Detox Monday – Ground Zero

11:27 Monday Night:

It only really hit me the difficulty of the task I had set myself when I saw those three little packs of juices, neatly lined up inside a cube ice cooler. Things Louise has to quit (essentials of every hedonistic journalist, though):

  1.  caffeine. that means most tea, soft drinks, coffee; this means that if I want to function in the day I need to get good rest every night. Time to be good.
  2. sugar. self explanatory.
  3. alcohol. jesus. in the excitement of my coming challenge and Lady Gaga coming to Hong Kong, I might’ve just confused the levels of excitement all together and forgotten that my Gaga concert  (tickets challenging to obtain thank you very much, but instead of getting ripped off he gave me a discounttoo good to be true?)
  4. nicotine. oh god. i have enough trouble with this as it is.
  5. solid foods. yeah okay. whatever. i can do that. ….right?

Anyways, as I know that my self-discipline isn’t as iron as I’d like it to be, I have back up smokes (if I’m really suffering, 1-2 MAX), and dark chocolate to just give me a boost. Already someone with erratic eating habits, Punch Detox recommended weaning off the stuff that I’m going to be missing ie. all of the above instead of embracing the EAT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN mentality. Well, guess which one I picked. We’ll see how things run, Punch Detox has been really great with the packaging, the ice coolers to make it easy to transport, the numbers that tell you which drink is first and so forth. They’ve basically made it as easy as possible for you – and it’s up to you to deal with the discipline.

I am happy that they’re quite informative when the punch rounds begins, detailing what you’re going to be eating, what ingredients are in each juice and how they help you.

So this is it. 6 days, 36 bottles of juice, and one hedonistic, sarcastic and immoral journalist to deal with.

Suck it,

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MAIN POST: week 7 blog question

Week 7:
Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

Discuss this argument giving an example of a blog.

Blogs are a peculiar sort of medium in that they have links with the most private forms of writing, ie. diaries and journals, yet they are meant to be public pieces of writing. In fact, Lovink notes this history of diary keeping and its relation with blogging, highlighting Thomas Mallon’s arguments about how no one can write anything just for himself (6). This narcissistic, self-centered focus of diary keeping, and in relation, blog writing, contrasts with the model of high interactivity that new media is offering us. Blogs sit on a peculiar boundary between public and private, allowing accessibility and social interactions, based around very personal material.

Lovink’s arguments seem to be very narrow minded, considering the wide range of blogs available on the Internet. These blogs may be similar in its counter-chronological format, yet the writing styles, content and publishing purposes can vary greatly. I agree with Lovink, up to a certain point. There are certain characteristics that distinguish more self-centered blogs from other more content focus blogs, that may contradict Lovink’s claim for blogs as a tool for self management (28).

Most blogs on the Internet take the form of a confessional, personal journal, usually authored by teenage girls from their bedrooms (Solove: 24) (example). These blogs do indeed act as a form of structuring, by writing things down and noting it with pictures, these accounts of day-to-day lives records and reflects on the self accordingly. However there are blogs that are mainly focused on certain content (example), most often authored by more than one blogger, which have none of the personal touches that the confessional blogs have. These blogs usually push for interactivity and community more than personal blogs as they are often commercially backed, meaning that the viewer interest and popularity becomes an important part of the equation.

New York blogger, Gala Darling’s blog is an interesting one, because it sits somewhere neatly in the middle of the above two extremes. The content can be seen to be very community focused, with many entries providing links to interesting websites or inspiring videos, as well as competitions and opportunities for readers to participate in. Yet there seems to be no comment function, which is interesting in considering that comment functions are often provided but do not seem inherent or even necessary to the medium.  The entries often note what she is wearing and where the items are from, as well as the public appearances and job opportunities she has been to. These personal touches can serve a self-reflective function, archiving things that she has experiences by placing them on the web. The most obvious examples are blog entries where she puts together the outfits that she has enjoyed wearing the most during the year – whilst it can be seen to be interesting from a fashion standpoint, the basic impulse is inherently narcissistic.

woowoo

Screen Capture of Gala Darling

(word count: 468)

Daniel J. Solove, ‘How the Free Flow of Informaiton Liberates and Constrains Us’, in The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumour and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49.

