RPDR as Transmedia Storytelling

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is a reality television show in which the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul, seeks out the next generation of drag queens who are able to use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to champion the art and its rich history. The intended market for this brand is anyone over the age of 21; their biggest sponsor being Absolut Vodka.

The protagonist in this story is the winner of the drag race. That being said, every competitor undergoes the hero’s journey to one extent or another as they all endure a transformation due to trials within the competition which result in their either winning or being told to “sashay away”. Competitors start by going through a series of trials (i.e., application process, mini challenges, main challenges, and runway walks) designed to test their drag related skills as well as their personal development (e.g., social skills, personal conflicts, etc.). By the end of the competition, regardless of the outcome for the competitor, they have likely learned something about themselves and their skills. However, the only true hero’s journey, based on a real and tangible outcome, resolution, or change that is definitive is the winner of the competition; they have the crown.

The archetype of this story is that of the magician. Competitors learn the art of transformation and are motivated by achievement. There are other archetypes which, in one way or another, are also represented within RPDR (e.g., Jester or Outlaw), but the competition is about transformation in all its forms and masteries within the art of drag.

A variety of media are used to bring the journey of the drag queens, as well as their art, to life for consumers. RPDR itself is the flagship of Logo.tv. All episodes of the competition, as well as a show called Untucked, and one called Drag U, are located on the site/channel. Untucked allows consumers a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the competition; a way to connect more personally with the competitors. Drag U is a spin off which allows women to participate with RPDR competitors to undergo their own version of a hero’s journey using the principles and art of drag. Both Untucked and Drag U allow resonance with the brand, as consumers are able to identify with competitors as well as picture themselves in their shoes.

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Another way in which consumers can see themselves in drag stilettos is through the Dragulator. This is an online application which allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and make themselves up in drag. They can then share the result via a variety of social media sharing options. In addition to the Dragulator, consumers can participate in live chat with competitors and fellow fans during the broadcast via LogoTalk. In addition to discussing the show as it airs, consumers are able to converse with and direct questions to the latest competitor to be eliminated via Elimination Lunch with Michelle Visage, also on LogoTalk. LogoTalk is a convenient way to participate in Twitter conversations which follow the given hashtags during the show, allow for stickers to be gathered on GetGlue (another achievement driven social media). One of the most prominent features of RPDR is the ability for consumers to participate.

While the hub of RPDR remains on Logo.tv, and links to all branches of the transmedia network, Facebook remains a more easily navigated and immersive place for participants to explore. Social media are used heavily within the network. While Facebook is an easy place to share photos, ask questions to promote conversation, and link to other elements within the network, Twitter is used heavily to connect consumers during the shows. Hashtags are given at random times during various segments of the show to promote consist discussion between viewers. Twitter is also used as a way for competitors to connect to their fans and promote their personal performances throughout the country.

Other media are used successfully to immerse consumers as well. An online game called Ru-Dunnit, allows consumers to play a choose-your-own-adventure mystery game with the fierce Michelle Visage as the gumshoe (or “gumstilleto”, as she says in the game). The goal of the game is to determine who stole Sharon Needles’s crown. The game includes product placement by Absolut Vodka, and clothing worn by suspects are consistent with drinks featured in the video. Another example of a game used in the story of the ‘Next drag superstar’ is the Best Friend Race. This is a game hosted by SocialToaster.com which allows for the collection of points which are earned by sharing elements of the network via social media, how many likes and retweets you obtain, and how many of your friends sign up to play the game. This allows those who are achievement driven (consistent with the goals of the Magician archetype) a goal related to the brand with inadvertently further promotes the brand and takes advantage of social networks.

RPDR uses transmedia storytelling to tell a variety of stories about what it’s like to be a drag queen, but also promotes an art form which tends to be, in and of itself, at the forefront of the acceptance of LGBT individuals and culture. By expanding the in-group inherent in RPDR supporters, a social cause is promoted as well.

References:

Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

**The trading cards in the slideshow came from The LogoTV Tumblr page. Thanks guys! Great pics!**

Do the Hustle!: JK [Wedding Dance]

The JK Wedding Dance video is interesting because it challenges our social normatives, much like iconic brands do. Jenkins, Li, Krauskopf, and Green (2009) note that in order for something to be spreadable (clearly, this video is an apt example of spreadable media), it must answer a question for us, speak a truth, make sense of something, or touch us emotionally. This video allows us to experience a ritualistically sober ceremony in a non-traditional way, and allows us to do so safely from the comfort of our own home. It shows us  that something we may have previously considered socially taboo, is actually fun and completely acceptable. It allows collective intelligence to demolish pluralistic ignorance.

Chris BrownBowrey (2011) explains that many cases of copyright infringement and related disputes do not actually have the backing of the law that may be assumed. She notes that most people make assumptions about what is actually enforceable, but notes that trademark and copyright laws (and processes) are meant to cover very specific items and not thematic elements (e.g., characters). Additionally, IP laws change with the culture, and interpretation is done with an eye on the current state of culture and conceptualized future progression. This is similar to idea that the medium is the message (Federman, 2004). IP laws are flexible enough to anticipate legal needs as culture and use norms change. By understanding what is underlying and looking for those issues which are not glaringly obvious, IP law can effectively maintain the freedom and cost-effectiveness of amateur material with the commercial and professional, as suggested and called for by Cunningham (2012).

