Ever since i answered the question on Lui and visual metaphors in new media i have been very conscious of the examples that seem to be everywhere in different websites!

One that really struck me as innovative and particularly creative was the WorldVision 40hr Famine website that adopted a comic book style. Their design has cleverly incorporated visual metaphors such as : the comic book capital block letter writing, jaggered speech bubbles, and iconic black and white boxes for lettered information (such as the date in the first image)

Another website i came across was a Sydney based copyrighting and creative commons website called Scriibe…The website took a completely different approach, drawing on the diary metaphor. The graphic at the top of the site looks like a coloured pen sketch onto the diary paper as well as the ‘handwriting-like’ font. The site looks like this:

It’s amazing how much Lui’s readings has made me observe the construction of websites. So many that i had never realised are harking back to old media metaphors to naturalise their medium and make users feel comfortable with the format.

Advertisements

Recently i stumbled upon the website ‘Scribd’ which has amassed millions of books and documents which can be downloaded, sent to your mobile or sent to a s friend. Firstly, i was interested in what i had found (for another essay’s research purposes) but then i realised the impact this would have on the transition from old to new media.

The website is basically a preservation tool, unlike any other website i’ve come across. To me, the value of transferring all of these precious pieces of literature is immense. It is a truism that books will not last forever, we have already lost so many valuable transcripts, stories, poems, documents to conditions out of our control. The amount of history we’ve lost is unfathomable but with the rise of the internet and digital age i think the chances of history being preserved are much greater.

Each book or document is supplemented with a record of how many people have also read the document as well as quotes from viewers. With sources that vary from ’15 facts Jonny Depp didn’t teach you about pirates’ to President Obama’s speech as well as cook books and old classics, it’s understandable why the site has been dubbed ‘YouTube for documents’.

Interestingly, it has made several connections with online social media, encouraging viewers to follow the site on Twitter and ‘like’ it on Facebook. The site typifies the transfer from old media to new media and preserves well loved classics.

Click here to check it out.

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).

A home video camera, an amusing talent and a click onto YouTube. It doesn’t look hard does it?

When presented with the most popular videos on YouTube, I can’t help but say in absolute bewilderment ‘But, how are THEY so famous?”.The videos I’m talking about come in so many frustratingly simple forms: a baby biting a toddler, a monologue from a Britney Spears fan, a song about ‘Friday’. These are the videos that we’ve all watched. They have launched ‘ordinary people’ to fame while millions of people shake their heads and wonder, “How are they so famous? That looks so easy!” and most importantly “I could do that”.

The tale of an unknown talent posting a simple home movie on YouTube and sky-rocketing to success is equally ever-present on computer screens and in the media. It is the fairytale story that we all know too well. Burgess and Green deconstruct the assumption, “that raw talent combined with digital distribution can convert directly to legitimate success and media fame.” (2009:21). Couldry emphasises the binary nature of the world of media and the world of the ordinary citizen. He asserts that a transition from the later to celebrity is only possible “when the ordinary person gains access to the modes of representation of the mass media” (2009:22).

This fantasy of instant and autonomous celebrity status is typified in the case of, you guessed it, Justin Bieber. The young Canadian pop star who uploaded a simple home video of himself singing along to his guitar has been created into one of the biggest ‘musicians’ of the decade.

 

However, Bieber’s YouTube legacy is more based in myth than reality and people forget that talent and a pretty face won’t get you there alone. Burgess and Green illustrate the often invisible role of the mass media in these particular stories, which “disguises (and therefore helps naturalise) the inequality of symbolic power which media institutions represent” (2009:23). What is often left out of the Justin Bieber story is Usher, and more importantly the record label (Island Def Jam) that has well established connections with the mass media. Bieber was scouted and effectively brought to fame by Usher, already a big name in the music industry and the mass media. It was this aspect of Bieber’s fate that has made him the icon he is today, not YouTube. Thus, he remains in the system of the mass media.

It’s not hard to see how this mythical ‘land in your lap’ fame began and continues to survive. The illusionary promise of fame, “is firmly embedded in YouTube itself, evident in a number of YouTube’s talent discovery competitions and initiatives” (2009:23). To perpetuate this, YouTube created a separate channel for musicians wanting exposure (many with the hope of being scouted by a recording label), which 120, 000 hopefuls signed up to in its first three months.

The YouTube fame to fortune story is inspirational; everyone loves the idea of a talented youngster getting a well deserved break in the industry. In reality, (as much as it is hidden by YouTube) these individuals are tightly controlled by the mass media and their fame is not as autonomous as it appears.

