Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The More Things Change...

Hello and welcome students (and lurkers) of SMC300 "Mediating the Social." I will be using this course blog to post my lecture slides, additional thoughts & clarifications on lecture themes/concepts, as well as the occasional news story or development of interest. Such as the following:

©2011 Taylor-Ruth Baldwin/Hanging Rock Comics
Ah the power of blogging - social networking meets content creation, a perfect case study for a Book & Media Studies course on social media. Via Marisa Meltzer at Wired, a cute yet revealing story about the reach and accessibility of web 2.0 blog apps. Here's an excerpt:
Taylor-Ruth Baldwin, 17, created Hanging Rock Comics, a first-person chronicle of high school angst. The Star Wars-obsessed junior started her Tumblr last summer, posting comic panels from her diary. “It was a way of venting my frustrations,” Baldwin says. “I didn’t think much would come of it.” But she struck a nerve, and in a few months she had 15,000 followers. Her posts often get thousands of notes—reblogs, likes, and replies. One got more than 35,000, which is on par with posts by mainstream news orgs. And last fall, a Baldwin lookalike contest got 400-plus adults, kids, and animals aping her style of band T-shirt, big glasses, and braid.
The particularly interesting thing about this story is that it could easily have been written 10+ years ago, albeit for an earlier platform (Lycos' ChickPages comes to mind), and perhaps featuring slightly lower numbers than the ones seen here. This semester, we'll be talking a lot about the idea of web 2.0 and how WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") tools, apps and other technologies democratize media/content production...but we're also going to try to remember the deep continuities that exist between these "new" developments, prior online phenomena, as well as more traditional (analog) cultural practices. Here, I'm not only thinking about the ways in which the example above (teen-made comic, venting frustrations, dedicated fan base) is reminiscent of the kinds of stuff that appeared via earlier blog tools and personal websites, but also in paper zines, independently-published comics, etc. On the other hand, the immediate and dynamic social aspect of this story certainly distinguishes it from those earlier incarnations. The fact that readers can repost, like posts, comment, submit content, etc., adds this extra layer of conversation and iteration to the mix. Can't wait to chat more about this in class next week!

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