Author: Miguel Laureano

Worldwide Addiction: Tech Companies engineering their apps to keep us hooked

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By Miguel Laureano and Tyler Miller

How many times did you check your phone today? Two, ten times? And how many of those times did you have a notification? All the time, half the time? Regardless of the number of times we check our phone and have notification, the point is that we all check our phones. However, we may think it is because we are deciding to do so, but in reality the apps were designed to make us do so.

According to the segment on 60 Minutes “What is ‘Brain Hacking’? Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care” by Anderson Cooper, app developers and tech companies do not sell their product to us, we get to use them free of charge and in exchange they sell our eyes/attention to advertisers who actually pay companies like Snapchat and Facebook. Because the more time a person spends on an app the more advertising money the tech company makes, the goal becomes “getting attention at all costs.”  

Tristan Harris, an ex Google employee gave the example of our phones being slot machines, in that “every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, ‘What did I get?’…What you do is you make it so when someone pulls a lever, sometimes they get a reward, an exciting reward.” The thought of having notifications, likes, retweets, or snapping back to not lose streaks keep people constantly engaging with applications. The fight for attention by tech companies is a “race to the bottom of the brainstem” where the “most primitive emotions we have…fear, anxiety, loneliness” target anyone, anywhere in the world, who uses these apps.

Here in the United States, it’s no surprise that social media plays an enormous role in all our lives.  Apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc. dominate in popularity in America, but this is not always the case around the world. In the US, social media is mainly used for entertainment, connecting with friends. In other countries, social media platforms do not have as big of a presence and are not always used for the same reasons.  

This article interviews various people from various countries about the presence of social media in their world and what they mainly use it for.  Facebook and Twitter are, for the most part, the most popular media platforms in all countries, but many countries have differences in the popular apps used following these two.  In the UK, Pinterest is a rapidly growing platform.  In Peru, Instagram is not very popular.  In Spain, some use social media all the time and some never use it at all.  

Most countries aren’t as dependent on social media as we seem to be in the US. Just by simply crossing a border, there is a whole different environment when it comes to social media usage.  

The world is complex and constantly changing, culture is a key puzzle in gaining people’s attention but there is no doubt tech companies will make all attempts to steal the attention of those that haven’t yet used their services.

 

Why are Arabs Portrayed Negatively in Hollywood?

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Aladdin was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up. However, amidst the appeal of the characters I completely missed the explicit stereotyping of the culture that the movie was being depicted. From the opening song, the movie describes the Middle East to be “barbaric” and soon after the release of the movie, there was controversy with the opening song, as it contained the lyrics “Where they cut off your ear, if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” Disney was forced to change the lyrics “under pressure by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, but kept the ‘barbaric’ lyric within the song.” By no means is Aladdin the only Hollywood film at fault for a negative portrayal of the Middle East. 

Dr. Jack Shaheen, author of “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People” made a documentary with the same name, in which he explains the root of the stereotypical view the West has on the Middle East. In the documentary, Dr. Shaheen explains that “we (Americans) inherited the Arab image primarily from Europeans” (3:21). French and British travelers to the Middle East developed a prejudice view known as orientalism in which Arab men were stereotyped as dangerous, and Arab women as exotic. Those views were passed on for centuries, and eventually made their way into many Hollywood movies which further perpetuated the stereotype. 9/11 only made that stereotype worse, as most of the media solidified the image of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists through their constant coverage that extended beyond the actual event and simply became speculation to attract views based on fear of the “other”.

Dr. Shaheen broke down the findings of the study in which he analyzed 1000 Hollywood movies and found that 932 of them portrayed Arab characters negatively. “Not only are the Arabs dangerous, they’re incompetent,” said Dr. Shaheen of Arab roles in Hollywood.  Even with this overwhelming amount of negative portrayals, at the end of the documentary, Dr. Shaheen is optimistic that young filmmakers will “see that there has been a grave injustice committed, and they’ll make attempts to correct it (inhuman portrayal of Arabs).”

