Monday, March 30, 2009

If anyone has any comments...

...they'd be greatly appreciated for my final blog!
Just in case you didn't feel like searching for the link, I'll post it again HERE. Any ideas or comments you guys have would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks guys :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What does "Twilight" have to do with Citizen Media?

Yes, this is going to be a post that focuses on the Twilight series but there is a point, trust me. Last week in class we learned about cultural convergence and how it affects fan culture and the example I kept coming back to in my head was of Twilight. Someone else in the class has already posted about fan culture and used Twilight as an example, but I thought I’d put my own spin on it and focus more of what we learned on just this one example.
First up, a history lesson about just how popular these books are. The first of the four novels was published in October 2005 but Twilight didn’t become as huge as it is now until a little bit later. That’s not to say it wasn’t popular right away – it reached #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Children’s Chapter Books. When New Moon was released a year later it debuted at #5 and rose to #1 two weeks later. The other two novels were just as popular, just as quickly. Bookstores caught on that they could have success at launch parties (like Harry Potter) and the final book, Breaking Dawn, was released at huge parties at bookstores across Canada and the United States. In April, the first three books had been on the list for a combined 143 weeks on the best seller list. This is a huge deal, just for books. But the Twilight phenomenon didn’t stop there.
Like most books that are turned into movies, there was a ton of merchandise to go along with the movie’s release. There are unauthorized and authorized movie books, clothing, key chains, posters, jewellery, and the list goes on and on and on. Even if you walk into a store like Bluenotes, you’re going to get shirts like this one and this one. The books, movie and merchandise are unavoidable. But what about those things that are harder to find, like what the fans themselves are producing? (And yes, this is when my post finally starts to have a point that relates back to this class)
Typing in “twilight fans” into Google gets a ton of hits, which shows how the fans of the books and movies are utilizing the Internet to showcase their devotion. This website has fan art. There’s a Twilight puppet show you can watch on YouTube as well as a video someone made of several comics she found about Twilight. The possibilities available to fans are endless. Like we discussed in class, fans are given a huge amount of raw material to do with what they will and because they always want more they are going to be spurred on by their love of the Saga to create more things for themselves and other fans.
Fans are able to network in so many ways now. There are more traditional ways, like communities on sites like Chapters but there are also new ways that utilize social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Fans have immense power as well. Who knows if Stephenie Meyer would have been able to publish all four books in the Saga if the fans had not wanted them? There was some hesitation with the Twilight movie as well because no one knew if it was going to be successful (but really, come on, teen girls and a good looking guy?) so there was not any definite comments on New Moon until after Twilight was released. Since Twilight did so well in theatres, New Moon is now in production and scheduled for release for this November. This goes to show that the fans have the power to influence what happens with a mainstream cultural product.
Henry Jenkins wrote about cultural convergence and said,

“The explosion of new forms of creativity at the intersections of various media
technologies, industries and consumers. Media convergence fosters a new participatory folk culture by giving average people the tools to archive, annotate, appropriate and recirculate content. Shrewd companies tap this culture to foster consumer loyalty and generate low-cost content. Media convergence also encourages transmedia storytelling, the development of content across multiple channels. As producers more fully exploit organic convergence, storytellers will use each channel to communicate different kinds and levels of narrative information, using each medium to do what it does best.”
This explanation describes the sort of fan culture that surrounds almost anything, including the Twilight Saga. Fans are able to take what Stephenie Meyer and the producers and directors of the movie have offered them and create things for themselves. They have used multiple ways of communicating with each other – using the Internet mostly since the majority of the fans are teenage girls who are incredibly technologically savvy. Different online platforms have different uses and most of them are being utilized by the Twilight Saga fans – YouTube, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. Jenkins also hits on the point that companies are going to capitalize on the popularity of the books and movies to make more money for themselves. They know they can make money of these teen girls who have disposable incomes. Just look in any book or CD store – there’s Twilight merchandise everywhere.
The Twilight Saga is just one example of many fan cultures that can be related back to cultural convergence. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to talk about – and it’s not just for teen girls! :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

did anyone else know we have to save the internet?

