All posts by Jack Courtney

I am a Junior at the University of Denver. A brother of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and an outdoor enthusiast. I love to hike, fish, shoot, snowboard, and head into the backcountry in my Jeep.

A Growing Dependence

It is undeniable that the media climate of our nation had undergone many changes in the last few decades.  Times are changing and so is the technology that we rely on in all aspects of our lives.  We live in a day in age where the average American will spend 8.5 of their waking hours staring at a screen, be it a television, phone, or computer (NYTimes).  Our society has developed a dependence on the digital realm of media and broken away somewhat from print sources.  However, the evolution of the media has made the dissemination of important information more reliable and more efficient than we could have ever anticipated. 

            When it comes to the civil actions and the media, the benefits of the Internet are mind blowing.  When looking at events like the Arab Spring and the crises in Venezuela and Ukraine, the media, especially social media, has played a tremendous role in bringing about social change.  With the Arab Spring in particular, social networks on the web like Twitter turned the tide of political oppression by spreading awareness of certain causes to the masses.  Here is an article that outlines the importance that social networking had in the awakening.  The success of the revolution was in part a result of the technological advances we enjoy as a world community.  New technologies that allow communication with ease and access to a great bounty of information.  Not only can the modern media environment be a bastien for social and political change, but also a force for charitable good and the relief of oppression. 

            The new media environment also makes life easier on a daily basis for the average American.  It is so easy to find news and information and to cross check it with other competing sources to ensure it’s accuracy.  One of the great things about Internet news sources is that it is usually pretty easy to sense bias and inaccuracy when browsing unfamiliar sites.  There are always certain sites that one can count on for accuracy like CNN and CBS, which I see as the gold standard.  This ease of information access is both a blessing and a curse.  It makes life easy with the efficient and quick access to information but we have come to rely on the new media to a degree that may be unhealthy.  It is a problem that I only see getting worse as time progresses.  The average of 8.5 hours a day we spend looking at screens pales in comparison to the new figures that say children born today will spend 25% of their entire lifetime looking at some sort of screen and digesting media content (Geekosystem).  This is what really scares me about the great strides we have made in the development of the modern media and the great strides that have yet to occur but that I know are coming.  I feel that as a nation we are starting to lose touch with each other on social levels due to our dependence on “screen time”.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the ease of the Internet, the entertainment of film, music, and the news, but I feel that there is an unhealthy amount of consumption going on that will only grow and grow in the future. 

            When it comes to my idea of what the media will be like in ten years, I see a shift from gatekeeping on the part of media distributors, to a widespread increase in gatewatching on the part of the media consumer.  We live in a time where people want access to all the information that there is to access.  We as a people have grown tired of censorship and keeping irrelevance out of the general media.  As can be seen from scandals like Wikileaks, we simply won’t stand for information begin withheld or shielded from the general populous.  I actually think this is a healthy shift, I don’t like the idea of standing idly by while information is deliberately kept from me, when there might be something I have to say or do about it.  It is this ideology that will propel us into the rest of this century with more positive political action and more general consciousness on the part of the people. 

            The new media environment is an ever-changing entity that has both good and bad implications for our modern society.  On one hand I am excited about the new developments in the construction of our media outlets and the dissemination of information that it induces.  On the other hand I fear for our society and for our children due to the reliance on the media we are falling into, media in all shapes.  After what I have learned about media and it’s relationship to culture this quarter, I will eagerly watch the changes that the media will encounter in coming years and the exact effects it will have on the people of this nation and the world.  

 

Works Consulted:

 

“Twitter Revolution: How the Arab Spring Was Helped By Social Media.” PolicyMic. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2014. <http://www.policymic.com/articles/10642/twitter-revolution-how-the-arab-spring-was-helped-by-social-media&gt;.

 

“Geekosystem.” Geekosystem Report Suggests Kids Born Today Will Spend 25 Of Their Lives Looking At Screens Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2014. <http://www.geekosystem.com/kids-watch-screens-quarter-of-life/&gt;.

 

Stelter, Brian. “8 Hours a Day Spent On Screens, Study Finds.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Mar. 2009. Web. 08 Mar. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/27/business/media/27adco.html?_r=0&gt;.

Grand Theft Auto’s Ideology and It’s Perception By Consumers

The Grand Theft Auto video game franchise has been a major player on the market, dating back to their first game release in 1997.  The games take place in both urban and rural environments and allow their players to essentially simulate real life in the United States as well as paths of criminal intent.  I am not one to overly-criticize the games themselves because I myself am a fan and consumer, yet critics do have their merits.  There has been endless controversy about the content of the games themselves as well as the effect that playing them has on America’s youth.  Some of the complaints against the game are that it is overtly violent, includes sequences of gratuitous sex and torture, and that its lifelike play is too similar to real life to be safe for consumption by the American populace.  However, it is one of the most popular video game franchises ever created, with the lifetime sales at 150+ million units (Wikipedia).  The game really has an official target audience of young men aged 18 to about 30, yet the game falls into the hands of <18 consumers regularly.  The ideologies that lay within the game itself are apparent to the player.  The game is built upon the ideals of violence, financial gains, and the desire to build an empire from the ground up.  It is essentially a simulator for Americans to pursue a lifestyle that they may see as unattainable.

The game is the epitome of a mediated reality, it allows the player to remove him or herself from their own personal reality and plunge into one of their own creation.  The player can simulate the life of a law-abiding citizen if they please, they can buy a car, a house, walk their dog, go to the store, you name it.  Yet, there also lies a more sinister path within the game; you can kill and pillage indiscriminately with no consequence.  The issue with this is that if the player perceives it to be real than it truly does become real.  As we discussed in class, the perception that a media consumer has of what is real and what is not real is blurred by the constant intake of media that we encounter in the modern era.  The game provides a narrow perception of the real world within the play of the game, which is one of the main contributors to this blurred perception of reality on the part of the player.  One of the factors of the gameplay that is far-removed from reality is the casual air associated with the murder of random citizens, criminals, and the police.  The game also portrays a somewhat unattainable amount of success for the player, through the perpetration of crimes they are rewarded with guns, fast cars, women, and property.

Image

(Rockstar Games)

The women that are portrayed in the game, one of which can be seen in the image above, are seen as sex objects and all possess a similar body type.  These images in particular reinforce gender stereotypes and gender roles to the players throughout the game.  There are also deep-seated pieces of overt and covert racism within the game.  There are several different parts of the map that players can access, each with their own stereotypes and demographics.  For example in GTA 5, Blaine County is home to blue-collar “rednecks” and meth-dealer types whereas the Grove Street area is filled with stereotypical black “gangster” types.  The separation of races within the game helps to perpetuate race as a social construction and contributor to where individuals of certain races make their home.

Image

(Gameswallpaper)

All in all, the game is an unrealistic simulation of real-life aimed as fulfilling the dreams and fantasies of a nation unsatisfied with their own lives.  It perpetuates gender stereotypes and glorifies violent and incorrigible acts in a world with no real consequences.  But as educated students, we know the truth to be that there is no such thing as “no real consequences.”  The game has an effect on it’s players whether they understand it or not, through its ideology, and underlying messages and stratifications.  That being said, in my opinion it is damn fun.

An example of this “unattainable American dream” I have been talking about can be seen here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqZXw5M6qQY

Works Consulted:

“Grand Theft Auto (series).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Theft_Auto_%28series%29&gt;.

“Rockstar Games.” Rockstar Games RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <http://www.rockstargames.com/&gt;.

“GameWallpapers.com.” GameWallpapers.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <http://www.gamewallpapers.com/&gt;.

“Grand Theft Auto V: Michael.” YouTube. YouTube, 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqZXw5M6qQY&gt;.

Blog Post #3: The Power of Reddit

Reddit is an entertainment and social-news website that boasts the title “The Front Page of The Internet.”  It was founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian and was later sold off in 2006.  It is a subsidiary of Advanced Publications, the 52nd largest private company in the U.S. and publisher of a number of newspapers.  Users have the ability to post their own content to a number of “subreddits” that offer as receptacles for information.  These subreddits often appeal to different subcultures of our society.  Individuals with many different interests can almost always find something that they will enjoy.  The content that is uploaded by users can be either “upvoted” or “downvoted” by other users on the site, as well as commented on and shared.  What this had created is a funnel of information, relevant to your interests, that is easily accessible.  The site embodies the true meaning of gatewatching because it is a sort of for the people, by the people type of institution that has a huge appeal to niche cultures. 

            Even though it is owned by one of the largest corporations in the United States, it is really a really a different animal than only other media-based website.  There is a very limited amount of gatekeeping that occurs on the site; there is only a very small editorial process that is based on the regulations that users adhere to.  For example, posted may only be removed from subreddits wherein their content is unacceptable.  A pornographic picture would be removed from a subreddit about hiking, whereas a hiking picture would also be removed from a pornographic subreddit.  There is no curbing of the average gatekeeping hot topics like dissenting political opinions, porn, shock material, fear mongering.  There is simply an open forum wherein users can find just what they are looking for without any time of formal censorship. 

            I selected the guidelines from one of these particular subreddits, one for guitar enthusiasts (link here), as an example of what reddit expects from its users.

         COMMUNITY GUIDELINES

  • All users are expected and encouraged toread the Wiki/FAQ and know the posting rules before submitting a link/comment.
  • Please browse through the available“Link Flair” when submitting a thread. They’re laid out in an easily identifiable manner and should be applied to whatever topic you’re covering in your post.
  • Spam and self-advertising are not allowed in /r/Guitar. This means no linking to your blog/web site/YouTube channel without prior approval from the moderators. Please message the mods with any requests for such approval.
  • Do not link to outside retail sites in the Main Post. Be very descriptive in your post. Links in the discussions are OK but may be automatically removed by the subreddit’s spam filter.
  • Be kind and considerate – Any inflammatory, disrespectful, and/or hateful comments will result in a ban. We have a zero-tolerance policy regarding such comments/posts
  • No “Gear for Sale” posts – /r/Gear4Saleis an active music instrument gear sale/trade sub. All threads of this nature should be posted to that subreddit.
  • No link-dropping – The body of your post must contain more than just a link. Any posts in violation of this will be removed.

(Reddit.com/r/guitars)

 

The reality of the reddit situation is that there is no gatekeeping on the part of the site other than the simple enforcement of their rules and regulations.  You can search the web far and wide and not find any evidence of a reddit-related scandal involving censorship or withholding of information.  The most you will find is the “scandal” subreddit that focuses on the celebrity and political scandals (link here), just another indication that the sit is a hotbed of gatewatching activity and dissemination of information.  This could be why reddit is so highly favored as a news source.  It’s users know that they can get the information that they want and they know just where on the site to find it, as well as the peace of mind that the site is not withholding anything from them.  Here is a figure illustrating the social media networks most used for news in the U.S. (Research done by Pew-Research in 2013).

 

Image

 (TNW)

All in all, I would say that reddit deserves its monacher of being “the front page of the internet” as there are no other digital mediums that can distribute and display so much useful, obscure, and sometimes edgy material to those who desperately seek it. 

 

References:

“Reddit.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Nov. 2014. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit&gt;.

 

“Scandal.” On ABC. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. <http://www.reddit.com/r/scandal&gt;.

 

“Guitar.” – Gear, Reviews, Lessons, and Discussion. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. <http://www.reddit.com/r/guitar&gt;.

 

“Which Social Networks Are People Using to Get Breaking News?” TNW Network All Stories RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2014. <http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2013/12/06/social-networks-people-using-get-breaking-news/#!vyYIR&gt;.

 

The MPAA and NCTA Ratings System

One of the regulations of the American media that we experience frequently in our day-to-day lives is the rating system placed on the content we view.   The system of ratings that we know today first came into play in 1968 when the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) collaborated with movie studios and theaters (Croteau-Hoynes 95).  As a collaborative, they decided to voluntarily draft a system of ratings so that it would be kept from government control and thus be friendlier to the operations of the industry.  The privatization of the ratings system cuts the government out of a power role when it comes to deciding what is appropriate for American audiences.  There is a lot of controversy these days over the inappropriate and immoral material that the media is injecting into our culture and society.  The media that the public has access to has changed leaps and bounds since 1968, yet the rating system has stayed constant.  This brings us to the question of whether or not the system really protects our nation’s children from the corruption of inappropriate information spewing our of media outlets. 

 

The current ratings system is as follows:

 Image

 

            In 1995, a presidential candidate by the name of Bob Doyle gave a speech pertaining to this issue of children and the American media system.  He claimed that the media industry was “bombarding” our youth with evil and destructive messages through music, television, and the motion pictures.  The entire speech by Doyle may be reviewed here for further consideration.  Essentially, the issue is whether or not it is the government’s duty, or possibly even their right, to curb the content of the popular media in the 21st century.  There are two sides to the argument, one is that our freedom to speech and freedom to information deems it unconstitutional for the government to take any action against our right to subscribe to, and consume, and media information that we deem fit.  The second part of the argument, the message of Bob Doyle, is that the media is doing irreparable damage to our young people through the propagation of sex, drug use, and pervasive violence in our media. 

            The main issue with keeping these vulgar themes out of the view of children is that most ratings are simply suggestions for parents to consider and not hard rules.  When it comes to the MPAA ratings, the only rating that does not allow children is the NC-17 rating, wherein no one under the age of 17 may be admitted.  That leaves 4/5 ratings that allow children of any age to admission as long as they are in the company of an adult.  This is the first, and strongest line of defense, yet it is so easily surmountable.  The issue here is that the system is based on the idea that children should be controlled by their parents as it is their right and duty to choose what is right for their children (Croteau-Hoynes 96).  Even so, children are often brought to these features by their parents, and when the films are released on DVD and on the Web, the children are granted even more access to them.  Call is a flaw in the system or a flaw in our nations parents, but kids are getting access to these harmful materials at an early age. 

            Even easier to access than motion pictures are television programs.  These have their own ratings, which were imposed by the Telecommunication act of 1996.  Coincidentally shortly after the speech made by Doyle, the National Cable Television Association drafted a series of ratings not too dissimilar from those of the MPAA.  The accessibility to these programs by children is so much higher to children than motion pictures even though the content is often very similar.  The way that parents can control this is by emplacing parental controls on their cable in order to have a better handle on what their kids are able to watch. 

 

The Television ratings under the NCTA are as follows:

           Image

 

            In conclusion, I feel that there are certain steps that can be taken to lessen the impact of inappropriate content on our nation’s youth.  I do however, believe that as Americans we are entitled to any media outlet we see fit and any content.  But this issue is about the kids and it is a parental responsibility to protect them from certain things until they are ready to handle them.  One way to tackle this when it comes to television is that I would like to emplace a system wherein, when a family first sets up their cable there are explicit warnings and an automatic transfer to a page where the family sets parental controls right from the get-go.  Although I feel that it may impede on our freedoms, I would urge the MPAA to emplace a new restriction that prohibits children under 13 admission to R-rated movies in theaters.  If a parent is so determined for that child to see the film they will be able to see it when it is released on DVD.  I feel that these two new restrictions will do just enough to make a difference in the dissemination of our media but not impede too much upon our rights and privileges.  

Sources

Croteau, D. & Hoynes, W. (2014). Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences. Thousand Oaks, California. SAGE Publications.

 

“Robert Dole: Remarks in Los Angeles: “Hollywood Speech”” Robert Dole: Remarks in Los Angeles: “Hollywood Speech” N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2014. <http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=85193&gt;.

 

TV Ratings. N.d. Photograph. Web. 31 Jan. 2014. <http://www.armstrongarmor.com/television.htm&gt;.

 

MPAA Ratings Guide. N.d. Photograph. MPAA. Web. 31 Jan. 2014. <http://www.mpaa.org/ratings/what-each-rating-means&gt;.

 

 

The Comcast Corporation – Jack Courtney

 

The Comcast Corporation is a media conglomerate that has the highest revenue of any media and communication company in the world.  The original Comcast Cable Company was founded in 1963 and has done nothing but grow ever since.  Comcast is the largest home-phone service provider in the U.S. but also boast holdings in media, Internet, cable, and even sports and sports franchises. 

 

The Complete Holdings of Comcast

 

 

Film:

 

  • Universal Pictures
  • Focus Features
  • Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Cable:

 

  • Xfinity
  • AT&T Broadband
  • Susquehanna Communications CO.
  • Adelphia Communications CO.
  • Comcast Cable Communication CO.
  • Patriot Media
  • Commuter Cable

 

Programming/Broadcast Companies:

 

  • The Comcast Network
  • Comcast Sports Network (Covers most major parts of U.S.)
  • Sports Net New York
  • MLB Network
  • Comcast Sports Southeast
  • Comcast Television
  • E! Networks
  • E! Entertainment
  • NBC Sports Network
  • Golf Channel
  • AZN Television
  • Exercise TV
  • FEARnet
  • NHL Network and NHL Center Ice

 

Sports Teams/Ventures:

 

  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Comcast-Spectator
  • Wells Fargo Center
  • Global Spectrum
  • Ovations Food Services
  • Front Row Marketing
  • Paciolan
  • New Era Tickets
  • Flyers Skate Zone

 

Other Assorted Business Ventures:

 

  • Comcast Interactive Capital
  • Comcast Spectator
  • Comcast Spotlight
  • Comcast Interactive Media

 

Joint Ventures With Other Corporations:

 

  • TV One
  • TV Works (owns 67%)
  • Guideworks (owns 51%, controlling shares)
  • PBS kids
  • NBC Universal

 

Communitcations:

 

  • XFINITY TV
  • XFINITY Internet
  • XFINITY VOICE

 

Parks And Resorts:

 

  • Universal Parks and Resorts

 

Spanish Language Programming (Taken from Columbia Journalism Review):

 

Telemundo:

KVEA (Los Angeles)

WNJU (New York)

WSCV (Miami)

KTMD (Houston)

WSNS (Chicago)

KXTX (Dallas/Fort Worth)

KVDA (San Antonio)

KSTS (San Francisco/San Jose)

KTAZ (Phoenix)

KNSO (Fresno)

KDEN (Denver)

KBLR (Las Vegas)

WNEU (Boston/Merrimack)

KHRR (Tucson)

WKAQ (Puerto Rico)

KWHY (Los Angeles) (Independent)

 

 

Culmination of findings:

 

            I found the results of my research on the Comcast Corporation to be both enlightening and surprising.  I really had no idea that Comcast had such a diverse portfolio when it came to its holdings.  Two of the things that stood out the most to me are their ownership of the Philadelphia Flyers and their ownership of Universal Parks and Resorts.  These are, at least in my eyes, uncommon holdings for a media conglomerate to possess.  In the spirit of what we have been discussing in class as of late this may cause some inconsistencies in their media coverage.  The fact that Comcast also controls one of the largest sports networks in the country could propagate a certain amount of bias when covering their own NHL team.  As for Universal Parks and Resorts, a similar issue could arise with bias media coverage of anything pertaining to their parks. 

            All told, the portfolio of business and media outlets that the Comcast Corporation controls is astounding.  They really have a piece of the pie in a wide array of different types of ventures.  It is entirely possible for a reader or viewer to explore many different types of media while only subscribing to those owned and controlled by comast.  This illustrates a definite influential power on the part of Comcast to control what is in the media. 

 

 

Sources: