May 5 2014 – Cultural Bias

Click Here to Listen: The BS Underdog Story Americans Believe Over and Over

Cultural Bias


This podcast featured Jason Pargin and Jack O’Brien talking about the cultural bias Americans have for underdogs. The podcast covers two kinds of stories Americans idolize underdogs in; Hollywood or Disney movies as well as the tales of how famous people came to be successful. The idea is that every timeless story involves someone who’s an underdog, either financially, emotionally or skillfully but against all odds (even when no one supported them), they succeeded. Obrien and Pargin argue that in real life this just isn’t the case. Most of the heroes we love for having resilience actually had a lot of help and natural skill that they utilized to get to where they are. Americans like to believe that hard work and determination can make anything possible, yet as the pod cast points out most people who are successful, whether they be famous musicians or wealthy businessman, started out with an incredible amount of talent and somewhere along the way the right people supported them.

I would argue that in order to meet the right people, it still requires an incredible amount of handwork and that talent is not something in rare supply. I know plenty of liberal arts students who are talented musicians, actors and entertainers. These students have become so successful in the small college pond, that they become ego driven narcissist from one too many compliments. Then when they leave school they aren’t prepared for the hard work that it takes to get noticed in the ocean of the real world. If so many talented underdogs don’t manage to find the right person there must still be something genuinely admirable about the ones who do.

Obrien and Pargin both acknowledge that there are exceptions and that real life heroes still work hard; they insist that the issue is that the amount of focus Hollywood emphases about these heroes making it on their own is extremely unrealistic. In my opinion this podcast is just stating the obvious about the art of story telling. When we go to the movie theater we use suspension of disbelief, many of these characters are just fun to idealize and identify with. Being a writer who personally puts a lot of stock in three-dimensional characters, I can speak to how important it is for characters to feel real; they need motivations and struggles. We want to see our characters behave the way they do based on their beliefs and values, furthermore we want their beliefs and values to be based on their experiences. So of course there could be a very realistic protagonist who had two wealthy loving parents that allowed said protagonist to grow up, become wealthier, accomplish their dreams and never change but there isn’t much of a story there. Pargin even points out half way through the podcast that stories without underdogs would be extremely boring. To me, there seems to be nothing alarming about the fact that Batman seems more human when we look beyond the costume and gadgets at his traumatic experience with bats and dead parents.

We don’t love these classic stories because the heroes have no support and are thankless. In fact several stories listed in the podcast have a plethora of supporting characters and not all them are dead parents either. Batman is raised by his butler, Simba is raised by Timon and Pumba, Aladdin would be nothing without his monkey and later reaches his goal because of genie; these are just a few of many characters mentioned who showed hardship and hard work not a lack of support.

The podcast claimed that there is a specific formulaic approach in American Movies, but really the only thing formulaic about it is story arc and midway point because of typical time constraints. The aspects of underdogs listed in the podcast are that their parents die and then thier mentor dies, they goes from rags to riches and they don’t have people who help them reach their goals. However these stereotypes aren’t just true for American movies, it’s simply true of stories in general. One of the examples used of a typical Hollywood movie is Harry Potter. Not only is a this originally a novel, it’s actually a British novel, moreover it’s the third most read book in the world. Yes Harry Potters parents are dead and yes his mentors Dumbledore and Serious Black also die but harry consistently has dozens of people who help him along the way. Harry would of been lost without Hagrid, Ron, or Hermonie, not to mention had dozens of characters not risked their lives and died to protect him he would have never made it through his journey. Harry is the boy who lived not because he chose to be but because of the protection his mothers left him. Yes people doubted him and he had different things working against his favor but he also had a tremendous amount of help. All of the stories mentioned in this podcast are essentially just stories that contain struggle. Struggle is all any person (American, or not) wants to see in a good movie. If everything happens easily then there isn’t much of a story.

The podcast also reads too far into real life success stories. Obrien talks about impressionism and how no one wants to talk about the fact that it came about due to artists with poor eyesight. I think people would love to talk about this misconception it’s just apart of art history that isn’t well known because we had the facts wrong for so long. Obrien also talks about how no one likes Kayne West because he worked hard to get to where he is and had a great mom, so therefore he has to be tough in the public eye to compensate. I don’t think anyone dislikes Kayne because he had a great mom. I’m willing to wager based on his success that more people like him than not and it has very little to do with his relationship with his mother. Real life success stories may be boring and over simplified but if we’re looking to elaborate these stories we should turn them into documentaries. Details will always be lost and mistranslated by word of mouth.

The one part of the podcast I did find valuable was the end in which Pargin and Obrien talked about how much “risk taking” is pushed onto young people. Very successful people make very well calculated risks and even when they aren’t well calculated they are never very dangerous. It’s unfair to spread the mentality to young poor college students that they can’t be successful without risk when they don’t have any chips to gamble. As the podcast points out most people have too much too lose to be playing on the board at all. The first step to success should be more about meeting the right people and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Once you get that far the key is learning how to calculate and mitigate risk, not to take gigantic leaps of faith without a second thought and cross your fingers for sucsess.

Importance/ Relevance: This podcast talks a lot about the sensationalism of Hollywood and how unrealistic the American underdog principle is. Underdogs are a fantastic example of character identification. We see someone who isn’t perfect and we think of our own imperfections, then when we see them succeed and over come their imperfections it gives us the gratification of feeling lil we can do the same thing. If we look at Image/character as a critical framework, underdogs represent strong values of resilience, hard work and most important equality. Underdog in our society remind us that no matter who you are and where you come from, you are just as good as everyone else, or at least you have the opportunity to be just as good as everyone else. What I find almost funny about this podcasts complaints of over sensationalizing Hollywood underdogs is that the podcast itself seems extremely sensationalized. The podcasters should know more than anyone one how uninteresting things are if you don’t exaggerate them. The almost seem outraged or surprised that no one else is talking about this elaborate underdog conspiracy but the truth is most of us know thing don’t usually work out for underdogs. It’s just because of dramatic license and suspension of disbelief that these things don’t bother us.

Trilogy: Information Persuasion Entertainment


April 29 2014 – Think Piece Paper 3

Wealth Inequality in America

            Often times our perceptions and intuitions are not as true as they seem. It’s very possible to look at anecdotal experiences and feel that certain misconceptions about the world simply have to be accurate and true. Media is a powerful tool in correcting common misconceptions and changing perceptions and intuitions about the world around us. An excellent example of this is the viral YouTube video entitled Wealth Inequality In America. In order to appropriately discuss the importance of this video I will be using critical frame works (tools or methodologies used to analyze media messages) and media theories (an idea or set of ideas intended to explain something in media) The first critical frame work that’s important to analyzing this video is genre. Genre is a type or classification associated with a piece of media and it’s unique because in addition to being a critical framework it’s also a theory. Genre allows a critic or consumer to compare and contrast different categories of media and examine similarities and differences within that genre. The genre of Wealth Inequality in America is a P.S.A. or Public service announcement. Public service announcements are pieces of media intended to inform or create awareness to the public about an issue. This video specifically is an informative viral video P.S.A. because it’s only being promoted and shared online and not through broadcast television. This video is primarily informative as it consists of different key data points about the average persons perception of wealth in America versus the reality of wealth in America. However it does have some persuasive elements as the tone and talking points of the narrator aim to persuade us that Americans should not be fearful of socialist values because we are so far from what most Americans determine as the ideal wealth distribution. The video also has some entertainment value because the video uses compelling visual imagery to make its case, however the visual imagery and tone of this P.S.A primarily make its purpose informative and persuasive.

Even though Wealth Inequality in America was posted in 2012, it did not receive viral traction until the following year in March when it was posted on Reddit. The Informative viral video uses information graphics and persuasive narration to explain research from a study by David A. Moss a Harvard business professor. The critical framework of content is also crucial to analysis as it is the message of video itself. In the video the content is broken up into three main objectives/findings: what Americans perceive wealth distribution to be, what ideal wealth distribution looks like according to the American people and what the wealth distribution actually is.


