Final thoughts

This subject is like ALice in Wonderland.

it struggles though an imagined landscape trying to find reality in the unreal and always, always

chasing the white rabbit deeper and deeper

the question is – when discussing something so shifting, will there ever be a permanent need for a Net Com subject. the Subject in itself and everything we have learnt will most likely be void by the time we receive out marks – that is no reflection of the teaching but a reflection of the medium, its trying to dissect a piece of art while the painter still has his brush out.

Thankfully i only have to do it once… Marcos Dias, the man, not the ship – i do not envy you.

thanks for the Semester though

Kind Regards

Michael Fee

PIRACY on the Internet Ocean

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

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The topic of online piracy will always be a difficult subject. While it appears extremely complex – with issues both black, white and all shades of grey it is also seemingly entwined in our every lives, making it more difficult to have certain opinion without seeming hypocritical.

In the western world, what are most commonplace in regards to this issue are highly emotive advertising campaigns appealing to a western sense of guilt. In Australia this shift to guilt has occurred relatively recently from the previous campaign that assumed a lack of pirating knowledge from the public (HAVE YOU GOT WHAT YOU PAID FOR). Now the campaign centers around the destruction of the Australian Film Industry (What are YOU REALLY BURNING)

In his article Medosch attempts to frame piracy in a positive light through a specific third world conceptualization. Medosch explains that “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” – in this he goes on to explain that despite its financial intention piracy still plays a crucial role in delivering certain material to people who otherwise it would not reach (Medosch 2008 pg 79-85).

Obviously this is a very context and culture specific instance as you would be hard pressed to argue that we in Australia or anywhere in the western world where unable to access cultural material through the legal channels. This said there are definitely instances in other nations where this argument is extremely valid and indeed, despite the overreaching financial goals of piracy the good that comes from it is still valid.

Expanding Medosch’s example into my own recent experience in Vietnam I can see such cultural capital reaching places it would have otherwise not via the route of piracy. In almost all hostels I stayed a computer was set up with pirated software allowing both the tourists (which is less significant) but also the owners and staff to access the Internet. Most interestingly was the use of Facebook by a group of young men I met in Hanoi. Facebook, due to the communist administration of Vietnam is a banned site because of its networking and community nature the power of which the world has noted most notably in recent events in Egypt. Yet through pirated software and Internet access all these men where users of the online site and subsequently are now my Facebook friends. The positive of this should not be misconstrued, as a win for the westernization of all nations yet to ignore the fact that Facebook is apart of global culture would be stupid. Once again it is all about choice and freedom and if piracy can lead to more options, freedom and choice being placed before marginalized people then the positive, in this instance will always shine through the negative (Medosch 2008 pg 79-85).

Reference:
Medosch, A (2008) ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’ Deptforth TV Diaries: Pirate Strategies London: Deptforth.

If everyone Screams, is anyone heard?

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.

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What is better, a few owners controlling the few voices or millions of voices all screaming at once? That is essentially the question that you face when comparing elite media institutions with the entire online sphere when considering the prospect of informing the public.

In one corner there are the dubious ownership issues. The Rupert’s and Packers of this world with politics and personal agendas, not to mention money making at the core of all news and entertainment.

In the other corner we are faced with anonymous voices far-reaching and vast with their own politics and personal agendas, but perhaps just less money at the core of their information.

But to be less pessimistic lets consider this comparison a little further. What is being asked here is that with the benefits that bloggers have, as Russell explains; independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity – can they inform better than traditional media sources (Russel 2008, pg 135 – 137)?

My answer to this, in a completely unconstructive manner is quite simply

–       Sometimes.

There is such a plethora of information on the web that it is impossible for there to be one outright answer to such a question, some bases of information are more creditable and receive greater “traffic” (Russel 2008, pg 135 – 137) but this is merely a symptom of all information and media and is certainly not a new development from online media – when some are trusted and popular some must subsequently not be.

What can be said about online media is that more voices exist or at least these voices are reaching more people – to what extent are they truly and widely accessible is another question as the online sphere although more inclusive is still very much a 1st world gentrified concern, similar in its problems to Habermaspublic sphere (established and maintained by a specific community).

Despite this we can see the positive element that such a winder spectrum of information delivered from blogs ahead of conventional media can provide for marginalized or specific voices, concerns and interests for there is far greater room for these issues to be addressed more fully (Russel 2008, pg 135 – 137). Subsequently it can be seen that it is not the mainstream, those who still find their home amongst the pages of popular newspapers and tabloids that see any benefit from the blogosphere.

Where once there was no space in conventional media for in depth discussion of each news issue and the idea of doing so would have been considered ludicrous, today, as long as there is one voice willing to type or Skype away that news will be shared.

One of the biggest issues in today’s media is that; yes there are multitudes of blogs out there dealing with niche entertainment and news yet it is inherent still in our culture that we have serious trust issues with the internet. It is still the central news sources most of us turn to confirm facts despite our knowledge of media ownership and agendas. Even down to the point of education where although most university degrees are built upon Wikipedia research it is still and may never be considered a credible source because it is not “traditional media”.

