Tuesday, 29 March 2011

End of Module

With my essay and blogposts complete, I've finished this module for contextual studie. It has been a long but ultimately rewarding experience, along the way I've learned many new things about moving type, communication, film theory that has helped me form informative opinions about them in conversations and talk about them with the proper evidence to back up my subject/opinion.

I've also completed an essay in which I also learned alot about the hidden culture in the internet and how it's influencing our society slowly. I also learned a great deal about the subject of anonyminty and how it often reveals people's true opinions and intentions.

Overall I'm proud of the progress I've made in this module and have found it an interesting journey from start to finish, along the way I've learned many new things that has helped me develop my skills in contextual writing but also developed my way of thinking.

Research Sources (Part 2)

In this post I'll continue looking at my research sources and highlight their content and why I chose them.

'Can Video Gaming Cross from Innocent Fun to Addiction?', BBC News by Rapheal Rowe
http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9251000/9251687.stm

This article was chosen as it once again looks at the effects of videogame content and the influence it can have on a developing mind, it also goes into detail about the subject matter of potential addiction to videogames including how other places outside of UK deal with videogame addiction such as South Korea. This helped me bulk up my information on the effects that video games can have on adults and children.

'Teen Banned from Halo 3, Shoots Parents in Retribution'
http://www.destructoid.com/teen-banned-from-halo-3-shoots-parents-in-retribution-114760.phtml

'39% of British Parents let Kids Play Adult Games'
http://www.destructoid.com/39-of-british-parents-let-kids-play-adult-games-159498.phtml

'UK Politician: Games Cause Kids to Lose their Childhood'
http://www.destructoid.com/uk-politician-games-cause-kids-to-lose-their-childhood-161517.phtml

'Mom Turns Kid’s Xbox Off, gets Taco Thrown in Face'
http://www.destructoid.com/mom-turns-kid-s-xbox-off-gets-taco-thrown-in-face-118279.phtml
All Articles by James Sterling for the journalist website Destructoid.

Amounst all the research sources I had I thought it's be wise to try find actual evidence of the effects that I was researching taking place. I often check the website destructoid and remember various stories about domestic violence and video games of the many results I got from searching the website these four proved to be the most useful and relevent in cases where it wasn't just a child throwing a large scale tantrum due to being punished. I ended up using a good few of these in my final essay.

'Clive Thompson on How Tweets and Texts Nurture in-depth Analysis' by Clive Thompson
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/12/st_thompson_short_long/

This article on Wired Magazine's website addressed the issue of the change in peoples attention span by noting things such as twitter and text messaging has meant people can say shorter things more often instead of a lengthy update once a week for example, ultimately focusing on how Newspapers may become outdated due to speedy updates but monthly magazines will still exist as they're more comprehensive. This article proved to be massively useful as it showed a change in peoples behaviour due to technological advancements, it also highlighted a new way of thinking thats becoming increasingly present in society.

'Panorama, Addicted to games?' by Jeremy Vine and Rapheal Rowe
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wlmj0#broadcasts

The focus of this episode of panorama has the potential threat that video games can pose to society with their addictive mechanics and espacism. The Show also highlighted incidents with interviews from teens (predominately teenage males) who had lashed out due to not being able to get their 'fix'. Whilst it was done in a nuetral critical anlysis the general message was that there are dangers to online communities and video games, but several keey pieces of information did come from it that I used in my essay such as the quote "There are only addictive personalities", the show was ensightful too and offered a great deal of information through the reviewers it conducted.

Beyond these sources I also have personally seen the effects that the internet can have on society such as effect the manner in which people speak using words or terms that were previously exclusive to the internet such as 'lol' or 'epic' to the point where it's non sensical, most of these terms were used by teens between 12-18. I had also investigate a variety of forums including one infamous image board forum where all users appear anonymously resulting a very free speech environment and is a complete example of some of the themes and topics that the articles that I looked at touched upon.

Overall I feel that I looked at a good range of sources but it could have been improved with more academic sources, something I plan to rectify when it comes to dissertation writing.

Research Sources (Part 1)

In the process of writing my essay I used many sources but only a few of the research sources (some featured in the Essay notes post) were used. In the following Blog Posts I plan to highlight the sources I used and why.

'The Real World Effects of Online Gaming: Socially Inept' By Colin Andrew
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1712963/the_realworld_effects_of_online_gaming.html?cat=41

This online post about the real world effects proved to be incredibly useful as it outlined all the subjects I wanted to touch upon especially that of anonyminty in online gaming. The article does take a stereotypical view of gamers at one point noting that some fore go bath and basic hygiene but validates that by explaining that it's a source of dettachment for society and it's established norms. Overall the post proved to be very useful as it touches real issues but not in an overblown manner in which video games are sometimes portrayed as instantly negative in the media.

'Leet', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia by Anonymous
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leet

This entry on Wikipedia was used to research the ins and outs of the online speech known as 'leet','1337' or leetspeak. From here I learned it's origins and in what circumstances that it's used, in the end I only really touched on the subject in my essay but it's still a valuable part of my essay as it highlights the fact that the internet is becoming a culture in itself with it's own language.

'Internet Meme', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia by Anonymous
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_meme

I also used this entry to further look into the origins of the term and definition of a 'Meme'. This proved again a small but pivitol part in my essay again relating to the fact that the internet is building up it's own specialised culture with it's own in jokes. The origins also proved to be interesting as it comes from outside the internet many years before it's invention.

'To Define Culture in a Virtual World' by The Cyberpunk Project
http://project.cyberpunk.ru/idb/virtual_culture.html

This article deals with more the development of any culture rather than one specific, it cites real world examples of how some cultures are formed through symbols and preceptions of deities. Overall it uses media examples to present the concept of how cultures are formed which made it easier to digest with familiar knowledge of the refereance points. Overall this proved useful in helping me cement the theory of internet culture.

'Effects of Video Games on Aggressive Thoughts and Behaviour During Development' by Thomas Kooijmans
http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/kooijmans.html

This article by Kooijman's focuses more on the effect the actual content a video game can have on people citing that there have been isolated cases of increased aggression in players. Whats good about this article is that it also includes works by other authors in response to Kooijmans' post including one that highlights the positive effects. This article would prove to be very useful when it came to how the internet culture is influencing younger participants.

'Internet Culture' by David Porter
Routledge; excerpts also available at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zmMLSZJPXoIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=internet+culture+by+david+porter&hl=en&ei=2gs6TZn7JcPKhAe8pYGMCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

The book internet culture proved to be a great source for finding out the various levels of interaction that people have via the internet, the passages that I read focused on anonyminty and how it eases people into saying their true feelings, it also deals with the subject of collective imagination and how the imuursion in the internet culture can see effects in peoples mannerisms outside it. This is massively relevant to my essays subjects as it deals with the effects that the internet and anonymity can bring upon a person and how it can effect their life outside of the internet.

