Thursday, 4 April 2013

A Citizen Media Course and the Future of Creativity

I want to use my last blog post to talk about what I have discovered and learned throughout my seminar course on citizen media and the public sphere.

To start, I think the most influential aspect of this course for me was what I learned about remixing. Remixing, as discussed in one of my previous posts, is taking an original work and remaking it into something else that creates a new concept or acts as a spin off of the original idea. What I found most interesting is how remixing is often used by citizens to go against mainstream media.  I was surprised by how many citizens out there are willing to spend many hours working through remixes in order to be a creator of something new. This has shown me the ability of citizens to act as producers instead of consumers. McKenzie Wark expressed that using citizen media as a way to form social relations that create a bond, acts as a public sphere where people can contribute as something more than just a consumer.

I also think the discussions about copyright that the class had while acting as a public sphere allowed me to understand how influential copyright is on all different people’s lives. Throughout the class we would often share our ideas about copyright; whether it is good, bad, or both to a certain degree. Copyright does not just give acknowledgement for one's work but it protects that work from being distributed and reproduced by other people. The downfall of the copyright law is that it restricts creativity. In “Do Copyright Laws Stifle Creativity?” Dr. Lawrence Lessig demonstrates that people from around the world can participate in citizen media. He expresses that the creative process has become overly restricted because of what is called infringing upon copyrights. He used the example of a woman who posted to YouTube to share a video of her young son dancing with some music in the background and in result they were forced to take it down with a notification saying this infringed on copyrights. Where does it all end?

I think the course flowed through the possibilities; restrictions, issues and outcomes of citizen media to show how nothing is ever fixed but rather things are always in a constant state of changing. As technology advances and the Internet improves, mass media and citizen media will change. Therefore what this class has mainly taught me as an underlying theme is that copyright is not bad nor is it something to be afraid of, but there should be limits to copyright because with it comes a lot of restrictions which will end in the suffering of innovation and creativity.

What is the future for creativity if copyright continues to dominate? I believe that as citizens continue to push through and go on with remixing through citizen media, copyright will be forced to reconstruct their laws to protect and acknowledge those who have created something but also to allow creativity to proper. 

Ciao from another participating citizen of media,


Friday, 29 March 2013

Online Identities: The Blurry Line Between Reality and Fiction

Alright, so I am not a gamer nor do I spend my time on fantasy games creating different identities for myself but that doesn’t mean I do not have an online identity. Social media in general is a great platform for people to develop a new or advanced identity, something different from their physical identity. There are different degrees to this. Some people create a whole new reality for themselves online and others enhance or slightly alter their identity. The argument that many are faced with is if online reality is truly reality.

Online or virtual identity is becoming more popular as technology advances. Very common platforms for creating online identities are online games. Internet reality gaming often requires one to develop a complete identity for them self, both physically and spiritually. Insecure about your body, gender, height, race, religion? Never fear reality gaming is here! Well not quite actually because there are many pros and cons to developing an online identity to this intensity. Not only are there psychological factors of living two different identities, one physical and one online, but the fine line of reality and fiction can become deteriorated.

I’m not sure I really alter my identity through social media to a great extent but I’m sure there are aspects about my identity that I fabricate on Twitter. For me, I am in the process of graduating, so I limit swearing and try to promote myself as a professional in the communications field. Therefore I think online identities range in very different ways. 

In Finding Your Identity in Online Games Mark Ramirez discusses the positive attributes of online gaming. He demonstrates that through what is called Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games or MMOPRG’s people can often find happiness in their physical world. Players can customize their online identity in terms of physical appearance, voice, possessions, and professions. Ramiriez says that online games enhance gamers’ lives where ones identity created in the online world can flow into their identity in the physical world. I would have to agree that online gaming does provide a good platform for online identities to prosper into peoples’ real lives, but what about those people who take it to the next level?