I like to remind myself of these facts when I consider doing THIS at my wedding:

Burgess J., Joshua, G., ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’ in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, pp. 15-37

Facebook has been playing dirty lately…

Recently, they admitted to hiring PR firm Burson-Marsteller to tackle some concerns they had about Google’s privacy issues. Very sneaky.

It was Chris Soghoian, the US blogger that was used as a pawn in facebook’s game to inform the public about Googles intrusion into ‘their deeply personal lives’…Faceboook was later made to confess that they had actually hired the PR firm to advertise these stories but wanted to remain anonymous because they were just informing the public by bringing information to attention.

The Google feature, Google Social Search/Circle is not widely known but it takes data from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites and brings up your information in their results. Generally, the feature was created to supplement their information by bringing in that which exists on social networks too.

However, the whole thing has become much of a saga, causing quite some embarrassment to the PR agency and Facebook, who are denying all claims that they were taking part in a vengeful ‘smear campaign’. Burson-Marsteller are also back-peddling fast, stating

“this was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined… When talking to the media, we need to adhere to strict standards of transparency about clients, and this incident underscores the absolute importance of that principle.”

Call me a cynic, but i don’t really see why Facebook is so worried about our privacy when they’re not liable. I think that it’s more realistic to assume Facebook has gotten a bit worried about Google’s access to their information and feels like they’re encroaching. Google would also be using the information gathered by Facebook to advertise on their site without Facebook seeing a penny.

Competitive anyone?

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation online ‘communities’?

Sometimes using the internet can feel like you’re part of one big democratic family whose opinions only rely on its members. In fact, users enjoy feeling like they are part of an online community that is in control of a site, not the other way around. However, websites sculpt the workings of online communities using ranking tactics, often unknown to the user. These tactics often work under the guise of random selection, meaning that a site can appear to provide information in an indiscriminate order while it is actually  “maneuvering individual users and communities” (2009: 45).

Enriching an online ‘community’ is crucial for sites such as YouTube and Facebook. This is because they provide a sense of belonging to people using their site, which is crucial to user loyalty and consequently the success of the website. However, each site’s understanding of ‘community’ differs greatly. José Van Dijck explains, “On the face of it, ‘community’ strongly connotes the inclination of users to belong to a (real-life) group and be involved in a common cause”(2009:45).

These are the aims of many sites that use ranking tactics to simulate a real-life group. YouTube’s online community is what van Dijk calls a ‘taste community’ (2009:45), in which communal cultural preferences are shared. YouTube’s Terms of use emphasise their site as an online community, ‘Remember that this is your community! Each and every user of YouTube makes the site what it is so don’t be afraid to dig in and get involved.’ (2009:45). However, they neglect to mention their own involvement in manipulating this community.

Ranking tactics determine the popularity of particular videos on YouTube, promoted largely by its online community. Ranking is overtly displayed visually on the homepage of YouTube.

Categories include:

– most viewed
– most discussed
– top favourites
– top rated

The significance of YouTube’s ranking tactic exists in its reliance on users and producers for evaluation. This is achieved using coded mechanisms that direct the users to popular favourites using download measurements. YouTube by connects people through evaluation using, “algorithms, the technical details of which remain undisclosed” (van Dijk, 2009:45). The private process of YouTube is worth being skeptical about. While we are told that the rankings on YouTube are purely viewer controlled, YouTube’s resistance in making their processes transparent suggest a greater involvement from the company.

And then there is Facebook. The seemingly unsystematic way in which features such as ‘Top News’ and ‘Friends Albums’ appear with your ‘friends’ information creates the illusion of a completely free online community. However, Facebook’s role in the creation of its online community is far more involved than many realise.

The site functions so that links are prioritized over status updates. While this appears to randomly appear on people’s ‘Top News’, links are ranked above status updates by Facebook to create greater user engagement with the site. Put simply, it keeps people on Facebook for longer without making it obvious how.

Online communities are largely sculpted by ranking tactics that function on sites such as YouTube and Facebook to generate maximum engagement and activity on their site.

José van Dijck, ‘Users Like You?’ Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content’, Media, Culture and Society 31 (2009): 41-58

Twitter has been successful in their tax break proposition. With talk of moving out of San Fransisco where they are now located, the company was given a significant tax break ensuring that they stay. There’s no question that Twitter is growing by the day. Reportedly, it has tripled its size in one year (acorrding to San Fransisco Examinerand is now a working group of 350. With the stature it has gained since 2006, no wonder the city is keen to keep them around.

San Fransisco superviser, Jane Kim says, ““We are really excited that a business that has been grown here in San Francisco is willing to stay here and grow with The City”.

However, there is concern that such a break (1.5%) will encourage other corporations to do the same. Another San Fransisco superviser, John Avalos  has said, “I’m concerned about it opening the floodgates for other corporations to extort tax breaks from the Board of Supervisors,”.

