Thursday, January 27


This last weekend I finally saw the social network. I’m glad to be living back in a place that has movie theaters. It was atrocious I had to wait this long, after all, I did write my capstone paper about Facebook. I enjoyed the movie, quite a lot actually. Afterward, I realize that while I was researching the paper I learned about the structure and layout of Facebook, but virtually nothing about its creators. Sean Parker, former president of the company, spoke out against the film, saying it was inaccurate, and that he was misrepresented. Its understandable, the film didn’t really portray the creators in an appealing light, but I think Mark Zuckerberg’s response is much more interesting.
"We build products that 500 million people see... If 5 million people see a movie, it doesn't really matter that much." The implication here is that it doesn’t matter what people think, there will always be people dying to use Facebook.

Zuckerberg’s comment made me think about Facebook and its 500 million+ users, and the way that we perceive and use energy in the new world of social media. A report from the guardian in 2009 outlines the major challenges for Internet companies to provide billions of web pages and files on the Internet without consuming vast amounts of energy. The report points out how planet has finite resources; as such we cannot continue to grow the reach of the Internet to the point of eclipsing those constraints. Unfortunately, nobody really understands how much energy the Internet really uses, I mean how much energy does it take to send an email? How much does it take to upload a video to youtube? How much energy does it take to friend someone on Facebook?

The way that we have ingrained social media, and the internet at large into our lives doesn’t ask these questions. Part of the problem lies in the fact that, as a whole, modern society doesn’t really understand what energy is, where it comes from and how is moves. Technologically advanced societies have become increasingly cut off from conceptualizing energy and their individual role in its consumption. For most of us, its just a magical power that drifts into and out of our lives like snow. Most people don’t really have any idea how much energy they are using (save maybe some friends of mine in Vermont). Even more interestingly, companies, like Facebook, don’t allow consumers access to data on how much energy those companies consume. That’s likely because the figure is so grotesque that it would incite global outrage. But according to news sources, Facebook is on track to consume about 1,963bn kilowatt hours of electricity by 2020, which is more power than is used by France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.


Facebook, insists that it is working to shift from coal based power plants, to renewable sources of power, and I applaud that effort. We need more billion-dollar companies investing in renewable sources of energy. However, moving to sustainable energy consumption doesn’t seem to address the actual issue which is that it seems such a waste to burn fossil fuels just to keep a bunch of pictures from jimmys party online when they mostly just look like this:

Facebook users upload roughly about 2.5 Billion photos every month! But the real question is, does this contribute to the social dialogue? Does this help us gain deeper personal reflection or knowledge? I’m not saying that every photo or website has to inspire us to be better people, or change the world, but we are using so much of the earths resources, not to explore space, not to teach our children the value of life and the wonder of the universe, but to turn the whole world wide web into a global version people magazine, where everyone is a celebrity. Andy Warhol had it so right! We are all famous, but instead for 15 minutes its gonna be forever…

That’s right forever. Think of that when you untag yourself from that ugly photo of you in the tube top, just cause you aren’t tagged doesn’t mean that that photo disappears, it ends up on the world wide cacophony, and with new innovations in facial recognition software everyday, don’t expect those awful photos to remain hidden for long.

As if the horror of ancient pictures surfacing of you doing the time warp dressed from head to toe in Goth regalia from the 7th grade isn’t enough to keep you up at night, how about this: In august then CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, predicted that in the future children will change their names as a rite of passage, because they will want to distance themselves from their youthful personas and indiscretions, all of which will be available on the web. "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time... I mean we really have to think about these things as a society." When questioned about this dystopian preview of what’s to come, and pressed on the issue of individual privacy (a topic for another day) his response was this “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Not the kind of response I want to hear from the head of a company that is “self regulated” to protect all of our privacy. More recently, Wired magazine writer Patton Oswalt comments on this new and growing concern of what he calls Etewaf, or (Everything That Ever Was Available Forever) in his recent article “Wake Up, Geek culture. Time to Die,”
he describes ETEWAF as phenomenon that dilutes the culture into a neverending trove of special features, and trivia that doesn’t actually add to the culture. The danger outlined by Oswalt is that, “Etewaf doesn’t produce a new generation of artists—just an army of sated consumers. Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie?”

