Thursday, February 24, 2011

How NOT to use digital technology- or alternatively- Even if you did bad on the exam today, at least you're smarter than this guy

Hypertext and Memex Clarification

Hypertex is the digital form of looping information so it all links together. The Memex is the machine that Bush theorized about (1945/48) that linked data in all the libraries together. The memex is the analog hypothetical formation of what the digital hypertext does today.

As for collective intelligence, this is McLuhan's idea correct?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

hypertext vs memex

can anyone explain the difference between memex and hypertext, they seem pretty similar

Study Break 2

I bring you the outstanding screenwriting of one Cameron Crowe mixed with the youthful enthusiasm of Jeremy Piven, and completed by John Cusack's delivery of some darn good advice. Say Anything

Study Break! Still Need a Spring Break Plan?

Unplug! It is now an official niche-travel theme:

Ironically, I already did one of these trips!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Puppets and babies

Funny or Die and/or Profit

Meeting executives from an established new media company is an opportunity I couldn't pass up.  I've always considered myself an early adopter of technology and new media.  I signed up for a Twitter account in February of 2008 well before the majority of my friends did and, ever since, I have been fascinated by what new media can offer.  It would be ideal if I could work at Funny or Die, Mashable, YouTube, or another new media company after college.  I finally had my chance to learn more in these three meetings with Funny or Die executives and writers.  The main topics I wanted to bring up with Mike and Chris Farah were making money in a new media business, promoting/growing a new media business, and getting a job in the new media field.

Funny or Die implements brand marketing strategies to incorporate brands willing to pay for the publicity into original funny videos.  This marriage is a win-win-win situationn where brands get their product name out there, users enjoy watching humorous and well put together videos, and Funny or Die makes a profit. Funny or Die, like many sites, also offers space on their site for advertisements for additional revenue.  Who knew it could be so easy?  Of course, Funny or Die would not be where they are now without a selling point.  Will Ferrell and Adam McKay who founded the site also starred in many of the early videos.  Celebrities at first wanted to co-star with them to show off the scope of their acting abilities, but as users flocked to the site for a glimpse of big celebrities in a rather informal setting, the Funny or Die name became popular enough for celebrities to want their own segments.  This was the key to Funny or Die's success in tandem with professionally made videos in an internet setting.

Finally, getting a job in a new media business isn't too different from any other company.  One's chance in a job offer heavily depends on the connections he/she has with others.  Being in the right place at the right time with the right people seems to be a winning combination for landing a new media position.  Looks like I have some work to do if I ever want to have my dream job in the new media field.

NYT Book Review: Alone Together

Alone Together by Sherry Turkle. Good possible source for research later in the term.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

benjamin's 'aura,' the white stripes on digital/analog

I was reading an article recently about the White Stripes, and specifically Jack White's reaction to ebay's 'flippers' of limited edition vinyl that the band has been releasing. Basically, there are online music communities and fan sites that fans sign up for/pay for in order to have access to rare editions of the White Stripes' music in a hard copy form.

Also on a sidenote- very sad to hear that the band is officially done making music together, what a sad day :(

But this was interesting to me: basically, Third Man records is White's own independent record company. Although the music is released in digital formats for the masses, the company also releases analog music releases for the fan. Obviously these are more expensive and printed in smaller numbers as a way to make them collectibles-- they're more 'rare' than any other common release. White was getting really pissed at ebay 'flippers' recently with regards to these limited edition releases, since there were people that would join Third Man's various fan clubs just so they could buy these limited edition releases for 100$, say, and then turn around and sell them on ebay for 500 or something.

A blogger for Stereogum was discussing this, with White's comments thrown in as well:

"When a fan tried to argue that people with “more money than sense” were to blame, Jack retorted: “Or are they just paying what the going rate is?” White explained: ”We sell a Wanda Jackson split record for 10 bucks, the eBay flipper turns around and sells it for 300. If 300 is what it’s worth, then why doesn’t Third Man Records sell it for 300? If we sell them for more, the artist gets more, the flipper gets nothing. We’re not in the business of making flippers a living. We’re in the business of giving fans what they want.”

Basically, the situation is that White and his record label tried to create this kind of exclusive 'club' for hardcore fans where they could buy the band's music in a rarer format, on vinyl, in box sets, or whatever. Then, he got pissed when non-fans infiltrated this club, bought up some of these special edition releases, and flipped them on ebay. There was a limited supply, and White wanted them to fall in the hands of true fans-- and he was pissed that flippers were getting these things and selling them BACK to the fans for more than the record label was selling them for, because that essentially robbed them of profit. And THEN, once he saw real fans PAYING those prices, he thought why not kill two birds with one stone?