A specific game called World of Warcraft allows people to not only build a complete online identity but also form relationships through these identities. A video called Identity and Relationships in Online Gaming points out that this game provides a simulacrum between online reality and physical reality. This makes me think of the concept of “cat fishing” where one pretends to be someone else online and starts a relationship with someone using a fake identity. For one, this isn’t fair to the other person in the relationship and for two this requires and intense fabrication of one’s real identity. Someone can be homosexual and act as a woman to find a man, or a pedophile can act as a young girl to talk to other young girls – scary. These instances are more serious and I’m not saying all online relationships are like this but there are many possibilities.

I want to tie in the concept of blended or augmented reality here, where there is no distinction between real life or online life; a reality where the online world and offline physical world relationships merge. Take the new phenomenon of Google Glass for example. If you have not heard about this new product because you live under a rock it is basically a way to live your life though a pair of glasses; the ability for your technological world and physical world to blend. There are pros and cons to this, for instance how great is it that technology can now allow you to do so many things through a minor chip in the corner of your vision, on the other hand how disturbing is it that your whole life can be filed into an online database now owned by Google, yikes, didn’t think about that did yah!

Online identities can be an extension of ones reality or can create a whole new world for one to live their life, but the blur between them is becoming more and more fine.

Toodleoo from another participating citizen of media


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Is it Pronounced ‘Meme’ or ‘Meme’?

Who doesn’t like a good meme? A meme is a form of remix culture (see previous post) and it rebels against mainstream media by spreading through citizen media. A meme is a type of popular culture expression.

Some examples of memes that I have come across are usually humorous because they take an original image that was not meant to be funny and slightly alter it to something that can be understood by the culture as a remix into something humorous. Check out some examples below:


Notice how these examples all involve an original image and they are remixed only with a caption added to them but suddenly the image has a completely new meaning?

Memes can also be in the form of videos, also usually humorous. One I personally enjoy is Ultimate Dog Tease where a human does a voice over to a dog’s mouth movements. I also enjoy LOL MEME gifs a remix that shows mini clips of scenes and change the background music to create a different experience. Know Your Meme is a great website to check out, it is filled with current and reoccurring memes.

My question is who makes money off of these memes? The answer is usually no one. It seems to me that copyright often neglects the underdogs. As citizens, we get a laugh out of these memes, but there is more to it than just that. If the meme is free for us to view, change, edit, and distribute than most likely the original owner to the image is not making money off of it.  In my opinion it is almost like memes are often forced “copygifts” as McKenzie Wark would refer to it. In result of a lack of copyright, citizens are allowed to take someone’s original image and change it and make it their own. On one hand this is great because it allows citizen media and remix culture to prosper, but on the other hand wouldn’t you want some credit for your work?

In The Meme Machine Susan Blackmore talks about how memes work and expresses that they are destined to be spread throughout the public (14).  Memes are created as a form of citizen media and remix culture, they are not created for an individual’s pleasure but for a culture to share and disperse amounts each other.

Many people think of memes as jokes, but there is much more to it than that, they are cultural representations of being apart of an online public sphere that allows citizens to participate in media and feel a sense of empowerment in a world where mainstream media dominates.

Arrivederci from another participating citizen of media,


Friday, 15 March 2013

The Remix Culture - it's not just for DJs!

In my opinion a remix culture is surrounded by concepts of authorship, participatory culture, culture jamming and more, through platforms of text, music, and art. One can argue that a lot of media around us are remixes. There are different types of remixing yet they all have a strong connection to citizen media.

Marshall McLuhan demonstrates that our lives are changed and human relations are altered with every new media.  A remix culture is a culture with forever changing social relations. One type of remix, transformative storytelling, blends existing works into new works however it does not diminish the original character’s identity rather it places them into new circumstances. An example of a popular transformative storytelling remix that we watched in class is The Buffy vs. Edward Remix which portrays the original characters of Edward Cullen and Buffy the Vampire Slayer but put together in the same environment. The remix uses clips of both of the characters speaking in their original context however it mashes the clips together to create a new story.

