Lessons from ‘Teapotting’

Anne DeManser, Assistant Principal at Mortlake College where ‘Teapotting’ started, made some interesting points in her interview with abc.

“The learning curve has been so sharp for the kids that its worth it. Our young people are pretty much all on social media. They’re all involved in it.  For most of them it’s the first thing they look at when they wake up in the morning and the last thing they see when they go to bed. So as teacher I think we have an ethical responsibility to guide that and provide some ground rules for them to actually specifically teach them the way to use that in an ethical way. For most of them they don’t have adults in that online space at all and I don’t see that online space as being any different to a face to face space, its just another place kids go to interact with each other. So if we can use that in a school setting to do good things and to teach them how to act responsibly then that’s what we should be doing.

I think it’s been a really valuable exercise for everybody. We’ve learnt lots about the internet. We’ve learnt a lot about human nature and I think most importantly we’ve learnt that if you want to do something positive you stick with it and don’t let the negativity override you.”

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“We are probably the last generation that will make the distinction between being online and not being online.” (Blake-Plock 2010)

Journalism

Having been asked to pick the five most important issues within journalism today, I was interested to notice that the first was Online journalism.

My argument, that the most important issues within journalism are those that nurture democracy and deliver fast and constant news to the public, is supported by the existence of online journalism.

These are some interesting quotes from Stephen Lamble in ‘News as it happens: an introduction to journalism’:

‘Newspaper websites have joined broadcasters and their websites in reporting news as it happens-often as it is happening.’ pg. ix

‘Our new electric technology that extends our senses and nerves in a global embrace has large implications for the future of language… Today computers hold out the promise of a means of instant translation of any code or language into any other code or language. The computer, in short, promises by technology a Pentecostal condition of universal understanding and unity’ (Marshal McLuhan, 1964) as cited on pg. x

‘The pace of evolution of digital communications technology continues to accelerate. It has changed and continues to change our lives. We go online to shop, bank, study, pay for holidays, research, arrange dates, share thoughts and images, keep in touch with family and friends, and obtain our news.’ pg. x

 

Teapotting

The contagiousness of internet phenomenon has recently struck me more than ever. Though I had always appreciated the apparent ease of making something go ‘viral’ I had never witnessed it so close to home, until the latest ‘teapotting’ craze came about.

The ‘planking’ idea took off recently, where people have been posting pictures of themselves on the internet  in a plank position on random objects. I must admit I was a little behind the times and found myself wondering what was going on when friends kept posting such pictures on Facebook. But now, friends from home have begun ‘teapotting’. Like planking, they simply take photos of themselves standing in the ‘little teapot’ position in various places. The two women that started it are teachers at my local High School in a town with a population of about 1500 people. The Facebook group has over 2,600 ‘likes’ and they are being noticed my people everywhere. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Teapotting/202791626424736

The Herald Sun noted it as ‘the safer alternative to planking’, which was ‘so last week’.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/teapotting-the-safer-alternative-to-planking/story-fn7x8me2-1226058019812

Local newspapers have also covered the story http://www.standard.net.au/news/local/news/general/forget-planking-its-now-all-about-teapotting/2167749.aspx?storypage=1

A google search brings up the Facebook page 6th in the search results.

And Sunrise morning show noted the craze, calling a ‘new international craze sweeping the world’.

The fact that this social experiment by two unknown people has become so popular is demonstrating not only human’s love to become a ‘sheep’, but the way that the internet allows a contagious spread of information. The web allows individuals to connect unknowingly as well as purposefully with thousands of people around the world.

http://www.annedemanser.blogspot.com/

Digital Natives

There are many things that we take for granted in our lives.

With the plethora of technological advances that have happened in recent decades, it is easy to forget the massive shifts that have occurred in our society. It is easy to dismiss how far we have come in such a short amount of time and importantly, it is also easily forgotten how far some have fallen behind.

Since studying media and analysing the ways in which we use it I have become astounded at the differences between my own parents in terms of their technological development.

My mother is perhaps more advanced than myself. She is a school teacher and currently studying her Masters degree, with much of her studies being focussed on interactive learning and technology. She had a laptop before me and an iPhone before me. She also beat me to a twitter account, blog and iPad. We frequently communicate through Facebook (yes I have allowed my parents to friend me) and her ability to text message, complete with emoji’s and lexicon is unparalleled. When I am at home you will often find my Mum, Step-dad and I all sitting on our respective laptops, all logged on to Facebook, sometimes sending links to one another and watching youtube clips. This is not forgetting my seven-year-old brother who would most likely be playing on Mum’s iPad or on his own iPod touch.

In her mid 50s, Mum is definitely ahead of the majority of people at the same age, however it does not make it less significant to think about the ways in which we have evolved. Though we understand the generation of 18-25 year olds currently being ‘Digital Natives’ it seems that people are apt migrants also.

My father, a farmer, has gone in the opposite direction. He does not own a computer and I literally doubt he would know how to turn one on. When I go to his house I get no reception on my phone and almost become edgy that I can’t check my Facebook. Dad and his wife both have phones that would commonly be referred to as ‘bricks’, having two tone screen colour and no built-in camera.

