Hashtags and Pop-Culture

Chapters six and seven continue on our discussion of participatory culture. These days there is an awareness being created for everything.


If you haven’t seen the video of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake mocking hashtags, then you need to go look it up on youtube now! It is a hilarious parody of our culture and the importance of hashtags but what Jimmy and Justin might not have realized was how important hashtags can be to participatory culture.

A fun fact that I’m not sure everyone knows is the technical name of the #. I love stumping people with this question. What is the technical name for the hashtag. Mostly everyone’s guess is the pound sign. Nope. Octothorpe. Because of the 8 points and the parallel lines this sign is called an octothorpe. There you go, you learn something new everyday.

Hashtags are a modern way of creating awareness for causes. Tweets and pictures on instagram include hashtags to start an online conversation about these causes. The politics of pop culture and whats trending can be difficult to understand. I believe age and geographical location plays a large part on participatory culture. I am personally not a Beyonce fan. (Although I love and respect the attention she brings to feminism) She is constantly trending. Her Super Bowl performance brought her a lot of good and bad press. Lately she has been all over social media due to her “Lemonade” release. My age group has been up in arms due to her lyrics hinting at infidelity in her relationship with Jay-Z. I personally do not care about this revelation but it is trending on all social media sites.

People who are in an older age group might be more interested in the presidential race or international politics. Hashtags target certain age groups and geographical locations. I might not know what the hashtag #JusticeForFlint means if I’m not from Michigan. Also middle America might not know about #RaiseTheWage if they don’t live in a big city where these rallies take place.

The ability that hashtags have is to raise awareness and allow people to feel a part of something. If you have a social media account you are not able to be an activist. You can fight for what you believe in by posting your opinion. Hashtags, memes and getting the word out allows anyone to feel involved.

A friend emailed me an amazing New York Times article about a year ago. The series investigated the nail salon industry. These journalists found out the secrets of the “spa service” industry that wasn’t well known before. The wages these women are paid are below the means to live. Many asian women in New York share small apartments just to get by. The salon owners help them come to America in exchange for a low paying job. Since I read this story I haven’t gotten my nails done in a salon. I am silently boycotting this industry because I do not agree with the practices. I also tried to spread awareness through my social media accounts by sharing the article. I will do it again here, on my blog.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/nyregion/at-nail-salons-in-nyc-manicurists-are-underpaid-and-unprotected.html?_r=0

Another example was after I watched the documentary “Blackfish.” This movie which can be found on Netflix moved me so much that I wanted to become involved in saving these amazing animals. A few weeks ago Buzzfeed announced that SeaWorld was going to stop breeding their Orcas and they were no longer going to perform shows in their parks. I was so happy that I posted the article to my instagram. http://www.buzzfeed.com/rosebuchanan/seaworld-to-end-its-controversial-orca-breeding-program?utm_term=.fbJ33WGekJ

Participatory culture allows us to feel like activists and bring awareness to the causes that we feel are important. Are people listening? I don’t know, but I hope someone is.


Experimenting with Air-B-N-Me

The past three days have been emotionally draining for me. Personal stuff has gotten in the way of my school work for the past three weeks and I feel as if I haven’t been able to keep up. So when I remembered that we needed to “Loan” some lives and get a sense for the Netprov project I thought that this would be a perfect way for me to destress. I was excited to live someone else’s life for about a minute of two.

I went through the list starting at the top and read all of the ads. I only clicked on the videos that I thought would interest me the most and I was pleasantly surprised that people kept with the improvising concept. I found Martha’s two videos and Debbie’s two videos. Recognizing their usernames I watched their videos first. Martha stayed true to her life at home and shared what it is like to read a magazine in front of the fire and pet her dog while listening to her husband pick the guitar. I laughed at her ad because my boyfriend does the same thing. He will pick a song he wants to learn and he picks the same notes over and over until he gets it. It can get annoying to listen to after a while. But I liked that she brought us in to her life in that way. She also shared a video of her dancing with her husband. I have no idea how she was able to film this but I really felt as if I was dancing.

I experienced Jessica’s freaking search for her next victim in a serial killer’s crime spree. That was fun to think about for a few seconds. I also ventured out and tried a few other lender’s lives. One video was a woman petting a dog and reading a book, the other was a woman cooking for her kids, a guy walking a dog, and the last was someone walking around a library and then sitting down to work on homework. I found that most people were creative with their videos.