Geert Lovink, “Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse”, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 1-38.


progressive disclosure and digital natives

This article in Six Revisions explains the technique of Progressive Disclosure that web designers use to arrange more information in a less cluttered fashion. Progressive Disclosure allows information to be displayed as the user needs it, like drop down menus that appear when the mouse if hovered over it. WordPress uses this feature in its toolbar, allowing users to navigate easily between blog tools and functions. The article also highlights possible problems these features pose, such as accessibility and compability. There is nothing more annoying than drop-down bars that either don’t function, or haven’t loaded properly.

I find it interesting that these designs can be implemented with such ease and have a whole Internet audience figure out how to use it. Granted it’s not rocket science, but progressive disclosure works on the principles that the menus are hidden unless you know to hover your mouse over it. Yet these interfaces are extremely intuitive and most Internet users don’t even think twice about it. The same goes for the way we scroll on touch screens. Ever since Apple released a range of products that made scrolling just the flick of a finger, most users of technology expect some sort of touch screen functionality in the same manner. When we go to musuems and encounter screens, more or less we expect to be able to interact with them physically.

Webdesign is a funny thing, because new things can be introduced and the manner in which audiences react to it can be unpredictable. My blog right now is using a theme that is based very much on minimalist design. The colors and simple, the lines are clean and clear cut. Images are positioned amongst the text very carefully. Yet I remember the way I would create glitter banners and customized mouse cursors when I was 12 and using ICQ to talk to strangers, and I wonder if we’ve lost a bit of the fun in just how amateur user generated content can be.

http://www.GlitterMaker.com/ - Glitter Graphics
http://www.GlitterMaker.com/Glitter GraphicsFacebook LayoutsFacebook Banners


MAIN POST: week 9 blog question

Week 9:
Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media”

Discuss this argument giving an example of a YouTube video.

Rebecca Black’s Friday music video has recently overtaken Justin Bieber’s Baby as the most disliked video on YouTube. At first glance, this turn of events seems trivial, another viral video, another meme, along the endless production of trending Internet goods that become quickly forgotten. Yet Rebecca Black’s shot to stardom – for all the wrong reasons – has reached a popularity that no other viral video has done so for a long time, and this may warrant closer scrutiny. Burgess and Green argue in the above quote that creative efforts of ordinary people are still trapped within the system of celebrity controlled by the mass media, and with Rebecca Black’s case it seems that it may prove to be a perfect example.

There is no doubt that the music video was created in some sense to showcase Rebecca Black and to attract attention. The video was not filmed as an amateur production, there is clear adherence to conventions of the music video. The song was well recorded and obviously modeled on the structures of current, mainstream popular songs. Even so, the video was made to attract attention as a showcase of talent, but instead became a sitting duck for insults and criticisms, arguing that the ridiculous lyrics and auto-tuned melody had set a new low for pop music. It seems important to note this distinction, in that the video itself was created initially within the parameters of commercial media and its supposed standards (whether it achieved those standards is another thing). Even to begin with, Black’s Friday is already playing within the rigid framework of mass media.

The resultant outcome of her ill-fated Internet notoriety is still to be seen. The Internet backlash was harsh, but its explosive popularity gave it cultural capital. Other forms of mainstream media were quick to capitalize on Black’s popularity, with the song appearing in an episode of Glee and Black starring in Katy Perry’s latest Last Friday Night music video. Black may have gone further than most celebrity YouTubers and made it into mainstream media, yet it was done so under the influence and conditions of already successful artists. It is still to be seen whether her Internet fame becomes something forgotten, like most of the other viral videos and YouTube celebrities who have also fallen under the system of mass media.

However, it can be seen that there are success stories, and Black’s ability to bounce back from the negative comments and star in mainstream productions is already a sign of things to come, perhaps. Justin Bieber and The Lonely Island are perfect examples of ordinary people who have come into the mainstream media and became successful without falling under the limitations of short lived attention that media systems seem to give Internet stars.

(word count: 459)

Jean Burgess and Joshua Green, ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media,” in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, pp.15-37.


remix reschmix

Just a quick post about the manner in which online media often take existing cultural texts and remix, alter or modify them to create new texts, with new original meanings. Lately, my favorite has been the following:

3eanuts

peanut for an elephant

screen capture of 3eanuts

This website takes Charlie Brown comics and removes the last panel, and therefore takes away the punchline, modifying the meaning of Charlie Brown into an investigation into existential angst…

Friday Political Remix

This video takes the original text and create new meaning by changing what the politicians are saying! Instead of political rhetoric, they are just singing Friday, by Rebecca Black. What is interesting is the juxtaposition of the banality of the lyrics, which is something many commentators have said are potentially representative of modernity (depressing), and the supposed importance of political debates.

