Fandom featuring “Fanpires”

Popular Vampire series’ Dracula, Buffy, Twilight, and 50 Shades of Grey have all been prevalent influences for the vampire subculture (aka fanpires). A research report on WordPress blog “fivedotone” explores the way the vampire genre has created fascination and obsession leading to vampire fandom, and has become an iconic phenomenon in popular culture. Vampire fandom became increasingly popular as it began to appear through various mediums. While traditionally there are novels, television, and film – cyberspace has allowed fans to create fan-fiction literature, as well as engage in vampire fashion, music and gaming.

Common values and social structures were reflected in Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula, the most lucrative vampire novel of its time. The character Count Dracula had a sophisticated appeal about him, and created a sense of revolution with regard to everyday relationships and anxieties. Dracula represented themes such as sexuality, gender and race in a progressive world, which audiences could relate to and thus began literary reinterpretations of vampires.

fanpires

Image source

This clip “Real vampires and the vampire subculture” features the ways that different people appropriate vampire identities. There are people in this actively growing subculture who believe the stories aren’t fictional, and consider themselves real vampires. Not the kind who roam cemeteries, melt in the sun or participate in satanic sacrifices, they are regular people living as contemporary and symbolic representations of vampires. There are different groups of vampires within the subculture – while many adopt the fashion (i.e. clothing, accessories, permanent fang teeth), the most controversial are those who feed on real human blood to acquire energy, and there are actual websites dedicated to finding vampire blood donors. Others absorb energy from the atmosphere or people around them, and dub themselves as psychic vampires. Many fans contribute to fan fiction literature by reworking and rewriting their favourite vampire texts. Fans employ varying levels of semiotic productivity and merchandise that has supported the ongoing fanpire community. Research on fanpires cultural interpretations has demonstrated a strong creative and devoted foundation for the vampire genre to thrive.

Thanks evolution for the extra limb, I shall call it technology.

So the other day my stepdad was telling an old story and mentions that he was “running to get the phone”. One would only assume a landline connected to the wall, right? Well my 6-year-old brother interrupts innocently and confused, ‘Why would you get up and run to the phone? Why wouldn’t you just get it out of your pocket?’ even out of context, this seems to be an accurate depiction of society today. We actually have a home phone in our house, so I found it quite peculiar for him to presume it was a mobile.

As technology continues to evolve, so does the emergence of tech addicts. Does owning a smartphone make you an addict? I felt that what my younger brother said was a great way to point out the moral panics surrounding tech addiction – even though your mobile isn’t physically attached to you, he still observes that it is always on your person. It’s this device you carry around that acts as an extension of yourself, and into the wireless society. Results from 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits study indicated that 72% of respondents claimed their phone is within 1.5 metres of them most of the time.

While moral panics tend to surround media content, I felt it worthy to note that it is also media usage.  An example of this would be the emergence of “quiet zones” requiring a no mobile/device policy. Public spaces such as restaurants, Café’s and airport lounges are now introducing these quiet zones and are becoming more popular. Similar to the vigorous spread of “No smoking” areas once society became wise to the health risks associated with cigarettes. But how is being on my phone harming anybody? You may ask. Ha, this is where the moral panic is – anybody who has worked in customer service would agree that serving someone who is texting, on a call, or completely fixated on their phone screen during a transaction is rude and frustrating. It’s becoming increasingly apparent, and is a poor form of social etiquette. While (as far as we know) addictive use of hand held devices do not have fatal [physical] affects the way cigarettes do, there is a lot of psychological damage that should not be overlooked. Anxiety, stress, severe distraction and social breakdown are some of the mental health risks we all face on a daily basis.

iPhone-Cigarette

Research indicates that out of the 56% of Americans who own smartphones, 40% experience “Nomophobia” – fear of being without your mobile. Furthermore, studies suggest that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drink driving, with 55% of respondents still admitting they do it. Research from Versapak indicated that 51% of the UK residents who were surveyed (1,245) stated they suffered from ‘extreme tech anxiety… feeling a lack of control when separated from their gadgets’. Constantly checking and re-checking your device, coupled with feeling anxious when you can’t, is also a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In addition, if sometimes you think you’ve felt or heard your phone vibrate when in fact it hasn’t – this is known as “Phantom Cell phone Vibration Syndrome” which is another telltale sign of tech addiction.

