Mixing up Texas: A Video Remix Project

At some point in our lives, most of us have heard the aphorism, “Character is who you are when you think nobody is watching.” But in this day and age, is there really a time when no one is watching?

In light of a recent surge of scandalous activity in our beloved Lone Star State, we’ve decided to take a look at the ways that new media has affected the level of accountability under which authority figures must reside. More specifically, we’d like to highlight the idea that easy, open access to surveillance equipment (like smartphone cameras conveniently located in everyones’ back pockets) and distribution/momentum building through social media sites (truly, who doesn’t have Facebook at the tip of their fingers) has opened the door for a synopticon society in a big way.

By creating a remix project in the style of a song video, we plan explore how turning the eyes of [the many of] Texas onto “the few” has rewritten the rules of behavior and consequence for those who hold Texas’s most respected leadership positions. Our song shall be “The Eyes of Texas,” and with it we’ll argue that the ability for all of Texas to turn its eyes upon the few charged to lead our state, cities, and educational institutions, has resulted in leaders being held accountable and more tightly surveilled. “The Eyes of Texas” is typically intended to create a panoptical feeling in those who hear the song, asserting that the University of Texas is always watching all the other universities they encounter; however, we’d like to use it a little more ironically, implying that– in a rather synoptic manner– all the eyes of the people of Texas are always watching their leaders.

Our video footage will be clips of Texas authority figure scandals, as recorded by news stations and citizens’ smartphones. With this specific combination, we hope to make the idea that the synopticon is alive and operating very real to our audience, as they are residents under these leaders’ authorities.

The video below reflects our intended remix in its selection of clips and their flow. Our sources are very much related to the types of sources used in this video, being primarily news broadcasts and videos shared on social media. Our remix will also reflect this video in its flow by connecting several events and showing trends in surveillance of the few by the many. However, our video will be a songvid, different from the chronological supercut format of this video. The “Too Many Dicks” or “Somebody’s Watching Me” examples shown in class reflect our intended vision to use the song as a lens through which to interpret and analyze the video clips.

The Gay Rights Movement

Our video should solidify the notion that media scholar David Lyon highlights in his chapter on the synopticon and scopophilia:

“The few may well watch the many, as they do in surveillance situations of constantly increasing magnitude, but this does not mean that the many no longer watch the few… Indeed, the same communication and information technologies today permit an unprecedented watching of the few by the many…”

After watching our remix video, singing “the eyes of Texas are upon you…” may have a whole new meaning.

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Facebook: We Do This Because We Love You, User.

Users of the world wide web and social media are rapidly becoming more aware that their browsing habits and activities are being mass-monitored by one big data collector or another. It’s safe to say that one of the leading drag nets available to advertising companies is the wildly popular social media platform, Facebook. Facebook, being constantly in tune with public opinion and perception, seems to have realized that users are becoming more savvy to the fact that they are being watched and their data collected, and has penned a document called the Data Policy outlining what exactly is collected and how it’s being used. In order to console nervous users, Facebook frames their data policies in a very consumer friendly way, insisting that they’re doing all of this to enhance the user experience and make Facebook (and as a result the Internet overall) even more convenient.

After doing an at-home copycat of Mat Honan’s “Like Everything on Facebook for 48 Hours” experiment, and eventually reaching a point where my newsfeed was nothing but posts from the fashion entity “Who What Wear,” I decided to check out the Data Policy and Terms of Service a little more closely.

My Activity Log after 48 hours of non-stop “liking”

Again, Facebook frames their data policy in a very “user-friendly” manner that seems clean, simple, and easy to interpret. The language is almost parental, with Facebook claiming that it’s really only doing all of this because it loves you, in so many words. For example, the first article of the Terms of Service (quoted below) links you directly to an even warmer and fuzzier document, the Data Policy, and asserts that Facebook wants the user to be as empowered as possible.

“Your privacy is very important to us. We designed our Data Policy to make important disclosures about how you can use Facebook to share with others and how we collect and can use your content and information. We encourage you to read the Data Policy, and to use it to help you make informed decisions (Terms of Service).”

