Category: #BCM232

Utilising Maps to Promote Social Justice: Hollaback!

“People trust maps, and intriguing maps attract the eye as well as connote authority” (Monmonier 1991, p. 87).

People trust and use maps in everyday life; from using Google Maps to follow a particular route to get to a final destination or simply looking for a particular country or place on a world map.  There have also been examples of maps being created based on political, cultural and social agenda.  However in this day and age, the use of maps are expanding in new and powerful ways.

Previously mapping was used to showcase political power.  A prime example of this is the Mercator Map which centralised Europe unproportionately to highlight European domination (Monmonier 1991, p. 96).  Since this time, there have been several variations of mapping, extending into a new field of counter mapping.

Hollaback image

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Movements such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, have taken advantage of social media to expose and communicate social justice issues to society.  Another movement that highlights this positive activism and counter mapping style is Hollaback.  Hollaback was created in New York City in 2005 to allow people to share stories of street harassment, calling attention to this social justice issue and providing a way to understand where it was occurring (Dimond et al. 2013, p. 477).

By collecting personal accounts it not only aims to combat street harassment but also provides a supportive cyber environment for victims.  Different coloured tags are used to provide information concerning safe and unsafe areas, which is of benefit to local citizens and travellers.  The counter mapping style has been so successful in creating awareness and aiming to reduce street harassment that iPhone and Android apps have been developed to allow live updates of information and stories as well as outline where specifically such harassment has taken place geographically.

Currently the Hollaback initiative is being utilised by several different countries all around the world.  Such countries include Argentina, Honduras, Belgium, India, Canada, Israel, Chile, Mexico, Turkey, United Kingdom, Germany and the United States (Dimond et al. 2013, p. 478), supporting that maps can be used effectively in non-traditional ways.

The success of this social justice mapping scheme is still expanding, with Egypt recently introducing a new Harass Map which has been created with the aim of stopping the social acceptability of sexual harassment in the North African country.

For more information please watch the below link where the Executive Director of Hollaback Emily May discusses the 21st Century social justice movement.

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References:

Dimond, J, Dye, M, La Rose, D & Bruckman, A 2013, ‘Hollaback!: The Role of Collective Storytelling Online in a Social Movement Organisation’, Making the World A Better Place, 23-27 February, pp. 477-489.

Monmonier, M 1991, ‘Maps for political propaganda’, in How to lie with maps, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp.87-112.

The Great Firewall of China: Censorship

Great Fire wall of China

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Facebook.  Twitter.  Yahoo.  Google.  YouTube.  These are just some of the internet sources and social media sites that are used by millions of consumers all around the world.  Not only are these sites used for communicating with others, they also act as a primary tool for keeping society up to date on news and global issues.  Despite this easy accessibility to multiple internet sites, not all individuals have access to this privilege.

The Great Firewall of China is a censorship and surveillance project operated by the Ministry of Public Security division of the Chinese government.  This project acts as a means of ‘protecting’ citizens through restricting exposure to information (Zittrain & Edelman 2003, p. 70).  Interestingly, social media sites influenced such censorship.  This is because new technology such as social media essentially overwhelms law and the capacity of a state to function (Zhang 2006, p. 273).  Hence political power becomes a defining factor influencing regulation of the internet to maintain social control.

The China National Congress in December 2000 created a law that prohibited online content such as any information that goes against principles outlined in the Constitution, information that endangers national security or subverts the government, information that is detrimental to the honour and interests of the states, information that disseminates rumours, disturbs social order or undermines social stability etc (Zhang 2006, p. 276). These key points support the threat that social media had to the structured control of the government, as it allowed for uncensored information from all across the world to reach Chinese soil.

This frightened the Chinese government, as it was believed the nation’s political, cultural and social values may have been jeopardised as a consequence of society interacting with social media. Due to this threat, the Chinese government wanted to have control over social media sites. Since most sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been developed in America, China was unable to access individuals information. As this was exactly what the Chinese government wanted to avoid, they created their own social media sites with their own regulatory schemes that meant they could essentially spy on everyone’s activity, censoring out anything that was seen as inappropriate online content.

The perception and evaluation of the threat from government censorship restrains people from using the net for certain purposes, especially political ones that could undermine governmental power (Wang 2006, p. 8). As a result the Chinese government created the following sites to replace the more commonly used social media platforms:

Chinese Social Media Sites Commonly Known Social Media Sites
Renren Facebook
Weibo Twitter
Baidu Google
Youku and Tudou YouTube
Douban MySpace
Diandian Tumblr

Although these Chinese sites act as a controlling mechanism, it also highlights that new media and the value of this transformation has the power to increase economic growth. As these are the only social media sites available in China, they have been extremely successful in terms of consumer usage.

stats china

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Please watch the below link from ‘The Economist’ which discusses the potential of the internet to democratise China.

http://econ.st/18b1xJY

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References:

Wang, X 2006, ‘Behind the Great Firewall: The Internet and Democratisation in China’, University of Michigan, USA.

Zhang, L 2006, ‘Behind the ‘Great Firewall’ Decoding China’s Internet Media Policies from the Inside’, Convergence:  The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 271-291.

Zittrain, J & Edelman, B 2003, ‘Internet Filtering in China,’ Social Science Research Paper, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 70-75.

Disney Orientalism: Mulan, Aladdin and the Jungle Book

Orientalism is defined by Said (2001, p. 1991) as “a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western experience”, that is domination of Western ideals over the East.  A huge part of my childhood was growing up watching Disney movies.  Little did I know that stereotyped ideals and Western perceptions of the East were embedded throughout Disney movies such as Mulan, Aladdin and the Jungle Book.

Mulan showcases the idea that people of the Orient worship and are devoted to their ancestors.  This is shown through Disney’s portrayal of Mulan’s ancestors, who characterise the idea of mystery and connection with the spirit often associated with people of the Orient.  The film also has several Asian motifs throughout including cherry blossoms, chopsticks and Asian style costumes.  It is as though the West considers China and Japanese cultures as one, which completely disregards the significant differences between the two worlds.

Mulan

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Furthermore, Aladdin is a popular Disney movie that has been viewed by many children all around the world.  With such popularity, Aladdin unfortunately orientalises Arab culture.  The opening line in the theme song titled ‘Arabian Nights’ was originally, ““Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam, where they cut off your ear, if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home” (La Porte 2001).  These lyrics caused outrage among the Arabic community, as it portrayed the ‘far away place’ as violent and uncivilised.  This forced Disney to change only two lines in this section.  “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face”, was changed to “where its flat and immense and the heat is intense” (as highlighted in the YouTube link below).  Not to mention the first character who has a strong Arabic accent, black beard, turban and mysterious nature, highlighting a misconceived orientalist idea that most Arab individuals possess these features.  There are also constant references to sand, snakes and swords, which are often stereotyped concepts related to the Arab world.

Lastly the animals in Jungle Book can be interpreted as depicting the native Indian people.  This is compared to the English who are played by men because they possess the dignity and intelligence of true humanity, suggesting that the “animal may function in the manner of the stereotypical native, cunning, untrustworthy and not quite human ideal” (Nyman 2001, p. 207).  This again highlights the idea of colonisation, and that the West have the ‘white mans burden‘ which means that Westernised countries are in fact doing Eastern countries a favour by colonising them and expressing domination.

Please watch the below link which further explores orientalism in the three Disney movies discussed above.

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References:

La Porte, M 2011, Final Paper: Orientalism in Aladdin, Colloquium Blog, 4 May, viewed 3 April 2015, <http://maralaporte.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/final-paper-orientalism-in-aladdin.html>.

Nyman, Jopi 2001, ‘Re-Reading Rudyard Kipling’s ‘English’ Heroism: Narrating Nation in The Jungle Book’, Orbis Litterarum, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 205-220.

Said, E 2001, ‘From Orientalism’, in V Leitch (ed.), The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, W. W. Norton, New York, pp. 1991-2012.

Barrack Obama and North Korea Conflict

Interview Blog

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In 2014 an American political satire comedy film with a main plot of two journalists given the task of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un after booking an interview with him.  The leader is portrayed as a misunderstood, incompetent leader who plays with military machinery as though they are toys and listens to popular pop music such as Katy Perry’s Firework.

As this topic is one of controversy, it is understandable that North Korea was unhappy about the release of this film.  This film resulted in North Korea condemning US President Barack Obama, with North Korea’s foreign ministry saying that the movie “is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated” (ABC 2014).  In a further statement made by North Korea’s National Defence Commission, President Obama was labelled the “the chief culprit who forced the Sony Pictures Entertainment to indiscriminately distribute the movie” (BBC 2014).

Following North Korea’s absolute rejection and anger towards the film, Sony had to shut down their entire database due to the network being comprised by a group known as the Guardians of Peace.  This group threatened to carry out terrorist attacks on cinemas that were scheduled to show the film, and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had in fact determined that the North Korean government had been traced as being responsible for the hack (BBC 2014).  This statement was not taken lightly by North Korea, which resulted in the National Defence Commission responding to the allegations, accusing Washington of “groundlessly linking the unheard hacking at the Song Pictures” (BBC 2014).  Who was in fact behind this hacking still remains unclear.

The result of this conflict is undesirable, as it highlights the need for Global Network Initiative which would regulate companies such as Sony and prevent events like this from happening which arguably could have lead to a full blown war between America and North Korea.  As it is such a controversial topic and does amplify terrorist ideals, it is not a wise move to make this film available to the world when it is clearly going to offend the North Korean population.

In terms of having commercial companies versus national governments making the decisions about important issues such as free speech or privacy is a conflicting topic itself.  Commercial companies will often have conflicts with national governments as the restriction of free speech and privacy will obviously impact what commercial companies can produce, hence giving the government the power to restrict such production.  It could be argued it is a ‘tug of war’ in a sense in trying to find the right balance between what should be censored and what should not; the question is where to draw this distinction.  Perhaps this is why a Global Network Initiative from an independent party is needed to regulate this field and prevent conflicts from arising.

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References:

North Korea berates Obama over the Interview release 2014, BBC News, viewed 2 April 2015, <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30608179>.

The Interview: Sony cancels December release of North Korea comedy film after theatres bail following terror threats 2014, ABC News, viewed 2 April 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-18/sony-cancels-release-of-controversial-north-korea-film-interview/5975070>.