Author: danielbedard

Father of nine.

Research Paper: SourceFed

SourceFed_logo_2013-08-25_00-26

In January 2012, the YouTube channel SourceFed was launched by longtime YouTuber Philip DeFranco. Originally conceived as an aggregate that released several short daily videos addressing news topics, the channel has grown to feature a bevy of content. When discussing SourceFed, along with its offshoots SourceFedNerd and the now-defunct ForHumanPeoples channel, it is necessary to explore fan reaction and interaction, on which the channel heavily relies. This viewer interaction can characterized by an intimacy that transcends the barriers of the screen to have a significant effect on all involved, exemplifying the fruitful (though sometimes damaging) ways that online experiences can shape one’s life.

Part of the early success of the channel is due to its link to DeFranco, who had already been a popular YouTuber with a sizable following. As an offshoot of a pre-existing online space, there was already an audience willing to sample this new channel’s offerings; as SourceFed grew, it came to stand on its own feet, and a sister channel, dubbed SourceFedNERD, was launched soon after. Within six months, SourceFed amassed roughly half-a-million subscribers and 150 million views, with the current number of subscribers surpassing two million. During the channel’s development, viewers’ interest and ease of access was of utmost importance. When DeFranco’s team first developed a mobile application from which users could watch the videos, there was no way to monetize the views. Subscribing to a “[p]eople first, money second” mentality, he trusted that investing in viewership would pay off financially in the near-future (Humphrey). He also accepted a smaller budget from YouTube in order to secure a greater degree of creative freedom.

Examining the creator-viewer relationship within the online SourceFed community reveals a great deal of intimacy. Since much of the channel’s content centers on the hosts’ personalities and interests, viewers are attracted to their often comedic genuineness. One of its flagship programs, “Table Talk (See Fig. 1)” features three hosts sitting around a table to have conversations based on user-submitted topics; the conversations often spin off into tangents and discussions that have little to do with the initial topic, signifying the informal and loose nature of this particular program. This fuels the sense that viewers are not only watching charismatic and funny people goof off, but are also in the room with them, weakening the barrier of the screen.

SF table talk 2

Fig. 1: An episode of Table Talk featuring Steve Zaragoza, Bree Essrig, and William Haynes

Another important element that characterizes SourceFed and its fans is the use of inside jokes and references only regular viewers would understand, and this creates the sense that these people are part of a close-knit community. Unlike most other media, such as film or television, there tends to be greater creative freedom on YouTube, allowing creators the opportunity to convey their opinions and personalities without the same type of risk that a television news anchor might experience. This also allows for a deconstruction of the process of content-creation, as behind-the-scenes glimpses and bloopers are very common and readily available. SourceFed fans tend to be familiar with camera operators and editors, and are also aware of what the writer’s room looks like. This creates an attractive transparency that allows the viewer to step into the world of SourceFed and to understand the goings-on that surround the content creation. The illusion and artificiality of the content are purposefully displayed and weakened. During any given video, a regular viewer has a strong sense of the bodies inhabiting the space outside of the frame. On non-YouTube platforms, even more behind-the-scenes content is shared with fans; photos and videos taken at the SourceFed offices are constantly uploaded by the hosts on their individual Instagram accounts, blending their work and personal lives, and sharing it all with their fans. This formal/informal blend also manifests in the design of the physical spaces inhabited by the SourceFed crew. Many of the sets on the SourceFedNERD channel are filled with geek-centric paraphernalia, including toys and replica film props, which are things that might be found in a collector’s home (see Fig. 2). Fan-made items are also featured in these spaces; the bowl used to hold the “Table Talk” topics was made and sent by a fan. Similar to the way the site for The Suicide Girls bills itself as goth/punk-centric, SourceFedNERD’s content skews heavily toward movies, games, comics, and anime to solidify their nerd brand (Senft 28).

SF nerd news set 3

Fig. 2: The figurines in the background emphasize the “nerd” brand

Many viewers have attributed SourceFed to helping with their lives; for instance, during a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session (essentially an online Q&A) with host Steve Zaragoza, a user commented that the channel’s content helped them from “going suicidal,” thanking Zaragoza and the SourceFed team for making their days brighter. Fans have often referred to the hosts as being like friends and family. Using Sara Ahmed’s concept of the “homing device,” SourceFed is an interesting mechanism for one to feel as though they are at home (9). A Reddit user once commented that having “Table Talk” conversations playing in the background reminded them of growing up in a big family, making SourceFed a mechanism through which one can experience feelings associated with home-life.

