I’ve always considered myself to be an extremely passionate person. I dedicate my whole heart into everything that drives my creative being. As an artist, I am constantly looking at the world from a million different perspectives, taking it all in, analyzing, adapting, and feeding my energy back into the world. I would not have the same beliefs about who I am without studying art and media and pursuing my education. I’ve grown up wondering it was that sparked my interest with these two fields and. I came to soon realize that media sparked as an influential, revolutionary, and worldwide transformation in today’s day and age.
This class was one of the most eye opening and beneficial experiences that lead to me to understand myself as a person and an artist through media. Media is the source of all of most information about what goes on in our society today, it is ever expanding, and it is constantly influencing our everyday lives. I knew I wanted find a way that I could communicate my identity and self-discovery through media. This journey to find my inner voice as a graduate student and artist starting by reading the book Exploring the Roots of Digital and Media Literacy through Personal Narrative. Through learning about each author’s media background I figured out that I wanted to create the same kind of story. But before I began my research I needed to find evidence from the topics we learned in class.
The work of Edward Bernays especially caught my attention because of the specific ways he explained how media influences the public. Although most of his research was collected during a time of upcoming consumerism I could see how his ideas related to modern times. He described propaganda as a “consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea, or group.”(pg. 52) This practice of creating circumstances and of creating pictures is still very common through the formation of many social, economic, political, geographical, cultural, and many more groups in our society. Bernays made it seem easy to identify what controls the public mind, it started to click for me that certain media outlets, social networks, and public figures produced the majority of information we base our perception of the world off of. I began to wonder how are we exposed to millions of messages in a media saturated life and only some shape our opinions while others get left behind.
It was when we were introduced to Walter Lippman and the “2-step flow” that made me realize how people form some of their beliefs, attitudes, and values by looking towards influential people. I could see how myself, and others, have an intermediate network through we base decisions and require knowledge from. Lippman described the “public intellectual” as widely accessible, populating new ideas, and reflects society’s ideas as a whole. This lead me to reflect on how much of what I believe about the public is dependent off the celebrities, friends, and individuals I follow on social media. Propaganda seemed to explore like a bomb in my head. Every minute we spend on media we are exposed to thousands of messages that shape how we think. Am I really just a product of my own flow of media or do I have any say how I shape myself online and as a person?
Our class pondered the idea, what is the real definition of propaganda? Turns out, there were a plethora of different responses to the phenomena. In sum propaganda tapped into manipulating perceptions, shaping cognitions, and achieving responses. While we experience media in class and on our own we have unique interpretations of the messages we understand. As I think about how I consume and gravitate towards media, I noticed a lot of examples pulled me in with visual imagery. The inner artist in me imagined and thoroughly believed some of propaganda took its form in pictures and visual images. The world is filled with this kind of media, and throughout the class’s research, scholars were hinting the idea. Bernays believed the artist has the opportunity to improve the public taste, inject beautiful instead of ugly motifs in the articles of common use, and, furthermore, secure recognition.” (pg.154) Artists today have the opportunity to curate their lives around media, selecting influential motifs with powerful imagery. I wanted to identity what kinds of images made the biggest impressions and how where they being created. In Auerbach, Jonathan & Russ Castronovo’s Thirteen Propositions about Propaganda, the scholars examined how propaganda was composed of an interplay of text and image. “How audiences process words marks differently from how they process images, which tend to operate more rapidly and affectively, engaging different senses and different parts of the brain.”(pg.7) Images are designed to provoke a range of unanticipated responses which can even be more effective in the age of social media. After this realization I felt inspired to visualize my perception of art through my entire collection of media I’ve explored in my lifetime. I wanted to deeply discover how my taste was shaped through social media.
Reading The Culture of Connectivity was like taking a social media 101 class that expanded my mind to the intricate ways media platforms operate. Suddenly things were making sense as to how I explore my interests online and in a world where my generation feeds off social media. Lippman’s idea about turning towards others for opinions makes platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter a frenzy of propaganda posts, each desiring to be liked and shared. Van Dijk states “sharing, friending, and liking are powerful ideological concepts who’s impact reaches beyond Facebook and into all corners of culture, affecting the very fabric of sociality.”(Pg. 66) So much power is placed into the form of a few buttons on social media that are evidently controlled by algorithms and protocols. I learned that 4% of YouTube users provide almost 3 quarters of the sites content making it bias to its popular users. How much say did we actually have in our consumption of media if we are only exposed to popular demand? What kind of content are they creating and why does it attract such a large audience? I wondered how I could take advantage of these powerful realizations and explore my own ideas through social media.
When we participate online we allow our minds to be shaped by the media we are consuming. This puts an incredible opportunity on anyone’s hands to be able to produce meaningful content. Bernays even indicated that anyone with sufficient influence can lead sections of the public at least for a time and a given purpose, which opened my eyes to how I could use my art as a platform for innovate ideas. Millions of people log onto social media every day and follow millions of influencers. I wanted to investigate how individual’s identities and attitudes could be shaped by media as it did for me. Then began my reflection process to understand how media has made me the person I am today. I can think of a first crucial pieces of music, literature, and social media influencers that I search on a daily basis.
It was my good friend that showed me Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who wrote the book Eat, Pray, Love speaking out against passion that turned my perspective about something I consider a core value upside-down. In the video she uses language that pulls in the viewer and makes them think critically about their path in life. Gilbert drew me into immediately connecting with the subject of how having a passion can be an overwhelming nonstop experience towards completion. She explains how driving people to pursue passion should instead, be a drive towards curiosity. This speech opened my eyes to how some people look at their lives and questioned my passion as an artist. This example stood out to me to include in my reflection because it whole-heartily shows how one piece of media can influence a change in someone’s perceptions. I could go on and on about all the thousands of posts that have shaped I as a person but I’ll leave that project for my creative final. :)
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