Online Communities and Human Feelings

Recently, I read this really interesting article on abandoned online communities:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/07/what-happens-when-digital-cities-are-abandoned/373941/

Apart from really appreciating an article on a major website with a positive view of online communities and roleplaying (still relatively rare even in this day and age) the comments on community here was something that really got to me. From my early teens onwards, well from the day that my parents first got a broadband connection, I have been on-and-off a member of different online communities.

For a while, I was part of a community forum for fans of a certain YouTube gaming channel. Although it was a semi-official site, it had it’s own community, behaviour and culture that wasn’t really influenced by the YouTubers it was based on, at least at first. However, once the forums were integrated into the official sites, said YouTubers felt that it needed to be more heavily moderated to suit the PG-13 audience they were aiming for – so no controversial topics etc. This might have seemed like a good idea since it probably made the forums into a better, safer place for young teenagers and even pre-teens who might be only just getting into online spaces, but it did harm the long built-up culture of the site, which had been cherished by it’s long-term members. The attachment people can have to an online community sometimes seems to be overlooked though it is discussed in some academic texts. In Virtual Culture: Identity and Communication in Cybersociety Nessim Watson quotes Rheingold:

Human feelings are what makes a community, so when those feelings were hurt, some sections of the community fell apart very quickly.

A number of new unofficial forums were created, so I ‘migrated’ over to one of them. It was a very different place. The previous forum had been strictly moderated, whereas here, anarchy reigned. Controversial arguments, trolling, offensive material… all were permitted and even encouraged by the site owners. As a small close-knit group of people who had mostly known each other online for a while, there were few problems at first.

However, the community began to splinter again as it grew. One of the main problems was perhaps a lack of focus, unlike the YouTuber site we had come from, or other forums I had been a part of, from role-playing to rock music, we had no reason to come together apart from negative opinions. In addition, the lack of rules that had made the forum so fun to start with now worked against the community. Bullying was becoming rife, but worse backlashes occurred when the admins did try to impose order. The site owner did attempt to give us focus, joining forces with game server hosts and competitive gaming teamspeaks to try to give us a reason to exist. Eventually he made the decision to close the forum down. Positive feelings can grow an online community, but it seems that negative ones can quickly damage it.

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Vine versus Instagram – the ongoing debate

My dissertation tutor (I guess, former tutor, since I’m now graduated?) recently linked me to the results of a study comparing Vine and Instagram video, since Instagram videos featured heavily in my dissertation work. I’ve linked the study below, it’s a short but interesting read, covering the popularity of the apps amongst users, and their reasons for liking or disliking them.

Consumer Insights on the Instagram vs. Vine Debate

 

When I was writing my dissertation, the differences in popularity and usage between Vine and Instagram were not as clear as they are now, since both were much newer when I began wiriting nearly a year ago, and both platforms have updated and changed considerably in that time. I remember being frustrated when Vine launched Vine messaging only a few weeks after hand-in, I could have written a whole chapter on it!

Clearly, Vine is the more popular platform, according to this study, and it gives some useful figures regarding who prefers what, but doesn’t really delve deeply into why it might be better.

During my dissertation work, I discussed the idea of people sharing media online because it reflects a part of their life and builds up their online persona. In my work, I was discussing media people create themselves, but this applies equally to other people’s work. One feature of Vine which Instagram has no equivalent is the ‘Revine,’ much like WordPress or Tumblr’s ‘Reblog’ which allows people to post other people’s Vines to their own profile and share them. I wonder if it’s features like this that make Vine the more popular option?

Below – Twitter thoughts that led to this post.

 

The Universal Language of Pictures and Picture Messaging (short blog)

One day whilst browsing YouTube, I caught a camera advert which I now can’t find (why do I never remember these things? It’s bad research) which described pictures as a ‘universal language’.

I’ve written and said plenty on how important pictures and videos are to social media, in helping people to communicate ideas and feelings in a way that is easier than text, but I’ve never considered it from the language barrier angle before.

(An old vlog from during my MSc dissertation where I discuss pictures in social media)

As the internet connects us from all over the world, it’s much easier to communicate visually than in words, and technology has developed in a way to allow this. Of course, many apps such as Instagram, Vine or snapchat usually involve captions and many memes rely on their captions rather than their actual picture, it’s very easy to understand someone’s thoughts or intentions from a picture. I’ve heard it said that 90% of language is facial expression and body language, and it’s true, so pictures can display that easily.

 

Pictures can describe much more than our thought/feelings, they can be complex abstract ideas, or they can be very simple and overall, they are instantly understandable and sharable/readable at the click of a button, regardless of what language you speak or how literate you are.

 

Random shots of my life, presented without words but still understandable, or at least interpretable I hope! Taken using Instagram, presented using http://iconosquare.com

Video Editing – Messing Around and producing a new Promotional video

When I was taught film editing at University, the first thing the tutors went over was ‘the process.’ Editing in the professional film/TV environment follows a fairly specific pattern that maximises workflow and time spent, with each stage saved as a carefully labelled separate edit – one with matched video and audio, the next with basic cutaways added in and so on. It’s a good system that means video can be edited quickly, and changes can be made from any point. I’m glad I learned it.

However, I always found it somewhat difficult to stick to. The system works when you have a clear idea of how a video should go – which in the professional would already be mostly agreed upon by the director/producer. But when I am the producer, as is the case in well, all the projects I’ve done, even if I plan out the way the video should go, those plans frequently fall apart as soon as I start looking at the clips.

In addition, once I have a good idea I tend to take it exclusively and work on it even when I should be working on the video as  a whole. I chop and change clips around the timeline, and usually end up with a dumping ground of clips at the end of the project. It’s not a clean way of working. It’s messy. In the professional world it would doubtless take far too long. But as I do have the time to work through my ideas, I think it allows me to came up with the best ideas for the specific video.

This recent promotional video that I edited for Willow Wood Hospice is a good example. The clips needed to follow the voice overs, as well as link them together. I also had far more material to work with than needed. Logically, the first thing to do should have been to sort through the clips for the most important ones, and to some extent, I did this, identifying the most important clips that I needed – at the beginning, end, and in the linking sections. But rather than organise the rest of the video in this way, much of the rest came down simply to what clip and length of clip ‘felt right.’

There is a downside to this style of working – the way I was taught also meant that you could return easily to any previous version of your work if you needed to re-edit. I’ve had problems with this in audio work and recording – you think  I would have learned! It’s important to save multiple versions, or make notes on what you have done. But it’s important to mess around, and not always stay closely to what you know will work – there are always several ways of putting a video or film together, and it does come down to what ‘feels right’.