Archive for the ‘Convergent Media Practices’ Category

Introduction

Convergence is defined by Henry Jenkins (2006) as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences.” The ongoing process of convergence is creating a more participatory society for the user by changing the dynamics of media technologies and opens up for new business-models for the industries, like it did with the idea of Transmedia. New technologies enable us to take pictures, record sounds, write and film, and because of the Internet we also have the opportunity to upload, download, remix and share content that are already flowing online. We have become more like “prosumers” (Mitew 2012) instead of consumers.

The audiences’ future is looking bright, but convergence also carries negative baggage. With these new technologies we have started to act as we please online, and thus a fight for survival between audiences and industries has emerged. In this essay I argue that convergence has affected the audiences’ use of technologies and respect for copyrights, the audiences’ choice of technologies, and the emergence of censorship due to the audiences’ use of new technologies. I will use Flickr as an example of technology throughout the essay.

Copyrights

The Internet and our new media platforms enable us to create mash-ups and remixes of the content online, and currently we are actively taking advantage of this. At the same time the copyright rules we have today are very strict, and because of our increasing level of participation the Media Industry keep lobbying for even stricter laws. Many users are frustrated with the copyright regulations, because the things that they create are removed from the web and sometimes the user even gets sued, but we should not forget that copyrights are a necessity and that they are made to protect our intellectual properties as well from being used as others.

We should think twice about using copyrighted material and give the industry another reason to fight for their content, instead we should embrace the solutions that are already out there. Maybe the media industry softens as time goes by, and realises that we are only using their work for new ideas and creativity. It is actually interesting to see how some users complain on copyrights, but still their own work is guarded and cannot be shared or copied.

Trey Ratcliff (2012) says “a pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world.” If we want to use other peoples’ content to create new material, we need to allow other people to borrow our content as well. By committing to Creative Commons (2012) anyone can use your content as long as they acknowledge you and ask for permission if it is for commercial purposes.

The photo sharing site Flickr has enabled Creative Commons licenses (Flickr 2012) for a long time and it shows how sharing and attribution can be practised. You can choose which images you want to keep as private and which ones you want to share with the public, this way you provide images and videos for other people to use freely. With an open sharing ideology your content can travel all over the world via other peoples’ blogs, newspapers and online albums, and can even result in actual revenue! Although there will always exist thieves we must believe that most people are honest and willing to pay for the work of others, and most importantly this must start with ourselves and our own ideologies.

Generative platforms

A media platform today is expected by the user to grant us constant and immediate access to the world. It must enable us to multitask, and provide a place where everything can be produced, stored and shared. If a media platform cannot follow up on all of these “minimums”, it will be replaced by a more innovative technology. These technologies have “become interfaces to the flow of content” (Mitew 2012) that comes with convergence.

What I think few people realise is that we should choose wisely when we decide which platform to use for participation. There are several industries that fight to regains control of both users and content, and thus construct the platforms to do so. Facebook and Apple are both examples of media platforms that are locked appliances. Everything you post on Facebook are owned by Facebook, and by using it you agree to give them the rights to distribute “your” content as they wish. Apple provide a “walled garden” (Mitew 2012) for its users, a garden where Apple has already decided which applications you are allowed to use, and it is not possible to explore anything else.

I believe that in an era where we are fighting for Internet freedom and milder copyright laws, we should we be aware of ideologies where the Industry controls everything we can and cannot do. There are other media platforms which operate in freer environments, where the users own their own material and are even welcome to explore and improve the operation systems. In a Top Ten (2012) review of Flickr it was said that Flickr “want to get photos and video into and out of the system in as many ways as [they] can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home computers and from whatever software [the users] are using to manage their content.” In addition to this, Flickr also invite users to construct their own applications via their Application Programming Interface (API) (Flickr 2012).

I believe that by choosing a media platform or technology which is open and generative, we build an environment for ourselves where the flow of content between us and our media platforms flow freely.

Censorship

We are “the people formerly known as the audience” (Jay Rosen 2006), and with our media technologies and platforms today we now have the ability to use these technologies to freely express our opinions and share our knowledge with the world, it is the closest we have ever been to democracy. Social media platforms are increasingly popular in our daily lives; even the industries are finding new and innovative ways to implement these platforms into their businesses. For advertisers sites like Facebook act like a buffet of what is popular and what is not (Li 2012), some newspapers welcomes citizen journalism through to their news via blogs, images and videos (CNN-IBN 2012), politically Twitter has been used efficiently to organize demonstrations in the world and lately news have travelled faster via social media sites than anything else.

