Me. Myself. I

28 Oct

An image or a photo capture a moment of time and space that when looked upon in the future remind of us a particular memory of days or years gone by. But, what if those images captured are so much more? What if these images are reflections of the people we wish we were or want to be or once were?

Take a look at the photos on your phone what kind of photos do you have? Do you have a photo of a pet, an old friend, some flowers or scenery, images of a concert you went to? What do these all mean to you? Did you upload them onto Facebook or Instagram? Are they even important?

Our images are reflections of the perceived important things in our lives. But, are they any quality? Palmer (2012) notes that camera phones are associated with more mundane yet intimate photography this is due to their mobile nature and readily available format. We take pictures of anything from the meal we prepared to potential outfits in a store instead of discussing them. In essence, it is far easier to take a picture and send it then try to explain it to someone; this has all become part of a new form of communication or “visual chit-chat”.

Selfie Culture

The Oxford dictionary defines selfies as:

“A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smart phone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”

So let us delve a little deeper into this camera phone phenomenon and attempt to understand the ‘selfie’ culture. I will be honest with you I am not much of a selfie taker; I am actually really bad at it and find it all a little ridiculous. I was once asked by a friend to take a selfie of the outfit I was going to wear – she helped me pick out jewellery to go with it – and I ended up with a pseudo-awkward picture that wasn’t straight and did me no favours – it has since been deleted.

This made me think a little about the over-indulged and narcissistic culture we all live in. I have lost count of the amount of celebrities popping up on my Instagram and Facebook  with pouty lips and in various states of undress on my news feed and re-gramed by friends on Instagram. I don’t get it.

Rihanna does. She has posted countless selfies to her Instagram including this one:

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Palmer (2012) notes the appeal of the iPhones – but this can also include the popular Android phones – camera is the aesthetics and ease of use. The camera creates the idea that the world is readily available and accessible. Whilst accessible this culture has led to a vast array of problems stemming from the abuse of this technology by ‘young people’ – teenagers.

Selfie’s and Sexting

The image of a near naked celebrity and the subsequent proliferation of that image create the illusion that it is okay to post near nude images of one self –perhaps not to everyone but to teens that idolise these celebrities.

Palmer (2012) states the two main purposes for photo apps is to make images more aesthetically or artistically pleasing and to facilitate the distribution of these images. If we look at the example of Snapchat whereby users can take an image or video of themselves and send it, once opened it is then deleted and cannot be ‘retrieved’.

What is most disturbing by the Snapchat trend is the spread of sexual images, the iPhone app although not intended for that purpose seemed like a good idea as the image self-destructs anywhere up to 10 seconds after the picture is opened. The one fatal flaw is that iPhones can take screenshots; even though the sender may get a notification of that happening they are powerless to stop that person then re-distributing the photo.

tech-snapchat-logoSnapchat Logo

Is this all a result of celebrity culture whereby female celebrities are increasingly wearing less and less or is it a result of the immature teenage mind whereby individuals simply do not understand the ramifications of their actions?

We have all heard of the Steubenville case but it isn’t isolated, the images distributed of the drunken semi-nude girl at a party then vilified or worse the girl committing suicide as a result of the subsequent humiliation faced by the girl. But, at what point do we look at the education of young people in understanding the consequences of such actions.

Where do we go from here? Well perhaps it is time we look at the way we use social media in our everyday lives and educate teens more aptly about the dangers of social media.

How we do that is anyone’s guess.

Resources

Palmer, D (2012), ‘iPhone photography: meditating visions of social space’ in L. Hjorth, J.Burgess and I. Richardson (eds) Studying Mobile Media: Cultural Technologies, mobile communication and the iPhone, New York and London: Routledge pp85-97

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What’s In A Meme?

13 Oct

The advent of social media and the internet has brought an increasing push toward a ‘meme’ culture but, what does this all mean? Until a short while ago I didn’t really understand what this all meant. Sure, I knew what a meme was but I didn’t really understand what the purpose of a meme was.

It’s funny I say that as I am constantly on Buzzfeed, I love the compilations they create but first we must understand what a meme is. Davidson (2012, p122) notes an internet meme is:

“A piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmission”

Although not all memes are jokes the key difference between a meme and an offline joke is the speed of transmission and the fidelity of a meme’s form. Basically, an offline joke is only as fast and transmitted as far as people are willing to tell the joke whereas with a meme it can be transmitted simultaneously by thousands of people all across the world. Thus, space and time are overcome when a ‘joke’ is made into a meme.