Sony’s brand relies on the notion that using their products, individuals can create whatever they can imagine (Sony Global, 2013). In the case of Jill and Kevin, they imagined a wedding outside the traditionally accepted social norms. They created an individualized ceremony, using Sony’s product (i.e., the song), because they believed they could, and they made it happen: make.believe.

Sony ElectronicsNot only does Sony have a variety of options for promoting their brand, but it seems to be recognized by many consumers that they already have benefited from the video’s popularity. Deighton and Kronfeld (2012) explain that when the video was at the height of it’s popularity, a number of people challenged the integrity of the video, accusing Sony of creating the video to induce sales and reputation reparations. It stands to reason, then, that the perception is that there was an increase in sales, as well as a shift in the artists popularity, despite his domestic abuse arrest. Rather than focusing on the negativity of the personal experiences of the artist, Sony could instead focus on the phenomenon promoted by the video which encourages a happy and unique marriage. Jill and Kevin donated money made from the video’s unexpected virality to a charity in just such a way (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). Allowing the song to be representative of something more positive is one way for Sony to not only take advantage of the popularity of the song and the video, but also do something socially supportive while profiting in non-direct ways. This is one of the possible actions to be taken as pointed out by Deighton and Kronfeld ( 2012). Were Sony to do something to threaten Jill and Kevin, they risk not only alienating customers who purchased the song for their wedding in the first place (i.e., Jill and Kevin), but those who spread the video, as well as those who identify with and support the charity they support with the proceeds. They also risk lash back such as that exhibited by Lenz when she the Electronic Frontier Foundation about her YouTube video (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). And that is not even taking into account a possibly unfounded complaint which, according to Bowrey (2011), is a very real possibility.

References:

Bowrey, K. (2011). The new intellectual property: Celebrity, fans and the properties of the entertainment franchise. Griffith Law Review, 20(1), 188-220.

Cunningham, S. (2012). Emergent innovation through the coevolution of informal and formal media economies. Television New Media, 13(5), 415-430.

Deighton, J., & Kornfeld, L. (2012). Sony and the JK Wedding Dance. Boston, MA: Harvard Business College.

Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one): Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html

Sony Global. (2013). Sony group brand message “make.believe”. Retrieved from http://www.sony.net/united/makedotbelieve/

Augmented Reality to Ease Social Phobia

Social phobia (aka ‘social anxiety’) has been described by psychoanalysts as fear which stems from internal anxiety. It’s commonly exhibited during interactions in which the person inflicted is performing an act during which they may be scrutinized by others. Examples of this include public speaking, writing, and social interactions (e.g., parties, classes, jobs). Symptoms almost always include sweating, blushing and shaking. Psychoanalysts suggest that social phobia is the displacement of some implicit feeling of shortcoming that is the result of specific experiences. Participants suffering from social phobia report feelings of inadequacy, fear of rejection, submit to more strict social behavior standards, and fear that others will notice their anxieties. (Liebowitz, Gorman, Fyer, & Klein, 1984)

Though social interactions have been facilitated with increasing frequency online, dealing with social phobia must still be a priority for those suffering from it. Phobias can become debilitating and begin affecting the patient’s ability to perform everyday functions. Chayko (2008) notes that online interactions facilitate increased levels of trust and intimacy between people and within social groups due to the anonymity inherent in them. Gackenbach (2009) describes the disinhibition effects that occur as a function of virtual interactions. Essentially, when individuals feel a level of safety, they allow themselves more freedom of expression. Boundaries which are typically very rigid may become broader and less strictly adhered to by those communicating virtually.

Studies have found this to be true of users of social media such as Facebook (Orr et al, 2009). Social media not only allows individuals to develop relationships with those whom they know minimally in real life, but they allow for the continued participation in existing offline relationships. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals who tend to be more socially inept, find social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) more attainable and less fear inducing (Cole & Griffiths, 2007). MMORPGs allow players to commit to common goals, form groups which work together to procure resources, plan participant roles, identities, and allow all interactions to be kept at a safe, anonymous distance if need be.

However, no one media is sufficient to resolve social phobia. As with anything, convergence means taking advantage of every media’s strength and using the collective group of media simultaneously to reach a specific goal. In this case, while social media allows for disinhibition and more frequent socialization, as well as control over one’s immediate surroundings during use, it doesn’t allow the individual to learn to cope with offline interactions. Games, while they allow for teamwork and identity expression, don’t necessarily allow for the development of these skills in offline situations either. Media which allow for the optimization of benefits from both social media and gaming, with additional support for transferring those skills from online to offline situations, present a possible solution.

One such media is augmented reality (AR). By definition, AR is the layering of virtual content over actual, present, reality. It is meant to enhance existing ‘content’ by allowing access to more information than is innately available. Imagine an AR application which someone who was socially phobic could take into a work party; perhaps in the form of a contact lens. Say this application monitored groups (e.g., how many people were clumped together), conversations (e.g., what they were talking about), gathered information about social norms for the group and suggested courses of action for the individual (e.g., suggested conversation topics, which groups may be more amenable to additional participants, which foods may be least messy to eat, etc.). This application could be programed to work in a number of social situations such as public speaking, shopping, dining out, and travelling. Additional functions could include situations under which users could practice the application and set preferences according to their personal fears and responses. The application could also be made to monitor autonomic arousal responses (much like a heart rate monitor on a treadmill) and alter suggestions based on the somatic responses of the user.

Augmented reality applications, though not perfect by any means, presents an alternative to specifically online or offline situations by creating a combination of the two. Though psychoanalysts may take issue with AR as therapy for social phobia, if an individual is given more control over their surroundings in the form of AR, there is every possibility that it can act as a sort of placebo which eases somatic responses to the phobias. The more open minded we as consumers are to augmented reality the more avenues open for therapy alternatives and psychological research in general.

References

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 575-583. doi: 10.1089/cpb.200739988

Gackenbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.

Liebowitz, M., Gorman, J., Fyer, A., & Klein, D. (1985). Social phobia: Review of a neglected anxiety disorder. Arch Psychology, 45, 729-736. Retrieved from: http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/

Orr, E. S., Sisic, M., Ross, C., Simmering, M. G., Arseneault, J. M., & Orr, R. R. (2009). The influence of shyness on the use of Facebook in an undergraduate sample. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(3), 337–340. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0214

Fog of War: References for Weeks 1 and 2

Before We Get Started…

Let me say, before I list these, that I’m attempting to bring in both perspectives in ways that are not offensive. These aren’t research articles that are necessarily representing my point of view, but rather provide insight into all views (without calling the opposing view stupid or wrong).


Week 1: Sexualization, Marginalization, and Causation- OH MY!

For week one, we talked about the sexualization of characters, marginalization in gaming communities, and possible causation of sexism in gaming. Per our discussion, I haven’t been subjected to sexism in gaming, and Micah sees it happening and thinks that the players are at fault; not the game devs. John brought up the advertising aspect, noting that advertisers lead the trends, and gamers follow. I reminded him that while we have correlation, we don’t really have causation.

References:

Bice, M. (2011). On men’s sexualization in video games. Gamasutra. Retrieved from: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MattieBrice/20111129/9003/On_Mens_Sexualization_in_Video_Games.php

Bycer, J. (2012). . The difficulties and controversies of designing female characters: Or how not to add a woman’s touch. Gamasutra. 

Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (2000). From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. MIT Press.

Dickey, M. D. (2006). Girl gamers: the controversy of girl games and the relevance of female-oriented game design for instructional design. British journal of educational technology37(5), 785–793.

DuVoix, H. (2012). Venus in Mars: Gender equality in fighting games. Ontological Geek. Retrieved from: http://ontologicalgeek.com/venus-in-mars-gender-equality-in-fighting-games/

Ivory, J. D. (2006). Still a Man’s Game: Gender Representation in Online Reviews of Video Games. Mass Communication and Society9(1), 103–114. doi:10.1207/s15327825mcs0901_6

Nerdlove. (2011). Nerds and male privilege. Paging Dr. Nerdlove. Retrieved from: http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2011/11/nerds-and-male-privilege/

Sharkey, S. (n.d.). Top 5 most attractive, non-sexualized women in games. 1Up.com. Retrieved from: http://www.1up.com/features/top-5-attractive-nonsexualized-women

Week 2: An Ode to Those Media Literate Kiddos!

In week two, we talked about children (of all ages) and the benefits of media literacy. We discussed educational uses for media, motivations in gaming, and things that can be learned from each genre of game. Micah, John, and I all discussed our favorite game genres, and what we feel we’ve learned from them.

References:

Annetta, L. A. (2010). The “I’s” have it: A framework for serious educational game design. Review of General Psychology14(2), 105–112. doi:10.1037/a0018985

Barnett, J., & Coulson, M. (2010). Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology14(2), 167–179. doi:10.1037/a0019442

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(4), 575–583. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9988

Dieterle, E., & Clarke, J. (in press). Multi-user virtual environments for teaching and learning. In M. Pagani (Ed.), Encyclopedia of multimedia technology and networking (2nd ed). Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.

Floyd, D. (2008). Video games and learning[Web Video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN0qRKjfX3s

Gackenbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.

Giles, D. (2010). Psychology of the media. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ohler, J. (2008). Digital storytelling in the classroom new media pathways to literacy, learning, and creativity. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press. Retrieved from http://catalog.hathitrust.org/api/volumes/oclc/86038208.html

Rosas, R., Nussbaum, M., Cumsille, P., Marianov, V., Correa, M., Flores, P., Grau, V., et al. (2002). Beyond Nintendo. design and assessment of educational video games for first and second grade students.pdf. Computers & Education, 40(2003), 71–94.

Zhou, Z., Jin, X.-L., Vogel, D. R., Fang, Y., & Chen, X. (2011). Individual motivations and demographic differences in social virtual world uses: An exploratory investigation in Second Life. International Journal of Information Management, 31(3), 261–271. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2010.07.007

On Being a ‘Ginger’

Social norms come in all shapes and sizes. They change based on where you are, who you’re with, your culture, the weather, and sometimes they exist only because people THINK they do. Philosophers have been arguing morality and the breaking of social norms and values since the beginning of the ancient occupation. But what makes us take offense? Yesterday, I talked about harassment being in the eyes of the beholder, so how do we avoid offending and harassing if that is not, in fact, our intent? I’m not sure- though there is a lot of research other there- that there is a definitive answer. But what I do know is Abraham Lincoln made a good point when he said,

“You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

So why am I even concerned with this? One of my dear friends commented on my last blog, saying that he thought by the title it was going to be a call against all of those who call redheads ‘gingers’, and the discrimination that is cast our way. It occurred to me that a term that I think of as a compliment (the term ‘ginger’ is used as a means of denoting a red head with a fiery personality and spunk, in my group of friends), is actually used as an insult in some places. It got me thinking about the term, about being a red head, and about how interesting it is that perception varies so vastly. Also, I wanted him to know that I appreciate and value the differences in our perceptions.