Essay Writing Notes

Whilst writing my Essay for contextual studies I created a number of notes to use in my essay, most of them a just noting out important pieces of information I found in my sources whilst searching for relevant pieces of information/quotes that I can use. But I did also do essay mind maps when I was trying to decide what I would write about an I also wrote an essay plan to outline how I was going to tackle the task of writing the essay. This post is really more of a behind the scenes look at the process I took to create my essay.


Here at the two mind maps I created when trying to finalise what I would write about, ultimately deciding to focus on online culture of the internet and gaming. From there I started my research and started making these notes below based on the information I found that I believed I could use.





Below in the centre is a scan of my essay plan in which I outline where I will talk about subjects and how they should all ultimately form into the conclusion. In the final scan on the right is my collection of BBC sources and a small doodle I had obviously done to celebrate the end of my researching stage.



Most of the notes included the URLs and book titles where I got my information and I feel this comprehensively chronicles a good portion of the effort I put into the process of writing my essay.

Writing and Well Being (Part 2)

In the previous post I outlined the 7 types of plot devices and in this post I will be outlining 7 main character archetypes. For this I will be using a familiar IP to help establish exactly what each characters role is in a plot, I'll be outling the character archtypes by using Star Wars characters.

The Hero
In Narrative often the protagonist and focus of the story is the hero character, who must go on a journey which involves seperation from a previous comfortable life to develop as a character, in essence grow into a new more developed character. Often the Hero is Self Sacrificing, other traits such as strength and bravery are not always needed. In the Star Wars films the character Luke Skywalker is the Hero, he must travel from his home planet to learn to become a Jedi Knight along the way he faces many trials and tribulations that will test his worth as a hero.

The Sage
More often than not The Sage is a mentor to the hero, often an old man/woman whom contains vast amounts of knowledge and is often presented as mysterious or godlike. The Sage will gift the hero with various items such as knowledge, weapons or magic. Often The Sage will be taken out of the story as a part of the test to the Hero to see if they have truly learned the skills need to proceed. In the Star Wars films the role of The Sage is taken upon by Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi, whom the Hero meets prior to the quest, Obi-Wan teaches Luke of the Jedi teachings and the force, even gifting him with a weapon, the lightsabre. Obi-Wan remains a presence through out all of Luke's journey guiding his hand and offering advice where needed.

The Herald
Often acting as the catalyst to the Hero's reason for starting the journey. The Herald can either be a character, event or a piece of information that inspires the character to set out on their journey. In the Starwars films there are a number of factors that go into the classification of The Herald, but without a doubt it's Princess Leia, it's her message in R2-D2 that inspires Luke to search for Obi-wan whom starts Luke's Quest. There are various factors in the opening of Star Wars that relate to the beginnings of Luke's Quest such as the Droids, the imperial staff that didn't destroy the escape pod, Luke's Uncle buying the droids but, ultimately it's Leia's Message that causes the start of the journey.

The Threshold Guardian
It's the role of the Threshold Guardian to present the hero with their first challenge. Often the Threshold Guardian is a henchman or much less powerful than the final antagonist, sometimes the guardian can be of nuetral alliance with no connection to any other characters and merely exist for the purpose of posing a challenge to the Hero. In Star Wars without a doubt the Threshold is the Galactic Empire, it was stormtroopers who where looking for the droids that murdered Luke's family, giving him the freedom to set out on the quest, the empire also try to prevent Luke and Obi-wan obtaining a pilot to get off Tatooine. Through out the series the Empire constantly test the Hero and his companions making it a sort of re-appearing Threshold Guardian.

The Shapeshifter
This character's role is to present uncertainty in the Hero. Often The Shapeshifter's alliance can change between the Hero's or the Villian's and when alligned with the hero it's the Shapeshifter's role to question the beliefs and teachs of the hero. The Shapeshifter can also be a friend to the Hero or even a love interest, ultimately this character's role is to offer a balance of opinion to the Hero's. In Star Wars this role is filled by Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca, often Solo claims to look out for himself and even at time seem cold to the Luke's plight even noting that the ways of a Jedi are no match for "a good blaster", ultimately Solo becomes a friend and does always come through for the hero.

The Trickster
It's the role of this character to offer comedic relief to the story often to balance out an overly dramatic plot. The trickster's alliance can fall in either camps and can either be a bumbling fool or a cunning mastermind, their schemes can either result in success or failure but aslong as it happens with comedy the role of the trickster has been fufilled. In some stories the the trickster can be removed through a tragic event to denote the end of a film's light hearted nature and the beginning of a darker chapter. In Star Wars the role of the trickster is filled by R2-D2 and his companion C-3PO, often their antics are the present a light hearted nature to the film's darker themes, both characters are protrayed as intelligent with R2 being more cunning and 3PO being more bumbling, in Empire' 3PO's temporary death builds upon the darkening plot.

The Shadow
This is the Antagonist of the plot, often but not always the Shadow is the villian but it can also be a character with disagreeing veiws to the Hero. The Shadow must also be a worth opponent that will challenge the Hero's skills in a conflict that results in one being destroyed or rendered powerless. The Shadow is the negative force of the story but does not recognise themselves as the villian rather sees the narratives hero as the Villian. Undoubtable Darth Vader is the shadow in Star Wars, controlling the threshold guardian and constantly posing challenges to Luke and the other Rebels, although it is revealed that there is a greater evil above Vader, he still remains the main focus of Luke's ultimate challenge which is to bring Vader back to the good side of the force.

When it comes to writing a story often realisation and connections one can make to an other existing character can be off putting as they then feel that their work is not original but do not be discouraged as this purpose of this was to highlight that there are only so many variations so if you're writing and realise that several of your characters or themes are similar to many different sources thats fine as you've not unintentionally copied one story and it's most likely coincidence.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Writing and Well Being (Part 1)

In the world of narratives there lies the potential to tell millions of stories with hosts of different characters right? Unfortunately not, variation can only do so much to a concept and in base terms there are only really seven basic plots with interchanable characters roles. This is not to say that all stories are the same but to more point out that if you as a creative feel like your stories has already been written it probably has but it's what you as a creative can bring to it that makes it unique. Below I'm going to outline these story achetypes along with examples of character achetypes.

First there's:

The Quest
This story type revolves around the central protagonist striving to meet and over come various obstacles to reach an all important goal, often these obstacles are either to test the protagonist's worthiness of the goal or are set up by an antagonist in order to stop the protagonist from reaching the goal. Classic Example: Lord of The Rings.

Voyage and return
Similar to The Quest, this plot has the protagonist either travel or transported (against their will) to another world/land etc and find their way back home. Along the way the character will learn new skills that they would never have learned in their home environment ultimately resulting in a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them. Classic Example: Wizard of Oz.

