Miley Twerks on..Anything and Everything.

So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the whole of the past week, you’ve probably been scarred for life by Miley’s ‘twerking’ in her horrific performance at the VMA’s. Most of you probably had a reaction that somewhat resembled this:

It’s one of those things that everyone loves to hate. You regret satisfying your curiosity to look up the video to see it for yourself, but afterwards you can’t stop following all the jokes, memes, and parodies of her performance. Some people have even said they have never loved the internet more than they do right now with all this stuff about Miley. Everywhere you go, people are talking about it. So if it was attention Miley wanted, she definitely has it now, albeit most of it being of the negative type.

I was more than a tad amused when this popped up on my Facebook feed:

It appears there's been a slight alteration to the classic..
It appears there’s been a slight alteration to the classic..

That’s right, a whole list of paintings that have been ‘modified’ with the addition of a twerking Miley. It’s amazing what you can find on the internet these days, and the things people come up with. You can see the rest of them here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jenlewis/miley-cyrus-twerks-on-famous-paintings

10 years ago, the way we would’ve reacted to this would have been very different. Perhaps people would have talked about it in person or online forums, but it definitely would not have received the same sort of response as it did this past week. The internet culture has very much shifted from a read-only culture (more on that later) to a read-write culture where it is considered the norm to respond to things by taking the original and changing it in some way, purely for artistic value or entertainment.

One of my personal favourites from the read-write culture phenomenon, is the “songifying” of news pieces, where a few people on YouTube have used autotune to work news stories into catchy songs. Something about it just brings me so much joy, and makes a news story so much more interesting, although people may argue it does trivialise it a bit. This is the “Bed Intruder Song”, which was a “songification” of the news story on Antoine Dodson, a young hero from Huntsville, AL, who saved his sister from an attack, and now has over 100 million views since it’s upload in 2010.

Lawrence Lessig describes this phenomenon as “Remix Culture”, or “a world in which content is bought, but not simply to be consumed” (2005).  In this environment, users respond to culture by using something that is preexisting and repurposing it by changing the aesthetic or the meaning of it.  Lessig observes that “blogs, photo journals and sites such as Wikipedia and MySpace signal an extraordinary hunger in our culture for something beyond consumption” and he states that even in 2005, a Pew study had recorded that almost 60 percent of US teenagers had created and shared content on the Internet (2005). Imagine what the numbers would be like now, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

“Read-Only” internet, Lessig states, is  “that network in which every bit of culture can be bought in a single click, but bought with the rights to consume only” (2005). Society no longer accepts this model, as it has become a norm, if not a “right” to be able to respond to things in our own way, and give our own two cents on politics, music, or, Miley’s twerking. As corporations are attempting to claim compensations on copyright infringements due to what they believe is an unfair use of their content, it becomes increasingly more difficult to monitor and police this due to some content being altered so much it can be argued that it is almost completely new content.

An example of this is a “mashup” song of the top 25 hits on Billboard, made by DJ Earworm in 2009. The songs and lyrics have been chopped and used in a way that the song now has a completely new meaning, and serves as an entirely different “product” to all the different individual songs it took bits and pieces from. So in this case, how would copyright laws be applied to this?

Personally, I love read-write culture. I love that the audience is now given not only a voice, but the tools to respond in a way that is creative and a lot of the times provocative, and it challenges the traditional cultural norms and opens up space for increased discussion and sharing of ideas.

It also makes the Internet much more exciting and amusing!

Reference:

LESSIG, L., 2005, Dec 29. Creatives face a closed Net LAWRENCE LESSIG TECHNOLOGY IN 2006. Financial Times, 15

Are our online lives shaping our offline lives?

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A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a parody video called “Look at this Instagram”, which uses Nickelback’s song “Photograph” with adapted lyrics to make fun of the average “igaddict”, or, translated into a language we can all understand, the Instagram addict.

The lyrics make fun of the things people post on Instagram, and include lines such as, “Fireworks in the sky, a super close-up of my eye, now a selfie lookin’ cute, in the same room where I poop”. I love the self-reflexivity and humour of the video, but at the same time, it makes me wonder if we are missing out on important moments because we are too busy uploading things onto Facebook or Instagram.

As an Asian, I think it is acceptable for me to say this about my own race; it doesn’t happen to all people I’m sure, but it just seems to be more prevalent among Asians. It is the weirdest phenomenon, (and I’m guilty of this myself), and that is, whenever we go out for dinner at a nice restaurant and the food comes, the first thing we do is squeal “oh wow, that looks AMAZING”, and then before anyone can even pick up a knife or fork, phones are whipped out, and a dozen photos are taken of the food, from five different angles. The one food photo that makes the cut is then uploaded to Instagram and Facebook, where all 20 people at the table are tagged and a caption like “having the most amazing time, with amazing peeps and amazing food!” And only when everyone has finished doing their own separate uploads, do people actually start on their food, which by now would be semi-cold.

The term “it’s not official until it’s Facebook official” comes to mind. This usually refers to a new couple apparently not being “officially” a couple until they make it public by changing their relationship status on Facebook. Although the phrase is usually applied to relationships, I think it is true for many other aspects of our lives, too. A great night out isn’t “officially” a great night out unless you have photos tagged at the bar looking hot with your 4 best friends. You didn’t “officially” travel to Europe until you have uploaded photos of you having the time of your life. Our lives and our actions are so intertwined with our online profiles that we begin to place our worth according to how many people “like” our statuses, how many “friends” we have, and choosing only the best photos of ourselves to upload onto our profile.

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Our online profiles have become our ideal images of ourselves, and we act a certain way in our offline lives in order to sustain that image. In 2004, Facebook began as a college network, for all Harvard students to keep in touch with one another online (Boyd & Ellison 2008:218).  It was not released to the public until 2006, and what began as a platform for people to keep in touch with one another, quickly began an online “stage” where people sought to put their best selves forward. Facebook had “applications”, which allowed people to personalize their profiles by displaying their tastes in movies, places they’ve travelled, and their favourite musicians (Boyd & Ellison 2008:218). All of these carefully selected by the owners of the profiles to create an ideal image of themselves that they wished others to see. The number of “friends” a person had also became an indication of popularity, and Boyd & Ellison (2008:219) defines this as “public displays of connection”. The features that were previously intended for keeping in touch with friends, and updating them on one’s life, is now used to display amusing status updates, photos of one’s “crazy”, “awesome”, “fun” life, in order to garner “likes” and envious comments like “oh wow that looks amazing! I wish I was there!”

Our “online life” is taking over our offline life, and we do things solely to make this online image of us look more attractive and desirable. We often say things like “oh that’s definitely profile pic material”, or “that would make a great Facebook status update”, and it seems our online identity greatly influences our offline identity. I wonder how different our lives would be if Facebook and other social network sites were never invented? Would we actually do things for the sake of doing things we enjoy, and not worry about what other people would think of it? I know I would probably enjoy beautiful scenery a lot more if I wasn’t too busy viewing it through the lens of my iPhone trying to get the perfect “instagrammable” shot.

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Reference:

boyd, d. & Ellison, N. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication13, 210-230.

A ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ Kind of Situation

An attempt to beautify an image of my lime green cat pants.

Recently, I moved into an apartment on campus at my university, and people just keep setting off the fire alarm. And it’s almost always a false alarm. I have been rudely awakened by the sound of sirens blaring and a deep male voice saying ‘EMERGENCY’ like a broken record about five times now in the last two days, and have been forced to evacuate my building at crazy hours like 2:30am. I’ve learned a few things about forced evacuations though, and here are my conclusions:

1. Invest in some suitable/decent looking pyjamas. The whole ‘wear whatever is comfortable because no one else will see it anyway’ thing is a myth. This obviously doesn’t apply when 400 other people in your building will see you. And judge you. I have realized my pale yellow teddybear nightie should probably never make another reappearance. Ever. My 3/4 lime green pants with cats, love hearts and ‘purrr’ on them probably aren’t going to cut it either.

2. You will start hearing the sirens in your head all the time. Especially when you shower. You will develop paranoia and try to shower as quickly as possible to avoid having to evacuate half-dressed with shampoo in your hair. It didn’t help my paranoia that I was hearing imaginary sirens during my shower last night, and then as soon as I got out of the shower I heard actual real sirens. And had to evacuate.

3. Do not decide to curl your hair spontaneously at 2.30am ‘just to see what it would look like’. I had this awkward situation yesterday where I did exactly that, and then was forced to face my peers with newly curled hair, and pyjamas. At 2:30am. Great combo.

4. Some people look ridiculously perfect at 2:30am. They are dressed well, and have great hair even though they look half asleep. Maybe they do really wake up looking like that. Note to self (again): invest in some suitable pyjamas.

5. People’s repertoire of swear words increase and become much more creative at 2:30am.

6. We’re paying the firemen’s salary. Apparently its $1500 per call out. But even they are probably sick of all these false alarms, when they could be putting out real fires elsewhere.

I really hope I get uninterrupted sleep tonight. The wonderful 2:30am alarm seems to love to make reappearances. Oh the joys of living in an apartment with 400 other people!