The Cinema, a Fat Cow and Imaginary Worlds

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I really enjoyed this assignment because I love having the opportunity to combine the concepts I’m learning at university with personal stories in a creative way. I think it definitely helps you understand a topic if you’re able to connect it with something you enjoy or with something in your real life. I chose to make a video because I have the software for it and love filmmaking and editing.

I chose to use the same style as the video below with brightly coloured cardboard cut-outs, which I had previously made for a friend. This was because I thought it was a fun, visually stimulating look that would draw people into my story. I felt that the way it mimics and caricatures real life with the mix of real photos of people and the cartoonish cut-outs was well suited to my discussion on imaginary spaces, which are a heightened and often slightly strange transformation of the real world. I wanted to illustrate why imaginative worlds are so appealing to me, so I thought that creating one of my own was the best way to do this.

Although this was a solo project, I really appreciated bouncing off others in the tutorial time, as it is always useful to see someone else’s perspective. They might see something you didn’t because you’re too close to the project or focused on different details. I found that simply describing my plan for my project to others helped me to solidify my ideas and direction.  As Carey and Russell point out, our preferred stories about ourselves do not have the sense of being ‘real’ if they simply remain in our own minds, as it is essential for others to witness and reflect back our claims (2003, p3). This meant that telling my ideas to my classmates and hearing their perspectives was a necessary part of conceptualising my thoughts.

I really appreciated our focus in the tutorials on the planning stages, as I think planning well is necessary to building a strong foundation for your story. As Hofer and Owings outline, before even sitting down at the computer, it’s necessary to ‘undertake research, engage in creative writing, editing and revision, consider the potential and impact of images, music and narration on the mood and tone’.  It’s next to impossible to create a well-rounded and coherent story without some planning, especially in the digital storytelling platform. In particular, I found that making a storyboard was essential for my project, because it was so visually orientated.  Also, because I was making all of the props myself, it was difficult to figure out what was going to work without drawing a storyboard.

I was well aware of the danger of trespassing copyright laws and so even though it was a lot of work, I appreciated the fact that I could avoid this by making everything myself and using only my own footage. I considered doing the same with music by using a loop program, but as the rest of my project was so time-consuming, I decided instead to find some royalty free music. I was lucky enough to find some appropriate songs from an artist with a creative commons licence that only required me to attribute them, and I felt that the addition of music lifted the whole video, which would have been much too dry without it.

Hofer and Owings note that file storage and management can be one of the difficulties of making digital storytelling projects due to all of the different elements involved, and I ran into this problem myself. Due to limited memory and the fact that video editing programs struggle with multiple still photos, towards the end of my project, my editing program began crashing when I tried to render it. This was an absolutely awful experience for me as I simply had no clue what I could do if I couldn’t render my video, and it was really frustrating to have spent hours putting everything together only to be unable to finish. I eventually managed to get around this by rendering it in 30 second bursts, putting those pieces together and rendering it again. This was a lesson in problem solving and perseverance for me, and one that I’m unlikely to forget.

Overall, I was very pleased with this experience and was grateful to have the chance to explore ideas about the media and space in a creative way.

 

 

Hofer, M, Owings, K, 2006 ‘Digital storytelling: Moving from promise to practice’, Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference, Vol 2006, No. 1

Carey, M, Russell, S, 2003, ‘Outsider-witness practices: some answers to commonly asked questions’, The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, Issue 1, Dulwich Centre Publications, Adelaide

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A Reflection Blog Post In Which I Reflect On Blogging (AKA I Will Never Think Of A Good Title For This)

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no-idea-blogThe thing I’ve always appreciated about blogs is the writing style. I really enjoy being able to fill my assignment work with humour and creativity and blogs lend themselves naturally to this. In fact, I consider both elements absolutely essential to my blogging style. I’ve found that, surprisingly, I actually prefer it when blogs like this one require academic sources because it gives my discussion weight and a more direct purpose. It also helps me understand the material better, as I try to tie them in with real world examples.