The graphs are accompanied by the special effects of the moving graphics and sad piano music. Both of these elements are a major part of the style/aesthetics of the video. Style/ Aesthetic is a critical framework that makes up the look and feel of the video. What’s interesting about this video’s success is that the style and aesthetics as well as content is very unusual for a viral video. Most viral videos consist of: cats, funny babies, brief comedy sketches or clumsy accidents.

            One answer to why this video may have been so popular can be found in Social Categories Theory. This theory is that media has a target/intended audience. If the data shown in the video is correct, the intended audience in this film is essentially the whole country, or at least anyone who cares about wealth distribution in America. Seeing as the video suggests that in America the average CEO makes 380 times more than the average employee; most Americans whether they are poor or middle class will find this message interesting.


Another reason this video did so well is because of Reinforcement theory. Reinforcement theory dictates that media doesn’t so much persuade us as it does reinforce our existing beliefs. It’s important to realize that there are studies that both support and challenge this data. Sample sizes and images can be misleading and exaggerated but in the context of economic turmoil many Americans will presumably be quick to believe that something unusual and corrupt is happening to their financial situation. The video shows that the wealthiest 1% of America takes home 24% of national wealth compared to in 1976 when the wealthiest 1% percent only took home 9% of the national wealth. Statistics like these aren’t going to take much additional rhetoric to persuade people when they already are experiencing worse economic turmoil than they did 20 years ago.


We can even think about uses and gratification theory playing a role in the success of the video. Uses and gratification theory is the theory that people are often gratified by the media. As most people wish they were more successful in the context of the economic recession many people may feel gratified in knowing it’s not their fault and they are not alone. These various theories in combination surly are more than motivating for individuals to share this shocking P.S.A.

            Clearly the viral success alone of this seemingly plain informational video, says something about the effectiveness of the message. What’s hard to tell for certain is how accurate the shocking data really is. An important first step in speculating its accuracy is looking at Two-Step Flow theory. This theory suggests that the media is observed by opinion-leaders who then tell the general public what they think about the original media. Several reporters and popular bloggers wrote articles about this video. Some supporting it, some analyzing it’s viral success, and others challenging how accurate the data actually was. Some of those opinion leaders were found on sites such as, Forbes, Policymic, The Blaze, and Market Place. Many of these bloggers and reporters raise important questions in regards to the critical framework of ethicality/ morality/ fairness. This critical framework looks at the credibility of the media piece, where it’s coming from and whom it’s coming from. The video provides references to all of the research it sites so we know it’s mentioning credible sources but many of the opinion leaders who wrote about this video question where the motive is coming from because much of the research cited seems biased. We also have to look at the ethicality/ morality/ fairness of the opinion leaders and the websites/blogs they are writing for because as reinforcement theory tells us, they may be coming from a perspective that make it difficult for them to accept the data that challenges their views.

            Regardless of where the truth falls, Wealth Inequality in America is very important piece of media. If nothing else it reminds people that the reality of the world is not always what it seems. Whether the data is spot on or needs larger sample sizes and additional explanations, its safe to say that wealth inequality is a huge issue in America. History in other nations has clearly shown us that this level of disparity in wealth can lead to revolutions and revolts. This video provides visual and verbal imagery of the issue and successfully promotes awareness. That awareness needs to be out there and visible so that policies can be made to adjust for the economic inequality. There often times is a perception in America that any sort of government aid is a socialist policy. The video makes the point that we need not be so afraid of socialism as a concept, “I’m sure many of these wealthy people have worked very hard for their money but…the average worker needs to work more than a month to earn what the CEO makes in one hour. We certainly don’t have to go all the way to socialism to find something that is fair for hardworking Americans.”


These clever analogies make hard to understand numbers very manageable and clear. The problem is knowing if the analogies are some how making the data less accurate in the process of making them relatable. Given the credibility of Harvard research as well as Pew research, it’s likely that even if some factors have been left out the dramatic difference between the middle class and wealthy class is off the charts. This video has made a seemingly invisible issue a real concern to the general public, which is essentially the core purpose of an effective public service announcement.


April 20 2014 – Lilly Alien Music Video: Its Hard Out Here

Lilly Alien Music video: Its Hard Out Here


Music Video:

This video received a lot of controversy, specifically because Lilly Alien apparently used too many African American dancers in a sexual depiction. Many women condemned her for perpetuating stereotypes instead of applauding her as a feminist hero.

What I don’t understand is how people can think she’s perpetuating stereotype when she has clearly set up a satirical video. She is expressing the overly sexed portrayal of women in the music industry and what you have to do to succeed. At one point she literally says, “If you can’t detect the sarcasm then you’ve misunderstood”.

She also has an Asian woman a Caucasian woman and a overweight white woman in the video with 3 black women who are all different shades of skin color. Since when did we decide it’s okay to group completely different looking people in the same category? Oh that’s right it’s because they’re all under privileged minorities. Women as a category may not be a minority but they certainly are treated like them. I don’t understand why women look for reasons to hate feminism instead of joining together to fight it.

Relevance/ Importance: The lack of public understanding for Media Hyperbole when it comes to certain subject matter.

 Trilogy: Information Persuasion Entertainment

April 8 2014 – Cracked Podcast: Insane Conspiracies That Actually Happened

Click here to listen: Cracked Podcast: Insane Conspiracies That Actually Happened


                  In this episode of the podcast, Cracked editors Jack O’Brien, Soren Bowie and Jason Pargin discuss real conspiracies that actually happened. Most of these conspiracies are the products of a paranoid Cold War era, none of which are especially surprising to anyone familiar with the time period (or anyone whose read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States). The most interesting part of the podcasts isn’t the conspiracies themselves but how the hosts try to demarcate plausible conspiracy theories from insane conspiracy theories. While they make a noble effort, their answer is never very clear or concise and only hints at what a plausible criterion might look like. In this paper, I will briefly summarize one of the conspiracy theories mentioned in the Cracked podcast, explain how the Cracked editors address the demarcation problem, and finally, attempt to sketch my own criteria for how to spot a crazy conspiracy theory.

There were many interesting conspiracy theories discussed over the course of the podcast but I will focus on one I found particularly intriguing. It is the case of a 1950 joint study conducted by the U.S. Army and Navy that involved spraying the bacteria serratia marcescens on the city of San Francisco. The purpose of the study was to test the capability for a dangerous biological agent to be dispersed over a coastline city. The germ used was thought to be harmless, though highly infectious, and therefore perfect for scientific study. The Cracked hosts claim that the experiment resulted in the death of 75-year-old Edward Nevin, who contracted serratia induced pneumonia [1]. Nevin did indeed die of pneumonia and eleven others also reported serratia pneumonia in the weeks following the spraying. However, the Cracked hosts seem all too eager to assume that the Army tests caused Nevin’s death and the uptick in pneumonia cases. The Army’s own internal documents (which were never intended to be made public) consider this possibility but reject it because “No other hospitals reported similar outbreaks… suggesting that the source of their infections lay inside the hospital [2].”

So what separates a plausible sounding conspiracy theory from an implausible conspiracy theory? It is an unfortunate fact that sinister people sometimes really do get together and conspire but how do we discern the real conspiracies from the fictional ones? The Cracked hosts spend a lot of time discussing the psychology that motivates people to embrace conspiracy theories and even more time lamenting how real conspiracies are often ignored.[3] While they mention some of the red flags surrounding crazy conspiracy theories, they never offer us much a criterion for separating fact from fiction.

I want to offer a prima facie checklist for assessing any conspiracy theory. The first tip is to watch out for “weasel words.” Weasel words are meant to smuggle assumptions into an argument, implicitly asserting something to be the case. Consider the common example; “The official story says that Oswald shot Kennedy…” Here the phrase “official story” is meant to imply that there are equally plausible alternative accounts and that the “official” version is merely one possibility, crafted by those in power (and often, the very same people involved in the conspiracy!). Of course what official really means is just the widely accepted version, which appears much less threatening in the sentence; “The official story is that most dentists recommend chewing sugar free gum for a healthier, whiter smile.”

