[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.

s00ep8d

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.

d5b

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.

tumblr_inline_nz1mi1kao31tvq1n4_500

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.

giphy (1)
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.

17834200_1831873930171804_341253288235511862_o

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.

Capture3

 

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.

nlfpqu4
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.

Blog Post #2: Delving Deeper into the Underbelly of Online Communications

10277_53_blog_entries_3519_656x500
Despite the fact that this looks like she’s written this in word to herself – does anyone actually talk like this online? Let’s find out.

Warning: This blog post contains some very harsh language.

There are two things I’d like to cover in this blog post: firstly, gathering responses from other people’s experiences online, and secondly, to streamline the points to cover in my digital artefact and seminar to be presented in week 9.

Over the past week I have engaged with some auto-ethnographical research methods to gather some answers to two questions, on either side of the negative communications spectrum – those that have ‘dished it’ and those that have ‘taken it’. As a disclaimer, I’d like to stress that these are just samples of responses that I have received – they do not reflect the entire situation. Some responses have been edited for continuity, grammar and spelling; all participants will remain unnamed on this blog.

The first question (as posted on Reddit):
What’s your favourite ‘abusive’ message you’ve received online (gaming, youtube, etc)?
I seem to have issues cracking the secret to a succesful Reddit thread; I only got a few responses to this, but what I did receive was useful. The question is ambiguously worded, and deliberately so; I chose the word “favourite” so as not to antagonise anyone into remembering any triggering memories, and to prompt some more of the entertaining responses that may not have been to harmful.

“”Come fight me, bro!” as he proceeded to give me his number and address …”

“I got told to hang myself with my mouse because some salty kid had the urge to PM me after a match cause i kicked his ass. Jokes on him its wireless!”

“Not exactly an “abusive” message, but a guy kept harassing me to do something that I kept telling him I wasn’t going to do, and in the end he just told me “Now the dream is dead.” … I used to make and sell fantasy attire for Second Life and I had made a set of pauldrons / bracers, and about a year later, he was asking me why there wasn’t leg armor and demanding I make it and give it to him. (so nothing exciting)”

“”Everything was great until OP started begging for money. Dont ask people to support your hobby. Go find a job and support yourself.” … “Just because you know how to make some doodles doesn’t mean you can earn a living with it.” … “he’s not even that good”
Response from one person on imgur to me putting a link to my patreon at the bottom of a series of Dark Souls boss monster drawings that I did.”

“Not very abusive towards me but I was playing CS:GO and someone got a triple kill with the pp-bizon and decided he would write in chat: “Get raped” … “By my pp””

“Had this friend who was a mute chick on League of legends. Back then, my username was KuroTheCat and I would sometimes just pretend to be a cat to annoy people.
Since she was mute, she would only type when we skyped but she always used your instead of you’re. After a while, I told her she should really correct it. She flipped out and went into a long rant about how it was who she was and she would change whenever she wanted.
So I deleted her. The next morning she sent me an essay of how I was a horrible human being but she topped it off with “And BTW you’re not a fucking cat””

While there were not a lot of responses, I was pleased with the variety of responses I received. I am concerned that the notion of rape was brought up in such a small sample pool – I wonder if the ratio of comments of sexual nature would change should I have had a greater response. I was previously under the impression that these kind of comments were not all that common – I personally haven’t received any notable responses of a sexually charged nature. I will elaborate on my own experiences in my seminar.

The second question (asked in numerous Discord channels):
Have you ever been combanned/banhammered from online communications? If so what was it you said that got you banned? Did you feel any remorse for your actions and did you think there would be consequences?
This question was a little more loaded than the last one – only a few managed to answer the third part of the question, however. I believe I will have to dig a little more deeply in order to find the psychology behind these behaviours – perhaps by finding some more scholarly sources.

“I was only banned once, but I dont remember what it was for, so :/”

“Been banned in a twitch chat for using 3 emotes to type out kek”

“I’ve never been banned from anywhere, as far as I remember. My brother, however, was banned in Maplestory due to drama spread by his then-girlfriend. Ended up getting kicked from a guild, and I guess the drama was enough to ban him from the game.”