“Cultural reactions have varied from ridicule to admiration; many common stereotypes exist regarding redheads and they are often portrayed as fiery-tempered.” (Red head, 2012)

Certainly, in England they have a more historically negative connotation for the term ‘ginger’, as red hair is most common in Scotland and Ireland (and most of us know the struggles there). Here in the US, it seems the biggest reason people are likely to find the term ‘ginger’ offensive is if they’ve in some way been exposed to the episode of South Park where they poke fun at prejudice in general using ‘gingers’ as the trait being discriminated against. Little did South Park writers know that  people wouldn’t get the irony they were going for (Ginger kids, 2012). Admittedly, it is hard to believe (not to mention be okay with) people supporting ‘Kick the Ginger Day’ (on FB the group apparently had over 5,000 supporters at one point). Nicely done, people. And, of course, if you grow up with red hair, you have undoubtedly been called ‘carrot top’ or some other ridiculous name (carrots are roots, people… they’re tops are GREEN). In some ways, the negative perception of the “mutation” in pigment is perpetuated by theatre and movies as well (Red head, 2012).

Then again, blondes and brunettes have various jokes made about them due to the color of their hair too. There is research that suggests that men perceive blondes as being less intelligent than brunettes, and redheads as being more temperamental than both blondes and brunettes (Weir & Fine-Davis, 1989).

Click the picture to check out this annual redhead day! SWEET!

No surprise there. In medieval times, they apparently thought redheads were over sexed (is there such a thing) and  morally degenerate. That explains the no soul thing, I suppose. However, in other cultures red hair is revered (apparently Muhammad was thought to have been a red head… score one BIG one for us!)

However you perceive the word ‘ginger’, I guess the point is to make sure you aren’t calling someone a ‘ginger’ who doesn’t want to be called by that name. Intention matters, and if you’re being cruel to someone, any word can become a derogatory one; keep it in mind. As for me, and I hope my friend forgives me for this, I’m going to keep calling my little rants ‘Ginger Rage’. I am proud of the fact that I am feisty, temperamental, and don’t have to dye my hair to have an excuse for it all. I take pride in my heritage (I’m Irish), in my excess of pheomelanin, and although “I have a thing for redheads” gets old as a pick up line, there’s a part of me that can’t blame them. We have the peacock thing happening… we’re pretty incredible, what can I say?

References: 

Ginger kids. (2012, September). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger_Kids

Red hair. (2012, September). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_hair#Beliefs_about_temperament

Weir, S., & Fine-Davis, M. (1989). “Dumb blonde” and “temperamental redhead”: The effect of hair colour on some attributed personality characteristics of women. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 10(1), 11-19. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/617608718?accountid=10868

Ginger Rage: Cyber Bullying

The Rant…

Today I remembered just how maddening being bullied can be. Being bullied doesn’t have to be physical violence or blatantly offensive names; anything that belittles, embarrasses, or purposefully hurts in any way counts. So when someone uses Facebook comments to try to turn friends against you, it counts. So here is my take on it: social media is, among other things, a way for people to communicate in a safe environment. There are those who are socially inhibited or inept who find some measure of relief through the disinhibition being behind the computer screen affords. There are those who play games as a means of escaping the havoc of their offline lives, and experiences brief respite. Creepers, trolls, flamers, and stalkers make any situation- media or not- unsafe and downright frightening. In my example (my day… it was no bueno), when I find out that someone is attempting to turn my best friend against me, by using words (that were NOT meant for her) against me, I become afraid to say anything; to express myself. What’s more, I can’t see what is being said, or how much I’m exposing myself when it’s done with cyber stalking. So, rather than hiding, like so many others, I’m doing something about it. I’m giving her all the fodder she needs. There is a level of maturity that comes with being responsible technology users. While having freedom of speech is a right, it is also a privilege. Just because we have it, doesn’t mean we should abuse it or use it to hurt others. Just because you THINK there are no consequences to your actions, doesn’t mean there aren’t; you never know when it’s going to come back to bite you in the ass. So many of our pop culture favorites speak to this: Spider-man, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” the force in Star Wars, Thor and the abuse of his power on Asgard before his daddy reamed him… the list goes on. Just cause you can, doesn’t mean you should.

What we can do, however, is speak out against it. In the links below, I’m including a small variety of media which give examples of cyber bullying (from sexual harassment in video games to in school bullying), point to resources for prevention, and some research on the subject. Remember when you’re reading these links, that I’m in no way saying I agree with any of the bullying, regardless of whether I agree with the values or opinions of those who are being attacked. Bottom line: attacking is attacking is attacking. NO ONE DESERVES IT! Also, this is, by no means, an exhaustive list so be sure to check for yourself for more info. I hate to think Darwin’s survival of the fittest is at work with bullies too… but sometimes it’s really hard to endure being the good guy; so let’s stand together.