The second tip for analyzing conspiracy theories is to ask ones self, “If this conspiracy is true…what else is true?” In order for many conspiracy theories to be true, the conspirators in question often have to be fantastically well organized and capable of executing amazingly elaborate projects, all while keeping those involved quiet. Consider the typical 9/11 conspiracy; it claims that the U.S. government actually orchestrated the attacks. If this is true than where did the government find the dozens (perhaps hundreds) of complacent psychopaths who were willing to line the WTC buildings with explosives, strap missiles onto the planes, kill the passengers on flight 93, and of course, compose and disseminate the false story about the nineteen Muslim hijackers? Why have none of these people drunkenly confessed their part in the conspiracy to a romantic partner? Why haven’t they killed themselves over guilt and left a note detailing their part in the plot? Why haven’t they cashed in on a book deal and made millions? Conspiracy theorists seem to have forgotten what most of us learned in high school; gossip is an intractable component of human nature [4].

The final tip for dealing with a conspiracy theory is ask those asserting the theory to consider; “What would it take to change your mind?” For any given conspiracy, you should seriously consider what would constitute proof (or at least compelling evidence) for the conspiracy. Likewise, the conspiracy theorist asserting the claim should be able to explain what would constitute the falsifying of their conspiracy theory. The insidious nature of conspiracy theories is that they are often self-immunized against counter evidence because “all evidence against the conspiracy is evidence for the conspiracy [5].” When an idea cannot be disproven by evidence, it is a safe bet that the belief was never formed on the basis of evidence. While admittedly imperfect, the three tips I offered should provide a good working model for how to assess conspiracy theories.


The reason often listen to Cracked Podcasts are because they are opinion leaders and their podcasts are incredible popular. People seem to love the way they sensationalize information. Which is a problem. As Postman warns we can’t let all information be entertainment there needs to be components that are taken seriously. Unfortunately I believe that this ship has sailed. Competition in media is intense and information that is sensationalized will always sell better and be heard louder. So I believe the only thing to do is not to slow down the progress of the medium but rather learn new ways to cope with the information overload. The primary way to do this is to promote skepticism and critical thinking.

Trilogy: Information, Persuasion, Entertainment

[1] Cracked Podcast, Insane Conspiracies That Actually Happened (Monday, March 31, 2014) 12:20

[2] Jim Carlton, Of Microbes and Mock Attacks: Years Ago, The Military Sprayed Germs on U.S. Cities (Oct. 22, 2001)

[3] Cracked Podcast, Insane Conspiracies, 55:50

[4] Almost all of the real conspiracies mentioned in the podcast were exposed for precisely this reason. Somebody always goes to the press or tells someone who does.

[5] Inspired by Brain Dunning’s “The Three Laws of Conspiracy Theories” which are: “Law #1: Authority’s version of events is untrue, by default. Law #2: Everything that differs from the authoritative version is more likely true. Law #3: All evidence that contradicts #1 or #2 is part of the conspiracy.”

Brian Dunning, Skeptoid Podcast, The JFK Assassination (Nov. 19, 2013)

April 4 2014 – Work in Progress Improv Show


Work in Progress Improv Show

Saturday nights just got a little more humorous at Rochester Institute of Technology, as the campus’ new improv team, “Work In Progress,” débuted their first show of the semester. The show was entitled “Loading…” as a cheeky reference to their honest and blunt team name. “Work in Progress” is a completely student-run organization, but you wouldn’t guess it by how professionally they conducted themselves. The event was held in the Webb auditorium at R.I.T. , which is a 180 degree, stadium style, seated theater, with a capacity of 308 persons. The prestige of the auditorium did not go to waste, as the theater was nearly two thirds full of humor-hungry college students. The stage was equipped with professional theater lighting, which made the stage glow brightly in the dark auditorium, demanding the audience’s full attention. Seven student actors stood confidently under the bright lights, six boys and one girl, all dressed in matching black T-shirts. According to Louis Moskowitz, a fellow R.I.T. improviser who attended the show, “The solid plain colors are an important part of their wardrobes because it helps to not distract the audience from the reality the actors are building.” While the clothing wasn’t distracting and it gave the actors a very polished look, it did have one unprofessional outcome. While some actors had defining features such as being African American, having a beard or being a woman, most of the actors were indistinguishable from one another. As a result, if you weren’t familiar with the actors or if you were seated far enough away, at times the show could be hard to follow. Many improvisation teams, including the television sensation “Who’s Line is it Anyway?,” deal with this issue by having each actor wear a different solid color T-shirt. Despite this one flaw, the student actors handled the rowdy and interactive audience with the utmost professionalism. Host Nicolas Giordano, kept the loud (seemingly drunk) college students, participating and happy. He even knew how to use humor and sarcasm to condemn them for their rowdiness when he needed them to be attentive.

            The show consisted of the two main types of improvisation: short form and long form. The first hour was all various short form games, in which Giordano explained the rules and stipulations of the given game, and requested suggestions from the audience frequently to inspire the actors. Some of the short form games were a little lengthier and complicated such as, “Backwards Interview.” A game that involves two actors pretending to be having a job interview and much like the name suggests the interview is chronologically backwards. The scene humorously started out with Giordano yelling, “This interview is over!” Giordano’s scene partner, Kamil Bynoe, then proceeded to profess a long rant that presumably lead to Giordano’s initial dialog. The game found its comedy from one actor (usually the one applying for the job) giving an ambiguous or specific answer that was then justified with a question by the other actor (usually the interviewer). The audience roared with laughter as various jokes that ran throughout the scene were established backwards. An example of this is when the interviewer (Giordano) yelled aggressively at his secretary over the phone. As the scene progressed she continued to call and he became increasingly less and less upset with her, until he nearly loved hearing from her. Every time the actor brought this joke into the scene, the audience couldn’t contain its laughs. The dramatic irony of the humor left the audience feeling as though they had an inside joke with the actors. Some of the short form games were a little shorter and highbrow. One game entitled “Coffee” is quite literally only a couple sentences from each actor. The game is in vain of the classic joke, “I like my coffee, like I like my women…,” the only difference is that the word “coffee” is replaced by whatever the audience suggests. The actors asked for a suggestion from the audience and someone yelled out “Gene Simmons.” The actors stood in a line and each of them tried to make a joke. For example, actor Nic Kingsbury stepped forward with, “I like my woman like I like my Gene Simmons… underneath it all, it’s just some Jewish guy.” The audience loved these jokes and the actors repeated the same outline with various suggestions. After an hour of short form the actors switched to long form. Their style of long form consisted of a brief monolog by one of the actors to inspire a regular scene without stipulations, also known as a spot scene, which would be followed by several more spot scenes each one inspired by something from the scene before it. “Work in Progress,” also added a unique twist to their long form that’s often seen as a short form game. During the intermission much like they do on “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” the actors sought-out suggestions from the audience on little slips of paper and collected them to be used at the actors discretion in the various spot scenes. Throughout different scenes the actors would read these slips of paper without knowing their contents and then justify them in their dialog. This style seemed to have its ups and downs during different points of the second hour. That being said it was also solely responsible for the biggest laugh of the night. The last spot scene of the evening was a bank heist. Bynoe, the only African American actor and Kingsbury, the only bald actor were in a heated debate about the best way to keep the money they stole safe, Bynoe made a suggestion and Kingsbury aggressively said “listen whatever you do…,” Kingsbury reached into his pocket for an audience suggestion. He pulled out one of several slips of paper in which he had no idea of its contents. Kingsbury looked down and aloud, read, “Don’t trust the bald guy.” Even Kingsbury himself couldn’t contain his laughter at the odds that he had been the one to read his own demise. It felt as though the actors were forced to take a two-minute break from the scene just to allow the audience time to laugh.

            While these improvisers still have some kinks to work out, as a free student-organized show, their first performance went above and beyond. The group, as a whole, was witty and quick. They also seemed to have a fan following of an intelligent audience that not only appreciated their highbrow humor but contributed to it. Many of the audience suggestions consisted of science and math jokes as well as philosophy terms and current event references. “Work In Progress” as a student-run organization has really set the bar high in regards to what we can expect from college students. These actors will undoubtedly be successful if they continue to pursue comedy after their college careers.


What I find most interesting about theater and more specifically improv is it’s ability to portray and resemble similarities to media. It’s not media but it entertains persuades and informs us all just the same. The primary difference between improv comedy and sketch comedy that you see on television is that cultivation theory is partially constructed by the audience. The Actors still hold the primary control but the kind of entertainment that is provided is at the command of the audience and the audiences reactions are visible to the actors so they can play off their hype. Theater however is a dieting art form. People in this generation are uncomfortable being that personal and vulnerable with another person unless there is a screen between them and the performer.

