Thursday, 13 October 2011

On practical activities (mid-term submission)

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?

Image: Egads! by libraryman through CC Licensing 

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.

Join me?

"Come with me if you want to live..."


  1. Your blogging is just great ... what is driving you to write such a thing all the time?
    Especially, for a blogpost that is not actually coming from your own pure interest/inspiration?

    ...And WTF!! I wonder how she could dance if she'll do some tap-dancings! >clip

  2. Uh..haha thanks. I guess I know I tend to write long so I just try to keep it interesting.

    For the video, I know right? It starts off slow but when she gets into it you're just like :O

  3. Important points here. I'm glad to see the pop culture pop up again. I think your analysis of why so many pop culture themes appear in the ds106 assignments is partially as you say - they resonate among us and act almost as a cultural short-hand.

    I think there is another important aspect in the way Jim Groom has designed this course that is also worth considering. A very important element of the ds106 way of thinking is that because of recent advances in computer and network technology (cyberspace), we all have the ability to enter in the business of creating cultural artifacts.

    Until recently, media messages have, for the most part, been directed at us from powerful corporate and governmental interests. ds106 hopes to remind us that we are empowered to take control of and dictate "culture" as we see it.

    I know it is a bit of a lofty ideal - but is one I believe in and am doing my best to contribute to through the way this course is being presented.

    Your contributions have been exemplary and are much appreciated. Thanks, Mome!

    BTW, ds106 people in North America have asked me whether Mome is spoken as one syllable or two. I tell them two. Am I correct?

  4. Haha thanks for the comments.

    Firstly I definitely agree that the ds106 community has the potential to, and I would say even is right now contributing to "creating cultural artifacts". This is not new of course, and has been happening for just about as long as the Internet has been open to public use (evidenced by user-created memes etc.).

    The risk, I think, is that these "artifacts" will not all be picked up and reach the critical popularity that will enable it to survive on the Internet, but then again you can never quite tell what the masses will get into, you can only play the numbers and get them as much on your side as possible.

    That said, one really good way to increase the chances of "survival" is simply to generate as much content as possible, and in the case of ds106 this is being done in a mini-community that I think can be taken as a "sandbox of the Internet". Will this make stuff work? Maybe, maybe not. But that's not the issue. The issue is "What if?"

    And to answer your question on my handle name, it's actually a little confusing. See, the original word comes from Mometasone Furoate, which is actually a chemical name, and is pronounced as 2 syllables. For the purposes of my handle though, I would prefer 1 syllable in English, and back to the original 2 in Japanese (because I don't quite like the long "o" sound that would be used in Japanese). :P

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  6. Thanks for the follow-up Mome. Thinking about your response, I wonder if durability or widespread circulation of the artifacts is so important in the skills acquired in figuring out how to make the stuff.

    For example, I don't have any illusions that the Troll Steals Guitar Challenge image I made is "art." Nor do is matter to me whether many people see it and wow. What matters most to me is that I had an idea for an assignment, submitted it, and then made an example of it. That whole process to me was completely beyond the realm of imagination before I met the lunatic community that is ds106.

    For those who study and practice art, this might not seem like such a big deal. I think it might be useful to refer to the audio recording of Timmmyboy that Michael Branson Smith's class has been assigned to listen and respond to. Though I've not listened to it. I know the guy pretty well and I think he suggests that all of us have the potential to be artists. From this, I don't know what is his next point or conclusion is so I guess I should give it a listen.

    Regarding your name, i was hoping it was the two syllable version. Because isn't that the word used to describe squeezing a loaf of bread and so on? It reminds me of the old Mr. Whipple commercial, "Please don't squeeze the Charmin."

  7. I don't think durability or circulation are necessary factors, although they would of course help. On the other hand I don't think it's necessarily something that one can "decide" to have in their work.

    If that's the case then I would even say that it's very much possible for the Troll Steals Guitar challenge to be considered art, although it wasn't necessarily conceived as such. In this vein it is true and I do personally believe that everyone has the potential to be an artist, just as likewise it is possible for anyone to potentially be a mathematician, or a businessman etc.

    Excluding special cases such as prodigies and geniuses I certainly think that this would be true.