Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Better version of Yourself?

Talking about Second Life and how people would still stay similar to themselves, but still a little different reminded me of Goffman's Framework, which is all about changing the way you portray yourself to others in order to be more appealing. It's a lot like the looking glass self, except putting your thought about how others see you in to action. Looking at these virtual world games like this makes me see them really similar to real life. We are constantly thinking about how others see us. It's why we wear the things we do, and act the way we do. Is it really that different then from Second Life?

Yes, I understand that online is not "Real Life," but social networking is both in person and online now anyways. I personally don't post things on my Facebook that I wouldn't say in front of people. To me, social networking is pretty singular. I am who I am all the time. That means when I use Goffman's Framework, I use it online and in person. Martley and Consalvo said that online we are "Mirror versions of ourselves." but I think that that's the way we are all the time as we try to present ourselves in the best light in job interviews,   school, etc.

The Crazy World of Convergence

                This week’s reading on Convergence Culture pretty much explains what we are doing in this class. We talk each week about different pop culture aspects and we often relate back to previous classes and link the different topics we talk about each week. We have each had our own experience with pop culture and we share those experiences with each other. I know that I have learned a lot and submersed myself in different types of pop culture because of the things that people have shared in this class.
                I started this class really not knowing about many pop culture references that were being discussed. This may be because of the age gap between some of my other peers or maybe I just spent less time watching television…. Just kidding. But, because of convergence, I feel much more aware of pop culture references and wanting to experience things I’ve never thought I would before. An example of this is watching “The Matrix”. I never in a million years thought that I would watch “The Matrix”. I’m not a fan of science fiction and probably still am not. But I still watched it so I could understand and I have a better understanding and a much larger appreciation for it.
                Jenkins quotes that “convergence happens not in technology but in social interactions”. I find this true. Most of what I consume is because I have heard about it from someone else. Then when I consume it I go on the internet and view what others are saying about it. Or if I am watching a television show I will go on and see the spoilers or previews. I will also go on and read the blogs from others that watch the show and she what their reaction to the episode was. I am doing all this at the same time as I am checking my email or chatting with a friend on Facebook.
                What is the craziest thing to me other than consumers spending all of their time immersed  in a pop culture reference is the fact that consumers are often immersed in multiple references at one time on multiple technologies. It is this crazy web of pop culture where you are able to access information at virtual anytime, anywhere, and we feel that we need to know all of this information or we are missing out on something. In one given moment, I can watch my favorite show, chat with multiple friends through Facebook, talk to my mom on the phone, while I do my homework, and use an app on my phone. We are a generation of multi-taskers. We rely on technology in order to function and are expected to know everything about everything. It is crazy the amount of things we do but at the same it is so easy and we often do them without thinking…..

Just like these kids think, it’s not complicated to do two things at once. Let’s embrace convergence!

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Come Inside, It's Fun Inside

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse:Come Inside, It's Fun Inside

I think my 2 year old fits the mold for a convergence with a pop culture artifact. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Trust me, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is pop culture to any kid from ages 1 - 12 probably. When it's time for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to come on the t.v., it's like an alarm goes off in my son's head. 6 am is that magical time. He wakes up out of a dead sleep and yells that it is time to watch Mickey! He grabs his Mickey Mouse blanket, Mickey Mouse sippy cup, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters. He then lines all of the characters up around him so they can all watch Mickey together. Do you think he has an obsession problem? Maybe. I'm hoping he eventually grows out of it - hopefully before middle school. Don't worry the fun doesn't stop when the half hour program ends. We then commence in playing Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in our own house. I have been many characters in the show, Marshall (my son) is always Mickey. I don't think that is very fair.

There are many other examples of cultures that have been created by the followers of pop culture icons. For instance, Harry Potter has exploded in to the real world. Recently, I found a recipe on how to make edible Harry Potter wands on Pinterest. Facebook pages have been created, along with websites for fan discussions, amusement parks, Harry Potter tours in London, and the list could go on. The first day of the Fall 2012 semester I saw students walking around with something like "I'm here because Hogwarts doesn't accept FAFSA" on their shirts and hoodies.

Do you think people are taking this a little too far? I think its great that they are such great fans of pop culture icons but, I don't think it's healthy for people to obsess so much.

