In No Way Safe for Work and/or Life, Depending on the Person, or, An Open Love Letter to the Internet
November 6, 2011 § Leave a Comment
My yesterday was easily the best –one of the best if you count ROFLshit– days I’ve had in a long time, due to the confluence of ART and INTERNET. My amazing unsinkable honeybadger of an advisor invited me and Brucce over for dinner and absolutely no work allowed; we were joined by her husband and son and son’s two friends. We had a shitton of supplies, including the most nightmarish doll-baby face mold I’ve ever seen, which made me happier than I could possibly say. As we worked on our respective projects we took turns playing our favorite YouTube videos, which as you can imagine (as anyone who knows us could imagine) got pretty NSFW pretty fast. Videos related, it’s our top picks, and by “top” I mean the videos that were replayed the most and/or elicited the most laughter.
The boys wouldn’t stop playing this song, which was disturbing (who am I kidding, I thought it was hilarious) on a number of levels:
I’m very sorry in advance (no I’m not):.
You’re gonna go to Hogwarts and do spells and shit, and you’re gonna be fucking pleased about it, also you’re are a wizard:
I’m sharing this because…well because I want to, but also because it reminds me of something Henry Jenkins wrote in the afterward to YouTube – namely that YouTube is indeed a game-changer, but not because it actually changed the game. Instead, it provided tools for people to broadcast the games they were already playing. As Jenkins explains, people have always remixed existing culture, and people have always created their own big and little and underground sub culture(s), and people have always shared the resulting output; that’s one of the things we’re good at, as humans. What YouTube allows users to do is go public with their private malfunctions (I say “malfunctions” with great appreciation). The site wouldn’t have caught on without existing interest, and/or existing need — it was a market just waiting to be tapped.
My particular market, which consists of all that is WAT (and has since before I ever even heard of computer, back when I was the sweariest girl on the playground), is hardly exclusive to me or to my family — as evidenced by the crush of bizarre, NSFW/L shit that gets posted to YouTube, for no other reason than because people can. As I’ve argued elsewhere re: the post ironic (or whatever I’d call it these days, “post irony” was so 2009) undercurrent of so much internet humor, the NSFW/L imperative functions as a feedback loop, as weird shit tends to beget further, and ever-weirder, weirdness. But if the aesthetic didn’t already exist, if there weren’t already an attraction to dirtwork and dickjokes, there would be no audience to fortify and spread and augment the weird. As always, and providing yet another reason I fucking love the internet, platform and proclivity feed into and strengthen each other. Poopoo the resulting poop humor all you want, but the process is amazing and to this little slop-farmer at least, strangely inspiring.
September 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
As I mentioned the other dia, I have
100 94 selections to muscle through before my final actual last GD exam, jesus. The process for orals is different than the breadth lists, is more about thematic connections than specific textual detail (not that I don’t need some of that too, but the exam is framed as a conversation as opposed to a time-crunched written thing), so each selection will just get a keyword summary (for quick scanning in the direct lead-up to the exam) which I’ll then follow with a more open-ended discussion about some related question or counterpoint or whatever I feel like, it’s my dumb blog & I’ll do what I want.
Youtube, Jean Burgess and Joshua Green (with contributions by Henry Jenkins and John Hartley), 2009
The business of meta-business! Participatory culture! Circulatory value! Embed that shit! Reeeemiiixxx! Grassroots! Astroturf! DMCA! Generativity! Vlog your heart! Bullies and flames! lonelygirl15! You nostalgia you lose! To YouTube or not to YouTube! I see white people!
Mark Andrejevic, “Exploiting Youtube: Contradictions of User-Generated Labor,” The YouTube Reader (2009)
Intellectual property rights! Desire for control! Divergent conceptions of value per a highly convergent medium! The question of exploitability! “The interactive information economy” wherein interactive participation runs up against entrenched economic models!
Malin Wahlberg, “YouTube Commemoration: Private Grief and Communal Consolation,” The YouTube Reader (2009)
Memorial video tributes! Vernacular memory! Online grief culture! An American phenomenon stemming from funeral as mega-industry! “A Grotesque Corpus of Sentimental Kitsch!” Cancer and suicide = most popular! Formal consistency! “Perverse voyeurism!” The problem of bullycide! WAIT A SECOND, SOMETIMES AGGRESSIVE NON-COMPASSIONATE RESPONSES?????
