The Hub… Digital Storytelling Project

Link to my Story-map on knightlab: https://uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/1758abbb4943554c32cdb61b23ef9191/the-hub/index.html

The Hub affords a vast array of opportunities; so if everyone at Victoria University was approached and asked what the Hub means to them the range of responses would be endless. Ian Hutchby explores affordances as possibilities that something offers for usage (2001). To some, the Hub is a cafeteria, workspace and place for socialising while others may view it as space they pass through between lectures; reinforcing the Hub’s immense versatility.

The term ‘Hub’ cleverly alludes to the functionality of the physical space. As outlined in my story-map Merriam Webster defines a ‘Hub’ as a “centre of activity”. This is perfectly apt in that the Hub resides as the centre-point within the constantly active University but also accommodates its own sense of action and liveliness. The Hub encapsulates many facets of University life, encompassing them within a singular space. Thomas Gieryn describes ‘spaces’ as “abstract geometries” (465) which perfectly summarises what space is – geometric properties and the abstract array of uses for a particular place. The Hub is a large open-plan room, but it is defined by the ways in which its utilised – for example, the commercial aspect. This is why I selected the Hub for my storytelling project. To me, on any given day the Hub affords different opportunities for usage. It essentially embodies the “pulse of the public” life within Victoria, thus, I wanted to acknowledge a space I feel is often under-represented and under-appreciated (Gilespie 2016).

Victoria University is primarily responsible for representing this literal ‘Hub’ of culture and social interaction. However, the Universities interpretation differs somewhat from my experience. My story-map pictures are those that I took as a subject moving through the space and varied areas of significance. Comparatively, photos taken by the University often capture as much of the space within one photo; as can be seen below.

HUB.jpg This is why I selected story-mapping as my mode for exploring the space. I felt that mapping the Hub into various subsections would illuminate its multitude of functions more clearly. I also organised the map in accordance with how we as subjects can move through and interact with spaces. It is important to consider the concept of subjectivity regarding how subjects move through space and come to define it, but also, how space itself defines the subject (Luhrmann 2006). Essentially, subjects are decentralised but different narratives are imposed upon them. For example, when I walk through the Hub I could just be ‘a girl’. Shopping at Vic Books makes me ‘a consumer’ and working defines me as ‘a student’. This works in the same way for the Hub whereby how it’s used defines its purpose; so (while uncommon) if someone took a nap it could, therefore, be considered a place to sleep. Jason Farman supported how subjects can define space, saying that “…the meaning of a space is typically communicated through stories attached to those spaces (2015)”.

When examining the Hub it is interesting to consider the contrast between public and private space. The literal space is public however that doesn’t ensure that the people utilising the Hub are acting publically. For example, study and eating lunch can be done both with and without friends. Although, consider an individual to sitting alone in this very public space and using their personal phone for Facebook. Facebook, is an online public space; it’s probable that people have sat in Vic Books using Facebook while their ‘friend’ uses it simultaneously elsewhere in the Hub. This convergence of private and public space highlights how some spaces afford users the ability to determine the space’s purpose. This separates the Hub from perhaps a bathroom because a bathroom has an innate, intended purpose with little flexibility.

As explored above, I selected the Hub as my space knowing it could facilitate both private and public engagement and the possibilities for usage were limitless. I chose story-mapping as it equipped me with visibility to highlight what I believe is often overlooked, essentially casting aside the Universities all-encompassing photos and simple birds-eye view map. While that is the narrative of the Hub it’s detached from an individual’s submerged everyday experience. Story-mapping allowed me to acknowledge areas of importance that contribute to the Hubs narrative as a space. Ultimately, my intention was to acknowledge the Hub as a space that facilitates various affordances, be them social, consumeristic, political or academic uses. Hopefully, after viewing my (segmented) story-map people will consider the innate purpose of spaces they interact with but also question what possibilities they afford for usage.

References:

Farman, Jason. Stories, spaces, and bodies: The production of embodied space through mobile media storytelling. Communication Research and Practice. (2015): 101-116. [journal].

Gieryn, Thomas F. A space for place in sociology. Annual review of sociology  (2000): 463-496. [journal]

Gillespie, T. Algorithms, clickworkers and the befuddled fury around Facebook Trends. Hosted for Microsoft by WordPress. (2016). [journal].

Hutchby, I. Technologies, Texts and Affordances. Sage Pub. (2001). [journal].

Luhrmann, T.M. Subjectivity. Anthropological Theory. (2006). [journal].

