Thursday, April 21, 2016

Xbox: The Black Box

So, I have an Xbox One. I've owned some version of the Xbox since I was 16 years old, and before that, I've had a video game system for as long as I can remember. Although I play video games significantly less than I used to, I use my Xbox more than I have in my entire life. How can this be, you ask?

Well, it's evolved into an "entertainment center".

If you believe in the Black Box theory (that essentially all your needs will someday be satisfied by one machine), you'd be hard pressed not to consider the Xbox One as evidence supporting that theory. For one, the Xbox One is literally a black box. Besides the obvious video game capability, it offers users just about any form of entertainment they can think of. My wife and I spend most of our time watching Netflix or Vudu, but we can also Skype, listen to streaming music, send email, rent or buy movies and open documents or pictures. It's an unbelievable device that I spend way too much time on.

However, I think what's keeping the Black Box theory from coming to fruition is the fact that consumers have unique preferences, while technology will always have trade-offs. The Playstation still outsells the Xbox by a significant margin because gamers don't want compromises made on their gaming system. In other words, gamers are concerned about gaming. They want the best processing power and capibiliity possible. They want the best graphics on the market. And if any of those features are watered down because of the producer's desire to make the system a full-fledged entertainment center, then gamers might opt for the competition.

Another example of this is the "phablet" market and the 2-in-1 market. There are those of us (such as myself) who prefer to not be carrying around a billion devices from day-to-day, so it's convenient and efficient to merge multiple devices. Whether it's a phone doubling as a tablet, or a tablet doubling as a laptop, there is a loyal, niche market for products such as these (I love my Surface Pro). However, I think most people still prefer to own devices that specialize in one thing, rather than be "pretty good" at being two things.

I think this is where Jenkins has a point that "hardware will diverge while the content converges", and that "your needs are different depending on where you are at". While I'm capable of checking my Facebook on my Xbox, phone or computer, it's more likely than not that I use a phone while I'm sitting down at a restaurant. The other two options are just not practical in that situation. Every device has a unique purpose that can't be easily replicated by the other.

Questions: Do you feel overwhelmed with multiple devices, or do you believe there's a need for each one? Do you agree or disagree with the Black Box theory?

Paranormal Trending

Irwin reports there are no definitive findings so far on younger and older people and paranormal beliefs. Most survey results found no correlation between socio-economic status, or education, and paranormal beliefs.

The airwaves are populated with shows such as "Ghost Whisperer," "Medium," "Paranormal State" and "Ghost Hunters."
Can you imagine trying to make an entertaining show week after week and getting to a set and not finding anything paranormal? With that in mind, I'm pretty sure they would have to embellish a bit to make the show view-able entertainment.

There are some real life ghost hunting groups that don’t seem very happy about this new trend, some saying it’s making their legitimate goals seem fake. They they don't do it for money or fame and certainly don't embellish for entertainments sake, but they feel the TV shows certainly do.
There are other real life ghost hunters who like the rise in popularity of these shows. One said of Ghost Hunters, "We're actually grateful for ["Ghost Hunters"] because instead of being a bunch of freaks, we're, like, the cool people on TV."
Popularity of these paranormal and fringe shows are on the rise and I’m wondering why.There doesn’t seem to be a certain demographic drawn to it either. 

For most people I think these shows help us feel better about the unexplained. As we experience death, war, and mass violence, we cling to deeper understandings and hope for life after death. As well, I think because religion is on the decline  this could be the link to interest in paranormal explanations of life and death. People no longer have a preacher explaining the meaning of life and death, so they tune in to the latest contrived explanation (not to discount or insult all paranormal topics, just the staged ones).
I also suspect there is a vicarious experience factor as well in this and other types of media--most of us might not explore a haunted house or see a ghostly apparition, but we watch to see what happens to those who do or hear about our favorite TV or entertainment personalities tell us that they, too, are not immune to the supernatural.

What do you think? Why do you think these paranormal and fringe shows are on the rise?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Yin and Yang: Patterns and Anamolies

It's a popular notion that you can learn a lot about who someone is by taking a quick glance at their bookshelf. When my BYU religion professor grandfather passed away in 2010, I had the unique opportunity to delve into his vast library he'd amassed over the years. To my surprise, while there were the expected theological and philosophical texts on his shelves, I also came across hundreds of books of a scientific nature. Books on evolution, quantum physics and relativity sat alongside the Bible, Book of Mormon and CS Lewis texts.

