Week 7: Uses of Blogs

Lovink (Reader, page 222) 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. 

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From wanting to relay tales of Shakespearean tragedy, to divulging crass everyday moments just to pass the time – there has always been a million reasons to write.

photo by Scott Fitz

Blogging falls between “online publishing and the intimate sphere of diary” (Lovink, 2008: 7) with author Thomas Mallon concluding no one ever kept a diary for just himself (Mallon in Lovink, 2008: 6). This is true of many of today’s blogs, which Lovink believes act as “a tool to manage the self” – a narcissistic practice.

In spite of discussion by media theorists like Terry Flew, about blogs facilitating the public sphere and driving citizen journalism through disseminating and news contribution, (Flew, 2008:164), they are often used a means for people to offer ‘exhibitionist insights’ (Lovink, 2008: 28), stroke their own ego or to manage their personal happenings.

This is especially true of celebrities with their own blogs, such as the example of faux-celeb Kim Kardashian’s blog. (Countless others exist, such as Jennifer Love Hewitt, Pamela Anderson and Zach Braff). Figures like Kardashian – who are famous for reasons no one can quite pinpoint – thrive off media technologies such as blogs and even online gossip sites like Perez Hilton discussing them; to accomplish their level of fame.

photo by Nick Saglimbeni, for Diva Magazine

Celebrity blogging is more a case of talking at the blog’s readers, rather than talking to them and facilitating two-way communication, like Flew believes blogs ideally are for (2008, 142-166). Online, people constitute themselves as assemblies of documents and data designed for people to read and establish some relationship (Matthew Berk in Lovink, 2008: 33).

In Kardashian’s official blog, the reader is accosted with blow-by-blow accounts of Kim’s shopping trip, weekend plans and her personal accomplishments. The blog contains a ‘Press’ page, where her recent endorsements are shown as well as press clippings from magazines.

photo by Life & Style Magazine

Alongside the posts she has contributed, there are ads linking to external websites she is affiliated with.

photo by Shoe Dazzle
photo by KK Fragrance

Though this is an extreme example of blogs being used as a “tool to manage the self” and funding the notion of celebrity, it is evident these purposes exist. But they are not the sole purpose.

Flew discusses journalists employing blogs in creating community forums to enhance their ‘professional capacities’ (Flew, 2008: 165).

This can be seen on sites such as The Huffington Post. This website dubs itself a ‘news blogs community’, and features news discussions from many prominent members of society. This does not limit it to journalists – there are also doctors, health officials, historians, religious leaders, political leaders and commentators contributing blog entries.

(photo, above, and headshot by The Huffington Post)

A recent article I read which demonstrates this excellent news discussion is ‘Cairo: Part Deux’, written by former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, Marc Ginsberg.

These do not demonstrate the use of blogs as a tool in “managing the self”, they are providing the opinion of the contributing author. These newsworthy discussions can ‘express and map micro-fluctuations of opinions and mood’ (Lovink, 2008: 38), and move beyond employing blogs as a tool to gratify egos or promote oneself.

References:

Flew,T. (2008) ‘Journalism’ in New Media: An Introduction, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, pp.142 – 166

Lovink G. (2008) ‘Blogging, The Nihilists Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 1 – 38

Amateur YouTube & Self-Promotion!

Type in ‘me singing’ in the YouTube search bar and you are met with a barrage of videos of people singing, mostly covers of popular songs. They range from screechy young men who proudly belt out a number, with countless comments underneath telling them to ‘shut up’; to people who actually have decent voices, and potential to at least make into the first few rounds of Australia/American/[insert country] Idol.

I found this video while I should have probably been studying, and I think she is pretty good 🙂 Looking at the description she has provided underneath, it is also an example of using YouTube for self-promotion. She also cites the name of her music channel, and seems to have developed a little fanbase, with comments under her video saying things like:

‘I Can’t stop watching your videos there just so good and your so talented : ]’

or ‘unlike all the other youtube singers, i actually want to listen to you!’

video by YouTube user .

Week 6: Introducing WordPress

WordPress “masks the database and creates a continuous blogging experience within the browser” (Helmond in Reader, p. 180), yet the database is rigidly defined and categorised. Discuss how this shapes the way we interact with the World Wide Web through blogging and how it affects user agency.

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The existence of WordPress’s database may go unknown to some, because it is so well concealed. However, it is one of the most important parts, storing ‘most of the blog content and … [more importantly] the connections between the content’ (Helmond, 2007: 50). 