Be aware of your behaviour with technology. Are you active in your surroundings? Do you lack focus? Is your work suffering significantly? Do you feel anxious? For many of us this behaviour may already be integrated into our lifestyle, but it is important to identify and minimize the risks.

However, it’s not all bad. Devices are used for productivity, entertainment and communication – I just think it’s important that we don’t depend every waking minute on it. The most common sentiment in relation to smartphones is the sense of “connectedness”, as humans, our natural instinct is to connect with others.

Below Property Line

Copyright is a big issue, especially since the rapid evolution of social media. Put simply, the most efficient way to avoid your intellectual property being appropriated online is to not upload it at all. While there are “safe” ways to share content, a lot of people just don’t do it. Typically, people don’t tend to feel they are doing something illegal if it is through their computer screen. There is no personal connection or affiliation with who you are “stealing” from. A couple of clicks and you are instantly breaching copyright laws. Piracy is a big one – while artists and large corporations missing out on millions from content they have created, there is little they can do to stop it. There is this general consensus of “if it’s on the internet it’s fair game” but really, it isn’t fair at all. You are legally responsible for all content you post or share online. Without crediting the original source or obtaining permission, you face the consequences.

Sharing someone else’s work online safely is when you only share from the original source. For instance, using the retweet button on Twitter. Sites such Facebook and Tumblr have “share” and “reblog” buttons for this purpose, but often users copy the content and post it without sharing directly from the source. This is a common example of somebody breaching copyright laws.

“A large, diverse society cannot survive without property; a large, diverse, and modern society cannot flourish without intellectual property.” – Lawrence Lessig

This quote from Lessig’s book Free Culture points out the importance of intellectual property. While copyright laws restrict the ways in which we can use previous creators’ work, it can stimulate individuals to generate new ideas. However, it is difficult to come up with something new. Most things we think of will have been done already in various ways. Subsequently, Lessig states that free cultures allow space for others to build upon, however with regard to increasing authorisations we are steering away from this. For example YouTube cases of people lip syncing/dancing to music, creating fandom etc are being sued for copyright infringement. It seems silly; as a lot of these cases include songs by popular artists that most people could identify without a reference. On the other hand, if the boundaries weren’t there I think prosumers would definitely take advantage of it even more than they do already.

The moon landed… on TV

Growing up, there was always a television in our home, but I never thought about it as some extraordinary piece of technology. To me it seemed a necessity, like other appliances in the house. Alas, talking to my father about his early memories of TV, made me realise that it was a big deal for families to own one in the 60s.

When television was first introduced, dad stated that when they visited their friends’ houses who had one it was really impressive “Wow they have a television we don’t have anything like that in our home”. Dad was 7 years old when his parents could finally afford to purchase one of their own. The TV was placed in their “entertaining” or “visitors” room, which was a space with some chairs. I thought it was quite bazaar when I asked, “did you and your sister fight over who sat on a particular part of the lounge?” Dad responded saying that they didn’t have a lounge, and the term “lounge room” did not even exist in their house. Everybody just sat on chairs when they wanted to watch TV, however they did fight over who got to sit the closest, as they would be in charge of the channel. Moreover, because there were only four channels they were constantly switching between, the knobs on the TV would often be damaged or broken.

Dad and his sister would be glued to the TV as soon as they got home from school, which was about 4pm, and stay there for as long as possible. I found this quite odd as me and my brother had boundaries when watching TV, however dad stated, “as long as we were quiet mum didn’t care how long we watched it for”. Dad and his sister spent the most time with the TV, stating that they watched every single show they could. The only time the family would sit down and watch something together was for the “Sunday night movie”, when classics such as The Sound of Music would air.

