Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Digital Arabs" Sisler

Sisler’s article “Digital Arabs: Representation in Video Games” is a great article highlighting the stereotyping done in various video games. He begins with the perception of representation as more than just the visual representation, but that the storyline, perspective and main characters play large parts in what the game represents. He goes on to cover the perspective most often displayed in military based games; the “self” versus the “other.” In American video games, the collective self is the American military and the other, who is the enemy, is often Arabic or Islamic. According to Sisler, “The enemy is depicted by a set of schematized attributes...headcover, loose clothes, dark skin colour.” This is a clear example of the stereotyping seen in almost all types of media in the United States. Also, as in the video games Full Spectrum Warrior and Delta Force, the “enemy” is most nearly demonized by the game in that the Arabic soldiers engage in cruel and inhumane actions. Most of the stereotyping, as in other forms of media, is in many ways a result of 9/11. However, those in Arabic countries who have seen their young people play these American games are concerned with the impact it has on their youth. In response, they have created their own video games. The only difference between their games and the American ones is the perspective from which the gamer plays. The premise is still us versus them, only the “us” side is made up of Arabic and Muslim characters and the “other” side is made up of Israeli people. In conclusion, I feel as though the stereotyping done in America towards Arabic people groups is not uncommon by any means. It should not come as a surprise that the collective self can be any group of people and the other, which is the enemy, is whoever the game designer wishes them to be. This article really shows how deep this tendency to stereotype a people group that is very misunderstood really is in both American culture and even Arabic culture.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Islam and Judaism in an age of Internet

In week 9 we will consider how Islam and Judaism have appropriated and adapted to the Internet. First we will investigate how Muslims have been framed in popular video games though reading Vit Sisler’s article called “ “Digital Arabs: Representations in Video Games”.  Then we will consider how different Israeli Jewish groups have responded to the internet by reading an article I have written entitled “Religious engagement with the internet within Israeli Orthodox groups”. Looking at these reports and arguments together we will seek to identify what factors influence different religious group’s positive and negative reactions to digital media and how digital culture shapes religious group’s response to media more broadly.

Abdallah-Post 9/11 Media and Muslim Identity in American Media Summary

In Abdallah's article titled. "Post-9/11 Media and Muslim Identity in American Media", Abdallah states that a main reason why that the Americans who hate Muslims and Islam do so because they are not fully educated on what Islam is actually about and where it comes from. He goes on saying that the American media has distorted facts and stories to the point where Americans have not been accurately informed that the news is showing the extremists and terrorists who use Islam as a cover or scapegoat instead of clarifying that that is not a true portrayal of what Islam is really about. After 9/11, some media sources hired more Muslim writers to provide a less-biased view of the coverage. Slowly, many Americans have begun to realize that Islam is not prominently in just the Middle East but in Africa and other places as well. In addition, many were surprised to discover that most Muslims abhor the violence and killings just as much as some Christian and Jewish communities. If the media can just move away from the stereotypes, Americans will be more able to form a solid opinion about how they feel about Islam and Muslims.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cohen “News Values, ideology and the Religion Story”

