Critical Perspectives: ‘We Media’ and Democracy Media in the Online Age Postmodern Media Contemporary Media Regulation Media and the Collective Identity Global Media
Postmodern Media – Learning Objectives Over the next term we will be studying the critical perspective – Postmodern Media and looking at a range of examples from different media to try to work out what it is all about. By the time you complete this section you will be able to understand a range of theories relating to postmodern media and will be able to apply those theories to specific texts which we will have studied. You will be tested on this critical perspective in the A2 exam and the question may look something like this…
Unit G325: Critical Perspectives in Media – Section B Contemporary Media Issues Postmodern Media Specimen Questions Discuss two or more media texts that you would define as ‘postmodern’ and explain why you would give them this label. Cover at least two media in your answer. Or Consider the ways in which postmodern media challenge conventional relations between audience and text. Refer to at least two media forms in your answer.
Back to the Beginning So now you know the outcomes lets start at the beginning…. Aim: To gain an understanding of what the term ‘postmodern’ actually means and how it relates to a range of media texts.
Dictionary Definition of Postmodernism The Compact Oxford English Dictionary refers to postmodernism as "a style and concept in the arts characterized by a distrust of theories and ideologies and by the drawing of attention to conventions."
Postmodern MediaAn Introduction from the Media Studies Text BookOCR Media Studies for A2 – Julian McDougall Postmodernists claim that in a media-saturated world, where we are constantly immersed in media, 24/7 – and on the move, at work, at home – the distinction between reality and the media representation of it becomes blurred or even entirely invisible to us. In other words, we no longer have any sense of the difference between real things and images of them, or real experiences and simulations of them. Media reality is the new reality.
Some see this as a historical development: the modern period came before, during which artists experimented with the representation of reality, and the postmodern comes next, where this idea of representation gets ‘remixed’, played around with, through pastiche, parody and intertextual references – where the people that make texts deliberately expose their nature as constructed texts and make no attempt to pretend that they are ‘realist’.
Postmodern Ideas Postmodern media rejects the idea that any media product or text is of any greater value than another. All judgements are merely taste. Anything can be art, anything can deserve to reach an audience, and culture ‘eats itself’ as there is no longer anything new to produce or distribute.
Cont. The distinction between media and reality has collapsed, and we now live in a ‘reality’ defined by images and representations – a state of ‘simulacrum’. Images refer to each other and represent each other as reality rather than some ‘pure’ reality that exists before the image represents it – this is the state of ‘hyperreality’.
Cont. All ideas of ‘the truth’ are just competing claims – or discourses – and what we believe to be the truth at any point is merely the ‘winning’ discourse. (spoken or written words)
Philosophers within the Postmodern Movement Baudrillard and Lyotard (not to be confused with the outfit you wear for gymnastics!) Both men are now deceased but during their life they offered different theories of what postmodernism was. What they shared was a belief that the idea of truth needs to be ‘deconstructed’ so that we can challenge the dominant ideas that people claim as truth, which Lyotard describes as ‘grand narratives’.
Postmodern Theories cont. In the postmodern world, media texts make visible and challenge ideas of truth and reality, removing the illusion that stories, texts or images can ever accurately or neutrally reproduce reality or truth. So we get the idea that there are always competing versions of the truth and reality, and postmodern media products will engage with this idea.
Critics of these theories and beliefs It is important to understand that many people see Baudrillard and Lyotard’s views as offensive and hard to reconcile with their belief systems. It can be seen as a whimsical luxury to question and play with the idea of truth and something that people who live in countries such as Iraq, Tibet and Zimbabwe cannot do – they have to contest on a daily basis the existence of truth, justice and human rights. Some people also find the idea of rejecting their ‘grand narrative’ goes against their whole religious beliefs and moral principles.
Hyperreality and Baudrillard – Julian McDougall OCR Media Text Book You should be familiar with the basic semiotic ideas – that signs represent ideas, people or places. For Baudrillard, there is only the surface meaning; there is no longer any ‘original’ thing for a sign to represent – the sign is the meaning. We inhabit a society made up wholly of simulacra – simulations of reality which replace any ‘pure’ reality.
McDougall Cont. ‘Pure’ reality is thus replaced by the hyperreal where any boundary between the real and the imaginary is eroded. Baudrillard’s work is an attempt to expose the ‘open secret’ that this is how we live and make sense of the world in postmodern times. As you can imagine, he is considered a pretty controversial philosopher.
