Sunday, 23 October 2011

Reminicences (12)

We got a break this week from the usual lecture format and watched a movie; "Page One: Inside The New York Times". The movie was interesting in that it depicted the struggle that "the old" media platforms had against new technologies and new news collecting strategies. The movie was heavily biased towards the N.Y.T., but obviously any other angle would not have been approved by the company. They staged some convincing arguments for the preservation of elite, well researched news over the convenience of presenting information that may be relevant to the second, but offered without the power of hindsight to analyze it. However, regardless of its legitimacy, it showed that the N.Y.T had to adapt to the modern climate, and that that had many ramifications, such as massive layoffs to remain competitive. This movie coincided with the highly public "wiki leaks" phenomenon, and showed how Julian Assange considered himself as an activist first and a journalist second. His approach to publishing information was by presenting all information wholesale using online mediums, which required journalists analysis before being presented in newspapers. In  such a way Assange showed the modern ease in which information can be broadcast, but still requires analysis before it can be applied in any factual context. Without this crucial element the information would just get lost in the labyrinth of all other unsorted information. The N.Y.T was upheld as an institution over a business model, capable of purging the USA government of fraudulence, (as the "4th estate") such as in the Watergate scandal. Similarly the N.Y.T published many of "wiki leaks"s articles as homage to its role as a government watchdog.

The movie highlighted many of the topics covered by the course, such as the 4th estate, technological revisions to the news cycle, and what that might imply for the future.  Personally i believe if media is to regard itself as a check against abuse of power, then it must also level that scrutiny at itself, to prevent itself from being just another dominant political hegemony. (read my Annotated Bibliography about abuses of public interest regarding the zombie threat)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Improvised Pyrotechnics and the "Chain Groan"

I have heard of a rather theatrical way of clearing a building of zombies. This is not for those who fear what hordes the noise would bring. However, be aware that it is an option that you may have to resort to if you get cornered on your way to get supplies!

1. DIY Zombie clearing method for enclosed spaces
As  mentioned before, in anaerobic decomposition methane is produced. In closed buildings that have not been opened post Z day, that contain significant amounts of decomposing matter (such as meat in supermarkets not yet cordoned off by gangs, or office complexes full of reanimated employees) methane accumulates and can do so to levels large enough to produce a volatile explosion. You, the desperate survivor with no other option to rely on (this is very noisy, and is likely to start a fire, also with its risks, mentioned before), may be able to exploit this. Methane is much lighter than oxygen, and will pool at the top of a rooms ceiling. In a methane saturated environment, try this. Take a cigarette, and a matchstick. Sharpen the back of the matchstick, and stick it endwise into the cigarette (butt end). This is just to put a hole so you can do the same with the phosphorous end without snapping the cigarette in half (reorient the match). Now light the cigarette (NOT IN THE BUILDING!), bring it back into the room.Put it on some light papers, and run! Once the "cherry" burns down to the phosphorous, it will flare and burn the paper, which will in turn light the methane! But be careful, methane is notorious for having a very low flashpoint. Try "davidoff" cigarettes, they would (probably, i've never been desperate enough to try) be thin enough to not burn too hot. Methane explosions are VERY volatile and aren't to be taken lightly!

2. The "Chain Groan"
Its been long enough through this apocalypse that all the myths and superstitions about zombies are beginning to be countered by empirical evidence. I've heard many people state that zombies have supernatural powers and can tell where "fresh meat" is without sight, smell or hearing. People have described the zombie as a herd animal that must have some remnant of a psyche in order to coalesce, and not feast upon each other. This is partially true. Max Brooks states that the desire to feed is only peripheral to a zombies state, as they can operate (possibly indefinitely) without food for extended periods of time. When they see humans, they emit "the groan" the deathly signifier of a supernatural demise. This utterance is what draws other zombies. Zombies all act as individuals except for this one characteristic; when one emits "the groan", every other zombie within earshot will groan as well, and head towards the original. This in turn draws even more zombies, and so on etc. All zombies are drawn towards noise, but only positive identification of a living person will justify a zombies groan. Other foods or noise will draw the reanimated, but will not potentially bring all of South East Queensland with it. So it can be seen that it is primarily through sound that the zombie locates its prey. Understand this, and ideally dispatch a zombie from long range before it can emit that fatal groan!

Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography
Schultz, J. (1998) “Reviving the Fourth Estate” Introduction: Paradoxes of the Bastard Estate. Pp. 1-15 Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
            Julianne Schultz (a board member for the ABC) explains in her opening chapter of her book that the media (as a check against the “other estates” abuses of power) is a “bastard estate”. It is independent of government, and therefore has autonomy on what issues it covers, yet is subject to its own financial upkeep, which dictates that its content must sell to perpetuate its existence. She writes that of all the checks against government, the press is the only one that’s success is measured in currency. The two commitments; an ideological defense of democratic accountability, and a partisan enterprise of producing a profit, are not easily compatible with one another yet must be co-mingled (at the expense of diluting one another). “Its not just a matter of getting the right mix between news and entertainment, personalities and issues, but inserting the values of entertainment into the news… entertainment values have swamped public life”. She quoted the New York Times as publishing an article called “from 4th estate to real estate”. There is a perceptible bias towards public media, and she does praise the ABC through a selection of certain facts. However she does present a convincing argument that the media must prioritize financial sustenance over optional ideological raisons d’etre. She also notes that if media outlets neglect social responsibility over financial incentives, they become another branch of the ruling minority. “Without greater accountability, the media is little more than another powerful elite, detached from the public interest which gives it legitimacy”.

Howard, M.(2011, Oct 8) “Queensland Police Service to Test Disaster Dashboard QLDalert with Mock Zombie Outbreak to Coincide With World Zombie Day” The Courier Mail, Retrieved from:
            This article was about the testing of a new government disaster response dashboard called QLDalert. Howard explained some of the approaches of the model. It was noted as “a one-stop-avenue” to find information relevant to the users specific location, by utilizing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It was deliberately based upon a theoretical zombie apocalypse so as to attract media attention to the campaign. In bold type at the top of the article, Howard wrote “ Cancel any plans you may have had for this weekend, zombies are set to take over Queensland”. He specifically referred to an undead holocaust as “ludicrous” and adopted a condescending tone towards the threat (“…there is no information to suggest that a zombie attack is actually imminent. For now” ). Of the 8-minute press release issued by the Queensland Police Service, 3 paragraphs were quoted verbatim, and only one of these had the word “zombies” in it. As the URL shows, the Courier Mail saw fit to categorize a zombie preparedness plan under the classifications “entertainment” and “weird” which shows their view of the potential disaster as spectacle and sensationalism.

Greene, R. (2011, May 19)“Ready For a Zombie Apocalypse? CDC Has Advice” CNN “Geek Out”, Retrieved from;
This is an article about Rear Admiral Dr. Ali. S. Khan’s (Director of the “Centers of Disease Control and Prevention”, CDC) “novel and creative ideas to engage the public”. The CDC noticed that when the topic of zombies was brought up in an online chat about radiation from Fukushima, traffic rose considerably. Dr. Khan suggested that by exploiting interest in zombies, more audiences might be generated, which could then be directed at more appropriate information, such as hurricane or pandemic disaster stratagems. Despite the CDC’s website crashing from frequent traffic, 2 days after releasing information on how to survive a zombie apocalypse (indicating the publics widespread recognition of it as a serious catastrophe) the article quoted “a top official” as saying “it’s a lighthearted way to get people to think about disaster preparedness”. The juxtaposition of “a big serious government agency with a big serious job” (the CDC) with the “metaphor” of an undead threat was justified in such a manner. Greenes article was part of the CNN section “geek out” which further suggests the networks view that zombie advice is only suitable for “geeks”. The CDC releasing Zombie information precedes the Queensland polices initiative, which implies that the Australians may have borrowed this model from the Americans.

Gosden, E. (2011, June 10) “Council Quizzed Over Zombie Invasion Plans By Resident” The Telegraph, Retrieved from
            This article was about a concerned citizens (Robert Ainsley) inquiry to the City Council of Leicester. As dictated by the UK’s Freedom Of Information Act, the council was obligated to respond within 20 days of his request. In the inquiry, Ainsley asked what the council had done to prepare for a “zombie invasion” and voiced his concern that the “kingdom must prepare for” this phenomenon. The LCC head of Information Governance Lynn Wyeth was quoted as replying “unfortunately there’s nothing in there…[in the LCC’s disaster plan]…saying how we would respond to zombies” and added that “we’ve had a few wacky ones but this one did make us laugh” The article noted that Ainsley stated his concern arose chiefly from watching movies, and depicted a picture from a scene in “Dawn Of The Dead” (1978) which further aligned the concept with that of entertainment values. Gosden’s article was categorized under “weird news” and included the adverb “bizarre” within the first sentence. Lynn Wyeth was described as not being too dismissive of the inquiry, and articulated that it was an issue that could be assuaged by applying logic utilized on more conventional disaster stratagems. She addressed the inquiry personally over local radio, which suggests the perception that there was public value in broadcasting the information. However, Gosden and The Telegraph decided that a 262 word summary of the issue was sufficient, choosing to portray it as an oddity and not as a initiative for the paramount defense of human welfare.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Reminicences (11)


This weeks lecture covered investigative journalism. Investigative journalism is the attempt by an author to become a reliable source of information rather than vicariously passing on key points. Lord Northcliffe (the pioneer of "new journalism" in 19th century Britain) was quoted as saying that investigative journalism was "what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; the rest is just advertising" which is rather pessimistic but not without its truths. Northcliffe's media model was to provide titillation and hype to a mentally atrophied mass so as to sell them entertainment dressed up as news. The 5 "ins" of investigative journalism were described as follows.






Dr. Redman mentioned that if these criterion could be made to conform to the "triune god head" (sex, money, or power) that would instantly constitute a story worth publishing. For instance, if i had the intuition that ASIO was aware of the zombie threat before it occured, and had managed to prove it by bypassing gatekeepers to that information (inside) , i would instantly have a story.  Government inactivity on a serious threat would constitute blatant negligence, and satisfies one of the "triune god heads", that being power. The more "triune god heads" i can get in a story, the better (eg the Monica Lewinsky saga satisfied both sex and power). Its a shame zombies arent sexy, otherwise more attention would have been paid to the threat before they started coalescing.

The meaning of investigative journalism is to provide thoroughly researched, ethically defensive, enfranchisement to the masses. This process is meant to give voices to the effaced minorities and act as a mechanism to keep the ruling elite accountable to their demographic (the 4th estate, or "watchdog" principle). Ultimately however i would say that I.J's raison d'etre is to generate money as a commodity, which is why you see phenomena such as news pieces that satisfy the "triune god head" criterion over what is actually morally imperative. Positive effects (infringing institutions that are forced to comply) by such journalism are byproducts of this pressing need to sell copy. Whilst the 4th estate notion of journalism is beneficial and necessary within the context of democracy, it has been interpreted over the years as justifying "hyper-adversarialism" where journalists become the enemies of those they interview chiefly because they perceive that they aren't correctly doing their jobs if they don't employ a "gotcha!" mode of questioning.

Good I.J necessitates "shoe leather" or wearing out footwear by finding as many sources as possible before publishing an article (Regardless of employment as a journalist, today all people need good "shoe leather" to get away from the reanimated). It was advocated that to be a good investigative journalist one must take nothing for granted, check everything for its validity, and be skeptical without descending into pessimism. PR ("the dark side") has emerged and directly (alongside the commercialization of media platforms , the "grocer logic" Nick Davies) threatens the value of clear, reputable journalism. By effacing unpalatable information, and promoting good information, a partisan author can bypass journalists (through the process of "churnalism", N Davies) and present an issue/concept in a favorable light. I.J would be a journalists counter to this phenomenon, if it can be made financially viable. In this manner hype and scandal are often passed off as I.J to sell copy . I.J has  done many good things for society, such as the Fitzgerald report. Good investigative journalism i would argue is when the net positive effects of the publication outweighs its financial commitments. (eg Watergate, and the removal of a despot, over the tv show border security, and the inflammation of xenophobia).

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Cards, and the Barter Economy

If you have lived this long, congratulations! Obviously what you are doing is working. You have met all your immediate needs, and avoided the most pressing dangers of the zombie apocalypse. But that is where the good news ends. The honeymoon period is over, and now you must realize that this way of life you have adopted is for the long term. To advance your long-term survival you are going to need to think beyond what you need to exist on a day to day basis. I will try to give some examples on how to get supplies.

1. Understand the current situation.
Most survivors have continued to live because of their experience with guns, and their ruthlessness with regards to dispatching group members that have been bitten. The largest groups of people left in Brisbane seem to be bikies, criminals, and other ruthless elements of society. The camaraderie of the army and police, however, seemed to do the armed forces a great dis-service when it became necessary to euthanase fellow members. This resulted in many unnecessary re animations by bites while people still hoped for a cure to aid their comrades. Most resources have been stockpiled by gangs of survivors, and the largest groups of survivors are people with no qualms with taking living human life. Bartering with criminals, whilst incredibly unsafe, may be unavoidable. Understand that it takes numbers to successfully defend a resource rich building such as a supermarket. Anyone that looks to be in good health is most likely a member of such a gang. It will be difficult to present a member of such a gang with anything they need, so try and go for novelty items, such as katanas or fashionable looking guns. It must be valuable as a trinket, but not TOO valuable, because if you require a price too high, they can easily threaten to kill you to take it. If its value is extremely high, you might incur their curiosity as to where it came from, and they may do unspeakable things to you to find out. Most gangs have instituted a system where if other survivors wish to trade with them, they allow them into their makeshift guarded fortresses one at a time at certain intervals. This is so that if that gang chooses to execute an individual for a perceived insult in the process of trading, others will not find out about it. You will be outnumbered at least 10 to one in such a scenario, so pressure can easily be used to coerce a lone survivor to part with a highly useful item for very little or nothing. 

Obviously such a scenario does not favor those not already affiliated with a gang. I find the best way to gain useful items such as weapons or medical equipment (i won steak once, evidently hells angels in Brisbane has a generator to run a freezer. What a day!) is by gambling with drunken gang members.
 Remember this is not a game anymore, and the result absolutely dictates your chances of survival. Gambling is useful because you can trade, but disguise it as a game, which protects you from the process mentioned earlier. You are NOT aiming to play a good game, because if you win significantly, they may still shoot you and take all your possessions. Rather you are going to attempt to play a game that only just gets you what you need. Initiate card games with gang members in a context where they do not have the power of numeracy to intimidate you. I find that this often happens around liquor stores. Depending on the numeracy of a gang, after one source of alcohol is depleted, they send out scouts to find another. When they find it, often the individual sent invariably drinks all the most expensive goods before it can be distributed amongst the hierarchy. If you can find a lone drunkard who looks like you might be able to approach them without being shot, this is how you might gain an economic advantage. Play the worst game possible, and make sure they get something of yours that they covet. I have personally taken to the habit of wearing 6 wristwatches on each arm so that i have something of worth to gamble with (they also act as a wrist guard to avoid bites). Gangs tend to have a monopoly on firearms, so you wont get one unless its through a member. Guns aren't cheap however. Its the currency of modern life. Try to have something unique, like an artistically painted motorbike (getting it there without drawing the horde wont be possible with the engine running, you'll have to push it to a bottle store beforehand, hide it under some rubbish, and watch the store closely for a few weeks until the scouts arrive). Without peer pressure, they are less likely to be violent to non-gang members, but do not get too complacent with your safety! Be able to get out of there as quickly as possible if things go bad. Skills such as field surgery can also be traded, but remember, it cant be too valuable. If they find out you are a doctor, or can use your electrician skills to wire up an alarm system using shredded car horns (for instance), they may kidnap you to do so for them.

Life has returned back to the rules of "the wild west". You are going to have to be incredibly cunning in order to gain resources from a monopolistic gang. This strategy works for me, but is not the only way to gain leverage. If you've lived this long you are obviously not naive about what you need to do to survive!

Reminicences (10)

This weeks lecture covered "News Values", or what a media outlet would value and prioritize over other information. To present all information to be interpreted in the public sphere is impossible, as everything that happens in one day would take more than one day to produce. Therefore, what the audience wants to hear/read about must be preempted by editors, especially as that interest is (usually) what funds the production of such selective information. Harold Evans, the editor of the Sunday Times (67-81) was quoted as saying "'A sense of news values' is the first quality of editors as they are the 'human sieves of the torrent of the news' even more important even than an ability to write or a command of language." It could be argued that this concept of "news value" is not what the public value, but what the media perceive the public to value. So to what extent is salience of issues in the media the result of a top down relationship where editors limit information available to the consuming public? Or is it more of a bottom up relationship, where commercial pressures from an audience dictate what a media outlet can publish?

The 12 stated news values as assessed by Galtung and Ruge (65) were as follows.
Bad news- pessimism and negativity, as a tool to command attention, disasters, conflict, ect.
Closeness to home - issues that can be seen to directly relate to the audience will be prioritized. Issues that will not be understood in the local context often fail to meet this criterion. For example local sport stories often gain priority over distant human suffering.
Recency- As news outlets compete with one another for capital, the one with the most recent information will be consulted (with relevance to a specific issue) first. Whilst this promotes up to the minute updates (the 24 hour news cycle and the restructuring of news invoked by online mediums) it isn't particularly helpful with issues that necessitate hindsight in order to understand.
Currency- This is the application of "hindsight" to an issue, but can also be interpreted as a outlets cashing in upon a concept/issue that has proven itself to be a profitable item to promote and reproduce (for example Daniel Morcombe or Michael Jackson) regardless of any actual change in the scenario.
Continuity- Anything that can be perceived to necessitate updates of information in installments, such as a sporting event, or a issue that will generate more information with the passing of time (high profile court cases, ect)
Uniqueness- Anything that can be considered out of the norm, that would generate interest simply for being unusual
Simplicity- Issues that conform to the upside down pyramid model of reporting (who, what, where, why, how) and can be explained and understood without much mental rumination.
Personality- an attempt to put a human face upon an issue by showing how it impacts an individual. This can be distorted to a point where certain people become deified by the media simply because there is interest in their existence. They become commodities that the media sell to gain leverage over their competitors (celebrity cameo's in reality TV for instance)
Expectedness (predictability)- If an issue can be predicted, then the media can get there and record the occurrence much easier than if it is spontaneous. This explains the existence of such concepts as the "press conference" to cater for the medias need to be where information is available
Elite nations or people - There is a hierarchy of people, and of nations, within the media. A developed country will receive more attention than a developing one, and a prominent celebrity or figure will attract more attention than who is considered less relevant to a medias desire to generate an audience.
Exclusivity- Competition dictates that if one outlet can outmaneuver another for information, it will gain strategic advantage over its competitors. The outlet with the most relevant "exclusive" becomes the only source that can be referred to about that specific issue/concept.
Size (the threshold)- whether there is enough significant relevance within an issue to constitute as a valuable issue to promote. The "threshold" dictates whether or not an issue is worth publishing (eg no of people affected, the amount of money involved, or relevance to the public's conceptions)

Ultimately the more criterion an issue fills, the more salient it will become. Land mines as an issue within Cambodia did not constitute as relevant news on the international arena until princess Diana used her name to promote it. After her death, the issue has largely passed into obscurity. For an issue to become worthwhile, those who have the resources to buy audience demand will have an advantage . What is considered news, therefore, can be predicted by organizations that need media salience to advance their cause. Journalism, as weakened by commercial practice ('grocer logic' and the rise of 'churnalism' Nick Davies) can be collaborated (or exploited, depending upon your personal conceptions) with by Public Relations to advance partisan interests. "News cartels" are perceived as swaying the salience of issues to benefit certain unseen parties (Rowse). Whether or not this was happening is arguable. A threat to this model was presented by a statement from Jay Rosen (05, Head of the Journalism School in New York) which suggested that with the ability to publish their own information through online mediums, a one way relationship between the audience and the media did not exist anymore. I would argue that it doesn't matter how much "realer" ( amateur writing as a threat to professional writing) you can make the public, the fact remains that lucid writing is a skill that takes years to develop, and can continue to be a commodity so long as readers/viewers recognize that training is necessary to develop this talent.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Reminicences (9.5)

 This was a piece of assesment i completed last year back when my world was about books, study, junkfood and the internet. Putting it up here is rather irrelevant, but if nothing else, it takes me back to a time when you could speak at full volume and not fear being heard. Teddy vegas (the guy i interviewed), if you are out there, i hope you are ok.

I set this up in such a way as you cannot hear what i am saying, and you cannot hear the name of the location spoken of. Try and guess it before he says it!