The gap between the two is astounding.  Since they have been separated, my Mum has moved with the technological times and evolved with it, whereas my Dad has refused to. The differences represent how scarily fast the world has travelled in the last 10 years.

This is an interesting article by Marc Presky, ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’:

http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20%20digital%20natives,%20digital%20immigrants%20-%20part1.pdf

 

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Week 9 Post: YouTube and Online Video

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).

Burgess and Green (2009:22) quote Couldry who states that ‘rags to riches stories and Reality TV alike reproduce the distinctions between the ‘media world’ and the ‘ordinary world,’ which ‘disguises (and therefore helps naturalize) the inequality of symbolic power which media institutions represent’. The current example of this is in the advertised ‘Unhatched’ competition run by YouTube in conjunction with the comedy channel. It encourages people to upload funny videos, entering a competition to win $10,000 a show on the comedy channel. Some might say that this demonstrates the ability for individuals to transcend the line between YouTube sensation and bona fide celebrity. However, Burgess and Green state that examples such as this ‘do not in themselves realize the myth of DIY celebrity so much as they demonstrate its limits.’(Burgess & Green 2009:23). Instead of a ‘transfer of media power’ (Burgess & Green 2009:23) occurring, the ordinary systems of celebrity are simply shifted to the medium of YouTube and therefore forcing these YouTube celebrities to ‘remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media’ (Burgess & Green 2009:23).

Pop sensation Justin Bieber is an example of someone who has come to fame as a result of YouTube videos. He was discovered by a music manager in 2008 and soon became signed to a record contract. His album went to platinum, and in three short years he has become one of the biggest teen stars in the world. Though the fame that he has achieved indicates a move from the amateur level of video posting to a higher level of celebrity, Bieber is still within the realms of mass media. He is controlled by the existing music and media industry, rather than something new and unique.

Keenan Cahill has also been popularized through YouTube. He has not achieved the level of international fame that Bieber has, however his webcam videos of himself lip-syncing popular songs have garnered much attention. Combined, his videos have attracted more than 100 million views. He has also appeared on late night talk show Chelsea Lately http://au.eonline.com/on/shows/chelsea/index.jsp in the US which averages about 900,000 viewers per show (New York Times, 2010) and most recently recorded a video in which rapper 50 cent comes into his bedroom and lip-syncs his own song with Cahill.

This level of fame is similar to that of Chris Crocker who is mentioned by Burgess and Green, who say that ‘Crocker’s ongoing success as a ‘star’ YouTuber can only be achieved by ongoing participation in YouTube’ (Burgess & Green 2009:24). While Cahill has expanded to the medium of television and talk shows, he ultimately flourishes within the confines of YouTube. The example of 50 cent’s appearance shows the limits, as he uses the forum of YouTube rather than anything outside. Ultimately, his fame and celebrity is restricted to the medium of YouTube.

A 2008 article by The Telegraph also indicates the very limited celebrity that youtube brings. While there are exceptions like Justin Beiber, most remain unheard of in a larger media sphere. Though youtube fans may see people such as ‘Beardyman the human beatboxer, acerbic fashion critic William Sledd and free-hugs pioneer Juan Mann’ as ‘just as famous as Tom Cruise or George Clooney’ (Beaumont 2008), their celebrity remains in the constrains of this site.

 

Works Cited

Burgess, Jean and Joshua Green, ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’, in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, pp. 15-37.

Beaumont, Claudine, ‘Youtube: Top 10 Celebrities, the rising stars of Youtube’, The Telegraph, 26th November 2008. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3527671/Youtube-top-10-celebrities.html&gt;

< http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/fashion/11handler.html > New York Times retrieved 05-05-2011.

Week 4: Participatory Cultures

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.

Since the inception and rise of blogging there has been increased debate about its ability to override elite media institutions and become a more informative and democratic source of information. It has ‘added a new dimension to the production and consumption of news journalism around world'(Adams 2006:1) which has produced fear in existing media organisations. Media students and the public have pondered Russell’s question (Russell et al 2008:67) in order to establish the future of the media industry and discover how the public can be most effectively informed.

The argument that blogging develops a more democratic media forum is a strong one. The editorial independence that allows bloggers to write about what they want when they want increases their ability to inform in a non-bias manner.  This works to overcome the problem that has been increasingly evident within elite media sources that skew news in terms of political opinion and personal agendas within elite ownership. ‘Gatekeeping practices have the capacity to create gaps and silences, giving voice only to those already holding power’ and therefore are ‘counterproductive to journalisms primary purpose to create an inclusive and diverse space for conversation between members of society about issues affecting their lives’ (Adams 2006:2). The influence of media magnate Rupert Murdoch on the news distribution within News Corporation has been highly publicized. He was a great supporter of George W. Bush Jnr. in American politics, as well as being known as a follower of the coalition in Australia.

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2004/07/b122948.html

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1067

This tie between politics and media demonstrates a steering of new distribution and, in turn, an obvious decrease in the ability for democratic news to be created.

