Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Where Is Governor Moonbeam?

Last week California governor Jerry Brown announced his veto of the state budget in a "Budget Veto" YouTube video. The governor opens his direct address to the voter with a moment of flourishing penmanship before her pushes a document away to give some straight talk about the state's need to address its fiscal crisis responsibly. The camera then zooms in on the seventy-three-year-old politician during the entirety of the sixty-second clip.

Delivering this kind of stern talking-to can be politically disastrous, as it was for former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, after he gave his extremely unpopular 1977 Address to the Nation on Energy. But Brown now can refer to a number of rhetorical models, as legislators now speak directly to constituents frequently in the YouTube venue in carefully studied scenes of executive authority and public trust.

He probably should avoid the style of unpopular UC President Mark Yudof, whose UCofficeofpresident YouTube channel often garners far more "dislikes" than "likes" when Yudof takes a starring role, particularly when he spoke about state employee furloughs here and here. (Lately the channel features other spokespeople for the University of California system.) What's wrong exactly with Yudof's YouTube persona isn't entirely clear, but he does have a tendency to look down as he speaks, and he is likely perceived as a "fatcat" who fills up the frame with his bulk.
Governor Brown chose not to emulate the Obama White House YouTube style that emanates cool and reserve. In these videos the U.S. president never appears behind a desk, and the luxurious domestic spaces of the White House are often noticeable in the background. Naturally, the famously frugal Brown could never highlight the opulence of the governor's mansion, and his desire to seem like a decisive chief executive probably makes the desk a necessary prop. Brown's handlers also decided to forgo achieving the intimacy of a close-up with an actual cut, a signature feature of Obama addresses; instead the governor seems to favor a continuous zoom that seems to emphasize Brown's relentless intensiveness and his unblinking engagement with the viewer.

At least Brown avoided the theatrics of his predecessor, now disgraced former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who actually brandished a knife in his budget-cutting online speech and appeared flanked by kitschy elephants to signify his loyalty to the machismo of the Republican party. In speaking to his Twitter followers and praising their input, Schwarzegger even used his dog as a prop once. It is worth noting that Schwarzenegger eventually approached the genre of the online address with more gravitas in imitation of the Obama style, as his farewell video indicates.

Although Brown has only posted six YouTube videos, he does seem to be aware of how the platform functions rhetorically. He has refined his style on GovernorBrown's YouTube channel, since he posted his first Governor Brown Checks In With the People of California video in which Brown seems to be burning the midnight oil in a scene shot in the dead of night in which his cluttered desk establishes his interest in researching the state's budget problems, which seems to be contained in large white binders. (There is also a weird outlier in this group of addresses that opens with Brown's disembodied head on a TV screen.)

It's important to remember that Brown announced his candidacy in a YouTube video that thematized his straightforward unvarnished rhetorical style with a wall of unfinished brick in an office that even lacked bookshelves.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Flying without a Flight Plan

United Airlines has become well known for its failures coping with criticism from social computing venues, as the airline immortalized in the YouTube viral hit "United Breaks Guitars" that has received over ten million views that could only provide the most anemic response to the torrents of online hatred it has experienced since the video's debut. The corporation's new media arm, which includes the UnitedItsTimeToFly YouTube channel has been panned by experts for its lack of content and responsiveness. (The fact that United was scooped on getting the United YouTube channel by someone posting blurry video of friends and family probably says a lot.) The company's blathering Twitter stream has also caused critics to opine "Dear United Airlines, You Don't Get Twitter. At All."

Now the hashtag #unitedfail has become associated with another high-profile fiasco for its Internet image, a story bearing the New York Times headline "United Flights Resume After Five-Hour Computer Failure," which describes how travelers were stranded all over the country last Friday as they struggled to reach weekend destinations. Apparently mobile boarding pass technologies utterly failed, and passengers planning to check in using their smart phones found themselves forced to substitute hand-written boarding passes like this one.

The company's Facebook page shows an interesting story about digital rhetoric unfolding, one in which commentators frequently pile on those with complaints against United. For example, people trapped in the terminal with crying children were told to be more effective disciplinarians as parents and not to be crybabies themselves by calling everything an "emergency."

Of course, comments like these inevitably got "likes" from other disgruntled customers:

Nice pictures, United. Those check-in kiosk photos clearly show how many people are lining up to fly you. And nice work with the computer meltdown, World's Leading Airline.

Flight from LAS to IAD was cancelled. Gate agent provided an 'apology voucher'. Followed the instructions on the voucher and used the www.united.com/appreciation web site, and I got nothing. United sent an email and has said a customer representative will contact me within 10 days, but I got nothing. Can someone tell me how to go about? Thanks.

So it seems united decided to "invest" in executive bonuses instead of IT systems that work. They get rich we get s.....d

Nice pictures, United. Those check-in kiosk photos clearly show how many people are lining up to fly you. And nice work with the computer meltdown, World's Leading Airline.

Nonetheless, United fans were busy working the Facebook page with reminders about the failures of other airlines and other technology services and sermons about the value of patience. However, not all of these people seemed to be genuinely neutral parties: it wasn't hard to find a United employee and a person with only one other Facebook friend who also was also an upbeat commentator on the Deepwater Horizon page.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mobility Shifts

There are only a few more days before the call for Mobility Shifts: An International Future of Learning Summit closes. Like the previous conference organized by Trebor Scholz on digital labor, The Internet as Playground and Factory, pre-conference discussion is already an important part of the critical discourse around the event, and the mailing list for the Institute for Distributed Creativity is already abuzz with introductions from keynoters like Cathy Davidson of HASTAC.

Matt Gold and I are co-chairing the "Digital Fluencies" track at the conference, and we're interested in expanding the meaning of what digital learning means on a very fundamental level to get away from the charity-case after-school computer lab paradigm and the romance with the digital native and to look seriously at forms of learning that involve mobile devices, political engagement, and much more ambiguous narratives.

What are new pedagogic approaches for learning with mobile platforms? What are the limitations of the “digital literacies” paradigm and its first world/third world assumptions?

How do we promulgate digital fluency as an understanding of the particular features of global information flows in which data, attention, capital, and reputation might move both to and from individual actors and communities?

How can mobile media platforms be used for more than the one-way delivery of content? What are new pedagogical approaches for real-time mobile learning that make full use of the potential of mobile phones, iPods, laptops, PDAs, smart phones, Tablet PCs, and netbooks in formal and informal contexts? How can global participants use mobile media to create rich social contexts around important learning tasks? How can such platforms be leveraged to teach digital rights and the value of collaboration across cultures?

How can we dispel the myth of the digital native?

How can mobile networks reshape our experiences of space and place through interactive architecture, locative art, geo-caching games, and real-time object recognition? What opportunities for networked teaching and learning might we find in such media-rich, responsive environments?

Check out the call for participation here. The deadline is July 1.

(Sixth College is one of the partners of the project and plans to sponsor faculty and TAs from the Culture, Art, and Technology program to attend the event.)

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