So what he proposed/did was up the prices of these releases to stop the flippers from buying them and making profits, and making more profit for himself. This is a strange, interesting move- on one hand I see his point, since the fans keep paying these flippers' prices they're basically saying that the limited releases are WORTH what the flippers charge-- so in that sense its logical that White would raise his prices, since he knows fans will pay them. This is kind of dirty though, because he's basically shafting the fans in doing so all out of some kind of misplaced anger at the flippers (which really isn't that big a deal-- it would be impossible to truly control how your music/content is being used and distributed once it leaves your hands).

The point of explaining all this is because I found one of the responses to the article really interesting:
For the record, I like Jack White. I think he’s a nice guy and a very talented musician. Here’s my problem with Jack White:

He tries to manufacture authenticity.

He plays shitty guitars through shitty amps and purposely limits himself technologically in order to create music that is more “real”. He attempts to capture a kind of authenticity that he thinks old bluesmen had. The problem is those old bluesmen used shitty guitars and amps and recorded whenever and wherever they could out of necessity. It was all they could afford. It wasn’t a fashion statement. If Son House were around today I bet he would be using the very best equipment he could. And he certainly wouldn’t be releasing his records in limited quantities.

In this case, Jack White is trying to manufacture rarity as well. The reason old records are so rare is because, well, there aren’t many of them around anymore. Not because there were only three hundred originally made.

I understand his point about fans dictating the price, but if he really cared about people buying and enjoying the music then he would press more records. I think it’s silly to try to manufacture something in order to make it artificially rare."

This made me rethink my hero worship of Jack White, because this blogger had a real point. Stylistically in terms of the White Stripes' music, I really dig the fact that White is trying to "struggle" with these old, crappy guitars to get a sense of this old bluesy sound that we don't have anymore. He's trying to go for a purer, authentic sound in contrast to the streamlined, touched-up music we have all over the radio today.

Any musical elitist (I include myself in this category to some degree) can sympathize with a sense that we've lost something in today's musical arena where what we hear on the radio doesn't actually reflect a singer's real abilities. This relates to Benjamin's idea about aura-- what makes something "art" is it's authenticity, this invisible energy about it that emerges as a result of an individual's creative input.

In the old days, the music industry was simply different. Rare records were authentically RARE for whatever reason-- maybe a printed run of Beatles' vinyl was stopped for some reason, some kind of anomaly in the recording process or because they wanted to change the sequencing of tracks, repackage the entire album in another way, whatever-- but now, Jack White is trying to capture that sense of rarity by purposefully manipulating the number of records he prints, how they're made or whatever.

I understand the logic of promotional material today, because that preserves the old sense of rarity in a more genuine way. For example, if you go to a special concert of your favorite band, and the band has decided to reward the fans by giving everyone something special to commemorate it. It wouldn't even have to be in an analog format to do this (well, sort of-- ill come back to this)-- maybe everyone at the concert gets a special CD sent to them in the mail, a live recording of the show and in theory only the people at the concert ever get the chance to have this CD. That would be fitting with the moment and would feel "authentic" because theres essentially a REASON for the rarity.

The otherside of this that I said I'd come back to is the idea of having authenticity or "aura" at all in a digital format-- what I mean is if what's special about this hypothetical, promotional concert CD is the music itself, then digital wouldn't work very well because those fans could just take the cd home, upload it, and share the files individually on limewire or something. All the fans could hear them and it would kind of ruin the specialness of the whole thing. But then again, they could do that if the CD was a vinyl record too, it would just take a little more time/be more work.

Getting back to my main point, I'm not sure I agree with White's impulse to arbitrary make small print runs of vinyl in order to build a catalog of rarities for hardcore fans because it seems like just pure capitalistic manipulation of the fans. His argument is that he's just using the free market system to give fans "what they want," and he has a point-- I can sit back and call the fans crazy for wanting this stuff, since I don't believe there's anything special about it. Like Cubitt was saying about digital special effects, special effects are moving into the realm where they don't have referents anymore, and they're kind of broken signifiers. This seems similar to me, since any kind of special media item is a faulty signifier for some kind of special thing.

ANYWAY- what does everyone else think about this? I know the White Stripes wouldn't be the same if Jack White used modern musical instruments, things that were tuned perfectly and in great condition (it would probably sound like the raconteurs honestly-- their music is great too in its own right, in my opinion), but the whole thing still raises questions. Is it pretentious of him to use old crappy guitars and whatnot to capture an old sound when he can afford the new stuff? Or if it's just for the sound and style which can't be achieved otherwise, is it ok?

The bigger question in all of this is the question of aura. I think you can really only get the "auratic" aspect of music from LIVE performance anymore-- on any kind of recording, there's no way to know what was authentic and what wasn't. Another question is who even cares about aura. Benjamin's efforts to talk about aura lack any real, concrete aspects of it that we can point to-- its just this kind of weird, spiritual/psychic energy that fills things that are "art."

