This blog didn’t seem especially different to me. I was proud of it, but I didn’t expect anything much to come of it. However, before I knew it, someone had linked my blog to theirs. I was shocked. I investigated. I found that this person, whom I have no connection to, thought my post was good enough to deserve a mention in theirs. I realised that there is actually a possibility of reaching audiences beyond the scope of the classroom. And that this could really be the first baby steps in my career.
This was one of my earliest blogs, but it was the point at which I found myself engrossed in research. Particularly, the YouTube clip I included, in my opinion, summed up my point perfectly. That week’s blog took me a long time to complete, because I was continuously side tracked in articles, YouTube and websites. It was the first time I’d engaged at such a personal level with the subject. My research also impacted the way I look at other aspects of my life
This was an important personal topic for me. And difficult to write about with a clear head. I spent hours trawling through comments on YouTube seeing if sexism really was as rampant on the internet as I was being told. Apparently, it is. This shocked me. However, my aim was to comment intelligently on the issues at hand, rather than rant angrily at the injustice. This was my most challenging blog, but I also think the most rewarding.
This blog is about the way women are treated online when they raise an opinion. Any opinion.
Disagreeing with a woman is legitimate: we all are entitled to our opinions. However, there are politically correct ways to disagree, and then there are sexist, degrading, misogynistic ways.
Karalee Evans talks about her experiences in Men call me things: it’s not as romantic as it sounds. What is interesting about this text are the accounts of her personal experiences as an active online woman. She recounts how she has received abusive emails and comments, based entirely on her gender. She also outlines how many women receive death threats, threats of sexual violence, and general misogynistic comments. This text is important because it is physical proof, not an assumption, that sexism is thriving online.
One of the most important issues raised by Evans is her comment that 9 out of 10 misogynistic comments are anonymous.
And here lies the crux of the argument: the internet allows us to be anonymous. And it would seem, judging by the likes of Karalee Evans and a multitude of others, that this is both a blessing and a curse.
What is interesting to note is that the comments section is disabled: unusual for YouTube. However, if you visit a non-ABC YouTube video of the same scene, where comments are enabled, there are plenty of sexist, derogatory comments.
This seems to be becoming a common measure to deal with this ‘trolling‘: simply disarming people of the tools with which they may express offensive opinions. But does this contradict the freedom of speech values that the internet offers. Well, in my opinion, no it doesn’t. The internet is sufficiently free enough for sexist comments, as well homophobic and racist ones, to not be stood for.
#mencallmethings is a Twitter hashtag started by Sady Doyle (read her blog here) that allows women to share their stories of sexist attacks upon them online. Though now inactive, it was further proof that sexism does exist, but also, crucially, that it is not being totally ignored. Another interesting blog to follow is The Antibogan, which names and shames those who abuse the internet’s capacity to enable freedom of speech.
So, though the internet allows anonymity, and fewer consequences for targeting women who are active users, if sexism’s primary aim is to shut down the voices of women, it is clearly not succeeding, as shown by all the sources I’ve mentioned. There are still many outlets where this type of abuse is highlighted and condemned. Obviously, many sites need to improve policies on exactly what comments are tolerated. And many women do feel intimidated to raise an opinion.
This is not the way things should be, but:
the internet is not the source of sexism: people are.
And until people’s attitude’s change, sexism will stick around. Clearly there are no easy answers, but to refer again to Megan Gibson, the internet and society are almost synonymous these days.
So, changing the structure of the internet will only eradicate sexism and misogyny if our society, as a whole, changes too.
So who created this moral panic, such as described in this Chaser video:
As Henry Giroux says in “Youth Movement in a Culture of Hopelessness” by Jesse Strauss, many people view youth as “disposable populations“. The article describes the Occupy Wall Street movements and way in which young people are engaging with the issues relating to them. The viewpoint taken is particularly interesting because, unlike the majority of mass media I’ve encountered, it sympathises with the concerns of young people, rather than condemning them.
What this made me think about is the way youth voice is generally shut down in our society. Sure, there are isolated pockets where active participation is encouraged, for instance, specialised youth conferences, schoolroom debates, but in the ‘real world’, only fully-fledged adults warrant our attention. And maybe this is why there is a worldwide trend of disengagement with traditional politics on the part of youth: no one wants to voice an opinion when it isn’t going to be valued. A particularly noteworthy quote is:
“That’s why I believe the dominant media finds this movement so threatening. They’re hysterical. What it suggests is not that young people are simply protesting. It suggests that they’re not buying the crap that comes out of the dominant media, they’re challenging it, and secondly, they’re setting up their own circuits of knowledge and education. That’s frightening to think that young people can actually create a culture in which questions of dialogue, dissent, critical engagement, global responsibility, can come into play – that truly frightens, in my estimation, financial and dominant elites.”
What this suggests is that Occupy Wall Street is a stepping stone towards youth having a voice. What is even more interesting is the way in which youth are gathering. Occupy Wall Street employed various social media strategies, most notably, their Tumblr blog.
So maybe, youth are not disengaged, but just engaging in a new way.
