In choosing a Creative Commons license for my blog, a number of issues influenced my decision. My main concern was the preservation of my blogs values whilst keeping it free to be shared and used as much as possible. I first addressed whether or not there was any commercial value in the redistribution of any of the content posted on this blog. As this blog is for my own academic purposes only, the probability of someone using my ‘intellectual property’ for their own economic benefit is quite small. However, on the off chance someone does find commercial value in my content, my license covers that basis in order to maintain my the ideals of my blog. To further uphold these values, the ShareAlike condition of my blogs states that those who use my content can only distribute their version under the same Creative Commons license as mine. The license I have chosen for my blog enables others to use my content whilst sufficiently controlling to the extent I feel necessary.
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.
The independent nature of a blog allows the blogger to be unrestricted in their writing. This is due to the fact that unlike commercial news outlets, they only have themselves to answer to. There is an ‘increasing skepticsim towards mainstream media’ (Russell et al. 2008. p. 67) due to the belief its corporate structure strongly influences the content of the media it produces. The Political Economy theory supports this notion that commercial media is largely affected by the political and economic interests of the corporations that own the media outlets, and that this directly affects its content (Boyd-Barrett, 2009. p. 186). By eliminating this, it allows the blogger to inform the public without focusing on the facts that are in accordance with the interests of the media owners. Individually bloggers only reach relatively small amount of people, but their collaborative power is a more effective way to inform the public than mass media.
It could be argued that without the power mass media possesses to reach a broad audiences, bloggers cannot inform enough people to be more effective. Russell (et al.) believes web ‘publishing tools and powerful mobile devices’ coupled with the growing distrust of commercial media has led to an increase in readers to ‘become active participants in the creation and dissemination of news’ (Russell et al. 2008. p. 67). This increase in participation could eventually match the broad coverage of mass media as society moves towards a new media age. That is not to say that bloggers do not already possess power. Russell (et al.) draws on Benkler’s ‘The Wealth of Networks’ to cite the how networking journalism exposed voting machines in the Diebold Election (Benkler in Russel et al 2009, p. 69). Bloggers criticized the voting system for being inaccurate, which led to its partial decertification in California and the altering of voting policy in several US states (Russell et al. 2008. p. 69). The potential bloggers have to collaboratively inform the public and have an impact is unrivalled in current corporate mass media.
When bloggers information is looked at individually, content can often be bias due to bloggers tendancies to have strong opinions relating to public issues. However the collaborative nature of blogs means that there are enormous amounts of bloggers who have slightly to drastically different opinions that act as a balancing agent for information. For example a search in word press for ‘carbon tax Australia’ produces over nine thousand results (WordPress URL). A reader can easily access a number of opinions from different bloggers to get a broad idea of the issue. This collaborative method of delivering information through a distributed network is the new age of media.
It most effectively informs the public as it enables independence in writing due to the absence of corporate motives, as well as balances and checks to eradicate the bias with the large number of individuals participating in the distribution of news.
Adriana Russell, Mizuko Ito, Todd Richmond and Marc Tuters, ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, p. 43-75.
Benkler, The Wealth of Networks, p. 237-245
Boyd-Barrett, O: Approaches to Media: The Political Economy Approach. (1995) New York, Arnold.
WordPress ‘carbon tax Australia’ search URL: http://en.search.wordpress.com/?q=carbon+tax+australia
This blog ‘Vacay Vitamins’ is one of my favorite music blogs. It follows a fascinating theme where each blog post is a ‘vitamin’ dosage of music. I find the fact that each dosage is tailored for different moods rather attracting. It is an interesting example of how blogs market themselves in order to attract followers.
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’?
YouTube offers and promotes a facility where people can be involved in online communities based around people’s tastes. According to Van Dijck these communities are not only formed by user involvement in YouTube, rather YouTube’s interface ‘plays an important role in maneuvering individual users and communities’, and has certain ‘coded mechanisms’ that ‘steer individuals towards a certain video’ (2009. p. 49). These mechanisms are the likes of ranking tactics, which involves categorising of videos according to ‘most viewed’, ‘top favorites’ and ‘top rated’, which are recording and produced with the assistance of algorithms (Van Dijck, 2009. p. 49).
Ranking tactics manipulate individuals by endorsing videos that have been ‘trending’ (popular or viral videos) throughout YouTube. Videos with rapidly increasing play counts are further promoted by YouTube’s interface, causing its popularity to grow exponentially. YouTube communities then gather to around the video, or in many case’s the uploader. This can be exemplified by the famous ‘Double Rainbow’ video. This is essentially a video where a man has an arguably amusing reaction to the formation of a ‘double rainbow’. The video burst into the publics attention, and thus a community was born. A community of followers began to make their own parodies of the video, fan clubs on social networking cites were formed and the man himself was made a YouTube celebrity.
Another way in which communities are formed by ranking tactics is through the promotion of videos according to the users tastes. YouTube records users previous activity and produces popular videos that relate to the users YouTube history. My own discovery of Andrew Vadrucci’s video series under the label ‘Vadrum’ is an example of this phenomenon. Vadrucci is a drummer from a metal music background that posted videos of his self drumming to theme songs such as the ‘Super Mario Bros’ them and ‘The Simpsons’ theme as a novelty. As a drummer myself, YouTube suggested I watch the Vadrum cover of the Super Mario Bros theme. Eventually people the likes of me began to follow Vadrum’s video posts until a community was formed. Due to ranking mechanisms, Vadrums community has expanded as a result of individuals being directed towards his videos. Today Vadrum’s community is so vast that he has released an album of classical songs with himself playing drums to them, predominantly advertised through YouTube.
