Monthly Archives: August 2012

Virtual World Television: Case studies in the emergence of user-generated participatory television

This post comes from our presentation at Web Science 2012 this past June in Evanston, Il.  We are in the process of preparing this study’s results for further conferences as well as a monograph.


Along with producer Pooky Amsterdam of PookyMedia (whom I met producing earlier research [7]), we have begun a study to analyze case studies of amateurs and semi-professionals who have used virtual spaces, environments, and worlds to produce television programming.  We are interested in virtual world television to understand the nature and potential of these productions, as well as how they relate to traditional practices and relationships in television production, distribution, and exhibition.  In this paper we will outline (1) what we define as virtual world television, (2) what we see as the purpose for conducting this analysis, and (3) our method for conducting the case studies.  We see this study as a first step to introduce to this user-generated, participatory form of transgression on traditional media norms.

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Variations on Theme: Boudu, Toni, and Mother Nature

[Film analysis paper from 1999]

In ancient times, many cultures conceived of the world as a snake devouring itself, creating a continuous circle.  In modern times, film critic Andre Bazin had a similar conception.  He believed everything in reality was connected to everything else. The world, reality, is continuous, circular.  Before the rules of chaos theory, where a butterfly in Santiago can affect the weather in London, Bazin was using his theory to glorify auteur director Jean Renoir’s film style, extolling certain tendencies he saw as showing this continuous, interconnected philosophy of nature.  As a general way of deciphering Renoir’s style, Bazin highlighted the director’s habit of de-emphasizing the narrative to emphasize the sensual, physical world in which the narrative takes place.  Bazin pointed out several stylistic traits, from the use of non-professional actors and real locations to the use of deep staging and lateral reframing.  Bazin argued these traits draw attention away from what story is being told and to the world and characters through which the story is being told.

Renoir’s preference for showing the physical world ties in with the various themes he creates throughout his movies.  Bazin’s contentions apply throughout Renoir’s works as the director employs a consistent arsenal of traits to depict this continuous reality; however, there also exist thematic variations which are depicted through changes in these traits.  While Boudu Saved From Drowning and Toni both deal thematically with nature, their takes on man’s relationship with nature are opposites, and stylistic differences account for this discrepancy.  For Boudu, the world is open for him because he is one with the world.  For Toni, the world is a circle trapping him because he is out of step with the world.

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The Rise of Hentai in America, Part 3

[This is the final part of the women studies paper I wrote on hentai.  You can find Part 1, on the definition of hentai, here, and Part 2, on the comparison of hentai to live action pornography, here.  And, once again, the material covered in this part is strictly NSFW.]

While it may not be as prevalent or have the same tradition in our society that live action pornography does, there is no mistaking that hentai is here and is accessible, highly so if we consider the role of the Internet in its dispersion.  We have seen in this essay that its similarities to live action pornography mean it could have similar impacts on consumers, and these impacts may be further influenced by the simulacrum nature of hentai girls and the fantasies they offer.  Even if these texts are read as humorous, their situatedness in our society, in our public discourse that attempts to both normalize sex and keep it hidden, suggests that even harmless appearing cartoons can reinforce the ideology of male domination if it remains unchallenged.

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How People Make Sense of Virtual Worlds — and Why It Matters

This video was produced by Roskilde University, with assistance from Dominican University, to summarize and even illustrate some of the findings from my research study, Virtual Worlds Entertainment. In this video I discuss what I had done, what I had learned, and perhaps what others can learn from it all.


The Rise of Hentai in America, Part 2

[In part 1 of this 2006 women studies paper, I discussed what hentai is and how it has grown in consumption in the United States; so if you are first entering this report via this part, you should pop on over there first.  In this part of the report, I compare hentai to live action pornography.  Again, this is absolutely rated NSFW.]

Is it different than live action pornography?

