Friday, July 29, 2005

week 2 stuff

Hi everyone,

After thinking about it, I'm not convinced as to the distinction made by Henry Jenkins between jammers and fans. He claims the diference lies in the intent; the former is motivated to resist and challenge the status quo, while the latter is motivated more by a love of the material they address.

However, the effects of both jamming and fan culture are similar in some ways. Both can actively disrupt the commercial machine. A clear example of fans challenging existing material is the Star Wars fan who, while motivated by love, still felt dissatisfied enough with the creation of The Phantom Menace to create the Phantom Edit.

I would argue that this tampering and changing of existing material is a mutual focus of jammers and fans. Both make use of existing cultural products to create new formations in accord with their own individual visions.

I would also argue that those who choose not to alter existing material should not be put under the "couch potato" label. Just because an individual is not physically altering or subverting material in a way which is obvious to others does not mean they are not actively engaging with the material.

It seems quite patronizing to assume that people who are not physically engaged with technology are simply faithfully absorbing any information provided without a critical thought floating through their minds. I have many a critical thought as I sit watching big brother... just because I don't create a big brother parody using taped footage spliced with animal kingdom clips doesn't mean I haven't thought of it. The fact that I could seems to be the point... because I choose not to doesn't necessarily make me a passive sponge. Perhaps it just makes me lazy...

Anyway, that's my little rant...

oops, just saw Hilary's comments down there, now I don't know where mine should go... Aaargg! Sorry, haven't addressed your points at all Hilary, but I'll just say Bravo!

Copyright... Into the breach.

I thought the first seminar on participatory culture provided a new insight into the way the expanding scope of copyright law could be perceived as a threat to grass-roots cultural production. Lasica's 'Darknet' is an effective, and enjoyably dramatic, exploration of how 'big-business' studios etc. seek to protect their interests often at the expense of interactive, cultural productivity among those who consume and love their work. With the Indiana Jones example, I thought Lasica made quite a strong argument about the way control and ownership of modern cultural works belong more and more to the administrators of that work (ie. publishers, studio executives and those who package and publicise it) than those who actually create the original ideas or execute their interpretation on screen. Although director Spielberg supported and loved Strompolos and Zala's tribute to his direction of Indiana Jones, he did not (as one person within a collaboration being funded and owned by Lucasfilm) have the right to advocate it being shown. Thus this film, which Harry Knowles, creator of 'Ain't It Cool news,' has called "the best damn fan film I've ever seen... This is the dream of what films can do. Motivate kids to learn and make it" will NEVER be seen by an audience LEGALLY! It seems like such a tragedy!
During the seminar I grappled with the reality that whenever creative authorship and ownership are talked about in relation to digital culture and the web, it is impossible to draw a line in the sand (get it-sand? Sorting through web is like searching through grains of sand?! mwa ha ha!) that can objectively (impossible!) distinguish between the unacceptable stealing of , and the acceptable borrowing of, ideas.
BUT! I think Lasica's most powerful statement about finding this middleground is in the way the work 'Darknet' was published partly on net and also in book form. This way, Lasica walks the talk and gives net-users free access to his ideas ON THE SUBJECT OF free access to ideas, and also has a publisher to spread the word about the work and to allow him to keep writing by financially supporting his output. In this instance, Lasica is able to allow for the free consumption of his ideas, while still operating within the administrative institutions that allow for these ideas to be known publicly in the first place.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Week 3 Seminar: Copyright, Creativity & The Creative Commons

This week please read these items:

[X] Lawrence Lessig, “Preface”, Introduction”, “Piracy”, “Conclusion” and “Afterward” from Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Penguin Press, 2004, pp. xiii-xvi, 1-79, & 257-306. (More details.)

[X] Sam Howard-Spink, "Grey Tuesday, Online Cultural Activism and the Mash-up of Music and Politics." First Monday 9.10 (2004), http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue9_10/howard/.

And listen to one of these presentations (or both if you have time):

[X] Lawrence Lessig, ‘Free Culture Presentation’, 2002, 9Mb Flash File. (More details.)

OR
[X] Lawrence Lessig, et al, “Who Owns Culture?” 2004, 45Mb Mp3 File.

(If you don’t have the bandwidth to download these files, let me know ASAP and we can arrange to get you a copy on CD.)

Last week Henry Jenkins and J.D. Lasica gave us some grounding in the way that cultural interaction and production have changed in recent years, especially in the context of digital media. Building upon these ideas, this week we’re turning to the work of Lawrence Lessig who has been called, among many other things, the Elvis of cyberspace law! Lessig is a passionate crusader for a legal system which reinforces and encourages creativity, rather than locking creativity down (which is what the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] and RIAA [Recording Industry of America Association] and their anti-piracy rhetoric platform are doing in Lessig’s view). In the excerpts from Free Culture that you’re reading, pay particular attention to the way culture has changed in terms of ownership and in terms of what that entails for creativity and cultural production. I’d encourage you to also explore the websites of the Creative Commons organisation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lawrence Lessig’s own website. Lessig's book is a great read, so if you have time you may want to dip into some of the other chapters, too.

You’re also reading an article by Sam Howard-Spink which explores the cultural reaction to ‘The Grey Album’, and the reaction when copyright holders tried to remove the album from circulation.

When reading, keep these questions in mind:
[X] How does the rhetoric of ‘piracy’ work in the debate(s) surrounding cultural production and creativity?
[X] What is the history of cultural ownership and copyright?
[X] How have large corporations and copyright holders reacted to new media forms and new media technologies in the past few decades?
[X] What does ‘Grey Tuesday’ tell you about the way individuals react to the current copyright system?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Communal Authorship

Hey guys, I just found this amusing and relevant so I thought I would post it up :)
Don't you just love Dilbert?!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

G'Day!

Just checking in, had to log in from home as I couldn't remember my old password for the arts lab...

Hello!

Hello everyone! This is Kaori:) This will be my first time to write a blog...I'm very excited to join this group! Oh well...that's it for now!

signed on

Hi there, this is just a note to confirm that I've made contact with the comm blog.

Hello-Intro Post

Well, hello everyone!
Its Hilary...oh look a specky blog!
Well, I am a little bit of a nerd, but mostly a normal person, so I shall put up some links...some entertaining...others relevant to this unit!
Please ignore any grammatical mistakes in this first post, as I will get better...and I just got a specky new keyboard especially for uni!! So of course, many a typo :P
Here's some links:

Homestarrunner and Strongbad (ohhh Flash fun!!)
Technorati (edumacational)
Waxy.org Links (edumacational and also fun)
Photobucket hosting (in case you want to post a picture on the net somewhere, use this it makes it easy!)
Milk and Cookies (mostly fun, but you might find some interesting related stuff I guess)

Enjoy and see you all next week! :)

Week 2 Seminar: Participatory Culture 101

Your core readings for this seminar are:

[X] Anita Blanchard, "Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a Sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project." Into the Blogosphere. Ed. Smiljana Antonijevic, Laura Gurak, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff, and Jessica Reyman, 2004, http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogs_as_virtual.html, accessed 14 November 2004.

[X] Henry Jenkins, "Interactive Audiences?: The 'Collective Intelligence' of Media Fans" in Dan Harries (ed.), The New Media Book, (London: British Film Institute, 2002), pp. 157-170.

[X] J.D. Lasica, "Darknet mini-book: Introduction", "'Darknet' foreword" (by Howard Rhinegold), and "The teenage filmmakers" in Darknet: Hollywood's War against the Digital Generation. John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

The article by Henry Jenkins looks at interactivity and audience agency, giving a sense of where culture has been in terms of participation and ownership, and then looks to how culture is shifting facilitated, in part, by digital communication. Anita Blanchard's piece takes a more focused (and more sociological) look at a specfic blog and explores how a community can (or can't) emerge from their engagement around one blog. Finally, the excerpts from J.D. Lasica's Darknet look at what immediate changes and battles are happening in the Western cultural context due to immediate challenges made by digital communication and interaction tools.

While this seminar is meant as a general overview, you might want to keep these questions in mind when doing you reading:
[1] Is participatory culture a brand new idea, or does is have historical precedents?
[2] How are the terms 'ownership', 'community' and 'culture' actually used in these readings (and are these stable terms, or do they mean something different for each author)?
[3] How open and accessible is cultural production in the twenty-first century? What are the trends, and where do you think things are headed?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Joining the Course Blog & Your First Blog Post

At some point fairly soon after our first meeting you will receive an email inviting you to join the course blog which will look something like this:
[Click on this or any other image to enlarge it.]
Follow the hyperlink in the invitation email and you'll see a screen asking you to join the blog which will appear thus:
If you have used the Blogger system before (and you're happy to use the same username you've used before) enter your username and password. If you've not used Blogger before, or prefer to set up a new user profile, then click the blue "Create an Account" button and create your account on a screen that looks like this:
Please make sure your Display Name is clearly and easily identifiable as you (your first name would be ideal).

Once you've created an account, or logged in with your previous Blogger username, you will have become a member of the blog and can now post. You'll see this screen:
Just click on the green button to write a new post and you'll meet this Dashboard screen:
This is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor for creating your blog posts. To test out your newfound blogging ability please make your very first post in the course blog. In your first post, I suggest you tell use something about yourself and your experience(s) online, and what you hope to get out of this course. (Also, please keep in mind that this blog is online and thus can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. It's probably not a good idea to give out any easily traceable personal information such as your surname, telephone number, student number, home address or anything else you don't want other people to be aware of!)

In the future whenever you want to log onto the course blog and make posts, just go to Blogger.com and log in with your username and password in the box at the top of the screen and you will automatically be taken to the Dashboard screen and can make your posts.

In addition to making posts, please remember you can make comments using the "comments" button (oddly enough) which is at the end of every post.

Finally, please write down your Blogger password and username in a safe place! I cannot retrieve your password for you if it's lost, so please don't forget your username or password!

Welcome to iGeneration: Digital Communication & Participatory Culture

Semester 2, 2005

Course Coordinator: Tama Leaver
B.A.(Communication Studies) Coordinator: Ian Saunders

Seminars: 1pm Wednesdays, Arts Building Room 1.38
Tama's Consultation Time: 12-1, Wednesdays, Arts Building Room 1.38
Course Blog: http://i-generation.blogspot.com

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
The University of Western Australia

INTRODUCTION

In the past fifteen years the rapid increase in widely accessible hardware, software and digital communication (epitomised by, but not limited to, the internet) has led to substantial changes in the way cultural meaning and media are conceived, created, produced and distributed. One of the most significant and widely discussed changes has not just been the way digital media is produced, but who has access to the tools of creation. While the day to day ability to offer news, cultural criticism and political commentary used to be the almost exclusive realm of professional journalists, personal publishing tools such as weblogs have opened the door for millions of 'amateur' writers to share their voices and opinions. While the production of broadcast quality audio or video was once the exclusive realm of production companies with huge budgets, the expansion of digital technologies and their relative affordability has opened the door for non-professionals to create films and music which are of a comparable standard to those produced by their industry counterparts. As such, the twentieth century may be characterised by the expansion and domination of 'big media', but by contrast the twenty-first century is being hailed by many commentators as the digitally-facilitated era of participatory culture. According to enthusiasts, digital technology and communication are allowing cultural production to once enter the hands of average individuals as part of their everyday lives.

However, as more and more people participate in the creation, manipulation and distribution of new media forms and cultural production, a range of serious issues have emerged. The most public battles have been fought over the right to distribute, copy and remix digital music in the face of mp3 audio compression. Less public but equally intense debates have emerged regarding the realm of journalism and authority. If anyone can create a weblog (or blog), what authority should blogs have when compared to traditional print or television news? What responsibility do bloggers have to their (potential) readership? What credibility does a communally authored online encyclopaedia have? As these few questions begin to show, the emerging trends and rhetoric surrounding the ideas and practice of participatory culture have opened new realms of debate, as well as re-igniting existing arguments. In this unit, you will critically explore these emerging debates, utilising communications theory, exploring social and cultural trends in digital culture, and evaluating the ideas and practice of participatory culture. In order to fully analyse the specificities of some of these new media forms, your assessment with include the participation in a group blog, and the production of a researched podcast (a syndicated audio documentary, the form of which is named after the popular iPod digital audio device).

AIMS

This unit aims to expand and develop your critical understanding of current social and cultural trends in the production, development, use, distribution and influence of new media forms. It is expected that you will build upon the communications theory examined in past units and broaden those perspectives in relation to the ideas and practice of participatory culture. Further, students are expected to enhance their practical skills in digital media by participating in collective authorship of participatory media forms (most notably through the unit weblogs) and individual authorship (most notably through the production of a podcast).

The unit is designed to enhance your existing skills in research, textual analysis, collaborative learning and digital media production.

OUTCOMES

At the successful completion of "iGeneration: Digital Communication and Participatory Culture", students will be able to:

[X] Identify and critically analyse key issues and debates emerging from recent social and cultural trends in the digital communication and interactive media
[X] Demonstrate a practical knowledge of participatory cultural forms
[X] Identify and evaluate the requirements of digital audio recording, editing and distribution
[X] Plan, produce and create a podcast
[X] Research a topic by collecting, analysing and interpreting data.
[X] Formulate, express and defend an argument.
[X] Express research findings and ideas coherently and logically in oral, textual and recorded digital formats.
[X] Engage in constructive and critical dialogue (in oral and electronically mediated forms) with peers and other course participants.

ASSESSMENT STRUCTURE

The major assessment components for the course are:

[X] 20% for a critical evaluation of one blog or podcast series (the specific blog or podcast you wish to critique MUST be negotiated with Tama at least a week prior to the due date). The critical evaluation is due in print to be handed in at the English Office before 5pm, Thursday 15th September. Your critical evaluation must also be posted online to the course blog before 9am, Friday 16th September.
[X] 30% for continual participation in the seminars and unit weblog including three main elements:
[1] A detailed presentation on one seminar topic (including notes posted to the course blog beforehand, and chairing the your chosen seminar). [10%]
[2] Ongoing critical participation in the course blog (including a summary comment posted after each seminar) and active participation in the seminar discussion. [10%]
[3] A critical reflection on one of your peer's first critical evaluation exercise. The critical reflection should be roughly 500 words, be posted as a comment on the blog post of your peer's critical evaluation, and must be posted before 5pm, Friday September 30th . [10%]
[X] 50% for a major research podcast. The podcast must be completed and submitted online (details on how will be provided) before 5pm, Thursday 27th October.

SEMINAR SCHEDULE

Week 1 [20th July] Introductions: A New Course, New People and New Ideas
Week 2 [27th July] Participatory Culture 101
Week 3 [3rd August] Copyright, Creativity & The Creative Commons
Week 4 [10th August] Citizen Journalism
Week 5 [17th August] The Politics of Play: Politics in/as/about Gaming [Andrew]
Week 6 [24th August] Wikis: The Wikipedia, Collective Intelligence & Communal Authorship [Hilary]
Week 7 [31st August] Machinima: From Game Platforms to Animation Studio [Gwyneth]
Week 8 [7th September] Fan Culture: The Origins of Participatory Culture [Liz]
Week 9 [14th September] Study Week: Complete 1st Assessment (No class)
19th September - 30th September 2 WEEK BREAK
Week 10 [5th October] Research Podcast Workshop + Proposals
Week 11 [12th October] Podcasting: Revolutionising Radio? [Kaori]
Week 12 [19th October] Participatory Culture Then, Now and Tomorrow
Week 13 [26th October] Study Week: Complete Podcast (No class)

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