Ethnography of Fandom…

November 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

will almost always be a misrepresentation of the facts. The ability to survey fan culture would be nearly impossible mainly of two reasons:

  1. A surveyor’s ability to objectively observe the culture becomes null because the fan culture has immersed and changed them
  2. A surveyor’s presence modifies to some extent the fan culture within itself.

With that said, I want to talk about fan cultures of films from books. Take the Harry Potter (HP) series for example. It had a solid fan base while in its textual form, but when it hit the big screens the fan base increased exponentially. Do we consider the people that jumped on the wagon post movie premiere fans? If so, do we breakdown fan culture into different tiers? How do we distinguish the genuine fans from the hype fans? This is something that is very interesting to me, mainly cause I am too at fault for this sort of fake-fandom. I’ll admit  before the premieres of the HP series in the movie theaters, I didn’t really know anything about it about it. However I was immersed in the hype of everyone instantly becoming interested. I find that this is the scenario for the majority of cases, from movies and novels to games.

From the gaming aspect, I’m a proud participant in the gaming societies mainly involving MMORPGs. November is always an interesting month due to the fact that it is the prime month for game releases and updates. It becomes an interesting experience to watch the game culture complete putting down a game and the next week after a teaser trailer, even the diehards that were against the game seem to switch sides when the community migrates. In my eyes, the true fan is the one that supports their choice in peak times and slow times. They stay strong in their belief and aren’t persuaded otherwise from society. All the hype-riders irritate me sometimes, but then I step back and realize I’m at fault as well. There’s no one to really blame, that’s just how fan culture goes.


In the moment…

November 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

Recently I was going through some old videos of my high school career and came across a video from senior year. It was of our homecoming pep rally where the organization I was involved with challenged the school step team to a dance off. The video was a nice recreation of that four minutes of my life, but it will never be able to generate the same feeling as being there first hand.

This week we read The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin. He describes a theory of “aura” and it’s effectiveness through replication. Benjamin describes aura as a “unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be.” This is the audience’s proximity to the action happening in time and space. He describes aura as unique and as something that can’t be replicated – something I completely agree with.

Being a photographer/videographer, I capture a lot of moments. When those moments are replayed, they show exactly what I saw – without the aura, per se. I can recreate the images on a screen, but I can’t share the proximal environment at the time because that moment in time is unique.

This can somewhat be applied to viral media. The original source creates a unique aura, while all replication afterwords dilute the original aura decreasing its overall effectiveness. The biggest example I can think of is the UCLA Asians in the Library rant. Her original video is the one that sparked the most emotional responses from the people. When taken down, replications were posted but did not have the same effectiveness as the original.

As technology advances, so does the methods of replication. It’ll be interesting to see how three dimensional technology increase in the next decade or so.

Convergence Culture

October 12, 2011 § 2 Comments

This week’s topic if that of convergence culture. As the technological abilities of the world continues to advance, new means of spreading information arises. According to Jenkins, his convergence is not a movement into a single media form, but “a paradigm movement of media being shared across multiple mediums.”

Jenkin references George Lucas’ Star Wars in one of his chapters. Convergence culture can be applied to the success of the Star Wars films. If the films ability to be shared stopped at film, then I believe that the film would never had gotten to where it is now. Star War’s ability to be shared across multiple mediums (VHS, DVD, Blue-Ray, etc…) is a key reason why it survives as favorite of American society today.

I think that applies to most viral videos today. Technology today allows audience to move from an interactive community (users using media in its intentional form) to a participatory community (users take the media and transform it). Users having the ability to take, hack, and upload their own versions of funny videos increase the longevity of a particular object on the web.

It would be interesting to apply the idea of convergence to the music industry today. Over the past decade there has been a huge shift of who is distributing the content. Record labels used to be in control. Any successful artist would have to go through this key middle man to reach the audience. However, today with the existence of programs like Spotify and back door networks like PirateBay – users are now the ones charged with sharing data and information.

