience through the mediation of a computer screen.
She cites a book by Brasher, Give me that Online Religion (2001): “in the transition from temple to screen, a radical alteration of the sense stimulation has taken place, consequently altering the religious experience itself.” Nearly 80% say the medium plays a major role in their spiritual lives (note that these statistics date back to 1999, and so the numbers have probably changed drastically), and 53% solicit prayers through email.

A good question: “Why are millions of electronic pages dedicated to sharing the ineffable, that which can’t be expressed in words? Is cyberspace becoming a new--or the new--sacred space?” (32)

More good questions: What implications does the Internet hold for our spiritual identities, our practices of worship, and our sense of religious community? What limits or constraints are defeated by Internet technologies? What is lost?

The Internet alters the religious environment as we have otherwise come to define it. What is this religious environment, either the one that presently exists or the one that is created by the Internet? What has changed? The primary answer is access, since the Internet transcends spacial and temporal boundaries (space and time). Also, the concept of belief has replaced the concept of belonging. Presently, religion cannot be separated from other areas of life (in case we might have been able to do this is the past). Casey argues that religion cannot “exercise its integrating functions” (that is, its place in our lives) through the traditional avenue of the Church.

The term "cyberspace" was first coined by William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer, published in 1984, about 10 years before the World Wide Web. Lance Strate (1999) defines cyberspace as “diverse experiences of space associated with computing and relation technologies”: “cyberspace is frequently taken for granted as a profane space, but it is indeed a sacred space as well, as can be noted not only in specific sites, but in the non-physical--and therefore potentially spiritual--properties of cyberspace.” (34)

As for God, Sherry Turkle (1996) writes, “God created a set of conditions from which life would emerge. Like it or not, the Internet is one of the most dramatic examples of something that is self-organized. That’s the point. God is the distributed, decentralized system.” Jennifer Cobb (1998) writes, “as technical systems become more complex, something elegant, inspired, and absolutely unpredictable simply and suddenly ‘emerges.’ What many observers see emerging is the ‘hand of God.’” (34)

Furthermore, “religions themselves can be viewed as systems of communication, designed to facilitate and control the exchange of information between the mundane world and the realm of the sacred.” (35) Computers don’t only do things for us, they do things to us; technology plays a significant role in the creation of new social and cultural sensibilities (how we respond to and interact with various factors in our society).

Back to beliefnet, consider these random thoughts:
- the motto of Beliefnet: “We all believe in something.”
- “Inspiration. Spirituality. Faith.” - suggests a kind of sequence of commitment, perhaps.
- “a veritable marketplace of religion.” (37)
- “For virtual communities of believers, the Internet is a high-tech, high-touch way of saying, ‘You matter.’ Many who participate in cyber-rituals say they feel part of an authentic religious community.” (37)

What online religion offers:
- freedom from church dogma and hierarchy
- open discussions on matters of faith
- stereotypes can be ignored and people might more easily come together to speak about issues and disagreements
- reduced barriers between faith communities

More quotes from Casey:
- “Signing onto the Internet is a transformative act, one which takes participants into the vast cathedral of the mind, a place where ideas about God and religion can resonate, and where faith relies not on great external forces to change the world, but on what ordinary people can create on the World Wide Web.” (38)
- “skeptics are concerned that the pathways to techgnosis (spiritual insight via the Web) may lead away from traditional structures of worship and the living communities that suport them.” (38)

Some "final" questions: Are places to be technological really places where we can also be spiritual? Could the Internet sufficiently deliver the emotional side of religion and belief that many feel is integral to the very definition of spirituality itself? Can we really conceive of a faith community of people plugged into their individual computer terminals?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 9

In the article by Morohunfola, we revisit some of the ideas that we have encountered in the past regarding the television series: the nature of the soul and self-identity. The author’s initial premise is as follows: “there is more to people than their personalities, and what’s underneath can never be erased.” (221)

The author presents an interesting concept: the term via aperi refers to the composite actives’ state of mind.

