So in the blue are my contributions / edits to the Prof Comm Charter.
I’ve largely focused on learning from your peers and working with them. I don’t think we should just be accepting of diversity but we should move past it and embrace and learn from it. There are a variety of ways to do any one task and seeing an alternative can help you better understand your own methods.
Championing independent thought is good but it certainly shouldn’t come at the expense of your ability to work with others. The best works are ones where people with strong ideas come together to create something great.
Finally doing a course that is a bit of a mash-up most of us have different strong points. Teachers are great resources but sometimes it’s easier to learn from the skills of your peers. Anyone working in solitude is missing out on a wealth of skills at their fingertips.
As for the process of using Google docs to collaborate it’s great. It’s the way I run my comedy night with my friends. It allows us to easily up date and access the line ups we have booked. Having a communal resource online for everyone to be able to view and alter easily.
E-Books, much like E-Mail simply refers to an electronic copy of a book. In that sense, ever sense reproducible digital type has existed so too has, at least the concept, of E-Books. What has changed in recent times is how easily digestible these E-Books have become. Reading an E-Book from a PC isn’t at all practical or convenient as it’s not portable or comfortable, even a laptop doesn’t or mobile phone doesn’t really have the right size and dimension to make reading and electronic copy of a book something that is easy and comfortable to do.
Thus the invention of E-Book readers or Ereaders, most notably things like Kindle. These are devices made specifically to read E-Books. Entire books are downloaded onto an Ereader, multiple books can be saved on the same reader and they are a size that is convenient to hold, to take on the train and read with or take to bed. To that end, they allow you to read an E-book in the same way that you’d read a traditional physical book.
Obviously, due to the diverse nature of both books and Ebooks an Ereader isn’t required to read and E-book, this could just as easily be done on your smart phone or tablet. However as Ereaders are designed specifically to read on, they have design features that are more ideal for it, from ease of use to lighting the make reading on an Ereader less harsh on your eyes.
The use of an Ereader to read E-Books is largely about convenience. You save space in terms of having to physically store books that can often be pretty large. It’s easier to carry a single Ereader than multiple books which can often be quiet heavy and it’s easier to download a book from wherever you want at whatever time you want than it is to go to a bookstore to try and find a book.
On the other hand the arguments for physical books are based in romanticism. We still live in a culture that likes having ideas linked to physical objects. The same sentimentality is reflected in the film vs digital debate in cinema. People still tend to link a physical item with to having a connection with the original idea, where as digital copies are still perceived as more objective and detached. Ebooks also make the idea of conspicuous consumption harder. Again in the same way Mp3’s have made showing off your music collection harder, and digital films will make showing off your collection of movies harder, so too Ebooks will make it harder to show off your impressive library. Up until recently a function in favour of the book was your ability to annotate, with that said it is a function the Ereaders are now replicating.
In point form
The interactive nature of online media opens up a world of possibilities for storytellers. The first and most obvious reason, is that interactive media allows for optional diversions. Whilst audiences experienced traditional storytelling in a linear nature, online media can be interactive and therefore give more control to the audience. The second door opened by interactive media is that audiences are more accustomed to reading hypertexts, again giving storytellers greater flexibility in when and how the divulge information to their audiences.
I looked at three different examples of digital stories that used those elements in different ways. A story that uses online information to put the audience in the story quiet literally. A story that uses interactive media to create a choose your own adventure song and a trailer to a film which has created a vast online world to enhance the story. All three stories are different and make great use of the freedom allowed by interactive online media.
This piece is a short interactive digital horror film; it makes use of the Facebook app feature, which asks users to allow the app access to certain information from their Facebook profile. As this is a common occurrence most users won’t think twice about clicking the accept button. What follows is a pretty confronting and highly effective piece of horror filmmaking. Without any gore or violence the film would have most users petrified, simply because it puts you, the audience member as the central victim in a horror story. Using the information on your Facebook the story goes through the photos you’ve uploaded, searches your news feed whilst creepy mistimed music and an increasingly unstable Facebook stalker goes through your information, touching your photo on their screen. The stalker then uses Google maps to find your address and comes after you, leaving a warning note that one of your friends is next.
It’s a really good example of how digital storytelling can be individualized, making the story about a single audience member and placing them in the center of the story makes it much more confronting. A horror movie about a Facebook stalker would be written off, by most, as simply fiction. In comparison seeing your information, your details, your face in that movie suddenly makes it all the more real and personal.