Another type of remix is called 'supercut' where the remix is create to reveal aspects or hidden messages of something that may be missed in an original work. The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf Remix portrays clips of Gandolf throughout the film but creates an aspect of him that viewers would not recognize from watching the original film by portraying him as fun instead of serious even though the clips are the same.

Culture Jamming is a component of the remix culture because is disrupts original works in the main stream media with the intention to have viewers acknowledge hidden messages. Adbusters is an example of culture jamming because they take popular brand advertisements and alter them to reveal hidden messages or point out reality and negative aspects of that brand’s product. In Henry Jenkins' Blog he argues that the Media Reform Movement and culture jamming such as adbusting actually corrupts the minds of young viewers as much as the original advertisements do because they strip the viewers chance for their own judgments to come through and create more ideologies. 

The remix culture can be present though many platforms, however it thrives on the Internet in result of the rise of the online public sphere, as discussed in my earlier posts. Remixing in terms of citizen media is a tool that reveals messages to citizens and in result allows them to see hidden aspects of original works, but does it really create innovative thinking or just encourage citizens to think in another direction?

Adieu from another participating citizen of media,


Thursday, 28 February 2013

Hyperlink Essay: The Online Public Sphere

The rise of the Internet has constituted a new type of public sphere that differs from a traditional one. I will demonstrate the benefits of the Internet as a public sphere including its advanced participatory culture, abilities to distribute widespread democratic discussions, and its accessibility. Henry Jenkins uses his blog, “Confessions of an Aca-fan,” a form of citizen media, to discuss participatory democracy and participatory culture. In one of his posts he illustrates that we often think of democracy in relation to major breakthroughs for citizens such as signing the Declaration of Independence (Mar 5, 2007). We generally only think of the Internet as a platform for entertainment, however the benefits of the Internet and participatory democracy directly affect the public sphere on an intellectual level. The Internet allows the public to thrive through enhanced connectivity. In "Publics and Counterpublics" Michael Warner demonstrates that a pubic can be self-organized, a relation among strangers, personal and impersonal in terms of public speech, constituted though mere attention, and it is the social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse (413-420). The Internet meets these criteria however it allows for a public to work on a worldwide scale that is accessible at any time. Nathaniel Poor refers to the relationship of the Internet and public spheres as an “online public sphere” (par. 3). Poor analyses Slashdot and demonstrates how it establishes itself as a public sphere. Anyone in the world can use Slashdot at anytime, and yet it is one public sphere. The Internet provides information to the public in a widespread and overly accessible way that may not of reached as many citizens if it were just posted in the newspaper or a book in the library and this leads for a more knowledgeable democracy in a public sphere. In "Blogging Outloud: Shifts in Public Voice" Danah Boyd expresses the power of the internet by comparing librarians and the Internet in terms of holding the power in providing information to the public. Boyd also believes that “information is power,” therefore the capabilities that the Internet has to provide information favors and contributes to the power of democracy (par. 8). In Mathew Ingram’s article he points out that social media, such as Twitter, can now break news in similar ways traditional media outlets do. In another one of his works, Ingram refers to news as a process because it works its way through many media sources and determines what is fact (par. 1). Twitter is a platform for an online public sphere because news can be spread to and from citizens, without framing or inserted ideologies to create a bias for the government. In, "Weblogs: a history and perspective" Rebecca Blood expresses the ability of weblogs, a form of citizen media, and their ability to transform citizens from being an audience to a public and consumers to creators (par. 30).  The public sphere is about creating and sharing ideas as a public in a democracy and the Internet allows us to do so on a worldwide scale. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Copygift? Yes Please!

Copyright has ingrained itself into many aspects of our lives and without it there would exist a much more free society, however a much more chaotic one as well - to say the least! Copyright is that thing that says, “this work is owned by someone or something, you cannot use this work and call it your own or change it to suit your needs better (without permission of course)” - what a drag!