The premise of the series as a whole can be summed up as “the soul can never be erased.” (225) We have seen this idea before. Such repetition brings up another question: is the series a rich text? I think so, but it seems that some of the ideas that the series evokes are repetitive. Care to comment?

New Media - Making Media "New" (Comics into Film)

The reading for this week can be found here. Note that the link in the syllabus is outdated.

Batman Crucified: Religion in comics

Some random notes:

Religious language and imagery - why might it exist in comic books? Religion continues to provide resources for those engaged in quests for meaning or for those caught in struggles of good and evil.

What are comics?
- An art form - an aging readership has caused comics to become collectibles, with speculation driving up worth and price guides guiding prices
- sequential art - pictures in sequence to tell a story
- Stations of the Cross - a sequential retelling of the crucifixion of Christ
- stained glass windows as sequential art for the education of an illiterate people

Why religious images in comics?
Comic books raid iconography from general culture. Battles between good and evil are the basis of comics. There exists the humanizing of comic book superheroes, resulting in a superhero with personal doubts. Another note: a superhero is basically a redeemer figure.

Batman as a “human” figure
Frank Miller’s miniseries in 1986, "The Dark Knight Returns," explores the psyche of an obsessed vigilante; it is an exceptionally dark story (with a female “Robin”). Batman is so dark that he fights, and basically beats, Superman

The superhero as redeemer
The common American (or Western) mythic pattern is a story of redemption. What are some examples of this?

“the American monomyth secularizes the Judeo-Christian redemption dramas that have arisen on American soil, combining elements from the selfless servant who impassively gives his life for others and the zealous crusader who destroys evil.” (Forbes 5)

Batman as a Christ figure
The symbolism of a Christ figure includes both superheroic aspects (“divinity”) as well as humanity (Batman’s shortcomings). To serve as a Christ figure, one has to be vulnerable: “Comic book superheroes, especially when humanized, are redeemer figures.” (Forbes 6)

The Dark Knight film
How does this new movie (or the subsequent sequels) reflect these ideas or does it? What do you think might be lost in the translation of something like this from one medium to another, that is, comics to film?

More about the movie:
“The film feels dangerous, risky, terrifying.” (Todd Hertz in Christianity Today) This is a kind of “new media,” but in a different sense of the word than has been used here thus far. This is a new kind of movie making. Perhaps the new Bond follows this: action not necessarily for pleasure but rather as a violent act . . . against the viewer. This violence is accompanied with thoughtful dialogue, a questioning of allegiances and roles. Care to comment?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 8

There are two articles today, and we are well into the middle of the second season. These are critically acclaimed episodes and mark the beginning of the “rush to the end” that seems to occur with this series.

I’ve written a paper that suggests similar things to Deritter’s essay, that masculinity (in particular, that of Topher) is problematized by his continued “flusteredness” (his deteriorating mental state throughout the series). Madness is a feminine characteristic, primarily in the arts.

The author here is right to identify the Supergirl type in Whedon shows, as well as the emasculated (lovable) male (she even identifies Topher here). So, then, what of the crisis of masculinity that occurs in Whedon’s shows?

Does Dollhouse show a different kind of masculinity (a possible option) rather than a failed (conventional) masculinity?

Souza asks, “Why would so many characters and audience members continue to trust in such a man, given all this?” (206) This is supposedly the question after seeing Boyd working for an organization that he seemingly despised every week. The question is ultimately one we could ask of the show as a whole: why did/do we watch it? Who do we root for?

This is, to me, why the show failed. Because it is a hard show.

For PW: The following weeks have a single reading for each week. If it works, we can continue with 2 readings and finish a few weeks early.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Media - Religion in Media

The URL in the syllabus is no longer functioning. Download the article by Matt Taibbi here.

This article talks about American Evangelical Christianity and, more specifically, what the writer calls Christian Zionism. The group that Taibbi visits might be called “Fundamentalist,” although I never liked that term. Pentecostal, evangelical, radical, what else?

What did you like in this article, if anything? What did you dislike?

It reminds me of Jesus Camp or even the scenes in Borat where Borat gets “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

These are not images of traditional Christianity, right? What are these images of?

How is the presentation of this article different from any other “anti-Christian” type of reporting that one might find in other media? We can assume that this article appeared in the print version of Rolling Stone magazine, although I’m not sure that it’s clear from the online article.

This article was originally posted online, and included with it a comments section. Often, online articles include a forum for response in a much more immediate sense than writing letters to the magazine affords. There is also much less gate-keeping, in terms of editorial control over the responses that are culled from such an article. In addition to this, there is less inhibition on the part of the respondants--they are anonymous posters online. Do you have an opinion of comments sections on the web in general?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 7

This post is later than usual, and for that, I apologize.

Tami Anderson suggests that there are many stories in the series, including the following:

- the stories of those who would be dolls
- the stories of those who would play with dolls
- the stories of those who work with dolls
- the stories of those who would save the dolls
- the stories of those who would be free

The last category seems to include all of us that live in the "real world," outside of the actual narrative of the television series.

How are we to take this sort of academic study of a television series? In a way, it seems to be too earnest of a study, to utopic in response to a televisual narrative. That is not to say that I think that the televisual narrative is powerless or ineffective, but I do wonder if Anderson is suggesting too much. On the other hand, she is perhaps suggesting too little. Of course, the dolls are us; this is not a big stretch if we consider the place of popular mediated culture in our society, as a product and reflection of ourselves. Anderson quotes Perrin saying, "We can decide who we want to be." (172)

This is not completely true in life, though. We must consider societal forces in our formation; there are limits placed on us on who we want to be. Some of Anderson's sentiments seem sappy at best, but perhaps I am simply betraying my current state of mind. What do you think?

Future History is an interesting idea. Have you ever read The Shape of Things to Come? I remember watching the black-and-white film as a teen, enjoying it, though finding it a bit long. Two questions:

Strayer writes, "Despite the show's very humanist ending, I see the Actives not as unfortunate, lost victims of the past, but as the architects of human history." (186) Care to comment on this?

She writes, "Rather than asking the age-old question, 'Do humans have free will?' the show seems to ask, 'Why are will, desire, and action only applicable categories for human subjects?" (186) She is referring to technology here, as taking an equal(?) role in the creation of history with humanity. Is this a completely preposterous notion?

As an aside, I am listening to the new David Bowie album; I like to think I know something of Bowie, as I wrote my Master's thesis on his work in the mid-1990s. (I should clarify, I wrote the thesis in 1999-2000, based on his work in 1995, and am considering revisiting it for a future book). I think the album is certainly his, but I think it is uneven. This is not that unusual; his last album Reality was like this. It does have a particularly strange aura about it, maybe because it comes after some years of inactivity. It seems dark (which I always thought was a good sound for Bowie), but dark in a strange way. These are early morning thoughts, so I will leave it there for now.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Media - Social Media

The article for this week is here. It was published in 2007, and so things might have changed. Feel free to express how you think the social media landscape has changed since the article was released.

How many "social media" technologies do you use (Twitter, Facebook, etc)? How long have you used these things? What do they do for you? Do you believe in the notion of “online community”?

This is something that has caused problems for some of us; some have problematized the notion of online communities as true communities. This article suggests, though, that communities online are actual communities, and that computer-mediated interactions have had positive effects on physical interactions.

“Capital” refers to having resources (money) in a market system. “Social capital” broadly refers to the resources accumulated through the relationships among people. Here it refers to the ability to bond with others on these social network systems, and it is quantified by the number of friends one might have on the network. “Maintained social capital” refers to the ability to stay connected to members of a community once the community has dissipated.

From the article: “When social capital declines, a community experiences increased social disorder, reduced participation in civic activities, and potentially more distrust among community members. Greater social capital increases commitment to a community and the ability to mobilize collective actions, among other benefits.”

How high do you think your social capital is? How many friends do you have on Facebook? If you quit participating in one of these communities, I wonder, how would your social capital fare? Would it go down? Do these online communities make it easier to maintain connection with people?

For one thing, there is less work needed to keep these connections with others open when a network like Facebook is used. The initial contact is really the only work that needs to be done; without the Facebook infrastructure (which basically keeps the connection active as long as one remains on your “friends” list), you need to work to keep that connection active. There isn’t really a real-life “friends” list that is constantly updated. Online, there are what the article writers call “weak ties,” loose social ties which are easily maintained.

There are lots of numbers and charts in this article. These stats are not the most important thing for us here. The findings are interesting, though. Facebook is overwhelmingly used to reinforce an existing relationship, rather than simply meeting new people. Maintaining a relationship with former high school friends seems to be a priority. Do you agree with these findings? What do you use Facebook for?

From the article: “Online interactions do not necessarily remove people from their offline world but may indeed be used to support relationships and keep people in contact, even when life changes move them away from each other.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 6

This is the week before a bit of a break. We have also gotten to the end of the first season and have begun the second.

Susan Quilty asks a similar question as was asked at the beginning of the course: "What constitutes personality? ... Can the total personality--the entire sense of self--really be removed and replaced at whim? Or does some unique piece of self remain in the body?" (133) Does the body keep in itself an inherent personality?

Season 1:
Caroline = central image
Echo = negative space

Season 2:
Echo emerges from negative space to be the central image

The point is that both of these entities are part of the same whole, recognized by change in focus. Quilty, though, seems to confuse these notions of difference in personality with notions of personality being inherent in the body. Later, she discusses the sense of self which Echo possesses, and the seeming sense of self (however slight) that the other actives possess in their doll state, sitting and eating together, for instance. This "instinctual level" is what Quilty suggests is "negative space."

Quilty suggests that love exists in this negative space, inseparable from the body. While I do find some of her arguments problematic, I do appreciate her final thoughts: "As Echo and one of the men discussed the paintings [in a museum vault in Episode 1.04], he commented, 'That's what art's for, to show us who we are.'" (144)

As per Hiromi and Da Silveira, is it only through narrative (or stories) that we understand the world?

A question I have here is, does cancellation work to make viewers perpetually uncomfortable, because the narrative ended without closure? In a way, I agree, but this discomfort brings pleasure. That is, closure closes the narrative; cancellation leaves the narrative open. Anyone who read any amount of Roland Barthes will understand that the latter is better.

I observed what they observed, that the second season moved too quickly (we can discuss this a bit more as we watch the second season in the coming weeks), but I'm not sure that cancellation works in the positive way they suggest. Allowing (or forcing) the closure of story arcs might provide closure, but doing so in a rushing manner doesn't seem to necessarily be a better way of doing things. Consider the fine example of Firefly, the other Whedon show cancelled after something like 11 episodes: closure did not happen (not even in the film Serenity, though perhaps the "closure" of certain storylines there was also rushed). This worked for Firefly; I want closure there, but I'm sort of happy that we are not getting it.

Again, I want it. But in wanting it there is some pleasure there. Barthes considers this in The Pleasure of the Text, in which he suggests the turning of pages to find out what happens next is most important, and pleasurable. It is in the turning of the page, not in the revelation of details, that we derive pleasure. (Don't quote me on this. It has been a bit since I read this book, so I might be quite off regarding Barthes' comments there. I think I do reflect Barthes accurately, but maybe not from that particular book.)

This week we watch Episode 13, which was not aired on television. What is your reaction to "Epitaph One"?

Note that next week is Reading Week. There will be no blog entry next week.

New Media - Cell Phones/Smart Phones

The reading can be found here.

I seem not to have notes for this week, which is strange. But I think I can still guide the discussion, however brief it might be.

First of all, what do you think of Shiga's paper? Discuss.

Second, do you have a cell phone or smart phone? What does it do for you?

Third, what do you see as the future of mobile technology?

That is all.

Note that next week is Reading Week. There will be no blog entry next week.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 5

We are almost at the end of the first season. Consider for next time making some sort of statement about the first season of the show.

