Sunday, February 27, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
As for collective intelligence, this is McLuhan's idea correct?
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Unplug! It is now an official niche-travel theme:
Ironically, I already did one of these trips!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
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.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
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:
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?
PS: the original link to the blog about white's ebay battle is here:
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."
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
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.
Let the YouTube channel begin!
Thursday, February 17, 2011
“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.
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?
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?
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
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
Sunday, February 13, 2011
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?
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
Thursday, February 10, 2011
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.
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.