Sounds to me like twitter is doing a bit of blackmail…

For a easy cartoon explanation:

Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228).

Learning how to use new media is a process that continues for everyone as new products, websites and systems evolve. While there are those people who seem to be ‘at one’ with new media, for most people, learning these skills takes a bit of effort. Babies aren’t born with an iPhone in hand and using new media is not something we intuitively know how to do. This is a limitation that has been navigated around by web designers who pull familiar old media metaphors into websites to make their services and products feel natural and instinctive to all users.

Alan Lui asserts that “visual metaphors are used in new media to disguise and naturalise its limitations” (Alan Lui, 2004:228). While this can be observed in a range of new media platforms, it is prevelant in websites . More technically, Lui argues web designer’s role is to “recognise the spatiotemporal disturbances of the medium but then accommodate those disturbances through clever visual metaphors or coding techniques that create the facade of a whole harmonium” (2004: 227).

To me, creativity and collaboration are facets of life that are hardest to transfer into new media, particularly websites. To explain this further I will use the rococoflowers website. To a boutique florist, face-to-face contact with clients is imperative to understanding exactly what they desire and making them part of a unique and authentic creation.

However, the website which inevitably cannot have this personal contact overcomes its limitations using an array of visual metaphors that induce a creative and authentic atmosphere that most importantly feels personal to the client. The metaphors on their website include:

–       old, rustic ‘paper’ background

–       Polaroid pictures

–       Pins that secure the Polaroid to the background ‘paper’

–       A map that appears drawn onto the background ‘paper’


This carefully constructed website uses several visual metaphors to make the user forget that they are not actually having an authentic experience with the creative design of their bouquet by drawing on images of old media such as printed photos and mapped paper.

WordPress also demonstrates this concept. When choosing a ‘theme’ for my background I came across the Banana Smoothie option in which widgets are displayed as ‘sticky’ notes as well as the Notepad option that uses lined paper with a yellow tinge to familiarize the user and readers to their blog.

The new media giant, Apple has also completely embraced Lui’s theory. In their Ipad 2 advertisement, they explain, “when technology gets out of the way, everything becomes more delightful…that’s when you leap forward”. This exemplifies the desire of creators of new media to decrease the limitations of new media by making them appear intuitive.

Apple IPad 2 Advertisement

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2LLSrlKr3c

This philosophy is continually demonstrated in their products through the use of old media metaphors, particularly the ‘notes’ feature on the ipad as well as ‘sticky notes’ and of course the ibook app, all of which draw on a user’s understanding of old media. This, their functionality seems ‘intuitive’ and their new media experiences are not tarnished by the limitations of websites.

Lui, A., ‘Information is Style’ in Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004, pp. 195-230.  

Arcade Fire’s video ‘The Wilderness Downtown’ created for their song, ‘We Used to Wait’ is the most impressive website i’ve ever experienced. And yes, i intentionally use ‘experience’ rather than ‘seen’ or ‘looked at’ because the sight is thoroughly interactive.

To begin, you have to insert the address of where you grew up into the sight, which eventually takes you to the doorstep of your childhood home using CG & interactive animation ,dynamic imagery, real time compositing and multiple browser windows built in HTML 5.

Named the best website of 2010, designers Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin  collaborated with the Google Creative Lab to create a website that had just under 1 MILLION views on it’s first day…

Visit this sight to take a trip home…

If you want to watch someone else experience it:

Lovink (Reader, page 222) also 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 ONE of these arguments giving an example of a blog. Specify chosen argument in your answer.

Logging into WordPress, the first blog that appeared was titled, “How I became a professional blogger and what I saw along the way”. The bloggers ability to use ‘I’ twice in the same sentence reconfirmed my belief in blogs as tools to develop and express the self.

Whether it’s to get the best cous-cous recipe or be politically informed, blogs are read to help the self. Writing them, I would claim is no different. Blogs facilitate individuals’ self-management by acting as a creative outlet, online diary and online PR campaign about nobody but you.

My quest for answers to the question above began by tracking down this Lovnik character. I used my most impressive investigative journalist skill- known as ‘the Google search’, to find his very own blog, where he has written about…blogs. With the exciting possibility of a fresh new source I was disappointed to discover that Lovnik’s blog is actually identical to the reading. But that didn’t stop me and I realised that the theorist himself was a perfect example of his own theory! Let me explain.

In writing a blog that is identical to his already published article, Lovnik is doing some classic professional PR, a form of self-management. By extending into the blogosphere, Lovnik is getting his professional words, ideas and thoughts to more people in the hope of advancing himself and his theories. This example typifies professional self-management, in other words the ‘career blogger’.

