Friday, March 25, 2011

Representation in the networked age

All these articles discuss how marginalized gender/race/sexuality are represented by the media. I really like the framework presented in "Representing Gay Men on American Television." Clark (1969) identified four stages of media representation in social groups. These stages are: 1) nonrecognition, 2) ridicule, 3) protectors of existing social order, and 4) respect. I am wondering whether there may be changes to these chronological stages in the networked age? Perhaps some stages are skipped, or perhaps the speed transitioning from one to the next increases?

My argument is no, there is no change, especially if we look at popular culture. The most popular youtube channels, blogs, tweets tend to follow the media norms. Women are still "cut down to size" as Jean Kilbourne argues. This is despite the fact that there are numerous women in substantial power positions (although still arguably underrepresented). Meghan McCain gets more comments about her plus-size figure, or large breasts than her intelligence. Almost every "journalist" on the 24-hour news networks is attractive according to the norms of society. As for famous YouTube personalities, iJustine and the WiiFit girl top the lists. Why, because they are hot. You can look at obese people. They are not represented with respect on the internet. Why was the numa numa guy so popular, because we could ridicule him. Pruane = ridicule for being a nerd. Antoine Dobson = ridicule for black and gay.

The networked age may make these early stages worse and that much harder for society to reach the respect stage. At least with mass media we only see a couple examples, so maybe our impressions are not as concrete. But with the networked age, we can see 1000s of examples supporting these representations. And it does not matter that there are 1000s of positive examples, what matters is what the masses still see, and that is what is popular. What is popular is the ridicule.

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