Digital Artifact and Contextual Essay

You can download the Digital Artifact PDF by clicking this link.

Individual pages of the Digital Artifact PDF

Contextual Essay

“A crash Course in Social Media for the time-poor small business!” is a digital PDF mini-guide for people who are interested in or who have start a small business either as a business entity, a freelancer, or a sole trader. The original intention for this digital artifact was for it to be a series of short videos, however due to the density of the subject matter and the amount of text, the decision was made for to be presented in this alternative format.

In this mini-guide I have collated a series of tips and advice on how to effectively optimize your early business practices in a way that is suitable for future content creation on various social media platforms. This guide is intended to be a great way to line out the groundwork and set strong foundations for anticipating growth with social media for anyone looking into running their own social media accounts. It aims to simplify the process of choosing platforms and creating content in an easy-to-follow format.

This guide is not meant to be too in-depth or comprehensive, and as such gives generalised advice. It encourages the reader to do their own market research and their own planning to boost their social media visibility and gain confidence in independent content management. As it was originally intended to be series of videos, the early stages of the artifact were divided into separate categories. This enabled the guide to be formatted clearly with little to no unnecessary content.

In addition to the foreword and conclusion pages, the main content body is divided into three subcategories: Identity, market, and content. I have chosen to format the artifact in this way to create a clear path through the material. The guide advises that the information and advice within is best followed in order, as each sub-category contains steps that will help in the next ones. Each sub-category has three points of advice with a simple heading preceding each one. This makes the information easier to reference as well as remember.

The guide also uses the #FIST methodology as a starting point to most of the advice given within the text. Throughout the guide the principles of the FIST methodology are reiterated as a constant reminder to the reader not to become overwhelmed. When writing the guide – which was originally to be the transcript of the videos I was going to create – I also followed the subject mantra of “the medium is the message”, using this as my own guideline for the content.

The design combines bright and muted colours of the Pantone 2017 “Greenery” colour palette entitled Transitions. This is a modern colour palette paired with bold and simple fonts to ensure the content is easy to read and easy to follow. I avoided the use of graphical images to emphasize the content itself.

Throughout the creation of the mini-guide I relied heavily upon my own experiences with the subject matter presented to formulate the advice given, and as such there are very few references used. There are also no references in the text itself however the list below includes some resources that I have read throughout the semester and may have influenced the content in the artifact.

 

Reference list

BirdBrain. 2017. Top 10 Social Media Tips for Small Businesses | BirdBrain. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.birdbrain.com.au/blog/top-10-social-media-tips-small-businesses/. [Accessed 22 June 2017].

Building The Agile Business. 2017. FIST – Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny – Building The Agile Business. [ONLINE] Available at: http://agilebusinessmanifesto.com/agilebusiness/fist-fast-inexpensive-simple-tiny/. [Accessed 22 June 2017].

Sprout Social. 2017. Social Media Demographics for Marketers | Sprout Social. [ONLINE] Available at: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/new-social-media-demographics/. [Accessed 22 June 2017].

Use social media to boost business | Business Victoria . 2017. Use social media to boost business | Business Victoria . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.business.vic.gov.au/marketing-sales-and-online/online-business-and-technology/social-media-for-business/using-social-media-to-boost-business. [Accessed 22 June 2017].

Using social media to market your business: the basics | Business Queensland. 2017. Using social media to market your business: the basics | Business Queensland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/marketing-sales/marketing-promotion/online-marketing/social-media. [Accessed 22 June 2017].

 

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Digital Artifact: Video Transcript!

A crash Course in Social Media for the time-poor small business!

Video #1: INTRODUCTION

So you’ve decided to start a small business. Congratulations! But… You need customers. Word of mouth is great, but you can’t sustain your business on word-of-mouth alone.

We live in a constantly connected world, and in order to be noticed you need to make sure you stand out. We can do this by starting with the trinity of social media:
>Identity; Market; Content.
In that order!

To keep yourself from being overwhelmed we need to follow one simple guideline: #FIST. #FIST is a way to keep things simple and ensure you don’t throw your money down the drain. So what does #FIST mean?

