Hockey Gossip and Blogs

Saw a documentary called Teenage Paparazzo, which follows the adventures of a 14 year old paparazzo and explores the relationship between celebrities, paparazzis and fans. Adrian Grenier interviews different paparazzos, celebrities and academics, including Dr. Henry Jenkins of MIT, and highlights the celebrity-obsessed culture across different mediums.

In a conversation with Adrian Grenier, Dr. Jenkins had this to say regarding celebrity gossip:

Going from a society of small towns where people gossiped about the town drunk to an era of the internet, who do we choose to talk about? We can’t talk about our aunt and our uncle or the guy down the street because we don’t share that in common.

But we share you in common.

So I would say one of your jobs as a celebrity is to be the subject of gossip. When we gossip about someone, the person we’re gossiping about is actually less important than the exchange that takes place between us. We’re using that other person, the celebrity, the town whore, whatever, as a vehicle for us to sort of share values with each other to sort through central issues that are…

Ironically enough, Dr. Jenkins was interrupted by a fan asking to take a picture with Grenier.

There’s definitely a lot of similarities between those who follow celebrities and those who follow hockey. Aside from both being groups of fans who express their fandom using different outlets, they both engage in gossip.

I remarked last year at the amount of speculation that is prevalent throughout the game of hockey and what causes its generation. Dr. Jenkins’ remarks add another element to the rumor/gossip activity, which is the fan desire to exchange values and ideas with one another. The game itself is the common object to discuss and it’s through the interaction with other fans that allows them to express their own values and ideas.

This opportunity to share is what makes blogging the ideal platform for hockey fans. It’s easy to set up a blog, publish content and discuss with other fans. Blogs also offer a way to keep a running log of fan values and ideas, and have made it possible to link the content across a massive network. Values and ideas are able to develop and evolve over time, which is then used to fuel more gossip and speculation.

Grenier, A. et al. (Producers), & Grenier, A. (Director). (2010). Teenage Paparazzo [Motion picture]. United States: Reckless Productions.

Hockey Fans and Remix Culture

The following post was for an assignment in New Media Narratives.

Topic: Remix culture is fundamentally at odds with older media institution and practises. Investigate a case study which illuminates these tensions.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

A remix culture, according to Lawrence Lessig, is one where “people participate in the creation and the re-creation of their culture” (Lessig, 2007). It is one where people can use an existing artifact to create something new and unique. Lessig breaks down culture into two categories: read/write culture and read/only culture. This latter culture is one where “creativity [is] consumed but the consumer is not a creator” (Lessig, 2007). A read/write culture is described as being a symbol of individual freedom and personal expression (Lessig, 2005) while a read/only culture “is top-down…where the vocal chords of the millions have been lost” (Lessig, 2007). With the increase in digitization of original work such as art, music and ideas, the remix culture impacts both the creators as well as the consumers.

Source: banksy.co.uk

Examples of remixed work include music sampling, anime fan art and serviceware mashups (Lankshera & Knobel, 2007). People are able to “mashup” (Fitzgerald & O’Brien, 2006) original content with their own alterations and share it as their own. For instance, street artist Banksy uses structures and buildings from around the world as his canvass to express his thoughts and messages (“Banksy – Outdoors”, n.d.). This could be considered vandalism but the art work has gained acceptance and has even led to a film entry at the Sundance Film Festival (Horn & Lee, 2010).

With the cost of computers reducing and image editing software becoming easier to use, photoshopping has become a popular remixing tool for political statements and individual expression. The act of splicing images from different sources together to create a new message and content on the web reflects the remix culture Lessig (2007) refers to. Because of the freedom remix culture demands, it is fundamentally at odds with older media institutions and practices. As demonstrated by photoshopping, the read/write culture does not conform to established and traditional methods of copyright laws, intellectual property rights and publication methods.

CASE STUDY: OILERSNATION PHOTOSHOP CONTEST

OilersNation, a fan website, recently hosted a photoshop contest that invited readers to submit their edited images inspired by the Edmonton Oilers. Original narratives and themes from movies, television shows and advertising are used with Oiler-related images to create new content. Fans expressed their feelings and thoughts regarding the Oilers season, team managements decisions as well as optimism and support for the clubs future. Based on the comments visitors left on the site, one entry was selected to win a prize.

Photoshopping requires some knowledge and experience with the image editing software as well as the intended audience. Editors had to seamlessly mesh hockey images with familiar, pop culture, items so that an explanation was not required. Contest entrants were sharing their works with a hockey fan community, a niche audience, that had to understand their message easily.

The desire of fans to create new content using copyrighted material such as player images and movie posters is a result of the remix culture that exists today. But as this case study demonstrates, there is a tension between the remix culture that encourages the expression of fans and the read/only practices of traditional media institutions.

COPYRIGHT ISSUES

Source: OilersNation.com

Since the images used by fans in the photoshop contest are not owned by them, fans are technically using the images illegally. The photos of the players are owned by the team, private owners or broadcast mediums such as television networks or websites. But since they are available on the Internet, a medium that supports a remix culture, fans are able to copy, save, edit and share the images.

Original images from movies and television shows are valuable to its owners since they took time, resources and capital to create. Yet, franchises such as Star Wars or Bob the Builder do not appear to have received any reimbursement for the images that were used. But in order for fans to express themselves, they need access to these copyrighted images.

The read/only culture that original material owners demand is protected by copyright laws. As Lessig (2007) states, “By default, read/write use violates copyright law. Read/write culture is thus presumptively illegal”. Lessig urges that government legislation must find a balance that allows for creativity but also compensate artists (Lessig & Schlesinger, 2008). In 2001, Creative Commons (Zittrain, 2009) was established to give creators the ability to copyright their material but also allow for certain uses of their work. Their goal is to allow ones “creative, educational, and scientific content [to be] instantly more compatible with the full potential of the internet” (“About – Creative Commons”, n.d.). It remains to be seen if this organization can bridge the ideological differences, regarding copyright issues, between read/write and read/only culture.

MESSAGE CONTROL

Source: OilersNation.com

When an individual or organization creates content, it is for their own purposes and objectives. For instance, when a movie is set for release to theatres, images from the film are used for movie posters and advertising. Theses images and their intended messages are controlled by the original artists. Investments are made into the original material in the hopes that it will generate revenue for them. Since remix culture allows anyone to use original content to create something new, tension arises between it and the traditional method of content creation and control.

The fans who photoshopped images are using content that was meant for a different purpose. Images of hockey players were not intended to be mashed with a Star Wars poster or to be mocked. Professional sports, being a business, must carefully invest in the creation of original work to generate revenue. Teams are accountable to investors, a board of governors and corporate sponsors. The messages they create must adhere to the goals of their organization, with external stakeholders in mind. When a fan remixes the original content to create a message that does not represent the organization, legal action may be sought for misrepresentation.

Instead of simply consuming the message an organization such as the Edmonton Oilers create, fans are utilizing social media, or web 2.0. applications (O’Reilly, 2005), to create and share their own messages. The barriers to participate and get things done, according to Shirky (2008), have dropped, allowing fans to participate in the creation and control of content. Social media applications such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter provide a voice to fans, making them a source of information; information that traditionally is under the control of the original creators.

AUDIENCE VS COMMUNITY

Source: OilersNation.com

The OilersNation photoshop contest demonstrates the evolution of the traditional audience into more of an active community. Instead of being a part of the targeted audience, fans have connected with one another to form a community, which is vital in a remix culture. Without a community to work with and to create content for, there is little motivation for fans to express their thoughts and creativity.

