Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sharing the Cup with the World

On June 17th, Ochoa was the One.

The 2014 World Cup represents fundamentally new stage in the history of World Cups.  World Cups have long been some of the largest international events of mass culture and broadcasting, they have also been celebrated at a local community level.  However, to a degree greater than ever before, the local, micro level of the cultural experiences of the World Cup have the potential to accumulate, spread and influence others well beyond the local.   

This photo-shopped mash up of Neo with Ochoa's face illustrates one of the ways that creative, digital culture invites participation and shapes peoples experience of the World Cup.  This image was created by someone during an impromptu photoshop contest in an online community.  The image was picked up and posted to another online community, where I saw it, and then screen captured it with my phone.  Then posted it on my Facebook feed, which I have reposted here.   Social media and the culture of creative participation have become sufficiently widespread that "everybody" can participate.  This changes what it is like to experience the World Cup-- making it more participatory, less scripted, and more unpredictable.   

Way back in 2007, Clay Shirky wrote that "Communications tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring."  When these ordinary tools are in everyone's hands we do ordinary things differently.  Just watching a game, and posting a message about a goal on FB changes how we and others experience that event.  In millions of small ways more of the cultural creation related to the World Cup is taking place by all of us, between friends, within social networks, and across online communities.  More so than ever before, hundreds of millions of people are participating in their digital lives and the World Cup is part of that, and therefore, the participation of all those people becomes part of the World Cup.  Here are a bunch of ways that people can join the participatory culture is shaping the World Cup: 
  • National supporters groups like the American Outlaws reduce the transaction costs of traveling and increase the commitment and participation of fans.
  • Sport specific online communities (like r/Soccer on reddit)  hasten the enculturation of new fans, and create a platform for ordinary people to participate in the narrative and events of the World Cup.  
  • Social media like Facebook and Twitter make it easier to organize watch parties and for folks to comment on, and share about the World Cup, these include individual participation, as well as hundreds of local community soccer pages.
  • Soccer blogs and other semi-grass roots soccer media sources create and motivate greater levels of fan interaction in the mainstream media, through sites like Men in Blazers, (also on ESPN FC for World Cup).   
  • Attend local watch parties at a local bar.   Soccer provides an international index of soccer bars to see the next match.  
The World Cup is still a giant international media event, organized from the top down by a hugely wealthy sports organization of mixed repute (FIFA).  And watching a soccer game (football match) is still an individual act of mass media cultural consumption.  However, our experiences of the World Cup will be produced increasingly by how we share the cup with our friends, communities, and world beyond.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Harbinger of change in the digital metropolis?

How does this threadlet reveal a glimmer of social change? This ask reddit thread asks teens of reddit what is cool nowadays?   User Pseudologiac notes that a cool thing about teenagers today is how open minded they are, in contrast to what the kids of the 80's and 90's might have experienced.  

Now, lets take this observation as an anecdotal harbinger, and just accept, for the point of argument that this is a legitimate observation of a form of social change taking place now.  What is it about contemporary life that is causing some populations of teenagers to move beyond the narrow-minded, balkanized subgroup mentality?  I and Simmel would argue that the experience of interacting in crosscutting social circles changes our mentality, makes us more cosmopolitan.  The city, and by extension, the even larger and more interactive digital metropolis has the potential to change us, and makes the intergroup hostility captured by movies like the Breakfast Club seem old and out of touch.   

Of course, there are also stories of bullying and dark sides of the teenage experience related to social computing.   So the change, if real, is not automatic, but it may have to do with the ways that people use social media and how they interact.  This brings us back to Rheingolds argument about the social importance of digital literacies, and the specific literacies that he recommends (managing attention, critical evaluation skills, sharing, collaboration, and network smarts).   Thesis:  populations where these digital literacies are more fully developed and universally distributed will be those where increased levels of participation in social media will be more likely to cause higher levels of movement towards a cosmopolitan mentality.