Open vs. Locked: who has the key?

Lock - South Street
Lock – South Street (Photo credit: kchbrown)

The progression of convergence has seen several important choices made. Most significantly, we now have competing ideologies based around how much interaction a user of a technology or media platform should have.

In a nutshell, this is the battle between OPEN and CLOSED.

If we look at earlier technologies, we can observe that they were all but entirely closed systems. For example, television. Viewers had no choice over when they could view a program. Televisions were also fairly expensive, which limited who could view. In addition, what shows were available to the consumer was entirely at the discretion of the broadcaster. Television was made to be consumed, not interacted with in any way.

Therefore, television is a CLOSED system.

If we compare this to Twitter, an OPEN platform, we can see the difference in user interaction. Twitter’s entire existence is based around the motto: “broadcast yourself”. However, as Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, pointed out in “Listening to Twitter Users”, the users themselves reshaped the platform. They ‘invented’ the hashtag and so the platform became not just a way of ‘self-broadcasting’ but a way of interacting with people with similar interests.

One of the most prominent battles between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ operating systems is that of:

APPLE vs. ANDROID

But which way is right?

When Apple came into being, a conscious decision was made to follow the ‘closed’ ideology. This means it has the following qualities.

  • All apps are only available from one place and are subject to Apple’s approval.
  • There is NO option to modify/access any part of the system.
  • There is only one hardware manufacturer.
  • This means, Apple has closed appliances linked to closed ecosystems.

Android follows an ‘open’ ideology, and so has these features:

  • Apps can be uploaded by anyone without approval and there are multiple app markets.
  • Connectivity IS the product, and the aim is to facilitate the flow of content, rather than control it.
  • Anyone can access and modify systems, and it’s free.
  • There are 84 companies that are part of the Open Handset Alliance, which means greater competition, and a better outcome for consumers.

JR Raphael looks at this comparison in “Apple vs Android

What does it all mean?

Well, with Apple, what you see is what you get. There is no option to modify to your own preferences, but there is little risk of accidentally downloading a malicious app, or your system crashing.

Android gives you the power to completely control the way you access and interact with technology and media platforms. However, that means you take responsibility for any negative consequences of your free choices. Take a look at an article released when Android was initiated: “Breaking: Google Announces Android and Open Handset Alliance

Which is better at empowering users?

Well, Android is certainly the answer for that. But is empowerment always a good thing? Apple would disagree.

It really seems to come down to the individual. If you like the idea of being within a safe, enclosed media bubble, where harmful media content is kept at bay, then Apple, or closed systems, would be your preference.

However, if you like to engage with your media, on your terms, with the freedom to make your own choices and mix and match your options, then Android is the one for you.

The choice is up to you.

Don’t let the image fool you…

What happens when we look at an image?

Do we suddenly just KNOW, through some mysterious, automatic reaction that at a red light, we should stop?

Actually, it’s a lot more complicated than that. The way we read images, or ‘signs‘ is dependent upon many things, such as cultural factors, upbringing and prior knowledge. Any image is a representation of the thing it depicts. In this way, viewers of the image may interpret it different ways. The study of this is called:

Semiotics

good-wife

To explain this in more detail, I’m going to dissect this image:

There are two parts to analysing an image:

Denotation:

This is what is actually present in the image, or the ‘signifier’. In this case, there is a woman with closed eyes pressed against an unseen surface. There is red text beside and below the figure.

Connotation:

This is what is evoked in the mind, or what is ‘signified’.

Someone who is unfamiliar with the TV show ‘the goodwife’ may register that this is an advertisement for a television program. The way the woman (some will recognise her as Julianna Marguiles) is  positioned, what she is wearing, the light upon her skin, the clear view of cleavage and how her image is grayscale, all combine to give the impression of sexiness, seduction and allure. The text “Don’t let the name fool you” refers to the title “the goodwife” suggesting this woman is married, but is not being a ‘good wife’. The text and image together suggest sexual drama.