According to Mason (1999), it is the uncertainty of games and player performance that professional sports sells to its audience. Fans in turn buy tickets to events and purchase merchandise. Fans have also demonstrated their desire to not only consume, but to actually do something with the product sold to them by professional sports. Examples include fantasy league pools, where fans select players at the start of the season and collect points to compete with other fans. Phone applications such as Pre Play Sports (“Pre-Play Sports”, n.d.) allow fans to predict events during a live football game and compete with others. Fans have also demonstrated their creative and collaborative abilities by taking the statistics generated by the league and developing their own methods of tracking team and player performance (Staples, 2008). These fans are conducting, what Bruns (2008) describes as, “produsage”, which is the “collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement” (p. 15).

The ideologies and characteristics of this participatory culture (Jenkins, 2008) are in stark contrast to those envisioned by creators of original work. The hockey fan community and its remix culture have a different approach to creating content than the read/only audience the Edmonton Oilers may view them as. This leads to tension since the professional sports teams and leagues cannot control how their property is used within this community. It is difficult for them to determine who is using their material and for what purposes. However, In response to the evolution of audiences becoming communities, the Oilers have begun interacting with fans using different social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter. The team can be a part of the fan network, rather than remain as outsiders.

SUMMARY

As demonstrated by the OilersNation photoshop contest, a remix culture is fundamentally at odds with traditional media institutions and practices. Copyright issues, message control and the evolution of audiences to active communities demonstrates the ideological differences between remixers and original creators of work. In the future, the way content and its message is controlled over new mediums requires the involvement of the read/write and read/only culture. A balance must be found to protect the work of original creators, but also provide people the freedom and opportunity to become engaged with their culture.

SOURCES

About – Creative Commons (n.d.). Retrieved from http://creativecommons.org/about. (2011, March 31).

Banksy Outdoors (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/outvarious/horizontal_1.htm. (2011, March 31).

Bruns, A. (2009). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Brustein, J. (2011, March 11). A Better Way to Watch Sports. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/weekinreview/13watch.html. (2011, March 25).

Gretz, W. (2011, March 11). Photoshop contest entries: updated. Retrieved from http://oilersnation.com/2011/3/11/photoshop-contest-entries. (2011, March 12).

Horn, J. & Lee, C. (2010, January 24). Sundance 2010: Banksy rocks festival with ‘Gift Shop’. LA Times. Retrieved from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2010/01/sundance-2010-banksy.html. (2011, March 31).

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2007, May). Digital Remix: The Art and Craft of Endless Hybridization. Keynote presented to the International Reading Association Pre-Conference Institute “Using Technology to Develop and Extend the Boundaries of
Literacy”. Retrieved from http://extendboundariesofliteracy.pbworks.com/f/remix.pdf. (2011, March 28).

Lessig, L. (2005). The people own ideas!. Technology Review, 108 (6). Pp. 46-53.

Lessig, L. (2007, November). Larry Lessig: On laws that choke creativity [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html. (2011, March 30).

Lessig, L. & Schlesinger, R. & (2008). Don’t Make Kids Online Crooks. U.S. News & World Report, 145 (14).

Mason, D.S. (1999). What is the sports product and who buys it? The marketing of professional sports leagues. European Journal of Marketing, 33 (3/4). Pp. 402-418.

Fitzgerald, B & O’Brien, D. (2006). Mashups, remixes and copyright law. Internet Law Bulletin 9(2):pp. 17-19. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/4239/1/4239.pdf. (2011, March 30).

O’Reilly, Tim. (2005). “What is Web 2.0?”. Retrieved from: http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html. (2011, March 30).

Pre-Play Sports (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.preplaysports.com/the-app. (2011, March 31).

Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books.

Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody. New York: Penguin Press.

Staples, D. (2008, October 14). Frequently Asked Questions About True Plus/Minus [Web log]. Retrieved from http://communities.canada.com/edmontonjournal/blogs/hockey/archive/2008/10/14/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-errors-stat.aspx. (2011, March 31).

