Tag Archives: Twitter

The Cobrasnake: Creating Culture

The Cobrasnake (Mark Hunter) takes photographs and makes T-shirts. His brand has expanded; he has infiltrated the clubs and the streets of the world. A casual glance at his website shows only the latest T-shirts available for purchase and a dense archive of Cobrasnake’s photographs. Said simply: the man is busy. The people caught in the lens of his camera are not models, posing professionally, but seemingly random people, musicians(or people who happen to be wearing Cobrasnake T-shirts). Through the photographs, a new culture is created and takes form. Cobrasnake is not simply taking pictures, he’s creating cultural identity. Take note.

In this developing age of openness to personal branding, the Cobrasnake’s idea of selling limited runs of handmade T-shirts and hitting the clubs to snap the young and the restless works well. Everyone, it seems, these days is using some kind of social media as an extension of their daily life. What Cobrasnake goes is gives people a base from which to view the blossoming of club culture, the fashion of a certain party or event and so on. As he says in an interview with MediaTemple, “When i started shooting nightlife it was funny because people were not used to having their photo taken by someone that wasn’t their friend. Now most people want as many people as possible to take their photo.”

Gazing at the pictures on his website, we can see a myriad of “beautiful” people, enjoying themselves or at least being out, being seen. They do not possess the lifeless “looking past the camera” gaze that many professional advertisements rely on, but offer a more personal view of the scene. Some of them are almost inviting, comforting. After spending enough time clicking through the photo albums, you, too, may be enticed by the idea of joining the social enterprise that Cobrasnake offers. Or…

One Twitter user, wrote, “Not sure if he hates the Cobrasnake due to hatred or jealousy.” as his tweet. Perhaps this is the feeling that many viewers of the brand experience. The Cobrasnake, by showing you what is fashionable, what is happening in the “hot spots,” may make you realize how actually detached you are from those scenes. Wanting to leap into the scene, but unable to press beyond the computer screen. Meanwhile, somewhere, maybe right now, The Cobrasnake is plotting, working, selling, and enchanting folks with an invitation to transform themselves into a new person.

Links for more information on this enterprise:

The Cobrasnake (Official)
Cobrasnake Interview
Cobrasnake on Wunderbuzz
Cobrasnake Interview on The Brilliance

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Fame and Social Media: A Fragment

Emil CioranImage via Wikipedia Why are so many people, myself included, connecting to and engaging in online communities? Are “listening to the conversation” and “sharing,” the two main reasons that many of us participate in social media? Perhaps, it’s the spreading of “personal branding” that excites us, gives us the chance to personally manage and influence our online reputation. Or, is it something different? In an essay written in 1964 entitled, “Fame: Hopes and Horrors,” E.M. Cioran writes, “If each of us were to confess his most secret desire, the one that inspires all his plans, all his actions, he would say: ‘I want to be praised.’ No one will make such a confession, for it is less shameful to commit an abomination than to proclaim so pitiable and so humiliating a weakness, looming out of a feeling of solitude and insecurity from which both the fortunate and the rejected suffer with equal intensity (107).” Is Cioran’s way of thinking relevant to today’s flux of social networking sites?

What is it about social networking sites that fuel our desire to engage, to discuss or to network with unknown others? Perhaps, for some, it is the lust for “information,” having to keep abreast of new technological developments and web applications. The rush of being the first person to blog about a new development or news story constantly flows through my Twitter feed. It is impossible to engage in a “real” conversation through the use of micromedia, all one can do is comment or summarize. However, beneath the visual interface of the application, how do we communicate through these tools and how do they serve to influence our sense of self? Before writing this article, I announced through Twitter that I was about to start this article. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time and it provided a sense of connectedness to some larger body of people. What was my purpose, though, in sending that Tweet? How strange to think about how “connected” we all are through the interface of these machines. Perhaps, “deep down” we can relate to Cioran. How wonderful it would have been, had someone thought to write back a short reply, praising my efforts or showing some interest toward the endeavor. No one did. There is a kind of self-pride that flows through the use of these sites, an inflated sense of who we think we are and who we want ourself to be. Nonetheless, having 5,000 followers on Twitter doesn’t have anything to do with any kind of “conversation,” only noise.

