So after discussing HBO Imagine today in class I wanted to and fully plan to explore it more in depth than I did. That said I would like to share my thoughts on what I did think.

I thought it was an interesting new form of media and a bold and probably ahead-of-its time brand building technique by HBO. With the exception of crappy choose-your-own adventure books, which do not even compare to HBO imagine, I have never seen anything like it. The idea of the viewer having such control of what they take in information, what order they take in that information, and even how they take in the information is totally new to me and really cool to see. I thought the visuals were very cool and overall production quality was also very respectable considering the online and free-of-charge nature of the content. That said I did see some problems.

From the very start I did feel a little unsure of myself on how to actually run/watch/play (what should we call it?) the media. Of course, I rushed in without reading the introduction or instructions and so I didn’t know about the web button at the top of the screen until I had been on for 20 minutes or so. This meant that I was taking in content by blindly clicking on pictures in the background of the graphic, I had no idea as two how I was supposed to follow the narrative. This was not the best means of doing it. I think my other major problem was my ADD in terms of taking stuff in. I would be into videos and then bored by things like newspaper clippings. I would also be eager to see what else was on the Imagine and had trouble watching entire videos before wanting to click and see what else there was.

I think that the reason HBO did not find as much success in Imagine as they thought they were going to was because most viewers are not necessary literate in this type of media. I wouldn’t be surprised if more attempts like this pop up in the future, but I think in this instance (as there is always the case of new media/innovation) that this early attempt was a little bit ahead of its time.

So last week I went on saw a speaker here at Middlebury, Walter Pincus. Who was discussing newspapers and how they will continue to survive in the future despite the increase in web news options. I thought it was a very interesting point of view and related to our discussion of media very much.
Pincus talked about the ways in which the newspaper should and will be changing. He argues that the most important characteristic of the newspaper is that it be a competitive business. That the newspaper contains what the reader wants and not what the editors want. He talked about keeping the newspaper shorter, increasing advertisements, and making the content geared more towards what the reader is looking for. He says that because editors will be able to make these adjustments, and largely because advertisers still feel safer investing in print ads instead of online ads that the newspapers will survive.
I thought this was very interesting but it made me think about the social/cultural effects that this might have and the change in quality of the newspaper that this shift may have. It seems to me that a shorter, more ad heavy, and dumbed down version of the newspaper, while maybe a little more commercially successful is not really what I want being published. To me this seems like a dumbing down of our society and it makes me wonder what other sacrifices are being made as a result of new media expansion.

For Shane’s and my project we decided to look at the game Dance Dance Revolution.  The game seemed interesting because unlike most video games where you are using just your hands to control play, this game uses your whole body and tries to mimic actual actions from the real world… i.e. dancing.  Another amazing phenomenon of DDR is how it is a very good social and spectator game, where many people enjoy simply watching others play.

The video tries to highlight these two qualities, the way in which the crowd can come into play with DDR and the link between dancing for DDR and dancing in the real world and how they are different.

So in class on Monday we played a game called “Facad” which was essentially a one-act play in video game format.  You follow the first person point of view of a guest invited over to a couple’s home.  The game not only gives you the freedom to walk around the room, pick up objects, and physically interact with the two characters, but it also allows you to speak (through text) to the couple and actually have them respond to you.  This was like nothing I had seen before.  Of course I’ve played video games where you can physically interact with other characters in the game (basically any game where you are fighting people/creatures… a.k.a the majority of games), and I have played “sandbox” games like GTA where you have the freedom to “do/go wherever you want,” but I have never played a game where I could actually speak to video game characters and have them interpret what I say and respond.

Now that I’ve raved about the incredible freedom and technical progress that this game demonstrates, I do have to point out the limitations of the game.  It became very clear after playing the game for a little bit that the characters responses were definitely limited.  Often times I would ask questions or make comments that were ignored or answered insufficiently by the game.  Also, it was very clear that, while there were several ways the story could have gone, that still meant that there were only a handful of ways the story could end (most of the time ending with one of them saying “it’s time for you to leave,” and forcing me out).

I suppose I can see the appeal to a game like this.  It was kind of interesting playing the game several times and seeing how I could get things to turn out differently each time.  The fact that the medium allows me to actually participate in a one-act play is very very impressive, and I even found myself getting into the story for brief moments.  At the same time it was definitely not for me.  After each time that I played I felt like things ended very abruptly and felt no closure which is usually something that I feel in even the simplest of games even without the ability to respond to my text/actions.  I suppose that in the future the technology and creativity of programmers could allow games like this to be even more participatory and responsive and if that is the case my opinions might change.

I really enjoyed the documentary “RiP!: A Remix Manifesto.”  I thought it did a great job of both explaining and illustrating many of the contemporary issues of copyright issues and cultural change that we have been discussing in class.  Not only that, but it made critiques about certain media by remixing those media… it was like one very long project for Media Technology and Cultural Change.

I found the film entertaining because a lot of it had to do with the work of Girl Talk, who happens to be an artist who I enjoy very much.  It was entertaining to see him work, hear his thoughts on copyright law, and especially see his concerts.  At the point in the film where the recording of a Girl Talk performance is muted because “[Gaylor's] point had already been made, so using the clip was no longer fair use,” i was genuinely disappointed, but the message was perfectly illustrated.

Another thing that I found interesting was the interactive way in which I watched the film.  As it would happen, I missed the screening of the film here at Midd, but luckily for me it was available online.  The way in which they showed the film online, however, was they played it as twelve separate chapters of the film.  At the end of each chapter the Brett Gaylor (the director), would appear and ask viewers at home to think of new ways to remix the chapter they had just seen.  Whether it be adding a remix of their own, or a different soundtrack, or anything, the idea is that the film about remixes is attempting to be remixed itself.  Online viewers can upload their remixed version to the website, and eventually Gaylor will be releasing a RiP! 2.0.  I just thought this form of viewer participation was very interesting.  It addressed one idea that I took away from the film, which was that if enough people get involved and make changes themselves, the lines of copyright and ownership become more and more blurred.

All and all, I really like the documentary.

So I finally took the tour and did my second life snapshots.  While I am still somewhat hesitant about second life, I did have some fun going to the different places and trying to take good pictures next to interesting stuff.  Here they are:

Here is me with the librarian:

Me with the Librarian

Me at the Moulin Rouge in Paris 1900:

Me in Paris 1900

Me in space, chatting it up:

Me in Space

Me at Colorado Tech:

Me at Colorado Tech

Me at the Space Museum:

Me at the Space Museum

Me In Austrailia:

Me in Austrailia

Me in an Irish Pub:

Me in an Irish Pub

Man, seeing these great photos of my avatar in fun places is way cooler than actually going there myself!!!

Well my title pretty much explains everything that I have to say about Second Life as of now.  Now granted I am making this very bold statement based on only one experience using Second Life, but regardless this was is my first impression…

I did not like Second Life.  The concept of a giant not-real world is scary to me.  I can’t possibly imagine myself spending the hours and hours and hours that people do in S.L. adjusting their appearance, purchasing items, and flying around and talking to people.  I have a lot of trouble wrapping my head around the idea of it.  I don’t know why people would care about how a poor-graphics avatar looks instead of how they actually look.  I don’t get why you would worry about how many fake Second Life dollars you have instead of worrying about how many actual dollars you have.  I simply cannot comprehend any of it.  And the fact that so many people exist in this world, and the fact that the world is so huge and infinite completely (to repeat myself) FREAKED ME OUT.

All of that said, what I gather from class is that we are going to be examining S.L some more, and I will probably have to use it and figure out what the appeal is.  While I fear the unknown now, perhaps learning more about it will change.  To be honest I was hesitant about picking up twitter, and now after trying it I kind of like it, so maybe S.L will be the same.  But for now, it scares me and I don’t understand it… and that’s my preliminary analysis.

So I was reading an article online about red band movie trailers, and the very first line compared red band movie trailers to the former cigarette cartoon Joe Camel.  The idea being that showing graphic scenes in the red band trailers online is appealing to kids to go out and see graphic movies.  Now I’m not sure how much of this argument I agree with.  While I get the argument I just don’t think that seeing violent movies and becoming addicted to cigarettes are comparable, and I’m not sure how much the presence of online red band trailers is drastically affecting the amount of violence seen by our youth.

This however got me thinking about our youth and the internet, and keeping our recent discussions in mind, I am somewhat concerned about our youth.  Before I describe why I am concerned I will acknowledge the irony of this post that I am talking about how “technology of today is destroying our youth!” when I am in fact a youth that grew up in much of this technology (you can’t be a grumpy old “back in my day” guy when you are only 21, but who cares I’m doing it).  First, I would like to agree with Lessig when he says that much of the illegal activity that occurs on the internet affects the morality of our society and specifically the young.  While maybe this is not the internet’s fault, but rather a faulty legal system surrounding it is not important.  What I do think is important is many young people growing up breaking the law every day, and the effect that this has on their moral compass.  This came to my attention when I discussed online downloading with my mother a few weeks ago, and something that seemed horribly wrong to her seemed totally fine to me.  That concerned me.  My other concern for kids is the the things that they are being exposed to on the internet.  Now this does include things like, violent/sexual images, and sexual predators, but also  corporate influence.  After discussing facebook ads, and other forms of advertising and information collecting by big companies, I started to get scared for a generation that does not know how to maintain their privacy and protect themselves in the online realm.  I am not sure how much of a problem this is or what the solutions are, but I do know that I would like to consider myself somewhat of a smart, private, online user and I am sure that I am being totally ignorant and giving out way more than I think.  This just makes me fear for the people who aren’t as intelligent as me about these things (as little as that may be).

Anyway, this has been my “save our youth” rant.

Mark, Molly, and Shane’s video remixing project.  A compilation of movie titles quoted in the actual movie.  This project acted as a means of getting inside the heads of the web “geeks” who compile lots of clips in order to make their fan videos.  By using a variety of different film clips we were able to illustrate both how easy it is for fans to get their hands on large amounts of content to play with, while also simply commentating on films in general and how certain dialogue can seem quite comical or cliche when taken in a certain context.

Okay, so I have disappointed you all by not keeping up my blog…  Now I know this isn’t actually true because I am sure that no one in the world is probably that disappointed about not reading about my life.  Anyway, it is clear that I don’t think people value what I have to say which is why I haven’t been as determined a blogger as I should, but that is going to change.  In order to prove to myself that I can actually maintain a blog (and also to save my grade in Media Tech. and Cultural Change), I am going to get my blog up and running again.  This means that I am going to blog every two days for the rest of the semester (this goal might be a bit ambitious but I’m going for it anyway).  I am hoping that this strict schedule will get me back into the rhythm and my blog will prosper.  So for anyone following my blog closely enough to notice that I haven’t blogged in a few days, feel free to send me pestering annoying calls/texts/emails/messages/comments/tweets anything to keep me on task.  Here goes nothing…