Right now I’m working on this assignment while also using the internet for various things – I’m looking for information for this post, checking emails, and chatting on MSN. I know I’ve already talked about multitasking, but I’m this post is about something different. I am going to focus on the fact that I am able to do all of stuff on the internet without worrying about not being able to access certain sites or having to wait a long time for pages to load.
I got the idea for this post way back in the second week of classes when we were talking about Net Neutrality and I didn’t know a whole lot about net neutrality so I went to the save the internet site and looked at their FAQ to see what they had to say. They define Network Neutrality as:

Network Neutrality -- or "Net Neutrality" for short -- is the guiding principle
that preserves the free and open Internet.
Put simply, Net Neutrality means
no discrimination. Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from blocking,
speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or

Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It protects the consumer's right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data -- not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.
These are things that we take for granted when we’re using the internet. We assume that we are able to access any site whenever we want in a timely manner (providing we don’t have the dreaded dial up…really don’t miss that!). Now, the potential loss of Net Neutrality appears to only be an issue in the United States, but imagine that this could affect us in Canada too. is trying to make sure that major corporations don’t manipulate the internet so consumers have to wait for some pages to load but not others and not access certain sites at all. Content providers would be taxed to “guarantee speedy delivery of their data.” This would make the major corporations make even more money (when they clearly are not lacking) and would discriminate against the smaller websites.
If those smaller sites are not able to afford the high speed that the corporations are demanding then they will slowly die out, which would be incredibly detrimental to blogging and other forms of citizen media. A lot of activist sites probably wouldn’t be accessed because no one would want to wait a long time just to view a page. Just think of all the information that would not be disseminated just because major corporations are being greedy. Do they honestly think they need to essentially tax one more thing? I’m glad that Net Neutrality hasn’t been eliminated yet (as far as I could tell) but I can’t believe that there is actually a possibility for this to happen. Actually, you know what? I’m not that surprised. Think about all the other things that we have to pay for already – telephone, cable television – it wasn’t always like that. Hidden fees (and not so hidden fees) are the way that these companies make money and they don’t care if it gouges the average user.
I suppose if I try hard enough I can understand the major corporation’s point of view, I mean everyone wants to get ahead, but I don’t think that it should be at the cost of others. We need those smaller sites to get the information that the mainstream media and government aren’t telling us. If Net Neutrality becomes extinct then there’s a good chance we could become even more sheep-like and not be able to check other sources for varying positions. If you check out this part of the site you will see what’s already been done to censor what we see or are able to access online. Do we really want any more restrictions than these, which are all sneaky and underhanded attempts at major corporations to keep conflicting ideas at bay?
I really hope that the corporations who want to get rid of Net Neutrality will not succeed. Can you imagine the life we would have if we were not able to access the information we wanted when we wanted to? I think this is a story worth keeping an eye on, especially if it ever makes it into Canada. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Most of the information in this post came from the FAQ page. Check it out and look around the rest of the site too, it’s really interesting.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How YOU Doin'?

Imagine yourself in the following situation: You’re at a bar, dancing with a really good looking person and you want to somehow contact them at a later date.

Do you: a) Ask for their number
b) Get their email address
c) Find out their name so you can find (or creep) them on Facebook later

Oh how simple dating used to be. Way back when the way to contact a person would be through a phone call. Nowadays hardly anyone will give out their home phone number, if they even have a home phone. Technology has had an increasing role in the way that people date and maintain romantic relationships.
I got the idea for this post the other day when I was watching Gilmore Girls on CosmoTV. The station will show trivia at each commercial break and on this particular day it had something to do with using technology for dating. Whatever the fact was (because for the life of me I cannot remember) it made me think about how many people use different forms of technology to pick up.
I mentioned in a post a few weeks back about He’s Just Not That Into You and how Drew Barrymore’s character needed to check all sorts of technology just to try and get in touch with a guy she was interested in. It used to be that you would just check your answering machine and that would be that, but in today’s world, you have to make sure you’re always on the ball and checking any sort of communication device that you’ve got.
So back to my hypothetical situation: once you’ve finally gotten a hold of the hottie from the bar, what is the relationship like? I think that if you had gotten their phone number it would quickly become a lot more personal and you would better be able to see if there was a connection (one which is not influenced by alcohol). While emailing back and forth is more convenient, you could fire off a quick email asking for a supper date while at work; there is a certain something that is lost by not talking over the phone, and especially face to face. You lose the personal tone that comes along with each individual. This new person may be incredibly sarcastic but in an email he or she could come across as kind of mean. Now what about the Facebook option? By becoming friends on Facebook, that special someone can find out more about your hobbies, likes, dislikes, and what kinds of things you and your friends talk about. This could be a good thing because it’ll give you a starting point when you eventually get out on that first date, however, it could also prove to be detrimental because you realize that person from the bar loves their poodle a little too much.
A lot of people will use Facebook to keep updated on all their friends’ relationship statuses. Come on, admit it – you have been immediately curious when you see a change in one of your friend’s relationship status. Just recently I have been curious about why a friend from elementary school and his girlfriend broke up. There was another instance where another friend got rid of the part on the profile where it says single. He is still single but Facebook announces this on the home page that “so and so is no longer single.” Immediately people were asking him who the girl was. Similar occurrences last year led my boyfriend and I to screw with our friends’ heads. We decided to put both our relationship statuses as single and see what people had to say. It turns out that 1. we have a lot of great friends who were concerned about us and 2. way too many people believe what they see on Facebook. Even my roommates were wondering what was up, and I had seen them all just after I changed my status and was clearly fine.
So here you are at last call and are confronted with the possibility of never being able to see the dancing machine from the bar ever again. What are you going to do? You have so many options available to you thanks to technology’s advancements. But worry not, you have been spared this decision tonight – hottie from the bar turns out to have a significant other and they seem none to pleased with you being near their honeymuffin. This would be the time to bolt…and be glad that you never gave away your name, because you can be sure that you’d be the victim of some Facebook stalking. Joey seemed to have it so easy…

