The Convergent Culture of YouTube

Convergence simply means “coming closer together.” Which, in YouTube’s case, there are two things coming together one, the producer and the consumer roles and their interactions, second, the medium of Television and the consumer relationship to television. We have adopted YouTube, and other online tools for sharing media and never stop to consider the implications it has had on our culture, especially in the United States. But what exactly are we considering here? Isn’t YouTube, and “Broadcasting Yourself” simply nothing more than what you can do with a web cam on a lazy afternoon you wish to go on a rant? Sure, there are thousands of megabytes of videos  out there that mass body of viewers wouldn’t be interested in, but there are also millions of users that dedicate dozens of hours to capture their work and share it with the world. Yet, again, it isn’t the content that matters here, not even its popularity, what truly matters is the ever changing relationship between the producer and the consumer.

If we could look at the relationship between producer and consumer in any form of communication or service (be it radio broadcast, film making, goods, etc.) and set them as polar opposites on a linear platform, we would be witnessing a metamorphosis where we would currently be at the center of the line. The specific roles of the two would be merged where the consumer and producer have now become a sort of hybrid that can take on the task of either or. It doesn’t matter if you have ever uploaded or merely shared a video you came across with one of your friends, the fact that convergence culture has produced a whole new meaning of broadcasting roles and blurred definitions of those roles is what matters here.

“Ours is a world of networked publics, in which consumers comment on and remix what they consume. Composed entirely of clips uploaded by individuals, YouTube threatens television networks. Snarky commentary on media is now the norm, much to the broadcaster’s chagrin. Individuals often create their own media—posting on blogs and on-line venues set up to display their creations, such as photo-sharing sites.”

This doesn’t mean that television is threatened to the point of being an obsolete technology, where we have seen professional news broadcasting as an important element in the viral structure and bringing attention to a specific video circulating online. It simply means that,

“It is a form whose persistent direct address to the viewer inherently invites feedback. While television content—news, sketch comedy, clips from soap operas—may draw people to YouTube for a catch-up, traditional media content doesn’t appear to attract high levels of conversational and interactive participation, as measured by the numbers of comments and video responses.”

We are witnessing the shift between simply being consumers and becoming producers. This goes a lot further that simply “having it our own way” when it comes to ordering an item off the menu, we are in the virtual kitchen creating our own meals!

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Virus Free is the Way to Be

May I not with perfect confidence congratulate my country and society at large on the beholding—an antidote that is capable of extirpating from the earth a disease which is every hour devouring its victims; a disease that has ever been considered as the severest scourge of the human race! –Edward Jenner

What would the ultimate goal of the medical field look like if there ever came a day where all viruses and diseases were completely eradicated from the face of the earth? No more colds, itchy throats, headaches, stomachaches, cancer, tuberculosis, hepatitis, or AIDS. What would happen to the human body and its immune system? Would we live in a utopia free from the worry of getting sick or would we fear a greater threat living within our own bodies?

It may be a goal that some may look at and think, “It can never be done” –similar to the attitudes that surrounded such pioneers as the Wright brothers or the invention of the telephone. We live on a planet that is ever changing, and though we may be years away from a virus free society, the research and manpower behind this cause is a booming enterprise. What would happen to the funding if the race ever was completed? What would the focus shift to?

The human body is a very complex structure with built in virus detection software and hardware that is light-years ahead of any super computer that exist today or may ever exist in the future. These systems are ever ready to deploy a defensive attack on any malicious viruses that breach the units’ outer walls. They are dynamic and learn to become resistant to specific threads or combinations of viruses. Ultimately, we cannot survive without these defensive tools, that is, unless there wasn’t anything to fight against. In that case, would our immune system simply fade away?

