Monthly Archives: September 2013

Viral Videos – The Thumbnail Appeal

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When dealing with videos before someone even watches it, the viewer looks at the thumbnail for the video. This is a first impression on viewers that can make a video stand out, whether the video is part of an already popular channel or a one-off upload. It all depends on the appeal of the thumbnail people use for the videos that can attract new/more views.

Looking at the following thumbnails for the YouTube channel Shep689 there is a significant increase in the amount of views for one video compared to the others:

viral videos shep689
Shep689 channel is a video-blogging (vlogging) channel; the videos are about the lives of the people involved. The thumbnails represent a part of what happened in the video. So why has one video seen a massive increase compared to the others? Looking at other channels like the sex appeal FailArmy and other fail/win compilations have as their thumbnails, or FreddieW with his action-packed, “what is happening” video thumbnails.

viral videos compilation

viral videos freddie

The thumbnail – acting as an insight into the video appeals to individuals. From expressing a part of a story there is this idea that viewers are more likely to watch something that shows something – sex appeal, violence, danger, an emotion or even the potential event of something happening. Going from a “that looks interesting” so I will watch it, to a “I wonder what will happen” the thumbnail of a video has a significant impact on selling the video.

Understanding Processing: My hands-on learning

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Much like anything else I try to learn, I need to have a hands-on experience to learn what needs to be done. It is the most effective way for me to learn so Processing is no different.

I was given the following image and the code for how it was created, the task was to change the way it looked, simple enough –

MEDA102 no changeMEDA102 only a little bit of codeThe code had new functions (rileyDot, leWittlines and hesseDot), the functions are 3 custom designed functions that represented A LOT more code. They are called after the artist that created the image. The black dots, the lines added the dots of colour are from 3 different Artists. With only looking at the code above I changed some things –

MEDA102 little changeLooking at the image the changes are:
– leWitt lines changed to white
– background changed to Red
– A rileyDot was moved and both were enlarged
– hesseDot went from a single row to filling the entire screen, the shade of black was changed and they was moved closer together to overlap.

Simple enough!

Next came the code of what the custom functions represented – that was a lot more code and a lot more of a challenge. Here is the picture I ended up with and the code I ended up with. Can you spot the changes?

MEDA102 big changeNow the code:

MEDA102 code behind final changeI enjoyed this exercise and I am looking forward to incorporating code into my final assessment.

Hacking for a Cause

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What does it mean to be a hacker – someone who fights for civil liberties over the World Wide Web, through the means of showing mainstream users what the people with power, who are controlling what people consume, are hiding. In front of the computer, typing on a keyboard sits the cyber-activists bringing face to the issues a majority of people are unaware of.

Only recognizable by a mask, a group called Anonymous, stand for the freedom of information, promote decentralization of information and utilize the power of a group rather than the individual. Judging only by their ability to hack and not by age, race, sex and position, Anonymous stand united, with the power to hack large organizations the threat of anonymous is something to know of, shown by their slogan “Information is free, We are anonymous, We are legion, We do not forgive, We do not forget, Expect us”.

Being a “hacktivist” comes at its own risks – shown by this Northampton article, the event of hacking big businesses PayPal, MasterCard and Visa was seen as an illegal act and the people caught stood trial and jailed for “conspiring to impair the operation of computers”. Though people were caught, named and imprisoned, Anonymous still stands and continues to hack. Anyone can be Anonymous and represent what Anonymous represents. Anonymous is confined to a physical space or presence; they are everywhere and can be anyone.

While the extreme hacking of big businesses isn’t ideal for a lot of people there are ways to show support and understanding for what hacktivists are trying to represent.

F.A.T Lab is a group of hackers that want to make people aware of what they do and what is going on on the internet. By using popular culture, mixing and changing it to create Art, F.A.T Lab provides to impact the way people understand the power of the World Wide Web and understand its potential when limitations are not enforced.

Computer coding – summary and analysis

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In the past 3 weeks we have explored how algorithms and computation impacts art. Week 5 introduced us to the world of Processing. Processing is a type of programming language that is open source and an integrated part of computation art. Our task was to create an image using pseudo-code and understand key concepts and elements that go into making a code. These steps being: objects, properties, methods (or functions), method parameters, loops, loops within loops, the program entry point, and its exit point.

Understanding the basic functions of Processing it was time to put our knowledge into practice. Given the exercise of:

  1. Find out how to create different shapes and lines (e.g. square, circles, rectangles, triangles, eclipses etc.) and the different properties (fill, colour, dimensions etc.) by looking up the Processing Reference (http://www.processing.org/reference/) and Tutorials (http://www.processing.org/tutorials/).
  2. Find out how to fill the shapes/ change colour.
  3. Choose one of the artworks below and create it in Processing.
    1. Bridget Riley’s Encircling Discs with Black.
    2. Piet Mondrian’s Composition in Red, Blue and Yellow
    3. Kazimer Malevich’s Self-portrait in Two Dimensions
    4. Damien Hirst’s Controlled Substances

Choosing Piet Mondrian’s Composition in Red, Blue and Yellow we ended up with:
squares

Though this was the first exercise we came across, there are principles of coding that we need to take into account. These Principles being:

  1. Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) – code should have a singular representation
  2. Test as you write – deals with efficiency in the long-run
  3. Reduce dependencies as much as possible – specify specific connections so chunks of code aren’t largely dependable
  4. Validate your data – being able to not break down when fed “garbage” data
  5. Handle errors nicely – give a reason when an error has occurred
  6. Keep it simple – so it is easy to construct and maintain
  7. Tidy up after yourself – when an error/bug occurs fix it, don’t leave it for another time
  8. Learn new tools
  9. Maintain your flow
  10. Make your code unsurprising
  11. Don’t program by coincidence
  12. Code entopy

(source – http://www.hurricanesoftwares.com/most-important-coding-principles/)

Week 6 was specific to the idea of how loops effect codes and what can be changed so drastically through minimizing the code. Using the “for” command which related to repetitions, iterations and loops we simplified the code and made it easier to use. Using a compressed picture and showing how the “for” command works we get the following images:

Pikachu Random(count x row x 51) Pikachu background change Pikachu shade black to whiteThe only line of code that was changed was “tint” in each code.

“Tint” is a lexicon of the processing language. “Lexicon” is defined as – the vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge. Regarding Processing – processing is the language and the popular lexicons would be: size, fill, for, if, int, void, ellipse, rect, loop, float and tint.

Week 8 was about slit-scanning. This exercise was to explore the aesthetic dictated by slit-scanning. The exercise was to record a short video and insert it into the following code:

import processing.video.*;
Movie mov;
void setup() {
  size(950, 540);
  mov = new Movie(this, "/Users/kathgadd/Desktop/sample_code/bikePathed.mov");
  mov.loop();
}
// Display values from movie
int slitPosition = 0;
void draw() {
  loadPixels();
  if (mov.available() == true) {
    mov.read();
    mov.loadPixels();
    for (int j = 0; j < height; j++) {
        // copy the slit from movie into one column of screen image
        pixels[ (width * j) + slitPosition  ] =  mov.get(slitPosition, j);
    }
    slitPosition++; // move head across one column
    if ( slitPosition == width ) { noLoop(); } // make sure we stop at the end of the image!
  }
  updatePixels();

slit scanning 3

slit scanning codeslit scanning 2

Slit-scanning 1

By changing the parts of the code we can change the speed of the slit, when the slit occurs and even the repetition of the slit.

The artistic style of slit-scanning has been popularized by artist Daniel Crooks with his piece “Static No. 12”.

Object-orientated programming (OOP) approach is when values and statements are packaged into objects. Object-orientated approach “shifts the emphasis from passive elements acted on by statements to active elements, the object, interacting with their environment”. OOP lets you write a set of functions, then expand them in different direction without changing or copying them in any way

(source: http://www.cmi.univ-mrs.fr/~piar/REPORTS/CMI_M2_EDP_CS2.pdf)

Procedural and object orientated approachProcedural programming approach is when code is organized into small procedures that take some input, do something and then data comes out. The functions/procedures have no intrinsic relationship with the data used. Procedural program is used when needing specify the steps the program must take to reach the desired state.

(source: http://objectorientedcoldfusion.org/procedural-vs-object-oriented.html)

Viral Videos – Actionable

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There are videos on YouTube that go viral for a different reason compared to cute animals or funny sketches, these videos go viral because they have a message that promotes the viewer to do something – to take action. The action can be as small as sharing the video and promoting a change, clicking on a website to support something, or bring global attention to something that had been overlooked, much like the impact and effect KONY 2012 had on a global scale.

Videos portray action as a way to get things noticed and a way to enlighten people about issues, using the following viral video “PhoneBloks” I will explain some key points about why it went viral.

1. Relevance – [nearly] everyone has a smartphone and has similar complaints about the components of the smartphone.

2. The problem – people have stockpiles of out-dated technology that is no longer being used or has broken down. What can be done?

3. Questioning big business – the idea of “design technology that does not last” is a cash flow for big business, though has this always been the case and what can people do to stop forking out all this money? They can’t unless they create something better.

4. Solution – finding a solution that could revolutionize the amount of electronic waste that is produced by throwing out technology, this video comes up with a solution that makes sense to a viewer. Shown by each component of the phone is a different (detachable) block, the blocks connect to a base which connects everything together, with electrical signals traveling through the pins to get everything to work. If a block causes problems a simple detachment and replacement is all that is needed, instead of throwing out the entire phone.

5. The overall capabilities of the PhoneBloks – “A phone worth keeping” – selling point.

6. Action – the video asks for “your voice” to get this idea running and encourages people to help in making this idea possible, by sharing “your voice”.

The video has a great selling point in what it is trying to accomplish though it is a basic idea that is just an idea trying to become reality. The video promotes subtle action by crowd-sourcing interest in the phone and getting people to show support for it to be made to show potential creators of the PhoneBloks that people want it.

Individual control to crowd-sourcing – Utilizing Twitter

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“The weather reports keep announcing that the sky is falling, but here we are — millions of us — sitting around trying to invent new ways to talk to one another ” – Johnson 2009

Before the internet the only way to get news was through analog communication – radios, television and newspapers. The information being broadcasted and published would see these one-way information networks as a restraint for people who wanted to get news. People did not have any control for when they wanted to hear/watch the news, television and radio set specific times of day for when the news would be read and newspapers were no better being printed each day – the news people were given would not be relevant for long or people would have to wait days for a story that people wanted to find out. There was also the restriction about what news would be relevant or worthy to an audience – the people that controlled the news industry would control what news would be available to its audience.

Fast track to 2013 with the use of social media – the news people receive is instant – a 24 hour news cycle, not constrained by time, anyone can post news or information, not constrained by the tyrants of news industries. Though with all of this information comes a struggle for what information is needed, what pieces of information are factual and reliable, these changes caused an issue about what real journalism is, is social media destroying traditional journalism? Traditional journalism is still a viable career and a part of today – social media, Twitter for example is a source of information that journalists can use to help aggregate information and get stories.

The question around Twitter killing traditional Journalism has been proven incorrect Twitter and journalism and more than ever intertwined as a place for news and journalists. Twitter has become a place where new news stories appear from anywhere, the credibility of these stories is questionable and thus needs to be verified and proven factual. This verification can be proven by utilizing the aspects of Twitter – checking the tweet for hash-tags, to see if the potential story is being talked about by other people – by a having an aggregation of tweets with the same hash-tag. There could be photo/video evidence that is evident on the incident. Utilizing this information and knowing what can be a true story journalists are able to use Twitter as a source for gathering information from on-the-ground citizen-journalists that work together to get instant real-time information and organize methods in ways to help people those that are involved in disasters and to prevent people from becoming potential victims.

References:

Johnson, S. (2009). How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live.

Viral Videos – Identifiable and Relatable

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Looking at viral videos what is relatable and/or identifiable about the context of the video what makes it so appealing that people want to share it and talk about it? Let us have a look at a viral video and try and see what is relatable and identifiable about it. By relatable we mean something that can be connected to – usually through feelings, by identifiable we mean something that is worth our attention.

The following viral video was up loaded to YouTube on September 11, 2013, I am writing this blog post on September 16, 2013. Since the video got uploaded it has attained 8,082,477 views and is continuing to get more as I write this. The video is showing a surprise wedding proposal in a Home Depot with family and friends dancing to the tune of “Somebody loves you” by Betty Who.

There are a number of characteristics that work together to show why this video went viral:
1. Surprise – people like to see other people expressing emotions. Surprise is a basic human emotion, which I have explained in this past blog post.

2. The Wedding proposal – the ever loving moment between two people, it is a step nearly every loving couple will have, so why not get it recorded – so other people can compare or dream about how they want theirs.

3. Dancing – you’re either good at it or you’re not. A form of expression and interest to many that has been the main part in Hollywood films and has been a part of the most successful viral video, Psy’s “Gangnam Style”.

4. Music – is remarkable, music is all around us throughout life, people use it as a tool of comfort when feeling ups or downs, it is can be used to trigger memories of peoples past or set a scene for movies.

5. Raw emotion – the raw emotion on Spencer’s face appeals to how people would feel when watching, not knowing how things will turn out – living in the moment, type of deal. Feeling what someone else was feeling.

6. Gay marriage – a worldwide discussion that is identifiable and relatable to politics today. Marriage equality is a big issue in many countries and to have the display of love and affection that is shown in this video – this video may not change anyone’s mind, but shows dedication and interest in what same-sex couples would do to show their partner and the world that what they have is the same as what everyone else has.

Each aspect of this video works together to appeal to an audience, the high-energy dancing to the raw emotion, to the fact that it is a same-sex couple involved is relatable to people who watch it and would share it.

There are other aspects of this video that can also explain why it went viral – though are best mentioned in further posts.

Mass Amateurization – Popularizing mediocrity?

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Professional – defined as “A paid occupation – one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification”. Gone are the days where people have to get degrees and graduate tertiary education to become a part of an industry, the internet and its many social media platforms allows for anyone to write or produce anything they want, and it being displayed for everyone else on the internet provides an audience for that content. The idea that to be a professional on the internet has become blurred and an unnecessary step for many people and has caused an era of “Mass Amateurization”, brought to our attention by Henry Jenkins in this reading.

mass amateurization

Mass amateurization can be simply put as the contribution from people on the internet who produce content such as blogs, videos, music and who have seen success out of this content, which would be seen as absurd from someone who went the traditional, educational route. Popular websites known for being a medium for mass amateurisation would be YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia and WordPress.

The amount of traffic websites produce by visitors and contributors, there is an overwhelming influence on popularizing the content that is produced on these websites. Using YouTube as an example – the training and dedication that is needed to get an education in editing and filming is restrained by time and cost, while getting basic experience by editing and filming your own content and uploading it to YouTube you are getting that experience on your own time and leisure. The restrictions that come from industries has been changed to a mere effortless approach where it is up to the individual to do what they want and post what they want when they want to.

The easy-going effort put into amateur content is allowing for people to get a better experience from being a part of these websites and learning a part of what it takes to be in an industry. People who become professionals from mass amateurization, from the amount of people that contribute and are a part of the audience allows for some people to get paid – much like the Yogscast on YouTube.

The Yogscast started out as a couple of guys filming (video and audio) the games they play and uploading it onto YouTube, by continuing the filming and uploading of the videos they create, they have managed to make money from what they do. The amount of money they make has always been a private matter but speculation has always arisen – from $2000 to $2500 for every 3 million views, though the amount of pulling power they have from their devoted fans is shown when they raised $500,000 for their Kickstarter for producing their own game, or when they raised over $120,000 in 2011, and over $200,000 for Oxfam by live-streaming through December last year.

What the Yogscast has achieved and continues to achieve is quite rare compared to the amount of people that are users of YouTube. Considering the medium and revenue that the Yogscast collects is based around getting hits on the content they produce, they need to maintain a flow of content that appeals to their audience.

Image Source:

“Ugh…” http://cultureandcommunication.org/tdm/nmrs/fa1/tag/mass-amateurization/

Algorithms – Processing Practice

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Learning Processing is no easy task – unless you are force to, by it being a part of your University class, so while I continue to look at how processing uses algorithms to produce anything – let us have a look at some example of how repetition and variations are produced from processing, jumping straight into it seems to be the way to do it (well it’s the way I get told).

The following code is for a multiple random, coloured, Pikachu Picture:

//declare image object
PImage img;
// set up
void setup () {
// canvas size
size(500, 600);
background(255);
// Make a new instance of a PImage by loading an image file
img = loadImage (“/Users/jb523/Desktop/Pikachu.jpg”);
}

void draw () {
// Draw the image to the screen at coordinate (0,0)
for (int row = 0 ; row < 5 ; row = row + 1) {
for (int count = 0 ; count < 5 ; count = count + 1) {
tint(random(255), random(255), random(255));
image(img, count*100,row*120, 100, 120);
}
}
}

The indication of the line that starts with ‘tint’ indicates a random colour to each individual picture as well as changing the colour rapidly – below are 3 screenshots that show the change in colour – using only the process above:

Pikachu Random(255)

Each line represents a piece of information that tells the computer what to do – the lines are broken into a command and a function. If we just change the code we can change the appearance of how we want something to look.

What if we wanted a gradual change from black to anything, going from the top left to the bottom right using colour as a transition, we would get:

Pikachu Random(count x row x 51)The only change made was in the “tint” command, instead of random colours per each picture we made the process start at black and multiple by a number to get another colour.

Continuing the change of the “tint” we can make the tint all one colour, shown:

Pikachu background change
We can even change the columns to individual colours while using grey-scale to get to white.

Pikachu shade black to whiteWhile I find Processing difficult, the creations – even if nothing useful are still interesting. This isn’t my strong point, though I enjoy doing it and exploring what processes I can explore and the things I create.