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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Positives/Advantages of Facebook.

Positives/Advantages of Facebook.

Since it’s inception in 2004, Facebook has become the preferred networking site for millions around the globe, as is evident by its recent ranking as the most visited website in the world.
As far as technological advances and barriers go, the conception of Facebook is truly second to none, and it is clearly seen as a force of everyday life now, as an everyday part of our culture - as a permanent part of our Popular Culture.
There are many advantages/positives that Facebook brings to our lives. For the scope of this paper and discussion we will identify and discuss four key advantages/positives of Facebook.
1.     Facebook makes it easy and accessible to find people and join groups with similar interest and dislikes -
·       At the College Level.
·       At a Hobby Level.
·       At a Dating level.
·       And even as part of a larger movement such as the Egyptian Revolution.
What we see as evident in the above examples is that Facebook can serve as a social network for the micro factors of life such as meeting new friends or keeping in touch with old ones while it also serves as a tool for organizing larger revolutions (macro factors) such as the recent Egyptian Revolution.
2.     Facebook has affiliations with more than 2500 colleges around the world.
·       They are even in the process of developing networks that will link over 5000 middle and high schools worldwide.
One of the most effective ways to increase worldwide production and efficiently is through means of education. Facebook has really made a conscious decision to try and link all the higher means of education together worldwide in order to provide more access to students in regards to education. This is even more so helpful in lower developed countries such as India, Brazil, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
3.     Facebook is also being used to meet business contacts and for networking purposes.
·       At last check by, over 10,000 businesses has Facebook pages in order to promote their businesses. 
o   Food trucks are an example of a business that has really flourished due to social networking.
This is great tool for big business and small business alike and is truly the new wave of doing business and making contacts in today’s culture. Big businesses employ people specifically as Facebook web managers and liaisons, whereas it also serves all the small businesses, especially the Mom and Pop type store to advertise their business - without expensive costs - and receive feedback by their consumers.
4.     It has even served and continues to be used as a great tool in the college and even pro sports industry.
·       College are now scouting and learning about players via Facebook.
·       Pro scouts are able to have a greater database of local and international players.
Moreover in this economy, when budgets are tight and expenses are of the utmost concern, teams and players are able to contact, “try-out” and essentially interview for a job or position electronically via social networking instead of the more traditional and expensive way of face to face meetings.
As illustrated through examples and discussions above, those are just four of the many advantages the inception and use of Facebook has given to social network users all over the world. As we continue to grow as a globalized worldwide economy, Facebook is only going to open more doors for innovation and networking.
Facebook is also a further example of a grass roots movement that started as a culture from below, but over time, has flourished and  made headways into the economy and culture, and thus now can be viewed as a culture from above. It illustrates how something can transition from a grass roots movement to a worldwide movement and how it’s perception of culture changes with its popularity.
We can also see a see a separation of class between Facebook users and those who do not. At some level, it is also a separation of class between the users of the world and the nations and countries of the world that are technologically efficient and those that are not. Facebook today has over 800 million active users from all parts of the world, with almost every country in the world represented in some form or another in the form of registered users.
We can further see the use of Saussure and his theory of signs, via the usage of the name “Facebook” and its image, symbol and sign too. The Facebook logo has become a worldwide brand where people now can recognize it just by shape and colors alone. We can also see that “Facebook” has gone through some names changes and logo changes in order to become more commercial friendly and worldwide recognized.
In finality, I would also like to discuss how Facebook has transcended the boundaries of capitalism and is in essence creating a brand new market in terms of capitalization and market share. Facebook is one of the most successful companies in the world, yet they do not sell a single tangible product. In past years, we see all the big companies used to actually create a product which they sold in the free market to make a profit, for e.g. Apple sells Iphones, Ipods – Exxon sells Gas – Toyota sells cars – Sony sells electronics. Facebook is one of the first and only companies that actually lets users get access to its product for free, and instead charges it’s advertisers as a means of making revenue and profit.
Facebook is a genuine and permanent part of Popular Culture in the 21st century.

Works Cited:

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies Theory and Practice, Chapter 1, 2, 10, 11: Marx, Saussure, Digital Media and Culture. Sage, 2008.

“Facebook.” 19 August 2011.

Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Malden: Blackwell, 1998.

Social Network. David Fincher. Jesse Eisenberg. Columbia Pictures. 2010.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Rules of Attraction = the Rules of Unhappiness!!

The Rules of Attraction = the Rules of Unhappiness!!

