braceThe themed issue of the Fibreculture journal on Trolls and the negative space of the internet has been released, with a raft of amazing articles, including my piece ‘Olympic Trolls: Mainstream Memes and Digital Discord?’ looking at the mainstreaming of some techniques associated with trolling, using a case study of a Facebook group lamenting the quality of Channel 9’s coverage of the 2012 Olympics.

The abstract:

While the mainstream press have often used the accusation of trolling to cover almost any form of online abuse, the term itself has a long and changing history. In scholarly work, trolling has morphed from a description of newsgroup and discussion board commentators who appeared genuine but were actually just provocateurs, through to contemporary analyses which focus on the anonymity, memes and abusive comments most clearly represented by users of the iconic online image board 4chan, and, at times, the related Anonymous political movement. To explore more mainstream examples of what might appear to be trolling at first glance, this paper analyses the Channel Nine Fail (Ch9Fail) Facebook group which formed in protest against the quality of the publicly broadcast Olympic Games coverage in Australia in 2012. While utilising many tools of trolling, such as the use of memes, deliberately provocative humour and language, targeting celebrities, and attempting to provoke media attention, this paper argues that the Ch9Fail group actually demonstrates the increasingly mainstream nature of many online communication strategies once associated with trolls. The mainstreaming of certain activities which have typified trolling highlight these techniques as part of a more banal everyday digital discourse; despite mainstream media presenting trolls are extremist provocateurs, many who partake in trolling techniques are simply ordinary citizens expressing themselves online.

The full paper is freely available online, and as a PDF.

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Links for July 25th through July 30th:

  • Apple, Microsoft refuse to appear before IT pricing inquiry [The Age] – “A[n Australian] parliamentary committee wants to force computer giant Apple to appear before it after members became frustrated with the company’s refusal to co-operate. Hearings into the pricing of software and other IT-related material such as games and music downloads will begin in Sydney tomorrow but neither Apple nor Microsoft will appear. ”Some of the big names in IT have taken local consumers for a ride for years but when legitimate questions are asked about their pricing, they disappear in a flash,” Labor MP and committee member Ed Husic told Fairfax Media. ”Within our growing digital economy, there are reasonable questions to be answered by major IT companies on their Australian pricing. These companies would never treat US consumers in this way.” Both Microsoft and Adobe provided submissions to the inquiry.”
  • Don’t tweet if you want TV, London fans told [The Age] – “Sports fans attending the London Olympics were told on Sunday to avoid non-urgent text messages and tweets during events because overloading of data networks was affecting television coverage. Commentators on Saturday’s men’s cycling road race were unable to tell viewers how far the leaders were ahead of the chasing pack because data could not get through from the GPS satellite navigation system travelling with the cyclists. It was particularly annoying for British viewers, who had tuned in hoping to see a medal for sprint king Mark Cavendish. Many inadvertently made matters worse by venting their anger on Twitter at the lack of information. An International Olympic Committee spokesman said the network problem had been caused by the messages sent by the hundreds of thousands of fans who lined the streets to cheer on the British team. “Of course, if you want to send something, we are not going to say ‘Don’t, you can’t do it’,… “
  • Olympics 2012, Sir Tim Berners Lee and Open Internet [Cerebrux] – Great to see the 2012 London Olympics celebrating World Wide Web inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. “Flash forward to last night, he was honored as the ‘Inventor of the World Wide Web’ at the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. Berners-Lee is revealed in front of a computer keyboard into which he types a message, which is then rendered in lights in the stands of Olympic Stadium: “This is for everyone.” and a message simultaneously appeared on his Twitter account: Tim Berners-Lee@timberners_lee This is for everyone #london2012 #oneweb #openingceremony @webfoundation @w3c
    28 Jul 12
    . A great quote that resembles the openness and the fact that some things should belong to humanity.”
  • The Rise of the “Connected Viewer” [Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project] – “Half of all adult cell phone owners now incorporate their mobile devices into their television watching experiences. These “connected viewers” used their cell phones for a wide range of activities during the 30 days preceding our April 2012 survey:
      1. 38% of cell owners used their phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks in something they were watching
      2. 23% used their phone to exchange text messages with someone else who was watching the same program in a different location
      3. 22% used their phone to check whether something they heard on television was true
      4. 20% used their phone to visit a website that was mentioned on television
      5. 11% used their phone to see what other people were saying online about a program they were watching, and 11% posted their own comments online about a program they were watching using their mobile phone
      6. Taken together, 52% of all cell owners are “connected viewers”—meaning they use their phones while watching television …”
  • RIAA: Online Music Piracy Pales In Comparison to Offline Swapping [TorrentFreak] – “A leaked presentation from the RIAA shows that online file-sharing isn’t the biggest source of illegal music acquisition in the U.S. The confidential data reveals that 65% of all music files are “unpaid” but the vast majority of these are obtained through offline swapping. [...] In total, 15 percent of all acquired music (paid + unpaid) comes from P2P file-sharing and just 4 percent from cyberlockers. Offline swapping in the form of hard drive trading and burning/ripping from others is much more prevalent with 19 and 27 percent respectively. This leads to the, for us, surprising conclusion that more than 70% of all unpaid music comes from offline swapping. The chart is marked “confidential” which suggests that the RIAA doesn’t want this data to be out in the open. This is perhaps understandable since the figures don’t really help their crusade against online piracy.”
  • Robin Hood Airport tweet bomb joke man wins case [BBC News] – Finally: “A man found guilty of sending a menacing tweet threatening to blow up an airport has won a challenge against his conviction. Paul Chambers, 28, of Northern Ireland, was found guilty in May 2010 of sending a “menacing electronic communication”. He was living in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, when he tweeted that he would blow up nearby Robin Hood Airport when it closed after heavy snow.
    After a hearing at the High Court in London his conviction was quashed.”
  • The Instagram Community Hits 80 Million Users [Instagram Blog] – As of July 2012, after finally launching an Android app, and being purchased by Facebook, Instagram has 80 million registered users, who’ve posted cumulatively more than 4 billion photos.
  • Music stars accuse Google of helping pirates rip off material [WA Today] – “LONDON: Roger Daltry of the Who and Brian May of Queen are among rock and pop stars who publicly attacked search engines such as Google for helping users get access to pirated copies of their music. Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin have also signed a letter to The Daily Telegraph in London calling for more action to tackle the illegal copying and distribution of music. Other signatories include the producer and creator of The X Factor, Simon Cowell. The letter, which will also be sent to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, this week, highlighted the role that search engines can play in giving people access to illegal copies. Search engines must ”play their part in protecting consumers and creators from illegal sites”, the signatories said, adding that broadband companies and online advertisers must also do more to prevent piracy.”
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Links for March 26th through March 30th:

  • The Dark Knight Rises Trailer 2: IN LEGO [YouTube] – Beautifully put together Lego version of the new Dark Knight trailer. “LEGO Dark Knight Rises Movie Trailer By ParanickFilmz. http://paranickfilmz.co.nr/ Thanks to Adviceversas for the mouth animation and JediMasterSoda for the CGI. Movie (2012) HD.”
  • CBS Blocks Use of Unused ‘Star Trek’ Script by Spinrad [NYTimes.com] – “For “Star Trek” fans it was like finding a lost Shakespeare play — only to have it snatched away by the playwright’s heirs.Last fall an unused script for the cult 1960s television show turned up after being forgotten for years. Its author, the science-fiction writer Norman Spinrad, announced that it would become an episode of a popular Web series, “Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II,” which features amateur actors in the classic roles of Capt. James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock and other crew members of the starship Enterprise. But then another player stepped in: CBS, which said it owned the script and blocked a planned Web production of it. Trekkies were appalled. “These executives should be phasered on heavy stun,” said Harmon Fields of Manhattan, who called himself “a ‘Star Trek’ fan of galactic proportions.” … By all indications CBS is within its rights. In the entertainment industry the paid writer of a teleplay generally cedes the rights to the material, even if it remains unproduced.”
  • Shitter: Social Media has never been so disposable – Online service that prints a twitter feed onto toilet paper. I suppose such a thing was inevitable.
  • Pay TV piracy hits News [AFR] – A detailed investigative report accuses NewsCorp of actively promoting and facilitating the piracy of competitors pay TV network content: ” A secret unit within Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation promoted a wave of high-tech piracy in Australia that damaged Austar, Optus and Foxtel at a time when News was moving to take control of the Australian pay TV industry.” These are hugely important accusations both in terms of NewsCorp but also in terms of how piracy is framed and understood.
  • What book publishers should learn from Harry Potter — Tech News and Analysis – Useful post detailing the DRM-free release of the Harry Potter ebooks and audio books for sale on J K Rowling’s Pottermore website. The lesson here is that DRM really isn’t necessary, and you’re more likely to reach a wider audience without it. Admittedly Rowling has unprecedented clout in managing her own books in electronic form, and has already made so much money off these books there’s no real risk involved, but the strategy is an important one nevertheless.
  • Angry Birds Space gets 10m downloads in three days [BBC] – The latest version of the Angry Birds game notched up 10 million download in its first three days of release, says its developer Rovio. Angry Birds Space only came out on 22 March, but in a tweet on Monday Rovio announced the game’s swift success. … The new Angry Birds instalment features 60 initial levels and six new characters and has what Rovio calls a “unique twist in a variable gravity environment”. As well as Google Android and Apple iOS devices, last week also saw the game released simultaneously on PC and Mac. Nasa was also involved in promoting the game, posting a video showing an astronaut on the International Space Station explaining the laws of physics using Angry Bird characters.
    The space agency called it “an exciting way to get people engaged with Nasa’s missions of exploration and discover”.
  • Google ordered to suspend autocomplete function over cyber-harassment [The Japan Times Online] – “The Tokyo District Court approved a petition demanding that Google Inc. suspend its autocomplete search feature for Internet browsers after a man alleged that it breached his privacy and got him fired, his lawyer said Sunday. Google is refusing to suspend the feature, saying that its headquarters in the United States will not be regulated by Japanese law and that the case does not warrant deleting the autocomplete suggestions related to the petition under its in-house privacy policy, lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita said. The case, which was adjudicated on March 19, is believed to be the first to order the suspension of the Web search feature, which attempts to instantly anticipate and list the words or phrases a person will type into a browser’s search box, Tomita said. [..] The man discovered that when people type his name into Google’s search engine, words suggesting criminal acts, which he is unfamiliar with, appear.”
  • Facebook Asserts Trademark on Word ‘Book’ in New User Agreement [Threat Level | Wired.com] – “Facebook is trying to expand its trademark rights over the word “book” by adding the claim to a newly revised version of its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” the agreement all users implicitly consent to by using or accessing Facebook.”
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Mustafa_Fabio

It has been just over a year since Isaiah Mustafa’s Old Spice Man character moved from traditional advertising spaces and conquered the internet with the fantastic rolling campaign of YouTube ‘reply’ videos. I am a huge fan of that 2010 campaign and think it’s still one of the best examples of a dusty brand embracing participatory culture completely and reaping the rewards. This week, the next iteration in that social media campaign has kicked off, with cultural manhood cliché Fabio attempting to wrestle away Mustafa’s Old Spice man crown. Mustafa accepted the challenge and now a ‘battle’ rages ‘Live at Internet Stadium’ with the two both replying to challenges and comments from participants online.

Commentators have already jumped on this as an example of advertising embracing transmedia storytelling in what seems a quite meaningful way. For example, Hypervocal comments:

We don’t know how this will all play out today, but the Old Spice Guy campaign has now transcended mere advertising into the realm of long form digital storytelling. It’s fairly incredible what Old Spice and W+K have established. We’re seeing a full-on social media duel unfold across Twitter and YouTube that doubles as a quasi-advertising campaign (except that nobody cares about the Old Spice connection, they care about the characters and story) — people are being called out directly on both platforms, dates and times for the duel were announced, and tweets and videos will surely be published in a real-time, but coordinated, environment later today.

I agree that this has transcended traditional advertising, but in doing so it asks to be judged in terms of storytelling, not just advertising. Now perhaps I’m not the right person to ‘get’ this duel; I’ve never found Fabio a convincing character and just don’t find him funny. (Nor it seems does the internet; his challenge has more ‘dislikes’ than likes, but Mustafa’s reply is almost entirely ‘liked’.) However, for me, as a narrative experience, the Old Spice campaign has jumped the shark. The ‘duel’ doesn’t appear to be over yet, and perhaps I’ll be won over, but for now both the manly men vying for the Old Spice crown seem burdened by their roles, not excited by it. Fabio is a weary icon at best, and Mustafa’s lines just aren’t as funny as last year.

Live_at_Internet_Stadium

Mano_A_Mano_in_El_Bano

Update: Surprising no one, the Old Spice guy (Mustafa) won the ‘duel’, but the pathway there, through numerous odd videos, was a bizarre one, even by internet standards. Just watch the final showdown video to see odd things really got:

OldSpice_Fabio_Winner

Update 2: YouTube have run the numbers, and the Old Spice Guy versus Fabio videos (over 100 of them) clocked up 22 million views in a week, with the viewing peaking with just over 5 million views in a single day.

OldSpice_Graph

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Links for May 14th 2011 through May 25th 2011:

  • Lady Gaga Fans Swamp Amazon for a Cut-Rate Copy of a New Album [NYTimes.com] – “Lady Gaga has made herself a paragon of pop ambition and a spokeswoman for equal rights, but on Monday she became an unwitting symbol for something else: the pitfalls of cloud computing. “Born This Way” (Interscope), her new album, arrived with a blitz of marketing, and Amazon surprised the singer’s fans by offering a one-day sale of the MP3 version of the album for 99 cents, a full $11 less than its price at iTunes, the Web’s dominant music retailer. The discount was widely seen as a way for Amazon to promote its new Cloud Drive service, which allows users to store music files on remote servers and stream them over the Internet to their computer or smartphone. But Amazon may have underestimated the zeal (or thrift) of Lady Gaga’s fans. By early afternoon the company’s servers stalled, and many users were unable to download or listen to the album in full. Frustrated customers quickly took to Twitter and to Amazon’s user review page for “Born This Way.” “
  • Lady Gaga’s $0.99 Album Download Overwhelms Amazon [Mashable] – “Lady Gaga fans were delighted Monday to learn that they could download her new album, Born This Way, from Amazon for a mere $0.99 — until, of course, technical difficulties set in. Downloads of the album are delayed, leaving folks unable to get the entire album immediately upon purchase. Amazon issued the following statement: “Amazon is experiencing high volume and downloads are delayed. If customers order today, they will get the full Lady Gaga, Born This Way album for $0.99. Thanks for your patience.” However, the damage has already been done, as users are meting out one-star ratings in droves, most of which deal with Amazon’s slow service as opposed to the quality of the music …”
  • How to Use Your Android as a Photo Tool + Top 10 Apps | Photojojo – Good list of current, useful Android photo apps. Still no Instagram, but getting close.
  • Zuckerberg: Kids under 13 should be allowed on Facebook [Fortune Tech] – Mark Zuckerberg wants under-13s to be legally able to join Facebook due to the educational value of social networking. There are much better spaces online and offline, to learn these lessons! “Zuckerberg said he wants younger kids to be allowed on social networking sites like Facebook. Currently, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users (like Facebook does) aren’t allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. But Zuckerberg is determined to change this. “That will be a fight we take on at some point,” he said. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.” But just how would Facebook’s social features be used by younger children? “Because of the restrictions we haven’t even begun this learning process,” Zuckerberg said. “If they’re lifted then we’d start to learn what works. We’d take a lot of precautions to make sure that they [younger kids] are safe.””
  • Angry Birds: 200m downloads are the tip of the mobile gaming iceberg [guardian.co.uk] – “The Angry Birds phenomenon shows no sign of slowing up. Developer Rovio Mobile says that the franchise has now generated more than 200m downloads across all platforms, with its latest incarnation Angry Birds Rio racking up 35m since its launch in March. Depending which report you read, Rovio is now making preparations for an IPO sometime in the next two to three years, or planning to launch location-based services around the Angry Birds brand. The company’s executives also have a fairly transparent strategy of talking Rovio up as a potential Disney. Angry Birds is now a cross-platform success, with a big share of its last 100m downloads coming from Android devices …”
  • How Viral PDFs Of A Naughty Bedtime Book Exploded The Old Publishing Model [Fast Company] – Did the massive online distribution of a ‘pirated’ PDF lead to satirical kids book for adults _Go The Fuck To Sleep_ hitting the #1 spot on Amazon’s book sales list even before the official publication date? Looks like it.
  • NCIS, Idol Top TVGuide.com’s List of the Most Social Shows [TVGuide.com] – A TVGuide.com (of 1586 people) reports significant use of social media to discuss TV shows both before, during and after, although conversations during shows being the least active of these three periods. Twitter users are more likely to talk about the shows they are watching (50% of the time) than Facebook users (35% of the time). More results and graphs at the TVGuide website.(This survey was conducted in April 2011 on TVGuide.com, with 1,586 respondents. )
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Unless you’ve been buried under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the amazing successful Old Spice viral video marketing campaign (I’ve mentioned it here, and here). Since the original videos became popular, there have been a lot of parodies, but the recent “Smell Like a Monster” parody video from Sesame Street is just brilliant, so here you go:

PS If you really don’t get why that’s funny, re-watch it after you’ve check out the original ad:

(Which has now clocked over 20 million views on YouTube!) [Via Peter Black]

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So, Australia woke up confused and unhappy this morning, after a soul-destroying election resulting in no clear leadership, no future Prime Minister and the largest number of informal votes ever. Even more bizarrely, the clearest commentary on events so far, comes from everyone’s most mashed up dictator:

(If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, there are quite a few parodies of Hitler commentating on various events, using footage from the Downfall film.)

*sigh*

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Links for August 4th 2010 through August 10th 2010:

  • Women Set the Pace as Online Gamers [NYTimes.com] – “Although women are still slightly in the minority among global Web users, they are closing ground with men and, once connected, spend about two more hours online a month on average. [...] Women also outpace men in photo sharing and shopping, and in what may come as a surprise, gaming, favoring casual puzzle, card and board games. Female gamers over 55 spend the most time online gaming of any demographic by far and are nearly as common as the most represented group, males 15 to 24.”
  • Wikipedia’s Lamest Edit Wars [Information is Beautiful] – Fantastic infographic showing a timeline of some of Wikipedia’s silliest editing wars.
  • Omo GPS stunt opens doors for marketers [News.com.au] – Unilever Brazil has embedded 60 GPS trackers in OMO washing liquid bottles and then their teams have followed the pruchasers of these bottles home and given them prizes. Understandably, many privacy issues have been raised!
  • Does Facebook unite us or divide us? [CNN.com] – Brilliant, and a little confronting, TED talk from Ethan Zuckerman (senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society) looking at how globalisation might be a technical achievement, but not a social or mediated one (“cosmopolitan globalisation”). We look to our own social networks, and they increasingly narrow our perspective rather than broadening it.
  • Update on Google Wave [Official Google Blog] – Google Wove: Wave development ceases, after users find it’s all too complicated.
  • CommBank app lets people snoop on your house [SMH] – House-pricing information is apparently available to the public generally, but there is a real sense of privacy invasion at work here: “There’s a brand new property app on the block that gives iPhone users detailed information on the value of any house they care to point their handset towards, but privacy experts warn it may not sit well with the neighbourhood watch. Detailing sales prices of 95 per cent of Australian homes, the free app has been launched by the Commonwealth Bank in a bid to deliver more immediate buying and selling information to the public as they are actually viewing properties, helping them to ward off rogue sellers who attempt to talk up property prices. Just by pointing an iPhone at a particular property, they will be able to see the last sale price of the property, and if the home is actually for sale, the app will bring up a listing from realestate.com.au with details such as home layout and pictures.”
  • Thunderous Bolt sensitive to parody [ABC The Drum Unleashed] – Jason Wilson weighs in on fake Twitter profiles in the wake of Andrew Bolt’s angry denouncement of (fake) himself: “Online fakery is something that draws on different strands in online and offline cultural history. Apart from drawing on early online examples like Fake Steve Jobs, Twitter faking has links with political impersonation, writing techniques like pastiche, and it also has some relationship to genres like fan fiction. After all, the best fakes don’t just go after their targets with blunt instruments, they create a narrative world for the fake persona to inhabit …”
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