Patricia G. Lange, “Videos of Affinity on YouTube,” The YouTube Reader (2009)
Attention as (social) capital! Metrics of (temporal) value! As expressed through the creation/consumption of “videos of affiliation!” Micro-negotiations of attention! Via online affinity frameworks! And emotional interpolation! Home-mode communication! Phatic/contact communications! (Dis)embodied self-referentiality!
So those were my readings, now let’s sit by the fire and chat hmm?
Today’s magic moment hails from “What Happened Before YouTube,” Henry Jenkins’ contribution to YouTube: Digital Media and Society Series. As he argues, YouTube may be a relatively new platform but it certainly doesn’t represent a new set of behavioral practices. People have been mixing and mashing and self-publishing for decades, sometimes online, sometimes on kitchen tables, but always in the service of some larger group ethos. Participatory/remix culture(s) weren’t engendered by YouTube, in other words; rather, the success of YouTube was and remains dependent upon the preexistence of participatory/remix culture(s). Without a built-in audience for the weird and wonderful crap people do, there’d be no point to throw it online. Is the basic idea.
This was nicely backwardsing, another one of my fav-or-ite things, but the most interesting section (to me) came later, in Henry’s discussion of the limitations, or at least the (potential) ethical/interpersonal/political ambivalence, built into home-brewed content — particularly in terms of decontextualization. I immediately thought of Bed Intruder, maybe not the most obvious place for my brain to go, but a place my brain has gone many times before (lolwat). I’m assuming that anyone who’d take the time to read this blog would be well-versed in the Dodson affair, but you know what they say about assumptions. Before I give any background, though, here’s the VIRAL VIDYA, which now that I think about it is actually the appropriate place to start (in that it’s entirely the wrong place to start, but more on that in a minute):
YOU GUYS THIS IS SO FUNNY, is it any surprise the video’s amassed over 90 million hits? I mean it’s comedy gold. Because “hide yo husbands???” LOL MEN DON’T GET RAPED. And Antoine Dodson? What a lulz cow! I mean! What crawled up his weave amirite? Actually this (there may be an ad, sorry):
To recap: some guy broke into a house and tried to rape the woman inside. The local news showed up and interviewed the woman’s brother, who was still very upset. Ha…ha? Apparently so, since the story, particularly Dodson’s imprecation, became immediate remix fodder — thus accomplishing the truly Herculean task of making a punchline out of rape, poor people, black people and gay people. Cool story indeed! But calm down grandma, I’m not about to wag my finger at all the (ahem probably mostly straight/white/haven’t-been-raped) people who took some form of pleasure in the original newscast, remix and/or subsequent meme-cluster. Myself very much included, I mean let’s be honest, the world is a slippery beast.
What I am saying is that context is an awful easy thing to lose online. This can be a good thing, this can be a bad thing, this can be an entirely indifferent thing. It really depends on what side of the fence you happen to be standing on, for example if it was your house that was broken into, or your sister who was nearly assaulted. Regardless, the magical disarticulations of online content has a very clear and very immediate impact on both the reception and (re)creation of content — which at the very least is something to consider.
August 22, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“Do You Enjoy Making the Rest of Us Feel Stupid?: alt.tv.twinpeaks, the Trickster Author, and Viewer Mastery,” from Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture (1995; 2006)
Many things have changed since this essay was first published; much of what qualified as novel or even incredible in terms of community formation and output is now taken for granted. But at the time, it really was a brave new world, both from the fan and academic perspective. Not a perfect new world, mind you, given the demographics of the people involved — we’re talking about a group of college educated, culturally literate tech-savvy (mostly) men, automatically particularizing the dataset. Still, the findings are highly instructive. Most interestingly to certain Whitney Phillipses, this is a group of people who bring a so-called Hacker aesthetic to the business of entertainment — as alt.tv.twinpeaks illustrates, this particular brand of fan engagement is about cracking textual code. The focus is on puzzles, in other words, not affect; you rarely see this sort of thing in (gendered) female fan communities, which tend to privilege character development and interpersonal relationships, not so much technical inner-workings. alt.tv.twinpeaks thus posits an emotionally divested but intellectually invested community collectively predicated on its collective relationship to a particular media text and –inextricably– its medium of engagement. The interdependency of this relationship is important.
