Tuesday, May 27, 2008

YouTube Celebrities

One of the fundamental arguments that I made in my doctoral dissertation is that whenever a new medium is introduced, it in turn leads to the introduction of a new kind of hero who becomes well known through that new medium. This pattern can be traced back to oral culture which gives us the poet or singer of tales as hero, while writing gives us the author, intellectual, and scholar, newspapers give us the reporter and editor as heroes, movies give us movies stars, radio gives us the radio star, television gives us the television personality, etc.

The audiovisual and electronic media of the past two centuries are generally associated with the rise of a new kind of hero often referred to as the celebrity. New media give us the internet star, the blogger as hero, etc. And for anyone whose been paying attention to YouTube, it's impossible to miss the fact that this new social medium has generated its own set of new heroes. Let's call them YouTube celebrities, shall we?

So, not too long ago South Park ran a hilarious episode entitled "Canada on Strike" (Episode 1204, Original Air Date: 2008-04-02). The website episode summary says, "The head of the World Canadian Bureau leads the country into a long and painful strike and the responsibility of brokering a settlement rests with the boys," and apparently you can watch the episode online if you click here.

But I'm going to add a clip from the episode here, one that deals with and provides a humorous critique of YouTube celebrity. This clip was posted on YouTube, and in order to keep it from being removed due to copyright violations, the poster added clips from the actual original YouTube videos that the episode makes reference to into the clip itself, so it's a bit of a mash up.

I should add that I got this clip from our Interactive Rams class blog here at Fordham University, where my student Luke Forand originally posted it.

Now then, another of my students, Brian McNamara (aka Prax Jarvin, his MySpace and Twitter alias), just sent out a tweet over Twitter a little while ago that read:

I really think @LanceStrate will enjoy the new Weezer video. Very interactive media!!! http://tinyurl.com/5qnukg

On Twitter, that's how you refer to people to create a link to their twitter page, with the @ sign in front of their screen name. So anyway, the blurb on YouTube says:

Watch the official video for "Pork and Beans" from Weezer starring some familiar YouTube faces. New Self-Titled "Red Album" out June 3rd, 2008!

And the video itself provides another comment on YouTube celebrity, this one not so biting and ironic, but interestingly pulling the newer YouTube celebs into the orbit of the slightly older music video celebrities (by celebrity logic, both benefit from this juxtaposition). Anyway, here's the video for your viewing pleasure:

By the way, anyone interested in my media ecological perspective on culture heroes, and celebrities, might want to read my latest publication on the subject, which came out just a couple of months ago: "Heroes and/as Communication" in Heroes in a Global World, edited by Susan Drucker and Gary Gumpert (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2008, pp. 19-45).

Well, anyway, following South Park, I can't wait to collect my theoretical dollars for this blog post. How do you spend theoretical dollars, anyway?

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Future of Consciousness

A few weeks ago, I converted and uploaded to YouTube a video of an address I delivered at an Institute of General Semantics symposium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on April 23, 2005. The title of the address is "The Future of Consciousness," and the topic was suggested/requested by IGS trustee and New York Society for General Semantics President Allen Flagg. Given that the symposium was for the general public rather than being limited to academics, the address is pretty accessible, I think, and not bad at all, if I do say so myself. Because YouTube places limits on uploads (no longer than ten minutes, more or less), I had to cut it up into seven segments. Also there are a few glitches, but nothing fatal. So, without further ado, here are the videos:

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Medium is the Mother

That title I put up there is rather intriguing, if I do say so myself, and we could explore the possibility of maternal media, beginning with Lewis Mumford's notion that container technologies specifically mimic feminine biological attributes, to the notion of the mother city, the idea of books as containers of knowledge, to the contemporary electronic media environment with its boob tubes, motherboards, and the matrix (aka womb).

But my purpose in this post is not to explore how the medium might be the mother, nor to discuss the mother of all media (the matrix?), but rather simply to present you with the link to a Mother's Day radio program that I participated in. And before you say, hey stupid, Mother's Day was last week, let me explain that, while the program aired on WFUV-FM on the day before Mother's Day, May 10, it was not made available online until this week.

I should add that WFUV is Fordham University's radio station, but it's not a typical college station, but rather a major public broadcaster in the New York City Metropolitan Area. From the website, you can access live streaming audio and also streaming audio archives, as well as download podcasts--click here for the listening options menu.

The program I appeared on is called Cityscape, which is described on the website as "An inside look at the people, places and spirit of New York City and its surroundings, with host George Bodarky." I should point out that George was one of our outstanding undergraduates back when I was a junior faculty member at Fordham, now he's an outstanding seasoned professional broadcaster, and it was a lot of fun to have him interview me for the program segment. I should also note that this was all set up by his producer, and my MA student, Rasheeda Winfield.

The program is described on the website as follows: "A special Mother's Day edition of Cityscape. Some New York City mothers talk about their daily challenges, a suburban mom talks about life as the lead vocalist of a rock band, and we explore the history of motherhood as seen through pop culture." Actually, the first segment involves mothers who blog, that is, are blogists (the term we established early on in the history of this blog). And my segment is specifically about television situation comedies.

And to be perfectly honest, the first segment with the mother-bloggers, oops, I mean mother-blogists, and the second with the mother-rocker, are the best part of the show. But there's also the third part with me, which is mildly entertaining. There doesn't seem to be a podcast available yet, but you can access the streaming archive if you click here.

Oh, mama, you're gonna like this! I hope...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Farewell to the Interactive Rams

Today I gave the final exam to my Interactive Media class, then graded it and calculated the final grades. All that remains is for me to enter the grades via out web interface tomorrow. And while the students were taking the text, I posted the following video on our Interactive Rams website. The video was recorded during our final class meeting:

And that's the last installment of Interactive Rams, at least for now. This was a semester and a class to remember, and I wish the best to all of my wonderful students.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Executive Director, Institute of General Semantics

So, it is about time I posted an announcement on this blog about my newest project. A little while ago, I was appointed as the new Executive Director of the Institute of General Semantics. You can click on the name, Institute of General Semantics, to get to the website of the Institute of General Semantics, and I've also added a link to my list of links over there on the right. If you head over to the site, by all means, have a look around. And if you are on MySpace, check out our profile there (you can do so even if you're not registered), and send a friend request our way (you need to be registered to do that).

I think the website needs some work, but there's lots of useful information about general semantics to be found, and you can even download PDF files of previous issues of ETC: The Journal of General Semantics, but hurry, I'm not sure how long we'll leave that there. But for now, may I suggest the July 2007 issue, which includes an article by me that isn't half bad.

And please become a member. We're having a link for membership added to the home page, but until then you can join by going to the Shop, or just click here. If you don't join, they might fire me (just kidding, but to clarify, I have not quit my "day job" at Fordham University, and will also continue as President of the Media Ecology Association until my term is up at the beginning of 2009).

There is also a pretty good entry on general semantics in wikipedia.

So, if you already know about general semantics, that's great, and if not, you can learn all about it from these sites. Simply put, general semantics is all about understanding the structure of language as a medium, and understanding symbols as the tools and technology through which we relate to our environment.

And in understanding the bias of these media and technologies, we can use them more effectively than we would otherwise, allowing us to gain a better grip on reality, both individually and collectively. Not surprisingly, general semantics is closely related to media ecology, the former serving as a major building block for the latter, and Neil Postman was known to say that media ecology is general semantics writ large.

General semantics has its roots in scientific thinking, as applied to communication and cognition. And it is very much about human consciousness, and its potential to evolve, which makes for some very fascinating explorations. General semantics is also an excellent means for unlocking creative potential, and I hope to place more emphasis on creative expression and the arts than previously, and also on the relevance of general semantics to new media, including all the wonderful social media like blogs, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, etc.

And I am just going to leave it at that for now, and let you go see the sites, if you care to. But I will post more on this topic in the days to come. You can Count (Korzybski) on it!