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.

Make ‘Kony’ famous, or make ‘Phony’ famous?

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It is no surprise that the Kony 2012 campaign became an immediate phenomena and instant topic on Facebook and Twitter. Being the emotion crammed video that it is, the short film manages to truly tug at the heartstrings of individuals worldwide, lending viewers to a belief that they have the power to make great change and ‘Make Kony Famous’. “Who are you to end a war”, I’m telling you “Who are you not to”- Jason Russell, Co founder of Invisible Children, KONY 2012 video

Recent debate, however, has shifted the media’s representation of the Kony cause, moving from the initial ‘Wake up call’ of Ugandan Joseph Konys inhumane practices, towards a far more pessimistic portrayal; the idea that the Kony campaign is a phony. The invisible children organisation is “being attacked — not by Kony, but by critics whose voices are raised louder about this video than they ever were by Konys atrocities.” -Dan Pollotta (2012), Harvard Business Review, “The Kony 2012 Controversy”

Being a part of this participatory culture, I am sure you have all heard about the criticsm and reasoning behind the Kony missions label as a phony, such as its neo-colonialist agenda and the mystery of where the proceeds are going, therefore I have refrained myself from merely stating the facts and will endeavor to entice you through briefly exploring the channels of media used in the representation of this so called yet debatable scam.

(Image Source: Steven Rudd, Twitter Post, March 31st 2012)

Not only this particular image which was posted on Twitter, but numerous images of the same structure have gone viral on the Internet, becoming a somewhat outlet for presenting the campaign in a negative light, drawing back to the title of this post: “Make Kony famous, or make Phony famous?”. This statement simply recognises the far greater effort being placed into proving that the Invisible children organisation is a fraud as opposed to focusing on the slogan make Kony famous to stop social injustice.

Face to face communication has also portrayed the Kony cause under this negative light, in which I overheard a conversation between two teenagers on the train to University relaying phrases such as “I swear this Kony dude isn’t even in Uganda anymore” and “the whole thing is a dud”. On social networking site Tumblr an anonymous blogger has provided an insight into her negative take on Kony 2012; “Can we rank the problems of the world in order of importance? I think that the news seems to do this for us. Kony 2012 is now more important than world hunger, lack of clean water, rape, murder.”

Fraud or not, the Kony movement has set a benchmark for social media use, enabling all citizens of modern participatory culture to engage with and form their own opinion on the Kony matter itself. Make Kony famous, or make Phony famous? With the tools and ability to execute both perspectives, the choice is yours.

(Quick Edit: 3/4/12)

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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

KONY CURIOUS

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By now, I’m almost certain that those of you who read this blog have been recently educated on the ‘Kony craze’, even if this was through simply viewing my first blog post. There is, although, one aspect that may differ from individual to individual; how did you come across this universal issue..

 I still remember the 5th of March; it was like any ordinary afternoon, where I would sign into my Facebook account after returning home from Uni. On this particular occasion, the first post to appear on my news feed read ‘KONY 2012’, although I merely scanned the post then proceeded with checking my notifications. “You have been invited to the group MAKE KONY FAMOUS”, “You have been invited to the group KONY 2012”. What? Two out of Three notifications mentioned this so called ‘Kony’. I then refreshed the home page to see not only the initial Kony orientated post, but a news feed flooded with corresponding peculiar phrases.

Success. This is exactly what the Invisible Children’s Organisation and Leader Jason Russell had anticipated; creating global awareness of Joseph Konys inhumane actions via social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, through establishing inquisitiveness and interest, where curiosity proved to be the key initiator of their viral campaign.

 Worldwide communities have become consumed by this overpowering curiosity, where the campaign has been presented as an ‘eye opener’ to social and political issues which have gone unnoticed, fashioned by a hijack of social media outlets. Until individuals’ computers became flooded with Kony content, the likes of Joseph Kony and the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army were in many cases unheard of. Thus, there was no chance of bringing an end to the LRA’s horrific doings if hardly anyone knew of the Army, let alone the routines of this militia.

 It is amazing to think that the intrinsic human sensation of curiosity has created a social media sensation in its self, presenting to the World a campaign hosting an element of mystery intertwined with a willing desire to acquire knowledge and power. The power to…

 (Image source: Impacted Nurse.com, Stop Kony)
(Quick edit: 4/4/12)
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Does an ‘Apple’ a day keep the Android away?

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With over 1.08 Billion Smartphone users Worldwide, the ‘mobile phone’ has become an interface to the Internet. The issues of access, power and control associated with these Smartphone’s although can be accredited to the contest between Locked appliances, such as the Apple iPhone and Generative platforms, as seen with the Android platform, whereZittrain states “as time passes, the brand names on each side will change, but the core battle will remain.”

 iOS versus Android. It’s on.

It has been somewhat indoctrinated in society that to be ‘hip’ you must carry around an iPhone. In all honesty I myself have conformed to this idea, where being surrounded by a community using anything and everything beginning with an ‘i’, makes it a little difficult to venture out and seek new innovations.

 The iPhone, although, is deceivingly restrictive, as Apple controls the operating system, the applications market and simply the things you can do with the phone. So here the questions lie:

  •    Are you fine with the idea that Apple controls every choice or action undertaken on your iPhone?
  •    Does this close, tethered system confine how you wish to set up your phone or merely how you choose to use your product?

 Let’s just say, after learning of the closed nature of the iPhone, I have found the Android far more appealing. Due to the generative nature of the Android, the product presented is merely connectivity, allowing consumers and prosumers to be apart of this open eco system, through sharing and creating content/codes and rooting. Instagram, which happens to be my chosen media platform, continues to embrace technological convergence, recently announcing its plans to possibly take the ‘giant leap’ from iOS to Android.

 So does an ‘Apple’ a day keep the Android Away? By this phrase I simply imply the possibility of the iPhones’ market saturation being detrimental to the success of the Android. This statement, however, is by no means accurate. Due to the iPhones inability to allow consumer freedom and creativity it has struggled to reach that of the Androids market share, being 46.9%, leaving the Apple product to linger at a low 28.7%. Smartphone’s, nonetheless, will continue to harness technological convergence and the flow of content across media platforms, where The fact of the matter is which option will you choose; a locked appliance or a generative platform? The decision is in your hands. 

‘KONY’ CRAZE

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“Humanities greatest desire is to belong and connect, we share what we love, and this reminds us of what we all have in common. This connection is changing the way the world works.”

 Sounds familiar? I’d say so.

 This introduction to my first official post was extracted from a unique foreword in itself: The introduction to the viral phenomenon, the KONY 2012 video, narrated by activist and co founder of the Invisible Children Corporation’, Jackson Russell.

 Posted on ‘Vimeo‘ on February 20, the remarkable short film accumulated 13.5 million views; however it wasn’t until 12 noon on the 5th of March that the World was going to experience one of the greatest social media revolutions known to man. With a record breaking 81,853,498 views (as of 18/ 3/2012), and Over 20,000 “Kony”-related videos uploaded in the past week, YouTube became the key driving force for the KONY 2012 campaign, where individuals are strongly encouraged to “Watch it. Share it. Stop at nothing”, as stated by Russell.

(Graph source: ORC Social: March 8, 2012 | Jenny Verbitsky, KONY 2012 Goes Viral in Record Time Thanks to YouTube, Twitter)

 The film indoctrinates one aim; ‘Make Kony Famous’, in the hope of bringing the leader of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army to his end through creating awareness of his excruciatingly unjust doings through the use of social media. One integral message is also conveyed; that everyone has the capacity and the influence to make the world a far better place. By sharing or re blogging the video this awareness needed to Stop Joseph Kony is not only being established but also reinforced.

 With modern technology and social networking at our fingertips, any issue can be made global, where the presentation of KONY 2012 on YouTube has been that of an influential, somewhat life changing message set to trigger that little social activist within us all. KONY 2012 has managed to ‘get the ball rolling’ in the move towards a more socially and politically just World, where by achieving the campaigns key objective, to capture the infamous Kony, mankind is making this desired transition.

 After viewing the video and exercising that social activist within, I feel inspired to leave you with one message, as Russell would say, “Watch the film. Sign the pledge. Join the revolution”

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(Quick Edit: 3/4/12)

Copyright; what’s the big deal?

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It’s your 20th birthday and gathering around the cake are all your friends and family anticipating the traditional ‘Happy Birthday To You’ sing along.

FREEZE!

There’s just one tiny problem with this scenario. Your family and friends are just about to breach copyright. Unbelievable, I know, but nonetheless true as the rights to “Happy Birthday to You” were sold to the Time Warner Corporation in 1998 collecting $2 million in royalties in 2008 according to Wikipedia.

 The Statute of Queen Anne 1710 saw the first appearance of copyright (as opposed to the prior understanding of property as a scarce physical resource in the public domain, free for all to use), granting owners monopoly for 14 years after publication. The Berne Convention 1886 then enabled monopoly 50 years after the authors death, which guided us to current US Copyright Law, enabling a monopoly of 70 years after the authors death, and 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication if under corporate ownership. This means that J. R. R. Tolkien’s original novel ‘Lord of the Rings’ will be in the public domain in 2043.

 The integrity of copyright regulations is most definitely a debatable topic, in which we’ve all been exposed to the concept, even if this means clicking ‘Agree’ to the terms and conditions on a download that you most likely haven’t read. If someone was to copy, modify or degrade the value of an original work you created I assume you would not be overly impressed. Yet, opposed to that is the absurdity that by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ you are breaking the law. The parody of Michael Buble’s song ‘Haven’t met you yet’ on YouTube, in which Michael replied “this is one of the coolest things he has ever seen”. Despite the violation of copyright, the publicity generated by the video ironically increased Buble’s popularity.

As of 2001, although, under the notion of fair use and creative commons stood the growth of creative communication through sharing, collaborating and expanding on original works, which we can only hope will become the future of copyright foundations.

 So there it is. Copyright. Is it an ethical or excessively restrictive barrier to artistic growth? The answer lies in your hands, and to finish off I’ll leave you with a reminder. Be cautious how and where you sing ‘Happy Birthday’, a lawsuit from Time Warner is no birthday present.