The movie “The Rules of Attraction” directed by Roger Avary is based upon the novel of the same title by Bret Ellis. The story revolves around the incredibly spoiled and over privileged students of Camden College and is the backdrop for an unusual love triangle between a drug dealer, a virgin and a bisexual classmate.
The take home point of the movie for me was that every character in this movie, and in the sense of a larger picture, everyone in life is searching or rather chasing a dream that is not necessarily the best or the most achievable or attainable. Furthermore, what could possibly be available to one’s self, what possibly could be the best choice for a person, what probably is the choice one should make, is exactly what the person making the decision does not want.
In this case of this movie, the drug dealer wants the virgin; however, another character, named Mary, wants the drug dealer. And while the virgin likes someone else, she ends up settling for someone else. The bisexual classmate wants the drug dealer, while the drug dealer has no intention of being with him and just wants to take advantage of him. There is yet another character, played by Jessica Biel, whose main purpose it seems like is to ruin everyone else’s dream, as she does not seem to have one of her own to begin with.
The movie is set in a upper class setting of college kids, however, it’s message and moreover, its title, The Rules of Attraction, is very ironic, yet meaningful in its own way. While one would expect the title to suggest what the rules of attraction are, what the movie ends up depicting is exactly what the rules of attraction are not.
What we end up learning through this movie is that the rules of attraction are different for everybody, and while we are so consumed in the pursuit of our everyday life that we have a very confused view of who is the right person for us. Maybe it’s because we do not take the time to stop and think about what’s actually going on in our surroundings, maybe it’s because it easier to live in a false and fantasy type world that it is to actually face reality.
In the movie itself, we see the paths of all the characters cross in some way, and while all the characters are familiar with each other, we do not see even one of them discuss their terms of attraction with the other one. It’s almost of sense of entitlement among them that the other member will comply or rather feels the same way. To illustrate this theory, one can refer back to the movie and understand and see this relation in action. The drug dealer never actually sits and talks to the virgin to discuss his feelings about how he feels towards her. The character of Mary, the one who writes the secret love letters to the drug dealer, never actually knows him or talks to him. The virgin too, has a love interest, but she too, never takes the time to know if he feels the same about her, and she has a totally tainted view of how he actually is. The bisexual character is never actually seen discussing his sexuality with anyone during the movie, he just seems to move one from one attraction to another, but never actually finds a willing partner or confidant. He instead, just like all the other characters, seems to find only humiliation.
This trend of non-communication is evident among all the characters in the movie, and that essentially seems to be the main and constant factor throughout the movie. And in that regard we can sense that that was social environmental problem in 2002 when the movie was released and seems to be the social problem today as well.
The movie actually is pretty sad, as the main take home message is this, while everyone, at least as far as this movie goes, has the potential to find a good love interest/partner, as almost every character has a perfect opposite paired with them, they seem to be too engrossed in themselves and in their own life, to actually find their match. In fact, they are too busy chasing after what seems to be their unattainable match. This just further dives into and show us the main problematic theme of this movie, which is the issue of Mis-communication along with No communication.
The movie has much coloration to actual life, along with a very important meeeage, which is that basically IF you spend some time and look around you, if you take the time to talk to people, see how they feel about you and how you feel about them, you actually have the chance and opportunity to find what you are looking for. However, everyone seems to be so caught up in their life and so distant from others that they end up losing the best thing that never happened but probably should have.

Works Citied:
The Rules of Attraction. Dir. Roger Avary. 2002. DVD. A Kingsgate Production.

James Bond. 007. All entertainment, no Reality !!

James Bond is your ever lasting image of the perfect gentleman. So much charm, so much class, just so much of it all. It is the ever selling model to be used when selling the image of the perfect spy. But at the end of the day, is the image that James Bond portrays even real? Is it even a livable character? Is it an achievable mold or just something that is purely fictional, purely entertainment? 
In my opinion, the standards that James Bond lives up to, the problems that he faces, the charm that he exudes with his enemies and especially among women, the wit he has to fix any problem, is 100% very far away from actual reality. There have been many theories that Bond was the depiction of an actual real life agent, and that he acted in a way the actual spies or intelligence forces do or did. However, through just some research and theory we can dissect that theory to entirely unfounded. 
Bond's character is sexist and very detached from reality. One can argue in the film "Goldfinger" he can be viewed as a womanizer and an alcoholic. He also seems to treat his foreign counterparts with very less respect, as almost that he is better than them. It is almost that the character Bond portrays seems to have a sense of entitlement towards almost anything in the world - and it reeks of British Imperialism here. 
Also we see that as the world has changed, so has the images of Bond. Bond throughout the years has lost the sexist character as much and has become more sensitive in emotional issues. This is an example of Bond changing for the entertainment value of the world. 
Many people try to cut the Bond franchise into many meanings and try to read it for its subliminal messages, however, in it's purest form, Bond is just a reflection of the current times, especially in terms of entertainment value and will continue to mold into whatever defines Pop Culture at the time of it's production.

