Wikipedia – DKR

As a student at the University of Texas and a lifetime Longhorn fan, I’ve had a good amount of experience being in or around the football stadium. Because UT’s program is so prestigious, Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium is an iconic venue in college football. In recent years there have been a number of changes and renovations to the stadium, the most notable of which being the enormous video board that, at the time, was the largest high-definition screen in the world. With so much history surrounding the stadium and the program that plays in it, it would be hard for any fan regardless of their passion to be able to remember all of the details. However, as is common today, there’s always one place people can turn to for any information they might want to know: Wikipedia.

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Wikipedia is almost always the first place that anyone turns to when they want to know about a specific topic. Like encyclopedias in the past, Wikipedia has basic information on a wide variety of subjects but its position online gives it some very useful qualities that books simply could not have. Firstly, the internet is extremely vast giving Wikipedia virtually endless room to expand on the amount of subjects it covers. Secondly, and arguably most importantly, because the information contained in Wikipedia is not set in stone it can change and be edited as time goes by. The ability to update information is what makes Wikipedia seem like a reliable source for almost anything, but unfortunately this is not the case.

Henry Jenkins, a popular media scholar, gave a speech regarding the possible drawbacks of the online encyclopedia. The site is based on the idea of collective intelligence, “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal,” which sounds good in theory but can very easily lead to problems (Jenkins). Pooling knowledge and comparing notes with people who have studied or have experience with a particular subject can lead to very accurate information, but Wikipedia actually has much fewer people participating than it would seem.

For instance, on the DKR wiki page, it states that anyone is allowed to make contributions which could be disastrous if someone wanted to mess with the page.

Information for  Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium    Wikipedia  the free encyclopedia

Also, the user that created the page itself has made substantially more edits on the page than anyone else.

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He and the other major contributors almost all have some relation to UT in one way or another.

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The page itself was created in 2005, around the time when the football team was gaining national attention because of their good play. Additionally, there are nearly three times as many edits as there are contributors so many of them are playing a big role in additions.

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While the information on this particular page all seems accurate to me, I also have a bit of a bias because of my affiliation with the University of Texas. This page is a good example of collective intelligence, while having the potential to be very helpful on Wikipedia, can also have the potential to be incredibly biased or misinformed.

Sources:

Jenkins, Henry. “WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PART ONE).” Confessions of an AcaFan. Henry Jenkins, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.

Jenkins, Henry. “WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PART TWO).” Confessions of an AcaFan. Henry Jenkins, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.

By ginginese

Catbug Reaction GIFs

Friendly Catbug

“You’re my friend now. We’re having soft tacos later.”

It has become increasingly common online to see near a comment (or in place of a comment) a short, repeating section of a movie or television show that expressions some sort of reaction. These GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format), while seemingly simple, have drastically changed the way communication takes place on the internet. They’re easy to use and simple to view given that their open format allows them to load without having to even press a play button. Often they are used to show funny parts of a show/video/movie but the reason that this form of communication has caught on goes beyond their humor.

Always Positive

“Everything is Ok!”

Nancy Baym, former Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, expresses in her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age the ‘intimacy’ of different types of interactions. She conducted a study in 2002 in which she asked people, “to share general thoughts about communication face to face, on the telephone, and on the internet,” (Baym, 2010). Most people responded by saying that the internet is the least personal of the methods, followed by telephone and then face to face. Their responses were greatly represented in terms of the extent to which nonverbal social cues can be used in each medium. On the phone, people can use inflection and tone to convey the meaning behind their words. In person, inflection can be used in addition to gestures and expressions. However, online there is no method of conveying these nonverbal cues and misunderstandings are fairly common. GIFs (and reaction GIFs in particular) have found a way to assist online communication by providing an example of a particular emotion or feeling. The GIFs shown here are from a show Bravest Warriors that is often used to communicate emotions and reactions in a playful or innocent manner. For instance, saying something like “why would you do that?” could be interpreted in a number of ways. The use of this particular character provides not only context for the statement, but also comes with a sense of innocence that a different GIF might not have.

That's like trying to make oatmeal cry...

“Why would you do that?”

A quick search online makes it clear that a relatively small number of GIFs are used despite the infinite possibilities. The main reason for this is that GIFs need to have certain properties to be successfully spread. According to Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, the properties for a meme to spread are longevity, fecundity, and copy fidelity (Shifman, 2014). A meme is just an idea that spreads within a culture and so GIFs, which are ideas represented through short clips, can be classified under the category of meme. Longevity refers to how long the meme can last and this largely depends on the recognizably of the meme. The most widely used GIFs are of not only of reactions that are extremely common, but they are taken from sources that are widely recognized. Fecundity refers to the versatility of the meme and how many situations it can be applied to. Fidelity refers to how well the meme can transfer, which is to say how well the meaning of a particular meme remains constant depending on the context in which it is used.

The GIFs from Bravest Warriors, including this final one I created, all incorporate the three properties mentioned above. The show is a popular web series so it could be easily recognizable depending on the community in which it is used. Because arguments often appear on the internet, innocent GIFs intended to calm others can be used in many situations. Finally, the meaning of the GIFs will remain relatively constant regardless of situation because the concept of ‘cute’ is universal.

Catbug's Pep Talk

“Everything is gonna be fine, you just need to believe! Clap your hands if you believe.”

Sources:

Baym, Nancy K. “Communication in Digital Spaces.” Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010. 50. Print.

Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. New ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.

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

GIF Sources (in order of use):

Soft Tacos

Tumblr User: Superblys

http://superblys.tumblr.com/post/48739601317/top-five-catbug-gifs

Everything is Ok

Tumblr User: PinkSpaceViking

http://pinkspaceviking.tumblr.com/post/81934693533

Why Would You Do That

Tumblr User: Auberginesareevil

http://auberginesareevil.tumblr.com/post/44860829605

By ginginese

Uncanny Technology: DVRs in 1998

In a chapter of Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition by David Thorburn, there is an essay written by Tom Gunning, a professor at the University of Chicago. Gunning’s essay mentions, among other things, that generally people react to new technologies with such amazement and wonder because there is an unfamiliarity that these emergent technologies possess. He argues that, while in the past people would have been in this state of amazement for a long period of time, nowadays most people are so numb to innovations that there is only a brief period of wonder before a new technology is assimilated into our lives so completely that the feeling of unfamiliarity is lost forever. I very much agree with this point, that while we are stunned by newness it takes almost no time at all before that newness is seen as completely natural.

There is a specific type of unfamiliarity that seems to extend this period of wonder that Gunning calls the “uncanny.” He states in his essay that, “the specific effect of the uncanny comes from the flowering sense of unfamiliarity in the midst of the apparently familiar,” (Thorburn, 47). This uncanny feeling can often result from remediation when the new technology takes such a leap from the previous generation that it is almost unrecognizable. An excellent example of this phenomenon of the uncanny is the release of the Digital Video Recorder in late 1998.

Recording television with a VCR had been around for a while but DVR promised to be a very large improvement. In its early stages, the technology was very similar to the VCR but was designed to be simpler and more customizable. Recording was an obvious feature that would carry over from VCR to DVR, but the biggest additions were the ability to pause and rewind live TV. However, there were many other experimental features that were difficult for even the companies producing DVRs to explain to consumers. As a New York Times reporter put it, “there are thornier problems [than price], like getting consumers to understand a product that has too many features to sum up neatly in an advertising slogan,” (Furchgott, 1). Because of this the DVR was met with confusion and was slow to catch on, selling less than one million units in its first four years of existence. Consumers didn’t realize how different the product was from a VCR until they tried it out, at which point they asked themselves how they watched television before owning one.

Today, pausing and rewinding live TV is standard with a lot of cable packages showing how technology can be integrated so easily into our lives. But DVR is great example of emerging technologies having an uncanny quality to them, taking years to catch on despite its prevalence today.

An Example Poster for the Release of a DVR

A hypothetical poster for the release of the DVR in 1998. TiVo and ReplayTV were the two pioneers of DVRs for public use.

Sources:

Thorburn, David. “Re-newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of-the-Century.”Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2003. 39-60. Print.

Furchgott, Roy. “Don’t People Want to Control Their TV’s?”The New York Times 24 Aug. 2000, Technology sec.: G7. Print.

By ginginese