Trilogy: Information Persuasion Entertainment

March 28 2014 – Cracked Podcast Episode 4 “Loss of Privacy”

 Click here to listen: Cracked Podcast Episode 4 “Loss of Privacy”

                  In this episode of the Cracked podcast, Jack O’Brien and Jason Long discuss the loss of privacy. The majority of the podcast centers on Jason Long attempting to explain how bizarre he finds millennial complacence regarding the loss of privacy. What I found interesting about this episode is that neither O’Brien nor Long ever makes a case for why privacy is worth having. Throughout the episode they allude to a dystopian future and warn about the slippery slope that may lead us there. Aside from vague prophecies about what could happen, Long repeatedly expresses his difficulty articulating why privacy is important [1]. In this paper, I want to make the case for privacy that Long couldn’t and explain what privacy is and why it is worth having. I also want to critique Long’s idea that young people’s willingness to share their lives on social media will lead to a lack of cultural diversity and suggests that, to the contrary, it will likely to a crucial tool for making social diversity more visible and accepted.

The hosts spend a great deal of time trying to figure out why those born after the Cold War don’t value privacy. This is an interesting discussion in its own right but even a perfect explanation as to why millennials don’t value privacy would do little to inform the argument as to why they ought to. First I found it awkward that neither of the hosts ever defined privacy. In this paper, the term privacy denotes the freedom to seclude information about our selves from others. Why ought we be able to control personal information about ourselves? There is a heated debate among ethicists as to why privacy matters [2]. With some questioning whether a right to privacy even exists at all [3]. I think it is reasonable to assume that whatever the exact relationship between them is; privacy seems to be an important component of our autonomy. A right to privacy allows us to maintain our social relationships in a manner we see fit. Part of what is to be in an intimate relationship is allowing yourself vulnerable to someone and share aspects of your life with them that you do not have to share with others. In a world without privacy, all individuals regardless of our intimacy with them would have equal access to the information about our lives.

Long also appears to struggle explaining the difference between individuals having access to information about us on Facebook and the government being able to tap on our phones and read our emails. The most obvious difference is that the information we post on Facebook is submitted voluntarily; it was created with the purpose of being shared (more on that later). A second difference is that the government is a uniquely dangerous entity. It is the only institution that we entrust with the power to take away some individual’s rights. The government can take our property (via taxation), our safety (drafting us into the military), and our freedom (through arrest and imprisonment) [4]. There are good reasons why we ought to consider the government having this sort of information uniquely dangerous in a way that we ought not to worry about Microsoft and Facebook.

Finally the hosts of the podcast worry that increasingly millennials will value privacy less and less. What they don’t seem to notice is, with the exception of privacy from the government, privacy from each other is only as valuable as we desire it to be. A world where individuals are more willing to share information about who they are is not necessarily bad [5]. While it will raise new moral questions about how we ought to respond to this information, it isn’t at clear to me why this would necessarily be bad, so long as all the information is shared voluntarily.

Earlier in the podcast, Long epitomizes his own ignorance when he says that the reason new technology and great art does not come out of North Korea is because of the degree to which its own citizens must endure surveillance [6]. There is a sense, of course, in which Long is correct, the North Koreans are heavily monitored by their own government and even fellow North Koreans are encouraged to spy on one another. But Long is equivocating the word “surveillance” employing it equally denote being monitored by an external authority (the government) with sharing information about oneself (via social media, camera phones, and the dreaded Xbox). Long also either doesn’t know (or doesn’t care) that North Korea is basically a nuclear-armed cargo cult, supposedly ruled by a dead man [7]. operating with a time tested and failed economic system. That is the reason new technology and great art does not come out of North Korea, not because North Koreans are too readily able to view one-another’s online diaries or Facebook pages.

There is a charitable interpretation of Long’s claim that could be spelled out like this; “Look” he might say, “If everyone can see one another’s political affiliation, relationship status, sexual orientation, religious views, etc. It will encourage a sort of tyranny of popular opinion, where individuals will feel a great coercive pressure from the majority to conform to a certain lifestyle.” The pressure to conform long proceeded [8] (and will exist far apart) from social media. A world where we share our lives on the Internet is not necessarily a world more prone to conformity. In fact, as I believe we already see, it is a world where our preconceived notions about others are challenged and where the width and breadth of human diversity can be marveled at. The dystopian future that Long worries about may indeed come to fruition but it will never come about because people were too open and honest about who they really are.

 Relevance/ Importance:

This Entry deals a lot with generational relationships which is a matter of situational interactionist theory. The Podcast compares and contrasts the value of privacy to people born before and after the cold war and poses questions about a what it means for a generation of people who share their lives online with social media. This entry has a lot to do with climate of opinion and context and how people act because of the technologies and mediums they are brought up with. There is certainly an element of Auteur theory here because the creators of this media are not from the generation that holds the climate of opinion on the issue. In my opinion the podcast presents a somewhat outdated concern of Orwell’s “big brother” prophecy. I think the far more interesting question to look at isn’t the government but as postman warns it’s the people who we want to see our information. It seems that people of my generation all want to be famous. We all want people to know us so we put ourselves out there online. If you do a good job you may even be lucky enough to encounter mystification theory, as many YouTube’s and bloggers have been made famous not only online but occasionally on television and in advertisements. In this day and age if you have enough twitter followers, somebody, somewhere, drops a clothing label in your lap. Which bring me to another concern how our lack of privacy says something about our willingness for advertisers to know who we are. It seems we increasingly want ads to be targeted to our liking and there is more technology to do that now than ever. Moreover this body cast talks about the government, but what I think is more interesting is the potential for reverse cultural norms theory. What if instead of having the media tell us what’s normal the internet and its social media mediums allow us to tell media what’s normal. Perhaps climate of opinion can start to develop a more equal back and forth with entertainment. We already see a rise reality TV, is just because it’s cheap to produce? Perhaps people are beginning to demand a say in what our cultural norms are. The public doesn’t trust people like the Brady Bunch to figure out what’s normal; instead, they trust Teen Mom. There is even a fad of creating produced scripted shows that look and feel like reality shows. My generation has had a taste of attention and we can’t get enough, we want to be apart of the discussion that shapes our countries identity and morals.

Trilogy: Information, Persuasion, Entertainment.


[1] The Cracked Podcast, 4 the Loss of Privacy, (Mar. 31, 2014). Examples of Long admitting he cannot explain why privacy is important can be found in the episode at: 9:20, 19:15, 21:08, 36:42, and perhaps best at 45:51.

[2] Judith Decew, “Privacy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;.

[3] Ibid. See reductionist accounts of privacy.

[4] I don’t mean to sound to libertarian here. It’s important that the state have these coercive powers but nonetheless we should be honest about what they really are.

[5] Though Long clearly believes it is. See Cracked Podcast, 4 the Loss of Privacy, (36:00-36:30)

[6] Ibid. (28:09)

[7] North Korea is officially ruled by Kim Il Sun, who in North Korean folklore was carried away by swans to heaven.

[8] If only the non-conformists of the 1950’s could come to our modern era and explain to all the goths, rednecks, LGBTs, Christians, Atheists, vegans, feminists, and cat fanatics about the importance of being different and being yourself.

March 13 2014 – Think Piece Paper Two

Critical thinking is a term invoked frequently in college classrooms; I’d go so far to say every professor I’ve ever had has used the term in some capacity during my time at Buffalo State. The problem is that many people use this term without actually understanding what it means. According to the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking (19887) the term is defined as follows.

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.”