I think we are headed towards if not already in the midst of ETEWAF. We are spending massive amounts of time and energy converting the actual world into a digital one. Indexing, cataloging, tagging, everything in our lives. I am just as caught up in this as anyone else. I post tons of pictures on Facebook and I love it! Heck this blog is using energy that I am not paying for. But the point is, SOMEONE is paying for it. And though the advertisers may tell us different, not everyone can have a 3g phone, our grid cant handle it, and more to the point, why should it.

Friday, January 21

Adventures in 3 dimensions

The other day I was speaking to a friend about the rise of recycled ideas making their way back into pop culture. TV shows like Hawaii five-O and movies like Batman, are making a comeback with a vengeance for an entirely new generation of viewers. But recycled ideas aren’t limited to plots and story lines; 3D technology has made a big comeback in the recent year. After the mind blowing effects and huge box-office success of Avatar, the media industry jumped into bed with 3D technology as a way to help increase revenue and provide audiences with something new and fresh. There is so much faith in the future of 3D technology that companies like AMC and Samsung have sunk hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading theaters and TVs to facilitate more 3D content. Sounds great right? Audiences get to be part of the action, no longer passively viewing, but actually being part of the movie itself. For studios and directors, this new technology offers a new way of conceiving the film and media experience. Everyone wins! Or maybe not…

As it turns out, audiences are going to the movies less but spending more. The average price of a 3D ticket is about $3 dollars more per seat, good news for the media industry, bad news for consumers, but the bad news doesn’t stop there. As of today there has been no large-scale studies done regarding how 3D technology affects human eyesight. There have been reports that people are experiencing headaches, nausea and in some extreme cases seizures and death. Sounds a bit dangerous just for a 90-minute visual orgy.

Clearly the industry thinks that 3D is the way of the future. Samsung predicts the sale of 6 million 3D TVs this year, up six fold from last year. Additionally, Nintendo, just released its new handheld device the 3DS, promising to let gamers experience 3D games without the help of special glasses and even has a camera allowing users to take 3D photos. But, interestingly, Nintendo did issue a warning saying that children under the age of 6 could experience stunted eye development and damage if using the 3D feature. Seizures, stunted eye development and damage, sounds like there needs to be more research, but as mentioned earlier, no large scale research has been done, except by the companies that created these devices and guess what, those findings aren’t public. What a surprise.

What a great idea, lets throw millions of dollars behind a rebooted technology without any understanding of how it affects human physiology. Why would companies be spending so much cash to push a technology that is untested and causes discomfort in its target audience? Perhaps its because they think they can get more money out of consumers for this “new and improved” technology regardless of the danger it poses. Or perhaps they are so impressed with themselves by reviving the corpse of this old, and quite frankly, cheesy technology that they don’t see the potential for harm. The quote from Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg who calls 3D "the greatest innovation that's happened for the movie theaters and for moviegoers since color,” would definitely support the latter.

Not surprisingly, Nintendo later retracted its warning, under pressure from a New York Times article speculating that they did not have the creditability to issue such a warning because they are not scientists, and that playing 3D games and watching 3D TV probably isn’t all that bad for you. Though doctors all agree that limited time in front of these devices, no longer than an hour at a time, is the best way to avoid damage or discomfort. Ironically this comes on the heals of another study indicating that teens between the ages of 8 – 18 are consuming media at a rate of 10 hours and 45 minutes a day. More than a 1/2 of their waking hours in front of some kind of electronic device. So much for moderation. Check out the study here.