Levinger begins with an interesting twist as an observation: “Echo wasn’t Caroline. Echo was Echo. Caroline was Echo.” (105) Her article begins with the assumption that the series was about the Dollhouse creating slaves without identity, tabula rasa robots that are unable to be their true selves. But is this truly the case? Is this not just part of the marketing of the series?

I wonder if Levinger is reading too much into (onto?) the character of Claire. I’m not sure we are ever privy to the actual Claire, and so I’m not sure we can really speak of a loss of identity, as well as any notion of low self-esteem, etc. Claire, or Whisky, is a tragic character overall. We will see her next week in the final (unaired) episode of season 1, but you might want to contribute a comment about that character at this point.

As an aside, there are problems with Rebecca Levinger’s essay, but considering she is a high school student (or was at the time of writing it), she should be commended.

How do Saunder’s scars function? I posit that they act as an element which creates enigma. They tease a questin: how did those scars get there? What damaged (beautiful) Claire’s face? Consider, though, what I suggested above, that Saunders is a tragic character overall. Can she also be heroic, as suggested by Klein?

New Media - Convergence of Media/Marketing Disney

This week's reading can be found here. I've decided to use an earlier version of the chapter originally suggested in the syllabus.

This week will focus primarily on the Disney Company. In the construction of the company, there is a merging, or converging, of media. Products market products; Disney products market other Disney products. Can you think of other companies that do this?

Some ways in which Disney cross promotes:

- television shows become parades at the Disney theme parks (High School Musical, for instance)
- movies become rides/movies sre integrated into existing rides (for instance, "Pirates of the Caribbean" was a ride which became a movie, elements of which were then integrated back into the ride)
- rides become movies (The Haunted Mansion)
- accessories (Mickey Mouse watches, for instance)
- costumes for youngsters
- vacations: 2 theme parks in the United States, 1 in Europe, 2, soon to be 3, in Asia
- cruise line
- entertainment becomes media for sale for home use
- the rarity of this media becomes a part of the experience (the notion of the “Disney Vault”)

From 2005-2008, Disney curated something called Disney VMK, or Virtual Magic Kingdom, an onlineenvironment similar to World of Warcraft. A player could collect prizes like virtual furniture for his or her online space, or costumes, or things like Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, items which exist in the real-life theme parks.

There is a continual loop of promotion. All areas of the company point to other areas, in terms of promotion.

What did you think of Pahl’s criticisms? The media-rich environment that Disney presents is interesting. I should be noted that there are various third-party additions to this kind of widespread promotion. These include:

- license holders (Walmart, Dollarama, etc.)
- fans (in the form of fan culture, podcasts, the D23 fan community, actually a first-party promoter)
- multiple television shows that are simply promotions for traveling to the parks

Is there a cultural identity which is worth preserving in the experience of Disney? Or is it too marred by consumerism?

Does the Disney worldview compete with Christianity?

Please note that your final paper needs to be 8 to 10 pages long, not 10 to 12 pages as it mentions in the syllabus.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Whedon's Dollhouse - Week 4

We can begin this week's reflection on Dollhouse by asking the question, do you like Topher? Your answer might or might not agree with the answer that Zimmerman Jones found on the Internet early on in the first season might (the answer he found was no). Is it true that (so far) Topher doesn't care about the dolls? Is Topher amoral? Just so you know, I probably didn't think about this question much when I first watched the season, but I never really considered Topher amoral. I maybe didn't know how to read him, but I think the show as a whole is a bit difficult to read; maybe this is what to what Zimmerman Jones is referring when he writes about the "moral ambiguity of the whole situation," also known as "being difficult to read." (82) As per the arguments in this first article for this week, does the "imprinting technology idea [shift] from being morally reprehensible to being . . . morally justifiable"? (85)

Do you recognize the evolution or transformation of Topher Brink as suggested by this author? On p.90, the writer suggests that the tactic of violence would not have worked at the start of the series. What do you think? (I know that you might not have watched the whole series at this point, but perhaps you can still comment with knowledge of the first 10 episodes or so).

