Let’s Reflect

When asked to commence blogging for Convergent Media Practices at the beginning of the semester, I must admit I was frightened. Putting my thoughts out there, into the vast online world, was very confronting. What if my posts weren’t good? Everyone in my class could see them. In fact, anyone in the world could…

When I found myself writing my first post, it took me hours upon hours to edit and re-edit what I was about to submit into cyberspace. Now, after commencement, my posts are up within a quick half hour. This post is a reflection on my best blog entries.

My first ever blog post Why hasn’t Girl Talk been sued? is one of my favourite posts perhaps due to the sheer amount of time I assigned to it. Exploring copyright laws encouraged me to reflect on the distinct remix-culture we reside in. I effectively related the subject material to the copyright issues surrounding one of my favourite musicians, Girl Talk. By discussing a world-renowned artist and questioning copyright laws and fair use, I believe I reached my audience with a relatable example. I also believe the post is engaging due to insightful hyperlinks and an embedded Soundcloud track.

In week seven we explored the evident rising popularity of nerds and the post Get Your Nerd On. is my reflection on this topic. This post represented my deep personal reflection on how the popularity of nerds has caused me to rethink some of my choices in life. Due to my particular interest in fashion, I discussed the rise of the nerd culture and how it has been represented through fashion trends. This post is effective as it represents my newfound awareness regarding technological advancements and the following paradigm shift surrounding nerds.

My most recent post BEWARE of the Troll! reflected my opinions surrounding online identity and the issue of ‘trolling’. This is one of my favourite posts as I believe my opinion is louder than it has been previously, this is likely due to my interest in the issue. Because of this, I found writing the post relatively easy. I discussed the weekly material and also conducted further research into the topics. This allowed me to provide superior examples through hyperlinking. Writing this post caused me to identify the pros and cons of anonymity and identity online. It also effectively revealed my personal opinion regarding trolling and misogyny.

Studying Convergent Media Practices and entering the blogosphere has caused me to think about the convergent world that we exist in. It has reiterated to me the monumental impact of the internet. Along with my confidence in having an online presence, my writing skills have also improved. I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the digital media that surrounds us and its effects on everyday life.

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BEWARE of the Troll!

The idea of the internet ‘troll’ is not a new one. Violent, inflammatory messages are ridden throughout chat rooms, blogs and forums with the soul intent of provoking an emotional response. Living in what I believe is still a somewhat sexist reality it’s easy to grasp the idea that a large majority of this trolling is directed at women and is of misogynistic nature.

The internet has provided a window for this previously concealed misogyny to climb on through. Not long ago, such forms of abuse involved a type writer and snail mail. These days the idea of online anonymity allows people the freedom and confidence to say things they wouldn’t normally say and provides them with the shield of a screen name. The keyboard warriors have a world where they are free to indulge in their worst tendencies.

Louise Mensch, a controversial MP, recently had abuse hurled at her online after a television appearance. Twitter was alive with trolling directed openly @LouiseMensch. To give you an idea, here’s a few of the charming tweets:

“Typical soulless rich whore.”

“Louise Mensch.. You would wouldn’t you? Given half the chance you’d strangle her!”

“Diarrhoea in a litter tray, Louise Mensch, same difference.”

What’s not often brought to the public eye is the more alarming form of this type of trolling, the type that involves malicious threats towards the individuals and their families. The viral Twitter campaign #mencallmethings exposed such attacks. Suzanne Moore, a Guardian columnist, said she “can’t put here some of the stuff men write to me. It involves dismemberment, blood and excrement.”

This form of misogyny is causing some of the best names in journalism to hesitate before publishing their opinions.

So is there a solution to this growing trolling? Should everyone be identifiable online? Anonymity is a large part of the success of the internet and something in which it has been framed upon. With identity comes responsibility, however, the idea of forming legitimate identity online is virtually impossible.

As a woman, to these women, I say cop it on the chin and carry on. Name them and shame them. If the threats can’t be shrugged off due to their sheer viciousness, then there are other roads to take. Get the authorities involved, track some IP addresses and expose the troll behind the keyboard. It would be shocking to see women let the trolls consume them and be bullied into silence.

Are you a journalist?

At this point in time, it’s likely that you’re answering with ‘no’. Traditionally, a journalist is a person who is employed to research, write and report information through means of a mass media channel with the intent of reaching a large audience.

Let me now introduce you to the concept of the citizen journalist. This term has taken off over the past decade as we are witnessing the sheer power of the internet and its participatory framework. Traditional ‘news’ and how we come across it has seen a colossal transformation.

Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis describe this citizen journalism phenomena as, “[t]he act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information.”

