Tag Archives: Digital Culture

Why I’m giving up on YouTube

For years, YouTube has been one of my primary sources of entertainment. I have used it to search for videos on specific topics, but mostly I’ve used YouTube as a source of casual watching. My list of ever-changing recommended videos has been an interesting mix of entertaining and informative content about topics I am interested in. But something has changed. YouTube is not as entertaining to me as it once was, and I’m finally giving up on YouTube as a source of casual entertainment. And there are three reasons for it.

The mid-video ads

I don’t mind ads on YouTube. Ads is what makes the platform work: it provides income for content creators as well as the company, and watching ads (most of which I can skip anyway) is a small price to pay for great content. But as I wrote in my previous blog post, ads in the middle of videos are a big mistake. Unlike on TV, where ads are shown at more appropriate times (often introduced by a show’s host), ads in the middle of videos on YouTube appear very suddenly and abruptly. A video can be cut in mid-sentence so abruptly that my heart skips a beat. This is a terrible way to show ads, and it makes for a terrible viewing experience. And some videos, even short 5-10 minute videos, have up to three such ad placements in their videos. There are only so many abrupt and invasive ads one can take before getting really agitated. And they seem to become more and more popular, as more videos have mid-video ads.

Hypersensitive algorithmes

When casually watching recommended videos I’m very dependent on YouTube’s algorithmes to find content that I like. While I’m fully aware of how these processes create a filter bubble where I’m only exposed to one type of content, casual viewing requires some sort of selection process being done for me. And this has worked well, for a long time. But in the past year I have noticed something going very wrong with the algorithmes. They seem to be hypersensitive to what I watch: If I watch just one video on a new topic, even if it was because of an interest in that video alone, YouTube floods my recommended videos list with that topic.

As an example, a while back I watched a video about debunking the 9/11-conspiracy. But since then, I have been recommended hundreds of conspiracy videos about secret governments, lizard people and the Earth being flat. While I do find conspiracy theories fascinating, I’m not interested enough to spend my whole day watching them. It has come to a point where I have to be careful about which videos I watch, because I know that introducing myself to a new topic may lead to that topic dominating my recommended videos list for weeks – as well as my search results. Recently I searched for a documentary on ancient Assyria, and in stead of getting scientific history-documentaries, my search results were filled with “documentaries” about ancient aliens.

I can certainly see why some academics are warning us about the filter bubble. If I actually believed in conspiracy theories about ancient aliens or the Earth being flat, YouTube’s recommendations would have sent me down a wild and speculative rabbit hole of confirming content. But for me personally, the problem is that YouTube seems to think that just because I have a momentary casual interest in a certain topic, that topic should now dominate my YouTube experience.

I’m not really learning anything

While my previous two points is about YouTube and the way it functions, this last point is more about me. I like watching educational videos about science, history and technology. But I have come to realize that I’m not really learning anything from them. Once I’ve finished watching one 15 minute video and start another one, I may feel like I know something that I didn’t know before. But it doesn’t take long to forget what I’ve watched. The brain isn’t built to passively receive 10-15 minute chunks of information and store it before receiving the next chunk. It’s only when I stop after watching a video and truly consider what I’ve learned that I actually learn it. That’s why it’s often the last video I watch in day that sticks with me. So I’ve spent many hours of my life thinking I was adding to my pool of knowledge, when in reality the acquired knowledge is quite small compared to the time I’ve invested.

So, I don’t learn much from YouTube – but there’s still the entertainment. There’s more to life than learning, and it’s perfectly fine to just sit back and relax with some purely entertaining videos. Accept it isn’t anymore, as my first two points still stand. A hypersensitive algorithm makes it difficult to search for videos and to watch random recommendations, and mid-video advertisement is a pain.

I’m not saying that I will never use YouTube again. I can still use it to search for specific things when I need it, like how-to videos or tips about how to train my dog to behave. And every time I watch a movie, I want to see if there’s an “Honest Movie Trailer” about it. It’s the casual, passive watching that’s become a problem for me. The recommendations that I’ve been so dependent on are going crazy, and the videos are being abrupted by the most horrible ad placements sense people started tattooing company logos on their forehead for money. So for now, my need for casual watching is just going to have to be fulfilled by Netflix and HBO.

Who decides the rules?? week 6.0

When building up the rules and aesthetics for a game there must be a lot to have in mind and take in consideration.

Who are the target, in what context should this game be played and what should be the outcome?

I was thinking about for example a shooting game, where first (?) player are out to get “the bad guys”. Who is the first player and who are the bad guys? How does one represent the good and the bad without anyone, for example person, organization or minority taking offend? Should the characters look like humans, what kind of color would they be? How should they dress, and which colors? I have been running colors through my mind and I associate every color with something.

Everyone got offended in 2017, at least in Norway… I´m not just thinking of how games aesthetics might offend someone, but also how the aesthetic contribute to player´s attitude, feelings and opinions. How a game alone and parallel with society can have an impact on a person and maybe even change perceptions. I´m noticing that I´m steering this in a negative direction, how ever, it must be important to take this into consideration and be aware when producing games. Must it not??

On another note. I believe that some people change for better or evolve in a positive direction after interacting with others online or through game. What if a game can help you gain confidence, help you get to know yourself better, help you dare to take place, show you what you are good at, what if a game can make it easier for you to go out that door and be you. What if there was a game that can help you figure out possible directions or life paths, a game that would help you maybe water thee seed that once was planted in your mind.

Did this end to deep? I just had to get my thoughts down and out there. I am probably not the first.

Before I wrote this I did not google, so I think that will (or at least should) be the next step.

And HEY I´m wondering!! How big of a deal is politics when it comes to games??

Comment sections vs. Facebook

Today was a very special day. Today I handed in my master thesis in Digital Culture. I’ve been researching comments on news articles, trying to determine what is the difference between commenting on news articles on a newspapers comment section and its Facebook page. And by the end of it, I ended up creating a website where i present the research, as well as a creative work illustrating the difference between comments on the two platforms, called Comments and Platforms.

Now, after reading and researching comments for what seems like forever, I am left with a new outlook on commenting. I used to think, as many others, that comment sections were vile and horrible places, filled with racism and sexism. But this has not been my experience while researching them. I have read many comments over the past year, and read a lot about them, and I have rarely seen what I would call uncivil behavior. Now, it may be that I’ve been lucky: that the newspaper I have been studying has very civil readers (doubtful), or that its moderators are quick and effective at deleting what may be a swarm of derogatory comments. The latter is more likely, though if that was commonplace I would expect to see signs of it: weird “gaps” in a communication, like replies to comments that aren’t there.

What I have found among the thousands of comments I have read is mostly positive or neutral. There are certainly quite a few idiots writing comments on news stories, but there are also some genuinely informative comments that have shed new light on a story. And of course, there are those comments that are just entertaining to read. And even if 80-90% of the comments are pretty much useless, isn’t that also true for media in general? I’m sure that most of us scroll by most of the content presented to us on Facebook, news sites, YouTube, Spotify or wherever, only being interested in a fraction of it.

I have come to believe that comments, and the comment sections they are written in, can be quite valuable. The world wide web gives everyone a voice. But comment sections gives everyone a voice – and an audience of as much as millions of potential readers. And journalists have reported that comments have positively impacted their work in several ways, including providing enhanced critical reflection and new story leads (Graham and Wrigth 2015).

But there is a problem. Even if I haven’t seen much of it myself, uncivil behavior in comment sections do exist. And anonymity is often blamed for this – wrongly, according to my own research. So many news sites began to use a Facebook plugin to power their comment sections – requiring commenters to user their Facebook profile. And worse: it means that it’s becoming more and more common for a Facebook account to be reqired for participation in public debates.

Some news sites have decided to close their comment sections in favor of using their Facebook pages to engage with readers. This was the reason for my own research. I think it’s important to know what such a move to Facebook is doing to the democratic quality of commenting. What I found was that there is more conversations, debates, questions, arguments and informative comments on a newspaper’s comment section that its Facebook page. Comments on Facebook are shorter, more reactive, and rarely fuel discussions.

So the quality of commenting is much lower on Facebook than a newspapers comment section. But what does improve on Facebook is the spreadability of an article because of the higher number of interactions through commenting, likes and reactions – all of which are automatically shared and spread to other people. The cynical side of me is tempted to think that this is the real reason for some news sites to shift their focus to Facebook.

In the end, the question is what do we wan’t with comment sections. Do we want them to be a place for public debate? Do we want them to be a safe space? Or do we want them to be removed because they’re not really good for anything? Personally, I’m in favor of keeping and trying to improve those platforms that facilitate public debate. And what I have found is that comment sections, even with their shortcomings, are better at facilitating public debate than commenting on articles on Facebook.

 

Sources

Graham, Todd, and Scott Wright. 2015. ‘A Tale of Two Stories from “Below the Line”: Comment Fields at the Guardian’. The International Journal of Press/Politics 20, no. 3: 317-338. DOI: 10.1177/1940161215581926

 

Just a little hello

Hello blog, hello fellow students, hello world.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Kamilla Sara Isabella, soon turning 26 and currently living in Bergen whilst studying at University of Bergen.

I will be posting weekly to update you on my digital progress.

I created the blog in 2014 because of a digital marketing course I had in Oslo. Every now and then I think about the blog, I think about posting – sometimes I ended up doing so and some of those posts has been deleted and left are a few pictures.

I imagine that this blog will be my silent sparring partner during the course Network Narratives (comments and inputs along the way are appreciated), and hopefully through the rest of my journey within Digital Culture.

After these two first weeks I feel that I have gotten a taste of what this spring will bring. Along with this blog I have created a twitter account. I am not especially active yet. I hope to find the tweeter(?) in me, because up until now it has not really been my kind of platform.

As well as having a feel of the course it is already having me think about my direction in the digital field. We had a studio visit with Brett Gaylor. Gaylor is the filmmaker of the documentary series “Do not track”. The series as art was cool and and the subject of tracking is both exciting and scary. It lead me to think about what this can mean to me in terms of my own privacy but also workwise.

Time to show you my “accomplishment” this week. After been given 30 minutes to create a meme, which is something I never have done before this is what I ended up with.

meme

 

Here I am. I will see YOU next week.

God søndag!

– Isabella

Lo and behold, we approach a forest

In October 29, 1969, the first message was sent on the Internet: “LO”. The system crashed after two letters while trying to send the word LOGIN. This might not be enough to consider it electronic literature, but it’s certainly a starting point for the presence of text in networked computer environments.

Anagram

To trigger creativity when searching for a name for the blog, I used the limitation of an anagram.

So the journey is initiated, and we pursue to explore the territories of Digital Culture, Networked Narratives and Digital Alchemy. We build an online community, and share the learning experience as we enter the forests of Digital Art, Electronic Literature, and Computer Games. And we marvel as our path continues between the trees, and multimodal fireworks unfold with subgenres branching, overlapping and interweave.

memex

The Memex

It was interesting to read the article “As we may think” by Vannevar Bush, exploring the future of storing and sharing information. The “Memex”, an imaginative machine was able to store images, documents, annotations and books, and even link them together. Although Bush envisioned a mechanical and analog machine, the essence of the article is a very detailed description of what we today know as computers, and the Internet. Hinting to the internet, the foreword of the article states, “This paper by Dr. Bush calls for a new relationship between thinking man and the sum of our knowledge”.

memes

The result of the meme making lab this week.

I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the art history of dadaism, found object art and controlled randomness etc. The playfulness and punk attitude in It resonated with me. I support the idea that the trueness of art can’t be measured by how difficult it is to produce, by the amount of education the artist has, or by the genre and style. Everyone can make art, and it’s not reserved to an elite. Of course there will always be room for artistic growth and development, but that shouldn’t be an obstacle on the road of creativity.

Thinking of it now, the acronym for Daily Digital Alchemy, “dda” reminds me of the dada movement from the art history. Perhaps they are related in other ways too. Anyway, I find it useful and inspiring to be thrown into tweeting, blogging, dda’ing and meme making. To have this creative outlet, and a little push to keep going is a great opportunity to learn new things and develop.

I am happy to be a part of this, and I look forward to a lot more input, inspiration, challenges, community and creativity in the continuation.

 

How having more music has made me less interested in it

As Facebook is making a play for the music industry, commentators are speculating about how social media is affecting artists and music producers. Digby Pearson argues that social media is making music fans more fragmented, and that being a fan of an artist has gone from being about going to concerts to clicking “like” on Facebook. Vince Neilstein argues for social media in his article, claiming that social media has helped artists to reach more listeners (Source).

The arguments by Pearson and Neilstein are typical of the debate about music in a social media age. On the one side there are those who praise social media as a way to reach a larger audience. And on the other side there are those who think that social media belittles music by changing and simplifying the relationships between artists and fans. But reading Neilstein’s article made me think about another issue: how does the modern music industry, with Spotify as the main source of music for a lot of people, change our relationship to music as an art form? I have no answers to this question other than to reflect on how my own relationship to music has changed over the years.

 

The first music I can remember owning was a vinyl record by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, handed down to me from my father. Later, when my childhood bedroom was updated with a CD-player, most of the music I listened to was collections: movie soundtracks and rock- and pop collections. I never had a lot of music, and some of it was bad. But I listened to the music I had again and again, until I knew most of the songs by heart. And I appreciated every song, good or bad.

When I got my first computer at age 14, at a time of dial-up modems and a painfully slow internet connection, CD’s (and occasionally a floppy disk) with Mp3 files were traded amongst my friends. I remember having a collection of about 150 Mp3 files, including rock, rap, pop and some comedy songs. Just like with my earlier CD collection, I listen to these few songs so many times I can still remember the lyrics to many of them.

As internet speeds improved, and I discovered torrent sites, my music collection started to increase. For the first time I couldn’t listen to all my music in a day. I had to start organizing my files into folders. My collection of music, although not dramatically large, became something I had to manage. And even though all the music in the world was now easily obtainable, I built a carefully selected collection of music – I only wanted to have music I liked.

From my first vinyl record to my collection of less then legally obtained music, one thing was always true: I knew my music. I knew what music I had, what I liked and I knew some of it by heart. Today, I don’t own any vinyl records. My CD collection is very limited. And I don’t have a collection of downloaded Mp3-files, because I eventually grew up and wanted to get my music legally.

 

Today I have a Spotify subscription, and all the music in the world has never been so easily available to me. But what does that mean for my relationship to music? Unlike before, I no longer know my music. In stead of CD’s or folders with Mp3 files, I now have a collection of playlists on Spotify, many of which are labeled “something something – check out later”. Ironically, I felt more of an ownership of the music I previously downloaded from torrent sites. I at least had to work for that music – I had to battle sleazy ads for magic pills and dating sites, search for and find the right files, and risk getting a computer virus or a Scientology documentary instead of music (yeah, that really happened once).

On Spotify I don’t have to do anything. And everything is there. And yet, I never feel like there’s anything to listen to (talk about a first-world problem). There’s too much music to browse through, too much to feel any kind of ownership over. And Spotify is filter-bubbling me the same music suggestions all the time, so even when I do try finding something new, it’s still the same.

Of course I enjoy Spotify, and I’m not going to end my subscription anytime soon. But I can’t help feeling that, with the massive music library Spotify offers, something has been lost. And yes, I am spoiled – complaining about too much and too easy to find music. I guess if I have to find some sort of moral to this rambling, it’s that the more you have of something, the less it is worth.

Lurkers and the Silent Majority

“The Silent Majority” is, according to Julia Kirby, a phrase that President Nixon used to describe the people who were not against the Vietnam war, who Nixon believed to be in majority, but were less vocal than the anti-war protesters. And during the 2016 presidential election, then Republican candidate Donald Trump claimed that he would win the election, despite the polls saying the opposite. Trump justified his claim by referring to the silent majority – claiming that there were far more Trump-voters than what the polls suggested.

The idea behind the silent majority is simple: the most vocal are not necessarily the majority. Kelly McNamara writes about the 90-9-1-rule about online communities, which states that 90% tend to be engaged but less vocal, 9% tends to be more vocal by commenting and sharing, and 1% tend to be the most vocal by creating new content. While the numbers may not be exactly 90, 9 and 1, the idea is simply that most engaged people don’t contribute. These are often referred to as lurkers.

Whether you call them the silent majority or lurkers, I can’t help thinking that someone is making a big deal about something that is actually quite simple: not everyone has a desire to expose themselves by contributing online, and we can’t know what everyone is thinking about something. The silent majority is not some organized, underground revolutionary force. It’s a statistical blind spot. It’s not knowing everything about everyone (thankfully).

Of course it’s interesting to look into why some people don’t wish to contribute much online. And it’s interesting to ask: how would things look if they did? If the internet is to be a democratic tool, then everyone should have the same opportunities to contribute. So if lurkers are not contributing because of some external factors such as fear of internet trolling or low digital literacy, then that is a problem. And it should be addressed.

The Filter Bubble and the News

The filter bubble is a technological phenomenon, where one’s opinions are amplified by algorithms that recommend content that one is more likely to be interested in, while filtering out all other content (Flaxman, Goel and Rao 2016, 299). If, for example, Google’s search algorithms have learned that you are a liberal person, the results of political search queries may be more likely to be liberal than conservative. And if you watch a lot of horror movies on Netflix, you are more likely to see suggestions for these types of movies in the future.

In his book, “The Filter Bubble” (2011), Eli Pariser, tells the story of how journalism has gone from being a passive receiving of information by a few publishers, to an overwhelming wealth of articles produced by both professionals and amateurs. This creates a problem of how articles are being presented to the reader. Sense no one is capable of reading every article being produced, some filtration has to take place. The problem is that when this filtration is based on algorithms filtering information based on what they think we like, people are less likely to be exposed to new ideas and challenging information.

I believe that the Filter Bubble is potentially a serious problem for democracy and public debate. I also believe, however, that it is necessary and a result of the natural development of the digital world. In his book, “The Googlization of Everything” (2011), Siva Vaidhyanathan argues that the number of available information online leads to information overload. The very title of one of his chapters, “The Googlization of Memory”, hints at how our very human and biological processes – such a as memory – is being digitally expanded. If one accepts the wealth and availability of information online as an extension of our memory, then there must also be an extension of our biological filtration processes and working memory, that – just like the algorithms of the filter bubble – filtrate information based on what is believed to be in our interest.

It is difficult to find a balance between the the necessary algorithmic filtration systems and the democratic dangers of the filter bubble. For starters, I do miss the option to turn off filtration for a while – an exploration mode where information is presented that is not based on any guesses of what I might like. And hopefully, awareness of the filter bubble will help people become more critical of their news sources.

 

Sources

Flaxman, Seth, Sharad Goel, and Justin M. Rao. 2016. “Filter bubbles, echo chambers, and online news consumption”. Public Opinion Quarterly 80, no. S1: 298-320

Pariser, Eli. 2011. The filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. London: Penguin Books

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. 2011. The Googlization of Everything. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Creating desire for a new product

In his book “Evil by Design”, Chris Nodder writes about how to create envy and use it to enhance the popularity of a product. The first step in creating envy, according to Nodder, is to create desirability for a product. Nodder gives ut 5 ways to create desire:

  1. Secrecy: Being one of the few in the know about an item, making people speculate about the product.
  2. Scarcity: Small numbers, low availability of the item. This creates an urgency for people to get the product while they still can, and makes people think other’s like it.
  3. Identity: Identify the item with a desirable lifestyle, person or activity.
  4. Aesthetics: The item is pleasing to look at, hold and use.
  5. Functionality: The item solves a problem in an elegant way.

As an example of how desire has been created in this way, Nodder brings up Apple and the iPhone. I believe that he is right, that Apple is a very good example of a company that has mastered the methods of creating desirability.

But Apple does have an advantage in being an old, well-known company. They are pioneers in the computer market, and they reinvented themselves in the late 90’s as a company creating computers, and later Mp3-players, with an exciting new design.

So what about a start-up company with a brand new product? How can they create desire? Point 3, 4 and 5 from the list above is certainly something a start-up can do, if they have reasonably good technical- and design skills, and some start-up money and a head for marketing. But point 1 and 2 are different from a start up company. Secrecy, that few people are in the know about an item, is automatic – because no one has ever heard of the company or product before. In fact, secrecy becomes more of a problem, as the company would want to get the word out about what they are doing.

The second point, scarcity, is also somewhat automatic. A start-up company may not have the finances to mass produce whatever they’re making. Crowd sourcing and pre-purchase is a good way to get around this problem, because the company can produce their products knowing that they are financed and that some of the items are already sold. It also helps to make people feel ownership of the product before they’ve bought it, which Nodder mentions as a good strategy later in the same chapter.

A start-up company has to create functional and aesthetically pleasing products with an identity first. Then forget about secrecy – get the word out about it. And while scarcity can be a good way to create hype about a product, it is also a gamble for a start-up who needs to sell items to stay in business. Nodder’s list of ways to create desire still applies to start-ups. It’s just that these companies should turn the list up-side-down and focus on functionality, aesthetics and identity first. And they should just forget about secrecy – they can’t afford to be secretive about what they’re doing.