Saturday, April 26, 2008

Internet Cult Leaders

This session focuses on leaders' take on leadership. Panelists are:

xkcd talks about minds meeting minds as part of what the appeal of his comic. That is, people would react by saying "That's just like me!". moot talks about 4chan being just about images and text and he feels his role is about providing a forum for people within which to express themselves.

The panel is asked to comment on the extent to which their material or work is taken from real life. Randall talked about how it's a mixed lot. Ryan talks bout how people seem to automatically assume everything he writes and draws about is taken from his own life (which became really tricky the time he wrote about a threesome...). Ryan is next asked about how much of his material is based on past girlfriends. Ryan says that sometimes events happen that find their way into his comics and that's not always a good thing. Randall also points out that when you're in a real relationship and your write about a relationship issue that didn't really occur, then that cn be problematic, too. Randall talk about how people *do* take things on the internet seriously. He talks about a time he wrote a tongue-in-cheek "angry" letter to Reddit and it caused such a stir that he wasn't expecting and it's since caused him to perhaps reflect a little mroe on things he posts and does online.

Moot is asked about when he has most been afraid of what he's created and the consequences thereof. He responds, "Right now!"

At this point, the talk is crashed by Anonymous, crowd dancing in the aisles....

The next question that can actually be heard by the audience is to do with what the panelists do about the reception of their work. Randall talks about avoiding the feedback threads and trying not to make what other people say to seriously. Ryan talk about how one time his work was being over-interpreted and he stepped into the discussion, only to be told that the author's position isn't the only interpretation etc.

Randall was next asked if the woman in his comics is a real-life girlfriend. He explains that the woman is more an amalgamation of people. Of course, he also meets people who are so *exactly* like his character.

The panelists are asked what their zombie defense plan is. Randall says that he spends more time on his raptor defence plan, which includes working out where all the exits are and how many people lie between him and exits etc. Ryan talks about how important what kinds of zombies they are and how that shapes his plan.

The next question focusses on Randall's brilliance, and asks if there's anything he'd like everyone in the room to do. he asks us to do a barrel roll, and we do, then he makes a side comment about cults...

Ryan is asked about his recent thesis which was in computational linguistics . Randall gives computational linguists a hard time in his comic...

Ryan is asked what he thinks today is a beautiful day for. He says he's tempted to say "toplessness" but after seeing the barrel roll, he's gonna abstain. Ryan and Randall speak cryptically about something that happened last night.

The Tron Guy weighs in nd explains that he spends an inordinate amount of time cleaning up a section of the 4chan Wikipedia entry, and what does moot think of this. moot talks about how community members exercise free will and there's nothing he would do to intervene in what they choose to do.

Randall points out that by Tron Guy bringing this issue up that he's just made his Wikipedia job twenty times harder.

A question from the floor asks about the most bizarre thing they've been asked to do. this includes being asked to sign all sorts of body parts; Randall was asked today to sign a "friendship" (in this case, two people's clasped hands). He's also been asked to sign a picture of monkeys having sex...

moot is asked about how he deals with the authorities and the real world. He replies about how he hasn't had much to do with the real world, but quite a bit with the authorities. He lks about the case of one poster who posted a bomb threat to 4chan, along with posting to a bunch of other sites, and looks set to go to jail.

Randall is asked about whether he's stolen his comics (i.e., after finding them in a dumpster). He explains that they're in a binder and are due to run out in 2012, when he'll give his comic over to Randall.

The next question talks about how people are sometimes trivialised for what they do on the internet. Randall talks about how his dad were worried that he was wasting time, until he began to make money selling t-shirts, and everything was all right.

moot is sked if he'd like to apologise to everyone for starting 4chan. He said he's sometimes thought about it, but that he's not sure there's anything to apologise for. He's then asked if there's anything he'd like to take responsibility for. after a long pause, he replies, "No." He's then asked by someone else if his parents know what he does. He explains that 4chan isn't exactly dinner-table conversation. He never told them about it, and then only learned about 4chan four eyars after he started it, and like, parents having sex, it's just something that's never talked about. Randall explains how his parents are generally supportive about what he does. He describes how he never locked his livejournal page and knew that his parents rad it every now and then, but also knew they would never talk about it which took a lot of pressure off for him.

