Home > 360MC Research & Development > Power into Spectacle – (360MC Lecture – 28/10/10)

Power into Spectacle – (360MC Lecture – 28/10/10)

To kick off this weeks lecture Nick informed us about the Sheffield Documentary Festival which is taking place from the 3rd-7th November. 


This festival is a good way of networking with other people within the media and some up and coming film-makers as well!  Unfortunately i cannot make it to the festival as i have work on the evening and cannot get my shift swapped which i am well annoyed about!! :/ Grrrrrr!

Onto what happened in the lecture…

We were introduced to the next theme through power or as it was put ‘power into spectacle’.  These two themes relate together quite well as power can be considered something of a spectacle itself depending on what it consists of, such as a large protest against the war in Iraq could be considered a Spectacle because of the mass amount and volume of people protesting against a powerful movement.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

Inmates in the Stanford Prison Experiment.

(picture courtesy of http://www.radioopensource.org/the-banality-of-evil-part-ii/)

We firstly looked at this very controversial experimental event which took place in the early 1970’s.  It took place within Stanford University in the USA and placed students within a confined space and prison which was in the basement of the Psychology department of the University. The students took on different roles such as Prison Guards and Prisoners.   The Professor who was in control of the stanford Prison Experiment; Professor Philip Zimbardo, wanted to look at the following:

 “I was interested in what happens when you put good people in an evil place.  Does the situation outside of you; the institution, come to control your behaviour? Or does the things inside of you; your attitude, your values, morality, allow you to rise above a negative environment?”

(Quote courtesy of a BBC documentary which looked at the experiments in detail): http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=677084988379129606)

This experiment was completely authentic with every detail, from the guards uniforms with mirrored glasses and batons and the prisoners being collected and arrested in a vey real manner from their own homes.  No holds were barred within this experiement.

It proved to be a very dangerous view into how people who get given and placed within an authorative role can ultimately abuse this power, even if it is against how they normally are within the real world.  It resulted in the experiment being shut down after 6 days after it started to affect both prisoners and guards in a very dangerous way.

I found this website which looks at the experiment in full and what questions can be raised from it: http://www.prisonexp.org/

Questions include:

1.  What police procedures are used during arrests, and how do these procedures lead people to feel confused, fearful, and dehumanized?

2.  If you were a guard, what type of guard would you have become? How sure are you?

…and many more questions which have been posed as discussional material.

The Stanford Prison Experiment spawned off another psychological experiment 10 years previously called:

The Milgram Experiment

This staged experiment was based around the idea of someone being under an authority figure (who was just a normal person wearing a white lab coat) and the ‘teacher’  (which would be a person who thought this authority figure was real) being told to give another person an electric shock anytime they answered a question wrong.  The voltage of the shocks would get turned up a notch each time. 

The twist on this experiment was that the person being given the shocks was just an actor and wasn’t receiving an electrical shock at all.  The obedience with which the unknowing and sometimes unwilling teacher was being placed into a powerless position in the way that they were being told by an authority figure (who was just an actor wearing a white lab coat) to give the person a shock just because they were being told to, so they were thus powerless in this sense.

Both the Stanford Prison Experiment and The Milgram Experiment have led the way to how roles can be subverted when given a powerful role and being given instructions by a (what we think) is an authoriative figure. 

A very modern take on these experiments and which take influence from these is the Big Brother series which has had a very successful run of 10 years. 

(picture courtesy of Google http://www.eatock.com/project/big-brother-8/)

Now onto the way power and spectacle is presented by in the form of TV…

Brass Eye

 (Picture courtesy of http://ewen-cook.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html)

This very groundbreaking Channel 4 series was based around a news topic show which looked at very taboo and non-publicised topics such as ‘Drugs’, ‘Sex’, ‘Animals’ and the very shocking ‘Peadogeddon!’.  This spawned an array of complaints from viewers who saw the show as shocking and not what they consider to be TV friendly viewing!

Chris Morris used Brass Eye as an outlet for which sensitive topics such as peadophilia, could be brought into the TV spotlight and with a dark but comedic twist, put the subject into the viewers minds.  It is a very clever and unique way of causing something of a spectacle with a TV show, as not much passed the censorship radar back in 1997.  And this brought a new cutting edge for which sensitive subjects could be made a shocking spectacle out of.

The Yes Men

The Yes Men(Picture courtesy of http://www.watchmojo.com/tv/series/The%20Yes%20Men/)

A two man anti-corporate machine organisation who have used the power of media to bring news and events to a spectacular edge by impersonating the ‘important’ decision makers of different societies and organistaions and stage fake events including the end of the Iraq War and accepting responsibility for the Bhopal Disaster live on the BBC News.

   BBC World News Bhopal,The Yes Men

(Picture on left courtesy of http://laughingsquid.com/the-yes-men-distribute-fake-new-york-times-iraq-war-ends/)

(Picture on right courtesy of http://www.artslant.com/ny/events/show/110639-mistaken-identity)

Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno have had a successful array of controversy over their stunts and as the trailer for their film ‘The Yes Men Fix The World’ (2009) states: “Sometimes it takes a lie to tell the truth.”  They have used the media spotlight to bring issues to the forefront of how they should be dealt with.

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