Homework #4 My Addition to the Wikipedia Page on the 19 Kids and Counting

Criticism and Controversy
Due to the amount of publicity it gives to this unconventional family whose members base their lifestyle of off an extremely conservative interpretation of Christian values, the program 19 Kids and Counting has sparked significant controversy. The primary, widespread critique of this show is that it conveys a message that supports and idealizes an unhealthy way of life. The birth of the Duggar’s youngest child, Josie Brooklyn Duggar, recently incited criticism from viewers and media. The discovery that Michelle Duggar had pre-eclampsia, a condition that can threaten the life of the baby and the mother, prompted the doctor’s decision to perform emergency, premature delivery during her 19th pregnancy. Subsequently, the infant was born three months premature and weighed 1 lbs and 6 oz. A four-month hospital stay followed her delivery in December 2009.

Despite the fact that Michelle is 44 (past the age that a woman can safely give birth) and underwent a high-risk pregnancy within the last year, both she and her husband have expressed their willingness to continue having children. The couple has also spoken openly about their decision to refrain from using birth control and allow God to determine the size of their family. The risks associated with this decision are not limited to the prospect of physical harm that often results from such irresponsibility. Because of the amount of children in the family, it is impossible that Michelle and Jim Duggar can adequately serve as parents to each child individually. Consequently, the older members of the Duggar brood are often responsible for the upbringing and care of their younger siblings. Some critics argue that this is both unfair and unhealthy for all of the children.

The emergence of sub-cultures that exhibit behavior and belief systems that deviate from mainstream social norms is not unusual, and because it generally occurs on such a small scale, it has little potential to impact society overall. However, by taking this anomalous family and transforming them into reality TV stars, TLC has endowed them with cultural significance they would otherwise lack. The decision to showcase and glorify the abnormality of the Duggar family has drawn as much, if not more, criticism than their lifestyle itself. The show’s popularity prompts questions about why a show that portrays the life of members of such an extreme and unusual subculture appeals to so many people. Some viewers claim they are impressed by the couple’s ability to conduct a household with so many children, and others say they appreciate the Duggar’s values that emphasize a strong commitment to family and Christianity. To critics, 19 Kids and Counting is not an example of simple or benign entertainment. Some argue that the show appeals to a perverse interest in a voyeuristic perspective on someone else’s strange life. Others see it as the glorification and propagation of outrageous and irresponsible behavior that draws viewers because of its shock value and disregards the implications that result from the public affirmation of such a lifestyle. In an article for the Huffington Post, Chez Pazienza writes,

“But maybe the real problem with what the Duggars are doing in their bedroom and the media’s complicity in allowing them to parlay that into a kind of TV and publishing empire is the one thing I never would’ve seen coming — the one result I feel naive for not having been able to imagine.
Imitation.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chez-pazienza/nadia-suleman-the-duggars_b_165890.html)

To support the legitimacy of this concern, Pazienza references Nadya Suleman and John and Kate Plus 8 (currently re-named Kate Plus 8) to demonstrate a growing trend that links queer, unhealthy behavior to media exposure. He argues that this is a self-propagating cycle that not only fosters acceptance of lifestyles with a variety of implicit, detrimental, ramifications, but it also serves as a model that influences mainstream value systems about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behavior. And for the average individual in pursuit of the instant fame that follows a memorable appearance on the stage of American reality TV, the Duggar’s represent a method by which these individuals can achieve this dubious goal.

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The Moscow Hybrid Arts Exhibition