Rebirth
This story type is often used for classic stories about redemption. Perhaps a hero has been sullied or let down those he was meant to protect, the rebirth is the story of him regaining the trust and love he once had or learning something new altogether resulting in development of the character. More often it's revealed that the character is being held back by something in their own psyche. Classic Example: A Christmas Carol

Comedy
Often this story type is used in conjuction with others in modern day terms to add good feeling effect to a story. Previously it was used where in a comedy revolves around characters being thrown into confusion and bewilderment where the only resolution comes once these two aspects reach their maximium level. Much of the plot comes from escalated lie for the sake of hilarity and the true moment of comedy is actually tradgey when it all falls apart. Classic Example: Fraiser.

Tragedy
A tragedy often focuses around a character whom seemingly has everything but through their actions ultimately causes their own downfall. This is done to create a connection to the audience in which they should feel empathy for the character. Like comedy, tragedy is often used as a sub plot or part of a story of rebirth in where the character can only learn something once he's lost everything. Classic Example: MacBeth.

Over Coming the Monster
This plot is pretty much self explanetory, in which the hero must over come and defeat and evil be it a creature or person due to it causing destruction or spreading fear across the land. Often this is used with the quest plot where in a hero must over come tests or prepare themselves for the final confrontation with the evil, often there will be atleast 1 confrontation that the hero must face before finally defeating it. Classic Example: Jaws.

Rags to Riches
Again this is fairly straight forward in that the protagonist starts of in a position of nothingness and suddenly attains greatness either by fame or wealth. Often this is taken away so that the hero may show the viewers that he is worthy of this greatness, sometime this involves vanquishing a foe. Classic Example: Aladdin.

When looking over these several plot types you can easily think of any film, book or videogame that utilises one or more of these plots. Oftewn the variation comes from using a mix of subplots and dowing minor variations on the situations but the base concept is often the same.

In the next post I'll be looking at character archetypes!

The Uncanny Valley

The Uncanny: "A concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange."

When defining what exactly "The Uncanny" is, at times it can be quite difficult as one is trying to explain the definition of something extraordinary, something that is in relation to our world and reality but at the same time either bends or breaks the rules of which outline our existence in the universe. This can be anything from defying gravity to merely having a unique quality that is not found in other objects or beings, the uncanny is often found in works of fiction where reality can be bent at the author's whim. Great examples of the uncanny in fiction are any kind of superhero comic or the works of H.P. Lovecraft. To further define what exactly can be classed as the uncanny I have turned to a certain passage by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.

The first thing that Freud talks about is that the uncanny is generally perceived as an observation and opinion based upon that observation, these opinions are then compared to other opinions of sights seen for matching qualities, if a quality does not match with other familiar traits this can create the concept of the uncanny. To help strengthen this theory Freud brings up a quote from Jentsch which can further outline what can be defined as uncanny, "Doubts whether an apparently animate being is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might not be in fact animate". This short quote can clearly be used to in the age old question found in many science fiction narratives, whether a robot (or a doll) can be classified as being "alive". This is due to the fact that they share similar traits with humans yet they are not human, creating a likeness but not a replica of a living, animate being. Freud then goes on to say that using the human form as a basis is a one of if not the most successful method of creating a sense of the uncanny.

Freud carrys on to define psychological side of the uncanny, what makes it appear that way in our minds, using the narrative Nachtstrucken as a point of reference to translate his theory. Nachtstrucken features the story of 'The Sand-Man' an entity that claims the eyes of children who will not sleep. The story features a young boy by the name of Nathaniel whom seeks out to either prove or disprove the Sand-Man's existence in his own mind this is due to the fact the entity is never actually revealed to be fictional or no within the narrative leaving room for ambiguity. What it is important to know that is the narrative seems to be based within a reality very similar to our own in that when reading this we expect this narrative to follow the rules of our universe, with the shared traits in realities. The boy was determined to find out the Sand-Man's appearance and whilst in hiding he observes a character of which he has a distaste for, Nathaniel then projects his preconceptions of the dreaded Sand-Man on to this character for their exclamation of "Eyes here!" this event would be one to stay with the young child for his life.

This event ultimately became the demise of poor Nathaniel as it drove him to madness due to the fear he felt for the Sand-Man, through out the story it's never made clear if the Sand-Man exists or not and that's what makes it uncanny. Freud continues his analisation noting that the concept of pyhsically being robbed of not just one's eyesight but of one's actual eyes is something quite extraordinary and something that would not happen in this reality. Freud also notes on the ambiguity or the narrations rules and boundaries in relation to the existence of the Sand-Man character comparing it to narratives of Shakespeare wherein these rules are layed out giving a chance to suspend belief to allow for the existence of uncanny beings. Freud then goes on to suggest that some events within the story can appear meaningless until the character of the Sand-Man is replaced with that of the Nathaniel's father and begins to interchange the concept of fears of losing the eye to that of castration and punishment.

It is here when Freud stops focusing on the uncanny and focuses more on the possible hidden messages within the narrative, nevertheless from the excerpt Freud has presented I have gained a slightly better understanding of what the Uncanny is and through knowing this it will allow me to develop my own narratives which can be believable with fantastic elements.

Within the media the theme of the uncanny is one that is very strong especially in the entertainment industries which focuses on presenting both informative features and fictional ones. The uncanny is often a staple element within the fictional features found in entertainment to help make the story more fantastical and interesting to the viewer, there are also many aspects to what we can label as "The Uncanny" as there are many different genres of entertainment but each one can have it's own version of the uncanny. One example is that within comic books, especially superhero based ones where the concept of people who can fly and are stronger than the strongest man on earth is something that can be viewed as uncanny, then there are drama shows such as Coronation Street where things happen which are similar to our own but a lot more dramatic it could not be real with events such as murder and overly complex family fights, even these mundane things can be defined as uncanny.

That's just some of the examples of what can be classed as the uncanny within media but it's more of looking at the uncanny as an adjective. What about the Uncanny as a feeling, a sense of aesthetics? A good example of this would be any of the works of Jan Svankmajer, a film maker who is known to incorporate stop motion within his works but the end results is something that doesn't seem quite right a perfect example would be his work Alice in which the opening scene we see the White Rabbit come to life and this is done through the wonders of stop-motion animation. The way it moves is slightly jerky and unnatural but nonetheless it still mimics movement and this relation to reality with a distorted spin is what makes it Uncanny.

Another example of this type of stop-motion used to create the sense of "Uncanniness" is within the Horror genre film "Ju-on: The Grudge" in which a ghost of a women moves in a very discorntorted manner whilst coming down stairs using both her hands and her feet. It's this type of movement that creates the unerving feeling outlined by Frued in his theory of what the representation of the Uncanny is.



There are many ways the uncanny can be represented within media ranging from film to television, literature and even videogames, but here are just so many but I can garentee where there is fiction there will be an element of the uncanny waiting to be found.

