Friday, 5 April 2013

Everyone Can Dance!

Anyone who has ever said they cannot dance should be eating their words because when I see the hundreds or thousands of people that take part in viral dance videos online I know that there ARE moves simple enough for anyone to learn and fun enough to make everyone get up and dance! From Gagnum Style , to the Dougie , to the Harlem Shake (which I still don't technically consider a real dance), these videos have gone viral for a reason, and that is because everyone can join in the fun of doing them. What a great ice breaker and way to feel connected to people on the dance floor or around the world!

For my seminar class, a friend and I decided to participate in remix culture and create a comedic youtube video on the topic of viral dance videos. Please check out our video. Hope it makes you want to get up and dance!!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

ALIASupport: Last but not least, we'd like to thank social media


Today I want to talk about a recent event in my life that caused my own true realization of how incredibly powerful participatory media is. I will share with you the story that has taken place over the last few weeks of my life and you will come to better understand my newfound passion and appreciation.

I am a proud member of a truly inspiring hip hop dance team at Wilfrid Laurier University that is called ALIAS. Our name stands for, A Legacy to Inspire Achieve & Share. We only formed as a group in September and have since competed in two reputable university wide competitions: OUCH & BYOB . We did extremely well at both competitions, however, to me our placement does not matter, which is why, despite our overall success, I am leaving that information out of this post. The section of this story I would like to dwell on is specifically related to support, but not just any support, support through participatory media.

Approximately a mere week before we competed at BYOB 2013 on March 30th, our choreographer and mentor came up with the incredible idea of ALIASupport. The idea behind this was to use our  ALIAS hand symbol (which spells out ALIAS) in order to raise awareness of our team, our drive and genuine intentions to inspire, achieve and share in the dance community and beyond; most importantly, though, to get people in our community that knew about us to personally get involved in showing their individual support through taking a picture of themselves doing our hand symbol with a blurb about themselves. They were then to post their support on our ALIASupport page on Facebook for everyone to see.

The support that started to rapidly roll in after this was launched was unbelievable! By the end of the week we had received over 100 pictures!!! In the dance community, especially in the small Waterloo dance community, that is AMAZING. Moreover, when individuals and teams from other schools outside of Waterloo started taking part in this, it was most inspiring, as we understood this was a real movement that had affected more people than we ever thought it would. As sentimental and emotional as the thought of this makes me, reflecting back now, I recognize that this would have been impossible without the magic of the Internet and social media. The opportunities granted to us thanks to technology are truly remarkable. Moreover, the ability to motivate action offline, such as taking a picture individually or with a group, in order to support a cause you believe in or in order to feel like a part of something bigger by contributing something so simple goes to show us how people feed off of that online connection to others - be it around small town Waterloo or around the globe. The online public sphere and global village connects us on a level we had never known prior to social media. It allows for the cultivation of movements that have the ability to make a real small or large scale impact as a result of speed, ease of use and personal connections.

Having said this, I realize it is necessary for me to thank not just all of our contributing ALIASupporters but social media for making this support movement possible. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Monday, 25 March 2013

*Seeing WAS Believing: Breeding a Generation of Skeptics

Seeing is believing…. Or so that is the way it has always been in the past. Today, however, in an age of mechanical manipulation, our once most trusted sense has severely declined in worth.

The question plaguing this technological generation has become:
Can we really believe anything we see?

Is visual evidence today even worth anything considering how easily it can be altered? As a result of the incredible advanced technologies that exist today, manipulations can be so convincing that there is no way for the average person to recognize it has been changed in any way.  Take for example the baby-snatching eagle video that went viral. Only after receiving millions of hits did skeptics debunk the hoax that this video really was.

There are tons of examples like these seeing as the average person has access to devices, such as Photoshop, and 3D animation programs, necessary to engage in these kinds of manipulations. I took a seminar class in my previous semester (CS402 with Professor Finn) dedicated strictly to the topic of visual evidence. The existence of such a course in itself is proof that this is a topic worthy of some serious consideration.

In a world where citizens are an integral part of media and what makes headlines, there is often public outrage when they find out they are deliberately duped for the amusement of others. An additional example of an occurrence like this was with Lonelygirl15.  Unsuspecting audiences everywhere were fooled into buying into the seemingly innocent reality of this bored, goofy girl’s vlog only to find out she had an entire production crew behind the making of it and she was just an actress. Reactions to this ranged from disappointment to downright anger.

