The end of the semester seems like the perfect opportunity to look ahead and explore what might come next. We’ve examined the social networks that we’re familiar with, looked at sites that encourage user generated content, and imagined what the implications of dating and gaming sites might be for real world relationships. Now, we should take what we’ve learned and a tell a story about what the future has in store.

At this stage, I’d like to leave it fairly open ended. We could take a sci-fi approach and create something dystopian, extending and exaggerating some of our fears about surveillance, homogenization, and the demise of quality cultural production. Alternatively, we could keep our feet more firmly planted on the ground and explore companies that are being developed at tech start-up incubators like Y-Combinator, BetaWorks and TechStars. We would likely be able to interview mentors in those programs, as well as some of the budding entrepreneurs. We could use their insights to drive our analysis.

Lately we have been discussing the dynamics and complexities surrounding ideas of narrative. Whether that it be contrasting narrative against forms of simulations and video games, or viewing it as the central driving force of a network, such as in hacktivism, narrative seems to be a powerful thinking tool in order to motivate a community.

I’d like to further explore the dynamics of narrative in text-based roleplaying forums online. I have one specific website in mind, Role Play Gateway, which has become a centralized hub of sorts for many branches of roleplaying groups. These communities seem to use narrative in way that straddles ideas brought up by game theorist Gonzalo Frasca, and those highlighted by journalist and professor Marco Diseriis. Roleplaying presents a much more complex form of traditional narrative that Frasca belittles. However, while the narrative is open to manipulation by any of the role playing participants, it appears as though there lacks as structured a goal as in the cases brought up by Deseriis.

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Please watch the TED Talk first.

Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help.” Read the rest of this entry »

Maybe you have a genius idea. Maybe you’re bursting with creativity but you simply do not have the resources or the financial aid to help you make that idea into a reality. That’s what Kickstarter is for, a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers…” It’s quite the genius little start up. So how Kickstarter works is that project owners choose a target minimum of funds and the deadline by which people can donate/pledge money (via Amazon Payments). If the goal is not met by the deadline, none of the pledged money gets collected. If the goal is met, the funds go to the project creator, after Kickstarter has taken 5% of it and Amazon has taken another small percentage (~2%). Successfully funded project ideas are permanently archived on the site.

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More and more I have been hearing about online communities taking to the streets in real life “meet-ups.”  Gamers, photographers, writers/bloggers, anime enthusiasts, and many other groups have adopted this practice and regularly schedule events in major cities around the world.  Now, I am not claiming that similarly-interested individuals gathering in public is a novel occurrence by any means — such congregations have existed for a long time in the form of “comicons” and “Trekkie” conventions et.al..  What is interesting about the more recent meet-ups is that, since they spawn from tightly-knit internet communities, there is a good chance the people attending already have a certain relationship with one another (friendship, mutual in-game benefice, romance, etc.), but one that has been mediated by the standards and practices of the online world, which are more often than not inapplicable to real world situations.

Whereas Kyle and Andrew examined the migration of individual relationships from the online to the offline environment, I would be interested in analyzing the migration of a whole community.  There is a difference, hear me out!

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Check Out CJ Fam's Video - Ordinary Pop Star

If you don’t already know, ARK Music Factory is basically a company that little girls (and boys) pay to have a pop song written for them and a music video produced for that song. They also become part of the ARK Music Factory’s “label” and get promoted by ARK. What brought ARK to the spotlight was the near instant virality of one of their “stars” – Rebecca Black. Only a few weeks later Rebecca feels like old news and irrelevant, but I think there is a strange phenomenon here that deserves to be looked at more closely. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m interesting in learning how Twitter is being used as a revolutionary tool in the Arab world. In 2009 we saw how the power of Twitter could change the mentality of a nation when activists outwardly opposed the reelection of Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Although their efforts could not change the outcome of the election, the Iranian people were able to freely voice their opinions on a medium that the government had no control over. This allowed the rest of the world to get a sneak peak into a secretive country, and gave people an understanding of the unjust system in place in Iran. As in many other countries ruled by oppressing leaders such as Ahmadinejad, mass communication is censored and people are only permitted to view and listen to what the government deems appropriate. Along with other social networking sites, Twitter gave the average civilian a chance to freely express oneself and fight for justice. Although at first this  seems like a limited wayto combat injustice, but those quippy and short tweets ultimately made a global impact. Read the rest of this entry »

After just finishing a travelogue about privacy on Facebook, I’ve been thinking a lot about anonymity on the internet. Usually, we associate anonymous internet users with people who are, for lack of a more eloquent word, “creeping.” We want our privacy, but at the same time we feel we have the right to know who everyone else is–because if someone wont reveal himself, he must be a creep. There are a few places on the internet however, where people respect and support each other, despite anonymity.

For this travelogue, I want to explore confessional websites like Confessions4U and Post Secret to see how people use the internet as a place to speak freely about personal things. Twitter updates, Facebook statues, and blogs can’t compare in what people are willing to say on these confessional sites. The travelogue would feature research about how these sites were started and how they have affected their users.   Read the rest of this entry »