Starting from Zero: the Collective Identity of Serbian Journalists

Esmé Spurling

[S]he knew how to identify the political problems in our country and they just shut her down[…] but I think it was our government.” – Lena, [22] Journalism student Belgrade University Faculty of Political Sciences (2015)

As an individual with an interest in sensitive research topics, and an aspiring journalist, I remain conscious to the importance of consistent ethical consideration of participants when collecting data. Consequently, during Starting from Zero research project, I became focused on journalists in Serbia whose values and collective responsibilities have become censored by the government. I became confronted by the power of media distribution by the government whilst conducting a focus group with Belgrade’s University students at the Faculty of Political Sciences (2015).

Expanding on the above quote from Lena [22] student, who recognises established Serbian journalist, Olja Bećković, and her previous position in power of discussing topical political issues on her previous…

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Starting from Zero: the Collective Identity of Serbian Journalists

Serbia Narrative (DRAFT)

Opening:“Im a passport to adventure.”* a book

(intro of brief set   )

We will present our active group engagement of Belgrade’s culture, lifestyle and visual appearance in order to consider how a national identity has become re constructed after a historic period of conflict and manipulation. We will provide a visual consideration to Serbia’s artistic spaces and how these have become more recently restored by presenting to you the following themes: Control and manipulation; collective responsibility; and national identity – these themes will be identified by primary artefacts and by those of which have been shared by a range of participants.

Originally, concepts of power and national imagination became identified, prior to exploring Serbia.

Later we will identify a sense of surveillance culture that has become stimulated by the immergence of the digital world and the convieniance technology has become to offer though still restricting the values of a journalist.

“Visibility is a trap” (Foucault 1977:200).

In order to analyse this further, as a group, participants were contacted, established and connected with. Participants included a variety of voices that we have since listened to, from a series of expert and non expert interviews, a focus group with Belgrade University journalism students and immersing ourselves into a culture (ethnographic research) in order to fully expand how our knowledge is constructed that will therefore result in a greater understanding of how Serbia has had to start again from zero through the arts and visual mediation.

The connotations of riddles featured therefore relate to the current state of the national identify within Serbia: “The initial uncertainty it generated, however, does not simply evaporate, but lives on in our memory.” (Walsh 1998:113). An on going process that we will explore throughout this presentation and feature.

(brief overview of history?) – Adam?

An understanding of time and space during our visit at the Belgrade Fortress was preconceived and framed the way in which we have digested Serbia. Belgrade Fortress presents a response to time that is immeasurable and remains uncertain, which as will be later discussed, we have begun to realise is the current state of the national identity of Serbia: uncertain and an on going process of being established.

The (absent) discourse of speed and urgency is important for us to reflect on. Milan identifies a cruel optimism that suggests that we should look forward to a future of career and working life (DATE). However, the question we pose here is how can this become freely exerted in a state of control, which has been governed.

**Phenomenology – Merleau-Ponty (1945) “we can only experience temporality not know our own. If time stood still, if we would imagine it”.

The concept of imagination and social discourse of utopia originally became key for us to consider. This will be reflected in the concept of escapism through visual arts, media and stage performance by our experience within Belgrade (SUPERMARKET & Mikser).

The mediation of arts within Serbia has begun to re construct the nation, though it will be shown, how this process has not been as smoothly reformed as understood from our original understanding.

Beginning: “What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps?” (A river.)

We therefore draw upon the reality of time that can be constructed by others, such as those in power: government. Capitalism produced the social discourse that ‘money is time’ therefore time has become constructed as a resource and a commodity.

Contemporary culture has an obsession with possession and desperation for speed – therefore the send of speeding up time is presented but neglected within Belgrade. Considering an online networked society (Virilio 2000) there has become a type of ‘black hole of inter connectivity’ of which the layers of history has become formed, the layers of which has begun this sense of uncertainty of national identity that has trickled down to a younger generation that will later be assessed on how they become to escape from this collective responsibility.

(*a visual representation of layers can be shown through Belgrade’s numerous collection of street posters displayed, use Attwood for visual culture quote to show on the layers of history/ relating back to the history itself – adam Serbia dvds? A reflection?

It was important for us to consider our surroundings; space and how it is used in Belgrade in order to re construct our representation of how Serbia is using media to develop a national identity again.

(Adam) Irrespective of its size or locale, any space, provided it has been inhabited or maintained by humans, will carry a trace of their values and history. Architecture is an absolute medium, a physical and structural projection of the designer, and as such it will carry the sentiments of the cultures they originate from.

