Twitter’s Celebrity Problem

Twitter’s Celebrity Problem

The most followed person on Twitter is Katy Perry. The second most followed is Justin Bieber. In fact out of the top 20 most followed on Twitter, 15 of them are celebrities. Society’s obsession with celebrity culture is alive and kicking on the world’s most popular micro-blogging site.

For celebrities that gained fame by offline means, Twitter is used a tool of self-promotion, a means by which they can continue to market themselves when not acting/singing/modelling etc. The platform seemingly provides a glimpse into celebrity lives, allowing their followers to interact by commenting, favouriting and retweeting. The scale that which celebrity tweets are retweeted by followers is excessive. Let’s use one of Katy Perry’s latest tweets as an example;

This banal comment has been (at time of writing) favourited 6,923 times and retweeted 3,313 times. All for a sentence about someone’s dinner. Whilst Twitter’s celebrity focus may seem harmless, it still tends to lend authority to the (usually subjective, sometimes harmful) words of the rich and famous.

In Twitter’s defense, it also hosts a vast number of accounts focused on science, education, news, charities etc. Let’s hope that in the future more attention is paid to the 140 characters of accounts such as  NASA, Malala Yousafzai or National Geographic than the 140 characters of celebrities.

Citizen Journalism = Journalism

Citizen Journalism = Journalism

2011: The Arab Spring

ArabSpring

2012: The KONY Campaign (Invisible Children)

KONY

2013: The Boston Marathon Bombings

Runners continue to run towards the finish line as an explosion erupts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon

2014: The Ferguson demonstrations following the shooting of Michael Brown

Ferguson

2015: …?

These events stand as some of the most iconic news-stories of their respective years. Whilst each was covered extensively on legacy media, what connects them all is their origins as citizen journalism.

So what exactly is citizen journalism?

As you can see Jay Rosen, Journalism professor at NYU, has a simple, broad definition of citizen journalism. Rosen regards citizen journalism as the audience (i.e. people not employed to create news) using the tools at their disposal (smart phones, blogs etc.) to inform one another of current happenings. People who practice citizen journalism are therefore known as citizen journalists.

What then is the difference between regular (legacy media) journalists and citizen journalists?

The issue of authenticity is commonly cited as the differentiating factor between ‘citizen’ and ‘real’ journalists. But considering the failures of legacy journalism to present factual stories, in comparison to citizen journalism (which can be either confirmed or proven false by thousands of separate individuals), the argument that authenticity is the dividing factor seems rather baseless.

Perhaps then there is no difference between journalists and citizen journalists.Both participate in the reporting and dispersal of information to an audience. The only perceptible difference is that legacy journalists and journalism is done for profit, whereas citizen journalists usually go unpaid.

Furthermore, as citizen journalism has gained traction more and more legacy journalism organisations have begun to use material collected by citizen journalists (especially in conflict zones where organisations may be hesitant to send their journalists) and even recruit prolific citizen journalists (such as  NewJersey.com).

This is not to say that anyone who engages in an act of citizen journalism can immediately call themselves a journalist (citizen or otherwise). Just as drawing a picture does not classify you as an artist, or changing a tire classify you as a mechanic, tweeting a current event does not make you a journalist. It makes you someone who has participated in an act of journalism.

But if an individual is committed to tweeting news, to blogging current events or uploading footage for the purposes of disseminating information, then it is hard to argue why the lack of paycheck should stop them from being called a journalist.

Original Unoriginality: Remix Culture

Original Unoriginality: Remix Culture

November 2014: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars release the single Uptown Funk. The song stays no.1 for 14 consecutive weeks on America’s Billboard charts.

March 2015: KFaceTv release Dark Lord Funk a parody mash-up of Ronson and Mars’ hit and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. As of April 2015, the video has over 7million views on YouTube.

Dark Lord Funk demonstrates the pervasiveness of remixes and mash-ups in contemporary culture.

“Remixing” creative works is not a new trend however. It’s easy to define remixes solely as old songs reworked entirely or in part by contemporary artists (recent examples include Rihanna’s “SOS”, The Black Eyed Peas’ “Pump it”, and Kanye West’s “Gold Digger”). If we broaden remixing to include a diverse range of art forms however, it’s easy to see the long history of remixing creative works.

Famous literary texts face constant remixing. A string of ‘teen-friendly’ Shakespeare films in the late 1990’s, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland…these are just a few examples of well-known texts remixed and re purposed.

With so much of our cultural texts now remixes of previous work, does this mean the end of originality? Are there no new ideas?

Such a view is narrow-minded. No text – no song, no book, no film – exists in a cultural vacuum. All creative works draw from somewhere. If we refer back to KFaceTv’s Dark Lord Funk it’s easy to pick-up on the text’s being remixed i.e. Uptown Funk and Harry Potter. But these text’s themselves can too be seen as remixing older texts. Uptown Funk heavily remixes and samples 1980’s funk and R&B music , reworking Minneapolis Groove, a sound made famous by the artist Prince. Likewise the Harry Potter saga can be viewed as remixing a wide variety of pre-existing texts such as The Worst Witch, A Wizard of Earthsea, countless English folktales and even the Bible (being an old and widely read text, motifs and content of the Bible are commonly said to be remixed).

Both Uptown Funk and Harry Potter are viewed as original works despite these clear links to prior texts. Why then should a work like Dark Lord Funk be viewed as any less original? With the expansive array of creative texts pervasive in 21st century society, it is impossible to not in some way be remixing another work.

Nothing can be entirely original. But a remix presents an idea in a new way.

Remixes are original unoriginality.