The platform provides free space to type away our discoveries, thoughts and beliefs. Bloggers see their blog’s appearance and unique posts are a result of their creative efforts.

You can quickly change the layout or theme, by ‘flipping a switch in the admin panel’ (Ibidem in Helmond, 2007: 79). Bloggers may upload or link to content on external websites, like Flickr, YouTube or Twitter.

It allows for ‘functionality for many special pages’ like archives (Ibidem in Helmond, 2007: 79), and you can physically separate blog sections, add Widgets, tag posts and specify how accessible the blog will be. In short – ease and continuity of use.

Continuity, in terms of blogs, is defined as “the set of techniques practiced by webmasters, that … create this pleasurable, fluid experience for the user.” (Galloway in Helmond, 2007: 46).

But this ease of use only comes as a result of manipulation of the ‘application layer’. WordPress is in fact a ‘decentralised network composed of many different data fragments.’ (Galloway in Helmond, 2007: 45).

The agenda of networks is to ‘get out of the way, not to be seen … technology should be transparent’ (Galloway 2004: 65; Berners-Lee 1999: 159 in Helmond, 2007: 53). WordPress does it well, whilst simultaneously imposing boundaries, as defined through its masked database.

This concealed front is called user agency. It controls size and type of content – restricting it to 42 predetermined types (Helmond, 2007: 51). A ‘security error’ message appears if one attempts to download unknown content types. Bloggers are also restricted by ‘maximum amount of web space and traffic, as determined by the web host‘ (Helmond, 2007: 51).

User agencies create interfaces to make their website simple to navigate, whilst offering a ‘new way to structure our experience of ourselves and of the world’ (Manovich, 2001 in Helmond, 2007, 49). If using the site proves challenging, there are tutorials to ‘Get Customized’ or ‘Get Published’. This means an average user, seeking a clear blogging experience will be more inclined to use WordPress, with the site’s boundaries defined through user agency.

photo by WordPress.com

Using a broader example, let’s examine the formerly popular social network site, MySpace. Like WordPress, users are able to personalize their page through backgrounds, layouts and privacy options.

photo by Social Times

This motivates users to delve deeper into the creative platform, and as things in their lives changed continuously, so too does their page.

photo by 352 Media

This created fluidity in one’s communication with the site, while its user agency concealed the database.

As a user, I wondered how MySpace kept track of all that we didn’t see – how the links between profiles, friends and photos were organized. I now understand this is all contained in the ‘rigidly defined’ database. It is user agency that allows us to feel the experience is a simple one.

So like WordPress’ database and user agency operation, it keeps our interaction on an essentially superficial level, so that we may accomplish what the platform sets out to provide – a blogging experience, which we can create and customize whilst remaining in the boundaries the site dictates.

References:

Helmond, A. (2007) ‘Software-Engine Relations’, in Blogging for Engines: Blogs Under the Influence of Software-Engine Relations, Amsterdam: Univeristy of Amsterdam.

The YouTube ‘Stars’

http://chadlaz.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/leave-britney-alone/

This post was very engaging, especially in the way it used links to YouTube videos and hyperlinks. The author explored the issue of whether DIY or YouTube ‘personalities can break through online obstacles and become ‘celebrities’ in the ‘real’ world’.

He did it using both genuine examples, like Chris Crocker and Alexis Jordan, as well as explaining the theory espoused by Burgess and Green (2009), and their assertion that YouTube celebrities are not ‘celebrities’ in the real-world sense [of the word]’.

Ahoy Pirates – Don’t Copy That Floppy!

 video by AntiSoftwarePirates

In yesterday’s tutorial we discussed anti-piracy advertising, and as a group evaluated the effectiveness of it. It was interesting to see the different approaches the governing anti-piracy bodies used to promote their message. The main thing all of them seemed to have in common was their ineffectiveness!

Some choose the fear approach, using the threat of being arrested or heavy monetary penalties. There were a ridiculous amount of videos on YouTube mocking the overdramatic feel of the ads, highlighting that no one took them seriously. In our class discussion, a few people told of how they laughed when they first saw the ad, didn’t take any notice and simply found it a bother. I personally fast-forward through it when its on before a movie.

photo by Trevor Choy

I think its ineffective and even laughable to advertise it like this because of how we all view piracy – not as a crime, but rather as a means of getting the movies, music and games that we like quickly and easily. Comparing it to stealing a car or woman’s purse is detached in meaning because they seem such a drastic step away in terms of how bad they are. To steal a car, means you are leaving one person hurt and inconvenienced, and they will follow it through and the chances of you getting caught are greater. To To ‘steal’ or pirate music or video however, its just a matter of tapping some buttons on a screen and getting instant gratification. The offences of ‘stealing’ in the real world and ‘stealing’ online seem to far removed for us to make a connection.

Celebrities were another approach taken to speak against piracy, such as Jack Black telling us ‘don’t be a douche’ and rock band Metallica speaking up about the damages piracy causes to the media industry. An interesting point was raised by someone in our group – using wealthy, already established celebrities such as this does little to help their cause. The message doesn’t get through to the average consumer because they feel alienated. CD prices may not be much to most people, even the majority of illegal downloaders, but to others they are a luxury they can’t afford and thus they go to other means, and don’t want to feel bad about it.

photo by Abdat

There were trivial, comical approaches such as the video I have included above ‘Don’t Copy That Floppy’, part 1 & 2. Although these advertisements were from the 1990s it is alarming to think that the SIIA (Software & Information Industry Association) believed these ads would sent a strong, serious message about the dangers of piracy.

I also learnt in the lecture that in France, if you illegally download material from the Internet, your IP address is traced and your Internet is cut off! I think if the Australian government were very intent on cracking down (I really hope they’re not!) on piracy, this forceful approach is the only thing that will deter people from piracy.

photo by Monscooch

Week 10: FLOSS, Creative Commons and Free Culture

Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

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Never having heard of ‘copyleft’ before the Week 10 readings, I saw it on the IndyMedia site. Understanding it’s meaning brought a smug sense of satisfaction.

The term copyleft was first used in 1984, when Richard Stallman launched the GNU Operating System. GNU was created for free software use, and aims to promote circulation of ideas and information freely  (The GNU Operating System, 1996).

Copyleft is copyright’s inverse. While copyright protects private intellectual property, copyleft is based on user freedom.

In the case of IndyMedia, copyleft means all original content posted is “free for reprint and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere, for non-commercial use, unless otherwise noted by author.” (IndyMedia, 1999).

photo by Comisariado Músicaa

Today, I added a Creative Commons License to my blog. I’d heard of ‘Creative Commons’, and seen the ‘CC’ logo prior to the Garcelon reading (2009), but thought it was government jargon for creative copyrighting, rather than a company aiming to ‘counter shifts towards an ‘intellectual property’ conception of copyright in American law’ (Garcelon, 2009: 1307).

After learning about Creative Commons, as both a ‘non-profit organisation’ (Creative Commons, 2001) and concept, I thought about the impression of ‘commons’ I took from the lecture.

It is like a symbolic pool of resources, where ideas are contributed by individuals and utilized by the community. Creative Commons cite the maxim: Share, Remix, Reuse — Legally’ (Creative Commons, 2001).

While copyright restricts people from using and editing certain creative information, Creative Commons allows the re-distribution of work in a way deemed appropriate and acceptable by its own author.

photo by The K12 Open Source Classroom

For my blog, I choose this license:

Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-ND 3.0).


This means others may ‘Share’ my work – copy, distribute and transmit it, with the conditions of ‘Attribution’ and ‘No Derivative Work’ attached. Under ‘CC’ terminology, ‘Attribution’ means the author of the work must be acknowledged, but not in a way suggesting the author condones this use of their work. (Creative Commons, 2001).

To do this, the HTML address of the author’s work is inserted. E.g. if someone wanted to use my work, they would use: https://priscillamoca.wordpress.com/

‘No Derivative Works’ means if someone uses your work, they may not alter, transform or build upon it.

The license’s operation can be affected by some factors, like a waiver or the ‘Public Domain’.

If someone seeks permission from the copyright holder, the user can be exempt from conditions of ‘No Derivative Works’ and ‘Attributions’. (Creative Commons, 2001).

Also, when work is in the public domain under applicable law, the license does not affect the work’s status. Other rights, like the author’s moral rights, fair use rights, or other people’s rights to the work such as publicity or privacy rights, may also affect the license. (Creative Commons, 2001).

I choose to use this kind of license because while I don’t mind my work being shared and copied, I don’t like the idea of it being altered in ways I wouldn’t agree with. I also believe authors of works should be given their due and acknowledged as the rightful owner of the work.

