Collective Intelligence & Harvey Milk

In the age of the internet, we often do not know (and often do not even consider) the accuracy of online information. With the connectivity of the internet, information sharing has exploded, a phenomenon most appropriately analyzed through the concept of collective intelligence, or “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal” (Jenkins) In the weblog entries, “What Wikipedia can Teach us about the New Media Literacies” (parts one and two), media scholar Henry Jenkins analyzes the ways in which we use, edit, and share information in the massive online Encyclodia Wikipedia. I will now discuss the topics Jenkins analyzes in context of the Wikipedia article on Harvey Milk.

Harvey Milk, the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Castro Street” was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in a major U.S. city (San Francisco). As an avid fan of the biopic Milk (2008) and biography The Mayor of Castro Street by journalist Randy Shilts, I found the article to more or less give an accurate representation of the Harvey’s life and his societal impact. On the “Talk” page of this article, it even says that this is “a featured article; it … has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community.” However, even on this acclaimed article, close analysis will show worrisome features of the article, in both the content and its revision history.

The abstract  of the Wikipedia article on Harvey Milk.

The abstract of the Wikipedia article on Harvey Milk.

First, in a simple survey of the article, I found multiple instances of statements in which the information was ambiguous and likely would create an incorrect impression of the facts to someone reading the article, reflecting Jenkins’s observation of the “Transparency Problem” or “the challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways that media shapes our perceptions of the world” (Jenkins). One particular example in this article (pictured below) can be found under the section “Tributes and Media” where the article states the the biopic Milk took fifteen years to make, implying to most readers a solid fifteen years of production. However, further research or previous knowledge will tell that the film had failed scripts and was abandoned in the 1990s, only finally picked back up in 2007 for production. This ambiguous statement of fifteen years in the article is just one cases of the Transparency Problem as readers will often just accept statements at face value.

Paragraph in Harvey Milk article that creates a confusing impression of the film's production.

Paragraph in Harvey Milk article that creates a confusing impression of the film’s production.

Paragraph in Milk (film) article that clarifies the misinformation in the Harvey Milk article.

Paragraph in Milk (film) article that clarifies the misinformation in the Harvey Milk article.

Also, while the article’s status as “featured” and “locked” (editable only by certain users) does promote confidence in information accuracy, this creates a strong divide between the editors and readers of the article, referred to by Jenkins as “The participation gap.”  One problem this creates is an uneven balance of power among editors. In the revision history of this article, one particular case of disliked editing was done by user Textorus, who has only edited this article three times, but submitted over 8,000 edits to Wikipedia in total. Despite this strong disapproval of this change, Textorus’s edit went through, removing a context statement, apparently viewed as important by most other editors.

Revision history shows mostly minor edits in the past months, but the very low negative score of Textorus's edit implies great politics in the area of editing this article, with some contributors having much more power compared to the typical editor or reader.

Revision history shows mostly minor edits in the past months, but the very low negative score of Textorus’s edit implies great politics in the area of editing this article, with some contributors having much more power compared to the typical editor or reader.

Sources

“Harvey Milk.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.

Jenkins, Henry. “WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PART ONE).” Confessions of an AcaFan. Henry Jenkins, n.d. Web. 08 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. 08 Mar. 2015.

Milk (film).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.

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Nick’s Real-Fake Websites

Production company logo of TV creator Dan Schneider

Production company logo of TV creator Dan Schneider

The television network Nickelodeon is a leading children’s programming creator, attracting kids with ages ranging from toddlers to nostalgic teenagers. With the growing digital fluency of young children, the network has incorporated this changing culture into a few recent shows by creating websites within the shows that are also accessible in real life. The two most popular shows that do this are iCarly (2007-12) and Victorious (2010-13). Both created by Dan Schneider as multi-camera teen sitcoms, iCarly is centered around a web show created by the characters that has content viewable at a real-life website of the same name, and Victorious features a twitter-esque social network (The Slap) used by the characters also with a real-life counterpart. Each show and its website serve as examples of transmedia storytelling, giving exemplar instances of world-building and migratory cues.

Mock-social media profiles of a few Victorious characters on The Slap

Mock-social media profiles of a few Victorious characters on The Slap

As first described by Henry Jenkins in “Transmedia Storytelling 101,” the idea of transmedia storytelling is generally defined today as storytelling across multiple platforms. With multiple platforms to tell a story, creators are able to a rich and detailed world through a process called “worldbuilding” (Jenkins). Even before iCarly and Victorious, the loosely connected stories of TV producer Dan Schneider have created a world with overlapping characters and unique commercial products, most notably the Apple-parody company that creates the tech items used by characters of the shows, like the PearPhone and PearPad. But with websites created for the show (in the fictional world and real life), world-building has been brought to a new extreme, in which children who visit these sites are able to immerse themselves in the fictional worlds of their beloved characters. A prime example of this is the personalized Profile pages (pictured above) of Victorious characters on the mock-social network, The Slap. While obviously not for actual people, these profiles act as another part of the Schneider world as kids view content “created” by the characters. Similarly, on iCarly.com, website visitors are able to read pretend blog posts written by the characters. With the character-created content of these websites, Schneider is able to create a more immerse fictional universe for kids to explore.

iCarly Website Homepage

iCarly Website Homepage

Above is a screen capture of part of the iCarly.com homepage. While very colorful and appealing to children, this website would have very lacking traffic if it were not for the countless references or “Migratory Cues” to it within the iCarly TV show. These references are meant to push viewers of these shows over to the shows’ respective website. With the iCarly website being an integral part of the iCarly TV show plot, migratory cues come several times in an episode, either just by name or a mock-screenshot of the webpage somewhere in the show. While not as significant to the plot as iCarly, Victorious achieves several migratory cues to The Slap by creative status-update intros and outros (example pictured below) each time the show goes to or returns from commercial. The incorporation of these websites into the shows is an effective way to entice the young viewers to continue the storytelling adventure in the related digital space.

Intro from commercial break of Victorious depicting the input of a status update on The Slap, acting as a migratory cue to The Slap website.

Intro from commercial break of Victorious depicting the input of a status update on The Slap, acting as a migratory cue to The Slap website.

Sources

ICarly.com. Nickelodeon, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

“ICarly.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. Henry Jenkins, 22 Mar. 2007. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

TheSlap. Nickelodeon, n. c. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

“Victorious.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Glee GIFs Galore (or some other corny title like that)

The internet phenomenon “fandom” has created significant influence on modern digital communications, creating unique online communities centered around a tv show, book series, or other pop culture spectacle. Certain blogging sites, like Tumblr, are largely controlled by various fandoms, each with their own methods of communication and meme circulation.

tumblr_n3bg5ue22j1qfgg1ao2_250

“Things are serious: a man in a dress is dead.”

"I freakin' hate Splenda! It tastes like pencils! Why are you putting pencils in my latte?!"

“I freakin’ hate Splenda! It tastes like pencils! Why are you putting pencils in my latte?!”

A favorite pastime of online fandoms is to capture a moment in time for a particular video. The GIF (Graphic Interchange Format) is a particularly effective meme for the doing just that with the preposterous one-liners from the TV show Glee.  With the GIFs above, Tumblr user Glee Gifs has taken one line from the show that is as peculiar out-of-context as it is with context. Via GIFs like this these, Glee fandom creates a shared social phenomenon surrounding the absurd humor of the show.

"#Glee hates girls"

“#Glee hates girls”

One recent trend for viewers of the show was been compilations of GIFs of quotes of Glee’s meta-humor, in which characters of the show make fun of the show itself. The one above captures the show’s reference to the fandom’s disapproval of the sub-par representation of dynamic female characters. With the show completing its last season, fans of the show are caucusing around the show’s failing humor for the final home stretch.

"But is this, like, a dream sequence? How can you film that?" ~~~ The show's most recent jab at its failing logic.

“But is this, like, a dream sequence? How can you film that?” ~~~ The show’s most recent jab at its failing logic.   MY OWN GIF

Following Richard Dawkins’ definition of meme (The Selfish Gene 1979), these GIFs reflect all 3 properties of a meme. Even with several years past, the show’s greatest one-liners are revived in a compilation posts on Tumblr, demonstrating great longevity. Although limited in total popularity, such posts have great Fecundity within the shrinking Glee fandom. And lastly, the varying fidelity of each meme and the original quote the one-liner appropriately represents reflect the varying and inconsistent humor of this quirky show.

Sources

Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.

http://kurtdevon.tumblr.com/post/110067282183/glee-making-fun-of-itself

http://gleegif.tumblr.com/