Greetings

September 3, 2012

620994_4553597877818_1473896628_oMy name is Cierra Briana Colón. I’m a senior at Towson University, studying journalism and advertising. One day I hope you all will see me as a news reporter or producer at NBC 5 Chicago. I interned for their station over the summer and absolutely loved my experience. A few random things on my bucket list include traveling to Europe and Africa and going to a Coldplay concert. During my spare time I love to go on motorcycle rides and skydive! Feel free to stop by and offer constructive criticism or leave comments. E-mail, Facebook, tweet, follow me on Instagram, add me on Linked In and view my resume. I hope you all have a great semester!

Au Revoir

May 1, 2014

There’s never a right time to say goodbye.

I know you all are probably as sad as I am that the semester is coming to an end. I hope you all have had as much fun as I have. For my last Media Criticism post I want to showcase some of my classmates blogs!

I’ve chosen to share Lexi, Marvin and Traveya’s blogs. I decided to choose them because they all come from different backgrounds. Lexi is a female from China, Marvin is an El Salvadorian male and Traveya is a Black female.

I chose these three because it’s important to view topics from different perspectives especially when examining and critiquing the media. Therefore, I will provide you guys with  my personal response to their blog posts. You all should take the time to read their posts as well and see if we have similar or different feedback to provide.

Lexi

LexiI absolutely enjoyed your use of links throughout your blog post. You used a lot more than I did. I feel like I’ve been lazy when it comes to my blog posts. Within the first few paragraphs you taught me that media influences everyone and that it doesn’t only affect a particular culture. I must admit that I’m somewhat misinformed to the world around me at times. I often only see things as an American instead of considering other cultures and countries. You have definitely helped me in opening my eyes.

One thing I disagree with in your post is Don Draper’s choice of drink. I’m pretty sure he has stronger alcohol in his glass such as, Brandy or Scotch, instead of wine. I’m only pointing this out because alcohol drink preferences play a huge role in relation to gender roles and stereotypes. It’s rare for a man to be addicted to wine. It’s especially rare for a man of Draper’s status to drink wine. Wine is more of a feminine drink. It has a lower percentage of alcohol by volume in comparison to Brandy and Scotch. Wine typically has a 12-15% alcohol by volume. Brandy and Scotch have approximately 40% alcohol by volume. Brandy and Scotch are popular drinks shared by men in general, but especially businessmen. Therefore, I highly doubt Draper is drinking wine.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading your post. I’m happy you eventually overcame your fear of Jerry Springer and left your apartment to experience more realistic American behavior instead of behaviors seen on tabloid talk shows. Trust me. The people on there scare me too.

Traveya

traveyaSo I want to start off by saying I absolutely love the Disney princesses graphic you chose to use for your blog post! I was very impressed by that image. Disney is such a huge brand so I’ve typically seen most Disney princess graphics. You showed me one I have never seen before or even imagined!

As a society we often recognize people in clusters such as Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, LGBT, etc. Unfortunately, I’m guilty of rarely thinking about people with disabilities. I’m glad that there are people in the world like you who don’t overlook the underrepresented. I need to work on doing the same.

I must say that I wish you would’ve elaborated on this part of your blog more. I would’ve liked to hear your opinions on why there should be Disney princesses with different body types including those with disabilities. What would this teach children? Would it have a positive effect on how children without disabilities view and treat children with disabilities? Would it cause children to not be like me when the grow up? Will it hopefully help them grow up without overlooking people with disabilities? These are all questions I would’ve loved to here you discuss. If you continue blogging in the future then you might want to consider elaborating more. Once you do that then I assure you that you’ll at least have one faithful reader and subscriber. Me!

Marvin

MarvinFirst, I just want to say I was impressed that you mentioned millennials being the most connected generation. That’s one of the first things we learned in our class, but a lot of us, including myself, didn’t mention it in our blogs.

The second thing I loved was your high vs. low cultural hierarchy rejection example. More specifically, I appreciated how you further explained this idea in your picture caption of Luciano Pavarotti.

