America: Numbed by Violent Images in the Media?

In today’s news media, the flood of negative news far outweighs the positive pieces. There seems to be a never-ending supply of conflicts that occur around the world to drive the 24-hour news cycle. This in turn means that the audience has virtually a nonstop view of violent and controversial images. Because of the rapid increase in the ease of access to this media, audiences are becoming more accustomed to seeing these types of video clips or images. One of the problems with this is that occasionally the pictures in newspapers or clips on tv that show violent images are taken out of context and provide a skewed image of what any particular conflict actually is. While this is a problem, the more significant question that must be asked is: Is the American public being desensitized from the violent images in the media? The answer must be a resounding yes. While most would agree that the conflicts occurring today appear to have a more violent character to them, it must be noted that technological advances have contributed to this notion. Because nearly everybody in America has access to either a smartphone, computer, or television, violent or graphic images are more easily viewed. This has created a media market driven by a negative news cycle. Because of the sheltered and more stable environment that Americans live in, these types of shocking images give people a more in-depth look at the conditions that some people in other parts of the world are having to live through, something that most Americans have never experienced.

The increase in these images largely has it’s cons and the clips being presented in the media shouldn’t be viewed by all ages, but they also allow people to get a reality check of their individual circumstances. Without seeing the truth about what is going on around the country and the rest of the world, people would be largely uninformed of the threats around them and significant events. The violent images can often contribute to the detail of a story and provide a necessary element of truth.

Is all Media Biased?

Of course we all know the answer to the title that of course, yes all media is biased without a doubt. Bias (according to our journalism textbook) “is primarily selective storytelling, not objective science.” Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print 

When reviewing this topic with Chandler Lindsey, what I found rather interesting is that the media often gravitates towards bias in politics while ignoring all other forms or over looking other forms in the media. It is often more apparent with the bigger name brand news stations like CNN or Fox News when, a story is biased about a politician but, as stated in our interview with a fellow classmate bias is ALL AROUND IN THE MEDIA. Why bias is so apparent is because, America is a free press country allowing bias (opinions from the reporter and audience) to be clear in the story. Bias has became a norm within the news that it is often overlooked.

A great example of this is just how women are perceived in the media because, it is in fact a biased outlook on life. In the movie industry women make up about 50% of the entire industry but, are hidden behind the scenes due to male infatuation within and higher credibility given to the males because of a dominant “species” effect on society as a whole. Not only is this an example of bias in the media but, a stereotype and bias within society that has shaped a cognitive schema and misconstructed our own cultural competence on our own well being. Not only are women perceived as bias but, after the 9/11 attacks (and with good meaning to the safety of America) any citizen who was from the Middle East was considered a “terrorist.” Bias can also be how the media perceives any type of person, social standing, religion, culture, etc. In conclusion, the media can make anything sound bias. Is there a solution to this?

A better way to understand a simplified version of bias in the media is the Prezi presented below  that gives a further explanation on bias in the media

“Bias within the media also comes within two assumptions” according to Evan Thomas Newsweek Magazine. This is possible because, along the way someone made it possible for someone to believe that the press is to close to a subject and that reporters are out to get their subjects. Much like the cartoon presented to the side the media and society are at fault for a biased view. It is getting spoon fed and we citizens are taking the bait. How do we make this stop? The answer is simple. As a Journalist be open to BOTH sides of a story instead of a one sided scoop. Where as a listener of the news as the old saying goes don’t always believe what you hear. Just remember all media is biased to an extent, and be thankful for it because without the submersion of media think of how boring our culture would be.

International Organizations

The OU campus has a rich international student life. Although I have yet to join many of the clubs I’m very interested in becoming involved with (frankly, due to lack of time), I have joined two so far.

The first was Baccano, the Italian club on campus and an obvious choice since I’m taking Italian classes here. I was very excited to experience Italian culture and perhaps even practice my novice speaking skills, but I have been sorely disappointed with this organization. Only two meetings were held this semester, unfortunately at times I could not possibly fit into my schedule. Understandably, the organizers have lives of their own to maintain, but I was quite sad that they could only manage two meetings in 4 months, while French club meets fortnightly.

More recently, I met the president of the International Advisory Council, Eaton Baptiste. He and I began speaking about what the council does, which is bring together all of the more regional international student organizations (African Students Association, Indian Students Association, etc) to host large events throughout the year, such as the United World Thanksgiving dinner I attended last Monday. Excited about my possible involvement, I signed up for the volunteer list and will be participating in the interviews to become a part of the board next semester.

For the rest of my time at OU, I plan to become heavily involved in many international student organizations. This semester was a bit of a fluke in terms of involvement, but I maintain hope that this will certainly not be the case in the future!


Response to Feldman

Feldman’s book, The Rise of the New Islamic State, provides much-needed insight into religious governments. This book works to build bridges between the religious government style of the Islamic State and the democratic government style of most western countries. Feldman explains the Islamic State in a way that westerners can understand and relate too. Although this book was a difficult read, I found it insightful and now understand more about religious governments. Feldman uses several concepts to improve the readers understanding of religious states. These include bridge building, shared democratic values, balanced power in a religious state, the importance of political institutions, the positive effects of religion on government, religions ability to provide justice, and invoking tolerance & support of religious states.


Feldman’s main goal for, The Rise of the New Islamic State, is to build bridges between religious governments, like the Islamic State, and democratic governments, like the United States. He hopes that pointing out similarities between the two governing styles will create a better understanding, resulting in more tolerance, acceptance, and support for the Islamic State. These similarities helped me to better grasp the idea of a government based on religion. I agree with Feldman that bridge building is the best way to create understanding and tolerance among people with vastly different views. However, unlike Feldman, I think that just because you tolerate different beliefs does not mean that you need to go out of your way to support them. Bridge building does help me achieve my goals of understanding other religions and learning about belief systems that are different than my own.


The largest similarity Feldman pointed out was the idea of religious states having elements of democracy. He explains that the goal of many Muslims is actually to incorporate elements of democracy into their religious government. This would allow the people to be more involved in choosing exactly how their government implements religion into law using a majority rule tactic. Although I think this idea is an improvement from letting government leaders dictate the law, I do not think the idea of majority rule is a fair way to interpret religion. Religion is such an individual and sacred part of people’s lives. I believe that each person should be able to choose their religion and how they let it influence them. Individuals should be free to live their lives without the burden of having to follow laws that do not apply to their religion. Otherwise the minority will end feeling oppressed. Something as deeply personal as religion should not be subject to government rule. However, I do understand that not everyone has the luxury of religious freedom and Feldman’s idea of a more democratic religious state is a huge step in the right direction.


The idea of having a religious state was not something I knew much about before reading this book. Feldman explains that this form of government has benefits and drawbacks, but if properly regulated can prove to be an effective governing method. He explains that a balance of power is key to insuring that a religious state remains effective and uncorrupt. I can understand how religion and politics are closely connected and can be easily intermingled. Religion provides people with standards for living their lives, these standards determine the kind the values and laws they want from their government. For example, a conservative Christian who believes that God has a plan for every human life, would probably vote yes on a bill to make abortion illegal. However, not everyone practices the same religion and has the same belief system, so it is essential to have a government that allows for all belief systems to have a say. I do not see how this would be possible in a religious state.


Unlike Feldman, I (like Haberman) believe that religion is all about ones personal experience with God. Feldman places a higher value on political institutions, than on ideas or personal experience. He argues that the laws mean nothing unless you have the ability to enforce them. Although enforcing religious laws is important, I do not believe that it is the government’s job. Instead, we as individuals should show self discipline when following a religious path. Of course looking to religious leaders for guidance is important, but having a personal relationship with God is much more valuable than having the government telling you how to be a good believer. You will never be able to stay committed to a religion unless it is what you truly believe, not what the government tells you is right.


Feldman argues that the highest value in religion is justice and invoking religious justice will help improve society. I both agree and disagree with this idea. I do agree with Feldman that religion can be a tool to improve the overall good of society. The most obvious example of this is Mother Teresa. However, I do not feel that religion should be used as a tool to determine what is just for a society as a whole. Not everyone has the same religious ideals or even idea of what is right and wrong. Trying to use a religious system to evoke social justice among people with different beliefs leads to massive amounts of tension and conflict. I believe that religion is a unique experience for everyone. Trying to get an entire society to agree on what is just based on their religious beliefs is kind of like trying to get everyone to fit into the same size of pants. Because everyone is not the same, one religious view cannot fit everyone.


In the book, The Rise of the New Islamic State, Feldman challenges the reader to become more tolerant, accepting, and supportive of religious states. He makes several well written and clearly thought out points about the benefits of having a religious state. Although I agreed with many of his points, I do not think that a religious state is the most effective form of government due to its innate nature to oppress those with different religious beliefs. By separating church and state, people are able to practice religion as they choose. This allows for a more personal connection with God. Although I did not agree entirely with Feldman’s book, it helped me clearly define and achieve many of my goals for studying religion. I discovered that learning about/being accepting of different cultures and expanding my views on religion are my main goal for this class. Feldman’s book educated me on a type of religion I previously did not know much about and helped me achieve my goals for studying religion.

OU Cousin

My OU cousin’s name is katra. She is 24 and from slovenia, getting her masters in photography here at ou. 
SHE IS ONE OF THE SWEETEST PEOPLE I HAVE EVER MET– albiet very frank which i love– AND SPEAKS ENGLISH ALMOST LIKE A NATIVE. we met in the crowded jim thorpe multicultural centre, the entire building filled to the brim with american and foreign students hoping to find a connection with their overseas counterpart. i entered the building hoping to find a russian speaking ou cousin, somebody who could help me develop my russian while i helped them with their english. after ten minutes of mingling with some spanish and french girls, i found katra. she had on the coolest cat shirt i’d ever seen, and rocked a very Julia-esque top-bun. i immediately introduced myself and we just clicked. the bond over cat shirts, photography, and beyoncé made us INSEPARABLE for the rest of the day and since then, we have enjoyed many a lunch together. katra and i later went to the oklahoma city state fair in october, where we ate greasy american food til we felt sick.

OU Cousin

 photos courtesy of katra petricek.


A Critical Interpretive Approach to Sociotechnical Systems

My colleague, Martin Wolske and I recently completed our paper for the 2014 Prato Community Informatics Research Network conference proceedings. A preprint of the paper is now available via the ShareOK open-access research repository at the University of Oklahoma.  In the paper, we introduce a Critical Interpretive Sociotechnical (CIS) framework, which describes our underlying approach to community informatics teaching, research, and practice with individuals and groups in local communities.

Here is the abstract:

This paper extends the theoretical framework underlying the Community Informatics (CI) Studio. The CI Studio has been described as the use of studio-based learning (SBL) techniques to support enculturation into the field of CI. The SBL approach, closely related to John Dewey’s inquiry-based learning, is rooted in the apprenticeship model of learning in which students study with master designers or artists to develop their craft. In this paper, we introduce our critical interpretive sociotechnical (CIS) framework as the conceptual framework underlying the CI Studio course and pedagogy. In doing so, we explain how the CI Studio can be understood a pathway for advancing community-defined social justice goals through critical pedagogy and participatory design techniques. We describe our embrace of both critical and interpretive perspectives as the foundation upon which the CI Studio supports the following ideas: Instructors, students, and community partners can collaborate as co-learners and co-creators of knowledge exploring current topics in community informatics; theory and praxis can be brought together in dialog to ground transformative, liberative action and reflection in community spaces; and multiple perspectives can be embraced to promote a culture of epistemological pluralism. We conclude by providing a set of principles that summarize our CIS approach, particularly for those who wish to use and further develop the CI Studio pedagogy in their own research, teaching, and practice.

Download the full PDF via the ShareOK website here.

