Dating Throughout Time

Our video will highlight the fundamental similarities between dating in earlier times and dating now. We will argue that while we now have numerous digital platforms to use to create and maintain relationships, the motives and results of dating remain the same. With the arrival of a technological innovation comes widespread fear throughout society, a fear of the uncanny.  And while in many cases this fear is replaced with a dangerous complacency, in the arena of dating the fear seems to persist atop societal expectations that have hardened throughout time.  Many do not think twice or even care about issues like constant surveillance yet when it comes to dating they see certain technologically-enabled “short cuts” as cheap or insincere.  But it remains that, despite the increasing complexity (or increasing visibility or the complexity) of the dating world, the end product has not changed much from the days of chivalry.

We will be using the song video format.  This format will allow us to juxtapose dating then and dating now, united under a common theme represented in Taylor Swift’s “Style.”  The song is about timeless love, essentially, which fits nicely in line with our emphasis on the unchanging value of romance to humans despite alternate routes to dating, etc., that are available nowadays.  The lyrics speak directly to a lover, pining, “You got that James Dean day dream look in your eye,” which calls back to the days of old, a simpler time, but Swift goes on to decide: “And when we go crashing down, we come back every time, ‘cause we never go out of style.”  Indeed, love is as incessant as popular music, even if the lightly-distorted guitars of the rock and roll of Dean’s day have been replaced by synth bass and electronic kicks and snares.

The video will expand upon the discourse surrounding several themes in the course: networked publics, online identity, and the fear of the uncanny.  As is natural with the theme of love and falling in love, as well as under the influence of our song choice, our video will skew toward youth.  As Danah Boyd notes in “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites:The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage SocialLife,” the mediation of a public is heavily influential in the growth of sons and lovers. “With an elevated and idealized view of privacy, we often forget the reasons that enslaved peoples desperately wished for access to public life” (137).  The issues of the effects of a privatized romantic environment are hotly debated, surely, though we will be opposing Boyd in taking the stance that these effects are not necessarily detrimental to the goals of the participators.

Here is a commercial for Tinder Plus.  It shows many elements of still-idealized romance available under the guise of technology:

Loving on Facebook

“Your privacy is very important to us”: this is the first line of Facebook’s terms of service.  It is no secret to either end of the social media panopticon (the small human faction of the Facebook company observing and collecting data from the comparatively giant number of users, similarly to Google) that privacy is at the forefront of Facebook’s both constructive and destructive uses.  Facebook’s very purpose could not be effectively mined without it creeping beyond its function–to create a social environment that is as transparent as possible among friends, the environment must be transparent between user and mediator.  And so while the Orwellian influence of the outlet seems and is rather intrusive, one does not need to read the terms of service to know what they are submitting to.  As Mark Andrejevic emphasizes, the most common modes of self-expression in our age are inherently under surveillance.

Facebook1After liking every Facebook post I came across for two days (with a few omissions in an attempt not to seem outright cruel, as Mat Honan notes), in a sweeping generalization I am obsessed with sports.  Just as in Honan’s case, the majority of my feed is inhuman despite my only following a small handful of inhuman sources.  It seems every other installment on my timeline comes from either ESPN or Bleacher Report.  The algorithmic surveillance of the machine I use to secretly gain dirt on semi-unfriendly acquaintances and punctuate my loneliness in regard to friendly acquaintances has decided that sports the common theme of my interest.  I do love sports, perhaps more than humans, but I am still much more interested in these humans.  Given that I liked many, many more posts of pictures and status updates, the progression to a sports-dominated feed is somewhat illogical.

Facebook2

This is a description of some of the information that Facebook collects.  In a read, it generally describes literally everything one could possibly engage in on the website.  The “things you do and the information you provide” is an umbrella just about wide enough in diameter to lump in all of interactivity between people, on or off-line.  This umbrella is the digital enclosure–a network that encourages and monitors participation.  I am certainly encouraged to participate; I see what my friends are doing and I want to communicate with them or show them what I am doing.  The hope and the ideal manifesto of Facebook is by monitoring this participation, greater participation is allowed–that the monitoring is a tool for us (again this strikes nearly the same note as Google).

But, at least empirically, this did not turn out to be true.  When I participated at the highest, most thorough level, my reward felt diminished.  Perhaps the ever-watching computer algorithm grows jealous when I favor my friends to its article-suggestions and tries to overwhelm with them to convert me.  I am not particularly interested or worried about my privacy–I do not participate too heavily on Facebook, I am probably more akin to the aforementioned computer, watching and remembering and categorizing, than I am to my agreed-upon friends–but I am interested in my social hierarchy, and so the digital enclosure of Facebook is as telling as any arena in the way of bringing about this hierarchy.

References:

Andrejevic, Mark. “Surveillance in the Digital Enclosure.” The Communication Review 10 (2007): 295-317. Print.

Honan, Mat. “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.” Wired. 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

Sounds of Wikipedia

pet sounds wallpaper photo by lobselvith

The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, released in 1966, is widely considered one of the greatest albums of all time, and is indeed marked as a Level 4 Vital Article by Wikipedia, meaning that it is one of about 10,000 topics that are considered most important in providing accurate and descriptive articles toward (according to the Wikipedia community).  This in itself raises questions about the so-called objective nature of the online encyclopedia — creating such a lists effectively ranks the importance of individual pieces of human history, and this is being done by a representatively small portion of the population.  The list was compiled as a Wikimedia project, and is a prime of example of the most useful and most controversial elements of Wikipedia:  “What holds a knowledge community together is not the possession of knowledge…but the social process of acquiring knowledge” (Jenkins 2007).  The site is ever-evolving, and the process of categorizing and contextualizing content, from specific bits of information up to the relation between and importance of different topics, is its most impressive achievement.  Knowledge is participatory — it does not exist without a thinker, it requires emergence — and so a website claiming to be an authority over knowledge must be participatory as well.

Pet Sounds, as an ‘important’ historical entity, is naturally a spot of debate among editors.  It was previously a Good Article, but this status has been revoked, likely due to criteria involving Neutral Point of View (NPOV) issues.

Wikipedia Good article criteria   Wikipedia  the free encyclopedia

Albums, films, novels — most things that could be labeled as ‘art’ are divisive.  It is very possible that many of the editors of the Pet Sounds article have deep-seeded feelings about the album; it shows in the writing and is heavily discussed. “This article seems littered with NPOV problems in terms of overcomplimentary statements, along with statements that, while they might be true, are unsourced, and would appear POV until sourced” (TheHYPO 2007).  It would be impossible for human nature not to leak into human writing, but nonetheless it can be problematic in ostensibly factual arenas.  In some instances, the addressing of this leads to near over-correcting by way of name-drop after name-drop (click image to see a larger version):

Pet Sounds   Wikipedia  the free encyclopedia2Perhaps the most surprising element of the Pet Sounds Wikipedia page is the surprisingly small number of editors and edits.  Since its creation in November of 2002, the page has a total of 1,839 edits and 671 authors.  For reference, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (which is essentially Pet Sounds‘ counterpart in music history) has 7,147 edits since July 2002 from 2,270 authors — numbers that are 3-4x larger.  Why the astronomical difference?  Traffic data implies that it could be simply a product of interest in the page:

Pet Sounds Over Past 90 Days

Pet Sounds Over Past 90 Days

Sgt. Pepper Over Past 90 Days

Sgt. Pepper Over Past 90 Days

The Sgt. Pepper page has been viewed 181,829 times since December, Pet Sounds 70,551 times in that same span.  Interest breeds criticism and controversy, and much can be read into regarding the traffic of a Wikipedia article.  As a general marker of public involvement, it is fair from this data to claim that the Beatles’ album is more talked about, and Wikipedia is one of the few outlets than can support such an assertion.  The participation gap in authorship/viewership may leave some to be desired content-wise, but the connection between these two groups often aligns intuitively; discreet elements of history should be in equal parts learned about and taught about, and Wikipedia is, with flaws, a space for both.

References:

Jenkins, Henry. “What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About the New Media Literacies.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. 27 June 2007. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.

“Pet Sounds.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 8 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 March 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet_Sounds&gt;

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 25 February 2015. Web. 8 March 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt._Pepper%27s_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band&gt;

Transmedia Tactics in Mad Men

The popularization of transmedia storytelling has generally been attributed to recent innovations.  Twitter, webisodes, fan blogs and other socially interested routes to narrative bolstering have become so commonplace that in trying to garner active fan participation an industry needs only to allow fans a way to do so and can forgo convincing them that it will be worth their time.  But these communities are also connected to the brand of shows that sprout them: the cinema and television transmedia landscape is deeply entwined with the plot-driven, often comic book-influenced narrative that requires up-to-date knowledge in descending into topical discussion.

But take AMC’s Mad Men, for example.  You could watch the first season, skip the second and start the third without having many questions about what is going on.  Many episodes move the story nowhere.  This is not an indictment, of course.  Most fans of the show watch it not because they are dying to see what happens to the characters but so they can simply see the characters, watch them give a handful of witty one-liners and look dashing as students of misogyny.  But fans of Mad Men are no different from fans of the Marvel universe when it comes to a desire for immersion, and so how does the show facilitate this off-screen involvement?  On the website, interactive options take this ostensible lack of opportunity and appropriate it to exploit the show’s true value: aesthetics.

madmen_standardThis is my fantasized 1960’s ad man version of myself, created using the website’s “Mad Men Yourself” game.  Because what does a Mad Men fan truly wish for above all else?  To look as though they were on the show of course, and AMC knows this.  The sphere of the show is fictionalized, but it is agonizingly romantic because of the sentimentality born from its real-world existence.  You secretly suspect you could pull off living the beautifully broken life of the Drapers.  Thus, attempts by AMC at world-building (defined by Henry Jenkins as the inducing of an “encyclopedic impulse” by through the fleeting complexity of a story’s fictional world) bleed into relics of the 60’s that are historical.  The website has a section called “Scrapbook” that has pictures of some of these items: fictional paraphernalia from SCDP clients alongside actual newspaper headlines, etc. that add realism to the show.  There is also a link to the Tumblr page steeping in the grace of well-skirted and well-suited characters.

Fans can submit a homemade rehashing of a scene from the first Mad Men episode to the Fan Cut competition.

Fans can submit a homemade rehashing of a scene from the first Mad Men episode to the Fan Cut competition

Leading up to the final episodes, AMC is introducing a competition encouraging fans to recreate their favorite scenes from the first episode and submit them to help in piecing together the entire 45 minutes.  It does not just celebrate the show as it nears its end, though; it lets fans literally be a part of Mad Men.  The fans can live within the show.  “A cultural attractor is anything that draws people to you. A cultural activator is anything that gives those people something to do” (Jenkins).  AMC needs to both attract and activate, and this is a crystal example of activation.  It is a bludgeoning of the visual element of the show; the episodes themselves give fans all they need to discuss, and when they want to return to the world of Mad Men they probably just want to get dreamy with it.

Mad Men on Tumblr

Mad Men on Tumblr

Sources:

Jenkins: Future of Media – Cultural Attractors and Activators. Perf. Henry Jenkins. 2011. Film.

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