Monday, February 27, 2012

Chuck On Shuffle

Chuck Klosterman: Me, On Shuffle

What makes Chuck Klosterman's writing believable, or credible in a sense, is his honesty. He is very transparent in his writing; he gives his opinion about anything and everything, no matter how brutal or frank. Even though his pieces are notoriously slanted, Klosterman presents his opinions in a way that helps his readers to understand him as a person and a writer.

Another thing that effectively portray's Klosterman's voice is his attention to detail. Throughout the article, links are posted so the reader can understand exactly what Klosterman is talking about the whole time. Without these links, we would have to take Klosterman's word for it, but with the links, we are able to experience it for ourselves.

Overall, Klosterman's writing appears credible simply because he writes intelligently. You can tell from reading his articles that he is a smart man, and that makes people trust him to a certain extent.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Outsider View: Nerdfighteria


What is the appeal of vlogbrothers? How are Hank and John Green able to entertain their audience in a way different from other forms of public media?

I sat down with Logan Anderson, a fellow college student at Belmont University, to talk about Nerdfighteria. I started our conversation by asking a few questions about his familiarity with YouTube and Nerdfighteria. Logan identifies himself as a casual video watcher, saying, "I never really utilize my YouTube account that much. I just have it." I asked him if he had ever heard of vlogbrothers before our interview. He replied that he "had never heard of vlogbrothers, but [he] had heard of John just because he wrote those books." John Green, the oldest brother, is the author of several New York Times' Bestselling novels, such as Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. While Logan was not familiar with Nerdfighteria, he was familiar with John Green’s work and his popularity in the youth fiction genre.

I decided that it would be best to show Logan a video to familiarize him with vlogbrothers, the foundation of Nerdfighteria. We proceeded to watch one of John Green’s video blog posts entitled, “Life is Wierd. Also Beautiful” in which John explains his friendship with several interesting people he knew in college. When the video was over, I asked Logan what his immediate impression of vlogbrothers was, to which he responded, “I like how he chops up the video. I don’t know if they always do that...” I explained that each of the vlogbrothers videos is , as a rule, under four minutes. “Oh, okay, so they try to get, like, very fast,” Logan responded, snapping his fingers, “alright, that’s cool, that’s really cool, then. I like that. Because it keeps you entertained. I didn’t really deviate at all, but if it was just him talking I probably would have deviated, or my mind would have wandered. But I think it’s really cool what they’re doing.”

Now that Logan had seen a vlogbrothers video, I asked him what he thought made vlogbrothers so appealing to their 650,000+ subscribers. According to Logan, “they pull in a huge audience because they’re in so many different medias. They cover broad interests.” What he meant was that Nerdfighteria was popular because there is something for everyone, from musicians to science geeks to literature buffs.

I then showed Logan a little more of what Nerdfighteria was like by taking them to their various websites, including Nerdfighters.com, DFTBA.com, and Hank and Johns other YouTube channels. When asked if he would consider being more involved in Nerdfighteria after seeing everything Hank and John are involved in, Logan replied, “Yeah, it’s really interesting. I should utilize this. Their YouTube channel’s really cool-looking. I didn’t know anything about [nerdfighters.com]. It’s like a whole ‘nother universe or something, I had no idea. But yes, totally, it sounds like there’s something for everybody there, so.” Knowing something more about Nerdfighteria changed Logan’s initial impression of it. While at first he seemed indifferent toward the virtual subculture, he ended the interview by explaining how it helped shape his opinion of John, “I didn’t know what John’s personality was or anything, so now I know. Now I can definitely see why he’s so nerdy in his writing and stuff, so it’s nice to see that side, I guess, of people.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Guns, Germs, and Steel - Reflection

What interested me most about how space and objects affect culture in Guns, Germs, and Steel is that geography seems to play a huge role in the success and power of a culture. Eurasian cultures have historically been the most prominent influences in the world; this is a result of colonization and thriving populations. But what made Eurasian people able to maintain such high numbers in population? The answer lies not within genetics, but within geography.

Some geographical areas are simply much better at providing natural resources which supply food and raw materials. This puts the culture inhabiting these areas at an advantage, because they do not have to work as hard to provide for themselves.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs describes the different levels of human needs: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. According to the hierarchy, the lowest, most basic needs (physiological needs) must be met before a person can achieve the higher ones (safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization). In the context of Guns, Germs, and Steel we see that the progression of Eurasian cultures happened more quickly because their geographical areas more readily provided people with the things they required to fill their most basic needs (food, air, water, sleep, etc.). Because of this, Eurasian cultures were free to move onto fulfilling more complex needs, giving them an edge against cultures whose more basic needs were less easily filled because of the geographical areas they inhabited.

Because people of the Eurasian cultures were well-sustained physically, their populations grew, which opened the door to new skill development. This in turn lead to a more advanced system of technologies, which allowed Eurasian cultures to develop powerful tools and weapons that made gaining power over other cultures much easier.

