Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Greatest Medium of All Time?

     What if I were to tell you I have found the greatest medium of all time? It uses video and sound technology to bring together people from far across the world, or just the other room. It is mindless and provocative. Its ease of use allows for people of all ages to enjoy its greatness. It was created by a Russian. It's everything the internet is about. Got it yet?

     While Chatroulette may never be praised for its academic content, it is a medium that contains the best and worst the internet has to offer while also bringing together many cultural aspects we have discussed in class. Chatroulette is able to bring together strangers through the use of webcams and can be seen as extensions of sight, sound, and social functions. The "roulette" formatting of the website allows a user to skip to a new chat partner at their leisure, which is representative of the effect the internet continues to have on its users. We discussed in class about the way the internet has changed reading in the sense that users only scan the information and aren't willing to stay on a specific page for a long period of time. Chatroulette plays off of this effect, as users are more willing to skip between chat partners at a rapid pace.

     The way Chatroulette combines technological advancements, cultural behaviors, and the wackiness that is the internet works to create a truly unique medium. Although all you'll probably stumble across is a bunch of stray weiners, go ahead and give Chatroulette a spin and experience what makes the internet awesome and terrifying at the same time. Who knows, you might even run into this guy:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Terminator of Free Expression

     As we discussed in class on Wednesday, violent video games are a hotly debated topic amongst lawmakers and politicians these days. Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill in 2005 that created a ban on the sale of "violent" video games to minors and imposes fines on retailers that break the law. An appeal on the ban was recently heard by the Supreme Court,  with a ruling expected sometime next year. Although I agree that there are a host of games that young children probably shouldn't play, how can a lawmaker decide what is and what isn't violence and also penalize retailers when they aren't always the reason kids get their hands on these games.
     In the fine print of the bill, a "violent" video game is defined as game that involves "killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being" with no "serious, literary, artistic, political or scientific value." While the law things it has covered the bases of defining "violence", these are just one group of people's views on violence. Perhaps what they see as a game that would have harmful effects on a child playing it may not be truly harmful to the child after all. In fact, the article by Henry Jenkins debunking video game myths cites a 2001 US Surgeon General report that states that the strongest risk factors for school shooters were mental stability and quality of home life. Although people are often quick to blame the media for society's problems, like youth violence, it is usually the case that there are many more significant factors than just a violent video game.
     Parents are one of the main ways that minors get access to these violent games, yet there are seemingly no repercussions levied against them in this bill. Just the other night, when Jeff and I went to buy the new Call of Duty at Gamestop, we had to produce identification to prove that we were 18 and able to buy the game. This practice is common throughout nearly all retailers when the sell R-rated movies or Mature-rated games. This means it would be very difficult for a minor to buy such a game on their own, so the parents are often the ones who purchase the game or allow the game to be played by the youngster. It is hard to blame or penalize retailers because often times they are not the ones placing these games in the childs hands: the parents are.
     Although this bill was passed with good intentions, I believe it is overly restrictive in terms of completely restricting the sale of violent games. There is already a sufficient ratings system in place and stores already abide by rules with regards to selling to minors, so where is the need for this law? Lawmakers might say the video game makers are driven solely by the money, but I'm sure the Governator pocketed a nice amount of money from his violent video games and movies too.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Stumbling towards Stupidity?

     As we discussed in class on wednesday, Motoko Rich's article in the New York Times debates as to whether or not the internet as an effect on our literacy and attention span. While it is not always the case, I do believe that the internet plays a role in affecting our attention span. The ability for a reader to skim a large amount of information and quickly move to another website makes it awfully difficult to pay attention to a longer novel or textbook. Now a fairly new website, Stumbleupon, has made it even easier for a reader to move between online articles, while potentially impacting our attention spans even further.

     Once you create an account on Stumbleupon, you pick from a list of subjects that interest you, like sports, movies, or art. Once your ideal list of subjects is created, you press the "stumble" button, and the website directs you to a random website that is linked to one of the subjects you selected. This type of technology has an enormous impact as it allows a user to find interesting websites and articles they may never have found by simply surfing the internet. This website, however, does have the ability to affect a readers attention span as the New York Times article described. By allowing a reader to "stumble" to new articles at a very fast rate, it is difficult for someone truly take in the full effect of a reading when they are so eager to move to another article. Whether or not you agree with the effect Stumbleupon has on its users, its overwhelming success is representative that the way users "read" on the internet truly is changing with technology.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Do Hits Equal Success?

     The Sudanese-born/Australian rapper Bangs isn't shy about his intentions. The titles of his two hit singles, "Take U To Da Movies" and "Meet Me On Facebook" tell his audience that, well, he wants to take them to the movies and chat with them on facebook. As evidenced in his music videos below, his lackluster lyrics and subpar video effect skills don't combine to make a rapper that you would expect to have just received a record deal in Australia! Now I am in no way trying to cut Bangs down as a person, as I'm glad he is following his dreams and working to create his own success. My belief is that his musical ability is lacking in terms of what a record label should be willing to invest their money with the hopes of future success. Is Bangs the one to blame for garnering this record deal, or is he just another example of the changing strategies withing the music industry?

