Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Reflecting on the Boyd article made me realize how interconnected and networked we all are. Facebook profiles are somewhat of an artificially and intentionally structured personality-- a way for us to express ourselves in a very particular way to the public. We are able to choose exactly what we list on our profiles: pictures, music tastes... everything-- to make ourselves appealing in a certain light. Not only is this information available to the public (be it however large or small your privacy settings allow for your public to be), but lots more is available through a simple google search. One can find myriad information about schools, interests, blogs posted, awards won... lots of information about any given person.

True, our personal information is all over the internet. That is, for most, a little alarming. But we all enjoy (just as Prof. Chun discussed in class today...) the ability to access information about others.

Does this information serve to better our community? Or is it just scary?

MOOs vs Facebook

Based on my experience in the MOO, I had a difficult time determining how the "Rape in Cyberspace" was even taken seriously enough to be analyzed.  The program seemed extremely distant and impersonal to me, despite my efforts to be sucked into it.  The rigidity of the commands and the boring textual format reinforced the fact that the MOO was not a real society, but a technological program. 

I wonder if my inability to relate within the MOO has to do with my experience on Facebook and more contemporary networked publics that seem to bear a closer relationship to our real life identities.  I found myself desperate to ask everyone how old they were in REAL LIFE, what they looked like, where they lived, etc. and it was impossible for me to become engaged as a "character."

Networked Publics

In her article, Danah Boyd discusses social networking sites such as Myspace as Facebook and their popularity among teens. Social networks are appealing not just because people can keep in touch with each other, but because they can present themselves as they would like to be seen. The appeal of a profile is that you can manage exactly how people see you. You can put up pictures that are the most flattering, say you like popular movies and music, and in general customize your profile to your liking. When people interact in real life, there are always little details that cannot be controlled that others use in their judgements. In a profile, you can only see exactly what the owner wants you to.

The article also mentions the complications of privacy in social networks. People write private messgaes on their friends profiles which end up being in public for anyone to see. However, they are aware that their messages will be read by others and in a way desire it. At least in Facebook, there is the option of leaving a message in a person's inbox where only they can see it. Facebook users choose to leave messages on the public Wall, even if they might be semi-private, so that people will see them as being social and having friends that they exchange messages with. A series of exchanged messages on a Facebook Wall generally denotes friendship past the automatic friendship that Facebook grants. In many ways, Facebook is used much more to promote the user's own social life than to actually keep in touch with people.

My Adventure in the Coat Closet

So I did the tutorial and logged on as Guest.

When I entered the mansion I felt an immediate sense of paranoia...not that I was going to be textually raped...maybe...but over not revealing too much information about myself, about not compromising my real identity. It was very difficult initially for me to comprehend the freedom that comes along with being nameless, faceless, and traceless. 

When I finally finished the tutorial and committed the commands to memory, I found myself in the Coat Closet by myself so I used the @user command to find out how many people were allegedly around. The report read 106 players and I suddenly felt not so alone, but at the same time incredibly awkward because I had no idea how to find them, or if anyone was in the closet with me. I left and explored a good 75% of the mansion only to find one or two other players who were either sleeping or had been staring into space for 20 hours...I felt alone again

Ultimately I found the MOO to be a cool experience, but very boring because of two dominating personal traits: I am an extremely visual person and I am excessively moral.

Maybe I'm just lazy, but reading all the text was very cumbersome to the point where exploring rooms and objects became a confusing and time consuming burden, now this may have been heavily influenced by me pushing a certain button and ending up in a secret room with no apparent exit for a good while and had not a kind player named Brew helped me out, my opinion of the "game" would have been even lower. 

I ended up in Coat Closet again with Brew and Devil-Bunnie where the two entertained me with the actions of previous visitors from my class. I mentioned the article to which the two both responded "its a stupid article" and how the victims easily could have ended the situation. I found this very intriguing how the victims in the article actually allowed themselves to lose control of a situation thus emulating a "real-life" situation.

We then got into a conversation about the class again where I declared that as a gamer, I felt it was intrusive and annoying to ask questions to which Devil-Bunnie responded "I don't know why they come asking us questions, its not like we answer truthfully anyways." Whoa. 

Then it dawned on me that I was having a very difficult time dissociating my real self from my textual avatar, any and all impulses to do something wildly un-me and inappropriate were immediately subdued by my moral code. 

The paranoid feelings, I realized, revolved around a fear that my identity would be misinterpreted, that I would be mistaken for somebody I wasn't because I consider my identity to be my conduct around others. Unlike a video game where my character has a function and an objective separate from your person, in the MOO your function and objective is your person. 

To be Real or not to be Real, this is the question. And is the only differentiation between Virtual and Real technological?
In Boyd's discussion of youth and networking sites, I was struck by her use of and emphasis on the public. In showcasing and displaying their identities on networking profiles, youth (though I'd argue not just youth - the number of adults I know on facebook seems to continuously rise) youth are comprising a mediated public in the form of social networks defined by persistence, searchability, replicability and an invisible audience. Yet I'm not entirely sure it's fair to classify these social networks as 'publics;' facebook profiles include a "Notes" application, which basically serve the same functions as do blogs. On nearly all networking sites, users can choose to make their public profiles private. To some extent, facebook even complicates the idea of searchability as a key characteristic of social networking sites; I know some friends who have used the privacy settings of facebook to prevent themselves from being searched - they can only friend people by searching others, which is perhaps more than a little bit voyeuristic, a la Laura Muvley.

