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)

It is a Truth Universally Acknowledged…

The media is bias. The media is corrupt. The media is destroying the innocence of children and provoking violence in teens. It is untrustworthy, immoral, unethical.

My prior, albeit general, understanding of the media and its operation led me to believe that enrolling in a media studies class would simply involve a greater depth and understanding of the claims professed above. These are the accusations we have heard for years, on social media, TV, newspapers – in the media, about the media. What I did not expect from this class, was for these accusations to be proven wrong.

(siliconrepublic.com)

(siliconrepublic.com

If we take the issue of children in the media as an example, this can be linked to most theories discussed since week 1. For instance, media effects. When the first blog posts began to appear on the topic, many referenced the effect of children in the media; how moral panic ensued as children played an increasingly dominant role in the media and how this supposedly stripped their innocence and corrupted young minds. However many of my peers begged the question, how much of this was really a testament to the media? Fellow bloggers questioned the role of increased access to technology, family status, role models and culture as well as the media.

I discovered a similar result when blogging about the topics of semiotics and ideologies. I found articles, readings and other bloggers all attributing negative messages seemingly conveyed by the media, including those related to children, to the way these messages were received by audiences of varying cultural and ideological backgrounds.

Control of the media was an interesting topic. For the first time, I found myself reading blogs suggesting that for all that is wrong with today’s media, perhaps the control of the powerful minority wasn’t such a bad thing. Through my own research and reading other blogs I began to consider that with the increased power and influence of social media, a balance was being formed.  A balance between the regulated corporate media and the speculative, unrefined social media.

This observation was my most significant realisation in this project. This phenomenon could be changing the way the media operates – with corporate and social media keeping each other in check, validating and questioning each other.

(KJ, 2013)

(KJ, 2013)

At the beginning of the project I was inclined to get on and blog about the media in the ways I had always heard it discussed. However the more I read, wrote and commented on other blogs and my own, the more my perspective was changed. Through the progression of my blog I have learnt that media is more than an all-powerful entity. It is an ever-changing, heavily debated and regulated medium; one pervious to, even reliant on, the perspectives and backgrounds of its audience; and a medium consistently influenced by the growth of social media. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, well so it may be said about the media. Maybe the media isn’t a truth so universally acknowledged after all.

(Alex Shye, 2013)

(Alex Shye, 2013)

How to Lose Weight and Alienate People

The Biggest Loser.

The show where everyone but the biggest of losers, is a loser anyway.

How many times have you heard the word ‘Obesity’ in the last week? The last month? The issue is a central part of our society and a consistently hot topic for public debate. It is not surprising that a reality TV show came about for our entertainment that is centred around such a prevalent topic. However the show raises questions about much more than simply obesity.

(novafm.com)

(novafm.com)


The Biggest Loser has been accused of trivialising weight loss. Weight loss professional Professor Wittert (2014) claims the show “is a crass attempt to make entertainment of a serious problem… putting them (contestants) through a gruelling and unrealistic regime of exercise and diet, and exposing them to public ridicule because of their weight.” In her Article, “The Biggest Loser: you win some…you lose more” journalist Stacey Carter (2014) describes the way the show provokes audiences’ interest, “Trainers scream abuse, contestants strip down for weigh-ins (reinforcing the freak-show vibe).” Both Wittert’s and Carter’s takes of the show raise issues for debate in the public sphere questioning what our society deems to be ‘entertaining’. Have we become insensitive, cruel even, in the things that entertain us?

Critics and health professionals have accused the show of professing unrealistic expectations of weight loss. Professor Wittert (2014) says, “It is misleading. It may also lead to physical harm if individuals try to emulate it and even partially succeed, and potentially to psychological harm if they can’t.” Stacey Carter (2014) claims, “the show is likely to harm contestants and unlikely to benefit them… Before weigh-ins they reportedly starve themselves, go without fluids and take long saunas to temporarily shed kilos.”

(memecrunch.com)

(memecrunch.com)


Debate over The Biggest Loser in the mediated public sphere ranges from ‘Did you see that fat dude fall off the bike last night?’ to ‘Where are society’s morals when laughing at the expense of these people?’ to ‘What are the real health concerns in weight loss?’ to ‘Am I a bad person if I eat pizza while watching this?’ Never the less, The Biggest Loser demands discussion of the issues it raises, contributing to the mediated public sphere in a very big way.

Sources:

Anderson, J 2014, ‘6 ”Biggest Loser” Lessons to Unlearn’, Spark People, accessed 7 April 2014 http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1192&page=3

Carter, S 2014 ‘The Biggest Loser: you win some… you lose more’, Sydney Morning Herald, accessed 7 April 2014 http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-biggest-loser-you-win-some–you-lose-more-20140118-311gk.html

Health Sciences, Media Release, Research Story University of Adelaide, 2014, ‘Biggest Loser a setback for healthy weight loss’, The University of Adelaide, accessed 7 April 2014 https://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/print67942.html

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.

Me, Myself and My 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.

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.

(Manjero Vs. Arch Forum 2013)

(Manjero Vs. Arch Forum 2013)

We all get news from Facebook. Personal and global. But the difference between major broadcasting services and Facebook is in the way they are run. Most major news corps are run, owned and regulated by a minority, headed powers such as Rupert Murdoch or Gina Rinehart. Facebook may be owned by Mark Zuckerberg but it is run by the public. A majority. And the content we produce in terms of news and updates remains largely unregulated, as is evident in the Facebook Community Standards.

The difference this contrast makes is that knowing Facebook is unregulated makes us check the stories with major news outlets. And knowing major news outlets are run by a minority with a great potential for bias makes us check the stories through social media. The combination of a less regulated social media and regulated and controlled news outlets is that society today is one of the most informed humanity has ever been.

(David McKnight, 2012)

(David McKnight, 2012)

The social media revolution is changing the way we access news. It is changing way news itself is broadcast. The balance of social media and news outlets creates competition. However I would argue that this competition is in fact healthy. Because at the end of the day, it is a race for faster, more factual, resourceful and current news. 

Sources:

Facebook.com, 2014, ‘Facebook Community Standards’ accessed 30 March 2014 https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards

Gucciardi, A 2013, ‘Graphic: How Just 6 Corps Own 90% of The Media’, Storyleak, accessed 30 March 2014 http://www.storyleak.com/graphic-6-corporations-own-90-percent-of-media/

MacMillian, G 2013 ‘Guardian says Twitter surpassing other social media for breaking news traffic’, Twitter Blog, accessed 30 March 2014 https://blog.twitter.com/2013/guardian-says-twitter-surpassing-other-social-media-for-breaking-news-traffic

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.

Bird of Prey

kevin-carter-vulture
(Kevin Carter, 1993)

Sudan. March, 1993.

Kevin Carter attempts to photograph a starving child who is crawling to a food centre, when a vulture lands behind her. Carter takes the photo which was later published in the New York Times on the 26th of March. The fate of the girl in the image is unknown.

The focal point of the image is the desolate, starving toddler. The child is photographed on all fours, her head down, connoting weakness and defeat. In the background, the poised, brooding vulture looms, its presence connoting both power, and that which a vulture traditionally represents – a hunter and its prey.

The contrast of the two is extremely potent. Sadness, anger, fear, impotence, guilt. These emotions arrive like a tidal wave. The controversial image has become a symbol of world hunger, child suffering and human weakness. But the most horrifying connotation of this photo is the subverted concept of the hunter and the hunted. It signifies that humans, the eternal hunters, have sat aside while our weakest have been left to become the prey. The prey of vultures, or symbolically, starvation and neglect.  

A horrifying reality is revealed through the denotations and connotations of this incredible photograph. A photograph so powerful that it received the Pulitzer Photography award in 1994, following which, photographer Kevin Carter committed suicide.

Sources:

Keller, B 1994 ‘Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer Winner For Sudan Photo, Is Dead at 33’ New York Times, viewed 22 March 2014 <http://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/29/world/kevin-carter-a-pulitzer-winner-for-sudan-photo-is-dead-at-33.html>.

Oberoi, S 2012 ‘Vulture and the child’, Thincquisitive, viewed 22 March 2014 <http://thincquisitive.com/2012/08/22/the-vulture-and-the-starving-child-the-most-iconic-photograph-of-the-century/>.

‘Remembering Kevin Carter and the photo that made the world weep’ Photography News, accessed 22 March 2014 <http://www.photography-news.com/2013/09/remembering-kevin-carter-and-photo-that.html>.