Host Matt Lieberman’s personal YouTube channel is heavily geared toward audience interaction, often hosting live-streaming hangouts with his fans, who have been dubbed “Lieberfriends.” Another regular part of his programming is a pre-recorded Q&A segment in which he responds to questions that viewers have sent him via email. These videos often cross the twenty-minute mark and are unedited, giving the sense that his responses are raw and unfiltered. Many of the questions are of a personal and serious nature, with users seeking advice relating to relationships, anxiety, and more; viewers tend to be young (teens and twenties), often looking for a form of guidance. Perhaps part of the reason is that Internet anonymity reduces the worry of embarrassment, and that these viewers do not feel comfortable discussing these issues with people in their personal life. As with online role-playing games, people are given “an opportunity to construct an identity, inhabit a social space” and explore aspects of themselves that they would otherwise be unable to (Taylor 23). With an Internet personality like Lieberman, they experience not just the closeness of a kindred spirit or an understanding ear, but also a safe distance from which to find the comfort to open up.

When a Reddit user asked host Joe Bereta whether it feels strange that viewers know him so well and even consider him a friend, he replies:

“I think it’s hard to truly wrap my head around the fact that there are people represented by the number counters on the YouTubes and Twitterz. But I get open-palm slapped into a state of reality and understanding when I go to VidCon or get stopped on the street or when I’m walking down aisle 5 at Ralph’s with my daughter and I get stopped (happened twice in a week). Those are the moments where I partially understand the reach… and it makes my heart place warm.”

When making and uploading videos on the Internet, it can be difficult for a creator to truly grasp that behind the numbers and statistics are actual individuals. This is one of the reasons SourceFed has committed to doing many live shows and appearances, such as VidCon, an online video conference; it helps keep them aware of their fan base as people rather than an intangible and arbitrary set of numbers. Normally, a viewer gets to see the hosts, but not the other way around. Live appearances help to even out the playing field to an extent, and SourceFed has also begun to dabble in Google Hangouts, which allow them to live-chat with viewers via webcam, seeing not just typed comments but also fan’ faces; still, it is clear that fans will always know the hosts better than the other way around, but the effort of the hosts to interact is appreciated.

The concepts of genuineness and reality in regards to the Internet bring to mind the case of LonelyGirl15, an actress posing as a teenage video-blogger named Bree on YouTube. When her audience discovered that she was not who she had claimed to be, some felt duped and there was a great deal of backlash. Insincerity is a touchy subject in the YouTube world, in which viewers hold genuineness in high regard. Even a channel such as SourceFed, which produces budgeted pre-written content, is not considered disingenuous because of the active relationship the hosts have with their viewers. This relates to the concept of the micro-celebrity, and the difference between Internet personalities and mainstream stars (of film, television, etc.).

In her text, Theresa Senft quotes film theorist Richard Dyer as stating that the “media construction of stars encourages us to think of ‘really’,” meaning that audiences constantly wonder what a celebrity is actually like away from the public eye (25). When it comes to Internet stars (or micro-celebrities), this is typically less of a question. Most of our exposure from a Hollywood actor, for instance, comes from their on-screen performances, which are purely fictional; when it comes to YouTubers (video-bloggers, in particular), much of their content relates to and revolves around aspects of their personal lives. “[O]n the Web, popularity depends upon a connection to one’s audience, rather than an enforced separation from them,” signifying a creator-fan relationship that is active and direct (Senft 26).  As opposed to mainstream media, there is a “distinctly social aspect to YouTube use that reflects its social networking characteristics” (Soukup 7). YouTubers and other micro-celebrities make frequent use of many social media platforms to keep viewers updated on their work and/or lives, as well as to communicate with them directly. Of course, the very nature of being filmed alters one’s composure in some way, and the concept of self-surveillance comes into play. Content creators monitor their behavior, subconsciously or otherwise, because of the awareness that they are being watched. Still, it can be argued that one is always “performing;” even the clothes we wear are chosen to convey a certain image of ourselves. We want to be perceived a certain way. For many YouTubers, even when content is pre-written or planned, it is typically done to highlight their interests in a way that connects with their audience. Even though viewers are aware that many micro-celebrities are exaggerated versions of themselves or withhold aspects of their personal lives, they rarely consider them to be fake, because the stars’ personalities and idiosyncrasies still manage to shine through.