Next, I appreciated you taking the time to examine the House of Cards series print ad. I don’t really keep up with politics so I’ve never really taken the time to look closely at the ad. I was really impressed with your interpretations of the signifiers. Embarrassingly I must admit that I never would’ve noticed that he was sitting on Abraham Lincoln’s chair, which definitely does illustrate power. Your interpretation of the flipped U.S. flag was very interesting. I would’ve never came to that conclusion.

Overall, I really enjoyed your post. You used vivid descriptions and explained your chosen text extremely well. It’s hard to get some people, like myself, interested and understanding of things involving politics.

The only suggestion I have is to use more variety of media in your blog posts. It would’ve been really cool to see a video clip of House of Cards off YouTube. Especially to help the reader really understand Frank and Claire’s relationship and gender roles.

So long, farewell

Alright you guys. We have truly come to the end of the road. I’m glad I chose to take Media Criticism during my last semester as an undergraduate student at Towson University. The saying is true. I really did save the best for last.

I want to thank Dr. Nichols for assigning our class blog posts. It’s a fun, expressive way to make sure we’re truly grasping the concepts learned in lectures. Writing blog posts definitely helped me fully understand the cultural diamond and prepared me for our tests.

More importantly, this class has helped me realize media’s influence over us as individuals. I’m definitely going to pay closer attention to signs and messages communicated in different texts. Hopefully you all will do the same!

Dangers of Disney and Cautions of Conglomerates

April 10, 2014

Blast From the Past 

JacksTake a stroll down memory lane with me for a second. Think back to your childhood. What did you and your friends do for fun? What kind of games did you play? What kind of toys did you have?

Your experiences will vary based on the year you were born. Generation X babies, like my mom, were born between the 1960s and 1980s. They have memories of simple, cheap toys like jacks. They spent most of their time playing outdoors instead of watching TV.

Millennials, like myself, were born between the 1980s and early 2000s. We watched a lot of TV growing up and had an increased amount of toys to bug our parents about.

Today’s generation of kids are consumed heavily by the media and latest technologies. There’s a current trend of increased commercialization and deregulation. This means kids have easier access to an increased amount of toys and products because of the media and advertising.

Ideological Criticism

If you’re reading this blog post then it’s safe to say that you are old enough to understand the dangers of commercialization targeted at today’s generation of kids. However, kids are gullible. Unfortunately, advertisers take advantage of their innocence. Bottom line is kids don’t understand that they’re oftentimes victims of the media.

Time for some terms!

Ideological criticism is the study of how ideologies are produced by institutions. More importantly, how these ideologies go unnoticed and unchallenged. Ideology is a means of exerting power. It’s an instrument dominant elites use to control others in hopes of maintaining existing power relations. Please note that this power isn’t overt or violent. In some ways it’s worse than that. It’s subliminal power that’s just accepted as natural and normal. The next term is hegemony, which is the type of power elites exert over others.

Political economists look closely at the social role of ownership in advertising and marketing practices. They’re concerned about the growing power of global media conglomerates in advertising and marketing.

Still having trouble understanding? No worries! Let me explain more in detail.

Dangers of Disney

espn-disney-abcDisney is a huge conglomerate! They own a variety of assets. The companies I was most surprised about Disney owning are ABC Television Network, Marvel Studios and ESPN. So you’re probably thinking so what if Disney owns these companies. What’s the big deal? It is very dangerous for a company to have many assets. When one company has control over a lot of assets then only one set of values is circulated in our social world.

The huge problem with Disney is that its main target audience is kids. Therefore, Disney has a huge influence on children’s values. They don’t teach children different values, but only one set of values. Mickey Mouse Monopoly examines the role Disney has in kid’s lives.

The film looks at how important Disney characters are to children. These characters are so important that kids form emotional attachments. Synergistic practices makes these attachments stronger. Synergy is a huge concern of political economists. Lets use myself as an example. How embarrassing!

I was obsessed with Pocahontas as a kid. I would pretend to be Pocahontas in the waterfall scene (1:26) while taking baths with my cousin. Not only did I own the movie, but I had a Pocahontas blanket, kitchen dining set and puzzle. Cross-production, cross-promotion and cross-advertising are becoming increasingly common.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only girl who has every thought she was a Disney princess. Many girls have probably acted out their favorite scenes from a Disney movie. However, some things in Disney movies like, gender role stereotypes, shouldn’t always be imitated.

