Techno-intuition

Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228).

I think that the key to success with the creation of a new piece of technology is to make it as intuitive and easy to comprehend/learn as possible. That is, the key to mass-market success. There are plenty of examples of games and devices that are complicated to learn, but rewarding once you get the hang of them. I would argue that learning to type on a QWERTY keyboard is one of these things– it’s so counter-intuitive since the letters are in a seemingly random order. It was basically a mistake that we got stuck with such an inefficient letter-layout, but despite many attempts to invent new keyboards, the fact is that “no one wants to take the time and trouble to learn a new keyboard, especially if it isn’t convincingly superior to the old” (Darryl Rehr, 1996).

It seems though that Web 2.0 pioneers are in such steep competition that they are forced to make sure that their products/websites/devices are easy to use, due to the abundance of new technologies being invented all the time. And as I stated at the beginning, one of the best ways to engage your consumer is to make something accessible and useable. Indeed, with the permeation of technology into our everyday lives, people just want to be getting on with being busy and creating things, whilst having “almost perfect tools and services at their disposal” (Lialina, 2009).

People are comfortable consuming what is familiar to them, and there is also a kitch charm to having something technological be reminiscent of old media forms.

A good example for me would be the use of ‘notes’ and ‘sticky notes’ on Apple products as widgets and apps.

Macbooks come with notes on the dashboard, an alternate screen on which you can have other handy things like calculators and converters. Here’s my dashboard for you to see:

Something I notice about these notes as well is that they come with a very hand-writing-esque font, which I interpret as being yet another way in which new media cloaks and naturalises its features by “disguising them within those of older media” (Lui, 2004)

In addition to this, the iPhone has plenty of variations on the classic ‘sticky note’ idea, making use of the familiar convention of a brightly coloured square of paper on which you can write to-dos, lists, and anything else that you fancy.

Apps such as this one: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sticky-notes-pro-alarms-bump/id317468456?mt=8 make use of the classic notes idea but enhance it with features such as alarms and bump notifications, which make use of the fact that it is indeed a virtual note on a highly capable iPhone, and not just a piece of paper.

I think the entire touch screen of the iPhone/iPad model is incredibly intuitive, and this is one of the things that has contributed to its success. There is talk that the next generation of phones may involve ‘e-ink’ technology, and be flexible like paper:

While it is an interesting design, I don’t find it very natural to have to memorise a sequence of bend motions… I think that most people would take the touch-and-go nature of the iPhone any day!

References:

Lui, A., ‘Information is Style’ in Laws of Cool: Knowledge, Work and the Culture of Information, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 195-230, 2004.

Rehr, D. (1996). Why The QWERTY Was Invented. Retrieved June 2, 2011, from The QWERTY Connection: http://home.earthlink.net/~dcrehr/whyqwert.html

Lialina, O. “Vernaculr Wed 2” in Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied (eds) Digital Folklore Reader, Stuttgart: Merz Akademie, 2009, pp.58-69

Happy YouTube Memories

Okay look, while we can get swept away talking about how democratising Web 2.0 is, and how genuine talent and celebrities may be found through YouTube, I just love the plethora of silly but amazingly entertaining videos that are out there. Here are some of my favourites:

And they all have tens of millions of views, with the first video clocking up 22,225,381 views with only a week of having been uploaded!

I think the amateur quality of the videos lends a certain intimacy that makes them so funny and enjoyable. I used to enjoy watching funniest home videos as a kid… this is so much more efficient, and generally a lot more funny!!

 

Facebook says NO to homophobia

I am completely astounded by the amount of support gained for a Brisbane couple whose advertisement for Rip&Roll condoms was pulled by Adshel. It was deemed to be promoting an risky and unhealthy type of sex, and apparently depicted “an act of foreplay”.

The photo in fact does nothing of the sort; the two men are fully clothed and merely sharing a loving embrace, while many ads of near-naked women go unnoticed in this day and age.

The indignant couple created an event on facebook that was used to rally support against the homophobic move, and it currently has a whopping 59,767 attendees, and counting. In fact, in the time it has taken me to write this blog post, the number has increased by another 4000 people!

Facebook users that showed support for the reinstatement of the ad were called upon to complain to Adshel, in the form of phone calls, email, writing, or anyway they saw fit.

And success! The decision to pull the ads has been reversed due to the overwhelming amount of complaints and the revelation that the original complaint was in fact homophobic, and conducted in representation of the Australian Christian Lobby.

