Reflecting. Reflection… Reflektor.

First of all, don’t look for any connection between the song and this post. There isn’t any beyond the obvious references to, well, reflection. I just decided this post needs a soundtrack.

 

I’m going to be going through our topics in a rather haphazard manor, I fear. Our topics are all intrinsically linked and I don’t feel justice can be done by addressing each one as it appeared to us chronologically. I’m just that little bit outrageous, like wearing a hat under a helmet.

Speaking of outrageous…

The connotations and denotations of text, particularly images, was something we were all at least subconsciously aware of. Our minds processed and appraised millions of images millions of times before our “The Image Cannot Lie” topic. Our brush with semiotics and the Frankfurt School, however scant, brought conscious analysis and allowed us to consider that alternate minds viewing the same text can see completely different pictures. I used the example of Ahmed, a Syrian caught up in a bloody civil war, as my example and tried to assess a view opposed to mine. I attempted to draw a comparison of two opposing views from two completely different contexts as a way to demonstrate the process. The exercise and the post helped me form a personal understanding of the topic. Success. Plus, I managed to dodge any controversy that may have been caused by my views or the image I used…

With the way that information (and outrage) can spread, it’s something to be a little proud of. Sure, I’m not at attention grabbing as Obama, but I like to think I could have provoked at least a little discussion about a public sphere. I chose a twitter picture, a selfie, of Obama and a baseball player used as advertising as my text. The reaction, debate and backlash that resulted was my topic, serving well (I do hope) as an example of the discussion that a mediated public sphere can facilitate and even nurture. I found the “selfiegate” example especially interesting, not just because it allowed to get this picture, but also because the platform that propagated the debate (twitter) was the origin of the source material. Platforms supporting prosumerism (shout out to the BCM112 crew) and an example of a media feeding a media.

Feeding? The media feeds us and we need to watch what we eat. This was the core piece of advice I garnered from our media ownership topic. It is safe to say that we were all aware of media ownership and it’s negative implications. I mention this in my post for the week and try to extrapolate my way to both poles of the spectrum to highlight the dangers of total media control. It’s terrifying stuff, you should probably freak out.

Moral Panic, our latest topic. The case study for the week, the supposed sexualisation of children, was demonstrated to be a product of the media. Something that begins with a legitimate story is sensationalised by certain media outlets for commercial purposes and, in a process described as ‘cannibalising’, re-released with added layers of sensation. This results in greater attention and revenue for certain media operators. In the case study, parental insecurity about the perceived susceptibility of children is manipulated to great effect for commercial gains. Tut, tut. It’s hard to blame parents, though, children are so easily influenced…

… As the Media Effects Model explains and proves. My final point, our first topic, was the one that I was the most confused about. Is the media influencial? Yes, of course. Does it change core behavioural patterns or induce violence? No. Where is the line drawn? Somewhere in between. What I took from this was that the Media Effects Model is severely flawed and that we needn’t worry about the media transforming everyone into murders. That said, we must continue to study actual media effects into the future to determine if any negative effects (however mild) exist. So I can go back to playing violent games? You really should study instead.

So far, the BCM has been incredibly interesting and educational. If the next four years are anything like the last two months, I’m excited.

 

Communities, Users, Industries and a very conservative Word Limit

 

Game mods are produced by gamers passionate enough to devote hundreds of hours of work to creating something that they believe the world will enjoy, or perhaps needs. What do games need? Why, this, of course.

A modder, specifically a chap by the name of ‘Trainwiz‘ (or “Pastaspace”), created this mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim late last year. It’s one of my most favourite things ever. This mod was created for no good reason and wasn’t outstandingly difficult to create. Far more complex mods exist for Skyrim, ranging from map expansions to graphics mods, but this video is on display here (I had to limit myself to just one video) because it shows the liberalism that modding can be approached with. There are few boundaries and anything from jaw dropping, heart wrenching expansions to Train-Dragons can be and is created by the community.

Communities (what a segue), are central to modding. Different online modding communities abound, though for Skyrim, Skyrim Nexus is bar far the most prominent. When creating content that can be as technical, complex and expansive as most mods, communities play a huge support role to modders. Troubleshooting, advice, feedback and the platform to communicate between modders is provided during production, and post-production the community sites serve as a distribution platform for content.  Much as the name of Nexus implies, these websites become a central hub for everything relating to the community and the mods (Hong, 2013). A platform that simultaneously stimulates production and promotes consumption by and for it’s users; a wholly prosumer platform.

Responsibility for a successful modding community, though, is not solely the sign of good modders. The original developers and publishers of a game are equally responsible for successfult modding communities. Bethesda, the original developers of Skyrim are famous for their support of modding communities. Beyond simply allowing the game to be modded, Bethesda released a program to assist in modding, ‘The Creative Kit”. So cool. If you’re a regular reader (thanks again for your support, Mum), this would be ringing a bell. This industry support and, indeed, encouragement of modding communities is reflected in the “Make ARMA, Not War” program I mentioned in my previous blogs. Which, again, is outstandingly outstanding.

Unfortunately, though, it’s not all sunshine and fire breathing dragon trains. The latest two instalments in the Battlefield game franchise have been released without any mod support and visual modifications have already been met with bans and official warnings from the developers. This is in stark contrast to previous entries in Battlefield, which were widely celebrated for their mod-ability. Electronic Artsthe publisher of Battlefield, recently released the hyper-successful Titantfall, and when faced with questions about it’s possible mod-ability, responded “Technically, nothing is off the table. It’s just a question of priorities and time and whether or not we can get to it while working on the game as a whole.” (source) Doubt abounds, but I live in hope.