 

 

 

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#HeForShe… Online Activism

 

Activism campaigns were initially carried out by everyday people on the streets like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, however, Social Media enables the opportunity for online social movements. While these campaigns intend for action to take place the issue of slacktivism where the real-life impact of the activities is limited; the main effect is to enhance the feel-good factor for participants” is questionable.

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In 2014 the UN campaign ‘HeForShe’ was launched by Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson. HeForShe is an activist campaign advocating for gender equality. It calls for men to support this movement that Watson stated was considered a “struggle for women by women”. Watson’s speech aimed to promote but also explore the concept of Feminism, as it is explicitly defined: “the social political and economic equality of the sexes.” Redifing the popular misconception that exists, that Feminism is only regarding the advocacy of women’s rights.

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HeForShe initially was a website that has since expanded onto various social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube cooperating to raise awareness for their campaign. So far, HeForShe has received 1,303,439,465 signatures for their online petition; from men and women showing their support for the social movement of equality. While this number is high and increasing daily it only indicates support, not actual progress.

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HeForShe’s website is peppered with ways to show support; from donations to action kits (advising how to implement change in your own environment) to educational books and films. However “Social media can’t provide what social change has always required” and that’s action. In this sense, the HeForShe campaign, while informative and slowly progressing in notoriety exemplifies Slacktivism in that there is a feel-good aspect of pledging support for gender equality but a lack of real change. Marches were impactful in the past and the Women’s March this year was similarly effective; perhaps if HeForShe wants to enhance their impact the retired picket signs may, in fact, be the best way to go.

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Assignment 2 ~ Youtube

Social Media platforms are constantly being developed and improved to enhance online communication and social interaction.Youtube provides micro-celebrities with a diverse range of affordances, through the content and presentation of their videos, which, enhance the process and attainment of social capital and promote self-branding. A micro-celebrity who expertly utilises these affordances to enhance their brand and increase social capital is Zoella Sugg.

Graham Meikle describes Social Media as “networked database platforms that combine public with personal communication” (7). While it may be overlooked in the realm of Social Media, YouTube does, in fact, operate for this purpose and is known as a hub of user-generated content (Meikle 14). YouTube combines the public and personal through video sharing, and interactive features including liking, commenting and subscribing. Social Media platforms afford users the possibility to interact, communicate and even monetize their content or sell products (Gillespie 351). During initial release, individual platforms often have a core purpose, Snapchat, for example, was created for instantaneous yet temporary photo exchange. However, it also affords various other options for usage from private messaging and public ‘stories’ to the recent introduction of the ‘Snap map’ allowing fellow Snapchat friends to view your location in real time. Similarly, YouTube may appear to simply exist as a video library but it actually offers users with a variety of opportunities from entertainment to public interaction. Youtube’s content can be categorized with 3 primary purposes; entertainment (in the form of music videos or movie clips), business promotion (advertisements and interviews) and the social media aspect, content creators known as ‘YouTubers’. These creators are essentially “self-branding entrepreneurs” (Meikle 13). A prime example is British YouTuber, Zoe “Zoella” Sugg who, with over 12 Million subscribers is one of the top 100 most subscribed channels on the website (Vidstatsx.com, 2017). Her channel’s heading and subscriber count are pictured below.

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Affordances are functional and relational aspects which frame and determine opportunities in relation to an object. YouTube has “inherent properties” that afford different possibilities for usage (Hutchby, “Technologies”: 443). The ‘Like’ button, for example, can be used to both affirm support or enjoyment of a video. Also, YouTube has an algorithm in place that analyses what videos someone has ‘liked’ and consequently suggests other videos of a similar nature/style that might also appeal to that user (Meikle, 3). Likewise with disliked videos; it informs the creator that you didn’t enjoy their content and as a result, YouTube will filter out videos of a similar nature from your suggestions. Here is an example of a video that was suggested for me as I have viewed and liked Zoella’s content and am now being recommended to watch a similar video, that Zoella coincidentally features in, as pictured below. 

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Aforementioned YouTuber Zoella, utilizes an array of the affordances available to her through YouTube, ultimately improving her ‘brand’. A relatively underrated affordance is the description bar, below the video. Zoella is an avid user of the down bar often telling viewers to check it out after the video. Zoella not only describes the content of her video in the description box but she also includes hyperlinks to any stores or products she mentioned as well as linking all of her other social media accounts. While seemingly simple, the links to other accounts encourage users to go and follow her, ultimately improving Zoella’s holistic fanbase and consequential self-branding. On top of Zoella’s various social networking platforms, her success from YouTube has extended to a blog, a beauty and lifestyle collection as well as the release of three books, the first of which was the UK’s fastest-selling book of 2014. It’s safe to say that Zoella is an expert example of a micro-celebrity who understands self-branding and has effectively crafted an empire simply from her bedroom. Pictured below is an example of one of Zoella’s recent videos with some of the regular content she includes in the description box.

