Tuesday, October 13, 2009

While staying inside the Truman Show can we smell culture?

This locus of this week’s readings appears to hover around the role of the audience in emerging convergence cultures. Elihu Katz and Tamar Liebes in their article, “Reading Television: Television as Text and Viewers As Decoders” discuss the effect of television on different audiences internationally. They employ the example of Dallas in their case study and argue that, in Alegria, watching Dallas has displaced the popular pastime of gathering to listen to grandmother’s folktales (IC Reader 378). They conclude that the audience is increasingly bbecome more active by “selecting, negotiating, interpreting, discussing, or in short, being involved” (IC Reader 380). Before moving on, I would like to note that while I, myself, have never watched Dallas, I understand its popularity internationally. However, I was thoroughly amused by the kinship chart provided by Katz and Liebes. Having studied a fair amount of Anthropology as an undergrad, this is the first time I have seen a soap opera’s kinship relations fully charted. That said, while I know that people internationally are not documenting the kinship charts, they do make mental notes of the kinds of relationship portrayed in this soap opera. This allows viewers to draw implications within their own culture based on what they have viewed while objectifying a false sense of American culture.

Koichi Iwabuchi, in his article, “Taking “Japanization” Seriously: Cultural Globalization Reconsidered” holds that the rise of Japan refutes the notion of continued western cultural hegemony. Like the Katz and Liebes article, I found Iwabuchi’s article to be a bit dated. However, he explores captivating notions about culture. He articulates that cultures can have an “odor” making them distinct, but that Japan’s culture is “odorless”. He further states that the products Japan produces are created “lacking any nationality” (IC Reader 413). He argues that there is an “Americanization of Japanization”. He says “what is experienced through Japanese culture is actually a highly Japanese version of the American “originial”” (IC Reader 418). He clearly articulates that a cultural presence contains power and sends a message of a state’s status. For me, I interpreted this concept of the “Americanization of Japanization” as an indirect U.S. cultural presence in the production of popular Japanese items. Furthermore, it is clear that as the global neoliberal economy grows there is a greater emphasis on the individual (as also noted in Deuze’s work). This, I presume, Iwabuchi would say is contributing to the Japanese “odorless culture” being dispersed in the form of its consumer products internationally.

Mark Deuze’s article, “Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries”, appears to be considerably more updated in comparison to the other two. He discusses the participatory nature of today’s media. He argues that more and more the audience is driving the direction of the media in creative industries for the “quest for profit” (IC Reader 463). This highlights, as Deuze points out, what Manuel Castells calls ‘networked individualism’. For those who have access to the ICTs that link people and are literate, I agree that there is a cultural convergence going on of sorts that is forcing the media to become more fluid in its reaffirmation of cultural identities as consumers and producers of media content. At the very end of his article, Deuze says, “we have to train people to stay inside The Truman Show” (IC Reader 465). My fear is not making sure people who are already inside stay inside, but rather that we need to broaden the show while carefully maintaining a cultural equilibrium of convergence and divergence (the reaffirmation of "cultural odor") internationally.

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