I often set myself the challenge of finding the most unique video or amusing example that I can to tie in with the topic I’m discussing and this has made me engage with the subject so much more. Whenever I watch a youtube video or read a blog in my spare time, I find that in the back of my mind I am thinking about how it relates to the media and media spaces. By connecting the pop culture that I already engage with and enjoy to topics we discuss in this subject, I’ve found that it is much easier to form opinions on and write about it.keep-calm-and-read-my-blog-38

Admittedly my audience for this blog was relatively non-existent. However, from class I found that this was a very common problem in this subject. I think there are a few reasons for this. The first is that this is the internet, an incredibly vast sphere- and the media is a very popular topic on it. It has been widely discussed on much more prominent websites than mine and as such, it is not easy to make my little blog stand out. I also didn’t really tag my posts very much, which meant that they were much less likely to appear in google searches. The main reason I didn’t tag my posts was that it is very time consuming….but also because it is not always obvious which tags will bring in an audience. I did, however connect my blog to my twitter so that every post was advertised there, and I endeavoured to think of intriguing or funny blog titles to make people interested. However, because of limited time and the fact that Twitter is one of my least favourite platforms to play on, I rarely used it for anything else.  The tag #BCM240 meant nothing to most of the twitter-sphere, so few people noticed my tweets. This meant that my only followers were friends or classmates.  I think that in retrospect, if I wanted my audience to grow, I should have been more persistent in my tagging and twittering.

chickenblogI suppose it could be surprising that there was a lack of BCM240 students commenting here as well, as they seemed to be the most obvious and immediate audience. However I think this was partially due to a logistics problem with moodle, as it was not until quite late that there was an easy way to find fellow classmates to follow. I think that if this had been easier earlier in the game, interaction in the subject would have increased. As it was, those who did follow others before this had everyone in the subject, rather than just one or two classes. This meant that it was once again quite easy for my blog to simply go unnoticed.

The Malice In Dallas

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kelleher+_3882693When Stevens Aviation discovered that Southwest Airlines had begun using their ‘Plane Smart’ slogan, they did the only sensible thing. They challenged chairman Herbert Kelleher to an arm wrestle with their former weightlifter chairman Kurt Herwald who allegedly could ‘bench press a King Air’.  Southwest Airlines accepted immediately as their chairman could ‘bench press a quart of Wild Turkey and five packs of cigarettes a day’ and would happily resort to ’kicking, biting, gouging, scratching, and hair pulling in order to win’.

What followed was the ‘Malice in Dallas’, an event like no other, as the men were prepped by pro wrestlers before hopping into a Dallas boxing ring and arm wrestling to the theme of Rocky in front of a packed crowd. Herwald won, but allowed Southwest to keep the slogan anyway. The result was a win-win situation, as Southwest made around $6 million in publicity benefits while Stevens grew rapidly for the next four years. Stevens took a situation that could have equalled years of expensive litigation and instead turned it into an extremely successful publicity stunt for both parties.

I think that when dealing with copyright law and piracy, we could learn a thing or two from situations like this one. As Sprigman argues, the current trend in copyright law is to limit works in the public domain and continually increase the years corporations can hold copyright. This does not achieve copyright’s intention of improving creativity, but instead stifles it, as brilliant, inventive works such as the following video lack legitimacy simply because they build upon past creations that Disney have held onto for far too long.

Although videos such as this one may scrape through as parodies, fair use remains poorly defined and legislation continues to favour those with money over those with creativity.  As Illadvised points out, in the music world it is the record companies and not the artists who are really pushing for stricter laws, as artists make much more from touring than cds. In fact Jake explains that piracy could even be considered a good thing, as shows like Game of Thrones with high illegal downloads also grow in paying audiences.

Sprigman, C, 2002, ‘The Mouse That Ate The Public Domain: Disney, The Copyright Term Extension Act And Eldred V. Ashcroft’, Findlaw

Where’s My 4th Wall? The Battle Of The Seahorses

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The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an Emmy award-winning adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which played out in vlog-style on Youtube along with spin offs and expanded storylines on Twitter and Tumblr. The series was a dream come true for producers in the creation of an extremely engaged online audience (who called themselves ‘the Seahorses’). Initially unsure if they would even have the funds to finish the book, by the end of the series the fan-funded Kickstarter campaign raised over $462,000 for the creation of DVDs and a spinoff show, $400,000 over its goal. It was a triumph in interactive media.