Citizen journalism has played an enormous role in documenting major news around the world. In a previous post, I have discussed its role in the London Bombings. We’ve all seen the dramatic videos from September 11 captured on smart phones and distributed virally. More recently, Syrian activists are revealing their nations unrest via YouTube in a time when the Syrian government has blocked conventional types of journalism. And, more often than not, a large majority of us find out about celebrity death via social media feeds.

The internet has seen an explosion of networks and platforms in which everyone can participate. Users are encouraged and empowered. Specific collective intelligence websites, such as Storify.com, now exist to offer users a new platform on which their journalistic ideas can be not only be written, but collaborated and appreciated.

Now let’s reconsider that opening question…

Have you ever tweeted when stuck in a horrendous traffic jam, warning other drivers to take an alternate route? Ever recorded a video of a malicious fight on a night out and posted it online? Monumentous or not, these are indeed forms of citizen journalism.

Citizen journalists are often ridiculed for their bias, subjectivity and unreliability. Regardless, I believe the uncensored content of this form of journalism powerfully embodies a raw truth and authenticity which no traditional media can successfully offer. No longer are we subject to mass media gatekeepers feeding us only with the news they feel appropriate. The audience has been empowered, and we have a right to choose what we believe is newsworthy.

What’s that sound?

That’s the Amen Break, the world’s most important 5.2 second drum loop. Whether you’re aware not, it’s likely you’ve heard it thousands of times.

The Amen Break was created and performed by a funk-and-soul band, The Winstons, in their song “Amen, Brother” back in the 1960’s.

It’s much more than a drum loop. It symbolises the rich remix and ‘mash-up’ culture we exist in. Participation has seen the break move between many a music genre from funk, soul, gospel and hip-hop to rave, jungle and drum&bass.

The internet provides us with the technologies to borrow, transform, remix, share and distribute music. We are able to use and produce collectively. This creates a new breed of user– the produser. So when does one cross the copyright line?

I’ve discussed the idea of music sampling and copyright issues in a previous post regarding Girltalk. Greg Gillis is the man behind Girltalk. He is a world renowned music creator whose work consists entirely of other artist’s music samples. Taking someone’s work and remixing it into your own obviously evokes some copyright issues.

The Amen Break has been sampled hundreds of times and despite this, the Winstons have never received royalties. And I don’t believe they should. It’s highly doubtful they were the first to compose that beat; they were just the ones that made it mainstream.

Along with strict copyright comes a strain on creativity. Copyright enforcement has the ability to shut down the remix culture. We are operating based on copyright principles that stood well before the monumental existence of the internet. I think it’s time to reassess copyright laws because in this day and age, everything is borrowed.

Get Your Nerd On.

Like many, I spent a large majority of my younger years trying to find myself and fit in. I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be but I did have a fair idea of who I didn’t want to be, and that was one of the geeky nerds who spent their school hours buried in books and their weekends behind game consoles.

This time was spent trying to de-nerdify one’s self only years later to find out… What? That nerds are now cool?

That’s right. Times they are a changin’.

Gone are the days when one sheepishly tries to hide their vast collection of comic books or highly developed opposable thumbs. Geeky interests in comics, film, games and technologies was once all that was needed for an individual to be socially ridiculed and the target of many a wedgie. These individualistic addictions are now being humbly embraced.

Cue the rise of the nerd.

Society has seen a shift in which nerds have become ‘coolified’, and it’s not too hard to understand why. The internet has given these nerds tools to connect with each other, empowering them with the realisation that they are not alone in their geeky interests. Now these nerds, armed with their knowledge, have their chance to use to internet to make BIG money and change the world. Take Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg- they probably weren’t the coolest kids in school.

Nerdom has become a mainstream popculture trend and fashion is naturally following. Fake glasses, high buttoned shirts and themed tee’s are all part of the rising style known as geek chic.

This new realisation of the coolness of nerds has left me feeling a little empty. Am I boring? As a kid I spent my days trying to steer clear of all things nerdy and now I just feel that I’m a little lacking in passion. I’m currently on the lookout for a nerdy interest to adopt and fill my time. Until then, I  might invest in some frames with popped out lenses and fake my nerdiness like the rest of the hipsters.

Transmedia Storytelling Delves Deeper

It would at first seem that the Blair Witch Project is just like any other American horror film, full of gaping plot holes. It’s based on the disappearance of three amateur film makers hiking in the hills of Burkitsville, Maryland. The three students are never to be seen again and the film comprises of their abandoned footage that was later recovered and relates their disappearance to the local legend of the Blair Witch. But we don’t know what really happened.We’ve come to expect these sorts of gaps in storytelling plots. But what if we could find out more? What if we could delve deeper into the story to explore the answers to our lingering questions?

The uprise of multiple media channels has allowed creators to employ a new age process of storytelling- Transmedia.

Henry Jenkins describes transmedia storytelling as, “A process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.”

The Blair Witch Project is in the original form of film, but the viewer’s understanding of the story doesn’t end there. It’s a transmedia narrative and was designed with the purpose of being explored over multiple channels. It really isn’t just any ordinary horror film.

Take the Blair Witch website for example, in the Mythology section there is a fake timeline which was published to provide deeper historical insight into the ‘urban legend’ of the Blair Witch. Another section on the site, Aftermath, lets us explore what happened after the movie’s end. It shows police evidence, photographs, interviews and other fake documentation. The website is an extension of the story and, as Jenkins states, “Adds a greater sense of realism to the fiction as a whole.”

A series of eight books titled The Blair Witch Files were also released in 2000 and were based on the exploration of the unexplained evil in the hills. The additional information is provided in the attempt to discover what really happened to the victims. A four issue comic book series was also produced titled The Blair Witch Chronicles and a trilogy of computer games were released. The novels, comics and games each made a unique contribution to the story as a whole and has allowed us to actively participate in and explore the Blair Witch Project.

Transmedia storytelling has enabled market expansion by targeting different segments and allowing multiple points of entry. Take a gamer, for example, who may have stumbled across and appreciated the game which then propelled him to watch the movie or even purchase the series of books. Transmedia is essential for economic growth within the industry and will inevitably be the future of storytelling.

Gaps in an unfolding story don’t need to be just that. Start to look around a little – there is a whole other world to be discovered.

The Internet Gives Us a Voice

How would you seek out news on this fine Tuesday morning? Perhaps you skim through the daily newspaper whilst sipping your morning coffee, or maybe the 8AM radio news on your commute to university keeps you informed . Both are valuable and somewhat ‘credible’ sources of information. These types of journalism are referred to as monologic media, broadcasting from one to many. They provide you with access to information, but they do so passively. It is because of this that these forms of media are dwindling. They don’t allow us to voice our opinions, and after all, everybody has the desire to be heard.

The internet has seen the rise of dialogic forms of media, from many to many,  and the internet is just that: dialogic by design. It creates something that monologic media doesn’t, the ability for us all to be heard. This has seen the rise of the citizen journalist whereby members of the public actively process, collect, report, analyse and disseminate news and information. Anybody with internet access can broadcast a message via platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs. Consumers have transformed from passively listening to actively communicating.

Janey Gordon (2007) explores the influences of new media in the reporting of three critical situations, one of these situations being the London Bombings of 2005. Gordon states that “those involved or nearby were already giving dynamic accounts from their mobile phones” and that the media and press “used images taken on mobile phones to supplement – and in their terms ‘enhance’ – their coverage of the event” (p. 314). Without citizen journalism, such in-depth accounts of the London Bombings would have been delivered much slower to the public, and information available would have been purely that provided by the police.

Citizen journalism now plays a vital role in the public sphere and the way in which we come across sources of news and information has changed rapidly. The downside to this new era of journalism is that content on the internet passes though weak or non-existent gate-keepers. We are faced with a dilemma – how do we establish the credibility of sources of information in this day and age?

How would you react if a friend tweeted that a tsunami was heading for the east coast of Australia? Would you instantaneously grab your belongings and run for the hills? My guess is probably not. We are given the freedom to participate in the online world and we therefore enlist to understanding that not everything we stumble upon on the internet should be taken at face value.

References:

Gordon, J (2007), ‘The Mobile Phone and the Public Sphere: Mobile Phone Usage in Three Critical Situations’, Convergence, vol.13, no.2, pp307-319

Don’t Put All of Your Apples in One Basket

My gadget collection consists of an iPhone, a MacBook Air and an iPad. Apple, Apple, Apple. Why? Due to the market saturation, I have just assumed that it is the way the technology is going and that I should purchase accordingly before I get left behind.

My father is opposed. He is a PC and Android type of guy. I’ve always thought he was just ‘stuck in his old ways’. However, due to a recent lecture I’ve come to understand his reasoning behind it all.

Apple’s products are what we call ‘closed’ or ‘locked’ devices. Take the Apple iPhone for example; Apple has control over what applications are available to customers via the ‘App Store’ thus restricting what can be housed on your device and what can be accessed. This achieves control over the content and the user. Apple devices cannot be ‘rooted’ and they therefore also claim control over the platform itself. It’s a very logical example of business consolidation and Apple’s aim for industry domination.

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There are obvious Apple vs. Android debates circling new technologies.

Android provides something that Apple doesn’t, a generative platform. This invites prosumer’s creativity and innovation. Android allows users access to the code which enables them not only to control the software on the device but also the hardware itself. Android gives us free choices. This freedom also has its consequences including spyware, identity theft and viruses.

Will Apple products become fads that are phased out by empowered consumers favouring generative platforms? Or will perhaps the tight security and elegant design of Apple outweigh the negative impacts of a locked device? Personally, I’m reconsidering my ‘Apple, Apple, Apple’ attitude towards technologies and I wonder if my devices will become sterile in time. Android and Apple are currently battling head to head on tablet and smartphone sales. It looks like we’ll just have to stay tuned.

Why hasn’t Girl Talk been sued?

We all know that big bad symbol. Copyright.

Copyright is everywhere. The idea was introduced back in 1710 as ‘An Act for the Encouragement of Learning’. Before this time anybody could freely copy, modify and sell someone else’s ideas or content without any ramifications. If one person wrote a book someone else could copy it and claim it as their own, so this new rule made sense. Back then.

These days almost all intellectual property is owned by someone. If you use someone else’s words or ideas without acquiring their permission you are leaving yourself open to litigation. In this digital age breaching of copyright laws is everywhere. Even the song ‘Happy Birthday to You’ is owned by Time Warner. We can’t win.

After sitting in on a two hour copyright lecture, I came out with one thought – ‘Why the hell hasn’t Girl Talk been sued?’

For those of you that don’t know, Greg Gillis is the man behind Girl Talk. He is an American DJ specialising in digital mashups, mixing together samples of different songs from different genres in a form that you just can’t help but move to. I’ve seen Girl Talk at countless festivals across the globe and he’s always guaranteed to put on a good show.

Girl Talk’s latest album ‘All Night’ features a whopping 372 samples of other artist’s music, none of which has he gained permission to use. Girl Talk is with the record company Illegal Art who claim to be ‘pushing the limits of sample based music since 1998’.

Gillis recognises that his music raises obvious legal concerns but he maintains that the brief samples he works with are covered by the copyright law’s ‘fair use’ principle. Many would disagree. So why hasn’t anyone taken Girl Talk to court? He is making money out of other peoples work. Perhaps they enjoy his work? Perhaps it would be a bad PR move taking such a high profile artist to court over something as trivial as a 3 second music sample? Joe Mullin at paidcontent.org shines some light on the matter:

So why hasn’t Gillis been hauled in front of a judge by the music industry? Probably because he’s the most unappealing defendant imaginable. Gillis would be a ready-made-hero for copyright reformers; if he were sued, he’d have some of the best copyright lawyers in the country knocking on his door asking to take his case for free.

They say that Girl Talk is a lawsuit waiting to happen. I hope not, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Since Girl Talk releases his work under Creative Commons licences I’m going to leave you with a song from his latest album (and not get sued). Enjoy.

KONY2012 – Empowering a Generation

I would find it hard to believe that anyone reading this blog has not yet been exposed to the Joseph Kony story by now. But by the odd chance that you haven’t, do yourself a favour and watch this video.

Invisible Children is a non-for-profit campaign aiming to bring the war criminal Joseph Kony to justice. They are doing so by harnessing the command of the internet and empowering the ‘little people’ like you and me.

This story moved me in so many ways. How could a rebel movement like this one be occurring for over 26 years and not be in the constant light of the media? Over 60,000 children have been stolen and been commissioned as sex slaves and child soldiers who are forced to fight in unthinkable conflict. The man that is behind all of this is not fighting for any cause but to maintain his power, he is not supported by anyone, and yet he is still not being stopped.

When the young Ugandan boy Jacob, who is directly affected by the LRA, is asked

“You don’t want to stay on earth? You would rather die than stay on earth?”

He replies,

“Yes. How are we going to stay in our future?”

Every child should have the right to look forward to their future and as the Invisible Children’s campaign says ‘where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.’ The KONY2012 video has reached over 27 million views in less than 48 hours. Media platforms have given us power to raise awareness because in this day and age we are all broadcasters. It seems that we are shaping human history by proving that ‘a bunch of littles can make a big difference’.

This campaign could not have come at a better time for me than my second week of University as I have been trying to grasp the ideas of ‘convergence’. I found out about Joseph Kony when I logged onto my Instagram account on Wednesday morning and saw images of KONY 2012 and STOP KONY. ‘Who is Kony?’ I asked myself. So I did what our generation usually does with words that aren’t in our vocabulary: Google it. Google’s first result lead me to the YouTube video. I then proceeded to share this video with my friends via facebook and fellow BCMer’s via Twitter. In a matter of minutes and on one single device I’d manage to access five different media platforms, each of them playing a vital role. This is convergence to a T.

Share the video. No harm can be done from raising awareness.

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