My Five Best Blog Posts

Wrap up time! Here are what I believe to be my best five blog posts from the semester.

For my first post, I have chosen The Future Of Media, because the ways people share news and the platforms we have for discussion and networking are an exceptionally important factor of networked culture. My discussion is about newspapers, exploring reasons why they are considered to be a dying media platform, and why they still have value.

On the other hand, This Post is About Religion is exploring the human side of networked culture, and the fact that for all the technological advances in the world, at the end of the day what effective functioning networks rely upon is common decency and respect.

Internet Memes and Viral Media looks at some of the content that can be found online and the sheer overwhelming amount of time that is dedicated to the trivial and benign. I also discuss some reasons why things go viral, and what I believe are the most effective ways to create viral content.

I chose Networked Storytelling as an interesting example of how the Internet can be utilised to tell a well-known story in a different way, using multiple platforms to create an alternative reality in which the narrative exists.

Finally, I’ve decided to include The Tragedy of Alan Turing (or, people are idiots) because I feel this highlights a very particular and important part of our modern networked society, which is that freedom of information is incredibly important and something that still needs to be fought for. In addition, this posts discusses some of the people who have contributed to networked culture the way we know it, and who lost their lives because of general stupidity. This last blog post because it touches upon an area that I’m personally interested in and think is important.


Transmedia Project

You’re walking in the woods and you find a box.
What’s inside? Well that’s easy, open the lid and find out. But how did it get there in the first place and why?
My idea for this project was inspired by the idea of an implied narrative, and it started with a bull.

A Red Bull. In fact, a whole crate of it, spilling out over the Agora lawn from a smashed open crate. A parachute lay nearby. Free energy drinks for all the uni students lucky enough to arrive before nine o’clock that morning.
It didn’t take a genius to work out the story being implied by the mysterious set up. A crate of energy drinks dropped from the sky to help the thirsty and academic through their day. Simple, effective advertising that captured the imagination one step further then simply handing out free samples. The bemused students did as we do: out came the camera phones and minutes later everyone on Facebook was aware of the stunt.
Well played, Red Bull.

I wanted to play with the concept of an implied narrative, and so with these ideas in mind, my project was born.

The Idea

“The box was hidden in the woods because…”

From this incomplete sentence a thousand possibilities emerge, from the hilarious to the outlandishly absurd. I posted it on Facebook and got nearly one hundred responses for why the box was hidden in the woods.

FB feed final copy

(Originally it was “buried in the woods”. I altered it to make it more vague.)

From these suggestions I took twenty, and using live action, stop motion and text, made a just over two minute long film exploring the possibilities.

IMG_1859

IMG_1857

IMG_1866

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was inspired by my research into Geocaching to make the narrative about finding something that was hidden. My concept moves one step further then Geocaching however, in that it’s about the story behind why the box was hidden as opposed to simply focusing on finding it.

Here’s how it works.

On posters around the city, on social media websites, and wherever I am able to spread the message, is the phrase “The Box Was Hidden In The Woods Because…” and a URL for a website.

This link, if followed, leads to a website with the video, annotated with links to a  Facebook page, and to Twitter with the hash tag #findthebox. There is also a page with twenty boxes, four rows of five, in all different colours and styles. Click on one of these, it will show you a clue. The clue could be part of an address, could be a landmark, a number to call with a recorded message, GPS coordinates, etcetera. Ultimately, the clues lead to locations where a small box is hidden.  There are twenty in total.

Each box contains some clues linking to one scenario from the video. For example, some feathers and cloth, a vial of dirt, and a package of seeds for a box tree. In each box there is also a sealed envelope with the words “Do not open until it’s time.”

Hopefully, participants make the connection to the videos end, and open the envelope.
Inside is one piece of twenty that assemble to form either a map, or set of instructions, leading to the final cache. In order to find the cache, the twenty participants have to connect to each other and assemble the final clue.

Chart thing border

Finding the links to the video comes with another implied narrative. The clue boxes contain items that relate to the scenarios being played out in my video. I thought it would be fun for participants to make the connection between what’s in their box and it’s corresponding scene.

One of the aspects of Geocaching is interconnectivity. People find the cache and post it online, or fill out a logbook.
My project requires participants to form a network and connect the pieces of the clue, either virtually or in the real world, should they wish to discover the cache.

The Video

All the live action shots were captured on my iPod touch.
The stop motion sequences were a much trickier process. Being without a drawing program I used the website drawisland.com for most of my detailed drawings (the stork and the box tree), and then used the program Preview to create each frame and save it. These were then assembled in a single viewing window and the sequence filmed using QuickTime screen capture. Screen capture was also used for the films opening and closing typed shots.

1) 77 Badgers 2) Assemble in a preview slide 3) Quicktime screen capture 4) Scene

1) 77 Badgers 2) Assemble in a preview slide 3) Quicktime screen capture 4) Scene

I edited the live action and stop motion shots in iMovie. All the sound was added in postproduction. Every image and sound clip I used I either made or took from the public domain.

Process of editingProcess of sound copy

 

 

 

 

 

When shooting the film I tried to use as many settings and styles as possible, to reflect the number of narrative possibilities. I tried to keep it varied and somewhat unpredictable. I wanted the film to be engaging, so people wouldn’t look away or lose interest before it ended. The pace of the film and variety of styles were working to this exact purpose, to be engaging and keep people watching.

I liked the challenge of working out how to film the scenes I wanted. I have discovered the many ways a camera stand can be constructed out of whatever you have lying around.

Tripods for iPods

I learned that an implied narrative is usually something incredibly simple, and that the best way to make it work is to leave as few details as possible. With my scenario, the only specified details are the box, the surroundings of the box, and the fact that the box was hidden. Everything else is open to interpretation. Like the Red Bull stunt, the only details we had were a crate of energy drinks and a parachute, but it was enough to convey the story.

I would love to make this thing bigger and accessible to anyone, anywhere. To do this, I’d like to make an online version of the game, and hide clues throughout the Internet that people have to find. For example, a post on Craigslist, something on Wikipedia, a twitter account you have to find, a made up person on Facebook you have to track down and friend in order to receive the next clue, etcetera.

Another aspect I’d like to introduce is video responses online exploring other possibilities, both of illustrating a scenario and what that scenario would be.


Geocaching

Recently I’ve been reading about geocaching, and despite being personally dismal at it, this is an example of the kind of thing that gets me excited about life.

For those who don’t know what it is, click here. Or alternatively, accept my generalisation that it’s like an international treasure hunt wherein participants use GPS coordinates to track down a “cache” (usually a waterproof container with a log book inside, and possible some stuff others have left behind).

I love this idea, because it completely captures the imagination. Growing up I loved treasure hunts with a passion, but also the idea of connecting with other people by way of finding something. For example, as a kid I used to make paper dolls and leave them in library books, in hope that other people would find the dolls and fill in their features, one by one, until the string of paper dolls was complete. I will never know as this worked, as I never found any of them again.

I like how this game translates to both an urban and rural setting. Caches hidden in city streets appeal to me the most, because it delves into that whole business of layers. But also secrets, seeing as half the fun of geocaching comes from finding and hiding the cache without being too conspicuous. Those hidden in parks of nature reserves have their own special magic though, and seeing as I would appear to have the mental age of a five year old, makes me think of fairies.

Oh god. Moving on.

Geocaching is cool because it makes you see the world differently. Whenever I should happen to go into the city these days one eye is open to potential hiding places, the other trying not to bump into people with, admittedly, limited success. It’s good fun, in not so many words.

Geocaching is most definitely an example of networked culture, but also, I think, networked media. Caches are hidden in the real world, their coordinates uploaded to the internet, and these coordinates used with a GPS to track it down again. It’s a combination of these different platforms that let Geocaching work, as well as the participation of people that need to both hide and find the caches around the world.


