Blog Post Redo: Weeks 3-4

For the past two weeks, our class has been concerned with learning how to create an effective podcast. This learning was primarily exercised through listening to pedagogic podcasts. Whenever a medium is used to teach how to make an effective iteration of that same medium, or a work is used as a paradigm for that medium, I often find myself subjecting the work to more stringent criticism. I found myself noticing aspects of the didactic podcasts about how to make a podcast, that I wouldn’t have noticed in a different podcast genre, like an episodic narrative. This phenomenon is also partly due to the fact that I exercise most of my active thinking about podcasts within the framework of critiquing and creating them. My consumption of the podcasts became less about deriving the useful information, and more about analyzing and critiquing the elements that the podcasts were comprised of.

For instance, the first thing I noticed about Jessica Abel’s Out on the Wire Episode Four: Bare Bones, was the irritating music that played throughout. I found the music detracted from the audio clarity and undermined Abel’s efforts to effectively impart information, because it distracted from the substantive content. I found that the elevator music-esque backing track was part of a larger, multifarious problem with the presentation of audio. I found the audio transitions to be awkwardly implemented, and the editing as a whole to be a little chaotic: definitely not conducive to consuming Abel’s message. I also found that Abel’s voiceover work was not particularly engaging. I didn’t feel that she espoused the point touched on (ironically in an Out on the Wire selection) in a reading, about how effective self-performance on the air “requires [one] having to learn the craft of actually becoming an actor.” Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that Abel exercised this practice. I actually found the readings to be more effective at imparting the salient points on how to make a good podcast. The Out on the Wire reading was especially efficacious, because it was visually engaging (and thus avoided being too dry, like some of the other more textbook-like selections), while still containing information that was useful to my podcast. My podcast has a sort of narrative-like structure, so the points about editing in this reading were particularly salient.

In assessing my critical consumption of the podcasts for the last two weeks, I was forced to realize that some of my rebuke might be undue. This is most likely a product of my vague dislike of podcasts. I’ve never really been partial to audio-based forms of performance media. When listening to podcasts, audiobooks and even radio talk shows, I often have the strange impetus to fast forward, or skim through them. I’m not sure why I have this tendency, but hope that with greater exposure to the media will learn to espouse it and its inherent virtues, like the ability to foster a personal connection with the creator and the audience because of the inherent intimacy created by the vocal presentation.

This tendency was seemingly affirmed by my social media activity. When perusing the feeds relevant to my activist concern, I was drawn mostly to pithy messages superimposed on graphics, rather than the embedded talking head video clips that are largely similar to podcasts in that they can be consumed solely through listening. I think that this inclination is actually not necessarily specific to podcasts, but more a function of the way that I (and many people in my generation) consume media. I have a tendency to skim text, and look for the most salient points, which is not really possible with an audio track (nor with a video really). I think that this is fundamentally related to the prevalence of social media and its formative effects on information processing. On Twitter, substantive information can be expressed in under 140 characters. Through social media participation, I am able to consume a far greater breadth of content at the expense of depth. Tweets about Heather Bresch and Mylan created a sort of coherent narrative that gave me an overall impression of the issue, but did not provide the detail and nuance that audio and video media like radio shows and televised news provide.

PSAs Cont.

My social media involvement over the last two weeks has largely involved review of videos posted by animal rights organizations on their respective Twitter feeds. This review is especially salient given that our current focus in class is the production of a directive-based video. I have covered three separate activist concerns throughout this term, and realized that the issue of animal rights, and animal rights legislation reform, is by far the most significantly subtended by public service announcement videos. The other two were largely concerned with germane issues in the public sphere, and the news outlets reporting on those issues. Animal rights groups, however, such as PETA, mostly focussed on creating bite-sized videos that detailed the travesties animals continue to be subjected to.

I found myself analyzing these videos within the framework of criteria that we developed and discussed in class, and thus contextualizing them within the body of videos that we watched as part of our coursework. I looked at things like main character, setting, call to action, and transitions. These criteria were derived from watching videos like “Space Junk” and “Eliminating Food Waste.” These videos largely varied in how they were delivered, but were mostly all succinct, running less than a minute in length. I gradually learned how best to determine the facets of the video that were most effective, such as the “Food Waste” clip’s compelling hook, and the least effective, like the lack of a clear call to action for the “Space Junk” video.