Snake whilst watching Youtube

This isn’t so much remix as intertexuality, but it’s fun nevertheless. It’s a nice example of creativity mixed with the typical sense of ‘know how’ that the internet runs on. Without insider knowledge, you wouldn’t laugh at the memes, you wouldn’t know where to download files, you wouldn’t know what sites are about what. Then it also shows how people often don’t find things out by themselves anymore, and the endless game FAQs are a good example of how simple the Internet has made…things…games…

 

BAM!


MAIN POST: week 3 blog question

Week 3:
While discussing YouTube, Jose van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favorites. How do ranking tactics impact on the formation of online ‘communities’?

YouTube, like many sites that feature archivable web content, operates under an interface that ranks videos according to popularity. Jose van Dijck (2009: 41-58) argues that sites that are primarily based on user generated content, like YouTube, give the false impression of being user controlled whilst being subject to influences such as the ranking system. For van Dijck, the notion of an online ‘community’ relies less on the parallels of participation and citizenship that occur in real life – instead, these communities are formed under common interest groups (2009: 45). Jeremiah Owyang further defines online communities as “a group of people with similar goals or interests connect and exchange information using web tools”. Given that these communities are formed under the idea that the generation of content and resulting social interaction is user controlled, the notion of a ranking system may seem to upset this democratic ideal.

Yet, upon closer inspection, it seems that van Dijck ignores the fact that the initial popularity of a video still requires a starting investment from users to bump it into prominence. The popularity of a video is rated by the number of views it gets, and the more popular your video is, the likelier it will be seen. Without a ranking system that features videos that have gained the approval from peers, YouTube would be an endless swamp of unfiltered clips, making it hard for a newcomer to locate where to even begin. By promoting certain clips to be seen more regularly, this allows YouTubers and viewers to have similar experiences and thus have more to share and discuss.

However, this simple formula can be easily sidestepped and maneuvered with cunning tactics to promote views. For instance, this recently trending video called Cereal Killer features links to two alternate endings at the end of the clip. For a user that wants to find out what other ending was, they would have to return to the original video. In reality, both endings are more or less the same, but by adding this bonus it fools more users to view the video twice. This would seemingly promote its number of views.

Perhaps a clearer example of a YouTube ‘community’ within the wider YouTube network is the notion of YouTube celebrities. These users of YouTube become popular by regularly posting vlogs or similar web content. Once they become well known on YouTube, they will often collaborate in videos, or create response videos that feature each others work. This community of YouTube celebrities would not be possible if YouTube did not feature a ranking system to categorize the website.

For a newcomer, the sheer volume of videos on YouTube can become daunting. For users who want to get involved in the YouTube community, viewing videos that are popular and well received – therefore highly ranked, can be an easy way of figuring out what YouTube is about.

mmmmya

Screen Capture of Community Channel on YouTube

 

(Word Count: 478)

Van Dijck, Jose. “Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content””, Media, Culture and Society 31. 2009: pp. 41-58.


hamsters in a wheel

 

wow! look at this! pokepoke

Photo sourced from Flickr, by Siemens

With the Internet comes the promise of the exciting Everything, Everywhere, Now. Ads for smart phones and internet providers capitalize on this all empowering idea of mobility and connectivity, providing endless possibilities and productivity. Yet this constant connectivity becomes burdening when it means that you are never free from the responsibility of being connected to everyone. There is pressure for e-mails to be responded to, no matter week day or weekend. Location is not a problem, with software like Skype allowing videochats for free. There is always something that you haven’t watched, an article you haven’t read, the latest meme you are not clued into. Things are constantly moving, and the newness of trending internet topics assures that older ones are buried in a constant renewal of information.

Lovink argues that the speed of events and that rate at which their occurence is replaced means that there is a real danger of these online phenemenons to disappear before there is a real chance for critical discourse to acknowledge or reflect upon it. The most common type of commentary that tends to surface and respond to internet phenemenon quickly are blogs and websites, which are also partial to this archiving of information. With this wealth and speed of information to be gauged and absorbed, news outlets find it difficult to confront such staggering amounts of data. The 24/7 nature of the Internet means that news always has to be current, it cannot be just from today or the day before. Whilst this allows perks such as stories being updated as they occur, it means that journalists are often held to the clock. This means that stories are being churned out day after day, and it could be argued that the quality of journalism has decreased since the overwhelming push of new media. The Federal Communications Commission has dubbed this effect the ‘hamsterization’ of journalism.