    We talked in class about how Chapter 4 of the textbook describes the way in which movie producers and record executives rely on their biggest stars to create successful hits. This book was written in 2003, however, before the arrival of Youtube, which has made it simple for anyone with a videocamera to upload a video of their talents (however poor they may be) to the web. If a video gets a lot of hits and views, its appeal can reach across all corners of the globe and make that person an instant celebrity. In Bangs' case, as well as others, a record company believed that the broad "success" of the Youtube video would equate to monetary success with the help of a record contract.
     This example is a true representation about the way in which media industries have focused on capitalizing on current success as opposed to building up artists for prolonged careers. Just about anyone can get a record deal because these corporations want the immediate capital gains from an artist that may have a million views on Youtube or 10,000 fans on Facebook, but lacks the true talent or staying power they need to be successful a year from now. D4L had girls shaking their laffy taffy and the Shop Boyz partied like rockstars. What do they have in common? They both lasted about 15 minutes and nobody knows who they are anymore.
     It will be interesting to see how, with the continuous influence of social media, media industries will act towards their investments in artists. Will they continue to promote artists that might sell at a high level for a short period of time, or will they revert back to strategies that create and build future stars?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Last Free Medium?

     It started with the radio. Then came the television. Is the internet the next medium in line to be regulated by the FCC? In class on Wednesday, we discussed the power the Federal Communications Commission demonstrates over the media industry, specifically radio and television. A main reason the FCC has to regulate these mediums is the limited availability of airwaves. If the radio and television industries were unregulated, they would be chaotic and unable to function efficiently, like a road with no rules or police. A more important function, and one that directly relates to the potential regulation of the internet, is the censorship and restriction of content.

     It's easy to make an argument that when it comes to radio and television, there is very little freedom of expression. Whether it's the regulations of the FCC or the preferences of the corporate media owners, it is hard to have true freedom of speech in these mediums. The internet, however, provides a much larger platform for users to express themselves. Just about anyone with internet access can start up a blog and write about whatever they want, granted the content isn't illegal. With this ability, the internet is seemingly the last medium that can convey free speech. With this freedom comes troubles, however. Sites such as Wikileaks that involve the posting of many confidential military files may pose large security threats. The internet has also infamously become a forum for hateful and racist speech.  While it certainly has its pros and cons, are we not far away from the FCC regulating the internet as well?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Delicious Medium

     When we discuss types of media in these blog posts, often the items we discuss regards technological devices that have created impacts in our lives. If we continue to view "media" as extensions of our bodies that allow for better interaction between humans, I believe that one of the most powerful mediums is food. As touched on by fellow classmates, Food can be a powerful and inventive media as it is a true extension of our creativity. When you are in control of the meal you are cooking, you are able to fully develop a sense of creativity within the food as you decide how much of one ingredient or another. This demonstrates the true freedom that food and cooking allows to the user of the medium and how liberating of an experience cooking can be.
     Another way in which food is a powerful medium is the way in which it can transcend cultural boundaries. Although all cultures have their own unique flavors and recipes, the interaction between two cooks from different cultures can be spoken and understood solely through the similarity shared in the experience of cooking. The ability of food and cooking to bring people together is prevalent in my own family. My father and his 12 brothers and sisters, all of whom are from Portugal, are tremendous cooks. This is a main factor as to why all of my relatives and I attend numerous family gatherings throughout the year. We come to see everyone and catch up on how everybody is doing, but the food is the reason we stay.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Is That Poke Safe?

   Often times in this class, we discuss the ways in which media make interactions and daily tasks quicker and easier. Take Facebook, for example. The way it simplifies communication between friends and colleagues can make keeping in touch easier and paying attention in class harder. Facebook also makes things easier for hackers that may be in search of personal information on the internet, with its constantly changing privacy settings that may be confusing for some users to keep their most sensitive information hidden from unwanted users. At what point do the risks outweigh the benefits in terms of using these forms of social media?

   Earlier this week, after being praised for new features and additions to the site, an article was written that demonstrated a bug in a Facebook application for smartphones that caused a users phone numbers and contacts to be uploaded to the Facebook website ( This development brings to light the amount of personal information some users are willing to sacrifice to be able to access social networks. Facebook has also come under fire for its sometimes confusing privacy policies and security features. While it is certainly up to the user to read and accept the terms of use, there are undoubtedly many young and novice users that simply bypass these agreements without understanding what they are accepting. These actions leave many users at risk by sharing private information that they may not have wanted to be seen. By not truly understanding the settings at which you keep your privacy on Facebook, your information may be viewable by people you don't even know.
   In a society in which social media is a dominant form of interaction and communication, users privacy and safety are becoming more of a concern. Is it possible, with all of these potential security risks arising, that users will ever shy away from social networking with the idea that the risks are greater than the rewards?