I, as “the goodwife’s” greatest fan, associate this image differently. I see Julianna’s character ‘Alicia’ and understand that she is rebelling against her husband who cheated on and humiliated her. I remember the whole background and previous two seasons.

As such, the way I interpret this image and its connotations will be different than to someone who has never watched ‘the goodwife’ and only seen this ad.

This is semiotics, the study of signs, at work.

References:

Bowles, Kate. ‘Representation and Textual Analysis’ in The Media and Communications in Australia, Stuart Cunningham and Graeme Turner (eds), Allen and Unwin: Crows Nest NSW. 2010 pp. 49-63.

Hobbs, Mitchell, ‘Semiotics: Making Meaning from Signs’ in Communication, New Media and Everyday Life, Tony Chalkley et al. Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 83-95.

Web of lies

“The best ideas are common property”  Seneca

Web
Web (Photo credit: Images by John ‘K’)

Oh how times have changed…

We live in a world that is divided over a very complicated war with two sides:

  1. Content Industry: frantically trying to exert control in a digital environment that allows almost infinite creative freedom at a horrifying $0.
  2. Prosumers: what we used to think of as the ‘audience’, who, with ongoing media convergence, can engage with and produce their own content, and are ignorant/unsympathetic of multiple copyright laws broken on a daily basis.

Both sides have valid points. I don’t agree that copyright and intellectual property laws should be abolished. If you look at Peter Gruber’s opinions on Hollywood Blockbusters, you can understand the current pain being experienced by the content industry. Just about anyone can create digital content these days, virtually for free. The initial objective of copyright was to encourage creativity. But if expensive productions like Avatar (2009), are downloaded for free, then I think we’ll be seeing less of them.

Copyright is currently the content industry’s solution to their problems. But does it really suit the current digital climate?

Take a look at this video: “Copyright: Forever Less One Day”

I’m sure you’re familiar with versions of “Piracy: it’s a crime” ads, which have always seemed to make a valid point. However this spoof points out the main reason people break copyright: because content is now easily accessible, FOR FREE.

Why wouldn’t we take advantage of this?

Cadbury copyrighted its own specific shade of purple, and Time Warner owns the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. When copyright inhibits the creations of future authors, it is no longer serving its purpose.

The problem is, does anyone really know how to balance the creative potential of convergent media and still encourage quality content production???

***

It is at this point I would like to quote Mel Gibson on freedom, but I’m sure I’d be breaking some sort of copyright…

Mel Gibson as William Wallace wearing woad.
Mel Gibson as William Wallace wearing woad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CAUS[E]ality AND the EFFECTs model

Television
Television (Photo credit: *USB*)

Why is it that we are being bombarded with the idea that the media is rotting our brains…?

…That it is making us fat…?

…Or violent…?

A significant part of this can be related back to the Media Effects Model. What is the Media Effects Model? The Media Effects Model outlines how being subject to media can alter a person’s behaviour. However, as David Gauntlett explains, in “Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’“, there are at least 10 significant issues in regards to its integrity.

To compress this lengthy list into something more digestible, we can say that the Effects Model usually simply doesn’t prove its findings in a way that is accurate. To draw from the list of ten, some of the problems include that it generally treats mass media viewers as weak and highly persuadable, studies are often conducted in artificial, unrealistic environments, and children are often, as, Gauntlett said: “negatively defined as non-adults“. An example of an effects model study can be found in this extract of a Supernanny UK episode.

So what are the questions we should be asking?

The key here is not to start with the MEDIA, but to start with the INDIVIDUAL. If we want to understand what the effects of the media really are, we need to ask ourselves different questions: i.e. “Why is this person violent?” rather than: “Does the media make people violent?” There are infinite reasons for a person to be violent, not just violent video games. For example, upbringing, mental health. Causality, the relationship between primary and secondary effects, seems to be mostly muddied by prejudice and ineffectual methodology, rather than being based on provable, logical fact.

The effects model, for the most part, appears based on superstition. Asking the right questions is the beginning to finding out how or if media really does affect media consumers.

