A Study in Persona

For my Cybercultures class this session (DIGC335 for anyone who’s interested, I highly recommend it) I ended up delving quite a bit into the idea of persona and what exactly that means and where exactly it ends, which was a surprise to even myself given I’d started out by looking at Nuzlocke story sharing. So hopefully this doesn’t get too wibbly as I ramble about my findings over there for a while because it’s relevant and hella interesting.

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Essentially my research came down to the phenomenological concept of experience defining reality. We only experience the world through sensation, so it is our experiences that make up everything we are. I experience therefore I am and all that. But when looking at persona online, that reality gets stretched beyond just physical sensational experiences.

So, to use the Nuzlocke example: A Nuzlocke webcomic would be an artistic rendering of a player’s experiences playing a pokemon game using the Nuzlocke ruleset. However, using our phenomenological definition of beingness, trying to identify which persona is the “real” person becomes incredibly tricky. Where exactly are you supposed to draw the line when you have a player artist experiencing the game, a character they’ve drawn based on themselves experiencing those same events within the narrative, as well as a character avatar enacting those events within the game’s coding AND an audience reading and experiencing those same events once again through a cathartic empathy with the comic protagonist?

It might seem like an extreme example just suddenly dropping this from a third year subject into a first year one without any context, but really I think it acknowledges strongly that we have to recognise different personae as being just as “real” and “authentic” as our analogue selves, even if they don’t all match up with each other or meet our expectations of what reality should be. Because, just as with any simulation; if you’re experiencing it as reality then what’s the difference? What does it matter?

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Boundaries of Collective Intelligence

I have a favourite story I like to tell to illustrate the difference between legacy journalism and citizen journalism through sites like Twitter. I’d been having lunch with friends and one of them had spent the entire early half of the conversation deriding new media, proudly declaring that he had no Facebook or Twitter accounts, instead getting his news from reliable old fashioned fact checked sources, like radio. I gritted my teeth through the derision and allowed the conversation to move on. Some 10 minutes later he somehow got back onto his tirade against Twitter. “Hashtags are the scourge of the Earth!” he complained (or something to that effect anyway). “That stupid dress colour thing happened on the same day as Leonard Nimoy’s death and so it’s all the radio talked about!” Being a huge Star Trek fan he was extremely upset by this injustice.

I pointed out to him that, actually, the two events happened days apart. That such a thing was perfectly visible from a position seated in the heart of Twitter. That #TheDress had died down plenty in time to see the many tributes to the sci-fi legend Twitter put forth with #RIPLeonardNimoy trending. That as it turned out, all his argument had proven was that he waits for a week to get the exact same news Twitter would have given him instantly, that it was more clumsily delivered, and that he himself didn’t do any fact checking. He’d turned quite red by this point and quietly changed the subject.

slowpoke meme
Accurate representation of legacy media.

I’ve become really interested in the concept of shared knowledge and collective intelligence, and whether or not there is a place where this ‘citizen journalism’ ends. The shift in journalistic media and news sharing towards new media sites has, among other things, made less of a distinction between what is “newsworthy” and what is not because the audience is able to decide which news they want to tune into for themselves. We can see how this works on a global scale, but I’d posit that it can work on an incredibly small, local, insular level as well.

I attended high school during the initial rise of Facebook and one of its primary uses during that time was that it became a hub of information sharing. Regularly we’d send out the call for help on homework questions or assignments, due dates, excursion info, anything we needed to know, and responses would be instant, developing this kind of hive mind we’ve talked about in the course. We could collect the data we needed from each other instantaneously, because there was always someone in the connected community who had the information on hand. It all keeps coming back to that idea that no one knows everything, but everyone knows something.

Courting Italians: Remix Culture

After listening to the lecture on remix culture, I knew I wanted to give remixing a go myself, despite having little to no idea what I was doing. And this is the result. A somewhat illegal, manywhat dodgy mash up of a dance mix by Artistic Raw (I tried to make my own, it wasn’t pretty at all) and a childhood favourite film of mine, The Court Jester, starring Danny Kaye.

Somehow I’m still proud of it, because BOY it was hard.

My edits to the music were pretty minimal in the long run, just reorganising, clipping, switching bits out, I can only begin to imagine the time and effort taken to build it from the ground up. I found out quickly I wasn’t musically gifted enough to thread actual tunes together over my original terrible backing track, so again my spoken-word-only vocals must be a million times simpler than trying to match pitch and keys and what have you.

All I’m saying is that the skill required to take part in this subculture has to be considerable. And once again, new media becomes a great equaliser! People finding a way to showcase their abilities even without having access to a bajillion dollars of sound equipment — they’ll take the stuff YOU made with your bajillion dollars worth of sound equipment and they’ll prove that just with a laptop, they can make it better (ooor, at least different). Reformatting texts to make a separate text that’s entirely new. It’s like a super cool take on adaptation theory. With the amount of work that goes into these, and the complete difference most of them have to their original sampled origins… Really it just makes me think once again that we probably need to update how copyright laws function (in a GOOD way, not a more power to the big guys way for once).

AND I finally learned how to use Audacity! So that’s a win, huh!