Another question might be asked in considering Mason's article: is Adelle an amoral character as well?

As an aside, I am interested by Mason's suggestion that the show could be boiled down to terms available to us from Whedon's other shows. So, Dollhouse is "in Firefly terms, what happened to River's brain, explored through the consequences of Inara's profession." (102) This assumes, though, that Inara acts toward River in the same way as Adelle toward Echo. Thoughts?

Finally, out of the two episodes from this week, which works best?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Media - iPods and mp3 players

The readings can be found here and here.

I was once told that the iPod is a kind of drug, in that it causes the listener to achieve a state of euphoria or happiness, simply because each song is (potentially) a favourite. In other words, there are no mediocre songs on someone’s iPod. There is the potential that one will simply continue to listen to favourites throughout the day.

Michael Bull calls this kind of state a “zone of immunity,” to use Richard Sennett’s term for the place of the church in Western civilization.

“The church, in Sennett’s argument, created a zone of ‘immunity’ for the citizen, an ordered space in which the subject could feel secure. Today this zone of immunity and security is a mobile one existing between the ears of iPod users as they move through the city--enveloped in what they imagine to be their own reality, each holding Apple iPods--twenty-first century icon and acoustic metaphor for much urban life.” (Iconic Designs 108)

The interesting thing is that the design of the iPod has evolved over time. The key to the iPod's success is twofold. It is an issue of space, that one could now conceivably put their complete collection of music on something small enough to fit in their hand. It is also an issue of user interface, a way to access that music.

The scroll wheel is the key - first, the click wheel, a combination of moving parts and buttons. Next, touch sensitive, solid state, no more clicking or buttons. Finally, a combination of solid state touch sensitive and clicking for play/pause, next/back, etc. The interface becomes simpler for the user as it becomes more technologically complex.

The aesthetic design of the iPod is something which is often overlooked in terms of its allure. Many would talk about its domination in the marketplace, or the problems with its ties to specific software (iTunes). Not many discuss what I think is its main strength - its appearance. Its design is what draws me to it - its clean lines, the materials that make it up. The way it looks in the dark (the 3rd Gen iPod is what this last part is referring to).

Bull calls the iPod a “perfect marriage between aesthetics and functionality, of sound and touch--the auditory world in the palm of the hand.” (105) It comes to market at a time of increasing mobility and privatization - this is, in fact, not a new thing.

Bull seems to equate an iPod with the Gothic cathedral: “The populace invariably went into these spaces not merely to pray but to enter envelopes of sound resounding through their bodies, amplified by the great arches of the cathedral.” (106) Back to the iPod, now that people were free from the constraints of radio, those sonic envelopes “exist in the personal playlist of the iPod.” He also considers the idea of your whole music collection fitting in the palm of your hand a magical one. (107) This is interesting. This is something that was never possible in the past.

The iPod is, in fact, intoxicating: “an intoxicating mixture of music, proximity and privacy whilst on the move.” (No Dead Air 344) iPod users might use the device as a way to inhabit the spaces within which they move, a creation of a “privatised auditory bubble,” a means to control time and space through which they move.

Consider what Bull writes on the bottom of pg. 346.

As opposed to thinking that the iPod destroys community or creates isolation, Bull suggests that “music enables users to clear a space for thought, imagination and miid maintenance.” (349) For Bull, the choice of music by the listener enables a form of “biological travelling,” that the narrative of the listener’s life is recalled in the current space of travelling, thus making their journey one that is more personal.

“The world and their biography is recollected and accompanied by sound.” (349)

The world becomes “intimate, known, and possessed.” (350) - the world around them seem to work in tandem with the music (this isn’t actually happening, but it seems like it might magically be).

The city dweller is able to reorganise the sounds of the city. (352)

“the city becomes a personalised audio visual environment, yet even the sense of touch and the concomitant [naturally accompanying] relational experience of the street is transformed, invariably making the iPod user happier as they move, empowered through the street.” (352)

What do you think of Bull's idea of dancing through a crowd, instead of struggling? Does the iPod still hold such cultural cache as Bull suggested it did in 2005 and 2006?

