BCM112

Sexism Everlasting

As a Media and Communications Studies student with an ambition for a future in journalism, my research for this blog post was alarming.

(Fellner, Eric 2014)

(Fellner, Eric 2014)

In 2009, Amy Wallace, a journalist for Wired Magazine wrote an article on an anti-vaccine movement focussing on a prominent doctor in the field, Dr. Paul Offit. Following the publication of her article, Wallace began to receive emails and comments calling her a prostitute and a c***. There were even photos of her head photoshopped onto the body of another woman wearing a strapless dress to make Wallace look as though she had behaved scandalously while researching the article.

Amy Wallace is not alone. Sex and relationships blogger Alyssa Royse has had her own share of hate, one person going so far as to say “You are clearly retarded, I hope someone shoots then rapes you.”

Female journalist Amanda Hess has received abusive tweets and emails including one from a convicted murderer who said, “I’m looking you up, and when I find you I am going to rape you and remove your head.

Every celebrity gets dished their own share of hate, and one Google search of Justin Bieber will relieve any doubt that online hate is confined to women. However these women are not celebrities. They are reporters. They are people fulfilling a job the same way a man would. However, in the period 2000-2012 of the 3,787 people who reported harassing incidents on the internet, 72.5% were women.

Perhaps it is a perception of women as weak. Or a hatred of women in positions of power. Or perhaps it is a lasting image of female inferiority. Whatever the reasoning, in online participatory culture, sexism is not fading.

Anonymity is merely armour for the weak. But it is what keep the discriminative fire alive. 

(lolsnaps.com 2014)

(lolsnaps.com 2014)

Where Were You When

(Design, 2011)

(Design, 2011)

Like for a prayer… Repost if you’d save this animal… Help them reach 10,000 likes… Share if you agree!

We’ve all seen it. Most of us have done it. I am all for showing support, no harm done, but in the past five years the click of a ‘like’ or ‘share’ button has proved to be far more powerful than finger exercises and a momentary thought from behind a computer screen.

(Sexy Social Media, 2014)

(Sexy Social Media, 2014)

2010 in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, the breadwinner for his family, had the cart he used to sell fruit and vegetables at the local market confiscated by a policewoman. When he refused to pay the corresponding fine, Bouazizi was allegedly assaulted by the policewoman. When local authorities declined his plea for assistance, Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire outside the local government building.

That was the spark. What came after was an enduring blaze.

Through social media, videos and photos of Bouazizi’s act spread, resonating with citizens across the country. Protests began everywhere, demanding that President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali step down and his regime abolished. The outrage bred solely from the broadcasting of a single event on social media worked. Ten days after Mohamed Bouazizi’s death, the reign was over.

Clicktivism. Online acitivism. News spread of the results in Tunisia and sparked uprisings across the Middle East. This was the Arab Spring.

Social media has given the world a way to share enormous amounts of uncensored information and footage. Ordinary people around the world have the ability to voice opinions, expose immoral or corrupt regimes and those their leaders. They can start protests and even overthrow dictatorships. Online activists can connect across oceans. This phenomenon is a force to be reckoned with.  Maybe peace stood in the hands of the people all along. 

(Ertell, 2013)

(Ertell, 2013)

Mash It

(Jules, 2012)

(Jules, 2012)


Call Me Maybe, Sexy and I Know it, Some Nights, Anchorman, I’m in Miami B*tch, I Wish, Send Me on My way, What’s that sound.

In his song “Call me Mr. Burgundy” American mashup artist Czar Nicholas III (The Czar) remixes songs from over 8 different artists. This is standard as his songs go. Some include voice samples from speeches by Martin Luther King Junior, Neil Armstrong and JFK. Others mix originals from Michael Jackson with the likes of Snoop Dogg, RnB with rock, classics with hard core rap. By the likes of The Czar, these mixes are made into songs. And these songs, in turn, into a genre.

Mashup music. You wouldn’t have heard of it 20 years ago, but it exists today simply because it can.

As stated in a previous blog post The Game is Afoot, online music sharing began with Napster. But the trend spread like wildfire. Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents, online MP3 Converters. All of these music sharing sites have meant that most any kid in a possession of a laptop with a program like Garage Band is able to remix away to their hearts content. With music so readily available and remixing programs so easily downloadable music sampling, remixes and mashups hold a widespread audience of everything from listeners to producers. Ever-growing, the stakes got higher, some artists surged ahead in talent and creativity. Albums were developed, fan bases established, recognition granted. And so, a genre was born.

Mashup music. A brand new genre and the quintessential participatory culture. Music made into music. Some argue that to merely remix songs does not equate producing an original record. However others, like The Czar, would disagree, saying that remix artists such as himself “can put as much of his feelings and emotions into making a song as John Mayer can.” And John Mayer has a Grammy. 

We’re All Stories in the End

A book comes out that your friend loves and they loan it to you. Before you know it the film is in the box office. Then you’re waiting for the soundtrack to be released on iTunes. Later you’re inviting that same friend around to play the newly released game with you. If you’re lucky, a spin-off TV show might come along. And when you’re not completely immersed in any one of these mediums presenting your new favourite, movie, game, song or show, you’re looking at social media – the comments, posts, extensions of the story online. The story. Something which once might have taken you less than a week to finish, has now become a part of your life. This, is transmedia storytelling.

Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Simpsons. All examples of franchises now available on a myriad of mediums, and the phenomenon is continuing to grow. Social media. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube. Today we see a parade, a protest, concert and we whip out a smart phone. Real life events, real life stories told in an instant. Imagine a cross between transmedia storytelling and citizen journalism. Enter, 18 Days in Egypt.

The story of the revolution in Egypt. It includes Youtube and mobile phone videos, photos, Facebook posts, international press, and firsthand accounts. “A collaborative documentary project about the revolution”. It is a quintessential piece of transmedia storytelling and a game changer. No longer is the story told with one voice on a news channel. This is a story being contributed to by the people who lived it, and told over a multitude of different mediums.

Social media is a significant contributor to transmedia storytelling – it allows people worldwide to connect and contribute to a story. For instance, Couchsurfing.org is a technology capable of abetting this phenomenon as its sole purpose is to connect people across the globe, encouraging them to share their lives and loves. While this branch of social media does not contribute directly to the stories, it holds the ability to share them. 

Can You Hear the People Sing?

For decades we have lived in a society ruled by professionals. Only professional chefs can cook, only professional hotels can host, only professional tour companies can take you places, only professional builders can build your house. But now, prime time entertainment is based around amateurs cooking for each other on My Kitchen Rules or renovating apartments on The Block. Even our entertainment industry is reflective of the new paradigm we are creating. We are weening ourselves off the decades of corporate news and media making way for a communal, social, user-led era. An era of produsage.

For websites like Couchsurfing.org, branches of “produsage” like citizen journalism and public review are central to the way the organisation operates. Publicity and positive advertisement for the website relies on the positive feedback and reviews of participants. As a participant, you can review your experiences, post-stay, with another member. These reviews can determine how safe, comfortable and entertaining your experience was and are influential in other members’ decisions as to where to stay. This method allows for a communal and social review of a product, but it can also work against Couchsurfing.

One of the setbacks of citizen journalism is that it can be relatively unregulated when compared to corporate journalism. It requires a great deal of trust.

When deciding upon a place to stay on Couchsurfing.org, reading reviews will open you up to a wealth of experiences reviewed by people of different interests, tastes, backgrounds and cultures. One person might have found a host to be too rowdy, where another found that same host entertaining. Someone may have the bedding uncomfortable, while another deemed it the best they’d seen yet. One person liked the cooking served, another found it vile.

“Produsage” is new. It’s exciting. It’s broad and community based and its depths are still unexplored. Watch this space! However in the same way there are loopholes and faults with corporate media, the same can be said for social media, and in turn this phenomenon: produsage. 

(cheezburger.com)

(cheezburger.com)


(Tarez,2009)

(Tarez,2009)

Out With the Old, In With the Newsfeed

In the beginning there was a newsfeed. A constant source of news from our micro worlds. Profile changes, memes, Shrek love, detailed descriptions of that guy’s most recent meal… Where do I know him from? All of the things we needed to know.

(Truus Heremans, 2014)

(Truus Heremans, 2014)

But bit by bit, our treasured newsfeed began to give us real news. Last year I was in England when the new Prime Minister was announced, and guess where I heard it. How many times have you seen reported lately, by ‘that girl from high school, what’s her name’, that Malaysian Flight MH370 has been found? But what did you do upon reading this significant news? I would hope that most people would take it under consideration but double check the claim’s validity with a major news outlet.

We all get news from Facebook. Personal and global. But the difference between institutionalised media and user generated media like Facebook is in the way they are run. Institutionalised media operates in a monologic environment – a message is conveyed and received. End of story. However user generated media operates in another environment entirely. Dialogic media is a phenomenon in which the audience participates in the media. Messages are sent, received, commented on and adapted by everyone.

For instance, Couchsurfing.org may be owned by Casey Fenton but it is run by prosumers. It is a participatory environment where audiences can use and adapt the technology for their own purposes whether they comply with the ideology of the organisation or not. A site intended to connect travellers has been used for promotion, sex, fraud and relationships to name a few.

(get5ocial.com)

(get5ocial.com)

And so audiences took over the world!

But even dialogic media has its setbacks. Source credibility, ethics and intent in a dialogic environment can be compromised which often necessitates institutionalised media as compensation. Out with the old isn’t always in with the new.

Sexsurfing

“I simply do not know of an easier way for a guy to get laid” 

This is the claim of 32 year old Riccardo, a member of Couchsurfing.org. Riccardo has been a member of the online travel service for 8 months and in this time has “hooked up with 5 (of his guests), for a 62 per cent ‘success rate’”.

(Julianne Zigos, 2013)

(Julianne Zigos, 2013)

Some say Riccardo is disgusting. Others say he is a genius. Whatever your opinion, Riccardo has found a way to pull girls from all over the world without leaving his lounge room. In his use of Couchsurfing.org, Riccardo has found a way to customize a product to suit his own purposes. Riccardo is a prosumer.

The practice of “Sexsurfing” through the use of Couchsurfing.org is an example of Jenkins’, 2004 idea that consumers and producers are converging to become ‘prosumers’. Jenkins observed that media convergence is leading to new forms of community, participation and knowledge of products. Riccardo used the Couchsurfing product to facilitate something different to that which the site aims to provide. A website that has stemmed from the use of Couchsurfing as “Sexsurfing” is “Loveroom – Share a room with someone attractive”. Evidence of Jenkins’ theory. An existing technology was adapted to create one to suit consumers – one that facilitates sex.

(Jelisa Mone, 2013)

(Jelisa Mone, 2013)


However these trends do not come without setbacks. Jenkins, 2004 suggests that media convergence will necessitate renegotiations between producer and consumer. For example, Couchsurfing.org is a closed technology. It does not allow users to adapt the way the website functions or is run. The “Couchsurfing Community Guidelines” specify that members should not “go looking for a date”. This is just one ideology of Couchsurfing that some, like Riccardo or other lonely souls out there, might not agree with. However the sites’ revised regulations and validation process attempt to maintain control and re-establish the ideologies of the organisation. 

This tension is just one dynamic grown from media and technological convergence. Little does Riccardo know, his sex life is altering the way a technology responds to its consumers. Good one Riccardo.  

The Game is Afoot

Metallica. The dinosaurs of rock and roll. Or, perhaps, the dinosaurs of an era where file sharing occurred when a friend let you borrow their Cd. Metallica was outraged when the first file sharing site Napster resulted in the distribution of their material without their consent. Lawyers were brought in, accusations made, but with files so readily transferable to anyone anywhere anytime, the lines were irreparably blurred.

(Karen Eustaquio, 2010)

(Karen Eustaquio, 2010)

And so the tables were turned. But in a society where happy snaps of your “cute lunch date” with your toasted sandwich are available worldwide, we should be checking ourselves before the tables turn again.

A profile on Couchsurfing.org involves anything from photos, to job or education history to elaborate retellings of significant life events. As a Couchsurfing member, until today, I too had lived in happy ignorance of section 4.3 of the ‘Member Conduct and Content’ section of the Couchsurfing Terms of Use that states “If you post Member Content to our Services, you hereby grant us a perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, create derivative works from, distribute, have distributed and promote such Member Content in any form”.

If that’s not daunting I don’t know what is.

However while the website is entitled to the entirety of my ‘cyber soul’ as a member, Section 6 of the Terms of Use agreement details a long list of all of the ways I might commit copyright infringement if I were ever to use any “Couchsurfing Materials’.

(Couchsurfing.org)

(Couchsurfing.org)

It’s time. We need to knuckle down and read the fine print. We sell our souls to sites not using an open content license. A new slogan for the billboards: Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Read the Terms of Service before they’re served.

Gotta Have Roots Before Branches

So as I sat on the bottom bunk of my dingy hostel room in Prague having just received a Couchsurfing invitation from Vienna, many things crossed my mind… I wonder if the shower will be good? How will I even get to their place? What if their house if weird? What if THEY’RE weird? What if they steal all my clothes, break my phone and try to poison me with salmonella? What if they’re not even real!

These thoughts all came at an alarming rate but ultimately lead me to the prompt conclusion that perhaps more research into the website was necessary. I needed to better understand its roots in order to trust its branches, so to speak.

So. Begun as a non-profit organisation, in 2011 Couchsurfing.org gained its status as a ‘Benefit Corporation’. Benefit Corporations are for-profit businesses that define themselves as socially responsible to investors and consumers (Perlroth, 2011). According to co-founder Daniel Hoffer, “B Corporation status allows us to take investment money and be nimble and flexible while sticking with our social mission.” (Perlroth, 2011). A big progression from what was initially a volunteer based work team. When it comes to its copyright laws, Couchsurfing is akin to any other organisation in that it holds jurisdiction over the Services and all content and other materials on the Services of the organisation, as stated in its Terms of Use Policy.

(Couchsurfing.org)

(Couchsurfing.org)

Couchsurfing is growing. It has progressed infinitely from its first email based system of 50 participants into a significant player in social media today. As Daniel Hoffer claims, “In the early days of Facebook, if you asked people in the broader world if they’d ever heard of ‘the Facebook’, most had no idea. But if you asked college students, they were really into it. The same goes for CouchSurfing. Once you start looking, you’ll find them everywhere.” (Perlroth, 2011)

Sources:

Couchsurfing Terms of Use Annotated. 10 September 2012. Accessed 14 March 2014. https://docs.google.com/a/couchsurfing.com/file/d/0B0Ig8MWDfIEmU3JQS0NlRVl5cFE/edit?pli=1

Perlroth, Nicole. ‘Non-Profit Couchsurfing Raises Millions in Funding’, Forbes, 24 August 2011, accessed 14 March 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nicoleperlroth/2011/08/24/non-profit-couchsurfing-raises-millions-in-funding/

Couchsurfing. Like Facebook for Travellers.

Sitting on the bottom bunk in a dingy hostel room in Prague, I received my first response on my Couchsurfing profile. A 26 year old, Austrian, female, student of architecture in Vienna, welcomed me to spend two nights on her couch while she showed me the best of her home city. Among hundreds of others, I found Helena’s profile offering a place to stay for free, on ‘Couchsurfing.org’ while planning the next leg of my Europe trip.

Couchsurfing – Share your life”. Like Facebook for travellers, Couchsurfing is a social media platform for travellers. It is a way to connect with hosts and other “surfers” in 100,000 cities around the world. Whether it be for a place to crash, people to share the adventure with, or someone to get travel tips from, Couchsurfing.org is a site where people create an online profile with pictures, travel destinations, info and references in order to be involved in this global community.

(The Dancing Pilgrim, 2013)

(The Dancing Pilgrim, 2013)

As with any social media or technology, there are varying perspectives of Couchsurfing. Here are the top five most common perspectives I have come across which I hope will give you an understanding of how Couchsurfing is used:

The World Wanderer
“I’ve made so many friends all over the world! I got to do so many things I never thought I’d get the chance to do, share experiences, food, language, culture – best way to travel!”
Couchsurfing is revolutionizing modern travel. No longer do you need vast riches to afford a life-changing, cultural experiences around the world. You just need an app and an open attitude.

The Protective Parent
“But honey how do you know it’s safe? Stranger danger sweetie, you can’t go stay in some random’s place! It could be a serial killer!”
A significant issue for most anyone encountering Couchsurfing for the first time is, of course, be safety. However, Couchsurfing uses both credit card verification and a reference system, where members can give marks and a reviews. There is also a vouching system, where frequent, vouched-for users can in turn vouch for other users they know and trust (Stern, R 2013).

The Horny Host
“Easiest hookup ever. They’re already staying at your place, all you gotta do is get ‘em to your bed.”
This perspective is fairly self-explanatory. Couchsurfing experiences vary depending on the user.

The Ernst Entrepreneur
“The most exciting thing about it is that it’s challenging the accommodation and travel industries. There is potential for big money here!”
Begun as a non-for-profit, Couchsurfing was grown entirely through word of mouth and has 7 million users worldwide. No matter what anyone says about it, Couchsurfing is an innovation that is changing the way we travel and is a significant contribution to todays “sharing economy”.

The Congenial Couch-owner
“I want to share my home with people from around the world. It’s like bringing the world to me and making friends in the process.”
People living in 100,000 cities around the world have volunteered to share their lives and their homes. Some are ex-travellers, some want to learn, some believe they have something worth sharing, some just want to meet people. No matter what their reasons for joining, each of the 7 million members are involved in this game changing social platform.

For a more info…

Sources:

Stern, R 2013, ‘How Couchsurfing Epitomizes the ‘Sharing Economy’’ Huffington Post, viewed 14 Mach 2014 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-stern/couchsurfing-alexandra-liss_b_2546381.html

Couchsurfing.org, ‘How it works’, viewed 14 March 2014 https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/how-it-works