If this isn’t proof of the fact that internet users can be mobilised to form a strong political community within hours, then I don’t know what is. The democratic access to ideas that social networking mediums such as Facebook allow is something that I’m incredibly grateful for. It is so great that not only were we able to make an impact in the real world through collective cyberspace action, but the discussion and debate that this event has sparked is sensational. It has brought homophobia back on the table as a political issue, and adds fuel to the fight for gay marriage rights and equality. Go internets!

YouTube celebrities and the mass media

YouTube provides a space for users to provide their own content, with our generation witnessing the sharp increase in video participation online. Jean Burgess and Joshua Green argue that while YouTube has become a platform for amateur users to have democratic access to self-expression, it has proved vulnerable to the domination of corporations in the mainstream media. As it has risen in popularity, YouTube finds itself further integrated into this political landscape, resulting in the “commercialisation of amateur content” (Burgess & Green 2009, p. 23). When amateurs rise to fame through their own talents and video production, we are now witnessing their absorption into “the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Burgess & Green 2009, p. 23). This is emphasised by the fact that amateurs are aspiring to the old “markers of success” (Burgess & Green 2009, p.24) such as recording contracts and advertising deals outside the realm of YouTube.

It seems that most video bloggers (or Vloggers), while starting off amateur, eventually relish in breaking into the mainstream media scene. Moves towards ‘legitimacy’ are celebrated, and the original rough charm of their work begins to ebb away.

The most prominant example for me is work of Melbourne-based YouTuber Kimmi Smiles, who I actually share some mutual friends with. She become an accidental celebrity after posting a ‘Happy Birthday’ video for a friend of ours, and gained many views for her subsequent video blogs. She has deleted many of her earlier and more unprofessional blogs, but you can still witness her endearing, haphazard vlogging style when you watch the early ones that she still has uploaded:

Her online popularity has increased so much over the past year however, that she now had paid advertisements on her page and has created more and more professional videos. She makes frequent trips to Los Angeles to collaborate with her famous boyfriend Dave, who is also a famous YouTuber (http://www.youtube.com/user/davedays), and is currently ‘on tour’ all around America.

Her most recent music video has generated over 500,000 views:

The icing on the cake however is that the track is available on iTunes, evincing the fact that the logical progression in YouTube is to gain amateur fame, and then break into the mass media market. In this capitalist society it is difficult for someone to invest so much time into video blogging without getting any monetary reward, so it is clear that paid advertisements and revenue from mp3 sales is highly desirable for Vloggers.

The influences of the mass media upon YouTube’s amateur video-makers need not be seen as entirely detrimental however. Even though many of the most viewed videos are from corporate and mainstream media sources, YouTube maintains much of an internalised celebrity structure, with its own culture and prevailing amateur culture. Kimmi still makes many amateur and highly personal video blogs, and she is celebrated for her relatable attitude and the contact that she maintains with her viewers through live shows and comments. YouTube celebrities, unlike mainstream celebrities, boost their fame by remaining in touch with their audience, and to become entirely estranged would be detrimental to their appeal. YouTube has then, as Burgess and Green describe it, its “own, internal system of celebrity based on and reflecting values that don’t necessarily match up neatly with those of the dominant media” (Burgess & Green 2009, p. 24).

Bibliography:

Jean Burgess and Joshua Green ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’ on YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2009

facebook and google take over the world!

In light of my blog about wordpress’ monopoly over blogging, I thought I’d discuss my feelings towards the other two main websites that I use; Facebook and Google.

Companies such as Facebook and Google enjoy domination in the social networking and search engine realms respectively, and this is obviously a very good thing for business. I have watched them slowly trying to branch out into other realms too, with Google’s successful Gmail function too.

This is obviously a good thing for these companies, but what about the individual?

Monopoly over different aspects of web behaviour causes us to be funnelled into certain websites and certain behaviours.  For example: before I joined Facebook, I used to trawl the web for entertainment, visiting many different sites and exploring a diverse range of content. Now the time I spend on the web is mostly limited to Facebook, since it is so highly interactive and easy to use. This isn’t a bad thing, but I do lament the days when I used to actively search for content that I enjoyed.

Alternatively, this streamlining of internet behaviour could be a really positive thing. It allows me to connect with people around me better, since they are using the same websites as me. If I google something interesting, I can be assured that my other friend using Google will be able to find it too.