Original_eightEarly Disney princesses such as, Cinderella, Snow White and Belle from Beauty and the Beast, embody outdated gender role characteristics. These princesses were all helpless and needed to be saved by men. Pocahontas, Mulan and Rapunzel from Tangled are more adventurous, brave and strong-willed. However, they ultimately need assistance from men as well. Also, they end up with their male counterparts in the end of the movie.

This ending that we continuously see in Disney movies makes it seem as though females’ main purpose in life should be finding true love and being desirable to men. Kids are constantly being exposed to these ideologies. What’s worse is they don’t even realize the exposure, which is why ideologies are dangerous.

Consuming Kids

motorola-razr-originalConsuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood is another important film to examine when discussing ideological criticism. The film really illustrates the amount of influence and access advertisers have in relation to children.

On my 13th birthday, I was given a cellphone. It was a flip phone that only made calls, not texts. Can you believe it?! Some would argue that I was too young for a cellphone I wonder what they think today when they see 6-year-old first graders with iPhones, iPads and iMacs.

Today’s generation of kids have the latest technologies, gadgets and products. Companies are marketing kids like never before! The big issue is that commercials aren’t just about products, but instead about values.

How many times have you heard a commercial telling kid’s that they have to have the latest backpack, lunchbox or shirt? This is placing a value on material items. Oftentimes victims of bullies are kids who don’t have the latest products. What’s seen as the latest trends is mostly determined by the media. Therefore, the media play a big role in the increased amount of bullying seen in schools.

Let’s look at a back to school JC Penny commercial as an example.

The commercial is placing value on looks and fashion instead of education. The girl talks about the importance of the first day of school outfit. Then continues by saying that she’ll look fashionable every day by shopping at JC Penny. So a girl’s main concern every day of school should be her outfit choices? I wouldn’t want fashion to be part of my child’s priority list.

Children are growing up under the impression that what they have, buy and own are the most important things about them as a person. I’m scared to see how these children will function once they become adults.

Next Steps

I’m sure many of us have kids we care about in our lives. It’s important for us to protect them as best as we can. We have a role in protecting our kids from the media, but we can’t do it all on our own. It’s vital for us to speak up. We need to ask marketers to be more socially responsible.

GoldieBlox is tired of ads playing the worst stereotypes of girls. They want girls to know that they don’t have to be princesses. Instead they can work towards becoming architects, engineers, etc.

If GoldieBlox can take a stand, so can we. I accept the challenge. Do you?

Importance of Understanding the Big Picture

March 8, 2014

Sherlock Holme'sHey guys! I hope your semester is going good so far! If not, hang in there. It’s almost spring break! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m excited to share new concepts I’ve learned in media criticism with you guys! Since the last time I’ve spoken to you all, our classes have been filled with very interesting content. Don’t worry. I’ll fill you in!

Recently, we’ve been learning approaches that help us with interpreting and analyzing media texts effectively. By doing this, we act as if we’re Sherlock Holmes trying to solve a crime. We pay very close attention to detail, evidence and clues. This is exactly what we’re going to do today! Grab your notebook, magnifying glass and pipe (if you need it) so we can get started!

Hardee's Print Ad

Hardee’s Print Ad

The Hardee’s print ad pictured is set in the 1950s. The first thing think you notice is the bold print that says, “Women don’t leave the Kitchen!” This alone is enough to identify this print ad as sexist. But, if you keep reading it goes on to say, “We all know a woman’s place is in the home, cooking a man a delicious meal. But if you are still enjoying the bachelor’s life and don’t have a little miss waiting on you, then come down to Hardee’s for something sloppy and hastily prepared.” So obviously the words in the advertisement are sexist, but let’s look at the image.

The advertisement pictures a blonde, thin woman with heels on in the kitchen. She peers out the window to look at a man picking up a little girl.

The audience demographic for this print ad is obviously single men. When, I think of fast food, especially burgers, I think of men. I know that women eat fast food too! I’m guilty of this. However, women tend to watch what they eat more than men. Even when women decide to go out for fast food, they more than likely will order a grilled chicken sandwich rather than a burger that’s been “sloppy and hastily prepared.”

