Author Archives: Hannah Epstein

Self Control

I’ve been sitting here working on final projects that require being connected to the internet, which makes procrastination WAY too easy. I was of course on AIM and facebook periodically, and finally chatted to my friend Sam, “I CANNOT GET ANYTHING DONE!” and he said, “I have your solution. where are you sitting?”

He came to my spot in the library and introduced me to the solution to (half) my problems. The program to download is called “self control.” It is a program that allows you to assign websites to be disabled on your computer. So I typed in Then you get to choose how long you want to be blocked for. I chose 30 minutes. Click START, and a timer pops up as a widget on your desktop. You can x out of the widget, close the program, and even delete the download…. your disabled websites will still not work until the time period is up. It’s fantastic!! It’s also really pathetic that I want this to confirm the will power to not go online.SC

But I’m certainly not the only one who is benefiting from computer-induced self control… walking up and down the aisles of carrels in the library, I think more people have a timer widget on their computer, than not. It’s bad that we’re so addicted to these websites like Facebook. Or maybe it’s not that we’re addicted to the website, but that we’re addicted to procrastinating, and sites like Facebook are the easiest way to access procrastination while sitting at a desk. Lucky for us, we now have synthetic self control available just as easily as procrastination.

synthetic, digital self control. weird.

study abroad orientation, via skype

Last week I had my orientation for my study abroad program. The orientation was in NYC, and I was in vermont. I made my appearance via Skype, which was a weird experience. At first, I chatted one on one with the orientation leader which was completely normal video chatting, like I’d do with a friend to catch up. She saw me, I saw her, we talked. However, once the other students came and settled into the room, she put me up on the projector screen where the powerpoint would later be. I was introduced and said hi to the other kids and they all introduced themselves. This was nice, but then the leader told me she was going to point me toward the classroom so I could see the other kids, but minimize me while they did the powerpoint. This was weird. First of all, I was being minimized. Second, I was like some fly on the wall who could see everyone in the classroom, but they couldn’t see me.

As for the powerpoint, no worries… the leader e-mailed me the file before the meeting started, so I had it pulled up in the corner of my own computer screen so I could follow along. Then when she wanted to show a video, she asked that I watch along on the website, but that I put in headphones so that they wouldn’t hear my audio through the Skype while they were watching it.

I was weirdly nervous to attend the orientation over skype… more so than had I been going in person. Not really sure why. But anyway, it all worked smoothly, and I’m glad I didn’t have a problem “attending” due to my distant geographic location.

it’s not just us

Who say’s my generation is the only one obsessed with their portable electronics, and being connected? I called my mom this morning to wish her a happy mother’s day, and the first thing she needed to tell me was that she couldn’t find her cell phone. Her exact words were:

“I can’t find my cell phone… I feel so discombobulated. It’s disturbing. I called the nail salon thinking I left it there – that was gonna be my last hope. And it’s not there. So now I’m really worried. I mean, I haven’t been able to check if I’ve had any texts from you for like 24 hours.”

Now, does that sound any different from how one of us youngins would react? Looks like I’ve dragged my mom down with me…

youtube costumes?

For every freshman’s first a cappella concert, they must dress in accordance to a theme that us older members have decided on. I wasn’t a part of the conversation last night when the group decided on a costume theme, but I found out tonight that the Freshmen are required to dress as Youtube videos….

WHAT?! How do you dress as a video? My first reaction was, well that’s dumb… themes are only fun if people in the audience understand what the theme is. Then I realized that viral YouTube videos are probably one of the most recognizable things in our generation. The frequency of YouTube videos being quoted on a daily basis is ridiculous. And the fact that someone can randomly say as much as one word (ex: “Charlieee”) or a phrase in a specific accent (ex: “my son is gay!”) and everyone in the room immediately knows it and chimes in.

Our freshmen will be dressing as: Nobody’s Perfect, Miss South Carolina Teen USA, I Like Turtles, Justin Beiber Girl, Sassy Gay Friend (Romeo and Juliet version), and Things I Hate. YouTube ‘em to check ‘em out.

I still think it’s going to be hard to recognize the videos from our freshman’s costumes alone, because obviously what is SAID in the videos is most recognizable. Still, it’s pretty crazy to see how media technology influences today’s society in the weirdest ways.

HBO imagine

I think the idea behind HBO imagine is very cool. However, I’m not sure how effective I think it is. In terms of creating an interactive “movie,” I don’t like it. The way the scenes are shot, to show how a scene changes when viewed from a new perspective, is really cool. I especially love the scenes that are on the spinning cubes. Those I found to be the most fun to play with. What I don’t like though is having pauses between each scene of the “movie.” I don’t like seeing it out of order either. I understand that the whole point is to be interactive and “unlock” scenes and put it all together yourself, but I’m not into it. But then I also had an interesting thought …. if I think of this as a “game” and not an “interactive story,” i all of a sudden become much more interested. Calling it something different obviously doesn’t change what it is, at all, but it changes the way I look at “the interactive experience.” I don’t like the idea of changing the movie-watching experience, but I might be up for a interactive video puzzle.

My friend the mash-up artist

After all our talk about remix culture and looking at different mash up artists, I decided I wanted to give mash-up a try. I figured I could put something together, even if it was simple and sounded shitty, but sure enough I couldn’t even pick two songs to put together from my itunes. Hunter, on the other hand, has been working on some of his first mash ups, and has been much more successful. He’ll warn you “it’s just his first attempt” as to not get your hopes up before hearing it, but I’m entirely impressed with what he’s produced. We make the argument that with today’s technology, anyone can produce music, etc. from their own lap top. But knowing what software is best and then knowing how to use it and putting it to use, is a whole other story.

Since Hunter wouldn’t blog about it himself, I’m putting it up for him.

Enjoy  - “Tik Tok In Spain” by Hunter Nolan

Hannah’s Final Portfolio

Welcome to my final portfolio for Media Technology & Cultural Change. Below you will find the four projects we put together through the semester, and a final project to wrap up the year. Through the semester we studied how today’s technologies affect society and how we interact with other people and media, differently from how we did before certain media were available.



Our first project was to use the medium of paper, to make an analysis, or statement, about paper. Guillaume, Hunter and I decided at the beginning of our brainstorming that we wanted to make an argument contrary to what many people were saying in class – that paper was such a limited medium compared to computers, and other new media which incorporated the ideas of paper in a modern form. We wanted to somehow show how versatile paper is, but at first struggled to figure out how we would do this on just one sheet of paper. We were working just after reading McCloud’s book on comics, and found ourselves inspired by the reading to make the design of our paper similar to that of a comic book page. We decided that by incorporating a narrative, we would be able to show multiple uses of paper, from a global perspective. We used the time line of a traveler to display paper in its many forms. We started first with three definitions of paper, hoping to allow our audience to understand that this was a project about paper’s different capabilities. Then we began our paper adventure across the world to Paris, and we showed paper as a passport, map, photograph, currency, e-mail, newspaper, map, and paper airplane.

With our final product, we wanted to show not only these different USES of papers, but also the different PROPERTIES of paper. Properties that our project demonstrates is that paper is tactile, tangible, manipulative, transportable, moderately delicate, and flexible.

We used as much original material as possible to collage, so the notebook paper, photograph, newspaper, e-mail, and currency were all real. By doing this, we were able to show that paper can also be different in terms of it’s style of make, and its finish (glossy vs. matte).

Unfortunately, putting this project on an online blog to display, takes away the ability for an audience to see some of our main points, because so much of our analysis has to do with the physical properties of paper and how it feels to hold it in your hands and interact with it. After flipping through the project sequentially, the paper opens up fully and you can see the different components in their comic book-like layout. Please go to to see the FULL project!!



I really enjoyed this project, because I love working with audio and had an opportunity to do lots of mixing for my and Shane’s podcast. I think I also found it to be one of the most difficult projects. Although putting together what we have was quite time consuming, it wasn’t the writing, recording, or editing that was the hardest task. Coming up with the initial project idea was very challenging. For all the projects in this class, the hardest part was not coming up with what analysis or critique you want to make about a medium, but how to convey that message without explicitly stating it in the final piece. I think I struggled with this more on the podcast than any other project. I’m also not sure though that I was aware of this struggle until we presented in class for our critiques. I am still very pleased with our final product in terms of craft, and I think it still makes valid points about what media has become today, but I do wish I had thought more outside the box for how to present our idea. I think the moment that this project really clicked for me was when we heard Mark and Guillaume’s podcast (listen here: Some people in class argued that while the project was very well done for those of us who knew the assignment, I thought it was spot on for any audience. I thought it made a classic argument about how strongly different audio can effect us, and was presented in a great way which required no explicit explanation.


When Toren and I initially came up with our idea, we thought it was a good one and were excited about it. Then as we continued to gather YouTube clips of Justin Beiber and Tay Zonday, I started to worry that we were focusing too much on the narrative of YouTube fame, and not enough on the concept of remix culture. But then I realized that what we were doing was making a documentary, and really the whole genre of documentary filmmaking is remix. Documentaries use film from varying sources, and cut it together to tell one cohesive story. I hope that Toren and I were successful in doing this with our video about YouTube stardom. We pulled over 30 different clips from YouTube to create a remix video, and chose to tell two contrasting stories of YouTube fame, allowing us to incorporate some of the other ideas we’ve talked about in class, in addition to the remix style. I think this was my most successful project this semester in making an analysis without making any explicit statements of my own. I think the media really makes the point itself, and that an audience from outside our class would also understand.


The statement we wanted to make with this project was that people become so involved in their games, that they enter a second life through their avatar. Video games become a way for people to escape (get away) from the real world, and do things that would have too severe consequences in their first life. We chose the song “Get Away” to help establish this theme and make the timeline a cohesive piece. We also wanted to make a B statement about the art of machinima. We chose Grand Theft Auto as our game to escape into because it allows the player to control the camera angles. We worked hard to choose specific shots from distinct camera angels so that it wouldn’t just look like a simple video game image. Then we cut it all together and intercut with shots of Hunter playing the game to show the juxtaposition of the avatar second life, and Hunter in real life with the game controller in his hand.

I think this was a successful project in making our analysis clear through the media itself. People in the class seemed to have a clear understanding of our argument, as did friends outside the class who I showed it to.
Unfortunately we didn’t find time to shoot new scenes to add, but I think adding a more finalized ending would have made the project better. We could have ended with a shot of Hunter putting down the controller and walking out of the room after the game ended.

Since our group really enjoyed the video game project, we wanted to play with that idea more, and expand on the concept that we displayed in the previous project. We were initially going to do our final project with a more general theme to say what the class was about as a whole, but decided that was too broad and going to be too difficult to put into one self explanatory project. We wanted to make sure we incorporated different media and made a more in-depth analysis of how people interact with video games.

Similar to my and Hunter’s gaming project, Hunter, Shane, and I wanted to have that same analysis embedded in it, while also elaborating on how people can not only get away, but also become whoever they want. From the comfort of their bedroom, they can be anyone from a professional football player, to a snowboarder, to a guitarist. We also chose to use footage of the real professionals to show how video games mimic real life. For music we chose to use “Tribute to Ms. Lonely” by Milkman because we spent so much time on the remix culture in class, and because the structure of this project also demonstrates the craft of a remix video. We also wanted to have a “mash up” song for our music because a song like this is always changing, using various components but still acts as one independent unit. This is just like Shane in the video, who as a gamer can play as many different people and imagine himself at the professional level of any career, but behind the controller he is one independent human being, potentially lacking all of those skills in real life.

In terms of making the project better, I wish that we had each dressed as video game characters for the final shots down the hallway. Our point for using that sequence was to show Shane as himself, and then as different versions as if he was morphing from all his different games. We each wore his t-shirt to try to link each person to Shane, but I think each dressing as a video game character or at least holding a prop (football, snowboard, guitar) would have made this point more clear, and wrapped up the project with a stronger ending.

broken phone

These days I like to pick up snippets of conversations that have to do with media and technology in our lives… Here’s one I just got:

“My phone’s broken. It’s so frustrating.”

“Ah yeah that is annoying.”

“Yeah. I mean, it’s like, 20% enjoyable, 80% annoying.”

We all seem to realize that it’s kind of nice to be a little less connected all the time, but when it’s not by our own choice to become disconnected, we worry that our world will flip upside down or that we’re constantly missing out on something.

Getting Away in GTA: Gaming project

For our project we wanted to display how involved some gamers are in their chosen virtual world and how they almost become their avatar. We focused on Hunter, the gamer, as well as the video game footage, to show the connected between gamer and avatar. Some people love video games because they can “become” their avatar, and are able to do things within the game world that they can’t do in real life. In our video we can see Hunter’s intent on killing people and stealing cars, his eyes glued to the television, his hands acting as the limbs of his avatar. Doing these actions in the game world holds no consequences, and some people become entirely engrossed in having this kind of “second life” in a virtual reality of a video game. Gamers can get away in the world of video games.

We also wanted to display a second statement about the art of machinima. We made deliberate choices about which shots to create while playing the game, controlling all camera angles and then editing the pieces together to our liking in the final product.

we’ll watch the original file for high quality in class!

by hannah, hunter & molly

Make Love, Not Warcraft… a demo of Taylor’s argument

I have only seen a couple south park episodes in my life. So watching this episode, I found myself actually laughing because of how on target all the mockery was. I’m trying to decide if I thought it was so good because it is a funny show standing alone, or if it’s because I’m now so attuned to how media rules our life, because of what we talk about in class. Chatting with my friend online, I told her what I had to just watch for class, and she responded in excitement, because she watches every episode. When she typed, “HAHAHHA I LOVE that one! One of my favorites,” I thought to myself, well it must just be a funny show in general. I’m thinking of myself as being more analytical than I really am. Bummer. But then she continued to crack jokes quoting lines like “You can’t be the dwarf! I’m the dwarf!” which makes me think maybe she (and other people) isn’t picking up all the underlying messages from the episode about media.  Another friend I’m talking to (yay multi-tasking on the internet) told me she’s seen it. She’s a big gamer, so I suggested she watch it. She decided to put it on again because she has nothing else to do right now, and I said how I thought it was so funn because of how relevant it is to my class. And she typed, “like what? HAHAHHAHHA! HILARIOUS about Hitler.” …not related to the messages I’m picking up. She did also just say “seriously people LOVE this shit. Everyone makes fun but this is exactly what…90% of guys our age do on halo and call of duty. Its just modern warfare instead of like legendary. Aka not different hahah.”

I guess the messages aren’t too deeply hidden under the surface, it’s all pretty in your face. But I think its because of these messages that the episode is successful in its humor, whether we all realize it while we’re watching it or not. The big points made are about how people “socialize” digitally through their avatars, gamer stereotypes, gender stereotypes, and how media over all has become like a second life to many of us.

I’m blabbing and realizing as I go… I guess my point isn’t really just whether or not other people are watching the episode in the same way as I am… but whether or not I would have had interest in the show without being in the critical media state of mind. I think if my brother had been watching it and I walked into the room, I would have seen 30 seconds of it, watched video game images on the television, and walked away uninterested.

The show dramatizes all these worries about gaming to the fullest extent, as if the end of a game really is the end of the world. The creators worry, “could this be the end of the world… of warcraft?” Always with that pause before “of warcraft” to emphasize the importance of this virtual reality for some people. Anyone who becomes good at the game is stereotyped in the show as having no life, fat, pimply, sitting at a computer with leftover processed food everywhere. When the world (of warcraft) is ending due to a killer on the loose, Cartman says to his peers, “you can stand around in the sun all day tossing a ball around, or you can sit at a computer and do something that really matters.” The killer is a great example of what Taylor talks about in his article, “pushing the borders.” Each game has a set of rules and how players should conduct themselves in the virtual space, but “absorbing the game experience proves itself to be, player culture has never existed in a completely rarified space: We can see all kinds of players pushing back at and tweaking the structures of play they encounter.”

The boys gang up at their computers in the basement and battle until they too become fat ugly gamers, needing assistance to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, the managers of the game system don’t even have accounts to the game, because they “have a life.”

I loved how the show ramped up with excitement and suspense while we waited for the flash stick to be delivered, and then watching the Dad’s character run up to his son’s character to give him the sword of 1000 truths…. But then he doesn’t know how to hand it off. “Inventory! Apple i!!” Of course the father is the one to be helping out, because mom’s are portrayed as having absolutely no interest in the game, and thinking it’s dumb.

I also loved how in the earlier battle, Butter said he didn’t play warcraft, only the virtual world of Hello Kitty. The boys tell him to get the game before they murder him, and then when he appears, his avatar is the same as Cartman’s avatar. This mocks how we can enter into these virtual worlds as someone else, whoever we want to be. And two people, completely unique in real life, can appear identical in the alternate world.

“We killed him. I can’t believe it’s all over… What do we do now?”

“What do you mean? Now we can play the game.”

Very funny. Well done, South Park.


Okay, honestly I didn’t LOVE the film. I thought it was an interesting concept, and overall entertaining, but I felt there were some loopholes in the plot, and I found some of the camerawork to be distracting. In the Q & A session the director did say they wanted to leave you with a sense of ambiguity, and not a clear understand, to leave you more in fear at the end of the film. This didn’t entirely work for me, but this also isn’t my favorite genre of film, so who am I to judge?

I think the biggest point I want to make about this film, really, is how exciting it was to see a final product produced by a middlebury team of past and current students and faculty. I loved what they were saying about doing an independent film – having an idea, and taking the initiative to put together a (relatively) small team and actually DO it themselves from start to finish, and have a product as they wanted it.

I also thought it was interesting when Professor Mittell asked how we could start to “advertise” for the film, being a select bunch who has actually seen it. The immediate answer (after an unsure pause) was “join the Facebook group?” Leave it to technology and the web, to spread the word. It certainly can’t be a bad place to start.