Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Introduction Letter to the Portfolio

Introduction Letter

This past semester has been a great experience overall. Thinking back to my registration appointment last year and choosing my classes I am glad I chose your class over all of the other English 114 classes. The projects we did over this semester were a lot of fun and I actually got to know a few class members a little better. The most notable project we did was project space. I enjoyed the aspect of working outside the classroom with my group and working together, because last semester we didn’t do too many group projects. The book choices were engaging and interesting this semester and I particularly enjoyed the graphic novels we read with surrogates being my favorite. The only criticism I had this semester was the blogs, It was harder for me to maintain the blogs with the weekly posts than it was last semester on Moodle. This semester I have not been the most engaged student, I had trouble finding myself and my work suffered, but the topics we discussed in class could not have been more convenient for my situation.
The two essays I chose to put into my portfolio both had to do with the topic of identity. This topic was of extreme importance to me, as being a freshman in college, having moved out of my home, and having joined a fraternity, I have been challenged to find out not only who I am, but to find out who those around me really are. The questions of who you are and who someone else is are not easy to answer, and so I set out with the goal of learning a little bit about both. Through my writing this semester I learned a little bit about myself, through the music I listen to and the movies I watch, as well as a little bit about those around me, through similar means.
The first essay that is in the portfolio is about identity through music. I chose to write about how the modern day hipster has been shaped by the independent rock scene in the 90s. I wrote about the similarities and differences of the emo from the early 2000s and the hipster of today.  I also looked at the lyrics of the modern day indie rock groups. I looked at the messages the bands are putting into the lyrics and how it connects with the hipster of today. Close friends of mine have tried as of recently to push the genre onto me, and I was particularly interested in finding out what they were saying about themselves in doing so.
The second essay I put into my portfolio was the essay about Gamer. I decided to approach an analysis of the movie with the intention of examining the roles of different avatar users and the effects of using such avatars.  I noted the ability to separate one’s self from their avatar to the everyday social interactions of life has been lost and people act as if they are still in some sense their avatar.

Portfolio Essay #2

Gage Katz
Eric Dinsmore
English 114 B
February 27, 2012

Who is in Control?
In the movie Gamer we follow the story of Kable, and his controller Simon Silverton. Gamer takes place in the near future in a world where people can control other people. In Gamer two games “Society” and “Slayers” were developed to let human beings use other human beings as “avatars”. In “Society” users take control of live action models that act out their every whim in a social environment, and in “Slayer” users take control of convicts and place them in a warzone to fight to the death.
Society is an interactive social based game that lets “actors” volunteer to be played by random people and not have any influence on what happens to them. The people who pay to play avatars in Society, are usually middle class and occasionally of opposite sex than that of their avatars, but are mostly portrayed as those you might find to be downtrodden in the social world, the unattractive, the overweight, etc. The mind frames of the players are usually perverted and only use their avatars as a means for sexual exploration, because they may be incapable in regular life of performing such acts, and are entirely incapable of performing such acts with the incredibly attractive models that they control. In certain scenes in the movie Kable’s wife who is an actor in Society, being controlled by a fat sweaty man who eats waffles in a power chair, starts conversing with another player and they quickly head to an apartment and are begin to get intimate. From what I have seen in the movie the main roles people use Society for is sex and other generally sexual interactions, and do things they wouldn’t be able to do in real society.
Slayers on the other hand is a completely opposite from Society. The people who are in slayers are Death Row inmates that were given a second chance at life by surviving 30 rounds of Slayers. The people who control these inmates are generally wealthy from what is seen in the movie. The most famous of the Slayers is Kable. Kable is on his 28th round of Slayers which has never been done before. Kable’s player is a rich seventeen year old who has played Kable since the beginning. He was offered countless times hundreds of millions of dollars to sell Kable. The type of people who are playing slayers are hardcore gamers that love to play shooters and are typically wealthy because they have to buy new weapons and armor for their Slayer which is expensive.

The movie Gamer seems to be playing on cultural phenomena that we can see in our own lives. The most prominent of which, reflected in society is the act of changing one’s identity and their social roles once situated behind the guise of an online avatar. As noted in John M. Grohol’s article The Proteus Effect: How Our Avatar Changes Online Behavior”, a study in 2007 has shown that the use of online avatars not only change our personality over the web, but also in our day to day interactions.