As it get more difficult for the media conglomerates to maintain control, they now try to lobby our Governments for a more definite form of control; censorship. Bills like the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (CISPA)keep sneaking up on us, claiming that they are there to protect against online theft, but the intended result is to set us back as pure consumers by gradually blocking social media sites which will be blamed for hosting infringing links.

Our new media technologies and platforms can be used for creative purposes, but now more than ever we must remember what they are fundamentally constructed to do; spread messages. Several social media sites have demonstrated against these bills, Flickr for instance, was part of the campaign where they blackened, or censored, a lot of the pictures online to demonstrate what SOPA would look like. So far, the Internet and its users have won the battles, but given the different interests between the media conglomerates who wants to be the sole producers, and us who wants to participate, the war is far from over.

Conclusion

Flickr is a photo sharing site which enables its users to share “objects, knowledge and resources” (Weiss 2005). It was one of the first websites constructed to function in the web2.0 era, and for a very long time it was a revolutionary website. As a member on Flickr you create a profile, you connect with friends and people you choose to follow and you can comment on your own as well as other images. Flickr is a brilliant host for pictures; it is perfect for sharing and having your images discovered, but lately the photo sharing site seem to suffer by a lack of innovation (Dimech 2012). As the ongoing process of convergence continues, we are constantly presented to new technologies and innovations, and the contest is hard between the components. The one which is the most user-friendly and up to date wins the audience. I find it ignorant to choose a media platform or media technology solely on its design and functions, when there are many other important things that should be considered: Are you the owner of your own content? Are you allowed outside of the “walls” of your technology? Is your media platform supporting CISPA? Sites like Flickr, supports our freedom as users and that ought to be a strong argument for choosing it.

I have been blogging for a few months now on this topic of convergence and digital media (that would be the post under the bcm112 category). As blogging is relatively new to me I thought I would have a read through my old posts to see which ones I liked the most. This is what I decided and why:

“John Stuart Mill would have been outraged…”

This post was probably the first of my blog posts which I was truly happy with. It took a few trials to get the feel of what was “my kind of writing”. I wanted my blog to be professional and formal, but still carry my signature.

The issue of “open” and “closed” media platforms is something I find particularly interesting. That engagement made it easier to reflect upon the discussion and of course then, to express my own thoughts of it. We are moving into an era where privacy and participation will become crucial factors, and this topic gave me a chance to describe just how important it is, and how easy it can be to ignore it.

“The Power of Transmedia.”

In contrast with the post above, this blog post actually turned out good because it was totally new to me. For the first time I was presented to transmedia and it expanded my understanding of the media industry. As I was writing, earlier experiences of my own came to mind, and it was incredibly interesting to realize that what I had thought of as unprofessional mistakes from the producers, turned out to be deliberate and a part of a master plan!

The idea of transmedia is fascinating and a clear sign of industrial convergence. It will be exciting to see where it takes us.

“The rise of the Nerds!”

This is a topic with many opinions and many will disagree with mine. I am far from an expert on “nerdom”, but I love how this issue allowed me to explore my own thoughts and ideas. There is an interest of this new upcoming trend; what did it burst from? Why now? Who is a nerd and who is not? There are many theories but not yet clear answers. Currently there is no right or wrong.

I found it very exciting to sit down and figure out my own opinion on this one. I had to discuss it with friends, my boyfriend and even myself to come to the conclusion that I think this trend follows the continuous emergence of new technology and fashion. There is definitely more to it as well, but the transformation of “Average Joe” into the regular nerd is in my opinion a matter of trends.

When you think about the internet, and especially social media, it is really perfectly made for women. Relationships, cooperation and communication are qualities that are almost implemented in women’s nature so one would think that the web could be a woman’s playground. In some cases it really is, like Pinterest, where 97% of the users are female! Despite this point, there has been an ongoing discussion about women’s place in the virtual sphere. Where are the women in the online decision making roles?

Today I was asked to mention as many influential online male persons that I could think of and several names came to mind; Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Sergei Brin and Larry Page (Google), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) and Julian Assange (Wikileaks). Just after that I was asked the same question again, but this time I was to think of female influential persons, and honestly, I could not think of a single name. There is a clear online gender gap today, but personally I choose to look at it more positively. We have a long history of women fighting for equality, and there are still reasons to debate, but I will say that women have had great success as well. The situation for women in the corporate world is strengthen and is still getting stronger. Gradually there is a change in people’s perceptions and ideologies of “the woman at work”, this is just something that does not happen overnight. It takes time, but I believe that in the future we will see several influential women competing with the men online. I believe that in 2012, women and men stand equally in their choice of education, I think that, in addition to the above, it is a matter of interest that men choose computer science, technology and engineering more often than women do.

