research project pitch [part 2]; qualitative research methods and planned format

I’ve decided to focus my research project on the fandom cultures and customs surrounding the live-viewing of sporting events. My chosen medium of presentation for the ethnographic observation is inspired by the television program Gogglebox Australia and the general reaction video format that has been popularised on the internet. Currently, both the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2019 League of Legends World Championship are broadcasting live to select platforms. Being a fan of both Rugby and League of Legends, I plan to film myself and family or friends watching and reacting to games from each of the tournaments, and later cut together the footage to compare the practices of each subculture. I’ll be looking for common or contrasting behaviours, objects, and practices (food and drinks, cheering and talking, physical interaction, pets, viewing space etc.)

giphy (4).gif
Source

This video will be accompanied by a written report that summarises the observations made from the captured footage, and supplements the ethnographic study with qualitative data gathered in one-on-one interviews with sports and esports fans. I also aim to support my work with the work of media theorist Henry Jenkins, focusing on participatory media cultures and fandom.

In accordance with the principles of visual ethnography as proposed by Sarah Pink, I will strive for reflexivity and ethical practice in conducting my research. This includes being aware of my own social context and possible bias, while also ensuring my research participants are comfortable, consenting, and fully informed of their role in my final presentation. My footage aims to embody an experience within a particular subculture, and will hopefully succeed in documenting the practices of sports and esports fans when consuming the relevant media. In order to do so effectively, I must find participants who will consent fully to appearing on camera and having their experiences shared in public online spaces.

“Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.”

“Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material. Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast. Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice.”

MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics

Advertisements

research project pitch [part 1]; sports fandom and participatory cultures

In my high school ‘Society and Culture’ class I submitted an extensive research report about the global esports phenomenon. At this time, the industry had only just started formalising and regulating the structure of competitive gaming after the last decade saw tremendous growth worldwide. Esports is a subculture of competitive sports involving video games. Like traditional sports, there are many different types of esports; big titles like League of Legends, Overwatchand Dota 2 all have corresponding, organised competition platforms that feature professional players, teams, and coaches. Although the formalisation of competitive gaming has existed since the early days of video games, the esports industry has seen its most significant growth and legitimisation in recent years with the capability of live-streamed events, sponsorship, player salaries, and large sums of prize money.

My research focused on comparing esports with traditional sports, and the process of legitimising the esports subculture on a macro scale. Although it was only three years ago, so much has changed for esports in the short period between now and when I wrote that report. In observing the phenomenon now, I see a subculture with firmly placed roots worldwide that continues to grow. Esports has experienced its ‘adolescent’ phase, finding its place in our global media sphere, and now continues forward into ‘adulthood’ with a clearly defined structure and aggregated audience.

giphy (1).gif
Source

Sports fandom encompasses communities that form around the shared enjoyment and support of particular sports, sporting teams, or professional players. These groups of fans engage in participatory media cultures; they do not act exclusively as passive consumers, instead they are also interacting with the media they consume. This can occur through creation of media para-texts (memes, tweets, forums, blogs etc.) or by enforcing customs and traditions associated with the media consumption (posters, pom-poms, instruments, jerseys, viewing parties etc.)

Jenkins et al. (2009) define a participatory culture more specifically as one that consists of:

  1. Relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
  2. Strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others 
  3. Some type of informal mentorship in which the most experienced members pass along their knowledge to novices
  4. Members who believe their contributions matter
  5. Members who feel some degree of social connection with one another and care about other members’ opinions about their contribution

Anon, 2019. Fandom and Participatory Culture – Subcultures and Sociology. Grinnell College.

Your typical viewing party for a sports match, especially grand finals and championships, is accompanied by countless fandom traditions and behaviours. I’d like to ethnographically research these customs, and also explore the psychology of sports fandom; why do you support these teams, why do you enjoy watching these competitions? I will support my primary research with the work of media theorists like Henry Jenkins, specifically relating to participatory cultures in media consumption. In my next blog post, I plan to discuss my ethnographic research methods in more detail and outline the format I would like to use when presenting my research.

 

References

Anon, 2019. Fandom and Participatory Culture – Subcultures and Sociology. Grinnell College. 

Larch, F., 2019. The History of the Origin of eSports. ISPO.

Miller, P., 2019. 2011: The Year of eSports. PCWorld.

