Broad City’s “Al Dente Dentist”

When discussing Transmedia Storytelling, the Comedy Central television series Broad City is an interesting example to consider because of it’s transition from a series of YouTube webisodes to a television show, rather than the other way around, which is more typically seen. Thus, the creators of the show were not new to Jenkins notion of dispersing elements of fiction across multiple channels when they created the Tumblr blog titled, “The Al Dente Dentist” (1). This blog stems from a plot line in the primary text, in which Hannibel Burress’s character Lincoln, a dentist, announces that he runs a blog called the Al Dente Dentist, where he cooks pasta once a week and posts about it. Here we see a “migratory cue” – a signal to another medium that is related to the primary text. Shortly after this episode aired, the blog was created and advertised by the show’s main Tumblr account. It features weekly posts written by the fictional character Lincoln in which he links the reader to different pasta recipes, cooks them, and rates them afterwards through his own meatball rating system. Occasionally, he throws in a short dentistry-related anecdote or word of advice. He also frequently posts about plot lines in the upcoming episodes of the series on Comedy Central.

This blog is a prime example of a transmedia project that replicates the same story world across different channels, thus creating what Jenkins calls “additive comprehension”(1). The blog offers an insight into the life of Lincoln that viewers wouldn’t otherwise get, and it also forces viewers to reconsider his function in the show. Before the episode aired and the blog was created, it was unclear whether or not Lincoln would maintain his relationship with the main character Ilana and remain on the show. With this added transmedia element, viewers were told that his relationship with Ilana was becoming more serious, and that he would become a more prominent character on the show.

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Lincoln makes a joke about his profession as a dentist.

A post that was featured on  the blog just before the airing of an episode centraler around a dog wedding.

A post that was featured on the blog just before the airing of an episode centered around a dog wedding.

Jenkins explains that successful transmedia projects are those that can “make sense to first time viewers” but also “enhance the experience of people reading across multiple media” (1). This certainly holds true for the Al Dente Dentist blog which functions as a real cooking blog for those who aren’t aware of it’s ties to the show, while also enhancing the storyline of the primary text for those who watch Broad City.

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A recipe featured on Al Dente Dentist.

Works Cited:

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Web log post. Confessions of an Aca-Fan. N.p., 22 Mar. 2007. Web.  18 Feb. 2015.

Murray, Janet Horowitz. “Harbingers of the Holodeck.” Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: Free, 1997. 27-64. Print.

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Smashing the Patriarchy with GIFs

In her book Memes in Digital Culture, Limor Shifman talks about the persistence of memes in digital culture and how they’re spread or “repackaged”. She says, “Two main repackaging mechanisms of memes are present on the web: Mimicry and remix” (Shifman 20). Mimicry and is when a person redoes an existing meme, sometimes by different means than it was originally done. Remix takes it a step further and adds technological based manipulation to an existing meme, presenting it as something new. Limor also states that memes as a “shared social phenomenon… shape the mindsets, forms of behavior, and actions of social groups” (Shifman 18). These same theories apply to GIFs, which are merely animated memes.

I am interested in how GIFs are used within the feminist community to spread shared ideals, and ultimately I’d like to examine how Shifman’s theories of memes (or GIFs) hold true within this community. Since there are a variety of subcategories within feminism, I decided to focus on the hashtag #smashthepatriarchy for my case study of GIFs. I did some searching to figure out the origins of the hashtag and it seems to have first been used in 2010 by the Twitter user (@feministhulk), accompanied by an excerpt from an unknown comic strip. The hashtag has gained popularity on other social media sites like Tumblr and Instagram since.

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Photo tweeted by Twitter user @feministhulk with the hashtag #smashthepatriarchy.

On Tumblr, Shifman’s theories of remixing and mimicry can be seen in the variety of memes and GIFs inspired by the hashtag. Some fans simply presented the words on their own in an animated form:

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Posted by Tumblr user bruiseonmind.

One fan turned the hashtag into a meme:

Posted by Tumblr user Profeminist.

Posted by Tumblr user Profeminist.

And others created their own GIF interpretation of the hashtag:

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Posted by Tumblr user tigernine with the caption “Smash the Patriarchy”.

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Posted by Tumblr user ladydealwithit with the caption “Smashing the patriarchy”.

In another case of remixing, the slogan was slightly altered and used to sell merchandise by the company HUMAN.

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Obviously the GIFs and memes created around #smashthepatriarchy are most effective and widely shared within the feminist community. But, what started out as a simple hashtag has now turned into what Shifman calls a “shared social phenomenon” with people in many other communities taking notice of the memes and GIFs. Even the trolls are contributing their own remixes:

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I believe these memes are effective firstly because the slogan, “Smash patriarchy” allows for rich imagery, and thus a proliferation of memes and GIFs and secondly because it’s easy to associate the slogan with strong, feminist icons as seen in many of the meme and GIFs above. Wonder Woman and Female Hulk are two such characters, as well as many fan-generated heroines. I decided to use this concept for my meme. I chose to include the text because it adds context to the GIF of the 1970s Wonder Woman. While she isn’t necessarily considered a feminist icon, I believe her character was one of the only strong female protagonists on television at the time and in that way she was “smashing the patriarchy” both through mere representation and also literally within the plot of the television series as she defeated male villains.

WonderWomangif

Sources:

Shifman, Limor. “When Memes Go Digital.” Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT, 2014. 17-35. Print.

http://lookhuman.tumblr.com/post/89908676212/impale-the-patriarchy-show-off-your-hardcore

http://humanequalsgarbage.tumblr.com/post/20876943832

http://profeminist.tumblr.com/post/105591038487/portrait-of-feminist-hulk-as-a-young-girl-tiny

http://bruiseonmind.tumblr.com/post/65782964101

http://tigernine.tumblr.com/post/38372837782

http://ladydeliawithit.tumblr.com/post/80887243376/original-post-gif-made-by-magnuss

Uncanny Technology: Introducing JIBO

There is an extensive cultural history surrounding robots beginning with their dawn in early literature and later depictions in mainstream film and television. Humans have always been fascinated with the notion of artificially replicating the human form. Now, enter Jibo.

Jibo is a social robot created by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal with her team at MIT. Jibo entered the artificial intelligence scene with a bang, largely surpassing its Indiegogo campaign goal and garnering the attention of many investors (Shandrow, “Jibo, the Personal Robot Startup, lands $25 Million in Funding”). Some of the features listed on myjibo.com are, “Two hi-res cameras that recognize and track faces, capture photos, and enable immersive video calling, 360° microphones and natural language processing, and hands-free reminders and messages” (1).  AlleyWatch calls it, “the social robot of the future” (Alleywatch, “Meet Jibo: The Social Robot of the Future”).

In Professor Tom Gunning’s essay Renewing Old Technologies, he discusses the ways in which new technologies are received and eventually lose their newness. Gunning calls this process “de-familiarization” and claims it is rapidly becoming a short, even instantaneous phenomenon that leads to automatism (22). Despite this phenomenon, Gunning says, “there is another term to mediate between the extremes of astonishment and automatism: the uncanny” (14).  The uncanny is the thing that makes new technology both strikingly familiar and strangely unfamiliar, a sort of gray area, and this gray area is where new technology is rediscovered over time.

I believe this theory certainly holds true for the public reception of Jibo. While some have already dismissed Jibo as something your phone or tablet can already do, others are intrigued by the uniqueness of it (Newman 2). One journalist who got to spend time with Jibo says that, “Jibo skirts way, way around the uncanny valley — there’s little in it that could be confused for a human.” But he then goes on to say that, “it can act in human ways that are compelling… this robot does not move like a robot; it’s fluid and, in fact, animated” (Ulanoff 2-3). Another journalist writes, “with Jibo the idea is that you do not feel like you’re talking to yourself or even to a machine. You feel like you’re talking to someone” (Baker 6). These statements suggest that yes, Jibo is distinctly robotic in a way that is foreign, but it certainly has uncanny qualities (like its voice response and human-like movements) and it is these qualities that blur the line between artificial and human and make it so strangely interesting.

Since Jibo has yet to be widely released, there’s no telling whether or not he’ll become a staple in every future household or just another loaded campaign that doesn’t live up to it’s hype. Regardless, Jibo has certainly opened up a new dialogue about our future with social robots, and if it’s remembered for anything, it will be that.

Blog Post 1 - Poster

Works Cited:

Baker, Billy. “This Robot Means the End of Being Alone.” Editorial. Popular Mechanics. N.p., 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Gunning, Tom. Re-newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of-the-CenturyMedia In Transition. John and Mary R. Markle Foundation, 26 Feb. 1998. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

“JIBO, The World’s First Family Robot.” Indiegogo. Rainfactory Inc., 16 July 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

“Meet JIBO, The World’s First Family Robot.” JIBO. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Newman, Jared. “That Jibo Robot Does the Same Stuff as Your Phone, but People Are Freaking Out Anyway.” Editorial. Time. N.p., 16 July 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Shandrow, Kim L. “Jibo, the Personal Robot Startup, Lands $25 Million in Funding.” Editorial. Entrepreneur. N.p., 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.

Ulanoff, Lance. “Jibo Wants to Be the World’s First Family Robot.” Mashable. N.p., 16 July 204. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.