Though at first, living in a virus free society may seem like the greatest thing that could happen to humanity, eventually we would become so susceptible to any slight change in the atmosphere the entire race would come tumbling down. Imagine it this way; a computer operating system develops (and guarantees) a 100% virus free experience, both online and offline. This super system is un-hackable, dependable, and works at lightning speeds. Over a course of a few generations, this system becomes the sole monopoly in the industry, no other exist. The firewalls come down, there is no longer any need for virus protection, or any software of the like—utopia has arrived. Yet, during this time, the system has become so internally weak it has become susceptible to the smallest dust particle that it comes in contact with. Not viruses per se, but normal allergens that exist in the environment. What was once fixable with a simple disk utility run through has now confused the system from its normal operations. It has no blue print knowledge in how to execute a function to resolve the issue and therefore is overtaken.

It may be a far-fetched idea now, but just like the first settlers had grown immune to what eventually helped turn the tables in the early days of the New World, being virus free is not the best way to be.

Artificial Life: Inherently Destructive?

Look beyond the horizon of what are now the technological advances and tell me what you see. Is it even possible to conjure an idea that will foretell adequately the future of these life forms?  The globe is a memory bank, which unlike the web has limitations to the amount of mutations we as a species, as a nation, as an individual can undergo. Though there have been no boundaries found in space, in which the argument I am posing nearly loses it’s ground, there are other limitations we have been faced with that bring into mind the desperation of our form which makes us ultimately destructive.

It is in the Spam book, specifically the chapter by John Johnston about Artificial Evolution and Software Ecology where this thought it born. It is here, where I dream as a life form living inside the memory space allotted to me to grow and apply the knowledge around me to formulate and create a new version of me. I notice the limitations that have been set, the number of elements in the pool that were introduced in the beginning to draw from. There is a limitation to space, there are others out there creating viruses that are dangerous to my system and the order in which I wish to set things. There is talk about a worldwide expansion that allows us to learn and share our knowledge with others thousands of miles away, but in the end I know that my program will come to a self-destruction that is out of my control.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, the normal and accepted form of communication within these nodes, and the taboo subjects we address as “spam.” The digital world and the studies performed by the early computer scientist in the late 1980’s introduced and laid the foundation to Artificial Life. Though, in most cases, and the remaining majority of the daily communication on the World Wide Web, we remain as a friendly cooperative structure, it seems that it takes only one malignant strand of code to corrupt so much of the order. Further, it seems with the passage of time, and the struggle to contain such worms, the majority conforms to the minority and accepts the corruption as a given side effect to the natural evolution of the elements. For somewhere along the line, the malignant code was first introduced looking for a host to invade. Whether the host knew of the contagion or not, the potential red flags where ever present. Sometimes, the taboo subjects are even sought after in the darkness and safety of privacy.

If the origin of ALife was in fact a computer software program designed to destroy the opponent program’s memory, how are we to expect that the corruption and war would continue in any other fashion. I find it interesting that the original writers of the code found it difficult to find companies willing to fund such experiments, and the major players were rogue coders writing viruses and the like. I find many similarities of what the world is today. Though, much of society remains structured and governed, corruption and war plague what is now becoming the normal daily life of our system. I believe that the majority of society still fears the title hacker because of what the term has evolved into. It is also interesting that we have a tendency to remember disasters better that we do charitable days, it is in our very nature. Though many could try to turn the tables around for the definitions of Artificial Life, we will always its roots at a program that sought to destroy another.

In the social sense of what our society looks like from a birds eye view, we may believe that our system works well and without corruption. Yet, the closer we look at the details we find that we are ultimately a destructive life form—which I believe is well reflected in the things we create. Even for those objects that many bright minds have brought into existence, which I applaud them for, as a society we destroy others, our environment, and ourselves.   This is why I pose the question if the Artificial Life we create will inherently be destructive. There will always be the struggle of acceptable formats and programs against those we oppose and seek to eliminate. Over time, we will come to the conclusion that those programmers along with their programs are simply a part of life and the only thing we can do in defense is add measures to keep from being hacked or infected. If we see corruption in the initial Artificial Life forms, I believe that we will continue seeing that trend in future developing programs and applications.

