Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Youtube & Facebook

Now that the internet is more popular than ever, anyone can post whatever he or she wants on whatever websites he or she wants. For example, Youtube is an enormously popular website featuring videos with various topics uploaded by its users. Some of these videos are reproductions of television shows or movies, which violate copyright laws; some are comedy, music, etc. videos that are filmed and edited by the users themselves; and some are video blogs, which are essentially just people filming themselves talking about their thoughts. Recently some of the videos on this website have become interactive. While watching an interactive video, one is presented with options of which video to watch next to continue on with the story plot. For example, the very first interactive video on Youtube is called “Interactive Card Trick,” which starts with a man presenting six cards (1). The viewer then chooses the card he or she likes best, and the man shuffles the cards and puts them on the screen in a position so that the viewer can only see the back of the cards. Then the viewer clicks whichever card they think is theirs and is redirected to a new video, in which the man takes away the card that the viewer clicked on, and reveals the remaining five. When all the cards are completely revealed, the viewer is astounded to see that the card they liked in the beginning is not in the pile.

In order to determine whether or not this is truly interactive, we need to know what interaction is. It can be defined in the dictionary as a “mutual or reciprocal action or influence,” meaning that one action prompts another (2). With that in mind, we can agree that these videos are indeed interactive, because the man’s action of presenting the cards prompts the viewer to click on one of them, and that action prompts a new video relating to the card that was chosen. More and more of this type of videos are being uploaded onto Youtube, and they seem to be very popular, judging by the fact that the card trick video alone has been viewed over 7.7 million times. However, not only are interactive videos on Youtube a success, social networking sites are also taking over the internet. These websites, similar to Youtube, allow people to create an account and post their opinions on anything, or hold conversations with their friends, as well as people they do not actually know. The significance of these videos and websites is remarkable because they have severely changed the way our society functions in terms of social interaction, and the interactive videos have the potential to change cinema.

Youtube user SMP Films has created a video entitled “Choose Your Path – Find Sparta,” which is made up of sixty-three videos total, about a man who comes home to realize that his cat Sparta is missing (3). Comparable to Cup of Death, in which the reader has to choose his or her path to find the bowl, the viewer of this video chooses which video to watch next, depending on which room he or she wants to search, or which piece of furniture to look under. In the first video, the man says that the last time he saw his cat, “he was hiding in the clothes hamper with my underwear on his head.” This piece of information might be a clue, or it might be to throw off the viewer. The video then goes on to present the option of searching the office, the living room, the bathroom, or the bedroom. Each of these options takes the viewer to a new video, in which the man does what the viewer chooses. Depending on what the viewer chooses, the video may or may not end with the man finding the cat. This video is important because the viewer is taking part in the story. When the viewer, reader, etc. has a role in the story, they are likely to feel more engaged and interested in what is happening. It makes them feel vital to the plot, and without them the story would be different. In a way, the viewer, reader, etc. makes the story without literally making it. The same concept is seen when parents tell stories to their children. Most often the children will interject their own ideas into the story, regardless of whether or not it helps the storyline. For example, an upcoming movie called “Bedtime Stories” starring Adam Sandler is about a man (Sandler) who tells stories to his niece and nephew, but they interrupt him to create their own versions of the story. The difference with this movie, though, is that what the children say comes true. However, that was not the children’s intention, but the movie is a presentation of the children’s want to be part of the story, much like the viewers of the interactive videos. Now that these videos are becoming more popular, cinema as we know it has the potential to move toward this format. In a way, with DVDs, it has already begun. Not available on VHS, there are menus and categories that viewers can interact with, and on some children’s DVDs there are games that they can play, such as the “Madagascar” DVD, in which the player helps the penguins escape. However, this is different because it does not drive the plot of the movie, although it is an uprising of interaction in videos. With the popularity of interactivity on Youtube, it is likely that Hollywood filmmakers will begin to use this technique to draw viewers to their own shows and reshape movies, because their audiences will be more engaged in it.

Interaction, though, is found in other places on the internet, such as social networking websites. In the past few years these types of websites have taken over the younger generations, especially teenagers, in that now these teens no longer need to call their friends or meet with them to talk. These websites allow anyone to create an account and instantly connect with millions of people if they wish to do so. In reality, most people have a relatively small number of friends and acquaintances, but on these sites people tend to have hundreds or thousands of friends, including people from other states and countries who they have never met. Two of the most popular social networking sites available in the United States, which happen to be competitor companies, are Facebook and Myspace. When first created in 2003 Myspace was an instant sensation. It quickly drew millions of users, reaching 100 million accounts on August 9, 2006 (3). Its apparent success prompted other websites, including Facebook, which has since become even more popular than Myspace.

The interactive perks of Facebook include adding friends, writing on walls, inviting people to events, and holding private conversations via message, along with many others. “Friending,” as it is commonly called, is the act of requesting a friendship with another person. That subsequent person then has the option of accepting or declining the request, depending on how they feel about the requester. Often times, though, the requester may be someone the requested does not know, who seeks their friendship merely because they live nearby or they like the person’s picture, and often times the requested accepts these friend requests from strangers to boost their friend count. Each Facebook user has a wall, on which anyone can write whatever they want, to start a conversation, say hello, or post any random piece of information, etc. The person who receives these wall posts can reciprocate the post and write back on the first person’s wall. This type of interaction, though slower than speaking to one another, is a severely popular form of communication among the younger generation. It has dramatically changed how people communicate with their friends. The act of sitting at a computer and typing and clicking the mouse is much more satisfying to people now, probably because of the rise in obesity and laziness in this country, than is the act of walking or driving to a friend’s house or straining their voice by using the telephone. However, laziness may not be the only reason people prefer Facebook to face-to-face friendly interaction. On Facebook, users are able to hold conversations with multiple people at a time while surfing the web, or watching videos on Youtube, or whatever they desire to do. Another interactive perk, which encourages face-to-face interaction, is that Facebook users are able to create events, such as birthday parties or movie nights, and send invitations to their friends. These events, unless set to private, are shown on their friends’ news feeds, which is a list of that user’s friends’ activities. This is another way that this website is interactive, because when anyone does something on the website, their friends can see their actions and decide whether or not to respond. For instance, if an event is created, they can choose to attend the event or not; if someone comments on a picture, they can choose to reply to what that comment says; or if someone posts a note they can choose to read it or not; and there are hundreds of other actions that can be done using the news feed. Sometimes, though, users do not want their conversations broadcasted to each of their friends, so they have the option of using messages. These are private messages sent between two users, or if desired they can be sent to more than one person at a time, but regardless they will not be shown in the news feed. Facebook’s interactivity is so popular that it has surpassed Myspace’s popularity. In June of 2008, it attracted 132.1 million new users all over the world (4). Because social networking is so common these days, interaction has shifted more towards these kinds of websites, and less towards physical interaction between friends.

In order to keep up with the trends, Facebook has added a new application called Facebook Mobile, so that anyone can access their Facebook accounts from their cell phones. Any notifications they get, such as a wall post or a message, prompt their cell phone to ring, so that they are instantly notified, rather than waiting to find out when they check their account later. Users can do almost everything Facebook offers on their phones that they can do on their computer, such as write on walls, send messages, poke their friends, and even upload pictures. However, this application works best for smart phones, like the Blackberry or Iphone.

Interactive videos and websites are much more frequented by younger users than older users, because the younger generations grew up with these technologies and are accustomed to it, whereas the older generations are less knowledgeable, in most cases, about how to use these sites. One reason younger people like the videos better than older people do, could be because as people grow older they tend to become less creative and imaginative, and the interactive videos are all about creating your own story with what you’re given. Also, as people grow older, usually they become more respectful towards other people. These websites, especially Youtube, allow the users to say anything they want without feeling remorse for being disrespectful or intentionally hurtful toward someone, or something that person said or did.

Because of these new interactive videos and social networking websites, societies have changed. Social interaction is no longer a visual/audio experience, and film is no longer strictly one storyline. When people become interested in these types of videos, the desire for them will grow, and eventually filmmakers might turn toward making these videos into blockbuster productions. Websites such as Facebook will continue to expand into even greater sites that allow more interaction between friends, and this internet craze will not cease to prosper.

Works Cited.
(1) http://www.youtube.com/user/werneroi
(2) http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/interaction
(3) http://mashable.com/2006/08/09/myspace-hits-100-million-accounts/
(4) http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2396

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

I'm not clear on what your overall purpose or intention is here. Clearly you are interested in interactivity on the internet, but I don't say any overall argument here beyond the level "interactivity exists on the internet." You do have more particular arguments which emerge, especially toward the end - e.g., "old people are stupid and young people are mean" (ok, I oversimplify, but the argument was pretty problematic to begin with), but how these particular arguments fit in to the paper as a whole isn't clear to me.

Let's take a more particular moment. You discuss the phenomenon of interactive videos on youtube, then claim "When the viewer, reader, etc. has a role in the story, they are likely to feel more engaged and interested in what is happening. It makes them feel vital to the plot, and without them the story would be different. In a way, the viewer, reader, etc. makes the story without literally making it."

Ok. This is definitely an argument, but you phrase it passively. You say nothing about how *you* are impacted as a reader. Do *you* find these interactive videos about the cat to be compelling and interesting material? If so, write about that. If not, don't claim that generic readers will be mesmerized when you aren't. Some of your subsequent claims - for instance, that Hollywood will be interactive - are interesting, but you don't detail them. If interactivity is so powerful, then why haven't CYOA books become more than a niche for kids? What makes youtube different, or what makes the future Hollywood different?

Because you don't clarify your main argument, and because you move rapidly from sub-argument to sub-argument, I am never clear on where your focus is, where your interests are, on what is really supposed to *matter* to a reader here?

I thought the facebook section had two problems.
1) It was less interesting - less argumentative - than the youtube section.
2) It has no relationship that I can see to the youtube section. It's almost as if you're writing two different papers.

Overall: You need to focus first, last, and always on what you're really trying to say. What do you want the reader to believe (other than what they already knew or believed) after reading this?