Going back to a discussion we had way at the beginning of this class-- let's say on one hand I have a real Van Gogh painting like Starry Night, and on the other hand I have a poster of Starry Night in my room. The poster lacks aura, by Benjamin's argument-- but should I care? I have the poster in my room because I like the painting, and that should be all that matters. This idea of preserving aura just so art can stay an exclusive, bourgeois club accessible only to those with the money/social status to do so seems problematic and unnecessary to me.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if I saw Starry Night in person, I wouldn't transcend reality and be completely moved by the authentic power that the "real thing" has. I like the picture, and I like how it looks in a GENERAL way, so the poster is enough for me. Am I committing some kind of moral crime by not caring about the loss of aura?

(I will make one concession to aura theory here though-- I saw St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City and was completely floored by it, genuinely moved by the reality of it. A picture would never capture the real power and "aura" of seeing this structure in person. A side note to that though is maybe that's only because St. Peter's Basilica is a three-dimensional space full of depth and detail, and flattening it into two-dimensions in a photograph obviously loses a lot of the original.

An interesting thought experiment is what if we could reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica in a 3D program, 100% accurately, and then port that construction into some kind of virtual reality device where people could see it? I have a feeling that would be MORE auratic than a picture, yet still not capture the reality of the thing. Cubitt would probably want to kill me for making any of these comments haha, but anyway...)

What do you guys think?

ryan aliapoulios

PS: the original link to the blog about white's ebay battle is here:

Funny or Die

After hearing from the Farah brothers about Funny or Die's ongoing video production, the main thing that struck me was the relatively brief history of the website, as well as how they helped pioneer the integration of the Hollywood entertainment arena with the more amateur, online community. I remember being pretty amused by "The Landlord" when it came out, and was quite shocked to see Will Ferrell in it. Considering that the video only came out a few years ago and that now I'm completely jaded when it comes to celebrity appearances in online videos, it testifies to how successful this integration really was. What was also interesting was how much thought was being put into the branding of these videos, and how that was and is being achieved. The overall sense I got from their presentations was my own belief that the internet is something of a wild west right now. Although the Farahs seem to be having success with Funny or Die, what they were doing at the beginning was essentially just a shot in the dark. What's exciting about studying media at this point in history is that the lack of any barriers to entry to the internet (with regards to what kind of media is hosted on there) really encourages experimentation with the form in a way that film and television don't really offer as much anymore. The rapid growth of their brand is also something to consider-- overall, their presentation made me give more serious thought to considering some kind of career focused on online media rather than just film or television.

ryan aliapoulios

Study guide

is memex supposed to be meme?

Recent grads told to go digital

From Variety-

Recent grads told to go digital

Emerging and new media opps abound

By Karen Idelson

Multimedia artists, including those who work on character animation, are in demand, experts say.

These days, when media students ask their instructors and career counselors for advice about finding a job, they usually hear two words: go digital.

The shift in technology means challenges for many traditional areas of content creation. It also means opportunities have arisen in a lot of sectors, including emerging and new media, says Cathy Perron, director of the media ventures program at Boston U.

Perron believes that the types of job-seekers who stand the best chance right now include multimedia artists (whose work can range from character animation to game design to visual effects), experts in online marketing and the use of social networking sites, and innovative content producers who can create for multiple platforms, including mobile devices.

"There's also an opportunity for people who really understand how to master digital distribution," Perron says. "If you have an understanding of how to maximize content across a lot of platforms, you will definitely find work."
Tim Burgess, career development director at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, also sees a changing landscape that recent graduates will need patience to navigate.

Social media managers, Web culture experts and people who can apply a sense of digital savvy along with strong communication skills will be able to find their way to jobs, Burgess says.
"Now is not the time to be timid," he adds. "There are fewer jobs out there, but if you work hard and think creatively, you can probably still find an entry-level position within three to six months of graduating."

The 2010 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region supports the ideas of Perron and Burgess. The study, which was prepared by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., predicts an overall 10.4% increase in digital media jobs from 2009 to 2014.

Though that sort of double-digit job increase in a particular media sector is impressive, Kathleen Milnes, an adjunct associate professor at Otis College of Art and Design, thinks those numbers are actually much higher.

"The way to measure jobs in these kinds of new media is still evolving because it wasn't until 1995 or 1996 that we even had descriptions like 'multimedia artist' that could be used to categorize what someone does on an employment form," says Milnes. "So now a lot of those jobs are still miscategorized or they're lumped into some other category because if someone else is handling your payroll services they might still be using old terms to describe the jobs."

Milnes, who teaches courses at Otis that prepare students in "real world" skills like interviewing for jobs and face-to-face networking, advises students that they need to consider applying their abilities in new ways to make the most of the changing economy.

"If you're a character animator that's a skill you could be using for film, in gaming design or in the biomedical field in order to create teaching tools for doctors," says Milnes. "New fields are always opening up."

Despite all the fresh opportunities, Perron, Burgess and Milnes agree the competition in the job market right now is now so fierce that excellent digital media skills and a strong specialty in one area are not necessarily enough. Job seekers should have a blog or website that shows a portfolio of their work, and they'll always need some of the "soft" skills to close the deal on a job.
"You still need to play well with others," says Milnes, "There's nothing digital that can take the place of that skill."