Apart from not being allowed to eat in the TV room, there were no other codes of behaviour that existed. I found this interesting, as today when observing younger children in their family home the general consensus is “Stop watching that idiot box and go outside and play”. However in the 60s dad explained that in his family, “The TV was brand new and was to be enjoyed. Nobody bullied us from the television. It was like a big social network – because all the kids at school would talk about all the shows that were on the night before”. It was remarkable that dad had compared watching TV when he was younger to social networking as we know it now. I also found it ironic hearing him say that “nobody bullied us from the television” in contrast to the abundance of cyber bullying today.

With regard to a particular event on TV, the first man on the moon seemed to be dad’s fondest memory. Everybody in his primary school was pulled out of class to see Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon. Dad described it as a momentous occasion particularly because the whole school had stopped everything just to watch it on TV. I couldn’t imagine being in school when I was young and going to the hall just to watch something on television. The only time class was disrupted for us was emergencies. But I guess back then the first man on the moon would have been somewhat considered an emergency, being an iconic moment for mankind.

My dad stated one of the things that changed markedly is that back in his era; the TV was the only contact they had with the outside world, and without it they did not know what was happening globally. “It was our way to connect to the rest of humanity, my parents loved the documentaries because they could see parts of the world they have never seen. It was a very fascinating experience”. Furthermore, dad stated that in his generation you tended to believe what you saw on the television as the truth, as it felt like it had more influence and credibility. Now people are growing wise to the fact that it’s just entertainment, whereas before people gave it more value. “Today, we are more educated and figured out that a lot of things on TV are sensationalised to sell airtime and commercials. We are more ‘consumer aware’ than we used to be.”

At the Drive-in

I asked my family friend Ray about the memories of his first cinema experience. Even though he was only 3 years of age, he was still able to recall many details of the event. The year was 1982 “and the time of the drive-in cinema”. Ray attended the Kanahooka drive-in with his parents, during its last months of screening and operation, “before it all came to an untimely end,” he added.

One Sunday afternoon, Ray and his parents left home in their Ford Fairlane and made their way out to the lake in the outskirts of Kanahooka. Ray described the car park seeming infinite through his eyes and the filming screen, enormous. They parked near the candy and refreshments booth, where they ordered some goodies. An usher came to the car to greet and assist them in fixing an audio line from a post near the car, which plugged in to a slot under the aerial. “This is how audio was broadcasted from vehicle to vehicle”.

drive-in

“I remember getting cozy in the middle seat that divided my parents and settling in to watch the first movie of the double feature. Dark Crystal (1982) & Star Trek (the original motion picture) (1979).”

Ray stated from that point onward Dark Crystal became his favourite film as a child, only later to be later contested by Labyrinth and The Never Ending Story. His recollection of the film was hazy however he managed to stay for the entirety of Dark Crystal, despite being 3 years old. “I do remember being terrified of the Skeksis armoured soldiers, finding them to be the first representation of evil that I had seen on the big screen. Simply put, I was in awe of that film and ultimately it was very influential for me to this day.”

This followed by the screening of the original Star Trek. Ray stated that he was able to tell this film, was not made for children, as he struggled to stay awake for the first 20 minutes. His Mum later reminded him that he had asked her “Why is everyone running around in their pajamas?” obviously not really understanding the Trek at such a young age. “I later became an avid fan of the Next Generation a good decade or more later.”

“Though that’s the short of it. My love of cinema all started with that first experience at the local drive-in that I can’t help but wish, with nostalgia it still stood today.”

Hearing Ray’s story was really interesting to compare to my own. Our stories differ because I honestly cannot remember the early years of my life let alone my first time at the movies. And so, my first cinema experience (that I can recall) was just at a local Greater Union, with some family friends and their parents. I cannot remember what film it was, but I do remember being uncomfortable in the chairs. As I got older I visited the cinemas less and less, I just didn’t enjoy watching a movie surrounded by strangers whom would chatter or throw lollies, the expensive food and drink, and missing parts of the movie if I needed to go to the bathroom. I would like to visit a drive-in though; I like the idea of being confined in your own space. Also, they should provide an usher at every cinema still, when hearing Ray’s story about the usher greeting and assisting them, it really made it seem like an authentic cinema experience. Today I just watch movies in the comfort of my own home. I can pause and rewind whenever I want, there’s no advertisements, and I can eat whatever I want without paying a ridiculous price.

You’re being watched

In the short time that social media has been around, the one consistent thing I have observed is that a great deal of people forget they are being watched. In a High Talk blog post, George F Snell III states that the line between public and private is now less defined than ever. Snell raises some points, which to me seems as standard Internet etiquette (studying media and communication helps I guess), however I’ve noticed it isn’t so obvious to some. Snell’s 5 guidelines in his post were ‘be polite, transparent, discrete, trustworthy and admit your mistakes’. Once I read that I realised that the majority of my Facebook friends definitely forget that what they post is not private. For example somebody “privately” chatting on Facebook IM and the other person decides to screenshot and share their conversation. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the time this is entertaining, but what everyone forgets is that we are constantly under surveillance. In some cases, people actually lose their jobs because of something they have posted/been tagged in on Facebook. I often see and hear this happen, and am not surprised by it. I’ve always felt that social media platforms should not be treated as a private space.

Before Facebook and Twitter even existed, there were chat rooms. And the thing my parents said over and over and over (as they could not keep me from using them) was ‘Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t tell anyone your real name, where you’re from, don’t put your birth date in your email address…’ the list goes on. Made complete sense then, nobody wants a stalker. However, today we openly let people stalk us online. Facebook has asked me all this information about my life from my name, to my favourite food and TV show, to what song I’m currently listening to. Not to worry, even if you don’t fill in these details, everyone on Facebook can see where you are if your location service is enabled on your phone. Now this, I feel, is utterly absurd. With relation to media and youth, an article by Sonia Livingstone explores the way media fosters youth culture through both form and content. Livingstone states that young people use the media precisely to discover and transgress established norms of public and private space. However, they are often naive to the power of the media subtly positioning them according to consumerist pleasures and powerful interests. Through content, they directly address the concerns, interests and experiences of youth. Through their forms, they can provide personalised media goods that determine the space of young online identities. Subsequently, the media repositions young people in relation to public and private spheres, casting them as both citizens and consumers for the future.

A friend once told me “never put anything in writing” and I have applied this both online and offline. People creating controversy, losing friends and even becoming unemployed because of the untasteful way they act online. My message to these people would be if you don’t want anyone knowing, don’t talk about it, anywhere. There is no such thing as privacy in cyberspace. This also goes for businesses who create social media pages – it is crucial to treat every interaction as a public one. We need to remember that everybody is a reporter now. Snell explained this brilliantly (with regard to “private” interactions), ‘the disgruntled customer might have 5,000 followers on Twitter. The waitress serving you while you discuss your company’s top-secret new product could be an avid blogger’ etc. Social media platforms are tools, use them wisely and they can work to your advantage, but one wrong move and you’ll unwillingly create an everlasting poor reputation. But hey, no pressure.

References:

Livingstone, S 2005, ‘Mediating the public/private boundary at home: children’s use of the internet for privacy and participation’, London: LSE Research Online, viewed 11/08/2013, <http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/506/1/JMP_6(1).pdf

Snell, GF 2009, 5 Guidelines for Public vs. Private in Social Media, High Talk, weblog post, 23 March, viewed 11/08/2013, <http://hightalk.net/2009/03/23/5-guidelines-for-public-vs-private-in-social-media/

Media and Space

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This image represents something I’m sure most of us have done. Been on your phone while at work (when you’re not supposed to). The funny thing is, back in the day – prior to social media – when someone was on their phone you could assume they were reading or responding to an SMS. Now that is hardly the case. It sounds silly when you say it out loud, but a lot of people can’t resist checking Facebook, Twitter, posting work selfies on Instagram, or asking people to send you more lives for Candy Crush. In fact, I would even go on to say that because you know you’re not supposed to be looking at it, makes you want it more. Why do we feel like this? Because we are human. We strive for connectedness, we want to always be a part of something, and we feel the natural desire to belong to this magnificent online structure. By creating online identities we become an active audience of the online sphere. We can fulfill this urge to stay connected with peers, colleagues, friends and old friends. I feel lucky to have seen this transition to the digital age in my lifetime. While older generations are (stereotypically) technologically impaired, younger generations are able to use an iPod before learning to ride a bike.