Professors, Pop Culture, and Politics: Experts from the 5Cs Give Their Takes on Current Events and Trends

5C professors knowledge is a resource that some students rarely have a chance to experience beyond the topic of their coursework. Here we give professors the opportunity to apply their knowledge to our daily lives by sharing their thoughts on trends and events that affect our generation.

Dubstep and auto-tuning in the music industry

“Our generation has been fundamentally shaped by the rise of the Internet, and popular music has reflected that,” Pomona Music Professor Joti Rockwell said. “Interestingly, the music has done so through a return to an emphasis on the song rather than the album.”

In terms of music studio techniques and genres, Rockwell said both dubstep and auto-tuning have roots in musical history.

“Many of the musical techniques of dubstep have well-established historical precedents: digital sampling has been around for decades, and decades more for analog synthesis,” Rockwell said, also citing appreciation for vinyl and Jamaican dub as part of the origins of dubstep.

“Dubstep has a compelling mix of [drums and bass], and the use of musical time is also very interesting to me: it speaks well for the genre that someone can be listening to it and not have a good sense of how much time has elapsed,” Rockwell said.

Rockwell also defends auto-tuning because she doesn’t “regard it as fundamentally any different than other studio technologies used over the past century to make people sound better or unique,” but people are just more aware of it because of its overuse.

“If auto-tune is your measure for discounting artists’ legitimacy, you need to also take into account hundreds of other ProTools techniques, only some of which are readily audible,” Rockwell said.

Global warming and our generation

Pitzer Environmental Analysis Professor Melinda Herrold-Menzies believes our generation has a choice of how climate change will affect us. We can either cope and adjust our consumption, or we will have to live with a less stable society, according to Herrold-Menzies.

Admittedly, “we probably won’t be the people who are most affected by climate change,” Herrold-Menzies said. “If we don’t take action, I think we’ll end up in a world that’s more divided between the haves and the have-nots. A lot of poor countries will be more heavily affected by climate change than we will, but we will be affected.”

One of the ways we would be affected is by people in those poor countries, or in coastal regions, small islands, or areas affected by drought, attempting to immigrate to wealthier countries.

“We already have a large immigration controversy in the U.S.,” Herrold-Menzies said. “There could be certain amounts of social upheaval that could be part of our daily lives, more so than we have today. It won’t just be protests on Wall Street.”

Nonetheless, Herrold-Menzies has hope that our generation will be willing to make changes and to adapt in a way she doesn’t believe her generation has. Moving to green technology, changing greenhouse gas emissions, and shifting to more local industries to reduce transportation emissions are all necessary steps which will require our economy to change.

“We need a fundamental rethinking of the way we live our lives,” Herrold-Menzies said, “but it will be very difficult because our economy is based on consumption.”

The role of the blog in news media

On a college campus, students aren’t always likely to watch the evening news on TV each night or to read a daily paper. We increasingly get our news from online sources, some of which are not run professionally.

“Blogs have further weakened the formal barriers between news reporting and readers,” said Kimberly Drake, Director of the Writing Program at Scripps. “Readers are now blogging not just in reaction to news stories, but as news reporters and as sources” that professional reporters draw story ideas from.

“We should all assume blogs are simply one person’s opinion until proven otherwise, but the mainstream news media isn’t necessarily reliable either,” Drake said, mentioning the pressure Internet blogs place on mainstream media to get stories out faster with less time to check facts. However, blogs have still “allowed for more diverse points of view to be expressed and have provided an accessible and relatively uncontrolled critical perspective on the mainstream media that did not exist prior to the Internet,” Drake said.

The effects of the revolutions in the Middle East

CMC Politics Professor Jennifer Taw first emphasized that each revolution has been distinct in its structure. Tunisia and Egypt experienced civil unrest with different power orders taking control; Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain had peaceful protests with violent government oppression; Libya began as a revolt and gained international aid.

Despite the differences in structure, Taw said, “all of the civil unrest that’s being called the ‘Arab Sping’ does have the same roots: growing youth bubbles, growing unemployment, growing economic disparity, growing awareness.” This awareness in part grew from the Internet and social media, which Taw credits for helping mobilize people in early stages and for involving the international community.

The international effects of the revolutions are still underway, but Taw noted that Israel will likely be more marginalized and “America’s Arab allies in the region… are having problems. Bahrain is cracking down in terrible ways on its demonstrators, making its friendship with the U.S. toxic and raising questions as to how much we can tolerate.”

While Taw says that “long-standing authoritarian regimes have been overturned, which is worth celebrating,” she feels it is “doubtful that they will be replaced by stable, democratic governments that represent the majorities and protect the minorities… Each affected country is likely to have extended periods of instability as domestic actors struggle and compete to assert control.” In Egypt, Taw mentioned as an example, there is currently a struggle between the military in control and those pressing for a true democracy, and even they cannot agree on what that democracy should look like and what role religion should play.

“It’s important to remember that people who have risked their lives for something, and who have killed people for something, will not be quick to make concessions,” Taw said.

Social networking as a campaigning device

Scripps American Studies Professor Matthew Delmont said, “One of the things that surprised me in the 2008 election was the huge range of media that Obama used to reach potential voters. All of the obvious ‘old’ media (e.g. TV, radio, newspapers), but also Facebook, e-mail, and video games, not to mention a huge amount of user generated content (e.g. Shepard Fairey’s ‘Hope’ poster and Will.I.Am’s YouTube video).”

While Delmont is confident Obama would have been elected without social networks, he said “they certainly contributed to his fundraising advantage over McCain… Social networking is very important in organizing voter drives in [swing] states, in linking up people outside the states to call folks in the swing states, and in raising money (especially small contributions) to spend money on advertising in TV and radio.”

“The 2012 campaign will reveal a lot,” Delmont said. “My guess is that the major social networking or Web 2.0 sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and others have been around long enough that it is unlikely one campaign will be able to use them to a much greater extent than any other campaign,” which was an advantage the Obama campaign had had over the McCain campaign.

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