My "Friends" Never Let Me Down

          Ten or even twenty years ago television sitcoms were only a fraction as prevalent as they are today, and rarely developed the following that today’s popular sitcoms count on. Our society is becoming so invested in television, and in particular fictional television series, that it is starting to affect the way viewers come to view the world. I am one of these viewers who seems to think that the characters from How I Met Your Mother or Friends are my real-life friends. I find myself missing them if I go too long between episodes- it’s a sickness.
            Todd’s article Saying Goodbye to Friends-Fan Culture as Lived Experience discussed the television series finale of Friends as a worldwide media event, with Internet message boards having been filled with praise for the show’s ability to capture the U.S. during the 90’s and encapsulate the Generation-X experience. The article also commented on television’s influence as “a powerful cultural medium” and how it “plays a large role in the lives of many Americans (Todd, 2011).”
            This study examined fans of the television show and their observed feelings of attachment to the characters in the show, finding that many fans felt more connected to the characters than many of their real-life relationships. Television producers know that by mimicking real-life situations and portraying those situations in a humorous light, consumers will connect with the message and in many cases the characters in those scenes.
            Another article that I read sometime ago analyzed the success of gay-themed programming in the 1990’s. There is not that much of a gay presence in Friends, but in shows like Seinfeld and Sex and The City it was quite common during the 90’s.  It was noted that highly visible battles over gay rights almost gave homosexuality some type of cutting-edge allure to the socially liberal. The success of gay-themed programming was attributed to the gay-inclusive television shows’ ability to make supporters feel that they were affirming their open-mindedness (Becker, 2006). I think this is part of the reason that shows like Friends gained the following that they did (and still do). The social context of the subject matter (even with “shows about nothing” like Seinfeld) make them popular if the audience feels gratified by the content.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Convergence – When All Are One; And One Are Many

Convergence – When All Are One; And One Are Many

            Ten years ago I had a cell phone, computer, music player, and camera. These devices were separate. Today they are one device. Today I have that one device, but it also does video conferencing, is an FM radio, allow me access to all the media content on the internet like that of movies, TV shows and newscasts, video games, and many more things I cannot think of. But even though I have this converged device, I still have a TV at home, cable box, DVD player, computer and other similar devices. It can be assumed that in some future time, these devices will converge more where one device will so all the things we need. But what is it that we need?
            Ten years ago when I had these separate devices, I never really thought that combining them would be a need. How on earth would I get my computer on my phone, or play music on my camera?  Or why would I want to? It’s now standard protocol to have these items combined on any cell device. Being able to watch my home cable box, play my home game system are available on my phone, but how will my phone get rid of my 60 inch, or provide surround sound. I’m not sure, but I am sure that in 10 years, those items and others I have never even considered will be available, on one devise.
            The convergence of media is really broken down to how we receive what is being sent, and how we send what we have to others. Time and consumer choice dictates what works best for them for a time, until a new media arrives to ‘better’ our interaction with content. Beta lost to VHS which lost to DVD which is losing to web streaming. We can only guess what web streaming will lose to. But the content is still the same. A movie is still a movie, no matter how we receive it. Music, news, content likewise has not changed; it’s just the delivery method. With the advent of new delivery methods, we become faced with the issue of new communication protocols of how, when, and to whom do we communicate with.
            Even as media converges, we are still faced with more options then we know what to do with. We can access 10 separate items on one devise, but those 10 items, for the most part are not converged, rather, very diverged. If it was truly converged, we would have our content combined and delivered in one packed to one location. This is not the case, and because such, advertisers must seek out those different outlets that disseminate content and place buys on each of them, even though they are sharing the same information. I can get music on my phone, but which of the companies do I choose, even though they all do the same thing.
            Converged devices have allowed the creation of mass production of content producers. These producers are all trying to find a niche for them to stand out, succeed, and profit by their product. This has created too many options in my opinion. And the decisions that go with these options are also fleeting as well. Friendster was great, then MySpace was great, now Facebook is great; but I’ll never use MySpace again. There are many other options for social networking on the web besides Facebook, and it’s only a matter of time before it gains its popularity; Facebook becomes like Friendster; then nothing. The availability of options does not create investment or loyalty. Coke and Pepsi have been arch rivals in the pop business, but besides Coke and Pepsi, there are not many viable options for cola, so loyalty ensues. Search engines may be dominated by Google, but MSN, Bing, Yahoo, Lycos and others clutter the landscape of options. Switching between them and seeking out better alternatives is how the game goes.
            The bonus of a converged media device is that we can have access to all these options. We can customize out options. We can do more with less. But I would say we are actually doing less with more. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Track and Field Tangent...

Without going too far off topic of the avatar experience and avatar self, I'd like to make a comment about the "performing self".  Martey and Consalvo's article, Performing the Looking-Glass Self: Avatar Appearance and Group Identity in Second Life was an entertaining and interesting read.  But I kept catching myself making connections and comparisons between our "looking-glass" self and our actual self.