On April 2nd through the 4th, 2010, Lexus Russia held The Hybrid Art Exhibition. The event’s official website defines hybrid art as a multimedia artistic genre where “artists fuse different genres and teachings from literature, scientific research, and industrial design and information technology to philosophy and pop culture”. They describe this project as a “creative experiment” that gives artists the opportunity to “re-invent art” that will “enable us to change the reality of our perception and lead to a greater awareness of the human impact on the future”. The subject of my analysis is an image of an installation from a bird’s-eye perspective. This installation integrates scientific, commercial, artistic, political and environmental themes into a single artwork. It depicts three Lexus hybrid vehicles sitting on respective platforms that are slightly raised from the ground. The platforms are equidistant vertices that converge at a point where a sphere, (that appears to be approximately eight feet in diameter), composed of a lattice of smaller wire circles, sits beneath a lighting system that projects rays of multicolored light upon it. A sequence of nonrepresentational images appears on three large screens and a DJ plays music on a computer situated in front of them. This is an interactive display where viewers are free to walk entirely around it. In this image, some are observing the vehicles while others are sitting with their backs to the cars listening to the music.
The most traditionally artistic aspect of this installation is the spherical sculpture in the center. The network of circles that generates its overall form is indicative of their interconnectivity asparts of a whole. It is reminiscent of module depicting a system of cells. The sole use of a metallic material imbues the sculpture with a calculated, skeletal, and barren style that is often associated with the scientific aesthetic of modern technology. Shifting projections of pink, yellow, blue, and green light wash over it and constantly shift. The sculpture’s large spherical shape evokes the notion that it is representative of the earth and that the linked, interdependence of its constituent parts are a visualization of global unity. The three white models of the new Lexus hybrid infuse this installment with commercial overtones. This event is a prime opportunity for Lexus to market their product. The fusion of art and commercial interests demonstrates the fluidity of genres in a work of hybrid art. An art exhibition becomes an economic tool of a multinational corporation, and a mass-produced, utilitarian commodity becomes a piece of art. By placing the car in an artistic context, choosing a white exterior that reflects the colorful lights, and strategically arranging the vehicle’s components (such as opening its trunk or doors), the artists blur the distinction between a commodity and art. The type of car chosen for display, a hybrid, introduces an environmental/political element into this fusion. The promotion of a vehicle that represents environmentally conscious innovation draws attention to the corporation’s efforts to provide consumers with a product meant to minimize its impact on the environment. Although I lack the knowledge to assess the extent to which Lexus’ truly cares about this cause, the artistic display of its hybrid model in a public venue will influence the future production and marketing strategies of other automobile manufactures. Companies who want to compete with Lexus may be inclined to mimic and/or re-interpret any part of this marketing device, and likewise, any viewer could integrate this alternative artwork into their own conception of art. As a multimedia fusion of music, sculpture, film, painting, and lighting that transcends the boundaries between art, commercial interests, and environmental concerns, this installment embodies the progressive spirit of hybrid art.

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How serious are serious video games?

In their publication entitled, “Political Internet Games: Engaging an Audience”, authors Joyce Neys and Jeroen Jansz present their research about the effectiveness of video games with a serious social and/or political message. In the process of explaining the context of their research, the authors draw upon arguments that claim that serious video games are unlike any other form of media because they are an expressive and immersive medium that has the ability to function as a space where a player can interact in a world comprised of both imaginary and real components. They posit a game’s social significance in its ability to serve as a record of a certain political or social event that can engage and persuade a player who expresses his or her political self in the game. The results of the study show how games not only impact a player’s opinions and actions in relation to a certain issue, but also how they have the ability to raise widespread awareness about an issue and subsequently shape a society’s overall engagement with it. In part, Neys and Jansz attribute the potential impact of serious video games to their simplicity that enables them to be broad accessibility; a characteristic of this medium that is often the subject of critics who emphasize the inaccuracy and trivialization of serious issues that occurs in this genre of gaming.

Link to the study: http://ejc.sagepub.com/content/25/3/227.full.pdf+html

Below are three examples of online games in which the player can immerse him or herself in a virtual-reality founded upon aspects of a real-life, serious situation.

Oiligarchy- Experience and explore the political, economic, and environmental narrative about the rise to power within the oil industry.
http://www.molleindustria.org/en/oiligarchy

Homeless: It’s No Game- This game was created for the study of the effectiveness of serious video games. The objective is to survive as a homeless person for 24 hours.
http://wetcoastgames.ca/homeless/homeless.swf

Darfur is Drying- This game gained widespread attention in the media for its depiction of genocide in Sudan. It is currently sponsored by mtvU.
http://www.darfurisdying.com/

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My Avatar and an Analysis of a Personal Website