This is by no means a doom and gloom reaction to what we are or what we do. It simply states the very nature of our beings and the things we create. We work together to control our environments for what we hold to as the better. We do seek to help each other, provide for one another, but the soup of elements we are left to pull from infects us. The majority of the society around us, which we are a part of, remains the louder voice, yet as in the Monty Python sketch, are we ultimately headed in a direction that the natural form of communication will be drowned out by the spam which lives among us?

Toolbox

She’s a fixer upper—this life is. We may not realize it at first, but we’ve been collecting an assortment of tools since the day we took our first independent breath. It takes so many of us by surprise, the situations that push us to reach for and open the toolbox that has been sitting untouched collecting dust. When life’s mishaps find their way to you, which tool are you reaching for? To answer, “I don’t know,” is as senseless as to reach inside the toolbox with a blindfold over your eyes.

They say a good handyman can fix most things with good old duct tape and a set of pliers. I’ve seen what duct tape does to car windows that refuse to roll all the way up—sometimes makes me wonder why folks don’t take the time to do it right the first time. Yet isn’t that what life leads us to do sometimes? To patch those issues with a temporary fix that works for a while but in the long run makes it twice as difficult to solve. I am not talking about a physical toolbox you can go into your garage and use, this isn’t something you can call up your old man for. No, this is the toolbox in the characteristics isle of your own being.

We are built to communicate. Every relationship that involves another human being thrives on the act of communicating. If you were to carefully analyze the technology around us, you will find communication as the driving force behind each one of them. From the invention of the written form to the printing press, from the press to the digital, communication stands at the core of who we are. We are living in a very exciting time when the methods of communicating come in small gizmos that enable constant connectivity to a network of people we know. Yet is this new form of communication an invaluable tool or is it serving us as duct tape? Just like every tool in the toolbox, there’s a time when it might just come in handy, but if we fail to use the proper tool the first time, it will make it next to impossible to get it right the second time around.

The act of ignoring may not seem as much of a tool as it seems doing nothing in response to something or someone. Unlike duct tape, I can’t think of a case where ignoring could come in handy, yet it remains one of the most frequently used tools. To ignore something or someone is placing a temporary fix-all that seems to really work at first. “Out of Sight, Out of Mind!” But this tool only goes so far. We can only ignore bills so long before the utilities start getting shutoff. We can only ignore eating habits so long before our health starts reflecting it. There are large deposits to be made to get those utilities back up and running, maybe expensive medications or surgeries to keep our health on track. Yet, when it comes to ignoring others, that’s when the repercussions truly start costing us. Relationships deteriorate, frustrations are fed, and bonds are lost.

The construction site is a loud place, and there’s a tool that we identify a work zone with—the hammer. When used properly this tool can both build and shape, yet it can also tear down and disfigure. Like any other tool, there’s an appropriate time and place for the hammer to be put to use. Yet many times we find ourselves turning construction opportunities to demolition disasters. We do so by raising our voices and yelling. Caring less about listening and understanding, we fling our words around carelessly trying to land on top of the mess we make. Our speech is a tool we use much like a hammer, to build or tear down—if you find yourself struggling to control what you say, remember to reach for the duct tape.

So what would be the proper tool to communicate when there is such a wide array of personalities and not to mention situations? After all, someone may argue that we don’t all have the same tools in our toolbox, and though that may be true, we do come with the basics. We should be quick to listen, and not avoid the situation by ignoring the other person. Don’t allow the fear of not knowing what to say to keep you from listening; we should also be slow to speak. Interrupting the other person while they’re speaking might get them angry and make the situation escalate to yelling at each other. We ourselves must also be slow to anger. If we take those mishaps that find their way to us, and reach for these three simple tools, we will find our selves spending less time returning to issues and having to “fix” them again.

Young Love

A few years ago I was sitting in class listening to some guys talking about their weekend adventures. To be honest, their subject matter made me wonder if they ever think about how life will be when they get older. Some may try to argue that I missed out on “living” life to its fullest, but the older I get, the more I am convinced to continue living the way I’ve been doing. My thoughts drifted off to thinking about how I will be as an old man have been married to the same lucky woman for decades. I wondered if I could picture myself long enough to write a poem from that point of view. What follows is what I came up with, and though I am far from this chapter in my life, I thought it would be sweet to give it a try.

