Starstruck

[This post in response to Week 9 blog question:
Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforst ‘remain within the system of celebtrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269) Discuss giving an example of a YouTube video (embed it into post)]

Like many forms of new media, YouTube hasn’t been perfectly defined as of yet. In a nutshell, YouTube is an archive of old TV and movie footage, a never ending stream of video hits videos, home to almost all amateur video, as well as a platform on which an amateur artist can propel themselves into the limelight. YouTube is in a sense what the user needs it to be, hence the name YOUTube.

In recent years as the demand and popularity of the site grows so too do the ‘success stories’ about people who have been shot to fame through the medium. However, as Burgess and Green explore in their chapter ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media,’ there is more than one category of ‘fame’ when talking about ametur video on YouTube.

First there is the YouTube video that turns viral very quickly for apparently no reason other than large numbers of people find it amusing. An obvious example of this is the ‘Charlie bit me,’ video that had people saying ‘Owwww Charlie ….’ in a horrible British accent for weeks. These people, as Burgess and Green call them, are considered ‘stars’ as their fame, although viral and possibly world wide, does not stretch beyond the barriers of YouTube itself. They are a ‘star’ in the YouTube interface, but other than that they remain an ordinary person.

These people, in my opinion do not ‘remain within the system of celebrity’ and do not become controlled and obsessed over by the mass media. Most likely, because there would be simply too many of them. There are viral videos every day, every now and then one has more fame than most, and may get a mention on the evening news if it is a slow news day but generally they stay within the walls of YouTube, where the media really poses no threat to them.

Then there are the other kinds of YouTube fame, the kind that occurs when a certain person whose talent is broadcasted over YouTube is recognised by a record company or a producer and are sought out and offered a job. It is in instances such as this, where the real world meets the YouTube world that these ‘ordinary’ people who have become celebrities become a part of the ‘system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media.’

A handful of comedians, musicians and actors alike have been ‘discovered’ in this way, and while this is a very different way to ‘make it in showbiz’ the celebrities are hyped up by the mass media just as much as those that took the more traditional route. Justin Bieber is the most recent and well-known example of this. Far from the little boy singing Chris Brown in a home video, he is now a movie star who does acne commercials and who the world hears about every other day.

‘YouTube’ band, Boyce Avenue, a more recent clip of them and much more refined footage from their original pieces. They now have tours booked in the USA and Canada. Vided can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4zCOHFrLVY 

While sitting in a cafe about a year ago my friend and I were enjoying the covers we were hearing on the speakers and asked the waitress what CD they were playing. She said it was a YouTube band called ‘Boyce Avenue.’ I had not, up until that point, heard the phrase  YouTube band used, but sure enough there they were, a band of three brothers who started out posting videos of their work on YouTube. It worked … they were signed with a record company and their songs can now be purchased on iTunes. And all in good time, they will become fully integrated into ‘the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media.’

Consulted References:

Burgess, J. and Green, J. ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media,’ in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009.  


Up and coming digital natives

Following on from the main blog post I posted earlier about Lovink’s comments about blogs and bloggers I just read an article that has added another layer to my argument.

In today’s Sunday Magazine from the Herald Sun (which I happened to stumble across while having a quick break from the joy that is SWOT-VAC), there is an article by Angela Mollard about the idea of children blogging entitled ‘Lost in Cyberspace’. Centered around the fact that her seven year old daughter had recently shown interest in starting her own blog, Mollard explores what it means for children to blog.

Her examples centered around blogs being used for educational purposes, once again similar to the purposes for this blog here. She claimed that her daughter wanted to blog both to discuss what she had been learning about in school, as well as things that she liked.

This struck a chord with me, as I had never really consdiered the concept of children as young as 7, blogging. This was always to be expected as children younger than this have already created profiles on social networking sites (which is a totally different argument, for another subject, another day). Children of this generation are considered digital natives, unlike their parents who are subsequently referred to as digital immigrants. It is however the blogs of digital immigrants that are predominately gracing cyberspace today, although in under ten years this will not be the case.

The next few years in the advances of technology and new media will be interesting to witness as the new additions to new media (or simply media) will now be produced by people who were born after the digital revolution and have grown up with the internet and all that it has to offer. It will be interesting to trace the changes in both technology and the content of online social networking such as blogs, from a younger, fresher and totally diverse point-of-view.

After all these children had their births’ announced with a photo and caption on Facebook days before the short pay-by-word, black and white printed announcement in the local newspaper (that is, if people still even do that)… they were practically born with a keyboard at their fingertips.

The article (with alternate heading):
http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/in-cyberspace-no-one-can-hear-your-kid-scream/


Blogging: the purposes and the motives

[This post written in response to Week 7 blog post question:
Lovink (Reader, page 222) argues that: ‘No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remians that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self.’ Discuss giving an example of a blog]

It is almost impossible to define blogs; their purposes are too vastly different to define all of them in one broad sweeping definition. In the chapter Blogging, the Nihilist Impulse, Lovink states that ‘No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self.’  To me this appears to be far too much of a sweeping generalisation.