Goldfingerisms from the novel
"Money is an effective winding sheet."
"The safest way to double your money is to fold it twice and put it in your pocket."
"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action." (Attributed as a saying in Chicago, and used in three sections also as titles for the novel's three main sections.)
"Riches may not make you friends, but they greatly increase the quality of your enemies."

Works Cited:
Goldfinger. Dir. Guy Hamilton. 1964. DVD. An Eon Production.
Wikipedia. Web. 11 August 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Marxist Version of Culture of Above and Below at Starbucks with proof of Saussure's Theory of Signs and Imagery.

The Marxist Version of Culture of Above and Below at Starbucks with proof of Saussure's Theory of Signs and Imagery.

A few hours observing just the day to day operations and surrounding’s of a local Starbucks at Nordhoff and Woodley in Northridge really puts into perspective the culture from above and below as discussed in Chapter 1 - Introduction” “The Politics of Culture” by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan and the Theory of the division of class by Karl Marx (Barker 14)
The smell of coffee is fresh, strong and thick in the air. There are even a few grinds in the air flying around like snowflakes. It’s 8 a.m and right in the middle of rush hour. Espresso machines are fully working, steamers are going off, names are being taken and names are being called. It’s almost like an assembly line. Come in, order your coffee, pay, give your initials, walk to the corner, and wait for y Saussure our initials to be called. It’s a busy day today, or maybe this is how it is every day. I can hear the variations in people’s order. Black coffee, no cream, extra cream, extra shot, multiple extra shots, decaf, soy milk, coconut milk, blended, iced and the list just goes on and on. They are many people who come by themselves, probably the majority is one person customers, some customers do come in multiples. Everyone seems so disconnected and so disinterested. Even though people are in such close proximity of another person, everyone’s seems so engrossed with the phones, iPads, iPods or newspapers.  There is no level of social connection. The only verbal communication that occurs is between the baristas and customers.  Very little to non communication between customers, you can hear the baristas loud and clear with the orders. There are three employees working. One takes orders, while the other two make and serve the drinks. People are very professionally dressed. Most slacks and suits are the mode of uniform here. Very few people in jeans or shorts and the same with sandals and slippers, definitely looks like the people are in a hurry to get going. Not a feeling a calm, but rather of feeling of rush is in the air. Customer walks in yelling loudly at someone on his phone, startles the crowd and breaks the silence.  He is yelling at someone, and using loud and foul language. Customer’s and baristas stare at him and he leaves the store and continues yelling outside.  That opens up the room for discussion. A lady comments about how rude that was and people agree. The line is getting longer and two lines have now been formed. There is only one cashier. People are expressing their frustration and ask for another cashier. Barista informs them that a new employee should be here in five minutes. The store is loud. You can hear almost every machine being fully used, coffee is being grinded, milk is being steamed, espresso and cappuccinos are being served, refrigerators and coolers are being open and shut, whipped cream is being spilled, pastries, Danishes and bagels are being consumed, and newspapers, Cd’s and coffee mugs are also being purchased. Its 9:08 a.m. and a new barista and taken over a new cash register. The lines start moving more quickly and customers express their pleasure at that. More and more people are walking in. The door barely closes.  All seats and tables are occupied now. Laptops are out, so are the books, notepads and papers. There are just a handful of students here. A group in the corner forms, adjoining tables and forming a discussion. It is a Math study group. They are all expressing displeasure on the subject. A few of them leave to order drinks, while the other’s pulls books and calculators out. On the table next to them, a young man is on his computer. He seems bothered by the forming of the group. He seems to be shielding his laptop screen from the eyes of other people. He continues working on his laptop. As the students return with their drinks and discussions begin to form, the young male with the laptop seems perturbed and shuts his laptop and leaves the store. Another employee is also working now. There are a five in total now. The line has slowed down, and the rush has dissolved. Baristas seems to be calm and joking around.  Two young males walk in, one is wearing shorts and slippers and the other is wearing jeans. They are speaking a language other than English and are being very loud. They seem to be on drugs. Other people are staring at them. They order coffee and continue to be loud in conversation while waiting for their drinks. While no one says anything it seems they are disturbed by it. There drinks are called out; the loud customers get their drinks and leave the store.