Communication Theory (Part 2)

Following from the previous post I'll be looking at more forms of communication.

Rhetoric is a form of Constitutive communication in which the transmitted interacts with the audience, presenting them the information through some variety of media (images, film, text). Often this type of communication is used for propaganda but is limited by the fact that it can only be learned through practice and often is valid only in it's native culture and is ambiguous in context to begin with. Rhetoric has the power to change how a viewer might perceive signs as image without context are meaningless but if you apply context to them (often accompanying text) they can have power over the viewer. Rhetoric is sustained by communication as a social activity and in turn helps individuals dominate their opinion other others.

Socio-Psycological is a form of Constitutive communication in which the original sender of information or a message then interprets the receiver's opinion and how that resulting opinion effects the understanding of the message. This is basically understanding how people understand different forms of communication, obviously a person from a different culture may interpret a sign from another culture differently from how the natives would. This also goes for the English language in that often two words are combined to take on a new meaning such as Frost (thin layer of ice caused by condensation and cold weather) and Anti (opposite) are combined to make Anti-Frost which is a product to get rid of frost.

Socio-Cultural is a Constitutive form of communication in that is a definition of a person in terms of their cultural background, this does have it's limitations in that negative stereotypes can be built upon this such as all Asain people are bad drivers or all British people drink tea (if they're not down the pub having fights). Socio-Cultural communications the ability to recognise someone by their culture and looks at how people from each culture group interact and designate roles in their own society. This can have limitations in communication as something that is acceptable in one culture might offend another, which is why an understanding of one and other's is vital to learning to live in harmony of one another...or at least accepting there will be differences.

Critical Communication also falls under the Constitutive category of communication. This tradition is similar to a mixture of both philosophy and social science and is often used to uncover hidden truths about societies based on activity and behaviour. This form is most commonly used by the media to convey may types of information often in a platonic/neutral way but to also subliminally highlight key issues and is constantly questioning the validity of the information and the authority of who gave it. Very similar to a critical analyse a university student might do to uncover hidden meanings in an image or piece of text. This form does have it's limitations as sometimes it presents the opinion of the person or group analysing the subject matter/information rather than a complete neutral opinion.

Each tradition of communication has it's pros and cons and all are used by people, even when they don't consciously realise it and often with use more than one at a time to back up the flaws that other processes have. Along with body language, script and speech there are many ways in which people interact and communicate with each other for a variety of purposes but whats most important is the way that we do it. Perhaps in time research will discover new ways in which we interact with each other.

Communication Theory (Part 1)

"Who says what to Whom in what channel with what effect?"

In communication there are 7 traditions that are split up into two variations, 6 of which fall under Constitutive, others of which comes under Transmissional.

Transmissional forms of communication is the model of sending and recieving information from one source to another but it also has limitations in that theres a gap between the two points of which the information travels and due to people interpritating information differently from one another the message/information could be misread.

Constitutive forms of communication is the model of production and reproduction of shared meaning. These models can have limitations in that gaps can occur in the understanding process due to different cultures or the ability of people be able to determine authentic communication between people.

The first of the seven traditions is Cybernetic, which is a Transmissional method of communication. The most common example of this communication form is the basic concept of a telephone where in the gap occurs between the transmitter and reciever of the information. Observation is made by the reciever and is their interpritation of the imformation or message.

Semiotics is a Constitutive method of communication that predominately uses signs to communicate a message. It's also created by us to help in the decifering of complex codes. It can also be used to analyse images and that over time various signs that people have learned can be put to use in new images to help figure out it's meaning. A common example is road signs which use a combination of the shape of the sign and the image on the sign to convey a complete message such as a red triangle and a black thunderbolt means "beware! electricity". Semiotics does have it's limitations in that the priority of structure over usage means that it may not always be recognised due to the nature of ever evolving communication.

Phenomenological Communication falls under the Constitutive method. This is learning information through the act of doing, being the most basic form of communicating information as it is learned through mimicing. Experiences shape a human's knowledge and simple things such as communication is developed through this process, lack of authentic human relationships could be percieved as a failure learning how to communicate properly with other people. The limitations that come with this is that somethings can't be learned from experience such as knowing falling from great heights can kill you, which is learned through the act of seeing rather than doing.

Next I'll be looking at the remaining 4 traditions in communication theory!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Media is The Massage

'The Medium is the Massage' is a book by Marshall McCluhan and Quinten Fiore, first published in 167 by Peguin books, it's reveared as the first book that made people fully understand the benefits of technological advancements in all aspects of media, from books to film. In fact to drive home the potential of print and the advancements in printing technology 'The Medium is the Massage' features a very unique and creative layout, this not only shows the reader examples of ways print has developed but ingrained it onto their minds. Ironically it was a printing error of the word 'message' that ultimately gave the book it's slightly odd title.

The book outlines various themes such as the learnings of society were recieve as we mature from child to adulthood, noting that technological advances have effects on people and their societies. It notes that social and cultural environments are affected by the technological advancements and often the most common form of anxieties are created by trying to complete the tasks of today with yesterdays tools (i.e. computers, software) and that our time on the earth has been a constant string of achievements of development and crossing barriers ultimately improving ourselfs or technologies.

The mere existance of this book as surely it could become as obsolete as the technologies it talks about. Medium is the Masaage is a look at our time with media students who focus m0re on the method rather than the concept and how older people ultimately can become dependant on the technologies of today where as younger generations would be able to adapt without it as they've constantly been surrounded by it.

The book is seperated into chapters below I'll outline the main features of each chapter;

You:
  • What has made you who you are?
  • Is there a lack of privacy in a world were everything is recorded?
  • "You are not a name but, a number"

This chapter outlines themes of personal development and survielance, questioning if this has helped shape people into being obediant as if their every move is being watched, they can get caught.

Family:
  • Family has widened
  • You're influced by the World around you
  • "All the World is a sage", a soure of information
This chapter keeps with the theme of personal growth citing that with ever widening networks there are more influences that go in to the development of an adult. Today this is very true with the internet in developed cultures being widely availible information and connections can be attained more easily than ever.

Neighbourhood:
  • Electronic reach widens, creating new boundries
  • You can't clock off.
In the terms of 'unable to clock off', with the advent of mobile phones it has become possible that a person can be contacted at any point and recently it was revealed that last year UK citizens have lost a total of £23 Million in unpaid (around £4650 each), all due to being able to be contacted directly, ofcourse most don't mind as it's only maybe an hour hear of work related advice there or even work brought home but it still proves the point of not being able to truly clock off.

Education:
  • Home and Classroom have different paces
  • Child was previously merged into the adult world
  • Child now lives in two different worlds
  • Different paces = ADHD
  • Growing up is a child's job
In the education chapter the author states that where as there was no education system a child was iducted into the adults world as soon as they could work, but today because of classroom and education a child has to deal with the two different paces of the different social worlds, it's suggested that this leads to cases of ADHD, where learning is a slow process it might not be able to hold the attention of pupils as they also live in a world with faster paced objects such as television.

Your Job:
  • Fragmentation of Work
  • Blend into more rules and responsibilites
  • Machines are taking over.
This chapter deals with the work place and how people today have to constantly revise their wiring to conform to the rules and responsibilities of a demanding job, that in the end may be taken over by machines anyways. Also drawing referance to the fact that work has become so fragmented in the process for a final product that perhaps any job could be considered a factory assembly line.

Goverment:
  • Media has more control than goverment
  • Media can be the medium to interact with the goverment
Here the author is drawing reference to how when a news story is released it can actually sway peoples opinions on the goverment, this can result in people voting for different political parties ultimately it's the media who decided who is in charge.

The book contiues to highlight that all media is an extention of one's body using examples such as clothes are the extention of the skin and electric circuitry is an extention of the nervesystem, the author also cites that the dominant organ before the alphabet was the ear and that since then cultures and histories have been set by alphabets. Stating that writing is the beginnings of culture and civilisation, McCluhan notes that because of writing we can keep record that ultimately fixes problems such as disputes.

"Slower Communication is irrelevant, information is constatly being compiled upon."

In short this book deals with the theme that Technology and people's developing mind ultimately advances cultures to the next step and just by looking at one person's life you can define changes that have happened along the way all thanks to technology.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Summary of What I've learned about so far

In Contextual Studies, I've learned a fair bit since starting the course. I've learned about moving type and it's history and importance to the modern world in how that it's transcended it's roots from being a tool to educate and inform into a whole new entity in which that it takes on elements of art and graphic design to not only communicate information but to also communicate a feeling or style. This includes the ways in which it can be utilised in film to further convey the emotion or tone the artist wants the audience to feel.

From there I looked at cinema as a door and how in film whilst directors try to replicate film it's the controlled elements that make it art. I also addressed the subject of objectification of not only women but actors in film coming to the conclusion that in film everything needs to be objectified for positive or for negative portrayls as it's this objectification that helps the audience define the reality of the film from their own, my personal opinion on this matter was re-enforced by the excerpt I analysed from 'Film Theory' by Thoams Elsaesser and Maltie Hagener as by interpritng their text I came to the conclusion part of film is that controlled aspect and in that sense the artist creating the film must see all componenets as objects that are trying to replicate life with out duplicating it, it is also up to the artist to give his own interpritation of life in a film for audiences to experience.

I also anaylsed the opening two and a half minutes to the 2000 film 'American Psycho' in which I outlined the possible emotions and messages director Mary Harron was trying to convey to the audience, noting on the sutble aspects that go into a film and how each one could be considered a deliberate addition to the layers of information in the film. I also analysed several still images from film and video games to see the artist's intentions and expressionate interpritations of reality including noting directional choices and what effect they may have on the viewer.

Finally I looked at the subject of the embodied mind and how it's that aspect of learning that has helped people learn to make opinions and see the expression in any place be it man made or a natural occurance, which backs up the process of the opinions I made in the section of "Cinema as a Door". It also taught me about the importance the embodied mind plays in terms of allowing us to communicate to each other through the act of facial experssions and body language, which will bring me onto the next part of contextual studies; Communication Theory.

The Embodied Mind

The process of the embodied mind is closely linked that that of perception and understanding of body movement as well as communication through movement. Often when communication is talked about people forget subtle things such as one's facial expression and the way they hold their body can also communicate things generally a range of emotions.

This process starts off as early development when we're children in that were learn to recognise the human face in it's most basic elements, the simplest being 3 dots, two for the eyes one for the nose. From their we learn the expressions that a face can convey this helps us to relate to one another and understand more clearly the tone of which information is being given to us, it's essentially the process of being able to read the body language of a person.

This also helps us considerably when it comes to looking at art as our mind will constantly be looking from elements that marry up to the image in our mind of a face and the various expressions that it can make.

This also goes for movement, if something is moving quickly or eratically it could give the impression to the viewer that it is excitable or dangerous. This can be applied to anything that has movement ranging from moving text to body language to moving images, the human mind can automatically build up an opinion of the subject matter and match it with an expression.

In short the Embodied mind is the process of our minds taking an object that we've seen and attaching an expression and/or personality to it based on the elements the object has such as colour, aesthetic and movement. It's also part of the process in how we make opinions and assumptions about people and objects, without it we wouldn't have art or expression, the embodied mind is an important part of what defines a person as an individual entity from the masses of other people.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Analysis of 'Film Theory' Excerpt

In this analysis, I will be looking at chapter 1, 'Cinema as a Window and Frame', page 22 of 'Film Theory'. I will be outlining the themes and general messages that the Authors, Thoams Elsaesser and Maltie Hagener were trying to convey to the reader.

In the first paragraph the Authors write;

"It is the viewer's aptitude of creating a Gestalt (to assemble a number of disconnected sense impressions into a whole that is larger than the sum of it's parts) that endows film with the status of art."

I view this as part of the reason that film can be made into art is that a viewer can only see severval unrealted things in a film and draw conclusions as to their purpose within the film bringing them together to essentially create a individual and unique perspective in a scene. Much like with paintings, when critics analyse paintings they'll try bring together as many elements in a piece and explain how that the placements of that element or method of it's execution relate to the feeling of a piece. Thus making film comparable to art as each scene in a film is designed to envoke a feeling but often things are placed as props but people could develop their own meanings to the reasons why props are placed as they are or the way a scene is shot.

From there the Authors elabourate on this;

"Put differently: the cognitive act of combining disparate data and sensations from within a shared frame is fundamental premise for our understanding of film."

Here the auhtors are trying to highlight as well as these disconnected aspect being a part of the reason film can be considered art, they're also trying convey that it is this process of joining these componenets to make aspects of the film more than what could have been intended by the Director or writer part of the experience of watching a film. That much like books and music it is a person personal perspective and opinion of scenes and choice made in their construction that makes the experience of viewing a film and understanding the very nature of what a film is.

Next the Authors talk about "The Frame" and it's importance to watching a film;

"Here the frame is more a perceptual constraint and cognitive task then a transparent plane giving access to the world."

Here they draw attention to the frame, the very nature of cinema in that everything the viewer sees occurs in a rectangle field of vision in which they cannot see around in. It focuses their attention on what is happening in a precise spot in the fictional world that the film is taking place. They cannot leave the room that the characters are in and explore whats happening elsewhere, the viewer is confined to the event happening before then. They make the comparison to a real window as when you look at the window in your bedroom you can go out into the world you see, feel it's breeze and hear it's sounds where as in film you cannot.

The next issue to be addressed is the authenticity of films;

"If film were to affect the spectator in the same way as a complete sensory encounter with the world, i.e. spatial, colourful and acoustic, then it could not be distinguished from reality itself and would amount to no more than it's mechanical double."

This is the authors going more indepth into what distinguishes a film from the real world, essentially saying that if a film could mimic the real world whilst telling the story of the character but include things such as the ability for a viewer to move around the realm in which the film is taking place it would be no different to everyday life where a person can sit and watch the stories of people unfold. It's the aspects that are taken away from real life that makes a film what it is, the forced camera angles, swelling soundtracks, this is all part of the magic of the film and espacism, if film was identical to real life noone would be interested and it wouldn't be able to amount to art. Art can be considered an expressionate imitation of life, but if it's a duplicate there no personal expression in there.

The Authors explore deeper into this theme;

"Film as art depends on the creative intervention of an artist, with mechanical duplication serving merely as it's means of production."

Once again they return to the theme of art as film, noting that it's the guiding hand of an artist/director that seperates it from real life. They refer to the "mechanical duplication" as the equpiment used in filming, the cameras, the special effect, the sound management but al of this is guided by the director/producer/artist who has a desired vision of how his take on a story should be done. This point is doubley valid if the setting for the film is contemporary with no fantastical elements that do not belong in our reality (i.e. dragons, spaceships etc). Much like in christianity where an all powerful god has control over the purpose of everything in the world, the artist has control of everything that will happen in his world, when viewers watch nothing has happened by chance but it is all premedatated and each element has it's purpose, without this intervention it wouldn't be art.

The authors begin to draw referance to Rudolf Arheim and the early days of film, citing that the less components that emulate our reality the more artistic the work is;

"The lack and absence (of colour, of naturalistic sound, of three-dimensionality) that posed the artistic challenge of the new Medium...
...This new technological addition was over whelmingly used in a naturalistic way (as it was win the "talkies"), it moved film merely toward a reproduction of reality."

In this section they're reciting the views of Arheim, in that the artists viewed the constraints of filming at the time to add to the challenge of creating art from the work, where as the technological advancements were doing a diservice to the medium of film as an art form. As mentioned previously some view the process of art as imitation of life with an expressionate intervention from the artist. Part of the challenge of creating films in the early days of the medium was getting it to replicate life without duplicating, Arheim clearly felt that with each advancement replication would become less important as duplication was becoming easier, taking away artistic merit from the process of making a film.

The Authors continue to look at Arheim's veiws on technological advancements in film;

"In his view, sound film was the result of an unacceptable compromise between two incompatible art forms (silent film and radio drama)."

Arhein clearly felt that by melding the two together you get something that is too close to a duplication, perhaps too upset at technological advancements Arheim
felt that they only way one or the other could reach artistic merit is if one of the two mediums were lacking in certain elements that seperated them from duplication of reality (i.e. radio has no image so it must use sound effects and lengthy description from the players to build the image in peoples minds, where as film was the opposite). It is possible though unlikely this was the way Arheim felt and could not realise that it's the mere act of directing and presentation of a fil that seperates it from life and reality.

The final quote I'll analyse is this;

"The Frame as an element of abstraction from everyday reality."

This relates back to a previous analysis, here they're highlighting that it is the existence of the frame that seperates it from our reality, it is a window from which we can only see a forced angle from. We cannot pass through or interact, we cannot warm characters of their impending demises nor assist them in times of peril. We can only sit and watch, the barrier stops us from interfering with the artist's world but it also stops the artist's world from reaching out and physically hurting us, instead it can only reach us on an emotional level and it is that which seperates film from reality, it is the artist's choice of content and the way it is presented to envoke an emotion in us. When watching a film we can not be physically touched but emtionally moved and it is the power of an emotional movement that merits a film as art.

Top Video Game Publishers

Over the years, Video Games have grown into a serious business, in my previous post I looked at the different roles involved in creating a video game. During this analysis I learned that Publishers hold much of the power over the process of video games being made in that they manufacture the product and finance the whole product. In light of this information I decided to do some research on the top 5 Video Game publishers in the Industry.

  1. Nintendo
    Revenue: ¥1.43 trillion
    Net income: ¥229 billion
    Notable IPs: Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Metroid, F Zero, Pikmin, Pokemon and more.
    Origins: Starting as a playing card company in 1889, Nintendo has since developed into one of the largest and most important videogame companies in the world.
    Based in: Japan, but has sectors in American and Eurpoe.

  2. Electronic Arts
    Revenue: $3.654 billion
    Net income: $
    677 million
    Notable IPs: Battlefield, Dead Space, Rockband, Mass Effect,
    The Sims, Burnout and More.
    Origins: Starting as just a Publisher in 1982, the company moved to start
    developing their own games.
    Based in: America, but has sectors in Canada and Europe.

  3. Activision Blizzard
    Revenue: $
    4.447 billion
    Net income: $418 million
    Notable IPs: World of Warcraft, Guitar Hero, Spyro The Dragon, Call of Duty,
    Starcraft and more.
    Origins: Created by a merger between the two american games companies,
    Blizzard entertainment and Activision in 2008.
    Based in: Amrican, but has sectors in Canada and the UK

  4. Ubi Soft
    Revenue: €971 million
    Net income: €89.8 million
    Notable IPs: Assassins Creed, Far Cry, Rayman, Myst, Prince of Persia.
    Origins: Founded as a game publisher in 1986 by five brothers of the
    Gullimot Family.
    Based in: France, but has sectors in America, the UK
    and the rest of Eurpoe.

  5. Take-Two Interactive
    Revenue: $968.5 million
    Net income: $137.9 million
    Notable IPs: Grand Theft Auto, Midnight Club, Bioshock, Civilisation.
    Origins: Founded in 1999 as Jumpstart Entertainment by
    Strauss Zelnick
    Based in:
    America, but has sectors in the UK.
With this information of the 5 top publishers, their net profit and notable IPs when it comes to future Networking events I'll have more information based on these companies, it also means that I can look out for these names at the these events knowing who to approach. The purpose of finding their base of operations is to high light the areas in which I could apply for a job, 3 of the 5 have a studio or branch in the UK. All of these posts have been for the purpose of educating myself in the world of the video games industry.

Roles within the Game Industry (part 3)

Finally I'll be looking at the remaining roles that go into the overall process of the game industry and the order of command that goes with it.

Level Designer
The level designer is a sort of mix of a programmer and artist, as they construct the challenges and environments for players to face. They'll often use a set of tools created by programmers but apply their own script to the environment to achieve the desired vision. The challenges that level editors create include various things such as missions or goals for the players to strive for. Often they work with semi completed art work to first get the general layout of the environment they want to create.