In short, the fertility of the Eurasian geographical area created a snowball effect. They did not rise to power because they were genetically superior to any other culture. They did so almost by chance. Eurasia owes much of its success to the land, to their availability to food.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nerdfighteria: An Introduction

It was a summer afternoon in 2007. I had just logged onto YouTube to escape the Alabama heat and ingest my daily dose of home video entertainment. Watching YouTube videos had recently become a routine for me. I had transferred high schools the previous semester and managed to make absolutely no friends before summer break, which meant I had a lot of time to myself. So I filled that extra alone time with the people of YouTube—vloggers ranting about their lives, practical jokers testifying to their latest pranks, DIY-ers giving step-by-step tutorials on how to revamp clothing. This particular day was the same as the others. I scrolled down the site’s front page where the trending videos are posted in search of anything that might strike my fancy. A few scrolls down, and a video labeled “Accio Deathly Hallows” appeared. Since I was, and remain to this day, a serious Harry Potter fan, I was instantly intrigued. The final installation of the Harry Potter series was due to hit stores in just a couple of weeks, and suspense of its release was starting to build.

I clicked the video and listened as watched as the words “Two brothers, one video blog, 365 days of textless communication—Brotherhood 2.0” came on the screen. A nerdy-looking twenty-something then appeared and immediately said into the camera “Good morning, John, it’s Wednesday July 18th. I’m gonna have to wait until Friday to do the green hair thing, because today’s Wednesday—it’s my Wednesday—so I must do a song.” He then proceeded to sing a rather clever song about the Harry Potter community’s eagerness to read The Deathly Hallows. I was interested to find out more about Brotherhood 2.0, so I clicked on the link at the top of the page that said, “vlogbrothers.” It took me to their channel where I found seven months’ worth of videos. That marked the beginning of my fascination with the vlogbrothers.

Brotherhood 2.0 was a video project created by Hank and John Green in which the brothers were prohibited from textually communicating with each other for a full calendar year (excluding holidays and weekends). Over the year-long endeavor, the Green brothers developed a large following that they endearingly refer to as “Nerdfighters.” According to the Green brothers, anyone who watches their videos and wants to be a part of the vlogbrothers community is a Nerdfighter. The Nerdfighter community (referred to as Nerdfighteria) has developed into its own virtual subculture, complete with its own vocabulary, art, and organizations.

One particularly important Nerdfighter organization came into being through the Brotherhood 2.0 project. In March of 2007, John Green created the predecessor for the present day Foundation to Decrease World Suck. The rules of the Brotherhood 2.0 project required that (1) each video had to be under four minutes, and (2) there could be no written communication via text in or outside the context of their videos. If they broke either of these rules, they were punished. Punishments were issued by the opposite brother, and, as evident from the title, they were often unenjoyable for the accused. For example, John Green was once issued the punishment of eating five sheets of toilet paper while discussing the political situation in Nepal. But it was Hank’s punishment for textually communicating at the end of one of his videos that earned him the punishment of purchasing one hundred peeps and eating as many as he could within a six minute period. We was then challenged to give the remaining peeps to the people of Missoula (Hank’s town). For each peep he did not eat, he had to donate a dollar which would be placed in a bank account created by John Green called the Brotherhood 2.0 Fund for Decreasing Suck Levels Worldwide.

By the end of the Brotherhood 2.0 project, the Nerdfighter community surrounding the vlogbrothers’ channel was so vibrant the brothers decided to continue making videos. The phenomenon of their success is mind-boggling. Hank and John Green are two nerdy guys making Youtube videos people seem to love. What is the secret to the success of the Green brothers and Nerdfighteria?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Nerdfighter Salute

John and Hank Green

The Nerdfighter Salute, also referred to as the Nerdfighter Gang Sign. This is how Nerdfighters identify each other outside the virtual realm.

This salute tells us a lot about Nerdfighter culture. As we can see from the position of the hands, Nerdfighters draw much of their cultural inspiration from traditional nerd stereotypes (in this instance, Trekkies). However, they seem to adapt these nerd stereotypes to fit their own cultural needs. The "cross trekkie," as I shall refer to it, differentiates itself from its Trekkie forefather through its complexity. Rather than merely raising one hand in Trekkie form, Nerdfighters raise both hands and cross them in front of their chests. This simple adaptation sends a very different signal from the one utilized by Star Trek fans. It seems to say "Hey, I'm a nerd, and I'm proud. Don't mess with me." In short, it looks hardcore. This implies that Nerdfighteria culture, while nerdy by principle, is also a space where nerds can be proud. In Nerdfighteria, it's cool to be nerdy. In this respect, the Nerdfighter Salute also acts as a symbol of support and receptiveness.

No wonder I liked using the Nerdfighter Salute in high school.

Throw 'em up.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Playing the Game: Academic Discourse

We've been talking a lot about primary and secondary discourses this semester—how they are obtained and how they affect one another. And one of the secondary discourses many college students like myself are required to adopt is Academia. This discourse comes primarily to very few people; for the rest of us, becoming fluent in the academic discourse can prove difficult. For those of us who struggle to play the academic discourse game, I've come up with a list of things that may help you on your way to fluency. Keep in mind that I am by no means an expert. These are just some things I've noticed during my two and a half years of higher education.

1. If you want to be an academic, you must write clearly. Nothing screams "rookie scholar" more than a poorly constructed sentence. If you have a sizable vocabulary, great. Just make sure you're not sacrificing clarity for words that "make you sound smart."

2. Read. Academics read stuff. That's how they learn. So read.

3. Ask questions. If you don't ask, you'll never know, and academics like to know.

4. Engage the things you learn; talk about them, write about them. Use your knowledge. Test it. There's no better way to reinforce what you know.

I just realized that my list is only four points long. How sad. I guess I have much more to learn about being a fluent academic. But I hope these tips will at least help you to play the game.