Monday, February 04, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 3

In reading Tupper's article on the Gothic in Dollhouse, I came across an absolutely funny description of the Dollhouse itself: "a slightly sinister dayspa." (51) I'm not sure why I found that so funny, but I did. It seems that it betrays something of the series: that it is simply too dark of a premise to work at all. The setting is just a strange symptom of it simply being off. That's why the setting is not particularly threatening. So, while this might be true (that the show doesn't work, fundamentally), I think, rather, that the show works in spite of its darkness. It forces us to watch, knowing that it is too difficult of a show for prime time television. Comments?

Do you think that the notion of enigma is at work in the show? If so, what does it accomplish?

So, if Dollhouse subverts the gothic, is it a new gothic? What exaclty is it? (hint: there isn't really a right or wrong answer to many of these questions, in case you didn't guess - I don't know the answers myself).

Is Dollhouse a fairy tale?

Finally, which of these three episodes is most effective and why?

New Media - MP3s and Mashups

You can find the reading here.

How does Shiga define "mash-ups"? Is this phenomenon due to the easily-sharable music file (mp3 or variant), or did it exist before that? What contributes to its existence?

Do you have a favourite mash-up?

Finally, what happens in the future? Are mash-ups finished now? (Perhaps they have been for a few years)

That's all - I know there isn't much this week, but that is alright. The reading is not the easiest either, so that's that.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 2

Does the episode “True Believer” argue anything about the nature of religion? Is Dushku a believable blind woman in this episode? Is everything physiological (or is it, is everything psychological)? That is, is everything of ourselves able to be controlled psychologically (or physiologically)?

Is it important for us to understand the significance of a name like “Rossum” and its origins (if this is actually its origins)? I suppose that we must also consider the use of any sort of “compare and contrast” exercise as well, though that is perhaps beyond the scope of this current study. Feel free to comment anyway, should you wish.

As Alvi points put, Dollhouse is an interesting series in the Whedon oeuvre, precisely because the Davids therein are well-entrenched in the Goliath of Rossum. And that is what makes the show so difficult for some viewers, I think: viewers are introduced to protagonists that are actually antagonists. Alvi also suggests that Goliath wins in Dollhouse, at least for a time.

Please comment.

New Media - Print and its transformation

Readings for this week available here.

For fun, consider this. Brainstorm about a new magazine. What is the title, audience, layout, theme? Glossy paper? Is it a “Christian” magazine? Will you try to have a very large internet presence or not? What is a good price point? Will you start off with a large print run or not? Or will you forgo print altogether?

This week we ask the following questions: What will publishing look like in the future? Is there a future in the book?

Why is print media in trouble?
1) consumers want a rich media experience, delivered the instant they are relevant,
2) ad agencies are becoming accustomed to high standards of accountability (stats regarding page views, etc, that are available on the Internet),
3) high prices of gas, as well as high costs in the inefficient running of various levels of the publishing process,
4) issues regarding the environment and the use of natural resources.

What is the solution:
1) liquid content - content that can be delivered on any medium,
2) a relationship with customers which is more than 1-way delivery of information (interactivity).


Can you think of ebook solutions which have been able to overcome the need for the physical experience of reading books?

Some ereaders work with tiny charged particles, which are black on one side and white on the other. It very much replicates the look of paper.

“When an electric field is applied across an area of this thin sheet of frontplane material, the pigment particles within the microcapsules move in opposite directions, turning one side of the capsules in the area exposed to the electric field white, the other black. Reversing the polarity of the field makes the particles move in the opposite direction, and the white becomes black and the black becomes white.” (Hampshire 31)

This technology is promoted with the claim of little or no eyestrain, and can be looked at in all lighting conditions (except, of course, no light), and uses very little electricity, only required when a page is turned (eg. Amazon Kindle - no backlight, also similar to paper, but perhaps clumsy to work with).

“Paper-based periodicals that do persevere in North America and Europe will do so on a much smaller scale as the stylepress: physically and aesthetically engaging, vibrant creative chroniclers of trends. These will be the last printed magazines.” (Reynard 15)

"Stylepress" is a high-end medium (ie. expensive to produce and buy) which fuses the ephemeral periodical and the longsuffering book. “Such magazines are not produced; they are lived.” (Jan-Willem Dikkers, publisher of Issue magazine)

Is this a bit of an extreme view? Why should the stylepress survive?

Finally, these readings are from 2006. How has the future (2013) turned out?

PW, you will note that there is a New Media Review requirement on the syllabus, but no due date. It is due on March 11. (Anyone else reading can disregard this note - there is no assignment due for you)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Whedon's Dollhouse - Week 1

This is a short post, as the readings are not particularly dense (though Rennebohm's essay does touch on particularly complex and difficult issues).

From the television series Angel: "If there's no great glorious end to all of this, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is: what we do now, today."

Do you agree that this is what the show is about, at least at this early stage?

"the unique, specific human body is an integral aspect of identity, not to be forgotten or left behind." (8)

Yes or no? Explain. How much of our identity comes from our human body?

"Identity exists in this moment." What do you think of this?

Is it true that our identity is quite different apart from our physical bodies? Can our identity exist without the physical body? These are not easy questions, and are ones that touch upon theologies and eschatological musings. In any case, I look forward to your responses.

Finally, which of the three episodes for this week worked well, and which did not? Why?

New Media - Blogs

This is the beginning of a directed study on New Media (a very open and general kind of descriptor for what we'll be talking about). I will link to an article (or two) and then pose a few ideas or questions for consideration. So, let's begin the discussion on blogs.

We can begin by asking a few questions (that don't necessarily need to be answered here):

What is “new media”? What is “old media”?

In his forward to the book edited by Quentin J. Schultze and Robert H. Woods Jr., entitled, Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2008), Clifford Christians states, “The discussion of media technologies—radio, film, books, internet, gaming and the rest—are a venue for the permanent questions about our place in the universe.” (Schultze, 8)

Schultze begins to describe new media: “The idea of mass media has been replaced by networked media. Narrowcasting has replaced broadcasting. Media power has become democratized; low-cost digital production lets younger evangelicals tell stories in multiple venues.” (Schultze, 15)

Narrowcasting can be defined as the dissemination of information to a specific audience (also called niche marketing). It presupposes that there is no such thing as a mass audience.

Podcasts are a type of narrowcast, since they are generally targeted towards a specific sharply-defined audience. Just a note regarding Apple and the podcast - it doesn’t really come from the term "iPod," but it became synonymous with it.

Advertising can be thought of narrowcasting, a kind of persuasion, an attempt to make us think a certain way. It moves in one direction, towards the audience, attempting to sway the consumer is a particular direction.

What about some of the opinions that we have, some that might be coaxed along by narrowcasting, that we hold without firsthand experience? Why do we hold these kinds of opinions and how do we develop them?

Schultze states, “we are inclined to use communication, including media, to support our existing views of reality. We pick and choose media according to what we want, what we enjoy, what we like to discuss with others. For instance, Christian contemporary music fans download more of it than do the music’s detractors. We use media to mediate our experience of reality in tune with our interests and desires, even our religious beliefs. If we don’t like U2 or Amy Grant, we spend time with friends who share our criticisms. We like to know that we have got it right, even self-righteously so!” (Schultze 20)

“those shared definitions of reality function like shared maps that help us navigate life by making judgments about faith and culture, including popular culture.” (Schultze 20)

Take a look at this article: Qian, Hua and Craig R. Scott. “Anonymity and Self-Disclosure in Weblogs.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12:4 (2007).

What are the authors' points in the article? Do you agree or disagree?

Also, take a look at the following blog posting, which suggests how to write good blog postings. Is this useful?

Finally, are blogs now a thing of the past? If so, what has replaced them? If not, how long will they last?