Belgrade is no exception to this rule, and its history seemed to be quite literally constructed around us, to the point where it was inescapable. Perhaps the departure from our native spaces played a part in our stark observations, I would argue that our pre-departure research and fixation on Serbia may had also had some effect on our perception, but ultimately traces of history and ideology manifest themselves everywhere: Sometimes it is the more abstract forms of representation, a building or a street for example, that bear the most explicit marks.

Therefore the idea of division and separation between the marginal and the cosmopolitan becomes increasingly important to consider: ‘the flow of time’ later becomes expanded through our analysis and recognition of the Serbian Government’s power to operate and distribution of media. Collective responsibility and memory remains to be considered.

“Build up”: “Pronounced as one letter,/And written with three,/Two letters there are,/And two only in me./I’m double, I’m single,/I’m black, blue, and gray,/I’m read from both ends,/And the same either way./What am I?” An eye.

“[An] unfinished state of an belated nation” (Ristic 2007: 193)

We will consier the notion of collective responsibility as a nation holds from consideration to previous research and expert interviews conducted during our visit to Belgrade (March 2015). We wish to emphasise the importance of memory, especially in spaces of corruption, manipulation and where time appears to stand still.

Considering our starting question: media artefacts are perceived to be collective memories in order to emphasise dates, events and individuals – however Serbia uses their own constructed media artefacts, such as music, to recognise a national identity. The production of music videos in Serbia (Reflect on the dvds??) have become apparent to show a timeline of Belgrade history that has become an on going process of reflection.

Leggewie (2013:101) identifies that European memory needs to be changed in order to “achieve full integration and collective identity”, Leggewie continues to suggest that a different memory needs to be reformed in order to completely re construct a new collective self-reflection of the state. Therefore emphasising the importance of memory, particularly within spaces of corruption.

Modules of power of the construction of the representation of the narrative are important roles to consider in order understanding that power is the ability to control narrative. A expert (semi structured) interview with Olja Beckovic (2015) provided an insight of the current state of media uncertainty that, in extract 1, can be identified as being the government’s power of the media, generating the voice of the people for them. Beckovic demonstrates in this extract her own role as journalist provides a sense of narrative power that was admired by the people.

Extract 1:

Esme Spurling: “So how would you describe the power of the media against the government of Serbia?”

Olja Beckovic: “I think all medias are under the control of government. So the prime minister is really obsessed with medias. And he controls everything, he watches all TV programmes and society networks and he knows everything what everyone wrote about him and he is all the time in problem and in conflict to discuss with journalists, ‘how dare you to ask the question and do your job’, he does not realise that it is possible to be on the other side of him he is sure that he is the best prime minister ever seen in the world.”

Beckovic (2015) immediately identifies the position of the Government in relation to the public media. Her identity as journalist and previous television presenter of ‘Impression of the Week’ (1991 until September 2014) should be acknowledged. ‘Impression of the Week’ hosted 3 guests that had the apparent freedom of speech to discuss recent news and provide comical insights, before Beckovic was asked to leave under B92’s instructions.

Therefore providing a platform for her audience to actively engage: Hasinoff (2014) points out that there is a certain ‘fear and promise of technology’ (2014:09). This ‘promise’ suggests the freedom of speech through technology that Hasinoff (2014) continues to suggest allows the user to adopt to a more dominant online identity, therefore taking into consideration the younger generation of Belgrade (accessing mobile technology that is more restricted) online technology can offer a ‘utopian democratic promise that users and viewers could become producers’.

Therefore we consider the sense of surveillance culture that can generate power over others, online and offline, stemming from Foucault ‘Panopticon Prison’ .

“We should admit… that power produces knowledge[…] power and knowledge directly imply one another” Foucault (1977:27)

Rose (2011) has more recently indicated that this type of surveillance culture has become a more dominant form of visibility “throughout modern capitalist societies”

Authenticity of new reports, globally though particularly within Serbia, becomes uncertain because of the unequal distribution of broadcasted independent press. Information that is received becomes censored before becoming under public scrutiny – therefore the understanding of reality develops to be obstructed with the truth. Websites were blocked, servers attacked and Twitter accounts hijacked in Serbia during 2014 – which made the reason for our specialist interview with CEO of independent media broadcasting organisation B92 Veran Matic more significant in order to gain a greater understanding of the state of media within Belgrade.

Tellmann (2009) continues to describe Foucault’s relationship to the silences of the ‘market based truth’ because of the ‘fractal-panopticon- that ceaselessly produces and co ordinates identity in accordance with the governmental rationality – again acknowledging the ability to purchase a voice ‘online’. It is interesting to consider the convergence to new media within Serbia and how this might produce offline consequences due to the nature in which media becomes (re)produced interaction occurs.

