Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hot or Knot?

There are a series of online sexual health social marketing campaigns being promoted by the MTV network, many of which are being presented as Internet "games."

The master site at It's Your [Sex] Life (or "It's Your (Sex) Life" as the web page title puts it equally delicately) takes the social networking metaphor of "Members," "Groups," "Forums," and "Organizations" as its main organizing principle.

From there, visitors can go to an edgier site like Sex, Etc., which includes links to feminist content from New Day Films, such as the documentary about digital photo retouching, "Wet Dreams and False Images," teen-produced user-generated content with a more awkwardly scripted social marketing messages in short condom education films such as "Toothpaste," and blogs with celebrity-centered content about young stars and their public exploits.

Or one can go to the obviously abstinence oriented How do you Stay Teen? in which the National Day Quiz emphasizes waiting until marriage with its weighted online quiz.

Among all the MTV offerings, I was most impressed with Positive or Not?, which used a hot-or-not style interface to encourage users to guess if the person in the photo was HIV positive or not. Unlike the overly easy online game about sexual predators, ID the Creep, the fact that it wasn't simple to suss out the underlying algorithm of made the experience of this particular guessing game unsettling. Gay people were often negative, and straight people were often positive, and all of the portraits came with intimate accounts about either how the person became infected or how the person became an activist despite being negative because of contact with a victim of the disease. According to the "about" page, this Kaiser foundation-sponsored online activity is specifically designed to be "viral," and players are frequently prompted with a message about "Send Game to A Friend."

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