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Affordances, however, can be both enabling and constraining, for example in the case of Sponsored advertisements. It is not uncommon for YouTubers to talk about their favourite products be it beauty/clothing related or homeware. Although, some of the products they rave about were actually sent to them by the company itself, essentially paying YouTubers to advertise and promote on the company’s behalf. As of 2014, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) made a rule whereby sponsored products had to be declared as such, by including “Ad” somewhere in the video or description (Tait, 2016). This is enabling both for the creator and audience; YouTubers receive free products and payment for a quick advertisement and viewers know what exciting new items their favourite YouTubers are using and where they can go to get it for themselves. This affordance can also be restricting, in that, it projects a somewhat fake image in that it is often questioned whether YouTubers truly like the products they promote or whether they are saying what their ‘employer’ wants to hear… Zoella doesn’t promote products often but here is an example whereby she is clearly complying with the ASA’s rule and has even declared that the promotion was sponsored, hyperlinking the product in the description.

"paid advertorial"

The ways in which YouTubers utilise the affordances of YouTube is for the purpose of monetizing and promoting their brand. This is achieved by uploading frequent, fun and fresh content, keeping active on other social media and requesting Subscribers, likes and comments. Viewers on the other hand typically seek entertainment, enjoyment and often advice from these influential online role models. Typically they interact most via the comment section, whether communicating with other fans or responding/trying to catch the attention of the YouTuber themselves. In relation to YouTube’s content, production and consumption are essentially merged in that they each inform and influence the other (Bruns, 2). Zoella makes videos that she thinks will best appeal to the viewers, who then can give feedback in the comments or in the form of likes/dislikes. This is likely how Zoella plans some of her content as ‘Monthly Favourites’, shopping hauls and beauty tutorials have been prominent and frequent features on her channel for years which indicates high popularity amongst viewers.

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There are also processes on YouTube that afford creators such as Zoella with the ability to earn social capital. The main form of income for YouTubers is their subscriber count. Once a YouTube users gain 10,000 subscribers they start getting paid for their videos, consequently, the more subscribers you have the more money you’re paid (Julian, 2017). As of mid-2017 Zoella’s channel reached 1 billion views and on a daily basis, the channel gets 300,000 views which equate to an average of $600 per day which is $220,000 per year (Julian, 2017). Zoella’s livelihood is somewhat dependant on maintaining her currently following while working to advance it further. For the sake of her ‘brand’ and social capital, it’s imperative that Zoella caters to her fans providing frequent, entertaining content. With over 12 million people subscribed to her channel so far, it’s clear that she is doing something right.

YouTube, YouTubers and Social Media, in general, were once fresh-faced concepts and technology but over time and in conjunction with development and usage they have established a set of ‘norms’. Meikle explains how the convergence of public and private has formed an alternate (web) universe, “the public space of the media industries and the personal space of the individual response can now occupy the same space – social media” (7). Within the realm of YouTube, there are some commonplace norms that exist; a sort of unspoken social conduct. This is especially prominent amongst YouTubers and the often weekly content they produce for their viewers with Girls commonly uploading beauty tutorials, shopping hauls and ‘Tags’ with friends/boyfriends. While boys often film challenges, games, ‘Tags’ or regular piece to camera videos. All of this varied content is in the interest of crafting an appealing image for viewers.

Back in the earlier days of YouTube, there used to be a handful of popular YouTubers, such as Zoella. However, more people have seemingly grasped YouTube’s potential to launch people from being unknown to becoming a micro-celebrity. Due to the possibility of creating social capital purely from your image, there are now countless channels available to watch. The vast quantity of creators has seemingly not altered the material or style being produced. It’s common that once YouTubers gain notoriety they eventually start vlogging (video-blogging) their everyday lives and attend the YouTube fan convention, ‘Vidcon’. While some viewers may seemingly prefer some YouTubers to others, ultimately at their core they all produce very similar content of a very similar style. This is due to the “pulse of the public” (Gilespie 2016) and the videos they seek. This all stems back to norms created by micro-celebrities such as Zoella whose content has been immensely successful and thus there is a lot of ‘following in the footsteps before you’ rather than originality. Which I think is actually a mistake on behalf of up and coming creators as this could, in fact, be what sets them apart. Here are some examples of well-known YouTubers.