The Problem (middle): I have holes in my top and bottom, my left and right, and in the middle. But I still hold water. What am I?” A sponge.

Those already in power are able to redistribute thoughts and values from their economic backgrounds – in regards to technology. The restriction to only one type of voice that is not marginalised, therefore only one version of events can be listened to online whilst the other is only heard.

Losonc (60:2014) points out that ‘neoliberalism is projected to manage a complex of freedom and non-freedom’, as previously discussed with Beckovic (2015) who strongly suggested that this was the most restriction journalists in Serbia had ever been in terms of voicing their opinions – despite the advancement of global and public communication online. Influenced by Tellmann’s “Foucault and the Invisible Economy” (2009:5-24), Losonc (2014) continues to add that the structure of history is always a combination of the ‘visible and the sayable’.

Bojana: “B92 was closed down and Mr. Veran was taken to prison in 2000. After that ban, we changed the strategy and we placed transmitters around the neighbouring countries, so the programme was aired from there and it was… illegal actually. But, It was aired. It couldn’t be banned.

Mandy: What do the citizens know more or less about the truth at that time? How they know the truth at this time? Do they find it easy to get the information at that period?”

Veran Matic: “In Milsevic’s time it was hard to find the truth about the killings that took place on behalf of Serbian people in general. But the citizens were able to find the truth if they followed independent media, although those media were not as powerful as the state media, so many of them were not in position to find out the truth.

 

Solution: “I cover what is real and hide what is true, but sometimes I bring out the courage in you. What am I?” A Mask. To symbolise courage.

Literature can provide a sense of escapism and a sense of indulgence: young adults in Serbia have been bombarded with information upon information about the history of Serbia.

This can sometimes start to feel overwhelming for children to take in, so by reading Uros Petrovic books they can take themselves into their own world where they can gain a sense of who they are through their imagination. Growing up we get lost in a world that manipulates our minds to think in a certain way as we are always being told what is right and what is wrong so by reading Uros’s books on epic fantasies it allows Serbian children to create their own sense of identity with their own imagination.

An understanding of Dowling (2011:29) can re present the construction of knowledge of how visual arts can influence an audience: “a large part of self-understanding is the search for appropriate personal metaphors that make sense of our lives”. Therefore, emotional connection becomes established when reflection of memory and personal experiences of thoughts reframe a sense of imagination.

The layers of knowledge only restrict young peoples minds to explore a sense of the real. Uros Petrovic applies these same techniques when writing his books as he is allowing his audience to construct their own identity through what they read as this may be of more comfort to those children rather than having to live in the reality which is being forced onto them. Dowling (2011:02) continues to add, “sometimes we quietly hide parts of our identity and other times we loudly project it”. These books have become to form a sense of escapism that reforms identity, projected within printed words and expressed in the voices of a younger generation.

(*provide quote from university students!!!)

 

 

 

Conclusion:

Therefore beginning to expand on this on national identity and how this has been constructed through spaces such as Mikser (relating back to space/ time and responsibility) – (Adam) use mikser video??

Ongoing mixed opinions upon where the influence for Serbia national identity is/ where it comes from stems from: film TV and creative arts.

(using ideas from America and creative director (Charlotte) and the voices/ opinions of the students in juxtaposition to this (ES) upon America).

One day, Belgrade will become great again” – driver.

Serbia Narrative (DRAFT)

“Im a Passport to Adventure”: considering our previous research.

Originally, concepts of power and national imagination became identified, prior to exploring Serbia. In order to analyse this further, as a group, participants were contacted, established and connected with. Participants included a variety of voices that we have since listened to, from a series of expert and non expert interviews, focus group with Belgrade University journalism students and immersing ourselves into a culture (ethnographic research) in order to fully expand how our knowledge is constructed that will therefore result in a greater understanding.

  • An understanding of time and space of the Belgrade Fortress was preconceived and framed the way in which we have digested Serbia. Belgrade Fortress presents a response to time that is immeasurable and remains uncertain, which as will be later discussed, we have begun to realise is the current state of the national identity of Serbia: uncertain and an on going process of being established.
  • The (absent) discourse of speed and urgency is important to reflect on. Milan identifies a cruel optimism that suggests that we should look forward to a future of career and working life. However, the question posed here is how can this become freely exerted in a state of control, which has been governed.
  • **Phenomenology – Merleau-Ponty (1945) “we can only experience temporality not know our own. If time stood still, if we would imagine it”.
  • The concept of imagination and social discourse of utopia is key to consider, and will be reflected in the concept of escapism through visual arts, media and stage performance. The mediation of arts within Serbia has begun to re construct the nation, though it will be shown, how this process has not been as smoothly reformed as understood from our original understanding.
  • I therefore draw upon the reality of time that can be constructed by others, such as those in power: government. Capitalism produced the social discourse that ‘money is time’ therefore time has become constructed as a resource and a commodity.

