Another reason why being a pirate > a paying customer…

Some rights reserved by ain

Why pay for something that you can get for free, of equal quality, and without all the rubbish that cannot be skipped at the opening credits?

Week 11: Thank God for Piracy

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).

Everyone is familiar with piracy, and has at least engaged with it sometime or another.  Be it through downloads online via P2P file-sharing networks, or purchasing cheap quality fake DVDs.  With all the legislations and lawsuits employed in an attempt to curb these practices, one has to realize that the intents of such enforcement is primarily commercial, exclusive of its cultural functions.   In the former context, many artists and production companies have attributed the declines in control over intellectual property and in turn in sales on media piracy.  Despite some empirical evidence that supports these claims, Medosch (2008) asserts that it succeeds in fulfilling crucial cultural functions that would not be achievable without the implications of piracy.

Everyone has come across the piracy ad that flashes across the movie screens:

But despite the allegations against piracy, one needs to understand that first of all piracy is not, in essence ‘stealing’ or ‘theft’, which is a common misconception and so should be dealt with differently.  The cartoon below differentiates theft and piracy apart, illustrating that the concept of piracy possess inherent qualities that promote the mass dissemination of media content.  It is this very notion that Medosch contends has significant cultural implications particularly in areas where content is unaccessible or superficially accessible due to poor financial status or media infrastructure.

Some rights reserved by bvkmohan

Coming from Singapore, law enforcement and heavy penalties against the trafficking and use of pirated materials have made the trade almost non-existent, and so many turn to online resources such as to obtain such content.  However it was a completely different scenario in terms of access when I migrated to and lived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for a good 11 years, which remains a third world country with a very low GDP and relatively poor media and communications infrastructure.  There are no authorized DVD or CD retail stores, no cinemas screening foreign films, and no enforced laws on piracy altogether.  As a result piracy has become integral within the local market, and  as Medosch (2008) puts it, piracy ‘gives people access to information and cultural goods they had otherwise no chance of obtaining’ (81), which includes ‘products of mainstream commercial movie industries, art movies and more difficult fare’ (81).  This also proved crucial for a foreigner like myself to be able to keep in touch with contemporary media products, and for the locals more cultural freedom that endows them with some level of empowerment – particularly where an average income of a local Vietnamese is around US$1052 a year (roughly AUD$74 a month).

According to Liang (2009) for such communities “the idea of finding their place within the global demands engaging with a world of counterfeit commodities” (22), as it is only through such channels that informs them of the very existence of these contemporary foreign films and music.  Piracy keeps the unprivileged communities away from being culturally isolated in the context of a dynamic global, and therefore criminalizing and banning piracy in such circumstances could have adverse effects not only to the black market economy (which a large portion of the community survive on) but also restrict them from using piracy as a counter-hegemonic force from the grossly distorted world of global free-trade (Medosch 2008: 81), and not to mention it can also produce hilarious localized reproductions like below:

Some rights reserved by leungchita

Medosch, A. 2008.  ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’, in Deptforth. TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies,London: Deptforth TV. pp. 98-100

Liang, L. 2009. ‘Piracy, Creativity and Infrastructure: Rethinking Access to Culture’, in Social Science Research Network. Accessed on 04 June 2011

Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, November 2010. Background Note: Vietnam, in US Department of State  Accessed on 04 June 2011.

Week 10: A Shared Culture

Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

Creative Commons (CC) licences were developed to fulfill one main goal; to expand the range of creative works available for people to use, build upon and share legally.  EssentiallyCC aims to oppose the prevailing copyright legislations that impose many restrictions on published creative works, perceived by Commons founder as ‘narrowing access to creative works in the US” (Lessig 2004 in Garcelon2009, 1308), prompting a copyleft movement. It achieves this by allowing creators to communicate which rights they reserve and which they have waived simply through visual symbols to create a more democratized environment for a greater flow and development of shared ideas – an expanded commons.

The CC license that I have added to my blog  allows for my work to be shared and remixed, under the conditions that they are appropriately attributed (some right reserved) and used only for non-commercial purposes (CC BY-NC 3.0).  Users of my work can share and remix as long as they acknowledge me as the creator and use it for creative purposes not monetary gain – keeping in mind that copyright law ‘bears directly on the interests of large media companies (whose concerns rest on) their market positions’ (Garcelon, 2009: 1308), I have decided not to offer my work for any commercial purposes as I feel that would be going against the very incentives of sharing creativity.  Here’s is an example of a remix video that incorporates various footage from other creative works (worth watching; you will never listen to Kid Cudi’s ‘Memories’ the same way again):

Clearly, the creator () of this video has made the effort to attribute and give credit to the respectiveoriginal creators (in the drop-down information section), maneuvering viewers back to the original ‘creative’ work.  I chose the CC BY-NC 3.0 license for my blog primarily because I am happy to share my personal thoughts and ideas with others and allow for them to build upon it; but like every author would want credit for their literature I desire some form of acknowledgement for mywork at the very least.  Having essentially laid out the fundamental ideas gives me a sense of empowerment when others use it for whatever purpose, be it for inspiration or to share or to develop further.

Web 2.0 platforms such as file-sharing sites (Youtube), blogs and social-networking sites all function as a virtual community, and so the implementation of CC is crucial in facilitating in the share of creative works and maintaining a sense of a community of shared interests and ideas.  As mentioned earlier I chose a non-commercial license based on the fact it reflects poorly on the merit of one’s creativity and integrity of one’s intellectual property; if i positioned an idea on a blog which was only intended to inform and inspire, someone who takes this very idea only to sell and gain financial profit as well as a reputation does not do justice for the innovative thought process that was underwent to produce the ideas.  Personally, anything that is sold for social status or monetary gain, be it an idea or a physical object must have been created by the seller himself in order to retain its integrity, which is precisely why I would not want others to freely sell my ideas.

Garcelon, M. 2009. ‘An Information Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’, New Media & Society 11.8: 1307 – 1326.

Lessig, L. 2004. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Penguin.

Week: 3 Like or Dislike

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation online ‘communities’?

While on the discussion of Youtube, I thought I’d share my thoughts on how the website’s interface and sequential layout reflect Dijck’s notion of enhancing video poplarity and forming online ‘communities.  To avoid being clichéd I have decided not to post anything remotelyrelated to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” as it seems like half of the blogs here have already beaten me to it.  The owner of the Youtube video below has her own channel  through which she posts videos of home-made pranks using a video camera and some digital editing:

Based on the considerably large number of views or Youtube ‘hits’, this video is relatively popular amongst the Youtube community – but it is more than just the mere content that has attributed to both the video’s as well as the channel’s overall popularity.  Dijck notes that there exists an ‘inclination of users to belong to a (real-life) group and be involved in a common cause’, which generates what is known as Youtube communities.  In relation to this video, through its view count, ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, comments and subscriptions, it is apparent that the video has earned a handful of loyal followers with similar interests.  To cater to and maintain these interests Niki (the owner) has dedicated her entire channel to videos of the same nature which can be easily accessed through links to her channel.

The picture above is a screenshot of the actual Youtube page of the same video.  Marked by red arrows are the features and ranking tactics which helps in promoting video and in turn the channel.  Embedded within the video itself are links to Niki’s Youtube channel, Facebbok and Twitter pages as well as her website.  This is in line with Dijk’s(2009) notion that Youtube’s ‘interface maneuvers individual users and communities….(who) are steered to a particular video by means of coded mechanisms which heavily rely on promotion and ranking tactics’ (45).  The side column on the right of the video also contains links to her other videos which draws the viewer’s attention and thus maintains their interests, which is further facilitated by constantly updates which will notify subscribers through their emails as well.  forming an online community with a shared interest in that particular brand of Youtube video.

Related links that are populated on screen at the end of a Youtube video also help to promote and direct viewers to other similar videos (usually of the same channel); however this is not always the case as exampled above (damn i did end up posting Rebecca Black lol).  Youtube may, by default select a video that is not necessarily similar in content but rather in equally high number of views.  Nonetheless, there is evident merit in Dijk’s notion of Youtube interactivity building online communities illustrated by its somewhat subtle yet effective modes of user engagement – ‘users serve as arbiters of content, both unwittingly by means of download counts and consciously by rating and commenting on videos’ and so inherently become part of an online community.

Jose Van Dijck. 2009. ‘Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content’, Media, Culture and Society. 31: 41-58.

Week 9: The Power of Youtube

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).

Some rights reserved by Carrie Andersen Epic Battle of Youtube Stars on Southpark


This episode of South Park manges to encompass and satirically portray the notion of fame ‘earned’ through the dynamics of Youtube, and questions the assertion made by Burgess and Green (2009) about whether those who become famous online can truly be an actual ‘celebrity’ beyond the realm of cyberspace.  Youtube is a social  medium through which anyone and everyone can get noticed, intentionally (i.e Crocker) or unintentionally (i.e. Star-Wars Kid), talented or talentless.  In this sense, it is no wonder that Youtube is ‘mythologized as literally a way to broadcast yourself’ into fame and fortune’ (Burgess & Green, 2009: 22) as one can upload footage and have themselves exposed to the Youtube public freely unlike traditional means of exposure, like signing advertising deals or performing at small gigs to name a few.

In the world of Youtube, it is not how impressive a character is thats grants it fame, but rather how entertaining it is perceived to be by an audience; it’s the entertainment value of the footage that determines the number of views ‘earned’ from the Youtube public; more views indicates a wider audience, and by having a wider audience means more fame for that particular footage.    This is reflected by the vast number of Youtube videos that possess no actual talent (i.e.  Dramatic Chipmunk and lip-syncher Keenan Cahill), but gain respectable views that drastically outnumber those which actually flaunt a real talent that involve particular effort such as impressive vocals or animations.   In this respect, there are evident social  implications for both Youtube stars as well as its audiences, signifying a convergence of taste in terms of media content – content whose value stems solely from its audiences’ perceptions of it having an entertainment factor, as illustrated by rising Youtube star Anotoin Dodson:

Clearly, Antoine’s presence in Youtube and subsequent rise to fame was completely unintentional as well as out of his control.  It would be fair to say that he exerted no effort into becoming well known – all it took was his animated and dramatic reaction to a local crime that propelled him into instant stardom:

Obviously we have a rapist in Lincoln Park.  He’s climbing in your windows. He’s snatching your people up trying to rape them, so you all need to hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband because they are raping everybody out here.

His quote, which was remixed into a song known as the ‘Bed Intruder Song’ by mash-up musicians The Gregory’s became an overnight internet sensation, and was subsequently listed on iTunes with the profits split between them.  Furthermore, his video was rated the top Youtube video of 2010, and as the video shows it has earned him a significant fan-base and as well as new opportunities for his life.  But is this sufficient grounds for him to become more than just a ‘Youtube star’?

Hypothetically speaking, if Youtube were to be shut down permanently and its archive of uploads removed, Youtube stars with similar circumstances toAntoine Dodson who have gained so much public attention will gradually lose that status.  Effectively their title as a ‘celebrity’ is mediated and maintained by the dissemination capabilities of Youtube, as Burgess & Green (2009) puts it their “ongoing status as a ‘star’ YouTuber can only be achieved by an ongoing participation in YouTube” (24).  Indeed, some Youtube celebrities can and do detach from the limitations of Youtube and succeed outside its realms, a prime example being Justin Bieber (found and subsequently signed onto a record deal by RnB artist Usher), but at the end of the day Youtube is merely a springboard to facilitate users to freely expose themselves, and hopefully be discovered by professional external parties.

Burgess, J., & Green, J. (2009). ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’. In YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press,  pp 15-37.

Please read my Blog

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”. 

Some rights reserved by memono

 My thoughts exactly.

Blogging comes in all forms; from personal diaries about day-to-day encounters to fiery political rants, blogs have become an essential tool of self-expression for many.  I for one choose not to blog due to a lack of interest in reading about  random people’s loves and hates and being criticized by other randoms, but to a full extent I agree with Lovink’s (2008) that blogs are definitely used primarily as a tool to manage the self.  He argues that blogs offer users a platform for free and public expression, and within this notion are inherent implications of the ‘Self’ over the ‘Other’.  In other words the very nature of blogging possess qualities of self-expression; those who choose to blog intend to have their entries seen by an audience, which ‘gives a shape and meaning to the stages and cycles of their lives that would otherwise be missed in the helter-shelter of modern existence’ (Lovink, 2007,p27).      According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, ‘52% of bloggers say they blog mostly for themselves, while 32% blog for their audience.’ (Lenhart & Fox 2006: ii in Castells 2007), but according to Castells (2007) ‘regardless of the intention of itd author, (it) becomes a bottle drifting in the ocean of global communication, a message susceptible of being received and reprocessed in unexpected ways.’ (10).

Take this blog as an example (the blog name is already quite self-explanatory).  The writer of this blog is highly (and probable deliberately) critical about issues of all forms, be it a rant about a politician or negative criticisms about a reality TV show. Although he appears to try and inform and reveal to audiences the misconceptions and dysfunctions of society, at the end of the day he is still projecting his personal opinion and attitude towards the content and so allows him to express himself in a manner not possible outside the blogosphere.  In a nutshell, blogs are essentially just an exposed online diary hoping for some attention.

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

Cestells. M. 2007. ‘Communication, Power and Counter-power in the Network Society’, International Journal of Communication 1. Annenberg School for Communication, University of California. pp: 238-266

Online Trolls


The trollface can be quite amusing when used in the right contexts – however behind his awkwardly humorous gaze is the embodiment of the Internet fad, online trolling.  It involves the posting of inflammatory or irrelevant messages within online community platforms, particularly forums, chat rooms and social networking websites, with intentions of inducing emotional reactions.  It can be as simple as posting annoying and unnecessary comments on a friend’s status on Facebook (which I am guilty of committing when I have too much time), to giving irrelevant or insulting responses to genuine requests on forum threads.  Here’s an example of ‘trolling’ someone’s Facebook:

Some right sreserved by avatar smolyar6

I think you get the idea….

Online trolling can be good fun at times, and practitioners often enjoy getting the attention from other users of the community.  However, with the rise of Facebook users in particular, the practice of online trolling has increased in frequency as well as severity, prompting anti-social behavior which defeats the purpose of a social networking site.  A prime example of the abuse of online trolling was witnessed here in Australia inFebruary 2010, in light of two murdered children Trinity Bates and Elliott Fletcher.  Online ‘trolls’ savagely defaced the many Facebook tribute pages that were intended to celebrate the lives the children had, which caused significant emotional distress for friends and family members.  The Australian communications minister Stephen Conroy  denounced these attacks and raised the issue of Web 2.0 platforms of the Internet becoming a site for ‘anarchy‘, particularly in relation to Facebook.  My verdict: trolling is no problem when it comes to fun and games, but know when not to cross the line.

Bachl M & Paget H. 2010. “Internet without laws ‘a recipe for anarchy”. Accessed on 3 June 2011