It really confuses me – the fact that a non-human existence can obtain such a substantial social following online; feeding off this interest to communicate with the human world. What is it about these micro-celebrity ‘bots’ that is so intriguing and inspiring to media users? I don’t know for sure, but I tried to delve a little deeper into the issue…
An article by Bianca Boscer from the Huffington Post claims that Twitter bots in particular are “getting more influence than Oprah”, which truly is utterly mind-blowing to think about. A similar article by Alice Marwick proposes reasons for this popularity, stating that “although there is no way to determine the ‘authenticity’ of any celebrity practice, this uncertainty appeals to some audiences, who enjoy the game playing intrinsic to gossip consumption.” So this sense of mystery creates an extra level of interest, I mean I am pretty fascinated by the whole thing. I suppose then, as computer generated existences, these micro-celebrities can be programmed to be awe-inspiring and appealing to mass audiences based on analysis of social media trends. It really is quite a time to be alive.
There are currently a number of tensions between that of ‘free-flowing’ digital content as such, and those known as ‘locked appliances’. The most relevant example that I could locate of this notion lies with Apple and Android smartphones.
Now, as a manufacturer of iPads, iPods, iPhones etc., Apple only allow for downloads of apps that they approve, resulting in complete control over the user and associated downloaded content – a definite locked appliance.
Android however, is a free-flowing platform which allows for absolute consumer customisation, allowing them to engage with content that is not solely limited to the device.
This idea is supported by an article by J. Zittrain in 2008, stating that Apple has the ability to change its functionality through “remote updates” to ensure complete control of users. As a fond user of Apple myself, I was not at all aware of the extent of these restrictions, however I remain relatively unfazed as personally, I feel as though I still have access to everything I need and want to. However, I cannot speak on behalf of the millions of other Apple users among us who may, upon reading this, feel constricted.
Transmedia storytelling – sounds fancy, but what exactly is it and what does it involve?
Well, put as simply as I can manage, this concept embodies a process whereby aspects of an original story or idea (such as a novel) are methodically distributed across numerous communication mediums. In one of his articles, Henry Jenkins describes the purpose of this process as “creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience” which “reflects the economics of the media consolidation or what industry observers call “synergy””.
So each channel contributes its own unique participation to the developing story, deeming it to be the perfect manifestation for a generation of increasing collective intelligence.
Gianluca Fiorelli’s ‘Transmedia Storytelling: The Complete Guide’ of 2015 draws attention to the idea that a modern transmedia environment does not necessarily have to be fictitious. I do agree with this notion, as when you truly consider real world examples, think about how certain perspectives on global brand values (take Adidas for example) are shaped through what they devise for advertising purposes.
It can be a tricky concept to grasp, however modern media generally holds interest across a variety of what were once discrete industries.
Hopefully this quick video will clear up any remaining queries:
The fairly recent introduction of copyright regimes in controlling user interaction with content plays a significant role in the trajectory of the convergence of ideas through media platforms.
But how is this so..?
As explained by Lawrence Lessig in 2004, before the implementation of copyright laws, any individual or group could reproduce content and use it freely for whatever purpose they so desired – in other words, the original creators did not have any claims that bound their content to them specifically.
This concept has since been controlled by notion of ‘fair use’, whereby a media user can potentially be sued for affecting the original value of the content produced. However, copyright practices are still widely prevalent in our current media culture.
But in terms of influencing the trajectory of media convergence, the future of the control of content is heavily dependant on how participatory media decide to utilise these copyright regimes. There are two possible outcomes here:
The art of copying and reproducing the ideas of others continues and develops to a greater extent
We become encapsulated in a media society whereby permission is a requirement for rewiring or recreating genuine ideas
Read-only culture: a one directional procedure whereby content is fed through a traditional media source… Users are delivered a specific idea that lacks the inclusion of other elements which add diversity.
In read-write culture however, the media user becomes more active; utilising the messages they receive and recycling elements of these in an imaginative way to create a new concept. This idea is explored through an article by Lawrence Lessig in 2008, detailing that this type of media culture promotes user empowerment and aids the process of the convergence of audience dynamics, especially in the format of remixes and mashups i.e. through music, which involves the combination of two or more different elements to create a new sound.
Personally, I am all for this type of innovation, as I myself have had exposure to the hype that can be generated from a popular song with a steady beat that has been revamped to include a bass drop or two. I’ve also heard my fair share of failed attempts at this, but it is a combination of these attempts and successes that provide the opportunity for new ideas to be stimulated, hence constantly developing a more intricate audience dynamic.
Here is my first attempt at a short remix of Axel Thesleff’s ‘Bad Karma’ and Estelle’s ‘American Boy’ for your enjoyment :’)
Facebook – currently the only alternative media source I use to derive my knowledge of world happenings… and I don’t even do it consciously. Whatever appears in my newsfeed, whether it’s ‘Luke Jones was marked safe during Hurricane Debbie’ or an article from the mysterious ‘UNILAD’ page, I generally absorb this information. However, since these forms of communication are the only version of whatever truths are out there that I receive, my understanding of the issue tends to be extremely rudimentary.
Seriously though, what criteria do we use to establish notions of source credibility? An article by Jay Rosen in 2008 details that our current trajectory of convergence grants anyone the ability to broadcast any message they desire through a series of online channels and sites (take 4chan for example), with no implicit filter or influence of gatekeepers to control the quality of the content being produced and exhibited for the wider world to see. However, allow me to transport you back to 2013 when a Danish news channel utilised the backdrop for ‘Assassin’s Creed’ as the Damascus skyline after mistaking images for war. With situations like this becoming evermore frequent, are my Facebook readings really any less trustworthy than the legacy media itself?
Content production is not going anywhere in the near future. In fact, it is the model of production that is currently in jeopardy, or more specifically, journalism. The emergence of new forms of content production from new media users has resulted from a communication trajectory whereby there are no gatekeepers to filter content, and this new participation is inflicting highly damaging affects on our current forms of legacy (or ‘mainstream’) media. Jordan Greenhall’s article ‘The Future of Organization’ of 2015 supports this idea, detailing that “it is easy for each member to simultaneously see and feel how his or her contributions contribute to the success of the whole”.
But why is such a movement causing so much chaos? We always revert to our trusted news sources for the real stuff, right?
Well, forms of legacy media such as distributed journalism are having to devise new strategies in order to prevent their audiences from acting as publishers in order to survive. These new mediums (namely the internet and its associated sites) are free of cost of entry and do not possess a quality filter, therefore there is no limit to who can post or what can be posted. This type of alternative media communicates from many to many as opposed to one to many; no restrictions, no one-sided story.
Who ‘owns’ and ‘controls’ the media you use to access your ‘news’?
Why does this matter?
As alarming as this may sound, for the 6 weeks that I have been living in college, I have found myself rather disconnected from the current happenings in the world and therefore have not had readily available access to my usual sources of news. However, these platforms usually consisted of Channel Ten’s ‘The Project’ and ‘Prime 7 News’, but these days are limited to whatever appears on my Facebook feed.
So who really controls the output of information that I am subjected to through these mediums?
According to this snapshot of Media Interests (taken from the Australian Media and Communication Authority website), Channel Ten is owned in part by several different prominent media personalities including James Packer, Gina Rinehart, Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon, however Channel 7 is owned solely by Kerry Stokes and Seven Group Holdings Ltd. As goes for Facebook, God knows where that news comes from…
The main question here though, is why does this ownership matter and does it affect what we view through our television screen?
What I would like to know but can only speculate, is if this multi-ownership of Channel Ten in comparison to the dual ownership of Channel 7, then allows for less deception and subjectivity when it comes to the broadcasting of news and eliminates the potential for excessive bias? I do know however, that objective information is exceedingly difficult to locate these days and is present to some degree in nearly all aspects of media communication.
How do I know this?
Well, I feel as though the measures that are currently being undertaken to reduce excessive media ownership i.e. the release of new pieces of legislation, is enough evidence in itself to prove that domination of a media platform by a singular party can result in the output of partial or bias knowledge. An article by Tim Dwyer supports this idea, stating that “the government’s Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill 2016 proposes cutting a rule that stops commercial TV networks from broadcasting to more than 75% of Australians”, as “Australia’s level of media ownership concentration is already one of the highest in the world.”
So the answer is yes. Media ownership has the overwhelming power to sculpt and craft our views on numerous subject matters through their output of material, and the fact that this subjectivity is almost impossible to avoid, is a rather scary and daunting thought, forcing us to question what we really know.
Personally, I think this notion directly relates to an individual or organisation’s desire to explore unexplored territory when it comes to producing or utilising new mediums and content. This could include the combination of various elements to produce a something new, and suggests that the calibre of the result is not predestined. An example of this creative process of craftsmanship is the fairly recent digital use of ‘glitches’ as an art form, whereby this incidental technical fault in mechanical objects i.e. television, has been experimentally sculpted to create something rather unique and gratifying.
James Connolly describes the glitch as “an infliction of errors and chance operations upon and/or enabling improvisational aesthetic explorations into processes that are ordinarily mechanical and automated”, which supports this ideology of new experiences being made possible via the process of craft which has resulted in light of a recent shift in material to digital practices.
Below is an example of some glitch artwork that I have experimented with myself. I definitely think it is a quirky and interesting type of expression!
The paradoxical statement proposed by Marshall McLuhan that in fact it is the form (or ‘medium’) of a communication platform rather than its content (or ‘message’), allows passive media audiences such as ourselves to detect converging trajectories which, as a result of changing mediums, demonstrate the emergence of new messages. McLuhan proposed that “the personal and social consequences of any medium… results from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs”. This completely contradicts the previously assumed notion that in a culture “long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control”, I guess the message itself was the message? But what makes this process of convergence so relevant today? This non-linear and seemingly relentless force that renders us impotent in our media saturated surroundings… or does it? As a matter of fact, I think there actually might an element of control that we as an audience can exert to influence this movement.
Allow me to explain.
Put simply, before the modern era, the media realm was dominated by numerous large organisations who very much controlled the output of content. Today, I think more often than not, we find ourselves immersed in a much more intricate system whereby we are able to somewhat drive technological change by responding to and augmenting content to suit other purposes. We, as the modern generation are equipped with a higher level of technological tools available to a broader scope of people which facilitates this practice of convergence.