Once You Open Your Laptop... Activities from My Technologies and Culture Class (Part Two)

These next activities mark the shift towards graded group work in the class. By this point, the students are working in permanent teams and these activities are explicitly presented as practice runs towards the final exam. Week 10 Tracking Viral Success (Henry Jenkins)

Each video on YouTube has a story. While it can be hard to trace the origins of some of these videos, each was posted by someone, for some reason. Most reflect ongoing conversations within particular subculture communities. Each may inspire comments either as written texts or response videos. And each may travel from YouTube to other communities through social networking tools. Teams should choose one example from amongst those which have spread the furthest and gained the most hits. Select from one of the following:

Gangnam Style Call Me Maybe S**t Girls Say Someone I Used to Know

Your team’s task is to help us to  better understand where it came from, how YouTube users responded to the video (find at least two remix/response video), how it spread beyond its original community, and how mass media responded to the video's sudden popularity .  Here are some steps which members of your team can take to get the information they need to answer this question.

  • Start with Youtube itself. Look at the video and the information that surrounds it.
  • Read the comments section on the YouTube page and see how people there responded to it.
  • Check to see if there are more than one versions of the same video on Youtube. You might also broaden your search to look at other common video sharing sites, such as Vimeo.
  • On Youtube, look for videos which responded to the original.  Or other related videos which surface alongside it and may help give us clues about its context.
  • Use a search engine to track references to the video on blogs or news coverage of its spread. See if you can find out anything about who produced the video and why.
  • Allow time to write out your answer using googledocs. You may want to take notes as you go so if you run out of time, we can at least trace the steps you took and what you found, before you consolidated your responses.

Your final response should include an evaluation of how such current theories as "viral media," “Memes,”  and Spreadable Media might have addressed the specific patterns of production, circulation, and response you have identified.  Try to draw on at least three readings in a meaningful way. You will be evaluated based on the amount of research performed, on the quality of the analysis you offer, on how you build off concepts from the readings and the lectures to help frame your analysis (including, ideally, direct references to specific readings), and on how well you understanding the nature of the new communications environment.


Activity for Week 11: Kickstarter as a Web 2.0 Company (Andrew Schrock)

Kickstarter is a website for "crowd funding," a way to finance creative and technical projects where small amounts of money are pledged with no guarantee of success, similar to a benefactor model spread across many parties. Projects must not be for charity, finite, and rewards should be intrinsically related to the project. Project proposals are reviewed by Kickstarter for adherence to guidelines, and funding is given only if projects meet their goal. About half of approved projects got funded in 2011, for an average funding rate of 46%, over a million pledges, with an average pledge of $86. The most popular projects are Film/video and music, although Technology has a larger average amount for successful financing.


Your assignment today is to summarize and contextualize a successful Kickstarter project, as selected from the list on the next page. Your tasks should include:



Your response should first be descriptive: tell us a story of who these people are, what their project is, and why you think this project succeeded over others. How does the project speak to particular communities through rewards and the video pitch? Second, you should draw on the readings from class to discuss the role Kickstarter played in the team’s personal / professional lives, and how crowdfunding operates in the larger funding ecosystem. Are they amateurs or professionals? How does Kickstarter serve as an alternative for established modes of funding, recall earlier models, or reinforce criticisms made of “web 2.0”? Were there controversies or discussions of this project on news sites and discussion forums? Be sure to employ concepts from at least three readings from this week.


List of Kickstarter Projects



Week 12 Intellectual Property in the Music Industry (Rhea Vichot)


William Fischer, in discussing the role of technology within the contemporary media landscape, envisions an alternative system for artists to be compensated for their work.

Utilizing either the role you were assigned in lecture on Wednesday or, if you choose, one of four roles below:


  • Artist
  • Record Label
  • Intellectual Property Law Firm
  • Fan


Analyze FIscher's Alternative Compensation system through one of these perspectives. In doing so, be sure to reference at least three other readings. What are the advantages and disadvantages to such a system for the specific role you are writing as? How does this model address piracy and does it do so to the satisfaction of your role? What is the role of advertising in this alternative system? What changes would you want to make to Fischer’s recommendation based on our readings and discussions?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Week 14 Mapping Transmedia Worlds (Meryl Alper)

Transmedia storytelling, as defined by Prof. Jenkins, “represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.”  Each medium contributes something unique to the world of the story.  Images, characters, stories, and songs travel between different media platforms, shaped in various ways by both corporations and consumers.


Your team’s task is to choose a media franchise, physically map how individual texts stand alone but also contribute to a larger transmedia story, and answer some questions on how your transmedia franchise reflects larger historical, cultural, political, and economic factors.


Choose one (1) of the following global transmedia franchises (and just a few texts to consider for each - there’s many more for you to map than the examples listed listed here):


1. Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling, Pottermore, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter)

2. Wizard of Oz (The Wiz, ruby slippers, L. Frank Baum, Wicked)

3. The Muppets (“Sam and Friends,” Cookie Monster and Rowlf in IBM commercials (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJVU-7WinQc, Jim Henson, movies and movie trailers, “Sesame Street,” http://www.muppetsmahnamahna.com/)

4. Batman (Why So Serious? ARG, Batman Live, live-action and animated TV series)


Mapping (Approx. 20 min.)


Your group will receive a marker, a large piece of white paper, and a pack of Post-Its.  On the Post-Its you’ll write out different textual elements (e.g. for Harry Potter, on one Post-It you might write “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (The Movie)” and on another, you might write “Platform 9 ¾ in London’s Kings Cross Station”).  You’ll “map” the Post-Its onto one of the sheet of white paper, and use the marker to draw connections between the elements.  “Map” is a loose term and there’s no wrong way to do this - it doesn’t have to be neat and pretty, but should reflect connections and distance between elements.

Questions (Approx. 30 min.)

After the mapping exercise, your group should then answer the following questions.  In your responses, please meaningfully incorporate material from Prof. Jenkins’ book chapter, his blog post you were assigned, AND at least one of Nick DeMartino’s blog posts from this week:

1) How does the franchise engage different types of transmedia logics?:

  • Storytelling (e.g. recurring minor characters like Boba Fett in Star Wars, story arcs across texts like Kermit and Miss Piggy’s relationship)
  • Branding (e.g. iconography like the Ruby Slippers in Wizard of Oz, consumer goods)
  • Rituals (e.g. holiday movie viewings, Harry Potter movie premieres, Super Bowl commercials)

2) Explain how one of your Post-It note “texts” relates to specific trends impacting the entertainment industry at the time of its creation.


3) Identify who owns one texts in your transmedia franchise (e.g. The most recent Muppet movie was produced by Disney, not the Jim Henson Company, because Disney now owns the Muppets).  How does media concentration play a role in transmedia?

4) In his “Transmedia Storytelling 101” post, Prof. Jenkins writes, “Transmedia storytelling is the ideal aesthetic form for an era of collective intelligence.”  Based on your experience working collectively during the second half of the semester and in today’s section, why or why not do you agree with that statement?

Next Time: Final Exam