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MEDIA COMM2411~ASSIGNMENT 3 James Clark, Matilda Heggie, Alex Epstein, Cassie Steeth


Speakeasy Cinema Historically a Speakeasy was a high-end unlicensed establishment housing the illegal purchasing and consumption of alcohol. The concept made famous by Celia ‘Texas’ Guinan, owner of the New York ‘300 Club’ was the inspiration for Ghita Lobenstein, founder of the Speakeasy Cinema in Melbourne. Today, the Speakeasy Cinema located at 361 Little Lonsdale Street, (above the coffee shop 100£ blend) offers an array of art house and independent films in a uniquely intimate venue. The cinema housing less than fifty, offers the cosiness of your living room with a serving of dinner and the option of a beer. With the ripe, independent Melbourne arts scene as its backdrop, Speakeasy offers an alternative to the conventions of the typical cinema. A video taken of the original ‘300 club’ owned by the infamous Celia ‘Texas’ Guinan is a soundless thirty second clip which encapsulates a typical night at the club. It indicates the prominent role Texas Guinan had in the clubs orientation. She is clearly the host; the orchestrator and the vibrant personality behind the original Speakeasy. The club, housing the elite, the beautiful and the powerful was evidently, a forum to be seen in, suggesting that not everyone was invited or could engage with the venue. ‘300 club’ was a scene for illegal drinking and raunchy entertainment quite a contrast to the Speakeasy cinema opened in Melbourne. The modern ‘Speakeasy’ boats a more modest approach to entertainment, open to anyone who shares a passion for art house and independent movies. Though similar to its original counterpart, Speakeasy cinema in Melbourne, exploits the cultural image of an underground, intimate engagement with entertainment.


Core to an understanding of Melbourne’s mysterious and ‘to be discovered’ identity is the concept of cultural preferences (Bennett & Emmison & Frow 1999). Cultural preferences are used as markers to indicate social position, suggesting that an expression of appreciation for something, isn’t merely an appreciation for aesthetic qualities, it’s a representation of the individual. People regard these preferences as moral indicators of their identity. We shape and elaborate upon our own cultural composition, not to fit into a specific mould, but as to open-endlessly seek some sort of cultural identity (Bennett & Emmison & Frow 1999). This is a big contributing factor to why people engage with art house cinema and other forms of independent arts because essentially it is an extension or an expression of who they are. Culture distinguishes the socially high form the socially low. Underground culture historically represented the socially low and dominant culture the socially high (Bennett & Emmison & Frow 1999). Though dominant culture exists because it is the socially high who impose this culture (Bennett & Emmison & Frow 1999). Money, wealth and class translate to power and influence allowing huge chain organisations to become the social norm. The dominant culture of a society often doesn’t purely obey aesthetic tastes; rather it encourages a ‘cultural capital’ whereby a suggested, legitimate cultural code is adopted by the masses (Bennett & Emmison & Frow 1999). Due to the conventions of social organisation, often the most aesthetically appreciated art forms can go unnoticed (Bennett & Emmison & Frow 1999). Melbourne’s identity as the ‘cultural capital of Australia’ is an attempt to break free from this mould and suggests that to engage most directly with the city involves more discerning behaviour. Melbourne suggests that we should evade cultural capitals and instead align ourselves with more subtle art forms.

References Thought equity Motion, 1924, New York City: Speakeasy, Online Video, Accessed 1st April 2010, <http:// www.thoughtequity.com/video/clip/3312932219_024.do?assetId=asset_7925859/clip_15526061> Bennett, T 1999, Emmison, M 1999, Frow, F 1999, Accounting for tastes, 1st edn, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge


Theage(melbourne)magazine The identity of Melbourne is presented through media outlets, such as theage(melbourne)magazine, which help shape how people interpret the city (Morris 2010). Theage(melbourne)magazine is a free publication that comes with The Age Metro towards the end of each month (Fairfax and The Age 2004). As a lifestyle magazine, theage(melbourne)magazine presents the reader with notions of how Melburnians live. But are these notions based on lived cultural experiences or cultural imaginaries (Morris 2010)? Lifestyle magazines are perceived to be reflective of a city’s culture and lifestyle. However, when these magazines were introduced in the United States over 40 years ago their purpose was not to report on existing lifestyles, instead it was to “construct and impose” (Greenberg 2000, p. 229) new ones (Greenberg 2000). Publishers and editors of these magazines did this by limiting the notion of who resided in their city. They imagined their readers/city residents as members of the middle and upper class (Greenberg 2000). Theage(melbourne)magazine imagines its reader as an inner city professional who is “sophisticated, welleducated and cosmopolitan” (Fairfax and The Age 2004). By imagining their readers this way not only are they limiting the notion of a Melburnian, they are carving out a niche market that is attractive to advertisers (Greenberg 2000). One of the ways lifestyle magazines construct and impose lifestyles is through advertising (Greenberg). Advertising is featured prominently throughout theage(melbourne)magazine. Advertisements for luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Jaguar and Sofitel Hotels can be found on at least every second page. Consumerism is not only encouraged through the advertising pages of theage(melbourne)magazine but also through their articles. The magazine’s articles encourage readers to live the ‘Melbourne lifestyle’ through consumption of goods that reflect Melbourne’s identity. It not only encourages readers to be heavy consumers of goods and services, but celebrity culture too. Between three issues (March, April, May) there were only four articles that were not about celebrities or purchasing goods and services.