The Solution…

Feminist Blogger Is a Victim of a Vicious Videogame Retaliation

Ill Doctrine: All These Sexist Gamer Dudes Are Some Shook Ones

Cyberbullying: What School Administrators (And Parents) Can Do

Don’t Stand By: Stand Up Campaign

Cyberbullying Research Center

Cyberbully Movie (by ABC Family)

Research Article: Virtual World and Real World Permeability

Finally, some positive research about the virtual world we all love so much. Games can make us happy? Who would have thought… OH wait. WE would have. 😉

Cabiria’s SL Avatar

In his breakthrough research, Dr. Jon Cabiria (2008) studies the potential positive effects of virtual communities on marginalized groups (in this case LGBT). He hypothesizes that positive identity verification is transferable from the virtual game Second Life to real life. In other words, people who feel comfortable being themselves in Second Life are able to feel more comfortable in real life.

Using questionnaires and interviews, Cabiria first established a baseline for each individual’s offline identity (i.e., how they typically acted and felt offline). His goal for this portion of the study was to see if there was a significant difference in behavior from previous research done in LGBT studies. The participants relayed the same themes as in previous research: “loneliness, isolation, depression, low self-esteem, withdrawal, lack of authenticity, and lack of useful information (p.7).” He goes on to say:

Specifically, these expected results dealt with developmental obstruction,
negative psychological affect of being in the closet, the power of hetero-normative forces, and
compartmentalization, to name a few (p.7).

He then asked the same questions of the Second Life self. This time the purpose was to see if there were any differences between the online and offline selves. What he found was:

… seven main themes emerged from the data, namely belongingness, connectedness, improved well-being, higher self-esteem, optimism, sense of authenticity, and evidence of transferable positive benefits (p. 8).

Permeability FTW

So what does this mean?

Well, it means that people who are afraid to be themselves because they’re marginalized, because social norms tell them they’re not ‘right’ or ‘good enough’… they have an outlet for true self-expression; a place to be themselves, and be accepted for who they are. People can try on identities in a safe, anonymous way and when they are ready to ‘come out’ (whether LGBT, gamer, math geek, dyslexic, eccentric or otherwise) as who they really are, they are bolstered up by the knowledge that there are those out there who are like them and who accept them unconditionally. It means there is a way for fears, challenges, self-esteem, withdrawal, anxiety, and any other number of scary feelings and emotions, to be overcome.

Permeability between virtual and real life… isn’t it exciting?

Reference

Cabiria, J. (2008). Virtual world and real world permeability: Transference of positive benefits for marginalized gay and lesbian populations. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research1(1), 1-13. Retrieved from: https://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/viewFile/284/238

Gender Bender Project

It doesn’t get any sexier than the amazing Yara Sophia.

Tyanne Olson (Olson, 2012) does a great job of creating a comprehensive transmedia portfolio which seeks to challenge the social construction of ‘gender’. She uses Twitter (@gendertweet) to target in-group individuals by sharing insights, photos, and creating a community for the safe identity verification of those affected by marginalization. Facebook is used as another way of connecting with the in-group and providing socialization, support, and links to related articles, blogs, and alternate social media outlets. Tyanne also uses Pinterest as a creative element; its purpose is to resonate with in-group and general populations via visual stimuli. To round out the transmedia goodness, she uses Time Magazine to reach the general populous, branching out to begin a reformation of marginalizing social norms.

Tyanne’s project works because she has a targeted audience and uses specific media to reach them (i.e., those affected by marginalization and the general population). She is conscious of the needs of the in-group and provides support for them, allowing for a safe community which facilitates the trying-on and verification of an identity which may be easier to come to grips with in a virtual community first. She also provides a clearly defined identity for the project, which immediately allows the viewer/participant/community member to understand where they are (e.g., what sociomental space they’ve stumbled into) and what is being addressed.

For more information click the links below:

Facebook Page

Twitter Feed

Pinterest

References:

Olson, T. (2012).  The gender identity project [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from:

Portable Media: What Will These Crazy Kids Come Up With Next?

Mobility means the ability to take something outside of it’s typical physical limitations. It means not having to adhere to a specific locale. But this doesn’t have to only refer to our ability to carry something with us, it can also mean the movement of metal property from one sociomental space to another. Messages may travel from one person to the next; this network of consumers (who are simultaneously producing content) becomes a very powerful, very intimidating thing (Shirky, 2009).But the fact that we can also carry physical connections to our networks means we are able to distribute our mental property at any time, to any one in the world.

Mobile technology can become a powerful tool. When we forget the latest and greatest features, and get back to the basic operations, remembering it’s very basic functions and putting them to work creatively is when we are empowered by them (Shirky, 2009). Indigenous people are using social media to communicate their struggles, pass on tradition, and overcome oppression (Wilson & Steward, 2008). People find it their personal mission to deploy social agendas via portable technologies (Chayko, 2008). Chayko observes that the ‘have nots’ are falling further behind as technology swiftly progresses. However, I would argue that the ‘haves’ are more aware, willing, and able to take part in supporting those agendas than ever before. That being said, the uses for these mobile technologies need not be so profound.

Cell phones may be used as tools for writing (Pertierra, 2005). Excellent examples of this are cellphone novels. Though most of it’s popularity comes from Japan, cellphone novels are a great way to create, distribute, and receive feedback on novels in microbursts. Those subscribing to a story can elect to read them on the internet, or have them sent via SMS text at varying intervals. This would be a great addition to the Whisperer’s Web portfolio. Being able to share the gossip that is created via SMS novels would allow for the gossip to spread, be immediately responded to, and allows for a whole different level of improvisation and socialmental connection to others in the group.

