ASSESS THIS: steal this, it’s important

Week Eleven

B) Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318).

Discuss ONE of these arguments while giving an example online.

Piracy is widely known as the scourge of humankind. Taking what is not yours is often considered socially unacceptable, and rightly so, one would imagine. Even worse, if you set out distributing it to all your friends, because it supposedly implicates them too. But in this day and age, what if piracy is a good thing?

Medosch (2008:81) states that “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfils culturally important functions. It gives people access to information and cultural goods they otherwise had no chance of obtaining.” He states that in markets like those in China, piracy “provides access to art movies and more difficult fare which does not get official distribution for whichever reason. The pirate suddenly becomes a connoisseur who caters to sophisticated tastes and needs” (ibid.).

Pirates know real taste comes in neck ruffles and long coats.

Online, we see quite a bit of piracy happening to Disney movies. It isn’t just because people don’t want to pay for them, while it can be the case. However, many a time, a case has come up where people can’t pay for Disney movies.

This is because Walt Disney Studios has something called the Disney Vault, where their classic movies are released in DVD format for a very short period of time, then locked away for a period of about seven years before they are re-released again, to repeat the cycle. A article states they do this to “maintain the “timelessness” of Disney classics for generation of children as well as ensure the films can be restored and remastered to keep up with advancing technology.”

A spokeswoman for Disney notes, “When a title from the Disney Vault is released, it’s an absolute ‘must have’ purchase before it disappears again.” But as intelligent as that business model may sound, it can deprive children of these films until they are well past the targeted age for Disney movies. Furthermore, prices for the “exclusive” movies are driven up due to their limited edition nature. “A Disney classic apparently not on moratorium – like Mary Poppins – retails at Sanity for $19.99, while the Diamond Edition of Beauty and the Beast sells for $29.99.”

And when the limited edition movies are taken off the shelves, the already inflated prices may be driven higher in the seven years, touted as collector’s items. In short, without legal means of purchasing Disney movies, piracy becomes the only way viewers can get what they want.

That's me.

Here, hence, we see that piracy lets children watch their Disney movies, without worries about whether or not the movies were released at the time.  Piracy allows cultural products to be distributed to people who want to enjoy them, instead of leaving them to be at the mercy of a capitalistic system.

Armin Medosch, ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, in Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies. London: Deptforth TV, 2008, pp. 73-97


ASSESS THIS: i could be brown, i could be blue, i could be violet sky

Week Seven

B) Lovink (Reader, page 222) also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”.

Discuss ONE of these arguments giving an example of a blog. Specify chosen argument in your answer.

Indeed, as community-oriented as blogging can seem, blogging is an inherently narcissistic, self-centred activity. The pictures, videos and thoughts put up by the blogger about him/herself project an image of the blogger and what his/her character is like. Bloggers undersand this, and hence they make choices as to how they want to be viewed.

The blog I will be reviewing today is the blog owned by mrbrown, a Singaporean blogger. From the very beginning, mrbrown clearly displays a desire to stir people, declaring in his subject bar that he is “L’infantile terrible of Singapore”, a person who does abnormal things or raises controversy. And so he does.

In his blog, he has a post called “CNNGo column: the art of #shitizenjournalism”, in which he lambasts the citizen journalism site STOMP, part of the Singaporean press, first for putting up pictures of the Transport Minister riding the MRT train under the headline “Lui Tuck Yew seen riding public transport again” (mrbrown circles the “again”), which then got picked up by the Straits Times as “breaking news”, then for having content that “tends to range from the banal to the brain-dead.”

“There, I said it. I am going to get angry emails from STOMPers now. But come on, how many times do we need to see indignant “news reports” like:

“Outraged: Man parks car across two parking lots!”
“Video: Old dude walks around his house without any clothes on!”
“Exclusive photos: Schoolgirls seen wearing uniforms too short in public!”
“Scandalous: Young couple making out in the train. Do their parents and principal know?””

Clearly, he falls under Lovink’s (2007:28) statement that “the essence of a blog is not the interactivity of the medium: it is the sharing of the thoughts and opinions of the blogger”. Against the allegedly common sentiment that STOMP is an interesting site to visit, he proudly delivers a smack to its metaphorical face.

mrbrown initially gained fame in the mainstream media as a columnist for TODAY, one of the tabloid newspapers in Singapore, and won the hearts of many with his sarcastic writing style. After touching a raw nerve on the increase in the general cost of living some five years ago, he was removed from his position, but his fanbase continued to watch him.

As such, as you can imagine, he holds a rather anti-government stance, but delivers it with humour and logic, gaining him favour amongst followers. He engages in the “PR and promotion of the Ich AG (I Ltd.)” (Lovink 2007:28) presenting himself as a thorn in the side of the Singaporean media scene, and enjoying it.

This picture was found under the blog post “This must be one of those affordable HDB flats that Mah Bow Tan [at the time, the Minister for National Development] was referring to…”. In the post, mrbrown asks if the flat is “sitting on a deposit of fossil fuel we don’t know about”.