FAST – INEXPENSIVE – SIMPLE – TINY

In the world of small business, the work never ends; no matter how tired you are. So you need to find a strategy that works for you!A note before we begin though – this is just a starting point with general advice. There won’t be any in depth guides on specific platforms… for now. These are all simple tricks that I have picked up over the past few years!

The first step to starting your businesses online profile is to find the business’s IDENTITY.

If you have no clear idea of who you are and what you do, your customers won’t, either – and you’ll be forgotten. Stay tuned for the next video for us to really dive into these tips.

 

Video #2: IDENTITY

So let’s say you’re starting a small business – you need to find your target market, and brand yourself. You need a solid identity for the business – not only will you be noticed, but it will also stop you from constantly changing direction in the future, leaving your clients confused.

Here are some tips to help you with this:

  1. Sum up what you do in a few words; preferably 5 or less.
    Of course you can expand on this, but being able to really narrow down your field will help when prospective customers search for your business. For example, instead of “market analyst who specialises in social media and advertising on websites”, you could refine that to “Online Market Analyst” – and then expand on this in your ‘about me’ sections. Think of this short summary as the core of your business – something to stay true to.
  2. Have consistent branding!
    You’ll also want to figure out your personal branding and style – and then keep that consistent. While it may be tempting to change your identity every time growth feels slow, try to avoid this and instead ensure you are staying true to your brand’s identity. It is important to consider your future tarket market when approaching your branding: if you are workind in a formal field with professional clients, you’ll want to avoid using comic sans. Conversely, if you want to market towards the average family, you’ll want to avoid looking too luxurious.You need to look at what it is you do, why you do it, and who you’re doing it for. Then you’ll need to make yourself a logo that is simple and easy to reproduce, that identifies your brand immediately (but doesn’t infringe on any copyrights for other business logos) and that will work cross-platform and through print media, too. Pick one or two fonts to work with too, so that when you produce your content, that looks consistent as well.
  3. Stay true to your values.
    Set some goals and guidelines for your business. A great way to do this is to have two lists: one for “I will strive to”, and “I will avoid” – and stick to these principles. These are in addition to standard business practices and laws, and will be ideologies behind your business and will set you apart from others that do the same thing. For example – “I will strive to involve my customer with the process every step of the way” and “I will avoid making excuses for why a job is taking longer than expected” are a couple of great ones for those who freelance in creative industries.

So now you know who you are. You’ve made yourself some guidelines. But you need people to sell to. It’s time to find your MARKET.

 

Video #3: MARKET

This can be a tricky situation for some small businesses, particularly those in very populated areas, or those exclusively online. It is very easy to be swamped by other businesses who offer the same thing yours does, so finding your target market and being able to market to them effectively will ensure that you have direction for growth. A common misconception is that you should try to broaden your market as much as you can so that you can be inclusive of all people – however for small businesses this is usually impractical and can leave you feeling very overwhelmed very quickly. Remember #FIST: we want to keep this simple! Here are some ways to help with that.

  1. Streamline your products and be flexible.
    When we look at huge businesses, like in the telecommunications industry, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of products and services they offer. You may begin to wonder how you can compete, and the answer is simple: you don’t! If you try to offer the same amount of range that they do, you’ll find yourself overworked and offering more than you can potentially fulfill. For example – a photographer might look at larger media companies with set packages and prices and feel like that would be the way to go. As a small business, freelancer or sole trader however, you have the advantage of flexibility and it’s one you should take. Avoid setting rigid packages and prices, and always be approachable by your customers. They will appreciate service taylored to their needs and their budget. People like being treated like more than a number – so if you extend that respect towards them, it will be very appreciated.
  2. Observe your local market and stand out.
    Have you already started a businesses and found that you’re struggling to really grow and kick off? There may be an oversaturated market in your area. A great way to evaluate your competitors is to just jump onto Google and do some research. Remember those keywords you created to describe your own business? Use them! Search for those and similar keywords, and then add the area to the end. Let’s say you just bought an awesome top-of-the-line drone and you want to do get some paid work for it. You’ve got all your permits, you’ve practiced and you’re ready to go. You jump on to google and search for “Drone Videography Sydney” and you get 12 returns – and those are just the ones on google maps! So you’re now facing a saturated market. You need to now find a point of difference – something you can offer that everyone else may not be able to. Something that makes you unique and may even fill a gap in that market. This can be a long and boring process of clicking through all these websites, researching their offers, and then brainstorming a way to stand out: but it is a very important one in order to avoid being overshadowed.
  3. Market towards a specific few crowds.
    Marketing towards a few specific crowds is a great way to keep things cheap and targeted. As your business expands you will be able to expand your target market as well – but when starting out try to keep things small! Look at the products that you offer, and the skills that you have, and see who they may benefit most or appeal to at this point in time. If you’ve just started a trendy cafe and milkshake bar with loud music and want to do most of your advertising through Instagram for that viral fame, your target market will be younger people who love expressing themselves instead of older people who don’t even know what a hashtag is. So narrow down a field that you specialise in; catering business? Perhaps you could start out small, targeting corporate clients for their lunch meetings, or weddings and formal events with some gourmet meals. Narrowing your target market will make it so much easier to target ads through Google and Facebook, and will also help with content creation as well!

