Reflections

It’s amazing how 12 weeks just came and went by so quickly! It always seems that way when I reach the end of each semester. It’s been an exciting semester, especially for this subject, as I’ve never done a documentary before, and so having to do one for an assignment was pretty challenging. I’m just glad it’s over, and it has taught me a lot, not just about theories and communities, but also about talking to people and learning to handle delicate situations.

The process of making the documentary was one of the most difficult assignments I’ve had so far. I found it similar to my previous experience in journalism… the process of researching my subject area, contacting sources, and interviewing them was familiar to me, but the difficult part was having to film them and edit them into video format. It was all an interesting learning experience, but I must say it was rather stressful having to think about the little but important things associated with that, such as format, style, and asking the right questions, because it’s so much more different to put answers into a video as compared to putting them down in words.

I had the scariest time editing my documentary. After learning Final Cut from a friend, I thought it would be a breeze. He’d shown me examples using his own videos and given me a thorough tour of all the basics I needed to put different videos and audios together, and gave me so many tips on how to make the end product ‘clean’ and professional looking. What I didn’t expect was for my camcorder to have recorded the videos in a format which was incompatible with Final Cut, and even after converting my videos, it was giving me problems, so I had to give up.

Windows Movie Maker wasn’t much help either. Having used it previously for smaller projects, I thought it’d be relatively easy. Turns out when you try to put too many videos and audio files together, WMM will hang and won’t open your project for you. Thank goodness for the internet and forums, which helped me fix that problem! After saving a copy of the movie for my rough cut showing, I didn’t even end up going to class because I was too sick to leave the house, but I felt relatively comforted by  the fact that I would definitely have a finished product by the due date. But after some more editing to the project, WMM wouldn’t save the project file as a movie file because, apparently, some original files were missing. And this was on the day it was due! So…. I had to re-do the whole project, making sure to check if I could convert it into a movie every few minutes, and finally, it was done.

After posting it up on Youtube, Vimeo, and Current, I put the finishing touches to the blog and spread it to my social networks! It was awesome getting some positive and constructive feedback from friends and family, as well as from my interviewees themselves. The video was also getting views on their own, and the blog as well. Bek from SLAM/Music Victoria has also replied saying she’ll put up the links on SLAM sites next week, so I’m hoping to see more comments from people who view it.

For now, I’m glad it’s finally done. There’s always a sense of satisfaction from having a finished product, and I’m especially glad the video came through especially after all the problems I had with WMM!

I also went through other students’ documentaries and thought they were done so well! Not all the blogs had links on them, though, so I only viewed a few. It’s great seeing all these ideas I’ve been hearing in the past weeks being put into videos and websites and audio, and seeing what each student did with their documentary. I hope everyone’s happy with their work! I know I’m pretty  relieved! But for now… it’s back to doing my essays for my other subjects… good luck for everyone’s remaining assignments!

A Social Media Moment of Silence?

Just an interesting article I recently came across: “Reinventing Memorial Day: Solutions for Silence and Sacrifice” . It may not be relevant to us in Australia but it’s still an interesting new way to hold a remembrance for our fallen heroes – and this could apply to any of us anywhere in the world – through social media.

The writer, Steve McCallion, suggested a “Social Media Moment of Silence”.

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Is it possible that we could come together as a country to do nothing? … Today is all about social media, TV, radio…24/7, always on. Can we turn off for Memorial Day?

What if we called for a Social Media Moment of Silence? Given the central role electronic communication plays in the lives of Americans, especially American youth, abstaining from it for even a moment constitutes a very real sacrifice. At 6:00pm EST (18:00, when “Taps” is played at the end of the military day) we could have Americans across all time zones make a final tweet or status update, reading simply “Remembering Memorial Day,” perhaps accompanied by a yellow-hued avatar to drive the point home. Those with a specific person to memorialize would follow the word “Remembering” with the name of their fallen friend or relative. Twitter and Facebook users could leave this statement just before going silent, so their friends’ screens are filled with multiple iterations of this simple message.

It would be interesting to see if this could actually happen in the future. You never know. There’s Earth Hour every year and all the major cities already take part in that. To have something like a countrywide memorial service held through social media would really be fascinating and would take us up a new level in the use of social media, or rather, the non-use of social media. To say that abstaining from social media is a very real sacrifice for us is actually quite true for most people, I think.

Well, for one in five workers, having Facebook at work is more important than their job. An article by news.com.au today stated that “… one in five workers said they would turn down a job if it was at a workplace that blocked access to websites like Facebook”. That was a bit shocking, especially at a time like this, but wow social media has really taken over some of our lives! To choose Facebook over a job is huge, but I actually think turning off social media for a memorial would be really unique and meaningful to a certain extent, simply because social media is a big part of our lives and would make a memorial much more significant. So I do hope something like this happens in the future. Now that social media is so integrated into our daily lives that it’s as if switching it off can be like putting our heads down in silence for a moment of prayer, in what other ways can social media be used to signify other important events  in real life?

Too much on Facebook

A very interesting read on Facebook talking about how it’s becoming like a “true democracy”. It’s funny how after reading the article, everything just seemed to fall into place and really ‘click’. It’s really quite true what the author wrote! We’re not simply users on Facebook and adding our friends and writing on walls; we are actively reading and engaging, and with the recent privacy developments, we are also actively voicing our opinions over the changes. There’s a very high level of participation, and FB’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been taking into account its users opinions, just “like a true democracy, and adjusted settings as necessary”. (Read the rest of the article here)

Not all of what the article says is true, of course, and it seems impossible that FB will become so big that it will resemble or become a new government… but I was more intrigued with all the privacy and security issues associated with FB. Sure, they’ve changed the settings to become more simple and user-friendly, but it doesn’t take away the fact that we don’t know exactly what personal info gets shared online to advertisers or third parties… On Quit Facebook Day up to 30,000 users have quit FB, but that’s just 0.008 percent of the FB population (which has over 400 million users) (source).

I know I’ve been going on and on about FB privacy, and naturally I should’ve been one of the first people to sign up for the Quit Facebook Day. But it has come to a point in my FB life that I just cannot bring myself to delete my profile… not after all the connections I’ve made and links I’ve shared and photos I’ve uploaded! It’ll be like committing suicide!

But just by the way, if you haven’t privatised your FB settings, you really should now. A useful tool I found is this website reclaimyourprivacy.org. Just follow the instructions and see what settings you need to change from there.

If your status updates and photos are open to “everyone”, you risk finding yourself on YourOpenBook.org, which is, in short:

… a Facebook-specific search engine, built upon Facebook’s publicly available API,[1] which enables one to search for specific texts on the walls of Facebook subscribers en masse which they have denoted, knowingly or unknowingly, as being available to “Everyone,” i.e. to the Internet at large. Both an avowed parody of Facebook and an Internet privacyadvocacy website, it was built by San Francisco website developers Will Moffat, Peter Burns and James Home within a few hours on May 12, 2010, and has received nearly six million page views in its first two weeks on-line from over a million people in over two hundred countries. The website has received extensive media attention from, among others, the Wall Street Journal,[2]NPR[3] and ABC News,[4] including international coverage.[5]

(from Wikipedia)

The last I checked there are over 17,000 searches per hour, and I’ve used it randomly before and found that I was able to click through people’s profiles and easily find out at least 5 things about them (where they live, their birthday, their photos, their workplace, their school) from that page alone. So imagine someone going through your profile! It’s crazy!

I recently came across a funny, but scarily true, quote from a friend on FB, which went something like “Before Facebook, I had to break into my friend’s house to find out what music they liked”. And well, compare that to youropenbook.org and think about the potential randoms “breaking into your house” right now and finding out all these things about you. It’s creepy.

But what about Twitter?

With the amount of updating we do on Twitter, it’s insane to think of what people could do with that info. Of course, it seems a bit harder for any privacy settings to be breached on Twitter simply because it has so much less personal information as compared to FB… but did you know that Twitter collects personal information about its users and shares it with third parties? Read their privacy policy and find out for yourself.

If you have Twitter, I’m sure you’ve also noticed how suddenly some brand replies you right after you tweeted about them. A friend of mine updated a tweet about her disappointment with the Telstra service, and within minutes she received a reply from Telstra’s twitter account, with a representative asking her what the problem was and offering right there and then to fix it for her. Awesome customer service, or heavy Twitter monitoring?

Advertisers are watching your every tweet” puts an interesting point forward:

Is that an invasion of your privacy? It’s not like advertisers are sneaking around watching where you surf without telling you. They are listening to what you have chosen to shout to the whole world.

For Twitter users, all this is a reminder that privacy and Twitter don’t mix. Not only is what you tweet there for anyone to read, it is there for anyone to take, copy and exploit. Twitter’s terms of service, unlike those on most other user-generated sites, assert no claim to the users’ tweets or place no restrictions on how others use them.

In other words, don’t tweet anything that you aren’t willing to see on a billboard in Times Square or broadcast on the Super Bowl.

The terms do say, “We encourage users to contribute their creations to the public domain or consider progressive licensing terms.” But there is no way currently for Twitter users to assert rights over their tweets or simply to request that their comments not be used for commercial purposes.

Another interesting fact about Twitter?

All public tweets, since 2006, will be archived by the Library of Congress (source). More than an invasion of our privacy, it has been reassured as a great way to archive our history for future generations to read, especially with relations to tweets regarding major events that’s happened in the world such as those on Obama’s election and on the Haiti earthquake, among others (source). So if you have a public twitter account, don’t publish anything you don’t want future generations to come across while reading the web pages of history!

My documentary

I’m done with my documentary!

Check it out on Youtube, Vimeo, or CurrentTV, or head on over here to my tumblr for some extras, which I will be adding over the next few days.

cut!

The documentary’s almost finished… “almost” because I keep replaying the whole thing from the start and picking out things for tweaking. It’s a bit over 10 minutes and I’m still trying to cut it down so it’s around 9 minutes, at most. I was initially aiming for 7 minutes but that seems too far-fetched at the moment :(

There’s also this problem with the quality of the video, especially for footage that’s not mine e.g. the footage of the SLAM rally that I got online. It’s too pixelated! And I have no idea how I can fix that… so I guess I’ll have to keep it this way.. it’s not like I have much of a choice :(

The hardest part for now is finally deciding that it’s done… the foundation is there but aesthetically it could be a lot better. I’ve had to trim a lot of the interviews to take out ‘umms’ and ‘aahs’, among other things, which saved me a few seconds here and there, but the negative of that is that you can definitely see that in the talking head. I’ve played around with it in the past week but there’s nothing much I can do there either to improve that.

It feels a bit surreal that a few weeks back I was just conducting interviews…but now it’s finally getting done and being finalized. I’m really nervous about tomorrow! I’m only going to be uploading everything tonight so… nothing must go wrong with the uploading! I just did a test video publish last week and it turned out fine… so, fingers crossed, I’ll be ready to present tomorrow!

ChatRoulette “changing the face of social media”

I’ve been following media blogs and twitter profiles, and lately there’s been a lot of talk on ChatRoulette and all the viral stuff that’s been going around social media  such as FB, blogs, and especially Twitter and YouTube. CR is a social platform itself, and is definitely one that’s been getting a lot of attention – maybe too much attention – from internet users cos it’s still new and most of all, because you get to talk to randoms outside of your network and play around with that sense of chance and anonymity.

There’s no doubt that CR is changing the face of social media, as this article points out, the site gives users

…the ability to have a real, face-to-face interaction with words. As real as you can get over the Internet anyway…The newest fad to hit the social media market is sending us back in time to the good ol’ days of communication by speaking, and is giving us the ability to hear a tone of voice, notice body language, while also challenging the pale-faced, instant message gurus to respond within five seconds of a question rather than five minutes.

I’ve tried CR myself a few months back when it first came out on The Age, and to my horror two of the first three randoms that I encountered were male genitalia… and so I vowed never to go back there again. But weeks went by and more and more tweets and YouTube videos were mentioning CR, and the more I read the more I got interested in it again. I tried it again with some friends behind me – for support, and curiosity…but mostly for fun – to see who we’d encounter. We got “nexted” pretty quickly, but those who bothered to stay and talk to us were actually really interesting and normal people just here to have fun. But soon enough, the topic of conversation steered from asking for a/s/l’s to “show me your boobs” (from two very young boys, may I add!). And so we closed the window on CR again.

Well, the first article moves on to talk about the ‘diversity’ of the “community” on CR:

A recent experiment by New York City filmmaker Casey Neistat found that the Chatroulette community comprises 71% boys, 15% girls, and 14% perverts. Neistat also claims 83% of people involved are “young” with 17% “old.” Another source indicates the average user is 82% male, with 9% of the images displaying male nudity.

Interesting, but does CR really form a “community”???

BodySpaceSociety writes interestingly on “the sociology of ChatRoulette” and relate the new phenomenon to a “world of sheer immorality which will challenge all your values and potentially wreck civilisation“. But the author, Casilli refers to it as a form of community because

Social networking services have often been criticized for creating weak ties – as opposed to real, strong ties connecting individuals with their families, neighbours and peers offline. Chatroulette pushes the envelope by creating disposable social ties, thrown away after one use. According to the people at the Web Ecology Project this operating principle describes a « probabilistic online community », a social group where common practices, distinctive behaviours and a definite cultural identity emerge as a result of a stochastic process.