I share Lachlan’s enthusiasm for the growth of online communities and the creativity this prompts as they build on the fantasy world that has brought them together, and this I think, was a large part of the success of this show. One of the most exciting things for most fans was the removal of the 4th wall as they interacted with both the actors and fictional characters on Twitter, Tumblr and Lizzie’ Q&A videos. Due to its online sphere and small crew, fans regularly interacted directly with writers and actors who often commented on their reactions and fan art.

However as Lessig argues, the internet is a type of space and as such, despite its seemingly infinite nature, there are borders which can be crossed and conflicts that arise in response. He points out that cyberspace, while it has a lot in common with ‘real’ space, has its own rules which are dictated by code instead of nature, and that these rules are still evolving. We see this in his description of a neighborhood dispute within the game ‘Second Life’. When Martha’s poisonous flowers killed her neighbour’s dog, a border dispute began, much like it would in the real world- however the solution, in which the code was changed so the petals were only poisonous in the possession of someone who purchased them was one that could only happen in cyberspace.

Likewise, the Lizzie Bennet fandom soon discovered that this 4th wall breakdown could create conflict, as some fans began to argue that they felt that their fandom space had been invaded. The notion that, at any time, the actors could read and respond to their blogs was stifling, as they no longer felt they could react genuinely, for fear of offending them.

The creators may see themselves as the comedian on stage who has a right to bite back at hecklers who interrupt their act, while in the fans eyes, the act has finished and they are discussing the pros and cons on the car ride home when a crazy person thumps on the window and starts hurling abuse at them. Ultimately neither are right… or maybe they both are. All I know is the online world is its own beast and conflicts like this in the future will have to be solved in a uniquely internet-y way.

Lessig L, 2006, ‘Four Puzzles From Cyberspace’, Lessig Code Version 2

How The Rabbit Got In The Hat

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Let’s play a brain game.

Did you see the moonwalking bear? For most people, the answer is no. According to illusionist Apollo Robbins, our attention is like currency- we only have so much of it to spend and it can be stolen from us. This is exactly how most magic tricks work, through misdirection. We know that unless someone has a lightning-shaped scar on their forehead, they probably can’t actually perform magic, but we’re too busy looking the other direction to figure out how the rabbit got in the hat.

This is one of the reasons why the pervasiveness of mobile technology can be concerning . As wonderful as it is to be able to communicate with friends on the other side of the country or world while walking to uni, it really isn’t much fun when you end up walking under a car because you are distracted by your brother’s text about that Taylor Swift song that ‘really resonated’ with him.

Our phones are like a two-year-old’s temper tantrums or car crashes- you probably shouldn’t look, but they’re screaming for your attention and it’s very hard to look away. But as the moonwalking bear shows, when our attention is stolen like this, it’s really easy for us to miss what’s going on around us. Many of those in our BCM240 class agreed that texting and walking was a real problem…Luke even admitted to walking into telegraph poles and a parked car while tweeting.

Lopresti-Goodman, Rivera and Dressel found that even though people who texted while walking tried to compensate for the distraction, they were still much more likely to run into people and things. ‘Despite phone-using pedestrians turning their heads from side to side to inspect traffic…they still got in significantly more virtual accidents or near accidents with oncoming traffic, left less time to spare, and missed more safe opportunities to cross than those participants not using their phone’. They believed that texters simply couldn’t accurately gage the limits of their abilities and that the distraction was more powerful than they realized. Apart from running into people, buildings and vehicles, they also tended to miss unusual things in their environment, such as unicycling clowns or chalk outlines of ostriches.

So what should we do? Should we fine texters-and-walkers? Or are they only a danger unto themselves? I’m not quite sure about that. But I do know that this is my favourite solution.

 

Lopresti-Goodman, Rivera and Dressel, 2012, ‘Practicing Safe Text: The Impact Of Texting On Walking Behavior’, Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26:644-648

Where Were You When…?

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Brian[1]

When my Dad was a kid, his family had one TV in their lounge room, which he says was pretty common at the time. Not many families had more than one. There was, of course, the occasional argument over what to watch, but these were settled by the well-known family pecking order. His dad always had first choice, and if he wasn’t there, the crown was passed to his mum, then his oldest brother and so on, with his younger sister at the bottom of the pile. Even though they were focused on the TV, it was a time for family to be together, much the same as it was when his own kids were growing up. Likewise in both households, dinner and TV time were separate as the family was expected to sit around the dining table and talk about their day without the distraction of the idiot box. We both agreed that it was only after he and mum had given up on parenting (i.e. when we became impossible teenagers) that watching television while eating became acceptable in our household. Amy Holdsworth notes that television is a powerful nostalgic tool and that the word ‘nostalgia’ is closely linked to the home, and this is indeed a regular theme in my Dad’s memories of the TV.

Dad says that he finds it quite annoying when people talk while he’s watching TV, although he admits he’s liable to do the same thing if he’s lost interest. He doesn’t mind commenting on the show, but says that it’s frustrating when you’re talking about something unrelated, particularly if the show is a drama or something where you need to follow the plot.

Holdsworth points out that when we talk about world events there is the inevitable ‘where were you when…?’ question. We see this at work in my Dad’s memories of the moon landing. He said he remembered this event distinctly. He was at school and all of the kids sat on the floor in front of a big black and white TV watching the fuzzy images of Neil Armstrong. He expected it to look like an episode of ‘Lost in Space’ and was surprised by the effects of the change in gravity. Dad said that, having watched it when he was quite young and seeing the image over and over again since, he thinks that he has a different memory from his original experience and has a better memory of the occasion surrounding it than of the footage itself. Keightley and Pickering suggest that we should not try to separate authentic memory from the fabricated kind because ‘all memory is selective, revised, added to and reshaped over time’.

Television, Memory and Nostalgia, A. Holdsworth, 08/2011, Palgrave Macmillan memory studies

Keightley, E and Pickering, M 2006, ‘For the Record: Popular Music and Photography as Technologies of Memory’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol 9, No 2, pp 149-165

Cinema Outings & Underground Billiard Halls

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This week I interviewed Brian about his memories of the cinema growing up. Brian particularly remembered going to drive-in movies as a boy. He said that it ‘was really good’ and he liked it as an experience in itself. He said that you would have food in the car that you bought from the kiosk at the back and you’d put a speaker over your window so you could hear the movie in the car. You had to work out where each person in the family was sitting so that everyone could still see the screen.

Brian says that because he lived in Sydney, he wasn’t allowed to go to the cinema on his own until he was around 12-13 years old. This was because he would have to go into the city several bus stops away and be able to find his way from bus stop to cinema. He usually went with a group of 3 or 4 friends. Brian said that he felt like the cinema was a safe place, although on movie outings they often went to play a few rounds in the billiard halls below ground level… which he admits was not exactly benign, but he said they felt comfortable. Brian remembered the billiard halls as a part of the cinema experience because it was a way of ‘making a day of it’ when they went into the city.

vintage-pool-hall-andrew-fare

For Brian, the cinema has always been a social space. He doesn’t recall ever going to the cinema on his own, even though he had nothing against the idea. He figured that he simply felt he would enjoy the cinema experience more if he went with somebody. He and his friends often met up at the cinema itself, rather than travel together. This was mostly due to convenience. He remembered sometimes meeting in the foyer or sometimes having a meal together before hand.

Cinemas in Brian’s day were much more likely to be single theatre with only one movie showing at a time. He said that a lot of the cinemas he remembered going to had previously been theatres and had stages where people had performed in the past. He also said he remembered less tiering than modern cinemas and more ornate decorations, such as the occasional statue to the side of the stage area.

Brian remembered that going to the cinemas as a boy was quite exciting and different, and he said that it was usually a fun day out.