The panelists are asked bout material they've posted or seen posted to their site that they're surprised didn't turn out to be more controversial than it did. Randall talks about a comic about the mathematics of cunnilingis and only got thank-you notes in return. Moot talked about a spate of posts against scientology and was described in the broadcast media as an "internet hate machine." Ryan talked bout how he had father write and complain bout T-Rex swearing in one comic, which the father explained he read with his 6-year-old child. this was even though the whole week the comic had been focussing on transexuality and the like. He also talks about how the time he got the lyrics to the theme song to the Teenage Mutant Ninjas wrong and that generated an enormous barrage of emails correcting his mistake.

The panel is asked bout gender issues. They all seem to agree that it's difficult to address causal issues in their own work. Randall talks about how he sometimes uses his comic to be deliberately provocative by having T-Rex keep stepping on a female dinosaur and has found that no-one responds to this kind of visually misogynist stuff. Randall talks about how incredibly complex gender and race issues etc. are.

Ryan talks about the trickiness of the fan relationship and how meeting someone who already know your work and like you already, and how difficult that can be. Moot talks about how someone drve past him once and asked him to do a barrel roll. The panelists then began talking about issues to do with including internet jokes in their work (e.g., rick-rolling) and finding the balance between making sure as many readers as possible understand the jokes while not alienating internet culture savvy users for whom the joke is already old.

Moot is asked if he posts to 4chan. He explained that he does, but posts as "anonymous". In fact, he says he's a big fan of "anonymous" posts because they even out the playing field.

A question from the floor asks whether they feel that if they hadn't developed their sites, whether other people would have. Moot talks about how 4chan is based directly on 2chan--the Japanese image board--and how it's highly likely that if he hadn't done 4chan, then someone else would've done something similar.

The panelists are asked where they're likely to be in ten years' time. Ryan and Randall agree that they'll keep doing what they do while they still enjoy it. Moor points out that his site doesn't/can't make money, so he's unlikely to still be doing it in 10 years' time.

Ryan is asked if the same six panels of drawings that he uses for his comic are constraining. He explains how these panels actually help him to keep writing because when he sits down in th morning he knows at some stage he needs to rite words for T-Rex to say. He talks about how he's also been involved in another project (Project Wonderful) whether artists draw a comic panel and then he--and a few others--fill in the text and then it's posted.

Another question focusses on why anime manga and role-play games resonate with so many geeks. Moot talks about how in Japan so many cool things happen. Randall identifies himself as an outsider to anime culture, but thinks the attraction is like that attraction to sci-fi and live action role-play: an interesting world with its own set of rules that you can operate in.

moot spends most of his times on the internet, rather than playing video games. He spends most of his time reading the news; for him, it's very important to be connected to your world, including reading local community news which can offer important insights into everyday life. Randall wishes there was a better set of websites that review professionals--like doctors. Ryan recommends You're the Man Now. what he likes about this site is how quickly in-jokes develop nd re shared, then replaced by new in-jokes, and so on.

The panelists are asked about open source software etc. Ryan talks about how he uses Opera as his web browser and creates his comic in Microsoft Paint. Randall talks about how 4chan has become a foundational introduction to internet geek culture and a network of people for many young people, rather than other more traditional avenues through software programming etc. Randall talks about how copyright laws are a major issue. Moot tlks about how they took free software and made it propriety which isn't a good example in terms of the free software movement. One of the reasons for not making their interface software free is that it's a mess. But others are developing 4chan-like software that's open source and good idea. Randall adds that not sharing software, but using it for good ends is also worthy.

The panelists are asked about their ideal girlfriend, and Randall comments on how "heteronormative" the question is, much to the audience's delight!


Kevin Driscoll: Dance Crze

Kevin begins his session talking bout "dance craze" and opens with a clip from YoTube (Hell's a-Poppin') from the 1940s/1950s. In this clip, there are very few cuts (camera changes), and it shows the dancers' whole bodies. It's also possible to see the band playing in certain shots. It would actually possible to learn the whole dance from watching the video. We move a decade on to television and Chubby Checker singing "Let's Twist again" and doing the twist. the space within which he's dancing in a non-space and is presented s a singer first, and a dancer second. Another decade on, we have "Saturday Night Fever." Here the floor is lights synched to the msuic and a large space for John Travolta to dnace in; although it's still not clear where the actual music is coming from. In the next clip, the Bangles ae playing and singing to "Walk Like an Egyptian". Here we have the singers singing, but all the people in their audience dancing to the song, and then random shots of everyday people also dancing to the song.

Kevin's talk then moves to focus on television shows that focus on dancing itself. this includes regional television dance shows. The Corny Collins' show in the early 1950s is a good example of this kind of show. In these shows, the dance is announced formally, and then viewers are given full-body shots of the dancers. But, for Kevin, it's the disco Era is when dance crazes really take off. The show, Solid Gold, is a good example of this kind of show. Kevin describes how within the YouTube comments, fan are reminiscing about the show *and* about being particular fans of specific dancers within the show. "Dance Party USA" is another example from the Disco era that focussed on the dancers by inviting viewers to send in questions to be asked of specific dancers. The MTV created a show called The Grind (circa early 1990s). The clip that Kevin shows us features random people dancing to music out by a pool, mixed with clips from the featured band's concert footage. Kevin describes this show as a live action remix dances.

In the 200s, rap music videos include lots of random, everyday folk dancing singly or in enormous groups to a song (e.g., Dem Franchise Boys and their snap music songs). In this song, the song is about the dance and the dance is about the song, and they're difficult to extricate. DJ Unk's "Walk it Out" is next. This clip includes choreographed as well as live action dancers. the band advertised that they were making this clip and sked everyone to come and participate. Some turned up wearing distinctive t-shirts so they'd stand out in the crowd. Next up is "Pop, Lock It, Drop It". in this video, while the song is about dancing nd includes dancers, but the shots are of body parts and suchlike, along with a narrative about school, so it's nonetheless difficult to actually see the dance happening. This music video spwaned a bunch of response videos showing the entire dance in action and made by random fans. These clips are full-body shots. Two of the three fan dance videos are filmed at school (with one being sung by the school girl dancers themselves). these videos feature young, African American youth.

Kevin recounts how as a as a computer science teachers people would talk to him about how African American kids were being excluded from the internet, but he's found boundless evidence that many Black youth indeed *are* participating in a rich range of digital practices and do have a presence online.

He gives a quick overview of the history of sampling; from turn-tables through to sampling computers. Interestingly, both turntables and sampling computers feel from favour. When they became cheaper, though, people began repurposing them and really leveraging the kinds of imperfect sounds that could be obtained from these tools (e.g., dragging sounds out, changing tempo etc.).

Soulja Boy--a highschool student--is an interesting phenomenon as a young lad making songs and getting them out and about, then perhaps up to a year later fans making videos of his songs and posting them online. The Cash Camp Click--friends of Soulja boy--make regular dance videos for his songs. The video they made for "Crank that!" essentially becomes *the* Soulja Boy dance.

Kevin has also been reading Soulja Boy's Myspace page and is fascinated by how his comments have changed over time from people who know him as friends, through to fans of his music, and how this shift sometimes creates tensions within the comment threads of his Myspace page. Over time, as "Crank that, Soulja Boy" becomes more popular, he explicitly invites people to submit their own dance videos for posting to his Myspace website. what these videos start to show is the "standardisation" of the Cash Camp Kids' original dance for this song. Kevin also points out how interesting the settings of the videos are, as wel as what people are wearing, etc. Then, after some time, Mr. Collipark--a record label owner--gets in touch with Soulja Boy and signs up to a recording contract. Soulja Boy nonehteless makes enormous efforts to maintain his MySpace fanbase; he regularly updates his MySpace profile, gives shout-outs to fan posters in his live concerts; tlks about getting new PlayStation in his MySpace profile etc.

Kevi then plays a range of videos representing identity; this spans the "preppy version" by three hite lads (who spell "Soulja Boy" as "Soldier Boy" and who are wearing cargo pants and polo shirts (see "Stuff White People Like"). In the second video, it's actually difficult to make out the dancer's ethnicity. This clearly must've been contentious because he's (re)labelled his video "I'm Black, you fucks." He includes new dance moves. The third video is titled "The Whitest Black Soulja Video" an seems to have been posted by the "friend" of the Black dancer in the video, with the title seeming to be a commentary on the uality of the dancing in the video. Kevin then shows an American Gridiron team dancing to the song just before a game, followed by a video of cheerleaders using the song s a warm-up exercise. the best of this lot is a classic ballet interpretation of the dance! Priceless! Kevin points out people may be using this song/dance to express solidarity with others.

then we're treated to a range of music video remixes using the song and using, say. Winnie the Pooh, a World of Warcraft machinima dance clip, and a Sponge Bob Square Pnts version. this is followed by range of fan videos including "Crank that, Robocop" and "Crank That, Geek" versions.