In layman’s terms critical thinking is a set of skills that uses reliable evidence and reason to make conclusions. The second component of critical thinking is that once you learn critical thinking skills you should be able to apply them consistently. Some of my professors who preach critical thinking and use it in their lectures also express believing in conspiracy theories and other false ideologies. Critical thinking is not just seeking evidence to support our beliefs, it requires recognizing our own biases we may carry from culture and upbringing so that we do not ignore the facts, even when they fail to support our cherished beliefs and intuitions. Critical thinking isn’t something that comes naturally; the concept of suspending judgment about claims long enough to use critical thinking requires us to never accept claims based on emotion or social pressure. When we consume media most of our beliefs and ideas come from personal biases such as emotion, social pressure and culture. The lack of critical thinking skills in our society is what makes reinforcement theory so effective. Reinforcement theory is the media theory that the media does not so much persuade us but rather it reinforces our existing beliefs and perceptions, as we tend to have a confirmation bias towards anything that doesn’t agree with our cherished beliefs. The artifact, or media message, that I’ve selected to analyze is a persuasive, informative and entertaining video entitled “Storm” by comedian and skeptic Tim Minchin. I chose this video because it may be one of the few media messages that truly challenges reinforcement theory and persuades people to think critically about a wide-array of common fallacies. My analysis consists of not only the value of the content (message for the audience) but also the many ways the artifact encompasses all three components of the information, persuasion, entertainment trilogy.

This artifact is a ten-minute video in which Tim Minchin tells the story of an argument he had at a London dinner party with a hippy named Storm. Minchin argues many of the values and principles of critical thinking and while his opponent Storm seems unmoved by his word play, millions have been converted to his way of thinking.

“Storm” is available on YouTube at and currently has over 2,800,000 views. The genre of the video is a beat poem combined with animation. This is a more unique form of narrative, which makes it all the more important for considering the power of its delivery. As genre theory tells us, classifying messages and putting them in categories allows us to compare and contrast them with other media messages. There are likely few other beat poems of this subject matter but nonetheless it’s evident that the delivery of the rhetoric, or persuasive language, appears highly effective compared to typical lectures and talks about critical thinking. This may be in part because the beat poem not only has clever pacing but it also has a tremendous amount of verbal and visual imagery that accompanies it. Verbal and visual imagery are words and pictures that support analysis and “Storm” does this rather creatively. Many of the verbal points are quite literally animated into word imagery to better articulate the important parts of the message. Some of the imagery is so fluently animated that it’s impossible to capture frame by frame, however I’ve included a flow chart to give an idea of its unique power.

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The word play that Minchin highlights through imagery leaves the viewer entertained and impressed yet all he’s doing at the core of the message is explaining and defining terms. The wordplay in combination with the beat poem puts emphasis on all the right points and holds onto the viewers attention as they hold out for the end of every sentence he speaks at the anticipated beat. These aesthetics or style of the visual and verbal imagery, combined with valuable critical thinking information, are both aspects that lend this artifact to being all three elements of the media trilogy; however there is so much more that goes into the persuasion component

            It’s also important to acknowledge that Storm, the character Minchin is debating, has polar opposite views from him and represents someone who is not easily persuaded. This makes it very easy to make Minchin’s views appear the most correct, further accomplishing the persuasion aspect of the trilogy. Storm is overly dramatized and stereotypical hippy. This isn’t unfair trickery; rather it’s an important element of the video and is arguably apart of Minchin’s dramatic license. Dramatic license allows content creators to distort facts and sensationalize components of their material to make a statement and portray their point of view. There’s no way to know for certain if Storm was a real person that Minchin met at a real dinner party; or that she appeared as dim witted as he made her sound. Regardless, Minchin did this to generalize a style of thinking many people adhere to without realizing how miss guided it is The picture bellow is one brief example of dramatic license as the animation clearly depicts Storm as having a highly emotional and unintelligible reaction to medical science.


Her audio for the above frame is also unintelligible and out of place in the conversation “Storm suddenly insists, but the human body is a mystery science just falls in a hole when it tries to understand the mystery of the soul”. Storms facial expressions are more than just dramatic license they’re also an example of auteur theory, because as the theory states that a director’s creative vision is evident. While Minchin wrote and performed the audio he did not actually animate the piece; it was directed and animated by DC Turner. Based on auteur theory it’s safe to assume some of the animations that are less flattering of Storm may be from the bias and creative message of the director as well as Minchin himself.

Looking at Storm from a critical framework point of view she is merely a character. Image or character analysis as a critical framework, is when we look at characters and talk about what they represent in society. Although Minchin’s portrayal of storm may at times seem unfair it’s important to remember the context, or time and place, it was written in. The video was posted in April of 2011 so fairly present times and while the story specifically takes place in London but it was made for the western world as a whole. The second aspect of understanding context is looking at the climate of opinion. Climate of opinion reflects the opinions of what’s happening culturally politically or economically in that contextual time or place. The cultural opinion of our society is one that often believes science and critical thinking is the enemy of belief, and if not seen as an enemy it’s often seen as a belief itself. Dramatic license and climate of opinion in combination with context, character analysis and auteur theory, allow us to access that the framework of ethicality is seemingly permissible. The ethicality framework looks at the credibility of where the content of the message is coming from. Minchin has a right to stereotype characters not only to express a point of view but he also has the ethos of being a professional comedian making it that much more acceptable.

In my opinion this media message is highly effective at accomplishing all three components of trilogy: Information, persuasion and entertainment. The reason I find the message effective is because this video is the video that taught me to value critical thinking. Before watching it I had a mild interest science and critical thinking but I also had a lot of less dramatized components of Storm’s open mindedness to various opinions as a means of measuring knowledge. I had already heard some of Tim Minchin’s other comedy routines before I watched “Storm” but the combination of his humor with the beat poem and visual imagery had me sold from every angle that the values of critical thinking and reason he was describing were the best ways to understand the world. With nearly 3 million views and a 99 percent approval vote it appears as though the video is well received. I only have the anecdotal evidence of my own personal experience to testify to it’s persuasive ability but looking at the various critical frameworks and theories discussed I assume it’s highly likely that many other had a similar experience.

What I learned the most from writing this paper is that one of the most persuasive components of argumentation comes from ones ability to express and dismantle opposing views of the argument. I re-watched “Storm” for the first time in years to write this paper. While I did so I tried to numb myself of reinforcement theory and picture what my objections would have been as my younger self. I found that Minchin makes up for his overly critical generalized interpretation of Storm by deconstructing some of her more valid points. The flow chart bellow demonstrates Minchin’s use of humor as well as visual and audio ascetics. These elements combined with the deconstruction of Storms point make a very persuasive story narration.

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The idea that science is somehow like a religion or belief is a common misconception in our society. Minchin’s ability to pick up on this concern and humorously tear it apart allows the viewer to laugh at storm and walk away with a better understanding of how to think critically. Understanding the complexity of what goes into effective persuasion is a major element of understanding human behavior and how they react to media. I will try to continue to use these various elements of persuasion discussed in this thought paper to further help people understand what thinking critically really means. I also have realized that persuasion really can’t exist powerfully without information and entertainment. The easiest way to persuade someone is to have information that proves what you’re saying is true and entertainment to engage your viewer into listening. Fortunately Storm has all three components of the trilogy and has effectively made a persuasive message about the value of science and critical thinking.

March 7 2014 – Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

The Pros and Cons to New Media Technology

Call, TXT, I.M., email, Tweet, message, Skype, mail, post, blog, page, carrier pigeon, all ways we use to communicate with each other. Well okay pagers? Mail? Some of this stuff gets used more often than others. Although I don’t know about you but when my moms in the den, on her computer playing solitaire, the only way to get her to talk to me about dinner is to send the pigeons in after her. But for the select handful of you who don’t have your own trained messenger pigeons (because lets be real if you had them, you’d use them), why: is it that we so much rather call than txt? Or email rather than go to the post office? I doubt its because stamps are so expensive these days because in which case I will trade you a plethora of stamps for that nice computer or smart phone your reading this on. It’s because it’s faster. One might even say instantaneous.

It’s the same reason we microwave our macaroni and DVR out favorite shows. Here in American we like things fast. The moment we know we want something that’s the moment it should happen. The moment we feel the need to express ourselves it takes little to no preparation, it need only be but a few clicks away. So the question is, does faster really mean better?