Lifestyle magazines have a history of focusing on local celebrities (Greenberg 2000). Celebrities become the personification of their respective city, and act as living examples to the reader (Greenberg 2000). Take the March (fashion) issue of theage(melbourne)magazine, which featured a cover story on the way Melburnians dress. Five celebrities were to exemplify Melbourne fashion, but what was interesting was only one of the celebrities actually lived in Melbourne. The others were still considered to embody Melbourne because of the way they consumed fashion. This story demonstrates that lifestyle magazines are more focused on consumption as a way of affiliating with a city than actually living in the city. With the readers being encouraged to consume products and celebrity culture in every issue of theage (melbourne)magazine, will the publishers and editors ever be satisfied that the readers have consumed enough to be leading a Melbourne lifestyle? In a study of Cosmopolitan, Machin and Leeuwin discovered that “being up to date is an important aspect of lifestyle. Both the consumer goods and the identities and values they express are often short-lived and in need of constant updating” (2005, p. 595). So, it looks like as long as theage(melbourne) magazine is around Melburnians will have to show their affiliation with the city by updating the restaurants they dine in, the clothes they wear and the music they listen to every month.

References Anderson, B 1991, ‘Cultural Roots’, in Imagined Communities, Verso, London, pp. 22-36 Fairfax and The Age 2004, A New Melbourne Monthly Lifestyle Magazine, media release, Fairfax Media, 19 May Greenberg, M 2000, ‘Branding Cities: A Social History of the Urban Lifestyle Magazine’, Urban Affairs Review, vol 36, no.2, pp. 228-263, 9 April 2010, Google Scholar Machin, D and van Leeuwen, T 2005, ‘Language style and lifestyle: the case of a global magazine’, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 27, issue 4, pp.577-600, viewed 8 April 2010, Communication and Mass Media Complete Morris, B 2010, lecture, ‘Melbourne as a Lens: Communication and Social Relations’, Communication and Social Relations (COMM2411) Course, RMIT University, 2 March


Fed TV The large Fed TV screen, located at the western end of Federation Square is one of two screens located in Federation Square. The second smaller screen is located indoors in the Atrium at the other end of the square. The large screen, positioned above the main stage is one the main visual focus points in Federation Square. The large Fed TV screen is regularly used to play a variety of media including advertisements for local Melbourne events and festivals, short films, media art and live television news broadcasts. The screen is also occasionally used to broadcast live sporting events, such as the AFL Grand Final, to the Square where sometimes very large crowds will gather to watch the proceedings together. The Fed TV screens are an example of how Media technologies can be used as in social organization. In the last few decades with the proliferation of domestic television sets the city has seen a “privatization” of pubic space; public engagement with events has been relocated “from the public to the domestic space” (McQuire 2008). The way the crowd interact with the big screen, especially during large broadcast events, is an example of how the big screen can be used to bring engagement with public events back into public space. One of the best examples of this is the 2006 FIFA World Cup.


For example, the video ‘Aus vs Jap 2-1@Federation Square Melbourne 06 World Cup’ shows soccer fans gathered in Federation Square to watch the the Australian Soccer team’s first round match against Japan in the 2006 World Cup. The video shows the moments shortly after the second Australian goal was scored that put them in the lead 2-1 over Japan. The power of the screen as a communication device is clear as the gathered crowd watched the images being transmitted live from Germany. Though the same footage was being transmitted to homes live, people chose to gather in a public space to participate in the match as a community showing how large screens can be used to re-invigorate public space through communication. The media technologies are being used to reorganize the way the public relates to public space and re-organize their behavior. The public space broadcasting project in the UK showed how art and interactive media can be used to involve the public with the screen, some of which have already been adopted by Melbourne’s large public screen. Inviting the public to SMS messages to appear on the screen and having roving cameras encourages community engagement with the medium and allowing citizens to communicate the city though the screen. It’s not just large scale sporting events where a large public screen can have an impact on the urban environment and its inhabitants. Anthony Auerbach argues that large scale installations, like television before them, can create their own audience and are a unique medium in the way society views it. He suggests that because of this unique characteristic of video screens, they can be a powerful medium for urban art. Fed TV is often used to play short films and media art pieces to a public that would not normally view these art pieces. The combination of the ability video screens have to create audience and Fed TV’s central location mean that the art is viewed by a large audience and in some ways can create a ‘public’.