The radio does not play as loud,
And I struggle to hear its sound.
So I wait for the paper by the door,
But I can’t really read those letters anymore.

My mornings are long and slow,
Yet I seem to enjoy them even more.
The clothes that I wear are long out of style,
And my hair has been grey for a while.

I find myself spending more time inside,
Flipping through pictures, those memories of mine.
Though everything in this world has appeared to change,
One thing I know has remained the same.

It seems like it wasn’t long ago,
We both took our verbal oaths.
Standing together in front of that church,
As we walked to the piano’s notes

Since day one I fell in love,
My old heart, it still trembles with your touch.
The slight feeling in my fingers is just enough
To caress your face and feel the rush

My eyes, they still tear up when you say you love me
I will never forget the moment we first met.
They can strip me from all my belongings,
But they will never take this love we’ve always kept

I can still stand in front of you
Speechless of your beautiful smile,
I can still try to carry you,
If only for a while

Hopeless couple in love,
Time cannot conquer or do us part,
For even if the years have left their mark,
Young Love has always been in our hearts.

A young boy was walking home from school one fall afternoon rehashing the events of the day. The twenty-three minute stroll through fields, alleyways, and sidewalks was generally enough time to conclude that it hadn’t been a truly bad day after all; something about that walk was just simply therapeutical. If you were to ask him why he usually kept his gaze fixed only a few steps ahead, he would answer:

Not only does it help make the walk seem shorter, it also helps make my imagination run wilder. For if I hear a bird singing its song, and I look up and it’s perched in a cage my heart feels heavy and the memory of his song is not as sweet. If I hear the rustling applause of leaves and find a tree ready for winter sleep, it reminds me that spring is still a far ways off. Instead I imagine a bird flying to the rhythm of its notes, and a green tree applauding in amazement.

Yet, today’s walk was interrupted by a small glimmer that caught his eye coming from some tall grass. He wouldn’t usually waiver from the path he carefully shaped to ensure the shortest distance from school to his front door, but that glimmer… what exactly could it be? He paused; the glow still coming from the object, glanced back at the path—and with a deep sigh took a step toward the grass carefully coming up on the item. As he bent over to take a closer look, his hand slowly pulling away the dry grass that had semi covered the object, he was amazed to read “ROLEX” radiating from a golden watch. He quickly looked around to see if he could spot someone that may have dropped it, no one. It didn’t have anyone’s name engraved in it, and it appeared to be slightly weathered. “It must have been lost a while back and kept hidden in the tall brush that surrounded it during spring” he thought to himself. He carefully wrapped it in a leftover napkin he had from lunch and slipped it gently into a pocket in his backpack.

That day he didn’t hear the bird’s song or the applause of the trees. He didn’t feel the blanket of sun or the cool of the breeze. No, his thoughts raced to the possibilities and value of the golden watch he had found. When he arrived home he went straight to his room, ignoring the welcome from his mother in the kitchen and the smell of dinner cooking in the air. His heart was racing as he turned around to lock his door, his palms sweaty in anticipation. He turned the lamp on his desk on, pulling it closer to light every detail. He slowly pulled the zipper on his bag back as unveiling a priceless treasure. Finally, the napkin that wrapped his new possession was lying on his desk, now for the careful unwrapping. The florescent light of the lamp reflected from the watch deep into his eyes, there was hardly a scratch on it, and the weathering of the gold wiped off with the lightest touch of a cloth.

It wasn’t long before every thought of his was consumed with the safekeeping of the watch. Seasons passed without him knowing, and he kept his possession secret from others fearing they may try to steal or claim the watch as their own. Eventually, the distrust of others severed his friendships, even those with his parents. He guarded his possession with everything he had, and was filled with empty happiness. Years later he decided to have the watch appraised, not to sell it, no, never would he have done that—just to know it’s value, that’s all. He carefully placed the watch in a fitted felt box; it was deep maroon, which contrasted beautifully against the flawless golden shine of the Rolex. He set the box inside a briefcase, dressed up with his finest clothes, wore the finest cologne he owned and set up a private meeting with the local jeweler. On the way there he daydreamed of the value, maybe it was one of a kind, priceless! Oh how his thoughts raced from purchase to purchase which he would make if he ever dared to sell it! Before entering the jewelry store, he had to pause to gain his composure back, he didn’t want to seem the least bit impressed by the appraisal.

