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Deconstructing Society Through Modern Media Rhetoric

iLEAD organized an interactive session on analyzing Advertising dynamics through the parameters of Media, Society and Gender. The session was taken by Ms. Katy McAlary who is an English Language Fellow from United States- Department of State English Language.

Event Link: Guest Lecture Session on Media, Society and Gender at iLEAD

IN_McAlaryKaty McAlary from US Department of State-English Language who conducted a workshop entitled “Mirror Mirror: Deconstructing Society Through Modern Media Rhetoric” at the US Consulate, Kolkata spoke to us about the significance of the workshop, today’s media world and much more.  The workshop, through the lens of news, advertisements, and social media platforms dissected the agenda behind the art of media and socio economic, political and psychological impact it has in persuading the society as a whole.  The workshop was held on Mondays from October 23- November 13.


How often do you conduct these workshops?

I conduct various workshops throughout the week including one on Media & Society.  I also do teacher training workshops fairly frequently, I teach lower level English learners from various NGOs and I have also done presentations on Activism and Awareness for gender-based violence and anti-sex trafficking workshops.

What are the divisions of the workshop?

The classes which make up the Media & Society workshop are comprised of War vs. Peace journalism tactics in current political/mass media rhetoric, the analyzation of hetero normative trope reinforcement in marketing strategies and the space for inclusivity of non-normative bodies resulting in marketing for social activism, the psychology of de-individuation and conformity in social media, and finally the use of music as a form of protest in times of political strife.

In today’s world what do you recommend to survive overflow of information?

People today are surrounded by endless amounts of information (that is the glory of the internet). While this may seem intimidating, and can be in some capacity, I’ve found that most people surround themselves with only information they want, and very rarely seek out information they don’t. Thus, people don’t feel overwhelmed by what they could know because they surround themselves with things that make them comfortable.

I’d say people can maintain their comfort zones, but should actually push a little further past those comfort boundaries to seek out adverse opinions and new information. I think the presence of everything has made people deny the possibility of that everything.

Does social Media like YouTube channels and Facebook pages have half baked information which does not have any significance in reality? If not then why are there so many consumers of the same?

There are some really informative YouTube and Facebook pages that aim for promoting awareness and grander understanding on vastly underrepresented topics. However, I would say that is not the majority. Videos like cats sitting in tiny boxes or huskies that howl “I love you” are probably not high up on intellectual stimulation, but are high in view count.

And in this age, people want to be entertained. With more streamlining and access to news from all over the world, people are constantly experiencing secondary trauma, to the point that they become numb to it. An outlet that requires no reflection on that trauma, or an escape from it would be to bury yourself in something entertaining, something you can get a laugh from.

So half-baked YouTube channels or silly Facebook pages actually are serving a grander (however subtle) purpose as a counterpoint to the inundation of traumatic news that constantly streams through our media lines.

Do you think sense of wonder in communication is shrinking due to evolving technology?

This can be taken in two ways – the wonder of how we communicate or the wonder of effective, meaningful communication.  As to the former, humans are an evolving species. With more wars we have that force us into further technological advancements and capitalistic competitors pushing the technology game forward. I have no doubt that the wonder in communication would keep evolving and creating more sophisticated ways to connect. Now as to the latter, then yes, I think effective, meaningful communication is depleting due to evolving technology. That which is meant to connect actually makes communication superficial, which is why it is so rare to find someone we can connect to on a deeper level.

Our technology puts us on constant ADHD mode where we have too many choices, too many apps, and too many brushes with real connections that end up being shallow and meaningless. If you haven’t watched Lobster – it’s a really great metaphor for this shallowness that is so much a part of today’s relationship construction.

What’s your suggestion for aspiring journalists and writers? Is the written word losing value due to VR and Video Marketing? Will traditional journalism and writing survive this market? If yes, how?

I tend to believe that writing is immortal – it just takes different forms in different eras. Responsible journalism is essential because there are so many irresponsible journalists conveying “news” with war journalism tactics. Writers are storytellers of our age.   I think there will always be a need. As for writers, they too will never die out.

Writers are dreamers, and may not get paid much, but they’re the storytellers of our age. We will always need them, and there will always be more dreamers wanting to tell a different tale.  However, when you think about how information is conveyed today, video is easy and fast. When it comes to catering to audiences, you are going to reach a larger audience through video since it’s convenient and available (not to mention highly shareable). So I still believe that writing and journalism will survive (just as music has survived the ages even though vinyl and cassettes are a thing of the past), because there will always be a market for those who want to read over get their information from videos, but videos are obviously taking precedence in our contemporary society.

From your observations and research do you think that compared to international cities, the smaller towns and cities across the world do not have much exposure to brands and a well informed population?

I would agree that rural cities and towns tend to have a lot less exposure to diversity, thus creating a homogenous group afraid of the “other”. With less exposure overall, it makes them by nature less informed. Lack of media and direct exposure will result in fear. There are always exceptions, however, if a community actively tries to embrace differences, but humans don’t tend to err that way. “Different” is scary, therefore fear will make their circumstances of life normalized and anything outside their circumstances, a threat.

What are your favourite books and YouTube channels?

 I’m not actually subscribed to any YouTube channels, but when I do watch YouTube, I tend to watch episodes of Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, and any documentaries from Broadly. My list of favorite books could be endless, but here are at least a few.

Top fifteen:

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini Open Space of Democracy – Terry Tempest Williams As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

What are your favourite areas of interest in research?

Anything social. The Media & Society class hits on a plethora of things I personally like to research – psychology, religion, gender, race, media, politics, the list could go on...

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