WordPress “masks the database and creates a continuous blogging experience within the browser” (Helmond in Reader, p. 180), yet the database is rigidly defined and categorised. Discuss how this shapes the way we interact with the World Wide Web through blogging and how it affects user agency.
WordPress conceals its rigidly defined and categorised database to ensure that the user interacts with the World Wide Web without noticing the database behind the blog interface. The construct of WordPress signifies a shift in user agency, as the user does not have to interact with the complex system operating behind the blogging website in turn, suggesting that user agency is shaped significantly by interfaces as they are information.
WordPress allows the browser to access methodically constructed information without much difficulty. Blogging has frequently been associated with the mentality that the user is able to access the blog at anytime. By masking the database, WordPress enables the user to interact with the information continuously. The fundamental element to the success of WordPress and other blogging websites is that the user is given information without the complexities behind the technical elements of the web. In other words, Tim Berners-Lee writes that ‘The job of computers and networks is to get out of the way, to not be seen…The technology should be transparent, so we interact with it intuitively.’ (Helmond 53) As the inventor of the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee highlights the importance of masking the database in order for the user to interact with the medium on a far deeper intellectual level. Our interaction with the web is heavily influenced by our ability to process information that is presented to us. Through the hidden database of WordPress the distribution of information is able to occur more efficiently as the browsing experience is not disrupted and therefore creating a continuous blogging experience. Moreover, our visual interaction with WordPress has a significant affect on user agency.
In order for WordPress to continue its popularity within the blogosphere, the blogger is required to engage their browser with their blog content. Along with the written information the blog interface, which includes themes, blogroll, links and tags, must work cohesively to reel in the browser. WordPress conceals its database to create a visually appealing browsing experience in order to establish a system of interaction with the browser. The blogger constructs their posts around the assumption that someone else will access the information therefore making blogger more reliant on the hidden data base to make the browsing experience enjoyable and easier for the browser. A blog can be described as a vehicle for information distribution and therefore the blog must be operational for the user in order for the information to reach it’s target audience. WordPress is accessed worldwide by a vast audience, which establishes this need to create a universally accessible site interface.
Helmond, Anne. “Software-Engine Relations.” in Blogging for Engines: Blogs Under the Influence of Software-Engine Relations. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 2007.
A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269)
The celebrity statuses acquired by popular YouTubers transcend the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media as it is the mass public that determines the next YouTube star. To discuss this argument we will examine makeup gurus Samantha and Nicola Chapman also known as Pixiwoo on YouTube. The sisters, from England, currently have 296,251 subscribers and have a total of 14,236,592 channel views. They are professional makeup artists by trade who have an impressive repertoire with both sisters having worked with a celebrity clientele and are often involved with fashion shoots and runway shows. According to Burgess and Green, ‘even when ordinary people become celebrities through their own creative efforts, there is no necessary transfer of media power’. Although this argument rightly identifies the difficulty in transferring media power, the Pixiwoo girls have created a new form of public influence in that online personalities have the ability to shape public opinion centered on their online presence.
For their videos the girls provide the cosmetic companies a list of what they require from the company’s PR team. This demonstrates that their self-made celebrity status has gone beyond the YouTube realm as major PR companies have validated their celebrity status and acknowledged their ability to influence the market. In an article written by Irina Slutsky, ‘the price of hiring a YouTube celebrity to pitch a product is now comparable to hiring a B- or a C-level Hollywood celeb’. Their accompanying blog and the active comment section of their videos displays the online community of cosmetic consumers who rely on their recommendations and engage with other online viewers. Although their celebrity status was acquired online, their influence is spreading through to the consumer market because of their popularity among the masses. This draws parallel to the argument that the system of YouTube celebrity operates on the power of the masses rather than the mass media.
Furthermore, one half of the Pixiwoo sisters has recently released her own line of makeup brushes with a company called Real Techniques. The brush range is available online and in beauty stores within the United States. The release of this brush range contradicts Burgess and Green in saying that the ‘on going status as a ‘star’ on YouTube can only be achieved by ongoing participation in YouTube’. While the avid YouTube viewer can instantaneously recognize the names of the Pixiwoo girls, there is also the group who do not access the site and therefore are unaware of the their celebrity status. However, the culmination of Pixiwoo’s creative efforts and online presence has allowed the sisters to go beyond what Burgess and Green argue as ‘the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media’. The Pixiwoo girls define the YouTube celebrity as their fan base has provided them with their star status thus creating a modern form of celebrity that is controlled by the powerful effect of popularity.
Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.
Bloggers have the opportunity to inform the public but cannot replace the existing elite media in effectively informing the public. Russell (et al.) draws parallels between the blogosphere and elite media forms such newspapers and magazines with their ability to reach a broad audience. While there are similarities between the function of a blogger and journalist, the distinct line between professional and amateur runs deep, making blogs an alternative device in building on the affectivity of the mainstream media.
A key distinction between amateur journalism and professional journalism is the freedom of editorial independence bloggers have. While this can be liberating, the lack of an editor presents us with the burning question of whether the information presented in a blog is viable. Can we trust the observations of a blogger who lacks formal journalistic training or is this lack of training the key to discovering deeper truths that elite media institutions edit out? The recent WikiLeaks controversy has Geert Lovink theorizing that it is a symbol for a “transformation in the “information society” at large’. For Lovink, WikiLeaks has created a new method of exposure. The absence of a content filter can bring to light issues that would otherwise be neglected by elite media forms. Moreover, the technology driving the blogosphere allows for the spread of information to occur at a faster rate.
