1. Summarise the main points from the readings
Pop cosmospolitanism: Mapping cultural flows in an age of media convergence.
It is the year 2006 and young people of America are seeking to embrace Asian culture through entertainment media such TV, film and comic books. These young people are referred as “pop cosmopolitans” by Jenkins and in this reading he explains why. What is a pop cosmopolitan? It is “someone whose embrace of global popular media represents an escape route of the parochialism of [their] local community.” (Jenkins, 2006, 152).
It is noted that America has a lot of sway in entertainment media, and much of its content is not modified when it reaches other countries. For example Disney is viewed as distinctly American or western. However, Asian pop culture is growing in status even after being westernised to be more accessible to the American market. So much so, that it is difficult to distinguish who dominates who. Jenkins claims that American children are “more familiar with the characters of Pokemon than they are with those from the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen”. (Jenkins, 2006, 157).
Jenkins explains that major companies push to have their content reach as many audiences as possible, including international audiences, this content in turn is viewed by people seeking something new and different to their everyday lives, many of whom are in different parts of the world, this whole process becomes pop cosmopolitanism. The very people who wish to learn about other cultures, who wish to see something outside their normal scope are the target audience of content released today.
By content, I mean media in the form of Japanese Anime; Bollywood film and the music style called Bhangra and Hong Kong Action films, and with broadband increasing in speed and access, comes a wider range in media being distributed directly to many people’s home without “having to pass through US gatekeepers or rely on multinational distributors.” (Jenkins, 2006, 157).
“If you can’t beat them, join them” has become the mentality of the American entertainment industry, often casting Asian talent as well as remaking successful franchises from other countries such as Japanese horror films The Ring, The Grudge and Dark Water. Anime is being distributed in three ways, comics, film and TV series, and toys; all linked to each other for maximum effect. Even though the Japanese style is often marketed to particular group, or westernised to suit a broader American audience, Jenkins claims that “this is starting to break down as Americans develop a preference for the qualities they associate with Japanese culture.” (Jenkins, 2006, 160).
As well as Japanese pop culture, pop cosmopolitans have become fascinated with Indian fashion, music (Bhangra) and cinema. “The United States and Britain now account for 55% of international Bollywood ticket sales.” (Jenkins, 2006,163). A few examples Jenkins gives, are Madonna and her use of henna and Indian religious iconography in her “Ray of Light” tour, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams, the onstage musical with an all-Indian cast and music by A R Rahman.
An excellent point and one that I can relate to is the The Matrix Franchise that Jenkins states “is perhaps the most successful and visible example of this absorption of Japanese pop culture influences into the American mainstream.” (Jenkins, 2006,168). The franchise consists of the same distribution concept the Japanese media uses, tying in the movies, with anime, video games and comics. As a cosmopolitan and fan of the Wachowskis, I have come across this content by trying to escape my everyday life and therefore taking part in this culture. I have seen the films, bought the anime and played the games. I’ve had a taste of Japanese culture and feel enriched by the experience.
Although there is no guarantee that pop cosmopolitanism will solve the world’s problems, by people becoming more tolerant of others through getting to know their cultures from afar, there is till a fine line between a superficial admiration and dedicated knowledge of the other cultures. Pop cosmopolitans border on the selfish. They take little bits from here and tidbits from there to make something different for themselves, something they can relate to. Having said that, Jenkins explains that “pop cosmopolitanism is generating its own intelligentsia, its own critics, historians, translators and educators.” (Jenkins, 2006 ,170). So the debate is not between pop culture and a more authentic folk culture, but a higher understanding of what we already know and implementing the desire to continue learning about other cultures through the means available to us right now.
Reference: Jenkins, H (2006). Pop cosmospolitanism: Mapping cultural flows in an age of media convergence. In H. Jenkins, Fans, bloggers and gamers: exploring participatory culture (pp 152-172). New York: New York University Press.
Indigenous, ethnic and cultural articulations of new media.
In Ramesh Srinivasan’s article he explains how ethnic and indigenous communities make use of ‘new media’ to further their causes. He explains that although technology today is causing a ‘digital devide’, by “Apply[ing] the notion of ownership” and creating “ethnic biases” (Srinivasan, 2006, 497) it is also a means to reconnect people as seen in Tribal PEACE, but more on that later.
While Jenkins forms an optimistic point of view of the way people today use technology to take part in something new and exotic, Srinivasan points out that this technology is also rendering traditional society and communities obsolete. He explains that public places such as bowling alleys are shutting down due to lack of demand. A key point is made when Paul Virilio is cited: “But now, globalisation and virtualisation are inaugurating a global time that prefigures a new form of tyranny.” (Virilio, 1995, cited in Srivinasan, 2006, 498) People are spending more time online building societies in cyberspace rather than ‘real life’.
He adds further that technology is seen as something that has been forced upon the public “rather than a tool that can be used to achieve locally and culturally specific visions.” (Srinivasan, 2006, 499). However, with education and new media can be seen as an opportunity and not an obligation.
Srinivasan goes on to illustrate his point by using Fay Ginsburg’s example of the Inuit People of the Arctic; Terrence Turner’s work with the Kayapo people of central Brazil as well as Eric Michaels’s work on the Warlpiri Aborigines of Western Central Australia. All have used new media to convey their stories, their voice and political views to their advantage. The use of broadcasting in this new form has allowed all the three examples to maintain their culture, as well as controlling what is used and therefore having a say in what is broadcast.
The next point is the issue of a group of people that have migrated to a new country and made it their new home. For these people, the new media represents a pathway to keeping connections with the old and to stay in touch with people, issues and religion. So to this extent, Srinivasan explains that communities are now so much more than “bounds of geographical neighborhood and cultural background.” (Srinivasan, 2006, 502). Ethnic communities on a global scale means that cyberspace is the place to be to reconnect with the people who are most important, religiously, politically or personally. As well as maintaining ties with their homeland and peers, these people who have made their home in different parts of the world, can encourage others (Jenkins’s pop cosmopolitans) to see their country and its ideals through their point of view.
Tribal PEACE is a project that Srinivasan has undertaken in California, “a web-based information system created with 19 Native American reservations of San Diego County.” Communication in these reservations had been slowly dividing due to “historical dynamics”. (Srinivasan, 2006, 506). The work would include reconnecting the reservations with one another. “This infrastructure would be based around the goals of rekindling ancient networks of kinship amongst the reservations that had been destroyed over time. In essence, the [Hewlett-Packard] grant would provide a ‘Tribal Digital Village’”. (Srinivasan, 2006, 508).
Srinivasan goes on to say that for 18 months he spend time getting to know the people from the reservations, attaining their trust and gathering data for the Tribal PEACE project. He explains that he was able to catalog traditions, languages and songs. He and another colleague also came up with the Mazanita tree Diagram that is used to represent the reservation. It can be modified by anyone with access and it expresses ideas, stories, songs, prayers and native songs. Today this is an important tool used in schools as well as by political leaders within the tribes as well as the majority of the reservations. Tribal PEACE illustrates with certainty that new media today has the capability to not only reconnect people but allow these people some control over what is distributed.
“The point across both the indigenous and diasporic examples is clear: the networked nature of new media technologies enables sharing, identity formation, communication and publicisation to occur nearly instantaneously without being bound by the realities of physical distance.” (Srinivasan, 2006, 504)
The Tribal PEACE project is an excellent example allowing people to understand the importance of new media and the way that it is used by ethnic communities, the way it is shaping these communities by preserving their culture, be it songs, native language or other important documentation.
Reference: Srinivasan, R (2006). Indigenous, ethnic and cultural articulations of new media. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(4), 497-518.
2. Identify media texts from other cultures that you enjoy. Consider whether your use of these texts makes you a “pop cosmopolitan”.
I was born in El Salvador and raised in Australia, however, I’m an Aussie at heart and enjoy dunking my Tim Tams in my cuppa. I also enjoy watching the cricket and the AFL. Being raised in Australia, I have embraced this culture as my own, so much so, that watching a Spanish film feels like I’m watching another culture completely different to me and mine. Guillermo Del Toro’s Masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, released in 2006 is a perfect example where indeed, I needed the subtitles as I couldn’t follow the Spanish being spoken!
So, yes I think I’m a pop cosmopolitan, I enjoy watching martial arts films; I adore Jet Li. Especially in Hero and Fearless. I love musicals, so Bollywood films are a must and I have seen many Anime TV series and films, including Sailor Moon, Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell and Ponyo just to name a few!
I am a huge fan of British films, romantic ones like Love Actually and BBC Worldwide version of Pride and Prejudice. But what tickles my fancy is the Blood and Ice cream genre films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost: Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
American content consists of Zombies,Vampire and Werewolves films or anything with Milla Jovovich and or Bruce Willis. Particular favourite films include the Resident Evil franchise, The Matrix franchise, Underworld and Van Helsing. I’m also a huge fan of The X-Men franchise.
My children enjoy watching ABC for kids on channel two and I have noticed some of its shows are made in Asia, like Korean Dibo the Gift Dragon. There is also Bali from France and Mr Maker from the UK. So I’m raising a couple of pop cosmopolitans as well!
What I’m wondering is can we classify American and British culture as different to Australian culture and whether I’d be called a pop cosmopolitan by watching a lot of American TV and film? Undoubtedly, I consume a lot of American texts. It’s everywhere you look. Movies, prime time TV shows, (channel nine’s Two and a Half Men on at 7pm) and books. Also I must admit, that just as Jenkins suggests in this week’s reading, my interests in other cultures is slightly superficial as I’m not willing to change my beliefs or ideals after consuming different cultures. I only wish to escape for a little while.