Friday, May 15, 2015

Core Response #5: The Second-Screen Experience and Venture Capital Cyclicality

One particularly interesting transformation of television as incited by Henry Jenkins' concept of digital media convergence is the second-screen experience. For those unfamiliar, the "second screen" refers to the screen of a mobile phone or digital device; applications are used on these devices during the airing of television shows, in a theoretical attempt to further engage viewers with what they're watching. These applications first started enjoying popularity and media attention in 2010, popularity that mounted in significant fashion within the next two years and enjoyed a subsequent surge in venture capital investments. App GetGlue, leading the pack in terms of userbase and engagement, made almost $25 million through venture capital coming from media and tech conglomerates. Many of the corporations that once pushed them, however, quickly disavowed them for several reasons, claiming that users found them "annoying" [1] or that they were a "distraction" that didn't actually augment the act of watching television in a significant way. Most of these applications attempted to incentivize their use in an attempt to maintain their userbase, but invariably went extinct.

A strange reoccurence of this seemingly-failed entertainment paradigm has emerged once again with the arrival of Viggle. Viggle is another second-screen application that presents itself, first and foremost, on the basis of the rewards it can offer to users for checking in to television programs. After accruing a certain amount of points - one point per minute of television watched, "bonuses" excluded - users can spend those point on anything ranging from a $5 Starbucks gift card to a trip to a taping of the finale of The Voice. Services like these are meant to function as databases that can provide content creators and distributors with more sophisticated, tracked information about user demographics and their consumption habits, which presumably inform the decisions of those creators/distributors in deciding what to produce. Despite the failure of the first round of second-screen applications - GetGlue shuttered barely six months ago, for instance - there has been another noteworthy surge in investor confidence around Viggle. This article notes a massive uptick in Viggle's stock value that surrounds its increase in userbase, despite noting that they've posted $20 million losses in the last quarter alone. Divine there notes that the shortsightedness of these investments, acting in spite of a financial calculus that should otherwise dictate their decisions, follows a similar "line of logic" to the dot-com bust that occurred from 1999 to 2001. Is user engagement really a reliable metric for determining whether or not to throw tens of millions of dollars at a relatively new app? Can television monetize sufficiently enough to support both itself and the venture capital that relies on its frequency of content production?

Works Cited

[2] https://gigaom.com/2013/09/11/abc-executive-second-screen-apps-can-be-a-distraction/

Saturday, May 9, 2015

If you're looking for a laugh...

I'm obsessed with basketball (NBA and college) and love being able to watch it live. One of my favorite parts about watching the live telecast of basketball games are the halftime reports with Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley. The other day, Shaq took a tumble after tripping over a wire and it went viral. While it's really just a silly video, I thought it's interesting to think about in terms of live television going viral. Before Youtube, if you missed something live, you missed it for good. Now we can watch incidents on live television over and over again. This video, alone, already has over 1 million views. Live TV isn't really the same anymore, because there's no threat of not being able to catch it again. 

Bruce Jenner: Keeping Up With the Kardashians Special

Since we discussed Bruce Jenner in our last class, I thought I'd post a link to this. On May 17th, E! will air a two-part special documenting Bruce Jenner coming out to his family as transgender. What do you all think of this? E! didn't announce the special until after the Diane Sawyer interview. Will you watch? Considering "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" is typically associated with fake and vapid issues, it will be interesting to see how E! handles the subject matter.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/05/07/first-promo-bruce-jenner-keeping-up---kardashians-special/70977150/

RIP Mindy

Fox announced this week that it would not renew "The Mindy Project." While there are rumblings that it may find a life on Hulu, I'm really bummed about this. It was one of the only comedies on air that starred and was created by a woman of color. It definitely had it's ups and downs and problems, but overall, I really enjoyed it and am disappointed that Fox decided not to renew it.  Did anyone else watch?

http://time.com/3852518/mindy-project-cancelation-hulu/


Multi-Cam Resurgence?

For anyone interested in TV Comedy or comedy writing. Here's an interesting take on the state of the sitcom in the modern TV landscape. Multi-Cam shows like "The Big Bang Theory" have had continued success while many single camera shows struggle to gain and maintain a fanbase. Do any of you have a preference between viewing single camera shows or multi-cam (shot live in front of a studio audience)?

http://www.vulture.com/2014/12/network-tv-sitcom-cancellations-trouble-advice.html

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Call it a Renaissance?