“I got banned from league of legends for being salty in one game. I called someone a dick waffle twat. … [then] I got banned from minecraft for… You gotta wait for this… Having my brightness on full. So I don’t need torches in the dark. It was either that or the fact that I was a bit rude to the mod that pointed it out. I think I said something along the lines of. “Because your blind ass can’t see in the dark doesn’t mean I can’t” Which wasn’t even that bad. I got banned on a different server for saying “Where do I buy some fine booty” … and I’m not even joking”

“Been banned on some unturned server for telling an admin to “chill the fuck out you autistic spastic” … the admin was being an autistic lil spas so … oh better one … another one in unturned banned from another server for walking up to an admin and saying “hello” that got me a perma ban cracked me up XD”

“I got banned many times as a kid, it was because I was an asshole. I used to be a lot more abrasive … I remember one time I got banned for racism because I was trying to explain to some guy that banning jokes is fucking retarded. That was a fun day – he got so mad … Sometimes its how I’d acted for years on that forum and sone [sic] guy just got pissy about it. Sometimes I didn’t care or I felt I was making a moral stand.”

“[The second time] I got combanned for calling the kid a scrub … [the first time for] saying either fucker bitch or cunt.”

There are some great and varied responses here – examples of minor rules being broken and some examples of outright abusive communications behaviour. I feel that those that answered the question and showed no remorse did so because they believed the receiving party deserved the harsh words, or that they were made in good faith that the other party would not find it offensive. Which brings me to another point of investigation that I’d like to look at – the difference between banter and abuse.

Capture3_censored
Unlike the last image, this actually happened. Someone seemed to be confused as to whether this was banter, or real bullying. The two have since reconciled over the misunderstanding.

Coming to this point of the study,  I may have been too ambitious and I feel I need to dial back on the mass of topics lest I become overwhelmed. Refining this study into a series of dot points to use as headers looks like the way to proceed.

So, what are we really looking at here?

  • The difference between banter and bullying
  • When trolling becomes harassment – what’s the difference?
  • Real life consequences: doxxing and swatting
  • Is this an indication on how we’ll treat our AI citizens in the future?

Given the seminar is 20 minutes long, it seems to make sense that I will spend 4 minutes on each point, and use the remaining 4 minutes to introduce the topic, conclude my hypotheses, and explain my approach to the digital artefact – how I will present this information. I am leaning towards a series of 4 youtube videos or blog posts at this point.

[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.

campbells-does-warhol-05-e1346329887708

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!

jotkw5f

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.

picture-1

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.

[Week 6] The power of networks: distributed journalism, meme warfare, and collective intelligence

 

 

I made a rare Pepe. I don’t know if I’m ashamed or proud. I think it’s a mix of both.

rare pepe
This is a lie of course. I’m vegan. Just had to let you know.

Sincerely hoping I don’t get attacked by the Anti-Defamation League for this. I’m not an anti-semite, I promise. I’m just a woman studying memes for BCM112 – and for this week, briefly looking at how meme culture was turned into a tool for political warfare.

This is a bit of a cluster of a topic – so here’s CNN to sum it up Pepe the Frog’s leap from popular meme to tool of the anti-semites (yeah, I know).

 

So how did this even happen? Is it political correctness gone mad?

In a word, yes. Well, that is in my opinion, anyway. Please don’t flame me.

See internet, this is why we can’t have nice things. Because mean people do mean things with them, and then people who don’t understand and like to be offended take maximum offense and go way overboard.

In a way, one could argue that this event was entirely doctored through the entire political shitpost that was the 2016 US president’s election campaign; a lot of Trump supporters picked up the meme, quickly distributing it with hateful comments and using it in arguments against Clinton supporters. The Clinton campaign called this behaviour out and the leftist Anti-Defamation League jumped on this and quickly labeled it a symbol of hate.

I don’t have much of substance to say myself on the subject, other than I think using memes as a political warfare tool is not meant to be taken seriously; it is simply the mix of rising meme-culture being intertwined with politics. If I were to conspire, I could say that it was perhaps completely doctored to get younger people involved with politics. But I digress…

Youtuber thatistheplan sums it up from the view of someone who is a meme culture enthusiast.