…the very notion of « probabilistic community » sounds uttely paradoxical to sociologically-trained ears. Since its 19th century beginnings, sociology has been concerned about the difference between the close-knit mutual bond connecting human beings in a « community » (Gemeinschaft) and the anonymous, alienating face-to-face relations that are common in what was described derogatorily as « society » (Gesellschaft). From Tönnies (Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, 1887) to Putnam (Bowling alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, 2000), the grand sociological tradition has constantly stressed the sharp opposition between the sense of belonging, the togetherness of a community and the shallowness of « totally socialized society » (Vergesellschaftete Gesellschaft, as defined by Th. W. Adorno Thesen über Bedürfnis, 1972).

Chatroulette seems to question these distinctions, as it brings together disparate individuals with no strong ties, who end up sharing a common culture and peculiar codes of conduct.

But as interest in CR keeps increasing, there might be more developments in the future, and possibly the formation of a ‘virtual community’. But for now, I think it’s true what Casilli says… it seems like other than connecting people online and creating ties, albeit disposable ones, among anonymous people from anywhere in the world, it’s also becoming a platform for people to be deviant and it is breaking down social values. Or maybe, it’s just spreading this deviance to random people online and giving us more exposure/awareness towards the prevalence of these things.

Before this we just haven’t had the platform to socialise with randoms online – everyone we talk to on social media platforms have been our friends or family, or maybe other people we may not necessarily know in real life but people connected to us or our network in one way or another. CR has allowed us to look out of that network, this ‘bubble’, and see what’s happening in the other side of the world. And we’re slowly realizing that on the other side of the world there are voyeurs, exhibitionists, perverts, and children who have no problem asking to see you naked and shout obscenities at you if you don’t (for screenshot examples, click here [NSFW]). (FOXnews: Authorities call CR ‘Predators’ Paradise’)

So is CR a good thing or a bad thing? I guess it really depends on how you see it. There’re many entertaining videos on users’ experiences with ChatRoulette, and CR is moving from a simple social tool for perving and meeting new people, to promoting & marketing businesses (BuzzTV viral campaign, Travelocity), making parodies (Lady Gaga “Telephone” parody), making music videos (Israeli band Hovevey Zion), and just simple entertainment (CR Funny Piano Improv). It’ll definitely be interesting to see what will develop from here, but it’s even more inspiring, in a way, to know that this idea was conceived by a 17-year-old high school student. Really makes you wonder who else out there has other brilliant ideas that will change the social media landscape :)

Documentary Conclusions & more on progress!

Was supposed to publish this last week, but didn’t get a chance to… but here it is!:

I was putting together my video and had a general structure in place, before I realised that the conclusion is just as important as the introduction. I was sure that I should wrap up the whole story with something along the lines of “visions and hopes for the future” which, I thought, was the best and more surefire way of ending any story. But in tute, Jenny raised a very valid point that because the fight is still ongoing, it would be more appropriate to leave it hanging. And so there went my idea of an ideal conclusion, and in came the hard part of thinking of a good ‘hanging’ conclusion.

It was difficult for me because I was thinking about just how to leave it hanging. There can be so many ways to end it with an open conclusion, and there were a few good lines from Bek (from SLAM) and Bruce (from the Tote), which were basically their own hanging conclusions about the whole situation. I’ve been going through their interviews sooo many times now that I can remember roughly what they said at which minute of the video … and editing has been crazy!

There’s been a lot of problems with Final Cut … I guess the main problem was that I sped through the basics and was sure I  knew how to use it – which I did, except when it came to all the formatting. I was quite pissed that my Sony Camcorder recorded my videos in .mpg, and even more pissed that Mac applications don’t agree with them. Even after converting my videos to .mov (for apple/quicktime) I encountered problems in rendering and getting the sound right. I guess we didn’t realize it’d be an issue – and well, neither did I – but if only I’d learned Final Cut earlier on it would’ve been so good. But for now, Windows Movie Maker has been doing wonders… I’m doing it the long way by extracting the audio off it so I can overlay images on top of it instead of just having a talking head for the whole documentary… and it’s really tiring but I’m getting there…

I was really excited to start with postproduction at first… but when it finally came down to the work I literally had my moods dragged down by all the fails and successes. Even WMM was giving me problems by suddenly shutting down each time I added videos to the timeline. Thank Google I found the solution to the problem… boy, do I love YouTube tutorials and computer geek forums :P

But regardless, the basic structure of my documentary is done, and now all there’s left to do is to choose the perfect ‘line’ for my conclusion and refine the whole video aesthetically, as well as make a new blog and edit all my info there… For now, the video is turning out to be just okay, mostly because of the time constraints … keeping all the info down to less than 10 minutes is really, really difficult! I think one of the problems was that my interviewees would keep talking and expanding their views… and in terms of editing it’s easy to pick out what you want to include or exclude, but difficult to cut that into pieces and make everything seem seamless.

Anyway, it’s now back to editing! All the best with everyone’s documentaries :D