But in connection to gender online there is a greater concern to me. Several female media personalities like Miriam O’Reilly and Nina Power, Karalee Evans and Melissa McEwan have lately taken a stand and expressed their frustration regarding misogyny online. As unbelievable as it may sound in our era, there are actually a few men out there who do not think that women should have a say in the world, they have a hate and a dislike of women. They express this by commenting on women’s blogs and other online platforms in a disgusting manner. The comments serve an attitude that bias to undervalue women. Their goal is to threaten women to silence, and in many cases the threats are violent and sexually violent.

A problem with an online world is that people can appear anonymous, this also an invite to an open domain where everyone can freely express themselves, but how open should it really be? We would not approve for misogyny to occur in the real world, so we should not approve for it online. Several women have closed their accounts in fear, some have chosen to remove the option of public commenting on their posts and others are moderating and filtering the comments. This is not right! What happened to the space which we talk of as the closest we have been to democracy?

Being a firm believer of user generated content I will again pt my trust in self-regulation. We have to remember that it is only a few men in the world who share these attitudes, the majority of both men and women would go against that kind of behavior, voting their comments down and away. Maybe if we considered having an even more open domain, where users are able to vote comments up and down, and even like and dislike them, these comments would end up in the bottom of the comment-thread, giving them no attention and displaying them as the least interesting comments. Although the comments may still occur, the self-regulation system would in itself act as online gatekeeper and diminish the credibility of the threats.

I love convergence! How can I not, I mean, convergence is bringing so many new and exciting opportunities to the world. According to Henry Jenkins, convergence changes the use of technology, influences our cultural and global interactions and understandings, shapes new ways for industries and potential economies and even changes the way we act socially! Convergence enhances hybridity and globalization, and a participatory culture which looks like it can be the closest we have ever been to democracy.

It sounds very promising. But is it all good? There are many issues one could choose to discuss for this question, and today I have chosen to write about social convergence and citizen journalism. At this very moment I am writing a post in my very own blog, the blog is public and there are no filters or code of ethics which controls what I choose to publicize. If I have something to add to the news today, I can, and if someone wants to read it, they can. Social convergence is making multitasking very easy and gives us the opportunity to get information and news from several places almost at the same time.

Back in the days Walter Cronkite used to finish his news with his own signature-line: “That’s the way it is”. Being a highly trusted broadcast-journalist this was his way of telling his audience that “this is what the news is today”, and it probably was. But as time has gone by, I believe that we have been met with several incidents that have made us not trust mainstream media as much as before. Politicians being corrupt, ownership of media giving us unbalanced and biased packages of news, I think these things made us embrace social convergence even more. Instead of putting our trust in mainstream media, we now put our trust in collective intelligence.

The negative side of us being able to produce news and share it to the public without being actual journalists is of course that there appears a lot of information on the web which are not true; it is hard to filter what is correct and what is not. There are no code of ethics, like journalists strive to write by and I believe that we need this code of ethic. Henry Jenkins talks about “civic media” instead of “citizen journalism”. He says:

“Civic media, as I use the term, refers to any use of any medium which fosters or enhances civic engagement. I intend this definition to be as broad and inclusive as possible. Civic media includes but extends well beyond the concept of citizen journalism which is so much in fashion at the moment.”

The use of any medium which fosters civic engagement. That means us, as well as mainstream media, and talk-shows, and TV-shows, and politicians and everything that spreads information. Instead of “being at war” with mainstream media, thinking that it controls all information, we should seeze the opportunity and cooperate. Citizen journalism might give us an opportunity to express ourselves, but what are the chances for us reaching a world-wide audience? Cooperation might lobby our stories more than we can do ourselves. Marcus O’Donnell, subject coordinator of journalism at the University of Wollongong, suggested that having news being told to us, as well as being given a space to participate, might be as democratic as it can be. I would have to say that I agree.

Reference:

O’Donnell, M 2012, Citizen Journalism, audio recording of lecture, BCM112 Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 30 April.

Kirby Ferguson suggests in his blog that “Everything is a Remix“. Collecting material, combining it and transforming it are the same skills or methods that are used even if it is the first, second or fifth time it is produced. When I come to think about it there are really not much originality left in new movies, songs or games that we are introduced to us today. Take for example Michael Jackson’s “Wanna be startin’ something*, have we not heard his phrase in a number of songs now? Akon, Rihanna and Glee have all used it to create either a new remix of the song or created content for a musical. This is not illegal, it is just to demonstrate that remixes are produced all the time and that not much is original anymore. What is worse is when material is produced and claimed to be original when it is not, which I have just learned that Led Zeppelin might be responsible for with a lot of their songs.

There is also the music genre; breakcore, or breakbeat hardcore, which is quite unique when it comes to copying and creativity. Breakcore tends to take use of rearranged breakbeats to create new music. The history of breakcore goes back 40 years and roots in gospel, funk, hip-hop, rave, jungle and d’n’b (Whelan 2012).

A breakbeat is a certain part of a song, often a very popular or exceptionally cool part of a song, which is taken out of its original song and used repeatedly and excessively in another. The song *Amen Brother* by Jester Hairstone (1963) has the most used drum sample in the world (Whelan 2012).

At the same time as breakcore broke out, in the late 90’s, filesharing and mp3’s also spurred and the three of them together made a cooperative team! Between 2002 and 2008 filesharing were responsible for 40-60% of all usage bandwith (Whelan 2012). This is of course a huge problem coming to copyrights. I actually find the whole music genre of breakcore a bit infringing! It is weird that there can be a whole music culture out there, producing music based on other artists music, while other people are being asked to remove their content from for example YouTube because a song is being played in the background, unintentionally. Maybe it is a matter of fair use, but I still find the rules a bit blurry and variable. Another thing I thought of, is if Kirby Furguson is right, that everything is a remix, we really ought to rethink our copyright rules.

Reference:

Whelan, A 2012, Rip/Mix/Burn, lecture, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 23 April.

Are geeks becoming chic? Or are they just experiencing their 15 minutes of fame? It seems to me that during the last years being nerdy is a style that has been adopted by not only the regular man in the street, but also by musicians, politicians, actors, TV represents and more. What I wonder is; has “nerdom” really come to stay or is it just the latest fashion?

I must admit that when I think of a nerd I picture the stereotyped geek from movies or TV shows, like this guy:

Napoleon is my ultimate geek “look-wise”, but he is not really smart enough to qualify is he (he doesn’t have any computer-hacking-skills!) But if he is not good enough, Steve Urkel is!

So are these guys chic? Are they what we all want to be? Suddenly everyone is confessing to be nerds! I agree that “nerdom” is taking a huge part of the entertainment-market these days, but I am not sure it means that it is “cool to be geeky”. Fashion is a funny phenomenon and has yet again transformed something epic into something trendy. It is not the first time this happens, not long ago we all wanted to be hippies. We all had “old” clothes, braided long hair with hair bands!

Fashion is also a lot of things, it is not only clothing! Fashion goes hand in hand with what is trending, and today technology is definitely trending! I think that this is the answer to the rise of the nerds. The rapid developments within technology have signed us all up to “nerdshipness”.

What used to be the geeks’ playground of games, comics, hardware and software has now become the world’s biggest playground of smart-phones, pads, tabs and apps! It is no longer just geeks who like to fiddle with their brand new technology, now we all spend a lot of time figuring out our last new toy; what ringtone do I want? Any cool new apps? Have I got all my facebook, twitter and social media accounts synched into my phone? Oh! I need live wallpaper!

As some things become popular, other industries tries the same coolness, it is like the snowball-effect. Seeing that everyone today are becoming technical geniuses the fashion industry follows it up and makes us look like nerds as well. Like they did with Justin Timerlake.

It is not only clothing, but also the movie industry, gaming industry, musicians, they all follow up and guides us into an era of “nerdification”.

But I would say that there is a divide between Steve Urkel and Justin Timberlake. There is a clear difference to what is geeky and what is fashionable-geeky. The fashion industry’s way of adapting to “nerdom” is by using accessories like glasses, bow-ties, and t-shirts saying “nerd”, but they cannot change the personalities of people. Even if I suddenly wear glasses, I do not change into a total geek with a PhD in technology.

I think the judgmental attitude towards geeks has eased. We do not see much of the “Can’t buy me love”-scenarios anymore where it is the popular versus the geek, but I believe that there is a gap between actual nerds and wannabe-nerds. Today the culture of “nerdom” is cool, but the ideology or assumption of a typical nerd is not.