Our Viewing Templates: Stereotyping

What are the things that come to your mind when you think of Italy? Is it Pasta? Pizza? The stunning and varied countryside? Or cities of art?

Apparently, “What Country” app from the iTunes store describes Italy as the home of pizza, scooters, and the Mafia, the last of which is illustrated with an image of a “Mafia parking only” sign. This Mafia reference has upset Italy’s Minister of Tourism, Michela Vittoria Brambilla , who says that the references are insulting to the dignity of Italians. Thus, Ms Brambilla has demanded that Apple remove its iPhone and iPad application, “What Country” from its online store because it uses negative stereotypes to describe Italy.

Perhaps some may think that Ms Brambilla is being a little too uptight. After all, “What Country” didn’t mean to smear Italy’s name and hopes users will “explore and discover funny, strange and exciting peculiarities of various countries around the world” through such phrases and photos. But I could understand Ms Brambilla’s action.

Media can be a powerful tool in creating or reinforcing stereotypes; it can affect the way society views them and change society’s expectations of them. Media influence is dependent on the direct experiences the public has with the issue addressed by the media. Media may not be successful in telling us what to think, but they are extremely successful in telling us what to think about it. With enough exposure to a stereotype, society may come to view it as a reality rather than as a chosen representation. Also, the image of a “Mafia parking only” sign accompanying the issue play a huge part in altering people’s standards of perception; whereas there is a saying that “a picture speaks a thousand words” proves the effectiveness of the image to a certain extent. In this case, it may lead to some having prejudices toward the Italians.

Such negative stereotypes not only affect how society view them, it also influence how people perceive themselves. The feeling that the rest of the world doesn’t respect or understand you does little to encourage a positive sense of self-worth. Hence, we should never understate the seriousness of stereotyping.

However, not all stereotyping are negative. By using stereotypes, it allows us to draw conclusion faster; whereby a complex issue could reduce to a simple understandable issue. Stereotypes are our viewing templates by which we make sense of the world around us, regardless of context and accuracy. Thus, we must be mindful about the way we stereotype things.

Read more of the news: http://www.italymag.co.uk/italy/arts-and-culture/tourism-minister-demands-removal-iphone-app

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Its everywhere: The use of technology.

As our technology progresses and advances, the use of IT gadgets and cyberspace have became part of our essential tools for communication. We often find ourselves engaging in all sorts of online social networking activities such as facebook, twitter, instant messaging, emails and blogs. Adding on to that, we are immersing in our smart phones, smsing or whatsapp-ing whenever we could; especially when we are bored.

In this article(http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/22/social-networking-cyber-scepticism-twitter), a rising number of academics say Twitter and Facebook don’t connect people – they isolate them from reality. One such academic, Turkle, views that technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world. However, defenders say theirs is just a different form of communication that people might have trouble getting used to. Also, the defenders pointed out that emails, Twitter and Facebook have led to more communication, not less – especially for people who may have trouble meeting in the real world because of great distance or social difference.

Both parties have different forms of perceptions toward this issue. Perhaps its how they have experience such communication through the society thus influence their selection in the perception process. In Turkle’s case, she had been at funerals where people checked their iPhones. Compared to the past, where people gathered in such event to have one last opportunity to view the deceased and say good-bye without engrossing in their phones. Such action contradicts with the normal script and is interpreted as disrespect for the dead and the immediate family by Turkle. Same goes for such contradicting actions of being occupied using the phones during a meal or a gathering; which beat the purpose of catching up where people are supposed to talk to each other. In which leads her to the perception of that technology is dominating our lives and make us less human.

On the other hand, one of the defenders, Kist noted that before everyone travelled on the bus or train with their heads buried in an iPad or a smart phone, they usually just travelled in silence. This is the normal script in the train where we did not see people spontaneously talking to strangers; we were just keeping to ourselves. Also, such technology as emails, Twitter and Facebook compared to mailing helps people to communicate better cross the world as one could get their message across to the other half of the world within seconds. From here, the defenders see the use of such technology does not contradict with the normal norm in our lives and also improves on it. Thus, leads to their perception that technology is a different form of communication which helps us communicates better.

Both sides have their own reasons; neither is wrong. However each side tend to oversimplificaton where they concentrates on a single aspect of the problem while disregarding others.

From my point of view, I agree with the defenders where such activities are considered as a form of communication. From social networking sites, we create conversations, events and get information about others (such as what is on their mind) and with those we make a respond. Thus, through the use of technology, we are communicating with each other non-verbally. I too, agreed with Turkle that technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Many of us are spending too much time on our gadgets and are over-doing it. As such, during a meal, none are talking to each other across the table and were engrossing in their own phones, have become something that freaks people out(including me). It feel like we are isolating each other in the real world.

Perphaps for some of us, sitting face to face with a computer/phone, feel safe and are able to express more freely than having a verbal face to face interaction. Granted there are others who are exceptions; being more expressive in the reality. However, the down side of such communication is that we could no longer see the other reactions when conversing; lack of the physical/human interactions. Many of such times, through the use of words and typos, we have to read within the lines to perceive how the other party felt. Sometimes this could lead to misunderstandings as people tend to perceive things differently.

The use of technology is a form of communication and is useful to a certain extend. Nevertheless, we should restrict the amount of time we spent on such online social networking and should hang out together more often.