Stephen Kinzer Speech

Stephen Kinzer, a professor at Brown University, visited OU to speak about US relations with Iran. A former foreign correspondent for the New York Times, he is an expert in his field. As I do not have an extensive knowledge of Iran, the opportunity to hear Kinzer speak was an exciting one.

He began by giving us a brief overview of Iran’s history. Unlike most “fake” Middle Eastern countries that have no real history, Iran has a very rich heritage, stretching back to the days of the Persian Empire. More recently, during the 1930s, Iran was on the road to democracy, led by a harsh but visionary leader, Reza Shah. However, when parliamentarian Mossadeq was nominated as prime minister and announced his plans to nationalize Iranian oil, the British, who depended on this valuable resource, convinced the United States to overthrow Mossadeq, citing communism as the motive. So, in the summer of 1953, Kermit Roosevelt led the charge to overthrow the prime minister, bribing more than half the newspapers in Iran to publish incriminating stories and hiring famous gangsters to rampage through the streets and yell, “we love Mossadeq and communism.” At this point, the entire democratic system came to an end, Iraq attacked a weak Iran, and the United States’ opposition to the country was sealed with its support of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

After this enlightening account of the true history of Iranian affairs, Kinzer explained that the US and Iran have more in common than often realized. An alliance or at least an agreement could benefit both sides and end this needless conflict. This talk opened up a new interest in the subject that I would not have discovered otherwise.

My OU Cousin: Olivia Perret

I could not be luckier to be a part of the OU Cousins program, an organization that matches international students with American ones in order to foster new friendships and cultural ties. On the day of the matching party, I was extremely worried that I would not find a cousin, as I had heard rumors that there were far more Americans than international students to be matched with. Arriving late because of previous obligations, I was immediately overwhelmed by the manner in which we were meant to meet international students. I attempted conversations, but was forced to switch to speak with new people every few minutes. Then, I met Olivia, a student from the south of France. In my nervousness, it was difficult to strike up a conversation at first. But I could tell we would be friends; there was a connection there. Immediately, something threatened our possible friendship: another girl interrupted our conversation – quite rudely – and introduced herself with a commandeering attitude, as if she wanted to steal Olivia away! But after she finally realized that a cousin agreement had already almost been established, she backed off. Olivia and I agreed to sign up as each other’s cousin, much to my excitement!


Olivia and me at the OU Cousins pumpkin decorating Halloween party

Being Olivia’s OU cousin has turned out better than I could have ever expected. We meet up nearly every weekend, attending international events, baking cookies, and watching movies together. She is in a STEM field and I a journalism one, but we still find things in common, from our love of travel to our taste in movies! Olivia is one of my closest friends here at OU, and without a doubt one of the most caring, intelligent, and sweetest people I know. I am lucky to have met her and to have fostered such an amazing friendship, with the help of the OU Cousins program.


The Land of Putin

Am I afraid to go abroad?

The notoriously bad food, Russian mafia, and vodka-soaked, drunken individuals do not scare me. It is the cryptic cyrillic letters, in their analogous twists, alike those of the Latin alphabet yet so averse in sound. It is knowing that I purposely stranded myself in a sea these cyrillic letters and sounds, knowing that I will not be able to communicate my thoughts entirely. I know the feeling fully, as my experiences in Colombia have exposed me to the feelings of discomfort and frustration, the language a barrier in my relationships and interactions. But staying in Colombia also sharpened my senses, made me a better speaker, and brought me closer to the South American culture and mentality. Because of Colombia I thrive off of discomfort now, placing myself in Russian classes and trying everything, from slacklining to rock climbing to Indian dishes that don’t even look edible. So the discomfort and fear of messing up is good, actually. Almost addicting. I truly do not have any reservations about studying abroad because I know that I will love it, and I know I will overcome the language barrier. Practicing with my fellow classmates, reading, listening, observing the language will be the key to overcoming this. My only tangible problem is the funds, which I will scour the Internet for and probably procure through some English and Maths tutoring while I’m there. The fact that the Department of Defence is no longer funding the Boren Scholarship for students who want to go to Russia will make the scholarship search much harder but I will persevere. The Land of Putin is worth it.