Well it would appear to be so given how short life is why would you want to waste time? Why would you drive all the way to your friends house who lives in the next town over to talk about the up coming play offs when you can just sit at home at your computer and message him about it? (Plus this way now you can simultaneously watch funny cat videos). More experiences less time wasted, it sounds like a win/win to me. Or so I thought. You see I turned on the radio a couple days ago to find Olivia Newton John telling me a thing or too about communicating. She didn’t exactly elaborate on how I shouldn’t rely so heavily on carrier pigeons, but there is such a thing as reading between the lines.

Despite the sexual connotations of “lets get physical” Something really struck me in general about the concept of body language she was portraying. The notion that with movement and gesture alone you could convey so much more intimate desire and feeling than words. I pondered that if this is true of intimacy, it certainly must be true of other emotions that we try to communicate. I mean there is just no way that you can really feel what I’m feeling when I send you one of these: 🙂 , 😦 , o_O , ❤ . Olivia gave me hope though. Sexual intimacy. There. There is something that can definetely not be instantaneous. Then I realized that’s nowhere close to the truth, according to a recent survey posted by the National Campaign 39 percent of teenagers admit to having “sexted”. Sexting is a growing craze in which people express themselves sexually through text usually via cell phone.

You may think I’m over reacting, I cant blame you I too am very comfortable with the fast pace communication our society lives in (you are, after all reading my blog). However before you dedicate yourself to thinking there’s nothing wrong with faster and easier, take a look at some of the research I’ve run into. For starters communication specialists estimate that 93 percent of everything you communicate is nonverbal. 38 percent of it is tone and 55 Percent of it is body language. That means more than half of how we effectively understand communication comes from body language.

So what exactly is body language? It’s a constant form of both conscious and unconscious gestures that help us communicate. But gestures aren’t limited to hand movement. Facial expressions are arguably the most important aspect of nonverbal communication. One of the arguments for instant communication that is often used in regards to the smart phones, social networking and all that malarkey is that it connects us with the rest of the world. The problem with that assumption is that, language barriers restrict us. One of the most amazing things about facial expressions is that unless you are Patrick Bateman, all humans understands facial expressions universally no matter what their language or ethnicity is. Gestures vary from culture to culture but your natural expression of emotion that is reliably the same across the board.

Some of the other things that cannot be simulated through instantaneous communication are touch and eye contact. The way you touch someone and the act in and of it’s self can say a lot about both your relationship with another person and how you’re feeling. While eye contact can do that and so much more. Despite what word you are using your eyes tend to show how you really feel. Eye contact can show a vast amount and range of emotion; hatred, disgust, love, anger, sadness, boredom. All of these things allow us to gage other people’s responses to what we are saying. This allows us to measure how well we are being understood and it allows us to communicate how we feel about what we are saying.


            Now while body language presumably can be learned, as very evident with extreme cases like Bateman. The overwhelming majority of body language is instinctual, so while much of this sounds very difficult it should for the most part happen effortlessly. In which case I will make the argument that if more than half of our communication is visual and only 7 percent of it verbal, then in order to properly communicate with words one would have to verbally describe there physical manner. Therefore I feel the amount of verbal text it would take to fully describe what one is trying to communicate would be more time consuming than actually talking with someone face to face. What does this say about America as a society? Surely there must be repercussions to the 93 percent of communication that is lost in translation.


Relevance/ Importance:

The 20th century saw rapid changes the speed of communication. Beginning the century with only the postal service and the telegraph as the most expedient means of communication, the invention of telephone revolutionized communication in ways previously never thought possible. But with the advent of the pager and the cell phone, mass communication was no longer dependent upon tangible phone lines and no doubt the 21st century will end with us all being connected in ways currently unimaginable. Similar to Postman’s concerns I wonder if is this increase in speed is necessarily synonymous with progress. The goal of all communication is to transmit ideas to one another and according to leading psychologists and linguistics experts we know that the majority of communication is done outside of language. If so then the ability to text and even call someone may not be as ideal as it seems. Postman talks a lot about the being afraid of losing the written word. I don’t think this concern is as scary as he suggests. New media technology has made literacy more accessible. A lot of People who can’t even afford homes can still afford cell phone bills and they have an entire encyclopedia of information at their fingertips. That may not seem impressive that a homeless person can watch YouTube and read the times but that is just the bottom of the food chain. Most of My peers have tablets and everyone I know who has a kindle or ipad keeps books on them. My generation isn’t lazy when it comes to reading we just have a lot pulling at our attention so you need to make it convenient for us. That being said I am concerned about the future of our social relationships and how this form of communication will effect our empathy. This morning I got into a heated debate with people I rather enjoy. The topic was something I knew they were ignorant about but even with all the typical conversation strategies to show understanding and empathy to their opinions the energy was still hostile. Your arguments are there for the world to see and I think instead of thinking critically people are thinking combatively. Face to face empathy is where understanding and learning happens, without it I fear our existence may become as trivial as Postman fears. To explore this topic more, I chose to write this entry in the genre of a blog post. A blog post gives the message a added component of satire and more importantly the people, who are most likely to read a blog format, are the people this concept most largely effects.

Trilogy: Information, Persuasion, Entertainment


March 1 2014 – Feminism Takes Balls

In honor of Women’s History month

Feminism Takes Balls

Why our Fathers, Husbands, Brothers and Boyfriends Should be Feminists too


            There is perhaps no label more misunderstood, and therefore maligned, than the title of ‘feminist.’ It is popularly misconceived as something that requires time and effort or something that a rational person may optionally choose to be. Reason offers us no such choice. Feminism, in its entire controversial splendor, is the radical notion that women are people and should be treated equally. We should be living in a world where proclaiming that you are not a feminist is as socially acceptable as public nudity. The purpose of this paper is to suggest one necessary part of what will likely be a multi-faceted solution. If feminism is going to thrive and accomplish its goals in the 21st century, than feminism is going to need balls.

            Somewhere along the line feminism became associated with “man-hating”; I’ll leave the task of figuring out exactly how that happened to future historians and late night comedians. A 2013 poll conducted by the Huffington Post found that 37% of those surveyed believed that feminism was a negative word.[1] Only 20% of those surveyed self-identified as feminists, despite the fact that an overwhelming 82% of those surveyed said they thought men and women should be “social, political, and economic equals.” The disparity between those respondents who agreed with the definition of feminism but failed to recognize themselves as feminists is staggering. It also gets at a serious problem. The perpetuation of this stereotype deprives women of a powerful concept to invoke when they experience prejudice. It would be like trying to point out the problem of segregation in the 1950’s south, without any appeal to the concept of racism. By making “feminist” a dirty word, we have needlessly deprived ourselves of a powerful conceptual tool.

            While neither men nor women identify strongly with the label feminist, women are more likely than men to recognize the historical importance of the feminist movement and to think it might be needed in the future. A 2009 CBS poll found 69% of women believed the feminist movement had made their lives better and just under half (48%) thought it is still needed.[2] Though I think these numbers in isolation are horrifically low, they appear superb by comparison to the responses given by men. Men are divided almost perfectly in half on whether the feminist movement has made their lives better or worse (47% to 46% respectively) and just over a third of men (34%) thought that the feminist movement was still needed. Only 14% of men initially identified as feminists though this number increases to 58% when supplied with a definition.

            So it’s clear we have a conceptual problem from both men and woman. The most telling statistic is that only a third of men believe that the feminist movement is still needed. This is the statistic I am the most concerned with. The reason people denounce feminism is because of the misconception that its agenda to validate women results in emasculating men. Men see it as an attack and women are quick to support them. Women are unique from many other historically oppressed groups in that most are not psychologically distant or removed from the dominant power group. Asymmetries aside, men and women will continue to be friends with one another, fall in love, and raise boys and girls together. This is overall a good thing; we shouldn’t want animosity between the sexes. However if men can start to understand the importance of equality then woman will feel more comfortable joining them in the fight against gender oppression. So long as little girls look up to their fathers and young women have male friends (platonic and romantic), their normative expectations for how they should act will always be influenced by the men in their lives. Most women love the men in their lives so they need to feel like they aren’t taking a stance against men but that they are taking a stance for equality. We don’t need every man in the country to start this movement we just need to increase that 14% enough that woman can see there are men out there who are on their side.

