Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I was writing some notes and stuff on the huge, amorphous blob that is my Div 3 and realized something worth noting:

zefrank and LonelyGirl15 are kinda similar in fundamental ways. And what better place to discuss this than my Div 3 blog?

Both projects attempt to connect with the viewer on sort of a one-on-one level. Lonelygirl is speaking directly to you, as is zefrank in his advice videos and other video-based projects. zefrank also has a page that has a little flower animation paired with text explaining how the site was made for just "you", not all those other people who log on because they don't understand him like "you" do. You can view this here.

Lonelygirl focusses primarily on one medium for connection: the video blog, whereas zefrank has created many projects to connect with his viewers. You get to know zefrank through a series of lists, videos, animations, general connections to the plight of the common man, and he even has a link to his birthday wishlist.

In addition to getting to know LonelyGirl, you get to know her best friend Daniel. In addition to getting to know zefrank, you get to know his cat Annie. (Wait, zefrank isn't the lonely one??) zefrank has a bit more grounding in reality though: he has info on how to hire him to do stuff, as well as a link to his old band's website. LonelyGirl relies on her consistant "presence" on YouTube to make her seem real (it was found out in mid-September that this was a fictional blog), whereas zefrank has some grounding in reality. LonelyGirl does, howeverm have the added benefit of the viewer responses to her video posts too add to her credibility as a real person.

Regardless of whether or not zefrank or LonelyGirl are really who they say they are, the viewer connects with the personalities they project. LonelyGirl might not have actually had a lazy eye as a child but viewers who have experienced having a lazy eye feel some sort of bond with her, and perhaps with eachother. zefrank could have photoshopped the image of all the junk mail he received with the same subject line, but we can still laugh over the fact that junk e-mail has become more and more ridiculous and we all feel similarly buried by it.

At this point you may be asking: "So what? You can connect with a stand up comic or a writer or a television show based on having similar experiences to those described, whether they actually happened to the person they said they did. What makes this any more noteworthy than watching Sex and the City when you're having relationship problems?"

My answer: accessability. You have control of how you get to know LonelyGirl or zefrank. You can "access" them at any time and get to know them in whatever order you please. You don't need to wait for an episode of LonelyGirl, or you don't have to watch it at all and instead you could just read the responses. You don't have to watch all of zefrank's weird instructional videos to connect with him, or maybe that's all you see of his website. In fact, a lot of people only know zefrank through his latest addition, a video blog known as "The Show".

That's right, zefrank even has his own video blog. This is a fairly new feature. I found out about this blog from a friend of mine who sent me a link saying he just started following it and that "this guy" was hilarious. When I clicked the link I saw the familiar face of zefrank and informed my friend that zefrank and his website had actually been around for years. But back to my point: While he talks directly to you, the viewer, he doesn't go into personal aspects about himself as much as he does on his website. I personally feel that the connection the viewer feels with zefrank is enhanced by viewing his website. While the point of the blog is that he's making it every day for you, the viewer, it seems like there would be a bit more distance if the viewer hadn't been there to see his silly dance instruction videos, his statistics, and prior interactions with viewers based on e-mail. Again, it's all in how the user chooses to get to know him.

And I guess here is the point where I sum up my seemingly unwieldily-bloggy arguement: The viewer/user creates a connection with LonelyGirl15 and zefrank in very similar ways. One, they connect to the user one-onone to share personal aspects of their lives with their viewers and seem to be creating for their viewers. Two, they both have aspects of user input and have some (at least) loose ties to the real world. Three, they bring people together with similar experiences and relate with general human plights. And, finally, they use the medium (ooh, or is it media?) of the web to make themselves accessable to the viewer and allow them to choose how they get to know these online personas.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

So I was casually reading this story about another Season 3 Project Runway scandal, and came across this:
"For his part, Sebelia has lashed out at the allegations--and those who reported on them--in a posting to his MySpace page, after a commenter brought up the rumors.

"Thanks for your concern," Sebelia wrote. "But all I have to say is be careful of what you read and also of what is presented in the press."

MySpace is now a credible replacement for an actual interview? Heck, MySpace actually being considered a serious and credible source for anything is strange to me. This is not remediation here, this is just silly. I tried to find his MySpace (yes, I have a MySpace account) and this post, and while I found a MySpace page for someone claiming to be Jeffrey, the quote from the article was not there. However, I found a bunch of other designers' MySpace pages, including last season's oddball designer, Santino Rice. I couldn't help but wonder if these MySpace pages were indeed legitimate, or perhaps another Lonelygirl15 or Marshall McLuhan gag. There were usually tons of posts from other users on each of the designers' blogs. This makes me think back to the statement the people behind Lonelygirl15 made after being found out about working towards removing "the line between 'fan' and 'star'". While they didn't exactly phrase it in the most coherent way, they seem to be talking about giving the fan more access to the star, which is exactly what these MySpace profiles for the Project Runway designers are doing. Fans leave messages of encouragement on current contestants' MySpace comment sections, and to former contestants fans leave comments as if they were old friends. For example, on Santino's MySpace a fan posted a comment that read "Hello Santino, I hope everything is going well. You are my favorite designer. Keep me updated with any events or things that come up okay? hugggz good luck to you =)". Perhaps without even realizing it, MySpace and the Project Runway designers are also achieving the goals of the LonelyGirl15 team with their use of YouTube.

Back to the MySpace quoting, has MySpace remediated the interview process? Interviews can be influenced by the presence of the interviewer, not to mention there's the hassle of getting the interview in the first place. A reporter can get commentary from the people involved within seconds of news breaking just by checking MySpace. Of course, this brings up an issue of credibility. I could not find the commentary on the MySpace page of Jeffrey Sebelia, and how do I know if that was the actual Jeffrey or someone pretending to be him or perhaps it was the ghost of Marshal McLuhan. So what does this mean? Are these reporters barking up the wrong info source or is this the middle of remediation? Does it take a while to refine a remediation? Bolter and Grusin have yet to talk about this in what I've read of the book. They do, however, make it sound like it's a sudden process, but that seems a little too magical for me. I guess we can only wait and see if the face-to-face interview (or phone-to-phone or even e-mail to e-mail) will be remediated by statements in online forums on the web.