One addition to the piece that would be worthwhile is a link to information on how to make your profile more secure. The piece creates such a real awareness of the need to be secure with your information online and I’m guessing a large amount of viewers would have taken the opportunity to be re-directed to that information.
One fun night is the first time I’d seen a really original use of interactive storytelling. Melbourne Comedy duo Anyone For Tennis combined the logic of Choose Your Own Adventure stories to a comedy song. The song is the story of a fun night out and after a minute the audience is asked to make a choice between theatre or dancing. The choice made by the audience determines how the next bit of the song goes. True to the tradition of Choose Your Own Adventure books all choices result in calamity and in this case result in one of two equally hilarious but tragic endings. The story doesn’t divert greatly from traditional song style, but it has enough interactivity to make it interesting and novel.
The trailer to the independent film Sound Of My Voice is the richest piece of digital storytelling I encountered. The trailer is simply the first 12 minutes of the film. However this is intermittingly interrupted by giving the audience the chance to click on a link to a piece of extra textual information to enhance what they are watching. In some cases these links are very directly related to what is happening in the narrative, but don’t really add to the story, for example a link to a video on how to escape zip ties. In other cases they are used to create mood, but most significantly they are used to create a sense of mystery around whether the story is a documentary or a film. There are a number of links to seemingly real characters and initiations to the cult being explored in the film and it creates a really tangible blurring of certainty about whether the trailer is fiction.
The story as a single linear narrative is intriguing and visual well crafted on it’s own, but the added hypertext features really shift the mood in certain places. They create a greater sense of intrigue and mystery. In this case the narrative is strong enough to hold your attention and the extra-textual information creates a sense of mystery that leads you back to the story. However there is a risk involved in breaking a fictional diegesis by directing audience out of the story. If the story hasn’t fully captured an audiences attention you risk them being distracted and choosing not to come back to your story. However when it’s done right it is a risk worth taking as it really enriches a story.
So I used Adobe Illustrator for the first time, I realised something I already knew, I am not a visual arts kind of guy. None the less, it has balloons. I am sure most will see this and think it is simple and boring, but it took me four twenty minute tutorials and a heck of a lot of patience to get done.
Over the last 12 years mobile phone subscriptions grew by a whopping 5 billion, from less than a billion in 2000 to over 6 billion currently. So it’s safe to say it was always going to be a race to figure out the best way to optimize content to be easily digestible on the mobile platform. Enter a man who app-lied his app-titude and app-ealed to with the app. We all app-roved and app-lauded… ok I’ll stop now.
The answer to making content more tailored to smart-phones was apps and it is very big business. With over 6 billion mobile phones there are over a million possible apps to download. These apps are downloaded at a rate of 1 billion per month and apple alone (roughly half the market) has passed 25 billion downloads. The reason apps are so popular are that they are tailored to the individual phones operating system (apple ios or android) and are condensed and easily manageable as opposed to a website that more often than not stores a lot more data.
It seems strange then that almost half of businesses still don’t see mobile apps as a necessity. The most easy explanations of that would be that mobile apps are only of value to your business if your consumers are often looking up content on the internet. Things such as movie websites, radio stations, shopping centers and public transport are all things were an app to make content easily accessible for mobile phones is clearly important.
However even if you don’t need an informative app, or an app to make your web content easier to manage on the go, there is still a business benefit for making use of apps. From a marketing perspective apps can help enhance your brands personality and a strong brand personality creates a strong brand relationship. Who knows if you are creative enough with your app it could go viral earning you exposure that you had anticipated which ever way you look at it, there is value in doing apps right. Hungry Jacks have recently combined advertising with their phone app. The idea works on multiple levels. The first of which is it has a gambling or game like feature, you shake your phone it comes up with a random item you get for free, however to redeem your free item the app posts on your Facebook wall advertising Hungry Jacks to your friends.
Of course in the future that’s likely to change again, as mobile optimized websites and phone operating systems continue to improve, it’s predicted that in the future mobile optimized websites will be the best way to make your website available to consumers online, as it will give the full range of information and functionality of a website to a mobile phone user.
There is still a lot of room for apps to make information more concentrated or even fun. In fact most of the apps I think of off the top of my head are silly fun games and there is certainly the chance to enhance your relationship with your consumers or audience by coming up with an app that reinforces your brand personality or profile.
Apps obviously have their limitations, for one it’s a market that is cluttered and getting more cluttered every day. To breakthrough with an app you will need to either have already had your audiences attention, for example movie or public transport timetables are things people would be checking anyway and therefore the app doesn’t really add traffic, alternatively your app will need to be very original and need the luck that goes with getting anything to ‘go viral’. Another limitation of apps is that they often have short life-spans things like ‘Words with Friends’ or ‘Draw Something’ are examples of the fact that apps tend to grow rapidly and then drop off just as quickly.
As for apps I’d recommend.
The Rotten Tomatoes app – simply called movies the app offers movie session times, synopsis, cast information as well as an aggregate reviewer score and links to the individual reviews. This has made last minute movie going an easier experience.
Fainting Goats – A friend of mine developed this fun and addictive game, it’s really well created and a pretty funny concept. I certainly enjoyed playing it.
Urbanspoon- Urbanspoon is to food as Rotten Tomatoes is to movies. Great in detail user reviews of restaurants as well as aggregated scores. The random selector is also a fun way to pick a place to eat.
As for the app that I’d steer clear of
My Rmit – I don’t know what I expected when I downloaded it, but I did it anyway. It’s not that the app is difficult to use, more that I really have no reason for it.
We’ve seen it countless times before and will see it in the future, like VHS vs Beta max, Blu-Ray disc vs HD dvd whenever a new technology is developed there is usually a battle for who has control over the distribution of it. This too was the case for the Internet. Browser Wars, which is part of “Download: The True Story of The Internet” looks at the battle for supremacy over Internet browsers.
The internet was described by one as something “you don’t know you need until you have it” as someone old enough to (just) remember a world before the World Wide Web, it’s amazing how true this is. If you’ve ever had an issue with power or your phone network for a day, you’ll realize just how web dependent we’ve become, the internet is increasingly becoming the basis of all our shopping, entertainment, social and research needs, so much so that through mobile technology we’ve created a way to constantly have access to a screen with the internet. However 10 years ago there certainly wasn’t a he ground swell of people who thought catching up over the phone or in person was to inefficient, or who weren’t happy to go to a local shopping center and whilst people may have been less then thrilled with searching through libraries for information, even the internet hasn’t made homework anything less than a burden for most students.
It’s striking just how little attention we pay to the humble browser. Even now with the plethora of options I tend to use what ever is in the dock without thinking much about it. However the browser is what transformed the World Wide Web from a highly specialized bunch of coding that was difficult for a regular person to use, to the mass medium we experience it as today.
It’s interesting to hear that at one point in time the Internet was synonymous with Netscape, much as search engines are now synonymous with Google. The way these things are able to change is a good reminder of the possibility and power of innovation and change.
This is further highlighted by the paradigm shift from Apple to Microsoft, showing that despite their monopoly and power innovation is always possible. As of February 2012 Apple is now valued at 462 billion dollars, nearly more than double Microsoft’s 257 billion dollars.
What once started out as a pipe-dream revolutionized the way we are able to use the Internet. Without it, free unrestricted Internet usage for everyday people would have been highly unlikely. That has now paved the way for multiple other platforms to re-create the World Wide Web, making it easier to use in Google’s case and more mobile in Apple’s case. Interestingly, Firefox, a descendant of Netscape, remains the second most popular Internet browser today.
It’s also worth keeping in mind the type of browser your audience use as a creative type on the Internet. Things like blogs and Facebook fan pages often included a breakdown of what browser was used to access your site. This is important for a number of reasons. Firstly are they accessing it from a mobile device or computer? This will greatly impact the way they are able to interact with your content. Secondly, whilst inaccurate and superficial there is certainly a feeling amongst some that browser preferences reflect personality. Sites like this or this offer personality profiles for different browser users and could be worth factoring in to your next assessment of your audience.
6 Degrees of Separation is a documentary, which sets out to investigate the age-old myth that through a chain of friends any person can be connected to any other person in the world in 6 steps.
The documentary is loosely based on scientists investigating the theory, who explain that if every body has access to 100 friends, and each of those people have access to 100 friends you can see how each step along the way the total number of people in someone’s network is actually quiet broad. In this way networks collapse the seemingly unimaginable 7 billion people in the world, in on each other and making the connections between each of them closer then you’d have thought.
Crazy isn’t it, by this logic we’d all know someone, who knows someone, who’s friends with, a guy who was on a contiki tour with, the personal trainer of, the best friend of, someone who is friends with Angelina Jollie… So maybe my dream of meeting and marrying her one-day is closer than I’ve ever known.
Obviously there are some kinks in the system meaning that the 6 degrees rule won’t work for everyone. Largely because the theory requires each persons network to be varied and diverse, the more overlap in a network (for example a remote tribal town) the bigger the world is, because each person has the same kind of network.
With that said the Internet is a tool that is making it easier to diversify your personal network. People are no longer bound by geography and can create networks on interest. Things like forums and online communities allow us to extend our networks and create links where there is very little overlap between our network and that of our new friend.
In 2008 a study of Microsoft’s instant messenger found that there was 6.6 degrees of separation between people. However this study took a rather broad interpretation of who is in someone’s network, for the purpose of the study two people were considered to be acquaintances if they had each sent one another a single message. The case also found whilst the average was 6.6 degrees some people were separated by as many as 29. The study also found people were more likely to communicate with someone of a similar age, who spoke the same language and was in a similar location.
Since then the advent of social media has not only realized the theory of 6 Degrees of Separation, but it has actually enhanced it to around 4.7. Rob Petersen looked at 5 different studies into social medias impact on networks theory. A study of Facebook friends found the average number of acquaintances separating any two people on Facebook was 4.74.
Whilst a Twitter study came up with the following results
The average on twitter is similar to that of Facebook with 4.67 being the average distance between any two people. What is interesting is that nearly 44% of people are separated by 4 steps or less.
The increase in the power of networks on social media reinforces a number of things. One the greater the ease of communication the more effective networks are. In the documentary this is demonstrated by the analogy of two people at opposite ends of a football field needing to share a message. With no means to facilitate the message, the only way to do so would be a Chinese whispers type passing on of the message from one person to the next thousands of times. However if you strategically placed walkie-talkies around the ground the message could be passed on in just a few steps.
The second thing it reinforces is that the more we have in common the more closer we are going to be linked in a network. Whilst Social Media is a broad and widely used tool, it still has a lot of things in common. It requires access to the technology and is still skewed to a younger audience. For example nearly 50% of Australia’s Facebook users are still under 35.
The thing is, for network theory to be of use to marketers and creative content producers; it really doesn’t need to apply to everyone anyway. The fact is, what ever it is you are marketing or creating online, it has a target audience in mind. That target audience is more than likely going to share a lot in common with you, and the network theory of 6 (less than 5) Degrees of Separation means that you have access to them, your audience is out there. What are you waiting for?
As someone who often has many projects on the go, and many of them with a comedy focus, I am always intrigued by the idea of creativity. I have spent countless hours starring at blank screens and blank pieces of paper hoping for an idea to hit me. I’ve thrown notebook after notebook away thinking perhaps that was the problem.
I have watched and read a variety of different tips, lectures and guides to being creative but the one I always go back to is the one given by John Cleese.
I think the most significant thing identified in the lecture is the distinction between the two modes of thinking. Open Mode and Closed Mode. The Closed mode, Cleese identifies as the standard way of operating in the western world. It is results focused, driven by efficiency, the problem with this for creativity is it doesn’t give ideas any room to breath and come to life. If you are working under pressure with a strict result in mind you’re unlikely to produce something creative. Creativity relies on the being unique and original, where as results and efficiency relies on doing now without time to create something out of the ordinary.
Alternatively, the Open Mode is a more playful and free mode of thinking, it is about being comfortable with a lack of answers, rather than being results driven, the open mind preferences ideas for ideas sake and allows our imaginations to run wild. This in turn allows us the space to create.
The open and closed modes of thinking link well are reminiscent of some of the writings of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard was a post-modern philosopher who advocated pataphysics. Most importantly in regards to creativity Baudrillard juxtaposed the ideas of production and seduction. Production for Baudrillard seems to be what Cleese is referring to as the ‘closed mode’ it is a world based on producing things, in this school of ideas everything is a means to an end it is results based. Baudrillard’s preference was for seduction, which was a playful reconstruction of reality in the way in which one felt one would get the most enjoyment.
It seems that far from being motivating pressure and stress are roadblock to creativity. If one wants to truly get creativity, then one must be willing to give that creativity time, to be willing to make mistakes, and in fact a step further, one must not be judging the activity as a means to an end. Nothing when being created should be treated as a mistake, the exercise of exploring the ideas is what is important as a self-sustaining exercise. If this is done enough then creativity should in theory follow.
The idea of trolling on Twitter has been big for most of the year. It was big in the Olympics. Where a ‘troll’ took to Twitter to voice his disgust at an Olympic divers performance, the incident escalated and resulted in the ‘troll’ threatening to drown the swimmer and eventually being arrested. It was big in the AFL when a Carlton Footballer retaliated to a ‘troll’ and was fined for his ‘offensive tweet.’ Most recently (or currently) it has been a big issue in regards to Charlotte Dawson.
Two nights ago Charlotte (who is a judge on Australia’s Next Top Model) among other things, jumped to the defence of Big Brother host Sonia Kruger. It seems that the two don’t just share a love of Botox, but are also good friends. This, seemingly noble gesture to defend a friend sparked a series of events which have really got out of hand. For a full run down of how it unfolded see here and read this.
Alternatively I’ll give you this simple key notes summary. After jumping to the defence of Sonia Kruger a number of ‘trolls’ then turned on Charlotte herself. These ‘trolls’ accused Ms Dawson of being a bully herself, despite being an anti-bullying advocate. Ms Dawson used the popular (and I’m sure agent encouraged) technique of re-tweeting trolls.
Ms Dawson explained her use of this technique in an interview the next day and explained that she felt it made ‘trolls’ aware of the fact that they can be held accountable for their tweets.
Amongst her retaliation Ms Dawson also found the business card of a ‘troll’ who had her business information available on her Twitter account, the ‘troll’ had told Ms Dawson to “go hang herself” online. In, what I’m assuming was an attempt to unmask the ‘troll’ Ms Dawson rang her and was allegedly met aggressively over the phone. Ms Dawson proceeded to phone the ‘trolls’ employer and inform them of her actions online, the ‘troll’ has since been suspended from their job.
Ms Dawson then also appeared on The Project to talk about cyber-bulling and ‘trolls’ online. This appearance saw her receive an even greater attack by online trolls.
Obviously I feel sorry for her, and don’t condone anyone who uses online communication to viciously vilify or attack someone. Particularly in such a cruel and personal manner. I think Charlotte’s defence of her friend online was noble and her handling of the trolls was done with good intentions. For the most part she was humorous in her replies and she certainly held herself in an admirable manner.
The problem is, as in other cases this year, is she engaged. The idea of holding ‘trolls’ responsible, whilst noble is misguided and one that is only going to lead to escalation. On the most superficial level, re-tweeting a ‘troll’ let’s them know you’ve read it. It gives them the exposure and attention they so obviously desire. On a more alarming level it encourages them and others to engage. Worse still is, inevitably, your fans are going to jump to your defence. This only causes the issue to escalate and that is never going to be good for anyone. When you retweet a troll you are, whether you are conscious of it or not, giving your fans incentive to retaliate on your behalf. Once you do that it’s out of your hands, you have no say in how your fans will respond, and how your troll will respond to that, the only thing that is certain is that the issue will keep on going.
I speak as someone who has been on both sides of the trolling issue, late last year, horrible Australian rapper 360 retweeted a joke I had written about him on twitter (I do say a joke, as I’m a comic and my interactions with celebrities on twitter are harmless fun and don’t involve death threats or personal attacks) . Many of his fans sprang to his defence. Most were attempts at humour or logic and harmless but one follower went to the lengths of searching and contacting me on Facebook to let me know he could find me. Another told me he wished that 360 would give him money to stab me, a confusing idea, but one that none the less showed the risk of the technique of retweeting your trolls.
Equally I have myself had an anonymous troll on twitter who tends to tweet me after any ‘significant’ event I do (comedy festival opening night, first radio interview, first t.v appearance) to tell me how unfunny I am and how I should quit. Obviously that’s very different to being told to hang yourself, but I’ve no idea how it would escalate if I encouraged people to attack the troll, or if I retaliated myself.
The simple way to avoid escalation is to block the trolls. Unfortunately on the internet, as in real life, there are people who are angry, mad, sad individuals, these people can not be reasoned with and so the simple answer is to use the block function. Gang cyber-bullying online is a worrying problem but given what was happening it probably would have been best to give Twitter a miss for a night. It seems harsh to criticize someone who is obviously suffering over this and for all intents and purposes was ‘in the right’ but it’s an important lesson for people going forward I feel.
I don’t think forcing users to use their real names, as is being advocated by some, is a solution. The use of real names has problems of it’s own as evidenced by the guy tracking me down on Facebook. What could have been worse was if the stalky mc stalker and stabey mc stab face had been one and the same.
Further more any legislation about cyber-bullying via twitter could fast get confusing, where is line between humour, criticism and bullying?
At the end of the day if you encourage strangers to commit suicide, either online or in-person, you are an idiot and you should go kill your… wait no that’s no right, but you are an idiot and you should stop. In the meantime if you’re having a hard time with trolls on twitter, perhaps use the block feature rather than encouraging more trolls.