Monthly Archives: May 2014

Online Misogyny & Trolling

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Gender identity and representation online is a topic that many may not have studied, but one that most of us are aware of as a result of our on online activity, whether it be playing ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ (2009) on Xbox live, watching music videos on YouTube or scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.

‘Gender order’ is defined as “the ways in which societies shape notions of masculinity and femininity into power relationships” (Macionis & Plummer, 2012: pp 390) and ‘gender roles’ as “learning and performing the socially accepted characteristics for a given sex” (Macionis & Plummer, 2012: pp 393). In this context, we can think of women operating in an online culture of misogyny and gendered abuse as victims of the ‘gender order’ and ‘gender roles’ that this overly masculine and ‘troll’-filled culture (Adams, 2011: pp 1) unjustifiably forces upon them – this role being a group of emotional, sensitive, unintelligent, subordinate and submissive women in an online world dominated by men who supposedly exert the traits of the intelligent, superior alpha male.

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The results of this culture is often seen through the “crude insults, aggressive threats and unstinting ridicule” (Thorpe & Rogers, 2011: pp 1), and in particular the signature “modus operandi of the attackers… the rape threat” (Thorpe & Rogers, 2011: pp 1), that many males in the online community use in order to establish dominance over women and their views. Many experts and online discussions cite that the psychological causes, motives and pleasures involved in a troll’s online behaviour include:
– “Attention and recognition, even if negative
– The emotional release of venting
– Power (the power to disrupt)
– Vandalism
– The thrill of breaking social conventions
– Sabotaging groups the troll dislikes
– Immaturity” (Fosdick, 2012: pp 1)

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to censor or prevent this kind of online gendered abuse against women whilst maintaining the level of freedom of expression that fuels the online success of a website or other media platform. Personally though, I love CollegeHumor’s satirical approach to squashing online misogyny and the abuse of women, which whilst being hilarious, also explicitly illustrates the truly horrific nature of the abuse of women online through its reversal of stereotypical online gender roles. However, in terms of finding effective short- and long-term strategies to addressing this issue, I highly doubt that feminists anywhere will be calling for this kind of ‘fight fire with fire’ stance. (Language warning, this video contains a tonne of explicit content!)

Reference List:
* Adams, T (2011), How the internet created an age of rage, The Guardian, London, pp 1
* Fosdick, H (2012), Why People Troll and How to Stop Them, Os News, osnews.com, pp 1
* Macionis, J.J, Plummer, K (2012), Sociology: A Global Introduction, 5th edition, Pearson, Harlow, pp 390, 393
* Thorpe, V & Rogers, R (2011), Women bloggers call for a stop to ‘hateful’ trolling by misogynistic men, The Guardian, London, pp 1
* West, J (2009), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Activision

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Mash-Ups 101, Lesson 1: Learn the Four Chords

A ‘mash-up’ is defined as “… a musical track comprising the vocals of one recording placed over the instrumental backing of another” (Apple Dictionary, 2014). In recent decades remix culture and the art of creating popular mash-ups has burst up through the ranks and evolved into its own popular art form. This “explosion of mashup-style practices [brought about] by modern computing technologies” (Bruns A, 2010) has resulted in many interesting and varyingly successful mash-ups. One of the most popular and widely recognisable (and one of my personal favourites) of these is the The Axis of Awesome’s ‘Four Chords’ (2009), which was first performed live at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2009 and in its five years on Youtube has racked up over 30 million views (random804, 2009).

However, whilst comical, entertaining and incredibly clever, mash-up works such as this raise very serious questions about copyright and intellectual property. Presently, the copyright principle of ‘Fair Use’ states that an artist is allowed to use small sections of copyrighted work without the permission of its original creators, who are still allowed the right to sue the creator of a mash-up if they interpret it as damaging or having too much of their copyrighted work in it (Stim, 2013: pp 1).

This copyright law then raises a rather interesting and complicated question: if the option to sue is there, why have none of the 67 artists whose works have been incorporated into various live and recorded versions of The Axis of Awesome’s ‘Four Chords’ (2009) ever attempted to sue this band for using lyrics and/or melodies from their songs? Is it the popularity of this mash-up, the small nature of the segments that are included, the possibility that they’re scared to label this comedy band as ‘musical thieves’ and themselves as ‘victims of copyright abuse’, something entirely different or maybe a combination of them all? I guess thats something that we’ll probably never fully know, but for the sake of The Axis of Awesome and the popular music industry as a whole lets just hope that no one ever smacks a copyright label over the E major, B major, C# minor, A major chord progression! (The Axis of Awesome, 2009)

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Reference List:
* Apple Dictionary (2014), Mash-up
* The Axis of Awesome (2009), ‘Four Chords’, in Animal Vehicle, Axis of Awesome
* Bruns, A (2010), Distributed Creativity: Filesharing and Produsage, Springer, Wien, pp 1
* random804 (2009), Axis of Awesome: Four Chord Song, Youtube.com
* Stim, R (2013), Fair Use, Stanford University Press, pp 1


Pandora & Transmedia Narratives

“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.” – Henry Jenkins (2007)

Today, technology is as critical as it has ever been in offering distribution channels for transmedia narratives. However, not every individual media technology is able to offer all, or even multiple platforms for which each of these narratives can be made available and experienced. In a cinema you can watch the movie, on the Xbox game you can play the game and sometimes view comic extracts, and through the figurine toys you can re-enact scenes yourself and sometimes hear the character’s most iconic phrases and quotes.

Following suit in this trend is Pandora Internet Radio, which offers the soundtracks to many of the most renowned transmedia narratives of the 21st century, including The MatrixThe Lord Of The Rings/The HobbitHarry Potter and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Furthermore, Pandora also offers comedic videos where comedians often critique, parody or simply allude to elements of a transmedia narrative such as one of the characters in the Avengers or Harry Potter (Pandora, 2012).

However, Pandora does not allow the user to experience the film, the game, the comics or the figurines. Those components of a transmedia narrative require the user to seek out alternative channels through which they can be accessed. And this is where it is demonstrated that whilst some broader media platforms, such as the iOS system or the Web, supply distribution channels through which multiple elements of a transmedia narrative can be accessed, more specialised media technologies such as Pandora often only allow the experience of one or two elements of a transmedia narrative, such as this acoustic soundtrack to the superb 2013 film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, by Ed Sheeran.

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Reference List:
* Jenkins, H (2007), Transmedia Storytelling 101, henryjenkins.org, pp 1
* Pandora Media, Inc. (2012), About Pandora, Oakland