More than anything, NetComm has encouraged me to look beyond popular and familiar websites to blogs and their associated networks which contain a plethora of unexplored information. These include those of my classmates, mentioned in my blogroll. I have added many of these blogs to my “Favourites” along the way so I don’t forget them.
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” (p.58). Discuss while giving an example of a website.
Upon first glance, online newspapers appear to be formatted similarly to their hard-copy counterparts. The title and crest of the newspaper runs across the top of the screen, underneath it an image stands out amongst surrounding black and white text. Like print media, the text of online newspapers is arranged in columns in legible font. Spaces are filled with small icons (such as the weather symbols) or advertisements. The web design of online media replicates that of print media so that, for newspaper readers, it appears and familiar and therefore easy to navigate. But this is often not so.
The distinct difference between print and online media is that the former is comprised of a series of pages through which the reader expects to have to browse whereas the latter is formatted so all information is displayed on a single page. The typical computer screen is half the width, at most, of a newspaper spreadsheet. Yet online newspapers attempt to squeeze as much, if not more, information onto the homepage than you would see on the newspaper’s printed front page. This is not saying that every article available on The Age Online is presented in full on the website’s main page, but links to every article are. To find these links, however, often requires avid searching because they may only be indicated by a few small words amongst a mountain of text and images.
Research suggests that consumers have a different experience reading hardcopy and online newspapers, namely due to their differing structures.
The non-linear, layered structure used online makes it more difficult to come across ‘all’ articles. Large parts of online newspapers consist of teasers and tables of contents. To access complete articles one has to scroll and use links. Clicking on links may draw readers away from the other articles in the online paper, whereas other stories on a (double unfolded) page in a print paper remain visible for a print reader.
— de Waal et al. 2005, p.45
Online newspaper readers are forced to actively select the material they want to read, whereas those who read hardcopy papers will come across a diverse range of full articles as they are flicking through the paper. Print newspapers encourage consumers to take an interest in articles from a variety of categories whereas online papers attract readers to their preferred sections (e.g. sport, travel or economy). Print newspapers use visual cues to attract the eye of the reader to the articles that the editors deem socially relevant; cues such as article position and size; accompanying images and graphs; paragraphing; typeface and colour. Despite these cues, the reader will still see every article in the day’s newspaper, provided he or she flicks through every page.
Online newspapers use additional cues such as icons, blinking images and video or site links. Unlike print media, online media is frequently updated and the articles which take prominence on the webpage are usually the most recently added. Other articles, although perhaps more important to the reader than the most current news, disappear as information is updated and the online cues no longer point in their direction. They become increasingly hard to find, if noticed at all, unlike the articles in print media, on the page forever.
Advertising in new and old media is also vastly different. In print papers advertising may be prominent but does not usually distract from the written content of the media. The print source does not have the capacity to force a reader to take notice of the included advertising. Online newspapers, on the other hand, have pop-ups and links that override the newsworthy information until the reader actively closes the advertisement window. DoubleClick, an American-based advertising company, ‘operate software that collects and analyses information on the user and the web site looked at ‘on the fly’, such that by the time the user clicks on the second site information systems and databases have been analysed and a customised advert is placed on the user’s screen’ (Pratt, 2000, 16-17). In this way, advertising takes the reader’s focus away from the news content—as a result he or she may become distracted and bored with an article, perhaps not even finish reading it and consequently miss valuable information.
The web design of online media replicates that of older media in order to make consumers believe that the experience they have reading online is the same as ,if not better than, the experience of reading print media. Although printed and online media are stylistically very similar, print media is a lot easier to follow and to use than online types. The reader can also engage with print media more easily due to its book-like structure and lower number of distractions.
de Waal, Ester, Schonback, Klaus & Lauf, Edmond. ‘Online Newspapers: A substitute or complement for print newspapers and other information channels? in Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research, 2005, Iss.30, pp.55-72
Olia, Lialina. ‘Vernacular Web 2’ in Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied (eds.) Digital Folklore Reader, Stuttgart: Merz Akademic, 2009, p.58-69
Pratt, Andy C. ‘New media, the new economy and new spaces’ in Geoforum, 2000, iss. 31 (4). Pp.425-436
This licence lets others distribute, remix and build upon the work, even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties) and license any new creations based on the work under the same terms. All new derivative works will carry the same licence, so will also allow commercial use.
