Ottawa’s Past in Pictures : Photography as Mass Media

A view of the Centre Block in 1884, with its centrepiece the 55-metre-high Victoria Tower. After being destroyed by the great fire of 1916, the Centre Block was rebuilt with a newly-designed and taller Peace Tower. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-003340)

 Photography functions both as a Mass Medium and as content for other Mass Media. It can be used as a means of documenting  events and as an artistic medium to entertain/comment . The CBC News has been running a series of articles exploring Ottawa‘s past through archival photography. As with any form of Mass Media, these pieces of media reveal target audience, values. beliefs & ideologies, and convey intended and unintended messages.

Ottawa’s thin blue line was a lot thinner in 1912, with a much smaller police force for a much smaller municipal population of about 100,000. Back then, bicycles served as equivalent of squad cars. Police officer James Fagan is posing outside C. Poulin’s store at 324 Rochester St. (City of Ottawa Archives/CA001216)

 

The Anglo-Irish police officer in front of a French Canadian owned store reveal/suggest the cultural-socioeconomic structural lines of Canadian society . To further cement  this image a truly Canadian, note the shop window. Red Rose Tea, advertised for sale in the shop window,  is a classic emblem of Canada.  Red Rose Tea  was a beverage company established by Theodore Harding Estabrooks in 1894 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. It is considered an iconic part of Canadian culture and many consumers have a strong emotional attachment to the brand  ( Only in Canada, eh ? Pity….. ).

Workers at the Ottawa Car Company plant on Slater Street pose with ‘Lallah Rookh,’ one of the first electric streetcars to ply the streets of Ottawa, in this 1893 photo. The company would go on to build 1,700 streetcar and rail vehicles before closing in 1947. Electric streetcars operated in the capital from June 1891 until May 1959. (City of Ottawa Archives/CA001508)

 

The white working men pose depict their social class and the style of clothing of the time. Notice the little girls to the left dressed in very adult clothes of young ladies. Childhood was seen as miniature adulthood and girls & women had roles to fill that were as defined as the men posing in the shot.

The young girls  in the following shot, infant Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and her sisters, resided in Ottawa during the WW II, they too had roles to play, even as children.  They were emblems of a social structure, a society & people under threat, and the  Yousuf Karsh portrait is intended to portray/represent a mother and her children who have sought sanctuary.

 

Princess Juliana of the Netherlands holds an infant Princess Margriet at Stornoway (later to become the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition) in Rockcliffe, their home during the Second World War. Juliana and her three girls found refuge in Ottawa after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. The Canadian government declared Juliana’s maternity room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital international territory to ensure Margriet would bear only Dutch citizenship. After the war, an appreciative Royal family sent Ottawa 100,000 tulips, spawning the long-standing tulip festival the capital continues to enjoy every spring. (Library and Archives Canada/Yousuf Karsh/PA-192854)

The potential of heroism & compassion can also be portrayed in scenes of tragedy and calamity , as the following images demonstrate.

 

 

 

Theories as to the cause of the Centre Block fire, but to this day it remains a mystery. An official inquiry failed to determine whether the blaze was sparked by arson, a careless smoker or perhaps faulty wiring. (John Boyd/Library and Archives Canada)

 

Eight people, including two children, all newly-arrived immigrants, died in the derailment. At least 50 more were injured. Many of those on board were Scottish and Irish immigrants who had arrived in Canada only hours earlier. While many residents showed up to watch the spectacle, others helped search for and comfort survivors, and opened their homes to stranded families. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-025114)

 

Clicking the images will take you( new tab) to original CBC articles which include more images and information.  Consider the values, beliefs & ideologies the that the CBC is trying to convey about Canada, Canadian culture and Ottawa,  in our 150th year.

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Cultural Appropriation : Jesse Wente’s Response

 

Jesse Wente has appeared on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning as film and pop culture critic for 20 years and currently serves as Director of Film Programmes, at TIFF Bell Lightbox, overseeing theatrical, Cinematheque and Film Circuit programming. A self-described ‘Ojibwe dude’ with a national and international lens, he encourages audiences to consider diversity and inclusion into the future view of their organization, industry and country.

Well known as a film critic and broadcaster in Toronto and across Canada, Jesse was the first nationally syndicated Indigenous columnist for the CBC, covering film and pop culture for 20 local CBC Radio programs. He has also been a regular guest on CBC Newsworld’s News Morning and Weekend Edition, as well as Q.

 

Jesse Wente is a leading film critic and programmer of Indigenous cinema

 

Jesse is Ojibwe, and his family comes from Chicago and the Serpent River First Nation in Ontario. He is an advocate for Aboriginal Arts, most notably on screen. He draws attention to the imagery used by Hollywood in portrayals of indigenous peoples and stresses the need for a culture to have influence on their own depiction. His pieces on The Revenant, Beyonce and sports mascots were among the most shared on CBC.ca .  SOURCE: National Speakers Bureau

 

An editorial introducing the concept of an “appropriation prize” for the author who can best embody the cultural experience of a minority group in Canada comes off as an attempt to steal one of the few things Indigenous people in Canada have left — their story, according to one Indigenous author.

“We’ve lost our land, we’ve lost our languages and almost the last thing we have left are our stories and our voices,” said D.A. Lockhart, a member of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation in Chatham-Kent.

“To have somebody come in and say we’ll tell those better than you … is sort of a painful kick while you’re already down.”  SOURCE:  Appropriation Prize Controversy an Opportunity for Learning CBC NEWS

Mass Media consumes Mass Media, turning other forms of Mass Media into content  and incorporating/emulating  other Media’s Codes & Conventions.  In this process, appropriation of topics, subject matter and other aspects of content will be distorted intentionally & unintentionally through the Values, Beliefs & Ideologies of those delivering the Mass Media Text/Message. It becomes very easy for Mass Media creators & producers to appropriate a culture other than their own  through adoption & adaptation; we are only confronting the past and potential damage that this creates when a cultural group is overwhelmed by a more powerful (politically/economically) cultural group.  The question of who controls the narrative and to what purpose becomes a significant part of Mass Media, Media Literacy, and society at large.

Timmins, Ont. girl petitions to sign up for boys-only robotics class

A nine-year-old girl who started an online petition to take part in a boys-only robotics class at a Timmins, Ont., library will now be able to take part.

Robotics for boys only advertisement

The Timmins Public Library advertisement for this “special program” was challenged by a local girl who wanted to take part in the session.

The Timmins Public Library is now offering the robotics session to all children between the ages of 9-12.

bookworm

It was welcome news to Cash Cayen’s mother, who said “we need to change the way our society thinks.”

The Exile of Time

“The CEO of the library sent me a text message directing me to their Facebook page to see their official media release,” Caroline Martel said.

Rendezvous with Destiny

“The media release [said] they ‘wish to apologize to the public and Science Timmins for the misunderstanding related to the Robotics event which was designed to encourage improved literacy through reading.’ Although I disagree with the claim that this was a ‘misunderstanding,’ Cash and I are happy with their decision to open the session up to all children regardless of their gender.”

Close to 30,000 people signed the petition, and many shared stories about discrimination.

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“Gendered approaches to education are extremely problematic,” Martel said in a post on change.org. .

via Timmins, Ont. girl petitions to sign up for boys-only robotics class – Sudbury – CBC News. Listen to Interview: Caroline Martel and library board chair Michael Doody spoke with CBC Sudbury’s Up North radio program on Thursday about the situation that has raised the ire of many.

Media Literacy: Personal Cultural Space & The Vampire Maman

 

Today I discovered Vampire Maman, a fascinating blog about   The Musings of Modern Vampire Mom by the author Juliette Kings.

Kings’s blog is full of quirky humour and insight. One post that got me thinking in tangential directions was Thank you for pissing off my teenage daughter . It was an open letter to her 14 year old daughter’s  English teacher. As a retired  teacher (English/Spe.Ed/Media Literacy), I found it delightfully refreshing in how it both expressed parental concerns and showed a depth of understanding of a teacher’s difficult role in a child/teen’s life. The ironic humour was very effective and the observations were insightful.

Of course it brought up a number of ideas that I would like to address. The first thing that jumped out at me was how her daughter was not allowed into the Honours English and that as a consequence she was in a mix of students whose life/academic goals & classroom behaviour/attitude were disappointing.

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Here in Ontario ( Canada), the educational goal/challenge levels currently Academic (University & College), Applied ( College & Workplace), Open, Essential ( Locally Developed) and Life Skills. While a student and their parents are given guidance and suggested educational pathways to choose from, they are free to select their own pathway. This means if you want to take an Academic rather than Applied or the reverse there is nothing preventing you.

 

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Applied students are motivated to succeed and have a wide range of life & educational goals, as they come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. As a consequence, it is more difficult to create a programme that satisfies and engages them all equally. There also tends to be more students within the demographic requiring Special education support, creating even more diversity in learning styles and motivation.

 

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I am not sure of what kinds of choices in educational programme were offered in this situation (American), but from the description of  frustrations expressed, I think Vampire Daughter is more Academic oriented than many of her classroom peers. This is challenging both for her and her mother. It will also mean her teacher has a challenge as well in engaging the girl and any other students who are in similar circumstances .

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One of the concerns in Juliette Kings’s post  was about how her daughter’s reading interest and attire could have been misconstrued by the teacher.

 ……She reads books about drugs, suicide, cancer and mental illness. These books are dark. These books don’t have happy endings. Nobody celebrates at the end.

Her reading list includes: Go Ask Alice, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Fault in Our Stars.  ……………. No doubt you noticed that my kid wears a lot of black and too much black eye liner as well.

Source: The Doll in The Wall – Click Image to read

Fortunately, this Maman  could see both her child’s unease and positive aspect of the teacher’s concern. She responded with a post that acknowledged both the child and the educator as partners with valid issues.  She accomplished this with humour and a balanced understanding of her child’s needs and the professional needs/duties of the child’s teacher. Very well done.

This brings me to where education, Media Literacy and Personal Cultural Regions meet – sometimes in an uneasy conversation. We all have our own Personal Cultural Space that we live in. It comes with its own idiolect that we use when expressing our Self to those around us. It includes not just our language(s), vocabulary, gender, age, race, ethnicity and personal interests, values &beliefs, but also our body language including dress, the accoutrements of our daily life ( key chains, wallets, cellphones, tablets, actual printed text, recorded music, vehicles, pets). 

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As you can see, this Personal Cultural Space is heavily saturated with Mass Media ( both content and devices). We need to keep in mind the Principles of Mass Media when we encounter and interact with others and their Cultural Space. All Mass Media convey intended and unintended messages.  Mass Media always has context, but that context may be altered.  A team logo or religious symbol has specific meaning for different individuals.  In effect, each individual creates/carries context with them, as a part of their own Cultural Space.  The transmission of messages has to cross Cultural Spaces that can disrupt context.

 

 

Click link for Shakespeare’s Sonnets III & XXIX

When the English teacher became concern with her student’s choice of reading material and style of dress, the teacher’s Cultural Space was influencing how she parsed the message that her student was expressing through within the student’s own cultural Space.   This is part of the daily interaction that  educators, students and parents must negotiate.

Click Image to see source – They Say Chivalry is Dead

We can take this a step further, and consider wider generational and social communities. We then see that many conflicts within North American society  ( Canada & America) can be seen as form of Mass Media interactions. The use of Media Literacy as a means of interpreting the messages of Personal Cultural Space will go towards breaking down misunderstandings & averting potential conflict.