December 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
Below is an excerpt from my master’s Dissertation.
The Individual as the New(s) Authority
Part X of XI
POSTMODERN MEDIA & COMMUNICATION
Social media is the utmost postmodern form of media because it has completely deconstructed the traditional channels of media and human communication. Postmodernist do not view truth as a single thing or idea; but instead see truth as assembled and constructed from many different components. Truth can be gathered from science, theories and studies; or happen simply through society, created though cultural mechanisms and processes seen by the individual. (McCandless, D. 2009). By applying this definition to the modern spread of information we can begin to see how social media by its nature is nothing short of postmodern.
Social media has stripped communication down to its barest identity. Any sort of announcement, story, personal account, gossip, statement, revelation or intelligent comment has become substance for our news feeds. Truly anything can be considered fodder for news and communication. That is to say, social media has completely democratized media giving everyone the power to contribute to the news. There is no longer a difference between refined and popular, no more high and low culture, instead everything is online and available to the publics discretion. Social media embraces contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, interconnectedness and the fusion of the masses, all of which are key principles to postmodern thought (McCandless, D. 2009). Social media has utterly obliterated the distinction between the producers and consumers of media giving anyone the opportunity to be both a consumer and producer of news (Basulto, D. 2009). Through social media’s general nature it has completely torn down traditional forms of media and communication creating a new system for human communication where the individual has the power.
Modern social networks are a perfect depiction of postmodern concepts because they each deconstruct human interaction in their own way thus breaking down the conventional forms of communication and conversation. For example, Facebook has deconstructed the word friend bringing it to a point of near meaninglessness. By definition a friend is, “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection,” a companion, soul mate, intimate, confidante, familiar, playmate, playfellow, classmate, schoolmate, workmate; ally or associate (Oxford University 2005). However, at 27 years old, I have about 900 friends on Facebook, yet I would classify very few of them as confidants or companions, some are schoolmates and coworkers yes, but most are people I shared some sort of experience with at some point in my life. My “Facebook Friends” are people who I share a similarity and regard with a certain amount of trust to be both sources and receivers of information and messages; they are not necessarily friends by the traditional definition. Fundamentally, Facebook has deconstructed the word “friend” and what it means to know someone, and by doing so has allowed a greater amount of information to be shared between not only with individuals but throughout the public sphere.
Perhaps unknowingly, the creators of social networks like Facebook and Twitter have used postmodern thought by completely deconstructing human communication and dismantling how we share news and information to its barest form. Social networks have given way to a collective trans-critical and the meta-analysis of our existence. We each combine our own reality and truths into these social networks through sharing links, posting photos and information. Our individual messages are presented to us in constructed news feeds and lists of 140 character messages where communication boarders on Alter-modernism. Both the form and function of social media have given the individual the power to assemble truth accurately and safely. When a news story is shared by the individual via social media other users have the opportunity to discuss and verify the truth. The power to contribute and approve information through social networks keeps organized bodies who claim to hold absolute truths from attempting to assert power over the public.
Postmodernist do not believe in absolute truths but rather that ideas of truth are used as a means of control over a populous. Attempts to skew media and perceptions of truth by the powerful have become less effective since the birth of social networks. For instance, recently the NYPD tried to deny the use of pepper spray on crowds at an Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City when they had in fact sprayed the crowd. (Masnick, M. 2011). If this had happened 10 years ago the events would have been left to speculation. Technology has given people the ability to digitally capture real time events and share them in open forums like Youtube. The popularity of smart phones and the ability to post real time events via social media enabled individuals to bring the truth to public sphere giving them a new power over those who were once all powerful.