Most of the videos that I saw my on Twitter feed followed the same sort of prescription. They contained often graphic or heartrending footage of commonplace animal abuse, with descriptive text superimposed over the footage. The videos were usually scored by sombre instrumental compositions, and ended with one of two rhetorical devices: either a specific call to action/directive to abstain from the practice that’s the impetus for the abuse, e.g., stop drinking milk because of the maltreatment of dairy cows, or a rhetorical question inciting the viewer to question the humanity of the practice. In either case, I found these videos to be especially effective, especially with regards to the subject matter. They were visceral, and packed a powerful emotionally resonant punch. This spurred me to realize that there is no “one size fits all” format for a PSA. Talking heads are most effective at imparting information on issues like gun crime, and narrative-style PSAs at human concerns like drug addiction or bullying. Exposure to these videos, as well as discussion of their composition in class helped me determine how best to craft a cogent video for my topic. My video is similar to the Peta PSAs, but I decided that I would try to expand on the established conventions and incorporate a sort of narrative element that I felt would best address the aspects we talked about in class, e.g., main character and setting. I did this in an effort to effectively address our coursework, while still implementing facets from my social media study.

PETA’s PSAs

“How For the video project, I have changed the purview of my activist investigation to focus on animal rights and animal rights legislation. This area of social activism has ostensibly been done ad nauseam, and been entrenched in the forefront of the public consciousness by such prominent organizations as the humane society. However, despite the seeming universal censure of animal abuse, products of inhumane exercises, such as veal, or circus shows are still widespread. Moreover, the existing legislation mandating punishments for animal rights offenders does not comport with the prevailing attitude towards animal abuse. There is a clear imperative to continue to strive to pursue directives to mitigate animal abuse, and to implement reform in punishing offenders.

I followed Peta, and several of its international iterations on Twitter. Several of Peta’s tweets included embedded video PSAs condemning animal abuse. One that was shared earlier today that particularly resonated with me was a PSA advocating for people to eliminate dairy from their diet. The PSA was comprised of a montage of shots of the deplorable conditions in different dairy farms that the animals were subjected to. By informing the audience of the inhumanity largely inherent in the harvesting of most dairy products, it establishes a moral imperative to abstain from their consumption. The video ends with a clear directive to not consume dairy; to ignore the directive is to contravene the basic morality underscored in the video. The video was particularly effective, and was characterized by many of the suggestions in the first section of selections from “How to Make Videos that Don’t Suck.” The clips in the PSA were all brief. The short shots facilitated greater emotional impact, as they focussed on the specific conditions without venturing into “torture porn”, and allowed for a breadth to be included within the relatively short duration of the PSA. The number of dairy farms indicted in the PSA corroborated the claim that such conditions are not anomalies, but rather, standard practice. The PSA was also relatively short, in adherence to the principles outlined in Stockman’s work. The short length of the PSA allows for it to be poignantly impactful, while inviting the viewer to further explore the issue.

I noticed that the PSAs on Peta’s Twitter page were diverse in their content, but largely were effectively pursuant to the goal of ending animal abuse. For instance, they served diverse functions that we talked about in class; the aforementioned PSA may have served as an emotional impetus to abstain from animal abuse, while a PSA further down the page provided suggestions on dairy alternatives.

Pedagogic Podcasts

For the past two weeks, our class has been concerned with learning how to create an effective podcast. This learning was primarily exercised through listening to pedagogic podcasts. Whenever a medium is used to teach how to make an effective iteration of that same medium, or a work is used as a paradigm for that medium, I often find myself subjecting the work to more stringent criticism. I found myself noticing aspects of the didactic podcasts about how to make a podcast, that I wouldn’t have noticed in a different podcast genre, like an episodic narrative. This phenomenon is also partly due to the fact that I exercise most of my active thinking about podcasts within the framework of critiquing and creating them. My consumption of the podcasts became less about deriving the useful information, and more about analyzing and critiquing the elements that the podcasts were comprised of.

For instance, the first thing I noticed about Jessica Abel’s Out on the Wire Episode Four: Bare Bones, was the irritating music that played throughout. I found the music detracted from the audio clarity and undermined Abel’s efforts to effectively impart information, because it distracted from the substantive content. I found that the elevator music-esque backing track was part of a larger, multifarious problem with the presentation of audio. I found the audio transitions to be awkwardly implemented, and the editing as a whole to be a little chaotic: definitely not conducive to consuming Abel’s message. I also found that Abel’s voiceover work was not particularly engaging. I didn’t feel that she espoused the point touched on (ironically in an Out on the Wire selection) in a reading, about how effective self-performance on the air “requires [one] having to learn the craft of actually becoming an actor.” Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that Abel exercised this practice. I actually found the readings to be more effective at imparting the salient points on how to make a good podcast. The Out on the Wire reading was especially efficacious, because it was visually engaging (and thus avoided being too dry, like some of the other more textbook-like selections), while still containing information that was useful to my podcast. My podcast has a sort of narrative-like structure, so the points about editing in this reading were particularly salient.

In assessing my critical consumption of the podcasts for the last two weeks, I was forced to realize that some of my rebuke might be undue. This is most likely a product of my vague dislike of podcasts. I’ve never really been partial to audio-based forms of performance media. When listening to podcasts, audiobooks and even radio talk shows, I often have the strange impetus to fast forward, or skim through them. I’m not sure why I have this tendency, but hope that with greater exposure to the media will learn to espouse it and its inherent virtues, like the ability to foster a personal connection with the creator and the audience because of the inherent intimacy created by the vocal presentation.

Transgender Advocacy and Twitter

Since the inception of the LGBT rights movement at Stonewall in 1969, LGBT advocacy has resulted in profound advancements in the rights afforded to those within the community. However, one group that has largely been left out of the discourse is the number of trans individuals in America. Transgender people are among the most marginalized groups within American society. They are subject to pervasive and systemic discrimination, and even within the LGBT community, are largely relegated to the fringes. Trans issues do not register within the consciousness of collective social advocacy to nearly the same extent that other LGBT issues do. Though the impetus, and indeed, the imperative, for transgender rights advocacy exists, it has yet to manifest with the thrust that other similar activist movements have experienced.

The crux of contemporary transgender issues is in the ratification of transgender discrimination. Discriminatory legislation, masquerading under the pretense of a commitment to public safety, or to free religious exercise, is proliferating at an alarming rate, notably within the Southern states. The most common iteration of this legislation is the “bathroom bill,” which was ostensibly conceived to conduce public safety. In North Carolina, for instance, the legislature mandated that public agencies and school boards only allow people to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex. The inherent discrimination in this mandate has not prevented people from stridently supporting it. It was repealed at the end of March, in a bid by the state to attract organizations that had boycotted the state as a result of the discriminatory measure. This development occurred much to the chagrin of the conservative community. However, the new legislation lacks any provisions that would allow for recourse should an institution or entity reject transgender people.

Acknowledgement of fundamental human rights for trans individuals shouldn’t be an exercise in polemics. And yet, trans issues have created a schism within American society, with proponents of ratified discrimination legitimizing their position by predicating their bigotry on unsubstantiated concerns. Social media has become an important forum for the articulation of both support for trans issues, and their censure. A viral trans rights movement emerged in 2015, and is still prevalent within the Twitterverse. The hashtag #wejustneedtopee was conceived to address the argument that breaking down the binary classification of washrooms would create a predatory environment. The hashtag is usually accompanied by a washroom selfie. The campaign undermines the notion that transgender people pose a danger to public safety by addressing their humanity in a semi-sardonic manner. The hashtag has been espoused by such prominent transgender activists as Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox. It is a part of the larger transgender activism movement on Twitter, that has been demonstrably effective.

Following the North Carolina bathroom mandate, the backlash spurred several prominent organizations to withdraw their enterprises from the state. This move was in part a product of the transparency that social media has introduced into society. The efficacy of social media activism, as demonstrated by the North Carolina boycott, stands in opposition to the arguments advanced by Gladwell in his piece “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.” Gladwell is concerned with traditional forms of direct activism, like marches and in-person protests. However, he fails to acknowledge how social media has both facilitated the spread of information, and created a culture of greater accountability and visibility. This idea is espoused by Mirani in his rebuke of Gladwell. Social media facilitated the spread of information pertaining to the North Carolina bathroom bill. Following its imposition, it was a trending topic on such social media behemoths as Facebook and Twitter for several weeks.

Social media made people aware of the discriminatory legislation that they would otherwise not be cognizant of. Fundamentally intertwined with this heightened awareness is social media’s function as a platform for discourse. Opposition to the legislation on social media was vociferous. People were made aware of the mandate, and those that opposed it were able to articulate their dissent to a broad audience. This widespread rebuke manifested in a viral movement. Businesses and entities like the NCAA were then incited to respond, in the interest of maintaining a positive and progressive image that characterizes successful businesses and organizations. This relationship between the spread of information, the creation of viral movements, and responses by large institutions forms the foundation of the virtue of social media activism.