BCM112 Reflection

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Throughout the course of the subject Convergent Media practices, as a budding media enthusiast and prosumer, I have been able to extend my learning within the participatory convergent culture through reflecting on issues and concepts associated with this environment within weekly blog posts.

Week nines blog post, ‘The habitual remix’, I feel has been one of my most successful posts as it reflected on the remix and mash-up culture, exploring Kirby Furgusons’ notion that “everything is a remix”, as the argument which I communicated within this post was that it’s merely human instinct to copy, with majority of content becoming a remix of what once was, to some extent, original content.

‘The rise of the citizen journalist’ was my post from week nine, which I feel provided a structured argument on the importance of citizen journalists and their significant contribution within participatory culture. This argument was supported through identifying the importance of citizen journalism in the 2005 London Bombings as mainstream media broadcasted these amateur accounts of the event, alike to the news broadcasts of the Creamfields Music Festivals incident which presented footage filmed from festival goers mobiles phones.

 The final post which I submitted was ‘Beware; the trolls are here’, which I have also deemed as one of my most well written posts as it not only explored the concepts addressed in week tens lecture, being that of Internet trolling and the underlying misogyny attached to this discriminatory behaviour, but it reflected upon the issue of anonymity in regards to where the line is and should be in relation to open or closed comments on online content.

 These three selected blog posts I feel, have successfully addressed significant components within convergent culture, as through evaluating previous blog posts these final submissions managed to demonstrated reflections rather than accounts of theory as my prior posts had done.

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Beware; the ‘trolls’ are here

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I am almost certain that when reading the word ‘troll’ one will immediately jump to the pre conceived image of a gigantic ghastly monster. However, placing all preceding perceptions aside, I’m not talking about your traditional troll that lives under a bridge, I’m talking about something of a far more serious matter.

Internet trolling.

(Image Source: Bearman Cartoons 2012)

This malevolent practice is the anti social act of causing interpersonal conflict and shock-value controversy online, in which Vanessa Thorpe details how the trolls participating in these deeds feel they can express anything and everything as a result of merely hiding under a cloak of anonymity.

This concept in itself progresses into a debate;

  • Where is the benchmark between how open or closed online forums and comments should be?

In my opinion this benchmark has been surpassed, where, as stated by Stafford 2012, this anonymity just allows people to indulge in their worst tendencies, not only towards individuals but entire social groups, resulting in online forums, YouTube channels and blogs becoming bombarded by unnecessary hateful commentary.

Misogyny, being the hatred of women or the general dislike to the gender, has been described by lecturer Tanja Dreher as what has become a hot topic for thinking about the culture of online debate and interaction and what it means for gender issues, as this misogyny in itself has been exacerbated by the anonymous attributes of Internet trolling, enabling online users to comment anonymously on female columnists and bloggers posts and articles regardless of the emotional and psychological impact of the women. However, documentations of this abuse have been recently encouraged in which campaigns such as the #mencallmethings twitter phenomenon have enabled victims of this misogyny to not only voice their concerns but to fight back in an attempt to gain further recognition on the significant issue.

So there it is, in black and white, one’s brief individual stance on the vicious practice of misogyny, which sees an aggressive and abusive manipulation of women online as a result of Internet trolling. So, it only seems natural that I leave you all with just one simple message, Watch out for the trolls.

The Rise of the citizen journalist

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 Participatory culture. Now there’s a phrase for you, and whether you know it or not, you are more than likely contributing to this form of collective intelligence. Although criticised for its underlying subjective tone, I believe that it is these subjective and bias accounts which produce this user generated content so as to represent truth through a community of differed ideas and opinions.

An instance when participatory citizen journalism rose to the occasion was throughout the 2005 London Bombings, with assistance from our trusty friend; the mobile phone. First hand accounts of the traumatic attack were captured through mobile phones, collectively framing the initial shock and dismay as what these “pictures lacked in photogenic expertise they make up for in immediacy and poignancy”, in contrast to the mainstream medias use of images and reports which “gleaned from eyewitnesses using their mobile phones, but these were then subject to the usual editorial processes (or gate-keeping). However, later some ‘citizen journalists’, who had captured the images, put reports in the public sphere via personal blogs,” as mentioned by Janey Gordon, 2007.

 The recent incident at the ‘Creamfields’ music festival hit news lines last night, however this footage presented through the media was merely abstracted from ‘raving’ young citizen journalists themselves. Despite how or where you viewed the footage, one conclusion could be drawn; the man was a lunatic so to speak. This, although, is beside the point. The importance of this event highlighted just how participatory citizen journalism can lend itself to numerous perspectives, where at the festival individuals used their mobile phones alike to the London bombings, and filmed/photographed iconic footage from different angles and planes, which by no means can be considered professional/accurate accounts, although as a whole they contribute to citizen journalism’s unique authenticity.

So it only seems necessary that I leave you with two things; citizen journalistic extracts from the iconic London Bombings and the somewhat ‘less iconic’ incident at the Creamfields Music Festival, just as a demonstration of how I believe these amateur accounts in the scheme of things encourage participation and assist in producing a well rounded argument from both a professional and recreational outlook, as editor of the Brownsville Herald, Rachel Benavidez mentions, “it’s vital to engage a community that wants to have more ownership of their local media”.

(Source: Patty Hodapp, 2010)

 (Source: Mirror News, 2012)

(Quick Edit: 10/5/2012)

The ‘habitual’ remix

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 We’ve all encountered some form of remix in our lives, whether it being a mash-up of your favourite song, a movie, or a picture. Regardless, whether you know it or not, “Everything is a remix”. So it is here that my argument lies, we can all attempt to create creative original works, but as a matter of fact these new ideas merely evolve from previous ones; it’s human nature.

While I’m on the topic of human nature, I’m going to put my ‘scientific cap’ on for these next few sentences, tracing back 3.5 billion years ago to the single organism that all species were formulated from; LUCA, known as the Last Universal Common Ancestor. In the reproduction of LUCA, its genes proceeded into a cycle of copying, where Kirby Furguson’s ‘System Failure’ video, Part 4 of ‘Everything is a remix’, describes social evolution and the basic elements of creativity as

  • COPY
  • TRANSFORM
  • COMBINE

Now to put all that scientific jargon into five words, it’s human instinct to copy.

Participants nowadays can be referred to as produsers. And no, this is not a spelling error, produsers, as opposed to producers “come to a collaborative space first and foremost as users, but it is also easy for them to become engaged in content creation- they occupy a hybrid position as user and producer at the same time”, as argued by Axel Bruns. Again, it’s human instinct for us to become connected to content creation, wanting a part in this perpetual process.

I for one have fallen victim to this mash-up culture, on occasions remixing my favourite songs together in an act of boredom. Of course, these remixes were by no means professional such as those remixes, mash-ups and covers found on the remix.vg webpage. Although, having access to the tools to create music mash-ups, just like any individual with access to a computer, I was able to participate and experiment in this remix experience.

As the mash-up artist himself, Greg Gillis (‘Girl Talk’) mentions in Lawrence Lessigs’ ‘Remix’, “we’re living in this remix culture. This appropriation time where any grade-school kid has a copy of Photoshop and can download a picture of George Bush and manipulate his face how they want”. So it only seems necessary that I leave you with just that, images of George Bush that have been remixed in a somewhat humorous, yet amateur fashion, as an example of the ability of all participants to create and build upon content in this habitual cycle which we call the remix and mash-up culture.

 

(Source: Makefive)

(Source: My Life Is Brilliant)

(Quick Edit: 10/5/2012)

All hail the ‘nerds’

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Who ever said ‘nerd’ wasn’t cool has either been a little out of touch or merely hiding under a rock, as the irony of today’s’ modern society lies in the fact that ‘cool’ people are embracing nerdom in order to become ‘cooler’. Take Justin Timberlake for instance, whose charming good looks, if I say so myself, on many an occasion have been complimented by a pair of ‘nerd’ glasses, thus conforming to the entertainment industries acceptance of nerd culture as an act of ‘coolness’.

(Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 2012)

I for one am a huge advocate of this progression of nerd culture into the mainstream. This intellectual society has established variety and diversity within popular culture, where Grossman, 2005, states it is “as if the economic hegemony of the geek in the 1990’s, has somehow been converted into a cultural hegemony,” in which fan fiction, films and popular television series such as ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ and ‘Chuck’ have harnessed the rise of the esteemed nerd.

Speaking of television series, here is a name that will most likely ring a bell; Seth Cohen. Although, just incase you aren’t all OC fanatics like myself I’ll give you a quick run down. Basically, if you could describe the iconic OC character Seth Cohen in one word it would be ‘nerd’, though a more accurate description would be something along the lines of the ‘coolest’, most attractive nerd you could possibly imagine. Unalike to that of nerd Napoleon Dynamite, or on the opposite side of the spectrum the traditional male American character whose priorities consist of football, girls and more football, Seths’ irresistible   charm is derived from not only his looks and fashion but his innocent dorkiness and humour, capturing audiences hearts through his witty remarks and neurotic take on life. Seth, the comic obsessed nerd himself as seen in this clip, is just one example of a character apart of this transition from traditional marginalization of nerds to their welcoming acceptance within mainstream popular culture.

 (Source: Polaroid Picnic Tumblr)

The rise of the nerds is an ongoing process, an extremely successful process at that, which has lent itself to an increased interest and popularity in the geek community as “Nerds themselves have become more savvy, more self aware and more able to poke fun at themselves,” as mentioned by self confessed nerd Ethan Gilsdorf. I would  also think of myself as a self confessed nerd, there, I admitted it. But then again, in this day and age who isn’t? I believe that there is a little bit of ‘nerd’ in all of us; just give it an opportunity to take flight and I’m sure you will enjoy the ride.

(Quick Edit: 9/5/2012)

Modern day storytelling

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It seems it is time to bid farewell to you dear multimedia; your single story presented through its single medium looks as though it is beginning to reach its use by date. I’d like to make a huge welcome, however, to you, transmedia project, whose ability to present multiple stories across multiple media platforms has become “the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence.” –Henry Jenkins 

Transmedia storytelling see’s the media conglomerates aiming “to spread brand franchises across different media platforms”, creating a World that embraces corporate, grassroots and global convergence through establishing numerous points of entry. For instance the ‘Spiderman’ franchise produced comics focusing on the love story between Mary Jane and Spiderman to attract and satisfy a female demographic, in comparison to the manufacture of Spiderman figurines and colouring books intended for a younger demographic.

“If you create one channel, you are not giving this newly empowered audience a playground to play in”, as mentioned by lecturer Ted, however if you create a ‘World’ as such, there are far more opportunities for the participatory audience to engage with and explore. Yes, these prospects of transmedia succeed in creating a coherent narrative and engaging audiences on a global scale, although the question is..

Won’t I get left behind?

The topic of debate in regards to transmedia projects is finding the balance between

  • creating stories which articulate to first time viewers
  • building upon stories and content to enhance the audiences experience.

Take for instance, ‘The Matrix’, one of the most popular transmedia projects of our era whose creative content/entry points include a trilogy of three films, Anime entitled ‘Animatrix’, graphic novels and games such as ‘Enter the Matrix’. Individuals who choose to engage in a single point of entry or platform, such as simply playing one of the related video games without having seen any three of the films, may find it difficult to comprehend the plot, thus potentially feeling left behind and bewildered, becoming a detriment to the potential for collective intelligence and audience participation.

In reality, this individual limitation of transmedia has to be weighed up against the over powering positives. Are you willing to, at times, be ‘left behind’, in order to be apart of this transmedia culture? I know I certainly am.

Participation, you’re looking a little ‘slack’

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Gone are the days of simply producers and consumers: gone is the employment of Monologic media. Here we are in the 21st century, where you, yes you, are the audience; one of billions of the prosumers who has the ability to participate, connect with and explore contemporary dialogic media.

 Behind this dialogic shift lies the addictive participatory culture, as associated with social networking sites. We all crave to be apart of ‘the loop’, where being up to date with current trends, news, gossip and events, is as simple as logging into Facebook or searching a particular hash tag on Twitter. In addition to this active society is the facilities and ability provided to take part in citizen journalism, where immediacy of information, lack of gatekeepers and zero cost and filter entry enables individuals to create, share and reproduce content from various media platforms onto the ever growing Internet. It is here, although, that the debate lies;

Where is the line between productivity/creativity and indolence?

 With this participatory culture comes ‘Slack participation’, where prosumers prefer to take the easier approach in terms of generating and analyzing content. Remember the days when Political activism meant either donating money or physically taking part in demonstrations such as strikes and tours. Now, with the click of the fingers, or in this instance the click of a computer mouse, one can release their inner social activist with merely the assistance with their keyboard.

 KONY 2012, I’m sure, has bombarded your twitter and facebook feed, being a chief example of this slack participation and just how the Internet can craft a viral phenomena.  Instagram, which happens to be my chosen media platform was an integral initiator of the campaigns success, where my ‘followers’ on the application exercised that ordinarily untapped inner activist crosses citizen journalist, through posting the operations slogans and images on the ‘home feed’. Although, it can be argued that, yes, by reblogging and re posting KONY content the cause is accumulating international recognition, yet in doing so the individual is by no means taking physical action, unless you call sitting at a desk and proof reading content ‘physical’. Through this one humorous image below, displayed in todays lecture, this theory is described perfectly in a ‘nut shell’.

(Source: DevianArt)

 This brings us back to that all-important query once again? Where can we draw the line between active or slack participation? Although this modern day participatory culture encourages creative exploration, to what extent does this contribution affect the way in which we take action?  In a world where Clay Shirkay describes media as “global, social, impetuous and cheap”, you, the prosumers, can manoeuvre this ‘line’ to your desire.

 Quick Edit: 28/3/12