Media, Fans, & Participatory Culture: The Changing Landscape of Media Consumption

erotic-fiction-1422584338The Internet has changed the way in which we consume media in that it has created a space for an empowered, participatory audience. Media is no longer part of a simple input-output structure (i.e. create and consume), it’s now cyclical in that both sides are influenced by the other. As an audience and as media consumers, the web allows for participation: we can engage with our media, we can edit and alter our media, we can appropriate our media (i.e. turn it into something new or different), and we can provide impactful feedback that can even influence original media owners and creators to change their media artifacts.

There is also a burgeoning balance of power between fans and product owners due to this change. For instance many fans of popular shows, books, and comics engage in fanfiction communities, where they write, post, and engage in pseudo-original narratives based on actual original characters, stories, and entertainment media universes. (For example, someone might take the character of Jon Snow from HBO’s/George R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series and write a fanfiction story with him that strays from the actual narrative of the original series.) This both engages in the media that exists while creating something new that the fan becomes a very real part of.  Fans can also mash universes in crossover fanfiction (i.e. stories with characters from different universes, like having Arya Stark meet Captain America to battle Darth Vader).

This type of fan participation, however, also creates tension between the consumer and the creator, as it blurs the lines of ownership and spurs conversation on rights, legality, content ownership, boundaries, and to some degree ethics. Nonetheless, this sort of participation (a “participatory culture,” as described by Jenkins) is revolutionary for empowering fans and consumers to impact the media it consumes. This momentum can be seen a lot in the realm of TV series and comic books, where fans have shown the power to band together in order to bring certain characters or series back from the dead.

Advertisements

Group Creative Process: Milestones and Challenges

TeamworkMy group filmed our clips this past weekend. In and of itself the filming was a huge accomplishment, as it not only brought us together as a cohesive group, but also showed how we could overcome challenges as a unit (including a mishap with some cars getting towed, as well as a few audio issues). Another accomplishment was working together on finalizing the script, which was a lot of fun. We already had the bare bones laid out of what we wanted to get across, but getting together as a group and finalizing and running lines was not only fun but also a n exciting challenge.

One of the hurdles I anticipate involves having to rerecord some audio for a voice-over, as since we didn’t have any professional-quality recording devices, some of our on-camera audio was too low and we have to record it. My concern is regarding syncing the rerecorded audio to the actual video, though I’m sure we’ll figure it out together! Another hurdle will be simply editing the video to make it consistent, professional, and funny. I think finding the perfect music bed for this will be a fun challenge for us!

Some of the tools that we’re going to in editing our video, tools that we’ve explored in this class, include audio editing (such as Garageband) in order to do our voice-overs and edit our existing audio for optimal effect, as well as video editing software to actually piece our video together cohesively. I look forward to finally using all these tools for this finalized, major project, as it will certainly synthesize and put to good use everything that we’ve learned altogether, and this time as a group team.

Utiling Media in Multi-Media Projects: Adding Sound, Images, and Video Content

Audio and visual media are aesthetic tools that can help propel any project to a higher level, making something more engaging, more informed, or more entertaining. For our final project video, which we are creating a loose parody of The Exorcism with (albeit more thematically and less in a scene-by-scene narrative sense), it may be useful to incorporate some additional media artifacts into our presentation.

Audio:

Sound is absolutely critical for any media project. (Even the absence of sound, which we can consider a sort of audio cue in and of itself, can create a powerful effect in media.) As we are doing a video hat parodies a classical horror film, it may make sense to use spooky or scary sounding music to score our video.

This independent music below, “Slenderman” by David Jaworski, might be a nice sonic addition to our video to create an over-the-top, comedic feel, since it’s quite spooky and while we’re referencing an iconic horror film, our take is much more humorous and light-hearted:

//widgets.jamendo.com/v3/track/1078984?autoplay=0&layout=standard&manualWidth=400&width=400&theme=dark&highlight=6&tracklist=true&tracklist_n=3&embedCode=

Images:

In addition to music, still images can also serve as useful content for a video, and can often help to break things up and make for a transition into a different narrative or piece of content.  The offer a moment for the viewer to gather their thoughts about what they’ve just seen, and maybe even have a moment to really examine a piece of information.

Image via http://pixabay.com/p-276893/?no_redirect
Image via http://pixabay.com/p-276893/?no_redirect

For our video, as we’re going to do a scene at the end which brings the viewer out of the fantasy scenario and into reality, showing the Resume Builder application in use as well as other Rutgers/student/resume-centric imagery. It might be nice to insert an actual stock image of a resume, such as the professional one pictured here, somewhere in that part of the video under the voice-over.

Video:

Even though we are ourselves filming and editing a video specifically for this project, it’s oftentimes helpful and engaging to insert other video and film clips into a video project. This is something that many pop culture and film reviewers do online quite successfully, making their videos more engaging by having actual clips of the films/media they’re referencing spliced into their video.

While I don’t necessarily believe that, from a narrative perspective, we’ll need to make this sort of video reference, this clip of someone using various digital technologies might be a good model of the sort of video clip that could work in terms of transitional content into showing how the Resume Builder app functions. However, I don’t think this exact clip would fit, and I honestly struggled to find a clip that would work in general.

Thoughts On My Group Project’s Direction: Part 2

Image via http://cartoonsnap.blogspot.com/2012/06/storyboarding-tips-from-dreamworks.html
Image via http://cartoonsnap.blogspot.com/2012/06/storyboarding-tips-from-dreamworks.html

After creating a storyboard with my group members, I feel generally happy about the outcome of our project progress thus far. I think our narrative and goal vision is on point and aligned, and I’m very proud of the level of contribution all of my fellow group members have displayed.

However, progress is not without its challenges. One of the main challenges we faced as a group during this story-boarding stage was miscommunication, particularly in a virtual context. As most of this particular process was completed asynchronously in a digital environment, there was some disconnect between individual group member visions and expectations, as well as some miscommunication and misunderstandings during the collaboration process via email. However, we worked through this issue with a little sensitivity and communication skills, and were able to get back on track!

Another challenge we faced was being able to coordinate and include certain creative elements of the storyboard process using the digital tools we had on hand (i.e. email and Google Presentation in the Google Drive, as well as OneDrive, previously). For instance, we struggled a bit with including the artwork for our storyboards as we found it a bit difficult to coordinate including hand-created artwork in an evolving digital presentation that was constantly being changed and expanded upon. Again, in the end, we came up with a solution that everyone was comfortable and happy with.

One of the things that changed during the story-boarding step was that we added more detailed character cues and context for certain scenes, as well as added in a draft of the script, an addition that somewhat polarized our group in terms of identifying its necessity for the storyboard, but ultimately stayed in. One element that I’d love to see in a final draft of the storyboard might be camera angle cues and camera movement directions. Finally, my ultimate vision for this project is for it to be funny, informative, make sense, have a great flow, and also have good, positive energy!

Thoughts On My Group Project’s Direction: Part 1

Image via http://filmint.nu/?p=9923
Image via http://filmint.nu/?p=9923

Historically, group projects can be a total horror show. But as my group moves forward with our final group project, I’m quite happy with the way our creative direction is shaping up. We decided to go with a horror parody (i.e. playing with motifs from The Exorcist) to liken a prospective employee going to a job interview without their resume to a priest showing up to an exorcism without being prepared with his tools (e.g. holy water, bible, etc.) and basically failing his “interview” process.

I personally hope that our video plays humorously and doesn’t look too lo-fi in terms of production. (Of course, I know our tools will be limited, so I have reasonable expectations.) I also hope that our video doesn’t play out too long as I believe that this types of video need to get to the point and not drag out else we run the risk of losing the audience. I hope our script reads natural and not too cheesy, too!

For the storyboard, I hope our message can be clearly communicated and I hope that our scenes are clear and make sense for the narrative, as well as showcase the overall tone of the scene as well as the direction of the camera angles. Overall, I’m really happy with our initial creative direction, the collaboration we’ve done so far with one another, as well as how everyone is contributing to the group.

Collaborating Virtually: Using Google Docs For Group Work

Image via http://catlintucker.com/2012/05/making-the-most-of-google-docs-drive/
Image via http://catlintucker.com/2012/05/making-the-most-of-google-docs-drive/

I absolutely love Google Docs. I use the application for school, for work, and even for personal reasons (like co-creating a vacation itinerary with a friend). Google Docs allows for multiple users to type, edit, and converse in real time on a document. The technology also allows for cloud-based storage and sharing, as well as allows for users to access it from anywhere. Aka: Multiple students can all work on writing an assignment together regardless of spacial distance, location, or time.

For our class group project, first my group discussed via email how we would be approaching the project as a whole as well as this particular assignment. Then we utilized a Google Document in order to collaborate on writing and editing our assignment, as well as to brainstorm for the assignment and converse in general. One of the challenges, as with any group project of course, is overcoming time constraints (i.e. one person is able to work at a certain time while another is unable). Google Docs, therefore, makes it simple for everyone to contribute without the issue of time getting in the way.

Reflecting on Midterms: My Creative Process & Top 5 List

blog
Image via http://www.blogging4jobs.com/hr/shrm-2012-bloggers-conference/

For the midterm, I was most excited about the creative aspect of the project as a whole: i.e. designing the blog, editing my video, and writing my content. My first endeavor was to create my header as I figured that would be fun and also set the mood and aesthetic for my blog. As we’ve done in class before, I used Pixlr to create a header containing some of my press clips (FYI: I did my blog on my work in PR).

Theme-wise, I chose a clean, professional-looking blog layout that I thought would be stylish enough to engage visitors while also minimal enough to look attractive to potential employers and other PR practitioners. However, having only the free version of the theme proved to be a limitation/challenge as I would have loved to have customized my layout even further. (Maybe I’ll do this in the future though!)

Image via https://www.examtime.com/blog/top-10-reasons-to-start-blogging-today/
Image via https://www.examtime.com/blog/top-10-reasons-to-start-blogging-today/

The video, as fun as it was to make, was also a challenge in and of itself as I wanted to make sure it upped the game more than my previous video for this class. Gathering and organizing all the images and clips I wanted to use, as well as selecting effects that made sense and looked seamless in the video, was another challenge, but again, one that was entertaining to execute.

Unlike my screencast video, I did the voiceover for the midterm video after editing the video together. Selecting my music bed was also a lot of fun, though I struggled a bit with the audio levels.

Finally, I found actually writing and organizing my blog content to be fairly simple, intuitive (I’ve blogged before), and fun, as I quite enjoy blogging. I’d never actually blogged before about my work in PR, so it was kind of refreshing to tackle that as being such a personal topic.

Top 5: My Classmates’ Midterm Blogs

Everyone in my class did such a great job with their blogs. In no particular order, here are my favorite midterm blogs from my peers!

The Daily Orbit:
I think this blog is particular great because it’s such an interesting topic. I can also see that the person behind this blog is incredibly passionate about the topic, which makes me more invested as a reader! When a writer cares about what they’re writing about, you can tell, and it makes for a better blogging experience all around. Also, I really love the consistency of the posts on this site; the blogger updates and provides content in a consistent stream, which is very important for a blog in my opinion. Also, you can clearly see from the design alone what the blog is about.

Naturally Curlie:
I think this blog is so positive and empowering. From a feminist standpoint, I really appreciate the blog’s topic, which is to celebrate natural hair and hair diversity. This blog is uplifting in its mission to squash homogenous cultural beauty standards, and I love how passionate and dedicated the writer is to her topic. I also think the blogger did a great job with her video, creating a professional-looking, personalized video that was both informative and fun to watch. I also think the “About” page does a great job highlighting and clarifying the mission of the blog.

Cosmic Drag Race:
Anything pertaining to drag queens is okay with me! This blog is a lot of fun, with a bright, colorful design theme that very much so reflects its topic matter aesthetically. I think the posts are fun but also really quite informative, which is very important for successful blogging. I love how thorough the post discussing what drag is and I actually learned about drag kings, which was cool! Finally, I think the video content was executed very well, particularly in regards to transitions/title cards/captions and overall audio editing.

College Chic:
This blog is beautifully designed. It’s very stylish, clean, pleasant to look at, and reminds me a bit of Tumblr which, aesthetically speaking, is a good thing! You know right away when you access this blog that it’s a personal style blog, and the blogger does an exceptional job in terms of personalizing her content with personal style and outfit photos. The content here is not text heavy but relies on quick information and great photos, which is another great way to blog. Finally, the video posted is incredibly professional-looking with really great editing.

How To Drive Like A Moron:
This blog is pretty much hilarious. The person behind it has a great sense of humor which translates very well to their content. As someone who is personally highly frustrated by idiot drivers, I can relate to a lot of this content, even if the topic isn’t that “heavy” or personal. The best part of this blog in my opinion, however, is the “About” page, which is really, really great in terms of giving me a real sense of who this blogger is, their ideology, and how important this topic truly is to them! This quote from their page stood out to me: “But the one thing that stays the most consistent about bad driving: a belief that your own decisions are more important than anyone else’s. I believe this is what is at the root of most bad driving practices.” This is so true, and really resonated with me! And that connection with a reader is what makes a blog successful.

Video Editing: Screencasting & e-Portfolios

I’ve worked with video production minimally in the past, so I wasn’t too intimidated by this project. I decided to use Windows Live Movie Maker as I use a PC and, while I do think that iMovie tends to have more professional-grade features (in my opinion), I knew WLMM would be more intuitive and convenient for me as a PC and Windows user.

Professional e-Portfolios: Compare and Contrast from Erica Russell on Vimeo.

Overall, I found screencasting itself to be pretty easy and actually quite fun after a little trial and error. My favorite challenge from this assignment was using Screencast-O-Matic in an engaging and visually appealing way while looking at the two portfolios I examined; being able to simply showcase two portfolio sites while keeping it interesting proved to be very satisfying. Admittedly, my least favorite challenge from the assignment was trying to find a good pace of speech for my voice-over, as I found myself doing multiple takes in order to get my narration to a place that I liked.

I think video editing and screencasting skills can definitely come in handy in order to showcase visual media skills, which I think are becoming more and more valued in the workplace. Anyone working with media or communication in particular can certainly utilize these skills and software, since they exemplify certain creative and digital competencies that are valued in these fields and industries. Creatively, I think video media content such as tutorials, commentaries, and reviews can definitely benefit from screencasting software, and this project has piqued my interest to maybe try it out myself.

Audio Editing: Garageband, Music Reviews, and Podcasts

Soko; photo by Robin Black, courtesy of BB Gun PR
Soko; photo by Robin Black, courtesy of BB Gun PR

Back in 2011 during a brief semester at Marymount Manhattan, I took a great course on digital media where we learned basic coding, video filming and editing, and audio recording and editing. That was over four years ago now, and as I haven’t had much use for at least the audio editing part, I realized as we began this assignment that I had forgotten quite a bit.

Luckily, after a little trial and error, I found out that much like riding a bicycle after a long time, it was somewhat effortless to fall back into the habit of knowing how to splice, adjust time, and add effects to tracks, among other things, in Garageband.

In fact, my greatest struggle during this project was finding a computer with Garageband. Since I’d used it before, I really didn’t want to download and use Audacity, which I find tends to be more complicated than it needs to be, as well as much more visually confusing than the streamlined, friendly aesthetic of Garageband’s software. Luckily, I didn’t have to trek the hour back to campus to use a Mac, as all I had to do was go to my mom’s house.

The first thing I had to do was select something to talk about. I recently had to interview a French nu-punk artist named Soko for a magazine I write for, and having been immersed in her album for a few weeks, decided it would be a natural and interesting topic to wax poetic on for a bit. As for the actual editing, the step which proved to be a slight obstacle was to import my actual vocal audio track (i.e. the one with my talking) into Garageband, as my file was a WMA (I had recorded my vocals on my Toshiba which has Windows). After a little Googling, I found a free audio conversion software that I downloaded and was easily able to convert my WMA file to MP3, making my vocal track compatible with Garageband.

Afterwards I simply dropped in my two music tracks, the intro and the bed. I chose two songs from Soko, as she and her new album were the focus of my podcast discussion. The first thing I did was work on the intro music, settling on a pleasant, audible base volume and about ten seconds in, beginning to drag the volume down in a fade out that ends at fifteen seconds. I used a Distortion effect to make the music more hazy, fuzzy, and cerebral, adjusting the drive, tone, and output levels. I spliced out the rest of the track as it would be inaudible anyway.

Also at ten seconds in, I began to bring up the volume on my foundation or bed track, creating what sounds like (to me, at least) a fairly cohesive fade in, the two tracks mixing pleasantly over one another until all you can hear is the bed music. I kept my bed music volume at a medium volume, so listeners could still clearly hear my voice over that track. I also activated the Bitcrusher audio effect to slightly alter the audio for the purpose of (hopefully) avoiding Soundcloud’s wrath, as well as to tone the music down a bit.

Soko - 'My Dreams Dictate My Reality' Record out 3/3/15
Soko – ‘My Dreams Dictate My Reality’
Record out 3/3/15

As for the vocal track with my podcast discussion, I began my track a few seconds into the intial fade-out of the intro music, creating a seamless transition in which I begin talking as the intro music lowers and continuing as the bed music fades in. I punched up my volume to make sure my voice is heard. Similarly, I utilized the Speech Enhancer effect on my vocal track and lowered the noise level, as well as raised the reverb to +3, helping to punch up my voice a bit while cleaning the track of some background noise. (I had recorded my discussion on a laptop mic, so the quality was not so great at first.)

After listening to the final product a few times and making various minor tweaks, I finally saved my project and then exported the audio into a MP3 file. Finally, I created a schoolwork-only Soundcloud account and uploaded my track with some artwork, a description of the project, and appropriate tags.

All in all, I’m quite satisfied with my podcast (even if I’m not too keen on listening to my own voice over and over!) and very happy with the way it turned out, as I put a lot of thought and effort into creating it, as well as coming up with my topic. In the future, I can hopefully use these skills in other courses, as well as for my work in music journalism where I sometimes have to do audio interviews with artists.

Adding & Editing My Header

Original unedited base image via Wikimedia Commons
Original unedited base image via Wikimedia Commons

So unfortunately, I was out sick for the class that we learned hands-on about image-editing. But fortunately, I’ve had some experience over the last decade with various lite image editing software like Jasc Paint Shop Pro, among others. So I was relieved to launch Pixlr and find a similar, user-intuitive interface that I was already comfortable navigating.

The first thing I did was find two complementary images on Google Image Search that I would be happy using. This was probably most challenging due to the need to find two images that I liked that were licensed properly for free, non-commercial, editable use. I’m very picky when it comes to aesthetics, and really wanted to keep my cactus theme since cacti have a personal meaning to me (as a unique flora they are beautiful, strong, resilient, contradictory and enigmatic). Also, I didn’t want two very different images since visually, for me at least, I really prefer thematic consistency. (Which is probably my OCD kicking in!) Luckily, I found some images I was happy with – even more so later when I got to editing!

The editing part came fairly naturally. I opened my base photo first, edited the brightness, contrasts (to make it pop), saturation, and hue (to make it more green and mystical-looking), and set the size to the necessary dimensions for my WordPress theme. Then I opened the additional image of a single round cactus, tinkered with the saturation, hue, and contrast again, and free-hand cut the image to make it rounder around certain edges, finally placing (pasting) it atop the right side of my base image.

Edited, un-cropped base image with altered hue, saturation, contrast, etc.; original photo via Wikimedia Commons
Edited, un-cropped base image with altered hue, saturation, contrast, etc.; original photo via Wikimedia Commons

Before this assignment, however, I hadn’t actually known of Pixlr, but I think I can now use this in my everyday life to make my social media more visually interesting, as well as use the software to edit images for some sites and blogs I run or work for. Since it’s an open online software, too, I am definitely happy to know I can use it anywhere, not just on my laptop or desktop at home!

In “Phreaks, Hackers, and Trolls,” Coleman talks about the emergence, cultural implications, and popularity of Internet memes, noting that these are always “under constant modification by users (p. 109).” This got me thinking about image editing and remixing, since most Web users, I think anyway, are always saving and taking images they find that they like and editing or altering them into something new and valuable in their own right, adding their own spin or perspective on it. I think that’s what this assignment had us do, as well.