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Another aforementioned ‘norm’ is the essence of an online community, this hub of social interaction and communication and YouTube affords its users with this possibility. YouTubers use their platforms to engage with their fans and encourage them to interact with one another. The videos in which YouTubers directly speak to the camera are in fact very engaging as it feels like you really know the person talking to you as they’re essentially looking right at you and continually upload more information about their lives every week. While Zoella may have an image as a beauty guru she also posts videos of advice for her viewers. Zoella has been very open previously about her experiences with Anxiety and Panic Disorder as shares her story to encourage and support others who may be experiencing similar issues her videos act as advice, a “To whom it may concern” message essentially (Meikle, 3). This kind of content is just as important as funny videos on YouTube and it’s great to see such influential people, micro-celebrities such as Zoella, bravely speaking out.

In conclusion, YouTube affords micro-celebrities such as Zoella the opportunity to craft a self-oriented brand and essentially monetise their day to day life. Youtube along with other social media sites can essentially be described as “celebrity societies” (Sauter, 14) due to the magnitude and notoriety of the creators; afforded to them by loyal fans. YouTube is a very influential platform and while it may contain some aversive content this is outweighed by funny and uplifting content, enhanced by the ‘YouTuber’ community who aim to entertain and promote online communication and interaction.

 

References:

Bruns, A. (2008). The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage. Fibreculture Journal (11). [journal] Available at: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/12902/1/12902.pdf

Gillespie, T (2016). Algorithms, clickworkers and the befuddled fury around Facebook Trends. Hosted for Microsoft by WordPress. [journal]. Available at: https://socialmediacollective.org/2016/05/18/facebook-trends/

Hutchby, I. (2001). Technologies, Texts and Affordances. Sociology, 441- 456. [journal]. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/S0038038501000219

Julian (2017). How Much Money Zoella Makes From YouTube – Net Worth 2017. [online] Available at: http://naibuzz.com/2016/03/15/much-money-zoella-makes-youtube/

Meikle, G. (2016). What are Social Media. Routledge, 1-23. [journal] Available at: https://content.talisaspire.com/victoria/bundles/59657e88646be063ff496124

Sauter, T (2013). ‘What’s on your mind?’ Writing on Facebook as a tool for self-formation. New Media & Society, 823–839 [journal]. Available at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1461444813495160

Tait, A. (2017). How YouTubers really make their millions. [online] Available at:https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/business/2016/03/how-youtubers-really-make-their-millions.

 

Kian Lawley… Microcelebrity

 

 

Youtube and social networking sites could be described as ‘celebrity societies’. Platforms from which celebrities are born and maintain their image and influence. These platforms enable users to interact and launch fellow users to fame, ascribing them with a micro-celebrity status. American Kian Lawley is a 22-year-old budding actor whose career has catapulted after he began uploading to Youtube. In 2009 Lawley along with 5 others formed the Youtube channel ‘Our Second Life’ uploading daily videos for their ‘fans’. The channel accumulated 3 Million subscribers and lasted for 6 years during which time they completed a nationwide tour and attended fan events like Vidcon. Following the group’s separation, Lawley along with fellow former member Jc Caylen created their own youtube channel in 2014, from which they continue to upload multiple times a week with games, challenges, and stories.

screen-shot-2017-09-11-at-3-19-27-pm.pngYoutube acts as a means of social formation and self-branding, users such as Lawley reveal personal information to seem authentic, and edit moments of their life… constructing an identity leveraged across multiple media types to craft a captivating persona. Lawley’s image extends onto Instagram and Twitter portraying a playful, funny, charismatic individual. Obviously catering to audience interest in that his combined social media following is over 9 million and he’s a three-time Teen Choice Award Winner.

Lawley’s notoriety is credited entirely to fans watching and subscribing to him on Youtube and following via social media, without which, it’s likely he may never have reached his celebrity status or got his start in acting. Also, as Lawley started on Youtube his fans have then followed his acting career, enhancing the movies fan base and consequently projects his name into the industry as an up and coming actor.

 

 

 

Kayla Itsines… Social Media Marketing

As a company owner in 2017, you’d be foolish not to utilize social media to reach a vast and varied target market. Kayla Itsines is an expert example of a businessperson who is using social media “right”. Itsines and her husband together founded the ‘Bikini Body Guide’; an exercise and nutrition programs aimed at improving the health and self-confidence of women across the world. Exclusively through social media branding, Itsines essentially built a global empire with 7.2Million Instagram followers, an array of books and products, with the recent addition of the interactive smartphone app, “Sweat”. Kayla also uses Instagram to notify followers of her travels and subsequently plan a group Bootcamp session across the globe.