My final project will be a radio report critiquing the second season of BET's sophomore hit "Being Mary Jane" which stars Gabrielle Union in a pretty dynamic role as yet another African American leading lady. I'm looking at feminist themes along with melodrama as associated with race and ethnicity. As we've all witnessed, TV has really embraced the black female leading lady in the past several years and this is due in large part to Shonda Rhimes and ABC's #tgit lineup. I am seeing today that Shonda Rhimes is teaming with Dee Rees (director of Focus Features' Independent Spirit Award winning film Pariah) for an FX limited series adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson's acclaimed "Warmth of Other Sons" which chronicles the migration of African Americans from Southern rural town to bigger bustling Northern cities in search of better lives. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, this development comes on the heels of the upcoming remake of "Roots" by A&E, the History Channel and Lifetime (yikes). It will be interesting to see Shondaland's transition into producing for cable television as well as how this new project will be received. Here's an interesting article on the implications from The Guardian... http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/may/05/shonda-rhimes-warmth-of-other-suns-emmys





Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Amy Schumer

I've never watched Amy Schumer's show, but this article was in my feed so I thought I'd post it because I think it might be enough to get me to watch her show.  I find it fascinating the way she manipulates genres for comedy and that she's seems to not be afraid to address issues of images.  Here's the clip that inspired me to set my DVR....

Is Amy Hot Enough to Have Her Own Show?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Looking for a new binge?

Hey TV lovers, as binge watching is reasonably the fastest growing way people consume TV I thought I'd share what shows the internet thinks we should watch.....
Shows to Binge Watch

I however am still catching up on last year's Shark Week so I'll be binging the old fashion way via DVR.  Plus most of the shows suggested don't really strike me as all that interesting.  What is interesting is that many of the shows listed are on premium channels so it agains poses the question of whom has actual access to these shows?

Roots Returns

I recently read that History, A&E, and Lifetime are putting together a remake of the hit mini series Roots.  I think this comes at very interesting moment in U.S. history in which people are willing to remain uninformed of America's consistently turbulent relationship with race and ignore the incredibly racially charged environment of today in exchange for an imagined "colorblind"/"post-race" narrative.

Here's the link to the article if anyone is interested:
Roots Remake

Calling RHOBH fans!

So on the rumor mill are talks of Lisa Rinna playing Kris Jenner in the upcoming TV miniseries about the OJ trial.  I for one will tune in if Rinna is cast because let's face it, soap opera actress plus Kris Jenner equals TV gold! Here's a link to more info for those possibly interested! Don't be shy, it's ok to say you watch RHOBH. ;)

Lisa Rinna to play Kris Jenner in TV miniseries

Can the Fans bring back McDreamy?

Well I wouldn't personally go so far as to make or even fill out a petition, some very angry Grey's Anatomy fans have taken the space of fandom to vocalize their outrage at the killing off our beloved McDreamy! Based on last night's episode I'm irritated that Dempsey's contract will likely be fulfilled with flashbacks, which will only make me, along with other fans, even more bitter at his uneventful departure from the show.  If you're curious to read the angry petition....here it is:

Fans demand McDreamy's death be a dream a-la "who shot JR?"

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

KPop and National Policy

Planet Money's digest of the long-term industrial program that brought us KPop's ascendancy:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/10/16/163039109/episode-410-why-k-pop-is-taking-over-the-world

Chance vs. Choice

In her essay for the week, Tara McPherson examines the claims that the world wide web affords a greater sense of mobility and choice to its users. While the industry’s move towards the development of interactive platforms exaggerates the notion that the consumer is in control, she argues that the web does indeed offer a specific modality of experience distinct from that of televisual flows. For instance, while the sense of liveness is common to both television and the web, the latter engenders a sense of choice as the user is able to click and move through websites at their own leisure. She highlights the visceral aspects of moving through the web and contends that time and space are constructed online in distinctive ways owing not just to the interface but also to the nature of code and web-based data. However, she points out that while the user operates under the notion that they are being propelled through space driven by their own quest for knowledge, this movement is actually structured by technological and commercial constraints. Thus, even though the experience of web-based navigation seems distinct from the broadcast medium of television, it is in fact structured to heighten the sense of choice and volition while confining users within a similar commercial logic of consumption. 