Hardee’s did something clever by adding a woman in the ad. By having a woman in the ad, it could appeal to a women demographic as well. Women could’ve seen the ad and thought that in order to make their husbands happy, they need to go out to eat at Hardee’s every now and then. Women’s main purpose in the 1950s was to make sure their husbands were happy at all times so they could live a picture perfect life.

Semiotics

Congratulations! We just analyzed a text! Now let’s apply approaches to the text. I’m going to use semiotics and structuralism! Semiotics is the discipline for interpreting and analyzing texts. It’s the study of how social production of meaning is constructed. Signs are embedded through all texts. Semiotics is a way to understand the meaning of a text and illustrate how reality is socially constructed. Lastly, semiotics provides four assumptions that are important to remember when analyzing a text.

Assumption #1- Texts are constructed from signs using codes commonly interpreted in a society.

Assumption #2- While they have shared, common meanings, signs in the text can be interpreted in multiple ways.

Assumption #3- Texts are by nature ambiguous and meanings of signs can be unstable. It depends on who is producing and interpreting.

Assumption #4- Meanings vary according to person, time, place and context.

Structuralism

Semiotics is best used when paired with another approach such as, structuralism. Structuralism is the study of the whole by virtue of the association between its parts. Structuralism offers two basic approaches, paradigmatic and syntagmatic.

Paradigmatic Approach

A paradigmatic analysis is used to understand an associated group of signs that are different, but all still members of a defining category. These associated group of signs can represent general ideas or be exchanged for each other by virtue of their common function and shared characteristics.

There are many signifiers and signifieds that are embedded within the print ad mentioned above. The signifiers within this ad include the man, woman, kitchen appliance, etc. These signs, together, create signifieds which help us better understand and creating meaning of the text. We realize the woman is a woman because she is wearing a dress with heels. We recognize the man as a man because he is wearing a hat and trench coat. We recognize that she is preparing a meal because there’s water running over a pot. These are all concepts we associate with general ideas to locate signifiers within our culture. These represent the paradigms.

Syntagmatic Approach

A syntagmatic analysis is used to understand a combination of signs (signifiers) and their meaning (signified) to make a whole. You look at the orderly sequence of signifiers and signifieds to form a meaningful whole based on rules and conventions. Syntagms are created by linking signs from paradigms based on convention.

So let’s apply a syntagmatic analysis of the ad we’ve been discussing so far. A woman is preparing dinner. While putting water in a pot, the woman looks out the window. As the woman looks out the window she sees her husband has arrived home from work. The husband is outside greeting his daughter. This is just a simple process you can use to piece together an add one step at a time to create the whole picture.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Hopefully that wasn’t too hard for you. The more you practice these approaches, the easier it will get. It’s important for you to understand approaches to examining texts critically. Examining texts can help you form your own opinion towards a media text. Also, you might notice something you wouldn’t recognize right away. Advertisements are extremely ambiguous. Therefore, it’s important for us to come to our own conclusions about the texts we see. We need to be able to understand a text fully instead of only understand parts of a text.

The Maiden with the SnakeIf you need more explanation, check out The Maiden with the Snake. This is a great example of a semiotic-structuralist analysis of a print ad by Berger. After you read the example, try to find a print ad on your own analyze it using the semiotic-structuralism approach. Let me know how it goes!

Critique Media? Don’t mind if I do.

February 12, 2014
Me at Skydive Delmarva

Me at Skydive Delmarva

Who Am I?

Hey guys! My name is Cierra Briana Colón. I’m finally a senior at Towson University! Like a lot of you, I’m a Mass Communications major with tracks in journalism and advertising. Communication Studies is my minor. I’m Vice President of Towson University’s National Broadcasting Society and Towson University’s Skydiving Club. Everyone should join Towson’s Skydiving Club before they graduate! It’s a great opportunity to jump off a plane with a great group of people at a discounted price!

Why am I taking media criticism?

So why am I taking media criticism? I don’t know about you guys, but I’m an extremely analytical person and I love spending my free time watching TV and movies. So why not take a class where I get to do both at the same time? Honestly, who doesn’t like to have their cake and eat it too?