Theories of what is pornography began to crystallize in the 1970s due to the work of American feminists and their analysis of how women are represented on film.  In particular is the work of Laura Mulvey in theorizing how positioning and objectifying women in film serve the scopophilic male gaze that receives pleasure by its voyeuristic and yet controlling gaze of women.  Pornography is largely held as an “art form” that objectifies the female figure, positioning women as submissive sexual objects presented for the sole purpose of providing pleasure to men, whether in the narrative with the women or in the audience consuming the narrative.  Women are fragmented by the camera or the comic panels so that the focus for the viewer is on specific body parts to elicit arousal.  Oftentimes women are being dominated by the male, in a heterosexual coupling, or by a masculinized woman in a homosexual coupling.  Regardless of whether a man is actually present in the frame or not, by depicting women as objects, as dehumanized and subjected to a dominant other’s desires, they rendered powerless, denied agency, and thus not a threat to the presumed male viewer, who is left to gave over the spectacle without anxiety of being discovered, castigated, and ultimately metaphorically castrated.

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The Rise of Hentai in America, Part 1

(This paper, and the accompanying presentation I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way, were done in 2006 for a women’s studies course at Ohio State University.  Some of the facts may be a bit outdated, some have been updated, but I still stand by the interpretation of the texts.  And, warning, this posting will include illustrated examples of pornographic cartoons, so it is definitely rated NSFW.  Part 1 here discusses the subject matter; Part 2 compares hentai to live action pornography; Part 3 considers the ramifications of hentai.)

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The Culture of The Fail

As a society, as a civilization, even as a species, we like to celebrate success.  With the Summer Olympics under way in Ye Olde London Towne, we have one of the great examples of how much we humans celebrate success.  We give people medals, trophies, money, cereal endorsements, all for outrunning, outgunning, outswimming, outsynchronizing their rivals.  We are surrounded by successful ideals in our sports heroes, our political heroes, our war heroes, our super heroes — they are people to be admired and to serve as role models for the rest of us.  Hell, some of our super heroes are also hugely successful in other areas of life, such as the billionaires Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark.  We all strive for success in what we do; we’ve even been taught that we shouldn’t do something unless we hope to succeed at it, even if it takes years.

And yet, there are people who are contradictions: they appear to be trying to succeed by failing, or they appear to worship failures.  Which prompts the question: is failing a new way of succeeding?


The culture of the “fail” is widespread across the Web.  There are whole groups devoted to producing and sharing images, or memes, of “fails”: of things not working the way they were supposed to.  The people who brought us the lolcat meme have a whole blog devoted to aggregating such fails.  The fail is increasingly going mainstream, moving from instances like “the Fail Whale” from Twitter to appropriation by a Nobel Prize winning economist.  For this article, I am focusing on the fail compilation videos of videosharing sites like YouTube.  I, like so many others, cannot help but laugh or cringe or stare at these moments of utter failure, often accompanied by pain, that people have shared with the world.  But in watching these, I cannot help but wonder why.  Why do I respond to them as I do?  Why do people do these things?  Why is “fail” become such a popular Internet meme?

All of my answers are musings, drawing on research into other media activities and content.  By no means am I offering anything definitive — I do not plan to succeed in defining the love of the fail in this article.  And, yes, there will be embeds of  fail compilations from YouTube for your enjoyment.  So let’s begin there, with one of the most recent compilations:

For more, visit my original article at Clearance Bin Review.

Representations of Women in Japanese and American Pop Culture

(From a 2004 paper on a cross-cultural examination of the superheroine)

            In their article on children and role models, Anderson and Cavallaro (2002) say that superheroes are “larger-than-life symbols of American values and ‘maleness’.” (p. 162).  From a socialization point of view, is there reason to be concerned about the ‘superhero’-centeredness of a segment of the American pop culture to which many children are exposed?   And if this is the case in America, where many believe women are on a more equal alignment with men, what is the situation in other societies, such as Japan, where inequality is perceived to be more common?  Both the United States and Japan have a segment of their pop culture devoted to fantastic stories about individuals with superhuman powers.  These stories tell of heroes with strengths that children may identify with in the hope becoming as successful as these characters (Anderson & Cavallaro, 2002).  It then becomes imperative to understand how these heroes are portrayed.  Are the women in media, which is directed towards tomorrow’s women, being portrayed as strong and independent rather than as victims and damsels-in-distress?

American Superheroines

Japanese Superheroines

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