Although the YouTube interface and its mechanisms play a substantial role in the development of online communities through the promotion of viral videos and suggesting videos according to users tastes, users remain an integral part of this functioning. These mechanisms are entirely relient upon and users commenting, rating and most importantly, watching videos (Van Dijck, 2009. p. 49). These user activities create the basis on which rankings are made. Thus it must be clear that ranking tactics only assist in the formation of online communities not cause them.
José van Dijck, (2009) “Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content” in “Media, Culture and Society” No 31 (2009), p. 41-58
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 this argument while giving an example online.
Piracy has evolved in society to become an illegal act that people believe is acceptable to commit due to perceived harmless nature and the low risk of getting caught. This is comparable with the likes of jaywalking; everybody does it from time to time, some more than others, as it is commonly considered an acceptable breach of the law. Naturally this is having a detrimental effect on the film and music industries especially, also impacted on the software industry. Instead of buying music, movies and software, pirated versions of these are all available for download from the internet or for purchase from ‘black or grey markets’ (Medosch, 2008. p. 81) for a fraction of the price.
Although it has been outlawed and is depicted by authorities as something that is ‘bad’, piracy allows those who ‘capitalism treats merely as cheap labor can use piracy as a counter-hegemonic force by giving them a chance to empower themselves through obtaining information, knowledge and sophisticated cultural productions’ (Medosch, 2008. p. 81). Essentially, for those that are disadvantaged economically and don’t have access to facilities, piracy can provide them with the necessary resources. This can be exemplified in the ‘favelas’, where pirated software, hardware and bandwidth are set up in the slums of Brazil, giving people ‘access to services and information which allow a long marginalized population to realize their civil rights and get better chances on the labor market’ (Medosch, 2008. p. 82). In the case of the ‘favelas’, piracy can been viewed as a good thing, as it ‘fulfills culturally important functions’ (Medosch, 2008. p. 81).
Piracy helps to bridge gaps between the privileged and the disadvantaged by breaking down economical barriers. These barriers prevent people engaging in such areas as the arts. However with piracy, it becomes possible to simply google search programs such as ‘Photoshop’ or ‘Pro Tools’ and download them for free as torrents. Websites such as ‘The Pirate Bay’ provide a facility for people to upload torrents for people to download. Here is an example of the software torrents for Pro Tools and Photoshop:
For aspiring musicians who cannot afford to buy a recording software program, pirated copies of Pro Tools allows them to record their music. Likewise with Photoshop, photographers can access a facility which otherwise would not be available to them.
Although the examples I have given depict piracy as a phenomenon for good, it must be made clear that a major portion of the market is run by criminal organisations, whose intentions are entirely economic based. Whilst these pirate organisations indirectly help the disadvantaged by breaking down the barriers of capitalism, they are also strongly correlated with other black market criminal trades such as drugs and weapons. Thus, piracy must be deemed an industry with shades of grey.
Armin Medosch, ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the real Currency of Cultural Production’, in Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Piracy Stratagies. London: Deptforth TV, 2008, p. 73-97.
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 (embed it into post). Specify chosen argument in your answer.
Nick Couldry states that the gap between “ordinary citizens and celebrities can only be bridged when the ordinary citizen gains access to the modes of the mass media” (Burgess and Green, 2009. p. 22). YouTube is an outlet that enables this access to mass media. Burns believes that YouTube’s strengths are its ‘widespread use’ and the connectivity of its ‘community features’ (Kelli S. Burns, 2009. p. 63). This has led to many YouTuber’s posting their own videos in the hope of their ‘creativity’ leading them to fame. In many cases fame has been achieved, however it is true that for the vast majority of those who have reached that level prominence, they still “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Burgess and Green, 2009. p. 23).
There are two different types of YouTube celebrities that I would like to discuss. The first is such cases as Justin Beiber and Rebecca Black, whose fame for their respective ‘talents’ has transcended from the YouTube community. Rebecca Black came to prominence when she uploaded the music video to her song ‘Friday’ (written and produced for Black by Clarence Jey and Patrice Wilson of ARK Music Factory). After going viral due to its notoriety as a terrible song and reaching almost 155 million views on YouTube, Black has become a worldwide celebrity. The song ranked at number nineteen on iTunes and reached its epitome when musical television show ‘Glee’ covered the song. Although the Black came to prominence from her own efforts on YouTube, her enormous fame is result of mass media fueling her reputation. Black is completely reliant upon mass media to maintain her celebrity status.
Secondly is that whose fame is almost entirely dependent upon their continual contribution to their YouTube video collection (Burgess and Green, 2009. p. 22). An example of this is Keenen Cahill, who is famous for his videos in which he lip syncs mainstream songs. Cahill began with self-shot videos in his bedroom of just himself such as this one:
From his persistence to create more videos (despite much criticism in comments on his videos) Cahill has become a star. Drawing the attention of some big name celebrities, the likes of 50 Cent and David Guetta have even made appearances in his videos.
Although Cahill remains within the celebrity system, his stardom is comparable with Burgess and Green comment about Chris Crocker: “no matter how spectacularly bizarre his performances may seem, his ongoing status as a ‘star’ YouTuber can only be achieved by ongoing participation in YouTube” (Burgess and Green, 2009. p. 23).
Despite fame coming from their own creative endeavors, celebrities such as Black and Cahill are still subject to the mass media controlled celebrity system. Other ‘self made’ celebrities will achieve YouTube fame, and like most of those before them, they will fall from prominence when they no longer remain within the ideals of mass media.
Keli S. Burns. Celeb 2.0: how social media foster our fascination with popular culture. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2009.
Jean Burgess & Joshua Green, ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’, in YouTube Online and Participatory Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009.