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The Lavender, the bad and the disgraceful

06/06/2010

Inspired by the title of my mandatory design blog, here is a quick exploration of handlebar moustaches before I hand this blog over:

Lavender

Nick Cave

Gene Shalit

Bad

Rollie Fingers

Tom Selleck aka. Magnum PI aka. The Hairy One With the Baby

Disgraceful

Jesse Hughs

How could I resist posting a second image?

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I Wish I was Interested in Vegetable Gardening

06/06/2010

“We can blog on anything? ANYTHING we want?”
“Anything.”

That's my kind if vegetable garden

Oh if only I had of known then.
If only I had of known the word “niche” would be thrown around a hell of a lot; I probably would have chosen something different.

I’ll admit it. I’m an idiot. I daresay my attempt to be original has backfired and made what should be a fun, enjoyable task rather difficult.

I’ll divide this reflection up into a series of subtitled sections. Just a quick word of warning: the content under each subtitle might not necessarily be relevant to each respective section, but I thought up the titles today and love them too much to let them go.

The Birth of a Cynic

Fortunately, I a. have always been cynical and b. did not initially approach this blog with the attitude of a cynic. On the contrary, I was very keen indeed to start it. But the fact that the horizons were so broad didn’t really help.

While in theory, I’m absolutely keen on any piece of assessment that allows students to be creative and engage with what they are interested in; in reality, it was like dropping a fat kid off at a food court with only five dollars to spare.

My blog started out all well and good, I played around with WordPress, chose a background, was very impressed by my self-professed originality of my idea. I tested all the themes, played around with the widgets and planned to create a Twitter page.

They say no blog is an island, but for while, my blog was not about networking, but it was my own little Myspace page. I found myself choosing different shades of Lavender for link hover fonts and borders and clicking preview faster than the pages could load.

Navigation and understanding WordPress itself was fortunately not at all that complicated. I had began many failed attempts at blogging before and understood the concepts of ‘sidebars’, ‘widgets’, ‘blogrolls’ and ‘tag clouds’. Besides, if I messed something up (an inevitability) I wasn’t too panicked about it and just thought, “I have months to do this!”

But how wrong I was. The novelty of blogging wore off, the semester passed and I wasted time watching and illegally downloading television shows. Maintaining the blog got difficult, and when things are difficult, I give up easily. This is not a fault of the subject or the assessment; it is a fault of my own.

When was I supposed to find the bloody time and energy to maintain my blog? I was stuck in a rut, would Lavender be what I had set out for it to be, or would it be yet another ‘ironically’ humours mockery of mankind?

I gave up and raised my hand in tutes announcing I would not keep my blog and it was a waste of my time; I had better things to do that blog all day.

The Rise of an Academic

Surprisingly enough, when I actually sat down with the Net Comm reader and read some of the articles I was all of a sudden inspired. The casual tone of blogging allowed me to approach my assessment in a semi-academic but informal way.

I was stoked and grateful for a chance to say things like “you, (yes YOU, tutor and lecturer)” and make references to academics using images captioned, “Mr Lessig is not happy.”

Who knew when “therefore” needn’t be used in every second sentence of academic analysis, it could be fun?

I was semi-shocked to find I actually didn’t mind doing the academic posts and was more willing to spend time on them than posts on my chosen topic. After all that reading, all I really wanted was to discuss them and blog about blogging.

The Fall of an Ego

My outside-of-class and in class discussions have brought me to a conclusion I’m fairly sure is fact.

Bloggers are obsessed with stats.

Seen I gave you temporary control of my blog and hence, privileged access to my dashboard, refer to my stats. I thought they were poor and I had a temporary, “Why bother with all the non-academic stuff if no ones going to read this anyway?” tantrum/ meltdown.

Instead of actually blogging properly, I focused all my attention to my assessment or ‘mandatory’ blogs.

However, there was one pitfall, and that came from the repeatedly persistent word niche. It killed me. And brought me down.

