Tarik, Matt’s new and excellent documentary Live from Bethlehem (www.livefrombethlehem.com) addresses the questions you raise about the distinct pressures on U.S. funded Palestinian media.
About the issues of media quality, I wonder if Palestinians or others are willing to overlook simple production qualities for the sake of having a local or independent national media. Indeed, might these production values also somehow signify independence from U.S. and other funders, at least in some instances? Is there ever talk about this on camera?
Regarding the idea that Seriously Joking addresses social problems and also the occupation, I wondered if it does so in ways that integrate a critique of the occupation, the PA, and social problems. It seems there is a history of such work in Middle East theater, and I wonder if that tradition comes through here as well.
Helga brings up some excellent points. While any kind of cultural producer is always receptive to funding, I wonder what kinds of expectations the US government would have upon funding Palestinian producers? Even the word "Palestine" is so loaded in American political discourse that I’d imagine that those in charge of funding would be so scared of producing something that could be labelled as "terrorist" that the restrictions might be stiff.
At the most basic level, the notion that media of any sort should encourage a mindset in which watching the end of human life is anything other than disturbing is, well, certainly nothing short of disturbing. Similarly, the clip combined with Leibovich’s statement creates a pit in the stomach with its forceful reminder of just how total Total War is.
By my (potentially flawed) recollection, Israel’s first real engagement with YouTube public relations was in the wake of last year’s attack on the Mercaz Yeshiva, when the government posted video of the event’s aftermath. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/969094.html The footage was smeared with the red blood of the victims and accompanied by a haunting Emergency Call on the soundtrack. As one might expect, the representation system of the military video posted here couldn’t be more opposite. Rarely does media allow such a painfully obvious lesson in the ways in which nations create Us and Them.
As a child of the early 90s I’m of course reminded of the early days of Desert Storm and the real reassurance that "smart bomb" videos provided to my rather naive self at the time. Watching this video now I wonder how effective such an obviously limited window can be in cultivating support when so many other vantage points are available to viewers. The point from the military perspective might be seen as adding to the cacophony of Internet voices that make the signal so hard to sort out from the noise. The lack of corroborating evidence provided with the video gives me the impression that it intends to reassure the already assured, re-enrage the already enraged and convince everyone else just to give up and stop trying to sort things out. Or perhaps I remain naive (albeit in a new way) and this sort of thing really does have explanatory value to some rational minds.
For my part I remain disturbed.
Obviously US involvement in Palestinian politics and media takes on a range of different forms, as it has for decades.
First, I do wonder, as you point out, whether this kind of show can stand against the competitive onslaught of higher-quality and more popular programming from the range of Arab (including some Palestinian) media available to Palestinian audiences. It would be interesting to find out the extent of the show’s audience size and hear audience reactions to it.
Second, it seems that even ‘empowering local producers’ still falls under the rubric of an outdated but not yet extinct media and modernization platform. In this model, rather than have the ‘knowledgeable’ Westerner produce and export the content, the responsibility and skills are transferred over to the local population. It’s the same with respect to journalism and reporting, Internet growth, and other media practices in the Palestinian case as well, where Western government entities, NGOs and for-profit groups descend on the Territories in order to improve the chances of ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’ (of a specific kind of course, which will not result in Hamas victory).
Despite the new administration in the US (and Israel too), media intervention in the Palestinian Territories will likely continue. It will be interesting to see if interventions get updated to a 21st century model, rather than continue in the same vein as the failed enterprises of Al-Hurra. And, perhaps more importantly, a recognition that democracy and peace need to be secured politically, economically and territorially in conjunction with, if not even prior to, media changes.
I, too, think that Jocelyn brings up a very interesting distinction between "bad" films that have low budgets with great intentions, and "bad" films that have unlimited budgets with no soul and vision.
One of the most infuriating things about the Watchmen film (for me) was the bad acting. Malin Akerman ("Laurie") really stood out in the acting department, looking unsure of her lines and numb in the face. Frankly, her automaton-like performance played a large part in my distaste for the film. But even more notable actors, like Billy Crudup ("Dr. Manhattan"), Carla Gugino ("Sally") and Patrick Wilson ("Dan") delivered terrible performances. Jackie Haley ("Rorschach") and Jeffrey Morgan ("Comedian") gave it their best, but were overwhelmed by an otherwise lacklustre cast. I think that in the performances of The Watchmen we have a point of intersection between the two financial opposites of "bad film". The Watchmen had the acting of a low-budget b-film, but the finances of an a-list film. And while I’d be willing to overlook some adaptation flaws in the structure, the awful direction and performances were too difficult to forgive.
Jaye: Thank you for your inputs!
I am not sure if the digit divide is going to shrink very quickly because there are still many seniors who cannot even get access to Internet. It is like when talking about how new communication technologies have faciliated intercultral communication, we cannot but notice the flip side of it. But, maybe the babyboomers will change that, at least in the US.
I also love the video on Wii. Isn’t it wonderful? It can be a new social context for seniors to hang out besides playing bingo or playing cards.
How does the training program work with Second Life? I am curious.
Margot: Thank you for the question. In fact, one of my colleagues and I have been talking about comparing the ways young people, middle-aged and older people use YouTube in terms of motives of posting, sharing, or forwarding clips to their friends. I am curious if we will see many seniors "addicted" to these social sites.
Thank you for your feedback, Melissa! I should ask you more about the "computer buddy" experience in the future. I have had some contact with a local senior community and proposed to get seniors to work with high school students. Basically, high school students will serve as their "E-mentors" and help seniors to make their life stories online. We are in the beginning process of planning and discussing the ways to do it effectively. We hope that this "intergenerational experience" will make a difference for both age groups. But, I like the term you used "computer buddy" than "E-mentors." The word "buddy" equalizes the relationship betwen the old and the young. That’s really great.
I am also interested in studying the relationships formed purely online, and their relationships to personal well-being.
Some evidence suggested that older people may start with the Facebook site trying to connect with their grandchildren and young friends, but they gradually move to other social networking sites for seniors to look for common grounds. Grandchildren may not want their grandparents to become their "friends" and see what’s being posted on the Facebook. So, whether the emergence of social networking sites can enhance intergenerational communication remains unknown.
It’s VERY exciting to see so many different research ideas and projects already being conducted in this online arena - as mentioned in the original and other posts! The digital divide will continue to shrink, though it may be interesting how that "divide" is defined as newer technology and newer media hit the market (because then maybe it will not be shrinking as quickly as I think?). I love the video on Wii especially; it seems to provide an interesting adaptation for those not willing or able to participate in sports/exercise in other contexts. I am also curious if anyone knows of folks seeking to use Second Life with the older adult population? Seems like this would be one of the next steps for health care training programs - our Nursing program already uses it for a variety of educational purposes. Are any of you using it?
Thank you for this post and video! I am very excited to see some additional work in the area of tv viewing, as my students frequently argue that older adults DON’T have anything else to do and thus watch tv. Your work also seems to parallel Wendy Hajjar’s work about television in the nursing home. As you and she note, there are times when tv viewing is less active and a way to fill time, but that is not necessarily true the majority of the time.
The video is also terrific - what a great explanation of the gains and losses, based on the data and yet so interesting and easy to understand. I hope I’ll be able to share that with my students in the fall!