            Participants in the study noted by Grohol are given either a short or a tall avatar. Those given a short avatar were more likely to allow being taken advantage of, while the taller was more aggressive in their dealings. Subsequent interaction with the participants showed that the effects followed them out of the virtual world, and affected the real world behavior. What we are seeing here is an online avatar not only effecting the actions of the user whilst behind their mask, but also in real life. In the film Gamer we only see those actions that are performed from behind the controls of the avatar, however the effect of the avatar’s guise is immense. The user completely ditches any action that one might expect of them given their personal appearance and what we would imagine their level of self-confidence to be at, and the dive straight into heavy flirting and quick sexual encounters.

            In reality too we are finding that it is easier to socialize from behind these avatars, and even personal social networking sites, than it is to socialize in real life. For instance, as Andrew Pettigrew noted in his article “The Rise and Rise of Social Networking, Could Facebook be making us Less Social”, research has been looking into what it means for one person to call another a “friend” and have found that more and more superficial relationships are being attributed as friendship. This seems to be breaking down the wall between what we call acquaintances and actual friends in young people’s lives. And yes, while social media is not the same thing as an avatar, it is a form of a created identity that we portray to the world.

            As found in Sonia Livingstone and David Brake’s article “On the rapid rise of social networking sites: New findings and policy implications”, the use of a social networking site is a similar tool to the young person as their room’s decorations is. The social networking site allows young people to express a self to the world from behind something they have crafted on the internet. These personas are not strictly their ‘self’ but rather a mask that they have crafted for the world to view them as.

            This act is somewhat similar to the act of using an avatar to act in ways that you could not, as your online persona may be portrayed as friendly and outgoing on your social networking site, which may not be an accurate portrayal of your actual life. For instance one’s Facebook may be covered in photos of parties, concerts, and trips to the beach, but these are not the only things that take up their day, and instead of portraying an accurate picture of the individual, they are selecting only things they wish to share with the outside world to curtail judgments.  This is not such a stretch from sitting behind an avatar online, as a quick Facebook check may provide a similar effect of confidence boost outside the virtual world.

            Gamer has tapped directly into this trend of crafting and sitting behind an online avatar, and has taken it to a possible extreme in which we completely do away with interpersonal relationships and rely exclusively on online interactions. It’s no so farfetched an idea when we consider the notes cited above, the rise of social media in lieu of real interaction, the effect of using an online persona, and the use of social media to craft our own identities.








Work Cited


Grohol, John. "The Proteus Effect: How Our Avatar Changes Online Behavior | World of Psychology." Psych Central - Trusted mental health, depression, bipolar, ADHD and psychology information .. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2012.


Pettigrew, Andrew . "The Rise and Rise of Social Networking, Could Facebook be making us Less Social?." . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2012. <>.


Livingston, Sonia, and David Blake. "On the rapid rise of social networking sites: new findings and policy implications ." Rapid Rise of Social Netwroking Sites. N.p., 30 Dec. 2004. Web. 16 May 2012. <>

Portfolio Essay #1

Gage Katz
Eric Dinsmore
English 114 B
April 23, 2012

The Independent rock scene is an ever changing genre within the rock world. Having its roots set in the early 90’s and having influence date back as early as the 80’s, Indie rock, as it is called, has lasted through multiple generations, and continues to define many young adults.
            The first Indie bands, then just noted as Independent bands, were mainly played on college radio, as their abnormal and unique sounds played on a common youth culture need to separate themselves from the generations before them. The culture of a rebellious nature is not one that is new to our society; in fact any cultural group over the years can trace their source to a need to separate themselves from the ideals of their predecessors. Elvis Presley and early rock is an obvious revolution against the ideals of their time, and later bands like Anthrax and Black Sabbath, though they rejected a new standard, were shaking things up in popular culture, and forced society to embrace new ideals, new concepts, and new ways of life.
Bands like The Pixies and The Smiths recorded and performed songs that differentiated heavily from the music of the time. These bands went on to influence some of the most famous grunge bands of the 90’s. Kurt Cobain of Nirvana has openly praised The Pixies as the band that influenced him to write Smells Like Teen Spirit in an interview with David Fricke for Rolling Stone magazine.
            While the Indie bands of the 80’s influenced many genres of the 90’s, the genre has stayed in the focus of young people, and continues to be a mainstream success. Today bands like The Fray, The Mars Volta, and Manchester Orchestra still have claim to the Indie rock genre, and while their sound has shifted from unusual and strange into light and easing, their claim to being independently operated has stayed somewhat intact.  When considering Indie rock, it is important to note that though many of these bands have found mainstream success, their lyrical content and overall style still reflect the bands of the 80’s.
            The influence of these bands, then and now, has remained focused on youth culture, as A. Earles notes in his book “The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock”. As noted above, these bands found success in adhering to youth’s desire to separate from older generations and be identified as hip, young, and artistic. If we look at today’s Indie market, we can still see these ideals. The modern day ‘hipster’ happens to be the target audience for many Indie bands, however to say that this market is one that the genre attached to, would be to mistake a culture born from a genre, with a genre targeted at a culture.
            The modern day hipster is the self-proclaimed antithesis of conformity. It may be interesting to note that this ideal was also held by the 00’s ‘emo’, but there is a very specific distinction between the two. Though these genres have similar roots, they differ in that the ‘emo’ was conced with lack of identity and loss of quality of life, while the ‘hipster’ and modern day indie is more concerned with the strife of the individual. Simply put, the emo lacked identity, while the hipster focuses itself on crafting one.
A Hipster of today, as portrayed in Matt Hrodey’s article “What is a Hipster?” is well read, listens to massive variety of music, and claims to be cultured in ways that surpass their non-hipster counterparts. While there is a lot of other musical influence going on in the indie rock listener’s life, the genre in question is often an underlying similarity among all of these pseudo nonconformists. Where the hipster defines themselves is in doing what is offbeat. The hipster will read books that won’t be made into movies, wears clothing you wouldn’t find at Abercrombie and Fitch, and most importantly, won’t listen to music found on the radio. The idea of music that pleases the masses just doesn’t sit well with the hipster, and it is here where indie rock finds its audience. The whole concept of indie is to be offbeat and different, just like the hipster.
The question then is how the music affects the hipster. As stated above, the themes of these lyrically conscious bands tend to be focused on issues of identity. More specifically, they focus on concepts of relationships, ways of life, and struggles that the average 99% percenter would have. These concepts in songs are not different from most other genres, but it’s the way the indie bands go about it, the way their lyrics are filled with strange unexplained metaphors and their compositions that separate themselves from the crowd. Manchester Orchestra’s opening line to Simple Math reads “Hunter eyes, I’m lost and hardly noticed, slight goodbye.” These lyrics are not straightforward, but a little cryptic and ambiguous, the rest of the song is needed to get a full understanding of the piece, and even then there are some questions left by the listener. This gives the hipster something to analyze and understand something to question and answer, something to fiddle with in the recesses of their mind.
The hipster defines themselves as a seeker of knowledge and understanding, however not in the empirical sense. Rather the hipster looks to understand and know art, often through the lens of a camera, or with a spray paint can rather than accepting academia’s definitions of composition and art. The hipster looks at composition and style and finds ways to separate themselves from histories main stream success.
In their lives you may find things that go unused by most of society, record players, tape decks, and all sorts of analogue trinkets that have long since been replaced by more modern technologies. Even with the newer pieces of techs that they use, a mac laptop, an iPhone, even modern cars, are being hipped with older tech, or at least the appearance of older tech. We can walk into many hipsters’ bedrooms and find covers for iPhones that look like cassettes, big studio headphones that plug into mp3 devices, laptop cases that sling over the shoulder and Billy Holly glasses.
The hipster of today is a throwback to things less known, less produced, and less culturally popular, like the indie. They look towards the simplistic and stylish, finding interest in bands that feature banjos, like Mumford and Sons. The music and the life style go hand in hand, a genre for the eclectic and interesting that is both eclectic and interesting, a genre that focuses on separating their identity from the masses, for a group that separates themselves from the masses. And of course there is a contradiction in that they are a mass that separates them from the mass, but contradictions are a part of the American tradition. This is not a point I care to back up here further then pointing out that our most prominent contradiction is in the idea that any of the 99 percenters may be able to make it into the 1 percent, though we all know that it is physically impossible, given the number of 99 percenters and the exclusivity of the 1 percent.
In short, the modern day hipster is defined by the indie scene, and vice versa. They are two groups founded on the same principles, and adhere to similar lifestyles. To say one created the other is false, rather each feeds into the other.

Works Cited

"Manchester Orchestra." Simple Math Lyrics. AZ Lyrics, 10 May 2010. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <>

Hrodey, Matt. "What is a hipster? - Isthmus | The Daily Page." Madison, Wisconsin's source for events, news, movies, music, restaurants and more: Isthmus|The Daily Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

What exactly is ‘emo,’ anyway? - Entertainment - Music -" Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Al Roker, Natalie Morales - TODAY show video, news, recipes, health, pets. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

"Explore: Indie Rock | AllMusic." AllMusic. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2012.

Frikkle, David. "Kurt Cobain." Kurt Cobain carries a torch for The Pixies. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2012.

Hrodey, Matt. "What is a hipster? - Isthmus | The Daily Page." Madison, Wisconsin's source for events, news, movies, music, restaurants and more: Isthmus|The Daily Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2012. <>