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As demonstrated below, Itsines’ Instagram frequently advertises ‘Transformation pictures’ of clients who have successfully used the product with pleasing results. Thus the companies branding is very clever as it’s essentially ‘click bait’… new followers see this promise of a ‘new/fit me’ and are therefore inclined to purchase the product. These progress pictures are essentially how Itsines targets her niche audience and reflects the pulse of the public – knowingly addressing a public need and providing a solution. By including these images of clients and herself she is advertising the experience promised by the brand and instances where they delivered.

 

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Itsines’ use of social media, for instance, Twitter and Facebook empowers consumers to interact with the brand. Platforms from which she can motive, connect and directly interact with her target audience. It’s so effective you essentially forget she is constantly promoting her company and image.

Twitter vs Instagram… Affordances

During the ‘era of electronic exchange,’ Social Media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter have become instrumental in the shaping of social interactions. Various platforms assume different affordances – the possibilities that they offer for action and usage. While a singular celebrity, Chrissy Teigen, may exist on a multitude of social networks her presence/voice can differ to the extent of presenting two different personas; essentially fragmentation of the self.

Instagram is commonly used as a window into the lives of its users. Captioned photos present a constructed reality that is often idealistic. Chrissy Teigen, like many other celebrities, uses her Instagram as a form of self-promotion… uploading photos of her family, travel or work related images. Thus, she offers her fans a glamorised and materialistic glimpse into her personal life.

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Twitter, on the other hand, has a different and more functional affordance. Chrissy Teigen is a prototypical example. She frequently interacts with other users, ‘tweets’ existential/comedic thoughts and assumes a political stance. Teigan has recently been in the media for her publicised opinions on POTUS Donald Trump…. the significance of an individual ‘tweet’ is illustrated below where the President acknowledged her opinion and consequently blocked her…

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The two aforementioned sites; each display the concept of technicism whereby they have features specific to themselves. Instagram is commonly utilised for self-promotion compared to Twitter, offering opinions and voicing a political standpoint… as is displayed by Chrissy Teigen’s usage, demonstrated above. Therefore, I believe these sites allow us to alter the way in which we present ourselves socially.

 

 

 

#DidYouJustAssumeMyGender… History of Social Media

It’s 2017 and the world is a more open and accepting environment than ever before. Discrimination and hate do still exist but progress has been made in the direction of gender, sexuality and race equality. In the film industry, for example, there are more female protagonists, people of colour, and those whose gender is nonbinary nor their sexual orientation exclusively heterosexual. Moreover, it has become a social media trend (specifically in tweets and memes) to discuss issues of equality including the use of the phrase “Did you just assume my gender” as illustrated with this Wonder Woman meme.

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 The meme depicts Wonder Woman interacting with a man for the first time. When she acknowledges and questions that he is a man, he claps back with the iconic phrase “Did you just assume my gender?”. The phrase has become popular following societal education regarding whether gender is non-binary and/or a social construct. It also examines how sex is determined at birth but an individual should determine gender for themselves. Therefore, just because outwardly someone may appear female/male one shouldn’t assume as such; they could be transgender or their gender may be ambiguous. While this meme might be funny to some, it could potentially be offensive to others and raises the question; how much is too much? If anyone can respond this, to any comment regarding gender, will society still function the same? Bathrooms would be redesigned… and what would happen to languages that use gendered pronouns? This alternative meme of the Titanic comically examines exactly that…

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CDs vs Pandora… The History of Technology

CDs aka the compact disc are a  digital storage format, co-developed by Philips and Sony in 1982. Similar to a record, CDs often contain a particular album whereby users could listen to music wherever a CD player was accessible. With the introduction of the well-known compilation album “Now! That’s what I call music!” CDs began to showcase a variety of songs and artists, typically the TOP 20 most popular songs at the time of release…

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Regarding music consumption, streaming services are increasingly popular, including 17-year-old, American service ‘Pandora’. As a free smartphone or online app, users select an artist, album or song of their liking from which Pandora creates a corresponding ‘Radio’ station of a similar genre. User feedback: “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” alters song recommendations, further catering to an individuals taste. Pandora’s success is evident with over 250 million users and  $652.8 million of revenue in [early] 2014. Thus, enabling users to build a portable library of music specifically focused on their interests.

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While CDs remain as a prominent distribution method for the music industry, U.S. sales have dropped about 50% from their peak. In the digital age, streaming services, unlike CDs, are potentially more relevant going forward. Axel Bruns introduced the notion of “produsage” a collaboration of a “producer”, “consumer” and “user”. Pandora allows for this creative engagement of communities whereby users engage in the content, interact and alter it to meet personal specifications. Pandora contributes to a feature of produsage known as “unfinished artefacts” whereby users interaction modify’s the apps results and distributed output.

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