SourceFed’s relationship with their audience results in a double-edged sword; when the channel falters in certain ways, there tends to be worry among fans, because expectations run high. Recently, many changes were made to channel’s video line-up and schedule. While fans were made aware that changes would be coming, little specificity was given. During the transitional period, fans voiced their displeasure at not being forewarned that certain shows were canceled or would be released at different times. For instance, the fan-favorite “Table Talk” program is typically released at 11:00 A.M. EST from Monday to Thursday. During the initial phase of the changes, they would be released less consistently, with the time changing each day; some days, the program wouldn’t appear at all. Plenty of confusion was generated during the early weeks of the changes, because the routine was shaken. Fans were used to having these videos released at specific times during the day and week, as the channel has become a daily part of their lives as well as a source of reliable comfort. Though viewers tend to experience trepidation and even panic when it comes to changes, one can understand their frustration considering their passion for the content; they are invested and dedicated, relying on consistency and quality. When SourceFed falters, the viewers begin to feel temporarily alienated, confused, and out of the loop, which is a harsh contrast to the positive side of the experience.

The SourceFed community can be reflective of social structures, and not always in a good way. For example, uneven gender dynamics can be explored through SourceFed in terms of viewer response. Throughout Trisha Hershberger’s time on the channel, frequent comments would be made about her breasts, with many viewers treating her as little more than an object; some would also falsely claim that her persona as a video game and tech geek was fake simply because of her gender. These viewers appear to view gender through a binary lens, indicative of Judith Butler’s concept of performativity. According to Butler, gender is a social construct based on conforming to pre-established cultural stereotypes and regulated practices based on one’s biological sex (62). Many of the social differences between men and women are not intrinsic, and this performativity becomes naturalized through constant repetition. Many consider gaming, comics, and tech to be male-centric, which accounts for the false assumption that women such as Hershberger are being disingenuous in their interests. This is due to a cultural “overuse of sex categorization,” which allows for little overlap regarding women and men’s shared endeavors (Kilmartin 97). There is also a subconscious “awareness that heterosexuality is fundamentally fragile” among such binary-driven men, who attempt to reaffirm their heterosexual masculinity by not allowing women into what they perceive to be their area (Elias, Lovaas & Yep 200).

Over the years, SourceFed’s news stories have dealt with cases involving victimized women. A notable example can be found in an early video centered on the case of Savannah Dietrich, an American teenager who was sexually assaulted by two boys, who struck a plea deal to lesser charges. The court also added an order for the victim, essentially preventing her from discussing the case in public; if she were to publicly release her rapists’ names, she would be jailed; ignoring this, she refused to keep quiet. Hosts Elliott Morgan and Trisha Hershberger spend much of the video ridiculing the case, as they consider it to be a gross miscarriage of justice that does more damage to the victim than to the attackers; they repeatedly emphasize the names of the Dietrich’s abusers to show their support for the victim (SourceFed, “Victim Punished”). This is an example of an online space’s capacity to be a sort of haven in which injustices can be laid bare.

In other gender-centric cases, there tends to be a high degree of backlash in the comments. For instance, a 2014 video hosted by Hershberger and Matt Lieberman criticized those involved in the distribution and consumption of stolen private photographs featuring nude female celebrities. While the hosts frame the hacking as “a serious and sickening” invasion of privacy, many of the comments take a decidedly less mature approach, with one comment reading, “If your [sic] retarded enough to put compromising images on a server connected on the internet your [sic] deserve to get hacked” (SourceFed, “Celebrity Nudes Leaked”). This case is reflective of disproportionate gender relations in society, which include victim-blaming and assumptions that the victim is untruthful if they are women.

To conclude, analyzing the community of fans surrounding viewers shows the significance that the virtual world has on everyday life. There seems to be a societal assumption that online experiences have little impact on what people refer to as the “real” world, but clearly this definition of reality is limiting. If one can feel a sense of kinship with online personalities or find a place in which they can discuss/explore their feelings, it cannot be said that this experience is not meaningful simply because it was done with the aid of a computer or mobile device. I have personally been a fan of SourceFed since its inception, and have been viewing its content almost daily for over three years. It’s a strange feeling to “know” people I have never even met, and even more-so to realize that I have even subconsciously adopted some of their speech patterns and colloquialisms. I rarely comment on videos or message boards, but I still feel the intimacy that other more active viewers seem to feel. It is always disheartening when I read comments that are racist, misogynistic, or hateful in any way. It makes me think less of the SourceFed community as a whole, until I remind myself that online, as in any walk of life, the ignorant simply tend to be the loudest. By searching through the channel’s official Reddit forum, it becomes clear that devoted fans tend to be thoughtful of and thankful for the channel, which is sometimes difficult to gather from comments on the YouTube page; any viewer can comment directly on the video, but it appears that those with a genuine interest in the channel are the ones who explore it through other platforms.

