Eclectic Grounds

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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

What’s relevant: CNN vs Al Jazeera

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A while back, I ran a post here on Al Jazeera as a positive addition to the international media landscape. I now came across a photoshopped image that compares the frontpage of the CNN and Al Jazeera websites two days ago. It shows in true absurdity how welcome this fresh addition really is…

CNN / Al Jazeera

Via BildBlog

Written by henrik

April 7, 2010 at 12:42 am

Posted in Media

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Some ideas never get old…

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I know I am way late with a post on Avatar but this is just too good not to share it…

Idol TV Series in Afghanistan: Pop culture, social transformation & reappropriation

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Below, a short talk by Cynthia Schneider on the Afghan version of the “Idols” series. She demonstrates how the show has become a means of social change, especially for women, and how the content is culturally re-appropriated.

Also check out here a lengthier talk by Schneider on Western pop culture re-appropriation in the Middle East more generally. She discusses examples such as hip hop or the effects of the show 24 (select the video by Schneider and scroll to minute 30).

Iranian propaganda move gone wrong

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(Notes on) Politics, Theory and Photography sums up a propaganda battle that is underway in Iran between the government news agency and government critics. It’s a brilliant piece about the power of images, symbolic resistance and gender roles.

The government fired the opening salvo when the state news agency Farspublished photos of a student leader – Majid Tavakoli – who has been arrested and remains in custody. In the photographs Tavakoli, who is highly critical of the regime, was forced to wear Islamic chador andmaghnaeh, the female headscarf.

What the authorities apparently intended as a means of humiliating a critic had a surprising effect – it generated Internet solidarity, as scores of Iranian men posted pictures of themselves on various social networking sites wearing headscarves.

[…] the veiled men in the photos make clear that the images are intended as a rebuke to the official practice of compelling Iranian women to wear the chador. Perhaps the regime has made a massive mis-step here.

Full story here

Written by henrik

December 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Television and foreign-language learning

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It is quite striking to compare foreign language competencies across European countries. When I moved to the Netherlands for my undergrad studies, I realized that my 18-year-old Dutch flatmate had better English skills than I, who had just spent two years in anglophone countries. She was not only better in English, but also a had much better intuitive understanding in other languages, I soon realized.

My flatmate explained it by her TV viewing habits, and it seems that this is an important aspects of foreign language competencies. Generally, Dutchmen or Scandinavians – who have more exposure to foreign languages through the common practice of airing films and TV in the original language with subtitles – have a higher level of foreign language skills than e.g. people from Germany, France or Italy where foreign programmes are mostly dubbed.

A new research shows even wider implications of television viewing and language competencies. It shows that for advanced learners, viewing foreign language programs with subtitles in the original languages enhances learning even more:

It appears that the largest benefit from this kind of real-world exposure, in the recognition of regional accents in a second language, comes from the use of subtitles in that language. But foreign-language subtitles are not what television viewers and filmgoers are familiar with. In many European countries (e.g., Germany) there is considerable public concern about international comparisons of scholarly achievements [e.g., 32]. Yet viewers are denied access to foreign-language speech, even on publicly-financed television programs. Instead, foreign languages are dubbed. In countries which use subtitles instead of dubbing (e.g., the Netherlands), only native-language subtitles are available, so again listeners are denied potential benefits in speech learning. Native-language subtitles are obviously essential for listeners who do not already speak a second language, and may thus be the only practical solution in cinemas. With the advent of digital television broadcasting, however, it is now possible to broadcast multiple audio channels and multiple types of subtitles. We suggest that it is now time to exploit these possibilities.

Full article here.

Written by henrik

November 11, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Blackface Journalism

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In a new film, German investigative journalist Günther Wallraff “has a makeup artist cover him in dark brown makeup, he wears brown contact lenses and he dons an afro wig. Then, using the alias Kwami Ogonno, he takes a trip across Germany to discover for himself what it’s like to be black in Germany” (SpOn).

He apparently didn’t think it was more approriate to simply ask black Germans. Instead, he hired a make-up artist, a camera team, he dressed up as an “African” and  went on to release a book and a movie. Supported by predominantly positive media coverage, this concept is a box office hit. Germans seem to be startled: ‘Racism, here?’ – it’s something most people seem to be blatantly ignorant of, unless they are told by a white guy.

The international site of Spiegel Online reports citically:

There’s just one odd thing about the movie: If Wallraff really wanted to find out what it’s like to live as a black in Germany, why didn’t he take the time to let any blacks living in Germany answer the question? […]

Black Germans are on the fence about the film. “We find the mindset behind Mr. Wallraff’s film very problematic,” says Tahir Della, a spokeswoman from the Initiative of Black People in Germany (ISD). “As is so often the case, someone is speaking forrather than with us.” Noah Sow, an educator and musician associated with the media watchdog organization Der braune Mob (The Brown Mob), even goes so far as to accuse Wallraff of “making money from our suffering” regardless of whether he “really intends to combat (racism) or not.” […]

The main criticism levied against Wallraff’s film is that it fails to portray the debate about racism against blacks in Germany as being as advanced as it really is. For example, Della criticizes the film for “making absolutely no mention” of how much blacks in Germany have organized themselves. “We’re happy that racism is discussed,” he says, “but black groups have been doing the same thing for over 25 years.”

Sow has a similar criticism. “Wherever you look,” he [sic] says, “whether it’s in academia, publishing or the annual reports of anti-discrimination offices, knowledge about everyday racism is present — and accessible with the click of a mouse.” He adds that: “Whites just have to stop ignoring and doubting these findings.” As he sees it, the only reason Wallraff succeeds in drawing attention to the plight of Kwami Ogonno is that he is “privileged in the racist system (over) research results, publications and testimonials produced by blacks.”

Update: see Noah Sow trying to earn a buck by dressing up as Wallraff here.

Written by henrik

November 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Can Germany ‘afford’ a gay foreign minister? Or will it hurt relations with Muslim countries?

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– two often-debated questions in Germany after the recent federal elections. Following the victory of the conservative-liberal coalition, it is customary for the head of the smaller coalition party (the liberals) to become vice chancellor and foreign minister.

The head of the liberals is Guido Westerwelle. Now, in my opionion, there is a lot that is wrong with Westerwelle becoming FM: Be it his inexperience and previous indifference to international affairs, his political stance and style, as well as his apparent gaucheness on the international stage.

The more central question for many commentators, however, seems to be whether Westerwelle as an openly homosexual political can represent Germany as a Foreign Minister in Muslim countries.

Why wouldn’t he?

Diplomacy is probably the most pragmatic policy field. Quite regularly, countries or groups who are in the midst of the fiercest political conflicts, still maintain diplomatic relations. Just think of the close political contact of the US and the USSR throughout the Cold War, despite their existential ideological battle. You see the point: diplomacy is about interests and therefore mostly blind to ideology.

Why would that be any different with two countries that maintain friendly relations like, say, Germany and Saudi Arabia? Simply because of the sexual orientation of one country’s representative? Should the Saudi foreign minister be criticised at home for shaking the hand of a homosexual, his answer would simply be: do you want to jeopardize trade relations with one of our most important partners?

A statement from an official of the Turkish foreign ministry seems to confirm this. He told the Turkish paper Milliyet that, while there is no rule of protocol in case Westerwelle as German FM would bring his partner, “a middle way will be found”.

As much as I disagree with Westerwelle representing my country from a political point of view, I would love to see his appointment create some cracks the foundation of the alleged Gay/Muslim faultline.