In my opinion, the really fantastic thing about portable media is the way it demolishes physical boundaries and pulls the world into a much smaller sphere. Connecting with people all over the world- listening to their plights, building foundations of trust based on universal truths, and greatly reducing the effects of prejudices- in order to accomplish anything the most creative person could dream up… it is something magical, motivating, and scary as hell.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Pertierra,R. (2005). Mobile phones, identity, and discursive intimacy. HumanTechnology1(1), 23-44. Retrieved from: http://www.humantechnology.jyu.fi

Shirky, C. (2009). How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook make history [Web video]. TED Talks. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_iN_QubRs0

Wilson, P., & Stewart, M. (Eds.). (2008). Global indigenous media: Cultures, poetics, and politics. London: Duke University Press.

A Social Marketing Proposal to TBA Theatre

Proposal Companion Prezi (A summary of the prezi, with photos, videos, and links)

TBA Marketing Proposal (The PDF version of this proposal, in case you like the double spaced goodness of APA formatting)

  TBA Harnessing the Transformational Power of Theatre

            Augusto Boal introduced the concept of Forum Theatre in his book Theatre of the Oppressed. Forum Theatre is a type of play which encourages audiences to participate in the resolution of some social issue. The core of the story is scripted and presents a protagonist with a conflict. However, the protagonist is unable to overcome the conflict, and the audience is brought in to suggest possible solutions to the conflict, turning the audience into what Boal referred to as spect-actors.  Those solutions are then played out by the actors. (Forum Theatre, n.d.)

This type of theatre was originally created to deal with sources of external oppression (in Boal’s case the Brazilian government), however, it has since evolved for use in things such as employment training and problem solving. Boal extended his theories in his book The Rainbow of Desire, which focused on the individual and dealing with internal oppressions. The techniques and theories in this book are the basis for drama therapy.

An example of how Forum Theatre has effected positive change in global communities may be seen in the Youth Theatre for Peace (YTP) (2011) project. This IREX supported project was created to train educators, implement student participation in Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT), and facilitate the presentation of these forum theatre performances throughout communities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The stated goal of the YTP is to successfully affect a sustainable community change in the prevention of conflicts via forum theatre. Additional examples of how forum theatre has affected change include conflict resolution in Philadelphia, Kosovo, and Amani. These examples, along with innumerable others, only begin to scratch the surface of our understanding as to how, and why, theatre has the ability to affect global, community, and personal change.

 Transformational Powers of Theatre

Theatre affects the lives of those who experience it not only via patronage, but also as a result of the creation of the art. Though this may be easily illustrated by performing an internet search, hearing stories directly from the individuals who have experienced them, allows for the emotion which accompanied the experience to become palpable.

Becky Sheridan (personal communication, 2012), a local actress specializing in comedy, recalled a play she performed in while attending college. When Scott Comes Home, based on a true story, is a show about a kid who goes to college in the 80’s for a few years. Upon returning home, he comes out as a homosexual to his parents; this doesn’t go well for him. Eventually, he dies of AIDS. This play was written by Becky’s college professor; the adaptation of a book Scott’s mother wrote. Becky recalls performing the play and being protested by other Christian groups. She remembers feeling very profoundly influenced by the message of the show, as well as the reaction of the others around her. She says it was this show that exemplified the acceptance of others as a part of the Christian life that she strives daily to live. (B. Sheridan, personal communication, 2012)

Justin Oller (personal communication, 2012), another actor in Anchorage, has been involved in theatre since elementary school. Justin fondly remembers an experience in which he travelled to Scotland with an unusually varied group of actors: different theatre backgrounds, incomes, experiences levels, etc. Justin notes how the coming together of artists who varied this intensely, simply for the love of the art, solidified theatre as his career objective. Justin also mentions that every show he is in opens his eyes to some aspect of life or himself. For example, having grown up with a single mother, his work with TBA and, specifically the artistic director, Shane Mitchell, helped guide him towards becoming a gentleman. Shane also affected his perception of what theatre was for: art as a means to communicate, problem solve, and better a community rather than just to entertain from on stage.

Rhiannon Johnson (personal communication, 2012) agrees with Justin. She reflected on her perception of theatre before starting classes with TBA and how they compare to her perception now. She describes Shane’s philosophy on theatre as she has come to understand it: one shouldn’t do theatre to show off, but instead should do it to affect positive change. She says she has learned that the more you learn and embrace art, the more good you do for your community and for others; you facilitate less conflict. Being in theatre has made Rhiannon think more about the effect theatre has on people, and it’s long term effects as well.

Anthony Cruz (personal communication, 2012), who specializes in dance, remembers a yearly HIV/AIDS play that was performed in order to help the students understand the severity of the disease, and what it might be like to live with it. His recollection of this show, exemplifies how theatre that takes on a social cause may affect those who are exposed to it. Anthony also recalls the first time he saw To Kill A Mockingbird. He says he was very taken aback by the transportive feeling that came with the set and the attention to detail. He notes that reading the book didn’t convey the feel or perspective of the time like experiencing the play did. He said it was like history right in front of him.

A Community Based Approach

TBA Theatre’s mission statement is, ” To enrich our community by providing innovative and comprehensive theatre arts experiences through which artists of all ages can develop their creativity and self-expression; and in so doing stimulate human potential.” (TBA Theatre, 2012) It is clear, through numerous interviews with individuals involved in TBA that artists of all ages are, in fact, developing creativity and self-expression. Additionally, they are clearly stimulating human potential. Justin, Becky, Anthony, and Rhiannon are only a few examples of individuals associated with TBA who have uncovered what may have otherwise been a very abstract truth about life, who they are, who they want to be, and how to become that self.

In performing shows during the daytime, and charging minimal rates, TBA also allows for students of all ages to attend shows, as well as providing educational resources for teachers, parents, and students alike. TBA also provides course through the Theatre Store during the winter months, as well as a Summer Academy, and Spring Break Academy, which not only allow students to enrich their understanding of theatre, art, and creativity, but provide a safe place to do so. Parents can rest assured that there is a safe place for their child to play, think, and grow during the long Summer days in Anchorage. These are certainly ways in which TBA enriches the Anchorage community.

Imagine, however, combining the enriching and educating power of TBA with the community based and conflict resolving power of forum theatre. Using TBA’s existing educational structure as the foundation for a week-long intensive, forum theatre could be used to exemplify the mission of one or more of Anchorage’s local community based organizations (CBOs) (see Appendix A). Not only does this afford TBA cross-promotional opportunities in which they gain additional exposure in the community, but they are furthering the enrichment of their community by supporting family based causes similar to their own.

Furthering Theatre’s Reach in Anchorage

Strategy

This plan suggests that TBA include a one week intensive in their existing curriculum structure. This intensive would teach students to write short scripts, based on the mission of a local CBO, in which the protagonist becomes unable to resolve the driving conflict. The students would then sell tickets to the show at the end of the week, in which they act out the scripted parts of the shows and encourage audience members to suggest resolutions for the protagonist. Those resolutions would then be acted out. CBOs would be encouraged to supply TBA with information to be disseminated to audience members who are interested in more information, or volunteering.

Perceived Barriers

As is often the case with CBOs, monetary cost of any marketing strategy is a concern. Costs for this plan may include space rental for the performance and for the class itself, script printing, and light design.

Time may also be a concern, as volunteers are needed to run light and sound, stage management, direction, and, of course, teachers. Though students would be selling tickets, volunteers would be needed to organize tickets, man the box office, and process any monies involved. Additionally, a volunteer to be the liaison between TBA and involved CBOs would be necessary in order to ensure the promotion of TBAs production by the CBO(s) being represented.

Resources Maximized

Several of these barriers may be overcome easily by taking advantage of the existing structure. If students are charged tuition for admittance into the intensive, several costs may already be covered. Also, as this would be presented as a performance, admittance fees may help cover the costs of things such as space rental. Scripts would be minimal, as they are meant to be unresolved in script. This will save on the costs of reproduction, but also environmental costs associated with extensive copying.

By grouping the intensive in with an already volunteer rich educational structure, volunteers may be asked to include paperwork, money transactions, and data entry in with efforts for pre-existing classes at a minimal time/effort increase. Because social marketing is a function of both media studies and psychological studies, volunteers from those fields may be sought after to act as liaisons between TBA and any involved CBOs.

Benefitting Us All

Possible benefits to incorporating the missions of local CBOs into the TBA curriculum may be the desirability that TBA be involved in future social marketing campaigns. Not only does working with local charities and social betterment efforts make TBA an example to the community, but it also makes TBA a commodity which parents, adults, teachers, professionals, and corporations alike, would be desirous to be aligned with. Ensuring that funders may feel secure in their donations bettering not only the arts community in Anchorage, but by association other family based charities and organizations, sponsors and donors are given more incentive to support TBA.

Financial benefits may be reaped as well. By reaching out to a CBO, you are also reaching out to their existing supporters, funders, volunteers, and the families involved or affected by the charity. In the vein of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” assisting CBOs in achieving their goals, creates a bond through which they are likely to help TBA achieve theirs. The financial benefit may come in the form of additional donations, corporate sponsors, or patronage in the form of students or attendees.

Measuring Success

Because the measure of success, regardless of the level of integrity the group, is necessary for the evaluation of any plan, a measure for the success of this plan must be put into effect. Where the goal is to cross-promote with another CBO for the furthering of both groups’ agendas, the attendance for all classes, and shows performed using the forum theatre format should be recorded and compared. If the desirability of the courses and performances climb, or remain at a level which produces a profit, rather than a deficit, it should be considered a success. The initial goal, however, should be to implement the plan, and begin immediately measuring attendance and profit above the costs induced. A record should then be kept comparing subsequent years’ attendance and profit.

In Conclusion

It is true that maintaining an already established habit is easier than affecting change. However, transitioning ways of thinking, learning, and creating, allow for the introduction of forward thinking and problem solving techniques. In a post-modern world, where education means self-directed research, stories are told by thousands of people who have never met, and the advancement of technology creates new venues for storytelling, theatre remains an emotionally charged medium for the stories, myths, and journeys which define us as individuals, families, communities, and nations. Continuing to use the transformational power of theatre to focus on positively affecting those who are exposed to it, ensures its survival and secures its foothold in the future of storytelling.