While I find McPherson’s analysis of the notion of volitional mobility provocative, I also wonder whether the sense of possibility engendered by the web can be entirely encompassed by the idea that it affords an unlimited array of choices. The corporate rhetoric, as McPherson points out, foregrounds the conception of user control as a liberatory force that allows the consumer to make rational choices based on what they want to see and read. The increasing trend towards personalization operates on the assumption that the consumer has a limited set of interests and knows what they want, waiting only for technology to meet their demands. However, the internet seems as much to be a site of guided navigation as one of random, accidental encounters. How would one begin to account for ‘chance’ alongside ‘choice’ in the experience of the web? While the notion of rational choice-making is at the core of more commercial web-based media, how would we account for encounters in the pirate and informal economies of the internet? While the possibilities for the meandering user are indeed limited in the face of increasing filtering and customization, how can we think through the possibilities of the web through its ability to take us on unexpected journeys?

Core Response #5: Chuck it up to Capitalism

Michael Curtin’s ideas about the logic of accumulation in his piece, Thinking Globally: From Media Imperialism to Media Capital, were particularly interesting.  Kieran Medina gave a presentation recently discussing the enormous popularity of a Snapchat “Our Story” about the New York Blizzard.  Their research covered how with the current culture of second screens, phone applications now have the ability to gain as many if not more eyes than television screens and the valuable market this potentially opens.  

The Snapchat story had over 24 million views, which put it higher than The Walking Dead and even higher than Monday Night Football.  With such a heavy viewership, particularly in the youth market, Snapchat seems to be able to move into a space of contemporary new media and therefore has great potential to be used as an activist tool whether for promoting news, resistance movements, and other social and political issues. While Snapchat is currently ad-free, with  “stories” like the blizzard, how long will it be able to sustain an add-free space? Although Snapchat doesn’t currently offer a necessarily valuable culture beyond perfecting selfies, its popularity does interact with Curtain’s concept that “over time [contemporary media] must redeploy its creative resources and reshape its terrain of operation if it is to survive competition and enhance profitability” (p. 5). 


One of the concerns I was considering when thinking about apps like Snapchat is the ever changing, evolving, and shrinking of people’s attention spans. Snapchats are not only inherently short as their name implies a double meaning referencing both the snapping of pictures and videos as well as the limited, pre-timed, one-time viewing model of the application.  What happens to us when our shortened attention spans start being harvested for information intended for capital gain? It’s a dangerous and slippery slope that has been evidenced by the waning popularity of socially apps or websites that can’t maintain enough traffic to remain competitive.  The capitalist transition ultimately kills diversity and ingenuity.  Capital has bee responsible for the demise of politically charged media across the ages as technology and the capitalist tradition heavy influenced the film and television industry from the levels of production and distribution that forwent many films and shows of social value in the aim of producing what’s popular and safe and guaranteed to turn a profit.  It seems likely that applications, even those with political potential, will likely fall victim to the capitalist machine.

CORE RESPONSE #5 - More TV Than Ever Before

In "Television Outside the Box" Lotz takes stock of the way television has changed as consumers have increasingly had more control over what they watch on TV. It started with the remote control which was available as early as the 1960s then moved on to VCRs, DVRs, cable, VOD and internet.

Each new wave of technology has brought predictions of the death of TV, and with each new development in technology the predictions have become more intense. Yet instead of killing TV, these technologies have simply expanded the idea of what television means. YouTube and certain types of digital video might be “nuggets” of news and entertainment, but then the highly serialized nature of VOD and Netflix makes increasingly longer narratives possible.

The delayed nature of DVR, DVDs, Netflix and other VODs also made critical buzz and word of mouth more important in a show's success. Shows like Arrested Development that were canceled on traditional network TV have gone on to develop loyal, cult followings on DVD and Netflix. Family Guy was brought back because of strong DVD sales.

It's not all good news, though. In 2005 Lotz writes that we reached saturation in many devices, and while we had much more supply of content than ever before, there was not a significant increase in demand.

Because of this embarrassment of riches in TV content, Lotz also argues that we need better ways to find and gather content, a "killer app". I would also argue that we need more tastemakers and critics to provide opinions on more content, particularly indie, online-only content like web series.

Lotz also paints a certain loss in TV culture as people stopped all watching the same things at the same time. Spoilers became a problem. The way live TV has unfolded has also changed from watching TV of major events in our living rooms to 9/11 when we watched them in offices or restaurants.

I was living in Boston during 9/11, working as a reporter in a small, neighborhood newspaper. When I got into work, everyone was watching the coverage on our one, small TV. We quickly transitioned to the bar and restaurant down the street where we could watch more footage on more screens with a room full of people to help us process what was happening.


Lotz is certainly right that the 2015 version of that event would have us all in the bar, looking at the footage on our phones, but I think we'd still need other people around us to help make sense of it all.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What's More Telling, the Ratings or the Platform?