Contemporary culture has an obsession with possession and desperation for speed – therefore the send of speeding up time is presented but neglected within Belgrade. Considering an online networked society (Virilio 2000) there has become a type of ‘black hole of inter connectivity’ of which the layers of history has become formed, the layers of which has begun this sense of uncertainty of national identity that has trickled down to a younger generation that will later be assessed on how they become to escape from this collective responsibility.

(a visual representation of layers can be shown through Belgrade’s numerous collection of street posters displayed as constructed below:)

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“Im a Passport to Adventure”: considering our previous research.

The Notion of Collective Responsibility and Corruption (Spurling)

Reflecting on our collective research, as a starting point, originally began to identify the spectacle of Serbia conflict by acknowledging its historical past and the manipulation of the government. Serbia’s national identity that previously ought to be constructed was described as an: “unfinished state of an belated nation” (Ristic 2007: 193). This suggests that Serbia’s identity, as a nation is an on going process that is to be identified. This “chapter” will consider the notion of collective responsibility that Serbia as a nation holds from considering previous research and a series of expert interviews that will generate an alternative view of the formalising of identity.

  • Is it possible to define collective identity in an ever –evolving space of multiple and cultural identities?

Leggewie (2013:101) identifies that European memory needs to be changed in order to “achieve full integration and collective identity”, Leggewie continues to suggest that a different memory needs to be reformed in order to completely re construct a new collective self-reflection of the state. Therefore emphasising the importance of memory, particularly within spaces of corruption. Correlating to the brief set, media artefacts are thought of as collective memory that emphasise dates, events and individuals, however we are interested in the experiences these individuals have and how this can shape their knowledge of Belgrade. Additionally, Semprun, prisoner at Buchenwald (1945) claimed that, “European enlargement could only succeed culturally and existentially ‘when our memories have been shared and brought together as one’” cited in Leggewie (2013:102-103). This already perceived perception of the “in limbo” Serbian identity is key to identify, because this generates a degree of uncertainty of what should be considered the ‘norm’ within contemporary society.

Issue no.179: “Belgrade Insight” (2015) presents a juxtaposition of articles that represent the corruption of destroying memory, the sacrifice of history for investment. A sense of erasing a context of an era is highlighted with the merging of uncertain identity.

Belgrade Insight - Belgrade waterfront project set to destroy nazi bunker

Modules of power of the construction of the representation of the narrative are important roles to consider in order to understand that power is the ability to control narrative. A recent expert (semi structured) interview with Olja Beckovic (2015) provided an insight of the current state of media uncertainty that, in extract 1, can be identified as being the government’s power of the media, generating the voice of the people for them. Beckovic demonstrates in this extract her own role as journalist provides a sense of narrative power that was admired by the people:

  • Extract 1:
  • Esme Spurling: “So how would you describe the power of the media against the government of Serbia?”
  • Olja Beckovic: “I think all medias are under the control of government. So the prime minister is really obsessed with medias. And he controls everything, he watches all TV programmes and society networks and he knows everything what everyone wrote about him and he is all the time in problem and in conflict to discuss with journalists, ‘how dare you to ask the question and do your job’, he does not realise that it is possible to be on the other side of him he is sure that he is the best prime minister ever seen in the world.”
  • ES: “But he is surveying what has been said about him? Why do you think that is, that he wants to know about what has been said?”
  • OB: “…er because very very long political history and he, he was seeking for powerful 20 years ago. So he wanted to be someone so many years and now when he is he dosnt want to loose that position. He wants to be there until the end of his life or ours lives. So really, it is something I think it is not political he really needs to be loved of everyone, and he has support covered by researches he has of 70% it is support, which no one ever had. But no he wants 100%, or more.”
  • (…)
  • OB: “[A] journalist is restricted more than they have ever been! So journalists are frightened because they know that if they say anything that he dosnt like (prime minister) such in my case, then they loose job. And er because, when you loose your job you don’t have any other place to find it so what are you going to do? And he knows that, so when you ask journalists is there a control of media they would say, ‘oh I don’t know I don’t know’ and hes just the guy who makes phone calls personally to journalists every day and he said “how did you say that how did you say that” and then when Ive done one, yes he called me a hundred times, when you ask any other journalist they would say ‘oh no he never called me he never called me’. And he really enjoys that situation he says look at that everyone says I never call so…”
  • Beckovic (2015) immediately identifies the position of the Government in relation to the public media. Her identity as journalist and previous television presenter of ‘Impression of the Week’ (1991 until September 2014) should be acknowledged. ‘Impression of the Week’ hosted 3 guests that had the apparent freedom of speech to discuss recent news and provide comical insights, before Beckovic was asked to leave under B92’s instructions. Therefore providing a platform for her audience to actively engage: Hasinoff (2014) points out that there is a certain ‘fear and promise of technology’ (2014:09). This ‘promise’ suggests the freedom of speech through technology that Hasinoff (2014) continues to suggest allows the user to adopt to a more dominant online identity, therefore taking into consideration the younger generation of Belgrade (accessing mobile technology that is more restricted) online technology can offer a ‘utopian democratic promise that users and viewers could become producers’.
  • Considering the ‘new’ identity Belgrade is reconstructing the virtual space online works as an advancement and a sense of escapism, as Boyd et al (2008) note the online space can be used in order to explore identities, which should be considered when its suggested that the identity of Serbia is yet to be reformed and is currently an on going process.
  • I find specifically interesting is the notion of ‘layers’ and the constant reconstruction process of identity, which can be visually shown through the use of self expression of street art:
  • As seen from Mikser House Festival (2014) to recently in 2015 where we documented the same street art. The ‘layer process’ that suggests complete reconstruction because the art is completely different and does not correspond to the 2014.
  • (2014)

street art copy mikser

  • Mikserfest %2c Guitarfest and Mikser Card

(2015)

IMG_0752

  • Power & Redistribution of Values:
  • “The rise of transnational media and globalisation are weakening, in this view, identification with the nation. They are also said to be eroding engagement in national politics since this derives ultimately from a sense of national belonging”. Curran,J. (1981:282)
  • It is interesting to consider the convergence to new media within Serbia and how this might produce offline consequences due to the nature in which media becomes (re)produced interaction occurs.
  • Those already in power are able to redistribute thoughts and values from their economic backgrounds – in regards to technology. The restriction to only one type of voice that is not marginalised, therefore only one version of events can be listened to online whilst the other is only heard.
  • Losonc (60:2014) points out that ‘neoliberalism is projected to manage a complex of freedom and non-freedom’, as previously discussed with Beckovic (2015) who strongly suggested that this was the most restriction journalists in Serbia had ever been in terms of voicing their opinions – despite the advancement of global and public communication online. Influenced by Tellmann’s “Foucault and the Invisiible Economy” (2009:5-24), Losonc (2014) continues to add that the structure of history is always a combination of the ‘visible and the sayable’.
  • Tellmann (2009) continues to describe Foucault’s relationship to the silences of the ‘market based truth’ because of the ‘fractal-panopticon- that ceaselessly produces and co ordinates identity in accordance with the governmental rationality – again acknowledging the ability to purchase a voice ‘online’.
  • Seaton & Curran (307:1997) comment, “The more wealth an entertainment system has, the more it shows programmes made specifically for its own audiences.” Therefore directly relating to B92, despite the audiences engagement with Olja Beckovic on “Impression of the week” (2014), the state-run institution, with purpose to provide state information to the people, decided to provide Beckovic with a difficult decision to choose to have her programme where she would have low ratings (eg daytime) and moved to a separate channel altogether. Resulting in Beckovic appeared to leave upon her own accordance. “A system unable even to understand its own self-interest, but blindly moving forward nonetheless” (Seaton & Curran 1997:311).
The Notion of Collective Responsibility and Corruption (Spurling)

National Belonging, Convergence Methodologies & Media Representations of Power

Recent contact with established journalist, Olja Beckovic has enhanced an understanding of the current state of media within Serbia. I begin this post with an understanding of power and responsibility, formed by knowledge of Curran (1981). Beckovic tends to research into the future of Serbian media and what forms still matter most. This often begs the question, of how can Serbian journalists improve the current situation and what would it take to readdress the state of national belonging affected by current mediated awareness.

