Blogging

Playing Word Games in Blog Comments

by Andy Polaine on November 23, 2008

in General

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I just noticed a whole series of word-association and other games going on in the comments of Fail Blog posts. I have no idea if this is a new phenomenon, but I haven’t seen it before. Nor is it clear if any of these people know each other from elsewhere, but there is a whole little community gameplay scene that appears to spontaneously twist and turn.

I always find it fascinating how people will bend almost any activity towards play and communication. Blog comments are of course already set up for communication, but it’s the ability to have them nested on Fail Blog that seems to create a the boundaries for the playfulness.

Is this something new or have I just been in a cave or something? Anyone know of other examples of this happening?

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The Network Generation is in The White House

by Andy Polaine on November 7, 2008

in General

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Photo: barackobamadotcom on Flickr

It is hard to overstate just how different these US elections were and what a shift in thinking Obama and his campaign signify. Is this the dawn of a fourth republic, whose cycles are “linked indirectly to stages of technological and economic development,” as Michael Lind argues? Or is this the rise of a kind of new informality or informalism, to bastardise a perfectly decent word into another -ism?

Just four years ago, at the time of the previous US election, the blogosphere consisted of around four million blogs, now it’s difficult to even count, but it’s possibly 133 million. In those four years we have, of course, seen blogging become and integral part of mainstream media culture. As The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss noted, this was a truly cross-platform election, with TV woefully slow to catch up with calling the election win for Obama compared to those online.

But what was impressive and very different about the Obama camp approach was how much they clearly get these new media forms.

Twitter’s election feed was – and still is – a torrent of posts and opinions, but during the voting we got to hear people’s accounts of waiting in line, the excitement the atmosphere. I’m not American, what should I care? And yet. And yet, it was hard not to be drawn into the sense of shared experience.

Obama has (or had – it’s been a bit quiet since the elections) a Twitter stream and being on Twitter during the vote was a shared experience. The Obama camp made great use of Twitter to push for support, to spread the message. The exit poll stats show just how much the 18-29 year old turnout had increased from 2000.

What is essential to remember here is that Twitter isn’t just a computer-based chat space, it is completely integrated into mobile devices too. That means Obama’s tweets, and those of his supporters, reached people on the way to or in the waiting lines of polling booths. It’s direct and intimate.

The world has become cynical of politicians who have long since appeared to ignore the protest and voices of the people who elected them. Whether Obama himself wrote his Twitter tweets we will probably never know, but the fact a presidential candidate is aware of it shows a much more direct connection with people – and not just US citizens. Even if there’s a lowly paid intern tweeting on his behalf, there is a sense that it might filter up. And, of course, there’s always the secret hope that Obama himself is doing the tweeting.

The Flickr photo set above show’s Obama with his family and aides watching the results of the election, watching McCain’s concession speech and being congratulated by his family. They’re intimate, often off-guard and in many he looks quite nervous as if he’s thinking “Oh God, now I actually have to be president”. It’s like looking at post-ceremony, pre-reception drunkenness photos of a freshly minted bride and groom.

The most striking thing about these pictures, though, is that they’re covered by a non-commercial Creative Commons licence. These photos (by David Katz) that picture editors all over the world would love to use to sell their papers remain out of their reach. But they remain usable by the millions of bloggers around the world.

The difference in approach is striking – these aren’t polished, selected, vetted images, tightly controlled by a PR office. They’re informal and out there for the world to see and use. It’s unthinkable that Bush – or any other major politician – would have done anything remotely similar on the “internets“. (The cynic in the back of my mind wonders if they maybe are vetted – there are no photos of Obama shotgunning a beer and flicking the Vs at McCain on TV, after all. But that doesn’t seem like his style.)

A day after the election, Obama’s campaign set up change.gov with, naturally, a blog. (Compare it to the stiffness of whitehouse.gov).

So, now we have a US President who blogs and twitters – or whose staff do at least – and appears to be open to opinions and voices from all over the world. In an age of increased surveillance and control, of clipped civil liberties, of an attempt by the previous generation to hang onto control at all costs, this different attitude and use of technology signifies a much bigger, generational shift. It is a shift to a mindset in which collaboration, conversation and the network mind are much more powerful than spin and top-down control ever can be.

It’s what anyone using Twitter, Facebook or writing a blog has known for some time, but now it’s as mainstream as it gets. The network has grown up. The network generation is in The White House.

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Playpen Broke. Now Fixed. Sorry.

April 17, 2008

Apparently Playpen has been broken since yesterday and I didn’t notice (I was on a train from Hamburg most of yesterday). The robot running it got all lonely in his little grey cell. Something went screwy with the WP-Cache plug-in and it was spewing error pages. If you’re reading this, it’s fixed now. At some […]

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OLPC – I take it all back

February 24, 2008

Some will argue that I’m weak-willed, but I have made a 180-degree change of opinion on the merits of the One Laptop Per Child project thanks to Tom Coates’s article. I’ve been pretty cynical about the OLPC previously because I found the rhetoric not really matching what I had seen (limited as that was). The […]

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Respect for Akismet

September 21, 2007

Akismet does an amazing job, it has to be said. Comment spammers do a terrible job. [tags]spam, akismet[/tags]

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Sorry Goodby, Silverstein & Partners!

September 17, 2007

Thanks to Jim Coudal (I love the giant ‘Finally’ on Coudal.com at the moment too) and Sidney Bosley from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for commenting and correcting me on who developed that interactive Adobe banner ad that I just posted below. It was Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. It’s nice when the interweb […]

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Tom Coates on Andrew Keen

September 5, 2007

If you don’t know who Andrew Keen is, Google him, I’m not linking because I find him and his views on the internet and the changing face of the professional/amateur divide simultaneously calculating and idiotic. If you do know who he is, you’ll understand why Tom Coates’s drubbing of him is so spot on.

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Creative Collaboration & The Future of Education

August 31, 2007

I presented my seminar on Creative Collaboration and The Future of Education at Urban Learning Space yesterday and very much enjoyed the Glaswegian hospitality of all the folks at ULS. Although it would have been nice if I had managed to leave a little more time for discussion, I was really encouraged by many of […]

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Break-time at Playpen

August 16, 2007

I’m going to take a few days off for a break, so I probably won’t be blogging for a couple of weeks. But stay tuned, there is much more to come as well as some more podcasts. I’ll also be doing an online presentation for the AWARD Craft Interactive programme on the 27th August. It’ll […]

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Postful ripped off

August 12, 2007

[UPDATE: There are several updates to this post, which has made it a bit confusing to read. I don’t like deleting posts, so it’s mostly persevered here as it played out. But please read the updates at the bottom of this post to see how this all got resolved.] A few days ago I posted […]

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