Election Reading Recommendation

musserWe often forget that previous election campaigns juggled and were shaped by new media forms just like our own, albeit with different “contraptions.” Politicking and Emergent Media, US Presidential Elections of the 1890s, by Yale American Studies/Cinema Studies professor, Charles Musser, is a fascinating read about the election campaigns of the 1890s (and I mean read–in sense that as erudite as it is it’s very readable).  In those days the Democratic party was the less adventursome one in terms of media–it was comfortably ensconced in newspaper formats.  It was the Republicans who experimented more with new media that included the steriopticon (what’s that?) and later motion pictures, telephones, and phonographs.  Writes Lisa Gitelman (New York University), “Charles Musser shows how screens first entered American politics. Whether they are true politics junkies or frothing critics of America’s quadrennial horse race, readers will be tickled by the resemblances between presidential campaigns then and now. This is media history of the finest kind, rendered by one of our most accomplished scholars of early cinema.”

I like Jeffrey Alexander’s observation, writing about the book. “It turns out that technology has been newly emerging over the past three centuries, and the performance of politics has long been deeply transformed as a result.”

If you’re multitasking as you listen to the endless election and post-election punditry, consider opting for this book in your lap rather than just another screen.

Introducing Kulture

Kulture Asian American Media Watchdog (PRNewsFoto/Kulture Media)

There’s a new watchdog on the block called Kulture, a website devoted to tracking offensive representations of Asian Americans in the media. Explains Kulture’s founder Tim Gupta in the September 28 press release: “Many Asians know TV shows represent them in a bad light. But they may think they’re alone in that view. Kulture spotlights how Hollywood mocks and excludes Asian men while fetishizing Asian women. Kulture helps Asians and those concerned about media racism stay abreast of how Asians are depicted, and we will eventually serve as a platform for them to take action against Hollywood offenders.”

The site is easy to navigate and as it builds up more data it will be interesting to track offenders by media outlets, media types (TV shows, TV ads, movies, magazine ads), most recent offenses, and worst offenses. Offense categories include Denigration (Asians are weak), Denigration (Mockery of Asians), Gender (Asian Woman as plaything to White Male), Gender (White Male gets girl over Asian male), and Self-Aggrandizement (Whites as central), among others.  The site welcomes visitor input–anyone who spots an offense is encouraged to file out an Offense Report for refereed inclusion on site. To “join the bleeding-edge of Asian American activism,” simply sign up to receive bimonthly offense reports.

If you read Kulture’s manifesto of sorts–I’m referring to the About Us section–see if you don’t feel the ghost of George Gerbner and Cultivation Theory.  A convincing case is built for their enterprise. Television is 1) a storytelling medium, 2) the average person invests five hours a day watching it, and 3) these message (story-delivering) systems, movies included, harbor deleterious effects over time. The effects are most damaging to minorities since identities are by and large socially constructed. Though some research is cited in tandem with a couple of these points, this is classic Gerbner, going back to the early 70s.  It’s safe to say he would approve of this project. 

 

 

Associated Press and British Movietone Newsreels Come to YouTube

Tmovietonewo world famous newsreel archives, The Associated Press and British Movietone, have just announced they are making their footage available on YouTube, making it “the largest upload of historical news content on the video-sharing platform to date,” more than 550,000 video stories dating from 1895 to the present day, according to the July 22 press release.

Stephen Nuttall, director of YouTube in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, observed: “Making this content available on YouTube is a wonderful initiative from AP and British Movietone that will breathe new life into their footage and no doubt delight our global community–from students researching history projects to curious culture-vultures and the billions in between. It’s an historical treasure trove that will give YouTube users around the world a moving window into the past and I can’t wait to explore it.”

imagesX4U92P2FThe AP portion of these archives is not finite either; it will be continually refreshed with contemporary footage.

Once in YouTube, you can browse the The AP Archive and British Movietone separately or do event or topic searches with the general YouTube content and see what newsreels come up.