So I'm here today to talk to you about one of the categorical assignments provided on ds106, and for the sake of choosing a specific category let's say I choose...oh "Visual assignments". So let's talk.
First of all there is the question of importance. Why is the visual category (in my opinion at least) one of the most popular and engaging portions of the ds106 site? Simply put, it's the simple attraction to..well, the visual. A picture paints a thousand words as the saying goes and you don't need to make something visually accomplished or attractive to have it resonate with a large audience (case in point).
Another layer added to this of course is the fact that many if not all of the assignments under the visual category have some clear relation to modern pop culture, and this definitely helps. Allow me to explain: When you tap into an aspect of pop culture what you're doing is basically tapping into an established brand, an image, with a certain audience that goes along as par for the course. You get free fans, as is the case when someone posts, say, a YouTube video on a SpongeBob SquarePants dance and gets over 4 and a half million views despite having no official relation to the cartoon series:
The same thing is happening when others evaluate editorial cartoons, as this guy Trevor Ross does in his blog on a couple of cartoons which also use the SpongeBob character. As Trevor says:
Cultural resonance: Both cartoons use pop culture icons because they use SpongeBob, which is a pop culture icon. His character is used as a symbol, and both cartoons speak to a broad audience.Note his points on cultural resonance and speaking to a broad audience. This is exactly the thing we're talking about (or, I'm talking about). People already like the thing you're referencing, so you get more people while doing less work. What a concept huh?
To tie this back into the ds106 visual assignments though, I would say that this is precisely why many of the assignments are in some way related to or reference modern pop culture, as is the case here. There is at once a sense of recognition when I look at the assignment, and immediately see references to both Harry Potter and Star Wars. I feel more like doing this assignment if I see these references, and I think you would too, be it because of nostalgia or the desire to go along with what's "hip and trendy" at the time. This is pop culture after all, and incidentally while not of a visual nature, this also happens to be the concept behind my "1 Quote a Day" initiative on Twitter.