In other words, you agree to share your materials with others, if they will share their new works in return.
I see the internet as an open forum for accessing and distributing information. I increasingly look to the internet for academic information, visual inspiration and to explore new ideas outside of my real-life social network. Blogs, particularly visual art-related (as it is my primary area of interest), Wikipedia and Crikey are the sites I use the most. I believe these websites provide information not readily accessible (cost-wise or even existent) in hard copy. All these sites are developed and fuelled by communal contribution of users, not necessarily professionally renowned, who can offer their own expertise in a given field. The validity and diversity of information provided is improved through peer expansion and revision.
I am happy to share my work for the sake of having it improved and developed in more detail. It is important to me, however, that anyone who uses my work then allows their work to be expanded in the same way, thus increasing its validity and the depth of given information. I like to think that my CC License is encouraging the communal nature of online information-sharing and adding to the validity of information accessible via the internet.
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 while giving an example online.
Many voices from within the music, film and television industries are filled with disapproval when it comes to internet piracy. Peer-to-peer and pirate-to-consumer networks increasingly infringe copyright laws by streaming audio and visual files for free across the internet. The web-like nature of the internet essentially means there are no boundaries to this process; that growth is, in fact, exponential.
There are, however, two types of piracy. One is a commercial endeavor designed only to benefit the pirate. In this case, the pirate receives the funds that should rightfully be paid to the artist or owner of the files. The other type of piracy, however, is not a profit-based venture but the establishment of a virtual space for the dissemination, sharing and discovery of these files.
MP3 downloads offer a new way for consumers to “try before they buy”. Both the film and music industries are expanding and competitive, making it extremely difficult for new creators to be heard. In a music industry where access to music is limited to purchased CDs a consumer is forced to spend a large sum of money on a CD of a singular style produced by only one artist, instead of being able to buy individual singles. This being the case, a consumer is most likely to buy CDs of reputable, well-known artists rather than take a risk buying the CD of a new artist who he or she may not like.
On this note, it is interesting to consider that since the invention of MP3 players, particularly the iPod and iTunes to accompany it, consumers increasingly favor buying individual tracks instead of whole CDs. iTunes enables buyers to purchase individual songs (prices vary but for as little as US 99c) instead of encouraging or forcing them to buy the entire CD. According to Jacqui Cheng, Senior Editor for Apple, ‘selling millions of singles isn’t necessarily as lucrative as selling far fewer full albums’ and ‘for some artists there’s the artistic vision realized only in the full-album experience.’ Cheng suggests that, culturally, buying an album could enhance the listener’s experience and understanding of the artist’s musical style. In this way she is suggesting that piracy which allows single-song downloads may not ‘fulfil culturally important functions’ but, in fact, do the opposite.
Internet audio sharing is a means through which music listeners can enhance their global, rather than simply local, awareness of new music and a means of sharing newly released (or discovered) audio with friends. As we become increasingly reliant on the internet for communication and the retrieval of information (email, social networks, online newspapers etc), it makes sense for the musicians and film-makers to disseminate their work online too. It is most likely that they will be discovered online, as this is where we concentrate most of our time.
There are both legal and illegal websites for downloading music. The diagram below indicates that it remains most profitable for artists to sell hard-copy CDs, rather than audio files on the internet, even on legal sites. To reach the average wage a musician must sell 1,161 retail CDs or receive over 4million song plays on Spotify per month. The profit that artists make off legal sites such as this is so minimal that it is comparable to that which they make from illegal sites: nothing. The benefit of illegal downloads, however, is that they can spark interest in an otherwise unrecognized artist and are usually of a poorer quality than legal content, therefore encouraging consumers to go out and buy the CD.