Once you’ve streamlined your offers, filled the gaps in your local market, and you’ve found your target market, you’ll want to start attracting some interest with your brand by generating appropriate CONTENT.

 

Video #4: CONTENT

The home stretch. The content you produce will be THE way that you can spread the word about your small business, so you need to curate it carefully. If you’ve followed the steps so far, though, generating effective content will be so much easier! You have your targeted audience already through finding your targeted market, you have your own identity as a guideline to follow. Now you just need to figure out what is appropriate. The following steps will help guide you with this.

  1. Choose your social media platforms.
    This can be overwhelming. There are so many social media platforms out there, how do you know which ares are for you? Thankfully if you’ve followed along so far, we have an easy way to find out! The best starting point would be to find out what platforms your target market use the most. Facebook is the largest social media platform across all age groups. The quickest way to find out is to simply search for the key terms “Demographics of Social Media Users” – you can further refine this by country, as well. You’ll also want to consider the type of business you are and choose a few platforms that complement your business. If you are in a creative industry, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are great for sharing images and videos of the work you have been producing and are quick ways to engage with your customers. A more formal and professional industry, such as IT support, would benefit from Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn in addition to Facebook as a way to market to other business or to share industry relevant news. Have a look at the benefits that each unique platform is able to offer and if you see a way to take advantage of that, go for it. But you want to avoid trying to be on all of them at once; that will get expensive and tiring very fast.
  2. Don’t neglect your website.
    Your website is where people should find most of the information about your business. It should link to all of your social media, and your social media should all link back to your website. Update the content regularly and be very thorough about what you put on there. Keep the layout simple and easy to follow – if you find your website is covered in links and has more than two menus, your customers will get lost. Don’t forget to include very clear contact information and have a contact form that will reach you directly – and create a professional email address just for your business. Do not use your personal email – it looks very unprofessional and many people will end up thinking you’re cheap or inexperienced. In order for your site to be visible on search engines, you can also look into SEO (Search Engine Optimization) but that is a very complicated process. There are people out there who can help you with this, however!
  3. Curate your content appropriately.
    The final and most important point to content generation – curation. This is why we took great care in selecting appropriate platforms that match our target market, and why we don’t limit ourselves to just one social media platform. The reason why it’s recommended to choose a few different platforms is because each one has its own advantage in terms of formatting and content presentation. Instagram is great for photos and short videos. Facebook is an awesome way to interact with your audience and not only share your own content, but to share other content that you find relevant to your business and your target market! Twitter is a micro-blogging platform which is also great for customer interactivity, to share quick information, and other industry relevant news.
    When I say we need to curate our content to each platform, what I mean is that we need to consider the strengths of each platform that we have chosen and create content with those platforms in mind. For example, if you’re a florist, you can use Instagram for sharing beautiful custom bouquets that you’ve created throughout the day as well as ‘behind the scenes’ photos of orders of flowers that you’ve gotten in before you arrange them. On Facebook you can share a video of a fellow staff member arranging something for a large event that you are providing flowers for, or share inspirational images and quotes (making sure to give credit, of course). Be careful to avoid trying too hard to go viral, though – and go easy on the personal opinions. Keep controversial memes and thoughts off your business page as these can and often do backfire.
    Stagger your content across your platforms, though. Avoid sharing the exact same content across all your platforms at once – if you do, then there will be no reason for having different platforms in the first place. Don’t be afraid to occasionally plug your other social media platforms and do cross-platform promotions – just don’t be so overwhelming.
    Make sure that before you create your content that you are taking into account the technical aspects of these platforms as well – filesize limitations as well as recommended dimensions are very important to keep in mind. YouTube is great for horizontal video, but keep your vertical and square format videos to Facebook and Instagram. And for any original content you produce, don’t forget to add your watermark or credit in there somewhere so that the content can be traced back to your business. There’s nothing worse than having another business share your content without credit and gaining all the profit from it!

 

Lastly, never stop interacting, researching and producing. If you go quiet, even for a few days, or completely ignore any interaction your audience and customers attempt to have with you – they will stop trying too, and you’ll be forgotten. Keep learning and stay up to date with platform changes, and be on the lookout for upcoming new features or platforms that may benefit you. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to simplify your processes: remember #FIST. There are programs that you can use to schedule your content releases so if you find yourself too busy to constantly update your pages, it doesn’t go dead, and your business continues to boom!

[Week 11] Online Persona and Stuff that Tweets

Boy did I open a can of worms for my final blog post. This weeks topic was a guest lecture by Dr Christopher Moore, who I have for my DIGC335 class. We were to examine celebrity practice on Twitter, the micro-celebrity as a concept, as well as analyse the impact and activities of non-human Twitter users, such as bots and AIs.

I enlisted the help of two of my friends and my partner (respectively) – Stephen, Janessa, and Orien. Together we took part in a 40 minute podcast (way longer than the 5 minutes I was hoping for) with a series of questions. It was a two parter, firstly looking at our own use of Twitter, and secondly, the use of celebrities and the non-human, and looking at the impact this may have for the future. Feel free to click below to listen if you’d like 40 minutes of background noise.

For your convenience, I will unpack the conversation that we had and summarise some of the main points that followed the questions that were asked.

Analyising your own Online Persona:

What does twitter mean to you?

There seem to be a few reasons twitter is used – as a glorified news outlet, to analyse trends, as a microblogging platform, to communicate and socialise – and of course, to shitpost.

Barak Obama’s brother apparently enjoys shitposting on Twitter.

Your own twitter activity:

We found that none of us actually have any decent interactions on Twitter – Orien doesn’t even have an account. We concluded that none of us have really taken the platform seriously. Looking at our ‘impressions’ we noticed that none of us were really being noticed.

We also discovered what an impression actually was.

“In Union Metrics Twitter reporting, we define reach as the total number of estimated unique Twitter users that tweets about the search term were delivered to. Exposure is the total number of times tweets about the search term were delivered to Twitter streams, or the number of overall potential impressions generated.
When we say “impression”, we mean that a tweet has been delivered to the Twitter stream of a particular account. Not everyone who receives a tweet will read it, so you should consider this a measure of potential impressions. Both reach and impressions should be treated as directional metrics to give you an idea of the overall exposure the tracked term received. Use these metrics to get a sense of the size of your potential audience, and use engagement metrics like retweets, clicks and replies to gain a more complete understanding of your impact.”

Union Metrics Support

reach_vs_exposure
https://unionmetrics.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/201201636-What-do-you-mean-by-Twitter-reach-exposure-and-impressions-

We also talked about what we could change in our own Twitter activity, hypothetically. Popularity was a common preference – to do so, we’d need to tweet more regularly, use appropriate hashtags, or hit the jackpot by befriending a celebrity and having them sack their legions of fans upon us for follows.

Valuing Twitter celebrities, as well as celebrities on Twitter:

When discussing what makes a celebrity popular on Twitter, we reached a rather unanimous conclusion – that the value of a celebrity on Twitter lies within humanising these people who’s lifestyles seem so foreign to our own. We’ve been given a platform to communicate with them, to reach out to them, and perhaps even be noticed by them as well. On the flip side – it’s also easier to evaluate a celebrities worth by observing their true colours; we can quickly discern whether or not a celebrity is genuine – or genuinely a twat.

Damaging or helpful effects of mini celebrities:

We quickly discovered that Twitter can be a direct influence on making or breaking a person’s career, or even life – whether they were famous or not. Without these platforms, no one would know that Jaden Smith was a nutcase, for example.

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However there have been instances of celebrities destroying their careers from things they’ve said on Twitter. Here is a whole list of them. There are also examples of celebrities weighing in on a debate with another person or celebrity, and either accidentally or intentionally sending their fans to rabidly attack the other party, as well as their supporters – which we could even put down to cult-like behaviour of people worshipping their ‘Twitter God’.

It could be argued that this isn’t necessarily a bad outcome, however – with Orien saying that it’s good that we have a way of discovering who these people really are, and taking away their fame as a platform for their controversial and potentially harmful or malicious opinions.

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However, praise was also allocated to the platform for its potential for good: it can be a source for unbiased facts or alternative views, or for setting hashtags to go viral for the greater good, and to promote some generally wholesome content.

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Looking at the non-human:

Unfortunately, we didn’t have many non-human instances of twitter accounts to name off the top of our heads. I made mention of a few bot accounts that I have following me, which actively search for #stream #streaming and #twitch hashtags in my tweets, to re-tweet to people following those accounts, in order to give my stream exposure a boost.

Innocently, there are other bot accounts that monitor RSS feeds to deliver news or weather updates.

The other account that could now be considered synonymous with Twitter AIs is Microsoft’s Tay – for those not in the know, this will catch you up quite quickly.

In looking at the general maliciousness that we discovered in humans interacting with Tay, we quickly came to the conclusion that humans are generally shitty, and would not hesitate to use AI in other malicious forms – such as bullying or online harassment. For example, setting up a series of Twitter bots to target someone online and spam them with horrible images and links. Bots and AIs are a tool – and it is up to the person to decide what they do with it.

A hypothetical that was considered was the use of AI and bots for the future, particularly on Twitter. We mused at the concept of a completely unbiased source of news from bots that only analyse the facts, with no journalistic spin. Unfortunately, that seems to be way off in the future.

 

[Week 10] Trajectories of convergence III: hardware platforms, permissions, and ideologies

This will be another short post. Next week’s will be longer, I promise. I’m going to briefly look at two points from this week’s topic.

We are in the medium.

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I blame a late-night caffeine binge for this craziness in this week’s giphy gif. I’m so, so sorry.

 

The above gif, if you don’t know, is set to The Beatle’s I am the Walrus, and sort of begins to make sense when you think of the way that technology has evolved to be constantly connected, constantly working and constantly producing. There are now more mobile devices than people in the world today. So it only makes sense to assume that because of how connected we are to a device that has become an extension of ourselves, our personas, and our lifestyles, that we are also trapped in our own cage of the Medium being the Message. One could argue that with our dependence on mobile technologies, humans have essentially become cyborgs.

However with being constantly connected there are some points to consider – for example, the degree of freedom that comes with our connection, and what we are able to do with our devices, and our mediums. To put it simply, I will use the example of the Apple iOS devices comparatively with Android devices.

The Price of Being a Cyborg.

It’s no secret that the two share a common goal: to connect the world. At their very core, the iPhones and the Android phones perform the same basic tasks. That said, one would argue that the degree of freedom given by Android phones would be greater than that of the iPhones; Android services and PCs largely support open-source software, and anyone is free to look at the source code of Android services in order to improve the service or to create products that cater to it. Apple, however, has a tendency to be very closed and secretive about their products. They are not fond of other people repairing their products and deliberately make it hard for them to do so, they do not release their software or iOS code for developers freely, and often relentlessly pursue anyone who chooses to ignore their terms of service to do the above.

The below 10-minute video pretty much sums up the above.

This to me is rather important to consider – because it is about control. For some people, the allure of simplicity comes at the price of your autonomy. Our digital world is constantly threatened by our freedoms being taken away – for example, net neutrality being the flavour of the month (or year, rather) in order to control the way we consume our media. This is becoming increasingly worrisome.