This video outlines the ways in which traditional media, as shown before, have been involved in dismissing youth’s legitimacy in protesting through Occupy Wall Street.
What is interesting to note is the origins of this news report. RT America is dedicated to providing news often missed or misrepresented by mainstream media. They describe their YouTube channel as being central to their ongoing mass distribution and how they are reaching more viewers than ever before.
So what is the message here? Young people are not incapable of having a credible opinion, and are also not incapable of expressing it. Convergent media, as a familiar thing to many of the younger generation, is the tool by which these previously unacknowledged voices can be heard.
What is an original idea? Do they simply spring forth from clever minds to revolutionise the world? Do they just descend from the sky to enchant an unsuspecting public? Is it a light bulb moment?
Remixing is the adaption and re-invention of another’s ideas. It has bloomed in contemporary society, where the tools and materials needed for remixing are freely available to all. For example, this video is a mash up of Harry Potter and LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem’.
However, some people see it as stealing.
Kirby Ferguson has created a series of four useful videos describing how inevitable ‘copying’ of ideas is. In fact, he refers to it as cultural evolution. In essence, remixing is the natural result of this cultural evolution. What makes these videos useful is the use of multiple examples to illustrate points. It becomes apparent that remixing is part of every development within society.
Axel Bruns, in ‘Distributed Creativity: Filesharing and Produsage’, extends this concept to analyse the role of a ‘produser’ (participant and creator of media) within contemporary society. Like, Ferguson, Bruns focuses on the positive aspects of a society where content can be freely created, accessed and adapted.
The points made are convincing, however, what did surprise me was the claim that there is little evidence supporting the claim that the music industry is suffering due to piracy. In an article discussing the viability of music streaming service Spotify, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) Digital Music Report indicates that since 1999, global recorded music revenue has been decreasing, up until 2012, where it rose by 0.3%. Which left me wondering, which side of this debate is correct. Independent research is needed.
Another interesting point raised by Ferguson was the notion that humans have an instinctive aversion to loss. In essence, while we are happy to access and participate in remixing ideas, we are far less likely to be happy about others ‘stealing’ our ideas to use for their own remixing purposes. He referred to it as being ‘territorial’.
So why do we need to worry about remixing? If it is, as Ferguson tells us, simply the natural progression of culture, why is it such an issue when every thought we have is simply the extension of another?
The answer seems to lie in Ferguson’s notion that humans are averse to loss. We like owning things. Original ideas are not possible, so it is only logical that we should seek to adapt and change another’s ideas into something greater. As Bruns points out, remix/mash up culture should not be seen as a threat, but rather a way for individuals and groups to express ideas in new ways.
Remix is a GOOD THING! It can benefit us and enrich our experiences. Fighting against it, it seems, is like fighting human nature.
As has been widely established, traditional media producers are in trouble. We, as prosumers, are interacting with media in ways not seen before. And, we’re doing it for free. Which naturally means that traditional media owners are desperately trying to find a way to make money off this changing media landscape.
Henry Jenkins explains transmedia storytelling in “Transmedia Storytelling 101“. In a nutshell, transmedia narratives involve the same story being told over multiple media platforms. Important to a traditional media producer perspective, Jenkins states that transmedia storytelling can “expand the potential market” because there are now multiple points of entry into the story world. In his opinion, transmedia is a worthwhile business venture.
For example, Harry Potter was originally a series of 7 children’s books, written by J K Rowling. However, it has spawned 8 movies, video games across a variety of gaming platforms, including Lego Harry Potter, and then there’s mobile apps, further books, a theme park, and various other tie-in media. As a Harry Potter fan, I do have to admit to owning/using a large proportion of these.
This Wall Street Journal blog explains the new addition to the Potter universe: Pottermore. Writer Nick Clayton quotes Jeff Gomez (Starlight Entertainment CEO) as defining Pottermore as a “communal storytelling engine“. He goes on to say that Pottermore will: “officialize and galvanize a massive fan base into a single location, and then service their wildest dreams”. This supports Henry Jenkins’ claim that more entrances into a story world will correlate with a larger potential market, and hence, a greater potential for profit.
In ‘Pop Cosmopolitanism: Mapping cultural flows in an age of media convergence,’ Jenkins (2004, pp. 114-140) talks about how the interaction between corporate convergence (a bottom down force where media ownership is becoming more concentrated) and grassroots convergence (where media users are becoming increasingly empowered in their ability to interact with media) to cause global convergence which propagates pop cosmopolitanism, or the acceptance of ideas from difference cultures.
So it seems we can assume that transmedia is not just about big blockbusting media successes, but also the sharing of local and international content between cultures. For example, the growing influence of manga, or Pokémon.
This interview with the aforementioned Jeff Gomez highlights this importance of youth in modern media culture, also mentioned by Jenkins (2004 pp. 114-140). He calls transmedia interaction a “lifestyle experience”, which supports the idea that transmedia narratives are the future of media experience.
Transmedia narratives, judging by multiple sources, are set to revolutionise the way we interact with media. Media will not remain purely consumable for much longer, instead mutating into an interactive experience within a complex story world. The Matrix has done it, Lost has done it, Harry Potter has done it...
