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Power of Self-Presentation Speaks Before You Do: Analysis of Using Myspace

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The ability to interact with others concerned mankind for years. Humans were naturally created as socially dependant beings. As such, people were dependant on personal communication as a method to reinforce bonds. When personal interaction wasn’t possible, individuals developed various unique solutions to the problem. One such method was the use of hand-written letters to compensate for the lack of communication as a result of great distances between individuals. The letters were hand delivered from person to person until it had reached the intended recipient. This was accomplished more efficiently with the use of an intermediary delivery method, specifically the postal service. The first postal delivery system was presented in the year 550 B.C. This form of delivery service became common and modernized in later years. Centuries later in 1792, a new form of technology was introduced which was referred to as the telegraph. Despite their small size in length, this device permitted for a faster delivery of messages compared to the traditional means. As a result, the telegraph revolutionized how messages were communicated. It wasn’t until the 20th century which experienced a revolution in technology. During the 1940s, supercomputers were produced for which engineers developed networks. Eventually, this led to the creation of the popular Internet which introduced Internet Relay Chats (IRCs), the earliest form of online communication, as computers were normalized and integrated in various households. IRCs were utilized primarily in 1988 and were widespread throughout the next decade or so. This introduced a social media website to the public which was labelled as ‘Six Degrees’. Users on Six Degrees were provided the option to create a profile and add their friends. Using this concept paved a path for several other social media platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace), commonly used today, to be introduced years later. With the invention of the social media platforms, arose many concerns. Specifically speaking, it had “corrupted” personal interaction between individuals over time. This concern was addressed at a debate which occurred at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK). It featured two opposing views, proposition and opposition, on whether social media sites do in fact “corrupt” interaction among people. Both sides consisted of three experts in their respected fields, however one from the proposition and opposition will be concentrated on for the purpose of this discourse analysis. Emma Gannon, writer and broadcaster, proposed in favour of the corruption caused by the development of social media sites. Liam Hackett, best known as an activist as well as CEO of ‘Ditch the Label Hackett’, opposed against Emma and voiced his opinion against the proposed topic. The introduction was provided not to discuss who is correct, but rather to provide some insight on the controversial subject to determine various strategies and techniques utilized by both sides to convince the audience. Essentially speaking, to conduct a “discourse analysis” and recognize different signs used by the dominant debater which assisted in their persuasion to the house. The concept of signs is defined as, “anything can be a sign as long as someone interprets it as ’signifying’ something – referring to or standing for something other than itself.” (Chandler, Semiotics for Beginners: Signs, 2005, p. 1-23). When concerned with the effectiveness of a debater’s presentation, various aspects are taken into consideration. For example, how had the debater presented himself or herself? Had they positioned themselves as to invite the audience, or was their stance protective? It was evident that Liam was comparatively more confident with his opposition to prove social media does in fact connect people around the world.

Before presenting his opposing view, Liam ensured he was honest with his audience. Liam greeted the audience with a sincere salutation as he said, “thank you so much for having me here this evening to talk about something I’m really passionate about” (Liam, 0:19-0:24). This introduction allowed Liam to gain the attention of the audience. Before he presented his argument, he immediately expressed to the audience that he wanted to communicate about why he was “such a huge advocate of social media” (Liam, 0:27-0:29) with a story concerning his years as a student. Liam shared the fact that he experienced bullying at a young age and had confronted it for a decade. He “…didn’t have any mates. I’ve been hospitalized” (Liam, 0:39-0:41) as a result of the bullying and wasn’t socially active with others. He expressed the fact that he had “a computer and turned to myspace” (Liam, 0:43-0:46) as his escape from his difficult reality. Liam casually confessed to the audience the fact that he felt “really old talking about Myspace” (Liam, 0:46-0:50) and asked the audience if they recalled the social media platform. This allowed Liam to add a slight humor to his unfortunate story. He explained to the audience how he used Myspace as a social media platform to share his experience of being bullied. He added that he received messages from others who shared similar experiences of bullying and as a result “people were giving me advice and some people were asking me for advice” (Liam, 1:08-1:10). He expressed that as a young teen, he had absolutely zero confidence over the Internet. Despite that, interacting with others with similar experiences over Myspace had provided him with the confidence to speak his mind. As various other users witnessed this, it allowed them to create a community composed of individuals sharing similar experiences. In fact, individuals who were not familiar with each other united to join the community. The group experienced massive growth which allowed individuals to interact and discuss the difficulties they experienced. This resulted in the “birth” of Liam’s organization, ‘Ditch the Label’, which has become one of the biggest charity organizations focused to reduce bullying across the globe. To provide a standpoint of the organization, Liam expressed their goal to assist “1.5 million young people to overcome bullying (Liam, 1:52-1:54). This introduction provided the audience with the realization that social media did in fact contribute to Liam’s success. Not only that, but it allowed Liam to connect with an audience on an emotional level.