Martey and Consalvo mention in their article that "avatar appearance is part of Second Life users' impression management, encompassing both bodily and clothing choices."  My mind instantly related this quote and the following quote from the article: "Appearance is thus part of the performance of self, where a performance may be defined as all the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants" to my current surroundings, track and field.  I started thinking about the physical appearance of track and field athletes.  Track and field as a sport encompasses a component of impression management.  I can't help but admit that when a girl dressed in a uniform that exposes her insane six-pack stood next to me on the starting line, I was impressed and intimidated.  Once again, "Appearance is thus part of the performance of self, where a performance may be defined as all the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants."  Our appearance is a message we convey to others; It is a very loud form of non-verbal communication.

   'track avatars'

In my own little world of track and field, I have seen many 'track avatars' real life ones!  What I mean by this is that there are some athletes out there that, like my competitor, intimidate because of their appearance.  They are super fit and look like machines.  They are my 'track avatars' because their appearance states that they are a successful track athlete both with their bodily appearance and clothing appearance.  Avatars are an ideal self and since I've never played Second Life or anything close to it, I get to pick my own real life 'track avatars'.  But like virtual avatars, sometimes real avatars are misleading to the real self as well. Many of my 'track avatars' are not the performing self they appear to be. (I beat my six-pack competitor). So I would relate my connection between 'track avatar' and Second Life avatars all the same: the ideal performing self we create for ourselves is often a "grass is greener on the other side" tale. The looking-glass is sometimes fogged by our own irrational assumptions.

YouTube Culture is Difficult to Define

As I brought up in class user-generated content and the qualities they possess are being copied by traditional media in order to appeal to the same audiences that are entertained by videos like Gangnam Style and Nyan Cat. Even in this class we can see that the online world, and specifically blogging is affecting the way classwork is collected. We don’t write papers for our weekly assignments, we write blogs. This YouTube culture that Burgess and Green speak of is even more influential then they think.

Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a Vlog series that is user-generated, and it is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It is casted and developed by Hank Green and Bernie Su and has 100 episodes only found on YouTube and linked through Tumblr. The series follows Lizzie Bennet through a modern-day version of the original, 397-page novel published in 1813.
This video series is a great example of what I’m talking about. The videos are high resolution, but aside from that their production value is no different than that of Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen. The only difference is that the story is an adaptation of a fictional novel, whereas Hannah Heart is performing off-the-cuff in a somewhat altered-original persona.

Simply looking at the content on YouTube doesn’t give us the whole picture of course- YouTube videos circulate and are made sense of on other websites; they are embedded in blogs, discussed in living rooms, and they are produced in rich, everyday or professional contexts.
-Burgess and Green (p. 38)

Everything from cat videos and “Charlie bit my finger” to videos like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (which was produced by a major film and television producer/director Joss Whedon) fall into this never-ending pit we call YouTube, and for some reason the top 10 most viewed videos are all vastly different from one another. They do have a common thread of “you have to see this to believe it” quality. This is the quality that so many traditional media producers are trying to get at, and in my opinion, few of them are succeeding. 

Youtube Success

Speaking of Youtube today,as I mentioned in class, my sister's video "Lily's Disneyland Surprise" went viral. In the TED video, he talked about what makes a video go viral, and I think the the "Unexpected" reason is why this video went viral. You wouldn't expect a little girl to cry so hard (and in a funny way) over learning she's going to Disneyland. here is the video:

In the presentation at the the beginning of class, the girls talked about how Youtube has become a place for discussion and debate, also a place to make money. Looking through the comments there are several debates about the video, and yes, my sister has made quite a bit of money. She gets a check of a little over $2000 a month from Youtube, as well as people paying 5-6 figures to use the rights to the film for various things. They have also been seen on many TV shows. I think that the TV shows has helped it go viral, and celebrities have also tweeted the video. My sister posted a sequel called "Lily's Walle Surprise" that only has a little over 65,000 views, but anything my sister posts on Youtube now gets a lot of views fast. Here is that video too:


In light of today’s Youtube discussion, I thought I would elaborate on a comment I made in class. When asked to describe what Youtube is I (hesitantly) referred to it as a garbage dump. While I certainly realize that not everything posted on Youtube is garbage – in fact, a great deal of it is information that is quite useful – the concept of it being a dump, I thought was pretty accurate. People can put almost anything in the dump and it piles up quickly. It used to be that you could go to the dump and sift through the piles looking for things you could use or sell. Youtube (and the Internet in general) are much the same; although most dumps now have rules against such scavenging. In order to make sense and try to come up with an effective way to define what Youtube is, I’m sticking with my assertion that it is garbage. Not garbage in the traditional sense (refuse, trash, waste, rubbish, junk, etc.) but an anagram I thought up during class. Here goes.

G: You tube is gratuitous. True that there is a lot of useful stuff on Youtube, but there is also a ton of superfluous material that really serves no purpose at all (except maybe for entertainment). A lot of it has to do with the narcissistic culture that social media has helped to foster. Everybody wants to be famous and this is our way of yelling to the world “Hey, look at me!”

A: Youtube is abstract. You can type in almost any combination of random and unrelated words and there will be a video. Rob Dyrdek does this on his MTV show “Ridiculousness”. Recently he typed in the words “attack llama” and this is what came up: 

There is no end to the random things that can be found on this site.

R: Youtube is re-presented. As we talked about today, much of what is found is material that has been shared from other places. Most of the original content falls into the definition given above in the “G” section where people post things mistakenly thinking that others want to see it. Even those get shared.

B: Youtube brings us together as a digital community. The world has become a “global village” and Youtube is the way we introduce ourselves to the planet. Somehow we all end up watching the same things, presumably so we will all know what’s going on in pop culture conversations. We want to belong to the community and by liking the same things as our peers we accomplish that purpose.

A: Youtube is a pop culture artifact. We talked today about how Youtube could live forever as an archive for awesome music videos. It has already cemented itself into history as one of the most influential media of our time. In 1000 years when scientists look back to study our culture, Youtube will be seen as one of the pioneering inventions that shaped the future of the way we communicate.

G: Youtube is global. Much like McDonald’s and Coca Cola, an American idea has taken off and spread across the world. Just look at how many languages are available on the site and you can see how far-reaching this medium is.

E: Youtube is an enterprise. What started out as a simple way for people to share their ideas and lives with others has taken the Capitalism Express and is now a great source of income for a lot of people.

These are certainly not the only things that define what Youtube is, they are just some of my observations. If you have any others I would be curious to hear them. 

An Attempt to Escape

As we go through life, we start to identify with certain things that surround us, such as sports, education, fashion, friends and family. This identity is not just created by association with surroundings, but people’s identity and image is created in a way so that they are viewed in a positive light, depending on the audience. People care about how they are viewed by other people. “Selves are preformed through an acknowledgement of how others see us” (Martey & Consalvo, 2011 p.179). Because of the stress of attempting to impress, people try to escape, but does it really become an escape?

In order to escape from the stress and chaos of reality, people enjoy movies and music, but this escape is only temporary. Virtual “reality” based worlds; provide an experience that allows people to live a life that may be unrealistic, but can be a stress reliever to real life. But can this truly be healthy, and is it really an escape the stress of being judged and how people are seen.  

Avatar experiences such as Second Life, or even creating an avatar through gaming systems such as the Wii or Xbox 360, allows a person to be who they want to be, and act how they want to act. But there still seems to be pressure to be liked or understood. Even in an environment that is not “real”, people feel the need to be accepted. “Although the range of potential identities and dress opportunities in Second Life are wider than in the physical world, we encountered reluctance to change, worries about not fitting in, and appearance as an important part of one’s identity” (Martey & Consalvo, 2011 p.179). If in an attempt to escape, people still want to be accepted, they face the same issues that they do in “real” life.

I found this article incredibly interesting. What is the point of interacting with an avatar in order to “escape” if the same pressures can exist? I don’t see the point of participating in an activity that can add more stress to a person’s life. When I go to a movie or listen to music, I do so in order to disconnect, and relax. The avatar experience provides a way to disconnect, but according to the article, the relax factor is not present. Participating in these experiences could be because people are not happy with their current life. That is the only explanation that truly makes sense to me. If I am going to disconnect, I want it to be relaxing, not attempting to impress other people.   

Penny’s Avatar Addiction

Martey and Consalvo’s article was fascinating. Not being a gamer myself, I had no idea people took this kind of stuff so seriously. The closer I ever got to the gaming world was playing Roller Coaster tycoon when I was in middle school, and I horrible at it. My guests kept getting sick on the rides and never had enough bathrooms strategically placed around the park.

While reading the article, I kept referring back to an episode I watched on The Big Bang Theory about Penny losing all hope and delving into the gaming world with the help of Sheldon.

Little does Sheldon know that Penny will become addicted to her avatar and the power she has in the game.  
Through focusing so much on the game and her avatar, she completely loses track of time and responsibilities.

Penny’s friends try all sorts of things to get her to snap back to reality, but it takes a major “jolt” for her to realize she is losing touch and quits playing.

Why is it so enticing for people to lose themselves in these types of games?

Keep Calm and Watch YouTube

I love YouTube. I can spend hours watching ridiculous videos of epic fails, random commercials  and drunk ladies cooking. I agree with Burgess and Green that YouTube is the "eyes and the ears" of the world. You can look for just about anything and find it on YouTube. It popularity is insane, and the popularity of random videos is just as equally interesting  The viral aspect the videos take on is very interesting and something that would be fascinating to study. 

The Burgess and Green article covers a quote by the co-founder of Flickr, comparing picture sharing to keep in touch with family and friends very similar to the qualities of YouTube. One step above that I believe is the newly popular app "vine." This app allows users to create and post short video clips that are 6 seconds long and can be shared with your friends or posted on social networking. This type of user-generated only app will definitely not replace YouTube any time soon, but it does have a direct purpose of sharing short videos with your friends (or at least your online friends). 

But just like complaints with YouTube, it may begin to be taken over by the media or celebrities. Mashable wrote two interesting articles on how artists are using vine to push their product and political attack ads on vine. (Product Pushing and Attack Ads)

Although Burgess and Green argue that YouTube needs to take their users seriously in their claims to have more user-led innovation, it is obvious that any popular medium will attract advertisers, mass media, and celebrities. They don't want their limelight to be take over by some little boy who gets his finger bit. I enjoy the user made content, but I don't mind watching clips of the Ellen DeGeneres show on YouTube or even the Superbowl commercials. I think the perk of YouTube is you can find almost everything on it. You don't need to go to a new website for a specific movie. I say:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bachelor: do they have control of their lives?

American Idol was never one of my favorite shows, in fact, I usually never watched it. The Bachelorette, and the Bachelor (not so much Bachelor Pad), however, is something that I absolutely love. I canʼt get enough of it, itʼs something that I hid in the closet and watch, because I know everybody will judge me because I'm watching it, because itʼs that sappy, and ridiculous of a show. As with American Idol, the show isnʼt real. Itʼs rigged, and each contestant, Bachelor or Bachelorette, is created into a house hold name, with a brand. One of the girls is nasty, one of the girls is the sweet home town gal , and another one is absolutely insane. Do I really think these girls are this way? Well...

This woman was known for her "crazy eyes."

I donʼt know. In the American Idolatry article, it explains that the contestants on the show sign their lives away, essentially the producers tell them “Hey cool ,you want to be on the show, so that means we get to do whatever we want to make sure you lose or win. Got it?” I can only assume that means they do the same with the contestants on the Bachelor. Or do they? Obviously, these girls are not the prize picks for each of the Bachelors. If the show was really about love and finding a soul mate and less about the drama, sex and ooey gooey romanticism, then the producers would match the bachelor and bachelorettes up much better than they do now. However, is the show just like American Idol? Where they take normal girls, and paint a terrible picture? Or do the producers find actually insane human beings and make them appear normal, until the end? Think about Ben and Courtney. If you donʼt know who Iʼm talking about, thatʼs fine, just skip ahead. Ben, was built up to be this adorable guy, who everybody loved. The peacemaker, the sweetheart, the lover. However, I got the distinct vibe that he thought he was cool stuff, an annoying player and had less stuff between his ears. Courtney was a real piece of work. She was absolutely crazy, saying things I could hardly imagine a criminal saying, let alone a woman who was supposed to be winning over the hearts of America as well as her suitor. Could she be that insane?

Kissing fish: a sign of insanity

I don't think so. I think, as the American Idolatry story explained, that the procures changed some key moments and made her sound like a old bat. This really begs the question though: after the show, do they still have control over every person This really begs the question though: after the show, do they still have control over every personsʼ identities, or do they get to go back to their old selves? Let me shed a little light on about what I’m talking about: the people are branded, sometimes as heroes, sometimes as evil men or women who we love to hate. However, that use to be a possibility for us to never hear from a contestant on reality television show ever again. If they were shown as a terrible person, then thatʼs what we thought of them. Today, however, is a time of technology, constantly everywhere. These characters are real people with public twitter and Facebook accounts, who tweet, post, upload media, and are seen out in the streets as a celebrity. Does The Jersey Shore make sure every tweet, post, etc. that Snookie posts is living up to her character theyʼve created? Or is Snookie free to do what she wants? Or maybe another explanation entirely the characters are just like characters on a movie, or scripted television show. Cast by directors, told what to do, and becoming a character. Then, they must be that character for the rest of their lives. Is it a stretch? Yes. Could it be possible? Yes. Is it plausible: maybe?
All I know, is know Iʼm looking at Emily Manyardʼs tweets a little more closely.