Friday, February 27, 2009

What is Hacktivism?

Since I am in my fourth year of communication studies, I have encountered the term “hacktivism” before. However, I never really paid attention to what it really meant. Wikipedia defines it well, and in a way that pretty much anyone should be able to understand while also making sure both sides of the controversy are explored. For those of you who don’t feel like following the link, hacktivism is basically the idea of taking the technology used in hacking and applying it for political ends. Hacking is usually a sticky term to discuss, as most people have a very negative idea of it even though that was not always the intention. Hackers are skilled in technology and originally were using that skill to get around the rules the administration (whatever you want to define that as - the government, the media, the "man") put into place. They had ethics that they recognized as they, like Spiderman, knew that with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately the new generation of hackers do not follow those ethics (I guess you could say they’re like the evil Spiderman in the third movie) and that is why there hackers are now cast in such a negative light.
When I was looking on the website the first thing that caught my eye was the title graphic, with the three different types of font and the caption “Exploit code, not people.” I think that four word phrase should define the entire hacktivism movement. I agree with hackbloc when they say that the whole point of the movement is to “use the technology in a way that is liberating” (as hackbloc describes it on their site). I don’t think that exposing personal information about someone is going to make a very good point, but showing in another way that you can get in and obtain that information is important for hacktivism.
I think that the hackbloc website does an excellent job of balancing technical info, like codes and whatnot, with issues that the average internet user has to encounter. Just on the front page for example, I skimmed the articles about making the site more secure, but read in depth about Facebook and how nothing is really as private as you think.
From just a few pages of the posts on the front page, I got a small sense of what exactly hacktivism is, as defined by hackbloc. They do have their mission up at the top which helps you realize why the articles that are posted are important. Hactivists want free information, internet and society, which comes across in the stories about Facebook and other stories about sites being hacked into.
I feel as though there is sort of disconnect between some of the stories. Even though they are well balanced in regards of technical and mainstream stories, which I appreciate, I think that it may go against the types of readers they want to attract. I think that the main visitors to this site would be those who are educated in hacktivism and have the skills to carry out the technological aspects of the movement. I also think that having stories from mainstream news sites (such as the one from ) could detract from the independence (in my opinion) of the site.
Everyone is going to have their own opinions on things, which I think is good when it comes to a site like this. Having many people be able to post stories should help everyone else keep an open mind about things.
Overall I think hackbloc does an excellent job of following their mission. They’re not the scary, misguided hackers who want to screw with the world and major corporations. These people feel as though they have a duty to the public to make sure that the technological world that we live in is safe and secure. Those groups who choose to screw with us are going to be the ones that hackbloc targets, on our behalf.


Hey everyone!
I've started up my blog for my final project and thought that some of you might be interested. Any comments on it will be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What if 9/11 Happened Now?