What the…

I don’t even know how to begin reflecting on recent lectures and tutorials, except with the slightly panicked, slack jawed, wide eyed look confusion that I’ve been wearing around for the past couple of weeks ever since our final assessment was announced.

I am confused. That’s a good place to start. I’m confused about what this thing is supposed to be.

What is “this thing” I hear the Lovely Reader Who Doesn’t Do My Course And Stumbled Across This Blog By Accident asking. Good question LRWDDMCASATBBA, allow me to enlighten you.

“Using equipment that you have easy access to – phones, domestic video cameras or other devices that record video, create a short film that has a transmedia component. The film should be between 2 and five minutes long.”

Sounds simple right?

Ha ha. Uh ha ha. Ha haaaaaaaa…. no.

So I’m feeling a baby bit stressed. Especially with the “THIS COUNTS FOR 30% OF YOUR MAAAAAAAARK” axe of doom dangling overhead. I’m sure some flash on inspiration will knock me on the skull soon enough, but for now I kind of just want to curl up in a ball and hide under my doona for a while.

Anyway, might as well get brainstorming.

A while ago I used a blog post trying my best to explain “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”. I think what we’re doing is supposed to be something like that, but I think it’s supposed to be using real world stuff too. Kind of like how “The Blair Witch Project” was promoted with missing person posters tacked around movie theatres and stuff. Or maybe kind of like the “To Write Love On Her Arms” thing, which got people to write “love” on their arm for a day to raise awareness about depression.

But maybe not. I suspect this is supposed to be about fiction.

Here are a couple of points of anxiety I’m currently experiencing:

Numero Uno- When it comes to the whole “charisma” and “connecting with people” thing, my personality is leaning towards the awkwardly overbearing and control freak side of things, which I find tends to freak people out. I’m concerned about how I’m supposed to get people involved in whatever it is I end up making, and how to keep them involved.

Numero Dos- How big does this thing have to be?

Numero Tres- Is this about creating a fantasy world/ story, or can it be just like a treasure hunt kind of thing, or like a way of promoting something else we have created (like a song, a book, a blog, a movie, whatever).

Numero cuatro- ugh. Ugh and ughugh.

So yeah. I don’t know what to do. And there’s so little time to do it. Watch this space for further updates/ potential panic attacks.


Internet Memes and Viral Media

When the army invented the internet then handed it over to the general public, I wonder if they would have believed that this incredibly powerful, incredibly useful tool would become famous for it’s influx of cats?

I love memes, although I’m usually on the wrong side of the bell curve. Meaning, I usually find out about memes as they’re on their way out. I’m like the anti hipster- I liked it after it was cool!

I like them for the same reason everyone else does- it’s just brainless, harmless entertainment. And in some cases, like the Old Spice Guyquite nice to look at!

But here’s the thing about viral media that makes it fascinating for me are the numbers involved. The sheer amount of times something has been looked at, shared, commented on, recreated, is staggering.

Gangnam Style, for example. Released nine months ago, it has over one and a half billion views. 
The video is four minutes and 13 seconds long. Viewed 1.5 billion times, that’s the equivalent of over twelve thousand years. Assuming the average lifetimes is around about 80 years, that amount of time spent watching Gangnam style is the equivalent of 150 lifetimes.

150 lifetimes watching a funny man do a silly dance and sing in Korean, in just nine months. Wow. And there we have the power of the Internet.

The prospect of the amount of time spent on brainless entertainment doesn’t really scare me as much as I think it should. I mean, I’ve read Fahrenheit 411, I know how this thing plays out, but even so it doesn’t really bother me just because I see this less as a “brainless drones all staring at screens” scenario, and more like an example of how interconnected humanity is, and how similar we are. We can all find something to laugh at in a funny man pretending to ride a horse to the sounds of a catchy pop song.

Okay, maybe I should be freaking out just a little bit more.