“Interactive Audiences?: The ‘Collective Intelligence’ of Media Fans,” from Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture (2002, 2006)
Yikes there’s a lot to cover here — the above question gets bigger and thornier every day. The answer(s) vary from community to community, and depend(s) on the relative degree of access, the kinds of people participating, the texts being engaged, and so on. Ultimately, however, the issue is one of navigation. How do fan communities navigate the waters of commodity culture, and how does commodity culture navigate the waters of fandom? Lévy is a good person to start with, as his utopian account of what could be is a helpful model when considering what already is. In a nutshell, collectively intelligent knowledge spaces of online fandom are self-organized, epistemaphilic, and communitarian; they elicit increasingly creative modes of engagement and produce as much as they consume. Of course the utopian account is just that, an idealization, and isn’t always borne out by how these large-scale communities actually behave. Nor does it account for the varying degrees of corporate complicity in the creation of grassroots communities. And/or the divergent interests of those who seek to undermine media/corporate power (“jammers” in this essay). Still, it is almost impossible to overstate the cultural and economic influence of the rising fan-class; the question is what types of influence fans do or can or will someday have.
“Photoshop for Democracy: The New Relationship between Politics and Popular Culture,” from Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (2006)
So far we’ve discussed the ways in which Convergence culture –wherein grassroots and corporate interests align and diverge and engage in various death matches, but end up back in bed together– impacts fan behavior. It is also important to consider how and why and if and when Convergence culture influences political processes. After all, Lévy’s is a fundamentally political argument. How might collective intelligence amongst fan communities mirror (past and/or present tense) the online body politic? Consider the 2004 election, which saw an explosion of grassroots activity both online and off. The line between bottom-up and top-down organization was often blurry, and mainstream/corporate content was frequently integrated into independent “viral” micro-campaigns, a shift due in no small part to the emergence of the political blogosphere as well as the widespread use of software editing software like Photoshop (hence the title of this essay). It’s perhaps a bit excessive to claim that we’ve entered an entirely new phase of democratic engagement. But it is clear that, at the very least, we have wandered into uncharted territory. The question is, now that we’re here, what are we going to do? The post-internet world is long way from fully democratized, but these same technologies have destabilized the playing field — it can go either way, which is all the more reason to push for more access for more people, and perhaps more importantly, to push for more exposure to more people who are not like ourselves.
What I learned from this fine scholar
I like Henry Jenkins. I like Henry Jenkins because he likes things. Not “likes” in some blah uncritical way (“I like chocolate more than vanilla”), but in a way that is fully engaged and genial and, most importantly, generous to the people and places and things he considers. In other words he takes his work seriously, but not so seriously that he closes his mind to alternate possibilities. This results in an open sort of scholarship that is more about understanding than standing in weird paternalistic judgment (lol you see what I did there, WORD PLAY) — which, ironically enough, is one of the most common critiques of Jenkins’ work. NEEDS MOAR CONDESCENSION, the argument (implicitly) goes, on account of some people aren’t satisfied until an adequately stern father figure tells them what to hate next, due to capitalism or whatever. Oh well!
But back to Henry. I first encountered “Photoshop for Democracy” in the Fall of 2008, when he came to UO I guess as part of a speaking tour. Or maybe just for a single engagement, I can’t remember. At the time I was still hugely green in terms of internet research/literacy, though I had juuuust dipped my toe in the troll-pool — in part because of Henry’s stated topic, namely FOTO PLAY in relation to POLITICS. Cue dramatic origin-story background music: I started my stupid journey at UO thinking I wanted to study political humor. Given that it was 2008, the internet was the obvious place to look for new and interesting angles. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? Trollshit, but of course. Although I didn’t know that’s what it was, not at first anyway. But even before I had a word to call it, and well before I started exploring particular communities on Ebaumsworld and MySpace, I was hooked. This was political humor alright, but it wasn’t………well normal, I couldn’t map it. It was this general sense of curiosity and there’s-something-else-here-edness that brought me to Henry’s talk, which he presented a day or two before the election. I remember hearing what he had to say about internet/fan culture(s) spurring civic engagement, and wondering if “engagement” encompassed the trollish behaviors I’d been observing all summer. In other words, did dark-sided stuff count too? tl;dr maybe, a conclusion which has seeped into a number of troll and not-quite-troll-related interests. For example anti-fans, my latest obsession. Gotta write a dissertation first though lol.
But! Henry Jenkins! When I grow up I want to be like him, and if people give me the same kind of shit (too much celebration, not enough finger-wagging), well then good, I shall wear it as a hat.