Over the past few years, I have noticed an increasing amount of independent filmmakers self-distributing their work via the web. What I have found interesting is that not only are these artists getting their work out to the public, they are also making a connection with their viewers that they might not have otherwise made without the internet.

In my short documentary, I interviewed Sean Keane, a rollerblader/independent filmmaker/self-distributor. Not only does he self-distribute his rollerblading films, but he also could care less about the money. For rollerbladers, it’s more about contributing to the community and supporting one another, rather than profiting.

All independent filmmakers should have this sort of mutual support.

A few years ago I started watching video podcasts on the MySpace of filmmakers Aaron Crumley and Susan Buice. They were vlogging about the film they had made called Four Eyed Monsters. New episodes would come out periodically, and they featured the making of the film and the stress pertaining to marketing their film through self-distribution.

The film Four Eyed Monsters is loosely based on Aaron and Susan’s relationship. They decided to only communicate through media (the Internet, videos, drawings, notebooks). In a world where the Internet threatens in-person human interaction, Aaron and Susan decided to use this as a means to enrich and develop their relationship.

They gained popularity amongst MySpacers. They even landed a deal with Sundance to have a screening of their film in Second Life (how appropriate). What was different about the self-distribution of FEM was that they were developing a relationship with their audience through their video podcasts. They spoke directly to the viewers, grabbing their attention, and allowing for feedback and interaction. People began to respond to their podcasts with their own video responses, making the interactions even more personal. They weren’t speaking to a sea of unidentified web users anymore. They were speaking to individuals–interacting with individuals whom they might not have met if it weren’t for their opening up to the Internet.  It is very postmodern, considering this was the very thought behind Susan and Aaron’s original relationship and the concept behind Four Eyed Monsters.  Through using the podcasts to talk to the unknown public, they were mirroring their own ideas of Internet human interaction for which they based their own relationship, convincing other people to use this idea of personal communication, and using all of this to promote their movie about the original relationship where this whole idea started.  Such an interesting loop.

Are people able to communicate strictly through media? Is it still personal? We’ve talked about this a lot in class, and the conclusion I’ve come to is yes, communication through media can be personal and meaningful.  It depends on the way it is used and those interacting with it.  Though they might frequent the web more often, people aren’t as dissociated with reality as we think. This is made clear through FEM and their video podcasts/video responses. Rollerbladers prove this as well, considering how much support they show each other on the rollerblading forum site Be-Mag.com.

Four Eyed Monsters became available in stores this past April through Witthoutabox’s new division called the Distribution Lab, which helps self-distributors in releasing their films.

Aaron Crumley is now one of the co-founders for From Here to Awesome. The concept behind FH2A was to create a film festival for independent filmmakers, where they could gather, share, and distribute their work. This was the first year it was in effect. The second part of the project is called DIY Days, in which conferences and discussions will take place on the results of how successful FH2A was and how to improve the festival for upcoming years.

Check out the following websites for more info:

My Final Video

DIY Days

From Here to Awesome

Four Eyed Monsters

Whether It Makes Cent$ or Not

Whether It Makes Cent$ or Not Myspace


Response to: “Cross-Platform Storytelling”

I personally don’t find any gratification in most cross-platform storytelling. Part of me always finds it sort of cheesy, and I feel like television producers only perpetuate cross-platform storytelling for their own financial profit. I think that it is more effective when used in moderation. When something doesn’t feel as original, it somehow loses it’s quality and seems over-marketed.

This sort of relates to when you are a child, and you want the cereal that is advertising your favorite cartoon character on the front. You only want it because you want that character to be part of your world more than it is on television. This seems too much like a marketing scheme. However, there are some gems that are released that have cross-platform storytelling. For example, the diary from Twin Peaks seems like one of those gems, but I think that these “gems” are relative to the content presented and to the target audience. In other words, multi-platform content that is made for Twin Peaks will be different from shows such as Dawson’s Creek.

I completely agree with the rules she established for cross-platform storytelling.

The cross-platform storytelling that Cheryl says NBC is doing is a lot like The Dark Knight viral marketing. There was incessant hype for this film, and I feel like there was always something new happening. They made a fake news site (http://www.gothamcablenews.com/), and what I love about it is that it feels completely organic. It doesn’t seem force-fed, and it doesn’t blatantly scream “SEE THE DARK KNIGHT” (because who wasn’t already going to see it anyway? haha). There were online puzzles to figure out the release date. There were also multiple interactive publicity stunts, including a scavenger hunt in NYC in which the end result was the bat signal shining in the sky. The point is to give people something they can experience, not something that will result in being caught in a web of consumerism.