But, aside from his anti-government stance, mrbrown also enjoys cycling. Looking at the first two pages of his blog, next to lampooning the government, most of his posts seem to be about his cycling adventures. In recent times, he has started shooting videos of his bicycle journeys by mounting a video camera to his helmet.

And so, the infantile terrible of Singapore blogs on.

Geert Lovink, ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, 2007, London: Routledge, pp. 1-38

ASSESS THIS: We could take down your system.

Week Four

Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

Because they are not paid, bloggers tend to air their views more freely. They are not held back, as the Murdoch empire is, for example, by things they can and cannot say, and the language they employ is usually theirs. Because there are so very many bloggers, spread all across the globe, they are not unlike international correspondents for news networks of elite media institutions. Hence, I agree that bloggers can more effectively inform the public than elite media institutions.

Certainly Russell, Ito, Richmond and Tuters have raised a pertinent question as to (2008:76) whether or not “credibility [is] the domain of elite media institutions that abide by professional codes”…some news blog posts can come across as dubious, especially if they pertain to matters of national/international interest.

But with relevant supporting evidence, and enough people reporting similar stories, the credibility of blogger news is generally sustainable.

When the riots in Egypt broke out in January this year, people on the ground took to Twitter, a famous microblogging site, with pictures and videos as they saw it. The news spread like wildfire, and eventually, to prevent further fueling of the online vitriol, the Mubarak administration unplugged the Internet for the entire nation.


And this was not the only time Twitter succeeded in supplying the news faster than the institutions. While media institutions’ articles need to be read, reread, vetted, and read again before being sent into print, Twitter’s one-click publication function one-ups the media companies. Another prominent feather in Twitter’s cap comes in its being the medium by which Osama Bin Laden’s death was first reported.

Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Pakistan going by the pseudonym ReallyVirtual, inadvertently liveblogged the air raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound, hours before the official White House report was made on bin Laden’s death. He was about 250 metres from the premises when it happened.

My last example comes in the form of alternative press. In nations where press freedom is low, blog news can become a very important news source.  As sensitive or “taboo” topics are glossed over or completely ignored in the national mainstream media, blog news often has far more press freedom to take these controversial issues head-on and report them.

In Singapore, there are two main alternative press sites, both of which have their fair share of bloggers/contributors, along with several other smaller individual-run blogs. Both the main sites present rather contrasting viewpoints on the goings-on in Singapore, and provide a voice to the otherwise voiceless opposition in Singapore, as well as the common person. It has been speculated that discourse on Facebook, Twitter and the alternative press and blogs directly led to the incumbent party’s drastic drop in approval ratings from 66 percent in the previous election to 60 percent in the current one.

However, in closing, everything should be taken with a pinch of salt. Despite the now-burgeoning power of blogs as we have seen, one should still do one’s best to glean information from both the mainstream media and blogs, in order to receive a fuller, more well-informed picture of the situation.




Adrienne Russell, Mizuko Ito, Todd Richmond and Marc Tuters, ‘Culture: Media convergence and Networked Culture’ in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, pp. 43-76

ASSESS THIS: I’m gonna learn how to fly, high~!

Week Nine

A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

Discuss ONE of these arguments giving an example of a YouTube video (embed it into post). Specify chosen argument in your answer.

I vlogged this one, hopefully it doesn’t come across as too silly. All citations and references in-video. (Yes, I do have a sore throat.)

Justin Bieber – Cry Me A River

ASSESS THIS: It’s YouTube, but is it really Yours?

Week Three

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites. How do ranking tactics impact on the formation of online “communities”?

It appears this video is considered a part of the anime community, according to van Dijck. The definition of a community is “groups with a communal preference in music, movies or books (a so-called ‘taste community’); building taste is an activity that necessarily ties in individuals with social groups” (Hennion 2007, cited in van Dijck 2009:45). Van Dijck goes on to further explain that “‘Communities’…thus refers to a large range of user groups, some of which resemble grassroots movements, but the overwhelming majority coincide with consumer groups or entertainment platforms”.

This is what I screencapped on the sidebar of the video “Every Anime Opening Ever Made”. Basically, while watching this, YouTube suggested that I might want to watch more Japanese anime-related things.

What has happened here, is that YouTube has engaged in ranking tactics. Specifically, “YouTube users are steered towards a particular video by means of coded mechanisms which heavily rely on promotion and ranking tactics, such as the measuring of downloads and the promotion of popular favourites.” This would, at the very least, explain the high view counts on all the suggested videos. There seems to be a common assumption that the more views something has, the shorter the time it has been there, the better it should be in quality, and hence, . Van Dijck notes that “users indeed serve as providers and arbiters of content – both unwittingly by means of download counts and consciously by rating and commenting on videos” (van Dijck 2009:45). Furthermore, that is only part of how the videos are classed. They are also “processed with the help of algorithms, the technical details of which remain undisclosed” (ibid.).

