Archive | October, 2013

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:

rihanna_bubble_bath_greece_photo

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

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.