Another music phenomenon that went viral but for a completely different reason is the Harlem shake. 
 Unlike Gangnam style which is impressive by the number of views a single video has managed to get, what makes the Harlem Shake  fascinating is the subsequent dance craze and number of people who responded to the idea and made their own. Typing “Harlem shake” into YouTube gets over six million hits, the majority of which are people creating their own versions of the Harlem Shake.

Internet dance crazes aren’t a new concept. Here’s a great video from Hank Green which discusses it more, and also points out that video dance crazes pre-date viral internet media. He also makes the interesting point that many of these viral music videos are bilingual.

Moving on from the music video side of things, and back to cats.

Something we discussed in last weeks lecture was what makes content go viral?

Humour is important, as well as what I’m calling the “WTF” factor. As in, something that can make you laugh but also say “what the frek did I just watch?”

Consider again, Gangnam style and the Harlem shake. Both are pretty hilarious, but also completely absurd. I think most successful viral media things are leaning towards the world of the weird and wonderful, from Nyan cat, to whatever those troll faces are called, to The Old Spice guy, to How To Trick People into Thinking You’re Really Good Looking. All of it’s a bit ridiculous, and that could be the very reason why it works so well.

One exception I can think of to this proclamation of absurdity is last years Kony 2012 viral video, a video with the power to go viral despite being about 30 minutes long. That video however, was playing with our heartstrings. I think the emotional card can be played to a certain degree of success. I see these posts of Facebook constantly, “share this picture if you know someone with cancer“, or “I love my mum, share if you love yours too.” I generally ignore them, because I find them irritating and manipulative, and ultimately I think that’s it. Absurdity in viral media wins over sentiment; partly because it’s more interesting, but I think mostly because you don’t feel like you’re being used.


Networked Storytelling Assessment

It doesn’t particularly matter which order the videos are viewed in. The way they are ordered below is the order in which they make sense to me, however this isn’t reflective of how the below chart is structured.

The idea for this was inspired by those pictures one finds on Facebook that has a photo of someone alongside an inspirational quote.
In some cases, the picture could be anyone. These images are made by random individuals and can be made by anybody. A “selfie” posted online could easily be taken by someone and edited into something completely different.

The story is basically, a girl steals a phone which she uses to take a “selfie”. This goes online, where it’s edited into an inspirational quote, and shared on Facebook.
The girl whose phone was stolen, moments after writing an angry status, sees the photo and doesn’t know this is the girl who stole her phone. She ends up unwittingly liking the photo.

We had a camera phone, webcam and the ability to record a computer screen at our disposal. We decided to try and make the video’s seem “authentic” as possible, the exception to this being the Facebook screen capture sequence, which is designed to be like a montage of sorts with preppy music and obvious signs of having been edited, such as jump cuts, zooming in etc.

We uploaded the video’s the three separate youtube accounts, and linked the videos together with annotations, and through commenting on each other’s videos through those accounts. We mostly communicated via Facebook and in class.

One notable problem we ran into was the fact that I’m an idiot, and when I created my youtube account it was quite late and I was quite tired, so the next day I had forgotten what the login for it was.
To overcome this, I eventually just set up another account and re-uploaded the video.

How it all works out

Emma final edit


Networked Storytelling

Through my life, I have avoided Jane Austen in much the same way I avoid stepping on snails. Some people seem to enjoy it, but I can’t quite imagine  it as being something pleasant.
It wasn’t until last year that I finally got over my aversion to canonical literature and read, amongst other things, the entire Sherlock Holmes series of short stories, The Invisible Man, Wuthering Heights, and at long last, the works of Ms. Austen.

It is while quietly kicking myself that I begrudgingly admit, Pride and Prejudice has become one of my favourite stories.

Coincidentally, at the same time as I was discovering the Austen universe, on YouTube a new series of video blogs was being released called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. And that is what I’m going to talk about today.

For those too lazy to click the link, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was a modern adaption of Pride and Prejudice. 

Yeah yeah, big deal, so been done before. Snore. But wait, there’s more!

