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If you’ve been under the impression that traditional media outlets are at war with a rising population of citizen journalists; I really can’t blame you. There’s always been a tussle between how the 5 o’clock news is perceived in contrast to the conventional citizen journalist. The perception that the news reporter is a personified pool of knowledge and the average blogger sits at home in their underpants writing about the “Top 10 things that annoy me” (or something just as mundane along those lines) is a common misconception. But I am here to tell you that these views are quickly being thrown out the window, with the global community quickly realising that maybe (just maybe), the ‘professionals’ and ‘citizens’ could unite forces and make the news world a better place.

The current trend we’re seeing is an emergence of “Pro-Am” journalism. This concept works on the premise that ‘professionals’ and ‘citizens’ can combine their strengths in a bid to create a more holistic sphere of media coverage. This technique eliminates the issues that each respective media outlet faces individually – for example, traditional (industrial) media outlets are limited by human power and physical space, only enabling them to cover large-scale stories. Whether it comes down to the amount of words allocated to a page or a limited number of employees, traditional media cannot compete with the unlimited space and extent of information that the Internet can facilitate via citizen journalism.

Axel Bruns puts it best, “The very terminology we use to describe both sides creates the impression that professionals are not also citizens, and that citizen journalists are incapable of having professional skills and knowledge, in reality, of course, the lines between them are much less clear” (Bruns, A. 2010)

Bruns suggests that there has been a paradigm shift between news organisations and audiences, with those previously being fed the news, now actively participating in its distribution.

Social media plays a huge role in the dissemination of news stories, specifically twitter, a platform that allows the quick and simple distribution of information to a mass audience.

In fact, platforms like this are often used in the analogy, “a bridge made of pebbles”, with each pebble representing an individual news source (in this case a tweet). It would be foolish to believe one tweet without sourcing other information to gain a broader understanding of a story. Therefore, the value lies not in that tweet alone, rather the ‘bridge’ of information that is formed upon reaching a conclusion from multiple factual sources.

For many, twitter has become their ‘go-to’ news source in times of celebrity mishaps, global issues and current events, suggesting that people enjoy being part of the discussion and having their say when it comes to opinion driven news stories. Hashtags have revolutionised the way news is broadcast on twitter, and makes finding information on a specific topic easy and fast. Not only does it make sourcing information easy but also connects people in a global conversation, and are most interestingly facilitated by people that may have never actually met face-to-face.

So go forth! Tweet to your heart’s content because most likely, there’s someone out there just waiting to talk to you…just make sure you’ve sourced it from the right places 😉

Sources:

Bruns, A. (2010) News Produsage in a Pro-Am Mediasphere : Why Citizen Journalism Matters. News Online : Transformations and Continuities. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Screen junkie

Screens have undoubtedly changed the way we as human’s function. Constantly seeking enlightenment from our hand held beams of light, mobile phones especially have made us more aware that interaction does not always need to be face-to-face or necessarily with another person.

The immediate connectedness that mobile phones allow, has led to the evolution of public interactive spaces. Whether it’s an interactive module in a shopping center or a public television in a city square, screens seem to greet us wherever we turn.

There is growing interest into the different uses of public screens, which are being explored. Mirijam Struppek who, in his paper on urban screens, quotes the work of Professor Wolfgang Christ, “Public space is the city’s medium for communication with itself…” (2006). Struppek also concludes that, “The balance between content, location, and type of screen determines the success of the interaction with the audience and prevents noise and visual pollution”. With this, it is clear that the consideration of external factors is important in deeming a public screen effective.

Public screens are used for different reasons. Advertising and promotion is most common, with the public generally feeling satisfied that they get something in return (the joy of interactivity).

Photo booths have become one of the most popular ways for advertisers to channel their brand or product to an audience. They are a fun, interactive way for a brand to win over their target demographic. This year at Sydney’s Big Day Out, VANS ®, a popular skate brand, set up a photo booth within a sales tent. Festivalgoers (the sheer size of this crowd is illustrated in the previous hyperlink) were immediately attracted to the novelty, as not only did they receive a FREE strip of the photos but also had the chance for their happy snaps to be uploaded to the official Facebook page. This technique is smart for two reasons:

  1. The photo booth physically lured the audience into the sales tent, increasing the brands chance of making sales on physical items such as T-shirts and shoes.
  2. After leaving the event, those who left with a photo strip would head to the Facebook page to find their picture, cleverly increasing the chance of the brand making future sales and boosting their social media ‘likes’.

This demonstrates that not only does the public screen have an effect on present behaviour, but if marketed correctly, can help boost the image and success of a brand or company. From the picture below, it is clear that I have become somewhat of a photo booth junkie. The middle picture was actually taken at Big Day Out, the example I used above. And to illustrate the success of the techniques used by VANS – my friend actually bought a hat. How’s that for clever and interactive promotion?photo-10

References:

M, Struppek. (2006) Urban screens – The urbane potential of public screens for interaction. Accessed online at: http://www.paulos.net/teaching/2009/AE/readings/protected/urbanscreens.pdf

The Long & Short of it.

I could write an ongoing list of the things I love about the Internet. It’s fast, informative, and whilst it isn’t without fault, I know I can always rely on it to be there when I need it ❤

It’s hard for me to imagine living in a world without Internet. Revolutionizing the way we communicate, our behaviour and the speed at which we can perform daily activities, the world we live in is no longer physical, but spaceless and immediate. Bruce Sterling describes the Internet phenomenon, “The Internet’s pace of growth in the early 1990s is spectacular, almost ferocious. It is spreading faster than cellular phones, faster than fax machines. Last year the Internet was growing at a rate of twenty per cent a ‘month’… The Internet is moving out of its original base in military and research institutions, into elementary and high schools, as well as into public libraries and the commercial sector” (1993).

This primary source demonstrates that at the time the Internet was being introduced commercially, it was marvelled at and almost revered. Merely 20 years ago the Internet was an emerging technology, now it’s a necessity that many people would struggle to go a day without. It is impossible to know exactly how many people have access to and use the internet on a daily basis, but sources figures suggest that 30-50% of the worlds population have or continue to use it. This info graphic by the Culture-ist visually demonstrates the spread of the Internet and how people around the world use it.

Interestingly, according to the ‘Culture-ist’, 58% of Internet users utilize online shopping (2013). Being able to purchase goods online now offers a multitude of benefits to not only the customers but also the retailers. Major draw cards that Internet offers to shoppers is the fact that product shelf life is no longer an issue and retailers are not limited by space (the Internet doesn’t have a limited number of shelves for stores to put things on – its very much infinite).

Chris Anderson’s writings on ‘The Long Tail’  demonstrate again how the Internet has played a role in the evolution of shopping and our behaviour as customers. Amongst others, Anderson uses the example of Amazon.com using “algorithm-fueled recommendations” to boost sales. After the success of a book called “Into Thin Air”, buyers were directed to another publication. “Touching the Void”, published first but not gaining popularity until later, ironically now out sells “Into Thin Air” by more than double. It can be derived from Anderson’s work that the Internet has revolutionised sales and especially our exposure to products.

Previously, for example, if you wanted to buy a CD, the range of stock in a few stores would limit what music you could buy and be exposed to. Anderson describes the age of pre-Internet sales as, “an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody. Not enough shelf space for all the CDs, DVDs, and games produced. Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created…” (2004). Now, however, online retail enables a place of infinite space and abundance of stock, to cater for everyone’s needs and wants. Now, online retailers such as iTunes, eBay and Amazon offer personalised recommendations based on products that would be of interest to you. This is Long Tail – a technique that not only effectively sells more products but also exposes customers to niche products (such as music or movies) that they otherwise may never have found in a world without the internet.

It’s a phenomenon that just keeps growing and one that provides benefits to its users on a daily basis. Online shopping, in conjunction with regular retail stores are enhancing our attitudes towards shopping and creating an immediate, limitless world for its users.

I think that’s a really nice thing.  🙂

Sources

Anderson, C. (2004). The Long Tail. Wired. 12.10Sterling, B. (1993) ‘A Short History of the Internet’

Old is the New New.

I have a lot of respect for Kirby Ferguson (It’s okay, he’s not a household name so you can stop scratching your head). Creator of the “Everything is a Remix” series, Ferguson creatively exclaims that no art is new art. It would be foolish to say in this day and age that any invention is completely new and free from external influence – words are constantly being spoken, ideas shared and evolving through collaboration… of course no idea is original.

This is by no means saying that the things being ‘created’ today are not unique or artistic – far from it. This idea of remix merely recognises that new ideas are simply old ones with something better built on top!

During a TED Talk in 2012, Ferguson had this to say, “Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made; we are dependent on one another. And admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity…it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves and simply begin”.

Feel free to contest me on this, but this is exactly how I perceive the current copyright-obsessed, piracy-fearing world to be. It baffles me that in a day and age where remix is ubiquitous and sharing online is so widely encouraged, that there is such legal turmoil over the sampling of music. I don’t know about you, but if I produced a track that was so good it made people want to remix it for fun, Id be flattered not mad! (Well, that’s easy to say hypothetically anyway).

Ferguson defines remix as “new media created from old media”. Music is the simplest way to portray this statement and whilst regular readers of my blog may see this as repetitive, I can’t miss the opportunity to mention the work of the one and only, Mr Kanye West. Disregard your predispositions and just hear me out…

Kanye’s entire discography is swarmed with sampled tracks. Taking a few seconds of a song and sampling it repetitively throughout his own creations. This means that not only is something new and unique being created by using the old, but the original song, often unbeknown to the audience, is being broadcast to an entirely new audience. This gives the listeners exposure to art that they may never have heard if it weren’t for the wonders of remix.

One of my favourite Kanye creations, “All Falls Down” uses a ten second sample of Lauryn Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity”, a track released two years prior.

Some may see West’s sampling as a cheat – a way to make money off the work of others. But I would argue that his work is, in fact, paying homage to the artists that came before him, respecting the best bits of their work by incorporating it into his own. And again, just like Kirby Ferguson said, “creativity comes from without, not from within.”

Converging on the ridiculous

In recent years, media and their respective ‘mediums’ have converged. Mobile phones have evolved into devices capable of performing multiple tasks that were previously (in the not-too-distant-past) considered impossible.

Discussions with my peers have brought me to the conclusion that the mobile phone is no longer purely a communicative device. It’s a book, a distraction, a gaming console, a mirror, a television, an email inbox, a jukebox…the list goes on.

No longer purely a device to communicate important messages, the mobile phone now also functions as a social tool…but not in the way you might think. In 2011, The Pew Research Centre conducted a project to reveal how Americans really use their mobile devices. Unsurprisingly it was found that “Cell phones can help stave off boredom”, with 42% of those surveyed using a mobile for entertainment when they were bored.

But the thing I found most interesting about mobile phone usage, is the role it played in social interactions without even having to be turned on. “13% of cell owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them” – lets be real, we’ve all done it.

I am a member of generation Y – the last generation in my opinion to live on either side of the technological age we call ‘convergence’. I got my first mobile in my early teenage years, a hand-me-down Sony Ericsson that could call and SMS. I was happy with my humble device for years – only realising my need for an iPhone when I was given one (another hand-me-down). This point came up in a class discussion yesterday with one of my peers saying, “You don’t need one [an iPhone] until you’ve got one”, a quote that remained poignant with me for the rest of the day.

The features and capabilities that now come standard on nearly all phones are features that, despite being easily accessible on our many other converged devices, would be hard for us to go a day without.

The UK’s Daily Mail mentioned a study appointed by Nokia that reveals people check their phone for updates an average of 150 times each day. This figure is a real slap in the face – I wonder if I look at the people in my life as many times as I do my glowing little screen?

A few speculated coming attractions of mobile technology have been leaked by the International Business Times. The leaked features of the iPhone 6 are prime examples of convergence – one feature being a wireless charging system (something that Android technology has arguably boasted since 2007).

The inane ability of humans to come up with solutions to problems we never had will continue for years to come… So what’s next in mobile phone technology? Perhaps teleportation or a fold out iron attachment for a quick starch on the go? Maybe not, but my sarcasm hits close to home.

So hot they need a fan.

The word “fan” is one with a plethora of negative connotations. No, I’m not talking about this kind of fan…I’ll save that for another post.

Prior to my research on this topic, my idea of a fan was a screaming 13 year old with a crippling addiction to One Direction. Whilst there may be millions like this, I discovered a huge online world of diverse fandoms, branching from K-Pop communities to Fifty Shades of Grey fan clubs.

The Internet has allowed a culture of online sharing and collaboration to flourish. Not only do we, as an audience, receive information about the things we love, but also we, as prosumers, use that information to create content and share with the online community.

K-POP is a genre of music that started in South Korea that is now also a culture of fan fiction and fashion, specifically amongst teens and young adults throughout Asia. This fandom, whilst still primarily based online (especially for fans in Australia) due to its geographic restrictions, is unique in that fans are just as active as real-life fans as they are online. They express their interest in the genre by dressing up, attending events and imitating the art itself.

But what did fans do prior to the Internet? The Beatles had “followers” (not the twitter kind) before the Internet became commercially accessible like it is today. I find it interesting that the Beatles, a band that had no reliance on re-tweets, Facebook likes or YouTube views, remained unrivaled in popularity and fan frenzy for nearly 50 years. Now, it seems that history is repeating itself, with ‘One Directioners’ (One Direction fans) rivaling the hysteric scenes of the early 1960s when Beatlemania swept the globe.

A prime example of fan collaboration and self expression can be found at ‘Supanova’, a pop culture expo that provides fans with a real-life platform to interact with their idols and share their own content with others with the same interests. The convention is not limited to one specific fan, with the global event boasting celebrities and entertainment from the Sci-Fi, Gaming, Pulp TV/Movie, Animation/Cartoon, Fantasy, Comic Books and trading card communities…just to name a few!

Henry Jenkins mentions in a video on participatory culture, “…in a folk culture, media is produced not to make money. People produce media to share it with each other”. I think this is the best thing that the Internet has offered us as fans, the opportunity to share our interests with the world and perhaps connect with those who enjoy the same things.

I started this post with a Beyoncé fan video and I will leave you with another. Enjoy it as much as I have.

Keep calm and morally panic

keep-calm-and-morally-panic

Moral Panic goes hand in hand with new media. Today we live in fear of smartphones, robotic companions and cars that practically drive themselves, however, society was known to panic well before the development of these current technologies.

‘CRACKED’, albeit crudely and without much courtesy, has compiled a list of the ‘6 Most Insane Moral Panics in American History’. Featuring in the article is Rock & Roll music (because we all know someone deeply affected by the subliminal messages in backwards rock songs), Dungeons & Dragons, and my personal favourite Comic Books. According to this article, Fredric Wertham was a strong crusader against comic books due to messages of homosexuality and more importantly violence that the characters broadcasted to teenagers. As a side note, “Dr Fredric Wertham is often considered to be as slimy and evil as any creature ever to appear in the horror comics he criticized”.

Simon Shaps 1994 article, I think puts it best: “The essential elements of the moral panic are now all in place. No obvious beginning, no single individual responsible, a rapid escalation precipitated by an alliance of disparate but powerful voices, the indifference of the vast majority, and an insider prepared to dish the dirt. And, of course, most important, no evidence at all to support the case.” Simply put, moral panics are unjustified fears with no factual support.

It seems that throughout history, there has always been something to worry about. It’s the high amount of time I spend on my computer or with my smartphone that makes me question the social and mental effects that current technology is having on me. I can almost guarantee that this is not a fear I have developed of my own accord. Without the constant public murmur of the potential risks associated with smartphones, I may not even be aware of how much time I spend on the darn thing! Will one day I wake up and be incapable of real human interaction?

This week’s lecture highlighted that the “public hold anxieties about the invasion and contamination of the home by the ‘mass media’ and its evil influence”. This got me thinking about the various types of media that may be perceived as infiltrating the family home. George Gerbner, for example, has suggested that Cartoons in particular, depict violence, which infiltrate the home and in turn have an effect on the audience. However, the problem lies in the definition of violence. When is one example defined violence and the other harmless?

The argument that violence can penetrate the family home via media (such as a television) is not a strong one at all. “Violence” (however it is you define it), enters homes across the world daily, yet not all of the people living in these homes strive to replicate the actions they see via the media. So why then is the argument against media instigated violence such a widespread moral panic? *refer again to Shaps (1994) article for my answer.

Blood on the Leaves.

I think Illy said it best when he said, “Please forgive me if it all sounds so familiar; I’m sure that you’ve heard this all before; I’m only one voice in a world of billions and no idea’s original no more”.

The Australian rap artist’s 2012 single focuses on the inevitability of stealing ideas and using them as your own, even unknowingly! Even with intellectual property and copyright laws as they are, it verges on impossible to say that any idea we have is completely original. It’s often said that history repeats itself and in my opinion, the same goes for ideas and art (whether it be in the form of a song, poem, story etc.)

Copyright is designed to protect those with original ideas…but what if there aren’t any original ideas left? I know that’s a fairly big call and not by any means realistic – of course there are still things yet to be discovered, melody combinations that are yet to be heard…but surely we can take old ideas and bring them to new and wider audiences?

Henry Jenkins suggests, “a world without copyright is a world without new ideas” (2004). I disagree with this, partly as an optimist and partly as a music lover. Today, artists constantly sample old tracks in their music – undoubtedly Kanye is king of this art  (and he knows it). Despite being in what seems like a constant legal battle over copyright, West cleverly takes the old and makes it new again. I’ve mentioned his work in previous blog-posts purely because it seamlessly demonstrates that people can be just as innovative using old ideas as they can be creating completely new ones.  Jenkins argues that a justification for intellectual property is that it “increases innovation and creation”. Basically, if you cant use another person’s idea, you are more likely to think up something new and better. But I put it to you, is this not innovative and creative? Is Wests’ work diminished because it is not completely original?

Clearly sampling Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” (1965), West effectively takes the old and makes it new, demonstrating that a world without copyright would not be the end of original ideas like Jenkins suggests. Rather it would encourage the appropriation of old material, bringing the art to wider audiences than it ever could upon its first release.