This goes to show that as much as we know we have to be cautious about what we believe on the Internet many people do still believe much of what they see and they expect personal blogs and vlogs to be genuine and truthful. Seeing as Lonelygirl15 is several years old now, I wonder if this has taught Internet users that anything from pictures to written blogs to personal youtube videos that appear genuine can potentially be frauds.

So…. If we can believe what we read, hear or see… what can we believe?

Looks like modernity is breeding a generation of skeptics..... 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The New Fan-Artist Relationship

My previous blog post (hyperlink essay) focused on the increasingly well known organization TED , yet I did not actually link to any specific TEDtalk. Therefore, this week I have decided to discuss one talk that assists in furthering the arguments set forth in my previous post related to the incredible opportunities the internet provides us with.
The talk I have selected to bring to your attention is entitled The Art of Asking , and it was presented by a female artist in the music industry named Amanda Palmer . Palmer discusses a creative idea that, prior to the age of the Internet, would have NEVER come to fruition. Concisely, Palmer discusses the unbelievable experiences and support she has managed to receive from her fans all purely thanks to social media and the affordances of the Internet itself. The web is essentially responsible for her continued career. Palmer’s record label dropped her band before it produced a record, therefore, she wouldn’t have been able to share her music with others without the Internet. The Internet enabled her with the ability to share her music technically for free. The reason I say technically for free is because despite the fact that anyone could download her stuff for free, Palmer requested that her fans make donations for the music. So instead of insisting her fans pay a set amount, this system allowed them to pay what they wanted for her songs- a concept which reminds me a lot of the idea of our new gift economy.
Regardless, in doing this Palmer was able to earn $1.2 million via Kickstarter from approximately 25 000 fans that preordered her album. This is the power of fan culture.  Artists produce art for them, therefore, especially in today’s global village they should be entitled to a say in this relationship between what they give and receive – Palmer provided them with this voice.
The fact that Palmer could be so successful in making money this way opens doors to a whole other way for struggling artists in the deteriorating music industry to make money. This notion of asking for donations to help proliferate the music and support the artist is fantastic. It embraces change rather than trying to fight it. Most importantly though, fans really feel like they are consciously, actively supporting the art of an artist they love. 

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Technological Affordance of the Internet: Recognizing the Power of Participation

All technologies have affordances. Anything from guns to email to blogs are created with a purpose, one which has a powerful psychological effect on us since it provides us with a behaviour option we previously lacked. These technological affordances have created a shift in the way individuals participate in society and, therefore, how society functions as a whole. Looking at several examples, while using TED as my primary one, I will convey how the affordance of the Internet has transformed our thinking and provided us with the recognized ability to have our voices heard in this interconnected global village and stimulate change like never before.    

Before delving into how TED assists in facilitating such change, it is necessary to acknowledge several important features of the Internet. To begin, we must recognize how ANYONE has the ability to communicate to the masses today. New technology, specifically social media, require participation. The “web” or "net" cannot function without it (hence the name). Whether participation be through Youtube, blogs, Twitter, Facebook… individuals can communicate to an unlimited audience. In principle, “‘anyone’ or ‘everyone’” is able to be a journalist today. There need not be a reliance or sole trust in news media anymore. This is what participatory media is about. Through engagement in this realm, citizens acquire skills needed to be a part of what Henry Jenkins’ calls participatory democracy.

The logic behind this is, with skills acquired through participatory media, such as fan culture creations, like Star Wars remakes, people can creatively speak up and gain attention in social and political arenas. For example, look at the viral protest mashup,  George Bush Don't Like Black People, produced after hurricane Katrina in an effort to raise an important political issue relating to race.  Similarly, TED, using the reputation it has built online, utilizes the Internet as a tool to find “ideas worth spreading” and raise awareness of them. TED talks happen live, but they all get posted on Youtube and their website, allowing it to reach countless more people. There are an abundance of insightful voices and messages floating around the Internet; TED acts as a filter for these. 

Clearly, the public sphere Habermas spoke of has moved from the coffee house to the computer. The new public sphere (and blogosphere)  offers greater equality since participation is not limited to the bourgeoisie. It embraces a gift economy in which we , as equal creators, all give our creative or intellectual work (such as music covers or political views) away for free in exchange for the work of others. Monetary exchanges are being replaced by information and entertainment.