The Coen Article started of by introducing the supreme court case from the 1994 appeal of Playboy over broadcasting in Israel. The author stated that it is important that in understanding the "construction of religious news" we must understand the  "psychological and ideological news values" The article goes on building ground work by defining news as a "Crisis involving religion".  The article explains how news and  to many religions in israel is defined as something not only close to the audience geographically but also religiously. It also goes on to explain how Religious Icons (Rabbis)  are typically more prominent than other individuals in the news. The article goes on to explain how in 2000 when many media sources where polled it showed that 10% of the coverage was over religion in secular outlets. It found also that there where more television stories covering religion than news papers. Conversely in the United States, religion was more popular in the Newspapers. Cohen goes on to  write that politics and religion are the most covered subjects and that the most covered topics of the two are intact religious political parties. In the jewish media Cohen elaborates the elitism or elites in the religious sector such as chief rabbis take a large percentage of the religious media coverage. Cohen continues by stating that ultra Orthodox Jews count for a major percent of the news coverage but a small percentage of the actual Jewish population. In this section he continued elaborating how small sects took up large portions of the media coverage. In the next section Cohen explained how in areas of higher populations of different religious faiths that where larger than Judaism where found to be covered more in the news, for example the headquarters for the lutheran church in Minneapolis. Cohen goes on to talk about Ethical constraints and how there is no "tradition of complete freedom in Israel" like there dis in the U.S. The extent to what the news is restrained is based off of the Public and Official institutions as well as the influences of society. He goes on to discuss instances of ethical refute when one figure would do something 'un-ethical' like the case involving Dor Zadik and the questionable background. He also explained how the method of news being spread affected the public reaction using instances when Rabbis where accused of crime and how the public reacted differently to each. One was announced via a rumor, another by a group of Rabbis and finally by a newspaper. Cohen explains that Rabbis are often the center of news publications and scandals and that there is not a consensus among Rabbis on weather or not it is an ethical practice . He goes on to explain that Israeli law prohibits Damaging of religion or religious figures showing just how rooted religion and the Jewish faith are in Israeli society. One major problem that is being faced as explained by Cohen is the actual broadcasting of television and radio on the Sabbath. The article goes on explaining the pros and cons of the broadcast and explains how in wartime the benefits of utilizing the broadcast system to alert of rocket attacks would be invaluable. He goes on to articulate the moral and ethical dilemmas faced with broad cast and news. In all the Article explains how Jewish society handles the influences of modern media and how some have accepted it but many are still not on board. The article argues that media affects the way religion is perceived by outsiders and is poised to cater toward those religions that are more abundant geographically. The article also emphasizes how religion in israel in a sense controls media or the censorship of it via political and social power. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Interpreting Media Portrayals of Islam and Judaism

In week 8 we will seek to interpret different media portrayals of Islam and Judaism, by comparing and contrasting how Muslims and Jews have been framed by mass media outlets. We will specifically look at news coverage of Jewish and Muslims groups.  Our first reading is a book chapter by Aslam Abdallah that looks at journalistic post 9/11 media and Muslim identity in American media.  We will also read and reflect on Yoel Cohen’s study of Israeli media coverage considering how news values and cultural belief frame coverage of religious stories about Judaism in the press. Together these help us identify the common narrative and essentialist notions of religion often communicated in press coverage about these religious traditions.

Monday, October 7, 2013

In Shandler's article "New Media/New Jews" we see how the emergence of the Internet for research and socialization is affecting the Jewish people. First and foremost, religious texts are now very much more accessible through CD or Internet articles. The Talmud notably is now readily available, which is a compilation of rabbi's teachings on all facets of life and the basis of Jewish law. Referred to as "The Oral Law" this text is the central instrument in the training and teaching of rabbis. This availability however does not make instructors obsolete, because to read, analyze, and comprehend the Talmud in the proper fashion is greatly assisted by the assistance of a professor rather than reading it on the Internet by yourself. Shandler's main focus in the article was the fascinating presence of an organized Jewish  community unmatched in real life in the character role playing game online titled Second life. In this alternate virtual reality people create avatars to their liking and can navigate an expansive world filled with other people from around the world ready to chat and socialize about real world and second life topics. There is a large community of what has been nicknamed "javatars" that frequent an area of the world that features Jewish temples, sites of remembrance, and even sites of Jewish affiliation that couldn't exist in real life. An example of this would be a sort of Passover theme park that users of the site have created. Not everyone who has a javatar is necessarily a Jew. This is really a representation of modern European culture though with people who aren't practicing Jews, but practicing Jewish culture in the medium of food, music, and theater.However, for many practicing Jews this alternate virtual reality is an outlet to extend their faith whether it is by conversing with people of similar backgrounds or creating Jewish temples within the site. This seems to be the general trend of the article being that while new technology changes access and networks of the faith for the most part new innovations are being used as tools to enhance people's religious lives. Shandler's seems to be very grounded in a theory of cultural midpoints where in technology new mediums of connectivity are opened in education and new Jewish online connectivity.      

