Obama 08’/Kony 2012: The Need for New Mediations in New Mass Mediums

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/24/obama-youtube-milestone-online-videos

The Internet is replacing past mediums (books, magazines, radio, television, etc.) as the main way information or data is distributed.  Benefiting from the speed and scope “Web 2.0” has to offer, society can now know about cultural events and movements around the globe within minutes. Learning of the tragic plight of Ugandan children being enslaved by Joseph Kony and his horrible Christian sect (the Lords Resistance Army) is important and knowledge of a political figure in an election such as president Obamas 2008 campaign is obviously important and possible through the internet.  Although the Internet has made this facet of modern society more accessible, it brings a new set of ethical questions to the table and a re-evaluation of how we judge media is necessary in the face of such serious change.

It would be hard to argue that President Obama was elected simply from his Internet campaign and not the American people’s ability to judge and perceive two (or more) men comparing themselves on many stages.  But although the race might have still been close if McCain ran a good web campaign, that is assuming the rest of Obama’s campaign was below standards for modern politics, when in reality it was all a part of the same movement. 

In Claire Miller’s article the mayor of San Francisco says, “There will be a lot of collateral damage coming to grips with the fact that we’re in a reality TV series, ‘Politics 24/7,’” Mr. Newsom said.  This demonstrates that although this is a great new way to spread knowledge of a person or idea, it is also a way for the idea to distort and furthermore be “TV”.  It is important that the political discussions take place and thanks to the Internet, they will, but it is also important that the Internet is not used to fool people because they aren’t treating it with the same skepticism one uses towards a television commercial.  Most things are still a constructed advertisement, or in other words, a well-planned and thought-out manipulation.

In Claire Suddath’s article on how the Invisible Children’s most recent movement “Kony 2012” was the fastest growing viral video.  If you were on the Internet during this period, you saw your fair share of (mostly kids) re-posting/sharking the video link.  While it is beautiful to see such compassion possible in a 1st world culture and seeing that American kids care about these international travesties is very comforting, it is disturbing that the emotion that’s displayed and fueling the movement is not empowering enough for the majority of promoters to do their own research on the issue.  Whether it is the celebrities that promote the issue heavily, or the teen that would feel guilty to not “share” the link, both are flocking and this behavior is likely to occur more and more due to the kind of gullibility that’s possible via a new “magical” medium. 

The story of American involvement against Joseph Kony goes far back before the viral videos were seen, and it was in the sending of just less than 200 special troops by President Obama that this was established.  The Lord’s Resistance Army was soon fleeing into seclusion and by the time the charity’s video was circulating, Joseph Kony was less of a threat than the violent/genocidal governments of the area.  Invisible Children, having a horrible charity rating, is and has been a debated charity for some time, not to mention within a few months of the videos release, the director/star was recorded on cellphones in the streets of Los Angeles, high on drugs and touching himself while screaming obscenities, butt-naked.  Within minutes TMZ and other similar entities were circulating this video in an ironically similar way the Kony video was spread.

In conclusion, while it is beautifully beneficial to have the internet and computers as a faster more efficient way to communicate and function, it is also worrying because the speed in which things are produced and digested are not yet “natural”.  The mechanisms responsible for establishing the new and necessary perception of the Internet and its various data are still forming in our collective-conscience (or social norms, if you will).

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Head in the Clouds: SoundCloud and the New Era of Independent Distribution in Music

Head in the Clouds:

SoundCloud and the New Era of Independent Distribution in Music

By Kevin Cavanagh

As digital technology has developed, the world has become more and more of a stage in which even the audience is on display.  Whether it is because more consumers are becoming “prosumers” or because user-generated content sites are becoming more popular and therefore more telling of the culture and what it’s participants desire, it is evident that the times are changing.  José van Dijck argues that between community involvement (civilly, socially, politically) and more communal forms of creativity, production and distribution, it is evidently no longer valid to view consumers as simply consumers.  Videos on YouTube, fansites, blogs and other forms of digital expression, fandom, and community reveal the peoples relationship with the medium more than any statistical study of uninvolved viewers.

Although because of the rise in number of producers or “prosumers”, it makes sense that it be more difficult for an artist or content creator to make it “big”.  But the relativity of “big” is one that is still morphing and being defined, as new forms and opportunities for media are being developed monthly.  An example of a new and extremely popular form of musical distribution and networking is SoundCloud.  If you have a Macbook, you probably have the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Garageband on your desktop, and although you might not have used it, it is a fairly limited and simple version of what can be an almost infinitely all-encompassing synthesizer, drum machine, audio-recording “studio” music-maker.  Other programs like LogicPro, Ableton Live, and Reason all take this concept a little further to a more professional degree, although still attempting at being user-friendly.

With the advent of the DAW and other advancements in the ease of audio production and compression (in a similar way sites like YouTube of more specifically Vimeo have become a possibility in regards to streaming video), sites like SoundCloud have become a haven for amateur producers to post their music in the hopes of being “discovered” or simply getting feedback and networking with other “prosumers”.  Although the site is mostly filled with these types of musicians or music lovers, record labels/producers/DJs/etc have all began using the site as means of marketing and building community around this blooming relationship between the internet and art communities.  People being discovered for doing “remixes” of their favorite artists have been catapulted into, although maybe modest, a level of fame and notoriety likely unachievable before the existence of such a site.  A great example is involving the superstar Deadmau5.  A fan of his created a remix that started getting other fans attention, and because of how intense the fan base is, it didn’t take long for the numbers to add up and for Deadmau5 to be forced to take notice, upon which the 15 year old finds his work being posted by possibly the most popular dance music producer in the world.

Site like SoundCloud prove that although consumers are still consumers, the line has been blurred and the possibilities continue to grow for aspiring producers of all levels of notoriety.  Whether it is being able to preview an upcoming album, listen to a live DJ set, sharing and remixing a song, or being able to leave a comment at a very specific point in the music (i.e. What synth/sample/effect did you use to achieve that?) the relationship between production and consumption is stronger than ever and more mutualistic than I ever imagined growing up.

Not only did 15 year old Madeon impress Deadmau5 enough to get him to publicize his music, he was signed and had music released.  Do you think the quality of art/content will generally be reduced in the modern era of user-generated content/prosumers, or will the opportunity provide for more outlets of quality expression (as both are increasingly prominent features of Web 2.0)?