Archive | May 2015

Legions of Followers

Perhaps one of my most adored childhood video games is The Simpsons: Hit and Run. It had the freedom and exploration elements of Grand Theft Auto, but wasn’t filled with swearing, sex and blood; things an innocent, 11 year old girl is often naïve about.

I remember being so in love with the game that I purchased The Simpsons: Road Rage, another PlayStation game, followed by a couple of The Simpsons comics and The Simpsons show bag from the Easter Show.

My infatuation with The Simpsons franchise wasn’t based on the game itself. ‘Computer games are not just a game, never just a business strategy for maximizing profit, but always also a battlefield where the possibility to realize specific, bottom-up, heterogeneous forms of participatory media culture is at stake’ (Raessens, 2005). The creators of The Simpsons video games had developed more than just games; they had created a world in which the games existed, and in which I as a user could also exist and participate.

Henry Jenkins explains a participatory culture as one ‘with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement… where members believe that their contributions matter’. He goes on to explain that while not all participants must contribute, they believe that they are free to do so when ready (Jenkins, 2006).

Rovio have successfully established this kind of culture with their stylized, wingless birds mobile game, Angry Birds. Blogger J.J McCorvey puts it perfectly: Angry Birds ‘has amassed legions of followers, incited fierce battles between parents and their tablet-weaned children, and won professions of love from the likes of Justin Bieber via Twitter and Dick Cheney on the Today show’.

Angry Birds’ creators, Mikael and Niklas, realised the importance of not only gaining fans, but holding on to them, and have done so through the use of merchandise and other complementary collateral. In 2013, 45% of the company’s revenue came from merchandise alone.

The Finnish gaming company have also been adding new levels to the game so that consumers don’t get bored. On top of this, they have opened the Angry Birds Space Encounter in the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and are planning to release a 3D animated movie sometime in the coming 2 years.

Of course, Rovio’s success can be pinned to the brilliantly addictive nature of the game. However, the Angry Birds world has been able to hypnotise consumers, by creating a participatory culture that not only offers members with an engrossing gaming experience, but the ability to participate in the Angry Birds franchise outside of just the game. Mikael understands this exactly: ‘Now we have real fans who live and breathe the thing that we created’ (2013).

References:

Jenkins, H, 2006, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Part One), Confessions of an Aca-Fan, weblog, 20 October, viewed 14/5/15, http://henryjenkins.org/2006/10/confronting_the_challenges_of.html

McCorvey, J.J 2013, ‘Rovio Takes Flight With “Angry Birds” But Disney-Sized Success Still Up In The Air’, Fast Company, viewed 14/5/15, http://www.fastcompany.com/3002945/rovio-takes-flight-angry-birds-disney-sized-success-still-air

Mogg, T 2013, ‘Angry Birds Maker Roviio Can Thank Merchandise For Record Profits’, Digital Trends, viewed 14/5/15, http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/angry-birds-maker-rovio-can-thank-merchandise-for-record-profits/

Raessens, J 2005, Computer games as participatory media culture, Handbook of computer game studies, pp. 373-388 Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Urban Screens: Bringing People Together Since ’15

Susanne Jaschko (2007) explores the urban screen as a ‘permeable membrane’, with the ability to combine the inner processes of a building and the external cityscape. The same principle applies with the use of the screen as a mediator between the physical and digital experiences of place.

Often the potential of the urban screen goes unseen, and gets denoted as something similar to a billboard. However, the fluid and interactive nature of the screen that Jaschko discusses makes the urban screen a far more vital element in urban space than any passive billboard.

For a university research project, I had originally planned to explore the use of urban screens in regards to marketing. However, I have moved my focus towards the use of urban screens in developing positive spatial dynamics in public urban spaces. While a large-scale screen would be an extraordinary means of advertising, there lies far more meaning and potential for such a screen to provide artistic, communicative and engaging messages aimed to interact with the audience, bettering their experience of the space they find themselves in.

‘Exploring Urban Screens’ by Krajina details these sorts of interactions between urban screens and individuals, and looks at the way in which screens can enhance a person’s experience of space. She describes the site of the screen as remaining ‘relatively open to the situational poetics of circumstance’, suggesting the screen could be used by individuals as a distraction while they wait for friends, or as a way to avert eye contact with strangers. The social consequences of the urban screen are not weightless. Perhaps it would be interesting for me to explore the social tendencies that urban screens encourage (such as avoiding eye contact), and those that it replaces (such as using a personal device to distract one’s self while waiting). The intriguing thing about a large, public screen is that it draws the attention of individuals from their own private devices to something much more public; a screen that is shared and not only engaged with by just them.

In a sense, the urban screen is a way of reversing the very exclusive and anti-social behaviour that portable, personal devices bring to public space. Not only does it encourage people to look up from their smart phones and tablets, it also encourages a communal experience for those it engages with, forcing individuals to consume the exact same content in the exact same context, so that if they initially had absolutely nothing in common, they now do.