Previous posts suggest strongly theories of Utopia Socialism: considered in terms of power by Engles (1880) of the attempt to provide a perfect solution therefore a ‘new’ world. Kumar, however, brings in the concept of technology into this new world utopia. Kumar (1981:302) suggests, “The utopian tide of the 1960’s flowed largely within a tide of technological optimism” ultimately the argument was not technological but against its abuse of technology. Technology, for journalists in Serbia especially, is a key tool that is necessary of the duty of reporter. Considering Zoric (2010) who engages in her understanding of security in Serbia by the advancement of technology going mobile and adapting to a professional lifestyle confidence of identity grows. The positionality of a female researcher is noted here, as the self-security is assured rather than being flanked by camera crew (‘men’). Media tends to be seen as a freedom of expression, especially under the works of Beckovic, which will be interesting to note her career development to become a journalist in the early 90’s, the same time as the position to be political TV show host, “The Impression of the Week”. In terms of security, perhaps the visual identification of her own image projected, and then nationally, was taken advantage of.

Curran (1981) identifies theories stemming from Foucault, whom identifies surveillance culture and control whilst still suggesting the potential for regulation. Contemporary theory comes under scrutiny here, the idea of subjectivity of understanding yourself, particularly one’s positionality as a researcher and/or reporter – which can often be suggested has similar connotations. We are often self disciplining and self monitoring, leading directly to discourses of surveillance which is interesting to consider in terms of Foucault & Althusser.

Feelings do not often have a linear history though they are being connected- as a narrative. This narrative can be displayed within works of journalism as expression of a news or event has been chosen but how that story has become represented and what facts appear to be chosen due to how the knowledge has formed as the researcher. “We are becoming … Not being”. Here, considering Serbia and what research that has been uncovered so far – the promise of happiness appears to be strongly motivating despite closure not being found in Belgrade.

Focusing on convergence mythology: Curran (1981:282):

“The rise of transnational media and globalization are weakening, in this view, identification with the nation. They are also said to be eroding engagement in national politics since this derives ultimately from a sense of national belonging”.

I am interested in the concept of national belonging for a journalist in Serbia. How is their future being contrasted by the catalyst of mobile technology and the advancement of how we receive our media? When borders are historically changing, how does it position itself (the researcher or journalist) in contact with its borders and neighbours – do they shape that individual subjectively through a grand fusion of technologies.

National Belonging, Convergence Methodologies & Media Representations of Power

Temptations, Western Influence & Turbo Folk

The interview begun with a brief revisit of the Yugoslavian history and addressing our own understanding as researchers, and considering our positionality. Jovana provided us an insight on the culture of Serbia through her own representation of the present:

“You know more, since those wars and end of communism and countries ‘made up’ there has been a mass difference; … you have your life plan so you travel and … Then we like to complain and not structure things… And definitely people become kind of lazy and – here (in the UK) you give the impression of trying and there wasn’t much passion for trying.”

Already this begun to ignite a further interest in the culture and lifestyle of Belgrade and how it had changed since the conflict. However, considering Jovana mentioned that she found her own culture as ‘lazy’, perhaps it is interesting to consider how technology and media has influenced this as it has become globally integrated within various lifestyles. Social media became a narrative for Jovana to recover details of the conflicts, as she gave us an insight on her own understanding of the representations other countries have illustrated of Serbia.

“For me, I … well, this media thing like facebook and different newspapers you can see young people who were born at war time or even years after, fighting and calling each other – for example Croatians against Serbians! Or… or Bosnians against Serbians – calling each other bad names…” The media clearly still matters though in a form to fuel conflict and representations that have been constructed on meta narratives previous to the war. Considering the temptations that the media faces, and the prosumers who create some of the content, to leave certain details out for a reason. This could be done unconsciously though it is still done for a reason. The media, for Serbia in particular, has conformed to a surveillance culture (Foucault) that enables young adults who have been told through politicians, families and mediated contexts to survey others from neighboring countries, such as Bosnia.

This alternatively relates into structuralism, the interview’s preliminary purpose was to understand Serbia’s culture before travelling to Belgrade, and as a change to the previously established Utopia, which Jovana suggested had now become so separate and divided. In terms of power, Engles (1880) points out that extreme revolutionists did not recognize any external authority of any kind whatsoever when considering Utopia Socialism of which he defined as: “an ideologically driven system that can provide hegemony and attempt to provide a solution to a perfect vision and a ‘new world’”.

Curran (2009) considers that the higher levels of news consumption contributes to a smaller ‘within-knowledge gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged’. Of which I found interesting to acknowledge during our interview with Jovana of media representations of their own celebrities and celebrity culture. Jovana introduced us to Turbo Folk inspired artist: Ceca, who’s husband fought in the war against Croatia though was killed in 2000. She was one of the highest paid female artists in Serbia and consequently inherited FK Obillic football club from her late husband, Arkan. Considering her media presence, as a female artist, she provides a sexualized response for young female Serbian followers of which they appear to look up to as a fashion icon.