Popper, B., 2013. Field of streams: how Twitch made video games a spectator sport. The Verge.

critical self-reflection of comments (part 2)

Beta #1; ‘Mr Pickles Wants Your Ball’ by Hannah

a5429062d4c9b181aadd1f779195c138.gif
Source

Hannah is making a short series of video essays about game modding as participatory media culture, focusing on the ‘Vinesauce Corruption Mod’ for Nintendogs. She has uploaded a prototype video and further developed her analytical framework.

In my comment, I told Hannah that her research and engagement with the subject materials has been thorough and comprehensive. I shared an academic research report about modding (Bostan & Kaplancali) that examines the psychoanalytical aspects of modding, including player motivations and intentions. I also talked about different types of modding, contrasting fun, “breaking” mods to practical, “fixing” mods. I’m hoping Hannah considers these approaches to analysing mods in her upcoming video essays. I gave some feedback for the video essay, suggesting more humor and the implimentation of an informal tone to match the fun, silly nature of the ‘Corruption Mod’. Finally, I recommended some outlets for help with setting up and using the ‘DeSmuMe’ Nintendo DS emulator to avoid future complications with capturing gameplay.

[Hannah’s Blog]

comment1

 

 

Beta #2; ‘AI in Video Games’ by Tamara

giphy.gif
Source

Tamara is writing a series of blog posts exploring Artificial Intelligence in video games, observing a variety of games such as Mario Kart and Fortnite. She has made two blog posts in total, and intends to create more while also updating her existing ones.

In my comment, I told Tamara that I liked her blog post format because it compliments her topic. My main point of feedback was that she could have chosen more suitable titles for exploring AI in video games, in particular Fortnite ‘Battle Royale’ does not have a clear use of AI technologies because it does not have NPC’s. I shared a variety of news articles and Reddit threads that list game titles known for good or bad AI implementation, and suggested that Tamara use the media archaeology approach in her analysis. I also shared a journal article (Michael Mateas) about expressive AI in video game design. I praised Tamara for making her blogs a multimedia experience with embedded videos and podcasts, and recommended she record her planned interview with a twitch streamer in a podcast format too.

[Tamara’s Blog]

comment2 1comment2 2

 

 

Beta #3; ‘Scaping a Re-Birth’ by Serena

WellgroomedCrispAnteater-small.gif
Source

Serena is unpacking the role of nostalgia in either reviving popular video games, or potentially compromising their future development. She is using the divide between Old School RuneScape (OSRS) and the flagship RuneScape 3 (RS3) as an example. The DA will be one large multimedia blog post, and so far Serena has published a draft including a complete interview with an OSRS player.

In my comment, I told Serena that the primary research methods on her blog and beta video will be very effective in enriching her final post. I also complimented her main thesis of ‘re-birth or division’ in the RuneScape community, and cited similar cases where separate communities are developing around the new and old versions of popular MMORPG’s. I also commented on the prevalence of nostalgia marketing in the gaming industry in the released remakes of classic games and consoles. I gave Serena some general feedback about the formatting of her blog post, and shared a brief web article (Mark Hill) about the potentially risky patterns of nostalgia marketing in the gaming industry to help with her argument of nostalgia hindering a game’s future development. I did not suggest much for Serena about her DA’s direction because I was already impressed by the trajectory of her project.

[Serena’s Blog]

comment3.PNG

 

 

Critical Self-Reflection

With this round of comments, I consciously attempted to make my feedback more brief and concise. I think I succeeded in posting shorter comments, though one comment may still be considered lengthy because I felt it was necessary to give comprehensive feedback in that case. I think my biggest improvement was that I focused on the direction of each person’s DA and offered suggestions for enhancing their projects, rather than my previous overly-analytical approach that mostly assessed the blog posts and videos based on the marking criteria. I also believe that I engaged with the subject materials and concepts more in my feedback this time. Most importantly, looking at other DA’s through a critical lens has allowed me to practice the essential skill of reflection and critique in the context of digital literacy. In turn, I will now be able to assess my own DA more effectively by applying the same method of review throughout my progress.

prototyping the “let’s play” shuffle; even a lack of engagement is useful feedback

 

Following up on my Digital Artefact pitch; After prototyping two live-streams on my Twitch channel, I’ve made a few changes to my format, though my concept remains intact. I’ve further developed my analytical framework using Clara Fernández-Vara’s book Introduction to Game Analysis’ as a guide. 

