Research for introduction

For my section of the presentation I will be introducing our project and some of the theories we have been looking at. To explore more of the paradoxical relationship between the documentary and social media I read Baudrillard’s ‘Simulacra and Simulations’ essay. I pulled out some of the quotes that I think might be most useful for the presentation:

  • ‘Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.’ – I think we can argue that Fyre Festival itself is an example of hyperreality because it was a situation that became so distanced from the reality (the referent) that is no longer truly existed. We could evidence this using the scene in the documentary where someone mentions that the real Fyre Festival did take place in the form of the promo shoot, which itself is a signifier
  • ‘simulation threatens the difference between “true” and “false”, between “real” and “imaginary”’
  • Baudrillard defines simulacra as when the image no longer bears any reference to reality
  • Baudrillard’s main example in the essay is Disneyland which he describes as ‘no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real’ – again I think we can compare this to Fyre Festival, but more specifically how the documentary continues to perpetuate this idea of something that is no longer real (and never was), similar to how other social media presents a distorted version of reality
  • ‘Of the same order as the impossibility of rediscovering an absolute level of the real, is the impossibility of staging an illusion. Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible.’ – related to the point above, if social media has already distorted reality, how can we say that Netflix isn’t depicting a realistic portrayal since the subject matter has already shown this no longer exists
  • Baudrillard also notes that it is impossible to prove something is a simulation and this has real-world consequences. I think this is very clear in relation to Fyre: ‘‘The simulation of an offence, if it is patent, will either be punished more lightly (because it has no “consequences”) or be punished as an offence to public office (for example, if one triggered off a police operation “for nothing”) – but never as simulation, since it is precisely as such that no equivalence with the real is possible, and hence no repression either.’ – I think we could use this to maybe explore why the documentary doesn’t treat Fyre as such a serious crime especially in contrast to the Hulu documentary

I also read the article ‘Social Dimension of Media Space in the Age of Postmodernity In the Context of Objective Knowledge Obtainment’ by Denis Chistyakov (2016) in which he uses the theories of both Baudrillard and McLuhan. Some key points from this:

  • ‘Generated media messages, images, symbols and signs not only form the basis of perception of social facts and processes, but also become a key to understanding the contemporary social reality and sometimes can even replace reality itself in an individual’s mind.’ – if Netflix is included in these messages in the same way as the original Fyre social media marketing this only further complicates the idea of an objective reality
  • Using McLuhan’s argument – ‘Public opinion is being formed gradually and systematically depending on the purpose of its formation and the level / degree of needed manipulative influence on the society. As a result, an individual nowadays has almost no possibility to distinguish objective reality from its simulation, imitation, and fine substitution.’
  • ‘Society lives in a sign-symbolic environment filled with a world of images, simulations, and imitations. Cyberspace and virtualization blur the boundaries between real life and simulation and between objective reality and its illusory image.’

Another article that might be more useful for the parts of the presentation looking at memes is Kate Nash’s ‘What is interactivity for? The social dimension of web-documentary participation’ (2014) where she talks about the social function of documentaries and how this has changed as they get more interactive.

  • ‘interactive documentary as a relational entity that, unlike the film or television text, does not exist independently but rather relies on the collective agency of user, author and system’ – I think we could make the argument that ‘Fyre’ the documentary becomes an interactive web-documentary because of the way it combines the author (FuckJerry), the system (Netflix) and the viewer and this then prompts further responses on social media
  • ‘documentary participants are often motivated by a sense that their participation will impact political debate. In the case of web-documentary, participation through media is potentially extended to audiences through activities such as creating, commenting on and sharing content’ – making memes of the Netflix documentary is a creative way to enter the debate around the festival itself  
  • ‘Might web-documentary, in its ability to tap into the interests and practices of participatory audiences, be better placed to engage audiences as active members of a community of concern?’ – We could connect this to the crowdfunding campaign for Maryann Rolle
  • ‘I propose that the ways in which documentary makers position and seek to engage audiences reflect the documentary drive to record, foster civic participation and persuade.’ – possibly not for ‘Fyre’ which seems to be more about entertainment/profit

19/2/19 Meeting

This week we discussed how we would like to use the Netflix documentary and started to narrow down our research question for the project.