-Jennifer Hessler

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Funny Or Die

What I found most interesting about the Funny or Die discussion with Mike & Chris in class was how casual, yet driven they both seemed. Though unnerving at times, it's always nice to know that they feel just as lost as we do sometimes. I felt they really worked to present Hollywood as accessible, while emphasizing the luck that both of them had. It was also interesting to hear how their advertisers play into Funny or Die. I didn't realize that FoD did branded entertainment before the discussion either. Their structure of branded entertainment to fund their main videos, which attract the viewers who then watch the commercials they produced is very smart. I was surprised that they were able to keep everything so in-house, yet still remain profitable. I really wish I could have gone to the other two sessions, and learned more about the company, but even just the classroom discussion was very entertaining and informative.

Funny or Die

Having only heard of Funny or Die, and not actually been to the site before last week, I was very impressed by it. I have always liked when I see celebrities making appearances in web only content, and especially when the content is simply to laugh or poke fun at themselves. I believe that media is moving to the Internet and successful websites like Funny or Die show that money can be made using just the Internet. Personally, I would love be able to do away with cable and have every show I watch be on hulu or be streamed live when actually being shown. Money can still be made with online advertising, even enough to be able to branch out and create things for television being funded by the Internet. These new projects at Funny or Die to create longer more traditionaling length programs but still maintain their roots in the Internet means that this may be the direction that that we are heading and one day everything will be on the Internet through legitimate means. Also, the fact that some celebrities want to perform on Funny or Die means that this reality might not be that far off. Funny or Die covers it all and I have discovered one of my new procrastination website.

Funny or Die

I was only able to attend two of the sessions with Mike and Chris Farah (damn you Friday Spanish), but in the two sessions I learned a lot about the things that go on behind the scenes at one of these new, internet driven media/comedy sites. First and foremost: wow, what a bad ass job. As soon as Mike started talking, I started thinking about how cool it must be to have stars clawing to work with you, while still being in completely free of any semblance of studio control. Mike and Chris talked a lot about how much of their success had to do with being in the right place, with the right medium, at the right time. In a way, that is kind of a scary prospect, but at the same time it is one that is rife with possibilities. Our generation is lucky to have this relatively new technology in the internet that is still completely full of untapped potential. I'm looking forward to see what other changes in media still come to pass because of the internet.

Funny or Die

I thought I always knew the definition of a viral video, but these meetings with Funny or Die really helped me understand. Beyond the definition, I was always confused on how websites like these could make money, and if the production costs were worth the risk and how profit would figure out. Using celebrities and the directors they do, made me think they couldn't make a profit by paying everyone money, but then Mike they don't. These directors and actors come in to do something for their image and to be recognized. I guess with any business, advertisements are the way people make their money, and product placement seems to be the way the money is made at Funny or Die. It was exciting to find out that creative control is still in the power of Funny or Die writers and producers (for the most part), because other industries such as film and t.v. it is possible to lose some creative control. I think these talks were very helpful in understanding how the website Funny or Die works, and what it takes to to make it work. I feel like the overall message though was getting the name Funny or Die out is difficult and with the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter that is becoming easier. The talks were really cool, and getting to see Will Ferrell wasn't too bad either.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Funny or Die

I did not know much about Funny or Die before attending the three sessions with Mike and Chris Farah. One thing I did wonder though, is how the company, being comparatively small and internet based, was able to get the support and participation of so many celebrities. I thought it was interesting when Mike said that Funny or Die tends to be a publicity source or image changing outlet for many stars. Celebrities are willing to participate in the videos, just because they have the Funny or Die logo on them. This seems analogous to the way Hollywood works as a whole, where products are marketable to the degree they have the right name behind them. It also highlights the importance of online advertising. Today, as apparent from the many celebrities and politicians who have relied on the internet to do large portions of advertising, it seems that if you are not utilizing digital media to promote yourself or your product, you are falling behind.

Since the advent of digital media, there has been much debate over how to apply existing copyright law to new media technologies and/or how copyright law should evolve to address these issues. Copyright law, already impractical in its applications and problematic as it is, is even tougher to apply to digital entertainment. Policy that has tried to address this, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, has been, in my opinion, severely inadequate. The broad and highly interpretive language of policy, along with the difficulty of categorizing or containing digital media, makes the law often unhelpful and even inapplicable to cases of online infringement; which is especially precarious considering the abundance of infringement lawsuits taking place since the mid 1990s. These problems were illustrated by the confusion, seemingly of both the audience and Farah himself, during the discussion of copyright, parody, and what qualifies as fair use in Funny or Die videos. This type of confusion is one of the reasons for the abundance, complication, and duration of recent lawsuits between YouTube and Viacom, as well as NBC, and Google and Viacom. The rulings on these lawsuits promise to be essential to the relationship between producers and consumers of art and to creativity and media in general. Yet, although these lawsuits promise to be landmark, in my opinion, they are not likely to bring clarity to the relationship between property rights and online content because of the possibly inherently contradictory relationship between the two.

-Jennifer Hessler

Breaking into the Industry via the Internet

Mike Farah and Chris Farah have the most unusual stories about "breaking into Hollywood." Not only did Chris and Mike study other subjects than film in college, but also did not take a normal route into film. Mike, once finance major, and Chris, once journalist, decided to make videos online to get their name out there (and to have fun). According to both of them, the Internet is probably the easiest route to become "known" in the film industry. New media outlets have not yet found a way to become like corporate Hollywood and thus the creators still control the media. The Farah brothers started making short videos to put on and soon found work as Internet filmmakers. As a film student who is interested in writing, producing short viral videos is probably the best way to show the world my skills since, as Chris said, "everyone in LA has a script." If a screenwriter has a visual example of their material and it become popular, producers are more likely to read the writer's screenplays. The Internet is a medium to market film skills easily because you are your distributor. One thing Mike said is when "Funny or Die" becomes less independent and more commercial, his team will have less freedom as creators. Mike plans to leave the company when commercialism takes over. Besides the hostility Mike has towards TBS, "Funny or Die" started doing more traditional media, including an HBO special which shows the power of the Internet video. I think the best thing about "Funny or Die" is the accessibility for the users to make/watch content. In a way the users own it. Also the fact the videos are usually about 4 minutes or less means the chances of people watching viral video content is much higher thus a great way to market yourself online.

Let the YouTube channel begin!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Media and Funny Or Die Events Blog Post--Bhanu Chundu

“Content creation” seems to be the new buzzword that constantly defines and surround internet media these days. After hearing about the industry and discussing new media issues with Mike Farah, as well as other Funny or Die executives via Skype, the notion that content creation was the goal of new media providers was definitely affirmed. Yet, what seemed to most critical to success, especially in a world where everyone continually pushes out content, was how to platform, advertise, and categorize this content. This issue was particularly interesting when Mike, along with other FoD executives, talked about the value of metadata in increasing video hits and helping their content reach more outlets. Since metadata on viral videos primarily consists of “tagging” and therefore is not “directly” linked to content (only denoting participation), it plays an interesting role in the divide between consumers and producers. Much like a price label or nutritional facts table, it appears that consumers of new media must rely on metadata to find and evaluate content. This is especially true when companies like FoD use metadata to differentiate their products by tagging certain subjects or celebrities. The way in which social media and advertising parallels these strategies was another fascinating point, chiefly in how FoD relies on celebrities promoting their own videos to raise awareness about the connections that Funny or Die product has to celebrity. Ultimately, the way in which the culture and product of Funny or Die relies so much on social media and metadata, two items that are user generated and not part of the content itself, once again highlights new media as a unique form of production and consumption.

New Productions for New Media Mediums

After attending all three of the Mike Farrah talks this past week, what I found to be most interesting was the way in which the short clips at Funny or Die incorporate the sponsors' products into the material itself. The way in which Funny or Die incorporates product placement directly into their scripts in a way that adds to the show itself seems quite an astounding feat. Most people that I know tend to ignore commercials as much as possible, fast forwarding through them so that they do not have to watch these products get thrown in their faces. Mike mentioned how the advertising companies actually come to them with some sort of idea for an ad campaign for a certain product, and that is how they make these commercial videos. It was interesting to hear how difficult it is to just make a commercial based solely on what the production team wants to do and then to sell that to the ad companies. Despite seeming to act in some ways (and only some of the time) like a production house for commercials, even these ad videos seem to be quality Funny or Die content on their own.
I believe that what makes this such a success for Funny or Die is that it is being shown on the internet. It is the choice of the viewer to click on the ad videos and watch the material, whereas on television, the viewer must actually put effort into finding some way to not have to watch the commercials. Also, people are not necessarily used to watching material online yet. When they see a commercial online, it always seems (at least to me) like they are spoofing ads on TV. If the same hilarious Funny or Die commercials were shown on television, I think they would be looked at by viewers as just another commercial, even if it is better than most.
I believe in Funny or Die. The way in which they produce their content, with the team of about twenty who are always working together, seems like an ingenious plan, even if it is going back to the old and almost forgotten big studio ways. They have also mastered the short video and hilarious commercial market, but only online. Although I enjoy the Funny or Die TV show, I am curious to see how their material will have to change in order for it to thrive on the television market.

FoD and Social Media

Funny or Die’s head of marketing, Patrick Starzan, discussed how key social media was to their success and while it may seem obvious now, it’s amazing that Funny or Die gained popularity in a period where social media was not even close to the current saturation level. They couldn’t just Tweet or post on Facebook and had to be much more selective with which websites to engage with their audience. And they realized early on that it was imperative to interact with the community because even though they have talent and star power behind them, content released without a two way communication with their audience will get lost on the web. It’s good to see that they still like giving back, as evidenced by Will “Elbows” Ferrell’s cameo on the Skype conference.