Sound Engineers
These are the people in charge of creating the sounds that will be featured in a game. Any audio is over seen by the sound engineer, this includes composing for background music, sound effects and voice acting. Their job is fairly simple in that they create the sounds the designer wants, as with other departments there will be a head sound engineer who will work closely with the designer to get the best sounds that match the designer's vision. Sometimes Composers are outsourced.

Testers
Game testers are the one who play and analyse the game for any faults that might come up during gameplay, they also check that the game meets the desired vision of the designer. This often requires a good knowledge of computer design and competence in analytical skills. Often this process can be expensive so it's often completed at the end stages of the game design process.

With the roles defined it's time to outline the order in which things work. At the top will be the publisher, who are in charge of the producers who oversee the complete project, below them will be the designers, next programmers as they bring together all the aspects of the game and put them together, below the programmers will be the Artists, Level Designers and Sound engineers. Resulting in the whole process looking a little something like this:

Publisher>Producer>Designer>Programmer>Artists, Level Designers, Sound Engineers.


You'll notice how I haven't included the Testers, this is because the tester whilst are a part of the game design process don't contribute to the creative process in the same way. Testers act more like debuggers and quality checkers to make sure the game is proceeding at the desired level of quality.

After this look at the roles in game design companies I've certainly more enlightened about the components and job oppertunities in the industry as well as potentially finding my prefered role should I enter the employment of a geames studio.

Roles within the Game Industry (Part 2)

Previously I looked at the more beurocratic side of the game development process, this time round I'll be looking at the deep down and gritty members of the creative process.

Designer
The designer has to role of developing the gameplay aspects that will be in the final game. This includes what the objective of the game is and how it should be played. Designers also have to concieve the story (if there is one), decide what the contents of the product will be (eg. will there be unlockable levels and features). Often there will be seperate designers for different aspects of the game in larger projects. In short Game designers decide what the game is going to consist of, mechanics, which characters are to be in it and features.

Artists
Artists are the creators of the world the designer wants to create. Artist refers to both 2D and 3D art covering all types of visual work created, from concept art to 3D Models, often the art department will be seperated into groups such as 2D artist who will focus on conceptualising an idea and 3D Artists who will then take that idea and create in in three-dimensions to be used in the game. Often there will be an art director to over see the work to make sure that it follows the vision of the designer. Whilst the designers think up the ideas it's the artists who give those ideas a face.

Programmers
Programmers are the people who essentially put all the elements of a game together, they are the ones who bring the non visual elements of the game to life such as physics, AI, scripting, online capabilities and gameplay method. Much like the other departments there will be atleast one lead programmer who oversees the small aspects of this section of game design process. In short the Programmers are the assemble line workers of the overall process, making sure that each different element will work with each other and that the gameplay and user interfaces work well together.

Next I'll be looking at the final set of key roles in game making process.

Roles within the Game Industry (Part 1)

Much with any industry there multiple roles that one can take within the Video Game Industry in this series of blog entries I'm going to analyse those roles.

Over the years the video game industry has grown to the point in which that it's similar to the film industry with multi-million budgets for some games and dozens upon dozens of people working on one game at any given time. I'll be looking at each role in each sector.

  • Producers
In video game development there are two kinds of producters and internal and external one. The internal producer manages the resources such as schedule, staff and report progress, whilst the external producer (often hired by the publisher of the game) oversees aspects such as overall progress and the budget. Their overall resposibilties invole PR, negotiations, connections between staff and stakes holders, beta test management and localisation.

  • Publisher
A publisher in the terms of video games is very much the same as for books or films, it's their duty to manufactue the product, complete market research, develop a marketing campaign for the product and handle all aspects of advertising. Often the Publishers are the one who finance a video game's production, to protect their investments they hire Producers to keep an eye on the progress on the product. Most video games are created by an external game developer but some are developed by the publisher themselves, often they are paid by the publisher with advances on roaylities.

These two components are critical to the process of making a game as without the publishers there would be no funding in the game (unless dev' members put up the cash themselves) or marketing for a game and without producers the time management would be impossible to keep track of. Whilst these are the less creative side of the business they're still just as important to the overall process as the actual developers making the game.

Next I'll be looking at the down and dirty members of the game development process.

TIGA: Representing the Games Industry

Once you have a job in the Games Industry in the UK it's probably a good idea to sign up for membership to TIGA.

TIGA is basically a union for games designers in the UK, the organisation looks out for memebrs by being a political representative of the games industry, generate media coverage and developing services to enhance competiton between members to create the best games they can. This allows members to have a voice in the political and media world and that members will recieve the proper benefits such as redution of costs and improved commercial oppertunities, TIGA also make sure that views of game developers are articulated properly to the media.

By being a TIGA member there are also benefits such as assitance in seeking a job via the job board or job swap to make the process of getting employed easier, theres also support for those wanting to exhibit their work overseas at the various expos that take place across the world. There's also discount on services such as motion capturing, PR, legal and accountancy services. Along with newsletters and networking events theres really a whole host of benefits anyone coming out of univeristy can reap from joining.

It seems that TIGA is there to look out for both larger and small game developer's interest in the world, if anything it's good to join to have a union to fall back upon if anything should go wrong or you suffer indecent treatment at the hands of one employer. It's also good to be apart of a union to keep up on the latest information about your profession and the way the goverment will treat it, be it an increase in taxes or no pension funding, TIGA seems ready to fight for Game Developers rights in the UK.

Researching a Game Company

Previously I talked about getting a job in the games industry and the suggestions for what to do when applying for jobs, these suggestions were also backed up by an article by Michael Stibbes whom worked in a professional games company for sometime.

Using Rockstar Game's website as an example I'm going to give an analysis of what the website tells me about the company.

The front page features a whole host of different information including manyfeatures such as videos and downloads that serves as promotions for already released and up-coming games. This first of all informes the veiwers of what games the company is currently making, in rockstars case they're heavily promoting their upcoming game "L.A. Noire", but are also promoting new previous releases such as "Red Dead Redemption", the games section also tells me the type of games Rockstar release, generally aimed at older audiences their games often feature a third person perspective and expolartion. Already I've learned alot about the games the company makes.

The next section to look at is their news section, titled "News Wire". Here the company posts news relating to itself or any recommendations that is has. This again is used as a promtional tool but theres still much to learn from it. Firstly they've posted various Previews and opinions from various press magazines and websites, they also use the "News Wire" to announce competitions such as a competition titled "The Los Angeles Noire Weekend Sweepstakes", in which fans can enter to win various prizes such as a trip to Los Angeles and a unique hands on experience with the game before anyone else. They also release updates on the games such as screen shots and news of extra features coming via download and even organised online events held by the company, the "News Wire" also features a twitter feed. This informs me that Rockstar Games are keen to keep people updated in their work and are professionals at promotion, they're also take a hands-on approache to consumers by offering these organised online events.

The next point of interest of the website is titled "Social Club". This serves as a community site for fans and players of rockstar games to connect with eachother, the site also features additional features for games such as online leaderboards and mini-games, along with this theres also a message board and a page listing all the Multiplayer Events that Rockstar will be hosting for members. It also holds a news section that realtes specifically to the the rockstar community such as "Social Club" exculsive competitions.
This tells me that the company care about their audience and fans and what to keep them engaged in their products, the inclusion of a community site complete with message board also means that they can get feedback from the fans and not just reviews from websites/magazines.

Finally their Merchandise section takes me to the shop where in the company sells products ranging from games to t-shirts but also limited edition products such as "Red Dead Redemption" soap, playing cards etc.

This shows me that they don't just focus on advertising for promotion but also specially made products too, it also shows that that if their fans wish they can easily find a t-shirt or similar product to celebrate one of Rockstar Game's Products. The inclusion of a shop site informs me that the company is large enough to sustain something as time consuming as retail, this leads to the conclusion that if I were to apply for a job I would be joining a successful team.

Just by spending 30 minutes researching Rockstar's website I've learned about their upcoming releases and the types of games they make, their promotional methods, new products being released in the form of Downloadable content, their involvement with the consumers and the extend at which they get involved and their store. All of this information would prove to be extremely handy when it comes to an interview and any questions they would ask me about themselves. This also informs me of the type of company I'll be applying for. From this mere 30 mins of research I'm already more prepared for an interview should I have one.

The Ins & Outs of Parody

In the previous post I looked at the case of The Walt Disney Company vs The Air Pirates. During the Court case between the two the Air Pirates claimed that their work that was derived from the Disney Characters was work done in Parody. This prompted me to take a further look into Parody to avoid any wasted lawsuits against people when parodying work that I have created that could be mis-interpreted as copyright infringement.

Parody is defined as "contemporary usage, is a work created to mock, comment on, or make fun at an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation." Parody happens across all forms of entertainment but surely by using an idea that wasn't originally under ownership of the new creative theres got to be some legal fluff surrounding it.

In the United States of America, parody is considered work derived from a previous source but claims for owners can be dismissed under the Fair Use doctrine which allows limited use of copyrighted material without authorisation from the rights holder under the basis that the parody fell under the the proper definition.

If I was to create a comic where in a teenager is bitten by a radioactive ant to become a super hero and show him struggling with being a teenager and a super hero, this would not be under the definition of Parody as I've taken elements from one preoperty and just switch a few details, essentially ripping off a previous idea. If I was to create a comic in where a Spider was bitten by a radioactive shy, bookish human thus gaining the proportionate abilities of a teenage nerd and then chronicle it's experience as it deal with these terrible new powers, this would fall under the definition of Parody as it it's clearly taking some elements of the original and changing the perspective around, adding comedic and even more fantastical elements to which it has become something else that draws it's origins from a different piece of work.

In the UK the use of Parody is much harder to acquire. Citing that one must recieve permission from the original copyright holder before the Parody is performed, although there are exceptions such as;
  • Part of the underlying work is not 'substantial'.
  • The use of the underlying work falls within the fair dealing exception for "criticism, review and news reporting".
  • Enforcement of copyright is contrary to the public interest.
The easiest of these to appeal towards is making sure that the underlying work is not substantial. In my previous example since I used the origins of spider-man and twisted the basic concept to create a new character in a teenage nerd powered spider, the original work shouldn't be classed as substantial (although this could be up for debate due to conflicting opinions, such as the courtcase of Airpirates vs Disney).

It seems that when it comes to parody there are very fine line between what the law deems as okay and whats not okay, with the most complicated part being the definition of the amount of worked used and if you have contributed anything new to it to make it different from the original. The best example of mainstream Parody would most likely be the Scary Movie series of films which has built up a franchise of parodying various horror movies for the sake of make a new comedy movie from those pastiches. If you ever find your work being copied always hold your fire to make sure that it's not a parody so that you don't waste money chasing the wrong guys.

Mickey Mouse and the Air Pirates

In 1970 Several cartoonist mets at the Sky River Rock Concert & Lighter than Air Fair in Washington State. These Cartoonists consisted of Robert London, Dan O'Neill, Gary Hallgren, Ted Richards and Sherry Flenniken, the trouble all started when O'neill's lawyer proclaimed that the copyright on Mickey Mouse had lapsed resulting in the cartoonist suggesting that the group gain control of the Disney Ips by creating their own versions of them.

Unfortunately none of this was true as Disney had renewed it's copyright on Steamboat Willie (the first Mickey Cartoon) in 1956 to make it last until 1986. The group took on the name "Air Pirates" for any work that they complete together, Ted Richards claimed that Walt Disney was nothing but a hack and by copyrighting his work he was preventing truly great artists contribute and improve upon his work. Being part of the Underground comic scene the brains behind the group wanted to run their publishing more like a business with monthly release schedules claiming that using Disney's IP justified this, in the end over 20,000 copies of the first two issues of "Air Pirates Funnies" were published. In the comics the cartoonists featured the lovable characters performing acts of which were uncharacteristic such as swearing, smuggling drugs and various sexual acts with each other. Fortunately The Disney Company never noticed, unfortunately the Air Pirates wanted to be noticed.

Eventually their work reach the Disney Execs and on October 21 1971 Disney Productions filed suit against the Air Pirates. Disney's case was straightforward, the Air Pirates had used copyrighted characters without permission and that they had violated their trademarks by replicating them to misguide consumers into think it's a Disney authorised product and that by showing sexual and criminal acts being performed by the characters also damages the brand that Disney has built up over the years.

Unfortunately the Pirates claimed that the work was produced in the tradition of Parody and Satire and that no consumer would mistake their portray of characters like Mickey for the ones created by Walt Disney. They also argued that since Disney has become a symbol of American Culture they were in every right to add their own ideas as it would transform the characters into a different expression of an artist, something that is outside of the company's copyright.

Subsequently the Air Pirates were charged with $20,000+ is damages and fees to be paid to Disney, but it didn't end there. O'Neill appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 but was refused to a hearing, at a yet another hearing the Disney company demanded that O'Neill be prosecuted as a criminal but the Judge refused, over the course of 8 years the Air Pirates had cost The Disney Company $2 million in costs trying to pursue the group and in the end all they had to show for it was a written piece of paper from O'Neill promising that he would never draw Mickey Mouse again.

This is a rare case in which Disney had become so large and pivotal to culture that it had transended the usual means of copyright law as it is now considered as much as a part of american culture as Thanks Giving Day. This also shows an example of what can happen when copyright is breached or an IP is used in a way that the creator did not intend, the ins and outs of trials and the stress that go along with it. It's unlikely that everyone's work will reach a level of fame such as the Disney Toons but it's an important part of copyright history as the Airpirates essentially got nothing more than a slap on the wrist and a "now don't do it it again."