And lastly- while Facebook has a monopoly over the time that I spend on the internet, it does facilitate my interaction with cyberspace in an incredibly positive way. I can ‘like’ the pages of websites/companies/projects that I enjoy, and receive updates from them when they have new content. I’m exposed to the content that my friends enjoy via the newsfeed, and often enjoy viewing the videos that they watch, and the websites that they visit. This has proved a way more effective way to browse the web than a generic Google search.

While it does creep me out a bit that Google reads my emails and that I get strangely relevant advertising in return, I don’t mind so much. They provide a quality service and I think Gmail is truly innovative and excellent.

As I said in my post about wordpress, I do always hope that there will be competition though, and so that we can keen seeing great things from Google and Facebook.

Communities driven by self-interest

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”.

I am a big fan of blogs and the interactivity that they promote, and find Lovink’s statement to be slightly contradictory. It assumes that “managing the self” and being part of a community or mob are mutually exclusive, when I think that it is exactly the self-interest of a blog that enables collective debate and action.

Lovink argues that “blogs are part of a wider culture that fabricates celebrity on ever possible level” (Lovink  pg 28), and that they are essentially an egocentric way of promoting the self. I definitely agree that this happens, but would contend that it isn’t a bad thing. When your identity is attached to your online activity, you are more invested in it and feel more accountable. You have a personal impetus to make sure what you write is relevant and well-researched, and so take a special interest in networking with other appropriate blogs.

I think a great example of this is Feminisnt. Not only is it a scintillating, relevant, and well-written blog, it also has a great sense of connectivity with the online sex-positive feminist community. It is a non-commercial blog made by an individual (FurryGirl) using wordpress just like us, and I believe that it works well to create a sense of community and has many inspiring ideas.

Unlike the blogs that Lovink mentioned which disable the ability to comment, Feminisnt encourages interactivity. FurryGirl gets regular comments has an extensive blogroll linking to other related blogs and websites. While her blog is most primarily a tool for managing herself and her interests, it is this very egocentric interest that sparks her involvement and interactivity with the greater online community. She conducted an online survey recently in the interests of debunking myths about sex workers and their rights.

Indeed, I am fascinated by the online sex-positive community and their use of blogs to get their voices heard. It restores my faith in the ability for blogs to be an empowering, democratic force. As Fanselow says in his article on blogging:

“The best blogs evolve into online communities where dozens—sometimes hundreds—of citizens regularly comment, offer news tips, and generally gather around these blogs just as they might meet at a local coffee shop.” (Fanselow, 2008 pg 24)

Thus I believe that not only are there many examples of up-to-date, interesting blogs that form a community around them, but that the fact that a blog is attached to someone’s personality and identity helps create this atmosphere.  Discussion and comments are encouraged since you’re talking to a person, not a corporation or anonymous figure. The person is relatable, since you too have your own blog and know what it feels like to be them. You may even comment on their page with the hope of promoting your own blog. Whatever the reason is, the self-interest that the blogosphere has injected into politics has done wonders for communities and debate, and I think that this is the beauty of narcissistic personal blogs.

References:

Fanselow, J 2008, “Community Blogging: the new wave of citizen journalism”,National Civic Review, vol. 97, pp.24-30

Lovink, G 2007, “Blogging: The Nihilistic Impulse”, Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp.1-38

Saturated broadcast of the vulnerable post-modern individual

In tutes a couple of weeks ago we were asked to find a phrase to describe the blogging scene in the world today. After some debate we came up with the long title of “saturated broadcast of the vulnerable post-modern individual”, and our group felt that this accurately portrayed many blogs in the blogosphere today.

Not only are they self-interested and saturated with individualistic information, it can also be seen how vulnerable and alone each person is. They are not always in a weak position, and it is often very courageous that people will broadcast their opinions and views into the World Wide Web.

There are many examples though of people who get attacked for their public views, and may regret exposing themselves to the mercy of the world and its trolls.

A good example of this is Cortney’s blog: http://afeministresponsetopopculture.blogspot.com/

 

What started off as just her feminist ramblings and thoughts on pop culture led to a torrent of abuse from misogynists and anti-feminists, resulting in her last post titled “I Quit”.

I think we all need to remember how big the world is out there, and also how damaging some people can be in the blogosphere. It is a democracy of information but also of opinion, so anyone can say basically anything. You can choose to not approve a comment in WordPress, but it doesn’t stop you having to read the harmful stuff first.

I’m sad however that Cortney was bullied into stopping her feminist thoughts. I’m sure Blogspot has a way that you can block offensive users… Either way, I hope that this is something that we can overcome, and that we won’t have to self-censor or be silenced in our future blogging endeavours.