Personally, I love open source materials, mostly because you have an ability to make it as simple as you want to. You are not governed by a multi-million dollar company to use the product in only the way that they deem legal. While my operating system of choice is Windows, I would rather use linux that iOS. I own an android and a windows phone, and have never owned an iPhone, simply because of the principle of it: I am independent and I would like to keep my degree of freedom to browse and to consume and to create as open as possible.

[Week 9] Transmedia stories: from blockbusters to hybrid and distributed content

This weeks topic will be kept brief: Transmedia storytelling through multiple media platforms. Here is a quick video to catch you up on the concept before talking about it.

If I were to say that the world’s biggest entertainment franchises gained their power by engaging in transmedia practice, I would have quite the impressive repertoire of examples to back me up. Looking up a top 10 list of the highest grossing movie franchises of all time, for example, gives me 10 franchises that have all engaged in transmedia practice at some point of time:

  • The Marvel Cinematic universe:
    • Starting out as a series of comic books, then going on to feature in graphic novels, games, a 9-billion-dollar movie franchise series, spin-off cartoons, the list goes on.
  • Harry Potter:
    • 7 books turned into 8 movies grossing over 1 billion dollars. After the book franchise was complete, the Pottermore.com website engaged the audience with more interactive short stories of the Harry Potter universe. The franchise also boasts games, theme parks, and even plays such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
  • James Bond:
    • A franchise worth over 6-billion dollars, with a huge list of films, games, books and short stories set in the universe.

I could go on, but the linked article explains more than I have the time for.

ca_starchart_11-29-2016
The Star Wars universe is similarly huge and cross-media.

What makes transmedia so effective?

People love to engage with their interests, and are always wanting new ways to interact with their favourite topics and hobbies. By taking a franchise and stretching it across several different media types to engage with audiences across many different hobbies. It would allow audiences usually engaged with a single hobby to then consume content created on a different platform to enrich the experience and immerse themselves in the universe.

MeanGirls-Tribes-2
My GIFt (hah) for you this week – taking the high school tribes from Mean Girls and turning them into social media platforms.

The same theory could also be applied to social media – and is something I’d like to look at in my upcoming digital artifact. In order to boost popularity, transparency, and engagement, a business or entity can engage across multiple social media platforms; and if they are careful in curating content specifically for those platforms to avoid re-releasing the same content on each platform, they are able to boost their engagement with audiences to sell their product. For example – if you create content for Facebook, you want to avoid sharing that content an all social media platforms you are active on, so that you wouldn’t make your presence on those platforms obsolete. You would be giving a reason for your audience to engage you across multiple platforms to increase your visibility, but at the same time, you are not isolating anyone for sticking with their preferred platform.

[Week 8] Trajectories of convergence II: the intellectual property paradigm and the content control industry

Last week, I briefly touched on copyright – appropriately so it seems, as this week’s topic is about intellectual property. As a photographer with a historical interest in graphics design, copyright and fair use for my own purposes, the issues of copyright, fair use and intellectual property is somewhat relevant to me.

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I personally have had to issue a few take-down notices myself; a few of my images have been taken without the watermark and redistributed on several websites without my permission for use as backgrounds. After the DMCA takedown through google, however, some websites clearly continued to ignore this and still post my work without consent. Unfortunately, there is little I can do – especially because many of the websites were foreign.

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I am simply one person though – and I’ve always been terrified to use copyrighted material for fear of upsetting someone the same way I was upset to discover my work being used by others for profit. I am lucky that I am still studying – as I can use the excuse of the “Fair Use” clause in copyright law – claiming that the copyrighted materials I use are taken with the intention of using for purposes of education. I’m not profiting from this intellectual property so that’s okay, right?

The laws of Fair Use can get a bit hazy for those who do not specialise in copyright law – and with the advent of the digital world and globalised information – especially Google – there is a growing concern of individuals and companies taking images that do not belong to them that were published on Facebook or Instagram, or that show up in a Google image search, and used for profit without permission.

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This weeks self-made meme! Rather topical in my opinion.