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

Analysis of “Glaring Madness”
For my analysis, I chose the website titled “Glaring Madness” because I was interested by the blogger’s primary identification as a person with a mental illness. The subtitle of her blog says, “documenting a fervid life; a manic shares her glaring madness” run beneath the title, and the tags that categorize the website’s subject matter are “depression”, “crazy”, “bipolar”, and “stigma”. Unlike other bloggers that mobilize a variety of discourses that shape their online identity, the author immediately reduces her identity to a single trait that simultaneously de-emphasizes the expression and importance of other potential identities. Her self-portrayal is more closely related to the ‘Cartesian’ subject that has a stable identity than it is to the theory that a subject embodies multiple, fragmented “identifications” (Hall 114-115). Despite the thematic umbrella under which she places the content of her blog, the subject matter beneath it reveals alternative identities that unintentionally manifest themselves alongside the blogger’s deliberate characterization of herself as subject.
The blogger presents herself as female, but besides writing from a feminine name and posting a picture of a young girl, she fortifies her occupation of this subject position by placing herself in opposition to the male subject. In the first sentence of her biography she emphasizes her status as an “unmarried”, and there is repetition of posts with titles along the lines of “A Few Bad Men” and “Don’t Point That Thing At Me”. The blogger’s animosity towards men relates to the methods of inclusion and exclusion in David Bell’s analysis of cyber identity. By alienating a specific identity, the blogger creates a distance between it and herself and demonstrates who she is by who she is not.
The design and layout of this blog also reveals the blogger’s position within the scope of the information technology hierarchy. She uses the website.blogspot.com to post entries and embed media such as an Ipod music player, YouTube videos, and links to her Twitter and Facebook pages. In terms of David Hall’s discussion of class in cyberspace, this blogger occupies an intermediate position within the hierarchy of cyber knowledge (which reflects her influence in this medium). Her website demonstrates her ability to mobilize resources available to her as an Internet user, but her generic use of the website blogspot.com demonstrates the limitations of her subject position. Unlike a member of the digital elite who has the knowledge and resources to build his or her own website, the blogger’s influence within cyberspace is limited to her ability to write something and imbed media in a web space with basic structures that are dictated by someone else. She is a consumer of products created by others, but she is also a producer in her capacity to re-appropriate the pre-determined space in which she functions. Although the objects available for re-appropriation are limited, the ways in which they can be re-inscribed in a new context in the creation of new meaning is endless. For example, the embedded ipod that plays songs and shows music videos interacts with other components in the blog that influences the viewer’s interpretation of the songs (that are placed in the context of conflict (mental illness) as prescribed by the author) and the overall blog. The connection between the songs the blogger has included and their context is fuzzy and at best, only superficially knowable. But the mere act of embedding them into the blog sparks questions about the specific meaning of each that are outside the scope of this assignment, but could lead to interesting and deeper insight about how the two interact and mutually shape the meaning of each other by juxtaposition.
The subject of my analysis can be accessed at http://glaringmadness.blogspot.com/

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Expectations

During class registration for previous semesters, I was always puzzled by the option to take a class on digital media in the English department. It seemed out of place in an academic category that includes lectures and seminars on Shakespeare, Milton, and the Romantics. Its connection to literary theory was not overtly apparent to me either.  In tandem with my perception that this class seemed “misplaced”, most forms of technology, especially computers, have be continuous source of frustration and confusion in my life (I once had a roommate who didn’t speak to me for a week after I reset a router and the internet was down for less than 24 hours).  In summary, I never thought I would take this class.

However, early last spring, after a discussion with a professor, my initial understanding and expectations of literature and theory shifted. During this conversation she explained to me how literary theory was losing relevance in spheres outside of small scholarly communities because of its incomprehensive language and nuanced content. Her prognosis was disappointing because the little theory that I have been exposed to as an undergraduate has strongly enriched my ability to interpret and understand a text in new ways. But it prompted me to think that a possible solution could be found in the observation and theoretical analysis of current conditions of our world. If older work from Derrida and Lacan no longer enables the understanding the status quo, why not create new theories founded upon aspects of our society today?

I believe this can be accomplished through digital media. Although my knowledge of computers is elementary at best and a lot of the jargon in the readings for this week was unfamiliar to me, I think this material is vital to the advancement and relevance of critical thought, and I am intrigued by the prospect of learning about the transformation of theory within the scope of technology.

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