October 21, 2011 § 1 Comment
It has become obvious to me that both the adoption rate of technology and the rate of communication in society are both snowballing. The more technology evolves the quicker it is adapted and with new technology comes faster rates of communication. Technology has given people the power to communicate real time information. This power to share information instantaneously has given the individual a new authorship within media. It’s no longer word of mouth, it’s word of tech. In 2011 we use technology to communicate to our bosses, to pay our bills, to share moments, to reach to family members and to find out news from around the world. Before social media the individual was for the most part a consumer of media, but social media has enabled us all to be authors and journalists in our right. These images help us to realize how fast the world has changed. It took radio 38 years to gain 50 million users and Facebook only 1 to gain millions. I’m not sure what the end result of the relationship between the spread of technology, the increase in users and the decrease in time to takes to communicate will be. Perhaps it just shows how much we have evolved over the past century, maybe it means something more. Although, I’m not sure how much faster technology can get unless we break the time space continuum.
October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
While researching the evolution of technology and its role in communication I stumbled upon an NPR podcast, Warhol Was Right About ’15 Minutes Of Fame’ discussing how social media has seen Andy Warhol’s vision of fame realized. Warhol said that, “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes,” while this is a well known quote many have struggled to decipher exactly what he meant by this. I don’t think the 1960’s Pop artist was by any means a prophet or a time traveler, but I do think that he saw something about American culture and consumerism that most people were too close to see. Warhol saw that everything around us is manufactured and made to be consumed, even the news. Warhol also realized the vanity of people and how this vanity and need to feel important in the world fed largely into consumerism. Many people felt he made a mockery of the art scene by presenting commercial illustrations as art. What many people still don’t understand is that by doing this Warhol was able to create a visual conversation on manufacturing. Warhol saw the idea of ‘celebrity’ as a not only manufactured product, but also something everyone desired.
Warhol used images of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Campbell’s Soup and electric chairs to celebrate the celebrity and how it is consumed. Warhol’s statement “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes,” has come true because of social media. Social media has given the public authorship and power in the media. The general public no longer has to sit back and simply consume news and information, we now have the ability to be not just a part of the flow of news and information but also a source.
Warhol said in his book From A to B & Back Again: The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
“I’m confused about who the news belongs to. I always have it in my head that if you name’s in the news, then the news should be paying you. Because it’s your news and they’re taking it and selling it as their product. But then they always say they’re helping you. And that’s true too, but still, if people didn’t give the news their news and if everybody kept their news to themselves, the news wouldn’t have any news. So I guess you should pay each other. But I haven’t figured it out fully yet.”
Social media gives people to a forum to share their news and to be famous in their own right for 15 minutes. I have been working on away to visually communicate how this idea. A way to say Warhol was right, everyone does have their 15 minutes of Fame and it’s come true on Facebook. I liked the idea of incorporating the Marilyn Monroe image, because I think its recognizable as a piece of Andy Warhol’s work and as Marilyn the celebrity. I hope using this image will make people think of Warhol’s philosophies of consumption and celebrity. I then thought to use Facebook avatar before you upload a profile picture to show that through Facebook Warhol’s prophecy has come true. The avatar representing that it can be anyone. I’ve made a few pieces but my problem currently is that although almost everyone my age is on Facebook the profile avatar isn’t really very recognizable. I’m not sure if this makes my idea more interesting, because it shows how much Facebook has permeated out culture, almost like we’re so close and involved with it that we can’t see our way out.
My thought was to recreate Andy Warhol’s Marilyn through screen printing it with the Facebook Avatars on top. However, after consulting with the screen printing studio I’ve decided that would be too tricky and time consuming. My next idea was to print the image of Marilyn onto canvas and then simply screen print the Facebook avatar on top. I ran in trouble though because I couldn’t find the 3×3 image I had been using in high resolution, not good for printing. After some thought and looking through some more of Warhol’s pieces I’m wondering if it’s really necessary to use repetitive imagery. I’m trying to deconstruct this piece down to its simplest forms to best communicate my message of how anyone can have their Marilyn 15 minutes of fame on facebook. This is the next round I’ve done.
The last piece, which I made yesterday, I think I like the best. It appears that Marilyn is fitting into the Facebook image, like a puzzle. I want it to look like anyone can fit into this space which why I left the white sliver. I’m not sure if it’s there yet. But I kinda of like that people can’t recognize the Facebook Avatar at fist, its like the arrow in the FedEx logo, at first you don’t notice it, but then that’s all you can see. Any thoughts, comments are welcome!