Volcic (2010:104) describes Ceca as, “a version of comodified femininity based on the marketing of a promise of personal empowerment” however it must be noted that Ceca’s national identity of being originally a ‘Serb’ has been overridden, claims Volcic (2010) by her personal identity that has become, more recently, to conform to westernized values. Ceca and Turbo Folk’s image has become represented as western by conforming to ‘sexy’ and tightly dressed clothes that would be similar to established western pop music singers. The difference, perhaps, is that Ceca remain to be a female artist that has become empowered by triumphing over previous hardships. Sandvoss (2005:105) suggests that the media and cultural studies should focus upon the ‘multiple meanings to address “neutrosemic” texts’ which becomes an abstract understanding of boundaries that often become symbolic when represented to a global audience.

In terms of empowerment, Ceca has various values of wife and mother that illustrates her conforming to traditional and normative roles of a woman though arguably she is also conforming to modern (western) values as she is conforming to more than one value through her identity as successful artist and role model.

Volcic (2010) identifies Ceca as a local, “…and rose from local to national celebrity…” (2010:107) Of which conforms to one of the three temptations of the lure of the marginal. Fanon suggests that the voices of the local contain postcolonial identity and self-mutilations of the local voice. This may be one of the many reasons behind the respect and love for Ceca and fellow Turbo Folk artists, because of their recognition of the roots in which they originated from. Fanon continues to suggest that the local provides a space for this once oppressed voice and that it can be common for the discourse of the oppressed to still talk in the register of the oppressor and to consider themselves in that voice. Ceca’s power can be identified, not only by her visually noted beauty, established rural origins and (presently westernized) urban style but when her first recorded album was recorded in 1987 and exposed to fans, mainly situated in the Balkans. Resulting in Ceca’s national identity growing globally thus luring her to the value of the Cosmopolitan. When considering methods of research, Hannerz (1990) distinguishes the cosmopolitan from the tourist through state of mind, an interest for tolerance and for ‘otherness’. The cosmopolitan space is the most attractive to be situated in and viewed from. Here, Ceca can be identified as conforming to the cosmopolitan lure because she is a part of the local and has previously encountered the local which has shaped her knowledge and understanding of what the audience desires from her in Serbia, and surrounding Balkans.

As the interview progressed it became clearer that Jovana depended on the representations previously constructed and whom she was able to trust, though this appeared to vary from family members to mediated documentaries:

Adam Teighe: Did you say … obviously this is difficult for you because this is going back (historically) for you, but do you think people were happy before the war and before communism?

Jovana: Yes. Again, what I have seen from documentaries, and what I hear stories from older people and my parents that it was hard but communism tried to make everyone equal. But now, that gap between poor and rich is bigger. In that time we are all brothers –

Adam Teighe : Comrades…

Jovana: Er – I think people were happier, as people would have job and if you didn’t have job then you would get some help. Yes. Now you cannot count and that country is miserable and cannot survive …

In terms of representation of culture and globalisation of western values imposing upon once Yugoslavia combined countries, Curran & Seaton (1981:299) suggest that there is a “utopian projection”. A projection to the future when considering technologies and how we understand a culture when it is based upon a series of representation, of which for Jovana Serbia has become to a degree. Curran & Seaton (1981: 299-300) identify that; “information has been manipulated in different places for different purposes from broadcasting or telephones”. Which reminds us, as an external audience, that we have learnt or understood our representation of Serbia only by the information that has been predominantly exposed though we have not considered as highly the information that has been neglected because it is not as easily available.

Conclusively, Tarlac (2003) comments on the propaganda tool that Turbo Folk singers provide, to the ‘battlefield’ serving as a ‘motivational force for the military” (2003:107). Which can arguably provide the superiority of its kind in Serbia because of its respected ‘sound track’ to the conflict that was so intensely experienced, despite Ceca disliking the phrase ‘sound track’. It is interesting to consider the serious connotations Turbo Folk is recognised as being collaborated to because Volcic (2010) recognises that during early 1990’s the “turbo folk culture” were an important part to new commercial television stations such as TV Pink that tends to be ridiculed by Serbians for its name. Pink carries the connotation of immature and ‘laughable’. Though Volcic shapes this research understanding as this being the true birth of the celebrity status recognition for the Turbo Folk singers, such as Ceca, who reportedly became “celebrities of the culture of criminal acitvities combined with an aggressive embrace of the good life, mob style…” (2010:107). Ceca remains to be a highly respected idol for young adults in the Balkans, more so on a global scale now that she has become to adopt western influence considering her ‘sex appeal’ image.

