Friday, 11 October 2013

ALC201 Module 3 Essay: Digital Media and Surveillance Use in The Purge (2013)

The Purge (2013) is a film that introduces a low crime North American society in the near future, all thanks to a single annual day during which crime is legal – murder, vandalism, theft – so that citizens can ‘purge’ their anger.

The audience is brought into one particular household, introduced to the protagonist characters (a family called the Sandins), and depicts an eventual home invasion on the day of the annual ‘Purge’. The use of technology utilised by all family members through the film both helps and hinders their crisis. 

One example of these is the official footage feed displaying the effects of the ‘purge’, not only to the public of the film, but to the audience as well; utilising this digital media to tell the film’s narrative. This feed is available on televisions within people’s homes, and the footage itself is CCTV footage in public places; hitting home the gravity of legalising crime for the night.

The official government surveillance being circulated through the public raises some interesting questions on privacy and distribution ethics. This film may be set in a near, dystopian future, but are there not regulations for the use of CCTV and its distribution?

Levin (2002, p.578) notes the particular use of CCTV cameras today and the ‘dataveillance’ taking place, comparing such methods to dystopian ideas and themes in Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. The omnipresent effect of surveillance and the possible uses for such footage is not lost within Levin’s text, and this sequence seems to visually articulate these fears in The Purge.

Another example of digital media use through the plot is the security system placed on the house for the family’s use in the ‘purge’ to keep them safe. This is symbolised by a separate room with the footage from the house security cameras. Charlie Sandin; being able to see the outside and letting the attacked man obtain sanctuary in their home becomes the driving point of the story; who is this man? Is he dangerous, is he armed, does he want to hurt the protagonists?

Screencap from The Purge (2013) of the family’s surveillance system and their multiple screens

The situation is worsened when an armed group arrive at the house and ask for him alive; this interaction takes place entirely through the surveillance cameras, where the family is safe inside their house and guarded by the wonderful technology that surrounds them. At least, until their power is cut by the group.

People have been conditionalised to feel ‘safe’ in the presence of such technology. Turner (1998, p.93) explains in the following how surveillance technology works, within an effective manner.

“Indeed all forms of surveillance, but particularly massive or magnified surveillance practices, or panopticism, are employed throughout Western bureaucratic and capitalist institutions to enhance predictability, risk assessment, security, identification, efficiency, and control.” 

Turner’s explanation of panopticism and its use in Western society in surveillance allows the observer to observe everything and asserts control. The Sandin’s house and extensive surveillance footage (while seemingly exaggerated for a family home) provides the observer the advantage of seeing without being seen, and this takes panopticism to a new level in regards to surveillance and technological developments in the narrative’s imagined future.

Another use of digital media is the toy surveillance camera, foreshadowed near the film’s beginning and utilised much later, by Charlie Sandin. The film includes camera angles of the floor to reveal the presence of the small surveillance camera. This later becomes important to the narrative when an attacked man seeks refuge in the family’s home and needs to hide. Having eyes and ears everywhere allows Charlie to hide the man, through which most of the story is again utilised through the camera’s live footage. This is again another example of Turner’s explanation of panopticism (1998, p.93); being able to see everything without the observer seen themselves.

This technique of storytelling allows the viewer to feel more suspense in the scene, especially when Charlie’s older sister Zoey decides to hide in the same spot and discovers the fugitive.

Another surveillance worth discussion is the one carried out by the film’s audience. The audience is receiving an ‘all-access’ pass to the lives of the Sandin family; all of their actions, movements and decisions during this family crisis. The audience is especially privileged with the information that Zoey’s boyfriend Henry has stuck into the family home and is now trapped inside. Their reunion is barely censored for the audience and the film’s classification rating, and the male gaze has taken hold as the camera lingers on Zoey’s short plaid skirt and long legs.