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Several traits during Liam’s presentation which contributed towards Liam’s display of confidence consisted of his body language as well as his audience engagement. Tim Wall, Birmingham’s School of Media Professor at Birmingham City University, and Paul Long, Birmingham’s School of Media Reader at Birmingham City University, argued the fact power most likely responded with resistance if used evidently and aggressively. On the flip side, if the same use of power is exercised with less obvious and dominating, individuals will become more at ease within the directed power (278). That was the case with how Liam Hackett presented his opposing views to the audience. Liam remained calm, composed, and delivered his presentation with ease despite sharing the fact that he was in fact “bullied for 10 years at school…I’ve been hospitalized” (Liam, 0:37-0:41). This ability of Liam to remain composed while sharing his experience as a student displayed his sense of strength and courage. When individuals share personal experiences that had damaged them emotionally, normally, their tone of voice tends to rise. This was displayed in the debate which occurred at the same venue, Oxford Union, between Mehdi Hasan and Waters-Marie Waters. Hasan hadn’t tolerated the fact how the beautiful religion of Islam, which he practiced, had been slandered and misrepresented by folks due to several misguided individuals. As a result, he had displayed a slight moment of aggression due to the increase in his tone of voice. This was because he spoke of a matter that had personally affected him. However, that was not the case with Liam which proved quite effective for him. If This technique allowed Liam to get the audience on his side and construct an emotional connection with him on some level. The manner in which any speaker presents themselves before an audience speaks volumes before, they even utter a single word. For instance, if individuals are hunched or slouched, it may inform the audience you don’t confide in your abilities. However, Liam’s presentation of himself before the house immediately signified, he was confident in his ability to present his views. This was because he had opened his chest and set his shoulders back. This allowed him to appear relaxed while standing tall with one of his hands in his pockets and one to engage the audience. Liam’s open chest and stance immediately informed the audience he was prepared to answer any questions or address any comments that the audience may have. He had presented himself in a comfortable and balanced fashion with his weight evenly distributed and just slightly forward. Emma, however, was more protective of not as confident in herself. This was shown through her obvious use of her constant referral to her notes in her hand and her reserved posture. For someone who hadn’t been confident in their adolescent years, Liam proved his confidence in his ability to defend and invite others to listen to him as he proudly shared his experience. Furthermore, his use of his hand gestures along with his slight increase in tone allowed him to emphasize various points that he wanted to communicate to the audience. For instance, when referring to the famous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, he used his right hand and gestured with force that the challenge “raised millions of pounds for charity. It created huge awareness for such an important cause” (Liam, 3:37-3:43). Liam’s incredible and effective utilization of his body language provided him with the ability to emphasize several points. Most importantly, it created an environment where he was able to connect with everyone and provide them a sense of comfort.