Ranking tactics as such lead to a kind of quality control. Like one would trust a maître d’ not to suggest a bad-tasting dish, users trust the suggestion list not to suggest bad-quality videos. Suggestion lists, hence, tend to more often than not include videos of high quality, ie. entertaining, stable footage, aesthetically pleasing, etc. Failing that, of course, what is popular with the masses. Generally, YouTube’s ranking mechanism does not fail. The general, trusted order of things is that good videos get looked at and become popular, and popular videos become more popular.

This can, however, lead to two possible unfortunate circumstances. One, lower quality videos, or even perhaps videos that simply are underrated by the system and the people who watch it, can “fall through the cracks”, so to speak, as the system cannot be entirely meritocratic. Two, the system can be abused. A guest post (2007) by Greenberg, seen on TechCrunch, brings up some ways to cheat the system, including “having a conversation with yourself” in the form of comment wars among multiple accounts, the more controversial the better. Additionally, van Dijck (2009:52) cites the cases of LonelyGirl15 and Lamo1234: “the ‘lonely girl’ turned out to be the creation of professional film-makers represented by Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency, and Lamo1234 was a 23-year-old student who downloaded his own recorded guitar solos 10,000 times to boost his view counts”. Here we see that even the rating system of YouTube can be meddled with.

Van Dijck, J. (2009) ‘Users like you? Theorising agency in user-generated content’, Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 31, pp. 31-58.

Greenberg, D. A. (2007) ‘The Secret Strategies Behind Many “Viral” Videos’,

The Delightful Computer History Of Your Host

So, I feel the need to introduce myself, just in case you go looking at my posts and start wondering who the hell I am and what I stand for. (What am I saying, this is a school blog and I am going to go away after this and never look at it again.) Hello. You may know me as Mr. Wonderful, or 377660, if you are so inclined. And I am female. And this is my attempt at a spoonful of sugar to help the hypothetical medicine go down. Behold…my life.

I am a child who was taught how to use the computer at the age of three. The kind who would go on the big old Compaq Presario to use Microsoft Paint, and to play Hearts. The kind who used to think that getting the highest score in Hearts was a good thing, as a child. You remember those days, don’t you?

(I would like to note that all images nicked from other people will be furnished with a link to the page from whence they came at the bottom of each post. I hear failure to do so may result in me being accused of a certain Long Unmentionable P-Word. Pictures that I took myself will not bear such click-through links, in light of my clear levels of wonderful. Kthxbai.)

I grew a little more, and became a child of the Internet. I would go on to spend my primary school years playing Neopets. The following is an image of one of my pets. I know for a fact that nine years ago (Faerieland appeared when I was, what, nine or ten?) you would probably have crumbled in jealousy had you seen this pet, but let’s put that aside for a moment and move on.

I would grow out of this, into a particularly disturbing breed of human called The Weeaboo. Worse still, this happened when I turned thirteen, and discovered an entity called Blogger.

This was my background for at least a few months. CRINGE, EVERYONE, CRINGE! My obsession with this anime series (Inuyasha) was further compounded (exacerbated?) by the numerous fansites on the Internet catering to fans (and weeaboos) like me. This one was my favourite back in the day, and I would imagine going up to random people and tweaking their ears to see if they were half demon or not. Ah, good times, good times. (…oh my god I’m wearing an Inuyasha shirt. WHAT IS THIS COINCIDENCE.)

I wanted to show you all a post from my very first blog, but thirteen-year-old me was truly too asinine to be understood by present me, even if we technically are the same person. I will tell you all, however, that there is a still-functional rainbow cursor on it, and that I had joined over fifty anime/anime character fanlistings, the icons of which were all on my blog. Never again. Never, ever, EVER again.

(With the help of Encyclopedia Dramatica I learned that being a weeaboo was a horrible thing, and eventually grew out of it. ❤ )

Growing older, however, I found my needs and wants more and more furnished by the Internet.  I began to spurn the radio, wondering why anyone in their right mind would listen to music of someone else’s choosing, if Limewire could give me everything I and only I wanted. I started to shun the television, questioning the purpose behind waiting for that one channel to show that one show at that one time, and only one episode at a time, if I could catch the entire season on YouTube or CrunchyRoll. The Internet could give me everything I wanted, and I was happy to give it what I knew, in the form of blogs (that mostly no one read, I can only hope). The Friendster ship did dock for me, but I did not get on. The Friendster ship sailed on.

A fine day in church though, the pastor got this thing called a Facebook, and announced that he had started a group for the church. So all the leaders got Facebooks, and encouraged all their cell groups to get Facebooks. And thus, in such fashion, I was sucked into the universe of the social network. I haven’t gone past since.

And so, here we are, at the beginning of an assessment. Cheerio.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Comment on Sharing (start at 0:26 – stop at 0:39)

more to come

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