I’ll Admit It… I Watched “Julie & Julia”

So over Thanksgiving break while at home without my DVD collection, I was forced to raid my mother’s movie collection to get some entertainment.  I ended up watching Julie & Julia, which I had never seen.  Although I found the film entertaining, this post is not just a movie review…

The film is about a struggling writer, Julie, who begins writing a blog about her attempt to make her way through the Julia Child’s cook book.  Throughout the movie we see her blogging and hear what she is writing in her blog.  I could not help but think about how relevant this was to our class where we have been talking about audiences of online content such as blogs.

In the early days (or maybe weeks) or the character’s blog, she keeps writing things like “… but I’m pretty sure nobody is reading this…” or “…maybe I am just writing this for me…”   I found this representation of blogging culture very interesting because it brings up an idea that I have always pondered when it came to blogging or tweeting or whatever.  Who is the audience?  In the movie her blog ends up becoming popular enough that it builds a large fanbase and is eventually turned into a book  and a movie.  But what about the blogs that don’t get mainstream followers like this?  Is anyone reading my twitter?  Is anyone actually reading this blog?  Probably not many.  It just made me think about how this new online culture that we live in has created an environment where very small, specific audiences are formed.  Blogs about certain topics or about certain people where the only audience that would follow must be filled with people who know about that topic or know that person.  This is a new practice that did not exist in the early years of cinema.

Rettberg: Chpts 6&7

After reading Rettberg’s chapter on types of blogs and the way in which advertisements and monetized incentives can affect blog content, I tried to think about how this applied to the blog that I read the most, /Film.  The blog is one where readers can get fresh info on new films that are in production or in theaters, as well as links to content such as trailers or behind-the-scenes video/images.

The first thing that came to mind after reading Rettberg, and specifically the story about the Walmart bloggers who were sponsored to drive across America by Walmart, was an instance on /Film when the unclear line was addressed.  I wanted to read a film review of a certain film that was soon to be released, but all I got was a story and an apology.  Apparently the writer who had been assigned to go to the press screening of the film ended up getting flown out to some fancy hotel, a free trip to some local attraction, and other certain perks to reviewing the film.  While he made it clear that very often in the film critic profession studios work very hard to make sure critics are happy when reviewing their films, the blogger had decided that his trip had been to extravagant and that to review the film would be unfair and impartial.  He apologized to readers who were hungry for info on the film.

While I was one of the people disappointed not to read about the movie, I respected the choice.  We are living in a culture now, and have seen this in class, where the rules are changing.  The golden rules of journalism don’t necessarily apply to web and sometimes it is unclear what is appropriate/professional when it comes to blogging and online journalism.  I think that rules are being formed, and that many are getting it right.  I just think the fact that this gray area was addressed in the blog shows that the writer was aware of the implications of what he writes and was attempting to maintain the rules that we need.

Screening Prompt: FlashForward

It has been very surprising to me how in class we have somewhat decided that Flashforward as the ultimate example of failed audience invitational programming considering, on paper at least, what potential the show seemed to have.  In the realm of the fictional world the show has not one but two online networks where people can join and share and get information, and yet ABC and the show runners seemed to completely miss the potential that these two outlets could provide for their program and their audience.  The “mosaic” website that they offered for fans to share their own fan-created flashforwards was uninteresting and ultimately provided no real enjoyment for anyone involved, and the alreadyghosts.com site was non-existent.  In thinking about how these two opportunities were underutilized it makes me think about what could have happened had they been utilized.  What is the effect of invitational programming, on both the program and the audience?

I begin by thinking about what mosaic could have been.  I think that the ideal use of the website (in the real world) could have been a give-and-take forum where fans could both get extra content about the show while also submitting their own.  Instead of having only fan-made flashforwards the show runners could have posted flashforwards from fictional characters in the show so that fans could read them and get the extra content, as well as relate their own fan-made flashforwards to the story world.  This would be an interesting approach in that it would provide a semi-read/write environment where fans could take content from the show and work in their own creativity to it, while giving the creators of the show some control over the way fans were participating with their programming.

In thinking about how this invitational programming affects the content of the show itself I think it is a tough balance.  In trying to make a show that encourages fan participation, you are essentially gearing your show to a smaller demographic of audiences.  By creating a show that encourages people to go online and participate it is very easy to alienate the more passive audience that do not wish to participate in the same manner.  My guess is that this was one of the causes for the eventual cancelation of Flashforward.  I also think back to a reading we did earlier in the semester about Lost writers and how while they appreciate the fan involvement and discussions about the show, that it is impossible to please everyone and that taking their insight too seriously inevitably ends badly.  This might be a inherent flaw in invitational programming.

My letter to FX that will never get read…

I have always been a fan of FX programming, original series like Rescue Me, The Shield, Nip/Tuck, It’s Always Sunny In Phillidelphia and The League.  This year I have been enjoying their new series Terriers very much.  I find the writing, acting, and general feel of the show to be excellent and what I have come to expect from the FX network.

I am very sad to hear that the ratings for the show have not been very high and that as the first season is about to come to a close the show finds itself in danger of being canceled.  In doing a web search about the show and it’s soon-to-be-decided fate, I was linked to many “Save Terriers!” sites or blogs.  In one article it gave an email address at FX that fans of the show should send emails to asking for the show not to be canceled.  Despite the obvious logic that no one will ever read my email and that it will not affect the shows fate at all, I decided to write a brief email explaining how much I enjoy both FX and Terriers and asking “whom it may concern” to please not cancel the show.

I am not exactly sure why I decided to do this, or why fans continue to create these “Save ______!!!” websites that seem to never actually save the show.  It got me thinking about which kinds of audiences programmers are looking for, whether there is any upside to having a smaller but dedicated core audience who are so invested in your show that they will take the time to send emails to anonymous executives in order to keep it on the air, or if the only way a show can survive is if it is a major hit right away targeting the widest possible demographic.

I think I am really just wondering what the chances are that one of my new favorite show will have a second season or not…

CW’s Mobile Strategy… (what is it?!)

The article about CW’s mobile marketing strategy blew my mind.  Not entirely because I think it’s kind of silly to be sending texts simultaneously as they appear on the screen, but more because it very much seemed to me like these executives had NO idea what they were talking about, what they were actually doing, or why they were doing it.  I will also add that I found the 50+ year old executive saying things like “WTF is jus the way we talk to each other, so let’s talk to the audience like that too” totally creepy.  Making huge decisions about the way your company will advertise its product based on a study in St. Louis where teens texted each other while in the same room?!  That just seems so crazy and not realistic.  I don’t want this post to be a bunch of generic comments with me calling them “crazy” so I will attempt to do some better analysis now…

I think that this article represents this still very young and transitional period that broadcasters and advertisers are in with the coming of digital media.  Much like the still occurring shakiness around Hulu and Hulu-like sites with the best ways to advertise and/or get subscribers, this mobile universe is another way in which media is expanding its reach to an extent that big executives like Mr. Haskins are trying to wrap their heads around.

I suppose that while my gut reaction to this article was to think that their methods are crazy and could not possibly work, my guess would be that they have invested a lot of money in researching and implementing this marketing strategy and the typically large corporations would not do that unless they thought it would work.  I guess time will tell, and we will have to see what fails and what sticks when the dust settles (but how long will that take?).

Screening Prompt: Gossip Girl

As far back as I can remember teenage, high school, melodrama television programming has existed.  And whether it be watching reruns of Saved By the Bell, or guiltily watching The O.C. on DVD with kids who live on my hall, it is impossible to watch these shows without noticing the way in which cultures are represented in certain time periods.  Watching, Gossip Girl for our class was the first time I had seen the show, but I was taken aback (although I probably shouldn’t have been considering the class) but how much the show was projecting a culture of “millenials” and the way in which technology is infused in their lives.  To define them as millenials may be to broad, as the characters in the show do not represent all millenials but rather a sub-category of “teen-mill-enials.”  The reason I make this distinction is because I would be remiss to lump early-thirty-year-old computer programmers and bloggers into the same category has the catty high school gossip texters that were depicted in the show.  But I digress…

The point I am trying to make is not how to define these characters, but rather what they are depicting on the show.  Audiences watch a body of youth who are deeply attached to their mobile devices so as to stay in touch with up-to-the-minute information.  As a community they are learning important (at least to them) information together at the same time.  While this is a representation of a society and an audience that we live in now where everyone can receive real-time info at any given moment, I still think this is not the most important takeaways from the show.

The first issue illustrated by our screening that I think is significant is the idea of power and the weight of what is posted on the world wide web.  In one episode we are witness to gossip being posted online that results in student expulsion, parent uproar, and eventually faculty termination.  In this way the episode really gives evidence to the power of the blogger in society.  As simple as it is to post something on the internet (in this case it was done via text with no factual evidence given), the ramifications of that information being as public as it is are massive.  This represents a time in our culture when there really is a struggle for power amongst many parties including, the press, the authorities, institutions, bloggers, and readers.  We are in a transitional period where the rules are changing, and while the situation in Gossip Girl may be kind of insignificant and melodramatic the idea that is behind is much deeper and still unclear.

The second message I took away from the Gossip Girl episodes screened for class is much less subtle.  In the season finale we watched, where students try to expose who the Gossip Girl actually is, the episodes ends with Gossip Girl saying something along the lines of “you are all the Gossip Girl because without you this would not exist” (a bad paraphrasing perhaps).  This addresses another idea that we have been examining which is the necessity of audience participation and read/write culture.  The only reason why wikipedia, or heavily followed blogs, or transmedia practices work is because the community exists to fuel it.  Unlike TV programming in previous generations Gossip Girl is addressing this need for audience participation, both in a large sense for our culture and also specifically for itself.

Screening Prompt: Remixing and Vidding

When these remixes and vids were first introduced into our class discussions, the initial gut reaction I had was that we were examining films made by fanboys and (forgive the implied insult) TV geeks who were producing nothing more than flashes of their favorite science fiction content set to cool music.  However, given the extensive reading and analysis from the first half of the semester I found it impossible to maintain this much-too-simple attitude and was able to apply concepts that we had talked about in early cinema to the read/write content that we have watched in class.
There is undeniably a balance of spectacle and narrative in these vids/remixes similar to that present in early cinema but possibly taken to a whole new extreme.  These vids have a message and they are telling a narrative.  Whether it be about Lex Luther, Scarlett, or Sam “slash” Dean these vids have a narrative carefully constructed by the artist, and diligently analyzed by the viewer.  The message however is fused into the spectacle naturally by the medium.  We have discussed how one of the major criteria for these vids is that they are professionally edited, visually exciting, and set to effective music.  These are all elements of spectacle.  Unlike many of the early films that we watched in the first half of the semester, we do not have films that are purely narrative or purely spectacle, or where we have a narrative that pauses for spectacle.  For these vids and remixes the two are inseparable.
What makes all of this work is the element of audience participation and self-reflection.  Now one way in which this functions is that if you are watching a vid about a particular show it is probably because you are a vidder yourself and a fan of that show.  Right away this engages you as both a fan/viewer/critic as well as an artist/participant.  But what brings this audience engagement to a higher level is that the tools that vidders are using to create both narrative and spectacle are actual pieces of the subject matter and therefore provide commentary of the audience.  By showing a series of clips in rapid secession of the show “Supernatural,” you are illustrating what an audience of that show watches, and are using the medium of vidding to comment not only on the show itself but also on the audience for continuing to watch that show.

Jenkins: The Future of TV?

Jenkins’ article about the future of TV made me feel like I was supposed to be panicking about the uncertainty around the television medium.  Shows are on the internet, alternate reality games exist, DVR’s, Youtube, and Jay Leno Quotes… OH NO!

Okay, so maybe this is an exaggeration, but I still thought it was interesting how huge Jenkins made this shift of transmedia seem.  Are we even using televisions anymore? he asks.  I think that yes we are still using televisions and that yes the medium still exists even if we are taking it in in different ways, maybe everything is just a little more amplified.  Here is what I mean:

When thinking of classic television, the characteristics that I think of are “appointment watching” where people would rush to the TV set to watch their favorite shows at specific times.  While things like Tivo and Hulu have changed that practice, I think the emergence of social networks have helped to maintain the shared viewing experience that used to come from forced scheduling.  People watching Lost live so that they can tweet about it, or community screenings on second life are examples of this.  Another “classic television practice I think of is the TV guide.  While practically no one (except my mother) still reads TV guide, which used to be one of the highest read magazines, there are infinitely more sources for television watchers to read about shows, what is going to air, interviews with actors etc.  While the actual magazine is gone the ideas and practices have just expanded significantly with the freedom of the TV set.  Finally, I think of the idea of people having their favorite shows and forming practices around watching those shows.  Now more than ever uber-fans still have their favorite programs and have tons of practices (i.e. blogging, vidding, convention-ing etc) to go along with those favorites of theirs.

I agree that we may not be using the TV tube any more, but the practices of television are still alive more than ever

Normative: Remix Culture’s Evolution

While it was a little bit boring watching this video the day after watching Lessig’s Webside presentation (considering all of the clips and points that the former made were present in the latter’s).  That said, I do find his points valid and entertaining.  I also find the comments on youtube that follow to be quite funny; the way in which some people really do enjoy just hating on people who put their ideas out for the public.  Many of the commenters point out that they believe the Lisztomania example that normative uses is not in fact remix and nothing is original about it.  They would rather see an epic Girl Talk vid to show what a remix is.  I think that the cause for this anger is that their definition of remix is too narrow-minded.  It is true that the three videos that normative shows are all set to the same, unmixed soundtrack, but you cannot deny that each video is different in its own way and evokes different emotions while at the same time building on each other and giving a nod back to the video that came before it.

I think what makes normative’s video so relevant is not that he is giving a definition of what a “remix” is (which I think is what many of these angry commenters were looking for), but rather he is illustrating how the new remix culture has become a part of our culture.  The Brat Pack Lisztomania example is simple but really does get at the heart of what he is trying to show, which is communication, dialogue, creativity, and homage.

DJ Spooky

Both of the assigned activities from DJ Spooky had a common characteristic for me.  His article and his interactive audio/visual remix machine were two things that I thought were probably kind of cool, probably had an interesting message, but both I did not fully understand and was put-off by how confusing and alternative they were.  I am sure that with a careful analysis or maybe somebody flat out telling me the significance of either/both I would find them very cool and interesting, however I was kind of hoping for something more to the point.

This made me think about some of the other stuff we have looked at in class.  Remix videos with images flashing at me at rapid speeds, “Supernatural” vidding, and meta on top of meta articles/blogs.  I was thinking that sometimes I (and maybe other curious internet users out there) ever get bogged down by the way in which these auteurs get too complicated when presenting their argument.  If your remix vid that is trying to describe the significance of remix vids is so complicated and confusing that i don’t get it or don’t want anything to do with remix vidding, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose.

With DJ Spooky’s poetic academic analysis I would have much rather enjoyed a brief straight forward description of what he was talking about and then a sample of is image-heavy poetry.  When he combines both into one it makes me not care about either.