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Archive for May, 2011

“Facebook.. the electric friendship generator!”

May 29, 2011 2 comments

Just found this while having a Net Comm related YouTube surf.. So amazing. It’s funny that all these social rules and etiquettes have evolved from Facebook that are now considered legitimate in the ‘real world’, like updating your relationship status without consulting the other person, tagging embarrassing photos and adding your ex’s friends. God forbid someone hack your status!!!

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The Modern Heroes

May 28, 2011 1 comment

At the beginning of last year, I spent a few weeks travelling through Morocco, meeting so many  amazing and inspirational people in various villages and ancient cities along the way. In particular, I bonded with Hassan, a 25 year old man who was a driver for a living but worked casually as a tour guide around Essaouira (where I met him). Only having five years difference between us, we were exchanging stories, similar interests and jokes. I asked him what his favourite movie was, and to my surprise, this athletic, quite ‘cool’ looking guy replied with “Titanic.” I was shocked. Titanic??! It seemed like such a bizarre choice. I mean sure, it is a fantastic movie, but really? A 25 year old, outgoing and macho Moroccan man surely was not the target audience. “All my friends love it too,” he continued. “I know every word!”

James Cameron's iconic film 'TItanic'

Although completely perplexed by such a revelation at first, I soon began to understand the reasoning behind Hassan’s movie choice. Morocco, like many countries, imposes strict censorship on mediums from movies to music and books. The reason Hassan loved Titanic so much was because it was one of the few Hollywood blockbusters allowed to be shown within the conservative nation; other choices at video suppliers being old Western 70s movies and outdated French films (their previous colonisers). I did a bit of research and found that, for example, Iran banned ‘Zoolander’ because they felt it promoted gay rights, Burma banned ‘The Simpson’s Movie’ because of it’s usage of Western dress sense (seen as ‘erotic’) and aggression (more than 10 separate occasions of punching) and Malaysia prohibited ‘Pineapple Express’ for its drug use.

'Zoolander' was banned for its promotion of homosexuality.

Hence, when movie piracy was brought up in our tutorial last Wednesday, it really struck a chord with me. In my opinion, although piracy is understandably harmful to the film industry, and I do not encourage illegal downloading and file sharing, ultimately  the role of ‘internet pirates’ in providing music and movies to censored regions is an important one. They say the internet is a democratic place, and although that could be debated for centuries, this facet of content distribution in this sense, is a display of democracy. It could be seen from this viewpoint that although governments may make the decision to censor films or music or what have you for whatever reason, but the internet now provides us with access to whatever we wish to view. Does this make internet pirates modern day heroes, crusaders for freedom of expression and the end to government censorship? It’s an interesting concept.

Source: http://www.my-best-films.co.uk/20-mainstream-films-banned-around-the-world/

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Google is watching.

May 27, 2011 1 comment

I’m a massive fan of ABC’s Hungry Beast and just found a great clip of theirs from March last year regarding Google. Have a watch! Basically, the clip questions the company’s true ability to stick to their motto of “Don’t Be Evil” by illustrating the hundreds of ways Google is currently influencing (and planning to further infiltrate) our online activity, social interaction and other communications.

Although this video was definitely thought-provoking, I was mostly intrigued by a quote Hungry Beast included in their piece, originally said by Google CEO Eric Shmidt in response to Google StreetView complaints:

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Now, I understand the reasoning behind this statement. In fact, one of my mum’s favourite lines to lecture me with is, “Never do anything you wouldn’t be happy to have spread on the front page of a newspaper.” Indeed with technology and information capture as it is these days, the potential for publication and hence, destruction is phenomenal and one really must be careful. But at the same time, can you take disregard for privacy too far? Is nothing sacred anymore?

For me this quote truly highlights the severe extent of internet privacy issues in today’s society. Just because our actions have the ability to be seen and recorded by virtually anybody, doesn’t mean that they should be, and furthermore, doesn’t really allow big internet corporations such as Google to justify unauthorised publication. When did we agree to this constant surveillance? As well as that, Schmidt’s quote basically implies not only that secrets no longer have a place in society, but that they are nowadays reserved solely for immoral or inappropriate reasons. As Ryan Tate of ‘Gawker’ Online neatly retaliates, “the philosophy that secrets are useful mainly to indecent people is awfully convenient for Schmidt as the CEO of a company whose value proposition revolves around info-hoarding.”  It’s a fine line between public and private property, but it seems that this distinction is becoming more and more blurred with the increasing role of the internet in our everyday lives. But I can’t help thinking, if we lived by the mindset of Eric Shmidt, could our every move be open to public eyes?

Source : http://gawker.com/5419271/google-ceo-secrets-are-for-filthy-people

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Are bloggers the new black?

May 17, 2011 1 comment

ASSESSED POST (WEEK 4):

Russell (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, page 136). Do you agree? 

When blogging is mentioned, what springs my to mind is the thriving fashion blogging community. Citizen journalism within this field has never been more popular, thousands of style enthusiasts, trend followers or just plain die-hard fashion victims participating in online discussion through blogs, sharing their love of all things clothing related. Yet despite this, pardon the pun, ‘trend’ of style blogging, media commentators and theorists are quick to query the validity of such journalism. Russell (et al.) questions, “do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure, and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?”(2008:67) The question just begs to be asked. Are bloggers the new black?

There is no doubt that elite media institutions have superior resources at their fingertips to access exclusive information that in turn effectively informs the public. US Vogue’s notorious editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has more connections than could possibly be imagined, from Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford to Donald Trump, Roger Federer and even the Obamas, providing her readers with in-depth, expert and factually perfect interviews and stories that bloggers cannot even begin to match (Groth, 2011). Furthermore, the professionals behind these fashion powerhouses have had years of experience not only in obtaining style information, but also in delivering it. It could be asserted that the quality of reporting is of a higher standard within magazines than online.

Is Vogue editor Anna Wintour losing her Queen Bee status? [Photo credit: Tommy Ton, Jak and Jil]

Yet without denying the journalistic excellence of such media, fashion reporting has shifted dramatically in recent years. The participatory nature of fashion blogging appeals to style followers for the pure accessibility of trend information. While it may take months, if ever, for US Elle style guru Joe Zee to answer a question about the latest way to wear a mid-length skirt, one can easily ask a popular blogger the same query via the ‘comment’ button and receive a reply momentarily. Crucially, street fashion blogs revolutionize this field of journalism as they blur the lines not only between citizen and professional journalism, but also the ordinary and the celebrity. For this reason, the editorial independence of blogs such as Scott Schuman’s “The Sartorialist” resonates with readers and in this way; bloggers are able to effectively inform followers of up and coming trends in a participatory, subtle manner that includes rather than shuns the unique dress sense of regular people.

Celebrity blogger Rumi Neely before a Marc by Marc Jacobs show [Photo credit: Colin Sokol, Fashion Toast]

What’s more, trends can change almost instantaneously, allowing blogs to update their readers with the latest news as often as they choose, whereas most publications are distributed monthly or bi-monthly. Russell et al. (2008:66) agrees, contending that “with increasing opportunities for amateur cultural production, it is clear people are actively resisting the content and practices of mainstream news.” In fact, following this explosion of blogging popularity, PR companies have begun to reserve coveted first row seats at iconic fashion shows for ‘celebrity’ bloggers such as Tavi of ‘Style Rookie’ (Daily Mail, 2009), illustrating the influence they have on information distribution and demonstrating the increasing shift towards online collaboration within the fashion industry. However, it can equally be argued that once popular bloggers reach a certain level of fame, they are approached and supported by companies. For example, Rumi Neely of ‘Fashion Toast’ is now face of US fashion chain Forever 21 (Sunrainey, 2010). This may undermine the independent nature of blogging, still informing readers yet having to vocalize a certain bias towards brands or companies that support the blogger themselves.

Tommy Ton’s ‘Jak and Jil’ blogs the latest runway fashions the moment they leave the venue. [Photo credit: Tommy Ton, Jak and Jil]

We will always view established fashion magazines as style bibles, but in terms of truly informing the public of new trends and other fashion news, bloggers are the way of the future. They don’t all have Galliano on speed dial, but the instant, accessible, independent and yet collaborative nature of blogging truly connects readers to their passion and in this way, is most effective in conveying information.

Sources:

Groth Aimee (2011). Inside Anna Wintour’s $350 Billion Power Network. http://www.businessinsider.com/anna-wintour-2011-5 [accessed May 17, 2011]

Russell, Adrienne., Ito, Mizuko., Richmond, Todd., and Tuters, Marc. (2008) ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’ in Varnelis, Kazys. Networked Publics. Cambridge:MIT Press.

Rawi, Maysa (2009). ‘Meet Tavi, 13, the ‘tiny’ blogger with the fashion industry at her feet’, The Daily Mail Online.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1215048/Meet-Tavi-Gevinson-13-tiny-blogger-fashion-industry-feet.html[accessed May 17, 2011]

Anonymous, (2010) Sunrainey.  http://www.sunrainey.com/fashiontoast-rumi-neely-forever-21-new-ad.html [accessed May 17,2011]

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The Inconvenient Truth

May 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Source: weheartit

Source: http://weheartit.com/entry/9545018

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YouTube: Free interaction or calculated community?

May 17, 2011 1 comment

ASSESSED POST (WEEK 3)

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites. How do ranking tactics impact on the formation of online ‘communities’?

Yesterday, my friend emailed me a YouTube clip of a song she thought I’d like. After listening to the wonder that was Sparkadia’s “Talking Like I’m Falling Down Stairs”, I noticed the horizontal bar down the right side of my browser, suggesting various other popular Sparkadia music videos to watch. Keen to discover more great tunes, I clicked on these links, and soon uncovered tens of songs, covers and live performances, thanks to the encoding of YouTube’s web software. Before too long, I found myself immersed in the vast online community of Sparkadia and Sparkadia enthusiasts worldwide.

As normal as this practice of clicking a suggested link after watching a popular video may now seem to us whilst surfing popular Web 2.0 websites, ultimately these actions are ones of great paradox. As Jose van Dijck asserts (2009:44), whilst digital networks enhance ‘cultural citizenship’ by encouraging societal engagement and interconnection, the steering of YouTube users towards particularly promoted or highly ranked videos singles out certain clips as more favorable than others. In this way, YouTube’s influence over the promotion of videos minimizes the opportunity for true democratization within the site and questions its participatory foundations by essentially advertising certain videos as better, or at least more popular, than others, rather than allowing for users to search entirely independently.

But this practice is a double-edged sword. Despite the promotion of certain clips, YouTube’s grouping of similar videos and henceforth, consumer interests, assists in the formation of online communities. Indeed, ranking tactics hugely impact on these online networks. On a positive level, the grouping of similar videos or certain ‘favourited’ videos ranked by YouTube users simplifies the participatory process of interconnected networking by giving participants the ability to interact and share information with a few simple clicks. As outlined in its Terms of Use, YouTube “may record … when you use YouTube, the channels, groups, and favorites you subscribe to, the contacts you communicate with, and the frequency and size of data transfers, as well as information you display or click on.” Data collection allows the personalization of online experiences and in this way encourages the formation of online communities and networking with the suggestion of new and popular videos matching their own personal preferences (Van Dijck, 2009:48). Furthermore, viewers’ ability to rank videos according to their own personal opinions assists in the formation of online communities by encouraging discussion and interaction through ‘likes’, comments, subscriptions and entertainment ‘channels’.

 Yet equally, YouTube is driven by user-generated content and interaction. The website’s control over the formation of online communities through video suggestions and subject groupings can be seen as somewhat detrimental as it influences the popularity of videos and steers viewers towards some videos, therefore naturally moving them away from others. As Schultz (2000) asserts, this new distribution of power between users and within online communities in turn renders new technologies as ‘far from interactive’ (qtd Gane and Beer, 2008:95) Whilst social networking is undoubtedly encouraged through YouTube’s groupings and suggestions of similar videos, it does raise a crucial question. How much control does the website’s software have over user participation and interaction, and hence, the formation of online communities?

Be it detrimental or beneficial to the participatory foundations of YouTube, it cannot be denied that ranking tactics and data manipulation assist in the formation of online communities. Whether these networking cultures are truly interactive, democratic and participatory can be debated, but essentially, the display of popular or ‘favourited’ clips encourage discussions and exchanges between users. Either way, my once starved iPod is now bursting with new Sparkadia beats I would have ignored were it not for that little link on my browser gently suggesting what I might like.

Sources:

van Dijck, Jose. (2009) ‘Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content’, Media, Culture and Society V.31

Gane, Nicolas, and Beer, David. (2008) ‘Interactivity’ in New Media: The key Concepts. Oxford: Berg.

Youtube Terms of Use (2010)  http://youtube.com/t/terms [accessed May 17,2011]

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