Let’s take the example of Harry Potter in understanding the components of a meme. Davidson (2012) notes three key components which we will look at in a bottom up fashion so 1) The ideal: in this example the idea or concept is the Dementors attacking Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2) the behaviour is taking the image of Harry Potter and manipulating that image then uploading this to the internet and 3) Manifestation of the meme in this example is how it is shared, viewed, changed and commented upon. In short, the manifestation of the meme relates to the observable external phenomenon which records its existence. Finally, the image has a clever punch line that makes the meme ‘funny’.

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Let’s take a closer look at current meme’s which follow a simple formula of an image in the centre, first line of advice and a second line of advice usually a punch line. For the meme to be successful it must have a cultural undertow that is relevant, relatable and understandable by the audience. In this example taken from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Snape is seen in drag costume or Neville Longbottom’s image of making Snape less formidable and scary with a reference to Lady Gaga’s song ‘Born this Way’.

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Today, meme’s move beyond the image with a catchy punch line to more complicated pieces of media including GIFs and viral video. The main proponent is the speed of transmission and whether the piece of media is replicable and malleable that is it gains influence by its use or how many times it is viewed.

So, you may be thinking what in the world is a 27 year old doing being a big fan of Harry Potter? But, the truth is I grew up with the books, I remember picking up my first HP book as an 11 year old and I guess it went from there.

My absolute favourite viral memetic video of Harry Potter is ‘The Mysterious Ticking Noise’ from 2007. I recall being at uni procrastinating with my university friends – nothing new for a university student – and getting hateful stares whilst we laughed at the outright ridiculousness of this video. The video is identified as a meme due to its cultural signifiers and the speed of transmission. Currently, it has being viewed over 146 million times, parodied and shared across multiple social media platforms; including this one. Enjoy:

Finally, let’s look at meme’s in the form of GIF’s – graphics interchange format – which are a bitmap image format widely used across the internet. This format was first brought to prominence with the ‘Hamster Dance’ and ‘Dancing Baby’  but today is used widely across multiple social media platforms.

The early forms of GIFs were created before the explosion of the internet but were used widely to enhance the appearance of a site. Today, sites like Tumblr and Buzzfeed use GIFs to create new meaning to culturally significant forms of media in the form of viral lists and meme’s. Harry Potter themed meme’s are common on Buzzfeed with various lists dedicated to the popular series. So, before I leave here is just one more Harry image:

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Resources

Davidson, P (2012) ‘The language of internet memes’, in M.Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, pp 120-134 New York: New York University Press.

The New Wave

15 Sep

Ten years. A decade. Well just over. That is how long it has taken for mobiles to become a predominant part of our social and cultural spheres. I remember only getting a phone when I was in Year 11 or 16 years of age, tell that to a 16 year old and they would probably look at you as if you are weird or living in the dark ages. I remember the days of organising when to be picked up and having to stick to that time, today I am rarely on time. I mean well but somehow I never get anywhere when I am supposed to. Well, unless it is to work or if I am going to a job interview. My friends have learnt to live with my lateness –sorry!

Mobile technology has developed and is vastly different to the mobiles of the 80s and 90s. The first phone I had was a Nokia 3315 and I will be honest it is still the most reliable phone I ever had. Sure it didn’t have all the mod cons but it lasted for 4 years until I got a new phone for Christmas and it still works to this very day!

nokia3315

I am also very late to the smart phone party, I only upgraded to an iPhone 5 this year and it was only because my trusty Nokia – not the 3315, but the Nokia e72 – stopped charging. You may be reading this and saying I am anti-technology but I am not, I love social media and find myself wasting an increasing amount of time on both Facebook and Instagram.

But, let us rewind a little to understand the history of mobile technology Goggin (2013) notes that media is affected by the mobility of people. People do not tend to stay in the same place so media needs to constantly evolve to meet the needs of people who use media.

In terms of mobile phones they have evolved from being something that looks like it is coming straight out of a science fiction movie to a hand held device. The first phones were like a brick or a heavy boulder; heavy and impractical.

evolution of mobile

As the technology has progressed phones have become lighter and smaller and much easier to carry around, they have also gotten a whole lot cooler and ‘fancier’.

