DIY Media

In one of my university classes, I am learning about printmaking. Using glorious old fashioned printing presses, and lovingly carving out pieces of linoleum I made many prints of some koi fish.

Koi by `p-u-r-i-n on deviantART

Isn’t it pretty? I think so. I learnt how to do it in a class. But there  are so many forms of print making, that there just isn’t enough time for my tutor to teach me them all! Class is only a few hours a week. I decided I wanted to learn how to screen print my own t-shirts.

So what do I do? I go to Youtube for instructions. I find this video.

Essentially, the rise in participatory culture has brought on a DIY revolution (Flew, 2008, p 108). Sites like Etsy, Ebay and even my pet example for almost everything, deviantART, have changed the way we consume. Now, I am not saying that regular “buy what we tell you to buy” (is that a bit cynical?) business is dead, DIY culture is experiencing a resurgence. Don’t know what is wrong with your computer? No need to call the repairman, google it (that is of course if you can get online). Hate buying a cake and having it be stale when you get home? Make it yourself – you’ll find plenty of recipes online. Want to be an artist but can’t afford classes? There are tutorials for everything from anime to surrealist painting.

This could be seen as an extension or by product of the pro-am, where amateurs are putting their works online. But it’s more than that – it’s the sharing of knowledge as a product (and often free at that). No more do we have to rely on the computer technician, or buying itchy made-in-China jackets (just make one yourself). I found a cure for my dog’s skin irritation without going to the vet by going on an internet forum (that being said you won’t find a more hypochondriac pet owner than me, I have about three vetenary surgeries in my mobile’s phone book AND memorised in case of an emergency). The point here is though, that not only are amateurs becoming professionals in their field, they are also becoming teachers.

After I graduate (hopefully) at the end of the year, I am planning on studying a further degree via distance, involving a lot of online content. QUT’s Blackboard also includes the sharing of information via the internet, but restricted to students of course, because a university offers more knowledge than a layperson. That being said, I find it amazing how the academic world shares knowledge via the internet too.

Overall, DIY information on the internet has taught me a lot. I’ve learnt how to knit. I’ve learned how to cook (my parents are competent, but I’m so much better than them at cooking thanks to the internet!) I can play guitar, draw, and produce my own music. I’ve learned the last two at university as well, but DIY media sparked the passion within me. I found things that I am passionate about, in my own time, and it’s fantastic that everyone has that opportunity.

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May 30, 2009 at 10:20 am Leave a comment

Pro/Am

I have been waffling on about produsage lately. A concept in regards to new media and web 2.0. We’ve learnt that Wikipedia, deviantART and citizen journalism are all examples where the user is also the produser. The amateur is also the professional. From that train of thought, I’d like to focus our attention on the “Pro/Am” concept. In other words, amateur media produsers showing their work in a professional context online.

I record vaguely folkish music in my bedroom. What started out as my boyfriend encouraging me to actually make use of my guitar in a context other than jamming tunelessly has become a major passion in my life. My first recordings were decidedly amateur. Using my laptop’s inbuilt microphone and the free Audacity software I mumbled vocals and strummed my guitar badly.

Eventually, friends of mine who I met on deviantART found out about my project. I was encouraged to record more. This time,  I used a Skype microphone.

What was I going to do with these amateur compositions? Why I made a myspace. Band name , Associate Penguin. I didn’t interact with the site vey much, and I let it stagnate (until recently when I uploaded a few more tunes). However, if I put more efforts into my myspace, there is no telling what I could have done. While my recordings are hardly decent enough to land a record contract, there is the possiblility to network with other musicians and perhaps find bandmates and touring partners.

Since the creation of my myspace, I have become obsessed with networking/streaming site, thesixtyone. It has a similar goal to MySpace’s original one – help out indie artists. My main gripe with it is that I can’t upload more than 3 songs until I get to “level 2”. Which I am not quite sure what that is, to be completely honest.

So maybe I will go back to Myspace. It has the advantage of having a large market share. Everyone I know who has an acoustic project of some kind is a myspace user. I don’t plan to, or expect any kind of major success based on a website, but its a good start. I am Associate Penguin, professional amateur. I now own a proper microphone and audio interface.

May 27, 2009 at 2:07 am Leave a comment

Wikipedia – The Case of the Penguin

I love wikipedia. I think its amazing. All the knowledge in the world is literally at my fingertips. When I have a subject to research, from uni work about new media technologies to my fondness for penguins, Wikipedia has it all. I use it to get background information when I am a bit confused by lecture material. I cite it in assignments where allowed. I use it to find extra sources of information.

Yet most of my lecturers hate it. They say “wikipedia can be editied by anyone, therefore it is a horrible source of information”. Well I disagree. I think because it can be edited by anyone , it is an amazing source of information. There is a system of checks and balances, moderators and bad information does not usually stay there for long. And it gets continually improved. I am not sure it will replace peer-reviewed journals and academic books, but it is a fantastic alternative. With wikipedia, everyone can learn something new, even if they are unable to attain formal education.

Why do I have such faith in wikipedia’s ability to moderate itself? Well lets have a look at the example of the Humbolt Penguin. Firstly, there is a “bot” system that weeds out obvious vandalism. For example, this revision was a vandalism. Somebody said “This penguin is awesome and is so cute!!!!!” which, while true, is not in the serious spirit of wikipedia. It was reverted to an earlier version immediately. A revision on the Southern Rockhopper penguin claiming it was sexy and apparently the penguin king (the internet is a bizarre place) was immediately fixed by a wikipedia user. So in essence, there is often very swift moderation to vandalism. Often, when such things occur, pages can be locked to further edits temporarily, or vandals can be banned from editing the wiki entries.

Of course, edits that are by people that are simply mistaken and are not obvious trolls take longer to change, often resulting in edit wars, and lively discussions on the talk pages. This means that it is possible to obtain wrong information from wikipedia, but such information can be verified by looking for other sources and checking the revision history and talk pages on the article that you wish to cite.

If you use wikipedia intelligently, there is no reason why students shouldn’t be able to cite it. I suspect that some unit co-ordinators believe that searching wikipedia for information is too easy, or do not have a full understanding of how the site works. The information on wikipedia articles rarely contain in-depth analysis of the issues pertaining to the subject of said article. However, wikipedia articles are often fantastic introductions to subjects that often raise questions and prompt further reserach. I think it is completely unfair that I have to search academic journals and books for basic information that is right there on a wikipedia page. Yesterday, I had to advise my brother find the publication date for Shakespear’s “Richard II” elsewhere, even though it was obvious from the wikipedia page and a simple google search. Basic information is so easy to find these days, why can’t students use it?

May 18, 2009 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

Citizen Journalism

I love the concept of citizen journalism, especially in regards to the internet. While I may not recieve, or want to recieve information on heavy international news via the layperson’s blog, there is still room for both traditional and new citizen journalism on the web.

I get most of my news via the internet. Generally from the BBC, CNN or New York Times websites. When browsing these sites, I am mostly interested in international politics and events, such as the global financial crisis or humanitarian situations around the world. For these situations, I believe that reputable news agencies are the way to go for information. A layperson would be unlikely to be able to travel to foreign countries to research and write articles. Generally, their information would come from another source, such as the previously mentioned news websites. So why would I want a regular person like me to write the story, when I can have a qualified journalist?

I found this very interesting. The study cited reports that 30 percent of people trust blogs more than traditional news sources. This is a very strange idea to me, because I personally trust journalists more than the average person to do the job of a journalist more competently.

However, there is no reason why a citizen couldn’t write articles analyzing the news. Perhaps a regular person like me could provide a fresh outlook on current events. One only has to look at the massive amount of blogs about politics to prove that everyone has an opinion, and seemingly, they want to share it with the world.

The one thing that worries me about citizen journalism is can they be completely devoid of bias? I am reminded of the episode of the Simpsons, where Homer starts his own web page, “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes”. Homer starts off posting rumors that turn out to be true, and factual information that he finds, but eventually posts completely made up things in order to boost pageviews. While similar things could happen within a traditional journalistic situation, in a news agency workplace, there are real conseqences for such actions. Homer Simpson represents bloggers and other people online who are perhaps attached to the “glory” of internet fame. While “traditional” journalists are of course interested in their own careers, it is reasonably expected that they are going to be more likely to not break any ethical codes.

It may seem like I dislike citizen journalism from my post. This is not necessarily the case. I believe there is a place for citizen reporting in the world of journalism. They can offer new analysis, as well as being another avenue for people to get interested in the news and politics. Citizen journalists can also be fantastic within their local communities, and in the creative industries field. They have just as much theoretical ability to review albums and other art forms as somebody trained in journalism, as well as the ability to create human interest stories. However, I trust traditional journalists more when it comes to reporting on breaking news stories, and matters that require the resources, skills and integrity of a reputable news agency.

May 17, 2009 at 6:47 am Leave a comment

Produsage

I go to a few websites, other than my email provider, on a regular basis.  These are the online art community deviantART, facebook, BBC News, Wikipedia and last.fm. They all share a common link – that there is more to these sites than content being delivered to me, where my engagement with the media is much more than sitting passively in front of a computer screen and looking at things, listening or reading. To put it simply, I can interact with the content on the site, provide my own content and/or comments, and interact with others on the sites. In essence, the producer is now the user (of course, in the BBC news site, this is limited to comments and forums).

deviantART is perhaps the site that I engage with the most, as both a producer of content, and a viewer of said comments. The site allows me to upload my artwork, blog in journals, post news articles, comment on art, and participate in discussions in the forums and chats.  Personally, I have used the site to create and maintain friendships, improve my own art through the critiques and tutorials posted by others, as well as had a good debate about the merits of different art styles (and political issues).

While deviantART has a lot of features and a large user base, the overall content and quality of the site, is determined by the site’s users. Artists range from professionals such as spacecoyote aka Nina Matsumoto (famous for her fanart of the simpsons that landed her a job with bongo comics), instigators of internet phenomena aka Line Rider to hobbyists and amateurs.

Another striking thing about deviantART in my opinion  is the fact that many staff members and site moderators are open and interact freely with the user base, and even giving out free subscriptions to a lot of users. This helps to create a positive community environment, and ensures that the user base is there in the long term.

deviantART is probably one of my favourite websites, because of strong culture of produsage amongst its members. Very often, users will collaborate with eachother to create content that would not be possible without the deviantART website bringing them together. Users post stock art in their galleries, that others can use to create their own art, whether that be photomanipulation, or as reference or anything else they can possibly think of. Therefore, the content on deviantART is even more so produced by its userbase.

If the quality and notoriety of art and content posted on deviantART was of a low quality, the site would not be the success it is today,even with all the features that they have developed and are currently developing. Using the model of produsage, deviantART has managed to be a success with over 4.5 million unique visitors in April.

April 30, 2009 at 6:19 am Leave a comment


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