Mackenzie Wark in his article "Copyright, Copyleft, Copygift" discusses the concept of “copygift” and I for one agree with his opinion. What is copygift you ask? It is an aspect of the social movement, it is the process of asking someone for the right to use their work, and not just to use it, but also to change, build off of it, and build into it as one pleases. The simple act of asking and receiving permission to use a work is a social relation and in Wark’s opinion this is the meat and gravy of the social movement.

I’m not saying I believe in plagiarism and neither is Wark. However the key here is the social relations that can be built through asking to use one’s work. So yes, copyright is necessary, but the process of using something that you did not originally produce should be much easier and more accessible. In my opinion nothing is ever really original, everything builds off of something else and that is how the world goes around! Through building off of other’s thoughts and ideas our world can grow and thrive.

Innovation and creativity are not always based off of original ideas but rather an extension of a prior idea. The action of asking for the right to use an idea or work and receiving the permission to do with it as one pleases is a copygift.

This brings me to question, what is an author? Can someone only be classified as an author if they created something completely original? NO! If that were the case half of the authors out there today would be phonies! An author in my opinion is the creator of something new, but it can be based off of other preexisting ideas.  Michel Foucault demonstrates the relationship between text and author in "What is an Author" and questions what would happen if authors were not linked to their text. In my opinion innovation could prosper if this happened because we would not be as restricted to plagiarism and copyright. However I then struggle with the notion that an author should be credited from something they create.

Greg Bulmash in "Should Copyright be Abolished" also discusses issues surrounding copyright and authorship. He points out that we should not dismiss copyright completely, however it does need some reworking. I agree, I mean if I created a work I would want my name attached to it for the recognition and I would want to be asked if my piece could be used and changed, wouldn’t you?

Copyright does not have to be a bad thing; rather it should be modified so that works are more accessible to become “copygifts” and yet still remain in connection to the original author.

What do you think?

Sayonara from the author of this blog and another participating citizen of media,


Friday, 15 February 2013

Shhh... We're Talking About Gossip!

The word “gossip” to me is like dropping the f-bomb. Gossip is something that happens everyday, all day, and we just can’t escape it. It used to be that gossip travelled around your office or town, but now, thanks to the Internet, it is a viral entity.

The Internet allows for online gossip in all forms. Gossip through social media is probably the most apparent source on the Internet. With the rise of the public sphere online, gossip can thrive to its upmost potential. This potential includes the spread of gossip on an international scale in seconds. If someone desires to spread a rumor all they have to do is type it into Twitter or another source, and BAM the gossip starts to spread on an unlimited boundless rampage that can make it from Canada to China at an overwhelming speed. Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, to name a few are both a great and wretched source of gossip.

I personally use Twitter as my main source of obtaining gossip. If I hear a rumor going around I use Twitter to both read the gossip Twitter feeds and to go on the particular source’s Twitter to see what they have to say about clearing up any rumors. For example when the big explosive gossip came out that BeyoncĂ© lip-synced at Obama’s Inauguration (Oh-my! What a sin! Insert rolling eyes here), I first saw all of the gossip on twitter and immediately I went to BeyoncĂ©'s Twitter to see if she said anything about it.

The funny thing about gossip is that it is 50/50 true or false (gossip is not always a rumor!) I think that is why most of us thrive on it, because there is a possibility that it could be very true but then a mystery that it may be false and we must hunt for the truth. Of course gossip existed before the Internet but it was less easily accessible before online use. Before the Internet we could chose to go out and buy a magazine and buy into the gossip. Now gossip is free and viral, choosing to buy into gossip is not the case anymore, but rather the moment we open up a browser that enables us to interface with the world wide web, which for most of us this happens many times a day, we are bombarded with gossip.

Mathew Ingram in If you think Twitter doesn't break news you're living in a dream world describes news as a process because it goes through many media outlets and the mainstream news outlets have now expanded to social media platforms such as Twitter. Even if the source is not “credible” that doesn’t matter to many people anymore, because gossip that is spread through social media spreads like wildfire and if more than one Twitter feed is saying it, it must be true, right?

If you choose to be on social media, gossip is inevitable!

Cheers from another participating citizen of media,