What I mean by fancier is the evolution of the phone from a single use of texting and calls to its use as a transmitter of television and radio via the use of the internet. The mobile telephone today is regarded as essential to social and cultural technology especially for interpersonal communication (Goggin, 2013).

Let’s think about that for a moment our phones have become essential to our interpersonal communication but shouldn’t we just communicate with the person in front of us? One of my personal pet hates is people Facebook messaging each other whilst they are sitting opposite one another or simply having the phone on the table poised to respond to texts as they come in. Why bother to spend time with friends or family if they will be on their phones the entire time? Are we all too busy or self-indulged and narcissistic to simply enjoy one another’s company? There is a term for this and its called phubbing, but we shall not get into it, you can read all about it here.

Goggin (2013) notes that since 2005 3G mobile phones have been used increasingly as a form of mobile TV. These phones have increasingly been target by producers to be capable of holding images and video to engage a new audience.

This is the other issue I have with this new wave of technology with a shift to using the phone to capture ‘moments’  at a concert or festival. Do people actually believe the video they are recording will be quality post event?

holding phone

The IPhone or Samsung of today is now a whole lot smarter than my first phone and I must say I am intrigued to see where else this technology will be taken. 30 years ago I doubt anyone would have envisaged the IPhone or Samsung Galaxy so it will be interesting to see what the next 30 years will bring.

Time will only tell.

Resources

Goggin, G (2013) ‘Changing Media with Mobiles’, in J. Hartley, J.Burgess and A. Bruns (Eds) A companion to new media dynamics London: Blackwell Publising Ltd pp 193-208

Mine, Yours, Ours?

30 Aug

I was born in the mid-80s and to be honest I do not remember much of the 80s so I guess you could call me a 90s kid. I remember the days of Atari and the first Nintendo and Sega, the change from using a Walkman to Discman but mostly I remember making mix tapes. I recall sitting and waiting for hours for my favourite songs to play so I could tape them. When these tapes were full I would play them on my Walkman for hours on end. These are very happy memories of my childhood. How many of you can remember owning a Walkman and creating a mix tape?

Walkman[1]

The new generation of kids would probably laugh at the technology with the advent of iPods and other Mp3 devices. Rather than making mix tapes, kids growing up today are creating remixes of their favourite bands and posting them to YouTube. This all seems a little foreign to me albeit very cool. However, some would say this is illegal unless your name is Lawrence Lessig – a foremost authority on copyright law – who believes that we need to move from a read-only culture to a read-write culture.

In Lessig’s Ted Talks presentation: Laws that choke creativity, Lessig notes the read-write culture which allows an individual to create remixes of content already created with the hope of creating new meaning. Lessig states that this isn’t piracy because the individual isn’t distributing content en masse rather gathering information and content readily available to make something new.

When we look at popular culture ‘remixing’ isn’t a new concept, listen to any credible DJ and you will hear many remixes to a whole raft of artists. If we look at an artist like Calvin Harris  regardless of whether we listen to him or not he has become very famous for his songs and subsequent remixes of his songs. Here is a re-worked Calvin Harris song (Sweet Nothing ft. Florence Welch remixed by Diplo and Grand Theft Auto):

One example that may not be as obvious is the collaboration between Jay Z and Linkin Park. The album Collision Course was a success spurred on by MTV it shot up the Billboard charts and allowed both of its artists to see success on their individual albums.

The idea behind the project was simple and well known on MTV with the concept of MTV mashups but the choice of having a hip hop artist with a ‘nu-metal’ – a genre of music that features much of the music associated with metal but also is influenced by rap and rock music – band was something that consumers may not have thought would work.

It did.

Here is a playlist of Collision Course, enjoy!

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a licensing law with the main objective being to give creators a web-based tool that allows them to write such licenses without paying a lawyer; essentially it is using technology to protect the public domain. By creating a Creative Commons license a user can tailor the license to meet their specific needs; this is especially evident with music labels sharing their content online (The Economist, 2002).

To put it simply the difference between Copyright law and a Creative Commons licence is that with Copyright law it is very black and white with a right and wrong in terms of what you can and cannot do. However, with a Creative Commons license there are shades of grey with great autonomy given to the artist as to how they wish their material to be used and the extent to which it is used.