References McQuire, S, Papastergiadis, N & Cubitt, S 2008, ‘Public Screens and the Transformation of Public Space’ blog, 6th March, Refractory, viewed 3rd April, <http://blogs.arts.unimelb.edu.au/refractory/2008/03/06/public-screensand-the-transformation-of-public-space/> Auerbach, A 2006, ‘Interpreting urban screens’, First Monday Special Issue #4 Urban Screens: Discovering the potential of outdoor screens for urban society, viewed 7th April 2010 <http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/ index.php/fm/article/view/1546/1461> Aus vs Jap 2-1@Federation Square Melbourne 06 Word Cup, 2006, online video, accessed 14th April 2010, <http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=124roZFQIxs>


Surveillance Cameras Taking a stroll through Melbourne, it is extremely likely that you are being recorded on one of the thousands of CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) cameras that make up the city’s extensive surveillance network. As a reaction to the perceived rise of violence and crime in Melbourne, not to mention the constant threat to national security and desire to monitor the public’s behaviour in the urban environment and public space, the Melbourne City Council released plans to install 54 new CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) cameras in Melbourne CBD’s perceived ‘hot spots’ in late 2009. This surveillance network would add to the thousands of cameras already operating in individual businesses as well as the estimated 100 cameras in Federation Square alone.

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Although security cameras have been accepted into society as a means of controlling crime in urban spaces, the rapid increase in their presence has forced numerous questions to surface over not only the Government’s intentions in regards to the cameras, but the public’s reactions and interactions with the digital technology. Whilst the city council is resolute in their claim that they want the public to be aware that they are under scrutiny (Gregory, 2009), a drastic development in digital technologies in recent years suggest an emerging desire for the individual to broadcast themselves to the world (Koskela, 2004), a distinct contradiction of arguments, both with relevant points. The means of such broadcasting are increasingly available to the average person, through the uses of mobile phones, the Internet, webcams and indeed CCTV distribution. Such a notion implies that the traditional conceptions of surveillance cameras acting as a deterrent for crime and undesirable activity are effectively redundant because in actual fact, senses of privacy in the public space are undermined by the individual tactically appropriating the urban environment for their own means without the care of being scrutinized by the panoptic gaze of authorities and the wider community.


While Koskela’s theory suggests the individual is willing to engage with the surveillance camera as a means of projecting their self to the wider world, A study of the surveillance cameras as an oppressive tool in Liverpool, UK (Coleman, 2004) indicates the use of CCTV in an attempt to over-control the streets and discourage cultural expression. Coleman’s study into the presence and regulation of surveillance in Liverpool reveals that the technology is used to pinpoint and silence the homeless, as opposed to protecting the public from legitimately threatening criminal behaviour. Melbourne is widely known as a hub for cultural expression and individual identity. Whilst operating in the urban environment the individual is monitored by the many ‘eyes’ of the city’s surveillance network, suggesting that a certain standard of behaviour is expected of the city dweller. The individual’s reaction to the CCTV system differs, with some interacting with the digital medium and some fearing it. In any case, the surveillance cameras are intended as a means of social organization in the hectic and ever changing urban space.

References Gregory, P 2009, ‘‘Big Brother’ Doyle increases CBD’s CCTV cameras’, The Age, 19 August 2009, viewed 12 April 2010, <http://www.theage.com.au/national/big-brother-doyle-increases-cbds-cctv-cameras-20090819-epze.html > Koskela, H 2004, ‘Webcams, TV Shows and Mobile phones: Empowering Exhibitionism’, Surveillance & Society, vol 2. No. 2, pp. 199-215, viewed 17 April 2010, < http://www.surveillance-and-society.org/articles2(2)/ webcams.pdf> Coleman, R 2004, ‘Reclaiming the Streets: Closed Circuit Television, Neoliberalism and the Mystification of Social Divisions in Liverpool, UK’, Surveillance & Society, vol 2. No. 2, pp. 301-306, viewed 16 April 2010,<http:// www.surveillance-and-society.org/articles2(2)/liverpool.pdf>

Media Assignment  

James Clark, Matilda Heggie, Alex Epstein, Cassie Steeth

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