[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

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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.

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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.

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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.