 

What was/is/will be the media?

Can anyone predict the evolution of the media? Things are changing at an incredible rate. If you want to get a scope for the sheer scale of change, take a look at Did You Know 4.0. What was straightforward before has now ventured into unknown territory. Is it possible to guess what might happen in the future?

If we want to understand what is happening now, according to Marshall McLuhan:

“The medium is the message”

What does this mean? Mark Federman explains in “What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?”. Essentially, when a ‘medium’ is defined as an extension of ourselves (i.e. how a mobile phone is an extension of our ability to communicate) and a ‘message’ is defined as a change in behaviour due to the introduction of a new innovation (i.e. how a new music festival’s message is not the type of music, but the way it changes tourism levels), we can discern the meaning of something by assessing the changes created by it.  Confused? Basically, when we notice a change in behaviour (message), this indicates that there is a new medium at play.

To rationalise the overwhelming amount of content relevant to the issues surrounding convergent media, we can break them down into three main groups:

  • Technology
  • Industry
  • Audience

TECHNOLOGY

Technology has come a long way, that much is obvious. An important change in recent times is the switch from analog technologies to digital ones, such as our approach to listening to music, now dominated by mp3 players rather than vinyl.  However, it is not as simple as a technology either living or dying, as outlined by Henry Jenkins in: “Worship at the altar of convergence“. If we follow the progress of the original vinyl, we can observe its transition from this:

Vinyl record collection at student-run CKMS st...

…as the primary method of listening to music…

…to this..

Mira Aroyo djing at fnc

…a way of inventing new music. As we can see, the status of vinyl within society has mutated. As discussed by Jenkins, there will never be an ultimate “black box” that contains all our media desires. Technology has been and will continue to be deconstructed and reconstructed into new forms across multiple media platforms. It’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens next.

INDUSTRY

Sir Francis Bacon is credited with saying: “knowledge is power”. And this statement is readily applied to the media content industries. In previous times, these industries controlled when and what their audiences could access. Ideally, media content would travel directly to the audience, through a designated media platform, who would then absorb the information.

With the enormous changes happening in regards to media convergence, content industries no longer know through what medium their media will be received.

Will it be through a television?

The internet?

Smartphone?

In such uncertain times, many content industries have lost control of how and when people access their media, and for what price. Jenkins recounts the New Orleans Media Experience, and the sheer chaos within the content industries over how to regain or at least exert some control.

AUDIENCE

The affect of media convergence upon audiences has been enormous. In simple terms, audiences are no longer the passive receivers of content, they are active participants: tweeting, facebooking, uploading to YouTube, and of course, blogging. An interesting fact about the current media landscape is that while media content has increased dramatically, as a result of the almost zero cost of creating content, it has also decreased the quality and reliability. These days, it is not just trained journalists that can report on current affairs.

So what does all this mean???

Apparently no one really knows. Media convergence has infinite possibilities, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to predict its evolution. It seems we will have to wait and see…

 

 

References:

Federman, M. (2004) What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message? http://individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/MeaningTheMediumistheMessage.pdf

Jenkins, H. (2006). “Worship at the altar of convergence”: A new paradigm for understanding media change. In H. Jenkins, Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide (pp 1 – 24). New York: New York University Press. http:www.nyupress.org/webchapters/0814742815intro.pdf

 

 

 

Introductions

Hi! My name is Ainsley and I’m a first year Media and Communications student at UOW. I live on a farm and so I’m looking forward to all the new experiences being a university student will bring. I love my music, and so my Ipod is one of my most treasured possessions. I’m enjoying the flexibility of Spotify and, naturally, I’m an avid Facebooker. However, my main passion lies in reading and writing so I’m looking to use my degree to create a journalism career for myself in a rapidly changing environment. As a somewhat conservative media user, who will always retain a lingering nostalgia for the benefits of the hardback book, I hope to learn the skills and gain the knowledge to flourish in the journalistic world of the future.