After last week where we each discussed our responses to the documentary we have identified two key scenes that we would like to focus on, the Andy King customs scene and Maryann Rolle discussing losing her savings. We chose these scenes because they were some of the most provocative scenes from the documentary and thus some of the most discussed on social media. We compared the social media responses to the two scenes, which range from the memes of King to a very successful crowdfunding campaign for Rolle. Both scenes depict different instances of exploitation by the organisers of Fyre and so demonstrate how explicitly the festival can be viewed as a crime. At the same time, the documentary’s representation of these issues and how they have been taken up in wider media show how the complicated relationship between the documentary and social media.

Going on from this, we discussed how the documentary has become almost a spectacle that parallels the festival itself. We think this is one of the most interesting aspects of the documentary and has come about specifically because of the documentary’s use of social media in its marketing campaign. We decided that our research question will therefore focus on how the documentary ‘Fyre’ plays on the paradoxes of social media.

Beginning to plan the structure for the presentation, we have decided to start with an overview and context of the documentary, some background and exploration of FuckJerry, the company behind the documentary and the Fyre Festival promotional video, and then an exploration and analysis of the keys scenes we have chosen.

Summary of Meeting 3

This week we presented to the group the research we had each done on the theme of the commercialisation of crime.

Following on from research focusing on Jack the Ripper, we discussed how the tabloid press and the “penny press” contributed to the construction of an image of the killer in the public imagination. We looked at sources that we could use to expand on this theme such as contemporary illustrations from the Illustrated Police News and stories from the online Digital Panopticon. We considered how new technology that made the reproduction of images cheaper and easier contributed to a greater public interest in crime or whether this new ability of the press prompted an increased interest.

Further to this, we discussed the more social factors that influenced the commercialisation of crime as it originated in the 19th century and how crime is often used conceptually as an embodiment of broader moral and social panics. If we decide to focus on this aspect of the topic, other possible examples we could look at include the garrotting scares and Maiden Tribute child prostitution fears. As part of this, we also considered how Victorian crime is inherently linked to ideas of the urban and how this theme might permeate through more modern interpretations of figures such as Jack the Ripper. From this, we considered how we might use the lens of Comparative Literature to consider to what extent our understanding of the commercialisation of crime is product of Western of crime fiction and how these are different to other non-Anglo-American forms of crime/detective fiction.

As an alternative focus we considered using the work of the cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard as a framing device for our analysis. We considered using his ideas on the connection between consumerism and crime to enable us to look more theoretically at the basis of the commercialisation of crime and not limit our project to one particular crime. This framework would allow us look more widely at how the commercialisation of crime functions in culture and wider society.

From this discussion we then collated a list of more specific topics for our presentation on the commercialisation of crime. This list included the sensationalist press, media as platform, serial killers, detective fiction, police, developments in technology, morality and Baudrillard. Next week we plan to continue refining our ideas and begin developing a research question for the presentation.

Summary of Meeting 2

Following on from our brainstorming last week, we decided to focus in more on the topic of crime, particularly the commercialisation of crime as it has developed from the 19th century. We discussed possibly using Jack the Ripper as a case study.

We decided that we will divide the presentation into sections each relating to our major discipline, starting with a historical context, moving through the depiction of crime in 19th century fiction and then on to more modern interpretations and media forms. As a plan for next week, everyone will do some research to see what sources are available for their particular area of interest as it relates to the topic and see what themes/theories they would be interested in discussing. Possible ideas we discussed included feminism and how the fictional depiction of violence influences real-world crimes and the development of 19th century media that allowed for the spread of such stories.


Example of commercialisation: Jack the Ripper walking tours – how a historical event and violent crime has been commodified

Guided Walking Tours