In summary, Kevin talks about the "crank that" phenomenon as having a high "welcomingness" in that people feel welcome to change the song and the dance and make it their own. Interestingly, when the record company puts out its "official" music video, it actually features the unofficial music videos within the clip. This clip, therefore, includes shots of Soulja Boy singing, outside shot of people dancing, crowd dances, and so on. Then Soulja boy and his friends have also made an instructional video on how to do the dance. We watch this a few times, then make our own "Crank that, ROFLcon" dance vdieo!" Stay tuned for links!!

Kevin has placed links to all the clips he used in his presentation here:

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Incubating the Mindvirus

This session focusses on key things that seem to spark memes online, and is being moderated by the very funny Anil Dash.

David Pretzel begins by explaining how they were slash-dotted for being "guys who make video music remixes" and that really started to attract traffic to their site, as did an album they did of xxx remixes.

Anil asks Drew Curtiss about how his site gained momentum, and Drew explains that there was no real point at which traffic increased significantly, apart from the time when they were mentioned in Playboy.

Matt talks about how the Metafilter crowd really rallied around unmasking a hoax cancer-victim site. this unearthing work was picked up by time magazine and a bunch of other broadcast media.

Alexis speaks about how Reddit was there at the beginning of key memes, like xkcd (Randall Munroe). The second one was Yahtzee and his video game reviews.

The panelists commented on how they went about designing their sites. Matt Haughey, for example, based Metafilter on Slashdot and on thing he didn't like bout that interface. It took him 6 years of running Metafilter before he could make a fulltime living from it. The Overclocked Remix lads commented on how they don't make a money off their website, and can't see it becoming a fulltime job. But they are starting to break into the field of making soundtracks for games. One of the things they're working towards is working on distributed and collaborative creation of video game soundtracks.

Anil Dash asks about the things that tend to attract positive comments on Metafilter. Matt talks about how it's the negative comments that tend to come to his mind first. He suggests that obsessiveness is always popular on Metafilter (e.g., a thousand photos of barns etc.). Anil Dash asks about whether conspiracy theories tend to "big". Alexis comments on how Ron Paul related posts have been popular, although the Ron Paul posts tended to divide the Reddit community.

Anil asks how the panelists would change the character of their communities, if they could, what would they do. Drew Curtiss says he enjoys his site just the way it is. Alexis talks about how th community keeps them going, while also keeping them humble. Larry talks about how he'd like to see more diversity within their community, with respect to the kind of game music that gets mixed (i.e., beyond Mario music). He wishes that using popular, lowest common denominator stuff, isn't always the best way to go.

Anil asks whether the respective communities take after their creators; Drew felt that his community very much is in keeping with who he is, while Alexis hoped his Reddit community *wasn't* like him.

David talks about how they recently submitted an album of Fighting Fantasy remixes to Fark, but it wasn't selected for posting. On the toher hand, it was picked up by a big site in Japan and is doing well there.

Anil asks about cross-pollination of readers and overlaps; Drew talked about a cse whether someone asked on Reddit what "Fark" was, and someone wrote a summary of it nd posted that to Reddit. Fark picked up on the summary and poked fun at the whole thing; and then Reddit posted about the Fark discussion....

A question from the audience asked about editorial control; Alexis talked about how he and his colleagues have no control over what appears on he front page. Matt talks about how he explicitly made it difficult to sign up to Metafilter to try and ensure that committed, rather than random, posters would participate. Drew has lots of control about what's posted to Fark. Drew talked about how his content already exists on the internet, but that sometimes questions asked bout the content can spark real-world effects. in the example he gave, a porn website was offering free access to the site in exchange for a photo of soldiers in Iraq. Drew resisted posting anything about this for 6 weeks, until someone asked why the government hadn't stepped in and investigated this. Drew posted about this question and the next day, an inquiry into the porn site was launched. The Overclock Remix lads have absolute editorial control over what content they post on their front page.

Anil asks about other real world effects brought about by the panelists' respective sites. Drew talked about how he tried to manipulate the stock market through a post on Fark--but with absolutely no success. Alexis talked about the case of the Reddit community mobilizing and saving some whales after banding together to vote for "Mr. Splashy Pants" as a name for a whale.

[Laughing here; the panel has just been rick-rolled!]

A question from the audience asked whether the panelists felt they were in competition with each other. Drew Curtiss talked about how there's not really any competition on the internet. It's not like broadcast media in the 1970s. He explained that he keeps up=-to-date with everything via submissions and suchlike. The others agreed that they weren't in competition. Matt talked bout how he built Metafilter for himself and that still suits his purposes. The Overclock lads talked bout how user comments kept them up-to-date with key things.

David Pretzel talks eloquently bout issues concerning the grey areas to do with copyright and computer game remixes. the case of Timbaland using computer game remixes with no credit whatsoever is a really thorny issue within the computer game remix community right now. Drew talks about how broadcast media is using Fark for material; for example, the Jimmy Kimmel show has a bloke whose fulltime job is to read Fark for ideas for the show. Matt talks bout how participants don't seem to worry about being quoted without attribution in the New York Times. What *does* bother him is when people buy domain names with spellings close to "" and fill it ith ads and crap.

A question from the audience asks about the effects of in-jokes as something that builds community, or whether it's just wankery. Matt talks about how in-jokes are typically funny for one week, but after that get pretty tired. He talks about how some jokes even become a kind of jargon that ends up not being funny or exclusionary.

A question from the floor asks the panel about hether they should be mroe "local" in reach. Drew talks about how he pays attention to sport in englnd and politics in Canada. He talks about how living in Tennesee -- what he called a "fly over state" -- helps him keeps a good perspective on things (e.g., how much crap is broadcast live out of New York City). The Overclocked lads talked bout how they are actively working on videos in multiple languages. About 40 percent of the traffic on Reddit is from outside the U.S., but they have been actively working to attract a global audience.

Anil asked whether the panelists feel that anyone can create a meme within their communities, or whether they are more about being supporters/conduits of memes. Everyone seemed to agree that any one of them could create a meme, but probably not intentionally. Alexis tlks about how many memes seem to start with someone thinking of a cool idea snd throwing it up online to see what happens.

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Making it Big

In front of us are a panel comprising:

So, the panel comprises folk who have hugely popular online comics, videos and machinima, and the purpose of the this panel is to explore the panelists current relationship to popular cutlure now that they've "made it big." In what follows, we summarise a number of key points made during the session--unfortunately, the pace was too fast to record "exactly who said what, so apologies in advance to the panelists individually for representing them collectively in our following account.
One of the key things about "making it big" is to put it your stuff out there on the internet, and not wait for folk to come to you – you have to give it up for free and see what others make of it.

You also need to make the most of accidental contingencies; to go with what is there. Like making a video and giving it to someone. “I don't do computers much. I just do- do-do and get away with it, and people fucking dead people, cos that's about life. I make a video and just give it to people. You can make whatever you want – so long as it works. It doesn't have to appeal to conventional structures" (Brad Neely).

A question from the audience asked if the panelists ever feel "stuck" with the characters they create. "Not really, 'cause there are so many different ways to tell a story and use sound and vision. Internet is great for media diversity." Others talked about how the universe they create for and by their comics or videos does allow some scope for inventing new characters, too, as the fancy takes them.

Burnie Burns commented on how part of the fun working with limits (e.g., of 4 by 3 frames, and the sets and props offered by "Halo" to create a machinima video (e.g., a tank, a couple of characters) is being creative within these limits. For him, the limits of using games to create movies are in no way limiting.

Other panelists talked about how this stuff simply grows, too. That us, by constantly aiming at making things funny and entertaining means that the stuff grows with its creators.

In a similar vein, the Cyanide and Happiness blokes talked about how their stick-figure characters actually provide lots of scope for telling jokes: "You aren't limited by dimensions that larger resourced characters have."

There was a general consensus that having your own website means you can do whatever you like and not have to answer to others. You can, for example, run a web site for 8 years and never run a single ad on it (Chaps Brothers). They have stayed solvent through selling t-shirts to fans. For the Chaps Brothers, if fans hadn't bought t-shirts, then "we'd have just had to give up otherwise cos would not have dealt with ads." For Bernie Burns, ads are the worst thing on the internet. Not everyone agreed with this position, though. Others accept ads that don't intrude on the content. And they ensure that ads support the content, and not content that supports the ads. Brad lives with ads – he gets paid by Turner communications.

Bernie Burns is a big fan of internet, and regrets that MySpace has taken over from personal web space. He wants to tell folk at gigs like this that you don't have to go to MySpace, and can create your own space online.

What's next for each:

Everyone agreed that increasingly affordable bandwidth is a huge benefit. they explained how after time, bandwith costs the most for ordinary, everyday producers.

Each of the panelists placed a general emphasis on low-end tech. The Brothers Chaps were still using Flash 5 six months ago. The tinny sound of the phone line on a call from Puerto Rico set the tone for Red Rooster's voice recordings for Red vs. Blue due to one of their voice actors moving to Puerto Rico for six months. Burnie Burns also explained how their machinima sets were only updated when the Halo game-makers issued new versions of Halo. Others found that their bedroom closet, stuffed with clothes, helped their sound recording quality. Brad explained that he didn't have a clue about Flash; "I just draw and feed into i-movie."

Both the Brothers Chaps and Burnie Burns talked about how some fans give them good constructive feedback on their work, and even end up collaborating with them to, say, improve their sound recording etc.

Key themes addressed across this panel include:

Some of things we ourselves came away with included the sense that "smarts" might well be the new "digital divide" (between those that have 'em and those who don't). Each of the panelists was very funny and keen-minded, with no-one seeming to have been overly institutionalised by schooling.

What struck us as particularly interesting was out of all the conferences we've attended in the past 5 years--including the over-rated AERA--ROFLcon is the closest yet to being all about new literacies (even though that wasn't the theme or the organisers' intention!).

The other thing that struck us by the end of this panel was what a celebratory conference this is. There seems to be lots of collegiality among the panelists themselves, with no back stabbing or one-upmanship on display. This kind of celebration of lives online extended to the conference-goers, too, with lots of smiles on faces and easy conversations with strangers, and the cheerful sight of quite grown people running around getting their bright red ROFLcon lunchboxes signed by online celebs.

Photo from Brennan Moore.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

LOLcats: I Can Has Case Study

We're now in a panel session focussing on LOLcats--where it's at now, and where it might be, say, 30 years from now...

In front of us are:

The panel is being moderated by Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and he is asking outrageously funny questions!

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What don't MIT know?

It's a bit confusing for one whose experience of university wireless networks has routinely been one of facing all manner of challenges and delays getting internet access on campus. Sometimes a metre of cat 5 cable and the trusty apple express base station would get around the system, but less so these days. Registering on a network has usually involved all kind of rigmarole to get a user name and password, because of the need to ensure SECURITY. Sometimes this takes days. Sometimes reason dictates simply giving up. So it's a bit perplexing coming to MIT and being logged on as a visitor in about 90 seconds flat. Makes me wonder what their SECURITY and SURVEILLANCE people don't know.

Or something. ^_^

Internet fame: Can you make money from it?

We're no listening to an hilarious panel comprising a bunch of internetly amous people, responsible for the following memes:

Best quote: A comment from the floor pointed out that all the panelists are young, white, males, and the panelists were asked to respond. The crowd was left in stitches when one answered, "Well, other cultures have more interesting things to do!"

Random pic: Michele with Tron Guy!!

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David Weinberger: On Internet Fame

David spoke about how fame is playing yout online now. The following are snippets of what was very engaging and funny talk (these snippets don't do justice to his presentation, but they do give a sense of key points he raised):

Fame in the broadcast world is based on alienation; on a distinction between "us" and "them", where the "them" are a distant class of being that instill awe and trembling. The internet, however, has changed these old-style conceptions and practices of fame and stripped away a lot of broadcast gloss (e.g., by people posting pics of stars without their makeup on).

Very much of what’s on the web looks like it was done by the human hand. Perfection is now the enemy of credibility. It used to be that any imperfection was a sign of lack and care, rendering the "thing" less credible; now, things too perfect are less trusted.

It’s not just the homespun characteristics of what’s online, but the DIY nature of it that matters very much. For example Mahir’s “I Kiss You” website from 1999. There’s no clear reason for why the URL to his website was passed around, but he became famous nonetheless. Part of the reason why we passed around the link included the sense that we were making him famous: a truly “popular” celebrity. Celebrating the power to act outside broadcast media.

The star Wars kid was not our finest moment. But is emblematic of how the people can make people famous.

60,000 comments left in response to a YouTube video is not a conversation; but we’re clearly inventing new ways of expressing ourselves and engaging with something through comments.

We are still working out how to navigate abundance online. There are now more “sort of famous” people, following similar lines to Shirky’s long tail of the web. That is, people famous to a handful of people. Fame that mimics, mocks and does both. Fame that lasts for day, and fame that persists. Fame that’s stupid, and confusing, and funny, and flawed. Most of all and best of all, flawed. That is, it looks just like us. We are taking “fame” back and celebrating a sense of who we are. Fame is no longer the “property” of broadcast media to allocate and distribute.


We're right now this very moment sitting in a functional foyer at MIT (well, more an open common space at the student centre) just down the road from hallowed halls of Harvard, enjoying lots of sun streaming through giant windows and rifling though our goodie bags from the conference... Stickers! Yay!). We're waiting for the opening keynote to the Internet Memes Conference to be given by David Weinberger.

We'll up date this as we go along -- working my asus off here....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Get your fan fic on!

Enormous congratulations to Rebecca Black on the publication of her book, Adolescents and Online Fan Fiction, published by Peter Lang. Rebecca's study of brings together ethnography and discourse analysis in an elegant and thoroughly engaging examination of English language learners and their fan and literacy practices. this is definitely a must read!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jacques Ranciere inspires a Rhetorical Question

There is something wonderfully postmodern about getting a text message on a Greyhound headed for New York City (for Comic Con NYC) that asks one of the best rhetorical questions ever conceived: “Do you want to go and hear Jacques Ranciere speak in NYC on Tuesday night?”

These can be desperate times, but there are surely some diamonds amidst the rubble.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Choose a website

In groups access and read one or other of the following and discuss in your group








Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Donnas Literacies

It was a blast to get a message from The Donnas fan club a couple of weeks back saying that they would be playing some kind of free concert in Toronto on the night of 4 April and if you wanted a chance to go then put your name into the pool for the draw. I was still in Oz when it arrived and, indeed, still asleep. When I checked mail first thing in the morning I dozily realised that we were scheduled to be in Toronto on the evening of 4 April in order to teach there the next day. Without looking further up and down the inbox I promptly emailed Michele she see what she thought about trying for tickets. That was redundant since she had already got the mssg from the club and put in for tickets, realising the dates were a happy coincidence.

Plane tickets looked kind of friendly. We don't book those, they are organised by the university. All going well there would be an hour or so to get from the airport to the venue in the heart of Toronto -- no small ask on a Friday evening on the Gardiner Expressway. In any event, there was always the question of whether we'd get tickets anyway.

A week or so later we had tickets confirmed and it seemed like a great way to start the summer. Up from Mexico on the Thursday and into a Donnas gig on the Friday night. As the poet said, "things could be worse".

For a while next day it indeed looked like they could. We bounced up to check in, having been bounced off the kiosk attempt at check in. "Hmmmmmm" said the check in person, "I am afraid that flight has been cancelled as a casualty of too much air traffic around Newark. We have you booked on the next flight". "When's that?", was our response. It was going to be too late by a bit. We hummed and hah-ed and fumed and carried on. But we *have* to be there by 6pm. We have business. Are there no other flights? Then, the killer intervention from Michele: "What about your code share partners?".

"Well, there is a flight with XYZ at 3pm and we could try for that, if you like". We did indeed like. But there was a snag. "We can't actually book it, you will have to go there and ask, and they will almost certainly say 'no' ". The counter is in Terminal 1 (we were in 3 at the time). "We'd like to try", we said. "OK, then I will print you out a paper. It probably won't work, but you can try".

We jumped the air train and got to Terminal 1 and as luck would have it got called to a counter by a man who obviously liked to help people. He fed everything in and it was looking super promising. And then he arrived at what looked like a snag. We asked what had happened and he said the other airline was supposed to have done X and Y but hadn't. "Oh", we replied, half innocently (I being the innocent half and Michele being the one with prior experience, who knew exactly what was going on), "we thought that was all done. Can you do it, or are we in trouble?"

It turned out there were seats on the plane, it *could* be done, and our new friend was going to do it. And he did.

But that piece of paper did not mean what it looked like. It was a request for seats that looked like a confirmation. It became a confirmation in short order because we lucked into a super efficient and obliging person who saw his job as being about getting people onto planes.

The concert was great. It turned out to be a session in the filming of a documentary called "Beautiful Noise". Something to look out for on television. The first band were a blinder, called "The Black Angels" -- kind of Brian Jonestown Massacre territory.

Between the airport and the venue was the excellent value Garmin GPS that fits in your purse and gets you to where you need to go if you know how to spell the start and finish addresses. With a bit of luck we managed that.

Wouldn't have missed the show for anything, even if it meant a sleepier than usual start to the next day.

Class went well.

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