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WEEK 9 QUESTION

Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts ‘remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media’ (Reader, page 269)

Discuss, giving an example of a YouTube video (embed it into post). 

‘Yes we live for the fame, doin’ it for the fame, ‘cause we want to live the life of the rich and famous.’

Lady Gaga The Fame (2008)

 

Burgess and Green’s conclusion frames YouTube as isolated from other media apparatuses, and this is extremely limiting in a discussion of new media. In recent years, Burgess and Green’s definition of ‘mass media’ has been rendered obsolete by the fact that the ‘masses’ are consuming new media technologies. YouTube, facebook, twitter, tumblr and Google, to name a few, are all aspects of our mass media. What Burgess and Green mean when the say the ‘mass media’ is traditional corporate media (2009: 23). When it comes to ‘ordinary celebrities’ Burgess and Green (2009: 23) claim that,

‘the marker of success for these new forms, paradoxically, is measured not only by their online popularity but by their subsequent ability to pass through the gate-keeping mechanisms of old media – the recording contract, the film festival, the television pilot, the advertising deal’ (2009: 24).

This statement fails to recognize that current, and future, celebrities have no choice but to engage with new media technologies if they want to maintain their success. Burgess and Green underestimate the worth of an online presence following the achievement of fame. For example, Lady Gaga has been named the most powerful entertainer in the world in 2011, pushing Oprah into second position for the first time in four years. Why? Forbes Magazine deemed Gaga to be more powerful than any other celebrity because of her online following (Herald Sun Online). Lady Gaga has not simply neglected new media because she has a recording contract.

I would argue that ordinary people who become celebrities through amateur creativity do indeed function in a traditionally corporate media world. However, they are not controlled by the mass media. When Burgess and Green state, ‘…there is no necessary transfer of media power…’, they neglect the power that lies with the consumer (2009: 23). Twitter followers, YouTube viewers, facebook ‘likers’ and iTunes downloaders hold considerable power in the new media landscape. To take the example of Lady Gaga again, her Gaga Vision transmissions on YouTube function as a way for Gaga to communicate with her fans. They meet all the criteria of an amateur, home movie-style five-minute clip. Furthermore, Gaga has uploaded the audio of her entire album on her YouTube channel. This is a celebrity straddling both the old and the new worlds of fame.

It is not my intention to discredit Burgess and Green’s entire thesis. However, a new paradigm is needed in this field of net communications. Rather than dividing the discourse into a discussion of new media, such as YouTube, versus mainstream media, such as analogue or digital television, there must be an acknowledgement that the new forms of technology have become mainstream. The idea of what constitutes mass media has changed. Burgess and Green (2009:37) are helpful when they centre the spotlight on a need for an ‘audience-centered perspective’, however their argument is undermined by a series of generalizations that divide the debate into a new media-old media dichotomy. The reality is that the two worlds are rapidly being fused by amateur YouTubers and celebrities such as Lady Gaga.

References:

Herald Sun Online, viewed June 5, <http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/music/lady-gaga-tops-forbes-celebrity-100-list-beats-oprah-winfrey/story-e6frf9hf-1226058876592&gt;

Jean Burgess and Joshua Green, ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’, in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, pp. 15-37.

YouTube, viewed June 5, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umr-UHw6ReE&gt;

WEEK 7 QUESTION

Lovink (Reader, page 222) argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self.”

Discuss this argument giving an example of a blog. 

In this context, ‘a tool to manage the self’ can mean two things: a tool to organise and manage one’s life, or as a PR tool to stage-manage one’s career and public image (Lovink, 28). Either way, the statement is a correct summation of what bloggers and blogs achieve. As Lovink states, ‘Blogs are part of a wider culture that fabricates celebrity on every possible level’ (Lovink, 28). Even bloggers that are just writing personal musings are hoping people will read their blogs and hence, are using this platform as a tool for self-management. From writing an online diary to promoting a new small business or company, blogs are often employed for the fact that, with tagging, it is easy to make a blog appear relatively high in Google search results. It is an inexpensive and fast marketing tool.

Furthermore, even already famous celebrities have used blogs to further their careers. Popular Australian blogger Mia Freedman began her blog in 2007 after ending her career as a magazine editor. The blog helps to promote her books, her Sunday newspaper-magazine column and her stint on Monday morning commercial TV (see http://www.mamamia.com.au/). Similarly, although on a much grander scale, Perez Hilton has become internationally famous for his celebrity and fame related blog. Therefore, I wouldn’t argue that blogs necessarily have to be about oneself on a parochial level to be a self-promoting tool. Even if a blog is tangentially managing the author by promoting their company, there is little doubt that the vested interest is in the self. I disagree with Lovink when he deems blogging to be ‘merely’ self-promotion (33). Self-promotion and public relations strategies are some of the reasons why blogging is known as democratic; anyone can have a voice. Personal blogs, even those acting as marketing campaigns, are differentiated from corporate news blogs through the use of vernacular language, amateur creativity, and the fact that the author is part of the niche market he/ she is writing for; a more authentic experience is born. On the other hand, corporate news blogs are not tools of self-management and still play a legitimate and important role in 21st century media.

Bloggers cannot be studied as one homogenous group of people. Certain blogs will promote the self more than others. Let’s take craft as an example. As Jane Audas explains, the web has revolutionised the craft world (2011: 51). Audas emphasises the fact that,

‘…as a maker, if you have access to the internet there isn’t any reason not to have your work online. Why wouldn’t you want to reach a wider audience for sales? Why aren’t you available to journalists (who probably find 95% of their content online). And why not reap the benefits of those people looking for ‘stuff’ to blog, tumblr, tweet or ‘like’’ (2011:51).

Audas highlights the craft site Etsy as a notable example. Craft bloggers cannot be considered along the same criteria as corporate news bloggers. There is little doubt that blogging exists in that mysterious dimension where information meets entertainment and communication meets commerce. The community, or ‘mob’, should not be discredited as readership is extremely important in measuring the success of a blog, but Lovink is correct in his assertion that blogging is primarily used as a tool to manage the self.

References:

Audas, Jane. “Search Engine: The Loneliness of the Long Distant Crafter.” Selvedge , March-April 2011: 51-52.

Etsy Online, Etsy Blog, viewed 5 June, <http://www.etsy.com/storque/?ref=so_blog&gt;

Geert Lovink, ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge pp. 1-38.

Mamma Mia Online, viewed 5 June, <http://www.mamamia.com.au/&gt;

Perez Hilton Online, viewed 5 June, <http://perezhilton.com/&gt;

WEEK 5 QUESTION

Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices: 

‘When people have control over what they share, they’re comfortable sharing more.  When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected.  And in a more open world, many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.’

                        Mark Zuckerberg.

To a certain extent there is some reason in Mark Zuckerberg’s statement. However, it is based on an idealistic sum where control + the ability to share more + security = an interconnected world where global problems appear as small as the mediated world does. But in truth, the facts don’t add up.

Firstly, until December 2010 facebook was more private than it is today. Only a facebook ‘friend’ could access your data. Then the default privacy settings changed. The new default: text, photos and video updates are visible to everyone. Facebook appears to be forcing the world to become more open, rather than accepting the fact that many people want their personal information to remain private.  While it is relatively easy to change the privacy settings on facebook, that Zuckerberg is suggesting you let everyone see everything is more of a discomforting factor than one that will encourage people to be more open.

Secondly, the utopian values Zuckerberg promotes are at variance with the corporate model of facebook. It is a business, not a playground. Facebook allows advertisers access to members’ personal information so that ads target a specific demographic. Similarly, a new facebook feature personalizes websites with information about user’s Facebook friends (The Wall Street Journal Online). As Danah Boyd states, ‘…privacy is not simply about zeroes and ones, it is about how people experience their relationship with others and with information’ (2008: 18). There is an argument along the lines of ‘if you don’t like it, don’t have a facebook account.’ However, the issue in the debate is the way facebook is constantly changing the privacy settings, and the way facebook is promoting them. Businesses do have a responsibility to advertise their products in a way that doesn’t mislead the public. When Zuckerberg talks about zeroes and ones, or makes simplified claims about the amazing possibilities of a borderless, collaborative world, he is in effect selling facebook for something it isn’t.

Thirdly, Boyd’s suggestion that ‘privacy is a sense of control over information’ makes me ask: do facebook users have control over their information (2008:18)? Not to the point where they are comfortable sharing enough to warrant the dramatic shift in public attitudes that Zuckerberg highlights in the aforementioned statement. The backlash against Zuckerberg and facebook whenever the privacy settings are changed is enough evidence to suggest that people are not comfortable sharing more, as they don’t yet have the control Zuckerberg tries to insinuate that they do (The Wall Street Journal Online).  Boyd goes further: ‘An opt-out dynamic means that users have to consciously choose what it is that they wish to hide and then remember their choices as they are navigating the system’ (2008: 16). Does this manner of discourse sound like people are ready to share more? It is not a question of whether of not Zuckerberg is ‘right’; rather it is a question of how realistic he is in hypothesizing about the dynamics of the current first-world mediascape. For social network sites to be truly collaborative, and have the ability to solve global social, political and economic problems, more people need to be involved. This will happen when people have more faith in these sites and the Internet when it comes to issues of privacy and security.

References:

Danah Boyd, ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreak: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14.4 (2008): 13-20.

The Wall Street Journal Online, The Wall Street Journal Technology, viewed 5 June, <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704912004575252723109845974.html&gt;

YouTube, viewed 5 June, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWDneu_w_HQ&gt;

WEEK 4 QUESTION

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? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

In laying out the terms of this discussion, it is important to make a distinction between blogs, and social networking sites such as facebook and twitter. A person who blogs adopts the title of ‘blogger.’ People who use facebook and twitter to disseminate information, both personal information and interesting or breaking news, are simply referred to as being in-touch with new media. The blogosphere is an inherently fragmented world of niche markets and like-minded communities. Hence, we must acknowledge that there is a difference between people receiving their news from online sources or social networks, and bloggers effectively informing the people who consistently follow a certain blog – what Russell (et al) calls ‘the public’ (2008:67).

The prime limitation in such a study is that Russell (et al)’s contention is based on out-dated information, and it does not align itself with the  Australian media landscape (the article appeared in a US publication in 2008). The claim that ‘mainstream news outlets have been reluctant to fully embrace the possibilities of digital technologies’ may have been true in 2008 when it was written, but in 2011 corporate news organisations have embraced the internet, the iPhone/ iPad application, and even the blog (2008: 67). Russell (et al) then contradict themselves by claiming that ‘traditional news media are using the Internet as a news distribution channel, …, but they are not reconfiguring their fundamental stance towards journalistic authority and authoring conventions’ (2008:68). Either news corporations are out-of-touch, or they’re in-touch but they simply aren’t democratic enough. They can’t be both.

The fundamental flaw in the continuing, circular dialogue about the role and legitimacy of blogs is the assumption that blogging is revolutionary because it is independent, collaborative and merit based (Russel et al., 2008: 67). I would argue that blogging satisfies the interests of certain niche markets (for example, the fashion lovers, the foodies, and the tech-heads), but blogs no more effectively inform the public than traditional corporate media. Why? Because people who are interested in news-blogs are most-likely also going to be interested in newspapers and online-newspaper websites, in the same way people who love reading about food online don’t stop buying cook-books or watching food-related television programs. After all, the most popular blogger in Australia is Andrew Bolt and his blog must be accessed through the Herald Sun website (figures from Herald Sun Online). His blog is linked to a corporate news organisation.

The democratisation of the dissemination of news has occurred on social networking sites such as facebook and twitter. Blogs may have editorial independence, collaborative structures and merit-based popularity, but this triangulated heart of the blogosphere is restricted by the fact that each blog is designed to target a niche market: even news-blog followers fit into one of these niches. What makes facebook and twitter better platforms for informing the public is the way news spreads through posts and status updates – re-posted and re-tweeted; the only criteria for being included is to be on facebook or twitter. Furthermore, this means that a broader range of subjects can be discussed in the public domain, not just what corporate organisations or one blogger decides is important.

It is bemusing that so many fellow student-bloggers in this subject have more or less agreed with Russell (et al.)’s statement without questioning its context or asking the simple question: when was the last time I gained a thorough knowledge of a news story through a blog site? And if so, was it really that different to a news article or an op-ed/ comments page in a newspaper or on a news site. The new media may have weakened corporate media but it appears to have more chance of adapting and surviving than the currently dying art of the blog.

References:

Adrienne Russell, Mizuko Ito, Todd Richmond and Marc Tuters, ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008, pp. 43-76.

Herald Sun Online, Andrew Bolt’s Blog, viewed 4 June, <http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/&gt;

Cyberbullying and Another Google Chrome Ad

The Internet has more than one dark side. The seeds have been sown; the Internet has provided too many opportunities for the human race. From cyber-crime to the pornography debate, abuse of the system was inevitable. Cyber-bullying is one such phenomenon. It won’t go away, so what do we do? Not only is it a worldwide problem but our justice and education systems are still playing catch-up when it comes to tackling the issue. Maybe teachers and parents just have to work harder to educate and protect children. No one should assume that teenagers who are being bullied will seek help, especially if the bullying is particularly threatening. I was intrigued today when I read an article in The Sydney Morning Herald about a new virtual program that allows teachers to realistically experience what it is like to be bullied in an online environment. The program, Connect.ed, contains characters and scenarios that are based on real situations. I think this is a very good way to help teachers become more aware of what is actually happening on the net. It will be interesting to see how this issue develops as our generation (a generation of digital natives) enters the classroom as teachers, and become parents. But I don’t want to suggest that the Internet can’t be used as a constructive arena to counter, not only cyber-bullying, but bullying in general. I think this Google Chrome ad is really inspiring. It doesn’t canvas a huge range of issues as you’ll see but it’s a great example of the positive power a YouTube video can have.

 

References:

‘In their shoes: teachers get taste of cyberbullying’, Sydney Morning Herald Online,  <http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/in-their-shoes-teachers-get-taste-of-cyberbullying-20110529-1fb1m.html&gt;  May 30 2011 [date accessed]

YouTube, viewed May 30, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7skPnJOZYdA&gt;

WEEK 3 QUESTION

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation of online ‘communities’?

The above statement, with its complex bouquet of meanings, suggests that the YouTube interface is a matrix of ranking tactics and that there is a direct correlation between these ranking tactics and the formation of online communities.

van Dijck (2009:44) highlights an American study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that suggests User Generated Content websites are made up of five types of citizens: ‘active creators’, ‘critics’, ‘collectors’, ‘joiners’ and ‘passive spectators’ (the majority). As van Dijck explains, ‘citizenship has to do with belonging and participating in a public sphere inundated with media’ (2009:44). Furthermore, citizens are dependent ‘on a range of social institutions and systems to provide them the means – both material and symbolic – for the construction of their life projects.’ (Thompson 1995; 215 as quoted in van Dijck 2004: 44). Here we have a strong definition of what an online community is, and an acknowledgement that institutional influence on a community is not unnatural.

So now we can answer the question.

YouTube unquestionably uses ranking tactics. This is obvious as soon as you visit the homepage. Viewers are met with the ‘Top Viewed’, ‘Most Discussed,’ and ‘Top Rated’ videos. Users (and produsers) are steered towards certain videos. Complex algorithms are used by YouTube to determine what videos would be of most interest to the user, based on an individual’s viewing history. To put a more cynical spin on it, YouTube (and its owner, Google) employ a market research style campaign to influence the distribution/ consumption cycle of YouTube content.

There is no doubt that the YouTube interface sways and persuades users to view certain videos. After all, the majority of users don’t want to miss out on the next cultural trend that everyone else is talking about.

This brings me to the impact ranking tactics have on the formation of online communities.

I would argue that the relationship between the corporate/ institutional power of YouTube and the YouTube online community is reciprocal, albeit uneven.

This particular online community is mediated by the rankings and recommendations of YouTube, however this argument ignores the fact that amateur videos don’t dominate YouTube’s most viewed list. I would also argue that van Dijck’s assertion that user agency has abated since Google’s acquisition must be viewed differently as we take into account the part VEVO (a music video website) is playing in the current YouTube-scape (2009: 49).

In the current climate, van Dijck’s ‘passive spectators’ are not as ‘passive’ as they once were. They are the Beliebers, Eminem saluters, anybody with a sense of humour who has watched Rebecca Black’s Friday, and of course, Gaga’s Little Monsters. These people are watching any videos even tangentially related to their favourite artist because of the religion that pop culture has become. They will worship these celebrities by consuming their products whether or not YouTube tells them to.

The two most watched videos on YouTube are Justin Bieber’s Baby and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. YouTube didn’t decide to make these popular –  Bieber and Gaga achieved this by a saturation of self-promotion through other social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and tumblr. Out of the top ten most watched YouTube videos to date, only two are amateur. The remaining eight are professional music videos (see Read Write Web online). While it must be acknowledged that Justin Bieber was once an amateur YouTube performer, it was his discovery by his current manager that launched his professional career – as opposed to any corporate influence  exerted by YouTube.

I would argue that ranking tactics are one aspect of this relationship, but the real question we should be asking is: How have record labels and professional music groups such as VEVO changed the dynamics of YouTube and how has this affected online communities? The pure size of this industry makes it difficult to give a simple answer.

Gaga holds up a flag that was thrown on stage at The Monster Ball Tour. It says Little Monster Pride.

AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by tamtam7683

References:

Read Write Web Online, viewed May 22, <http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/top_10_youtube_videos_of_all_time.php&gt;

Van Dijck, J (2009) ‘Users like you? Theorising agency in user-generated content’, Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 31 pp. 41-58

YouTube 2011, viewed May 22, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrO4YZeyl0I&gt;

Gaga † Sydney

Lady Gaga is coming to Sydney. And less than 1000 fans will get to see her.

The intimate show will be held at Sydney’s Town Hall on July 13 and the only way to get your monster paws on some tickets is to post a picture on the special Take 40 facebook page proving how much of a Gaga fan you are. I expect to see a lot of meat dresses. Entries open June 8. This is another example of social network sites becoming the dominant way for superstars to promote themselves and communicate with their fans. But it is also noteworthy that these sorts of promotions work to underpin corporate media, such as newspapers, radio and television. It’s not all about online for Gaga, as the televised special of her Monster Ball Tour demonstrates. And one of the great pay-offs for Gaga is in the physical sales of her albums. She has shown that you can still sell records in this climate.

Some rights reserved by Gn!pGnop

Check out more details here at Take40.com