Question: What sort of cross-platform storytelling do you participate in (if any)?

Response to: “The Daily Me”

I agree that fragmentation and extremism could occur if everything was filtered to our liking.  When you customize a website to feed you the news you want to see, you are choosing to avoid looking at any sort of opposing news site.  Without hearing an opposing side, how will one be able to discuss an issue in an educated way?  If nothing in the news is objective, then we must keep reminding ourselves that there is always an opposing view.  If we make that opposing view disappear, there will be a larger separation between subjective views.

It is arguable that this type of filtering is mostly for entertainment purposes.  It’s taking that idea of being bombarded with too much information and too many viewpoints, and allowing customization and filtering by the overwhelmed recipient.  This can be done with any sort of social, creative, and informational divide, and it perpetuates the expanding of those oppositional gaps.

A good example of filtering is the website Pandora. It allows you to customize your own radio station according to what music you like, making it so that you don’t hear a type of music you aren’t interested in.

Response to: “Web of Activism”

Viral marketing definitely works. YouTube can be a successful tool in distributing a message. I remember there was a viral video on YouTube not too long ago made by a regular YouTube user. It featured an old Apple advertisement that played off 1984. In this remake, the objective was to make Hillary Clinton look like Big Brother.

This received a lot of press as well as viral popularity.  This opens up whole new possibilities, which involves the ordinary public campaigning for their representatives.

Question: Do you think viral marketing could completely change how political campaigns and ads run?

Response to: “Why Democrats Rule the Web”

The internet allows for more participation for grass roots efforts.  For an undertaking that used to take dedication and laborious efforts, people are now able to find each other and organize so easily using the web.  This benefits political parties greatly.  However, it is becoming harder for political parties to control what is seen and heard by the public because the web allows for a greater exchange of information amongst people.  Perhaps this makes campaigning more honest.

Question: Do you think that with popularity of web campaigning and the convenience of organizing political groups and meetings, people will become less dedicated and rely on technology to provide them with political information? In other words, do you think they won’t put as much effort into their political parties? Or do you think the internet simply provides a convenience to perpetuate political party strength?

*** I accidentally saved this in a draft instead of publishing it! UGH. It was definitely finished on time. Sorry about the unforeseen lateness. ***

Response to: “Play the Game: Grand Theft Desire”

Grand Theft Auto reminds me of a virtual dollhouse for boys, but there are things about Grand Theft Auto that absolutely do not belong in a “game”. The part about having sex with a prostitute to gain points and then killing her to get the money back is such bad taste, and a complete insult to the female gender.  I can’t stand the fact that a game promotes sexual violence.  I understand it’s a game and not real life, but why is that deemed as fun? “Cops and robbers” violence is different.  It is one thing to have good guys vs. bad guys.  It’s another to have completely unwarranted sexual violence in a game TO GAIN POINTS AND MAKE MONEY.  Grand Theft Auto allows for more free will than other games, so it is up to the player to make the decisions of who to kill.  However, the fact that the game developers made this an actual objective is disgusting.  I’m not against violence in video games. It’s fun to pretend to be an outlaw. This goes with the whole escapism and the “being something you’re not” fantasy.  But where will video games draw the line?

Response to: “Is This Man Cheating on his Wife?”

Games like The Sims and Second Life really are adult versions of doll houses, which makes it funny to me that adults get so into them. It’s obvious that people are living out their fantasies through these games. You can tell just by looking at the virtual Hoogestraat compared to his real life self that this man is trying to live out his younger years through a video game persona. I feel really bad for his real-life wife. That last quote was heartbreaking. It’s crazy to think that you could actually become jealous of a video game persona, but I don’t think it is “just a video game”. There are obviously real social interactions going on with real people in Second Life. These aren’t computers that these people are interacting with. You can actually get to know someone through the internet and form friendships.

What I found hilarious/ridiculous/sad was that a support group actually exists for spouses of obsessive online gamers. It seems like something you’d see in a dark comedy.  But such is life.

I feel like there might actually be legal online marriages someday, as well as making that a grounds for real life adultery. What if these video games eventually become virtual reality games? That would be extremely realistic… but still a game.

Response to: “Virtual Iraq”

It’s bizarre how a virtual reality is created in order to help soldiers that are trying to forget about these traumatic experiences, when at the same time gamers are playing video games like Call of Duty in order to be apart of those disastrous events, and to virtually blow things up and shoot people. There’s something really off about that.

Response to: “On the Record, All the Time”

Lifelogging seems pretty pointless. People already constantly share their lives through the internet by posting pictures, videos, etc. I can see why unexpected once-in-a-lifetime moments would be a beneficial outcome of lifelogging, but it seems pretty grueling to document your entire life in order to have these moments on video/audio. Right now, people share a filtered version of their lives through the internet. They only show what they want to show, or tell stories they want to tell. They conceal certian aspects of their lives on purpose.  I think people would always be inhibited if they knew they were on camera 24/7.  The constant feeling that someone is watching makes a person pehave differently.  Even though reality shows are now extremely popular, this is not a form of real life-logging.  People sign up for those shows because they seek some small amount of fame. They also sign up with the knowledge that the show doesn’t last their entire lives.  So they will behave in a manner that will promote their television personality in the way they want the public eye to see them.

As a side note: Looking at the timeline, I was surprised to realize YouTube only appeared 3 years ago. It seems like it has been around forever.

Response to: “…The Tethered Self”

We live in a technologically tethered world–at least us East/West Coasters do.  Bluetooths are a step away from human nature and a step toward the merging of humans and technology.  I hate all things blue tooth.  I hate the way people look with them, talk with them, walk with them, drive with them, bathe with them…  I hate that I don’t know if a person is talking to me or to the person on their bluetooth.  I hate that it makes the line between a crazy person and a businessman extremely blurry.  I’ve never hated a piece of technology more.  Nothing is more rude to me than having your phone, at the ready, stuck in your ear, as if any sort of other outside world engagement is a distraction to an incoming call.  People really have turned into cyborgs with bluetooths.  They have essentially decided that their phone needs to be an extension of their face.  Normal cell phones are enough of a convenience for me.  I hope I never feel the need to attach a phone to my face.

Also, I kind of hate iPhones and Blackberrys.  A couple of my friends seem constantly immersed in their phone, rather than engaged in the world around them.  I was with someone this weekend who has an iPhone, and she was constantly on it to the point where I wasn’t sure if I could interrupt her when she was surfing the web.  Granted, we were Production Assistants on a shoot, and it became awesomely handy when she used it to find directions to places in an unfamiliar area or to look up pizza places in the area.  I’m not sure if having constant web access is such a great thing, though.  I would rather talk about subjects rather than looking things up on Wikipedia and knowing answers right away.  There’s something more appealing about mystery and letting the human mind work for the answer.

Response to: “You Are a Cyborg”

I love movies/TV shows that deal with cyborgs.  It’s appealing to think about how something man-made can function without a human working it. There’s always a fascination about cyborgs ultimately turning on their human creators, too (Battlestar Galactica, anyone?).

I think that developers keep striving to create more efficient cyborg technology because they feel it is the ultimate efficiency. Much like any machine (washing machine, electric oven, vacuum cleaner, etc) was made to make the human life easier and more efficient, a completely human-type cyborg would feel like complete success–A servant without consciousness, which leaves humans guilt-free.  What could be better?

If a cyborg had consciousness and the ability to love, then this would open up a whole new topic of discussion, about whether they should be treated as robots or as humans, what rights they would have as robots, etc, etc.  This thought is complete science fiction and would never happen.  A cyborg might be able to simulate love, but it would never actually have a conscious feeling of self, morality, and love.

So far I’ve gotten the interview with Sean on tape, and I’ve taken screen shots of some websites I want to show including some Myspaces, From Here to Awesome, anbd Youtube pages.  I haven’t had any problems yet.  So far, so good.

It is obvious that a new set of rules needs to be implemented to deal with digital information and the lawlessness of Cyberspace. A big problem that I see is that little kids know how to pirate music and movies, and they are growing up with it as a standard. They have no previous moral standard to live by, so the change for whatever new laws that might be implemented will be difficult for these generations.

Response to: “The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism”

This article didn’t really bring out any new ideas for me that the last article didn’t already, but the author brings up a good point: When we are bombarded by so much media, and the media becomes our own personal memories, how are we supposed to create truly original ideas without borrowing?  Postmodern creativity allows for re-appropriation.  Though, some people are skeptical of whether or not this is truly original material.

Working on new ideas seems unnecessary when so many ideas have already been acted on. This author was talking about the redundancy of creation upon creation, without looking back, in terms of science.  But this is different when relating this concept to artistic endeavors. I think sampling and remixing music is a creative innovation, where the end result gives a whole new meaning. Such artists as Girl Talk take samples of already existing songs from multiple music genres to create new songs with new meanings.  He even makes social commentary through his music using today’s pop music.  By combining the racy lyrics of certain rap songs with the sexually alluring pop divas’ lyrics, Greg Gillis of Girl Talk points out just how sexually based our pop music culture has become.  And at the same time, the public loves his remixes of these opposite genres.  This makes Girl Talk’s music postmodern, culturally significant, and creative in a new way.

Question: Is something plagiarism when you re-appropriate the meaning?

Response to: “Metaforas: Elements of the Computer”

Though I’ve known about binary code and other technical inter workings for some time, it’s interesting to think that such advanced technology uses the most basic mathematical form to work. It is amazing what humans have created and innovated over time, yet still use basic concepts as the foundation for design.

Response to: “Metaforas: Dialog”

I think the term “connection” is being redefined with the increasing use of the web for constant contact. There is an increase in correspondence between those that might not stay in touch as often, and this connection allows for relationship growth, as well as cultural growth. “Connection” also refers to the fact that the Internet is a web of connectivity, constantly supplying information and growing. At the same time, real world activities are becoming more web-based.

Question: These articles focus on connection as a culture. Do you think the Internet reinforces these connections, or is it keeping people from connection?

Since people are “constantly striving to create bonds with others whether through religious or cultural beliefs, moral or ethical laws, expressive or didactic communication”, the Web communities further this interaction by allowing people to connect all over, rather than just locally.

The Internet allows for a much more connected and interactive audience. Television has even moved to the Internet now in response to the constant need for connection and, in my opinion, in response to illegal downloading. Networks can now provide users with constant connectivity to syndicated television shows.

Question: Do you think television will eventually be completely interactive, like the internet?

Response to Other Articles:

The timeline was a lot of information to take in, but what is apparent that we’ve come a long way with the internet.

**Since the streaming here at Ramapo is atrocious, I am not able to watch the video. I found the Wikiality website an excellent satire of Wikipedia, self-representation, and propaganda.

Question: Do you think satirical references stunt trends or perpetuate them?

Response to: “Metaforas: Curcuit”

We are living in the age of information, where many have immediate access to information via the internet.  I agree that this sharing of information is the “superstructure of our culture”.  It is interesting to bring up that this can be both creative and destructive.  It becomes hard to delegate what perpetuates the development of networking and what affects networking negatively when the line between moralities isn’t even completely defined (such as the struggle to define intellectual property rights of digital media).  When we think of it in terms of ownership, the internet is a place where many can create, own and distribute digital music/art, but it becomes hard to control ownership when there are so many way to steal and duplicate digital property.  And since many are so easily able to connect and distribute, it definitely blurs the line between high and low art when we have equal access to both.  However, this networking allows for any artist to reach countless others, if so inspired.

The idea of network power struggle should also touch on the issue of network neutrality, which is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open internet.  It is important to maintain a free and open internet so that all people have equal network access.

Question:  In what ways do you feel the internet mirrors our culture?

Response to: “Metaforas: World Brain” & sub-categories

I like what this section brought up, such as the fact that “the networked organism is constantly moving”.  As we are all contributors to the “world brain”, we obviously know that  we can’t believe everything we see.  Just as we trust certain humans as reliable knowledge providers, we trust certain websites to provide us with accuracy.  It is our duty as users of the “world brain” to both contribute and filter through the library of information that is presented, but we must also allow for contradictory information.

I’d like to bring up that in the middle of this blog, my “j” key fell off.  I immediately googled an assortment of phrases that might lead me to the solution of fixing it.  I found many different forums where people contributed knowledge that helped them with this same inconvenience, and yet, none of these solutions worked.  I find it useful that I am able to immediately have access to this information, but it is apparent that though many people have knowledge to share, their answers may not be the specific solution to my problem.  In my trial/error attempts to fix my “j” key, I find that in relation to my problem, not everyone has the best answer, and therefore I am learning that not everything/everyone on the internet is trustworthy as an informant.  I guess I will have to venture into the real world and consult the Apple “geniuses” for them to replace my one lousy key…Unless someone in the class has a suggestion?  Haha.

Question 1:  Describe an instance where the internet has helped you.

Question 2: What do you consider a collection when you think about the network as a display case?  Do you have any sort of collection that is displayed online?

Response to: “Here I am Taking My Own Picture”

The comparison Myspace self-portraits and private mirror poses is dead-on.  In the same way that Myspace profiles are selective representations of one’s actual self, Myspace self-portraits enable people to provide a selective representation of what they see in the mirror, selecting only the best shots that they feel effectively represent their online persona.  With computers and programs like Photoshop, images can be easily manipulated, instantly glamorizing the selected self-portrait.  Like Dr. Montgomery said in the article, it has become a process of teenage self-discovery.

When reading this article, I remembered seeing a device on Urban Outfitters that I found hilarious.  First of all, Urban Outfitters strives to represent the young and hip urban culture, so I found it fitting that this item was on this website when I first saw it.

Urban Outfitter's self-portrait arm

Urban Outfitter's self-portrait arm

The self-portrait arm allows a person to take an easier self-portrait, solving the awkwardness of holding a camera at arm’s length.  The article talked about how the one teenager didn’t want other people to know that her Myspace pictures were self-portraits, so she avoided arm placement in the photo.  If inconspicuous self-portraiture is a trend, then it is fitting that such a device would be available on Urban Outfitters.  What is also interesting is that when I went to find this item on Urban Outfitters to post on this blog, the item was no longer available.  Though it seems like such an object would gain popularity, perhaps it’s a little too unnecessary and excessive.

Question:  Do you think Myspace is an effective form of self-expression?

Response to: “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace”

To me, the choice between social networks is highly relative to the person choosing, no matter their “class”. While I agree with some of the author’s observations about aesthetic divisions, she isn’t presenting anything new. For any user of social networks, these are obvious observations. What makes these observations even less interesting is the author’s constant lack of conviction for them. This article seemed generalized and subjective.

Information from the press is never objective, so it bothers me that this woman said: “Still, even with the rise of high school students, Facebook was framed as being about college. This was what was in the press. This was what college students said.” No matter if it is an academic article or not, the press is not a great reference. It made her comments fall flat. It supports generalization, while also using it as a source.

In response to the Myspace to Facebook switch and the author’s comment on rebellious behavior, Facebook was/is a lot safer than Myspace, regardless of the quantity of underage drinking pictures that might appear more on Facebook. Facebook had/has many more privacy options than Myspace, making it a much safer and private social network. Whether or not Facebook users choose to use the safety and privacy options provided is a personal decision. There are so many different kinds of people that use both of these sites. I feel that her conclusions are opinion-based and generalized.

Teenage rebellion is inevitable, as are teenage social divisions. Technology is only a new tool to distinguish these separations. Do I think that new technology perpetuates rebellious behavior? Absolutely. But if not that, it would be something else.

Question: Social networking has become part of our generational culture. Do you think adults take social networking too seriously?

Also, I feel that the author is way too bothered by this cultural and social divide, when it’s existed all along. Do you feel bothered by the supposed “divide”? Do you notice it? Do you think technology contributes to this divide?

Response to: “Social Network Site: Public, Private, or What?”

This author really bothers me. Her articles don’t seem to be well-focused. The title of the article doesn’t even make sense to what she says she is providing. This essay seems to have been written to perpetuate the fear adults have of technology and social networking. The fact that this paper was written “in order to help educators understand their role in socialising today’s youth” is hilarious to me. It is especially funny because to the youth of today, social networks are the norm. This author seems to treat the subject as if it is abstract. She is not speaking to our generation, but rather to the panicked older generations, which is exactly the idea that came to mind when I read the “Viewing American class…” essay.

I can understand why those that don’t fully understand technology are frightened by the exposure of the youth of today. But teenagers know what they’re doing. The self-representation of youth is based on morals, just as any other decision, regardless of technological use. If teaching morals is the issue, so be it, but I think that social networking is important, relevant, and extremely useful in society for personal connection, career advancements, and artistic expression. Instead of taking the frightened approach to SNSes 101, why not steer educators to enlighten students about the importance of SNSes?

One thing I really liked that the author said (though out of place with her other comments): “Too often we blame technology for what it reveals, but destroying or regulating the technology will not solve the underlying problems that are made visible through mediated publics like social network sites.” That should have been what her thesis was based on.

Question: If you were an educator, what would your response to this article be? What tactics would you use to approach social networking and its advantages and disadvantages?

Response to: “Friend Game”

This article was insightfully written, and the author is conscious of the effects and usage of social networking. She recognizes that the underlying problems social networking can perpetuate have existed for centuries. “Mistaken identities have been a staple of human interaction from Jacob and Esau to Shakespeare, but electronic communication has made misrepresentation temptingly immediate…”

I found this article very powerful and intelligent in the author’s ability to present new ideas and insight on SNSes, such as when she compares Myspace with the broken-windows theory.

Question: Do you think Myspace adds too much social pressure for teenagers to deal with?

I want to learn more about what programs I can use to further my knowledge and help me out post-graduation.

I’d like to learn more about effective self-distribution techniques and websites that can be used to help me with film distribution, if possible.

I guess I just want to see what else I can learn about the digital world and how to use it to my advantage (which sort of makes it sound like I want to conquer the world, but I promise I don’t).