(You can watch Dr. Shaheen talk about Aladdin at time 5:15 in the video above)

 

Being a man:How K-Dramas & Telenovelas portray male beauty standards

 

If there’s one thing that can be said about dramas, it is that it’s kind of a big deal. Maybe not here in the United States, but in Korea and Mexico, they are a part of life.

K-Dramas and telenovelas play many roles. They emphasize many cultural norms that take place in the countries where they were created, in this case Korea and Mexico. Norms like being respectful to your elders, taking your shoes off before you enter the house in Korea, or taking your hat off before you enter the house in Mexico. Just by watching these shows, a viewer is able to absorb not only the plotline of the show, but a sense of what everyday life is like in each of the countries. The shows offer not only a view of customs followed in the country, but also different social roles that determine how people should look and act.

Beauty standards for men in particular are one of the things that is easily noticeable when watching a Kdrama or a telenovela. The actors that are seen are not representative of the population in either country but instead are the idealized models for how a man should look. For South Korea, this entails a wrinkle free and pale skin complex, a more western face with double eyelids, long and pointy noses, and a more skinny body.

For Mexico, this look tends to also take western features, tall, muscular, with a nice defined face. Also important is being being tough and aggressive; to show they have“macho” or “machismo”, which is an important aspect of being manly.

Although they have similar inspirations for beauty, the way they portray themselves in these TV shows is different. These shows have a big impact in the way males in these countries see themselves as and strive to be or look. A big impact in South Korea, for example, is that men go through plastic surgery to achieve the “perfect look”. Comparing South Korea and Mexico, South Korea has the biggest industry for male beauty products (worth $1 billion) but Mexico and South America, however, only account for 2% of worldwide sales in men’s skin care. Mexican men focus more on the “machismo” part of what the TV shows portray, and don’t necessarily care about how they look, as long as the character (or the person himself) is macho. Mexican men would show off their manliness through fighting, having many women, or by being a general “bad ass”.

The beauty standards may be different in South Korea and Mexico, but ultimately, the K-Drama’s and telenovela’s power to influence in both countries is the same.

Realities in the Media World

Growing up as a Mexican boy in Seattle, it was difficult to find myself represented in many types of media. I couldn’t find people like me so I didn’t expect the media I consumed to be a reflection of the real world. I simply expected the media to be entertaining, so it didn’t matter to me that I didn’t see people like me on the screen, or people like me making music that was easily accessible to me where I live. Reality and the media content I consumed were clearly separate to me in my head. The expectation for that media content to live up to some sort of reality was nonexistent.

But I was wrong. When movies are made to be a depiction of a historical event, we expect them to be accurate and entertaining, but generally accuracy has been ignored in pursuit of creating something more entertaining. Sometimes, this leads the people who played a big role in those events to not be credited in the film itself. There is an expectation for those films to reflect the event, but it hasn’t been followed. The movie “Hidden Figures,” as mentioned in The New Yorker, is an example of a movie that more accurately reflects on an event. Many people including myself did not know that three black women were very crucial to the space program because the media did not accurately depict the event.  Even though the main purpose of many films in the past was to entertain, the events it was showing were real, creating an expectation for those films to show that reality. But the thing is that it’s not just for historical events. Films aren’t created in a vacuum. They have ideologies and material realities that they are produced in. Any film that is made reflects a person’s reality in one way or another but the only reality we’ve seen in big films for the most part is a white straight male’s reality.

However, today more people are aware of the responsibility that film and other media forms have in reflecting an accurate reality. They’ve made it known by advocating for diversity in all kinds of media. Two recent film releases that reflect a different reality than the one we’ve been accustomed to are “Moonlight” and “Get Out.” This article from The Hollywood Reporter talks about the different realities that are depicted in both Moonlight and Get out, ones that aren’t cliché but are soaked in a reality that many people have not seen in many movies; making them very memorable.

The media people consume help shape the way we imagine the world to be, and thanks to films like Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and Get Out, we’re getting a chance to put forth more perspectives that more accurately represent the complex reality of the world in which we live in.