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December 9, 2008
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INFO390 Final Project

Christopher Magiet


Writing Across Media

INFO 390 Final Project Response:

Community Ideals in an Ongoing Discourse

The general focus of the video project was to analyze through a fictional discourse the way in which communities function, if so, in a virtual setting. In order to formulate our points, we used the article written by Nessim Watson, “Why We Argue about Virtual Community: A Case Study of the Phish.Net Fan Community,” along with other topics discussed throughout the duration of the course, to create a cohesive discussion on the topic. In a sense, the video as a choice of media seemed to be a good idea since it can subtly incorporate elements of audio, text and typography, and sequential properties. Also, our group for the project experienced success with video previously.

Initially, our group thought that the best way to present the ideas found through our own discussions and effectively respond to it was to show one side of the argument that could be considered the stereotypical or “easy” conclusion. Our idea was to exhibit through an office or work setting the somewhat overly conventional idea of participants in online communities having some social inadequacies, and that these inadequacies serve as the reasons for widespread gravitation to online forums mimicking community atmospheres. We had figured that if we showcased this viewpoint in a satirical fashion, the more critical viewpoint might become evident, the one that Watson seemed to be advocating in her article.

We were going to have different characters that might illustrate different social archetypes that would find different and even alternative avenues for online interaction. The stereotypical viewpoint as to why and how online communities grow prevalent and gain potentially massive levels of user interaction is based upon the idea that such a gravitation results from a deficit in the person’s intimate and social interactions. From these assumptions, we planned on filming different characters exhibiting some sort of escape behavior, and then portray that as the reason for their involvement in online/virtual communities, the reason so many of these communities have grown in the online world.

After letting these ideas stew a bit, and then talking to our instructor, Mark Barnes, we had to start questioning the effectiveness of this project idea. Trying to show the exploitative qualities of the stereotypical viewpoint in a satirical way would not have come out the right way.

We realized this after taking a critical analysis of our own project in order to account for the cohesiveness of the video as a whole. It turns out that the difference between the stereotypical and critical viewpoints is due partly to the fact that the critical viewpoint is necessarily evident, even when the converse is satirized. While it would have been interesting, as what may have been partially influence by NBC’s “The Office,” and funnier to try and present this proposed situation, the overall effectiveness for the sake of argument would have been lost. So, as a group (haha, and a community) we restructured to focus of our video to accommodate a more clear, possibly less confusing viewpoint.

We then decided to show the parallels between online/virtual communities and communities functioning in the real world. We decided that a classroom type of setting would work better in showcasing the different roles present in a general social or community setting, a significant part of how communities are formed and function. We intended to created a quasi online forum using a physical setting in hopes of using elements of the online/virtual world to show how communities formed in the real world transfer indirectly to the internet, and in such a fashion that they seem like alternate forms of communication.

Often times, this alternate communication can be perceived as invalid, or even hokey and pointless because in the greater scheme, things associated with the internet seem lose a great deal of credibility. We thought if presented with a certain amount of care, we could show that the importance of communicative elements in communities of all mediums is evident in developing online communities in forums. We still wanted to use a humorous video approach with subtle gestures to communicate our ideas, but the satire may not have been as obvious as we wanted, as may have been seen during our in-class presentation. We wanted little things added to the plot to exhibit some of our ideas without explicitly saying “this, this, and this” about community straight in the camera, though we realized that some of that needed to happen in order for the video to be viewed with more clarity.

Along with those certain subtle satirical qualities in mind, we thought it might be beneficial to incorporate some meta-fictional elements into our video for several reasons. After taking in what Watson discusses regarding language and roles on the internet and our own observations about Facebook and Myspace, we thought that quasi meta-fictional things occur when online communities grow and function. People talk about online communities in real life, such as commenting on what happens on facebook, or a conversation on a forum, with peers. The converse happens online, where larger communities can adopt for intimate settings, though physical proximity fails to be a factor, for the sake of communication and general interaction.

We had many of these ideas in mind while filming, but I think much of it was lost with different scene cuts, and the filming process in general. A different medium may have been more effective, or maybe a synthesis of different media outlets. Perhaps combing the video with a sequential element and a pseudo online forum would have helped to illustrate our ideas.


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About author

Chris Magiet is a blog editor for TrainSignal Training, writing about the new things going on at TrainSignal. He brings news on training releases, industry updates, and more exclusive content. A recent Liberal Arts grad from the University of Illinois, Chris joined the TrainSignal team to support a great experience for the users of TrainSignal Training.