Debbie’s two videos were with her granddaughters. She did Ballet with her one granddaughter and I thought it was really genius to use her as a mirror to what Debbie was doing so the loaner felt like they were doing the moves that her granddaughter was doing. The second was more watching then doing, it was her granddaughters on the trampoline having fun and freaking out about bugs haha. My favorite part of this post was the review that someone wrote. It was perfect, this person kept in character and explained how they felt during the experience. The third was a look around a costume shop. I thought this was a cute and creative idea. I enjoy reading all of the responses as much as i like watching the videos.

That is the second part of the netprov is responding to the lenders. The loaners inhabit someone’s life for a few minutes and then they normally would write a review on how they enjoyed or disliked that person’s life. In the spirit of improvisation everyone kept their character and talked about the videos like they actually experienced it. I got involved in this too. I tried to write my review as if I had a visceral experience while watching the video. This part was fun because it allowed me to respond to the video but also be creative in how I enjoyed the “loan.”

I think the Youtube videos allowed this project to flourish. Periscope was a bad choice for this project. Periscope, as a concept is great. Periscope in reality is not. I think the project was a success because everyone involved was able to play a character and keep that consistent character throughout the experience. Improvising is the whole goal of the experiment. Between the profiles, ads (swappertunities) and reviews this project kept up the creativity and interest that I hoped it would. I found some videos to be better than others but the simple fact that people were creating and thinking outside the box was what I think makes this project a success.

The conversation that is happening with the reviews and the responses from the loaners I think this netprov could go on for a while. As long as there is content being uploaded and someone to watch and review this could go on for a while. The site also allowed the users to jump around and search just like Air B N B. It felt authentic. There is so much creativity and ingenuity that can be used for this project and I was very interested to see how each user demonstrated their life through their point of view and a camera.

The Start of Technology in Silicon Valley

I found it very interesting that the tech boom in silicon valley had a slow start. In 2003 so many people flocked to San Francisco with ideas and tech skills, ready to create something new. These people gathered and brainstormed but no one knew what the next big thing would be. This new wave of tech-geeks created a movement known was web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is another name for the start of online social networks. Cue the mentioning of Mark Zuckerberg. It’s true, you can’t talk about social networks without naming Facebook. The movie about the behind the scenes truth of the website is called The Social Network. Although that movie depicts the facts about how Zuckerberg stole the idea, used all of his friends money to start it, then never paid that friend back and eventually alienated everyone that helped him get to where he is now, the movie proves how money drove everyone in silicon valley to want the same payday.

I think Danah describes it best when she says, “The quick and dirty answer is capitalism, but the reality is much more complex. Some people start companies to get rich, but many more start companies with an idea to solve a problem they are experiencing and which they feel is not being addressed adequately by the current set of public and private offerings, whether that problem is finding a date, sharing a video, or finding a house to stay in while on vacation.” Most tech-geeks want to solve a problem or make a situation better by creating a tool that will cater to the user. Air B-N-B is a perfect example. Allowing people to make money by renting their home to others and allowing travelers a comfortable and cheap place to stay. This company solves a problem for travelers and caters to the people who want to make money by renting their homes. Win, win, right? And the creator of the website makes lots of money off of advertising so really, everyone wins.

Mimi describes the big three tech industries for participatory culture as Web 2.0, gaming, and mobile. Gaming was geeks geeking out and it originally started with software but over time has become a type of subculture all on its own. Geeks are now hacking and creating their own games along with the games that are made by the commercial companies. Mobile has taken on its own culture as well. Having the ability to constantly be in contact with everyone in your social network. Texting culture was made popular by teens and is now used by everyone no matter what subculture or age, gender, and race.

Myspace, a site that is no longer as popular as it once was, was a perfect example of the beta style experimenting that was going on in the early stage of the world wide web. Once users figured out that they could hack their profiles to make them as custom as they pleased Myspace watched as every user created their own HTML and coded their profile to their liking. Myspace didn’t want to step in because they wanted to see how far users would go to customize their own page.