What I saw through my observations was a clear example of and influence of a culture from above (Rivkin, Ryan). What we see through Starbucks is a direct culture from above. It is a Marx like theory based system where there is social division of class and power (Barker 56). This is further evident by the very similar social class of people that were the most frequent customers. As observed above over abundant similarities of the same way of clothing – the suit, the tie, the good perfume and the professional look. In age, we see mostly people from the working class age (25-55). What was absent was a fair distribution of young adults aged 15-22 and older citizens in the ages of 65+. 
Starbucks is an example of culture from above in the sense that it is “Owned by large corporations and largely run by men. Generated by those at the top of the social hierarchy, the media inevitably further attitudes and perceptions that assure its continuation.” (Rivkin, Ryan).
When looked at from a Marx point of view where he talks about social divisions of class (Barker, 14), we see a division of class between of Starbucks customers. As noted in my observations, there was a division of age and class. The age was a steady range of 25-55, and many working professionals were the main job description. By working professionals, I mean people in suits and tires, with polished boots and cuff links - Someone who looked like they were going to go work an office as opposed to doing construction. I noted is as a division of social class at its finest, as even though it is not planned in such a way, it occurs naturally.
We also see a relation to the theory of “Capitalism” as in discussed in the Barker book on page 13.  “The centerpiece of Marx’s work was an analysis of the dynamics of capitalism. This is a mode of production premised on the private ownership of the means of production. The fundamental class division of capitalism is between those who own the means of production, the bourgeoisie, and those who, being a property less proletariat, must sell their labor to survive” (Barker 13). We can see this division of social class and the theory of Capitalism as we can see a clear division between the owners of the means of production and everyone else. Essentially, the owners of the means of production are the few top people of power at the top. Everyone else, including the lower level of employees of Starbucks to the customers, are the other part of the division, one’s who must sell their labor to survive.
We can also see relations to the development of structuralism as discussed by Ferdinand de Saussure (Barker 16).  Saussure argues that meaning is generated through a system of structured differences in language. We see that this evident in the way Starbucks markets it’s product. The create names and signs that are hallmarks and instantly recognizable to their product. Words such as Tall, Venti or Grande in relation to sizes are unique to Starbucks. And the ever so famous “Frappacino” – both the word and it’s image... The image of an ice blended coffee drink with whipped cream on top has become synonymous to Starbucks. The similar drink else at some establishment would be called a shake or a smoothie, but at Starbucks they have the image familiarized with a Frappacino. We see the imagery of signs even further developed by the Starbucks symbol/logo. Through the years, Starbucks has gradually moved away from putting their name of their products and have instead replaced it with just a symbol, a symbol of a mermaid, which is their trademarked logo. This shows their intention to become a global icon and powerhouse who wants people to recognize their company and product by nor just name, but something as simple and powerful as an image, and that image that is their logo.
In conclusion, I would say the Starbucks is an example of Culture from above as well as can be seen as a social division or class like division as discussed by Karl Marx. We also see a division of class based on the theory of Capitalism. At the first level we see a division of class when seen as a division of class between the people who are customers and the people who are the employees. At the second level, we see the theory of capitalism as discussed by Karl Marx. We see a division of class between the few at the top of the ladder, ones that control the means of production, and the others must sell their labor in order to survive. We are also able to make a connection between the developments of structuralism to the use of Starbucks imagery as discussed by Ferdinand De Saussure. We see that Starbucks is trying to make imagery as part of their name. We see this further cemented by how Starbucks is taking their name off of their logo and replacing it just the logo itself. This is a move by Starbucks in the direction to become a more powerful and global icon. This a move by Starbucks to cement it’s place as a Culture from above, this is a move by Starbucks to make and set itself apart as a higher division of class as discussed b Karl Marx, this is a move by Starbucks to be known only as an image, not even as Starbucks anymore. This is a move to be the next Apple.


Works Cited
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Ltd. 2008. (Pages 14, 56, 13, 16, 18)
Rivkin, Julie, and Ryan, Michaels. Chapter 1 Introduction: “The Politics of Culture”. Malden: Blackwell, 1998