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

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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.”

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.

“We had it good”

My Dad recalls his early memories of the television, growing up in 1960s Scotland.

The scenes on the television were a far cry from the reality that greeted my Dad outside his window. In 1968, Mexico hosted the summer Olympics – my Dad recalls waking up early to watch the events, “it was always sunny”. This resonated with me, knowing that his childhood in Scotland was often cold and bleak. My Dad, not yet a teenager then, used the television as a form of escapism, running into the living room to watch the athletes compete under a blazing sun which was all too foreign in the place he grew up in.

Technology today grants us myriad entry points to discovering new information – for example, if we wanted to know what the weather was like in Mexico we’d simply use our iPhone app or Google it. However, for my Dad, Television was the portal to a whole new world, unimaginable sights brought right into his family living room.

A smug grin washes over his face as he tells me of when the family bought a Philips TV; “It even had push-buttons…we had it good”. Feeling proud of his accomplishment, he adds, “I also found out you could tune those buttons manually”. Qualifying as a mechanic in the late Seventies, his early memories of tinkering around with the television tuners contributed to my perception of him as a young man.

Right up until his late teens, when technology granted portable televisions, Dad reminisces that watching television was a communal, family event with everyone enjoying the evening programs together. Shows like Bugs Bunny, Walt Disney classics and Z-Cars are among some of his earliest memories. I prompted Dad to think of when it was that the television, for him, started to be seen less as a tool in orchestrating ‘family time’. And, like me, that began when he became old enough to come and go from the house as he pleased; he recalled coming home from nights out to his Mother and Father watching programs, where he would sit and talk with them for a while and then go to bed. This is extremely similar to our household today, when we often play catch-up on each others days when everyone gets home, sitting around the TV with a tea.

I asked him when it was that having two or more televisions in a household became commonplace. Today, having a television in every room isn’t thought twice about, but back in the 60s and 70s when television started to grow exponentially, a new TV was only purchased after the old one died. My parents adopted this behavior well into my childhood– I remember having only one TV growing up, being left behind as all the cool kids got shiny silver flat-screens whilst our boring, black Panasonic sat inside its clunky cabinet (with convenient doors that hid it away from sight).

– Orcadia 🙂

Here’s a shilling to go down to the pictures!

This week I asked my Mum to recall a specific time she went to the cinema. As she was giving me her answers (some of which were surprisingly specific), I thought to myself how much has changed in terms of cinema within our culture. Today, going to see a movie is pretty much a non-event. Let’s face it – most of us do it when there’s simply nothing else to do. So when my mum recalled details of her 8-year old self’s movie experience, I enjoyed the nostalgia.

Mum grew up in northern Scotland in a small fishing village. It might just be a generational thing, but the details she recalled were very simple. I don’t think this was just a recounting technique; rather, that’s actually how life was in 1967 – simple.  Kids weren’t spoiled for choice and safety wasn’t so heavily ingrained in their minds.

She laughed when I asked how they [my mum and her younger sister] decided on what film to see. She explained that “back in her day” no one had to decide on what film to see – cinemas would run one movie for about 2 weeks at a time. So, as opposed to our generation, flooded with the choice of at least a dozen showing movies, back then it was as easy as getting a shilling from your Uncle and skipping down Kinnedar Street to see The Jungle Book.

220px-Thejunglebook_movieposter

My early memories of cinema differ greatly from my Mum’s. Growing up in western Sydney suburbia, safety was paramount. In the space of 40 years, kids were taken to the cinema by their parents or dropped at the front door at the very least. So, perhaps disappointingly for research value, my Mum’s experiences are pretty similar to the stereotypes of her generation – #safe, #happy, #simple.

 

– Orcadia 🙂

Time and a place..

A constant obstacle I face in my everyday life is what to do if I forget my headphones. A 20minute train trip without music is frustrating – yes – but something I eventually bring myself to accept. Under no circumstances though, would I ever become one of “those people”. Those people. The ones that blatantly play music though the loudspeaker on their phones, appropriately dubbed ‘Sodcasting’  by UrbanDictionary.com. (soz but I didn’t really feel like being bombarded by Miley Cyrus on my way to uni)

“Sodcaster’s” we’ll call them, are a group of people with quite a large hate-base, as seen here  in a Facebook page dedicated to hating on the offensive public act. The page’s 1400 ‘likers’ suggests that mine is not an isolated issue.

Whilst trains in general are public spaces, the individual’s exposed to other people’s loud media reserve their own separate sphere. And it is generally socially accepted that we do not disturb the space of others. With media constantly connecting people and making sharing so easy, it is understandable that the youth of today (especially Sodcaters) find it hard to distinguish the line between public and private space.

Sian Lincoln discusses in her book, ‘Youth Culture and Private Space’, that social media is fast becoming an extension of individuals private space. This makes it hard to discern what constitutes a private space from a public one, with the methods of sharing things of importance being very publicly dispersed (i.e. social media like Facebook and twitter).

Public and private spaces are no longer separate entities. Sharing is bigger than ever thanks to technologies limitless potential and with that, lines become blurred and social norms are sometimes disregarded.

 

– Orcadia 🙂