Yes, this does appear to be a very heavy blog post; however, I don’t think it will be as bad as you may think. Some of you who are in this class are also in conspiracy theories, so you will know why September 11th is on my mind over seven years later.
While talking with a friend the other day about what I have been learning about in that class and what sorts of conspiracies surround 9/11, we got to talking about the video footage from that day. As far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong and was not paying enough attention in class!) there is only one video that really shows the first plane hitting the North Tower, and that is from the film crew that was doing a documentary on the New York firefighters. They just happened to swivel their camera up at the right moment to be able to see the first plane hit. My thought is this: if 9/11 happened in today’s society, do you think there would be more footage from citizens?
With all the technology available to us today there is a good chance that there would have been a few more people who just happened to have captured that moment on their cell phones or by other means. These days the whole big brother idea seems to be more of a possibility because there always seems to be some sort of camera on you, whether you realize it or not.
In the case of 9/11, I think even if there were lots of citizen footage there is still the chance of things being covered up and not being released. For example, today in my conspiracy theories class we were told that the government has said that there are about eighty five videos showing Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon but only a few have been released. The reason for only some of the videos being shown to the public is that could be that some of them are not relevant and do not actually show the plane hitting, or it that the government is trying to cover things up. Some of those could be citizen videos, which shows that people are capturing events; however, they may not always be able to be widely distributed. This is where things like the movie Loose Change comes in.
As most of you know, Loose Change is an independently produced video that tries to show that a lot of what we were told about 9/11 is not true and that the United States government is actually behind it. Leaving aside the fact that who knows what is true; this film shows that an independent citizen can get their voices heard, even about controversial topics.
It could be that I am overestimating the prevalence of citizen media when it comes to extraordinary events, but I think that we would see more citizen footage if 9/11 happened today. I think it is due to a combination of better technology, but also because people seem to always have some sort of said technology on them that would be able to capture events. Just in the past several years we have seen great strides in personal technology and I think that is key in how we sometimes learn what we do on news programs. In my opinion, everyday citizen’s importance in the news is incredibly underestimated.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are Headlines the Future of Information?

I have to admit that I love lists, highlights, and other things of that nature and, if the articles on the Wired website are any indication, I’m not alone in that feeling. However, when are the tidbits we get in our lives no longer enough?
This week’s readings gave me a lot to think about in terms of how we consume media and culture in our society today. Nancy Miller’s article was all about “snack culture” and how we are consuming culture in smaller and smaller bits and snacking on it all day instead taking it all in at one time.
There are a few reasons why we enjoy this “snack-o-tainment,” as Miller calls it.
First of all, we are able to get the necessary information much faster with bite-sized bits of information. It is easy to turn on Sports Centre and catch the highlights of all of last night’s games instead of having to watch all the games or flip back and forth. The faster we can get all the pertinent information, the better. I love watching television shows that count down lists of music, movies, or other such things. This is a great way to see what is popular and well liked without having to consume the full length products.
One of the great things about having bite sized information available anywhere and at any time is that we can check up on things whenever we want. If we have a spare minute or two we are able to access the news or watch part of a television show. These days we have so much going on that we have to use our time wisely. Not only is this important when we are constantly on the go and using our mobile technology, but sometimes even when we’re stationary we have to check up on things and don’t have a lot of time to do it.
We’ve become accustomed to small bits of information. Our culture is becoming more used to all these snack sized information and could potentially have an effect on our attention spans. I for one am easily distracted by several news headlines that pop up when I sign into hotmail and sometimes even forget what I started looking at. The headlines have to be interesting to me though, otherwise I won’t bother looking into them. This is part of the reason that journalists have to make sure that their article has all the important and relevant information right at the beginning, in case the reader doesn’t have time to read the whole article. That practice has been transferred to new media, which tries to catch our attention with links instead of newspaper headlines.
Not only do we want information that is quick, whether it be a few hundred words or a minute or two, we also want information that is given to us over small technology. Computers are getting smaller, and now we don’t even need a computer to look up information. We could find most things online from our cell phones, which are even smaller. Not only is information being gathered on smaller technology, but music is being transported in smaller devices as well. We need things to be portable, which makes some people in the television and movie industry irritated, to say the least. What director wants their movie to be seen on a teeny tiny screen? While the critics may frown upon the idea of portable movies, the rest of the public has embraced their portable theatres.
For those of you who have looked at the Wired site, I’d like to get your take on our snack culture and see what you think about the way we consume information. Hopefully my ideas have come across well enough that you can compare your thoughts to them. For now, that’s all I have to say, except that I am now suddenly craving a snack…