Until then, I had no idea that my grandpa and I were so similar. It was incredibly refreshing, because I thought I might have been having a bit of an identity crisis. I've always had a strong interest in both science and religion, but some in my religious community might have seen this as a slippery slope. It was reassuring to know that my grandpa saw the value of extracting truth from multiple viewpoints just like I did, and that it was safe and healthy to do so.

Perhaps we all seek a healthy balance between the known and unknowable.

Art Challis shared a video in class a month or so ago that really struck a chord with me. The video suggested that before you even start your research, it's important to be able to distinguish what science is and what science isn't. The professor in the video stated that science is not a subject you study or a technology you use, it's a methodology. In other words, it's merely a systematic way of finding truth. A good one at that.

Much like science, spiritualism and parascience have a systematic way of finding its own "truth", but it sort of works backwards. While science looks to find patterns and data that's verifiable and reliable, parascience finds value in the anomalies. The anomalies are often an indication that there's something else going on that can't be explained logically. In other words, "paranormal opens doors into possible worlds" (Hill, p. 40).

If you've watched any of the more popular ghost hunting shows, they'll tell you that they're using modern technology to discover anomalies, rather than attempt to "prove" that ghosts exist via science. It sort of lets the audience decide how they might want to interpret the data. It also shows that this type of truth seeking is fueled by entirely different incentives. It's more concerned with exploring than proving.

What I think I'm really trying to get at is that no matter how rational or secular our society becomes, science seems to be limited in its ability to completely satisfy human curiosity. While organized religion might not be the flavor of the month, the increased interest in the paranormal in pop culture suggests that we still feel a strong pull towards the unknown. Perhaps just being intellectually stimulated will not suffice.

Maybe, we need both.

Questions - In what ways do you explore the "unknowable"? Do you feel that psuedo-science is harmful, or does it provide a way to explore ideas and questions that wouldn't be acceptable among the scientific community?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Friends,Twitter, and Parasocial Relationship Theory

Friends is the ironically the perfect example of Parasocial relationship theory, as described by Sellnow. As I've admitted before, I am not a frequent television watcher - anymore. Back in my hay day as a young teen, I loved T.V. Friends was one of my favorite shows, and I remember I had to shower for some reason when the finale was on. I was initially devastated, until I had an epiphany that I could take the small little T.V. From my room and plug it in in the bathroom, and watch the show while I showered. Talk about dedication.

Parasocial Relationship Theory is a bit different than bringing your T.V. into your bathroom to watch a finale. Sellnow describes it as, "one-sided relationships where one party knows a great deal about the other party, but not vice versa." Looking back on my relationship with Friends, I can now recognize that I really did feel that bond of intimacy. This is further explained by Sellnow as, "when a viewer begins to feel he or she really knows the celebrity or character even though the celebrity of character does not know the viewer."

So much information about celebrities and characters of shows is easily accessible to us nowadays via the internet. Remembering my Friends Parasocial relationship, only encouraged me to remember my others. For the sake of time,  I'll only mention one more.

In college my guilty pleasure of a show was Criminal Minds. It made me so scared that I would have to put a blanket over my heads to watch it, but I had the biggest Parasocial relationship crush on Matthew Gray Gubler. In the creepy way that only the internet allows, I wikipedia'ed him, and based off of that, his Twitter, and watching him act as Dr. Reid, I know him and I would have been best friends. However, my sad one sided relationship, where I know that he grew up in Las Vegas and has eaten at the Garden House in Cedar City (he's visited Cedar with his Dad... don't ask me why I know this), only goes to prove that I know a great deal about him, and he doesn't know I exist. Parasocial relationship is almost like a fancy word for stalking. Criminal minds did an episode about stalking, in case you're wondering.
Isn't he adorable?! 

Bloopers tend to make celebrities seem more real to me. Also Matthew Gublers face at 00:51 is hilarious.

In this day and age it's not that unusual to find yourself googling celebrities. I doubt anyone can remain guiltless from that. But, Twitter provides such another dynamic to the Parasocial relationship. Twitter is like the backstage, all access pass, but how many of us think about what really is personal and what is used to create a facade of intimacy between participant and follower. Celebrities will occasional publicly acknowledge fans, and use current reference to create a sense of affiliation with their followers, but it shouldn't be viewed as the great equalizer. Many celebrities don't even post things themselves. Donald Trump dictates his tweets to his PR exec and she takes the liberty to scribe them for Twitter. In the world of seemingly easily accessible celebrities it's essential for fans to recognize that the differentials are in the nature of the relationship. Let's face it, this isn't Notting Hill.

I'm eager to hear my classmates opinions and input. What are some Parasocial relationships that you've had or had? Do you think these relationships are healthy or normal? Have they perhaps become normal because of the information that is so easily accessible to us?

The Era of "Trekkies" Fans to the Extreme

In today’s world media is ruled by the viewer when it comes to T.V. shows, movies, and even music. Only the things that the masses like will survive. I think that this idea of fandom has become an accepted norm in today’s society and we have two very distinctive franchises to thank for that. The “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” universes have paved the way for newer fandom movements such as the “The Walking Dead” or “Trueblood”. I want to know if the idea of fan poaching is such a bad thing when it can result in a glorious creation.

                In 1977 the franchise that I am addicted to was born when George Lucas gave the world the first “Star Wars” movie. I don’t think he had any idea of what type of following it would gain or the multitude spin offs that came from it. Originally there were 9 parts to the story, but that left so much untold. What happen before Luke, Laya, Han Solo, and Darth Vader? Who discovered the force and how to use it? And Most importantly what caused the great divide resulting in the Sith and the Jedi. I am a huge “Star Wars” fan and I feel that when a creator leaves a story so open ended they are asking for additional things to be created and added on to the original idea.

                Just look at “Star Wars” in books alone there have been over 150 novels written concerning the “Star Wars” universe as the junkies like to call it. There is even a website that puts all of the books in chronological order so you can start the story at the very beginning. George Lucas’s idea has turned into hundreds of books, multiple T.V. shows, video games, and one of the biggest movie companies (Disney) buying the rights to all things “Star Wars” so they can finish the original 9 parts (7 was just released in December) and start to make movies of all the off shoots that have been created by fans or just by the sheer need that fans have to continue the story. In my opinion the new resurgence of the “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” movements have really turned taking fandom overboard a little more acceptable.

                I do not think there is anything wrong when such a good story comes along that people from all locks of life are able to connect and root for different characters within a story. In my opinion a story is only as good as its ability to relate to people’s lives and the conflicts they face. It allows people to actually become invested in the story, not just for entertainment purposes, but also for self-reflection and life lessons.  Like I said before I am a huge fan of “Star Wars” and I can watch anything and everything about the franchise and be totally engulfed (my wife thinks I’m weird, but I think she is weird for doing the same thing about the twilight franchise when it first came out), I think we all have the ability to become a “Trekkie” in our own way when we encounter something that connects just right.

We all have a Nerd deep down inside of Us! 

Discussion points:

Can you think of something that you have become a “Trekkie” about?

Do you think it is wrong for fans to creatively borrow from the authors of great franchises like “Star Trek”, “Star Wars”, and “Lord of the Rings”?


In Sellnow’s Media Centered Perspective she says that media ecology theory focusses expressly on how media and communication processes affect human perception, understanding, beliefs and behaviors. For example, I am annoyed that I wasn’t able to simply copy and paste that quote into this blog because it was given to me in a scanned format (thanks a lot Stein). I actually had to take the time to type it word for word, which seemed like a chore. This made me think about how people used to chisel into gold, brass and other metals and I feel like a jerk for getting so annoyed. But that is what Sellnow means; our brains are being wired a certain way because of all the wires and wireless changes in the world.  These changes are constant also. If you don’t keep up, you will look like this guy in the video.
This video is a must see! It shows how much something new can perplex us, yet watching it from our modern day point of view makes it seem so elementary. 


This guy struggling with going from scrolls to books and having the hardest time opening the book reminds me of the little old lady who was sitting next to me in church and was struggling with opening her iPad screen. I shudder to think of the not being current in the electronic world, but I can see myself already being left behind on certain things.
I realize that operating a gaming system is not essential in this world, but it does help socially. I have tried to use the Xbox controller and it’s so foreign to me that I just can’t seem to get it right to save my life. I feel like the monk in the video or Homer Simpson in this picture.

 Someday my grandchildren will do these kinds of things for me:

Do any of you feel left out on any new gadgets and electronics? If so, please share any experiences.