Research conducted by Michael D. Smith and Rahuel Telang finds ‘no evidence that a movie’s availability on BitTorrent at the time of broadcast reduces the post-broadcast increase in DVD sales’ (p.334). Now that so much of our lives revolve around the internet, it seems beneficial for producers of music and film to accept online piracy, encouraging consumers to use these networks as means for sampling new products before they invest in a more expensive product in hard form. In this way, piracy could fulfil culturally important functions- enabling artists to find audiences and audiences to find artists.
Smith, Michael D. & Telang, Rahul. ‘Competing with Free: The Impact of Movie Broadcasts on DVD Sales and Internet Piracy’, in MIS Quarterly Vol.33 No.2, 2009, pp.321-338
Medosch, Armin. ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, in Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies. London: Deptforth TV, 2008, pp.73-97
Lindsay Tanner speaks to Bernard Keane of crikey.com, about the main contention of his recently published book, Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy. This contention is, essentially, that mainstream media does not publish enough deep political journalism, instead opting for what he calls “sports commentary” to attract the widest possible band of readers. He complains that policies and events are reported but neither explored in detail, debated, nor their consequences fully explained.
He uses the Australian Health Scheme (under our current goverment) as an example, saying that although we are presented with the facts of the scheme, we are not made to think about what it means for us, as individuals or as a community, in terms of social, political and economic change.
Mr Tanner believes that most critical and deep political news is now available online, via blogs, rather than in the mainstream media. He argues, though, that only a select group of individuals (who have a great interest in politics or who have the time and resources to access these websites) actually read this information. It is not broadcast as openly or as freely under our noses as newspaper and television news headlines are. These big media headlines, he says, are those which sell, not necessarily those which are important.
The following are links to some blogs which provide detailed information on current affairs:
Freakonomics Freakonomics started out as a book; a collaboration between journalist, Steven Dubner and economist, Steven Levitt. Their blog is a continuation of that book, an ever-changing commentary on the ever-changing economical climate of today. The blog is written not in a dry, factual style but in an almost conversational tone with a little wit and some personal remarks made on the side. It does, however, maintain a professional style throughout as it if were a news site. It not only follows the up’s and down’s of the share market and GDPs but explores the economics affecting small businesses and household budgets, for example.
Authors of Freakonomics
Eschaton & Pandagon
These are both personal blogs with a marked political undertone. The authors of these blogs prompt reflection in regards to the American political sytem and its effects on one’s daily life. They provide links to recent quotes, video clips, newspaper clippings and images which bear some political mark and then critique these. Unlike Freakonomics these websites are amateur blogs (in terms of design, content and the author’s authority). The authors use first person, I, and sometimes describe their own lives rather than newsworth topics. They do, however, give valuable insight into the movements of the US government and economy that newspapers might ignore.
Swampland Swampland is a WordPress-based blog operated by Time magazine. The difference between the magazine’s blog and the its website are very few: there is advertising on both, the colour-scheme and typeface are the same, the same icons and logo are used. The blog entries are essentially articles written by Time journalists.
The main distinction is that the blog encourages communal input. The articles on the blog are not listed until the bottom of the page. Above this is a list of headlines and an array of political tweets cast by both Time followers and celebrity experts. The blog enables readers to make comments after having read articles and to link the Time page directly to their own.
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 suggest there are two types of DIY celebrity that become successful over YouTube (2009, 22-4). One is the ‘ordinary person [who] gains access to the modes of representation of the mass media, making the transition [from their ordinary world] into the “media world”’ (22) and the other is the internally-based YouTube sensation. YouTube is certainly a realm of its own in which amateur video often becomes famous.