Hollinger (2012, p.22) incorporates Laura Mulvey’s discussion of the male gaze in cinema while discussing Hitchcock’s film Vertigo (1958), and her arguments certainly apply here in The Purge. Zoey has been objectified by the filmmakers, which is evident in camera movements and costume choices (the ‘sexy schoolgirl’ archetype), and these choices have been ‘justified’ because her boyfriend is not a legal adult; making their ‘relations’ more legal than, say, a man ten years older engaging in the same acts with Zoey. Zoey’s underage status has been made irrelevant by the filmmakers and their decisions.

While the surveillance carried out is not all strictly by the characters of the film, it is quite clear that all forms of surveillance need to be taken into account when discussing digital media use and surveillance.


Hollinger K 2012, Feminist Film Studies, Taylor and Francis, retrieved 11 October 2013, Deakin University Library e-book database.

Levin TY 2002, ‘Rhetoric of the temporal index: surveillant narration and the cinema of “Real Time’‘’, in Levin, TY, Frohne, U and Weibel, P (eds.), Ctrl Space: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, ZKM, Karlsruhe, pp. 578-593

Turner JS 1998, ‘Collapsing the Interior/Exterior Distinction: Surveillance, Spectacle, and Suspense in Popular Cinema‘, Wide Angle, vol. 20, no. 4, October, pp. 93-121 (Deakin Library e-journal database).

Monday, 5 August 2013

ALC201 Module 1, Topic 2: Reflection on my online identity.

'How should the identity of a person be understood?' is the question Hongladarom (2011, p.535) poses this question, and what with the online and offline personalities of today, this question is becoming more difficult to answer.

So how would you understand my online identity?

I have been told - and I agree to an extent - that my online identity is well developed, and maintained, over several different platforms and social media websites. It is hard to argue when you consider this range; Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Skype, Blogger, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and the list goes on.

Photographer: S Prchn. 
Some, in part, was due to my recent study abroad program overseas. My family wanted to make particularly sure that I was alive and well, so I regularly uploaded pictures from my travels, updated my personal blog as a diary, and arranged times to Skype call with them (difficult with eight to ten hours' time difference). The constant need to update my Facebook feed with my travel-related, envy-invoking images felt justified at the time.

The way I use Twitter seems to relate to what Hongladarom (2011, p.538) had to say about alternate personas.

"The newly created persona, then, allows the person behind to say things in such a way that would not be possible if the person revealed who she really is to the world." (Hongladarom, 2011, p.538)

Sometimes it can be a good release to be open about our problems on over social media. However, 'oversharing' is not particularly favoured over such mediums - unless, of course, you are a celebrity.

Marshall's discussion of celebrity culture involves celebrities having "educated" people in using consumer culture to 'make' oneself (2010, p.36). When I think of celebrity culture I think of their mistakes splashed across the headlines and the gossip. However, I think of the way they use social media - Twitter, Instagram, and blogs in some cases. They discuss small, slightly interesting parts of their lives and tons of people seem to 'like', 'favourite', 'share', and comment regardless of what the 'tweet' (Twitter) or picture (Instagram) is. Perhaps it is a quick snap with another famous person, or the celebrity's dinner, inspirational quotes, quirky mundane moments or potential future plans.

This could perhaps be compared to how I use social media, if not unconsciously then on a conscious level. I am essentially presenting and promoting myself, and the only difference is having a much smaller audience. I may notice mundane and quirky moments on a very regular basis, but the bottom line is, who cares? And if people do care, then why?

I wish I knew the answer. The fact that I do not is quite unsettling.

Hongladarom, S (2011) 'Personal Identity and the Self in the Online and Offline World', Minds & Machines. , vol. 21, issue 4, pp. 533-548
Marshall, P. David  (2010) 'The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media', Celebrity Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 35-48

Monday, 1 October 2012

Final Essay: The Physical Flows of Globalisation.

Source: Click.
Globalisation and its flows; physical, cultural, media, capital and information intertwine and cannot be clearly categorised separate from each other. This item will be primarily discussing physical flows; however it would be impossible not to mention the other four flows involved that would impact the physical ones.

The physical movement of people and goods has proved beneficial for countries and continents that can share resources and minerals with each other (oil, fuel and many more). The convergence of technology and faster communication over long distances enables the knowledge of such trades to exist, let alone transactions being able to take place with mutual trust.

Source: Click.
Tourism and the physical flow of travellers impact both countries of origin and the host country. The need for tracking and documenting cross country travellers (by use of passport checks) determines their country of origin and citizenship, as well as important information on the individual (name, date of birth). Positive effects of tourism include economic help, and a negative effect would be pollution and inconsiderate behaviour from the tourists. Differing governments worldwide accepting passports could be considered crucial and significant in globalisation; multiple, imagined ‘cultures’ converging to accept the passport data.

Immigration, both legal and illegal, are also forms of physical flow regarding globalisation. Since the world is becoming more informed, more people start to prefer other countries to their own, in terms of economic standing, cultural, political, risk of persecution or other reasons involved. Sun (2002, p.115) best phrases this in the following.

Much has been written about how electronic media have transformed our understanding of temporality, spatiality, and a sense of who we are as individuals.
-Sun, 2002, p.115
The new sense of other countries and individuals’ understanding can contribute to migration from one country to another. Ideas of culture are not necessarily fixed, and are not necessarily defined by borders. The immigrated individuals unconsciously bring their local sense of culture with them. 

Source: Click.
The result of such movement to countries such as Australia is the diverse range of cultural representatives in the community. The phrase ‘hybridised cultural formations’ by Moore (2012) refers to immigrants who, by moving to a place such as Australia, bring their own culture from their own homeland and marries it with the new ideas of culture in the new country. Sometimes this can be quite literal with regard to offspring; immigrants can meet and marry into other cultures, resulting in bilateral children. These cultures, some of them conflicting in values and morals, can leave the children feeling confused about their sense of belonging. On the other hand, they have a variety of choice as to which culture they can choose, if they wish.

Australia is a particularly special case in that cultures are able to integrate and represent the population, whether they are of Australian origin or not. An individual is able to go to places such as Lygon Street in Melbourne, which has become commonly known to cater food of a variety of cultures for people to choose from. There is less restriction on choice of nationality, one can even recall an Ethiopian restaurant/grocery store in Adelaide.

Source: Click.
Transnational television, as discussed by Naficy (2003, p.52) is imported media from homelands. Television provided by the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) channel includes news and other various programs from many different countries in their respective languages. This is helpful for the diasporic communities as they can keep an eye on their own homelands in their own language if they desire. Also provided in multiple languages are radio channels and newspapers. Foxtel in Australia, in particular, are well known for catering channels in certain languages on request. 

These avenues of media and technology enable the diasporic communities to maintain a (admittedly distant) relationship with their homelands. However, El-Nawawy (2003, p.52), in discussing ‘Western-raised’ Arabs brings up a valid point. Some diasporic individuals may have grown up not knowing the language, or have immersed themselves so greatly in the new country. These specific cases perhaps feel more inclined to take the word of the local news; it’s certainly easier accessed and placed foremost in programming.

Source: Click.
Keeping these availabilities in mind, a possible issue could be equal representation of all these communities. How can the variety (or sometimes lack of variety) truly represent the diasporic communities? There are multiple mediums available from the likes of Europe and Asia, and yet not as many from continents like Africa and South America. Being faithful to the population and representing each culture and their language equally is almost impossible because of the digital divide.

The phrase ‘global village’ was the hope when the World Wide Web came to fruition and people all over the globe could communicate to form a mass of organised ideas that could be shared. Nederveen Pieterse (2004, p.9) states that the technological advances made have contributed to globalisation. Distance had presumably been overcome. 

But there is still the issue of remote, young countries who do not have access to the same technology. Nederveen Pieterse (2004, p.13) also puts forward the idea that globalisation does not refer to an equal playing field, or equal international relations. Nederveen Pieterse also identifies and names a formed ‘Triad’ of the continents able to make the most of ‘contemporary globalisation’; North America, Europe, and East Asia. Since Australia was colonised by England and allied with some of the Triad during the wars, Australia could be included to a lesser extent. Australia is not as accessible to transport people and goods to, as opposed to continents like Europe; its countries and borders close together.