            We should be aware that this movement would have resistance. If we are successful in spreading the popularity of feminism amongst even a third of men, woman will likely become empowered and aware of when they’re being oppressed. This awareness will cause animosity. Not between men and woman but between feminists and people of both genders who renounce it. This lack of tolerance towards people who don’t support equality is the most important part of progress. When we judge and reject people for their bigotry and biases, they succumb to peer-pressure. Some positive news about this difficult battle is that we live in a time, that with the right direction, social media can expedite this method dramatically. Just look at how influential marriage equality was. That was a battle that had little mobility for decades but as social media flourished, within roughly a year of social media peer-pressure, we saw progress in our legislation. So how do we get men on the forefront of the social media battlefield? We talk to them. For both men and women alike, spreading the word can be as simple as talking about what the definition of a feminist is and why it’s a negative thing to not be one.

The problem with this conversation however is that from the perspective of privilege the world will intuitively always seems fine. Until men can take the problem of gender inequality seriously, they will always be limited in their ability to foster the right kinds of attitudes and dispositions in their daughters and loved ones. We might be tempted to respond that this isn’t a problem for men to be dealing with at all. That perhaps, while men should not impede the progress of feminism, they have no obligation to support it either. I think this is misguided. It’s true that there may be practical limits in men’s ability to empathize with the condition of women but it’s no different than our limits to understand any other group we might be foreign to. For instance the limits of straight individuals to empathize with homosexual individuals; while at first it may feel foreign and unimportant when place ourselves in their shoes our perception changes. We support things like civil rights and marriage equality because while we might not identify to one or both of those groups, the people in them matter to us. Part of what it is to love someone, a girlfriend, a wife, a daughter, a sister, is to take their interests seriously. So our inability to take on the perspective of another gender poses as much threat to our conceptions of love as it does equality.

I have one of the most supportive loving fathers that someone could ask for. He’s the only person who really supported and pushed me to go to school to study film; he says “if you want to do big things, you have to take big risks”. He’s my biggest fan, constantly bragging about what I do and showing off my work to his friends and colleagues. He believes in me even when I struggle to believe in myself. That being said when I tell him stories of what it’s like to work with my male classmates his reaction is off putting. I’ll tell him about how even my male friends, who enjoy my presence and humor so long as I take a back seat in discussions; will continuously treat me with less respect. The most frustrating form of disrespect is when they constantly reject my ideas only to later take them as their own after the fact. It seems clear that they’re good ideas; just not when they’re from a woman. My father’s response to these things is that I need to adjust my behavior. His advice is often framed around the idea that in order to beat them at their own game, I need to act more like a man. The problem is that’s not how double standards work. Without going all in for a sex change, if I were to treat them the way they treat me I would find myself alienated. My father goes on to suggest other techniques and even management styles in hopes that I might be able to manipulate my colleges. His inability to understand that I’ve already tried these things and that they are helpless to the issue brought me to tears. Suddenly he listened a little closer, “Nora you have to know I’m always on your side”. I asked him if he’s really on my side why he didn’t consider himself a feminist. His response was heart breaking; he said that he supports me having it but just because something was my cause it didn’t mean it had to be his. I told him if he didn’t believe men and women should be equal, then he quite literally was not on my side. Taken aback he rebutted that he did believe men and woman should be equal. After a brief silence I asked the most important man in my life something that made me very vulnerable, “then say it. Say that you’re a feminist. Say the word.” I knew I was throwing a lot of things at him that he had never had to analyze before so I was prepared for the worst, but after another moment of silence he confidently proclaimed that he was in fact a feminist. It was a small victory for not just womankind but for the human race; one more person stepped over to the right side of history and left both ignorance and the tolerance of ignorance behind them. These are the conversations and small victories both men and woman need to be having if we want a shot at progress.

Of course we need to give our loved ones some time to become acclimated with the idea of identifying with feminism. Especially our male loved ones because their ability to empathize might take a little more time. Eventually the next step is going to be to take our intolerance of anti-feminism to war. The battlefield will be all around us; we will combat ignorance in our living rooms, in our offices, and on social media. It won’t be easy, we may have to pick and choose our battles but our greatest hope equality is to join men and women in the fight. Together our persuasion and intolerance can be powerful. I think our first plan of attack should be a storm of peer pressure on social media. I encourage both women and men to post this status:

Feminism: the belief that men and woman should have equal rights and opportunities.

I am a feminist. Not being a feminist is ignorant and immoral.

This by no means will create change overnight but it will get people talking about it. Much like there is a gay straight alliance in which people do not have to be homosexual to support their freedom we need a men and woman alliance for women’s equality. The first steps to creating that alliance will be breaking down misconceptions with statuses like the above.




Relevance/ Importance:

When we talk about Cultural norms, theory and situational interaction theory, the way women are viewed and treated often comes to mind. I think it’s extremely true that media tells us about relationship and what is normal. However I think it’s also true that Social learning theory that promotes pro social behavior cannot just establish or add cultural norms but actually change the ones that already exist. Many women have not only zero concern for feminism and gender equality, many women actually try to distance themselves from the word. In my opinion the only way someone can be against something that benefits them is because they are miss informed or mentally ill. Some of the films we’ve watched haven’t necessarily advocated for the mistreatment of women, but they certainly reflect the reality of where women are in the world. If the media isn’t doing something wrong they at least aren’t doing something right either. Tough guise for instance is a perfect example of pro social behavior that would benefit gender equality. Unfortunately tough guise isn’t a sitcom or 20 something’s reality show, it’s a documentary. If we want cultivation theory to work we need to install ideas of gender equality in the setting of normalcy in the media. Not that feminism is different or morally correct but that feminism is normal and the lack of it is immorally wrong.


Trilogy: Persuasion, Information, Entertainment




February 28 2014 – Researching The Burchfield as a Potential PRSSA Client


 Researching The Burchfield as a Potential PRSSA Client

My previous entry inspired me to get more involved with public relations on campus so I joined PRSSA. PRSSA is in the process of creating a student run firm, but we need clients. Burchfield seemed like they’d be a pretty good match because of it proximity and local appeal so I decided to look into their relationship to the school and what we might be able to do to promote them. I interviewed Meg Knowles, as she is a board member at Burchfield as well as a Buffalo State media professor.

Interview subject:

Meg Knowles is an Associate Professor of media production in the Communications department at Buffalo State College. She is the producer of over 40 documentaries which have been shown at international film festivals, free speech TV and PBS. She currently sits on the board of HallWalls Contemporary Art Center, on the Collection Committee of the Burchfield Penney Art Center, and on the selection committee for the Women’s International Film Festival. She’s also a board member of Squeaky Wheel, and has been a board member on several other Buffalo Museums in the past, including the Albert-Knox. Given her vast expertise in visual communication and the local art scene, I interviewed Meg about the Burchfield Penney.


  1. In what ways have you personally utilized or benefited from the Burchfield?

Well-I’ve actually used and benefited from the Burchfield quite a lot because the Burchfield has shown my work and purchased my work, so I’m in their collection. I was in their opening exhibition in their new space and I have also collaborated with the Burchfield since I came to work at Buffalo State in 2006 on a screening series called “Consider the Alternatives” where they allowed me to use their screening room free of charge because it was a collaboration to bring documentary films- Mike Nyman and I did this series of documentary films that ran for three years, so I worked very closely with them on that. Also I should mention I’m on their collection committee.

[Nora: What is the collection committee?]

The collection committee is a volunteer committee that meets to discuss items that the Burchfield is considering bringing into the collection. So if somebody donates something to the Burchfield the collection committee looks at it and decides whether the Burchfield wants to take it into the collection. So we work with the curatorial staff to help make those decisions.

  1. Roughly how many times a year do you visit the Burchfield? What do those visits consist of?

[chuckles] Dozens of times would be my answer. I got the Burchfield to use the gift shop, I go to the Burchfield to see- like I was just there the other night for an opening exhibition of the water show with Albert O’Ray and featuring Brian Millbrand, who’s in our department- and other fine artists. I got there to screen documentary films, I got there to watch presentations, sometimes they have-you know-people come and speak about various subjects of interest, about things that are either in the collection or things of community interest in the arts. I have gone to the Burchfield for Buff State events, like I had a research-a summer research student who I was a mentor of- and there were various ceremonies and things related to that at the Burchfield. I mean I’m in the Burchfield quite a lot, I go there for meetings too. And I go there to eat lunch….so I’d say I go the Burchfield quite a lot. Probably more than anybody else you’re talking too.