The wish to be praised seems such a harmless one. The validation that occurs at a live performance or after a great speech fills the performer with a sense of validation and, perhaps, with the lust for more. Why do so many people want to be on TV, even as an extra in a non-speaking role? Is it because the work is easy? Is it because the pay is decent for the amount of work done? It seems that the world of TV gives one the chance to enter into a hyper-version of reality, a reality that feels more real than real. Why does it make people so happy to watch the misfortune of others through the interface of the screen?

In a productive society, the will to be creative, the drive to create and shape things, brings happiness. The sharing of those things with others also brings happiness, but in what ways? Is it the pure giving of the creation to another, a pure selfless act? Or, is it the feeling of pride that one gets when one gives the object to the other person? In Japan, when someone gives a gift, it is common to say something like “This is a boring gift for you.” Although, in native Japanese, the expression doesn’t translate as harshly as when put into English, the meaning is basically the same. The gift is verbally degraded, although it is probably a very nice or thoughtful present. This degrading of oneself is common in this situation. The recipient of the gift should praise the gift and the gift-giver. One only needs to look at the glimmer in the eye of the giver to see the happiness that comes from giving and the happiness that comes from being praised.

Is the way out of this flux, simply to turn off the computer and disconnect from the applications? Does this need to be praised surface in all other areas of our life? Is this our lot in life? If so…

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Controlling the Imagination

Photo by Norma Desmond

Baltasar Gracian, in his book “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” writes, “Keep your imagination under control. You must sometimes correct it, sometimes assist it. For it is all important for our happiness and balances reason. The imagination can tyrannize, not being content with looking on, but influences and even often dominates our life (Gracian 15).”

Our imagination covers over and creates what we call our “daily life.” The bubbling emergence of images, sounds, voices and ideas well up and overflow through the imagination. Our social networking and online identities also take shape in the imagination we have of how we would like to be perceived, how we would like to see ourselves through the eyes of others. The imagination is all-powerful, perhaps one of the most powerful gifts we have. Minds have imagined iPods and atomic bombs, mobile phones and the Tokyo Tower. The cityscape begins with imagination and is realized through imaginations. That is, a city or on online community is only as powerful as the imaginations that gather there.

Our cities and Web communities are convergent points, networks of imagination. Through Twitter, I can imagine the other and, moreover, am forced to imagine them, for they are not here with me. Their voice points me to links, to ideas or perhaps only to an imagination of a simple part of their day (eating breakfast, preparing for bed, etc.) The facebook profile as well requires imagination and perhaps I imagine some “you” that you have not yet imagined.

However, the imagination has a way of haunting humans as well. Perhaps we have all experienced the recurrence of a certain image, a kind of film that flashes before one’s eyes, a film that we would rather turn off and forget about, a film that comes from the other side, from the abyss of the imagination. The fear of the hacker is not only fear of monetary loss, but also the terrifying image of one’s identity being manipulated…having someone else’s imagination manipulate oneself.

This morning my friend asked me if I was ever haunted by something and how can one deal with an overactive imagination. I turned to Gracian’s wisdom of controlling the imagination and recognizing the haunting image as being imagined. When the haunting image is recognized as imaginary, perhaps it can bring some solace to the day. Perhaps one can move out and sweep the floor or fold the clothes with some new peace. Moreover, a controlled and balanced imagination may help one to create better art, music or text. That is, a more precise imagination may be cultivated and striven for.

How can we imagine ourselves into a better life? Is the life that we are leading the best possible life? How has one’s imagination of oneself served to shape that self in actuality? Can we imagine ourselves and our situation in a different and possibly more fulfilling way? Perhaps this is worthy of our attention.