Unfortunately, my Twitch chat was entirely dead for both streams, and I peaked at 4 unique viewers. It seems despite already aggregating an audience for my channel, the drastic difference in content did not appeal to any of my 55 followers. I can’t say much about how effective sharing the event on my socials was either. I have decided the live-stream format won’t work for this ‘Let’s Play’ series. By attaching the episodes to a schedule and trying to encourage live discussion, I am also (inadvertently) discouraging engagement with the video after the broadcast as well. Many people will miss the live stream due to time zones or their own personal schedules, not all potential viewers will catch the Twitch VOD (video on demand), and having long sections of my streams without any commentary lessens the quality of the content when watching it ‘un-live’ on YouTube re-uploads.

Capture5.PNG
Screenshot from one stream. The large blank space to the right of the gameplay window was for two reasons; a) I didn’t want to stretch the resolution of the GameBoy emulator too much as the image would possibly be blurry or lower quality, b) the empty space was meant to be accommodating an embedded live chat, that did not get used at all 😔 meaning that on a YouTube video episode, this layout looks awkward and has too much negative space.

Initially I considered changing the format to an entirely different one, such as critical blog posts or a video essay series. However, a comment on my DA pitch prompted me to research further into the ‘Let’s Play’ subculture. I found an article by Burwell and Miller in the E-Learning and Digital Media journal that explores the ‘Let’s Play’ genre and its function as a gaming paratext. They argue that LP’s allow commentary and analysis that develops gaming literacy.

“In recent years, a great deal of scholarly work has been done to consider video games as productive sites for the development of creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaborative skills (e.g., Gee, 2003Hayes and Duncan, 2012Steinkuehler, 2007). This work has challenged the video game’s reputation as a mindless diversion, and has instead shown that games encourage thinking and learning, and play an important role in the production of cultural capital amongst young people. Much of this work explores games as a form of literacy.”

“Inherent in the Let’s Play video is an invitation to viewers to join in the game play; here, we invite the reader to see the complex meaning-making and social practices associated with this emerging paratext.”

– Burwell, C., & Miller, T. (2016).

After reading this article, I was assured that I would be able to effectively use the LP genre as my DA format when analysing and making meaning of the Final Fantasy games. I’ve decided that YouTube seems to be the most appropriate platform for an LP series as twitch channels often fall into either competitive or social streamer categories, the latter requiring lots of time to build-up an engaged and loyal viewership. I’ll be editing and cutting down my gameplay footage to make my commentary more consistent, reduce long periods of level grinding, and overall make the LP more abridged and cinematic. Finally, I’ve chosen to split the game into six episodes of three ‘acts’, with each ‘act’ being played as one of three different versions of the game.

 

References

Burwell, C., & Miller, T. (2016). Let’s Play: Exploring literacy practices in an emerging videogame paratext. E-Learning and Digital Media13(3–4), 109–125.

Fernández-Vara, C. (2015). Introduction to Game Analysis. 1st ed. New York, NY: Routledge. 

hey google, can you do my dishes?

This decade has seen the conceptualised ‘smart home’ leap onto the market in great strides, with countless smart devices becoming widely accessible fore more than just the upper-class. Home hub and AI assistant devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa are two major examples of an increase in device integration throughout the modern house. It seems like you can get an interconnected smart home device to do almost anything. Almost. I’m waiting eagerly for a future where I can ask my Google Home assistant to do my dishes (smart dishwasher maybe?).

But what exactly makes a ‘smart home’? Smart homes are characterised by a network of automated or intelligent devices that adapt to the environment around it through innovative technologies. This web of smart devices aim to “simplify the life of its inhabitants” (Ricquebourg et al. 2006), and have been made possible by recent developments in high-speed internet access and interactive hardware technologies. These devices in tandem have created a phenomenon known as the ‘Internet of Things’.