TBA Theatre, already the gold standard in entertainment in Anchorage, also maintains the unique ability to spread its influence to those in need by using the emotional connection inherent in theatre, to connect supporters with causes worthy of their support.

Appendix A

Community Based Organizations in Anchorage, AK

Friends of Alaska CASA

Target: Children, Youth, & Adults

Mission: More than 2,000 of Alaska’s children are victims of abuse and neglect and are living in foster care. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) speak out to help abused and neglected children. Our Goal: Help CASA programs achieve the goal of providing a CASA volunteer for every child who needs one by 2016.

Anchorage CASA

Target Audience: Youth, Children, & Adults

Mission: The mission of CASA is to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courts. We promote and support quality volunteer representation for children to provide each child a safe, permanent, nurturing home.

Challenge Alaska

Target Audience: Youth, Adults, & Disabled

Mission: Improving the lives of people with disabilities and the whole community through recreation, sports and education. Through the programs offered by Challenge Alaska, participants can develop skills, expand their social horizons, become physically healthier, and increase their self-esteem.

Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Target Audience: Youth, Adult, & Blind

Mission: Equipping Alaskans who are Blind and Visually Impaired for Success in Life and Work. The Center helps youth grow in independence and capability through a summer training, career development, and enrichment program. The Center also supports blind and visually impaired students in Alaska school districts thanks to a grant program providing up-to-date technology and staff training to ensure accessible learning materials.

RurAL Cap

Target Audience: Low income, & Families

Mission: RurAL CAP encourages the efforts of low-income people attempting to break the cycle of dependency and gain control of the changes affecting their lives. Its mission is to protect and improve the quality of life for low-income Alaskans through education, training, direct services, decent and affordable housing, advocacy, and strengthen the ability of low-income people to advocate for themselves.

Standing together Against Rape

Target Audience: Youth & Women

Mission: The Mission of STAR is: To provide the best quality of crisis intervention and advocacy services to victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse, and to provide education on these issues to the community.

Access Alaska

Target Audience: Youth, Families, & Disabled

Mission: Access Alaska is a private, non-profit, consumer-controlled organization that provides independent living services to people who experience a disability. As an Independent Living Center, our mission is to encourage and promote the total integration of people who experience a disability to live independently in the community of their choice. Through our assistance and support individuals with disabilities can identify and obtain needed services in an effort to maintain their independence as opposed to living in an institution.

Stone Soup Group

Target Audience: Youth, Families, & Disabled

Mission: Stone Soup Group exists to sustain the health and well-being of Alaskan children with special needs and their families. Through listening to the stories of families, we identify areas of need and work with communities to find solutions.

Friends of Pets

Target Audience: Families

Mission: Friends of Pets provides vital animal welfare and protective services for abandoned animals, with respect, compassion and integrity.  We intervene to reduce the euthanasia rates at the Anchorage Animal Care & Control Center, to promote responsible pet ownership and to improve the quality of life for companion animals. FOP is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers and supported by donations.

Intervention Helpline

Target Audience: Families

Mission: Intervention Helpline is a non-profit organization based in Anchorage, whose sole focus is to bring hope, help and solutions to those battling addiction and provide support to those in recovery. We actively work to find a solution for every person who calls us asking for help—whether they are looking for a place to detox and receive treatment, a safe place to stay, some words of encouragement, or calling about a family member they are desperate to save and want to know what they should do.

Alaska Cares

Target Audience: Children, Youth, & Families

Mission: Alaska CARES is an outpatient clinic located near Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The clinic provides sexual and physical abuse evaluations for children, newborn to age 18 years, and 24-hour on-call services for cases that are considered emergent. These cases usually come to the attention of law enforcement or the emergency departments of local hospitals.

The Alaska Zoo

Target Audience: Families

Mission: The Alaska Zoo is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing homes for orphaned and injured wildlife. We pride ourselves on providing educational opportunities for visitors, both Alaskans and tourists.

References

Amani Peoples Theatre. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.aptkenya.org/

Boal, A. (1979). Theatre of the oppressed. New York, NY.: Urizen.

Boal, A. (1995). The rainbow of desire. London, England: Routledge.

Chadwick, J. (2005) The Longest Winter and post-conflict theatre in Kosovo. Az
Theatre
. Retrieved from:
http://www.phila.gov/recreation/conflict_resolution/Conflict_Resolution_10.html

Forum Theatre. (n.d.). Retrieved
from http://www.attempteu.org/uploads/media/FORUM_THEATRE.pdf

Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative
solutions to the problems of children and their families: Communicative reason and
the use of forum theatre. Child and Family Social Work
6, 285-293.

Ingraham, D. M., & Nelson, J. (2012). Finding the fun in conflict resolution.
Retrieved from:
http://www.phila.gov/recreation/conflict_resolution/Conflict_Resolution_10.html

Paterson, D. (2008). Three stories from the trenches: The theatre of the oppressed in
the midst of war. TDR: The Drama Review: A Journal of Performance Studies,
52, 110-117.

Solomon, A. (2001). Theatre of the recruits: Boal techniques in the New York police
academy. Theatre, 31(3), 54-61.

TBA Theatre. (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.tbatheatre.org

Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions. (n.d.). USAID. Retrieved
from: http://www.irex.org/sites/default/files/USAID%20Success%20Story.pdf

Youth Theatre for Peace. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from:
http://www.irex.org/project/youth-theater-peace