Grocery Bag

facebook competitor? probably not…

May 22, 2010

0ne of the primary things that’s annoying about facebook is the sheer quantity of content. in other words, what i find most annoying about facebook is that all it does is get more and more complicated; there’s more and more nonsense to look at, more and more shit it wants to tell you about that probably in no way interests you (i.e. why suggest to me that i talk to so and so? doesn’t it occur to you facebook that if i haven’t spoken to so and so in five months that i don’t want to? and why link every single thing on my page to a freaking site on the interweb? honestly if i cared that much about the shit that’s i’m interested in, i would put my own freaking link on my page.) so i guess what i’m saying is that the page i’d make to compete with facebook would be all about efficiency and minimalism. in terms of aesthetics, i’d bring in some myspace aspects to let users personalize their pages in ways they want to, rather than simply attaching random links that i think are appropriate. my page would be a lot like facebook before it went crazy, i.e. no stupid fan pages, no liking “getting up in the morning with my boyfriend is awesome!” sort of pages, no ridiculous minigames that make grown women neglect their real pets, no nonsense. the purpose of the site would be to allow people who actually know one another to talk, to share pictures, and to make plans,  without any other bullshit about what advertisements disguised as links can be put in people’s information. i think my primary would be that it’s a combination of myspace and facebook, so all of the important features of facebook with all of the personalization aspects of myspace. i think that’s pretty much it.


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facebook, ebay, youtube, and mmos

May 14, 2010

in essence, youtube, facebook, ebay, and video games have a great deal in common. the primary elements, i think, have to do with the fact that each is capable of establishing a definite community within and around the property, and that each has a feedback system that perpetuates people’s usage of the property. i suppose these traits could be attributed to most ip’s right now, but the process of social interaction among these media is more similar than would be resultant of a comparison between something like a movie and facebook. (also, for the purpose of this blog, i’m talking about video games as they pertain to online gaming, specifically mmo’s). communities within these properties are created by the invention of personas and the conversations between those personas, which essentially translates to the exchange of online content (whether or not that online content results in physical contact, as in the physical receiving of an object for funds exchanged virtually, or the physical contact exchanged for virtual planning). each of these properties, granted, generates means for conceptually variant personas: for instance, facebook is heavily dependent on users’ satisfaction with the tools they have to construct their personas, whereas personas are generated more abstractly on youtube via the indication of sense of humor and other interests through the election of participation in entities often independent of the user. the level of “reality” is also greatly varied among these properties, as three of them claim to represent reality (while of course representing only a version of it, a version in which reality is digestible in three minute clips or five hundred pictures of single events) and one of them claims a removal from reality altogether in favor of the creation of a more desirable universe (which in being part of our universe becomes a version of it as well).

in terms of feedback, each of these properties has a well-set system to guarantee users’ ability to understand whether they are participating “correctly” or “incorrectly,” although these systems take totally different forms. youtube is based on the instant gratification of locating an enjoyable or informative clip, which is then substantiated by user-to-user feedback by means of the comment system. facebook employs this latter element to a fault, while also constantly encouraging its users when they acquire more “friends,” and ebay mixes commenting with its blend of instant and later gratification–instant in ordering, later in receiving. mmo’s benefit from the construction of games in general which is then cemented by interacting with other users, whether to brag to them, impress them, or kill them.

so basically: system = creation of persona = interaction among personas = sense of community = feedback loop. ta da.

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jeff grubb

May 7, 2010

the primary thing about grubb’s speech that interested me was the concept of retroactively building the history of a narrative, especially in terms of having to be conscious/conscientious about what aspects of the narrative are unchangeable and what aspects of the narrative are negligible, or alterable. the idea of ‘canon,’ as grubb explained, is especially strange in thinking about narratives in general, because the word ‘canon’ suggests that what begins as fictitious, something completely invented, becomes truth (i.e. chewbacca cannot die as he is an essential component of the star wars property; killing him therefore interrupts or nullifies the property’s ‘truth’). narratives in a way thus begin to resemble constructions of actual history, that is, history actualized inside the collective consciousness of the fandom, and come to hold the same weight for the fandom as an accurate portrayal of a historical event, such as a civil war, would to the general populace. the concept of retroactively building a history, then, becomes a parallel of the outcome of performing research to fill in what is missing from real history. for example, if in a virtual world certain characters are given fuller pasts later on in the overall development of the world in order to expand the community’s understanding of the world as a whole, this is no different than historians being able to better characterize the time of slavery within the states with the help of discovering slave narratives. the primary difference, besides the cultural resonance of historical accuracy, is the scale of the significance of these details. accurate portrayals of history matter, obviously, to a culture as a whole, while ‘accurate’–meaning ‘truthful,’ or ‘faithful’ to canon–portrayals of fictional narratives matter to a specific group.

the other aspect of the process is the concept of management that grubb mentioned, which is simply a more direct articulation of the fact that in order for the canon of a narrative to remain ‘true,’ the narrative’s world cannot simply evolve in any directions unchecked, regardless of the desires of specific fans. just as creators are responsible for the additions they make to canon, so must fans be, in the sense that they are subject to scrutiny from the creators and vice versa.

this stuff’s pretty nuts in my opinion. in an awesome way.