Reference:

Russel, A; Ito, M; Richmond, T; Tuters, M (2008) ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’ Networked Publics. Cambridge MIT Press.

Online Ranking – the lemming effect.

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’?

Considering Dijck’s ranking of online communities via a “participation ladder” from “active creators” to “inactives” it becomes clear how online ranking tactics may play a crucial role in the formation of online communities (Dijck, 2009, pg 93-95).

A central notion (fallacy perhaps?) to the internet in the 21st century via the Web 2.0 (Harrison 2009) structure and Axel Bruns concept of Produsage (Bruns 2008, pg 82-89) is that all online users are able to create, maintain and engage fully in online communities. The reality that things such as rankings (created by strict mathematical algorithms) play such crucial a role in the formation of online hives (Bruns 2008, pg 82-89) essentially strips power from the online users. Unless you are able to go back in time and be the first to use an online platform or indeed create that platform, when you, as a user arrive at an online community it is already formed. These communities already have themes or central genres that are prevalent and which are re-enforced by ranking which subsequently creates the home page content.

Considering the example Dijck uses of YouTube; it is clear straight away that this community is already formed from the moment you open the site – predominantly it is a amateur video site with a focus on comedy – yes that seems so straight forward but that is only because rankings and trends has normalized this as central to the community. This normalization creates a pre-made environment that appears user driven and created but that is essentially a series of lemmings continuously jumping one after the other into watching the same videos over and over again unknowingly re-enforcing the system and trend.

Returning them to Dijck’s concept of the participation ladder what chance do the majority of users really have in actually forming online communities if only such a small percent of them are active users (Dijck, 2009, pg 93-95)? Surely if ranking so strictly controls what is central to the page and its main community then those falling in to the roles of “collectors”, “joiners” and to an extent “critics” would only really be interacting within a very specific central genre or theme of that community. It is not so much that these users would feel unable to change or be an active user of this community but more that they would not even consider the changes or shifts they could be making because it appear so foreign due to what the page presents as normal through its ranking. Take once more YouTube as your example; there is nothing stopping you uploading a mundane family video (one with no funny occurrences) but because this does not fall into a category that is considered a trend of the site or that is ranked highly – you simply would not even consider doing so.

References

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

Bruns, A (2008) ‘The Future is User-Led: The pathway Towards Widespread Produsage’ Fibreculture Journal 11: 2008

Harrison, T. Barthel, B (2009) ‘Wielding new media in Web 2.0: exploring the history of engagement with the collaborative construction of media products’ New Media & Society 11: pg 155-179.

Pointless Blogs – But thats the point.

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”.

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Here I am, writing a pointless blog entry about how blogs are pointless, the irony does not escape me.

Of course Lovink is right, blogs are, at their core all about their creator. I perhaps would not go so far as to umbrella them all into this category and I certainly would not say they are management tools in fact I would far more comfortably support the point raised about “fabricating celebrity” – as central to the blogging culture in today’s society (Lovink 2007, pg 222- 223). Regardless of this however I do fully believe that in reality community is more a side effect of blogs than their central aim.

In the modern blogosphere it is all about online celebrity, do something first or do something right and be followed. Blogs, for the most part are not seeking others involvement beyond validation, and if they do seek involvement it is within the strict guidelines of the site as a means to boost that site and only further validate it.

In recent online history, be that years or months the blog stream has shifted once more away from an online diary format and into the publishing of the niche and the obtuse. The new big thing appear to be meme’s only further legitimising Lovink’s statement. Of course meme’s do essentially create a community or at least are carried through communities but this, once again is only a symptom – at their core is the hope of online celebrity. The example I would like to use is that of Chicks with Steve Busceme eyes. This image blog is everything it promises and nothing more – it is images of women with Steve Busceme’s eyes photo-shopped in place of their own eyes (its about now when self management is sounding like a wonderful use for blogs) the reality is that this sites only aim is celebrity and notoriety. Sites and ideas like this are beginning to dominate the web from planking to hipster mermaids it is becoming more and more about ego centric individual idea which Lovink refers to as the “network paradox” – “simultaneous construction and destruction of the social”. This idea is essentially (and extremely paraphrased) while everyone is off doing their own individual thing and only looking for peer approval – no one is communicating and the online community breaks down (Lovink 2007, pg 222- 223).

Perhaps this makes the issue appear far more serious than it really is, perhaps the issue is the eyes with which such media is being viewed. If we continue to view the new media through the lens of the old then of course blogs and other such online trends will seem futile and ultimately damaging to communication. But perhaps we need to change our perception and view planking and Steve Busceme’s eyes for exactly what they are and what they intend to do? What makes stupid, self-satisfying entertainment an inappropriate goal?

Essentially the value comes down to you, the end user to decide. If a slight smile is all a site aims for, if you click and smile, then it is successful.

The issue with arguments such as the one Lovink presents is that they are still cast within the realm of what is ideal in accordance to “traditional media” and subsequently will never find quality or substance in the blogging community (Lovink 2007, pg 222- 223).

Reference:

Lovink, G (2007) ‘Blogging, the Nihilist Impulse’ Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture. London: Routledge.