Niche was the persevering issue throughout my Net Comm blogging experience. Okay I get it; I chose an odd topic I mistakenly thought I was interested in. Isn’t one post about niches enough?

I was sick of trawling through blogs that mocked homosexuality. I was constantly reminded of my poorly made decision to wrongly suppress my girly side and attempt to deny myself the pleasure of researching fashion blogs.

The Narcissist Strikes Back

In spite of my poorly judged decision to blog about ‘Lavender” (a conception that I feel might not actually exist outside of my own head), I am unfortunately; definitely narcissistic enough to think I have something to contribute to the blogsphere.

Though I do not plan to continue with Lavender, I have by no means given up on blogging altogether. In fact, this has encouraged me to go back to my old blogs about movies and fashion and other over-blogged topics and try to restart and continue them.

Geert Lovink’s piece ‘The Nihilist Impulse’ (available in the reader you gave us, so I doubt this mention warrants a reference) was a very enjoyable read. At first, I tried to convince myself it was because I agreed with Lovink’s point of view and cynically dismissed blogging as an egoistic forum and nihilist-making machine; but I have now come to accept the truth. I am the narcissitic blogger. I have the nihilist impulse and I don’t care.

Hell, let’s just say it: blogging is fun.

Whether its about aromas which are named the same as their colour, Cricket Website Awards, vegetable gardening or makeup.

Blogging is damn cool.

Look Pinocchio – No Strings

06/05/2010

I like to think I’m extremely defiant, but usually I just do what I’m told without questioning.

So when I was told to go the Creative Commons site and click on licences, I did. As instructed, I went to the application that would allow me to create my own licence and voila; it looked like this:

image

According to the Creative Commons site, I have created an

Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
cc by-nc-sa

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

View License Deed | View Legal Code

I patted myself on the back for a job well done; I had created my very first Creative Commons licence. But I was still baffled by the concept of it all.

Look Pinocchio - no strings!

My poor little brain failed to wrap itself around the logic of something that was “free”. After all, if there’s anything we’ve come to learn is that nothing comes for free. Downloading movies, music, TV shows off the Internet is free, but illegal.

Could it be that Creative Commons let me create a legally binding licence for Lavender, no strings attached?

To explain what I have now come to understand about Creative Commons, allow me to introduce you to Lawrence Lessig.

Mr Lessig was frustrated by a big ‘C’ in a little circle, a “species of something called intellectual property”. [1] Intellectual property law, as Lessig sees it, facilitates media companies’ ambitions to monopolise creative works. Artists, authors, auteurs and the likes signed their works over to media companies to be distributed, and in doing so, signed away their rights to their own creations.[2]

Mr Lessig is not happy

In establishing Creative Commons, Lessig allowed authors to reclaim control over their creative works and determine what can and cannot be done with them. Tediously, though a tad effectively, Lessig draws analogy between creative works and public places.

Adopting a CC licence to Lavender is hence like a street being closed. Streets are usually free to walk on, and when restrictions occur, these restrictions are “neutral and general”.[3]

A somewhat Woodstock approach to creative works, Lessig quotes Thomas Jefferson’s analogy of ideas to fire and conclusion that, “Inventions cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”[4] Acknowledging that “what Jefferson thought could not be captures, can in cyberspace”[5], Lessig and his fellow Creative Commons advocates see CC as an appropriation and amalgamation of copyright law and Jefferson’s hippie-esque outlook.

It all seems good and well, CC has kept up with modern times and shot a little control out in the black-hole that is cyberspace.

But therein lies the rough. Marc Garcelon points out that Creative Commons “remains obscure… due to its limitation to the internet… the legal complexities of the position it advocates and the major media companies’ refusal to present such positions to the public.”[6]

After all, it took me a shamefully long time and ample research to even get to this point.

What the eutopic idea of Creative Commons also seems to neglect is the concept of the producer. Despite its intentions, CC ultimately fails to take into account the profession of cultural production, disregarding an “economic model for supporting cultural production.”[7]

This line of reasoning can be elaborated by questioning Lessig’s take on ‘rivalrous’ and ‘nonrivarous’ resources. Rivalrous resources are those which are “limited in relation to potential users” while “by definition, a nonrivalrous resource cannot be overused.”[8] Where an ‘unlimited’ resource implies ‘can be copied’, CC fails to consider the almost inevitability of owner exploitation of the cultural producer.

In adhering to Creative Commons, the producer waives exclusive rights for the media to collect and distribute a reproduction of their works and statutory rights in the producer’s name.

Can something really be given away, completely free without retaliation or strings?

The main reason I made a CC licence has been made clear: I had to.
But aside from it making my page look pretty, why did I decide to keep it?

I guess it’s better to have something than nothing at all. I’m happy for any epiphanies which may have been voiced on Lavender to be publicly circulated and shared, as long as I don’t get gypped by some big-shot monopoly.

I’m all for throwing my ideas out to the commons. Its really an issue of whether they care enough to catch them.


[1] Lessig, Lawrence. (2005). ‘Open Code and Open Societies,’ in Joseph Feller et al (eds.) Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software. MIT Press: Cambridge. Pg. 351
[2] Anna Nimus (2006). Copyright, Copyleft & the Creative Anti-Commons. (Online). Available: subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors0/nimustext.html
[3] Lessig, Lawrence. (2005). Pg. 352
[4] Jefferson, Thomas. (1813), in Lessig, Lawrence. (2005). Pg. 353
[5] Lessig, Lawrence. (2005). Pg. 354
[6] Marc Garcelon. (2009). ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’ in New Media & Society. 11.8:1322
[7] Armin Medosch. (2008). Paid In Full: Copyright, piracy and the real currency of cultural production. (Online). Available: http://www.thenextlayer.org/node/428
[8] Lessig, Lawrence. (2002). Pg. 95

That’s What She Said

06/04/2010

Behold, Lavender’s first ever comment:

“I agree tetris is a great game”

Thanks, Fag McFaggotry!

As sure as I am that Mr McFaggotry is an inconsiderate, mocking friend (who still remains adamant in denying his secret identity), I was thrilled to open an email from WordPress announcing I have one new comment for moderation on my blog.

Did I care what it said, whether it was relevant, or appropriate?
Hell no – someone had commented!

A couple of weeks later I received another email informing me Lavender had a third comment. Again, I approved it straight away without reading it.

People of the world, listen up because at least two people have viewed this page and felt it worthy of half a minute out of their bustling, busy lives to drop in their two cents worth.

Lavender had three whole comments, and that was that. Despite its 200-odd views, no one else has bothered since.

If what Lovink says is indeed the case, that “it is even unwise to write a comment,”[1] I wish there were more “unwise” bloggers viewing my blog.

For amateur bloggers (like myself), comments are a very public indication of how popular a blog is, and if “blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self” [2] it is also an idication of how popular the blogger is.

Even outside of blogging, comments are a measure of popularity. A Facebook status declaring:

“OH MY GOD I HATE MY LIFE. THIS IS BULLSHIT, WHY DOESN’T HE UNDERSTAND ME?”

warrants an influx of comments. But if such a status was void of comments, even one with a, “shut-up-and-please-refrain-from-further-attention-seeking-pursuits” gist, a lone, commentless statuses would suggest, “I am a loser and no one really cares”.

There is an online reputation to maintain, and what better way to do so than to avoid the embarrassment of a “(0) comments” display by simply turning comments off?[3]

Despite claims the internet facilitates Habermas’ ambitious “Public Sphere” and allows the “one-to-many relationship between mass media and consumers” to be “supplemented by many-to-many and peer-to-peer relationships”[4] I tend to, be it cynically, disagree.

Lovink states, “Most bloggers would admit that it is not their aim to foster public debate,” and instead of commenting, it is “much safer to post the remark on your own blog.”[5] From my (rather limited) experience with blogs and blogging, heated public debate is indeed a rare specimen. The idea of a public sphere utopia created on the internet is undermined by Carl Trueman’s observation:

“Where everyone has a right to speak, everyone ends up thinking they have the right to be heard; and when everyone in general thinks they have a right to be heard, then you end up with a situation where nobody in particular is listened to.”[6]

Though there are indeed online forums for public debate, blogging is perhaps, not one of them. Rather than it being a many-to-many or peer-to-peer relationship, bloggers’ self appointed importance has created an “almighty-blogger-to-nerdy-niche-loving-minions” relationship.

I would love to provide an example from my niche, but as mentioned in A Shorter Head, blogs in the “humour/ homosexual/ gay fail” niche seem to have trouble attracting comments (I wonder why).

While I realise I’m trailing on a massive tangent from the topic in questions and niche, actually answering the set question and discussing an “interesting and provocative comments thread in my niche” would defeat the whole purpose of this blog’s argument.

Instead, I’m going to elaborate on the recently established an “almighty-blogger-to-nerdy-niche-loving-minions” relationship theory using Tattoologist.

I do like this blog very much. The pictures are cute and it’s nice to look at etcetera; yet I can’t help but think the blogger has an, “I am god of this blog, what you ask for, I have the power to give you” mentality.

Instead of simply replying to her comments, she posts a very public reply by dedicating entire blogs to her comment responses which she calls Formspring Lovers.

She could just post images her readers ask for and let it be, but that’s not enough. At the end of the post (that’s right, click on the link, it takes you there), she does a little, “You asked for it and I delivered, aren’t I a great blog mother?” spiel.

She is the blogger, you are mere commenters. There are no ‘peers’ in this relationship. It is the God of Tattoologist, and the insignificant you.

On a quick, final note, I did comment myself, and I did get a spam comment.

I commented myself because it’s a wacky thing I do, and this is what the spam comment said:

“12345678910111666768697071727374757677787980818283848586878889
90919293949596979899100101102103104105106107108109110111112113114
Chrysler Neon Srt, Grill Neon – 451.codebluehacks.orgChrysler Neon Srt, neon parts
removal neon problems led flex substitute for neon chevrolet silverado 3500…”

That spam comment goes for about 3 more pages.

Considering the rarity of Lavender actually receiving comments, I’m not fussed with allowing comments and the “host of problems” I might come across. I would be absolutely stoked if this blog was popular enough to have to face the who-ha of spending a “great deal of time policing the posts, weeding out spam and trolls, and answering endless technical questions from registrants.”[7]

Bring on the comments, bitches.


[1] Lovink, Geert. A quote from the task sheet you gave us whose original source I can’t seem to find anywhere.
[2] Lovink, Geert. (2007). ‘Blogging, the Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture. Routledge: London. Pg. 28
[3] Ibid, pg. 28
[4] Russell, A et al. (2008). ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’ in Kayz Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics. MIT Press: Cambridge. Pg. 43
[5] (Refer to footnote [1])
[6] From Lovink, Geert. (2007). Pg. 27
[7] Lovink, Geert. (2007). Pg. 28

Moustaches of the Handlebar Sort

06/01/2010

The blog you are currently viewing did not used to look this cool.
I changed my mind over, and over.
This is what this blog could look like:

To be completely honest with you, the idea from this blog came about firstly with a picture.
This might come as a shock to you, but you have been deceived.
I am not the devoted blogger I initially made myself out to be.
This is a blog for university assessment.

When I sat down (as we do) wondering what I would blerrgh about that I would be able to maintain interest in and avoid getting arrested, I trowelled through “My Pictures”, I found this:

This picture makes me happy.
It’s rather soothing.
So I thought, how perfect!
I used it for my blog.

While I was still without a clue on what I wanted to write about, I had an image to guide me. And so, somehow connecting the scattered dots in my head, I came up with the concept of Lavender.

You might have noticed that the only place this image now appears is on this very blog post. Yes, I got rid of the muse-esque, inspiring image.

Why is it that the image no longer exists as the centrepiece of this blog?

As the blog developed, so did the idea; and I later, somehow, came to the (delusional) conclusion that the image was no longer right for the blog; the image had rendered useless because it doesn’t make the blog cool.