Within my own home, keeping in mind that I live in a share house with other University students, we don’t have many smart devices that interact with each other through internet connectivity outside of our own personal belongings. For example, my smart phone and watch are always directly linked, and interact with one another constantly (though it’s via bluetooth technologies and not the internet). However, we do share a Google Chromecast that is connected to our TV. This device allows us to stream media directly to our TV from any compatible device; smartphones, tablets, or computers. We don’t actually have our TV antenna plugged into the display at all, and use the Chromecast exclusively to stream our favourite shows from apps like Netflix, Stan, YouTube, and various other streaming platforms. I learnt recently that the Chromecast can be synchronised with a Google Home device to enable voice-activated commands, such as; “Hey Google, play Stranger Things from Netflix on Chromecast.” Sounds pretty nifty.

My only encounters with smart technology in the home beyond this are at my boyfriend’s parent’s house. They own a Google Home hub, and a few other Google Home nodes are placed around their house. It is mostly used by them for its music and calendar features, but it also has the capability of turning on and off their bedroom lights through remote voice commands. While I think there have been big developments in the accessibility of the ‘smart home’ experience, I still believe it has a long way to go before achieving the Utopian dream of a completely integrated, almost sentient household. Especially when factoring in concerns about privacy and surveillance that push back against rapid development.

 

References

Gebhart, Andrew. (2019). Everything you need to know about Google Home. cnet.

Morgan, Jacob. (2014). A Simple Explanation Of ‘The Internet Of Things’. Forbes.

Ricquebourg, V., Menga, D., Durand, D., Marhic, B., Delahoche, L. & Loge, C. (2006). The smart home concept: our immediate future. 2006 1st IEEE international conference on e-learning in industrial electronics. pp. 23-28. IEEE.

Shulevitz, Judith. (2018). Alexa, Should We Trust You?. The Atlantic.

Wetzel, Kim. (2019). What is Alexa, and what can Amazon’s virtual assistant do for you?. Digital Trends.

let’s talk about k-pop

bts-annouce-khalid-collab-01.jpg
K-pop group BTS with American singer Khalid, teasing and upcoming collaboration. Source

These days, you simply can’t scroll through Twitter without stumbling upon k-pop fans in the masses. ‘Fancam’ video edits seem to be posted in threads about anything and everything, and tweets are embedded with hashtags urging to #stan or #stream various k-pop groups. Although my own obsession with k-pop started and finished with whatever was playing on SBS PopAsia circa 2015, the ‘Hallyu’ phenomenon, or ‘Korean wave’, has reached tsunami levels of huge in the last decade. The craze has made a splash all across the globe in neighbouring Asian countries, the West, and beyond.

K-pop boyband ‘BTS’ are an immensely popular group within the genre, achieving incredible break-out success in the US at a level never before seen. The group has collaborated with many popular US/European artists like Nicki Minaj, Halsey, Ed Sheeran, and many more. You could say BTS are the poster group for the rapid spread of k-pop throughout the US and other Western audiences. Ingyu Oh’s research paper about the globalisation of k-pop credits platforms like YouTube and the new distribution structures of the music industry for the global success of k-pop as a musical subculture. The report argues that South Korea’s standout success in comparison to other Asian music industries (such as Japan or China) is because of k-pop’s “photogenic appeal”, borrowing aesthetics and production techniques from popular American music. By localising these elements of American music and distributing the final, hybridised product to both Asian and Western audiences, k-pop is able to attain mass global appeal. Woongjae Ryoo explains the cultural hybridisation of k-pop further in an article from the Asian Journal of Communication; South Korea is described as a mediator in popular culture exchange between the West and Asia, and in comparison with Japan, South Korea has “broader cultural affinities with China and other Asian countries while also being just Westernized enough.” In other words, South Korea is currently the bridge between Asian and Western popular culture.

In 2018, American game development company Riot Games released a k-pop inspired music video promoting an upcoming line of cosmetic character ‘skins’, available for purchase in their online multiplayer game ‘League of Legends’. The video features iconic characters from the game in a ‘virtual’ idol group, dancing and singing in the k-pop style. The artists featured in this collaborative project were two American singers, Madison Beer and Jaira Burns, and two members of the k-pop girl group (G)I-DLE. The track ‘POP/STARS’ was debuted on the League of Legends world finals stage in Seoul, South Korea, and featured character avatars in Augmented Reality. This collaboration is an example of cultural hybridisation through the k-pop genre, mixing together elements of Western and Asian pop culture to create a media text with globalised appeal.

 

References

Alexander, Julia. (2018). The League of Legends world championship opened with an AR K-pop concert. The Verge. 

Daly, Rhian. (2019). All of BTS’ collaborations with western artists, ranked. NME.

Lee, Lee. (2018). Top 10 most viewed K-pop idol solo fancams. SBS PopAsia.

Oh, Ingyu. (2013). The Globalization of K-pop: Korea’s Place in the Global Music Industry. Korea Observer, 44, 389-409.

Romano, Aja. (2019). BTS, the band that changed K-pop, explained. Vox.

Woongjae, Ryoo. (2009). Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave. Asian Journal of Communication, 19(2), 137-151.

‘once upon a time in hollywood’

MV5BOTg4ZTNkZmUtMzNlZi00YmFjLTk1MmUtNWQwNTM0YjcyNTNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Movie Poster. Source

I recently caught the new Tarantino film at my local cinema with some friends. Being fans of the director’s previous works, we went into the film expecting the usual satirical, colourful, and violent spectacle, laced with pop-culture references. I think it’s safe to say we got everything that was expected, and more. I mostly enjoyed the movie experience; I would describe Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as a periscope fixed upon the golden era of Hollywood, with Tarantino’s signature alternate-history spin on real life events providing us the ‘fairy tale’ promised in the film’s title. I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail in re-creating the scenery and culture of LA during the 1960’s. Although the film has been criticised for its pacing and lengthy periods without narrative progression, I personally enjoy films that take time to familiarise the audience with each character and spend a little extra time on context than the story itself. My only issue with this film (which isn’t so much with the film itself, but rather the way it is watched by some individuals) was when the final sequence of events played out in the cinema. Though Tarantino is known for his gratuitous, violent scenes that are supposed to be thrilling and exciting, hearing people around me in the cinema cheer and laugh in delight at a young girl having her head bashed against the wall did not sit right with me. During this scene I cringed, I flinched, and admittedly I felt relieved for the protagonist. After all, in real life this young girl and her companions killed innocent people, and here in the film they are invading his home armed with weapons. Although I may have shared the feeling of ‘pay-off’ with those who relished in the violence, I don’t think I actually enjoyed the scene in the same way they had. While I think Tarantino’s style of ‘comical violence’ that is framed as exciting and enjoyable has been fantastic in some of his previous films, something this sequence left me disappointed by the gleeful audience reactions. Despite all this, I’d rate Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; ★★★★✰

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was co-produced between the US and UK, and distributed by Sony Pictures. The film’s domestic market (US and Canada) accounts for just over half its gross value, with the rest being the foreign market. Reports from the ‘Communication Research’ journal show that global media consumption is on a trajectory toward homogenisation. This includes audience preferences for film and cinema, with media interests moving toward uniformity. Recent trends in the Hollywood film industry are reflective of this notion, with the international box office usually making up the higher portion of a successful blockbuster film’s market share. The exceptions to this trend can sometimes be explained by linguistic or cultural barriers that prevent it from appealing to international audiences. In chapter 6 of the book ‘The Impact of International Television’, Joseph Strauhbaar outlines these tendencies toward making choices about media based on cultural knowledge using the term ‘cultural proximity’. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood may be a Hollywood blockbuster, ironically about Hollywood itself of all things, but it requires a lot of cultural knowledge and proximity to be fully appreciated and understood. Being based around real historical events in LA around 1968-69, the references to American culture and the events of the Manson family murders can easily fly over the head of an international audience. Even some of my friends left the cinema confused, because they had not read up on the context of the film. This could explain why it has performed better within the domestic market.

 

References

Fu, W. Wayne & Govindaraju, Achikannoo. (2010). Explaining Global Box-Office Tastes in Hollywood Films: Homogenization of National Audiences’ Movie Selections. Communication Research, 37(2), 215–238.

Goldsberry, Kirk. (2014). All the World’s a Stage: How International Box Office Is Changing the American Blockbuster Economy. Grantland.

Serena, Katie. (2017). They Committed The Most Infamous Murders Of The 1960s — So Where Are The Manson Family Members Now?. ATI.

Straubhaar, Joseph, D. (2014). Choosing National TV: Cultural Capital, Language and Cultural Proximity in Brazil. The Impact of International Television: A Paradigm Shift. Edited by Michael G. Elasmar. Oxford: Routledge. pp. 77-110.

York, Keva. (2019). Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is less a Manson family story than a mid-life crisis film. ABC.