the dark side of social networking

While I try and try to keep an open mind about the potential of the Internet and the recently emerged Web 2.0 applications, such as social networking sites, there are frequent instances which display the exact opposite and play straight into the notion of the Internet as a facilitator for all things bad.

The instances I speak of are the new “Goss” pages on Facebook and the notorious ‘Brocial Network’

Both have garnered a significant amount of scrutiny from the public – and on the blogosphere – for the way they victimise innocent individuals and has once again questioned the adequacy of the privacy measures of Facebook.

Image Credit: Nova FM

The Brocial Network in particular has caused a tsunami of outrage, with comments from girls who found out their images were uploaded to the site stating their anger, embarrassment and vulnerability.

“I’m a little bit angry, to be honest. If it was one of my friends who has copied a photo of me to put on a public website and not let me know then I’d feel extremely betrayed”

These words from one of the victims of the network highlights the reality that the pictures on the site were uploaded (most likely) by people who know of the girls – this brings into play the idea of trust and common courtesy, not in relation to internet etiquette but just basic human interaction.  While the idea that random men are ogling over the images of these women is highly misogynistic, the unauthorised uploading of photos and the breach of privacy is the central issue.

I’ve read a male’s point of view on the “Brocial Network” and it is interesting to take into consideration the other side of the debate which has been largely neglected – I strongly believe that it’s important to be informed on both sides of the issue, despite how obviously one-sided it may appear to me as a female.

I must admit, he makes a rational point . It’s human nature to look, we are all voyeurs at heart and why should we be reprimanded for this natural instinct? Well we shouldn’t. BUT I think the issue with this matter comes from the fact the girls are being objectified in every way and that it’s a resurgence of the age-old idea of the male-gaze. In this day and age of equal rights for women it is the fact they are being degraded to being objects rather than subjects in the photos, and unwillingly or unknowingly as well, that is the crux of the problem.

That said, I agree with this blogger, that it is the “Brocial King” that is to blame for this situation but I disagree when he argues that the participation of members, like himself, is irrelevant; without the members commenting, rating and uploading the photos, there would be no site in the first place.  It is a prime example of produsage – the users are responsible for the content (Bruns 2008)- and due to this, a member of the Brocial Network is just as responsible for the objectification of the unaware women as the “Brocial King” who set up the framework for the network in the first place.

I’m sure that one day- hopefully in the near future – we will hear more stories of the Internet helping not hindering society; bringing us together rather than ridiculing and ostracising us.  Maybe it is already happening, maybe these good things are going on right under our noses but we just don’t know about it because the media likes to report on stories that will conjure up controversy rather than agreement.  It’s curious, isn’t it?

REFERENCES

Bruns, Axel. ‘The Future is User-Led: The Pather Towards Widespread Produsage’.Fibreculture Journal 11 (2008) http://journal.fibreculture.org/issue11/issue11_bruns.html.

keep your hands off my intellectual property.

“Intellectual Property is the oil of the 21st Century”   - Mark Getty


Image Credit: Mark Anderson 


The chairman of huge image database, Getty Images, made this proclamation at the turn of the century.  Moving on from the concept of physical property or wealth, Getty has stressed that our most vital assets in the current day, are our ideas.  From the moment we express or divulge an idea, it is forced into the possession of everyone as it is no longer insulated in the private sphere of our cognition (Lessig 2005, 354).

The 1710 Statute of Anne, was the first legislation to recognise ownership of ideas – granting you control over your intellectual property – essentially the birth of copyright.  Copyright has become the central method of protecting our precious ideas and as soon it has been thought to be breached, the lawyers are on the phone and a lawsuit is being prepared.

Video Credit: Brad Tem

I infer the reasoning behind Getty’s comparison to be in relation to the potential of original ideas.  The ideas themselves are worth nothing in a material sense, yet can be translated into something of great commodified value.  People take their claim to intellectual property possibly more seriously than their material possessions because of this factor of potential.  The level to which copyright is enforced or followed up is often over the top, as seen in the estate of late author Adrian Jacobs filing a lawsuit against J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter saga, citing allegations of plagurism from Jacobs’ 1987 book, Willy the Wizard (Adams 2010).  One major issue that cases like these raise is, where do we draw the line between inspiration and pure plagiarism?

In many instances, the idea of breaching copyright is taken too far.  In terms of literature, it has been thought that there are only seven original storylines:

Rags to Riches

Overcoming the Monster

The Quest

Comedy

Tragedy

Rebirth

Voyage and Return

Inspiration plays a pivotal roll in most creative endeavours.  Our intellectual property is not exclusively our own as it is a result of our interaction with our surroundings – inspiration is as much an unconscious occurrence as it is a conscious one (Booker 2004, 3).

This intense policing of our ideas goes from accusations of plagiarism in basic inspiration to the creating of parodies.  A bit of comic relief, a parody usually takes a much more serious piece of work and puts a lighter spin on it.  Wierd Al Yankovic has made a career out of parodying the work of others – while it may appear that he is breaching copyright laws, due to the satirical nature of parody, it is recognised as fair use and is excluded from being branded as plagiarism.   Despite this, Yankovic must obtain permission from the original artists before he is able to make any revenue from his parodies – his most recent single ‘Perform This Way’, a Lady GaGa spoof, was not allowed to be released until GaGa gave her consent.  Although the majority of Yankovic’s parodies are making fun of the subjects, most artists with a good sense of humour recognise that its all fair game and that satire will need to get its material from one source or another.

Video Credit: Brent Larry

Video Credit: Wierd Al Yankovic

We definitely take the claim to our intellectual property very seriously in the 21st century, as seriously or more so than that of our material property.  Getty was not over-reacting in his statement that it is the oil of the 21st century as the way in which our society is moving, away from industrialisation and towards innovation, ideas are integral and an original idea is gold – quite literally.

REFERENCES: 

Adams, Stephen. ‘JK Rowling ‘stole plot’ for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, High Court writ claims’, The Telegraph. 19. Feb, 2010. accessed on 29/5/11 from: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/harry-potter/7264794/JK-Rowling-stole-plot-for-Harry-Potter-and-the-Goblet-of-Fire-High-Court-writ-claims.html>

Booker, Christopher. The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. 2004, UK: Continuum

Lessig, Lawrence. ‘Open Code and Open Societies’, in Joseph Feller, Brian Fitzgerald, Scott A. Hissam and Karim R. Lakhani (eds) Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. pp. 349-360.

copyright or copyleft?

Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318).

Discuss while giving an example online.

Video Credit: MPAA

Piracy is first and foremost an illegal activity.

Despite this, Mendosch has a strong argument stating that it fulfils an important role by giving access to cultural goods which otherwise would be completly unavailable to the vast majority of the public.

The mentality towards piracy in Australian society, particularly youth culture, is why pay for it if I can get it for free?  Obtaining material illegally via torrents, streaming or peer-to-peer file sharing gives us access to cultural products that we either can’t afford to pay for or just won’t.

In areas of tight government regulation, such as The People’s Republic of China, opting to illegally download material is different as it is a gateway to mainstream commercial film and music industries which are otherwise prohibited in their country (Mendosch 200,81).

Piracy, in its raw form, is a means of obtaining access to information.

Music
Film
Television Shows
Books
Articles

These are all examples of cultural products that need to reach an audience to become relevant.  They are forms of communication wishing to influence the viewer, reader or listener in some way.  Artists need and expect to be paid for their efforts and while they want their material to be seen and heard, they do not want this to occur for free

Piracy fulfils the societal need to explore both the mainstream and alternative cultures, separate from financial concerns. If you did not engage in illegal downloading and instead purchased your music or films then it is highly likely that the amount and scale of your interaction with cultural materials will be vastly reduced due to the financial restraints.  You will have spent $25.99 on Lady GaGa’s latest album and (particularly if you are a poor, poor student) will be reluctant to hand over more money to get your hands on the latest releases from The Wombats, Adele or Kanye.  Piracy has an important function of exposing society to material that they would not usually interact with, as you are unlikely to pay real money for something about which you have no or minimal knowledge (Mendosch 200, 92).