See, this isn’t just a web series existing on a single platform. Oh no! This was a much more tangled web then that. This is, ladies and gentlemen, Networked Storytelling.

(Creator Hank Green talking about the concept much more eloquently then I can)

At the centre we have the YouTube channel belonging to Lizzie Bennet, a 24-year-old grad student studying mass communications. The diaries are biweekly video blogs documenting stories from her life.

Through Lizzie we are introduced to her sisters, Lydia and Jane Bennet. Lydia (20, depicted as a wild party girl) has a Tumblr and her own YouTube channel where she also posts video blogs to document elements of her story that wouldn’t flow naturally into Lizzie’s, and Jane (the eldest though age is not stated, who works in the fashion industry) has a Tumblr, Lookbook and Pinterest.

In addition, through Lydia’s video blogs we meet their cousin Mary, who plays a minor role in the series.

In this alternate reality, Lizzie’s video blogs are edited by her friend Charlotte (see 2:20), who goes on to become to business partner of Ricky Collins, when Lizzie turns down his offer. The company is called “Collins & Collins”, and has it’s own website. 
Through this company we meet Maria, Charlottes sister, who has her own video blog while interning. Through Maria, the Collins & Collins website starts accepting audience submitted ‘instructional videos‘, including the audience into the alternate reality.

We meet Darcy, Bing Lee and his sister Caroline first through Lizzie’s descriptions, and then when they begin to appear in her video blogs. In this way we are also introduced to George Wickham, who later goes on to appear primarily in Lydia’s videos once the plot changes.

Darcy’s company, Pemberly Digital, has it’s own website. When Lizzie shadows the company as part of her studies, we meet his sister Gigi, who starts her own video blog as demonstration videos for Pemberly software.

Spoiler alert: In this modern adaption of the story, rather then have Lydia elope with Wickham, the writers instead decided to have Wickham manipulate her into filming a sex tape with him. A website was set up with a countdown timer on it, at which point the tape would supposedly be released on the internet. The website has since been shut down in concurrency with the plot of the story as Darcy buys out the hosting company and removes the website, thus saving Lydia’s reputation.

On top of all these different elements to the story, every character, from Lizzie herself to characters only mentioned in passing, have a Twitter account and a Facebook. As if they existed in the real world, characters interacted with each other and posted updates e.g. Charlotte and Lizzie wishing each other happy birthday. Events subtly paralleled the story being told through video blogs, for example Jane and Bing Lee started following each other on twitter after they first met, and Jane pinning New York pictures on her Pinterest when she is offered a job there.

It sounds incredibly complicated, but the whole thing is now documented and explained on the official website. Those who weren’t following the diaries from the start can revisit specific moments across different media platforms to piece together the various elements of the story.

Overall the story was essentially the same as the original Pride and Prejudice plot , but played out in an online alternative reality. Audience members could follow the story was as if they were watching people in real life, connecting the dots between Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, and the specific websites set up by characters within the story. Stories were played out in video blogs both through straightforward storytelling, and through humorous costume theatre re-enactments. As Lizzie claims the video blogs are a part of her graduate studies, at various moments she explains some of the techniques used in constructing the diaries.

Audience members could interact with characters via comment sections or submitting videos on YouTube, and directly through posting on Facebook or tweeting. Lizzie’s channel featured occasional Q&A videos where question submitted by real audience members were answered. Funding for the web series came through YouTube ad revenue, and through the selling of merchandise. Audience members were given the option to donate money to the show (via DFTBA.com).  The series has reached its conclusion online, after spanning several months. Following the projects end, a Kickstarter was set up the release the series of DVD. The campaign reached it’s goal of $60’000 in 6 hours.

It’s extremely cool to me that something like this exists, and more then that, that it worked. For all the different platforms and elements of the story, this could easily have been a confusing train wreck. But, amazingly, it actually works.

This kind of networked storytelling through an alternate reality is yet another example of one of the unprecedented, yet entirely awesome  effects of the Internet.