Within this Data Policy is language that very much tries to sugar-coat the fact that Facebook is a textbook digital enclosure, as described by Mark Andrejevic in his commentary, Surveillance in the Digital Enclosure. Every click, like, tag, check-in, and interaction is used to generate a profile on the user in order to make them more accessible to “relevant” advertising.

It is quite interesting to note that throughout this document, Facebook makes an effort to stay consumer centered in their language focusing on the consumer convenience of contextual advertising created by data sharing; however, the Full Data Policy indicated at the bottom of the “other resources” (pictured below) makes no qualms about acknowledging its service to advertisers where it left them out in the user-friendly version:

“Our goal is to deliver advertising and other commercial or sponsored content that is valuable to our users and advertisers (Data Policy).”

“…and measure the effectiveness and reach of ads and services (Data Policy).”

Facebook's complete data policy featuring not-so-shiny language and a sense of loyalty to paying advertisers

Facebook’s complete data policy featuring not-so-shiny language and a sense of loyalty to paying advertisers

Facebook doesn’t exactly try to pull the wool over user’s eyes, as it gives them links detailing how they can opt out of surveillance, but the piles of information that need combing through to fully understand what’s going on certainly helps cloud up the view.

Andrejevic, Mark. “Surveillance in the Digital Enclosure.” The Communication Review. 10.4 (2007): 295-317.
“Data Policy.” Facebook. Facebook, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2015. <https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/&gt;
Honan, Mat. “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2015. <http://www.wired.com/2014/08/i-liked-everything-i-saw-on-facebook-for-two-days-heres-what-it-did-to-me/&gt;
“Terms of Service.” Facebook. Facebook, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms&gt;

Wikipedia: The Picture of Collective Intelligence

Almost any time a group photo is snapped, we hear the inevitable, “Say, ‘cheese’!” America is obsessed with melting it all over our favorite pastas, breads, and meats. We eat in shreds, we eat it in slices, we eat it in cubes. Cheese is truly beloved. But how much do we really know about it? Everyone might know an off-the-wall fact or two about their favorite cheese, but does anyone really have the whole picture? Where could one go to unite their factoids into a beautiful mosaic with other enthusiasts’ factoids? One word: Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is the poster child for a brilliant concept that media scholar Henry Jenkins refers to as “collective intelligence.” As Jenkins defines it in his weblog, collective intelligence refers to “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal” (Jenkins). From the front door, Wikipedia might not look all that collaborative, but behind the scenes, intelligence is being collected, discussed, corrected, and adapted almost all the time by many different contributors. Take, for example, cheese’s page on Wikipedia. The “Talk” page indicated below reveals ongoing behind-the-scenes discussion about cheese.

Cheese   Wikipedia  the free encyclopediaAn extensive table of contents indicates that many points of the cheese page are being dynamically examined. Thirty-eight topics are currently under discussion.

Talk table of contentsThese thirty-eight discussion topics and dates are almost as diverse as the usernames that suggested them. The screen capture below highlights two topics with very different points and dates. The March Edit Request shows a great example of collaboration and collective intelligence: A user with IP address 108.80.58.202 notes a redirect loop that doesn’t quite take the reader where they should go, and another user, Abductive, rebuilt the redirect loop. They each contributed a small piece of their own personal knowledge (the former knew about a more appropriate page to redirect toward and the latter knew how to rebuild the loop).Talk Cheese   Wikipedia  the free encyclopedia

The “View history” tab of the main article (pictured below) also offers substantial evidence as to the collective nature of compiling and editing the Wikipedia Cheese page.

Cheese  Revision history   Wikipedia  the free encyclopedia

Diving into the data collected within the page reveals that tons of users– 3,455 at the time of this analysis– chipped in little bits and bytes to the final page as we see it today. 2,561 different IP addresses were logged as contributing to the page, and it has undergone renovation from late October of 2011 to late February of this year.X  s tools 2

Looking at the breakdown of edits per user, it’s evident that everyone has indeed pooled their smaller caches of knowledge toward building a comprehensive page, as even the top editor has contributed less than 25% to the page, and all the others in the top 10 come in at around 2% each.

X  s tools 1

Lastly, the surge in editing of this particular wiki article came shortly after it was featured on the Wikipedia home page.

Talk Cheese  highlightsyear graph

This may seem unimportant or unrelated, but it’s interesting to note that collective intelligence implies that many people converge on a widely visible topic for a short time in order to flesh out a more complete understanding of it, and this article was heavily converged upon shortly after it became widely visible through the Wikipedia home page feature.

All this in mind, it seems quite safe to say that making “Cheese” on Wikipedia was definitely a job for the collected masses.

References:

Jenkins, Henry. “What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About The New Media Literacies (Parts One and Two).” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. WordPress. 26-27 June 2007. Web. 8 March 2015.

“Cheese.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. October 2011. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.

If a Picture is Worth 1,000 Words, a GIF Must Be Priceless

The wonderful meme known as the “response GIF” took the world by storm in recent years, and it seems like everybody who is anybody is using the facial expressions of their favorite television characters to answer digital communiqué. In fact, they became so popular that the Museum of the Moving image in New York dedicated this exhibit to them in early 2014.

Created by anonymous user at cheezburger.com (http://cheezburger.com/6593639680)

Created by anonymous user at cheezburger.com
(http://cheezburger.com/6593639680)

Some may argue that a GIF isn’t quite in the correct realm to be considered a “meme,” but if we take a glance at the three defining properties of a meme– longevity, fecundity, and fidelity– as stated by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 novel The Selfish Gene, we’ll see that reaction GIFs are very much meme in nature (Dawkins).

Let’s look first at longevity. Reaction GIFs can still be seen circulating on tumblr, and I as well as millions of others see them on my dash daily. They’re not just newly created GIFs popping up either: for example, The Office ran from 2005-2013, and a lot of the GIFs created from this show are of scenes from earlier seasons, so these loops have been around for at least 2 years, if not longer (IMDb). Perhaps this is because the emotions depicted in a reaction GIF are timeless, i.e. they aren’t only relevant surrounding a current event. They were and will be useable until humans cease to have these emotions and need to express them.

Second, we can address fecundity and fidelity– frankly, these GIFs are everywhere. They permeate tumblr and reddit, and they’ve even had websites dedicated to solely to them like giphy.comreactiongifs.net, etc. There’s even this handy site that compiles these sites for you because they’ve become so popular. Drawing from personal experience, most people are satisfied with simply reusing GIFs that have already been created (thanks, reblogging!). Reaction GIF styles are also very similar– they’re singled in on a character’s facial expression, if words are present, they’re at the bottom of the frame in a yellow or white sans serif font. Text is usually vague/universally relevant so the GIF can be applied in a wide range of conversations and can be comfortably used by non-watchers of the show without feeling that they’re “missing something” crucial to the joke. Anyone can relate to the image, and almost anyone can create one—as evidenced by the GIF I’ve (an especially technology deficient member of the peanut gallery) created below.

Anxious Jim

In a Social Media Reader article, Patrick Davison mentioned that humor often is a necessary component of a meme, but in this case I would argue that relatability is even more important in carrying the GIF across the web (Davison). Whether its relating on a personal level because you empathize, or relating you to a group of people by making you feel like you have an “inside joke” with them, it’s all about feeling a connection. For example, this popular GIF is not humorous inherently, but still a beloved and popular response.

Created by a now deleted Reddit user. (http://giphy.com/gifs/sad-crying-the-office-YLgIOmtIMUACY)

Created by a now deleted Reddit user.
(http://giphy.com/gifs/sad-crying-the-office-YLgIOmtIMUACY)

All this lead me to reflect on the fact that we humans crave connection and in some strange way, GIFs are a social phenomenon that often remind us the fleeting feelings we have are also shared by others, and that no matter how geeked out for The Office we are, we aren’t alone.

Davison Patrick, The Language of (Internet) Memes, in The social media reader, edited by Michael Mandiberg, New York : New York University Press, c2012. x, 289 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.

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

“The Office.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386676/&gt;.