Zittrain, J. (2009). How to end the copyright wars. Nature, 457 (7227). Pp. 264-265.

How blogging is like pond hockey

Ken Dryden talks extensively about the evolution of hockey in his book “The Game”. He stresses the importance of allowing young players to be creative without the rigid structure of organized hockey. He uses Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur as an example of a player who would spend time alone on the ice or with a few friends before and after practice to feel and develop his own game. Dryden talks about how skill and instincts are developed better when there’s less restrictions. The mind is able to wander more and think of new ways of playing the game.

Kids across different sports are placed under strict limitations by coaches. They’re expected to follow a team system or game plan and find a role to stick with for the greater good of the team. Rosters can’t have twelve Gretzky’s playing forward, so naturally, some players got be more offensive while others were put into supporting roles.

When the ice is open and there are less limits, like in pond hockey, a player has the ability to be creative. They can try different things without any repercussions. You get the chance to feel the game and be more imaginative.

I find this similar to blogging. When individuals can just write, without any worry of losing anything, some interesting stuff can come out. And if it doesn’t, big deal. It sticks around the web until someone can come along and maybe pick up from where it left off. Like pond hockey, there are some loose rules, but for the most part, you’re free to do whatever you want.

Being able to write is the same feeling you get when you’re playing on a frozen pond. The possibilities just seem endless when you can skate whichever direction, at any speed and include any movement. It’s a great feeling when the sunset is the final buzzer.

Dryden, K. (1983). The Game. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons.

Goal horns in professional hockey

Since fans as a collective group has been a major focus of this project, I’ve been dissecting their experiences in relation to the game. One experience that I’ve begun to question and loathe is the goal horn in every professional hockey arena.

These tend to go off after every goal the home team scores and also after a win. But these annoying sounds didn’t always exist. There used to be a time when it was the fans in attendance that would rock the building.

I personally don’t understand the purpose. My guess it’s a way for a team to make up for the lack of noise in their buildings (ahem, Phoenix, Florida, Long Island) and make the arena seem like a wild place to be to attract new fans.

To me, these goals horns are a way for professional hockey teams to control their fans. Cheering/supporting/heckling are a few of the ways for group of fans to interact with the game. A goal horn just replaces the fans with a cheering squad hired by the team.

This really limits what a fan community can do. We’ve seen from Premier League soccer chants, goalie taunts and blogs the kind of stuff fans can come up with. When fans as a group are unrestricted, the possibilities are endless. The goal horn is just a phoney representation of what professional leagues want their fans to be. It’s an attempt to enhance an image and takes away from the genuine expression of fans.

Here’s a great goal celebration from a high school game:

Terry Fox

ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has done an amazing job covering different topics and stories over the past thirty years in sports. I haven’t watched every single one yet, but the ones that stand out for me are “King’s Ransom”, “The Two Escobars” and now “Into the Wind”. Each one deals with the impact sports has on the culture and society it’s within. The stories go into the ramification of sporting events on nations and social issues existing at the time. Terry Fox’s story goes one step further, dealing with Canadian identity and how sports play a role in its development.

The story of Terry Fox is inspirational. A man determined to raise awareness about cancer by running across Canada brings a lot of pride to Canadians. “Into the Wind” gives a lot of unseen footage of Fox’s trek and the different challenges he faced along the way.

What stood out for me the most was the importance of Terry Fox to Canadian culture and identity. His “grittiness” was talked about in the documentary and symbolized the hard-working nature of Canadians, according to Leslie Scrivener.

I’ve always believed that sports reflect society. It reflects life and the stories we have. Both have a beginning, middle and an end. Both have ups and downs. Challenges, success, failures, triumph. Athletic performances like Terry’s mean so much more than just sports. They provide us with inspiration, faith and identity. Fans play an integral role watching, following and engaging with sports. They take away a lot from the game but also embrace its effects to play a role in their culture.

“Into the Wind” can be watched here.