Deepening Web Communication (Fragments)

Steve Rhodes

Communications theorist Lee Thayer once wrote, “We ‘dilute’ the world by having an idea of it; and the intent of our words is, more often than not, to eliminate the world as resistance (Thayer 190).” As languaging creatures, our comprehension of the world is at once in direct contact with it (with certain spatial areas, horizons, surfaces, humans) and at the same time a part from it via language, creative expression, technology and so so on. That is to say, our ways of grasping the world is usually, most of the time, extending beyond the immediate here-and-now concreteness of reality, projecting ourselves onto things and others. Even when we are engaged in the concrete and ever-flowing “now,” we almost without control cover it over and lose what it could be with our self-talk or with symbolic complexes about how it should be. In the above quotation Thayer is calling us to think about the ways in which we understand our worlds, the ways in which we conceptually apprehend the concrete (via language) and how, perhaps, our talking serves the purpose of watering down the absolute harshness of the physical world.

Isolation

To use one example, in my current life situation I interact with computers everyday at home and at work. Just this evening, standing outside, I opened up my mobile phone, connected to the Web and checked my email. To some extent, the sense of aloneness, of isolation is swallowed up by the thought of being connected to a larger non-physical network of others. Moreover, for some of us, how much have we come to completely rely on Web communication for a large amount of the “real” communication that we crave, that we fail to engage while at work or even with friends? The temptation of connect may be seen as the temptation to substitute the “real” world for a virtual one, but I don’t think that things are this easy. Sure, it is nice to partake in micro-blogging or facebook updates, in order to keep relevant others “updated,” but what happens when one steps away from all of it? Moreover, how have our conversations changed…do we converse in 140 characters or less, I wonder?

I think that for those of us that engage in various forms of social media, the spreading out and fragmenting of ourselves, while creating small pockets of self-identity and self-representation have the consequences of widening the sense of isolation instead of eliminating it. Spreading oneself across the social media spectrum for research purposes or curiosity may be beneficial if put to good use, but even then, too much talk about nothing, too much reliance on Web communication creates a false sense of togetherness. No matter what, the computer still sits on the table, in the room, in the house, in the city, etc…The objectness of the computer disappears while we are engaged with it.

The Deep

In the same essay as the above mentioned quotation, Thayer writes, “What has happened is that we have come to mistake our reach for our grasp. With the modernization of consciousness has come belief that information is a reasonable substitute for knowledge, and that knowledge, rationally accumulated, is a reasonable substitute for wisdom (Thayer 183).” Too much self-fragmentation into the voids of social media may serve to satisfy a temporary hunger, a quick fix on news, technological advances and so on, but what is happening in the accumulation of quick fix knowledge? It seems to me that the self that consists of a diet of aggregated feeds, comes to accumulate more information than necessary and, as a result, not really use that accumulated knowledge. Reaching too far and pulling everything in is tempting, but wasteful and shallow. When I say “shallow,” I mean quickly reading something for the purpose of simply taking it in without making it a part of oneself, without spending time with it and allowing it to work its magick on you. Reading an aggregated feed is much different than reading a book just as “tweeting” on Twitter is much different than engaging in a conversation while sharing a bottle of wine. The depth of communication is at stake in both examples.

Pondering

If ours is a situation in which we language the world, in which the world becomes the way it is talked about and made sense, then what are some ways that we can strive to create and enact the most beautiful possible world? Moreover, if ours is a technological world, how can we deepen our communicative grasp through the social networks which we use? Finally, if ours is a fragmented world, what are some ways that we can stitch some vital fragments back together, ways in which we can come to deepen and enrich our human lives through the technological? Perhaps, these too, are some of my hopes for Web 3.0

*The two quotations were taken from the essay “Communication: Reach vs. Grasp,” which is in Lee Thayer’s book “Pieces: Toward a Revisioning of Communication/Life.”