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April 22, 2010

so here’s my tagline:

chelsie doherty: if hemingway’s chest hair alone had saved the last unicorn.

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run, lola, run

April 16, 2010

so i’d never heard of the movie run, lola, run until we watched it in class this week, but i have to say, it was pretty damn cool. most of the time it feel so easy to compartmentalize the different types of media with which to interact, that is, to expect bookish qualities of books, tv-like qualities of serial programs, etc. thus, it had honestly never occurred to me that a movie could invoke video game qualities. i mean, most tv programs that incorporate game elements do so overtly at the cost of not feeling serial, but seeming rather a collection of individual shows that are shown at a consistent time. but after having watched this movie, it seems to me that game elements do not mandate a loss of thematic resonance.

run, lola, run is the assemblage of three different, separate story lines that eventually culminate in the “correct ending,” that is, one in which neither the protagonist nor her significant other dies. each storyline explores various thematic elements of lola’s life, her less than stable relationship with her father, her feelings for minna (i think that was his name, it’s hard to remember german words if you don’t speak it), the life outcomes of those around her with whom she interacts even in the slightest of ways. what i like most about the movie, however, is that it avoids the pitfalls one could easily predict for a movie playing with game elements; that is, it does not seem a valid interpretation to suggest that the message of the movie is that life is a game, and in fact it would seem little more than stupid to say so. rather, with the combination of the constant reminders of time, epitomized in the film’s strict adherence to a ninety minute length, the film seems to speak to a theme of the interaction between the forces of fatalism and agency, as demonstrated by lola’s ability to change her decisions and the capacity of many of those decisions to carry out lines of action with which lola has little to do. to say that agency ultimately triumphs in the end of the film because she and her boyfriend are home free would still feel like a gross underestimate of what the movie does, because while the ending might be “happy,” not everyone in lola’s universe is left with their most ideal circumstances–not to mention the fact that lola does not, in the final version, contribute to her boyfriend’s success. thus, i feel like the film does a good job of examining the pushes and pulls of randomness and will within the constraints of time, to which we all whether consciously or not subscribe.

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reasons to watch gossip girl besides blake lively’s appearance

April 9, 2010

all right, so realistically i don’t know how popular gossip girl is. i mean, of course i have access to statistics and see however many millions of people watch each episode, but in terms of the demographic of college students (the one i represent, that is, the really nerdy portion of college students), i don’t know how many peers of mine watch the show. i, however, do. religiously. it’s somehow even better than reality tv (outrageous, i know!). i guess what i’m saying is that the majority of my peers that i tell about my fidelity to serena and blair roll their eyes because of some academic separation from such “debase” forms of entertainment, and honestly most of the time i’m willing to concede that the show’s ridiculous. but isn’t that the point? i mean, to a certain extent, isn’t “ridiculousness” exactly what leads (or tricks) people into following it? isn’t ridiculousness at this point a fair assessment of what the majority of americans are still able to find interesting? you may not admit that you find her interesting per se, but just try to tell me you haven’t at least reacted to lady gaga on some cognitive level either because of her face being covered in fake blood or because she said she was a hermaphodrite (which apparently went unnoticed in all her years of stripping).

anyway. with that out of my system, i think i can talk about narrative arc and the dramatic elements of gossip girl so maybe i can explain in more concrete terms than ridiculousness what it is about the show that makes it so damn watchable, as reaffirmed by similarities i saw in the l word, and am sure i could make the argument for in any soap opera besides.  couple things: multiple at least semi-converging story lines, little exposition, mostly conflict, overarching narration, sex, sexiness, general incestuousness of characters,  and limited resolution at the episode’s end. the narrative arc is as follows (speaking about gg right now): hi, i’m the narrator, i’ve just witnessed some ridiculous things. everybody’s wearing awesome clothes. chuck bass recently had sex with —random girl— and —serena/blair/jenny/vanessa/dan/nate— had sex with —serena/blair/jenny/vanessa/dan/nate/chuck bass—. surprising, isn’t it? at least in the sense that you would never have expected x to have sex with y, and find it borderline unbelievable. whatevs. the l word isn’t much different. i mean, the majority of the characters are homosexual unlike gossip girl, but the “x had sex with y” formula, usually supplemented by “a had sex with b” and “c with d,” doesn’t change. in fact, not that this comes as a surprise, the narrative arc of most soap operas that don’t have to do with court trials and forensics (although they are not completely exempt) these days–with the exception of soap operas like icarly and hannah montana (although i’m sure there are some ambiguous preteen sexual undertones)–centers on sex. and it makes sense, too. i mean, if you think about it, the arc of sexual intercourse parallels narrative arc in these episodic storylines, so why not make the connection more literal? in sexual relations, you start off with foreplay (let’s call that exposition, since it’s the time spent getting….um…familiar), then there’s the rising action (aka when things get more…intense), then the climax (no explanation required), and some sort of denouement, although in episodic narrative this can never resolve anything (although i suppose that concept applies to sex, too, since i figure most people don’t try to have sex that will never make them want sex again). pretty crazy, man. i mean, no wonder soap operas appeal to us. they’re like getting intimate with strangers that we feel like we know, and usually multiple people at once.

