Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

ARIN6903: Lady Gaga as the embodiment of remediation

September 15, 2010

Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga is big. Very big.  Six million Twitter followers, 17 million Facebook friends, 15 million album and 51 singles sales (The Guardian: 2010), hundreds of millions of YouTube views….and so on.

The music itself is standard catchy modern pop – it’s nothing that unique to write home about. What makes her stand out are all the extra things that come with the music – the outlandish outfits (meat dress anyone?), the constant profession of being an outsider, the spectacle of her live performances and most importantly, her mastery of many different forms of media in which she brings her fans with her into the vortex of fame.

Lady Gaga Meat Dress

Lady Gaga Meat Dress

Her success is due to this mastery of media, without which she would still be plain ol’ Stefani Joanne Germanotta.  The success is not due to the music which is rather bland and formulaic.  She does have a beautiful voice, which you can sense watching her pre-fame performances, but this gets lost in the hype machine.

Gaga is so heavily stylised and has appropriated from so many genres, icons and cultural references that it’s hard to know who the woman behind the mask is. But that’s just the way she likes it in her quest to become a modern icon. Feminist icon Camille Paglia last week weighed in to the debate, calling Gaga a “ruthless recycler of other people’s work”. (Paglia, 2010)

It’s for these reasons that Gaga makes for a fascinating study for media theorists curious about her impact on pop culture, media and society in general.

This brings me to the concept of “remediation” as espoused by Bolter and Grusin which I want to extend here to an individual, rather than simply media forms. Gaga is everywhere, constantly in the press for her latest controversial outfit or performance. She has transcended the archetype of the female pop singer to become almost her own medium and is increasingly hypermediated whilst she remediates pop music. She perfectly fits what Bolter and Grusin identify as a desire to get to the real via hypermediation (1999). She states that Lady Gaga is not a character, but is her real self.

Gaga references fame and media constantly in her own media artefacts – her breakthrough album was called The Fame Monster, its big hits included Paparazzi and Telephone and her latest song is called Living on the Radio, as though she recognises she is nothing without the media she so heavily employs.  She has multiple websites which are all cross-referenced and embedded with different media types showcasing her presence on other websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. She also has a massive merchandising operation.

Lady Gaga's hypermediated website

Lady Gaga's hypermediated website

Elle Bedard writes that “Sometimes she resembles other pop stars, sometimes a character from Japanese animation, or a Roy Lichtenstein print.”(2010:1)

Just some of the influences she has appropriated as she constructs her identity are:

Surrealism in the form of the meat dress she wore this week, her past outfit featuring a lobster headpiece and, come to think of it, pretty much most of her creative output

Madonna, mostly via her fashion choices, prolific output and ubiquituity

Grace Jones via her stage costumes

Queen via her choice of name inspired by their 80s hit Radio Gaga.

Andy Warhol who she has acknowledged as an influence and refers to when discussing aspects of fame

Gaga Pop Art magazine cover

Gaga Pop Art magazine cover

For those of us old and cynical enough to recognise the endless cultural references she makes, the hypermediation is quite obvious and almost jarring – I believe for this group of people the “real” that is attempted is not achieved. For her younger fans, this is all completely new and I think that they experience Gaga as “real”. Awareness of this mediation is just not part of the experience for them, it is invisible.

Adding to the debate by exploring Gaga as a character or an individual, Bedard quotes Baudrillard to assert that Gaga is “pure simulacrum, “a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.”  Put differently, Lady Gaga does not exist.” (2010: 1)

Gaga is a one-woman media industry and it’s hard to believe she really only came to prominence in the last two years. I’m beginning to wonder how many clones of herself she has just to manage her overwhelming media presence.


Bedard, E. (2010) “Can’t Read My Poker Face”: The Postmodern Aesthetic & Mimesis of Lady Gaga
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 15 September 2010

Bolter, J.D. & Grusin, R.A. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge, Mass;  London: MIT Press

Paglia, C. (2010) Lady Gaga and the death of sex
Accessed from:
Last accessed 15 September 2010

The Guardian (2010) Pass notes, No 2,843: Lady Gaga
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 15 September 2010

Other reading

Gaga Stigmata – theoretical analysis of all things Gaga


ARIN6903: Internet activism – Facebook group reclassifies Tony Blair’s memoirs in bookstores

September 5, 2010

Last semester I wrote about Internet protest for the Internet Cultures and Governance class:original post here.

One of the criticisms raised about Facebook being used to organise groups was that it is often used for the most inane types of “support movements” and “protests” – eg. “Can this sausage roll get more fans than Cheryl Cole?”

