Topics in Emerging Media and Communications

Archive for October 2010

Collective for A Cause

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Last Wednesday, October 20, was declared Spirit Day as part of National Bullying Prevention Month and National Domestic Violence Month. People across the U.S. and Canada wore purple to raise awareness not only for bullying and domestic violence, but also in honor of the recent suicides of LGBTQ youth.

The movement to start Spirit Day was dreamed up in Canada by a girl, Brittany McMillian, with a Tumblr page. She then created a Facebook page with over 71,000 members. Even I joined this movement, wearing purple and, along with my internet friends, changed my various social media avatars a matching shade.

In an effort to create awareness and tap into the social media community, MTV has just launched “A Thin Line” an interactive visualization tool with corresponding app to stop cyber bullying. Upon visiting the site, the user is given a short survey to complete with questions regarding the posting of nude photographs, online privacy, and text stalking, all posed in youth-appropriate vernacular. When the survey is completed the user sees a map of the U.S. with lines indicating other participants who are fighting against digital bullying.  There is also the promise of winning a free trip to the MTV Video Music awards for completing the survey.

MTV’s motive behind this site is to bring in a collective awareness of a National issue, a collective intelligence if you will.  GLAAD and Facebook have also joined forces to spotlight bullying, and Youtube has a channel It Gets Better of stories of pro – LGBTQ supporters and public figures sharing messages of hope. The channel has received almost 2 million views and has created a large amount of political and entertainment buzz, even President Obama submitted a video.

One might be suspect of large corporations joining forces with individuals to support this cause, considering their motives for lucrative sponsorship deals and marketing and promotion, but information and and awareness is still being distributed and in most cases larger corporations (money and connections) help distribute these messages to a wider audience quicker and more efficiently.

Spirit Day is a great example of grassroots, network efforts: what started with a tumblr post turned into a movement which made people stop, consider, and act on an important issue.

The question is not if the initial response is successful, it is if that response will last and the end result will be real, meaningful change. This is the trouble across political and social lines: how can the individual’s voice converge with the whole to make effective change happen in real time? How do we dismantle the old system? What will the new system look like? Who will be responsible for policing networks? What are reasonable time frames to establish with a new understanding of political and social movement impact?

Whoa, that’s a lot of questions and I’ve only hit the high notes.

Take your pick which ones to answer, but the conclusion I am making is that any publicity is ultimately good for social movements, but it is importance to be aware that the network is always humming in the background and to question who might be influencing the distribution of the message.


Written by HiuHiMedia

October 27, 2010 at 4:52 am

Share and Share Alike

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My dad introduced me to the prospect of music sharing via the internet. Growing up, we didn’t have such things as cable TV, a dishwasher, or electric heat, but we did have a Micron computer with dial-up internet access. Dad had accounts for Napster and Kazzaa and was constantly downloading his precious blues and jazz albums.

I never thought that what he was doing was illegal, he was a lawyer after all, and he downloaded music from others but uploaded his own rare albums to share. What drove me and my brother nuts was that his downloading and uploading took all of the bandwidth, causing our computer to clunk along as we tried to play Sim City 3000.

I too joined the underground opium den of downloading music and movies, but I waited until college where I had a faster connection speed. But I didn’t just download from torrent sites. I began uploading my own photographs on Flickr, I wrote my brilliant musings on a blog, I joined message boards for help with my classes, and had my very own Myspace page where I shared my hopes, dreams, and favorite memes with the whole world.

This was all sharing. Sharing of ideas, information, and art most of it legal, but some of it was considered illegal because of intellectual property laws. It was shocking to me to read Information Feudalism and understand how the production and protection of intellectual property consumes our society, always ticking away in the background while average citizens are completely oblivious.

To pick one topic to rail against the machine, The Man, of the knowledge game is impossible, it all just makes me furious. Our basic human rights are being haggled over and manipulated by multinational companies who use modern cartels and monopolies to control the system while the people are completely blind and powerless to stop it.

But are we?

We are not powerless. the authors of Information Feudalism suggest that a negotiating process of democratic bargaining will ease the tension between intellectual property importers and exporters.

“First, all relevant interests have to be represented in the negotiating process (the condition of representation)…Second, all those involved in the negotiation must have full information about the consequences of various possible outcomes (the condition of full information). Third, one party must not coerce the others (the condition of nondomination) (Darhos 14).”

Darhos later adds a fourth condition of deliberation, these conditions seem plausible only on larger scale negotiations between countries, but never fear individual, you also have power to wield.

The internet.

The internet is (mostly) free, shared knowledge. It is uncontrollable, unreachable by the hands of patent lawyers and CEO’s. The more corporations or governments try to control the flow of that knowledge, the more elaborate and creative ways will be created to go around those protocols.  The internet allows individuals to share, collaborate and create without limits, and if you don’t like something, you can unplug from the network. Our generation has grown up understanding and use the power every day. It shapes the way we see ourselves and the world, and no amount of lawsuits, lobbying, or threatening letters from my internet provider will change that.

Written by HiuHiMedia

October 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I Believe That Children Are the Future

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My family has taken one professional family portrait. I was eight, posing in a pink polka dot dress, my brother, four, with toothless grin, my parents flank us, younger, thinner and beaming.

I’ve often wondered why this is the only family portrait we have and was envious of friends who’s walls were covered with JC Penny photo shoot prints. We’re not a hideously deformed family and there are plenty of photo albums filled with candid shots. My parents just weren’t concerned with documenting our every childhood moment.  We didn’t have a video camera and my mom only pulled out the film, yes I said film, camera at those pivotal growing up moments: first day of school, Easter, Christmas, trip to the petting zoo. I didn’t grow up in front of  a camera and don’t feel comfortable having my picture taken, even my Facebook photo album reflects my aversion to photos. If you are privileged enough to see my awkward middle school years in photographs, I will be the one to personally show you.

My childhood experience is a far cry from a new study that found 92% of U.S. toddlers have an online presence. These children are featured in blogs, photo collection websites, Facebook pages, and personal emails. Their every smile, frown, and bodily function is digitally documented, commented on and distributed across the internet. When asked why they were inspired to post images of their infants online, more than 70% of parents said it was because they wanted to share them with friends and family; 22% of mothers said they wanted to expand the content on their social networking profiles, while 18% admitted they were merely mimicking their peers. Few (3.5%) expressed concern about the amount of information that would be available about their children in future years. Of course there are pluses to sharing your child’s growth with friends and family, but I have to wonder how exposure at a young age effects a child’s psyche.

I have a friend who has a very popular Tumblr account for her daughter. She shares pictures, stories and parenting product reviews with the Tumblr community and has found it to be a mostly positive experience. Her reasons for starting the account was an archive of memories for her daughter to read and cherish. She’s met fellow mothers and non-mothers and shared in the joys and pains of others, but she has also dealt with negativity and stealing of content. Her daughter will one day be old enough to understand what a Tumblr is and that her personal, intimate moments were open to a large audience.

I’m not making a judgement call on my friend’s choice. I am hesitant to put personal information and photographs on the internet because I would much rather talk about my thoughts, feelings and experiences in a more intimate setting.  I’ve had arguments with friends and family over how much sharing is appropriate for Facebook. People rarely stand firmly on the “share everything” side or the “share nothing” side, but my position is that the internet is designed for the flow of communication and information. Once you put content out there, you lose control of the flow.

Written by HiuHiMedia

October 13, 2010 at 7:11 am

The New Medium of Writing

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For the purposes of this post I will call myself a writer. I have always loved tellings stories and majored in creative writing in college. The method I use as a writer is to create a story from photographic images archived in my mind. I have to pick the right photographs that best represent scene, character, action, climax, diamante and then translate those photographs from mental images to 2D written words on a page. I’ve tried hundreds of times to arrange the words just right; pouring over my worn thesaurus, adjusting and readjusting meter and tone. I cut paragraphs, characters and plot until the piece becomes as over-processed mess.

Sometimes that mess is published and I’m shocked, shocked! that people enjoy, even praise my work. Taking classes in creative writing was supposed to help soften the blow of critique, but workshops make me crave critical eyes. I want those glaring red slashes and question marks. I must be some kind of masochist because I beg to be exposed for a fraud disguised as an aspiring writer. Or maybe I’m not a fraud. Maybe the problem is that translating imagination into print is a difficult, if not impossible task.

Reading Hayles’ Material Metaphors article made me think about the print medium’s meaning in literary studies. As a writer and book-lover, I have to admit that before reading this article my view was that of a purist. I love having a hardbound copy of book in my hands, its weight and musty smell are old friends. I love the thrill of entering a physical bookstore, all those copies of books ready to be enjoyed. I refuse to own a Kindle because I am afraid an electronic book reader threatens the connection I have with the book, and therefore the ideas captured in print within the book. I have a difficult time separating the medium from the message, so to speak.

Hayles believes that the concerns I feel can be alleviated if I embrace materiality, where technology and the mind intersect into a more fully encompassed medium. Materiality that “emerges fromt the dynamic interplay between the richness of a physically robust world and human intelligence as it crafts this physicality to create meaning” sounds like what I’ve been looking for as a writer; a way to project my mental pictures to the reader in a new, more effective way. I love print but I feel stifled as text alone cannot convey the rich, meaningful landscape in my mind. The promise that materiality won’t eliminate print, but will add to the reader’s experience of the text is intriguing. What kind of digital possibilities beyond hyperlinks and embedded content could there be to convey a 3D story?  What might this technotext look like? Will it be so effective that the book will become outdated, and eventually die off?  These are questions I don’t have answers for, but I am open to looking at my own writing and at literary studies from a different perspective. In fact, I find the possibilities as exciting as sitting down to craft a new story.

Written by HiuHiMedia

October 6, 2010 at 6:30 am

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