This morning, Variety released stats compiled by Luth Research, a firm based in San Diego that has been compiling Netflix viewing data as a means of finally trying to crack those mysterious viewer numbers.



The data collected through Luth is composed of a sample of 2,500 subscribers who view access through computers, tablets, or smartphones. This data does not (yet) include TV viewing.

Not only are the numbers themselves of interest, but this choice in sampling is also telling of how current research views the future of viewing. Does Luth Research miss out on a large group by ignoring the television's connection to Netflix altogether?

Check out the stats here:  http://variety.com/2015/digital/news/netflix-originals-viewer-data-1201480234/

Gangsters, soaps and TV rituals

Among the readings for global television, both Shanti Kumar and David Morley argue that globalization is not necessarily a uniform, uni-directional and universalizing force. Instead, they contend that it poses a challenge to neat theoretical categories and pushes us to develop methodological approaches that can contend with the often chaotic effects of the process(es). Key to this re-evaluation for both Kumar and Morley is the need to shift our attention to ‘area studies’ or specific local contexts through which the repercussions of global media exchanges can be concretely mapped. At the same time, they argue for the need to view local interventions in relation to the flows of capital and broader institutional categories that frame these movements. 

Kumar deals with the disciplinary implications of such a move, arguing for the need to shift from a comparative approach that privileges Western theoretical categories towards an imparative approach based on dialogic understanding. Morley, on the other hand, focuses on methodological questions, arguing for a qualitative and empirically-grounded approach that puts pre-formed theoretical categories to test and looks at how exactly different groups participate in global media flows. Questioning sharp dichotomies between public/private and global/local tendencies, Morley argues that the macro-level analysis of ideological processes must begin through micro-level case studies. Focusing on domestic TV-viewing, he asserts that the space of televisual consumption is neither entirely ‘public’ nor ‘private’. Communication technologies are incorporated into the domestic sphere but also transform it by connecting the intimate experience of tv-viewing to a collective national register. He looks at the ceremonial aspect of this consumption, claiming that television is complicit in not only representing the event but performing and creating it. 

What exactly are the dynamics of this liminal space and how do the domestic rituals of tv-viewing connect to the formation of national identities? Some of these concerns are addressed in the opening sequence of Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), a gangster-epic film that covers eight decades in the life of a small town in Eastern India overrun by the coal mafia. Director Anurag Kashyap, one of the leading proponents of alternative cinema in India, draws heavily on international generic conventions to bring to life a history that has often been neglected in mainstream discourses in this two-part, 5 hours 20 mins long saga. The film’s narration sets up an opposition between a sanitized political history of modern India versus the complex and often chaotic forces in play at the local level by intercutting footage of landmark national events with the semi-fictional universe of Wasseypur’s coal gangs.

video

The opening shot of the film, set in the present day, begins with the blurry image of the opening credits of the hugely popular soap opera Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (English: Because a mother-in-law was once a daughter-in-law, too), known for its regressive treatment of gender issues. The camera slowly zooms out in a single long take, revealing the setting -a local grocery store that has temporarily been converted into a communal viewing space. The shot ends violently and abruptly as the TV is riddled with bullets, indicating the arrival of gang members in the locality. Aligned closely with a patriarchal and Hindu majoritarian worldview, the soap’s sterile universe of domestic bliss stands in stark contrast to Wasseypur’s visual and verbal excesses replete with sex, drugs and violence. Interrupting the scene of the soap’s ritualistic consumption, the film sets the stage for an interrogation of the common public national identity that it seeks to inculcate. The disruption and de-centering of the televisual thus becomes key to the film’s project of creating alternative mythologies that account for local and regional histories.

Flashing Images and Loud Music

I decided to repost this from Drew's original post, and embed the site.

Core Response: A Look at Empire’s Gendered Convergence


Lisa Parks delivers an interesting analysis of early aughts internet-TV convergence. She provides a pretty-well worn deconstruction of gendered media activity (passive = TV = feminine and active = internet = masculine). In my opinion, however, she undermines her analysis with”

“While it is productive for feminists to discuss and evaluate Oxygen in the popular press, it is unfortunate that these high-profile writers overlook recent feminist scholarship on the historical  positioning of women as consumers within the public sphere. In some instances, consumer practices such as moviegoing or department store shopping were an important mechanism of women’s socioeconomic mobility and were integral to the formation of female communities and even women’s entry into civic/public culture. (146)