Mimi’s explanation of how texting started made me think of a story. My older cousin used to have a pager. She would get a beep and would find a pay phone and call whoever had beeped her. She used to drive me around and take me to the mall and do things that cooler older cousins did with their young less cool cousins. I didn’t understand the point of a pager and I also didn’t know that it had a number and when you called the number you could leave a message that would show up on the pager. She once got a message that just said 143. I read it to her while she was driving and I was confused to only see 3 letters as the message. A telephone number is longer then that. When I asked her what it meant she told me that the message was from her boyfriend. 143 stood for the amount of letters in the sentence I Love You. I thought wow, he can’t call her because she isn’t home so he lets her know he is thinking of her by sending her a message. This must be the first signs of texting before there were even cell phones. I thought this was fascinating when I was little and now texting is as normal as anything else in my everyday life.

This chapter reminds me of another story. After listening to the first season of Serial (twice) I wanted another podcast to listen to. I started listening to a podcast called Startup. It was about a radio broadcaster who had worked for This American Life and wanted to start his own podcasting company. One of the episodes he talks to a venture capitalist about how he should go about finding investors for his company. The venture capitalist told him that he needed to create a brand that didn’t already exist. Come up with an idea that no one has thought of yet and everyone will want to invest in your company. This makes me think of the commercialism of silicon valley. All of those investors just waiting for the geeks to come up with a brilliant idea that they can place their money on and eventually make more money than they give in. Thats the name of the game. Technology is a huge commercial industry that without the start of the internet would have never became as financially profitable as it is today.


Teens and Technology

The term “teenager” was created in the 1940’s after the great depression and the economy boom after World War II. It was used as a marketing term to target an older youth population. This began the idea that teenagers should be treated differently. They aren’t quite children anymore but they are not yet adults.

Many of the quotes from the chapters insisted that parents were terrified of the technology their children were using and they didn’t fully understand. The idea that new technology creates new problems. I agree with this partially. When I first joined Myspace my dad would try to give me advice on how I shouldn’t talk to anyone I didn’t know in person and that I shouldn’t be posting things that were too personal.

Bullying also became an issue with the start of the world wide web. AOL Instant Messenger, Myspace, and online forums created a space for bullies to hide behind a computer screen and bully whoever they wanted from the comfort of their own home. This can be a concern for any parent. How do they monitor their child online? How can a parent find out if a child is being bullied? Or how can they find out if their child is the bully? I believe that these are the reasons that parents are worried.

I think this comes down to having conversations about online security and privacy. Martha follows her daughter on Instagram. In real time Martha can see what her daughter posts and what she is broadcasting to the public. Dr. Z says her kids geek out with others online. She advices her kids to “hang out” online by connecting with others in a connected learning community. I believe that by talking with your kids and trying to find out about their networks you can get a good idea of what they are doing online.

“Parents often want to “solve” the problem by making it less visible – by restricting children’s access to social media or pushing for companies to scan for negative content. But this doesn’t actually curtail bullying. It is only a Band-aid on the fear.” I liked this quote because it is true. Parents want to “come to the rescue” for their children. By not allowing them to join social media sites the parents believe they are saving their child. Sometimes this can be more harmful than helpful. Children will never learn how to use technology if they are prevented from using it.

Chapter 3 taught me more about understanding how to engage in technology and new media. HOMAGO, is a new term I learned that I never heard before. Hanging out, is what most teens do while texting or spending time in person. They are gossiping, talking about social interactions or pop culture. Messing around most likely is related to learning and connecting with other learners. Youtube tutorials, coding, and video games usually allow kids to learn while they are messing around and making connections. Geeking out is even more involved. Kids check out blogs, youtube videos, and online forums to either share their experience and skills or learn a new skill and connect with people who already mastered the skill for the task.

Vlogging has become the way teens gather information on pop culture and the latest news and trends. Youtube is the new source for collection information. Vlogging is in a way a return to oral tradition. TV shows, awards shows, cultural news, and any types of entertainment can now be broken down on youtube videos. Youtube bloggers now give commentary to clips or videos and allow their opinions or expertise on these topics.

Another thing about vlogging that I found fascinating is youtube stars who are entertainers. Singers like Karmin and Justin Bieber started on youtube by singing covers. They produced their own videos and sang popular songs in their own original way to get noticed. Once they got enough followers they would start to make videos of their own original songs in hopes to get signed. You tubers interact with their followers and they ask for suggestions in the comment sections.

I remember when Youtube started. No one knew what it was and what its potential really was. Years later youtube is a sensation and has created jobs for vloggers and created enough content to suffice any user.