Michael Foucault, a renowned philosopher and theorist from France, coined the idea of “power/knowledge”, which he explained were deeply interconnected to each other. He expressed the fact that one was unable to exist without the other, that “power” and “knowledge” were not a to viewed as a separate identity of their own. According to his interpretation of “power/knowledge”, Foucault argued power is formed and utilized only through the means of procurement of knowledge, analyzing and interpreting information, and solid “truths” of the world. He emphasized that power was constructed through knowledge and utilized knowledge. However, the same knowledge was reproduced by power by transformation, and through the extensive utilization of knowledge, that influence of power “re-created” it’s unique set of ideologies. Foucault’s concept of “power/knowledge” had positioned individuals in an adamant position of power or authority as they contained “knowledge of particular discourses”. To illustrate the exercise of “power/knowledge”, Foucault outlined an example of an honest admission, in his work of ‘History of Sexuality’. He explained that the practise of “power/knowledge” to influence others was once a common tactic utilized by the church which practiced Christianity. The exercise of power had later become widespread towards the 18th and 19th century. Foucault had termed the time of the eighteenth century as the “repressive hypothesis”. During this time, the bourgeoisie had rose to position of power and authority. As a result, any such energy that was expended on conducting activities outside of the standard sexual relations between a married a couple, were immediately scorned and disregarded. In other words, to express any sexual desires of that of a homosexual was forbidden to avert any sex conducted between the same genders. Foucault explained that an admission was in fact a form of “power”. As such, many individuals had felt impelled and encouraged from the repression to express themselves truthfully and “speak from their hearts” regarding their “extra” sexuality. Although he may or may have not been aware of Foucault’s ideologies, this had resonated strongly with Liam’s story. He confessed to the audience that he had utilized the platform of Myspace to communicate to others about his sexuality as he expressed, “when I came out as gay I already had friends on the internet who were gay who could give me advice and support I didn’t have offline” (Liam, 2:20-2:26). Not only that, but the concept of “power/knowledge” to influence others, was one of Liam’s strongest characteristics. He liked using figures and examples to emphasize his argument of how social media does in fact personally connect others. This allowed him to demonstrate his knowledge for the subject matter to the house. He explained the fact that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had collected an enormous amount of donation it was able to collect thanks to people interacting on social media. He added there was an online petition which received over ten thousand signatures which campaigned for the redefinition of prejudice of a young Essex girl in the Oxford Dictionary. Using these examples strengthened his opposition to convey to the house to vote in favour of social media being a medium of bringing people together on a personal level.

The topic of whether social media platforms are effective or detrimental for personal interaction has been introduced in various discussions over the years. Both Emma Gannon, the proposition, as well as Liam Hackett, the opposition presented compelling views to the house. This debate however was designed differently as it consisted of three opposing views and three proposition views. However, through all efforts, it was reported that the house favoured the Emma’s proposition side. Despite that, the focal point of this “discourse analysis” essay was not to conclude who was right or wrong. Rather it was to merely analyze what strategies or signs the more dominant side utilized to sway the votes of the house in their favour. Placing the results of the debate aside and considering the debates themselves, Liam presented his arguments effectively just under ten minutes. Stuart Hall, a renowned activist of politics, as well as a theorist like Foucault, was awarded the ‘Fellowship of the British Academy’ (FBA). This award was given to those individuals who displayed excellence in the fields of social science and humanity. In his work labelled as ‘Representation’ (2013), he discussed the importance of signs and what they represent as he expressed, “Visual signs and images…are still signs: they carry meaning and this have to be interpreted” (Hall, 5). He explained his idea of interpretation using traffic lights utilized on an on-going basis. Hall expressed that the ‘GREEN’ light was taught and understood for on-coming pedestrians as well as vehicles to ‘GO’. However, ‘RED’ was taught and understood by individuals to ‘STOP’ at all costs. As a result, Hall’s concept of ‘representation’ can be applied in the context of the debate. Interpreting Liam’s presentation, it was evident he was confident and dominating compared to Emma. This was as a result of Liam’s effective use of his body language, his choice to connect with the audience on an emotional level through his story, his use of real-life examples, as well as his immense passion for social media which allowed him to connect with like-minded individuals. Not only that, but because of his knowledge of social media, it allowed him to construct a successful organization, ‘Ditch the Label’ as Foucault argued, “no power can be exercised without the extraction, appropriation, distribution or retention of knowledge” (Foucault, quoted in Sheridan, 1980, p. 131).

Works Cited

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Power of Self-Presentation Speaks Before You Do: Analysis of Using Myspace. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/power-of-self-presentation-speaks-before-you-do-analysis-of-using-myspace/
“Power of Self-Presentation Speaks Before You Do: Analysis of Using Myspace.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/power-of-self-presentation-speaks-before-you-do-analysis-of-using-myspace/
Power of Self-Presentation Speaks Before You Do: Analysis of Using Myspace. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/power-of-self-presentation-speaks-before-you-do-analysis-of-using-myspace/> [Accessed 3 Feb. 2023].
Power of Self-Presentation Speaks Before You Do: Analysis of Using Myspace [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Feb 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/power-of-self-presentation-speaks-before-you-do-analysis-of-using-myspace/
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