After all, as Alan Lui suggests, good form (a secret intellectual word for ‘design which has a function’) is “not just decorative, but aggressively functional”[1]. My image no longer had a function, no matter how happy it initially made me to look at it.

I’d like to think that my current super-cool layout is rather functional. The header is an image of lavender while the background is (I like to think) black, strong, bold and masculine. My intention was to convey a sense of irony and paradox while lookin’ damn good.

However, it took me an embarrassingly lengthy session in front of the computer to figure out what I wanted. Only after hours of “previewing” and “activating” every template available in WordPress, did I make my final choice.

You may be shocked to hear it, but Lavender is not my first experience with web design. An avid MySpace user when I was 12; I spent every moment of my free time updating my profile and altering its html. I first started with very amateur layouts, ones Olia Lialina[2] uses as examples, ones like this:

Then, as I slowly started to get the hang of it, I took a more minimalist approach, keeping the default layout, changing little things but essentially keeping the air of “I’m too cool to noticeably change my html.”

I hoped that my using the default MySapce template, I could set myself apart from other 12-year-old MySpace users. In doing so, just like I hope aesthetics of this blog says something about it, I hoped my rebellious default layout choice spoke volumes about the kind of person I am.

The way I see it, using design as a marker of distinction is not completely beyond communicating information. The function of form is to communicate information, and that information is what makes a site so distinctive in the first place.

While I loathe to admit Lavender isn’t the quite the James Dean of blogs, I must concede. My hat’s off to you, The Art of Manliness.

I strongly advise you click on that link. Lavender lover, assessor, fellow student and all. This site is so goddamn cool. It’s the Macbook Air of blogs.

The content is made fairly clear though the form. So in Lui’s sense of the word, this blog is cool because its design is not useless.[3] The navigation bar is easy to follow, just by looking at the header; we get a pretty clear idea of what the blog is about and the background is distinctive but unimposing. Everything serves a purpose.

And in terms of cool in the purely visual, non-academic sense of the word, see for yourself.

I’d like to think Lavender looks as cool as The Art of Manliness and that my blog is the handlebar mustache of blogs (that is, just as aesthetically arousing). But if design is indeed “a style one…produces, not a style one just consumes,”[4] I did not, in fact, design this blog at all. I merely teamed a template with a header image, selected some colours (this being one of the few, if not only, wordpress theme which allowed me to do so) and deceptively dubbed it “mine”. Plus the widgets. I chose a few widgets and dropped ‘em where I wanted.

But let’s not get too cynical. It is unlikely that someone else will decide that teaming this particular ‘theme’ with the same header image and identical positioning of widgets will serve the same function. So I shall claim this combination, label it ‘original’ and ‘distinctive’ and be very proud of it indeed.


[1] Lui, Alan. (2004). ‘Information is Style’ in The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information. University of Chicago Press: Chicago. Pg. 196
[2] Liliana, Olia. (2009). ‘Vernacular Web 2’. Merz Akademie: Stuttgart.
[3]Lui, A, pg. 195
[4] Ibid, pg. 195

Temporary

05/26/2010
tags:

Once I figure out how to upload videos, I’ll do just that.
For now, here are quotes from How I met Your Mother, Season 5 Episode 24.

“Kids? No! The rule is no kids until you’re 45. Do you ever read my blog? It’s gotten a lot better!”

Marshall: He’s just a guy we know who has a really lame blog.
Barney (pretending to be foreign): I hear it’s getting better. I mean…. what is blog?
Marshall: It’s just something that was cool eight years ago.
Barney: Still cool. Still sounds pretty cool.

“I would be interested in reading some of these opinions in blog form…”

That was bad. But worth it.
I promise I’ll try and upload the video segments soon, once I fix my computer illiteracy.

It should also lead on the the creative commons/ pirate bay related blog which will be interesting.

More Frills Please

05/26/2010

There are more frills than at a Mardi Gras.
But these men have women falling at their feet.
Respect.