Blogs have the ability to bring a recent event into the public domain by the efficiency of the internet. In What’s Next for Blogs Joffe (et al) states that this feature was ‘demonstrated in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001’. In many ways this can be described as greater means in effectively informing the public, as conventional news outlets do not always publish developments in news headlines as they happen. However, large publications such as the Age and the Herald Sun have developed their online websites to keep up with the demand for instant news updates. In contrast to political blogs, celebrity news blogs have created a means for integrating the cyberworld and reality.
The rise of the blogger has created a succession of online communities where blog posts act as a topic for discussion. Successful blogs such as Perez Hilton operate on merit-based popularity. Blogs like Perez Hilton have transcended the cyberworld and become apart of daily conversations. Alternatively this can be viewed as an effective way of distributing information as the information exceeds the media form it was initially distributed in. There is a conscious decision to access a blog like Perez Hilton suggesting that there is a higher level of engagement between the user and their chosen media. This demonstrates the difference in how the mainstream media is accessed in comparison to blogs. Blogs can be very specific in the information they present while print media often includes a wide array of topics and interests. However, despite the freedom of blogger and their ability to publish information as things unfold, blogging is still a method of citizen journalism and therefore lacks the formality that is central to the notion of effectively informing the public.
Has music changed for the better? or have we moved into a digital era where music is produced by machines and not instruments?
Maybe one day our computers will predict what music we feel like listening to.
Can we be defined by our front preferences?
Upon reading an article by Dragan Espenschield ‘Put Yer Fonts in a Pipe and Smoke Em!!’ I had discovered an unknown society of typeface-sensitive graphic designers. According to the article, there is actually a complicated system in play which determines which fonts we can access. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really given much thought into where fonts come from or who designs them. To me, they were just a way of making a document look better or make a website more appealing.
According to the article, the front Arial “is just an imitation of Helvetica and exists simply because Microsoft was too cheap to pay license fees for the real, and much loved Helvetica”. At first I wasn’t too sure how to take this primarily because I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of the importance of typefaces. It would appear that the article is suggesting that people have formed a level of attachment to various fonts. The only thing running through my mind at this point was why?
The article itself is printed in what I can only describe as a bizarre font. It almost looks like the handwriting of grade 6 trying to perfect their “lean”. Upon realizing and reminiscing on the days where we had to earn a pen license, I finally came to a conclusion as to why people held such high reverence for font types. In order to communicate with your audience, the visual must correspond with the message. Without appealing fonts or graphics on a website, chances are that people will eventually lose interest or to the very minimum feel like web browsing is a laborious task.
A) Lovink (Reader, page 219) argues that bloggers are creative nihilists “who celebrate the death of centralized meaning structures and ignore the accusation that they would only produce noise”. Discuss ONE of these arguments giving an example of a blog. Specify chosen argument in your answer.
So who reads this blog anyway? This is the question bloggers face when they hit the publish button. For anyone who follows a blog it is quite obvious that finding what you are looking can happen by sheer luck or by careful advertising. Whether the interest is fashion, photography, cooking or gardening, a blog dedicated to these areas of interest is just waiting for the day you hit ‘bookmark’. But what happens when a simple blog about, say, shoes escalates into a money making machine eventuating into a design collaboration? Or having Kanye West post a picture of him viewing the blog? Or have Chanel draped across your little blogger body in the fashion capital non other than Paris? Well this has been the reality for well-known fashion blogger Jane Aldridge of sea of shoes. Aldridge has turned her humble blog revolving around her love for vintage fashion and shoes into what can essentially be deemed a business. This teenage girl from Dallas has turned her pastime activity into her claim to blogger fame.
Within the Bloggosphere there is an accusation that blogs ‘only produce noise’. In other words, blogs don’t actually achieve anything other than creating more hype. Sure there are a superfluous amount of blogs that basically remain in cyber limbo but it is the rare occasion where blogs like sea of shoes transcend the masses that keeps the opportunistic blogger blogging. Geert Lovink argues that bloggers can be deemed ‘creative nihilists’ (219) that ‘celebrate the death of centralized meaning structures and ignore the accusation that they would only produce noise.’ (219) When looking at fashion blogs it is arguable that the central players (Fashion Toast, Jak and Jill, Bryan Boy, The Sartorialist) are blurring the lines between fashion amateur turned blogger and fashion writer, photographer and editor.
What these blogs have created is a wider distribution of fashion ideas. People now look to these blogs for fashion inspiration and often leave the current issue of Vogue at the news agency. From their blogs, these people have basically created a career in the fashion industry as their profiles are often featured in fashion magazines. Rumi Neely from fashion toast is often photographed front row of fashion shows while Bryan Boy has had designer Marc Jacobs name a bag in his honor. When we come to comprehend the success of these bloggers it is clear that a fashion blog can catapult the individual into the social networks of the fashion industry. While there is a movement away from the tradition methods of staying relevant to the current fashion trends, there is also a plethora of new ideas circulating. Blogs don’t simply create noise, they create fashion.
Lovink, Geert, “Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse”, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge.