Assessment Task 2: Finding My Community

Reddit is in an online service that, at its core, allows users to submit content for others to comment on. Its overall moderation is through a democratic function consisting of ‘upvotes’ and ‘downvotes’, allowing users to vote up or down content and comments that they believe properly contribute to the ‘subreddit’ (sections of the site divided into topics) that they are in.

Being a regular user of Reddit does not necessarily involve being an active contributor in terms of posting or commenting. The vast majority of the community are users known as ‘lurkers’ – those who choose to contribute solely through the anonymous voting system rather than voicing an opinion. While not as vocal as the minority, it is these users who are the reason the community functions the way it does.

As a long time Reddit user myself, I’ve come to learn exactly what kind of posts and comments are likely to be well-received, and which ones are ‘downvoted into oblivion’. The Internet as a whole is largely unforgiving, and Reddit is no exception, with the users in most non-default subreddits heavily opposing posts and comments that are of low effort, are not insightful, or are otherwise simply not up to scratch. Even if you think you are submitting an interesting comment there is every chance you will receive a negative reaction, which can be partly attributed to the way in which “written word… can never be completely tied to a single, determinate meaning” (Douglas, 1999).

Rather than commenting and submitting posts for the sake of ‘contributing’ and thus hindering the experience of others (and my ‘karma’ score), I instead chose to look into how the users of different subreddits interacted in comparison to those in the subreddits I frequent.

As a rule it can be said that the fewer number of users in a subreddit, the nicer they generally are. While there are a number of reasons for this, the prevalent one is that smaller, more niche communities are filled with members who share a common interest, such as a particular video game, for example. Prime examples of this include /r/rocketleague, /r/cricket, and as I discovered in my research, /r/wordavalanches.

The subject matter also helps to determine the kind of community interaction you are likely to have on Reddit, with opinionated topics drawing both heavy agreement and criticism depending on your point of view. /r/askreddit is the perfect example of this, where users are asked to respond to a particular question with wildly varying results. Users who show hold a particular opinion have been known to become the victim of ‘witch hunts’, whose severity ranges from having all of their posts downvoted to receiving abusive messages. It is clear that, like in many online communities, the user experience is influenced more by the users than any other factor.

(500 words really isn’t enough to properly explore the way Reddit functions on a community and sub-community level, in addition to the role of moderators as a separate entity from general users and addressing all of the suggested inclusions in the assessment criteria sheet; so apologies for the vagueness in parts.)

Douglas, J. Yellowlees. “Books without Pages—Novels without Endings.” The end of books or books without end? : reading interactive narratives. University of Michigan Press ; University Presses Marketing, 1999. 11-36

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This Week on the Internet

A quick look at some of the more interesting things I’ve discovered on the Internet this week:

  1. YouTube is changing… except it totally isn’t.
    So it seems like every big YouTuber is feeling the need to make a video talking about how they think ‘YouTube is changing’, except there really isn’t any evidence at all to suggest that anything is changing. Many are commenting about how certain YouTube channels only make videos to be in topic with the current trends, yet nearly every one of these YouTubers does the exact same thing.
  2. Boaty McBoatface wins! …almost.
    In case you missed it, the Natural Environmental Research Council of Britain held a public poll to decide the name of their new research vessel, and ‘RRS Boaty McBoatface’ has finished in first place with more than four times the votes as the next highest option. However, the final naming decision lays in the hands of the NERC, who now face a choice between upholding any sort of professionalism or bowing (pun intended) to the weight of public opinion.
  3. Simpsons Shitposting
    The Facebook group ‘Simpsons Shitposting’ is basically just scenes from The Simpsons that people have modified to be related to Australians. It’s ridiculous but 100% hilarious.

Cultural Materialism

Cultural Materialism is kinda confusing, but this is (hopefully) a dumbed down explanation of it.

  • A means of analysing the relationship between technology and culture.
  • Cultural change is to be interpreted as part of a historical process
  • Cultural materialism is a theory which views culture as a productive process, focusing on arts such as literature.
  • Humans have needs, and cultural materialism is the way in which cultures and societies organise and prioritise those needs.

This video explains the anthropological perspective of cultural materialism fantastically:

When thinking about the Internet, for example, a technological determinist would argue that humans developed a want/need for worldwide interconnectivity as a result of the development of the Internet, while cultural materialists would suggest that we already had a need for connectivity and the Internet filled that.

Assessment Task 1: Blogging

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging over the past six weeks, it’s that blogging isn’t for me. By  creating my own blog and exploring the blogs of others, I can see that a creative nature really is necessary for creating an engaging and interesting blog, and there are a few reasons for this that I will address. The first is that unless you are an expert in a particular field, there are very few reasons for anyone to care about your opinion. While all opinions are certainly valid, there are some that are more valid than others (Animal Farm, anyone?) This is due to the readers of blogs wanting to discover something that they didn’t know before, information that is often born of experience and expertise, not from the blog posts of a uni student. This lack of readership feeds in to the second reason it helps to be creative when writing a blog – maintaining motivation and inspiration.

When nobody is reading your blog it is easy to wonder ‘why bother? What’s the point?’. Despite the hypertextuality of the Internet, the sheer number of blogs on the web mean that a new one is just a drop in the ocean, unlikely to be read by anyone. True creatives are often very good at persisting through this, despite the likelihood of their product being discovered by no one and instead doing so out of passion.

Of all the readings we’ve covered thus far it was Landow’s discussion of the concept of ‘falling through the ceiling‘ that I found to be the most interesting, particularly because I found that I could relate to the idea through my own Internet browsing habits. Although the idea of discovering a multi-part media text (such as a YouTube series) is not a new one, the ability to link to all parts of the text instantly has undoubtedly changed the way we consume them. Where television shows like soap operas would have a ‘previously on…’ section at the start of an episode, the interconnected nature of the Internet has eliminated the need for it through the implementation of hypertexts.

The lecture in week two was particularly valuable to me as it explained Creative Commons, something that is vital to the modern Internet age yet misunderstood by many. What were once seemingly random icons found all over the web now actually make sense, with their significance also becoming clear.

The greatest challenge I faced throughout these six weeks was keeping my posts somewhat relevant to the overall theme, which I definitely wasn’t able to do. This came as a result of naming my blog after a YouTube video that I’d found the night before, which, as hilarious as the video is, was unsustainable. In hindsight I should’ve realised my mistake and adjusted my blog accordingly, however it is still something that I can learn from and avoid repeating in the future.

References:

Landow, George P. Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2006. Print. 107-124

Hootsuite… why?

Maybe it’s just me, but I really can’t see any reason to use Hootsuite as a casual user of social media. If you’re the media manager of a company then sure, absolutely you’ll save time using the site, but for someone who only uses Facebook and Twitter to keep up with friends it seems like the reduction in functions is more of  a hindrance than anything else… thoughts?

The Wonders of the Internet

Nothing insightful in this blog post, just a quick selection of some of my favourites sites that I’ve discovered over the past week – some hypertexts, some not.

http://touchpianist.com – play along with your favourite classical pieces with no musical ability whatsoever! This one is simple in nature yet absurdly addictive, like many things we enjoy.

http://www.concerthotels.com/got-rhythm – click in time without the beat, wait for the beat to fade out, then see if you can maintain the tempo and score points for doing so.

http://thewikigame.com – Essentially giving a platform to an already established game, the Wiki Game is simple yet great fun, with the aim to reach a Wikipedia article from a starting page using only the links found in the pages you click to.

 

The Wikipedia Game: Hypertext at its Finest

Quite possibly the best thing about hypertext is that it enables bored students to play one of the most fun, and potentially informative games of all time: The Wikipedia Game. The concept of TWG is simple – two people open a random Wikipedia page each and must navigate their way to a different predetermined page using only the hypertext links found on each page. No typing, no searching, just clicking. Experienced players may choose to implement what is known as the America Clause, which prohibits players from using the page for the United States of America to pivot to just about any subject matter.

Give it a go, it’s actually fun!

Falling Through The Ceiling

So here’s the thing with hypertext series: people aren’t always going to start them at the start. Thanks to search engines and direct page links, if different parts of a story are all located on different pages then there’s no guarantee that a reader’s first page will be the first page of the story.

This concept transcends written text in the form of YouTube series, wherein some content creators may, for example, be playing through the single-player mode of a video game, with each video corresponding to a different level of the game. Although the YouTuber will name each video ‘Series X: Part 1, 2, 3 .etc’, a viewer is not bound to watching them in order, especially if one video is particularly entertaining and is deemed to be more popular than the others, thus being recommended to viewers by YouTube’s algorithm more often.

Are Professional Bloggers Too Serious?

It seems that the older you get, the more the term ‘bloggers’ changes. Back in high school if someone mentioned a blog or a blogger one would instantly think of Tumblr, a site that for all of its good uses has become somewhat infamous for users that are (for better or worse) referred to as ‘social justice warriors’. I won’t go into the validity of such a term as that is a whole different topic in and of itself, however I will compare these bloggers to the kinds of bloggers that ‘adults’ generally refer to – those who address a specific topic throughout their entire blog with near unwavering consistency.

I do often find that the best blogs don’t often read like blogs, but more like websites, such is the depth of the knowledge and ideas expressed on them. For me a blog is more suited to disconnected thoughts and somewhat incoherent ramblings, because a blog is in many ways meant to be an insight into the mind of someone else. Facts and figures have their place on the Internet, but so too do well-constructed, if also casual thoughts.