Main Blog Post – Week 11: Piracy and Exchange of Culture

Question: Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318).

Debate on piracy is getting more serious over the years especially since the emergence web 2.0 and P2P network which encourages the act of information sharing. The major concern for copyright fighters is the benefits of media content producers, the wellbeing and income model of people that devote their entire life into art and media production, and the decay of legitimate media business caused by the rise of grey and black economy driven by piracy issues. At the same time, critics of copyright accept the existence of piracy, and gives credit to the positive effects that are brought by piracy. This essay takes on the latter position, and looks into the positive roles of piracy.

Piracy for Accessibility

In many developing countries, access to cultural contents from other societies is very limited. Due to the unbalanced distribution of capital and resource, only a few media products can make their way in these countries through legitimate channels.  Medosch (2008:81) argued that ‘in markets such as China, privacy not only serves to provide access to the products of mainstream commercial movie industries, may it be Hollywood, Bollywood or Korea, it also fulfils gaps in provision and provides access to art movies and more difficult fare which does not get official distribution for whichever reason’. Privacy offers people in these places cultural goods and media contents that they had otherwise no chance of obtaining.

Take the Chinese movie market as an example. Strict government censorship policy sets blocks into distribution channels, thus results in the lack of accessibility, and gives rise to a huge online black movie market due to various reasons, politics related, violence, and so forth. That is the main reason why citizens choose pirated copies online rather than those legitimate cut copies in the market. China’s government has been introducing the intellectual property law in recent years by tearing down hundreds of pirating channels, including pirated CD markets and illegitimate online resources. On the other hand, the government is not providing any alternative solution for citizens to gain access to movie markets through legitimate channels, but further prevents them from accessing those resources. Since demand for pirated products never goes down, shutting down one pirate server only leads to a larger amount of piracy supply in other places.

Piracy for Cultural Survival

The emergence of Nollywood provides a great example for piracy as an alternative for the distribution and exchange of minority cultural products. While boosting the economy in Nigeria, the existence of piracy allows the exchange of African culture and gives the Nigerians a persona on the media stage. Moreover, Sundaram (2008) argues that the existence of pirate modernity is survival strategy for it encourages inexpensive expansion of computer culture in third world countries and provides a practical education to thousands of people that are left out of the technical universities.

Reference

Medosch, A. (2008)  ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies,London: Deptforth TV. pp. 98-100

Sundaram, R. (2001) ‘Recycling Modernity: Pirate electronic cultures in India’ Sarai Reader 1:93-99 <http://www.sarai.net/publications/readers/01-the-public-domain/093-099piracy.pdf&gt;


Main Blog Post – Week 9:Youtube Celebrities

Question: A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269)

‘YouTube celebrities’ refers to those persons or groups who become popular and famous through their appearances in videos on YouTube. It is by far one of the quickest and easiest way to become celebrity. According to Burgess and Green (2009:21), the common assumption for people to success through YouTube is that ‘raw talent combined with digital distribution can convert directly to legitimate success and media fame’. Media fame, however, as I will argue in the following part, remains largely controlled and influenced by the mass media. The success of Michelle Phan, a YouTube makeup artist, will serve as a perfect example.

Michelle Phan made her YouTube debut in late 2006, providing video clips on make up tutorials. She has since then created over 135 videos, and been dubbed the Number one YouTube “Makeup Guru” and her videos are viewed over 382,000,000 times, making her the 17th rated channel on YouTube. In November 2010, Michelle reached 1 million subscribers and became the most subscribed female on YouTube. Michelle now has over 1,337,000 subscribers. (Michelle Phan.com)

YouTube, however, is never the final step of being famous. Another major three steps has been point out in a ‘how to list’ on the subject of becoming a YouTube celebrity. These three last steps of becoming YouTube celebrity involve advertisement through social networks like Myspace, Facebook or Twitter, monetization of video pages such as selling merchandise as well as having affiliate sponsors, and finally moving onto other ventures to increase celebrity. (eHow.com)

In the example of Michelle Phan, she advertises herself via Facebook, Twitter and developed an official Michelle Phan website for subscribers to follow up, which includes columns like beauty and fashion, and also runs an online forum to ensure the interaction between her followers and her. Further investigation into her career, she has been contracted as the online spokesperson for Lancôme as well as the first ever video makeup artist of the world class beauty brand. (Chen, 2010)

Most importantly, what makes Michelle Phan stand out as a public figure is her continuous and non-stop involvement and recognition by all the celebrity media. She made her appearance in the August 2009 issue of Seventeen Magazine, the August 23, 2009 issue of St. Petersburg Times, the August 24, 2009 issue of the Sun Sentinel, and on the popular blog BellaSugar on April 19, 2009. Phan was also featured in a Chilean newspaper for her Barbie video. Recently, Phan was published in Nylon and Forbes Magazines, as well as the famous Vogue magazines.

Through the case of Phan, it is quite clear that Phan’s success as a vlogger and a video makeup artist is not the only result from the impulse of YouTube. Mainstream media plays a critical role in this process. As Turner (2004, cited in Burgess and Green, 2009:23) conclude, “demotic turn’ in media culture relies on the existing structures of celebrity to deliver ‘ordinary celebrity’ which, far from providing alternatives to the existing media industry, is produced and captured by it.”

Reference:

How to Become a YouTube Celebrity’, eHow.com <http://www.ehow.com/how_5000396_become-YouTube-celebrity.html#ixzz1OOD5XhJP> Last accessed: 04/06/2011

‘About Michelle’ <http://www.michellephan.com/about&gt; Last accessed: 04/06/2011

Burgess, J & Green, J (2009). ‘YouTube and the Mainstream Media’, in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Policy Press, pp.15-37

Chen, S. (2010) Want Lady Gaga’s eyes? YouTube beauty gurus teach how to do it yourself’, CNN Living, <http://articles.cnn.com/2010-07-08/living/youtube.beauty.gurus.stylists_1_video-encyclopedia-social-media-bad-romance-video?_s=PM:LIVING&gt; Last accessed: 04/06/2011


Main Blog Post – Week 7: Blog as Self Management Tool

B) Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”. Discuss the argument by giving an example of a blog. Specify chosen argument in your answer.

We are what we imagine. Our very existence consists in our imagination of ourselves. -N. Scott Momaday

While it is more concerned for its relation with the news industry, the act of blogging was first seen as a way of diary keeping and discussed on its close features to diary on various aspects. According to Lovink (2007:6), the idea of “blogging as a ‘technology of the self’ was first developed by Foucault. Blogs, in this sense, are more of a tool for private conversations like the records of therapist’s rather than a public forum open for discussion to the online community. More specifically, Lovink (2007:28) argued that ‘Blogs are used for the need to structure one’s life, to clear up the mess, to master the immerse flows of information, as to PR and promotion.’ A blog call ‘vital self management’ created by Visma Mesley makes a typical example for the use of blogs  as keeping track of life experiences, perfect management of self-image, self-expression, and self-promotion. (http://vitalself-management.com/blog/)

Solove (2007:24) pointed out that ‘many blogs are more akin to diaries than news articles, op-ed columns, or scholarship’. Statistic showed that bloggers most commonly write about their personal experience, while only 11% blogs are about politics. Visma Mesley’s blog is kept in daily basis; her blog gives a clear view of her life, and her personal experiences and activities.It is as Medosch (2008) suggested, Mesley’s blog is simply a place where people can mix personal thoughts of what is happening in his life, reports, and comments on what is going on in the Web and the World that he lives in.

Blogs offer a way for one-to-many conversations. ‘Whatever the type, purpose, or content of a blog, it remains a virtual environment controlled by the author, where, unlike face-to-face communication, a person is only what is expressed in manifest content. (Tramell, 2004:3) Thus, Blogs offer its user better or even full control of self-expression and better management of self-image. Blogs, like other social networks, fulfils the need of self-promotion. The choice of theme, the colours in the space, the content we create all conveys a sense of the self. As Mesley blogs about her fear, and writes therapy-like posts such as ‘open your heart’, ‘let the past slip away’ and ‘stop punishing myself for fear’, she is providing not only the readers, but also herself the solutions to cope with negative emotions and to cope with the ups and downs in her life.

Furthermore, Looking throughout Mesley’s entire website, her blog keeps tracks of her life journey of all challenges and triumphs. By commenting her own life experiences in the blog, she was subjectively promoting her own idea of ‘vital self-management’, which is created by her own belief system and her personal sense of the concept.

 

Reference

Lovink, G. (2007) ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 1-38

Solove, D.J. (2007) ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates ad Constrains Us’, The Future of Reputation: Gossip Rumour and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49

Medosch, A. (2008) ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies,London: Deptforth TV. pp. 98-100

Tramell, K. (2004) ‘Examining the New Influencers: A Self-Presentation Study of A-List Blogs’ <http://www.kayesweetser.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/trammell-keshelashvili-2006-self-presentation-on-blogs.pdf&gt; Last accessed: 04/06/2011

Mesley,V. ‘Vital Self Management’ < http://vitalself-management.com/blog/&gt; Last accessed: 04/06/2011


Main Blog Post – Week 5: Facebook and Privacy Issues

Week 5 Question: Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices: http://www.tubechop.com/watch/146252 (access link for statement)

Mark Zuckerberg continues to stress the goal of Facebook, which is to allow users to interact with each other online and stay connected. While the world celebrates the notions of accessibility, unity, connectivity as the social networks bring people more close together than ever, the idea of privacy is in crisis. As Boyd (2008) noted, many members in our society are uncomfortable with the over exposure and invasion of personal life caused by social networks.

Privacy, as defined by Boyd (2008:18), ‘is a sense of control over information, the context where sharing takes place, and the audience who can gain access.’ When Facebook was first launched, its ‘News Feeds’ function displaced every entry its user posted, every update of status and every change of information. Users were not able to block their information from going public, nor prevent others from tracking down their location or life schedule. On Facebook, users have no control over what to share and whom to share with. As Boyd (2008:18) concluded, ‘control is lost with social convergence’.

For those that grow up in a society where the majority members use social network like Facebook as part of everyday life, their sense and understanding of public and private is distorted. According to Lovink (2007:7), ‘youth are pretty blasé about their privacy in relation to government and corporate’. In particular, Solove (2007:27) cited one study of Facebook users, and showed that in the profiles of students from one particular school, ‘90.8% of profiles contain an image, 87.8% of users reveal birth date, 39.9% list a phone number and 50.8% list current residence’. Furthermore, the former Facebook privacy policy allows these personal profiles to be found in Google search results, and be used by third parties. These profiles, regardless of their authenticity, will be used by the public to make judgements of others. (Solove, 2007)

In the system where every new post and change of data goes public, users of Facebook are practically living under surveillances of their friends. Jones and Soltren (2005:24) stated that ‘My Photos’ feature on Facebook runs counter to the security principle by ‘allowing third parties to upload pictures and to associate them with one’s account, without any checks on the accuracy or appropriateness of the data’. By changing the privacy setting, Facebook users can now have most of their privacy settings configured quickly. By one-click, selecting “Everyone”, “Friends of Friends”, “Friends Only”, or “Recommended”, users regains the power to choose its audience of its disclosed information.

Since ‘privacy is not an inalienable right’, but a ‘privilege that must be protected socially and structurally in order to exist’ (Boyd, 2008:19), it is necessary for developers of social networks, including Facebook, to improve the conditions of privacy. The change on privacy policy is a step to restore the balance of public and private.

 

Reference

Boyd, D. (2008) ‘Facebook’s privacy Trainwreak: Exposure, Invasion and Social convergence’, Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14. 4. pp. 13-20

Solove, D.J. (2007) ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates ad Constrains Us’, The Future of Reputation: Gossip Rumour and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49

Jones, H. and Soltren, J.H. (2005) ‘Facebook: Threats to Privacy’ < http://www-swiss.ai.mit.edu/6.805/student-papers/fall05-papers/student-papers.html> Last accessed: 04/06/2011


Main Blog Post – Week 4: Blogs versus Mainstream Media

Question: Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

With the rapid growth in new media consumption, there comes the revolution of journalism and media distribution. Today, the threshold for producing media contents is much lower. With the access to internet, anyone can practically write a story or report a piece of news. According to Solove (2007), by the end of July 2006, there were about 50 million blogs, and the number of blog users keeps climbing by 175,000 each day. Although both professional and amateur journalists use the internet as it provides faster and broader channel for information flow, blogs are more often used as the platform for amateurs to raise their voices in public sphere. While internet allows alternative voices and massive information flow, I argue that information provided by the non-institutional and unprofessional bloggers are mostly beneficial and useful for effective communication of information.

The practice of mainstream media or traditional media have long been criticised for its centralised structure and the media agenda setting and planning strategies. Russell (2008:66) illustrated the downside of mainstream media in the reporting of Iraq war, stating that ‘so-called embedded reporters in Iraq are being trumped by personal emails and photos from soldiers’, and editorial opinions are in all aspects of mainstream media news publishing and programming. In contrast, blogs allows any Iraq citizen or tourist to post first hand information, and their attitude towards the war without any screening or editorial processing. In this sense, blog empowers users in Iraq and specialists from the world to come and put together a more comprehensive report on the war, and thus provides readers with information from different perspectives of varies social groups. Moreover, as Russell (2008:69) noted, ‘the web was by far the most dynamic source of information of every kind, a flood of images, stories, podcasts, video, critiques, corrections and metanarratives’.  With a collaborative structure, Blogs, therefore, fulfils the need of integrating open and interactive messages that traditional media is craving for. (Lovink 2007)

Nonetheless, information posted by amateurs is usually questioned of its authenticity and credibility. Since bloggers usually do not verify their sources, confirm the truth, or care about the use of words, the quality of blog contents are at risk. In fact, many of the information from blogs are pure rumours and noises. (Lovink 2007) On the other hand, Solove (2007: 37) argued that ‘the blogosphere as a whole has a better error-correction machinery than the conventional media do’. The problem, therefore, comes down to how much truth a medium can bear.

To conclude, Blogs opened up the opportunity for amateurs to have their voices heard. Its collaborative structure allows for more efficient interaction and integration of different opinions and messages. Blogs, however, as well as any medium for communication, contain noises and false information which disrupt the effective communication in public sphere.

 

Reference

Lovink, G. (2007) ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 1-38

Russell, A. et al (2008) ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, Networked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 43-76

Solove, D.J. (2007) ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates ad Constrains Us’, The Future of Reputation: Gossip Rumour and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49


Questioning Online Communities

In Dijck’s (2009) study of user agency, he discussed the case of Youtube and the formation of online community. In its Terms of Use, Youtube calls itself a community which is created and formed by each and every user. According to Dijck (2009), such community is best understood as ‘taste community’ where group members share a communal preference in music, movies or books. In this case, Youtube users share their interests with other anonymous users by viewing or uploading clips of their taste. This formation of community, although seems to favor modern democracy and autonomy, is somehow problematic. As Dijck (2009) pointed out, it is highly manipulative and dependent on the promoting and ranking tactics of the website. Without a search subject in mind, common users usually start their time on Youtube browsing the ‘top favorites’ and the ‘top rated’ on the homepage of the website, who in turn contributes to the ranking system, and thus keeping the so-called ‘most viewed’ clip on the spot.So, is Youtube really a place where users can form their own community by actively participating in distributing contents of their taste? Or are the users just followers/ consumers of what the ‘power group’ (owners, sponsors etc.) put in front of them?

Reference

Dijck, V.(2009) ‘Users like you? Theorising agency in user-generated content’. Media, Culture & Society. 31: 41-58


Reasons for CC BY-ND 3.0

I chose Creative Commons license Attribution- NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-ND 3.0) for my blog to encourage legitimate sharing of internet content. By adding a Creative Commons lisence, I give the users and views of my WordPress blog the legal right to share, and to make commercial use of my work. The ‘NoDerivs’ term on the license, however, limits the public users from any transformation or altering of my posts so that my words/writings will not be distorted or presented in ways that might cause me trouble. Afterall, this is a personal blog. I don’t want to be hold countable for what other people may does or say here, and certainly don’t wish to turn this space into a forum like wikipedia where any user can simply log in and edit my work.