People forget this reality that the cultural industry has economic needs.   Capitalism caused culture to become a commodity and with this came copyright, an attempt to control or protect your commodity – your intellectual property (Mendosch 200, 85).  Artists require profit to continue with their craft yet the public is increasingly unlikely to hand over money, with many notable personalities and large corporations speaking out about the hypocrisy of the situation that it likely to continue going around in circles until one party changes it’s behaviour and attitude.

The initiative of Creative Commons is arguably a solution for consumers and creators of these cultural commodities.  It bridges the gap between the need for access and the need for profit by allowing the artist to protect their work from commercial use.  Taking the extremes of Copyright and Piracy, Creative Commons counteracts them with specific licences (Garcelon 2009, 1314).

Piracy is a problem, as while it satisfies our need to interact with a diverse range of cultural products and can squander ignorance and narrow-minded views, it is crippling the industry of these valuable cultural creations.  It is an example of a catch-22 in all it’s glory and a middle ground needs to be established – is Creative Commons the possible instrument of harmony between the creators and consumers?

 


REFERENCES:

Garcelon, Marc. ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’,  New Media Society 11.8, 2009. pp. 1307-1326.

Mendosch, Armin. ‘Paid in Full’: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’. in Deptforth. TV Dairies II: Pirate Stratagies, London: Deptforth TV, 2008. pp. 73-97.

 

creative commons: a happy medium?

Achieving a happy medium is a fine science.

Copyright is a very extreme, definite and clear cut way of protecting intellectual property and Creative Commons seems to counteract many of the downfalls of slapping a big bold “C” on everything man have ever created.  Ever.

Out of the six different licenses on offer, the one I chose for  my blog was:

“Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike”


CC BY-NC-SA

Image Credit: Creative Commons (content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence)


In other words: anyone may take my work, share or remix it but it must not  be used for capital gain and must not forget to attribute it back to me as I did do all the hard yards in the first place and however meaningless or insignificant I believe the work to be, I still deserve recognition.  To round this license out, all who choose to use my work must apply the same Creative Commons license to their works, to ensure that further down the line it is not forgotten where the work came from and what rights the original creator wishes to be respected.

On first inspection I thought that attaching a license to my Net Comm blog was fairly useless because who is going to read my blog anyway?   As I let the idea ferment and grow I managed to let go of the fact that realistically, I have a microscopic audience and instead considered how I would feel if I was to read my exact words on Zuckerberg’s Privacy Policy or the nihilism of the blogosphere on some other student’s blog.  The idea of someone taking my words, my intellectual property and not attributing them to me made me feel uneasy and insecure and annnnnnngry.

Wes been robed I tell youse.

Image Credit: kmc793 – UoW

The solution: a Creative Commons license.

CC mustn’t be a widely circulated idea or I must’ve been living in relative seclusion because the first time I encountered the little “CC” motif was while doing the Week Ten readings for Net Comm.  Before discussing the general concept of copyright in this academic setting, I had never given a great deal of effort to thinking about it.  It was one of those things you just accepted.

The “C” meant you couldn’t copy it…ever.  If we did, I thought this was the reason why we had to engage in such fiercely rigorous referencing in our essays – Harvard APA Chicago Cambridge ohhh so many, so confusing!

And now there’s an alternative – the “CC” – which creates a happy medium.  Launched in December 2002, CC is a flexible licensing initiative that works to benifit the creator and consumer (Garcelon 2009, 1307). It is something we should all be happy about.  It lacks in the big bad scary personification that the big bold “C” omits.  This alternative is a concept that deserves to be known and accessed by more people; people shouldn’t just find out about it during their Week Ten readings for Net Comm   Now that I know about Creative Commons, I am likely to use the licenses on any works I make in the future as it is important to get your work out there and have it seen by many sets of eyes, yet it is also vital to protect your intellectual property and also economic interests.

REFERENCES:

Garcelon, Marc. ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’,  New Media Society 11.8, 2009. pp. 1307-1326.

tweet shmeet

This is a blog post I’ve read recently which sheds an interesting light on society’s overly-excessive fascination with social media sites and in particular posting their entire lives on the net for all to see!

I find myself agreeing with the writer in much of what he says.  Egocentric attitudes are weened out of us from a young age – unless you are among the unfortunate few whose parents’ violent doting has cemented your place as the single most important person in existence – and the way sites like Twitter undo all this hard work of our parents is ridiculously ironic.

Twitter is in its very essence banal and the writer conveys this with an intelligent mix of sarcasm and wit.

Describing the act of tweeting as a “ravenous narcissistic habit” – he has a steadfast contention that is enjoyable to read as well as being highly persuasive.  Needless to say, the twitter account I created for Net Comm is likely to suffer a grim fate at the completion of the subject – de-activation.

Image Credit: Hell’s Kitchen

You Tube, I Tube, We all Tube.

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” (Reader, page 269).

 Image Credit: Moderately Funny (This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.)


YouTube is a guilty pleasure.

It is a framework that allows us to view audio-visual clips ranging from the simply banal to incredibly relevant.

As one of the best examples of “produsage, Youtube is a public distribution channel which allows the users of the site to upload their videos – the producers and the users are one in the same (Bruns 2008).  In this sense it is a technology enabling democracy as anyone and everyone may post material online.

Youtube is separate from the traditional notions of mass media and instead plays on the same idea as blogs; exhibiting the “long tail” effect of the web which facilitates niche groups (Russell et. al. 2008, 47).  While traditional media products such as television and newspapers will only give airtime and print space to people already in the public eye, a reputation is not necessary to have your video up on YouTube.  This adds value to the site as it enriches the content with the extent of the diversity but, much like the blogosphere, with that diversity comes a lot of banality and meaninglessness.  Due to this, it is much more difficult to rise to fame or gain some form of success through YouTube because of the sheer volume one must sift through just to get to your video.

Most of Youtube is ordinary people wishing to gain a level of celebrity through their creative efforts.  These people already possess a talent, novelty or quirk that would garner them a level of fame, yet they require a “mode of representation” which will transport them, as Nick Couldry theorises, from the “ordinary world”  to the “media world”.  YouTube acts as this vehicle of  representation which creates DIY stardom (Burgess & Green 2009, 22).

This stardom is different to the more traditional notion of “celebrity” as the YouTube stars become passing fads; they conjure up a cult following during their fifteen minutes of fame and as quickly as they became relevant in the first place, they are forgotten and fade out of the spotlight.  Evolving to the status of actual celebrity involves interaction with the conventional mass media industries such us television, radio, film and music.  In addition, YouTube cannot create steadfast success as relevance is only achieved through the continuous posting of videos. Once the production of clips stops, you are no longer participating in the dialogue of the video-hosting site and someone else will willingly take your place (Burgess & Green 2009, 24).

An exception to the norm of a YouTube star’s rapid rise and demise is the case of Saturday Night Live comedian Andy Samberg’s brainchild, The Lonely Island.  The comedic group posted videos of their skits on the web and caught the eye of studio executives, going on to have great success in acting, singing, writing, directing and producing.  Making that transition from the “ordinary world” into the “media world” by appearing on the traditional medium of television, their status of actual celebrity was cemented and they were  no longer YouTube stars, governed by that punishingly fleeting medium (Burgess & Green 2009, 22).

Video Credit: The Lonely Island

The Lonely Island were discovered because of the opportunities of the Internet and such success stories tend to fuel the misconception that YouTube will equate to legitimate fame.  While we often come across instances of people making it big after posting clips on YouTube, the ratio of clips that achieve notoriety or fame to those that are seeking it is greatly disproportionate – it is far more difficult to achieve an effective transition between the two “worlds” than one may assume (Burgess & Green 2009, 25).

Youtube stardom is short and sweet – while it may grant a person a temporary pass from the “ordinary world” to the “media world”, unless they find a place within the traditional media framework, they will never solidify their status as “celebrity”.

REFERENCES:

Bruns, Axel. ‘The Future is User-Led: The Pather Towards Widespread Produsage’. Fibreculture Journal 11 (2008) http://journal.fibreculture.org/issue11/issue11_bruns.html.

Burgess, Jean. Green, Joshua. ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’, in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, pp. 15-27

Russell, Adrienne. Ito, Mizuko. Richmond, Todd. Tuters, Marc. ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture,’ in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked publics,Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, pp. 43-76.

for fonts sake.

Image Credit:ban comic sans: putting the sans in Comic Sans

There are many things in life that we just accept and neglect to question.

Not an eyelid was batted as Donald Duck paraded around wearing no pants, just as no thought was put into our over-use of the Comic Sans typeface.

Now that you think about it…why was this duck fully clothed on the top half with a dapper shirt and overcoat yet stark naked from the waist down?  Why did we insist on using Comic Sans on every single word processed piece of writing until well into our tween-dom?

Its appeal came from its fun, soft-edged nature, resemblant to the typeface used in comic books – yet it is our constant use of Comic Sans out of  this comic context that has caused such support behind the bid to ban comic sans

BUT IS IT REALLY THAT BAD???


this guy obviously thinks so:

Video Credit: Designer Daily

Whether loathed or loved, this font created by Vincent Connare in 1994  is the most controversial typeface that has ever dared to show its face on our Macs and PCs. Seen to exemplify “low” or “popular” culture, it is truly remarkable how such a simple thing as a font could continue to create such an outpouring of opinion (Merz 2009, 228).  This divide between the lovers and haters of Comis Sans can be likened to the debate between those who wage in on the Myspace vs. Facebook debate (Lialina 2009, 68)

Comic Sans is to Myspace as Times New Roman is to Facebook.

In creating Facebook, Zuckerberg channelled this new wave of modernity – clean lines and simple structure which exude professionalism, security, a sense of better service and most of all a nature of higher class (Lialina 2009, 69).  In doing so, he was able to capture a potentially larger user-ship by not just targeting youth as the aesthetic of Myspace appears to do.

Myspace capitalises on the the flashy idea of ‘glitter culture’ (Lialina 2009, 67)

Less is not more…

...more is more.

More colour.

More graphics.

More photos.

Thought to be resembling the flashy lights of Las Vegas and “pimp pop culture”, the glitter graphics of Myspace attract a distinct breed of internet user – the tween (Lialina 2009, 67).

As a former tween of the Myspace era, I can vouch for the fact that having a beautifully over the top profile page was one of the biggest pressures and priorities of the day.  As the users of the site matured, so did their opinion towards the glitzy nature of the seemingly immature DIY site.   What was once ‘cool’, apparently was not anymore.  We were growing up and like lemmings, jumped off the cliff, away from the once alluring world of MySpace, falling right into the clutches of Facebook, where all the other the big kids were.

It is the simplicity of Facebook that makes up  the majority of its allure – a medium to communicate rather than a means of self-expression, it seems to be a markedly more mature media platform. Able to capture a larger audience, it has increased in popularity over the last few years and now reigns supreme (Lialina 2009, 69).

Image Credit: Cnet NEWS

I predict Myspace will suffer the same fate as Comic Sans, if it isn’t already.  As more emphasis is placed on sleek, clean, easy-to-understand design, the market for Myspace’s DIY nature is shrinking and as more people from wider age groups join this social networking revolution, the tweens will become increasingly outnumbered.

They were the children of the ICT revolution, practically grew up on the WWW.  But now internet -fever is spreading and much of the developed world is joining in.

REFERENCES:

Lialini, Olia. ‘Vernacular Web 2′, in Olia Lialina and Dragon Espenschied (eds) Digital Folklore Reader, Stuttgart: Merz Akademie, 2009, pp. 58-69

Merz, Leo. ‘Comic Resistance’, in Olia Lialina and Dragon Espenschied (eds) Digital Folklore Reader,Stuttgart: Merz Akademie, 2009, pp. 225-237