/blog

So this is the end of the MECM blog it seems…

Blogging has proved to be an interesting exercise, but I’m still pretty cynical about it ever making it as the new 7pm news.

There are better ways to stay informed, and there are a lot of lousy blogs out there.

But not this one, of course…

Is YouTube a New Celebrity System?

Week 9

A) 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).

Discuss ONE of these arguments giving an example of a YouTube video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=031Dshcnso4

This is one of my favourite YouTube videos at the moment, kindly linked to me by one of my friends at college over Facebook chat.

It’s one of a hell of a lot of special effects videos developed by one ‘Freddiew’- Freddie Wong. He is a creator of professional special effects who runs his own filmmaking company, but has achieved fame through mastering the YouTube machine. His videos capture the imagination of nerdy gamers and casual net surfers alike, ranging from Call of Duty in real life videos to the hippy theme of the aforementioned clip.

His success could be defined in a number of ways; he himself is noted to have highlighted the importance of defining types of success on YouTube1. One way to measure it would be the amount of views his videos have. This single video here has over 6 million views- an astounding effort by YouTube standards. Of course though, this is only one video of many on his YouTube channel. Wong can be seen as a prime example of a YouTube idol.

So has he remained within the system of old-school celebrity? Probably. The success of his business is surely his greatest achievement, and successful business through fame has always been the end product of being a celebrity, at least according to Burgess.  Wong’s celebrity status is given longevity by the economic success of his ventures. He remains famous because he is funded by cinema companies and news reporters2, but is there more to his celebrity status than just this? Perhaps it could be argued that the sheer amount of views he receives on YouTube could be sustained, and that for as long as he could still produce new content for YouTube he could remain within the celebrity sphere.

However, views aside, the true measure of YouTube success still seems to be getting a photo in a tabloid magazine or newspaper, or landing the dream job because of the skills shown online. Hence, it is a stretch to say that YouTube has reinvented the system of celebrity; instead, it is more of a stepping stone to celebrity status. Success has to be more than just the number at the bottom right of a YouTube video; if it can’t translate into something more material or economically beneficial, then it does not seem worthy of celebrity status.

Sure it’s easy for any amateur to chuck up a video on YouTube; and some obviously do rise to the top of the view-fuelled heap. But that isn’t where the journey to celebrity ends; it lacks legitimacy until the rest of the mainstream media starts to embrace the rising star. To be a bona fide celebrity, people want glossy photos in magazines, mentions in gossip sections and reports of million dollar deals being done.

So Freddie has made it with the help of YouTube; but he, and any other celebrity on YouTube, has not escaped the good old fashioned mainstream media.

 

Works Cited:

 

  1. Wong, Freddie “Freddiew’s Blog”. 2011. Accessed 6/6/11 <http://www.freddiew.com/>
  2. Schiesel, Seth- “Video Game Matches To Be Televised On CBS” The New York Times. 2007. Accessed 6/6/11 <http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0A16FB34550C7B8EDDAE0894DF404482>

What is piracy achieving anyway?

Week 11

B) 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).

Piracy can be seen as a relatively new phenomenon if we look at it in its current incarnation. As internet speeds have increased, so too has the rate of music and movie piracy. It is commonplace amongst many digital natives to pirate media because it is easy and yields virtually no consequences to the persons pirating media. Because it has become so easy to attain music, it should follow that all people are more culturally involved because the economy is no longer in control of cultural phenomena. On a darker note, the rapid change in how music is distributed has forced companies distributing music to come to terms with a new culture of consumers who will rarely pay for music.

Nonetheless, it can be argued that the culture that has been inspired by music pirates is not one that is completely detrimental to music. Take the example of Radiohead; a band that always seem to be finding new ways to distribute music. The first major commercial move that saw them move into a new field of music was entirely accidental; their upcoming album Kid A was leaked onto the budding Napster file sharing site for all to consume. Everyone in the industry predicted that this would mean that people would no longer purchase the album; they had already pirated it.

But it appears piracy is a more complex culture than was expected. Not only did people still buy the album, but it was done on such a scale that their album reached #1 in the album charts in Britain and the US; keep in mind folks, this is in a time where hip hop and RnB was the dominant musical force.

People who listened to this album had time to listen to it many times before its official release; easing them into what was quite a shock for most of their fans (yes, myself included). So, by the time it finally hit the shelves people were left in no question as to whether their money would be well spent or not; they were happy to fork out for a product that was guaranteed to be good.

So perhaps we are not a scummy culture just because we turn to piracy to get our fix of music; we are simply more cautious with our purchases. Piracy is a good way to preview an album, but if we still like the artist enough, it’s not a stretch to buy their music. It’s also nice in terms of aesthetics; being able to hold the album in your hand, flick through the lyrics and artwork and enjoy higher quality encoding are all factors that influence us as consumers into looking past the torrent to something more real; something that piracy will always find hard to replicate; authenticity.