It is relevant because, while my blog currently does not contain controversial or insanely new ideas, after this university semester, I intend to continue working on it, and I now know I have some sort of say in others’ use of it.

References:

Creative Commons (2001), ‘About’, http://creativecommons.org.au/ [13 May]

Garcelon, M. (2009). ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’ in New Media & Society, pp. 1307-1326.

The GNU Operating System (1996) ‘What is GNU?’ http://www.gnu.org/, 10 May [May 17]

Independent Media Centre (1999), IndyMedia website, http://www.indymedia.org/en/ [13 May]

Week 5: Privacy, Ethics & Reputation

Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices:

http://www.tubechop.com/watch/146252

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Is Zuckerberg just espousing his utopian view without seeing reality? Professor Daniel Solove envisions polar futures arising from today’s social networking practices. Where:

“People will stop readily condemning others, and social norms that people enforce yet secretly transgress will gradually fade …”

Or …

“ [A future] less free, where society is both oppressive and uncontrollable, where people are vulnerable to having their reputations destroyed [instantly]…” (Solove, 2008: 49).

‘When people have control over what they share, they’re comfortable with sharing more’ – In social networking terms, privacy is defined as ‘sense of control over information, context where sharing…and audience who can gain access’ (Boyd, 2008: 18).

Exercising privacy control means we limit the circulation of information about us. (Solove, 2008: 35). Facebook undergoes systematic updates of privacy settings, e.g. the new ability to block certain Groups’ access to parts of our profiles.

This control we are given over what is shown to whom, means social inhibitions may be lessened and we reveal too much, because we feel ‘trust’ exists with those we allow into our online circle.

“Trust is the expectation that arises within a community of honest … behaviours, based on commonly shared norms” (Francis Fukuyama in Solove, 2008: 31).

But trust is contextual. The boss may not be trusted with relationship details or drunken stories like your friends, but they are trusted with career goals.

On Facebook, where acquaintances or even the boss may be listed as ‘Friends’, the trust barrier blurs, sometimes coming at a cost.

Internet expert Louis Halpern says for protection from making mistakes online, remember:

“Once you’ve posted it, it’s always [there]… don’t let professional contacts see the drunk photos of you that your personal friends can” (Blog of Louis Halpern, 2003).

Since the Internet went mainstream in the 1990s, our online social practices have changed greatly. People were once highly suspicious of publishing personal details online – addresses, even last names.

Now it seems the more time we spend online, the less caution we display (Solove, 2008:?). Jump to 2011, we’re online shopping, banking and publishing credit card details.

“When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected” – This is too based on quantity of information over quality. Take Facebook for example: we often have ‘Friends’ who post numerous statuses daily about mundane minutiae.

“Bored, waiting for the train”

“OMG woke up late!!”

In this case, less would certainly be more in terms of being ‘connected’. Irritating glimpses into others’ lives, like lamenting broken relationships, pushes people away and may even sever offline interactions.

However, in terms of sharing more on blogs, forums or via comments, it can bring together users into a community, helping forgo social barriers and enlightening us. This may stir action or reaction, helping to form a more open world.

“…In a more open world, many of the biggest problems we face together will be easier to solve” – this ties in with Marshall McLuhan’s prediction new media would bring the world closer together, into a “global village” (McLuhan in Solove, 2008: 33).

However, I don’t believe social networking is the key to solving our biggest problems. It merely provides a platform for communication, and space for some to mindlessly vent. It gives us the power to connect with others, but it our choice whether to use it.

References

Boyd, D. (2008). ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, in Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies, 14.4, 133—20.

Solove, D. (2008). ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrains Us’, in The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumour and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press.

WordPress [of Louis Halpern] (2003) ‘Reputation empowerment with Employee involvement’, http://www.louishalpern.com/reputation-empowerment-with-employee-involvement/ 13 December [May 15]

Week 4: Participatory Cultures

Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question:

“Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Russell, 2008: 67).

Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

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“Traditional media services are being challenged by new digital technologies, resulting in … new players, new content and new platforms”, stated former Communications Minister Helen Coonan (Independent Australia, 2011). Blogging is providing such challenge.

