Week 11: Piracy and Production

June 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

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).

Discuss ONE of these arguments while giving an example online.

Medosch (2008) suggests that piracy provides society with access to information and cultural goods, that otherwise they could not obtain. Therefore, those who inhabit a society where cultural productions are limited, or they are unobtainable because of the lack of funds, are granted access to such information through piracy. Here, access to information is a form of empowerment for those who otherwise are excluded from an important cultural practice. Piracy is heavily entwined within the ever-present discussion of Creative Commons (CC) and as Medosch (2008) argues, is somewhat limiting for those who are not opposed to reproduction but who are not abject to some form of ‘appreciation’. Medosch (2008) argues that in agreeing to a CC licensing structure, one is signing away any possibility of financial gains. It is here that Medosch suggests that all artists (of any form) are connected through the production of artwork, language and the symbolic realm, and therefore, copyright laws become a superfluous restricting structure. However, I cannot whole heartily agree with Medosch’s ideology of connectedness. If all products created by  artists, software designers and filmmakers are all co-creations, then when does one ever provide appreciation? And thus, could one suggest that piracy is a part of this co-creation?

Piracy, as previously mentioned plays an integral role in many small pirate industries. Most Australians have ventured to our closest international paradise, Thailand, and therefore I conclude that many Australians have personally witnessed and experienced the piracy industry that often overwhelms tourists in Thailand and other nearby asian countries. Consequently, Medosch’s arguement that “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (2008, p.18) is emphasised. Here I do not attempt to distinguish between pirated DVD’s and pirated software, as both products provide a similar cultural practice for society. It seems unfair to deny a particular culture of such products due to capitalist forces. Medosch (2008) argues “in a world of global free trade, those who capitalism capitalism treats merely as cheap labour can use piracy as a counter-hegemonic force by giving them a chance to empower themselves through obtaining information, knowledge and sophisticated cultural productions (p.81).

Now to the more negative approach, which centres on the morally and technically appropriate distribution of culturally produced products. Although filmmakers, software designers and artists do deserve some credit for their work, I do believe that a more open structure, as offered by the CC licensing scheme ticks all boxes. Artists and alike will be credited for their work, but it also allows for distribution. Medosch (2008) contends that he cannot see this licensing legislations as an answer to all copyright-copyleft arguments.

In conclusion, it is often noted that piracy is surrounded by many controversial arguments which centre on the concept of stealing. If CC was enforced then people would be less likely to ‘steal’ content which is restricted through copyright laws. Although numerous anti-piracy advertisements have been created in an attempt to instil a sense of guilt within an audience, society has come to accept piracy as a part of everyday life.

References:

Medosch, A (2008). ‘Paid In Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, in Deptforce TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies, London: Deptforth TV pp.73-97

 

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Vernacular Celebrities

June 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

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).

Some rights reserved by cukuskumir

Burgess and Green (2009) suggest that YouTube has become a major player in the mainstream media landscape due to significant press attention, and although this attention has not necessarily been complimentary, it nonetheless has created a YouTube sensation. Within the media, YouTube has been framed in two very distinctive ways: as a lawless repository that invites a deluge of amateur content or as an influential competitor in the new media economy (Burgess & Green 2009). Inevitably, the popularity of YouTube has lead to greater discussions concerning the YouTube ‘celebrity’ and their creative efforts. Burgess and Green (2009) suggest that the common thought that raw talent, coupled with digital distribution directly leads to a celebrity status, is centered on the recent influx of amateur videos. After typing “YouTube Celebrities” into the YouTube search bar, I was surprised at the number of YouTube videos that had been made concerning the YouTube celebrity.  Who knew that the celebrities of the YouTube world actually knew that they were celebrities?

Answer: all of them

The amateur video craze is based on the mythologization of YouTube as a vehicle for stardom as it provides ordinary citizens with a way to “broadcast themselves into fame and fortune” (Burgess and Green 2009 p.22). Nick Couldrey (2003) suggests that “the distance between ordinary citizen and celebrity can only be bridged when the ordinary person gains access to the modes of representation of the mass media, making the transition from ordinary worlds, to media worlds” (p.22). Thus, it is interesting to note that it appears as though YouTube has recognized this notion, and is, like a business should, capitalizing on this belief. YouTube celebrities can only maintain their celeb status through ongoing participation in the YouTube community (Burgess & Green). Here the limitations of the DIY celebrity is revealed.

Graeme Turner (2004:2006) purports that “increased representation of ordinary people as potential or temporary celebrities in the mass media represents the ‘demoticization’ rather than the ‘democratization’ of the media” (Burgess & Green 2009).  Additionally, even though an ordinary citizen may become celebrities through their own creative efforts, there is no automatic transfer of media power, and consequently they will remain indefinitely within the system of celebrity native, controlled by the mass media (Burgess & Green 2009). YouTube has its own system of celebrity in which popularity does not conform with the dominant ideas concerning what is deemed as good or popular. Most often the most popular videos on YouTube are bizarre and notoriously bad or funny. Who can forget the Charlie Bit My Finger craze, or dare I say…Bieber?

These YouTube celebrities are not famous for being famous, rather they are stars who are only recognizable as stars within the YouTube virtual world (Burgess & Green 2009).  And so we are lead to a discussion on vernacular creativity.

Vernacular creativity is defined by Burgess and Green (2009) as “the wide range of everyday creative practices […] practiced outside the cultural value systems of either high culture or commercial creative practice” (p.25). Therefore the creative and distribution of amateur videos (vernacular creativity), functions as a means of cultural social networking, as opposed to a mode of cultural production (production being the key word). These creative videos do not attempt to create a new cultural mode, they instead are produced as an expression of creativity.

So if you want a DIY celebrity status, don’t worry about vernacular creativity, simply watch this:

References:

Burgess, J & Green, J (2009). ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’, in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Policy Press, pp.15-37

More than just a Promotional Tool

May 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

B) 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.


Some rights reserved by photographer padawan *(xava du)

When Lovink suggests that blogs are a tool for the management of the self, he refers to the blog as a mechanism for sculpting and organising ones image both in the virtual and the real world. Lovink suggests that blogs are a part of a much wider culture that celebrates and reinforces the celebrity on every level. Consequently, there has been much debate about the egocentric and subjective nature of content often associated with blogging. The importance of blogging is raised in concerns with what stipulates a ‘real’ blog. The conclusion here is that blogs which do not allow the commenting function are not ‘real’ blogs as they do not encourage the sharing nature which Lovink suggests is not centred on the interactivity, but is centred on the sharing of information, thoughts and ideas. Here Lovink suggests that comments pose a threat to bloggers reputation, and thus disrupts the merit-based popularity system. If one disables the commenting function, then one doesn’t have to concern themselves with the “0 comments” or the influx of spam that may taint one’s virtual image. Through this manipulation of one’s blog, the self is managed. If you hide the fact that you have zero comments, you also hide the fact that your blog is unpopular and thus your blog and your own image are maintained (Lovink). However, in disabling this function one ignores the ‘conversationalist’ style of blogs that David Weinberger reduces them to. Weinberg goes on to suggest that blogs are “not even primarily a form of individual expression” (Lovink, p.222). However, I disagree, there are thousands of blogs posted everyday whose sole purpose is to express either one’s desires, fears, talents or creativity. If this is not considered “individual expression”, then what is?

http://everythingburger.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/burger-365-cake/

This blog is entirely devoted to food obsessions, it doesn’t attempt to inform its readers, it is solely an expression of the author’s passions and desires. Lovink argues that blogging has become a web of useless bickering, where everything can be classified as noise. Perhaps some blogs posted are useless and are simply for entertainment, but can we reduce them to ‘noise’? It may even be suggested that Lovink is beginning to deny ones fundamental rights of the First Amendment (or at least tell us how we should be utilising it).

Lovink suggests that blogging, because of its conversationalist structure, could also be termed  ‘groupware’, defined by its group processes, and is supported through software. It then may be concluded that blogging functions as a social structure, which allows people the converse about ideas and thoughts (Lovink) thus encouraging social interaction. Blogging may also attempt to encourage this socialisation through blog roles, which create a particular circle of connected people, not dissimilar to a group of friends at school. Through both the members and the number of members you have on your blog role, one projects their self-image to others in the virtual world.

It is clear from Lovink’s article, that he is being quite critical of the use of blogs as he suggests that they are merely a tool for self promotion. This position fails to recognize the community based and individualistic atmosphere that is instilled in the blogging world. Lovink continues, suggesting that blogs are largely made up of ‘snarky’ language which only serves to provide readers with witty sarcasm and cheap laughs. However, this generalisation is out-dated. Today, the blogging world has embraced a much more sophisticated approach to citizen journalism, where witty humour (although it still remains) somewhat takes a back seat to travel blogs or food blogs which serve to educate or inform readers of the same persuasion. Here the community based structure is emphasised and an online culture is created. People who have similar interests to other people can subscribe to each others blogs, comment, and add suggestions, or simply feel validated. Its a two-way street, people provide, and people take, and therefore blogging should not be simplified to a tool for self promotion.

References:
Lovink, G. ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp.1-38

Hyperconsciousness and the Facebook ‘Friend’

May 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Some rights reserved by carrotcreative

After reading the latest edition of The University of Melbourne’s magazine, Farrago, I came across a very appropriate article by Tom Whitford entitled “A Social Experiement in Social Media”, which discussed the hyperconsciousness that is fuelled by the Twitter, Facebook, andMyspace (initially) craze. Whitford states that after feeling left out he created a Twitter account, only to find himself obsessing over which theme to choose, whilst constantly thinking about what his peers would be thinking/judging.
After feeling pressured to post a pun filled 140 characters, Whitford makes reference to a recent article published in The Age, written by Suzy Freeman-Greene which discussed the effects of Facebook on our socially-networked world. Freeman-Greene suggests that the more time she spent on Facebook, the more she started to believe that her ‘friends’ had a more exciting and valuable life that she did, and as a result she was left feeling depleted and insufficient. This, although a sad thing to admit, is a common feeling. As people post or check-in at fantastic and impressive locations, one can only feel left out as they sit at home in isolation on Facebook, wasting time. Thus, Facebook becomes a popularity contest based on how many ‘friends’ you have. Therefore, our representation of ourselves on the screen, will always remain distant from our true selves. The flattering  photos uploaded, the cool check-ins and the befriending of hundreds of people you merely recognise are a facade, a facade that your happy for your friends to see, but is this really what friendship is? Freeman-Greene’s article clearly demonstrates how in todays socially-networked world, our idea of what a friend is, is quickly altering. And as a result, Whitford deleted his Twitter account, expressing “life is what exists outside the Twittersphere, outside Facebook”.

References: 
Whitford, T. (2011). “A Social Experiment in Social Media”, Farrago ed.4

Freeman-Greene, S. (2011). “The Folly of unquestioning belief in Facebook Friends”, The Age

Restrictions, Hello?

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Although opinion is an important aspect of blogging, there are some opinions which breed negativity and somewhat take advantage of the free and open structure offered.

After recently discussing the efficiency of old media versus new media, I came across a blog which, although published by a prominent PhD student, is entirely subjective, and where factual information has been manipulated or omitted entirely. This provides a perfect example which opposes the common argument that blogs are efficient in their delivery of information.

Yes they are accessible and collaboratively produced, but they only provide limited restrictions in the information or opinion that is produced. In most cases I would argue that this open format enables consumers, however, the line has to be drawn somewhere. In some cases the somewhat unrestricted nature and the lack of authority present within the Internet breeds negativity and extremism. It becomes apparent more and more each day just how easy it has become to slip inappropriate material through the cracks that make up the security and regulatory structure of the Internet. Here the merit-based popularity system of blogging websites proves ineffective. Who is to decide what is deemed as a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ blog? Certainly there must be some sort of authority amongst these blogging enabled websites, who determine what information is appropriate for consumers. This could be a dangerously slippery slope to an unrestricted promotion of extremist opinions, which go somewhat unnoticed.

Essentially, I question whether free speech and open formats provide a positive platform for ‘produsers’ to present an opinion, or whether they simply provide a platform where any nonsense can be leaked into the web that makes up the Internet (for example the Wikileaks issue).  Should there be greater restrictions on what bloggers present to the virtual world?

Are record companies still relevant?