What is media criticism?

You might be asking yourself what exactly is media criticism. I’m here to help! Media criticism is the systematic process used to understand media texts as meaningful sociocultural symbolic forms and forces. This process involves selecting media texts. Then within the selected texts, you describe messages, analyze patterns, interpret meaning and evaluate impact. It is important to remember that media criticism isn’t the opinion of yours or your peers. You should also remember that media criticism isn’t always negative.

Why is media criticism important?

It’s vital for us to understand media criticism because our generation, millennials, are the most connected of all generations. How millennial are you? I’m very millennial! It didn’t surprise me that I received a score of 90. I know I’m heavily connected to media. The first thing I do in the morning, with one eye open and the other shut, is check my iPhone for texts, Twitter mentions, Snapchats, etc.

The day Dr. Nicohls gave my MCOM 101 class an assignment where we couldn’t use our phones and Facebook for a few days still haunts me today. That was over three years ago. How embarrassing!

Media criticism is also important to understand because media in general, but especially television, are powerful. Media has the power to shape our lives, society and culture. Television has the power of entertaining, socializing, educating, informing and explaining information to its audience. These outlets are so powerful that oftentimes people don’t even realize they’re being influenced, which is scary.

Media literacy is a legitimate skill to develop. This skill is important because TV is a source of fragmented messages, disconnected and disjointed. Therefore, there’s a lot of room for interpretation. Things that I might be sensitive to in the media might go unnoticed by someone else.

American Horror Story: Coven

American Horror Story: Coven

I’m very sensitive to racial depictions in the media because I’m black and Puerto Rican, which makes me a minority. American Horror Story: Coven had a lot of racial slurs in their episodes this season so I stopped watching. However, my friend Diana wasn’t offended and continues to love the show. We’re all different.

Because there are so many messages within TV programs, we have a responsibility to make sense of what we see on TV. How we make sense of this content says a lot about ourselves and others.

A good example of a text to look at when talking about media criticism is Orange is the New Black, a Netflix original series. Orange is the New Black is about a woman who’s past has come back to haunt her and ultimately lands her in a women’s prison. This show can influence perceptions, values and culture in many ways.

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the New Black

There is racial segregation in the show. The blacks mostly eat and sleep near other blacks. The same goes for the Hispanics and whites. Inmates being separated by color can influence people’s perceptions on diversity. Someone watching the show might think that it’s OK to only befriend people of the same race as you.

The show also has a lot of stereotypes. For example, many people are familiar with the stereotype that hispanic women are known for giving up sex easily and having a lot of kids. One of the hispanic inmates gets pregnant by a prison guard while in jail. This could confirm or reinforce people’s perceptions of hispanic women.

This show has definitely highlighted the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community. There are several inmates who are lesbians or bisexual. There’s also a transgender inmate named Sophia Burset. Her story and journey is an interesting part of the series. She’s been through a lot, but still tries to stay positive which makes viewers sympathetic to her character.

I think this aspect of the show might change people’s perceptions about the transgendered community. It has definitely changed my views.  Laverne Cox, the actress who plays Burset, is scheduled to speak and advocate for transgendered at Towson University on March 12. I will more than likely attend because I’ve watched the show and grown a liking for the character and actress. I’m interested in learning more about her personal struggle with being transgender. If I hadn’t have watched the show then there’s no question that I wouldn’t care to attend the event. See! My own perceptions have been influenced. Powerful stuff!

What I’m looking forward to in the future

The most interesting part of media criticism is a cultural pedagogy. Media is a source of education that teaches us how we behave, think, feel, fear and desire. Every text has the power to affect us and that’s mind boggling to me! I’m looking forward to learning how to successfully critique media so that I can resist the status quo. Instead I’m interested in promoting counterhegemonic forces to emancipate the oppressed from the elite. I’m also very excited about approaching cultural studies from a multiculturalist perspective, where there’s an appreciation for difference n culture, groups of people and marginalized groups.

What are you most interested in learning about media criticism? Please feel free to leave comments and constructive criticism at any time. It would be greatly appreciated! I hope we all have a great semester and I look forward to intellectual, intriguing conversations!


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