The blogging practice demonstrates “the edge becoming the core” (Hagel & Brown in Russell et. Al 2008: 44). Specialty blogs covering niche interests are booming – those seeking gossip, Perez Hilton. If its relationship information, Christiana’s Rants. Going fishing? Jump on Josh Wight’s fishing blog.

With blog numbers increasing, the ‘Long Tail’ theory emerged, stating we are “shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of ‘hits’ at the head of the demand curve … toward a huge number of niches in the tail” (Russell et al., 2008: 47).

With their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity, are blogs more effective in informing the public than elite media?

“Blogs … are a kind of collective intelligence in which individuals pool together … knowledge that can challenge the authority of the professional press” (Russell et. al 2008: 46). The capabilities of blogging are blurring the line between producers and consumers.

This new hybrid role of “produser” – interacting with and enhancing existing content (Bruns, 2008: 85) – means one can take an active role, as opposed to the presumed passivity of consuming.

Anyone can be a journalist in the DIY media created by blogging, with some believing its ‘increasing the ranks of informed citizens and facilitating … participatory culture’ (IndyMedia, 1999).

IndyMedia formed as a collective of independent media groups and journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage (IndyMedia, 1999). One of their central goals is to:

“enable people, while “becoming the media,” to realize they can take control of other aspects … that they previously left up to ‘professionals.’” (1999).

But should we believe news delivered by amateur journalists? How do we know if the information comes from a valid source?

This question can be posed to any media company. The elite media and institutions also contain biases. So can we believe everything written on The Herald Sun online?

Rupert Murdoch and his News Limited Corporation tend to follow Murdoch’s conservative political stance. More alarming is that his media empire controls two of out of the three main newspapers in Australia (Simons, 2011: 2), and their online counterparts. These views are often imposed on their reporters, or reporters self-censor to conform to the employer’s stance.

video posted by YouTube user mediamatters4america 

They are also obligated to consider their employer’s commercial position when publishing content. In a survey conducted by Alliance Online, under federal secretary Christopher Warren, 48.4% of respondents say they have felt obliged to take into account their employer’s commercial position, with 37.7% of respondents saying they have even been told to obey the line (Alliance Online, 2006).

Warren believes these results reveal further empowerment for media owners “who already have an unwelcome influence on their employees to report the news in a way that suits the owners’ agendas.” (Warren: Alliance Online, 2006).

This doesn’t mean we should totally abandon elite media sources. New media technologies, like blogs, enable consumers to “annotate, appropriate and recirculate media content in powerful new ways” (Jenkins in Russell et. al, 2008: 48) – but power doesn’t necessarily bring valid knowledge. Blogs may inform the public more openly than traditional elite media, but all sources should be read critically.

References

Alliance Online (2006) ‘Survey Says 84% Of Journalists Believe Media Law Changes Will Undermine Diversity’, http://www.alliance.org.au/, 8 August [13 May]

Bruns, A. (2008) ‘The Future is User-Led: The Path Towards Witdespread Produsage’, Fibreculture Journal 11 (accessed online). http://eleven.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-066-the-future-is-user-led-the-path-towards-widespread-produsage/

Independent Australia (2011) ‘Concentrated media ownership: a crisis for democracy’ http://www.independentaustralia.net/2011/democracy/concentrated-media-ownership-a-crisis-for-democracy/ 14 March [13 May]

Independent Media Centre (1999), IndyMedia website, http://www.indymedia.org/en/ [13 May]

Russell, A., Ito, M., Richmond, T., and Tuters, M., ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Kazys Vanelis (ed.), Networked Publics, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2008

Simons, M (2011) ‘Crises of Faith: The Future of Fairfax’, The Monthly: Australian Politics, Society, Culture, no. 64, February 2011.

copyright, copyleft, copyup, copydown … use my work where you want, just don’t change it!

I choose the following Creative Commons license:

Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-ND 3.0).

You are free:

  • to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
  • No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

With the understanding that:

  • Waiver — Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
  • Public Domain — Where the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.
  • Other Rights — In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
    • Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or other applicable copyright exceptions and limitations;
    • The author’s moral rights;
    • Rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.
  • Notice — For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page.

The dominance of new media in everyday life …

Today, I was first informed of Osama Bin Laden’s death via Twitter, THEN I went to an online news source to confirm it!

No wonder Times magazine crowned ‘you’ – meaning each one of us as members of the global community – as Person of the Year in 2006. We were given the title for reasons given on the Times website as providing “a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”

To see the rest of the article, jump on Times magazine online.