It is easiest to describe the typical YouTube home movie as a genre of its own; it is neither the type of footage seen on television (production and length are scrappy, to say the least) nor seen in the cinema. Yet it is these characteristics of YouTube videos that seem to attract viewers- perhaps the sensation that the privacy barrier has been broken down and that the person in the video could be your neighbour. Or the fact that comic relief doesn’t have to be professionally presented- it is found in everyday life, in your bedroom or your kitchen. As quoted by Kornblu, it’s ‘spontaneous and natural…it makes people remember when they were young (and danced in front of the mirror)’ (in Burgess & Green, 2008, 26). A perfect example of this is the ‘Hey’ clip, of two young girls singing in their bedroom.
It is also true that, as mentioned above, YouTube sensations have ended up in the wider world of the mass media. These clips are usually the type produced in a more professional style, in which the talent of the identified “star” is more of the attraction, rather than the video itself. Singer, Susan Boyle, who sold over 9 million copies of her first album after a Britain’s Got Talent clip went viral over YouTube, is one example.
It is not true, however, that all celebrities remain within the YouTube sphere. Stephen Downes argues that YouTube has helped launch political careers. The following video helped launch a successful career, too, NOT in the realm of the mass media.
In January of this year a local news reporter in Columbus, Ohio, posted a video on YouTube of 53 year-old, Ted Williams, a local homeless man with a distinctive, refined voice, appropriate (if not ideal) for radio.
The video gathered 5.3 million views within 48 hours and Mr Williams received numerous job offers as a result- one such offer was a two-year contract from the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers which included living expenses. This was a great turn-around for Mr Williams who had been homeless as a result of drug abuse and whose mother was able to get in contact with him again after many years of separation.
The video is produced in an amateur style. There is clearly no adaptation of the available lighting, there is no tripod used (the camera shakes and Williams is not positioned within the frame at any particular spot– in fact the top of his head is cut off at times) and the sound quality is nothing extraordinary, although good enough for the viewers to hear the man’s voice.
I attribute the success (over 13million views as of 4th May, 2011) of the video to the following factors:
1) It surprises the audience: Williams embodies the stereotypical characteristics of a homeless person; unkempt hair, gaps in his rotting teeth, shabby clothing, and with this image comes the assumption that he is hopeless, dirty, uneducated and associated with drugs or violence etc…
So when Williams begins to speak, with a voice much clearer and
more refined than those of even well-educated citizens, the audience is not only surprised but encouraged to think about the flaws of their prejudice.
2) Williams addresses the audience directly. The camera-man stays behind the camera (never revealing his own identity) and films Williams completely alone, face-to-face. The consequent effect is that the viewer feels like it is he or she who is on the opposite end of the conversation rather than the camera-man. This heightens the intimacy the viewer has with the video. 3) It is no surprise then, that the clip moves people more than an interview in a formal setting or with a host might. The video appeals to sympathy. Williams is portrayed as grateful and gracious to the camera-man (or the viewer), his manners, like his voice, completely unexpected.
YouTube produces stars in two genres: the YouTube genre (the amateur star who, in most cases, is willing to make a fool of him or herself) and the professional genre (the star who is noticed on YouTube for his or her genuine talent). It may just be coincidence that many of the latter stars are interested in an area that constitutes the mass media. But it is not true that YouTube only produces stars who stay within the media realm. Ted Williams is an example of this.
“The live streaming of Will and Kate’s nuptials had 1.6 million concurrent video views, making it the biggest event to be watched on the Web…”
The Sydney Morning Herald. Photo: Reuters
This is a particularly interesting article I found regarding the coverage of the Royal Wedding over the Web. It indicates just how popular the Web has become, not only as a medium for sharing and accessing information but also for casting opinions and opening forums for discussion about current activity.