Baudrillard – A Postmodern Philosopher (1929-2007) Baudrillard wrote a philosophical treatise called ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ Simulacra and Simulation is most known for its discussion of images, signs, and how they relate to the present day. Baudrillard claims that modern society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that the human experience is of a simulation of reality rather than reality itself.
The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are signs of culture and media that create the perceived reality; Baudrillard believed that society has become so reliant on simulacra that it has lost contact with the real world on which the simulacra are based.
Simulacra and SimulationSimulacra and Simulation identifies three types of simulacra and identifies each with a historical period: First order Associated with the pre-modern period, where the image is clearly an artificial placemarker for the real item. (Think of a painting of a famous person or place) Second order Associated with the industrial Revolution, where distinctions between image and reality break down due to the proliferation of mass-produced copies. The item's ability to imitate reality threatens to replace the original version. (Paintings are printed en masse) Third order Associated with the postmodern age, where the simulacrum precedes the original and the distinction between reality and representation breaks down. There is only the simulacrum. (Most people only see the print and perceive that to be their reality)
The original painting is in a museum and most people will not have seen it. Their experience of the painting is through a reproduction either print or now digital.
Baudrillard’s Famous Assertion… Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the ‘real’ country, all of real America, which is Disneyland (just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social; in its entirety, it its banal omnipresence, which is Carceral). Banal = commonplace Omnipresence = present everywhere Carceral = A Carceral state is a state modelled on the idea of a prison
He goes on to say… That Disneyland (with its Pirates, Frontier, and Future World fantasy set-ups) is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.
The Disneyland imaginary is neither true nor false; it is a deterrence machine set up in order to rejuvenate in reverse the fiction of the real. Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (1983)
For some people – this may be their only experience of a castle. Is it real to them or fake?
Postmodern Media Texts There are many examples of texts or products which deliberately set out to explore and play with this state of hyperreality. These texts are said to be intertextual and self-referential – they break the rules of realism to explore the nature of their own status as constructed texts. In other words, they seek not to represent reality, but to present media reality.
One of the primary features of postmodernism in aesthetic production is the use of intertextuality, which The Simpsons frequently embraces in its narratives. A significant portion of the show’s comedy lies in its rich use of both explicit and implicit references to cultural icons from the past and the present. These are classic comedic techniques far from exclusive to The Simpsons, but to feature these references as prevalently as is done in The Simpsons was novel for any popular TV series, particularly in the animation genre. Watching any given episode of The Simpsons, viewers will find it difficult to ignore the bombardment of allusions to all kinds of cultural phenomena.
Examples We Will Look At Televised images of the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center The Matrix and Blade Runner The music of DJ Shadow An advert for Cadbury The films of Michael Winterbottom, the Coen brothers, and Wong Kar-wai Postmodern TV such as Big Brother; The Mighty Boosh; the television of Ricky Gervais; The Wire and Echo Beach/Moving Wallpaper Postmodern magazine readers Grand Theft Auto as a postmodern video game Second Life as the ultimate hyperreal media experience
Postmodern Film We will begin our investigation of postmodern media texts looking at a selection of films which are thought to reflect the ideas of postmodernism
Postmodern Film Postmodernist film can be seen to voice the ideas of postmodernism through the cinematic medium. Postmodernist film upsets the mainstreamconventions of narrative structure and characterization and destroys (or, at least, toys with) the audience's suspension of disbelief to create a work in which a less-recognizable internal logic forms the film's means of expression.
By making small but significant changes to the conventions of cinema, the artificiality of the experience and the world presented are emphasised in the audience's mind in order to remove them from the conventional emotional link they have to the subject matter, and to give them a new view of it.
An example is Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People in which the character based on Tony Wilson frequently breaks out of the constructed world of the film and talks directly to the audience straight through the camera lens. Jarring in effect, it suggests the characters' pre-occupation with breaking free of the cultural and economic constructions of the world they live in.
Winterbottom's postmodernist effect, however, is hardly new: Federico Fellini, among other master filmmakers, used it memorably in Satyricon (1969) and Amarcord (1973). David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001) exploits postmodernist aesthetics to an unusual degree while Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction is considered an example of Postmodernist film because of a range of techniques used.
We are going to watch ‘The Matrix’ and try to pick out aspects of the film which make it a postmodern film. Think about: the narrative structure the idea of changing established conventions – genre, representation, audience expectations etc. Drawing the viewers attention to the construction of the film – ‘bullet time’ sequences Taking existing ideas from earlier films and using them in a different way – paying homage Suggestions it makes about society and its troubles
The Matrix The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction-action film written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, and Hugo Weaving. It was first released in the USA on March 31, 1999, and is the first entry in The Matrix series of films, comics, video games, and animation. (Synergy – combined elements)
Box Office Info It earned $171 million in the U.S. and $460 million worldwide, and later became the first DVD to sell more than three million copies in the U.S. The Ultimate Matrix Collection was released on HD DVD on May 22, 2007 and on Blu-ray on October 14, 2008. The movie is also scheduled to be released stand alone in a 10th anniversary edition on Blu-ray in the Digibook format on March 31, 2009, 10 years to the day after the movie was released theatrically.
In Postmodern thought, interpretations of The Matrix often reference Baudrillard's philosophy to demonstrate that the movie is an allegory for contemporary experience in a heavily commercialized, media-driven society, especially of the developed countries. This influence was brought to the public's attention through the writings of art historians such as Griselda Pollockand film theorists such as Heinz-Peter Schwerfel.
The Wachowski Brothers were keen that all involved understood the thematic background of the movie. For example, a book called ‘Simulacra and Simulacrum’, written by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, was required reading for most of the principal cast and crew, and was used to conceal disks early on in the film.
The Matrix makes many connections to Simulacra and Simulation. In an early scene, Simulacra and Simulation is the book in which Neo hides his illicit software. Morpheus also refers to the real world outside of the Matrix as the "desert of the real", which was directly referenced in the Slavoj Žižek work, Welcome to the Desert of the Real. In the original script, Morpheus referenced Baudrillard's book specifically. Keanu Reeves was asked by the directors to read the book, as well as Out of Control and Evolution Psychology, before being cast as Neo!
Merrin – Baudrillard and the Media (2005:131) The Matrix has us. Our consumption of the films, the merchandise, and the world and myth the Wachowskis sell us, and our collective orgasm over the effects and phones, guns, shades and leather, represent our integration into the virtuality it promotes. The Matrix became a viral meme (a cultural characteristic passed on) spreading through and being mimetically (mimicked i.e. copied) and absorbed into modern culture, extending our virtualisation.
Merrin cont. Just as the film offered the stark choice of being inside or outside the matrix so you were either inside or outside the zeitgeist (the spirit of the times). To paraphrase Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. As Baudrillard makes clear, however, its fans and public are caught in a similarly invisible matrix that is far greater than depicted in the film, and that the film itself is part of and extends.
Other Postmodern Influences The film describes a future in which reality perceived by humans is actually the Matrix: a simulated reality created by sentient machines in order to pacify and subdue the human population while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Upon learning this, computer programmer "Neo" is drawn into a rebellion against the machines. The film contains many references to the cyberpunk and hacker subcultures; philosophical and religious ideas; and homage to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Hong Kong action cinema and Spaghetti Westerns.
Challenging Film Making Conventions The film is known for popularizing the use of a visual effect known as "bullet time", which allows the viewer to explore a moment progressing in slow-motion as the camera appears to orbit around the scene at normal speed. One proposed technique for creating these effects involved propelling a high speed camera along a fixed track with a rocket to capture the action as it occurred. However, this was discarded as unfeasible, because not only was the destruction of the camera in the attempt all but inevitable, but the camera would also be almost impossible to control at such speeds. Instead, the method used was a technically expanded version of an old art photography technique known as time-slice photography, in which a large number of cameras are placed around an object and triggered nearly simultaneously.
The evolution of photogrametric and image-based computer-generated background approaches in The Matrix's bullet time shots set the stage for later innovations unveiled in the sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Virtual Cinematography (CGI-rendered characters, locations, and events) and the high-definition "Universal Capture" process completely replaced the use of still camera arrays, thus more closely realizing the "virtual camera". This film overcame the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace by winning the Academy Award for Visual Effects
Homework Analyse the idea of postmodernism as you understand it so far – carry out some more research on Baudrillard and Lyotard and postmodernism. Try and link your ideas to The Matrix and Blade Runner to show how they can be read as postmodern films. You should write two sides of A4 This is due in on Thursday 8th July