From my perspective, a career blogger is an individual who blogs to further their professional status (a classic example of self management).

In case you’ve lost your reader, here is his blog!

Lovnik likens the blog to a modern-day diary. Drawing on Malloon, he says:

“ no one ever kept a diary for just himself: ‘In fact, I don’t believe one can write to oneself for many words more than get used in a note tacked to the refrigerator, saying, ‘buy bread’.” (Lovnik, 2008: 9)

When we compare blogging with diary writing the similarities all encompassing. The only difference is that unlike diaries which are usually kept ‘secret’, (a private way to self manage) the blog diary is for all to see. Blogging occupies a ‘no-man’s land’ of the self as it occupies a public space but it’s content is of a private in nature.

The ‘food/weight loss blog’ is the epitome of the self-management blog that is common to traditional diaries and blogs. These blogs often discuss the minute detail of their author’s meal, calorie and kilojoule content and describe their food choices in detail. While there are hundreds of these style blogs, here are two examples:

Lynn’s Weight-Loss Journey:

The Token Fat Girl:

These blogs prove Lovnik’s assertion that, “the essence of the blog is not the interactivity of the medium: it is the sharing of thoughts and opinions of the blogger” (2008: 28). Neither blogs have a comments section, making them purely about the author’s journey through physical self-management. Similarly, readers of these blogs are most likely to be people seeking weight-loss advice, support or inspiration, for their own self-management.

Reading and writing blogs is ultimately about the individual self and how blogs can support self-development in all facets of life. After all, I am writing THIS blog to manage my ‘academic self’.

 

Lovnik, G., ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge

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?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

It is an undeniable fact that blogging has became a global phenomenon that complements and competes with traditional media institutions. While both communication forms ultimately aim to inform the public, there are disadvantages and merits to both. The answer as I see it is dual communication, that is using elite media and blogs is the most effective way to inform the public.

The impact that blogging has in informing and rallying the public during periods of political turmoil can’t be overstated.

For example, during the postelection crisis in Kenya in 2008, “the social media functioned as an alternative medium for citizen communication or participatory journalism” (Mäkinen, 2008: 328). After the election, both political parties claimed to have won the polls.

Leaders of the opposing parties: Mwai Kibaki vs. Raila Odinga

 

To decrease transparency, the government implemented a five-day media ban, leaving the public uninformed and confused. In the midst of a news black-out, blogging became the primary means of relaying information. One Kenyan blogger wrote, “I was going to see things for myself and not rely on the traditional media. And so I went out to capture the pulse of the country” (Mäkinen, 2008:328). Similar examples can be seen in Lybia and Egypt, where blogs undeniably inform the public more effectively than media institutions.

Russell argues that an “increasing skepticism toward mainstream media, have prompted readers to become active participants in the creation and dissemination of news” (2008:67). While this is true, it is not as easy for the public to take on media roles as is implied here and their processes are not necessarily accurate.

The problem with blogging is that professional methods are not always practiced, “in most cases, bloggers simply do not have the time, skills, and the financial means to do proper research” (Lovink,:8). This can lead to the publication of incorrect, defamatory information that is of no real use to the public. Similarly, the long established relationships between elite media and institutions such as the Australian Government ensure interviews and information that bloggers can not access. In addition, the rigorous research and editing process enforced in media institutions provide relatively accurate and insightful information. These qualities do not appear as much in the free world of blogging. Thus, the information produced is often not of a high quality, misinforming the public on many occasions.

However, the democratized voice that pervades the ‘blogosphere’ is often far better at informing the public than politically and economically motivated media institutions that present bias news. Traditional news media are now using the Internet to reach a wider audience but their comments and blogs remain edited and censored, effectively ‘giving voice to the already-voiced’ (Russell, 2008: 68). For example, Fox News is a television channel owned by Rupert Murdoch that is renowned for producing heavily right-wing ideas because of the owners political, economic standing. This is the trailer of the revealing documentary ‘OutFoxed’ that sheds light on Fox News’ questionable reliability:

Blogs provide a voice for all people, creating a pool of diverse information unlike elite media institutions and can be useful during political turmoil. However, they are not held to the standards and liability that elite media institutions are which makes blogs less effective in informing the public.

Ultimately, when old and new media are both utilised, the public is best informed.

Anokwa, K., C. Lin and M. Salwen, (eds) (2003) International Communication. Canada: Thomson Wadsworth

Mäkinen, M., Kuira, M., Social Media and Postelection Crisis in Kenya, http://hij.sagepub.com/content/13/3/328.full.pdf+html, 15 May 2011.

Russell (et al.), (2008) ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’ pp. 43-76 in K. Varnelis (ed) Networked Publics. Cambridge: MA: MIT Press.

Twitter