It’s only a matter of time before content, local and international, becomes interactive and highly accessible to all.
Jenkins, H 2004, ‘Pop Cosmopolitanism: Mapping cultural flows in an Age of Media Convergence’, in M. Suarez-Orozco & D. Qin-Hilliard (eds.) Globalization: Culture and Education in the New Millennium, University of California Press, Ewing, NJ, pp.114-140.
As most of us are aware, passive consumption is no longer the only option when it comes to the media.
There is now this outlandish, crazy alternative where we, ignorant amateurish consumers, can become what is termed: citizen journalists.
Well actually, the idea that amateurs can get in on the professional business is not a new one. Amateurs can be artists, or authors or entrepreneurs. So what makes journalism any different?
What decides how easily individuals can access the professional business is cost of entry. For example, you cannot simply decide you want to be a neurosurgeon and walk into a hospital. You need many, many years of study and some complicated qualifications. It is expensive and requires a set level of skill. By contrast, just about anyone can walk into McDonalds and be employed, because there is a comparatively lower level of skill (no offense intended, I respect employees of McDonalds).
Journalism used to have a relatively high cost of entry. You had to do a journalism degree and then be employed by a major company if you wanted to broadcast news.
However, the issue is, that since the birth of the internet, the cost of entry involved in being able to comment on current affairs has dropped impressively. To zero, in fact.
This has raised some questions: who should decide what the news is? Should it be giant media organisations, many of which are owned by the same people (i.e. Rupert Murdoch), or should it be the general population? If you read “Citizen journalism: Inside information vs. outside perspective” by Tom Merritt, it would seem that the idea of ‘non-professionals’ reporting on current affairs is not so unusual. As Tom Merritt points out, the printing press was originally a technology possessed by individuals who then formed major companies. In his opinion, citizen journalism does not have to ‘take over’ regular journalism, rather it’s a fairer system that allows each side to balance each other.
As this video shows, citizen journalism should not be about killing journalism, but improving it. Citizens may be in the right place at the right time, able to collect information where regular journalists cannot. They may provide a voice when official avenues are silenced. Examples include citizen journalism during the Egyptian Uprising of 2011 and during Hurricane Sandy. This Observer Blog shows a collaboration of live tweets, images and reports designed to be more accessible in the moment than traditional media.
By contrast, citizen journalism can be less informed or truthful, because there are no ethics standards and few controls on what can be reported.
So it seems that journalism is not dying, but mutating into new and unseen forms. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is yet to be seen.
Axel Bruns talks about the “growing ability of produsage to hold its own against its more traditional rivals” in Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation. ‘Produsers’ are a hybrid species, that growing group of people that both produce and use online content. Citizen journalists are produsers. The text talks about the ways in which produsers are set to change the way we think of media.
So, according to Bruns, it’s not just journalism that’s being affected.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ll know that the way we relate to media has changed. Dramatically.
We are no longer the audience, we are prosumers.
This means we don’t just passively accept and digest the media when it is spoon-fed to us at regular intervals. We decide when, where and what we want to view, and then make our own decisions about how or if we want to interact with it. We make Facebook statuses, tweet news, leave comments, and hit the ‘like’ button. We can also share what we find interesting with those we know. Or don’t know, as is often the case.
In effect, we have become part of the media, integrated into the whole. This has a whole range of potential that we’re only just finding out about. “The Mobile Phone and the Public Sphere”, you can begin to understand the effects an active audience is having upon the way information is gathered. For example, if you look at the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, you can see that social media became integral to the organisation of protests, as well as reporting what was going on within Egypt to the outside world. “Twitter is Blocked in Egypt Amidst Rising Protests” outlines how the Egyptian government attempted to block Twitter, but how news leaked through anyway.
In this way, rather than getting what would be an official, censored version of the truth, the outside world and people within Egypt were allowed a more accurate insight.
This is not the first time convergent media has altered the outcome of an event, the Boxing day tsunami in 2004, the London Bombings….
In these times, anyone can be a journalist.
I took it upon myself to look at what was happening, media wise, with the emerging story of North Korea’s declaration of war. Hackers accessed North Korea’s social media pages, (watch “Hackers target N Korea as tensions mount“) but the difference here is that North Korea’s media is so closed. It will be interesting to see what kinds of impacts convergent media will have upon these events.
However, it’s not just news that’s changing, it’s our entertainment. YouTube ‘vloggers’ are amassing thousands if not millions of followers (charlieissocoollike being my sister’s favourite). The phenomenal power is that these are everyday people, who have now been given the creative and expressive freedom to make their own media.
There are home-made videos that receive millions of views. What does this mean for traditional broadcasters? Well, in a nutshell, everyday people can upload content at zero cost to themselves which is viewed by more people than when millions of dollars’ worth of investment is put towards producing traditional content.
The content industry is in trouble: the audience has discovered DIY
Gordon, Janey (2007), The Mobile Phone and the Public Sphere: Mobile Phone Usage in Three Critical Situations, Convergence 13/3 Pages: 37-319.