Regardless of the results for Titanfall (and my emotions as a result thereof), the general trend indicates that we are all looking at a greater, more open future as the games industry facilitates and nurtures 3rd party modability.

 

References

  • Hong, R, 2013, “Game Modding, Prosumerism and Neoliberal Labor Practices”, International Journal of Communication, Vol 7, page 986      
    ‎ http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/download/1659/900 

 

  •  Jenkins, H, 2006,From Serious Games to Serious Gaming, “Confessions of an Aca-fan”, Published 10/11/2006,Viewed 12/4/2014                                                 http://henryjenkins.org/2006/11/from_serious_games_to_serious.html

 

  • Lowe, K, “No Mods For Battlefield 4, DICE doesn’t want your hard work here”, ComplexGaming, Published 14/6/13, Viewed 12/4/14                                                                                                                                                 http://www.complex.com/video-games/2013/06/no-mods-battlefield-4-dice

 

  • Grayson, N, “Repawn On Titanfall PC Version, Modding, DLC”, Rock Paper Shotgun, Published 13/214, Accessed 12/4/14                                                                                                                 http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/02/13/respawn-on-titanfalls-pc-version-modding-dlc/

     

Famous Faces

Who owns your face? Who can use that face to advertise? If you’re taking BCM112, we have touched on this, but since then it has become a way more interesting topic. How could it get more interesting than the hijacking of Bradley Coopers face by Ellen DeGeneres?

                                           

Sourced from David Ortiz’s twitter

Obama. That’s how.  David Ortiz, a Boston Red Sox  Baseballer, just days after signing a deal to provide Samsung with advertising through social media, tweeted the above photo. Samsung retweeted the post to its 5 million followers and the pic swept through the twittersphere with the Samsung name riding it to glory.

Within hours the White House had responded, saying “the White House objects to attempts to use the president’s likeness for commercial purposes,” and recently announced that the matter was being looked into legally. 

Samsung (who we can all now agree is pretty much the master of the advertising selfie), you might remember, did something similar a month ago with the famous oscar selfie. DeGeneres, through her selfie, used the faces of all those poor, unwitting celebrity faces to promote Samsung. Controversey was mild, and debate about the ol’ public sphere was built on the outrage that something apparently spontaneous and propagated by social media was not disclosed as advertising. People felt cheated by that. In the latest example of the ‘staged selfie’, as it is becoming known, the outrage and debate is based around the use of someones image, especially that of the President, being used as advertising after being captured on the pretence of a simple and innocent selfie. If the faces of celebrities and Presidents aren’t immune to being used as corporate advertising, then who’s could be?

Discussion, debate and outrage abounds, specifically on the social platform that originally propagated the cause of the controversey. Tags such as #ortizselfie, #obamaselfie and (my personal favourite) #selfiegate are trending rapidly and display perfectly the conflict that this has created. Hopefully, all the debate and backlash will result in the use of selfies for advertising quickly become cliche or taboo in the near future, but for now we all have to guard our faces pretty carefully. You never know when someone might just try to use someone elses face just to attract attention…

 

Just Me and My Hero...

Just Me and My Hero…

 

References

Tension and Conflict. The basis for any good game.

Jenkins-in-your-computer

Above: My two topics, Jenkins and Modding, demonstrated by that time   Jenkins modded himself into a game. Please Note, that didn't actually   happen. Probably.

Henry Jenkins, in his 2004 Convergent Culture, actually predicted (or prophesied if you like him that much) many of the different problems that convergence is bringing to media. Jenkins even goes so far as to address my technology, Video Game Modding, specifically. How nice of him. Unfortunately, he does not go so far as coming to my house and writing this blog post for me, so I will ask you bear with me as I give it a shot.

Tensions and conflicts, though not yet abounding, are beginning to appear in regard to both convergence and video game modding. As of 2004, there weren’t many outstanding examples of all out conflicts in modding for Jenkins to muse on and that left him the chance to predict the nature and resolution of the conflicts in broader, cross platform terms. In the 2004 article “The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence” (Published in The International journal of Cultural Studies), Jenkins lists nine areas wherein he predicted “important negotiations between producers and consumers” would occur either as a result of conflict or in order to avoid it. Not all these points are relevant to VGM but the two most relatable can be found below.

– “Redefining intellectual property rights”

Of course, this was going to be a big one. Video games are a multi-billion dollar media industry and as such, the control of IP would be hotly contested. In regard to video Games, this is reflected in the tired old example of Blizzard vs. Valve. Legal precedents are set as to who owns what after content is produced by a third party modder who then goes onto create mod-based content commercially. How very interesting.

– “Renegotiating relations between producers and consumers.”

In regard to VGM, this is vital. The Video Gaming industry never saw the modding community as any sort of threat and dodged any possible conflict by supporting and encouraging the community as a way to reinvigorate old products and extend the life of new ones (Jenkins, 2004). Though Jenkins could see this happening at the time of writing Convergence Culture, it is hard to believe that he could foresee the rapid and extreme evolution of this embrace. For example, the development company Bohemia Interactive has taken the step of putting a challenge to prosumers to produce a mod of their game ARMA III, encouraging this by offering a €200,000 reward for the best total modification and a smattering of smaller prizes for partial modifications. The challenge is called “Make ARMA, not War” and gosh darn, is it awesome. Not only is an industry encouraging modding, it is essentially paying modders to create content, possibly the most dramatic change in the Producer/Consumer relationship across the media board to date. I like to think Jenkins is as excited about this as I am.

There are countless other ways that the tensions and conflicts predicted by Jenkins in 2004 regarding VGM have changed the Video Gaming industry, but Jenkins two points above are the most relevant. I would like to keep going on this but, well, word counts are a bitch.

 REFERCENCES: