The long tail effect

long-tail

“The internet imposes no barriers to entry, no economies of scale, no limits on supply” Clay Shirky. What began as a platform based on the hit driven model, which imposed limits of scale, entry cost and risk has since moved from hit driven culture to aggregates of niches, meaning it is no longer built off a model of scarcity but rather a platform built on abundance. An example indicative of this transition of models is bookstores and the amazon online bookstore.  While Amazon doesn’t necessarily have a store for consumers to walk through and purchase books, it does however represent infinite shelf space. The problem with this however which relates to the ‘long tail effect’ explains that this space doesn’t allow for the growth of niche content because amazon relies on the mass market ie what is popular and as we have learnt an abundance of information leads to scarcity of attention where niche content is concerned it can be difficult to locate.

4a6ll4m.png

Advertisements

Liquid Labour?

A Liquid Life assumes that the areas of production (work) and consumption (life) have converged. The 21st century has seen a spillover effect with work and life balance, making each of these aspects of our human condition contingent on the characteristics of the other (Deuze, 2006). The use of technology within the ‘workplace’ and ‘homelife’ is suggestive of this notion. Today, jobs no longer entail a seven-day a week 9 till 5 structure, work practices have become far more flexible. This is largely due to the new media in which we have access to. Such devices have shifted work hours into leisure hours, blurring the line and increasing the imbalance. Similarly is the idea of ‘presence bleed’ which explains how the location and time of ones labour is considered a secondary thought when it comes to expectation of work (Gregg). While it is obviously debatable whether giving this kind of freedom has been as effective as it proposes, it is no doubt that technology has made work life easier. The problem that remains is whether we are able to switch off from work and technology when it remains in our living room!

mLJSVNA.png

Deuze, M. (2006) ‘Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work’

Gregg, M. ‘Function Creep: Communication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace’

Cyberspace = Cyberliberty

Cyberspace has bought a new paradigm where we have seen the end nodes (users) handed the control. What previously functioned as a centralized network has moved to a more distributed one, creating a new kind of space beyond material borders where the free flow of information has prospered. Anyone, anywhere, at anytime is able to contribute to this network thus attributing to this new phenomenon of scale and speed (Mitew, 2016). Indicative of this is the notion of cyberpunk. Originally, cyberpunk began as a literary movement but has become a subcultural organism. Its foundations are built on a high-tech, futuristic, virtual reality and ubiquitous Internet connection. What cyberspace has allowed through genres like cyberpunk is the creation of a platform that boasts collective innovation in a completely libertarian way. It is in these spaces that lines are blurred between the virtual and the reality.

8ZaNkxY.png

Telegraph and things

Up until 1866 it took approximately 10 days to send a message across the Atlantic. Why did it take that long you ask? Because that’s how long it took for a boat to sail the distance to deliver the message. For anyone born after the telegraph and the following tech advancements it’s difficult to understand a world before global communication. Today we are so accustom to getting a message that was typed 1.5 seconds ago! And when we don’t get that instantaneous reply, we get annoyed. The first transatlantic telegraph cable, however was the initial development that enabled messages to be sent in a matter of minutes, dramatically changing the history of transatlantic communication. This global communication system often described as a type of nervous system is suggestive of the way in which matter (information) is consciously and continually produced, contributing to the adaption of the changing communication landscape we are experiencing currently.

5EL3tge.png

 

Orientalism and Film

According to Edward Said, Orientalism is a style or thought based upon ontological and epistemological distinction made between the ‘Orient’ and the ‘Occident’, meaning the East and West (Said, 2001, p.1992). It is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the US (AANM, 2011). However, the term ‘Orient’ has garnered a more widespread understanding where we are not just referring to the Arabian culture specifically, but rather the Orient as a western term for the Far East (China, India, Japan), the Near East (Greece, Balkans) and the Middle East (Persian Gulf, Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Israel, Afghanistan).

The notion of Orientalism implies viewing these cultures as exotic, inferior and a little uncouth compared to the Western world, which is why there has been the long-standing fiction that the east and the west are two completely separate entities that represent two different ideals. Orientalism has long existed dating back to the European Enlightenment period and the Colonization of Arabia. The Arab world was and still is often painted as an exotic and mysterious place of sand, harems and belly dancers (AANM, 2011). It is this ideology of the eastern world that the western world has essentially perpetuated, that has permeated into our society and way of thinking.

Many of us are likely to associate these ideas with these cultures, ie. the Disney movie ‘Aladdin’ in which the western stereotypes of the Arabian culture are significantly highlighted. However like Said explains, the structure of Orientalism is nothing more than a structure of lies and myths (Said, 2001, p.1992). Orientalism is recognized as more of a process whereby the west has consciously orientalized the orient in such a way that the heterogeneity of these countries are placed into this western created category ‘oriental’ thus characterizing their exotic difference and inferiority to the west, which has permitted westerns to make generalizations and strategically place all cultures into a monolithic racialising fantasy (Teo, 2013, p.2).

One film in particular in which Orientalism is certainly not absent is the Blockbuster Hollywood film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. The story loosely follows an American woman’s quest to find herself and happiness by venturing to Italy, India and Bali. It is from the beginning of the film that viewers are instantly hit with the stereotypes the movie foreshadows about finding balance and reconnecting with spirituality that can only be achieved in the east. From here we see the woman traveling to India to visit a guru’s ashram and a medicine/meditation man in Bali.

(‘Eat, Pray, Love’ screen caps)

What the film does is fail to provide the audience with new knowledge about these cultures, instead relying on the preexisting stereotypes. This film and many other orientalist films are not properly representing the East and instead falling back on the existing notion of the East as a place of timeless, otherworldly and incomprehensible, waiting to be discovered by Westerners. So while Orientalism is essentially a created theory of dominance and nothing more than a fake fantasy that extends to films, we need to be able to get beyond the point where the East is no longer subject to the West’s exploitation of pre-existing ideas.

 

 Arab American National Museum (AANM), 2011, ‘What is Orientalism’, Arab American National Museum, viewed 4th April 2016, http://www.arabstereotypes.org/why-stereotypes/what-orientalism

Mask, M, 2010, ‘Eat, Pray, Love, Leave: Orientalism Still Big Onscreen, National Public Radio, viewed 4th April 2016, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129254808

Said, E, 2001, ‘From Orientalism’, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, W.W. Norton, New York, pp. 1991-1993.

Teo, H, 2013, ‘Orientalism: An Overview’, Australian Humanities Review, 54, pp.1-20, viewed 5th April 2016, http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-May-2013/teo.html

A world of Self(ies) gratification

Selfie ~ a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website (Oxford Dictionaries). Also named as the word of the year in 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries.

Today posting selfies on social media accounts has a direct bearing on our identity or so called perceived identity. Our Identity is constructed out of interactions with people and particularly the people we associate with. The idea that we use other people to mirror our own behavior is eminent and extends to social media. Everyday we are either consciously or subconsciously building our identity, which we can further project through the ample social media sites we are contingent on. The people we associate with and the things we are interested in cause us to like and post certain things. All of which is a reflection of what every one else in our surroundings is doing.

Thus we have the SELFIE. Just like a sort of cultural appropriation, selfies have become the norm, undoubtedly fixed in our technologically driven generation. But while they may be the norm, do people look down on this type of free marketing?

“Posting or exchanging selfies is often dismissed as frivolous and self-absorbed, but the relationship between subjectivity, practice and social use of those images seems to be more complex than this dismissal allows.” (Tiidenberg, & Gomez Cruz, 2015)

The whole notion of self-portraits has in some way existed for centuries, dating back to the 15th century early Renaissance where artists depicted themselves as their subject through drawings, paintings and sculptures. The only distinction is that the phenomenon has progressed with time and technology. With this move has become a type of commercial movement in which, the art of self portraiture has been taken out and we have this new wave of commercially driven people using social media as a form of self promotion.

Personally, I am not one to take /share a selfie. Quite simply I do not have time to find the right lighting/angle for my face to share with the world. Maybe if I had the time….. but probably not ha! However, don’t let my lack of ambition towards them deter you from thinking that they aren’t popular and that people aren’t commodifying off them, cause they are.

Selfies are taken for a few reasons, all of which relate to status, attention, and the rise of the micro celebrity. As suggested by Joshua Gamson, “celebrity culture is increasingly populated by unexceptional people who have become famous and by stars who have been made ordinary” (Evans, 2016).

For example Jay Alvarrez is somewhat of a famous Instagram user, who has accumulated around 3.5 million followers. And while his profile may be aesthetically pleasing with every photo having a common thread of aqua hues, it really is just photos of his face in exotic locations. He is just one who has intentionally reaped the monetary value social media provides, which has become a full time job for some.

Though I was unable to find out exactly how much he earns, I was able to find some more general stats. For example, Instagram is one that users can develop a pretty hefty follower base quite easily, given you know what your doing. On average, if you have hundreds of thousands of followers you can make anywhere between $500 to $5,000 a post and if you have upwards of a million followers, you can get $20,000 to $100,000 a shot (Schaefer, 2015). Crazy! And this has extended to brands, spending more than a $1 billion per year on sponsored Instagram posts; it has become a rapidly developing economy (Schaefer, 2015).

While it is all good and well for some attaining that kind of money, I don’t think the rise of the micro celebrity is necessarily a healthy one. And despite attention being the new currency, it is slightly worrying that people can become all too consumed by the false projections of social media.

Here are some of the best ~ the creations are endless…

 

Evans, N, 2016, Looking at ourselves’, lecture, Emerging Issues in Media and Communications, University of Wollongong, delivered 9th March.

Schaefer, K, 2015, ‘How Bloggers make money on Instagram’, Harpers Bazaar, viewed 28th March 2016, http://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/trends/a10949/how-bloggers-make-money-on-instagram/

Tiidenberg, K & Gomez Cruz, E, 2015, ‘Selfies, Image and the Re-making of the body’ Body and Society, vol.21, no.4 p.78.

 

 

OpenStreetMap = the Wikipedia of Maps

Maps are necessary; they essentially represent the world in a more comprehensible way. Mapping has always had a preeminent means of recording and communicating information about location and spatial characteristics of the natural world, society and culture (Lambert, Ysebaert & Zanin, 2013). However, for most people, the use of maps mostly extends to navigation and google maps as the answer. The problem with this is that when one company takes monopoly over one industry, they take monopoly over the information you’re given and shape it (Wroclawski, 2014).

Openstreetmap is one example of a relatively new mapping program launched in 2004 that places emphasis on local knowledge in generating data from roads and trails to cafes and slums across the globe and is one that is steadily growing, having registered half a million members by 2011 (Neis & Zipf, 2012). The platform uses aerial imagery, GPS devices, and low-tech field maps and is built and driven by a community of mappers (Openstreetmap, 2016). For many Openstreetmap may be foreign because of the domination of google maps that is programed onto almost every technological device, however, it is openstreetmaps that offers something far more inclusive.

The benefit of Openstreetmap lies in its ability to show what google maps doesn’t. Because it is a free, editable map, viewers are given access to disaster prone areas, rural landscapes and communities that have been previously excluded from most mapping software largely because of lack of knowledge or difficulty in GPS access. Openstreetmaps has been particularly praised for its ability to show areas such as slums and disaster hit that have required rescue teams and food and supply access. One particular example was ‘Project Haiti’, which highlighted the significance of Openstreetmaps after the 2010 earthquake. Within 48 hours, Openstreetmaps had provided high resolution images of the area post earthquake, and after the first month 600 people had contributed information to Openstreetmap. Openstreetmap became the default map for rescue teams and humanitarian mapping non-government organizations, including the United Nations (HOT, 2011).

Below is a sequence of maps that demonstrates the work of the contributors behind Openstreetmaps and the effect in which they had on Haiti and the global aid effort.

1.jpg

OSM at the time of the earthquake

2.jpg

OSM after a couple of days

3.png

OSM after some months

Openstreetmaps interest to not only promote equity through showing even the smallest scale locations but also in its ability to maintain privacy makes it unmatched. While Google is spending $1 billion annually on maintaining maps, the multi billion-dollar industry also sells much of its data back to third parties (Sawers, 2014). Openstreetmaps however, being a non-for-profit, free service that is essentially helping with the promotion from small businesses to communities, doesn’t reveal any personal information such as current location and also gives the data earned back to the community for the benefit of other products and services (Sawers, 2014).

All in all, there is no doubt that Openstreetmap has become the more equitable choice of maps in properly representing communities, it is one that prides itself on respecting people, communities and privacy.

 

Humanitarian Openstreetmap Team (HOT), 2011, ‘Haiti’, Humanitarian Openstreetmap Team (HOT), viewed 2 April 2016, https://hotosm.org/projects/haiti-2

Lambert, N, Ysebaert, R & Zanin, C, 2013, ‘Mapping Guide- Cartography in ESPON’, ESPON 2013 Database, viewed 2 April 2016, https://www.espon.eu/export/sites/default/Documents/ToolsandMaps/MappingGuide/MAPPING_GUIDE_EXTERNAL.pdf

Neis, P, Zipf, A, 2012, ‘Analyzing the contributor Activity of a Volunteered Geogrpahic Information Project- The Case of Openstretmap’, International Journal of Geo-Information (ISPRS), vol.1, no.2, p.146, viewed 2 April 2016, http://www.mdpi.com/2220-9964/1/2/146/htm

Openstreetmap, 2016, ‘About Openstreetmaps’, Openstreetmap, viewed 2 April 2016, http://api06.dev.openstreetmap.org/about

Sawers, P, 2014, ‘The rise of Openstreetmap: a quest to conquer Google’s mapping empire’, The Next Web, viewed 2 April 2016, http://thenextweb.com/insider/2014/02/28/openstreetmap/#gref

Wroclawski, S, 2014, ‘Why the World Needs Openstreetmap’, Emacsen.net, viewed 2 April 2016, http://blog.emacsen.net/blog/2014/01/04/why-the-world-needs-openstreetmap/