References:

Jaschko, S 2007, ‘The Cultural Value of Urban Screens’, accessed 8/4/15www.sujaschko.de/downloads/274/urbanscreens

Krajina, Z 2009, ‘Exploring Urban Screens’, Culture Unbound, vol. 1, pp. 401-430, accessed 8/4/2015, http://www.cultureunbound.ep.liu.se/v1/a24/cu09v1a24.pdf

10 Minutes To Kill

A podcast review of 10′ To Kill, a French board game, which has 635 backers supporting its Kickstarter Campaign:

Referred to in podcast:

It’s Complicated

I have two jobs and two internships, none of which have provided me with a policy outlining how I can use my personal social media networks. Perhaps this is because, as Robert Howard discusses, social networks are ‘new participatory forms’ that are not yet fully understood. He outlines how the Internet has welcomed the notion of ‘self-produced media’, and how such participatory media has transformed the once simple structure of public discourse, into something quite unconventional, and into ‘complex new communication processes’.

However, social networks have been around since the 1970’s. While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are currently the most popular; they did not birth the idea of social behaviour between computer users.

The seventies welcomed CompuServe, a business-oriented communication solution. BBS then became popular as an online meeting place where users could download files and games and post messages to each other. Then in the late 80s America Online, the ‘true precursor to today’s social networking sites’, was born. Known as AOL, the site became a hub for social interactions, allowing users to make ‘Member Profiles’, to chat anonymously via instant messaging.

Given they have existed for over 30 years, why aren’t social media policies a standard contract within the workplace? Possibly for the same reasons that there are no policies regarding use of your phone, or your email account: people believe they should have complete freedom of expression, and companies think their employees will behave with common sense online.

Cisco, a leading IT company, has released their social media policy that excels where most companies fall short. It respects their employees’ freedom of expression, and rather than outline strict prohibitions, it offers specific disclaimers for individuals who do want to express their opinion on a matter relevant to the company.

The policy also protects Cisco when employees, inevitably, lack common sense in their online discourse. CEO of Mashery explains that ‘people tend to interpret having the ‘right’ to express themselves online as implying a lack of consequences when they say stupid things’. Of course this isn’t the case, so giving employees such disclaimers ensures people don’t automatically assume the stupidity of one employee reflects the entire company.

So while many companies argue that social media are too complicate to regulate, Cisco proves there is no excuse to not implementing an effective social media policy.

References:

Ladies, Don’t Play The Victim

The fight for gender equality will not be easily solved or dismissed, particularly in regards to women in the workplace. In the context of the representation of women in public media, journalist Michael Marcotte believes ‘we’re still not seeing equal participation. That means we are only using half our talent and usually hearing half of the story’. This is true. Women are underrepresented in both public TV news and public radio news. However, this gender discrimination is not limited to being in favour of men.

While we have seen some progress with women moving into male-dominated occupations such as science, technology, engineering and math – in 2012 women held 27 percent of all computer science jobs – there has been little change in the representation of men in female-dominated occupations. Currently, females take up 90% of nursing jobs, 82% of junior school teaching positions and 72% of counsellor titles (see more jobs where women constitute a majority here).

These ‘pink collar’ jobs (jobs long dominated by women) have been the home to disproportional gender representation as long as the newsroom and science technology industry have. While I do not stand against females rising to take their rightful place in a very male dominated world, I do not think that the solution to gender equity is found in assuming women are always the victim.

Being a female, I completely understand the feelings of belittlement and embarrassment that are sparked when I see how underrepresented we are in many crucial industries such as media. Similar feelings arise when I see how we are poorly represented and often displayed as thoughtless, sexual objects in television shows such as Big Bang Theory and The Mad Men (where in both shows, the attractive female protagonist is portrayed as quite dumb, and the ambitious and clever female character is seen to appear much less attractive).

This is not an excuse to present a one sided argument though. Not only are many industries lacking a male presence, but in many industries, that are not necessarily pink collar, women are earning more than men on average. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that women earn more in occupations such as electrician, motor mechanic, truck driver, bookkeeper, dentist and psychologist.

Yes, in many cases women are still the minority, and yes, ‘there’s a gender pay gap that [generally] favours men’, however gender equality is not an issue of gaining justice for just women. Gender equality is about equality for both genders.

References:

Elkins, K 2015, 20 ‘pink collar’ jobs dominated by women, Business Insider Australia, weblog, 18 February, viewed 2/5/15, http://www.businessinsider.com.au/pink-collar-jobs-dominated-by-women-2015-2

Huhman, H. R 2012, ‘STEM Fields And The Gender Gap: Where Are The Women?’, Forbes Magazine, 6 December, viewed 2/5/15, http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/06/20/stem-fields-and-the-gender-gap-where-are-the-women/

Marcotte, Michael. (2013). ‘Gender Inequity in Public Media Newsrooms’. MVM Consulting.

http://www.mikemarcotte.com/2013/03/gender-inequity-in-public-media-newsrooms.html. Accessed 30 January 2014.

2013, ‘20 jobs where women earn more than men’, News.com.au, 1 November, viewed 2/5/15, http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/jobs-where-women-earn-more-than-men/story-e6frfm9r-1226751137707