Ringu, The Story of a Viral Video

October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

This past weekend, we were asked to watch Hideo Nakata’s Ringu – a narrative about a killer video. The film is about a family that possesses supernatural abilities, in particularly a young daughter of the film that has the ability to kill a person at will – psychically. After she displayed her “freak” powers, her father takes her away and as we find out later attempts to murder her and pushes her into a well where her body remains till the present day of the movie. Now she has her revenge through a video, once watched, will kill you in one week exactly.

Originally started as a rumor, the main character, Reiko Asawaka, investigates the origins of the gossip. Then in series of unfortunate events, the viral video hits close to home when it claims the life of a family member. Similar to Ghostmap, where Henry Whitehead and John Snow traveled Soho for the source of death, Reiko travels through Izu for the same reasons.

Reiko is exposed to the video. Frightened, she uses all the resources at her disposal to find a way to lift the curse. In her journey, she brings in her ex-husband who she makes a copy of the video and exposes him to it, spreading the curse. The next six days is spent finding the history of the video and ways to lift the curse. Through a series of revelations and discoveries, they find the burial ground of the poor daughter. They finally thought that they had successfully lifted the curse, however in the end their attempts were in vain. Similar to the case in Outbreak where they believed incinerating the small village would rid them of the deadly virus, but it resurfaced 30 years later.

The film ends leaving the viewers to believe that the only way to avoid dying is to continuously share the video. In essence, to avoid death, you must pass the death stick to another and repeat. This provides an interesting concept regarding viral media, especially in today’s Facebook applications. Games that require the recruitment of others in order to survive in the games, like Farmville, Sims Social, and Cityville. Would you cast a curse upon someone else if it meant you would live? What about exposing someone to an addictive medium that would be bad for their well being, but beneficial to you? This is introducing the idea of a “forced” viral spread.

Learning from your mistakes.

September 13, 2011 § 4 Comments

Imperfections makes the world go round – quite literally.

This week in viral media we are reading Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses by Jussi Parikka which analyzes the culture and history of the computer virus phenomenon. Parikka goes through a lot of information, but points out a couple of key points in his research.

Fear and security.

The technological world is driven by the need for security and the fear of our private information being stolen. We have to be thankful that digital virology was introduced into the world because they in themselves have led to the development of many important security protocols we use today. The accidental introduction of digital virology has also contributed to development of anti-virus software.

With any invention, accidents and breakdowns are bound to happen. When accidents happen, the magic begins. We can only find solutions when a problem arises, and there would be no progression if there was no problems.

Viral Life.

A lot of the concepts from Michael Oldstone’s Viruses, Plagues, and History and Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map can be applied to the concept of digital virology. There is a number of factors that play a role in the life of a virus. Before the development of the internet, the spread of a digital virus was relatively limited and did not spread very far. However as the world started to interconnect, opportunities for contamination increased. Parikka describes the scenario with the spread of the Black Plague during the development of the Silk Road in the fourteenth century.

Consider the following video.

This video was created in 2006 when World of Warcraft primarily dominated the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG)  industry. It brought humor to a particular crowd and died down after a couple of months. Recently this video has resurfaced to be seen by millions more, why?

I attribute this to the fact that since 2006, the number of people that participate in MMORPGs has significantly increased. There are more games that encompasses a wider audience and therefore creates more possibilities to be exposed. In this sense, World of Warcraft (WoW) can be compared to the Broadstreet Water of Ghostmap, where the virus is contained to the city of Soho – except for the rare occasion of water being transported out.

Media Ecology.

If my understanding of media ecology is correct, it is the way media environment effects the development of concepts. For example, these micro-programs may have never been deemed “viruses” if AIDS had not been a huge topic. The term debugging evolved from the issue actual bugs finding their way into the circuitry and the process of removing them. Hence debugging is associated with the removal of inconsistencies from your computer. Media ecology is dependent on the social vectors around a particular topic and develop as vectors are constantly changing.

Media ecology can also be attributed to things like the typewriter. Originally created as a writing tool for the blind, it eventually, through changes in environment and social needs,  found it’s way to standardization. The same can be said about the development of computers as they started out mainly in large businesses and worked its way to general consumer use.