Works Cited

Ahmed, Sara. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham: Duke UP,   2006.   Print.

babafish. “Re: Concerning the Upcoming Changes Here at SourceFed!” Reddit. Reddit, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2015.

Butler, Judith. “Bodies That Matter.” The Body: A Reader. Ed. Mariam Fraser and Monica Greco. London: Routledge, 2005. 62-65. Print.

Humphrey, Michael. “YouTube PrimeTime: Philip DeFranco’s ‘People First’ Plan Has SourceFed Booming.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 27 July 2012. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.

JDBereta [Joe Bereta]. “I AMA Joe Bereta, Ask Me Anything!” Reddit. Reddit, 01 Nov. 2013. Web. 07 Apr. 2015.

Kilmartin, Christopher. The Masculine Self. Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Pub., 2010.  Print.

Senft, Theresa M. “Chapter 1.” Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks. New York: Lang, 2008. 15-31. Print.

Soukup, Paul A. “Looking At, With, And Through Youtube.” Communication Research Trends 33.3 (2014): 3-34. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.

SourceFed. “Tons of Celebrity Nudes Leaked!” YouTube. YouTube, 2 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.

SourceFed. “Twitter Rape Victim Punished!?” YouTube. YouTube, 23 Jul. 2012. Web. 09 Apr. 2015.

Taylor, T.L. “Multiple Pleasures.” Convergence: The Journal Of Research Into New Media Technologies   9.1 (2003): 21. Film & Television Literature Index. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.

Yep, Gust A., Karen Lovaas, and John P. Elia. Queer Theory and Communication: From Disciplining Queers to Queering the Discipline(s). New York: Harrington Park, 2003. Print.

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Blog Post 3: Celebrity Hacking

In 2014, many female celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence and Mary-Elizabeth Winstead, were the victims of hacking. Their personal photos, many of them involving nudity, were leaked to the internet on sites such as 4chan in an event that has been dubbed “The Fappening.” Many believe the hacking was possible largely due to weak security involving iCloud, Apple’s online storage service.

The leak itself isn’t necessarily surprising; there have been many such leaks in the past, but the sheer number of victims involved in this single attack is disconcerting. Another important element is the fact that many internet commentators (on Reddit, 4chan, etc.) were and remain adamant in blaming these women for allowing such private content to be in a position to be leaked. One of the main arguments of these people is that being a public figure opens one up to scrutiny and invasions of privacy, which is certainly true; however, shouldn’t we be critiquing this erosion of privacy instead of accepting it and blaming the victims? This parallels the rhetoric that some use when describing victims of physical sexual abuse as not having done enough to prevent their assault (“oh, she shouldn’t have dressed that way!”). Victim-blaming seems to be even more common when it comes to these cyber crimes. Also reflected are uneven gender dynamics within society, as women are more likely to be victimized in such cases.

winstead

One must also interrogate the language used when describing the hacking incident; the word “scandal” is often used (in headlines, in comments, etc.), but this carries the connotation that the victim is somehow at fault. As stated in a Forbes article, this is a “sex crime involving theft of personal property and the exploitation of the female body.”

Just because the images weren’t physically taken by someone in a black catsuit and domino mask while humming the Pink Panther theme, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t clear-cut theft.

The notion of a private device’s content being publicly released and consumed weakens the public-private binary, but not for the creative or thought-provoking purposes we have discussed in class; instead, this has been done at the expense of the subjects, without their knowledge or consent.

QUESTIONS:

Though my stance is quite clear, I am interested in other opinions—- Is it fair to equate hacking to physical sexual crimes, or does the cyber landscape call for different ways of navigating issues of privacy while still being critical?

On the other hand, many already don’t subscribe to the above comparison, but these people tend to be those who consume and share the leaked images. Why is it so difficult for some people to accept the criminality involved with these leaks?

***It might also be interesting to compare this issue to those who willingly post suggestive images of themselves online, only to have them removed. Just a thought!

http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx_mobile.html

Blog Post 2

In my previous blog post, I had described my bedroom as one of my favorite spaces, which is something I am slowly reconsidering.

In films and television, young people’s rooms are often depicted as refuges or sanctuaries, personalized to reflect one’s interests.

These elements certainly apply to me, but I don’t feel as free as I ought to. It sometimes feels as though it is not my own space; I didn’t choose to live there, as my room was picked out for me before I was even born. Another example (a stranger one) is the fact I have drawers filled with objects that remind of difficult times in my life, and I tend to avoid them. For some reason, I don’t feel comfortable enough to explore the things I store in my own room. In a way, my room represents a part of my personality that I don’t particularly like; it is often cluttered and messy, with little space to move freely without feeling boxed in. There are things I keep in my room that I haven’t needed for quite some time, but I can’t bring myself to let them go. Sometimes I wish I could throw everything out and start fresh, keeping only the bare essentials (or maybe leaving altogether). There is technically nothing that is prohibiting me from doing so (it’s a private space, so I can do virtually anything that I want within reason), but I am getting in my own way.

Snazzy.

Snazzy.

Since I normally keep busy by doing homework or watching television, I decided to experience the room somewhat differently by sitting in completely silence and scanning my surroundings, which did not feel comfortable. There’s something about it that keeps my mind from being clear, perhaps because of the clutter I mentioned earlier. Whenever I tidy up, I feel a short-lived sense of rejuvenation, but being busy (and lazy, frankly) means that, within a couple of days, the room returns to its usual state.

It always surprises me how if I wake up in a hotel room or some other temporary space, for a few brief moments it feels as though I am waking up in my bedroom. The feeling of the space carries over even if I’m on another continent. This is reminiscent of Sara Ahmed’s exploration of dwellings leaving impressions on the skin; spaces are not simply exterior to the body, but are intertwined with it. Perhaps my mind convinces me that a random hotel bed is my own bed to comfort me, or maybe it is simply due to an oft-repeating memory/experience that is part of my daily life; either way, it’s interesting considering the fact that I often feel a disconnect when I’m actually in the space. There is an intriguing duality there that can’t easily be articulated. The simplest way to explain it would be that I have a love/hate relationship with my room (and by extension, my home), characterized by both my desire to move away (to discover my own home, as opposed to the one I was born into) and the inherent comfort it gives me.


Ahmed, Sara. (2006) Queer Phenomenology Ch. 1: Orientations Towards Objects, section “Inhabiting Spaces” (51-63). Durham: Duke University Press.


Life is meaningless. 

Post 1: Introduction

  • Name, brief background and selfie

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I’m Daniel. Sort of. Nobody calls me that outside of school, so if you want to differentiate me from the 14 other Dans that roam the COMS halls, you can call me Fonda. I’m a second-year COMS student from Montreal, and LEARNING IS FUN.

Last thing I googled: “was Gandhi really an asshole?”

  • What do you spend most of your time doing?

I tend to focus on schoolwork, but I just recently found time for more important things: catching up on Spider-Man comics. Like most humans of Earth, I watch, listen to and read stuff. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to ‘One Hundred Days’ by Mark Lanegan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYhzz4JQ6g4), which kind of says a lot about the type of stories and characters I’m into. If I’m not feeling too lazy, I write my own music and stories.

I’ve always wanted to make or be in movies, so maybe I’ll do that professionally one day. Or I could be a janitor.

  • What is your goal for the class?

I’ve noticed that much of the fiction I enjoy involves bodies being uncomfortable in the spaces they are inhabiting, both literally or figuratively. There’s often a need to escape one’s environment or to reassess their place within it, and I’m hoping this class will help me explore that sort of thing more intricately.

  • What is one of your favorite spaces?

I guess it would be my room. It’s dark, cramped, and cluttered. Not much room for movement. Whenever I open a drawer, I tend to hit one of my guitars. I usually have a bunch of junk on the right side of my bed, so I’m practically hanging off the left. Come to think of it, it’s nothing great, but hey– it’s “my place” or whatever, and it’s where I can consume lots of fiction without being bothered. Nobody is “excluded” per se, but having a degree of control regarding who can be in the room is comforting.

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Now that I think about it, maybe I prefer the movie theatre. Any one. I too often fall into the trap of distracting myself whenever I watch something at home (even if I’m alone), so I really enjoy letting go of control. I don’t want to be able to pause. I don’t want to be able to check my phone. I just want to sit back, shut up, and actually experience something.

  • What are the five things faculty do that make learning hard?

Unclear instructions

Too much bias on the professor’s part

Lack of a will to communicate with students outside of class

Lack of diversity in terms of teaching style (eg.: only lectures, no group work, etc.)

Little feedback on assignments

  •  What are the five things faculty do that make it easy to learn?

Encouragement of student participation/discussion

NOT having a single assignment that is worth too much

Easily-accessible resources (online, for instance)

Willingness to shift focus material-wise depending on students’ interest WITHOUT losing sight of the big picture

Taking into account the entirety of students’ academic workload (NOT assigning too much work during the hectic parts of a semester)

Satan is my Lord.