There is some comparison made between the most popular events to have been viewed online; it is interesting to note that the Royal Wedding has been the most popular, followed by the World Cup Final (2010) and then by President Obama’s inaugeration and Michael Jackson’s funeral. Of these events, only one was not hosted in a Western nation (The World Cup) but even so, had a predominantly Anglo-European organising committee. This highlights the divide still prevalent between Western and non-Western (often poorer, although China, Korea and Japan are exceptions) nations, in terms of the dissemination of media and information. In other words, this demonstrates how the digital divide is a reflection of the socio/economic divide.
Geert Lovink (Lovink, 22) argues that bloggers are creative nihilists “who celebrate the death of centralized meaning structures and ignore the accusation that they would only produce noise”.
In short, Lovink asserts that the information provided on blogs (as it is supplied by the bloggers) is “noise”. In this case, the term noise connotes the following sentiments;
The information provided on blogs is “excess” – it is nothing that cannot be already found in the information network revolving around other forms of media
The information provided on blogs is unwanted and considered irritating .
On the first point:
Some blogs, as Lovink suggests, consist only of republished information, already accessible through other information networks. Links to YouTube videos and text from other websites (e.g. an article from www.theage.com) are examples of this. The blog, however, is a means of broadcasting information which may not, be found so easily elsewhere by the interested readers. Blogs are; a) a space in which information on one specific area of interest can be collaborated so that it doesn’t have to be “found” or so that it is noticed by those interested in it and b) a space for open discourse about the information provided.
If I were to look for information regarding the menswear stores in New York, for example, I would use blog sites made by fashion-forward New York residents: blog sites which do not appear to be associated with any advertising, blogs which list a range of stores and which provide me with links to the shop websites and blogs which reveal reader feedback and an interactive discourse. This information was available on www.thesartorialist.blogspot.com a few weeks ago.
The information found on this blog, ‘The Sartorialist’ (a reputable blog throughout the Western fashion world) not only provided me with a number of opinions on the menswear stores throughout New York but also enabled me to find their addresses, the price range and demographic of each store and their opening hours. Consequently, the blog provided me with more information than I could access on each store’s individual website.
Although blogs such as these may not publish “new” information, they present information in new and useful ways. In my opinion, this is what keeps them from being “noisy”. This notion of cross-referencing and inter-connectedness of the World Wide Web is what Tim Berners-Lee envisions for the “Semantic Web”.
There are, however, some blogs to which the blogger has contributed “new” information. These I would consider (in most cases) innovative, rather than noisy. Such blogs may contain information ranging from progressive findings of a scientific study to daily photographs of people wearing fashionable clothes.
Regarding the second point:
The act of reading a blog is the conscious decision of the reader. If blogs were all considered unwanted, they would attract no readers. Feedback links, “visitor counters” and contributions submitted by blog visitors (e.g. http://www.postsecret.com) demonstrate that there is an audience for online blogs and that they are responding to information which has been uploaded.
Having said this, through the use of links in blog sites, Web users are often lead unknowingly to these blogs. Google search results display web pages according to their association with the search term, not their reliability or their source of information. Blogs are consequently a part of this. Web users may open these blogs, being unaware of the fact they are blogs until actually on the site itself, where author information is made available. In this way, readers have limited control over their exposure to blog websites, what they do have control over is whether they read the content or not.
In short, Lovink’s assertion that bloggers produce noise may be true, to some extent, but I would argue otherwise on the basis that blogs continue to be read worldwide by millions of people; and this must mean that some of the information they provide is useful rather than noisy.
Geert Lovink, ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp.1-38
A link is a means of connecting one web page, image, video or blog posting to another. Those who submit the linked information to the Web can choose their own link structure (that is, the “name” by which the link can be identified) to be read by search engines and Web users to identify content they are looking for.
The video in this post demonstrates the flaws in relying solely on word association when it comes to searching the Net. It demonstrates the importance of key words in boosting website publicity and reveals just how inadequate software can be when it comes to finding the content a user is actually searching for.