Still, what I'd like to suggest is that the privacy settings and personalization of social networking profiles reflects the confluence of the private and the public. It seems as though there are no definite boundaries between the public and the private anymore, this idea underscored in Levin's commentary on the permeation of surveillance into virtually all spheres of 21st century life. It seems as though surveillance, technology and the internet has rendered the public and the private somewhat synonymous. Even as we meet public figures, we are fascinated with their private lives. I am thinking in particular of some discussion - during the earliest months of the election - regarding Barack Obama's (former? or not?) cigarette smoking habit.

The television theorists we've read this semester seem to themselves support this confluence of the public and the private; the idea of television having an underlying familial structure with news anchors as patriarchal figures is itself a blend of the public and the private.

The Role of Memory in the Construction of Imagined Communities

In exploring the many different perspectives of the theorists on the broad field of "media," it seems as if there is no apparent space (or need?) for memory. Perhaps because of the temporal value of media, and its substance - information - that is to be emitted, distributed, disseminated, and shared, and yet having to give in to the newer materials that are constantly flowing in...

For example, Anderson's notion of the imagined communities that are founded upon the idea of sharing prints that hold information in the age of mechanical reproduction and simultaneous consumption, Saussure's emphasis on language, Feuer's idea of the liveness of television, and  Terranova's notion of "general intellect" -- the existence of "free labor" as a participant of the networked sites...('networked publics' of Boyd). Considering these views in the examination of media, how does one, as an individual in a society and in the world, come to view his or her life, or the imagined communities that he comes to partake? Does one's memory matter, is there a space for something so private or personal - in the world of constant acquisition for knowledge. (As Professor Chun refers to the Enlightenment thinking, does all this knowledge really lead to progress? the superfluous information that leads to better action? What about the highly rendered quality of these social and thus cultural constructions (information - knowledge)? What does this problematize - that the public accounts weigh heavier, looms over the personal accounts of private memory? What are the complications of the position we are to take as a member of the mass - mediated world? 

In a way it almost seems as if the highly -mediated world of the present voids of "personal," or something such as private memory. Consider the Lambdamoo that is a quintessential imagined community. 
"[In LambdaMoo] participants lose themselves in their roles and collaborate in a form of collective authorship... MUDs are characterized by a tightly knit - though globally dispersed - community of characters engaged in an ongoing dialogue that combines the aimlessness of nomadic wandering with the focused creativity of world building." ( 

Detaching oneself from the media-theory-student position and instead examining it from a critical perspective, how does one view - life? Has it merely become a part of the larger imagined community that feeds on the creative force of individuals - whose identities have become - in a way - amorphous and vulnerable to change to the ever- changing conditions of the world? (that is directed by media thoroughly in all ways).

Reality, realism, true, and the gap between the virtual and the real. 
I guess it all comes down to the question of "what is real?"

...but then again since when was there such a truth, as both history and memory are in essence  ultimately a social construct...

Social Networks

As I read Boyd's article, the section "But Why there?" had me question why I had joined Facebook to begin with. My account is fairly new and I obtained it in April after my visit to Brown. Facebook is not a South Texas thing; however, it was all the rage with everyone I met. In order to keep in touch with new friends, I got an account. Facebook was a connection to the people who I couldn't just give a call to or who I couldn't just visit. Later I was introduced to the Brown Class of 2012 page which answered all my questions about the next four years of my life, and Facebook became an obsession.

Facebook seems like a good source of information and a great way to stay connected, but I must admit that sometimes it gets creepy. The safe space that they promote is in no way that. Take for example Facebook's history. According to Wikipedia, "Website membership was initially limited to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Ivy League. It later expanded further to include any university student, then high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. The website currently has more than 120 million active users worldwide." (My cousins in Mexico had a Facebook account years before I did.)

The ads that are placed around the website gives us insight into why Facebook would open the network to the world. The bigger audience it can reach, the more convenient it is for companies, the more money Facebook gets, and everybody wins. But should we blame Facebook for the fact that my 60 year old neighbor has a Facebook account?!

Perhaps not because my 60 year old neighbor loves exposing his life to the public as much as Facebook does too. Not many people would be interested in obtaining his pictures, but he still posts them. He also is not trying to escape reality as Boyd says most teenagers are trying to do.

So I guess it's an ongoing circle of Facebook's need for exposure and our own. Everyone is as responsible as the other.


I logged on as Silver_Guest

"You see a tall shimmering God hovering over you. Or Goddess. You can't really tell because it looks like a penguin from where you are standing"

So on my Journeys to LambdaMOO, I ran across a fellow traveller, Ecru_Guest (it appears to be moving toward you rapidly, but your eyes can't seem to focus on it. You must decide quickly whether to try to communicate with... or to flee), who stated was a TA for a class (info 2450). We goofed off and after some silly emoting where my unborn penguin children were made into a delicious omlette, we both explored together and ended up talking about media and such in the Yard, where things just started running like a poor session of AIM. I found out s/he is a PhD student at Cornell, read the Dibbell article also, and was there for similar reasons I was: academic interest.

I ended up having a really involved chat session with this stranger, and what I ended up thinking about is about communal spaces where people are able to open up to each other; similar places where I've been able to talk to strangers about my interests and sort of instantly connect have been the Comic Book Store, the Magic The Gathering tournements, hobbyshops... basically bastions of hobby nerdiness. Again there's something about a MOO or MUD that has a level of connotative myth of "tech-wizardry" or "living in your parents basement on the computer all the time" where everyone sharing in the same societal sin of nerdiness come together, knowing that on at least they all share the same world together.

Speaking of nerdiness, I felt that the experience of being in MOO was firstly a lot like the old text based adventures (Zork), but even more so like a session of Tabletop RPG. In both cases there is a divide of imagined action, space, movement, and character which exists in a symbolic world: for MOO it's in text, and for something like Dungeons and Dragons its in spoken language. My personal interest is in tabletop RPG games like Risus where there are dice and maybe a few base rules, but for the most part it operates on an even more freeform level (and interesting play with language) where a persons allowable actions are based on the "cliche" they define themselves as. The language in a sense sets up the rules, or precludes it, in the way the person defines their character. Also, in any tabletop there's a strange collapse between oneself and one's character. I wish we read the Mary Flanagan, because just as she talks about players responding to Lara Croft as "her" one moment and "me" the next, the tabletop has a constantly shifting identity between "my character" and "me", and just as much one man can control their tabletop character, that character is ultimately at the whims of a Game Master (or Dungeon Master if you're focusing on D&D).

I ended up with the person's email (I dont know if the person on the other end was a man or woman) and an interesting conversation. I'll probably keep in touch and hopefully make a new friend. But, my experience in MOO is kind of weird, and I want to ask y'all: what do you make of it?

Monkeyspheres IRL

While we currently live in a world where the digital is inescapable, the distance between the real and the virtual needs more emphasis. This virtualization of most activities does indeed make evident the "psychic double" we all carry around with us, but that does not mean one can simply forget the bodily aspects of interaction.

Dibbel wisely points out that "while the fact attached to any event born of a MUD's strange, ethereal universe may march in straight, tandem lines separated neatly into the virtual and the real, its meaning lies always in that gap" (16). Indeed, we construct meaning for the virtual world in our real lives. We interpret the virtual and make it part of our own, ourselves.

It is also important to note that this virtual world which we're discussing is completely incorporeal. The circuit board is not the body for our virtual reality. With the virtual, humans externalize their internal. But the construction of meaning is purely internal (by this I mean the act of constructing meaning--not the determinants of that meaning, such as the social factors which influence it). The virtual is then a way to cut out the bodies involved in communication. Yet their are still always bodies sending and receiving information.

Here is where we step into the realm of the monkeysphere. The moneysphere is defined as "the group of people who each of us, using our monkeyish brains, are able to conceptualize as people." On the interwebs we all meet so many people that eventually we stop thinking of everyone as people. This is when the conception of Virtual reality becomes dangerous: when we take this step back, and stop thinking about the people sending and receiving information.

Social Networking identity vs. real world identity

One thing I found odd about the Boyd article is that it seems to equate the socialization on social networking sites with that in the real world.  I personally find the two to be extremely different--in a social network site, your profile is not a description of you so much as it is a description of your tastes (music, movies, etc.), in a social networking site all conversations are written words which do not have the added complexities of intonation and body language, etc.  There are inumerable differences between the online world and the offline, and because of that, I think it's not necessarily safe to assume that socialization into one will entail the same for the other.  While their early initiation into the public sphere via social networking sites could lead to the current generation being more comfortable with the public sphere and more competent in wading through offline social networks, couldn't it just as easily be the case that people socialized into the rules of online social networks could find themselves hamstrung by these rules as they are completely different from those of the real world?  I'm not saying that the latter would necessarily be the case at all, I'm just playing devil's advocate as Boyd did not seem to take this option into consideration. 

Also, a separate thought--I wonder if the fact that social networking sites so strongly tend to highlight tastes in things (music, movies, etc.) as part of their profile pages is not only a remainder from their dating site origins, but is done out of commercial interest--i.e., defining a person in terms of the things they like strongly supports consumer capitalism, and pushes people to buy more things, and to equate these things with their own identity?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Perpetual issues in the digital era... Just a thought

I am surprised and to some degrees frightened - increasingly - as to how the digital medium/ business Facebook has become such an inescapable part of life particularly in the contemporary digital era... What is problematic is that the issue lies not only in the 'now,' but also in the past and the future. 

I came across this article that was just posted on
"When you don't want to be Facebook friends: Connecting with your past can bring up those old, uncomfortable feelings."

Just seeing the issues that arise currently with Facebook, a digital medium that seems to be embedded in almost every facet of life (social, political, and even educational in a sense that it is being discussed so immensely in media/ ethics educational forums) ... I am a bit apprehensive as to what may be ahead in the future. With all the personal histories/ records now in possession of the digital archive, what is one's life going to be like in a couple years, or in a decade or so? how are our lives being shaped, and what will they have become? the events of the now - of the present become a past that is recorded and remembered quite literally in a digital medium. (all the records of Facebook) How do we view ourselves as an individual who is helplessly trapped in this mediated world? with all the present that becomes a past - that then follows us in the future - the perpetual effects of a digital medium on our personal life?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This seemed far too relevant to overlook

I know that technically we are not doing blog posts this week, but this New York Times article seemed all too fitting with the role of surveillance and technology in 21st century life. Unlike much of the stories referenced in Levin's article, which seems to focus most on the downside of technology's omnipresence, this article discusses how surveillance actually proved the innocence of a murder suspect.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Late post is Laaate


So I did plan on missing section today (I was ironically @ an MIT Comparative Media Studies Department Information Session, where I got to meet Henry Jenkins and William Uricchio), but I didn't plan on having a late post! I haven't seen much TV in a very long time, and that includes anime, which I think I'll focus on in this post, since I feel convergence works in a very specific way when dealing with international cult TV like Anime and Korean Soap Operas.

In the age of the internet, most Anime reaches its most ravenous fans by way of fan subs; a system where dedicated fans create subtitles for anime episodes a day or two after the episode airs in Japan. This usually is much more efficient than licensing practices in Ameria, where the American distribution company may lag up to several years, and several subtleties in the language or cultural aspects of the shows that fans are informed about get lost in the translation. Even worse, looking at the show One Piece in particular, much of the show may get censored or cut down such that many of the mature themes and deeper characterization may be completely cut out for American marketing reasons. So in light of the Terranova article, I want to ask, what's the economy behind fansubbing? What's interesting to note is that Japanese companies usually have a policy of "tolerating" fansub distribution until an American company officially licenses a show, in which then the company starts cracking down on pirates. Japanese companies then actually profit by having a market that couldn't otherwise exist overseas without riding on the labor of fansubbing "netslaves". With the advent of p2p networks and internet fan communities, Anime is a prime example of both "netslaves" and more oppositional and creative Convergence Culture. Yet in the end I just have to point out that the fansub system is much more liberating, and also more globalizing. It focuses not on re-coding or "culturalizing" a different culture into American terms, but presenting best it can that culture on its own terms (most fansubbers are themselves Japanese), fansubbing happens at a much faster pace than through a commercial company, and I think this matters because Terranova points out that the commodity itself becomes transparent and the labor becomes the thing that is valued. What is valued in the fansub is the speed the labor is done, the accuracy in its translation literally and culturally, the amount of legwork the subber goes through to acquire a high quality digital copy for the sub, etc. And I think that the fansub movement, a pirate movement, falls into the nice camp of "good free labor" like the Open Source and other movements.

So since I missed out on today's discussion, I'll post a few more thoughts to make up for it.

The HBO Vouyer is also incredibly interesting, especially if we view it as a sort of new media Rear Window. I still can't make much heads or tails of all the different narratives going on in the main apartment sequence after about four viewings, perhaps because that's the whole point of it being online, on the internet. It's a networked community where everything ends up affecting each other even if every occupant isn't directly aware of the other, and I find it only fitting that this narrative appears in the context of a computer. The internet, and convergence of computer and TV in general, differs from the old media in being (or at least creating a convincing illusion) of interactivability; you can play and replay, choose the music, and otherwise control this narrative in ways you normally couldn't on the TV. Choosing what is revealed and what is hidden is probably the most revealing way of how this is done, yet it only shows to highlight what can't be controlled. You can't control the events on the screen, or how the divisions of what is or isn't revealed is arranged, or hear anything that happens. The overstimulation of visual input demands multiple replays. Likewise, the internet is a medium in which we have to control its flow (we take as much time as we need watching each YouTube clip or reading each blog post) or else we get overwhelmed with input. Time based-ness almost seems to run against the medium of the browser.

The narrative of the serial killer though is what I really want to talk about. Here, we have 3 kinds of surviellance: the police surveying the killer audially, the killer (invisibly) surveying his victims visibly (or else how can he paint their portraits?), and us surveying the killer visually. The policemen's surviellance differs from the other two in that it belongs only to them; we nor the killer get access to sound, only the police. We instead get a moody techno soundtrack. Okay. I read the policemen as a parallel or stand in to the Patriot Act, the state monitoring or frantic wiretapping occuring in Enemy of the State, a superior state power watching over its citizens. In this case, it's trying to catch the killer/transgressor/terrorist who is aware of his own watchedness, but is also a vouyer, one who takes his vouyerism to the level of art. He paints his victims, the dead (as if their pictures were being taken). Again, the portraits are photographed so those captured by the camera are eventually captured in death. The killers viewing back at us at the end could be read as the possible resistence we can have at the surviellance that monitors us, hoping to catch us in the act of murder or crime. Maybe the piece is making the statement that state surviellance will fail in monitoring it's people for we, like the killer, know that our rooms are bugged. But his looking back at us could also signal that we are the police state, the ones looking in on private lives and are policing each other. Maybe he's coming for us next.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Media is Everything...and Everything is Media

As I read the first article in the reading this week, I found very interesting the correlation between media and function in Western Society. The new media displacing the old, narrowcasting and niche media as the future of media seems very nonchalant only because we are currently living in it. 

The analogy of the phone phone being a swiss army knife, and how the author was unable to find a single function phone because nobody wanted them brought up a very startling point. Our current society thrives on media and free labor to the point where each individual has become a function of media, which you are defined by. The modern cell phone is a great example, the iPhone, brings the media to you, allows you to own, manipulate, and believe that you control media. The iPhone gives you state of the art media long as you pay your fees. It seems like the flow of television has been adapted into a multimedia existence, a mass convergence, that pervades every individuals daily life, your life becomes a flow of its own which traps you.

My example: How long can you go without checking your facebook? Facebook itself is a surveillant media in which your constant usage does in fact define you and your potential "function" in society (in society...and to corporations). Even resistance to this new media makes you a target of other consumer markets.

Next time you look at your facebook, look at the advertisements and you may notice they are tailored to your likes and dislikes according to your profile. The facebook beacon was a built in advertisement system which sent information from external sites to facebook. So, for instance, if you bought a movie ticket off fandango this information would go to facebook and notify your friends on the movie you were allegedly going to see. This function was eventually turned off because it disturbed many users. 

So the only TV show I ever watch on TV is Lost, I highly dislike watching it online which makes me a sucker to the "liveness

The only show I ever watch on TV is Lost, I actually dislike watching it online greatly, which makes me a sucker to the "liveness" television provides. So, instead I watched Supernatural, a show I primarily watched while doing the dishes, it was okay. I watched it online and what I had deemed to be a fairly masculine show actually made me feel emasculated due to the frequent tampon advertisements which made clear the intended audience. The website though for the CW seemed constructed to facilitate niche media. There were a plethora of interviews, games, and forums which felt immediately like a contained flow, distractions and interruptions working towards a common goal of sucking people in.

The forums and blogs were hilarious by the way, a potpourri of love and hate that really didn't know what it wanted, a collective feeding the media power.

"Supernatural" and the Male Gaze

The show that I chose to watch online was Supernatural, which is a very genre-ish show that basically focuses on two brothers who drive around the continental U.S. in a '67 Chevy Impala fighting supernatural beings like demons, ghosts, and werewolves, in addition to less well-known creatures of the night based on folklore or urban legends.

One of the things I noticed immediately about the official CW site that streams the three most recent episodes for free (with some, but not too many, commercial interruptions) was that they seemed to be trying to apply marketing strategies to the TV show that were not entirely successful. Supernatural is one of the last remaining WB shows to survive the WB-UPN merger that created the CW. Since the merger, most of the standard WB/UPN fare, shows like Veronica Mars and the Gilmore Girls, has been replaced by glitzy shows like Gossip Girl, Privileged, and the re-make of 90210. All of these shows are very conducive to marketing-- for example, links to sites instructing you how to "dress like the girls from Gossip Girl" make perfect sense on the CW website. Supernatural, a lone horror/action show in an otherwise very materialistic line-up, can't really capitalize on that sort of cross-promotion. The CW mostly relies on it to pull in solid numbers from its established genre fanbase, as opposed to being the "it" show everyone needs to watch, a role which they hoped Gossip Girl would fill.

To replace these types of website options, the Supernatural website seems to be relying on the personas of the actors themselves-- the only two regulars happen to be very personable in interviews, so interviews are played up on the website. Additionally, there is a rather amusing link to Jensen Ackles's surprise on-set musical performance-- when shooting a scene that opened with him in his car listening to "Eye of the Tiger," he apparently decided to run with it and lip synch for the camera. (Interestingly, this is not just a supplementary website thing-- the CW actually aired this performance on television after the episode "Yellow Fever," suggesting that they expect their audience to know the actors well enough to be amused by the clip.)

Much more interesting than the official website, though, is the insanely active fanbase, which frequents Television Without Pity forums, Livejournal communities, and numerous fansites and seems to wield an unheard-of influence over the direction of the show-- creator Eric Kripke has even, on occasion, released statements in response to whatever nonsense the crazy fans are making lots of internet noise over.

As far as the theories we've studied so far, Supernatural seems to fit best into Laura Mulvey's idea of the "male gaze." The show is probably one of the worst currently-airing offenders with regard to the issue of objectification of the female and the female body, in particular. It sometimes seems like every single pretty girl on the show is being swept into one of two categories: the damsel in distress, or the femme fatale (whom one of the brothers will find attractive, but who will inevitably turn out to be a murderous demon, witch, or werewolf who must be finished off in a graphically violent matter). Thus far, the show has made four separate efforts to introduce recurring female characters to balance out an otherwise entirely male cast. None of these four actresses lasted longer than one season.

I am certainly not the only person to have noticed this, and in the internet browsing I did for this class, I was actually able to find a fan-made video dealing with the issue, and an interview this video-maker did with New York Magazine, in which she discusses the history of the fan-made video and addresses this specific women in Supernatural video, briefly, at the end.

Convergence of Media in Control of Television_ Internalization of a National Community?

Having surveyed the products of the conglomeration culture (for once being a 'surveyor' rather than an object of surveillance!), I realized that this process and products (advertisements, corporations geared for consumerism, web business) are in fact internalizing a national community, narrowing a culture within. 

Consider the centrality of TV in the world of digital media. (Caldwell) The industry takes off from the television as an origin, a starting point. TV, as we have come to understand, is significantly embedded in a culture in specific and thus is highly tied into it. Therefore, the end products of the culture of convergence become in a way a reflection of a particular culture of a nation. 

Yes, within the realm of the conglomeration culture, this ever - expanding web of converging media and multiplicity of meanings - lead to "a mass ceremony," thus a creation of "an imagined community." (Benjamin) Nonetheless, consider the issue of specificity within this seemingly open/ broad world of possibilities.  While creating a broad imagined community through the multiplicity of meanings, this converging media culture also holds limitation, because of the curious and fundamental nature of its very origin, TV -- culture. For example, refer to the reality shows, or any other popular form of televisional media that are projected on the TV screen. (Friends, The Hills, Scrubs, Disney Channels, MTV, vh1, the list goes on ...) They stem from and are heavily engraved in the american culture as a televisional medium, and thus the fellow media forms (advertisements, capitalist industry of various areas) are founded within the realm of the american culture. Therefore, while the culture of conglomeration of media opens up possibilities for an ever- expanding imagined community, it also leads to the internalization of a national community due to the national culture from which it originates. 

Take the website of the reality show that we viewed in the lecture as an example in hand. The Hills website is inundated with links and directions to other forms of industry. (Nordstrom - a clothing industry, cosmetic industry, sexual health industry, a conversational forum of criticism/ acclaims, etc.) The show, along with the other media industries in relation, are originated from the U.S., a specific culture within a nation. Would a person, of a different national origin, view this " extraordinary mass ceremony" in the same way as a viewer of the U.S. origin? Especially regarding the very high degree of commercialization and consumerism of the media culture in the States? (note the capitalist business that originate from the U.S. onto the global stage - Youtube, Google, Itunes, name a million ..) and the obsession with the 'look,' the false notion of aesthetics driven by Hollywood celebrities.
 In reverse but probably to a lesser degree (due to the highly mediated, consumerism driven nature of the U.S. I would argue...)  how would an american viewer view the end products of the converging media in other areas of the world, for example in Europe, Asia, etc.? (An example would be -- if an american watches Tour de France, how would he/she react to this projection of an international event? and to the commercials that surround the reporting of the bicycle race, and the advertisements and links that fill the Tour de France official website? Do they have the same effects? What about the Cannes Festival website that lists sponsors such as L'oreal, Renault, HP, or a French TV channel - France 2 - that distinctly belongs to a different culture of a nation and makes references that are foreign to those who are part of the 'imagined community' of the web and the digital media world, but not of the national culture of France?  Refer to these following websites:

 How is this broad chart of digital media and of consumerism viewed by members of different nations? of different cultures?  The boundary between the national and the international may be less critically viewed - in the case of Youtube, or mainly many other internet media. Nonetheless, TV being "a major player in digital media," perhaps the notion of "cross - national" or "trans- national" ought to be brought into question.  How do we, as a member of a broader global community, view the internalization of a national community within the era of media in convergence? The attempt of broadening and expanding further the imagined community with the extraordinary, or perhaps superfluous amount of 'information' and counteracts against its principle goal of 'expansion.' The excessive effort overlooks the audience beyond, leaving them rather alienated in a foreign setting. The national community, shaped by the social culture of its own, is being internalized, becoming incomprehensible and inaccessible to the audience overlooked. 

TV, Internet, and Flow

First of all, Ang briefly mentions the identity crisis within other media that the development of television provoked. I would love to know more of what exactly she means by this.

Today in lecture, Professor Chun mentioned the idea that perhaps cynicism is built into the text of reality shows like the Hills. I was very interested in this concept. It seems to reverse the very premise of spectatorship that we usually associate with such reality shows. Given youtube videos like the one we watched in class, in which two girls did a mock impersonation of LC and Audrina, it appears as though the viewer is in control and empowered to cast jokes at the television program's expense. And many of the readings from this week touch upon the idea that the viewer is indeed empowered. Yet Professor Chun's words made me think as though the producers of shows like the Hills take our own cynicism into account; their anticipation of our cynicism is integrated into such shows, almost reversing the nature of power that we see exhibited in youtube parodies. In one article, the discussion of programming flow vs. viewing flow seemed to posit a contradictory relationship between programmers and viewers. I'm wondering what the effect of over-the-top reality shows is upon the power of the viewer. It almost seems to subvert it.

Another thing that came up with this week's readings was the fluid relationship betwee television and internet. Lately, the internet seems to take over the work of television; the boundaries between the two have been blurred. I am wondering whether or not there is a continuous flow between television and internet or if the internet has its own unique flow, in and of itself. It seems as though the act of watching a television show online, then frequenting fansites, blogging, and creating youtube parodies could very much be categorized as flow. The structure of this internet flow mirrors the power of the viewer's flow due to remote controls and VCRs.

this is starting to get creepy...

So, before this week, I had been really curious as to which direction television and advertisements would be headed after the invention of TiVo, YouTube, Hulu, etc. What purpose would these shows serve, if there is no money backing them by myriad advertisements, set for target audiences on specific channels/programs? How would YouTube help the proliferation of television... and how would it hurt future programs? As you can tell, I was really losing sleep over this...

A huge part of television is its 'liveness'. Nowadays, we have access to anything via the internet. We can watch almost any television show we want, through or YouTube. I never quite comprehended the extent to which this liveness affects our consumerism, untill I took this into account: We can watch a show on youtube a few hours after it airs, yet most of us will tune into the network to watch the show so that we watch it live & new-- we are up to date, connected with our peers... We really do feel a part of this imagined community.

Anyways, back to YouTube, Hulu, etc. Instead of destroying this consumer culture and puttting the viewer in a position of control (which seems like the logical result, since the viewer has control over what/when/where they view), these devices do the opposite. They further manipulate and target the audience, in a space that is more specified.

Finally, Proffesor Chun questioned wheter the fact that TV offers more room to viewers (and is more discontinuous) than cinema means that TV viewers are more empowered. I believe that the opposite is true. The TV viewer is led to believe that he or she is in a position of power, when really, they have no control. They are being manipulated by the allure of community, unity, the manipulation of advertisements, and the strategic placement of commercials in television. They really have no control! This is even further exaggerated with things like, where we are bombarded with images that the companies target to us (the fans of the program).

Do we have control over any of our media obsessions??

Resistance and Flow

New modes of watching TV shows, especially on the internet, have allowed people to skip commercials and circumvent the traditional flow of television. However, this is not necessarily a successful form of resistance of a victory over the commercial aspects of television. Flow is used by broadcasters not as an end but as a means, a way to get people to keep watching to keep ratings up and increase ad revenue. The ultimate end is of course profit, and the traditional flow on television is not the only way to accomplish this.

As more and more people use the internet to watch television, we can see the websites of the televisions shows adapt to form their own version of flow. There are the commercials added in where the normal commercials will be, although it is often just one commercial. Throughout the website are links to different things related to the show, generally kept within the diagetic world. On the website for "The Office," there is a link to "Dwight's" blog, and another to "Angela's" Halloween pictures. This is a way for the viewer to stay not just on the website but in the world of the show. This increases ad revenue and makes the viewer more invested in the show and therefore more likely to keep watching. At the top of the website you can link to any other NBC show, starting the cycle over again. Although the traditional television flow has been resisted, the end result is the same.

Kyle XY

The Kyle XY- ABC Family website is a gateway to the world of fans and into Kyle's life. Right off I couldn't help but notice a small login box with the words "welcome to our family." The website offers videos, cast bios, episode guides, blogs, forums, shops, and web exclusives such as behind the scenes videos. Everything you need to get acquainted. There is something for everyone in this imagined community.

The Kyle XY phenomenon doesnt only stop there. The ABC family based website allows access to the Latnok Society website, the Kyle XY Continum, and the 781229 website. The Latnok Society is the website dedicated to the secret society that follows and torments Kyle. It is filled with information about the society's history, their members, and projects. Everything about is fake like the articles about stem cell research and the PhD holding members from John Hopkins. However, their efforts dont go to waste because if you sign up just to learn whether any of this actually exists outside of the Kyle XY world, you will start receiving SMS about the show and their promotions. The Kyle XY Continum provides all the challenges Kyle goes through a series of games. You are put in Kyles shoes and you must climb walls, catch cards thrown at you, balance yourself while carrying weights, and practice your memory. Not to mention trying to uncover all the secrets that Kyle is still unsure about his life.
Now the 781229 website is very interesting. Besides the ABC family website, it is the only one that connects the reader to the other websites. 781229 is the ultimate fan blog. The website allows you to read Cooper's blog. Cooper is a character created by ABC family who believes that Kyle exists. His blogs are filled with his ideas about Kyle and the Latnok society. He is even supposedly being followed by the Latnok Society because he knows too much!!

Being a fan of the show, I know how the mystery just gets you hooked, but discovering these websites makes it impossible to stay away. Four websites dedicated to one show and the sponsors have their name all over it.

You think you can avoid commercials by watching your favorite shows on television, but you are probably getting yourself more brainwashed when you access the internet. While looking at the shop section of Kyle XY, I found That website is insane. It provides clothing and accessories to you as those seen on your favorite shows. ABC, ABC Family, Bravo, CBS, CW, E!, Fox, MTV, NBC, SciFi, Spike, Style, and TV Guide are all part of this. You can shop by character. Each piece of clothing also lets you know which episode the clothes appeared on. The website itself won't sell you the clothing, but it will lead you to the retailer's website.

It's a huge network. The scary part is that if you watch these shows on TV you probably will only hear about half of the websites dedicated to them. If you try to avoid all these ads and use the internet instead, you will see more ads than those you were trying t avoid.
Kalau's connection between The Daily Show website and Free Labor really makes me think of myspace.  Myspace exploits labor in the form of creativity, in that whatever you post on myspace becomes their property.  This is particularly problematic in the case of myspace music, when new bands are encouraged to post their music to the site.  There is a sort of mutually beneficial relationship formed where the band uses the myspace audience to gain exposure, and myspace is able to grow and expand thanks to the band.  However, the fact that the music itself, the band's creative product, becomes OWNED by myspace strikes me as total exploitation.

On another note, watching Grey's Anatomy on got me thinking about the connections between online advertising and surveillance.  Although I expect many television advertisements to be local, I found it jarring to see Rhode Island Blue Cross ads during online television shows.  Normally, sponsors like Dove or Orbit or whatever place their advertisements throughout the stream, but I had never before last night seen a LOCAL ad.  While television obviously knows that it is broadcasting in the local area, how does the internet know where I am watching from?? My IP address?? (I am completely internet ignorant, so maybe there is an obvious answer.) I've come to accept that the internet relies on surveillance to advertise to me as a demographic based on what I search for and buy and write emails about, but I didn't know the internet could advertise to me based on where I was!

The Wire

Watching, thinking about, and viewing some fan sites for my favorite show, The Wire, I realized how unbelievably good a show it is for discussion in a class like this: it sits at the intersection of many different kinds of media, and is a show that is very conscious of these intersections, and very much uses them to their advantage.  For example, heavily encoded in the show is the idea of surveillance: the central organizing structure of the show revolves around cops and the organizations of drug dealers they are watching.  Many shots are from he point of view of different surveillance devices--and example that immediately jumps to mind is a brief scene in the show that is from the perspective of a security camera in a housing project.  A young man (if I remember right, it's the character Bodie from the first season--but it might just be a random person) throws a stone at the camera, which then breaks, ending the shot in static.  The reason I remember this shot is that it is in the opening sequence of the show, and not only that, but it actually remains throughout all of the seasons of the show, even though each season they dramatically re-design the opening intro, deleting almost all of the previous season's images and replacing them with new ones--however, this scene remains throughout the show (and is one of the only images--maybe even the only one--that remain in the final season's opening sequence from the first one).  Not only is surveillance a central thematically to the show, but also in it's narrative structure--much like Enemy of the State.

However, it's connection with surveillance is just one way The Wire is highly illustrative of many of the concepts we've been talking about lately.  In addition, it is a bit of an odd convergence--while it is a TV show, it honestly bears far more resemblance to movies in many ways than to other TV shows (I view it more as an extended movie--like a novel compared to a short story, i.e., the same medium, but a different form and length).  As it's on HBO, there are no commercials, so each episode is uninterrupted, and (whether because of that or coincidentally) has a much more defined sense of narrative flow than most shows.  In addition, far more effort is placed into visual coding than most TV shows, with an attention to detail employed that is far more careful than almost any other shows I've seen (this, too, is probably somewhat due to the fact that HBO series record all of their episodes before the season starts, and not on the fly as it's going, allowing them to spend more time, and to not have to always be worried about the clock when they're working--i.e., they're production methods are much closer to cinema's than the vast majority of shows).  To name a few example of the incredibly attention to detail the makers of the show employed, there is a recurring scene where two characters drink by some old train tracks, and what stage of the cycle the moon is in in the sky is highly symbolic (I read in an interview somewhere that they paid very close attention to it and it was highly intentional), and also the shirt Bubbles, a prominent character, is wearing in any given scene is an outward manifestation of his mental state--e.g., in one scene he wears a shirt that is a chaotic mix of many different colors, representing the deep emotional turmoil that is boiling beneath the surface of his mind (on The Wire's official website on HBO, they did many segments detailing certain aspects of production of the show--in one of them, they discussed the wardrobe of characters, including the example I gave of Bubbles).

Another example of how the show crosses different media is the fact that over the years, the show evolved from a cop drama (granted, a very complex and highly atypical one) into something far more elaborate--a Dickensian look into many levels of our society, not just investigating the police department and the drug organizations in Baltimore, but also delving into the docks and longshoreman in the second season, the political world in Baltimore starting in the third season (and getting even more in depth in the 4th by following a candidate running for mayor), the public school system in the fourth season, and the news media in the final season.  In addition, besides the fact that the news media becomes a focus of the show in the final season, the creator of the show, David Simon, was a reporter (on the police) for the Baltimore Sun for many years, and very much brings that sort of mentality to the show--the show is not just a series of stories for entertainment, but very much is a depiction of the world we live in, and a scathing social critique.

There are many other examples of the rich cross-media attributes of The Wire, but I'll steer into a different, but related topic.  Because I view The Wire as a show that in many ways is very unlike television (and more akin to films), when I've viewed (I have in the past too, besides as an assignment for this class) fan sites, or other online discussion of The Wire, I've always felt a little depressed.  This is precisely because the way everyone talks about it is exactly like the discussion of any other show for the most part, and often ignores the shows incredible subtlety and attention to detail.  For example, I saw that some people in my high school who I very much disliked were into The Wire, and were talking via Facebook about how cool various of the drugdealers were and how they wanted to be like them--one even saying he wanted to be like this one character Marlo.  For context, on a show that places an unbelievably high premium on conflicted and morally ambiguous characters (e.g., many of the cops are pretty bad people, and a lot of the drugdealers are very good people caught in a bad system), Marlo is one of the only characters that is a true villain on the show--in fact, he's one of the creepiest villains of all time in my opinion.  But yet, so contrary to what the show seems to be attempting to do (by painting him as a morally bankrupt sociopathic killer), these people instead viewed him as a glorified gangster ideal.  This made me think of what we were talking about in class today, about how every show has something for everyone--even though in this case, I would doubt the reading of it that glorifies Marlo is at all intended on the part of the writers (unlike say, The Hills, which very much does have the alternate viewing encoded in it), but is more just a representation of the fact that any symbol, no matter how well it is encoded, can still be easily misinterpreted.

TV and Free Labor

The system of TV on the internet unapologetically exploits fans and their free labor. bringing us head to head with Terranova's observation that "free labor on the Net" is both "enjoyed and exploited" (34). This becomes abundantly clearly examining the website dedicated to a TV show. Consider Jon Stewart's Daily Show site:

My attention jumped first to the central banner link to "DISCUSS THE SHOW". Here, the site actually invites you to create content under the thin guise of a discussion. When one actually follows the link, the fifth board on the list of top boards is actually "Story Ideas". The poster clearly wants to engage in direct dialogue with the show, and what more direct a route is there than actually suggest programming? The poster enters into a heuristic cycle of consuming and reinventing the show, lured by the promised dialogue.

While labor is not exploited in the way Terranova describes it (The Daily Show is not contingent on the labor these people put in on these message boards), the exploitation is still there. These people sacrifice their time to this show. This speaks to both Terranova's claim that older mediums "tend to structure the [audience's] contributions much more strictly" than newer mediums, but also to the nature of television. Television is a heuristic cycle, about reading then redefining various texts. Furthermore, it shows that old media serve as a neat entry way for capitalism into new media.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Demise of Indexicality

Levin's article makes the claim that the loss of the referential power in photography and cinema has led us to attach more significance to surveillance.  We now attribute realism to surveillance and consider it to be true, in a way that we can no longer trust photography in the age of photoshop. 

I wonder what the possibility is, though, of manipulating/mediating surveillance/realtime images.  It seems like technology is not too far off, so is surveillance, too, in danger of obsolescence?  Will technology enable images to constantly evade indexicality?

If surveillance can be manipulated, does it have any significance?  Or is the only appeal in the claim to realism?

TV in Enemy of the State

Earlier in the course, we talked about how television seems to prove that more information does not necessarily lead to corrective action. In fact, as demonstrated by the Sarajevo crisis, media overexposure can actually do much more harm than good. Because even when people are glued to the catastrophes taking place on their television screen, they feel somehow removed from them. The glass wall of the television screen effectively separates them from whatever is going on in the world that CNN feels the need to report.

That's sort of why I thought that one of the most interesting moments in Enemy of the State was when John Voight's character, Reynolds, is watching television with the little girl, who is presumably his granddaughter. He is treating the television as background noise, and is thus irritated when she draws attention to it by changing the channels back and forth. When he tries to get her to stop jumping up and down, he realizes that she has located a channel that seems to be broadcasting the couch that they are sitting in.

Television thus invades the safe, removed space of his own living room, and reminds him that it is not, in fact, safe.