I cannot deny that there are a ridiculous number of blogs that read far too much like a personal journal. People’s motives for posting such a blog will obviously vary. Some may believe that people genuinely want to know everything about a person, others may simply feel the need to let out there emotions and blogging seems a more ‘grown-up’ method in which to do this. Lovink’s comments can therefore easily be adapted to such a blog.

However can this generalisation be adapted to the purposes for this very blog that I am writing here. This blog for Net Communications is the fourth blog that I have been required to complete as a mode of assessment in my two years at university so far. I struggle to believe that the University of Melbourne is the only university in the world to be using blogging as a form of assessment, it is likely that this trend is taking off in universities worldwide and will most likely grow in future years.

So is blogging ideas and responses to subject materials and readings studied in class considered ‘a tool to manage the self’? I personally don’t see it that way. As we have discussed in this subject, using the blog as a form of assessment ties together the theory we have been learning in a practical way. Still no reference to a ‘tool to manage the self.’

Yes, blogs have a personal voice, maybe that makes them appear to be too personal however there are many forms of ‘old’ media such as newspaper columns that read very similarly to blogs anyway. In an entire newspaper there are articles written on a plethora of topics and a critic could not analyse the content of every article in an entire newspaper in one broad sweeping comment, the same must be said of blogs.

Blogs vary, and are as much a result of the technology that allows them to function as they are of the views of the society who contribute to them. Blogs haven’t replaced ‘old’ media. Not every blogger has the intention of being a journalist which is why blogs vary so vastly in content.

Some blogs read like a social networking site, some read like a newspaper and some, in this case read like an informal educational essay that has nothing to do with the personal life of the creator. Not all ‘blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self.’

Consulted References:

Lovink, G. ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse,’ in Zero  Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge.


Microsoft v Apple … the rivalry continues

Another day, another technology driven story in the papers (or should I say in the on-line papers). At first I thought it was a nice pleasant coincidence that there have been so many technology related articles in the news in recent weeks as I have been desperately trying to finish my NetComm blog … but no, this amount of interest in technology is not at all a new phenomenon.

New media is constantly changing and being altered to fit with the fast paced society that we live in. This new age media integrates so easily into the system that you have to stop for a moment and remind yourself that it wasn’t always there. No-one knew what an iPad was five years ago, yet they have blended so easily into society that it is hard to remember life without them.

One of the many Mac v PC Ads from a few years ago. Video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzEtRrZVFIQ&NR=1

Then there is of course the ongoing rivalry between Microsoft and Apple (eerily similar to the constant rivalry between ‘old’ media’s Herald Sun and The Age newspapers), which brings me to the article I read earlier today, ‘Microsoft unveils touch-oriented Windows 8’ from the Computer World Daily Newlsetter. The article discusses the next version of Windows and what this means for society, it discusses the flexibility of this new technology and that it ‘will be better suited for the emerging world of tablet PCs.’ It also makes claims that this new interface is needed to make Windows a ‘contender’ with other companies such as Apple, with their new tablet technology.

This makes me wonder, would new media as we know it today, have developed so quickly if there had only been one ‘contender’? Is it the ongoing competition between companies such as Microsoft and Apple (which brings to mind the old Macintosh versus PC ads) that creates this fast paced, technology driven culture? and if it is, is this a good thing? …. food for thought.

The article:
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9217230/Microsoft_unveils_touch_
oriented_Windows_8?taxonomyId=12&pageNumber=1


The daily news … but at what cost?

With new age media we are exposed to news in so many different ways on a daily basis; whether it be through TV programs, blogs, twitter feeds, Facebook status’, websites … oh and that thing called the newspaper. My laptop, for example, has a constant news feed that displays headlines from numerous different news websites from around the world and automatically updates when a new story is posted on-line and it appears on my sidebar (when my temperamental internet connection is working that is).

Every now and then one of these headlines catches my eye; I learned about the death of screen legend Elizabeth Taylor from this news feed as well as the death of Osama Bin Laden. Yesterday another headline caught my eye, it read: ‘Era of free content is over says Fairfax chief,’ and it had been taken from yesterday’s ‘The Australian.’

Upon reading this headline my initial reaction was to laugh. Really? Era of free content is over? Who are they kidding? were the thoughts rolling through my mind. After proceeding to read the article in its entirety I still couldn’t shake these initial questions.

The article discussed the new iPad apps that each major news company are producing and making avaliable for about $8.99 a month. Fairfax’s chief  executive Greg Hywood is quoted saying that ‘There was a time where that print content was translated online and was for free. Publishers around the world are making the judgement that that period is essentially over.’

I however am still not completely convinced that people are going to be that willing to start paying for aspects of the internet that were originally free. Granted this article is only targeting print media and various newspaper publications however the argument still stands, moving from paid content to free content is easy, moving back the other way is very likely to present issues. Especially considering the internet provides multiple roads for obtaining the same piece of information; people may just have to start wondering down the road less travelled.

The article:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/era-of-free-content-is-over-says-fairfax-chief/story-e6frg996-1226065612627


To blog, or not to blog ….

[This post is in response to the week 4 blog question:
Russel (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: ‘Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?’ (Reader, pg 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.]

Blogging is an interesting topic to consider in relation to new age media, it is a cross between a newspaper column and a personal journal that doesn’t quite fit the traditional pigeonholes of mainstream media ….. but maybe it’s not supposed to?

The question raised by Russell (et al.) in the chapter ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture,’ from Networked Publics, was ‘Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?’ …. Well that depends.

‘Elite media corporations’ as they have been referred to, have existed for centuries and are respected as the traditional mode of media representation in a community. These  days, however, mainstream media is not as generally accepted as it used to be, as Russell says ‘people are actively resisting the content and practices of mainstream news,’ especially since the birth of the ‘blog’ and the opportunities it presents.

Bloggers, in a very general sense, are people who have something they want to say; blogs are a form of free speech. In a sense they can be likened to the 50s housewife who wanted to share a recipe with her friends, to Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream ….’ speech in the 1960s. People have always found a stage on which to exercise their right to free speech.

Blogging is the 21st Century platform for these kinds of people; for all kinds of people …. but the question still remains, is it effective?

I mentioned earlier that whether or not blogs effectively informed the public depends; it depends on how popular the blog is and who the blog is produced by. Traditional media have attempted to keep up with technology by producing websites and blogs, however as Russell explores in the article, these institutions ‘offer only the illusion of online interactivity.’

Blogs that effectively analyse major world issues such as politics, technology, social reform, globalisation, etc are likely to be more effective in their coverage than elite media institutions  due to the sheer number of them and the fact that they appear to more effectively utilise the ‘new’ media. But do people go looking for them?

The content of some individual blogs that address social and political issues are often quite diverse to mainstream media, especially when the bloggers are freelance journalists who don’t wish to alter their views to fit the mold of a media institution. However these blogs are only more effective in informing the public if they actually reach the public and in the blogosphere this can be a hit or miss concept. Even when they do reach the public, blogging is still a very individual practice.

What happens to the blogs that don’t get read? No matter how controversial or politically correct a blog is, if it doesn’t get read then it has no impact. To make a blog a hit it needs to have a wide appeal, there has to be demand for it. In today’s society there is plenty of demand for alternatives to mainstream media. People are more informed and they go searching for like minded people with whom they can share their views. Blogs can in a way, better inform the public if they provide what it is the public are looking for.

However, our world is not entirely virtual yet, while people may not completely trust traditional media like they used to, media such as newspapers and public speaking still play an important role in our society. Blogs however, are also beginning to carve their niche, they just have to pick their audience.

Consulted References:

Adrienne Russell, Mizuko Ito, Todd Richmond and Marc Tuters,’ Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture,’ in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, pp. 43-76.


‘How to be a gangster, emo, nerd, ninja ….’

[This post is in response to the week 3 blog question:
While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation of online ‘communities’?]

Today I have written a blog, uploaded photos to Facebook, cooked a meal for five people and played the piano; each of which at some point in my life I have learnt how to do either from books, school or purely observation …. Now however, each of these valuable tasks that I have obtained over my lifetime I can learn in short 3-7 minute clips on YouTube. There is also a video to show me how to get a six pack in 3 minutes and how to be a ninja … valuable life lessons I think. At the click of the mouse I can watch a video clip of my favourite song as well as watch a video of a random person on the other side of the world, fall out of a tree, eerily reminiscent of those I used to watch on Australia’s Funniest Home Videos as a child … and the list goes on. YouTube is a world unto itself. Entire days can be spent aimlessly browsing through YouTube videos and the time seems to vanish into thin air. This can all be attributed to the influences of the interface and ranking tactics avaliable on YouTube.

One of the many things you can learn on YouTube. Video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pobuw7Wk2k

In my opinion the interface of the site and the ranking tactics that promote recently viewed videos is a stroke of pure genius. After searching YouTube for the video you initially wanted to watch the ‘suggestions’ at the end of that video will inevitably link you to another video, somehow related to the first, and the cycle continues. By employing this method YouTube ensure that they can hold onto their viewers’ attention for extended periods of time, therefore increasing the sites usage.

These ranking tactics are the quintessential goal of YouTube to attract viewers and to boost views; as Van Dijk makes clear in his article ‘Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content,’ the design of the YouTube interface partially manipulates these ‘communities.’ Van Dijk talks about the ‘substantial role a site’s interface plays in manoeuvring individula users and communities’ in the case of YouTube this substnatial role cannot be denied. These ranking tactics create online communities by giving the impression that people are part of an entire conglomerate of people, sharing the same ideas and views and taste in music.

The virtual community that social networking sites promotes may not fit old school ideas about the theory of communities, however in a current day context they still need to be considered. The sheer amount of time spent contributing to these virtual communities is proof that the fundamental appeal of belonging to a community in which others share like views still very much exists in this new age community that we have created.

YouTube is in one sense a learning/teaching tool, in another it provides entertainment. Like many successful aspects of the internet, YouTube fits no particular category, that’s what makes it genius. If people dedicated the hours they spend on YouTube in a week to other tasks they could probably learn to drive or memorise the periodic table, but don’t worry, there are videos for that as well!!

Consulted References:

Van Dijk, J. ‘Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content,’ Media, Culture and Society 31 (2009).