I was interested to read this morning The Guardian reporting that in the UK, members of a 5000-strong Facebook group are encouraging people to go into their local bookstores and “reclassify” Tony Blair’s new autobiography by moving it from its assigned section to another section, for example to the crime section. The idea is to conduct a legal, subversive protest to get people thinking about Tony Blair’s alleged war crime: the war on Iraq.

Clearly, it’s not enough to simply set up a Facebook group to make an impact, the subject of the protest needs to be something that is genuinely in the interests of society and the tactics used need to be original, rather than simply setting up the group and making a few announcements. In the UK, Tony Blair is an incredibly divisive figure, attracting derision for involving the UK in the Iraq war on what appears to be flimsy reasoning. Moving his autobiography to the crime section keeps this controversy in the headlines, makes people think about how an event (the war) is perceived as legal or illegal and takes some of the gloss from Blair’s book launch.


ARIN6901: Product and service design at the expense of the network

September 5, 2010

A couple of recent news articles have pointed to the need when developing new products or services to pay attention to the importance of networks and network features – either real social networks (not simply SNSs) or technological networks – more so than product or service design.

The Guardian reports on the latest release of Amazon’s Kindle eReader product, presenting the argument that manufacturers who pay heed to the needs of a networked society will be the winners, as opposed to those that weight their investments heavily towards marketing, hardware and software design. The argument is that the Kindle is superior to competitor products such as the iPad because of its connectivity – by default, it comes with both 3G and WiFi. Amazon also released iPhone/iPad apps to allow Kindle owners to synchronise their eBook purchases on more than one device. These aspects are viewed as part of a seamless end-to-end system of downloading and reading eBooks. The new Kindle also includes an “experimental browser”:  Is this an iPad killer in disguise?

Calling into question the strength and value of ties on SNSs such as Facebook and Twitter, tech blog TechCrunch has also published an article highlighting the benefits for tech companies in developing products based on people’s existing social networks. Identifying that mobile phone contacts are a better indicator of an individual’s social graph , TechCrunch praises companies willing to “go mobile first, web second” rather than viewing mobile contacts as an inferior representation of someone’s social graph compared to Facebook and Twitter contacts.

TechCrunch has also criticised Apple’s new Ping service, a social recommendation feature added to iTunes in the last week, arguing that it is just a driver to increase sales in the iTunes store and lacking features that would take advantage of personal networks (for instance, Ping has no integration with Facebook due to lack of an agreement and a user’s existing music collection is partitioned from Ping).

Relating this back to the readings for this course, van Dijk believes that for most new media manufacturers, “a device perspective (hardware) or service perspective (software) is taken instead of a social and contextual perspective” (2006: 92), arguing that there is a disjoint between what producers make and what consumers want. This is clearly the case with the examples outlined above and it will be interesting to note in the next couple of years which of the above will scale the heights or be abandoned en masse.


Naughton, J. (2010)As the reborn Kindle proves, looks don’t count for everything
Accessed from:  Last accessed: 2 September 2010

Schonfeld, E. (2010) The Problem With Ping
Last accessed: 2 September 2010
Accessed from:

Siegler, M.G. (2010) The Real Social Network: Your Mobile Contacts
Last accessed: 2 September 2010
Accessed from:

van Dijk, J. (2006) The Network Society,
Sage Publications, London.

ARIN6901: Weak ties in the age of ubiquitous Social Network Services

September 1, 2010

Outline of Blog theme

After much consideration, the posts on this blog for Network Society will primarly focus on three significant concepts within network theory: the concept of social ties as initially developed by Granovetter, the small-world theory or Six Degrees of Separation, based on the work of Stanley Milgram and finally, the idea of information diffusion through networks. Narrowing focus and tying these themes together, I will take a specifically human approach to the blog posts, looking for instance at how humans perceive networks and how their participation within networks informs their experiences.

Weak ties in the age of ubiquitous Social Network Services

As the number and usage levels of social network services (“SNS”) continue to rise exponentially (Facebook for example just reaching 500 million users in only six years(1)  and Twitter going from a few thousand users after a few months from launch in 2006 to over 100 million(2)), greater levels of analysis and discourse are taking place in the area of Social Network Analysis (”SNA”) in an attempt to make sense of the impact of these services on traditional social networks and other networks.  New media and network theorists are applying seminal concepts from sociology and SNA to the study of services such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, amongst others.

Established work such as that by Granovetter (1973) in defining different types of social ties and Goffman in outlining what constitutes identity performance (1959) have been variously applied by modern theorists including danah boyd, Erika Pearson and Carolyn Haythornthwaite to form a view of interaction modes within online social spaces. In particular, media type and the interrelation with strong and weak ties is investigated at length.
According to Granovetter, ties are characterised by factors such as time, emotional intensity, reciprocity and intimacy. These factors are simultaneously independent, yet interrelated (Granovetter, 1973). Further, weak ties are beneficial as they signify difference between the two individuals connected, as they are not connected by a strong common factor. This difference results in impressive opportunities for social mobility and information diffusion (Granovetter, 1973).

Using Granovetter’s framework, Haythornthwaite posits that the Internet’s power is in making connections between people where none previously existed and the resultant establishment of weak tie networks (Haythornthwaite, 2005).  This is due to the access to a wider set of connections that this type of technology allows and a removal of social risks associated with contacting “unknown” others (Haythornthwaite, 2002). Haythornthwaite is particularly interested in the intersection of the social with technological developments in their effect on tie strength: creating new ties and changing the status of weak tie to strong and vice versa.

Since the adoption of different SNS is a relatively new phenomenon, I argue that use may lead to a distortion of the accepted constitution of weak ties and lead to a confusion between what someone’s weak ties are as opposed to their strong ties. New norms and forms of etiquette are in a state of flux, leading to some confusion around social rules. The features of SNS facilitate a level of intimacy between acquaintances not previously possible, for example the sharing of personal photographs and innermost thoughts. In studying the SNS “Friendster”, which enjoys high usage particularly in Asia, researcher danah boyd pointed out that due to the generic label of all connections as “friend”, the tie strength of ties is ambiguous. Further, the majority of connections on Friendster are actually weak, with people connecting with others who they simply recognize, a situation that would not occur outside of SNS (boyd, 2008).

However, boyd has demonstrated that the users of Friendster are able to work around the limitations presented by this ambiguity, by using forms of play and experimentation to create their own set of norms. This observation mirrors that of Haythornthwaite who identifies a “social construction of media use” (2002: 6) with listservs and news groups in particular, allowing for simple text based technologies to express greater levels of nuance and emotion. These findings suggest that the use of media in a social context is constantly in a state of adaptation, and can extend to the a fluidity in the definitions of weak and strong ties.

This is an area of study that is continually growing. With the adoption of  SNS in a broader range of areas other than the strictly social, for example in business and government, more research will be done in the coming future in order to understand the impacts of these services and to make constructive  recommendations for their use. The benefit of time will also serve to provide deeper insights than those already produced.

1. Arthur, C. and Kiss, J. (2010)  Facebook reaches 500 million users
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 31/8/2010

2. Arthur, C.(2010) See how Twitter grew – and find out what made it explode
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 31/8/2010


Arthur, C.(2010) See how Twitter grew – and find out what made it explode
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 31/8/2010

Arthur, C. and Kiss, J. (2010) Facebook reaches 500 million users
Accessed from:
Last accessed: 31/8/2010

danah boyd (2008). ‘None of this is Real’ in Structures of Participation in Digital Culture (ed. Joe Karaganis). New York: Social Science Research Council, pp. 132-157.

Granovetter, M. (1973)’The strength of weak ties’ in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78. No. 6, pp. 1360-1380.
Haythornthwaite, C.(2002) ‘Strong, Weak, and Latent Ties and the Impact of New Media’,
The Information Society, 18: 5, 385 — 401

Haythornthwaite, C.(2002) ‘Strong, Weak, and Latent Ties and the Impact of New Media’,
The Information Society, 18: 5, 385 — 401

Haythornthwaite, C.(2005)’Social Networks and Internet Connectivity Effects’, in Information, Communication & Society, Vol. 8, No. 2, June 2005, pp. 125–147

ARIN6903: North Korea expands its propaganda machine on social networking sites

August 23, 2010

Propaganda is as old as humankind itself and covers a vast array of subject matter, from religion to race, politics to pollution, advertising to Al-Qaida. What comes to mind when the word propaganda comes up may depend on where you were raised. For me, I think back to high school history lessons about the Nazi Third Reich in 1930s and 40s Germany, when Joseph Goebbels produced thousands of pieces of propaganda aimed at maintaining the stranglehold of the Nazi party. Of course, those nations fighting against Germany in the Second World War produced their own powerful anti-German and anti-Japanese propaganda.

In Australia, we are no strangers to both benign and more damaging propaganda, in recent times being urged to “Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat” on the one hand, and on the other, during the years of the White Australia policy (which lasted in some form from the 1950s all the way up to 1973), newspaper readers would have seen Phil Ray’s “Asian Octopus” staring back at them from the pages,  with each octopus tentacle representing a supposed “Asian evil”.


That brings my post to more modern times, with the news just last week that the state of North Korea (@uriminzok) has joined Twitter in an effort to spread its propaganda across another medium and further around the globe. The diplomatically isolated state has also set up accounts on those other Web 2.0 behemoths – YouTube and Facebook. So, with my studies in mind, I duly signed up to follow North Korea on Twitter, set them up as a “friend” on Facebook and viewed some of their YouTube clips. True to the nature of propaganda being a one-way communication flow, the North Korean Twitter account indicates that they have 10,000 odd followers, yet they are not following anyone.

As could be expected, the press have picked up on North Korea’s entrée to the social networking world with The New York Times reporting that:

In one clip, it called Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton a “minister in a skirt” and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates a “war maniac,” while depicting the South Korean defense minister, Kim Tae-young, as a “servile dog” that likes to be patted by “its American master.”

The propaganda war between North and South Korea had been stopped in 2000, but in May of this year it was resurrected after South Korea blamed North Korea for the sinking of a warship which killed it 46 sailors.

In  a quote that surely indicates that propaganda’s impact depends on its audience and the context in which it situated, Yoo Ho-yeol, an expert on North Korea at Korea University in Seoul was quoted as saying:

“I don’t think this propaganda from the North will have any significant impact among South Koreans. “People watch this for fun, not to be influenced.”

North Korea's Facebook account

North Korea's Facebook account

North Korea's Facebook Account

North Korea's Facebook Account

North Korea on You Tube

North Korea on You Tube

Although I believe the Internet to be a major influence in societal and technological terms, I also believe that in many ways it is an extension of what has come before, allowing propaganda to spread in a new medium, rather than reinventing the wheel.

One way in which propaganda may benefit in terms of spread, is the Wikipedia site’s editorial processes which are heavily criticised by many observers including Andrew Keen in his book The Cult of the Amateur. The New York Times has reported that “Insider Editing”, the practice where companies or organisations that find elements in their Wikipedia entry to their dislike edit the entry. Prominent examples have included a computer originating at ExxonMobil responsible for editing a page dealing with the 1989 Exxon-Valdez Alaskan oil spill and PepsiCo editing information critical about Pepsi’s effect on health. A monitoring programme called WikiWatcher attempts to monitor these edits by matching up the IP address where the edits originate with the name of the network owner.

There are of course, many many other examples of how Wikipedia is being used as a propaganda tool. One very controversial one is the move by two Israeli organisations to establish Zionist Wikipedia editing courses, in the belief that online, Israeli activists are vastly outnumbered by pro-Palestinians. They have identified hundreds of Wikipedia entries they believe to be either inaccurate or slanted to paint Israel in a poor light. Previously, a group that planned to secretly edit Wikipedia pages was banned from the site, hence a more transparent approach by these newer organisations.


Keen, A. (2008) The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values.  Doubleday, New York.

ARIN6903: Splendour in the Grass: a Tweet too far?

August 11, 2010

Along with 31,999 others, I recently attended the 10th Splendour in the Grass festival, this year held for the first time at Woodfordia in QLD rather than in its usual location of Byron Bay.

I’m a relatively recent convert to Twitter, only beginning to use it regularly at the start of this year for university classes. Rather than being an active tweeter, I was more of a lurker, with a long list of people and companies I was following. I often asked myself “what do I have to say of interest?” and was quite careful not to tweet my every thought as so many do.

The turning point of my Twitter behaviour came about due to Splendour. Rather than being satisfied simply to take part in the festival, I found myself tweeting my observations and experiences as they occurred to me. And I found it hard to stop once I’d started.  By using the #splendour hashtag, I became part of a temporary and active community of attendees.

During the festival, I got thinking about how Twitter affects a person’s experience of an event. For the active user who tweets during an event, I don’t think Twitter is an add-on to the experience, it’s integral to it. What do I mean? Well, tweeting during the event mediates the experience for the individual and builds their sense of communion.  They can report on their observations during the event to other attendees (and even to non-attendees who want to feel a part of it) and can also follow what others are saying.  In this way, Twitter forms a collaborative narrative of an event.

My tweets during the festival

True to my overly analytical thought processes, I was quite hard on myself for regularly tweeting during the festival, when perhaps I should have just been purely experiencing it as others appeared to be. But is tweeting really all that much of a departure from either chatting to your friends who are with you or sending a picture message to a friend who can’t attend? I don’t believe so.