granted, for a show to be successful, it can’t just be about sex–or at least it can’t admit to it, unless it’s a different genre than soap opera. there has to be, as with any form of narrative, some form of conflict, or there is nothing to be invested in as a viewer, no couples to root for, no bad boy to pine for, no dumb bitch to get mad at. and since we look to soap operas for some sort of emotive stimulation outside of the emotional stimuli that exist in our own lives and actually matters, there has to be conflict in a soap opera to incite that sort of reaction. out of awareness for this, a lot of soap operas offer up even too much and too ridiculous of conflict, but they know they need to give it to us somehow. sexy scenes are really only supposed to be a bonus.

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being within the “flow”

April 2, 2010

the flow, as i understand it from reading csikszentmihalyi (a name i could not have spelled without copying and pasting), is something that i have experienced largely the same as other interviewees quoted from the researchers’ various studies have. the difference, however, has come from my particular flow-inducer of choice not touched upon in chapters three and four: writing. i write everything. i write pieces of short stories, stretches of novels, poems (some of which especially now being a college-goer are, i am pleased to say, entirely free of angst), reflections, musings–i even write essays whether in spanish or english within the flow, as honors-y as saying so most likely sounds. to be frank, i am writing this entry in the flow. i hardly think about what i am typing outside of how my fingers type it, and in so doing generally end up composing ceaseless sentences that at worst confuse and at best resemble an amateur attempt at stream of consciousness. i suppose, however, that whether “i” am present in what i am writing, that is, whether the “i” associated with the name on my ID cards is present, i am still perhaps more present than some of those who explain experiencing the flow are–but not in the same way i am present when i am talking to someone (generally). i am present more in a hyper-conscious state, a state that does not acknowledge the difficulties, insecurities, absurdities, and anxieties of my “real” life, but instead a state that shouts NEXT WORD NEXT in what if i am almost frightfully honest can be more of an ecstasy to me than the more tangible of indulgences. i hardly, if ever, reread a sentence before i construct the one that succeeds it, probably because when i am in the flow words are more to me my body parts than the inside of the mouth i can’t stop chewing, even though my mother has sworn it will cause me mouth cancer (doubtful, also slightly irrelevant). i experience a hyper-consciousness that is perhaps so real that it is removed from what i consider my reality, and when i am done, whether review of my work results in satisfaction, catharsis, or disapproval, (or also from time to time embarrassment), i nonetheless revel in having experienced something so intensely inside of myself that it seems external in retrospect.

in terms of environmental factors that allow this sort of simultaneously self-eradicating and self-indulgent fervor, i seem to require some sort of mandate. that’s something i don’t really understand about it. when i was younger i churned out awful poem after awful poem like i would die the next day (an idea that i considered only in terms of its ensuring my fame, because all good authors seem to enjoy–that’s not the right word but moving on–such a fate), and now, in my relative maturity, i need to be forced. i have to have the obligation of an assignment or scholarship application generally to access this source of enjoyment these days. part of this i think results from my understanding of what writing does to me. it’s completely debilitating…in the sense that i need to do it in order to generate that sense of self-growth that csik-her-name talks about, and necessity is somewhat inherently terrifying. i can go for a month and write nothing more than lists knowing that sooner or later, there will be nothing for it, and i will succumb to the urge that now both a keyboard and a pen hold over me, love it or hate it, whether i produce something fairly worthwhile or utter shit. basically what i’m saying is an outside order forces me to deal with the frightening unknown of embarking on something that already holds weight for me before i’ve typed even a single word.

this realm of anxiously anticipated possibility lazarro discusses in terms of gaming in her review of a study done to evaluate emotional responses of game-players to games, and is essentially shown to be the same concept. in order to become emotionally invested in a game, a player must be drawn into the flow, which can be exacted in a variety and combination of ways but nonetheless maintains the same goal: guiding a player to seek answers to both challenges and points of interest (which is as vast as it sounds).

so there it is. sometimes you gotta be told or otherwise shown you need it in order to get it.

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i often get frustrated when i am reminded by circumstance that pokemon aren't real. i have a lot of interests. none of them really involve science.