We are very pleased to announce the inaugural edition of the Media Psychology Review. We believe that it is a breakthrough as the first academic e-zine employing multiple media forms in lieu of the standard linked-PDF-files type online journal. Let us know what you think!
Archives for August 2008
Sometimes new ideas are right in front of us in the garden. The Media Creativity blog reports that watermelons are being tested as ad vehicles.
When I read this, I imagined mini-billboards applied across the span of the rotund fruit, but the the ad is applied more discreetly as a sticker (but does include a coupon for Zip-loc bags if you were worried that it isn’t practical.) I was a little disappointed by the lack of fruit-art, but nevertheless, this reminds me that innovation can be using things out of context as much as it is new technology. (The photo is from the Media Creativity blog)
I am lucky to be able to see Beijing in person during the Olympics. The athletic accomplishments aside–and the Chinese had 16 gold medals last I checked–the people’s pride in being a host to the games is palpable.
Putting on the Olympics is a lot of work. Designing, constructing, staffing, planning and delivering demand a significant amount of resources, including workers. Since the modern era of Olympic games (post-1896), organizers have recruited volunteers in addition to paid workers to help with all aspects of the hosting the games. Chinese who were interested in participating were given a choice between paid worker and volunteer. The Beijing Olympic committee hoped to recruit 150,000 to be volunteers–a lot even by Olympic standards–out of those who wanted to work.
Over 2 million people signed up to work and over 1.1 million of them as volunteers. Many of them students and retirees. I never realized how serious a commitment being an Olympic volunteer really is. The commitment is not just for the period of the games. For the last two years volunteers have been attending training sessions, including language training and cultural etiquette. Even the taxi and bus drivers were schooled in rudimentary English, acceptable etiquette, driving safety and vehicle cleanliness. It is charming and maybe a little sad–much of the training seemed to be making Chinese behavior more in line with western standards. Now granted, I think no drunk driving is a good idea and I’m not a huge fan of spitting in public, so some of these social adjustments might make sense to me. At the same time, having to alter Chinese behaviors to be more palatable to western visitors raises some interesting cultural and ethical questions.
The young people I spoke with were charmingly earnest about the honor of being part of the Olympic event. They are proud of their country and are really eager to make China better understood and more appreciated around the world. “You know,” one young woman told me, “we are not like westerners. This is for all of us, this is for pride of our country.” I saw an interview on television where a man from the US said that the Chinese were not as he expected, he said the young and old were naive in a sense, or pure hearted. It is this earnestness that is so captivating in the young people we meet. There are volunteers all over the city, not just in the Olympic village. Many of the city sites are manned by students from the Language and Communication universities, using their language studies to help tourists find their way to venues and public transportation. A legacy of the games for China may well be the the involvement of citizens in organized community volunteerism, which according to CCTV 9, is not common in China. Because of the Olympics, Beijing now has a blueprint for further volunteer works on a significant scale that can be institutionalized into year-round services that are not crisis or event driven.
These games have many meanings, here and abroad. The importance manifests in good ways, such as the exuberance of the people. (I have been told “welcome to Beijing” pretty much every where we have gone.) Beijing has definitely had a face lift in many areas; and is decorated throughout for the events with banners running down the sides of buildings and Olympic displays in shopping areas. Improvements include not only construction, but hyper-attention to cleanliness in public areas such as highway underpasses and shopping malls. In a minor tragedy, I dropped part of an ice cream cone (a dipped in chocolate soft-serve from Dairy Queen), and barely had time to look for a trash can before a woman with a mop came up to take care of it. As a job works project, it appears to be extraordinarily successful.
The Internet access, on the other hand, has been frustratingly sketchy. Because we westerners are so paranoid about Chinese censorship issues, it is hard to rein in lurking bias about how this must be because the Chinese are censoring content. It is equally as likely that the surge of information flow and demand has taxed the system. Nevertheless, I have been unable to reliably get email and cannot access the Media Psychology Research Center website which has made me crabby, since my life is so fully intertwined with and addicted to communications technology.
It is certainly true that the media in China is biased; however the western media is also at fault (if that’s the right word) here in their presentation. You would have to talk to these kids and see the general attitude on the streets to see that to them this is not propaganda. The question I am most often asked is why the western press can’t give China a compliment without qualifying it with some problem.
I disagree with those who criticize Bush’s visit as “making nice” and not addressing the “real” issues. There is a time and place for everything. His appearance here was a great honor and one that will create a lot of good will. It has been mentioned by everyone we visit: students, businessmen, and friends (who generally tell us what they really feel). From a positive psychology point of view, I think that creating respect between countries will go a long way to overcome the fundamental distrust between the countries.
Chinese culture and sensibility are very different from ours in ways I don’t even come close to understanding. They have made extraordinary changes in the last 30 years. Certainly the Communist Party would like to stay in power. (But so would the Republicans and Democrats, hence their political rhetoric.) One that totally knocks me out is how, in spite of the cultural revolution, the people have totally re-embraced their historical and cultural heritage. It makes sense to me, of course, but what about all the people my age who were actually in the Red Guard? How do they deal with the cognitive dissonance from those wide changes? And none of this addresses the progress economically – the standard of living and opportunities for jobs, education, medical care that weren’t here 10 years ago. (Yes, there are downsides to the economic growth, too, but many people would take pollution over starvation.)
The purpose of my research is to examine the villianization of a culture through the media and how that impacts how we form judgments about our world and others (in this case, China). My husband John often quotes Chekhov, who said (somewhere) that to know Bulgarians you have to go to Bulgaria. The media gives us the illusion of being in Bulgaria, but not the experience. I think as a country and culture, we have to be aware of our own biases and sense of “we do it the right way” that come from a position of power and relative wealth and careful to not make judgments without “walking a mile in another man’s shoes.” (And certainly not from what we read in the paper.)