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Jewish Responses to Media

In week 7 we will explore Jewish responses to media by investigating how different Orthodox Jewish groups have responded to television.  We will read a chapter from Jeffrey Shandler’s book, Jews, God and Video Tape-Religion and Media in America, and look at the impact of various media technologies on American Judaism. His chapter explores how the American Chabad community has used audio, video, and the Internet to transform their former leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, into a “virtual rebbe”. David Cromer’s short article, ”The Polluted Image: The Response of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism to Israel Television, reflects on a very different approach to media by religious Jewish communities, consider religious critiques of the use of television within Orthodox communities. Together these reading provide an interesting comparison of Orthodox embrace and resistance of media.

Nathan Abrams, "My Religion is American": A Midrash on Judaism in American Films 1990 to the Present & Samantha Baskind, "The Fockerized Jew"

In Nathan Abrams' "My Religion is American": A Midrash on Judaism in American Films 1990 to the present, Judaism in American film history is closely examined. The way Jews have been portrayed throughout film and behind the camera has been steadily evolving with time. The article explains that before 1990, when Jews were starting to appear in movies, that their Jewish practices or beliefs were never the main storyline. Writers usually just stuck to small details of the faith here and there. As time passed and the somewhat close-minded population of America became more comfortable with the idea of Judaism, the more it was represented on the big screen. Flash forward to the year 1990. Abram argues that "the sitcom Seinfeld (NBC, 1990-1998) marked a shift in American visual culture in many ways." He goes on to explain the the show described Judaism not only in an ethnic way, but a religious way as well, with examples of conversion and bar mitsvahs. Abrams also mentions the movie "Meet the Fockers" which leads in to the next article, "The Fockerized Jew", by Samantha Baskind. In this article, Baskind focuses on the more humorous side of Judasim and expresses how the movie "Meet the Fockers" brings a new light to Jewish people that many may never have thought existed. In the movie, the not-so-typical Focker family, are certainly not what people would envision as "normal" Jews. Roz, the mother of Greg aka Ben Stiller, played by Barbra Streisand is a sex therapist for the elderly (very uncommon for a Jewish woman), and the father, Bernie, played by Dustin Hoffman is basically a hippy. Though unconventional they still seem to exude certain Jewish qualities such as the Yiddish slang used by Roz and Bernie's habit of keeping and showing off all of Greg's old tenth place ribbons from grade school. As a whole, this article basically explains the now "coolness" of Jews, and how filmmakers are becoming more open and honest with all aspects of Jewish heritage.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Fockerized Jew

In the article ‘The Fockerized Jew’, Samantha Baskind demonstrates how movies such as Meet The Fockers portray Jews as being ‘cool.’ Meet The Fockers does not shy away from referring religious practices, however American entertainment normally discriminates, stereotypes or hides a characters Jewish heritage. In the 60s and 70s television and movies had a few Jewish references however they were not considered cool. Instead they were found interesting, never appealing. However now in the 21st century Jews can be seen as ‘cool,’ much like how black culture is popular amongst white teens. Most movies which involve Jewish characters normally play on stereotypes such as an overbearing mother, a high maintenance daughter who is very materialistic. Although these families are said to be ‘jewish,’ religions never plans a vital part in their daily lives. The characters in Meet The Fockers, on the other hand are the opposite of these stereotypes; Roz, the mother, has no problem with her son marrying out of the families religion and her husband Greg is not the main breadwinner and allows his wife to hold great power in their house. The Fockers also embrace their Jewish heritage and celebrate all the holidays. There are many TV shows and other movies such as Keeping the Faith that have made Judaism look ‘cool.’ Despite these shows, there are still movies that show the money hungry stenotypes of Jews. Ben Stiller who is Jewish, normally plays characters who are Jews. Interviewers often ask him about his heritage and his appearance wondering if he is embarrassed however he is not. He looks very Jewish and he is okay with this as in todays culture looking different is okay, we no loner have a cookie cutter shape for what people must fulfill. Some critics believe that Meet The Fockers is a film portraying the difference between liberals and conservatives, while others believe that it shows how it has now become an ‘in’ thing to portray your religion. Never the less Baskind believes that for once Judaism is shown as being supreme. When compared to the WASP Byrnes family, the Fockers come out on top. They are the ‘cool’ ones at the end of the day showing how society is changing by accepting new cultures and identities.