As a site, Funny or Die likes to draw attention to who directed, wrote, acted, and even uploaded content, but their very first video (i.e. The Landlord) had no credits. The internet seems to have little time for extraneous things. We want what we want and little else. Pure content. It’s not just with Funny or Die either; a lot of web content does not include who’s involved in its creation. Is that how those interested in web content have to start out if they hope to make it on the internet? Do they have to give up a little of themselves? And with avatars, online handles, etc., does our name or our virtual name hold more weight?

Funny or Die: The Key to Reaching Viral Status

Admittedly I had never heard of Funny or Die before starting in this class, but it was great to talk with two of the lead people and learn the kind of things they do during the day (unfortunately my class on Friday prevented me from talking over video chat). I learned a lot about what it takes to make the kind of videos they have on the site, but one thing I noticed is that all the videos are relatively short. I believe that is the key to reaching "viral status" of any video placed on the Internet, and I'm pretty sure that is what one of our speakers said as well. In order for something to go viral, it needs to be funny, and it needs to be short enough that people can watch it while on a break from work or school, probably only about 5 minutes maximum. Sure it's possible that a longer video could go viral, but it seems unlikely, as the type of people likely to see the video and make it popular don't want to spend 10 minutes watching something on the Internet and then email it to all their friends. This was very beneficial for me because I am in the process of making videos for my group, and since I don't have a lot of skill involved with this type of work, any little bit helps.

Part of Friday's web conference

Here's part of the web conference from Friday featuring Will Ferrell.

"Viral" Videos What's Next?

I guess I never really understood Funny or Die or what it really was until last week. Did I know it was a place for funny videos? Yes. But did I know what it’s name really meant? Or that they had their own original work on the site? No. So I was surprised and intrigued when I finally learned that they did make their own content and that many famous people were waiting in line to take part in these funny and soon to be “viral” videos. My personal definition of viral videos has always been: Shot, recorded, or manipulated videos whose maker(s) put their video on the Internet and thought maybe a few thousand people would watch it, but instead it became incredibly popular. So these Funny or Die made “viral” videos are not in my opinion viral videos because they are made with the intent to go viral. These Funny or Die branded “viral” videos are more like short popular mainstream movies that were not advertised by trailers, billboards, reviews, etc but by links, Funny or Die branding, and word of mouth. The fact that some of these “viral” videos were paid for by companies to have their products showcased in them also makes them very un-viral to me and more like full fledged, long, funny advertisements. Do I enjoy them? Yes. But I sometimes wish that they were more spontaneous and not trying to trick me into getting that certain product by displaying it in a funny way. I was amazed at the volume of videos that they were making per month though I was a little disappointed about how more and more of them are being paid for by companies to advertise their products. We do live in a capitalistic time, but many forms of new media die when money becomes the driving force behind them (myspace). So hopefully Funny or Die can tread the line carefully and not become too money driven or it too will become known as an advertising site and may eventually Die like so many of the videos put on it.

I’ve always wondered what the future of new media is. It has seemed to me that in the past few years nothing monumentally new has developed in new media. We’ve seen many types of new media build and strengthen themselves but nothing totally new has emerged and stuck around. We’ve all seen that social networking (Facebook) has grown, online television (Hulu) has expanded, user made video sites (YouTube) have multiplied. But are we all aware of the growing pains new media has had and will those pains turn into even bigger problems down the road? In Hulu you can now pay to have more content, with Youtube you can now be paid depending on how many people watch you video, and companies can now pay sites to make “viral” videos showcasing their products. And one day in the future Facebook will go public, hopefully that goes well. What is next? Modern new media like social networking and user videos have always started off free (well at least the things that survive and grow). But now that there are dollar signs attached to those new types of media who is going to be able to overlook those potential dollar signs to try out something new? Ya we can look to Google and maybe Facebook in the future but where and how are the new Googles and Facebooks going to start out and what is their new media going to be?


internet viral rap demon Tyler, The Creator just performed on Jimmy Fallon (the WORST talk show host ever) watch!

Sheila's new film for you: SimulationsSimulation

Behold my Hello Kitty/Jean Baudrillard mashup.

The production faculty tell me there are unmotivated camera choices. I say it is postmodern!
Oops, here it IS.

View from Above conveys WHAT?

From My Dad, from my Uncle, via Wired, produced and broadcast by Mgoblue TV.

I think I see my house! Oh no, wrong House!

Funny or Die

What I found most interesting about the Funny or Die website is its expansion. Starting from small videos outside of an office, it now has a television and film section. Mike said in one of the lectures I attended, very briefly, that his ultimate goal would be to pull an Oprah and have his own network for Funny or Die. With all the undertone of anger he had towards television networks, it makes sense that he would want to bypass all that and be in charge of his own ideas on his own network.

