Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Embracing Convergence Culture

In re-reading Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture, I have been left to ponder YouTube anew.  Now that YouTube has worn off some of its newness and novelty, some other trends are starting to form.  Yes, YouTube is still a place of cat videos and kids messing around with cameras, but the emergence of truly independent music artists is striking.  Because Apple is now letting YouTubers selling itunes of their musical creations, the distribution hierarchy of music has the potential of being side-stepped.  Many of these musicians are participating in convergence culture, they are remixing popular music and showing off their talent by performing popular songs.  In many instances, I enjoy these YouTube musicians' performances much more than the originals.  Musicians that normally wouldn't get noticed or perhaps would get bypassed by record labels because they don't fit the pop music "type" can easily find a fan following. 

I don't want to sound overly optimistic.  I have spent enough time on YouTube to know that there are also a lot of not very talent musicians out there.  Yet, I find the more I spend time with mainstream media, the more I become disillusioned and unsatisfied, and look to other sources, particularly YouTube to find something that fits with my sensibilities.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sometimes YouTube Gives Me Hope

I've been reading Digital Media and Democracy:  Tactics in Hard Times edited by Megan Boler with very mixed opinions about whether the internet and the proliferation of digital media is constructive or destructive to democracy.  Does being in a digital media saturated society with easy online interactions promote a "feeling" of being active online, which translates into not being active in the real world? Or does becoming interested in something online prompt to you real world action.  Especially, how can real life action be connected to something more explicitly political, not just merely consumer choice?  For example, does purchasing eco-friendly products really make a stand for environmental protection?

This collection is addressing democracy specifically, but I believe these questions can be posed to other areas as well.  As someone involved in humanitarian work, what kinds of implication do "feeling" active online, versus real action have for the poor, disenfranchised, or ill?  What good do literally buying into those products that donate a percentage of profit to charity do?   I believe in real human interaction to help real problems, but also believe in the power of information and access.  However, one can get easily lost in the overwhelming amounts of the digital online, distracted endlessly, and never find what you're really looking for in the same internet that provides the information to connect you with something that has the possibility of real solutions.

YouTube in particular makes me conflicted, but today, in spite of the silliness, it gave me some hope.  One of the Vloggers I watch got invited to Kenya by the Supply Education Group, and following his trip has been involved in raising money for a secondary school.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

writing culture on the bodies of celebrities

As I've been reading The Persistence of Whiteness : Race and Contemporary Hollywood Cinema edited by Daniel Bernardi, one article in particular made itself manifest in my everyday life encounters.  In Framing Jennifer Lopez: Mobilizing Race From the Wide Shot to the Close-up,  Priscilla Pena Ovalle discusses how Lopez  at different points in her career has been whitened in her appearance and her characterization, while simultaneously remaining an Othered female.  For non-white female celebrities, the pressure to conform with mainstream standards of beauty go beyond thin frames and flawless skin, but include de-emphasizing ethnic features, especially hair.

Perhaps I am just a little idealistic in my hope that mainstream media images of beauty will one day reflect the diversity of women in all shapes and colors, but the "persistence of whiteness" is correct so far.  I was particularly struck by the images of Beyonce's latest album cover, which inscribes whiteness all over her body. It is probably touched up, but nevertheless, she seems almost unrecognizable from the Beyonce I remember from Destiny's Child and a very current example of what Pena Ovalle addresses in her article.   

Monday, May 23, 2011

Theory and Life

To encourage myself while I go through the qualifying exam process, I thought I would post updated examples of what I've been reading about.  By the very nature of reading for a qualifying exam, some materials may be "essentials" but have very dated examples. So, to connect theory with my life, I will attempt to draw those connections here. 

Currently, I am reading  Understanding Popular Culture by John Fiske and found some of his comments particularly helpful with thinking through my own work on fan cultures.  Fiske says that because we live in a late capitalist society we must act as consumers.  Few of us make our own shoes or build our own houses, in short we live in a society that has made it nearly impossible to provide the basic necessities of life on our own.  We must consume.  It is in the how we consume that makes up popular culture.  The truly popular is consumption made to fit the needs of the people, perhaps in ways the producers did not intent.  The popular can satisfy a need the producers have not filled, or satisfy the need to rebel against impersonal consumer products.

These particular comments by Fiske connected with me because I have been struggling to find a different answer to the idea that consumerism contributes to a system that values things over people and there is no way to escape.  I think Fiske is right, we have to consume, we can't just go hide out in a cave somewhere and weave clothing out of grass and forage for food.  That's not the society we live in.  It is the way we consume that can disrupt our impersonal consumer society.

Updating Fiske, for me, means we have to explore the ways in which the internet, cheap digital technology, and cell phones have helped us take our consumer products and make them popular, by altering them, changing their meaning, and appropriating them.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011