Because blogging has a collaborative approach and each person has greater freedom of speech than that allowed in a large news corporation, there is greater scope for democracy to be achieved. In this sense, there is evidence for blogging being a more successful informer. Russell also mentions that this collaboration counteracts the financial resources that large newspapers have to gain information from government and corporate sources. Despite not having the pulling power to have questions answered, there is still the ability to uncover important stories, with the example of ‘network reportage that exposed the inadequacy and corruptibility of Diebold Election Systems voting machines’ (Russel et al. 2008:69) used by Russell.

Crikey.com is an example of an online independent publication that, although not a blog, emulates many of the functions a blog. This is because it does not have the influence of large corporations telling them what they can and cannot write about. Amber Jamieson (2011), a journalist at Crikey, says that she has ‘never ever’ been told how to write a story. She also says that because Crikey acts as a kind of watchdog over other media organisations and people leak things to Crikey, other journalists have sued the publicatons, something that does not normally happen.

One of Crikey’s main topics is media, which encourages democracy through it’s watchdog function.

However, the audience that blogging has is more limited than that of media elite and institutions. Only 28.7% of the world has access to the Internet and therefore have access to blogs (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm) . This 28.7% also then have to actively seek out blogs in order to consume the information that they offer.

I agree that bloggers’ ‘editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity’ (Russell et al. 2008:67) aids their influence as a democratic and informative source of news. However, the accessibility of mainstream news produced by elite media and institutions reduces the ability for blogs to become an effective vehicle for world-wide news distribution.

 

Works Cited

http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm > sourced April 25th 2011

Russell, Adrienne and Mizuko Ito, Todd Richmond and Marc Tuters, ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Nazys Varnelis (ed.) Networoked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, pp. 43-76.

Adams, Debra (2006) Journalism, citizens and blogging. In Proceedings 2006 Communications Policy and Research Forum (2006), University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Australia.

Crikey.com.au

Jamieson, Amber (2011) Interview 23 May 2011, Writing Journalism Lecture.

Other Interesting Articles:

http://pa.oxfordjournals.org/content/59/2/366.shor

Munge, Michael C. Blogging and Political Information: Truth or Truthiness?, Public Choice. Vol. 134, No. 1/2, Blogs, Politics and Power (Jan., 2008) (pp. 125-138)

Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell Introduction: Blogs, Politics and Power: A Special Issue of Public Choice, Public Choice, Vol. 134, No. 1/2, Blogs, Politics and Power (Jan., 2008) (pp. 1-13)

Scott Wright, (2009) “Political blogs, representation and the public sphere”, Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 61 Iss: 2, pp.155 – 169

Week 3: Debating Web 2.0

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’?

A community is something that every individual hopes to belong to. Though once more commonly understood as a group of people that might simply live in the same place, a community has now become a much broader term that can describe a group with the same interests and point of view. In relation to the media, ‘community’ often refers to a range of groups, ‘some of which resemble grassroots movements, but the overwhelming majority coincide with consumer groups or entertainment platforms.’ (van Dijk 2009: 45).

A major component within a community is the combination of giving and taking. Each person contributes ideas as well as harnessing the knowledge of others and gaining from others’ contributions. In online communities there is great opportunity for giving and taking, for being a producer and well as a consumer and user. What Jose van Dijk discusses is the fact that often the relationship between producers and consumers is uneven because there are relatively few active creators of content. Indeed, ‘it becomes readily apparent that ‘participation’ does not equal ‘active contribution’ (van Dijk, 2009:44). What this then means for the consumers is that the ‘community’ may be skewed to cater for certain individuals, often those that are actively contributing.

The example of YouTube shows the prevalence of ranking diminishing the ability for a true ‘community’ to be developed. The Terms of Use of YouTube say ‘Remember that this is your community! Each and every use of YouTube makes the site what it is, so don’t be afraid to dig in and get involved’ (van Dijk 2009:45). It is clear from the statistics outlined by van Dijk (2009:44) that not every one does ‘dig in’, and instead a lot of people are left to consume the information that is provided for them. The American survey that van Dijk (2009:44) references shows that over 80% of Internet users are ‘passive spectators’ (33%) or ‘inactives’ (52%).  When YouTube ranks clips, showing fields of ‘recommended’, ‘most popular’ and ‘trends’ on their home page communities are constructed and driven by what is delivered to them instead of what their individual communities’ interest might be. Through coding mechanisms the site administrators steer consumers in the direction of particular videos that therefore increase a certain ‘taste community’. This decreases the prevalence of true community of smaller groups with similar interest and increases the likelihood of there being one large community in which individuals feel less connected and likely to contribute as well as consume.

Personally I have experienced this feeling of becoming part of a community that I may not otherwise associate with. While this can be a good thing, the way that I passively select videos to watched based on their popularity and the opinion of others develops a culture of ‘following’ instead of making something new. The prevalence of viral social media videos shows that people watch things because others do. A video most likely receives most of it’s hits simply because someone has seen it in the ‘recommended’ list of videos, rather than them having a genuine interest in it and wanting to be part of the community which has developed around it.

Works Cited

Jose van Dijk, ‘Users like you? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content’. Media, Culture and Society 31 (2009):41-58