May 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Some rights reserved by melodramababs

This morning on Triple J, Ben Folds briefly mentioned the discourse surrounding the music industry and their somewhat decreasing importance for musicians in terms of distribution and recognition. Ben Fold’s stated that as a musician, free file sharing of music on the World Wide Web is essential for artist recognition. It is interesting to hear this point of view from an artist even though it is commonly assumed that artists are against the free distribution of music because it is said to negatively effect profits for both the musician and the record company.

Internet websites such as Myspace Music are becoming increasingly important for musicians in terms of free distribution. Not only does Myspace Music widen the listening audience, but it also increases musicians virtual presence on the internet.

The question is whether free distribution of music is more beneficial for musicians as opposed to traditional record companies?

Mainstream Media VS. Blogging

May 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

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.


Some rights reserved by zacheryjensen

http://www.flickr.com/photos/zacheryjensen/4690506544/


Russell et al. (2008) suggests that the convergence between old media and new media is reliant on and tied to the notion of  change, specifically in how power and information are distributed  throughout society and technology. 

Blogs are becoming an ever popular source of information for all areas including, news, culture, fashion and music, however one cannot ignore the popularity and credibility of the elite media. Blogs offer a social commentary, providing everyday individuals with both useful and random information in a user-friendly and accessible media. Russell et al. (2008) notes that the relationship between mass elite media and amateur media is governed by the internet, additionally he suggests that this relationship is being supplemented by peer-to-peer relationships. Thus blogging is not necessarily replacing traditional media forms, it is instead supplementing the distribution of media in a new and more personal form. As Russell et al. (2008) explains, these new media forms which once operated in the shadow of the traditional mass media, are now moving towards greater visibility and recognition as a form of cultural and vernacular creativity.

Efficiency:
Jenkins (2006) suggests that the convergence between old media and mew media sees media companies utilising many various channels to inform, broaden markets and to promote revenue, whilst simultaneously, amateur producers are learning how to use and manipulate new media technologies in order to create a sense of control around their content and to broaden their ability to inform more consumers (Russell et al. 2008). The ideals which surround this new media culture centre on the freer flow of ideas and content, and consequently new media and old media forms begin to reinforce each other, creating a closer relationship between producers and consumers. For example, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), utilises both new and old media outlets. The Wall Street Journal maintains a newspaper, but also offers its readers an internet based platform (see link). Perhaps this suggests that traditional media forms are realising the potentials that new media forms offer its users.

Blogging:
Russell et al. (2008) is correct when he suggests that blogging is collaborative, independent, and based on popularity, and in this sense effectively informs its consumers through easily accessible, free and innovative outlets. Blogging is perhaps just as informative as its predecessor. Through the constant free flow of information and 24/7 accessibility, blogging enables consumers to access information at any given time. This aspect is perhaps its greatest achievement. Traditional forms of information distribution, such as the newspaper, are limited in its capacity to inform its readers around the clock. 

Results:
I don’t believe that there is a clear winner between old and new media forms. I agree with Russell’s et al (2008) contention that blogs inform the public, however whether or not they do this more effectively than elite media forms is still in question. Blogs inform their consumers around the clock in a constantly accessible manner, providing their consumers with a constant stream of information. Through the merit-based popularity structure, blogs gain their prominence through reader loyalty. In comparison, elite media structures rely on the masses in a one-to-many based system. In elite media forms, communication between producers and consumers is limited, where information is presented in linear form from writer to consumer with no over-lapping communication. Comparitivley, blogs allow and encourage communication between producer and consumer through a direct comment structure, where consumers play an active role in the content that is delivered. Although blogs more often than not present an opinion rather than an objective piece of information, the delivery is collaborative. However it is this collaborative structure which perhaps undermines the credibility of blog content.

In the end, it comes down to what one terms as an ‘effective’ delivery of information. Is it the accessibility, the credibility, or the way in which popularity is measured? Both elite media institutions and amateur blogging forms provide their consumers with information in two very different ways. However, blogging may just have the upper hand due to the constant flow of free information which is virtually accessible to anyone.

References:
Russell, A., Ito, M., Richmond, T., and Tuters, M. (2008). ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Kazys Varnelis (ed.). Networked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press pp. 43-76