Source: Click.
In the case of illegal immigrants, travelling by boat is the most discrete and affordable way to leave the country. In some cases, travelling by boat is probably the only way. This is said considering each possibility; immigrants are possibly fleeing from persecution and/or execution, most likely with their families. However, Morrison (2003, p.474) discusses human trafficking and smuggling being labelled as an element of organised crime and the phrase ‘transnational crime’ (2003, p.475) is utilised in the text. Morrison goes on to explain the distinction eventually made between the words ‘trafficking’ and ‘smuggling’, the meaning of the latter is the applicable one here.

Trafficking involves exploitation that goes on after arrival in the country of destination, such as bonded labour or prison... ‘smuggling’ meaning an assisted illegal border crossing with no ongoing exploitation.
Morrison, 2003, p.476

There does appear to be a pattern involving current illegal immigration. Current countries involved such as Sri Lanka appear to be outside of the Triad of contemporary globalisation. Meaning they have a disadvantage of being accepted into Australia, unlike a legal immigrant from England; presumably able to obtain the appropriate paperwork to secure a visa and have the money for a flight.

El-Nawawy, M. 2003, ‘The battle for the Arab mind’, Al-Jazeera, the story of the network that is rattling governments and redefining modern journalism 2003, Westview Press, Boulder CO, pp. 45-69, 217-218
Morrison, J 2003, ‘“The dark side of globalisation”: the criminalisation of refugees’, in R Robertson & KE White (eds), Globalization: critical concepts in sociology, Routledge, London, pp. 474–7.
Nederveen Pieterse, J 2004, ‘Globalization: consensus and controversies’, Globalization and culture: global mélange, Rowan & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., pp. 7–21.
Naficy, H 2003, ‘Narrowcasting in diaspora: Middle Eastern television in Los Angeles’, in KH Karim (ed.), The media of diaspora, Routledge, London, pp. 51–62.
Sun, W 2002, ‘Fantasizing the homeland, the internet, memory and exilic longings’, Leaving China: media, migration, and transnational imagination, Rowan & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., pp. 113–36.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Week Eight: Celebrity Culture

Source: Click.

Professor David Marshall's guest lecture this week was quite an illuminating take on globalisation in terms of 'celebrity culture'. Examples included Prince Harry's leaked photographs and Catherine Zeta-Jones' anger appearing in paparazzi pictures. I was incredibly interested in the idea he introduced about private and public persona, and how the line has become finer and much more blurred with converging technologies.

Marshall (2008, p.498) talks about how it is personalities that the public are interested in, and personalities that are being bought and enjoyed. Marshall also discusses that new media are making possible what was thought impossible about fifty years ago. Media input has become more democratic, and the humiliating, unexplainable acts by celebrities are able to be posted, reported, broadcast and digested by audiences almost within the hour, within even minutes of occurring. 

Source: Click.
I personally do not understand this boom in 'celebrity culture'. and I barely care; especially when the celebrities involved have not earned their media coverage as others have. Celebrities are human and they are free to make their mistakes; but I don't support these mistakes splashed across covers of magazines and in big, bold headline font, by people paid to do it and apparently frame this as 'news'.

More recently people tend to explode with their media coverage; One Direction and individuals associated with Twilight come to mind. I have found that people either care religiously or not at all; both extreme polar opposites. There's the few people in the middle, but most tend to be one or the other.

Are your own experiences something like this? I'm interested to hear what you think!

Marshall, D, 2008The Specular Economy, Society. Vol. 47.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Week Seven: Protecting Culture.

As I previously mentioned in Week One, there has been an increasing awareness of culture and clash. Whether globalisation meant a loss of cultural identity for all countries involved. Being disadvantaged in this world of corporate giants can mean smaller scale countries are finding increasing difficulty in their representation.

However, there are some that manage to integrate multiple cultures to be heard. For instances, Sita Sings the Blues makes use of the late Annette Hanshaw's voice and recordings from her radio career in the 1920s and 1930s.