This is only true to a point. Firstly, this is shortsighted in that this really only applies to the usual suspect(s): White, middle class / institutionally-educated / upwardly mobile, cisgender, straight, etc etc women. Second, hinging women’s empowerment on capitalist agency and access to consumerism is pretty questionable. In lieu of this, I’d like to offer a consumerist convergence case study in the shape of Empire’s Cookie’s Closet

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 5.37.57 PM.png

This seems even more intentional than most portals like this. Not only is the viewer / consumer linked to the actually luxury brand outfit that Cookie wears on the show, but they are provided affordable alternatives. This shows a self awareness on the part of the show of as to not only the demographics of the show, but also the ridiculousness of only offering a $6,000 Alexander McQueen dress to the viewing public. But outside of this, what empowerment would this offer a Black woman who wakes up every morning with fear in her heart? Or a Latina who makes approximately $0.57 on the dollar compared to White men?

Economic agency can be fun if you’re part of a community whose oppression fuels the status quo. But offering that as a primary mode of empowerment is foolhardy and misguided.

I’d be interested in a Parks addendum to this essay that takes in contemporary levels of convergence, consumerist attitudes in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, and of course, race.

The FCC and Comcast

So last Friday, Comcast abandoned its $45.2 billion dollar deal to acquire Time Warner. This Wired article intimates that "signals from the Department Justice and the Federal Communications Commission made clear that the merger wouldn’t be approved, and Comcast decided to cut its losses." The article is interesting in how it outlines, very briefly, the looming disapproval of the FCC and DJ as a symptom of a string of agreement violations made by Comcast after it's purchase of NBC Universal had been approved. Thus, Comcast's rejection has opened the door to other corporations "eyeing Time Warner Cable [...] and thanks to Comcast, it [Charter Communications] now has a playbook for what not to do."

http://www.wired.com/2015/04/comcast-can-blame-us-sinking-time-warner-deal/

Core Response #5: The Wiki Game


Reading Dr. McPherson’s article Reload: Liveness, Mobility, and the Web got me reminiscing about an old game I used to play in elementary/middle school—the Wiki Game. While the game is not connected to televisual pleasures, I found myself latching onto some of the ideas around the user’s mobility through navigable data space, as well as scan-and-search as a shifting form of engagement. Dr. McPherson quotes N. Katherine Hayles noting that “digital data is ‘instrinsically more involved in issues of mapping and navigation’ than most other media” (202).  The game itself highlights a lot of the concepts stated in the article, such as the Web as “a fly-through infoscape, a navigable terrain of spatialized data” (203), and it emphasizes the shift from a glance-or-gaze mode of visual engagement towards the scan-and-search.

I learned of the game back in the early 2000s in computer class. It was around the time that I assume teaching the skills around basic computer systems and digital platforms, as well as early development of basic motor and procedural functions (typing, shortcuts, commands) was deemed a necessary proficiency to transmit to adolescents hoping to integrate themselves into a modern workforce. When having finished the class’s exercise for the day, or possibly deciding I didn’t want or need to do it, I played the Wiki Game with my friends. Although the game was used as reward for after work or distraction from doing the work, it essentially operated as its own kind of pedagogical apparatus, teaching its players how to quickly and efficiently navigate visual/textual data. It forced its players to organize strategies around terminological, cultural, historical, and theoretical associations. It encouraged the ability to rapidly scan-and-search pages for vital information, while incorporating and utilizing certain console/keyboard commands to expedite the process.

The game is very simple. Either decide collectively on a random Wikipedia article or let Wikipedia generate it for you. Then repeat the step again. The game then becomes reaching random article two from random article one using only the hyperlinks within the webpage. The game has several variations. The winner of a speed game is determined by whoever gets to the second article first; while the winner of a click challenge is the one who reaches article two in the fewest clicks. There are other more specialized versions of the game like “5 Clicks to Jesus” or “How Many Clicks to Hitler.” There is also a version that bans the use of the United States wiki page as a kind of gateway or access point to other pages. Being one of the most in-depth articles on Wikipedia, with tons and tons of tangential hyperlinks, some players, hoping to make the game more difficult, like to remove it as a dependency.

For those interested in playing the game, the game has been developed into an app and it’s own website.

Also, maybe as a fun exercise, we could play a round in class tomorrow. Not everyone brings a laptop, so we could form teams I guess. It's always interesting and funny to see how people get from one random article to another, and the logic behind it.

Global Television Studies as both necessary and impossible

In Shanti Kumar's chapter, "Is There Anything Called Global Television Studies?" he investigates the question of what exactly global television studies means. The first problem in answering this is that he's troubled by the language of globalization in general. The way in which globalization is discussed, while attempting to encourage diversity, often allows a kind of colonialism of thought where the louder (Western) voice coopts the conversation. (p. 137).

Further complicating the matter is the fact that global television studies hasn't been well defined as a field of study. (p. 138). To try to answer this question, Kumar posits another question, what are the uses of TV? At its best, it seems to encourage a kind of cross-demographic communication, but because of the challenges of language, as well as other cultural and socioeconomic forces, this use is dubious at best.

So Kumar then turns to a field of study that's been around a little longer. What are "cultural studies?" He finds no more clear answers here and quotes Stuart Hall from the Centre for Conteporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham as saying no one knows exactly what cultural studies are. Who determines what is "cultural," what is other? (p. 141). Often cultural studies, and global TV studies uses a kind of "East meets West" philosophy, but in a way that plays by Western rules. Otherness is defined in contrast to a Western norm. (p. 145).

Kumar seems to find some comfort in the idea of discipline in an academic sense. Perhaps this is the path to understand such an all-encompassing phrase like global television studies, but he abandons this as well arguing that the discipline of TV studies is at once necessary and impossible. It's necessary in order to fight the universalizing tendencies of Western culture, but it's impossible because it will always be an unequal dialogue. (p. 151).

It's hard for me to get to the end of an essay like this and not want to see more of the discipline Kumar himself calls for. I don't need to study global TV until language itself breaks down, as he suggests. You can push any study to the point where language breaks down, but where does that leave us? Language and cultural context are limiting and insufficient, but they're the mediums we're stuck with. Perhaps a more specific and concrete lens to consider it through, like production studies, could lead us to a more fruitful understanding of global TV studies. The television showrunner system, for example, is almost exclusively a US phenomenon. The rest of the world creates television though the director/auteur theory of film. How do these differences influence the product, and how do they influence the way television is exported to other cultures?

And on a lighter note...

This is a neat little bauble of a website that popped into my mind immediately the first time I read "haptics." You should probably heed the warning in the lower-left hand corner.

http://www.staggeringbeauty.com/

Core Response #4: Digital Haptics and Obsolescence

Tara's essay for this week, written during the relative infancy of commercial Internet access, stimulated my interest in media and haptics and how computing in particular is able to harness a unique sense of immediacy to appeal to users looking for an "imagined space of possibility and change." [1] The third section of the essay in particular led me to wonder wonder which other manifestations of capital gatekeeping have arisen to stratify the digital wilderness in the thirteen years between the authoring of the essay and today. As I began to write this post from my seven-year-old Lenovo, which has been drifting to and from death's door for the better part of a month now, one of these manifestations became clear to me: the finance-driven world of personal computer technology and how the Internet experience differs for those who have varying degrees of access to it.

The United States Census Bureau reported that in 2013, 83.8 of respondent households owned a computer, and 74.4 of households had Internet access. [2] This one sentence should illustrate a rather alarming gap in and of itself - the Internet is essentially a utility at this point, and one in five American households don't have it. These statistics become even more shocking when income and race are taken into account: less than half of respondent households with an income of $25,000/year have Internet access, and approximately 60% of black and Hispanic households have Internet access. Those fortunate enough to afford these services must also consider Moore's Law, which states (here generalized) that computing capacities double every 18 months from what they were previously capable of, typically accompanied by an increase in price and an eventual need to upgrade as well. What becomes off-limits to households using outdated computers or slow Internet? Any site with advertisements becomes a nightmare to approach: users who don't use adblocking technologies find themselves bombarded with streaming video extolling bleach, and users who do quickly discover that the program hogs their already precious computing resources anyway. [3] The promise of volitional mobility is severely compromised when the "sense of directed movement through space" [4] is weighed down by cursor lag, screen freezes, memory leaks, and a wide array of other problems that an obsolete computer must contend with. Tech has become more and more intertwined with finance, a paradigm that we must remain constantly aware of if we intend to continue championing the Internet as a space for informational acquisition and personal transformation.