In this digital world, larger companies seem to have almost entirely given up on taking down those who appropriate their copyrighted content and instead are focussing on those who distribute it without their permission – namely, people who engage in online piracy. However there are instances of people being caught in the crossfire of these larger companies cracking down on content – for example, licensing company RumbleFish was thrown into rough waters time and time again for claiming copyright on Youtube videos they didn’t have the rights to, due to a series of “errors”. The most ludicrous being the case of a video about foraging being demonetised and ad revenue redirected to the company due to the bird calls in the background being picked up as a false flag as copyrighted material by one of their own musicians. Despite there being no music at all in the video. What.

 

Feel free to read the comments and description of this one. On the plus side – all the attention boosted the views by a huge amount.

[Week 7] Rip/Mix/Burn: music sampling and the rise of remix culture

As a prelude to this weeks blog post, I will include one of the recommended videos to watch should you feel – as a lot of the context of this post will be contained within this video.

This week’s topic seemed to be a bit different from the topics of the previous weeks, given it’s heavy music focus; a genre of music that I have generally stayed away from entirely with the exception of one artist that I felt particularly drawn to for sentimental reasons.

Naively and stubbornly, I always considered sample and remix culture to be somewhat bland, dull and unoriginal. As an angsty teen my afternoons were spent jamming out to death/black/progressive metal; I was drawn to the minor tones, the raw emotion in the music, and heaviness of the music – perhaps because I was a rather angsty teenager. However, being brought up by a very musical father and having an older brother that started his teenage years as a punk in a private school, I believed that any music that wasn’t made with instruments was really music. How wrong I was.

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It turns out – I just didn’t have the proper appreciation (I DID say I was naive). The rise of remix culture in music seemed to go hand in hand with the post-modern and pop-culture art movements. In much the same way that I didn’t consider rap, hip-hop and pop to be proper music, many people didn’t consider the work of Andy Warhol or Marcel Duchamp to be real art.

So imagine my surprise at discovering that one of the most common beats in the world, the Amen Break, was actually an appropriation itself of a 6 second drum break in an almost forgotten song. I had no idea that this was the basis of so many songs, and so important to the world of remix culture and electronic music, until watching this week’s source material.

As previously mentioned, there was an artist who wasn’t metal or rock that I used to be rather drawn to – Pendulum. Ironically enough, it was a collaboration between that band and another of my metal favourites (In Flames) that I was actually made aware of the fact that electronic drum and bass was actually cool. I used to work at a lasertag arena hosting parties and I really loved the sport – and Pendulum was one of the few artists we were allowed to play in our arena. Whenever I had the chance to play myself, I used to blast the music as loud as I could without getting in trouble from my boss for blowing the speakers and disturbing the customers (it was a really cool job).

The music really got the blood pumping – it was fast, it was fun to listen to, it didn’t take itself too seriously; and this could be, in part, to the band being heavily influenced by jungle sound from their earlier days. So upon listening to that sample of the Amen Break, I was immediately able to place that contextually within Pendulums’ music, particularly in their album Hold Your Colour, which was heavily influenced by “Jungle Sound”. The song Through the Loop in particular uses the above sample, and is a perfect example of remix culture, also including samples of Willy Wonka’s eery speech in the tunnel from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

I’ll admit that my previous dislike of appropriation culture probably lies within my disappointment as a youngster from being excited to hear Queen’s Under Pressure but feeling severely ripped off when it turned out to be Ice Ice Baby. I held a supreme dislike for that song – outraged at this blatant disrespect to one of the best artists in the world. Queen was clearly superior. How could Vanilla Ice get away with this? Spoiler – he didn’t. He was sued.

Copyright is a whole other kettle of fish, but not one I’ll really touch on too deeply. However, it does bring me to this weeks meme of the day!

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I feel the caption is pretty self explanatory – but I chose this image to pair it with due to the controversy surrounding it. The artist, Shephard Fairey, was sued for his use of an image of Barack Obama which was legally owned by The Associated Press. The appropriated image became the pinnacle image of the USA’s 2008 election; it is also an example of what happens when appropriation and remix culture is undertaken without the appropriate permissions and copyright is not respected.

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It is entirely possible that in the future, remix culture will be driven to extinction by copyright holders becoming increasingly wary of controversies surrounding the use of their material, and how it can be held against them. I hope that this doesn’t happen – but given the current trend of the media doubling down on material rights, it wouldn’t surprise me.