So, next time you spend 15 dollars to see the latest two and a half hour 3D smorgasbord of visual delights remember the Taiwanese man who suffered a brain aneurism and died last year from overstimulation after seeing James Camerons “Avatar”, it might you think twice about what an extra dimension is worth to you.

Tuesday, January 11


The blog is on hiatus this week whilest I move to New York City! Wahooo!

But in the meantime please check out this new blog I ve been listening to, Doug Loves Movies. Love doug benson, hilarious comedian extraordinaire, know for such groundbreaking shows as the benson interruption and think piece movies like super high me. Well it turns out doug isn't just a stand up stoner, he also shares a passion with me, movies. good movies. Doug brings on guests the discuss film and play the Leonard Maltin game, what more could you want.

Saturday, January 1


So it’s a new year. With new promises of adventure and abandon. I’ve been neglecting this blog as of late. I’ve been struggling with what to put in here, and what kind of outlet it could be. In this New Year I am trying to commit to weekly posts, but as you may know, that’s how this whole endeavor started.

I’ve decided to expand the scope of this blog a little beyond my own work. For those who know me personally, you are aware of my rapidly approaching departure for the east coast to attend the New School to get my masters degree in media theory. The thought of grad school both excites and terrifies me. But I am eager to be back in an academic setting. With these thoughts in mind I wish to use this blog to not only explore my work and the work of others but also as a forum to discus the rapidly changing landscape of media content and creation.

A lot of people have asked me what “media theory” is. The truth is the concept is just emerging and means different things to different people. To me, this are discussions around the way media, especially, digital media has woven its way into the very fabric of a contemporary American, and increasingly, global experience. This explores the way mass media is used to inform, control and/or shape opinion, and how grass roots artists simultaneously are pushing the boundaries of media experience through art, and performance art. But also, where the lines of these two, seemingly opposing doctrines of content creation, blur.

I’m also expressly interested in the way that the mass media of American capitalism has formed the current cultural paradigm of “branding”. I speak of branding as a paradigm because it is wholly culturally understood and accepted, but also because it is taken for granted, as if brands and branding have always been around.

They have not.

Branding works on multiple levels. Corporations create brand identity to easily facilitate communication about the values and status of products to consumers. Branding also affects the individual, who is sold the ultimate capitalist/American truth/myth of the self reliant man. Hyper-individuality fed by conspicuous consumption creates a “brand identity” for you. With the rise of social networking, we are encouraged to create profiles with tag words indicating our likes and dislikes. And much like a corporate brand identity, your individual brand is disseminated through the world wide web as a means to efficiently communicate information about the “type” of individual you are.

I would argue that these escapist identities are a form of delusion. For the consumer knows that the milk comes from mistreated cows, or the clothes come from china. These realizations stand in stark contradiction to brand identity, and with now way to reconcile them, they are ignored. And if individually we have already begun to take cues from corporate practices of branding, what happens when we are faced with our own internal contradiction?

We aren’t brands, we are people. Our knowledge experience and potential are vastly indescribable, certainly not enough for a facebook page. What does it say about a culture who truncates their experiences and uniqueness to sound bites and keywords? In this age we have to recognize that commercialized information delivery systems cannot be the fundamental organizing principle of a vibrant culture.

All these ideas rest upon the premise of a 21st century enlightenment, or a “digital revolution”. We are seeing the way our culture creates and understands media rapidly change, we are seeing the technology rapidly change, and interestingly enough, after spending thousands of years as a primarily analogue civilization, the leap forward into the digital future has been greatly underestimated, particularly to the way it is shaping the citizenry of cultural attitudes and expectations of the up and coming generation. I will leave you with a short video about some of the concepts that lay the philosophical foundation of some of the ideas I will be exploring in the coming weeks. The video is by RSA Animate who does great animated lectures, if you are a visual person like me, these videos take complex issues and help to break them down visually, hopefully providing more comprehension. This lecture features radical social theorist David Harvey, check it out here.