But the visual doesn't always necessarily match the audio material - culturally anyway. The film makes use of stories from the Ramayana, and there is a decided conflict of cultures. It defies audience expectations; combining 'Western' and 'Eastern' cultures in the one text.

Source: Click
This was taken by yours truly.
Also taken by yours truly.
Yours truly again.
Even making use of the concept of intermission, which my mother tells me was very common with Indian and Sri Lankan films at the cinema. She would always tell me that they would buy lollies and candy before rushing back to watch the film's second half.

With the above in mind, the intermission depicted in Sita displays characters from the feature taking bathroom breaks and visiting the candy bar as the clock counts down. I personally appreciated the nod to the traditions of cinema; it is a little ironic now as we watch from our computer screens and can simply pause the film if a break is needed.

The marrying of traditional and contemporary entertainment is one of joy. Having spoken of my own conflicting cultures before, I find this film can best contextualise how culture collides today.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Week Six: 'Alternative Media'?

Source: Click
What I think is the issue with people discussing Al Jazzera is that people are treating the programs and its content like it's 'alternative' to the Western media. Hence our problem again; we're still in the mindset of 'us' and 'them' in regards to the Middle East.

All media is subjective. All topic matter is subjective, and from whatever region is subjective. But we're still being steered in the direction of what is thought to be 'appropriate' news matter. We hear of shopping controversies on shows like A Current Affair that are not really news - but these stories are fast becoming the norm. Since when are we to absolutely judge television and its content?

There are even channels like SBS here in Australia that provide news from multiple countries and languages; Greek, Italian, Indian, Lebanese, the list goes on. Could these programs be judged as absolutely?

As Sun points out (2002, p.119), many diasporic groups in the contemporary global context use the Internet for community-building. Does this not apply to television programs? How can building a sense of community, for those who belong to a different country, be a bad thing?

And this is where another gap emerges, the 'race' gap. Even in trying to maintain all communities fairly, there will sadly be no room to deplete racism. Paradigms are difficult to shift for most people, and the one of race doesn't seem to be vanishing soon enough.

Sun, W 2002, ‘Fantasizing the homeland, the internet, memory and exilic longings’, Leaving China: media, migration, and transnational imagination, Rowan & Littlefield, Lanham, Md., pp. 113–36.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Week Five: Diasporic Cultures and Nationalism

Source: Click.
Even when people have migrated from their 'homeland', nowadays the notion of homeland is only strengthened with the evolution of technology. The ability to hear how one's country of origin is faring is expanded via the internet/world wide web, cheaper international calls, and the ease of world news access.  However, El-Nawawy (2003, P.68)points out that this is not necessarily available equal globally, in regards to Iraq.

When Chris talked about nationalism in this week's lecture (as well as explaining diasporic cultures), it struck me that I have not, as yet, managed to find a proper balance between my family cultures.

To explain, I'm half Greek Cypriot on my father's side, half Sri Lankan on my mother's, and born/raised here in Australia. People often get confused by my physical features and ask my 'nationality' or 'family background'. The next question I'm asked is whether I speak either language (I don't) and their response to this is that 'it's a shame'. I have half Cypriot, half Italian cousins, but I feel this mix can be better explained geographically than my own family history.

It does get confusing as both cultures have a certain set of values that often contrast each other. Most people have a sense of community within their families, but I myself feel torn in this respect. The concept of having ALL of my family in the one room is but a daydream.

Fortunately, both sides flew here and migrated here legally. I am, by definition, a second generation Australian according to this report from the Department of Immigration (2002, p.iv).

In short, I have not experienced diaspora myself. But I am here because my ancestors have.

El-Nawawy, M. 2003, ‘The battle for the Arab mind’, Al-Jazeera, the story of the network that is rattling governments and redefining modern journalism< 2003, Westview Press, Boulder CO, pp. 45-69, 217-218
Khoo, Siew-Ean et al, Second Generation Australians, Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs publication, last accessed 8/8/12