Let’s take a ‘Nosedive’ into today’s culture

Black Mirror’s first episode of season three; ‘Nosedive’ discusses the common questions that arise with the growth of technology and increased use of social media.

Why is there such an obsession with our online self rather than our real (offline) self?

The episode begins and we immediately meet Lacie (who is played by Bryce Dallas Howard). A character who is obsessed with achieving a certain aesthetic. It isn’t just Lacie but everyone in society as they rate each other on social media (constantly). This rating affects how one feels about themselves as well as how others perceive them. ‘Nosedive’ is a satirical and dark dystopian story about the potential dangers of creating false online personas. Lacie lives in a narcissist, pastel world that lacks in humanity.

Yes, this is an extreme and fictitious take on today’s social media craze. However, we can all relate. How many times have you scrolled down your Instagram feed and seen food perfectly organised and untouched? We’ve all seen at least one #acaibowl amrite? I love food so I say why not but there is definitely an obsessive nature that comes with creating a perfect online ‘mask’ for yourself. It seems like it would be exhausting to monitor your own self. We all have agency or choice in the matter but that choice can be easily swayed by others and their perception of us.

What mask are you wearing?

Open your mind to open source

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I watch an episode of Silicon Valley and instantly long to be a tech-genius. The ability to build software from scratch and frequently speak the language of 0’s and 1’s seems to be the ultimate dream…

In the land of open source, there are no gatekeepers and no restrictions placed on users. The people are given the power and could code their own systems if they wish. One can use, modify and adjust the internal system based on personal preference. It is entirely up to the user/s.

Open source encourages three main things for the user (unlike a closed source):

  • Collaboration
  • Modification
  • Customisation

All contributing to how powerful open source systems can be. Take Wikipedia for example. It’s an information goldmine and an open source with thousands of volunteers editing and adding information daily. The organisation of Wikipedia is based on the idea of collaboration with no one formally employed. An initial plan is placed allowing users to follow or evolve the system as they please. The choice is there.

Open source is based on the idea of self governance. There is no hierarchy, the control is handed over and BAM! it’s up to you. I was surprised at this idea as I thought surely there isn’t much of a difference. I discovered how wrong I was when my iPhone died and I needed a new phone. As a struggling student, I looked for the cheaper option. I found the OPPO A57 to be very ideal – under $500, aesthetically pleasing and an open source.

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A transmedia story

Technology continues to develop and so does the way we engage with our chosen entertainment. This as a result has allowed for the growth of transmedia storytelling. Transmedia storytelling is based on the idea that a single narrative can be bred into a collective. These versions being made onto multiple media platforms. Dr. Pamela Rutledge alludes to the idea of each being a puzzle piece contributing to the storyline as a whole. Daniel Clowes‘ Ghost World is a great example of a piece of transmedia storytelling as it began as a graphic novel and was then adapted into a film.

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Although, the storyline remains, there can be obvious differences from changing the medium (the medium is the message after all). The graphic novel’s colour scheme alone is different from the film. The graphic novel is limited to 3 colours; blue, black and white (see below).

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By translating it to film, realism is achieved and the story becomes more apparent via the perspective of the director, Terry Zwigoff. The film also introduces a new character into the plot line. The character of Seymour personifies common elements seen in the graphic novel. Seymour is fundamental to Enid’s characterisation and ongoing development as the protagonist. Henry Jenkins says an ‘ideal‘ transmedia story allows for “each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.” The character of Seymour is the “unique contribution” the film needs for the storyline to thrive on screen.

This additional medium enhances how the audience engages with the text, one can choose whether they want to read or watch Ghost World. Despite the original form being the graphic novel, the film allows the story to mature further. A story is no longer restricted to the one medium but many through the act of transmedia storytelling.

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Am I right to copy? 

Due to copyright infringement unfortunately not. What does this mean for creativity and the ongoing stream of ideas if everything is restricted? Today, user-generated content dominates with the invention of the internet.

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Has this ever happened to you mid YouTube binge?

The internet makes the monitoring of copyright tricky as it is virtually “a copy machine.” This can be a photograph, a phrase, a piece of music or even a colour shade. For instance, when rapper Ghostface Killah‘s Supreme Clientele came out in 2000, the album was accused of stealing samples from the Iron Man theme song. Jack Urbont, the creator of the theme song sued both Ghostface Killah and his label, SonyThe response from Sony was that Urbont had no standing in the case as the song was technically owned by Marvel. Urbont was hired to work by Marvel but not a formal employee. Urbont lost the case despite Marvel revealing Urbont as the “owner” but not the “licensee.”

Today, people “work for hire” regularly as individual contractors rather than full-time employees. It raises the question – who owns what? If you’re paid for a job, does that mean you’re removed from receiving any credit?

Marvel doesn’t hold a grudge (even though Urbont might) as Ghostface Killah was given a cameo in the Iron Man film (2008).

[Relevant note: It was ultimately deleted from the final cut.]

I made an audio piece (via Soundcloud) to accompany my discussion. Ironically, it was removed due to copyright.

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So, here is a short podcast instead:

 

What are your thoughts? Tweet me @sophemacy other interesting copyright cases. I would love to hear from you!

 

Ermahgerd?

Fame is an unusual concept based on how society values you. Actors, musicians and the incredibly wealthy are who we see to be ‘famous’. The idea of fame seems to be attractive to the general public, but once you’ve got fame does one still want it? Even as a meme star?

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Reddit, the home to many, many, maannnny memes allows everyday people to be “blessed by the meme gods” and receive widespread attention across the internet. The Ermahgerd Girl is a key example of the consequences of being the face of a meme. Maggie Goldenberger was doing what most 23 year olds do – travelling the world when her face begun to spread across the world wide web. This circulation led to new versions being made, from ERMAHGERD GERSBERMS to popular culture classics such as BERTMERNA new language was formed, using an uncommon “R” sound.

[This week’s reading] Vanity Fair concluded with the fact that Goldenberger felt delighted by the internet “laughing with her at the obviously ridiculous character she was playing—not at her” as well as the great feeling of nostalgia. However, Goldenberger was shocked that many years later she was photographed again, not as a character but of herself whilst holidaying in Hawaii.

[side-note: go Goldenberger for always being on holiday]

This picture under took the same process of circulation but with her real name attached. The picture was getting negatively attacked by internet users and continued to widely spread. This is when the internet ruins its own greatness as all the unnecessary negativity holds power.

So I ask, would you like to be the face of a meme like Goldenberger or these guys?

It seems the ultimate meme formula includes a relatable image to interpret, the ability to caption that image and the image’s durability; to remade over and over.

I re-created The Ermahgerd Girl meme to reflect today’s context:

 

 

To be or not to be?

Citizen journalism allows for ordinary people, like you or I to be content producers with no gatekeepers required.

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With this in mind, would you be a citizen journalist or are you already?

The internet has allowed a wonderful power shift to occur within this age of information. Content can be watched, read and engaged with from a range of devices. It is no longer a case of restricting yourself to watching the typical six o’clock news on a television but a choice of what, where and who. Speaking for myself, I mostly read my news from Twitter or from online publications. Content made from either @internet_user99 or The New York Times can be equally relevant.

The reliance on citizen journalism is absolute as the public can spread necessary information to each other without forced agenda or financial incentives. Jeff Deutchman, the director of 11/4/08 said “…there is something really interesting about the level of democracy involved in using crowd-sourced footage.” In his film 11/4/08, Deutchman used crowd-sourced footage to justify the documentary’s purpose; to show the direct result of Barack Obama getting elected as the 44th President of the United States.

Deutchman alluded to the fact that filmmaking is no longer as traditional as a “top-down structure where the director is in control” but a form of collaboration with the public, including citizen journalists. Both film-makers and journalists record culture and reflect upon it whilst citizen journalists are figures of culture.

Moral of the story, the internet is the best as it allows for citizen journalism to thrive (and because it’s home to the dankest memes).

 

References:

Image: Feel free to click on the image and it will direct to the source