Where the Creative Commons License hasn’t been extended is to both Apple and Amazon who are increasingly becoming more controlling of their platforms. The proof is in the fine print in other words the terms and conditions which implicitly state that you have bought a license to the content but not the actual content. Distributing or transferring this onto a family member or friend once a person is deceased isn’t possible.

Perhaps, this is food for thought next time we purchase items from iTunes.

itunes-logo_artist_page

Amazon is fairly similar in its Kindles with the individual owning the right to the license of the book but not the actual book. On July 17, 2009 Amazon removed George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from its Kindle. The company stated that publishers had changed their minds about offering these books online. The question for consumers was who really owns this content? I mean when we purchase something we assume we own that item, in the case of the digital world this isn’t actually true, we own the licence to the item but not the actual item.

This revelation about the Kindle has definitely justified part of the reason why as an avid reader I refuse to invest in a Kindle. I simply love the feel and smell of new books and the fact I can pick up a book at any time. Knowing that if I were to buy a Kindle, Amazon can revoke my licence at any time simple does not endear me to owning that item.

amazon-logo

Resources:

Anonymous (2002) The Economist vol: 365 iss:8303

Gould, P (2004) Creative Commons ponders share options Nature 432  pp137

Sticks and Stones

14 Aug

The difference between our online and offline selves is our levels of honesty take away our anonymity and we are all too scared to speak the truth. If we dislike something why in the world would we publicly announce it and allow our opinions to potentially be admonished by a clever retort or even an expert.

Should we just follow the age-old adage ‘If you have nothing nice to say don’t say it at all?’

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Which brings me to my childhood and the words we would say to other kids who were annoying us “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Somehow, even as a kid I knew these words were untrue, words did hurt and I guess now they are just easier to spread with the use of social media.

Greg Jericho a political blogger and author of ‘The Rise of the Fifth Estate: Social Media and blogging in Australian Politics’ laments on the cretinous nature of online comments (Jericho, 2012). In effect everything we didn’t have the courage to say publicly is somehow easy online.  As a society have we become really mean? We seem to comment on a whole raft of issues with no real thought as to the consequences of our words.

Let’s take the example of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares: USA, for those that don’t know; the show is basically about Gordon Ramsay helping restaurants struggling to keep afloat. Most of the time the show ends positively but, not in the case of Amy’s Baking Company. The Michelin star chef walked off, stating he could not help them.  What ensued from this episode was a tirade of negative commentary on both Yelp and Reddit. The company later retracted the vitriolic comments allegedly posted by them on Facebook stating that their account was hacked.

In this episode Amy constantly repeats that the negative reviewers are all ‘haters’, Jericho (2012) would note these individuals are ‘trolls’. That is, is individuals who post off topic and inflammatory comments to proliferate a ‘story’. In Amy’s case the comments are the result of initial poor feedback and the show Kitchen Nightmares. This negative feedback from the show must feel like a real life nightmare for the owners of Amy’s Baking Company.

 Samy and Amy: Owners of Amy’s Baking Company

Jericho (2012) goes further to suggest that the standard rule of thumb for online comments is 90-9-1: that is, 90 per cent of individuals never leave comments; 9 per cent occasionally leave comments; and 1 per cent often leave comments. Is it fair to say that Amy’s Baking Company is ‘unlucky’ enough to have hosted the 1 per cent of reviewers that often leave comments and that of this 1 per cent most have left poor reviews?

Perhaps like Amy we can blame the haters on the idea of astroturfing, whereby an individual or group uses social media, blogs and standard media to imply that a grassroots campaign exists (Jericho, 2012). In Amy’s case perhaps this reviewer was trying to infer that Amy’s Baking Company was a terrible restaurant and that somehow he or she was to blame for the negative press attributed to Ramsay walking out of the restaurant. By, posting a review was this individual attempting to start a grass-roots campaign to destroy Amy’s Baking Company? In this episode the owners would have you believe that YES they were.

However, in some ways, the restaurant needs to be held accountable but who really knows how good or bad this place is? Well, until you have been there and sampled the food and experienced the service first hand. Perhaps it is up to you to decide, before I leave here is the episode in its entirety, happy viewing:

Resources:

Jericho, G (2012) ‘Never read the comments’, in The rise of the Fifth estate: social media and blogging in Australian Politics Carlton North: Scribe Publications

Let’s Fly Away

5 Aug

You are a bubble of latent excitement, waiting to break free like the sun escaping darkness and bursting across the night sky. You sit waiting, a wry smile creeping across your face, your palms are sweaty, and you do not know what to really think or feel, butterfly’s traipsing their way across your stomach.

