Monthly Archives: April 2009

Thought Provoking Adoption Article

So, I came across this article on Reddit and it really made me think. The story is that a retired social worker, Phyllis Smith, adopted a young girl, Katie, who had been passed around foster homes. Phyllis’ son, Mark, and his wife Terri are more or less Katie’s foster parents. The thought-provoking aspect of the article is that Katie is white and Phyllis, Mark and Terri are black. Throughout the article, you hear of people coming up to Katie and asking if she’s ok, following her and her foster parents around, and other examples of negative and prejudiced attention.

A lot of points are raised in the article about the covert racism that still exists throughout the country. The article mentions Obama and how many Americans believe that they’ve taken a huge step in putting racism behind them, but there still are a lot of underlying prejudices in the nation, one of which is assuming the worst of a older black man watching over a young white girl. On a personal level, I know that seeing something similar would cause me to do a double take, at the very least. I like to think that I’ve worked a lot to fight against societal prejudices, but this article made me realize that there’s still a lot to do on an individual and national level.

I know this doesn’t quite fall under the heading of Digital Media Studies, but I really encourage everyone to read through this article. How would you react?

And the Pursuit of Happiness

I came across this art piece/article in the New York Times. It’s really interesting, though I’m not really sure what it means. Any ideas?

Internet phenomena

In response to the  articles about Susan Boyle and other such phenomenon:

Something inherent about internet phenomena is that they are completely unpredictable. It’s impossible to gauge when something like lolcats or Susan Boyle  is going to become a viral hit-or how long it will remain a hit. In Manjoo’s article, he points out that lolcats didn’t instantly become popular, then fade. Its popularity has only grown. Yet the basis of the site is extremely elementary and kind of ridiculous, and I think the people who read it know that, but they love it anyway.  

Which raises the question: are internet phenomena a good judge of what people genuinely like? Unlike people’s TV preferences, which are limited to what is actually produced and how many people watch it, websites can be made by anyone and don’t need a large fan base to exist. Consequently, they can start out small and explode into popularity. Or things from TV (like Susan Boyle) can become even more popular online. This kind of ties back into the machinima readings. If it’s the amateurs that know what people really like, then mainstream might be shifting towards incorporating more work from amateurs than from actual professionals.  

There are definitely dangers that come with this. Like Bergeron says in his article, this kind of instant fame can make and break a person. The popularity that comes with it isn’t lasting, like the popularity that comes from more seriously invested-in movies and TV shows (think the Sopranos or Titanic). But I don’t think it poses a real threat to quality media. People might be crazy about the latest YouTube video or website, but will always want quality movies and TV. I think the danger is more for those experiencing the 5-minute fame than the state of media itself.


To add to Aaron’s list:

This talks about memes, lolcats and Failblog specifically.

This is kind of just an example of how internet phenomena spread so quickly- how people use twitter and blogging to make things such a big deal.


Well, it’s been a couple weeks since Susan Boyle’s now-infamous Britain’s Got Talent performance, and we’re still seeing the effects of her newfound celebrity. Check out the New York Times Online’s front page, and you’ll see not one, but two articles in the top-ten most e-mailed today that center around you-know-who (here’s one and here’s the other).

The general analysis coming from this particular event seems to be along the “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” line of discourse, one that has actually been pretty popular recently in general (think Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”). But what’s interesting about this to me is the sheer size of Boyle’s internet celebrity. I honestly don’t think we’ve ever seen this before. What Harry Potter is for children’s literature, Susan Boyle has become for youtube meme–she may have just redefined the term. In a sense, we seem to be watching history in the making right now. Say what you want about the “Numa Numa” or “Chocolate Rain” guys, but Boyle has surpassed them all. It’s hard to imagine that one performance could actually alter one person’s life so drastically.

So say what you want about Boyle herself (I myself think this is all a bit overblown), but you can’t deny that observing the phenomenon in action is pretty damn fascinating. We’re witnessing a whole new kind of celebrity sensation, and it’s hard to reject the internet’s central role in making this whole craze a reality.


I would be interested in tackling the amazonfail incident a little more directly. I’ve got a couple of good articles that raise some interesting points, especially about meta-data and what it means to define something through such tags.

This is a great summery/examination of the entire fiasco. It raises a lot of key issue around metadata/internet response and has interesting links to most of the other main responses.

This is one of the original posts by one of the authors that started the uproar.

This is a simpler version of the first link by BBC. It provides a nice summery of things.

Online Gaming: A World Community?

I found this article in the New York Times archives. It discusses how World of Warcraft has become popular globally. With current gaming technology, that means that users can and will play against people from the entire globe.

This is particularly interesting because there are very few reasons that people from multiple countries come together for reasons other than war. The only other instance that I can think of is the Olympics. This is not to say that World of Warcraft is on the same level as the Olympics, but it is still incredible that people from many nations have the ability to interract through liesure.

Usually, people from seperate nations would have nothing to do with each other. It is possible to go through one’s entire life without encountering a foreigner. But, with WOW, gamers could potentially interract with foreigners on a daily basis. The possibilities of internet gaming can expand someone’s online  community worldwide.

Suggested reading: “My Crowd,” by Bill Wasik

Perhaps you’ve heard of the flash mob, a phenomenon that became vogue in the early/mid 00’s, generally defined as “a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse.” Flash mobs are organized anonymously, through e-mail, text messaging, or social networking sites.

In the 2006 article “My Crowd, or Phase 5: A report from the inventor of the flash mob,” Harper’s editor Bill Wasik revealed that he created the first flash mob in May 2003. Wasik conceived of the flash mob as a social experiment to comment on the conformist behavior and “scenesterism” of urban hipsters, but soon found that his experiment had become a media sensation: a flash mob murder was a major plot point in a 2004 episode of “CSI: Miami”, and Wasik describes attending a “flash concert” organized by Ford and Sony to promote the Ford Fusion.

Wasik’s article is also an insightful (and frequently funny) commentary on a weird paradox inherent in today’s digital media culture: while it gives us the tools to create new and interesting forms of expression (the flash mob, for instance), it also enables the “mob mentality” on a massive scale.

I think this would be a great reading for either Monday or Wednesday, but I can’t decide which–maybe we should put it to a vote?

A Horrifying Fusion of Unproductivity

You can now play Peggle and Bejeweled while playing World of Warcraft.   That is to say, it’s an addon that lets you open a window within WoW and begin one of these game.

It’s an interesting social phenomenon, and perhaps an interesting step in the direction of a unified internet, but all I can really think right now is “THE END IS NIGH!”

Readings for Next Week?

I think this was mentioned and it just slipped my mind, but how are we finding the readings for the next week? Are we supposed to pull together things? And if so, could someone post what the two topics are again? Memes and activism, I think, but there was a bit more to it than just that. Thanks!