Temptations, Western Influence & Turbo Folk

Starting from Zero – MindMap#2

Narratives: Is everywhere, which generates more confusion when parts of information or representations are neglected, as researchers we need to consider why this is and for what reason and who’s benefit.

The narratives, that are often expected within a country such as Serbia, as a commodity culture, can become fragmented that can develop and maintain a constant state of mis information interpreted. Resulting in the country from starting again from ‘zero’.

Considering a critique of a political economy: the way it is studied in terms of contemporary institutions and practises who controls the resources is important to consider as researchers. Who owns and controls them? Who owns the resources of the political economy and decides the interest of the people who are in power and will this investment be returned? In terms of Serbia’s current narrative they continue to speculate a desire to attain that on the surface everything is fine. However the reason for this is the forgone closure of a fragmented past. The media continues to form part of what is controlled in the news of the world and what does not get distributed shapes and defines our understanding of the world and space around us, including those spaces we have not yet explored.

Here, we consider our positionality as researchers. Well cultured, though still ignorant to the entire Yugoslavia history when considering at a young age in Serbia, English is learnt and developed. The politics of how this is controlled and represented is also determining on our understanding and knowledge as prosumers of media content in which we produce. Therefore, we should continue to consider theories of agency and theories of consent within the media and provide very finite media controls that can still progress even though we are digitally processing the use of media news at our own convenience (Zoric). Journalist Olja Beckovjk reports directly on the media break downs and black outs Serbia has experienced which is key to our own understanding of what their own journalists see worthy as published news report material. We are constantly re recreating new images and viewpoints. A cycle of narrative to fragmented narratives. Which enables us to comment on the media security of Belgrade and how reporters feel when reporting sensitive issues of their own narrative space.

Considering Zizek, (The last utopia dies with commodity culture) we begin to focus on how Belgrade has managed it’s mediation of celebrity and the political economy of the sign as a celebrity. This narrative that formulates its idea around the concept of a celebrity is important because it pulls in freedom of expression and to with free choice (hegemony) lifestyle and consumer choice. Here, again the idolised reporter Beckovjk can be highlighted: once supporting B92 radio station and entertainment her programme was ‘axed’ – Impression of the Week – a political programme that begun in 1991. Beckovjk now focuses on the current state of the media in Serbia. What future does it have and what kind? Does media still matter and in what form, she asks. How can journalists improve the situation – or narrative – that they are already in? when considering these meta narratives we can begin to consider surveillance culture (Foucault) and gender representations (McRobbie 2006). This alternatively relates into structuralism and understanding Serbia’s culture as a change in their previously established routine (pre Yugoslavia conflict – Utopia Socialism – Engles 1880). An ideologically driven system that can provide hegemony and attempt to provide (similarly to Beckovjk) a solution to a perfect vision and ‘new world’. Why and how has this narrative form become so powerful? As media students we will need to untidy these narratives through our understanding and progressing knowledge of Serbia. People want certain things that will make their world represented as more simplistic but they are also trying to shut the world off by an opposing reflection that everything is ‘fine’ in order to provide a positive identity.

Utopian Socialism can be expanded by the understanding of the lure of the marginal (the 3 temptations). Continue to consider power, Engles points out that extreme revolutionists did not recognise any external authority of any kind whatsoever – therefore reason became the sole measure of everything. Revolutionary uprising of class begun in Serbia after their Utopia was broken and a fragmented narrative expanded during the conflict. It is interesting to consider the future for Serbia and how the culture maintains its sole independent collaboration with countries they foresee as ‘powerful’ and useful for future engagement. Curran (2009) considers that the higher levels of news consumption contributes to a smaller within-nation knowledge gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged – Curran will be interesting to consider further when understanding the wider processes in society that take over the power of the media in determining how much people know about public life. Especially gaps between generations.

Here the West is introduced: capitalism and hegemonic ideas of freedom that can be conflicted with Serbia’s idea of freedom. The ‘Human Drift’ (1894) and ‘the will to power’ leading back to Utopian Socialism. Architecture and inter connections become considers (industrial revolution and post modernism) – adapting and integrating for productivity, in which Serbia is progressing to achieve, from zero.

serbia mind map

serbia mindmap

Starting from Zero – MindMap#2