Do you know this feeling? Recognise it in all its profound beauty? It is a feeling I remember clearly, the first time I left on my own to travel the world, whilst this wasn’t my first overseas holiday, it was my first independent of my parents and family. I remember clearly the excitement and the bubbling over of emotions as I waited for the plane to leave the tarmac.

But, you may ask how in the world did I keep in contact? How did I tell the world what I was doing each and every moment? Well, that part was easy with the proliferation of social media. Social media is an institution in 2013; it is in some ways far easier to ask who doesn’t have Facebook than who does. Think about the people in your own life, I am sure you will find very few don’t connect in some way. Social networking sites allow people to create profiles, connect to a group of friends and allow people to traverse through those connections (Boyd and Ellison, 2008).

These connections are built on the road, somewhat unknown; full of adventure; you leave with the sense that you will meet a thousand people and create lifelong friendships. In some ways you do meet lots of new people but very few of these become lifelong friends. However, and in some ways quite obviously, they have now become your new Instagram and Facebook friends. Boyd and Ellison (2008) state that networking emphasizes relationship initiation between strangers but whilst at times people connect with strangers this is not commonplace. Look through your friends list, how many people are on there that you met on your travels? They are not exactly friends but this network of people is probably still there, now look again, how many people are you connected to that are complete strangers? A handful, maybe? No, not really, I thought so!

Donath and Boyd (2004) suggest that these “public displays of connection serve as important identity signals that help people navigate the networked social world” thus enabling individuals to validate the information they present of themselves online. We all have a personal and public image and representation of ourselves, somehow we find it easier to espouse particular information online, our social networking sites allows us to portray whatever version of ourselves we want, whether completely truthful or not. This image provides a justification of our ‘networking’ habits and in some ways how we present this information ‘publicly’ can impact the information we present in our personal lives offline.

It leaves us begging one question how private are our innermost thoughts? Our photos of that sunset, do corporations have the right to use our images? Well simply, I believe not, but by posting online, how safe is our information? There is a plethora of research to suggest all of the implicit dangers of social network sites; Barnes (2006) notes the “privacy paradox” which occurs when users are not aware of the dangers of the public nature of the internet, most notably in teens. Dwyer, Hiltz and Passerini (2007) go further to suggest that ‘sharing’ of information is dependent on trust, if we trust the site we are more willing to share more information. Is it safe to assume that the incessant posting of images and information of our travels is because we implicitly trust that the information we present will not be exploited? Perhaps, it is something to think about next time we post that picture of ourselves in some glorious setting.

Social media has grown from its modest beginnings of sites such as sixdegrees.com, AIM and ICQ buddy lists to the more recent Snapchat and Instagram (Boyd and Ellison, 2008). Ten years ago our travels were not documented in images plastered on our Facebook feed but rather captured in a few choice words on a postcard. Who needs a clichéd image on a postcard when you can take a sneaky ‘selfie’ in front of the Eiffel Tower? The cliché is still there but the illumination of you being there somehow masks the cliché of the tourist. Well at least you think so, and that is all that matters, right?

What may seem trivial and banal to some is the most amazing meal or sunset to others, these snapshots of days spent travelling are then posted to sites like Instagram, which allows multi-platform ‘sharing’, thus enabling users to simultaneously post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the aforementioned all at once. Have we all become just a little bit more narcissistic? Do people really care about that meal we ate in Italy? Well, simply the answer is no, they don’t but, we will post it anyway.

So, let me indulge in my own narcissism for a short while with a beautiful sunset I encountered in Zadar, Croatia, posted initially to my Instagram and Facebook, amazing right?

Image 

 

Resources

Barnes, S (2006) A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United states. First Monday 11(9) in ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.

Boyd, D M & Ellison, N B 2007, ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.

Donath, J & Boyd, d 2004, ‘Public displays of connection’, BT Technology Journal, vol. 22, no.4, pp. 71–82.

Dwyer, C, Hiltz, S.R  Passerini, K (2007) Trust and privacy concern within social networking sites: A comparison of Facebook and Myspace. Proceedings of AMCIS 2007, Keystone, Co in ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 13, pp. 210–230, International Communication Association.