So how do these affordances change the way we think and act? From the aforementioned examples, I would argue that people actually believe they can make a difference today. They have the unique ability to be heard free of charge. TED was built on that core idea. Their purpose being to filter and promote ideas they believe should go viral. Everyday there are new viral videos or articles, often short lived, such as Kony 2012, but nonetheless, public attention grabbers. Evidently, the Internet creates a world of possibility; One in which ordinary people can create and stimulate change. That’s the technological affordance of the Internet. You don’t need to be the President, or a movie star to get heard. All you need is the Internet… and maybe a Youtube account.

Welcome to the new age public sphere where anything is possible with participation. 
The world is at your fingertips.

Monday, 18 February 2013

“Um… Do I know you?” Part 2: Social Suffering

Social media, this word leads me to the assumption that those that are highly engaged in social media are, additionally, quite social in real life. Turns out, however, that there is a difference between social skills and social media skills.

In my last blog post I discussed the issue of Facebook Friends versus real life friends and how a single person can have two completely different personalities online and face-to-face. Stemming from that slightly frustrating discussion, were thoughts related to interpersonal abilities of people growing up in this age of technology. In pondering this I was overcome with concern for the generations succeeding mine whose social skills could potentially be drastically altered with the increased communication via technology as opposed to in person. Studies have already begun discovering evidence of the hindering of social skills in children growing up with new technologies. As I’ve mentioned, many of my own experiences have come to support this evidence as well, and clearly so have other bloggers.

            There are so many skills we gain from interacting with people in person, from picking up non-verbal cues such as body language, tone of voice, eye contact, etc. that I fear for the ability of individuals to develop the same types of relationships in real life that they have online. Online relationships deceive us into believing we are more social, and socially competent than we truly are. Relationships online, however, are “shallow” and often “superficial”. Yet the trend in social relationship building appears to be on the rise. Perhaps close friendships in the physical world won’t be as valuable in the years to come seeing as one can simply vent their feelings in a method “akin to diary writing” as suggested by Danah Boyd in her article “Blogging Outloud: Shifts in Public Voice” as opposed to spilling their feelings to their friends in search of advice.  Moreover, if they do so, these people can get seemingly honest, true, emotional (yet sometimes harsh) advice from readers’ responses.

Can this ‘diary writing’ be a real substitute for human interaction though? Will face-to-face social skills sink on a level of importance in relation to an ability to cultivate mediated relationships? Are computers man's new best friend?

Good news is at least writing skills should improve! Rite? Right? Write? Well, at least we’ll have spell check and online dictionaries … hopefully pens and paper will become extinct and computers will be allowed in exam rooms, otherwise I wouldn’t want to be the teacher marking those essays… 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Um... Do I Know You?

Media mediates our everyday lives. I believe we can all agree to that. That, however, is not entirely the topic of concern for me today. The topic I will be delving into revolves around the vastly different impressions people often make in live interactions versus interactions over some form of mediating technology (be it  FacebookTwitter , texting, email, etc.).

Does a simple screen give a person that much courage?
Who is the real self behind the screen?

     The majority of the time it appears that people have a serious personality (& confidence) boost when communicating through their technology. Not only are they more talkative, but they are also often funny and much more likely to request a get together in person. Is this why dating sites are so successful? - Because people feel they can show their 'best' selves (minus the nerves and stress of having to wonder if the other person accept or reject an invitation to get together) this way? But and here's the big but--- IS that their true self? Maybe it is their wittiest self because they have time to construct the perfect responses thanks to the backspace button, but, again, is that their true self? I have encountered MANY instances in which people via text or Facebook chat were seemingly extremely charismatic and not shy in the least, but upon getting together with them in person they become someone COMPLETELY different. A person I have never met before. Sometimes I wonder if they realize that? I say this because a day after getting together with them their technologically mediated conversations continue to be the exact same, as if they didn't just reveal their true colours in person.

     So my big question resulting from this is- are media helping or hindering social relationships? They seemingly have the potential to help them. For example, I understand for the boys it is especially hard to ask a girl out in person and the blow is much less powerful when it is felt through a screen. Realistically, though, who wants to expect to meet the person they've been talking to online or via text and then end up getting together with a familiar stranger? This is an instance where the miscommunication does not lay within the wording, but rather in their social skills, in their ability to hold up a conversation in person. Look at Facebook friends for an easy example of people behaving as though their relationships with certain friends are much more intimate than they truly are. Truth be told, we all have friends we view purely as our 'Facebook Friends;' those people we really only interact with through that platform. The typical reason for this being because in real life things just don't click as nicely. Are Facebook friends real friends though? Do they fulfill the needs of a live friendship or are you essentially just talking to your computer?

Would love to hear some opinions on this :) 
Thanks for reading!