Works Cited

[1] McPherson, Tara. "Reload: Liveness, Mobility, and the Web." 
[2] United States Census Bureau. "Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013" <http://www.census.gov/history/pdf/2013computeruse.pdf>
[3] Anthony, Sebastian. "Iframe irony: Adblock Plus is probably the reason Firefox and Chrome are such memory hogs." <http://www.extremetech.com/computing/182428-ironic-iframes-adblock-plus-is-probably-the-reason-firefox-and-chrome-are-such-memory-hogs>
[4] See [1]

CORE RESPONSE 5: Tracking Oxygen Media's Progress in Converging with the Internet

In her article “Flexible Microcasting: Gender, Generation, and Television-Internet Convergence,” Lisa Parks discusses Oxygen Media, the first “on air and online network for women, by women” at length (142). Parks says, “Oxygen’s plight to ‘superserve the needs and interests of women’ is certainly worth tracking in the years to come,” and I agree (148). Since I am not an avid Oxygen watcher, I had to research the company’s evolution since the early 2000s and found that in 2014, Oxygen Media promised a new interactive, cross-platform that would allow viewers to weigh in on the show while it’s airing live called “Play Live.” However, if you try to find it today, oxygen.com/playlive brings up a 404 error. The bright new future of female-centric media convergence seems to have not quite worked out as hoped. 

After the network was rebranded in 2014, none of its programs deal with making technology accessible to women, most likely because women’s ability to navigate the internet is now assumed. We now longer need Oprah to show us how to use technology.

It’s interesting that Parks considers women passive when “Oxygen is the No. 4 most social primetime cable reality network in 2014. And of the top 10 most social cable reality networks, Oxygen viewers have the largest number of followers.”

Despite its social media prowess, I would say that Netflix, not Oxygen, is the true convergence of TV and the internet and the very embodiment of “self programming.” Oxygen has been left behind, as it does not offer the viewer programming on demand with recommendations based on your carefully recorded viewing habits like Netflix does. In fact, you still need a cable TV provider to watch Oxygen shows on demand on their website. Oxygen engages with its audience through social media very successfully, but that’s where the convergence seems to end.

Now, Oxygen’s programming is mostly reality TV, but it has not lost its focus on women’s empowerment with new entrepreneur-themed shows announced in March of this year, such as “Time to Quit Your Day Job,” which will give new business women the chance to pitch themselves and their ideas to a panel of female investors. Another show, “The Hustle,” follows the daily struggles of young female assistants working for successful entrepreneurs.

In this way, I hope Oxygen Media continues to push for programming for women and continues to find success, even if it’s not exactly on the forefront of the convergence of internet and TV.

I agree with Parks that we “can’t afford to kill our televisions” (152) and “talk more about what we want to see” (153). What I want to see is more programming for women, by women. We also need to “care enough about television to fight over it, to realize that our creative potential might lay in it” (153). Oxygen Media seems to agree, and I wish them continued success as they push toward a convergent future. 

Duolingo and Klingon

Bringing us back earlier in the semester to Star Trek and Jenkins' article on Star Trek, especially his optimistic approach to the consumer-producer. The language learning app Duolingo is developing a set of courses for Klingon. The app also has a program called the Incubator where you can apply to help develop a variety of language courses.


 http://incubator.duolingo.com/

https://www.duolingo.com/course/tlh/en/Learn-Klingon-Online

http://thenextweb.com/apps/2015/04/09/qapla-duolingo-will-soon-teach-klingon-on-its-language-learning-platform/


Core Response 5: World's Funniest Fails

In “Flexible Microcasting: Gender, Generation, and Television-Internet Convergence,” Lisa Parks discusses the notion of “Television 2.0… which introduces the necessity of institutional reorganization and shifts in the format of programming as well” (Parks 134). As a means of adapting to this ‘reorganizing’ of television in an internet-crazed era, Parks offers the idea of “flexible microcasting,” which combines television and internet technologies to produce programming that is “carefully tailored to the viewer’s preferences, tastes, and desires” (Parks 135).

            Like the target of Who Wants to Be a Millionare?, television networks are once again attempting to pursue the mass audience through a revamping of familiar television platforms. At the start of the new year, Fox debuted World’s Funniest Fails. In a sense, this show may be viewed as a revamp of America’s Funniest Home Videos in that it showcases “epic fail” clips in front of a live audience. However, the platform has been modified to cater to today’s technology. Throughout World’s Funniest Fails, hosted by Terry Crews, a panel of comedians view and comment on each clip. As these comedians later choose their own favorite clip, and Crews is responsible for choosing the “Fail of the Week,” this show also attempts to tap into some sort of game element.