Photo by Steve Rhodes (CC)

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Web 3.0: Social Hybrid

Complex

Today, I read the following article which discusses speculations regarding Web 3.0 and asks the question, “What would you like Web 3.0 to be?” The article is from Soshable and can be read here: Soshable: Web 3.0

Webster defines “hybrid” in the following way:

1: an offspring of two animals or plants of different races, breeds, varieties, species, or genera
2: a person whose background is a blend of two diverse cultures or traditions
3 a: something heterogeneous in origin or composition : composite b: something (as a power plant, vehicle, or electronic circuit) that has two different types of components performing essentially the same function

The idea of two different species of websites merging together interests me very much, but beyond this I am weary about centralization, worried about the flow covering over my discovery of potential useful information. After having read about FriendFeed from several social media blogs, I created my account and began “sharing.” What immediately struck me was the absolute minimalism of one’s profile page, the strict focus on the data-stream as opposed to the development of one’s self through the use of symbols (as greatly seen on MySpace). However, without any “friends” on FriendFeed to keep track of, I visited the “Everyone” page to observe the conversational flow. What immediately stuck out was the frequent Twitter feeds that wouldn’t quit and proved quite distracting, until I realized that I was essentially merely an observer. After sharing a link, I watched as it quickly vanished into the nether world, just another blip from someone on the other side of the world. This kind of fast-moving meaningless glimpse at the snippets of conversations, makes me realize the necessity of adding “friends” to the Friendfeed site. Ah, I have digressed. Where was I? Ah yes, Social Hybridity.

Under a Black Sky, Disconnected

As I was walking outside this evening under the black Japan sky amidst the industrial bleakness of the suburbs, I began to really think what feature I would like to see emerge in Web 3.0. I began thinking about the idea of more online literature, downloadable books perhaps merging with a literary networking site, but then I realized that I am still very much attached to a real book, the feeling of turning the pages, savoring the textures of the book…

Returning to the Tower of Babel

Then, I had a thought. What is it that would make interacting with others easier? What am I missing in the chatter that comes from languages that I have never studied and do not understand? The separation of tongues was also very evident on the “FriendFeed” “everyone” viewing experience. I saw random Twitters and blog posts in foreign languages appear and, upon refreshing the page, washed away. What may be interesting, although it is perhaps quite far-fetched, would be a social networking site with emphasis on international linguistic diversity and some kind of function which would translate the other’s language into the language of my choice and vice versa. Of course, this is far-fetched in that even with advanced online translators, we all know that the task of translating from one language to another loses something, there is something that the computerized translation software cannot grasp and cannot adequately express. The slang, the nuance, sarcasm and word-play tend to get lost when filtered through the computerized translator. In my dream space, this would be realizable. That is, I would like to see a site with emphasis on translatability, on being able to see a page in Chinese appear in English with 99% of its natural flare in tact. Moreover, through a chat function, my words would be instantly translated to the other and the other’s to me, in our mother tongue. Perhaps, this would be one of my hopes for social hybridity.

However, there is one obvious consequence of this idea of linguistic hybridity that comes to mind and that is a decline in the challenge to learn a language. Therefore, perhaps the site could also feature a rich translation tool that allows one to see just how words are being translated, online language lessons and the history of the development of the language (a kind of built-in Wiki). Of course, the site could also host various podcasts, international vlogs, downloadable educational content and the like. Eduction + Interaction.

Think Tank Create Tank

Another idea that comes to mind is a space that allows those wishing to collaborate on a project, brainstorm ideas visually and textually, working together to create some kind of multimedia project across the platform of a social networking site. For example, three musicians existing in three different countries come together through the site and are able to upload music files to their perhaps “private” group space online (on the SNS site), the site also provides a voice chat option/web cam option and spaces for sketching ideas visually and taking notes. In this way, the musicians at their own pace can work to collaborate on a piece of music, editing it in their own countries at the own homes, but uploading it and editing it through the social networking site itself. One may visualize this as a kind of think tank social networking site for professionals to meet, network and work together. Of course, not only musicians but video artists, online poets, fashion designers, architects, urban planners and virtual reality designers as well could use this page.

I realize that both of the ideas presented here are macro in scope devoid of any technical way of making these ideas happen, but they are just to get the juices flowing, so to speak. Social hybridity, social hybridity, social hybridity…

Questions

So now I pass it on to you….what are your hopes for Web 3.0 and what problems would you like see solved? The Media Ecologist Neil Postman asked the question, “What problem is this new technology the solution?” I am curious as to what your online “problems” are and how new socially minded applications could help solve them?

A Messy Marco-Analysis of Social Media: The Labyrinthine Self

An example of a social network diagram.Image from WikipediaThe following is a messy macro-analysis of social media and I hope to elucidate these ideas in the coming weeks. Please bear with me. Also, if you have spent time with what is talked about here, please get in touch, suggest links, propose theories, probes, ideas, etc. I support fragmentation.

It seems that the decentralization of the self across a number of social networking sites multiplies and fragments the self while creating what I want to call: the labyrinthine self. A definition of the labyrinthine self could be: the self that is created from the decentralization of one’s identity through the fragmentation of one’s knowledge-networks as existing within various social media platforms.

An easy-to-understand example could be: one creates a Myspace page as a “Film Director,” one then creates a Youtube page as a “Film Director,” in order to extend one’s knowledge-network. In addition, to represent one’s “private” self, one joins Facebook to reconnect with old friends. In order to keep the world updated instantly, a Twitter feed is created, a “film blog” at typepad and finally a Secondlife character is designed in order to further spread one’s “films” or simply just to connect via the virtual world (with other Lindens). In doing this, one has essentially and willingly created the labyrinthine self, that is one’s self has extended to the extent that it has become impossible to fully keep track of and be in control of one’s own knowledge-network. In addition, the self in seeing itself existing across these platforms becomes fragmented. Data that is shared on Facebook is not shared on Twitter or Secondlife and so on. Moreover, even with sites that work to centralize one’s self (Friendfeed), I still see the labyrinthinization of the self. That is to say, even in the centralized space of Friendfeed, there is still a reliance on the labyrinth that one has created or that one is feeding off of. That is, what is Friendfeed apart from the decentralized sites that it allows one to share? Moreover, if anything Friendfeed sustains the fragmented self by willfully encouraging one to put back the puzzle of one’s social media existence.

Then, there is “data portability,” which is the sharing of data across time-space. This means, jumping from node to node along the labyrinthine tunnel, consciously decentralizing oneself, while maintaining one identity, perhaps something like a “master password.” In this way, one jumps from room to room – different rooms are experienced, but you are still you, fragmented nonetheless.

Within both of these examples is the unfolding of one’s knowledge-network and, moreover, the ability for one’s data to float through that network into a hither unknown area only to be re-appropriated by another person. That is to say, the “mash-up” trend in blogging. “Mash-up” is the conjoining of two or more things to create something new. It is kind of like cooking. If I mix one part “silly pet video from Youtube,” one part “crazy New York party pics from Flickr” and one part “book review from my favorite blog,” I create a new way of visualizing and interpreting the data, due to the unique context that I created. This leads to what we could even call “the mish-mash self,” the self that appropriates online symbols (images, music files, viral videos, photographs) and uses them to represent one’s self. In a way, this blog represents facets of my labyrinthine self and my mish-mash self. That is to say, one’s blog is a space where one, through the “mashing” of one’s favorite media, creates a new space, a new context from which to view the data.

Questions for Consideration:

How is the virtual representation of your identity transformed by your use of social networking sites?
How deep does your knowledge-network go?
Do you think that a centralized social media site will fulfill your social media desires? That is, do you prefer centralization or decentralization? What is the relationship of centralization and decentralization in sites like Myspace or Friendfeed?
Where does Secondlife exist in all of this?

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