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Hi I've Posted these essays, not because i think they hold any great worth, but it took me so much hassle to put them together it seems a waste for them to be chucked. if they offer any insight or useful perspective then that'll be great. Click on the subject to go to the start

Big Brother and the British Media

Big Brother and the British Media

(selling you birthright for mess of pottage)

This essay looks at the phenomenal success of Big Brother. It describes Endemol, Big Brothers creator/orchestrator, outlining its role in world media. This essay assents to the traditions that have spawned the hybrid text of the Big Brother format (Mathijs and Jones 2004:96), however, it does not chronicle the development of the genre that some have defined as Reality TV. The essay looks at why Big Brother has been so successful, and discusses the contemporary British media in the mirror image of Big Brother’s presented reality.  It discusses the complex conflicts and interrelationships present in the contemporary British media, as it enters a converging media landscape. This takes us to the question of whether ‘the writing is on the wall’ for the contemporary British media.

This year Endemol announced a half year turnover, in excess of €516,000,000. With a stock market value of  €1,894,999,936, it describes itself as a leading global company that creates entertainment ideas, selling these branded ideas to the world's broadcasters, and exploiting its brands through multiple media, such as mobile phones, and the Internet (Endemol 2006).

78.6% of Endemol’s value is fixed in real people narratives. The value of this virtual real estate is approximately €1.4 billion (Euronext 2006). A further 11.4% of its business relates to the internet and mobile phone market, and it targets a media industry, seeking to gain maximum revenue from minimal cost (Endemol 2006). In 1999 Endemol launched Big Brother in the Netherlands and launched onto the world stage in 2000. Having been successful in Germany, Spain and the USA, it was incarnated in the UK, and is now franchised to more than 20 countries (Wikipedia 2006).

The writer would assert that Big Brother’s structure utilises the fairy tale narrative, as investigated by Vladimir Propp, whose work outlined the fundamental operations that form the structure of folklore narratives. In his analysis he defined 5 story elements, 8 potential character types, and 31 plot operant factors (Propp 1968, cited by Berger 1982:24), making the orchestration of a plot-line, easier. This fairytale allusion mirrors a British media mindset of defined polarities of black and white, and fairy tale plot-lines – evidenced in such media coverage as Charle’s and Diana’s wedding, and the fixation with the prince and princess relationships that follow every Big Brother conclusion. The simple formula provides the audience with an understandable narrative, where there are good guys, bad guys, forces to overcome, a maid to be won, and a prize to secure. This fairy tale imperative was demonstrated in the 2006 story line, when the media labelled princess, Nicky, had been evicted. Endemol, under the guise of Channel 4, intervened and facilitated her readmission, and reacquaintance with the media labelled hero, Pete. However, this violation of the democratic premise of the vote, and indignation over the money invested in the original evictions, led to the biggest volley of complaints in the show’s history, with over 600 official complaints filed with Ofcom and over 2500 referred to ICSTIS, the premium rate regulator (BBC News 2006).

Curran and Seaton (2002:181) state that commercial television does not create programmes, it encapsulates audiences. Big Brother’s greatest strength is its ability to reach multiple audiences, due to the layers built onto its narrative format. This enables more product to be squeezed out of the developing narrative. The media effectively farms the contestants like aphids in a dairy ant colony. The ants hold the aphids captive, fulfilling their needs, so the ants can live off their products. Stimulating their willing captives, when they choose to, they cause them to produce the secretions they need. Mathijs and Jones (2004:96) suggest that although seemingly complicated, the layers are very simple, and are as follows:
The Docu-Soap, the background to the tale, incorporating plot twists such as controversial readmissions, revelations of villainy, discovery of the lovers, all enabling further mediated products.
The Popularity Contest provides material for gossip merchants, such as chat magazines, talk shows, tabloids, blog sites and the internet chat forums. It also generates further income for the channel, through featured text comments that are streamed below screen action, becoming mediated content.
The Competition, where votes generate huge revenues, also provides for an additional programme to interview the newly emerged celebrity creation. Additional programmes follow where selected audiences discuss their feelings and further predictions.

The Fly-on-the-wall Documentary, filling the gaps between adverts, provides a contrast to the highly edited, high octane, less real, Reality TV.
The Game Show, where contestants seek to win the game through sets tasks and competitions, and their own ability to win favour, marks the players out as winners or losers.
The Investigative Documentary exists where the lives of the contestants are plundered for friends, relatives, and/or ex’s with saleable history. Biressi and Nunn (2005:145) comment that the individual development of characters, is a commodity that will be used or discarded based on its continuing utility, revealing a media industry that is amorally blinded by the saleability of present popularity (Thomson 2002).

    The success of Big Brother’s hybrid format reveals a media machine, interacting via multiple technologies. Interactions that follow traditional exchange models, such as the press reporting happenings, and less traditional, informally structured interactions occurring via new technology, such as websites and blogs. Big Brother has emerged into a media convergence that has seen radio stations stream live presenters on web video, provide chat forums, use text for votes and requests, and prefer email to ‘snail-mail’. Big Brother highlights the central role played by the convergent agency of telecoms, specifically mobile and the Internet, which explains Endemol’s investment in this area.

Big Brothers populist approach has been greeted differently by the media community, and reveals the power that remains in the constraints of it’s culture and norms, notably the inherent social conflict within the British media, where identity is defined by opposition (Berger 1982:30). This constraint is not evident in the unstructured media, the virtual communities of personal websites, blogs, chat rooms, sms and text, where criteria of education, background, class, or location is less evident, and ages are notably lower (O’Sullivan et al 2003:228). These communities threaten the established commercial media, presenting a growing audience that is already beginning to attract advertisers.
Channel 4 has also experienced regulatory constraint and mild censure at the hand of Ofcom, in their role to protect the interests of the viewer and the State. There are those who suspect Ofcom of leaning toward competition and open trade, rather than toward quality and a control agenda, due to it’s stated light touch policy (Clerke 2005:3). This light touch could be read as confirmation of a continuing assent to the liberal theories of the freedom of the press, and the promotion of a free market (Curran and Seaton 2002:287) - a touch further lightened by the recent lifting of sponsorship regulations for commercial channels (Ofcom 2006a).
The constraints of the law are evident throughout the presentation of the show, as live dialogue is continually interrupted to censor contestants private opinions of others. This reflects the British media’s fear of a litigious society. There remain constraints of access, with significant, though diminishing, numbers of people unable to access all media channels, and 43% not yet on the web (Ofcom 2006b). Restraint remains in regard to the significant investment in traditional media generation hardware, and the need to gain return through it. The profit imperative is by far the most significant constraint. It has led to the massive rise in the low-cost, high-return narratives epitomised by Big Brother. This profit imperative has led to exploitative plotlines, and a financing structure reliant on premium rate numbers.

Within the media there is a condescending philosophy of ‘give them what they want’, a packaged reality where good is good, and bad is bad, and there is an ‘and finally’ with an ‘Ahhh!’ (Cummings et al 2003:14). Behind this condescension lies a polarisation within the structured media, where a high-brow institution defines itself in opposition to the vulgarity that is the tabloid obsession with Big Brother culture.

It could be asserted that the British media is conquered. There has been a risk aversive culture within the British media, where profit and ratings are the only indication of success (Curran and Seaton 2002:165). Cummings et al (2003:xii) assert that it is understood within the industry that programmes need to have a first person narrative to have a chance of being commissioned. Endemol offer this proven package, including the necessary icons and structures. Big Brother has greatly profited Channel 4, who hold the contract for Big Brother until the end of 2007 (Endemol 2006). However, ITV have declared interest, and that would seem to be in Endemol’s interests. The contemporary British media seems more than willing to enter into any Faustian pact, as long as it gives them the audiences, who, the writer believes, are unlikely to love them enough to save their souls!

In conclusion, Germain Greer proclaimed that Big Brother was not the end of civilisation as we know it, but, in fact, civilisation as we know it (Cummings et al. 2003:xii). This essay has demonstrated that Big Brother bears a striking resemblance to the media that seeks to feed from it. The media’s complicity has been key to Big Brother’s prominence in a synergistic transfer of hype and type. We see a reliance on new and developing technologies, diverse money streams and hybrid formats that are set against a reliance on the traditional narrative of the fairytale. Big Brother’s success may be but one more step away from the Riethian dogma of "inform, educate and entertain" (O’Sullivan et al. 2003:204). When the government set up Channel 4 in the 1980’s it was to set public service standards for commercial TV, however the standard set would seem to be predominantly commercial, rather than public service (Curran and Seaton 2002:165).

The contemporary British media is both convergent and divergent. All media formats are converging through the agency of new technologies and the pursuit of ratings. The technology is also creating a divergent media of informal networks, where content is driven by opinion and perspective, no longer waiting for the media industry to notice a contribution. This has not been missed by the politicians, who are encouraged to create websites/blogs (Capell 2006). Ofcom reports that there were over 35 million blogs worldwide in April 2006 and a new one is created every second (Ofcom 2006b), and all accessible from the UK by fixed line, and increasingly mobile phones.
The government has sought to create restraints, walls, around the British media, through various authorities until 2003, and subsequently its consolidation in Ofcom. This would seem to have little effect on the new emerging, globally accessible media.
The writing is on the wall, it says ‘ there is no wall’.

Word count: 1,729

Reading list:
BBC News (2006) “Watchdog checks Big Brother vote.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4782595.stm Accessed on  24th October 2006.

Berger A. (1982) Media Analysis Techniques. SAGE Publications, London.

Biressi A. Nunn H. (2005). Reality TV: Realism and Revelation. Wallflower Press. London.

Capell K. (2006) “Europe’s politicians embrace web 2.0” http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/oct2006/db20061024_653130.htm Accessed on 22nd October 2006

Clerke S. (2005) “80 years on: the impact of TV in a new media age.” http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/about/CI/CP/Our_Society_Today/Spotlights_2005/tv_3.aspx?ComponentId=12986&SourcePageId=12988  Accessed on  25th October 2006

Cummings D. Clark B. Mapplebeck V. Dunkley C. Barnfield G. (2003) Reality TV: How Real is Real. Hodder & Stoughton, London.

Curran J. Seaton J. (2002) Power Without Responsibility (5th Edition). Routledge, London.

Endemol (2006) “First half year results: analyst call” http://www.companywebcast.nl/webcast//player/v1_0/player.asp?id=645 Accessed on 20th October 2006

Euronext (2006) “Fact sheet: Endemol” http://www.euronext.com/trader/factsheet/0,5372,1732_6834,00.html?quotes=stock&selectedMep=2&idInstrument=139128&shareprice=ENDEMOL&isinCode=NL0000345692 Accessed on 21st October 2006.

Mathijs E. Jones J. (2004) Big Brother international: formats, critics and publics. Wallflower Press, London.

Ofcom (2006a) “Channel sponsorship” http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/sponsorship/statement/.  Accessed on 24th October 2006.

Ofcom (2006b) The Communications Market: Ofcom report. Ofcom, London.

O’Sullivan T. Dutton B. Rayner P. (2003). Studying the Media. (Third Edition) Hodder Arnold, London.

Thomson K S. (2002) Dinosaurs, the Media and Andy Warhol. American Scientist 90 (3) 222

Wikipedia (2006) “Reality television” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_television Accessed on 25th October 2006.

IQ and social construction

IQ So Few Letters So Much Control

Reliance on Intelligence Quotient (IQ) scores for assessing intelligence in children is a controversial issue, particularly when compared to the emergent flexible intelligence theories. This essay will look at the nature of what has come to be known as IQ, and will look to place this search for an objective measure of intelligence, in history. It will explain why reliance on IQ scores is so controversial, and the implications of emergent theories of intelligence for children in schools, will be discussed.

Subsequent to an overview of the practical formalisation of the IQ test, the essay will look at the profound effects the persistent fixed capacity view has had on the education and status of children (Gleitman et al 2004:561), wherever it’s concepts have been embraced. The impact this measurement has on the expectation and causal relationships of the child will then be discussed, and the conclusion will draw together the main points including commenting on the fixed nature of IQ outcomes, contrasted with the more open potential of emerging concepts of intelligences.

The Development of IQ Testing    
    There is no single agreed definition as to what is actually meant by ‘intelligence’ (Gleitman et al 2004:558), and there are wide variations of emphasis between researchers and experts. Some lean toward a persons ability to think creatively or conceptually, others lean toward the person’s ability to gain and retain new knowledge. Gleitman et al (2004) further assert there are still others who view intelligence in its more utilitarian application, for instance, how a person practically handles new situations. Despite this absence of agreement as to what intelligence is, there seems no absence of desire to test for it.
    Throughout history there have been examples of acuity tests, where the tester sought to establish either suitability or unsuitability for a given role. One of the earliest examples, circa 2200 BC, finds the Chinese emperor, via a set of oral tests, determining his civil servant’s competence (Aiken1996:2). This propensity toward definition continued through ancient Greece, where we find Plato discussing the criteria for his elite ‘Philosopher King’. Having covered all other attributes, he concludes he must attain to calculate and count,
    ‘if he’s even going to be a human being.’ (Waterfield 1998:252).

    Aiken (1996:4,5) cites 12 significant developments leading to the creation of the first usable intelligence test, by a team commissioned by the French government, led by Alfred Binet in 1905. It was defined in relation to a concept of ‘mental age’, a phrase still in common usage to this day. This was to be used to target additional input into the learning curriculum of children who were struggling, however Aiken (1996) postulates there would be derived benefit from removing ‘idiots and morons’ from the class to the benefit of the able.
    The further revised Binet-Simon scale in 1908 (Aiken 1996:4), incorporating the German psychologist William Stern's concept of IQ, was subsequently adopted, particularly in America. It found almost immediate application in the militaries war effort, in the vetting of officer candidates. Within a decade states in America were legislating for mandatory testing in all schools and educational professionals were gaining good income from freelance testing (Aiken 1996:17).
    There have been many voices of opposition to the principle concepts of IQ, however, until the release of ‘Frames Of Mind’ (Gardner 1983), there had not been a concept able to capture the zeitgeist of the educational establishment. This concept and those like it have had a significant effect on our approaches to how children should be taught.

    Controversies arise with reliance on IQ scores in areas such as whether or not intelligence is a fixed quotient, this, at times, being argued from a socioeconomic perspective.

    Gleitman et al (2004:561) state that many writers propose that IQ is a stable measurement, with a child tested at seven years of age, having the same IQ score at seventy years of age. Aiken (1996:188,312) remarks that the measurement does not become stable until the child reaches Piaget’s stage of ‘formal operation’, a stage of development where the cognitive processes become formalised, and the child can think abstractly, having a concept of self, and other. This notion of a stable measurement then had profound implications in the field of education provision – there being no longer any need to waste expenditure on children of a limited capacity, or quotient, the expenditure instead being invested in the able child. Under this system, there is no recourse for those tested, they must accept their lot.

    Gleitman et al (2004:249,306) report that education and positive socialisation may have a beneficial effect on core IQ functions, such as memory and reasoning. A significant study regarding the adoption of children from destitute backgrounds into socially competent families has yielded fascinating insights. Capron and Duyme (1989) found evidence that the intelligence level of adopted children was raised by nearly 16 points or more, through positive socialisation. This report in itself would suggest that IQ is not a fixed quotient, but can change with varying degrees of socioeconomic input. It also indicated the role of aspiration toward the achieved status of the parent family.

    The issues of gender, race and genetics have created significant controversy, with many conclusions extrapolated from associated IQ scores. Irwing and Lynn’s (2005) work has united these themes, most noticeably causing controversy on the gender differential, where females scores, on average, are 5% lower than males in IQ testing. At no point do they question whether the nature of a test, pioneered by men, and developed predominantly by men, would have a potentially confounding bias. Lynn’s own work (Lynn: Date Unknown) has also encompassed race differences and eugenics, his analysis of race being extremely controversial. He places South Asians as winners, the Sub Saharan Africans as the losers, and the Europeans in a comfortable second place. On his own website he suggests that improved nutrition has been the main cause of raised IQ scores in Japan. This causality has been widely reported. Studies in the USA (Shonkoff and Phillips (Eds.) 2000:204) found a simple lack of iron in the diet of deprived groups had significant intellectual effect. Lynn however, goes on to propose that the reason for racial IQ disparity is genetic.

Emergent Thinking
    Howard Gardner (1983) in his seminal work ‘Frames Of The Mind’, sought to redefine the landscape of intelligence perception, placing his definition of intelligence on a new playing field. He sought to create a definition that would elude the quest and the test. His definition reads,
‘An intelligence is the ability to solve problems, or create products that are valued
 within one or more cultural settings’  (Howard1993:xiv)
The intrinsic strength of this approach lies in how personal aptitudes are perceived, and used as pathways to learning. The discovery of the child’s intelligence pathways facilitates motivation to learn and develop in partnership with an educator, this clearly contrasting with the IQ score as a fixed marker. In the latter part of this work Gardner (1993) discusses the phenomenon of common sense and it’s essential role in a reasoned life. The writer suggests this to be a phenomenon uncommon amongst those with notably high IQ scores.

    Having let go of the Piagetian concepts he once espoused (Gardner 1982:6), concepts of fixed stages of child development, Gardner (1983) later goes on, in ‘Frames Of Mind’, to espouse a fluid evolutionary development of the higher brain functions, or  intelligences. The seven intelligences he has put forward have developed from the work of authors such as Vygotsky (cited by Rieber 1999). His ‘intelligences’ are grouped into 3 areas as follows:
Intelligences of Thinking and Thought - these are Verbal-linguistic, Logical-mathematical and Naturalist;
Intelligences of the Senses - these are Visual-spatial, Body-kinesthetic and Auditory-musical; and
Intelligences of Communication - these are Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Communication

The Jug and Mugs approach as described by Rodgers and Freidburg (1994:212), where the passive mugs, pupils, are filled by the knowledge full jugs, teachers, children in this structured environment quickly learn how to conform to the expected norms via it’s punishments, rewards, bells and whistles. Until recent years this was the traditional approach to schooling in the UK, where regular tests provided the operant conditioning required (Atkinson et al.1993:264).  Those who achieved, received positive affirmation, and those who did not achieve, received corrective measures, usually of a disaffirming nature, and so leading to the extinction of the motivation to learn (Gleitman et al 2004:128). This model has an authoritarian closed philosophy, where the educator is in control and the child is the conditioned. The child that will do well in this environment will require a good memory, an ability to quickly assimilate facts and a figures, and an ability to function in an ordered setting. In this behaviourist environment learning is seen to have taken place when the pupil is able to do something they could not do prior to being educated (Owens 1998:71). Watkins (2003) warns that this orientation towards educational targets actually lowers learning performance, with children acquiring facts without understanding or application. These children struggle to apply their knowledge effectively and avoid assistance. This may be due in part to the test or task operating as a personal validation stimulus. This model of interaction tends to be depersonalising, as it is focused, not on the child, but what the system can make of the child. This utilitarian culture does not favour the social, activist, or kinetic learner. This approach has the advantage of being defined, ordered and quantified.
    The cognitive approach, however, would view learning to have taken place when the learner could demonstrate insight and realisation, as well as perform skills consummate to the sum of the learning (Honey and Mumford 1992:2). This approach values what the child knows already, and seeks to build on this as a growing foundation. The cognitive approach is an open philosophy that relies on a developing dialog of learning. Race (2006) put forward a ‘Ripple’ model where motivation is the starting point, his ripples are: wanting to learn, learning by doing, learning through feedback and making sense of what has been learned. He suggests that the goal is the digestion of the experience of learning. These approaches are becoming the new norms within our education system. The model of multiple intelligences fits best in the cognitive camp.
A recent brochure was distributed by North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) (2006), outlining it’s policies with regard to assessment in schools. Whilst acknowledging the need to have assessments, and the need to quantify educational progress against national standards, the language is open and inclusive. The brochure lays out the delivery of education within NLC’s schools in the context of a relationship of all parties. The concepts of motivation, learning intentions, and mutually agreed success criteria, are clearly enshrined. This move toward a more inclusive reward based culture may not be in the long term as advantageous to the solitary reflector, however it will not present a significant disadvantage. The increased social environment and learning based language development should facilitate a more fluid transition to  self directed and higher education. A potential disadvantage in this culture is the creation of a generation that has been encouraged to self reflect and self direct. The disadvantage of this set up is it is hard to define, difficult to quantify and slower to produce. This is outweighed by its maintenance of motivation.

    We are set up to put labels on things, yet we seem resistant to anyone labelling us, unless we like the label that is. The IQ test was a product of its time, designed to validate the removal of the deficient from the system. Designed by the men who designed the type of school the test would validate. In effect it was a political device (Kelly 1999 cited by Bartlett et al.2006:213) that effectively enabled the French State to target its resources towards the children that would be of civil use. The test was accepted by the behaviourist movement, as it seemed to validate the modifying agenda of the education system. The highest achievers in the test were also the high achievers in the system. This unfortunately did not pose the question as to how this was failing so many children.
    Like the predictions of the fortune teller, the IQ test seems to predict the childs’ future. This essay casts doubt on its infallible eye and suggests amongst other things the placebo effect is at work (Gleitman et al.2004:692).
Unfortunately Binet’s caution that these scores should not be taken too literally because of the ‘plasticity of intelligence and the inherent margin of error in the test’ (Fancher 1985, cited in Wikipedia) was soon to be forgotten, but not forever.
Whereas the model of IQ states a finite future conforming it’s adherents to a future of limited outcomes, the multiple intelligences model frames a series of potentials that can be realised and developed.
                                            Word count: 2,140

Reference list:

Aiken L R. (1996) Assessment of Intellectual Functioning (Second edition), Plenum Press, New York.

Atkinson R L. Atkinson R C. Smith E E. Bem D J. (1993) Introduction to Psychology (Eleventh Edition) Harcourt Brace, Florida.

Bartlett S. Burton D. Peim N. (Eds) (2006) Introduction to education studies. Sage, London.

Capron C. Duyme M. (1989) Assessment of Effects of Socioeconomic Status on IQ in a Full Cross-Fostering Study,  Nature 552-553.

Gardner H. (1982) Art, Mind, and Brain: A cognitive approach to creativity. Basic Books Inc, New York.

Gardner H. (1983) Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Fontana Press, London.

Gleitman H. Fridlund A J. Reisberg D. (2004) Psychology (Sixth edition), Norton, New York.

Honey P. Mumford A. (1992) The manual of learning styles. Peter Honey, Maidenhead.

Irwing P. Lynn R. (2005) Sex differences in means and variability on the progressive
matrices in university students: A meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychology, 96 (4) 505-524

Lynn R. (Date unknown) “Richard Lynn” http://www.rlynn.co.uk/ 14.10.06

North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) (2006) Assessment: the essential guide for parents and carers. Learning Unlimited, Scotland.

Owens G. (1998) Behaviourist approaches to adult learning. In: Sutherland (Ed) Adult

learning: a reader. 70-81 Kogan Page, London.

Race P. (2004) “How does learning happen best?” http://www.city.londonmet.ac.uk/deliberations/eff.learning/happen.html

Rieber R W. (1999) The Collected Works of L S Vygotsky: Volume 6, Scientific Legacy. Plenum, New York.

Rogers G. Freiberg H J. (1994) Freedom to Learn. (Third Edition). Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Shonkoff J. Phillips D. (Eds) (2000) From Neurons to Neighbourhoods: The science of early childhood development. National Academy Press, Washington.

Waterfield R (1998) Plato Republic. Oxford University Press inc. New York

Watkins C (2003)  Association of Teachers and Lecturers , The Education Union.

Widipedia (date unknown) “The Stanford-Binet IQ Test” http://en.widipedia.org/wiki/Stanford-Binet-Intelligence-Scale