[Nora: Yeah I guess I lucked out then-I wasn’t sure…]

  1. Have you ever required your students to go to events at the Burchfield?

I have required my to-um, no- I have given my students extra-credit to either attend a screening at the Burchfield and do a write up on it or for my visual communication class I have an extra-credit paper they can do analyzing a piece of art in the Burchfield. And….and we did actually one class-my whole class- my media production class we went over there to see, there was a media (a video) exhibition of Staina, a really fabulous video artist from the 60’s and 70’s and she had a giant retrospective at the Burchfield and my class walked over and watched that exhibition, watched the videos in that exhibition.

  1. Would you consider squeaky wheel a competitor of the Burchfield?

Well, um, I mean I think it depends on how you look at it. You know because it’s not business, it’s not competition, right? Ya’ know but they’re, I would say, partners in the art community, in a way that they’re all organizations in the artistic community and, in fact, the Burchfield and Squeaky Wheel collaborate on many initiatives one of which is media preservation. There’s collaboration between the Squeaky Wheels and the Burchfield and [Hall-Walls?] for media preservation that’s been going on for a few years. But in other ways there’s a little bit of competition, like if they have events on the same night and you’re trying to attend both then it becomes, perhaps not a competition but-you know-the patrons have to make a decision about which they’re gonna go too. Or you run by the Burchfield when you’re on your way to Squeaky Wheel and that’s true with other arts organizations too.

[Nora: Like who’s going to donate money to who…]

And well there is a little bit of “there’s only so many donation dollars in the city of Buffalo” and people select the organizations they’re going to give too and they do pick-you know- you have to pick and choose, I can’t afford to give to every arts organization in Buffalo as much as I’d like too.

[Nora: Do you give to the Burchfield?]

Well I used to and you know why I don’t anymore? [Nora: Why?] I got mad because they could easily be in SEFA which is the United Way campaign they do in the state university system, every year they come and ask me “Do you want to give to SEFA?” and I can either say “Yeah just give to United Way” or I can say “Designate these outside organizations” and like I give a huge gift to Squeaky Wheel which comes out of paycheck one week-my paycheck one week at a time. The Burchfield won’t sign up to be on that list and I think that’s like wrong because they’re sitting here on the campus of a SUNY institution, they don’t want to be part of that because they take like a tiny percentage or something? Whatever I’ve asked them a few times I’ve said “Why don’t you join that? I would like to give to you that way, I would give you a more substantial gift” and they just like ignore me, so I’m like I’m just going to not be a member and see if they ever notice and ask me…but they haven’t yet.

To me that’s way that they’re not connecting to the university community because they’re sitting here on the Buffalo State college campus and Buffalo State college has this giant giving program where you can have get money drawn out of your check one week at a time so you can give larger amounts to charitable organizations, all across New York State, so you can just give to Unite Fund or United Way or you can specify what they call “unaffiliated organizations” and there’s a book, this thick, of unaffiliated organizations like every cancer hospital, every environmental group, Squeaky Wheel is on it, [Hall Walls?] is on it, you can give to all these other organizations but not the Burchfield Penney and how could the Burchfield Penney not want to create a convenient way for the Buffalo State college campus community, staff, an faculty, to give?

  1. What are some of the similarities and differences between Squeaky Wheel and the Burchfield?

Oh, well there’s a massive difference, the Burchfield is primarily a presentation venue it’s an arts presentation, it’s a museum. Right? They have a collection, they service a wide-variety of different styles of art, they have painting, sculpture, craft-art is a big area at the Burchfield. They’re servicing the Western New York region, so their mission and you can easily find out by looking at their mission, is to serve the artists of Western New York. Now they do some other things besides just put stuff on display, like right now they’re undergoing this really big digital history project where they’re trying to create profiles of the artists of Western New York and get your work up on there…..

It’s a huge digital undertaking to make so people from outside the region, if they hear of like let’s say Alberto Ray the artist who’s featured in the show right now and they look him up on the web they can find like a bio of him and maybe a link to his website. Information about that artist you might not otherwise be able to find. Our artists in Western New York are sometimes underappreciated so the museum does a really big service to the artists in some ways by representing them and by having them in the collection.

Squeaky Wheel has a different kind of mission because their mission is to, it has a presentation element but they have a three part mission. Their mission is to educate people about how to make media, so they do a lot of workshops and education workshops. Which the Burchfield does a little of that but not a great deal every museum does a little bit of education, right? But that’s a really a huge central part of Squeaky Wheels mission. Another central part of Squeaky Wheel’s mission is to create access, low cost access, to equipment so make work. So they can rent equipment and so forth. And then the third part of Squeaky Wheels mission is to do presentation, to show the work of…but they’re not nearly a presentation venue and most of their money from education.

  1. What are your thoughts about the Front Yard Project? Do you consider it a success?

[Laughter] I’m in the Front Yard Project. I think the Front Yard Project is really cool, I think it’s a great idea to have a projection on the front of the museum, I think it’s an interesting idea, I think it’s got a great deal of potential for the future. I will say that I’m in it but I have never seen my piece displayed. I think mine comes on at 9pm at night and for some reason I’ve never been able to here at 9pm. I think one of the things that’s really successful about the Front Yard Project is that it really reaches out, like you can see it driving by, you drive by and you see it. I think on the downside, I wish the projection was a little brighter so you could see a little better as you drove by which isn’t their fault I think they’re using the brightest projector they can get and they’re projecting it onto a great vacant wall. The other thing I think is too bad about it is there’s a really important audio component to it that is lost on the passing car traffic. Like my piece has audio but I knew from the moment I made it-like this audio is only going to be known to the passing foot traffic which is less. There is passing foot traffic but it’s just not reaching the general passersby. That’s the one thing I think is really fascinating about it is it has this really cool audio component that is impossible to appreciate from a car. Because we don’t have a lot of walkers on that part of Elmwood but I think its kind a pretty, I like those stations and I like the way it has the Burchfield paintings dotted into them.

  1. Do you know if any of your students have submitted work to the front yard project?

I know that Brian’s put some students in it, I’m aware that he has done that he told me he put a couple of student works into it.

  1. Do you think having an on going media project next to the college will benefit media production majors? If so how?

I think it could be a temporary exchange it depends, you know, it depends on the Burchfield. The thing is its curatorial so you can’t really say, I can’t tell you or predict what they’re going to do curatorial, they may invite other media makers to help populate that exhibit, they may have Brian do it or have other people bring things in because they have connections in the media world. They’re actually starting a collaboration with Alfred where there is a big media component to the school and my feeling is they may be brining student work from Alfred there.

There are students making stuff that’s sort of modern art it would fit nicely. It’s also a way to bring in people from western New York in, I don’t think that excludes the idea that students from here would contribute work but the type of work our students are making is largely not appropriate for that venue, like in terms of-it’s an installation- like you know I make documentaries, I made a piece for that was different from my usual work because it had to work as an installation. So I didn’t make a normal documentary with interviews and people talking, I made something that’s visual and about an idea, of women working in the 19th century.


Relevance/ Importance:

One of the major things I gathered from researching the Burchfield is that they are already apart of Buffalo State. In fact they use to be located in Rockwell hall where we have class. Since they moved off campus they don’t seem to be eager to captivate or engage the student body. On the one hand they want the college student to come because it’s business whether it’s free for students or not having that tie to the campus brings in business and makes the space busy. On the other hand as Meg discussed the Burchfield want to have a certain element of prestige to it which quite honestly isn’t the vibe students always give off. The Burchfield does a lot of media heavy work especially with the Front Yard project being an ongoing media project the lessons we’re learning in class could be crucial to helping them figure out a promotion strategy.

What I’m most confused about is why ever time I pass this expensive machinery nothing is ever playing at the front yard project apart from some weird bird noises. I propose making a sensationalized commercial that encourages students to contribute there own media. With the right special effects and aesthetics, a video would have the potential to invoke action in the students to be the prestigious college student the Burchfield wants to appeal to (Social learning theory).

Trilogy: Information, Persuasion.