Monday, 4 November 2013

Study Task 3: Constructing the Other


Write an analysis (3-500 words) of one media image of your choosing. This analysis should highlight how the intended reader/audience would construct their identity by a specific reading of the text which is based on the 'othering' of other groups or individuals.

Your analysis should evidence an understanding of the concept of 'othering' and also show some acknowledgement of how much the security of our own fragile subjectivities or identities depend on this process.

The following texts are useful reading material on identity
Woodward, K (ed. 1999) Identity and Difference , Sage, London
Hall, Stuart (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and signifying practices, Sage, London

Above is an image taken from a current news article about a young girl who chose to dress as a Boston Marathon victim for Halloween. The article heading reads: 'Woman, 22, posts picture of her Boston Marathon victim Halloween costume and asks if it's 'too soon?' - Twitter users respond with a resounding YES'. Halloween is a time of year when people dress up as something scary for fun. It gives people the freedom to become a different character for a night depending on how they choose to dress. One of the core reasons for dressing up on Halloween is to provoke a reaction of fear or humour from others around you. However this is an example of humour going too far. 

The photo shown above was first posted to Twitter. Twitter already exists as a form of Social Networking which enables people to post specific elements of their lives which they want people to know about. Their are continuous bursts of outrage on Twitter where intended lighthearted jokes quickly escalate into a severe debate or threatening response. A post is created and published to twitter with an intended response in mind. Sometimes it is to generate a negative response, sometimes to impress. In this particular case the image was posted as a light-hearted joke about an event which has scarred the lives of everyone involved. This then becomes ironic. The intention was not to offend but to possibly impress or shock people, just as most people would on Halloween. By choosing to dress like this and share it worldwide, the Twitter user presented herself to a huge audience - one which was clearly not going to take this light-heartedly.

One article explains: 'Since posting the picture, users on Twitter have bashed the 22-year-old, calling her an 'absolutely disgusting human being' and saying her costume was 'insensitive, low, [and] heartless'.' This was shortly followed by a Tweet from the the girl apologising for her actions: 'It seems as though my outfit was too soon, and will always be that way, it was wrong of me and very distasteful,' she wrote. 'My costume was not meant to disrespect anyone, ever. I am truly sorry to anyone that I may have offended or hurt with this. I know my apology doesn't ever fix anything that has been done, but at least know that I am being sincere. I can't undo my actions or make up for them, but my apology is a start.' This suggests that the girl realised that she had been inconsiderate and disrespectful however she supposedly was unaware before the response she received from disgusted and outraged Twitter users. 

In conclusion, it can be argued that people sometimes act in ways which they feel are acceptable and harmless in their own opinion. However this can be very far from the reality of a scenario. Dressing up as something like a Boston Marathon victim will no doubt trigger hostile feelings of anger, sadness and disgust. Sometimes people don't think about others and therefore act in insensitive ways until 'the Others' correct or challenge their thought process. It can be argued that the opinions and beliefs of others can strongly shape or determine how we choose to act as individuals. Although this is an extreme example, it is not uncommon. Social Networks such as Twitter allow people to display bold and confident opinions with the ability to use false names. This entitles people to feel confident, opinionated and bold about views and opinions which they may not be able to express in person. People generally respond badly to inconsiderate behaviour. People may sometimes seek this negative response for whatever reason or in this case, not think before they act; having to pick up the pieces when the situation backfires.

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