Twitter also proved to be a very practical tool during the festival. On one evening, due to a disappointing lack of adequate balancing of bands between different stages, the main amphitheatre became full during Florence and the Machine since there was no band of a similar calibre playing on another stage to balance the crowd levels. I overhead people talking about a lockout on the amphitheatre, with security guards closing the gates once it became full. I then caught up with a friend who had seen the resulting chaos and near-riot situation as irate festival-goers tried to get through the gates. I then checked Twitter to get an update on the situation and decided it was safe to venture towards the amphitheatre to see The Strokes once Florence and the Machine had finished and the crowd thinned out.

But, without a doubt the most significant part of my Splendour Twitter experience was when I adopted the persona of an amateur music hack. Let me set the scene for you:  a friend mentioned on Facebook (yes I was overdoing the social networking thing at Splendour!) that I should check out Richard Ashcroft’s new band, the United Nations of Sound. Sure enough, I found a gap in my schedule and walked over to that stage where another friend was already watching. Immediately, I noticed how small the crowd watching was and thought “this doesn’t bode well”. Especially, since the lights were focussed on the crowd, emphasising how small it was. I could see Richard Ashcroft was not impressed, but his voice sounded brilliant and so recognisable.  Here’s a blow by blow account of what happened next:

The next day, the Faster Louder website contacted me to ask me more about what went down. Their reporter subsequently used information from my tweets and the set list in an article:

I also gained a whole bunch of new followers from the event. Even the Faster Louder article was a collaboration: my tweets and setlist image were used in conjunction with information and video provided by another Splendour attendee.

For me, Twitter also forms part of a digital time capsule of the event and I’m still contemplating wading through the #splendour archive to see what I’ve missed, though I imagine it will require many many days in front of the computer.

ARIN6902: Just what does the Internet mean for Protest Movements?

March 22, 2010

As I mentioned in my initial post, Protest Movements in relation to the Internet is an incredibly broad topic. So this next post will attempt to give a very broad overview of the topic and provide context for the focus of the blog itself: cultural protest.

Just why is this topic so broad? Firstly, there are considerations of what the Internet comprises (ie. endless websites, apps, RIAs, widgets, feeds, social networks), then you need to analyse definitions of “protest” and activities therein (“hacktivism”, and, Facebook groups, Twitter posts, email campaigns) and lastly, there is a need to take a look at what actual topic or issue is that is being “protested” – democracy in Iran, disliking the fashion sense of a colleague or perhaps a particular musical genre (Norwegian death metal anyone?).

Let’s start off by connecting the dots. The Oxford English dictionary, that  esteemed gatekeeper of knowledge and grammar, defines protest as both a noun and a verb:

noun 1 a statement or action expressing disapproval or objection. 2 an organized public demonstration objecting to an official policy or course of action.

verb 1 express an objection to what someone has said or done. 2 take part in a public protest. 3 state emphatically in response to an accusation or criticism: she protested her innocence.

So, taking the next step, “protest movement” implies a group of participants who are, to varying levels, unified in terms of just what is being protested against. It also suggests organisation, collaboration and action.

Now that we have that clear, we can look at the typical overarching topics that protest movements revolve around…and as can be expected, there are some very thorny topics indeed (not surprisingly, they are the topics your parents and those silly etiquette guides always told you never to discuss at dinner): sexual orientation, politics, religion, sport, culture, war…the list goes on.

And what sort of activities do people who engage in protest movements get up to? Well, they range from the benign to the definitely illegal, the maybe-illegal and the downright ingenious. The activities that get the most attention seem to be the ones that target large, international corporations or government agencies: in 1998, the Pentagon and Mexican government websites were affected by a “virtual sit-in” where hundreds of activists protesting the treatment of natives from an area of Mexico initiated denial of service attacks so that the websites became inaccessible. Other notable events in this vein constitute defacement of a website – unauthorised people gain access to the website and post messages on the homepage to gain attention and notoriety for their cause. More recently and locally, the website for the Melbourne International Film Festival was shut down due to denial of service attacks by Chinese protesters, who were against the inclusion of a prominent filmmaker from the Muslim Uyghur minority and is critical of the Chinese government.

Somewhat more benign and perhaps dumbed-down are the thousands of Facebook groups set up protesting anything from the discontinuation of a chocolate bar to the cancellation of Friends on UK Channel E4. Hadley Freeman at The Guardian picks up on this dumbing down of protest, suggesting that in many cases, it is simply a case of reactionary campaigning, where those that sign up are only doing it for the sake of it.

Let us now take a look at how the Internet has facilitated protest movements. The obvious points are that forms of publication on the Internet act as a mobilising and galvanising force, allowing for movements to organise themselves, spread their beliefs and to be active. The large potential audience of the Internet and its networked nature allow the development of dedicated and determined protest movement members. It also provides protest members with a gathering location that is not physical.