Wikipedia: 10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You is a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, updated to reflect contemporary times for it’s release in 1999. It stars young Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Larisa Oleynik. And here, before even moving past the article’s introduction, is where I first started doubting the knowledge of its authors.

10 Things I Hate About You_intro

It leaves out Larisa Oleynik, who was one of the big names attached to the movie. The others went on to have big movie careers, but she was already an established television star with the lead role in a popular Nickelodeon show, The Secret World of Alex Mack (Graham). The article goes on to say that it was a breakout success for Stiles, Ledger, and Gordon-Levitt, but Gordon-Levitt was also already an established television star on 3rd Rock from the Sun (IMDb). While neither of these inaccuracies are huge, the second one is particularly interesting due to the citations given as support.

10 Things I Hate About You_breakout

Notice that two of the three are referring to Stiles, which results in the appearance of a citation for each actor up above, but really leaves the claim about Gordon-Levitt unsupported. Furthermore, “Julia Stiles on ‘The Omen'” does not sound related to 10 Things I Hate About You, but the link is dead, so it is impossible to verify. (Incidentally, the link supporting the claim about Ledger requires a password to view the news site, so it may or may not be legitimate as well, but 10 Things as a breakout role for him lines up with my own knowledge on the matter). Citations continue to be an issue for this article, but they are only officially named as an issue for the Cast section.

10 Things I Hate About You_citations

The parts that have been picked out for citation make very little sense. For example, the basic character traits of Larry Miller’s character, Dr. Walter Stratford, are called out for citation, while a claim about Andrew Keegan’s character, Joey Donner, relating to particular characters in The Taming of the Shrew is allowed to stand unchallenged.10 Things I Hate About You_edit history This brings us to: who is deciding what is important to this page? The edit history shows that over one thousand distinct editors have made almost two thousand total edits, from the day the page was created in 2003 up through today, which was one of nine edits by six distinct editors in the past month.  With that much fairly consistent editing*, I would have assumed that the page would be in spectacular shape. However, it clearly is not well verified, (aside from the already mentioned iffy citations, the closest they get to citing The Taming of the Shrew is citing the SparkNotes page) and I have far more quibbles over details than there is room for here. Wikipedia article traffic statisticsWhat’s even more surprising is the number of people who have viewed the page: over thirty thousand in the last month alone. When viewed in the context of the number of people receiving this information, the number creating it pales considerably. Collective intelligence, which is “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal” as set forth by Henry Jenkins, begins to seem not so “collective” after all. (As a reminder: that’s about 1,000 editors over the lifetime of the page to over 30,000 views in the last month alone, which is not 30:1 – it’s more like 4000:1, assuming a steady viewing rate over the lifetime of the page.)

With this kind of disparity, the idea of collective intelligence as an integral part of Wikipedia’s model begins to fall apart. Yes, they depend on the collective intelligence of their editors, but the people editing make up a tiny percentage of the online community, which limits the potential of this kind of endeavor. Furthermore, this particular page has a very low threshold of entry to be considered an expert: have you seen the movie – yes or no? Have you read The Taming of the Shrew – also yes or no? A yes to one or both of these gives any person sufficient knowledge to contribute. Despite this, few people are participating in the creation of knowledge about this subject. Though Jenkins is full of optimism about the potential of collective intelligence and the shift in who is considered an “expert,” if very few people are contributing even to a page that requires very little knowledge to assist with, it just doesn’t work.

*I would provide a screenshot of the page’s revision history statistics, but the external site is down. However, I did view it yesterday, and if memory serves, it has been edited at least a couple of times a week since it’s creation, with a spike around the time the television adaptation came out.

Works Cited:

Graham, Jefferson. “Alex Mack’ Star’s Secret: Her Typical Teen Aura.” Larisa Online. USA Today, 04 Aug. 1995. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.

Jenkins, Henry. “WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PARTS ONE and TWO).” Confessions of an AcaFan. N.p., 26-27 June 2007. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.

“3rd Rock from the Sun.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.

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Transmedia extension: 30 Rock and Kabletown.com

In the fourth season of the sitcom 30 Rock, NBC (in the world of the show) is taken over by the fictional company Kabletown. The real NBC put up a website for the company, which is accessible through the official page for 30 Rock, and has a prominent banner at the top linking back to the official site. The site itself is quite basic, consisting of just five pages containing images and text.

A large orange banner branding Kabletown.com as an extension of 30 Rock.

NBC leaves no doubt that Kabletown.com is an extension of 30 Rock, with a big orange banner at the top.

The Kabletown story arc is self-reflexive in that it acknowledges the reality of the company producing the television show. At the same time that the episodes involving the Kabletown takeover were airing, Comcast was taking over NBC in real life. Since 30 Rock is a television show about making a television show, it regularly engages in satirical references to NBC and its parent company, General Electric, which are also the parent companies to The Girlie Show (the television sketch series that 30 Rock revolves around). By mimicking Comcast’s logo in the design of the Kabletown logo, 30 Rock eliminates any doubt about the coincidence of the plot line with events in reality.

The Kabletown logo.

The Kabletown logo.

The Comcast logo.

Furthermore, since the website was put up by NBC, it is referencing itself and acknowledging that much of the show’s content reflects its author’s (Tina Fey) own experiences working for NBC on Saturday Night Live. However, beyond the somewhat autobiographical aspects of the series, 30 Rock is a weird show, and this weirdness is thoroughly expressed in the text of Kabletown.com. The tone is completely unprofessional and ridiculous, in a style that is very recognizably 30 Rock for fans of the show. By pushing Kabletown onto the Internet but retaining the absurd 30 Rock flavor, NBC creates a little piece of the 30 Rock world in reality, without ever creating the illusion that Kabletown could be anything other than a fake company. This is not usually how worldbuilding works, as expressed in Henry Jenkin’s idea of expanding a world to entice viewers to try to find out more. However, for 30 Rock, this approach is way more effective than trying to make a serious, intriguing website. 30 Rock never takes itself to seriously, and the Kabletown website brings a bit of that into a form that viewers can interact with as they poke around the website. They won’t discover little nuggets about the narrative of 30 Rock that they didn’t already know from watching the show, but exploring the website gives viewers the opportunity to engage with the show (and its sense of humor) in another medium. It also creates a sense of being in on the joke, which encourages viewer loyalty by forging a sense of community.

Sources:

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Web log post. Confessions of an AcaFan. N.p., 22 Mar. 2007. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Hypertext Revisited: Luminous Airplanes

Hey everybody,

Hypertext as it existed in the 90s was not particularly successful, as we discussed in class on Tuesday. More recently, Paul La Farge made a new foray into the concept with what he calls “immersive text” (mostly to distance it from the bad rap “hypertext” got in its earlier forms). He discusses what prompted him to attempt such an unpopular form on his website. The book, Luminous Airplanes, is available in physical form, but the online version has more content and extends farther in time. You can check it out at luminousairplanes.com.

The cover of Luminous Airplanes by Paul La Farge

The physical book’s cover.

The iPhone: Change the Way You Use Your Phone

An imagined poster advertising the first iPhone.

Though we now treat iPhones and other smartphones as pocket computers meant to keep us connected to whatever information or person we want at any given time, when the iPhone was first released in June of 2007, it was released as what its name implies: a phone. That expectation is strongly reflected in the attitudes of its reviewers in the discourse surrounding its release. By 2007, mobile phones had become commonplace (though not pervasive to their current extent). But when the iPhone came out, it was like nothing we had ever seen before. In the words of USA TODAY reviewer Edward Baig, “Apple has delivered a prodigy—a slender fashion phone, a slick iPod and an Internet experience unlike any before it on a mobile handset.”

Apple was able to build this kind of hype through the process of defamiliarization, “refashioning discourse away from the automatic so that the familiar becomes strange and can be rediscovered in its sensual specificity and vividness” (Gunning 45). This allows for a new sense of wonder about a technology that has already been incorporated into habitual daily use. For the iPhone, much of that renewed wonder revolved around the interface. As Baig said, “the most remarkable thing about iPhone is what’s missing: a physical dialing keypad and/or full qwerty, or traditional, keyboard.” Jason Snell of Macworld echoes this sentiment, asserting that “using the iPhone is a tactile experience—it’s all about touching your fingers (or, if you’re daring, your thumbs) to that screen.” Even Apple’s senior vice president of Retail, Ron Johnson, acknowledged this key aspect of the iPhone’s appeal, saying that “Apple retail stores were created for this moment—to let customers touch and experience a revolutionary new product.”

Being able to engage with a product that performed familiar tasks (placing phone calls, playing music, and accessing the internet—remember that the Blackberry and other mobile phones already offered these same services) in such a profoundly different way renewed the public’s sense of wonder at the mobile phone. Eventually this would shift expectations for what a phone should be (i.e. a smartphone with a touchscreen interface), but at its release the iPhone was an “expensive, glitzy wunderkind [that was] indeed worth lusting after.”


Works Cited:
Baig, Edward C. “Apple’s IPhone Isn’t Perfect, but It’s Worthy of the Hype.” USA TODAY. USA TODAY, 27 June 2007. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
Gunning, Tom. “Re-Newing Old Technologies.” Rethinking Media Change The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge: MIT, 2003. 39-59. Print.
Snell, Jason. “The IPhone: Complete Review.” Macworld. IDG Consumer & SMB, 03 July 2007. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.