            Through its production, the show operates on the very notion of “flexible microcasting,” in that its basic formula relies on the blending of Internet content and televisual commentary. It was originally inspired by a YouTube channel, FailArmy, which is extremely interactive with viewer comments. Rather than accepting viewer submissions like America’s Funniest Home Videos, World’s Funniest Fails instead showcases viral videos, and thus relies on active Internet participation and viewership to structure each show. Therefore, this show “blends fantasies of private address and public participation”.  Part of the its interest stems from curiosity as viewers tune in to see and hear what their favorite comedian thinks about the same clip that overtook their newsfeed that week. Thus, although the show itself is not great – by any means – it offers an interesting perspective on how networks are still reliant on old platforms, such as the game show format, whilst attempting to relevantly operate in this postbroadcasting  era.

Core Response 5: The Gameshow and Gaming in the Post-broadcast Age by Damian Panton

     In “Flexible Microcasting” Lisa Parks highlights the use of interactive programming to encourage viewers of the post-broadcasting age to approach new digital mediums through televisual conventions rather than replacing television entirely. According to Parks, the revival of the gameshow was a successful attempt by networks to introduce computerization into an old medium that was largely accepted by mass audiences in the late 90s and early 2000s. Shows like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? set a precedent for capturing mass audiences of different demographics through the simple pleasure of allowing the average person a fantasy of wealth acquisition through personal achievement. Nearly ten years later, the popularity of the program inspired Microsoft to attempt a similar pairing of television and interactive programming in an attempt to bring families to their social gaming platform Xbox Live. The result was called 1 vs. 100, a massively multiplayer online game adapted from a program of the same name that aired internationally.


     1 vs. 100 was meant to be the foundation of what Microsoft called Xbox Live Primetime, a series of scheduled programs that pitted Xbox Live users against one another for real world rewards such as store currency or video games. When deciding which gameshow to pursue, Microsoft met with the producers of several different shows such as Survivor and American Idol before partnering with Endemol (makers of Big Brother, Deal or No Deal, and Wipeout) due to their program’s unique social elements that included active audience participation. On Xbox Live the show was split into two programs 1 vs. 100 Extended Play and 1 vs. 100 LIVE. During extended play, which ran throughout the week, players would compete as a mob of limitless size. The thirty minute “show” typically consisted of questions organized under a theme that changed each week. For example, week one of a season might be “Fanboy Week” wherein all questions dealt with tech, gadgets, comics, or anime. Week two might be “Lifestyle Week” during which many questions may be based off current headlines, pop culture, or were user generated. Extended play largely excused one from the typical gameshow constraints of accuracy and streaks in favor of encouraging participation each day. Those that earned the most points each week through extended play sessions would be chosen to participate in 1 vs. 100 LIVE for the chance to win store credit or videogames.
     The LIVE portion of the show tried to replicate the traditional television show as much as it could. Each episode was two hours long and aired every Tuesday and Friday for thirteen weeks. The host of the television program, Chris Cashman, reprised his role as the game’s live host in avatar form. Throughout the show would be thirty second “commercial breaks” for Sprint and Honda which each paid $1 million for the pleasure, and a guest interview portion where prominent members of the gaming industry would converse with Cashman as players checked their performance statistics. The players that were selected to compete were chosen based on the total amount of points they had accrued for the week during extended play, with “the one” having the most. Those that tuned in to “watch” but were not eligible to participate as either “the one” or “the mob” became “the crowd” and were segregated into groups of four that competed against one another for bragging rights (and the opportunity to increase their lifetime score).
     Like Who Wants to Be an Millionaire?, 1 vs. 100 proved to be insanely popular among audiences. The interactive nature of the gameshow was interesting enough to inspire 2.5 million people to play over the course of two seasons. But, only a year after it began, Microsoft announced the game wouldn’t be returning for a third season. Though gameshow’s were a relatively inexpensive gamble for networks, the technical challenges of developing a foolproof anti-cheat system and networking code to ensure everything was experienced by players in real-time skyrocketed the development cost of the program and caused it to remain sponsor-less in beta for far too long.

     Although the project was a failure in the economic sense, I think it was successful in a very unexpected way. The program showed how willing gamers were to abandon relatively autonomous means of gaming in exchange for a far more regulated activity that offered a chance to win money. Although Microsoft hasn’t attempted a similar project since 1 vs. 100’s cancellation, whenever asked about primetime programming on Xbox Live they claim that they learned a lot from the venture and will apply that to similar offerings in the future. Personally, I’m curious to see where the gameshow heads next. Microsoft is hoping to make a big push into augmented reality with their HoloLens device, maybe we’ll be able to compete for money wherever we go? They could call it life.