 

Works Cited

Hey, check out my new header!

Took this photo at Princes Park one bleary-eyed 6am frosty morning. Just thought I’d make a bragging post about it.

Twas the eve of the dreaded due date…

And I still have a couple of posts to address. I want to focus on piracy and the implications for mass market and ponder why it hasn’t left the cultural impact it should have on users of torrent sites.

I also want to look at whether or not YouTube is an empowering device that allows people to break from typical celebrity form, or whether they’re just becoming another part of the overall celebrity system.

This is gonna be a long night…

Week 8: Naturalising the web page

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).

Discuss while giving an example of a website.

This seemed like as good a time as any to start upgrading the layout of my blog, so I figured I might as well kill 2 birds with one stone and answer a question about layouts and visual metaphors while I’m at it.

WordPress allows its users to customize the appearance of their own blog to give it a more personal feel. Interestingly enough, many of the features that allow it to do this do rely on older forms of visual metaphor- photography being one of the parts particularly relevant to my blog.

I was quick to learn that WordPress allows this kind of customisation only to a certain degree; for the higher level of control that CSS editing allows, only previews are permitted unless users pay to upgrade. There are still a number of themes available to all users that still allow use of nice textures, colours and photographs.

The one I’ve opted for here shows an image of books as the header. The use of photographs is an obvious example of  older media being used to complement web design. The CSS coding of this page has allowed an image to be inserted, giving readers the impression of a more natural feel to the blog.

However, this is clearly not a new technology- photography has been around for nearly 300 years if this source (http://photographyhistory.blogspot.com/2008/01/giphantie-prophecy-of-photography-and.html) suggested by Marcelo Lima is to be believed.

Photography is one of the strongest examples of an older technology that refuses to be left behind in this technological age. It is still one of the most effect media for quickly communicating messages, ideals and emotions.

The text that appears on this blog is set out in a manner governed by CSS code. Where the paragraphs start and finish, the font size and font colour are all elements governed by this. But text itself represents a technology that has been around for ages- the web has had nothing to do with its development. Text is absolutely crucial to making the web experience simple and familiar to users, and without it almost no web page could function. It serves as such a powerful naturalising influence on the page that most users would not even consider it as a technology- allowing the insidious influence of text to work with presenting users with a  webpage that is simple and intuitive.

Buttons like the “Search” option displayed in the toolbar to the right of this web page serve to elicit a natural response from users; to press the button. Physical buttons are not only natural, but quite appealing to human curiosity. They encourage us to interact and command our attention. They work effectively to entice users into clicking them and provide another natural and intuitive element borrowed from older technologies. Few web pages operate without them.

Web pages rely very heavily on older visual metaphors to entice users in a way that is comfortable and easy to navigate through.

Week 7: The Blog and Self-Management

Week 7

B) 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 giving an example of a blog.

http://www.rickygervais.com/thissideofthetruth.php

Although it is true that the majority of blogs that go relatively unnoticed are purely forms of self-management, more famous blogs like this one by Ricky Gervais achieve their status because they are a form of PR and provide entertainment for readers.

Gervais’ blog uses humour while still allowing followers some insights into his life as most blogs do; it is clear that he is not saying enough to suggest that he is ‘managing himself’; celebrities understand the risks of showing too much.

Instead, it is designed as a tool to manage his fanbase; management of the self seems to come a distant second. This blog provides a space for followers to come together in a community- most would be fans of his televised comedy shows, hence a number of the references and jokes are only understood by those within that community.

Hence, it is hard to accept Lovink’s position that blogs are more often used as a tool of self management if we look to the most famous and followed blogs.

On the other hand, there are vast amounts of unknown blogs peppering the internet; like my very own blog here.

If it were not for the fact that this was set up for academic purposes, there would be no doubt that I would begin blogging chiefly as a tool for self-management. However, the writing style of a blog would require that I provide something that readers can identify with; after all, a blog is not quite a simple journal- the difference being that a blog is written with the understanding that it will probably be read by others.

Hence, attempts to form or join a community are evident in most blogs; use of jargon, pop culture references and jokes are all included in them because the writer wants an audience, or wants to be a part of something.

It becomes clear that for a blog to be of high quality or appealing to others, it needs to move away from being a tool for self management. It needs to do more than just consolidate the masses of information laid out in a person’s life, and instead ought to give readers a reason to peruse. Blogs should, and often do consolidate an audience, not an individual’s life.

It seems odd to call blogs a tool of self management given the medium they are presented in. They are published to the internet for anyone to read, so it would indeed be ironic if they were only used in a self indulgent fashion. Of course, they focus on one person; all any writer can do is write about what they know. However, there is definite potential for blogging communities to form purely by virtue of the medium that blogs take; if this is not always the case, it is simply the cause of the author’s discretion.

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