It got me thinking, isn't that practically what he is doing now? He has a website that contains Funny or Die's original videos, some that are webisodes like on a television network. Is the next wave of media not television, but perhaps the internet? What he is doing now is like having his own television network. With websites like Hulu, which now shows original content, becoming more and more popular, is it possible that the television cable networks will be replaced by internet original content.

Nazi 3d films?

For real?
Guardian story

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Effects of Changing Media

I have often wondered who puts up funny (or not so funny) videos on the internet.  Most of the time we don't know who posted the video on Youtube or how it eventually got forwarded to us by our grandma (actually I'm still not sure how that happens).  Seeing Farrah brothers and other contributors to Funny or Die caused me to rethink my assumptions about viral videos.  I have always just supposed that videos were posted by other school kids with a lot of time on their hands but after the presentations this week I feel like I have a better understanding of just how many people have jobs either putting up content for us to consume or maintaining the sites where videos are posted.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to hear from a variety of people at FOD and learn about their various roles in updating the site.

After hearing about how viral videos are produced and marketed, I began to wonder if the FOD videos are where media is heading.  Also how have viral video production and aesthetics already had an effect on other media?  I think an exploration of this topic would lead to some interesting insight on the way one media is informed by and informs other media.  It seems highly unlikely that viral videos can be so popular and multiple so rapidly without having some effect on other modes of film and video production.  I don't think that films in the future will be two minutes or less but you never know.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just In Case You Were Craving Some More Gleaning...

Here's a link to a found footage movie I assembled last semester from YouTube clips, infomercials and a smattering of on-the-street interviews I conducted myself. It's called "Growth Spurt."


An Uncharacteristically Optimistic Thought About Mediamaking

To be completely honest, I have never actually scavenged Funny Or Die myself -- my contact with the site has been purely limited to wall posts and exposure via friends in the Real World. And I was surprised to find out that the site actually started off as a grassroots YouTube sort of deal. Sure, the site's business and longevity is fueled primarily by the higher profile collaborators and actors. But when the Farah brothers informed us that a large percentage of the people working at Funny Or Die got their jobs because of videos they posted as Average Joes, it seemed to me a genuine instance of media reciprocity -- a concept that many of the theorists we have read have more or less debunked. It's amazing to me that someone's career can take off due to an offhand viral post -- that networking can be accomplished outside of a snazzy cafe, coffee house, office or studio backlot. In a culture where our ostensibly airtight celebrity-sphere is virtually worshipped by the "little people" Funny or Die seems to be a step forward towards closing the gap between small-scale and large-scale success. Maybe viral media is becoming less niche-y and more mainstream -- or maybe, like the Farahs alluded, this is simply a flash-in-the-pan period of broadband Wild West-ism. Maybe this consumerist blogosphere that seems so wide open is going to be swallowed up by "the system" and cauterized, as seems to be the fate for so many budding media outlets. Regardless, hearing the brothers talk about their business was actually inspiring for me. And that's always nice.

I want some of that internet money!

Funny or Die is in a very interesting position. They used their celebrity connections to conquer the internet before moving into television or film. Of course the celebrity participation in their videos helps them with viewers. But how do they get paid? Like Mike pointed out in class, all of the empty space on their pages is bought out by companies. Online marketing even goes to a deeper level such that the first page is more expensive, and subsequent pages cost less thus leading to multiple brand exposure. What I found interesting is that they have incorporated their comedic production into these brands campaigns, also complemented with star cameos. I also enjoyed the notion of how quick their ideas get put out compared to that of TV or major motion pictures.

There is an episode of South park that I think greatly pertains to the problem of online media and viral videos. It is the one where all of the infamous internet viral video memes try and claim payments for their work. The music industry is already flooded with lawyers calling every which way trying to sort out royalty payments for their artists, I am wondering if the internet will ever be the same way? Should people who have massively successful viral works be paid in compensation? And what about if someone re appropriates material from someone else's viral video? What is so interesting is how wild of a place the internet is, for example the idea of watching virtual concerts, do artists get paid for official broadcasting of their performance? Lets keep in mind the staggering amount of amateur footage, which applies for many different types of performance.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Selling Ice to an Eskimo

I use this famous saying because it seems like Funny Or Die has actually done it. They've taken the fungible internet video, which sits in an incredibly saturated market, and somehow commercialized it to fund an entire business. Before Mike came in I never really understood Funny Or Die; I thought it was a hobby that Will Ferrell maintained just because he enjoyed humor. I didn't think there was much capital involved, nor did I think a profit could have been turned from it. If this scenario were the case, there is not anything necessarily wrong with it. But I have always been nervous about the future of entertainment because, as an industry I want to get into, it seems like the consumer has more and more control and can easily get away without paying for a video or song, etc. Making money in this industry is frankly important to me, so to learn that Funny Or Die can turn a profit even without the consumer purchasing a product is an amazing revelation. The videos are essentially funny advertisements, and companies will always pay to advertise their product, especially when the product can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people. The consumer still gets their product for free, the producer still makes a profit, and companies can advertise and reach myriad people.

I am afraid, however, that this method of production cannot work (by "work" I mean to turn a profit) within other contexts of the entertainment industry. It seems to only work for short videos because these are easily consumed by people the same way we consume commercials. Even with Digital Video Recording and online access to shows, research proves that TV viewership has not dwindled. This suggests that people still watch commercials, and with events like the Super Bowl where the commercials are the reason for a good chunk of the country tuning in, it seems like short, internet videos that essentially advertise products can exist for the consumer. But when it comes to television shows and feature film, much longer products that have much higher overhead, producers will find it nearly impossible to be successful on advertising alone. Consumers can still easily consume these things without paying for them directly, and will likely get upset with too much product placement. In the future of consumer control, how will the industry survive?

Fast-paced model for production

What was most interesting to me from Mike and Chris Farah's talks were their take on Funny or Die's particular model for production. At one point on Thursday evening, Chris Farah stated that he thought Funny or Die would change the entire Hollywood model. While I'm not sure I entirely agree with this sentiment, it seems possible that Funny or Die - and websites like it - may carve out a new path for aspiring filmmakers to gain industry and popular attention. With enough speed, and an intelligent use of internet distribution, a young filmmaker could potentially stand to gain an audience without theatrical release. In a sense, this relates back to viral videos and marketing. By creating a series of successful shorts - dramatic, comedic, or otherwise - the filmmaker stands to "brand" their own name. With this type of support and momentum, based on viewers' recognition of their name, these filmmakers may find it easier to market themselves to studios or distributors in the future. Which would, in turn, diversify the Hollywood mode. Maybe Mike Farah's on to something? That's not to say I think that slower, higher budget, more meticulous film making is at any kind of risk, but that - perhaps - models and methods for movie making may broaden their approaches as a direct result of new media.

Witness to the Decentralization of the Entertainment Business Model

Having been to the live events with the Farah brothers, I have come out with a new understanding as to the many ways one can achieve unorthodox success in the entertainment industry with the advent of new media. They did not travel up the usual chain, they did not sign deals with Universal, Sony, or Fox. They did not find an agent to sell their reel to the first interested party. They have achieved success by being noticed through connections yes, but they are working on a model wherein you have fast product turnaround, high production tempo, and smaller costs per production. They also create a situation where the consumer pays a lot less for the end product. This experience has given me a good deal of faith in the plausibility of a system I myself want to make work.

However, there is a noticeable limit to what this new system can accomplish. The clips are short, high-concept videos. They are delivered free of charge, but with a considerable amount of quasi-blatant corporate sponsorship. There is artistic integrity, but it has it's own formal limitations. It cannot, as applied so far, reach cross-media into say, becoming a new distribution method for traditional system films, nor as a production system for traditional film. That is not to say that such an outcome would be impossible, but it is yet to find a method that will work.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Viral Videos = Revenue?

Before last week I thought of viral videos as low quality home movies, such as Evolution of Dance and Charlie Bit My Finger. Mike and Chris proved that this could not be further from the truth. Not only does Funny or Die have a production studio that produces twenty-five original videos a month, there is a long list of celebrities waiting to get into its studio. Celebrities such as Zach Galifiankis, Mike Tyson, and Michael Cera have all showed interested in taking part in online videos. Mike pointed out numerous times that Funny or Die presents a quick and fun opportunity for upcoming and established celebrities to get free publicity. Despite the great support, some actors still see internet shorts as taboo to a Hollywood career. Another aspect that I found interesting is many of FOD’s videos incorporate product placement. Companies approach Funny or Die to create a short video using their product in a comedic fashion. As Chris pointed out, this formula works great for FOD but is ineffective for the majority of amateurs creating viral videos. The other major revenue stream for the website is advertisements. I was intrigued that Mike spent more time talking about product placement that he did about traditional forms of advertisements, which may suggest that the former is a more effective advertisement strategy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Virtual Windows & Melancholia

Online reading for next week:

Online lecture meta-commentary from book and online version of book:

Real-life context bit about why this is hard for me to teach. Why I teach it--its essential theory of our lives lived through and on windows and screens--is hopefully readily apparent.,0,4931419.story

This person's scholarship inspired me to go to graduate school. This person profoundly shaped who I am today. Weird how that happens, eh? You start with theory and then things just expand from there.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Zuckerberg claims he's being stalked through his own social networking site -- a nice ironic tie to debates about Facebook and its privacy policies.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Article on Artificial Intelligence

Wired, one of my favorite magazines, published this interesting essay on artificial intelligence a little over a month ago now. Worth reading, if you're curious.

Sixth Sense Technology