He firmly shook the jewelers hand, pulled the leather seat out to sit down, and set the briefcase on his left side on the floor. He comfortably reclined back as he proceeded to tell the jeweler about his prized possession. “Wow, it sounds like you have a very valuable piece of jewelry! I would be honored to appraise its value for you!” exclaimed the jeweler. The owner reached down for the briefcase confidently, slowly unlocking it and pulling the box out of it. “That is a very nice case you have for it! Hand carved I suppose?” “I had it custom made” answered the owner. He slowly opened the box; the glow lit up his eyes, and then he turned it to face the jeweler.

The jeweler’s face froze with disappointment, “My friend,” he uttered, “I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but that watch… it’s a counterfeit.” “What! A counterfeit? Couldn’t be!” yelled back the owner. “It’s a lovely piece, nearly perfect, but nonetheless a counterfeit” stated the jeweler as he began pointing out the differences. The owner remained in denial, shouted to the jeweler stating, “You are only trying to fool me! How dare you say its worth so little!” He made his way around the surrounding cities trying to find a jeweler that would tell him otherwise, but he found none.

Finally, after many weeks of travel he found himself defeated and standing in the same field he first saw the glimmer of the counterfeit watch. He clenched the watch tightly remembering what he lost along the way, took one last look at it, and flung it into the field. He took a deep sigh, and took the first step away from it. His head was still hanging low in shame, how could he have been so selfish? Right at that moment he heard the wonderful song of the birds, and the applause of the trees commending him. He had finally been set free.

Footsteps Left to Follow

I’ve never been able to explain it; words just seem to fall short of the feelings—the grain of the sand below my feet, the invisible warm blanket of sunlight on my skin. There’s a perfectly level blue horizon as far as the eye can see and a gentle roar at the shore that sooths all trouble. It’s in moments like these where I wonder of the “could have been” and my thoughts drift to the memories that were missed.

As early as I can remember, the footsteps before me came with a cloud of anger and strict discipline. An inconsistent, nearly offbeat, pattern of “do’s” and “don’ts” that were hard to follow.  There were many times along the way where I stumbled, and was quickly corrected by the cracking sound of a whip. I had never known another, and I was convinced that was the way that love was shown to me.

The older I became, the further I could see. I noticed that the footsteps I followed where following a pattern of another and another as far as I could see. I couldn’t describe to you the fear that came over me, the certainty that I would set the same footsteps for someone else to follow after me. That I would become exactly what my father was to me.

I don’t know if I remember the exact date, the date when all that changed. I know it was summer, and I’m certain the sun was ready to set. My older brother and I were sitting in the driveway talking, when all of a sudden he said; “There’s a set of footsteps that you haven’t been told about, someone you don’t remember of, someone that truly loved you.”

I was filled with excitement, for what he said changed everything, my past, my present, yes even my future. I saw photos of someone I didn’t recognize, heard stories that happened before my time. Listened carefully to the details of a life that led footsteps so differently to those I knew. Footsteps I would be glad to follow.

I followed them to this shore, and through this small journey I’ve come to know the direction he would of wished for me to go. The future is full of possibilities now, an open road, I pray I lead by example and leave footsteps in a direction I wish for my children to go.

I’ve never been able to explain it; words just seem to fall short of the feelings—the grain of the sand below my feet, the invisible warm blanket of sunlight on my skin. There’s a perfectly level blue horizon as far as the eye can see and a gentle roar at the shore that sooths all trouble. It’s in moments like these where I wonder of the “possibilities” and my thoughts drift to the memories I will someday see.