After gathering several works together to fit into my theme of western genre fiction, I tried to figure out some other classifications that I could use to add in other works that tow the line of the western genre. I added a “exporting the cowboy” section to examine some works that feel very much like westerns, but either take cowboys to other places or use their archetypes or settings in narratives. I included in this category H. Rider Haggard’s classic novel “King Solomon’s Mines” because I find it to be very much in line with what we find and what we think of as traditional western storytelling. I don’t know if Haggard had any good deal of exposure to American works that concerned the American west, but I find it interesting how similar his protagonist is to someone like Louis L’Amour’s protagonists. This has caused me to more deeply question where the heroes that have developed in our culture come from, and where they are going. One trend I would consider profoundly important is the movement away from the traditional young, white man protagonists, and toward more minority and woman heroes in situations often opposing the kind of people that were traditionally put in the hero role. This trend makes me wonder what the future of the American cowboy hero will be, whether it will change beyond recognition or simply disappear altogether. Either way, I think the spirit of the cowboy hero lives on through the continued mainstream interest in justice, evident in film series like the Avengers or television shows like CSI and NCIS.
In class throughout the course of the semester, we were asked to think about patterns of curation that arose from the various texts we were assigned. Five different things stood out to me about the curating process after reading and thinking critically about the works. The first is that curation is often centered around the preservation of something, whether it be culture or information. The purpose of creating a collection is so that viewers can refer to it as a point of reference in the future. As well as this, I observed that each curator seems to have their own individual methods or strategies for their work. This is likely based on personal preference, or what they have found is most effective through trial and error. Another thing I noticed is that there seems to be a difference between individual versus group curation projects. I assume that this is because an individual has the capability to exert complete control over the outcome of the project, whereas a group must all come to an agreement about what stays and what goes. Next, I felt that there was a slight difference between curating in the digital environment and curating in the real world. Curating in a digital environment is much easier because the Internet provides such a wide variety of objects available to anyone. In the real world, it is not always as easy to find things that fit the collection being created. Lastly, I think the size of curated collections are something that should be looked at. Smaller collections are not necessarily better than larger, and vice versa. Curating is about quality more so than quantity.
The exhibit that had the most impact on me during our class trip to Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art was Mary Reid Kelley’s “Working Objects and Videos.” When I first entered the exhibit, I was immediately a bit taken aback by all the strange objects that seemed like they were props placed around the exhibit. I then noticed the three different video stations set up, and sat down at the largest one to watch. I noticed that the objects inhabiting the museum were used in the creation of these short films that seemed to be social critiques of events in history. I began to think about the entire collection, props and film, and wonder about what Kelley was going for when curating this collection. Of course, one of my initial thoughts was that she was intending on providing a certain level of shock value to her viewers. Her videos seemed to have political undertones, yet they did not stand out because of the grotesque, strange props used for filming. I walked around and looked at Kelley’s exhibit and noticed that her two shorter films were set up on the left side when you walked in, and her longer film was played in the smaller room off of the main area. The long video was in a dark room, with only four chairs in front of the screen. I believe Kelley purposefully did this to enhance dramatic effect. After one has watched any portion of her film, they are forced to get up and walk through the exhibit of her props. I think that Kelley’s intention with this curated collection was to force viewers out of blind complacency regarding the world around them.
There are many cultural theories swarming our present society, but one in particular stood out to me while conducting research for my thesis paper. This was social impact theory, or the idea that actions or thoughts of an individual can be changed due to direct interactions with another individual. Bibb Latane first introduced this term in 1981, and said that social impact theory was based on three components. The first was strength, or how important the influencing group was to the individual in question. The second was immediacy, or the actual proximity to the influencing group during influencing attempts. The last was number, which of course relates to the amount of people in the influencing group. He said that these three were the key factors related to how likely it was for a person to be influenced by another individual. This caused me to start thinking about social media (as it is the topic of my paper) and why this theory is said to not be applicable in this context. Strength did not seem to be affected by social media. Closeness of relationships is not directly indicated by social media. However, I can see how the stipulation of immediacy could be critiqued. When brands use social media to try to gain a following, they often end up with a large number of followers from multiple different areas of the world. However, to a social media viewer, a large number of followers in general indicates quality no matter who or where the followers may be situated. Therefore, I also believe that number is a component of social impact theory that is enhanced by social media usage.
Because I was not present for our last class meeting, I wanted to use one of my blog posts for the semester to discuss the book I chose to read and analyze, “Building Stories” by Chris Ware. I selected this book because I took a graphic literature course and recognized Chris Ware’s name. Therefore, I thought this book would be similar to some of the other works I had read by him. However, I was shocked to open up my package from amazon.com and find not one novel, but fourteen different works in the box instead. As always, I was impressed by Ware’s artistry throughout the different works that make up “Building Stories.” His usage of color, line, and space are all carefully coordinated to illustrate works that are not only interesting in textual content, but pleasant to view. The book’s main character is a woman who was in a boating accident as a child, thus resulting in the loss of her right leg below her knee. While faced with other struggles of daily life, this still remains a major part of who she is as a person and thus is something she must constantly deal with. We watch her deal with many typical twenty-something experiences in the early parts of the work, such as living on her own and dating. We continue to see her grow up, and she eventually has a child and settles down. However, the book always seems to draw back to the too familiar life dilemma of whether or not she is truly happy.
For my personal curated collection, I decided I wanted to focus on my favorite television program of all time: AMC’s Breaking Bad. I thought a lot about each of the different characters and how they each changed dramatically over the course of the show’s five seasons. I originally wanted to look at major characters whom are present in all of the seasons, such as Walt, Jesse, Skyler, Saul, and Hank. However, when I began to do research and collect information and images, I began to feel that this goal would be a bit too large. I decided it would be better to choose one character and specifically focus on his or her development, and the most obvious choice was Walt.
I decided to begin my collection from the very first episode of the show. Although I have personally seen every episode of the series, I did not think that relying on memory would suit me best. I searched for online resources, and found a few sites which offered in depth summaries of each episode. I then went through and picked out key, defining moments that altered Walt’s perception or personality. There were more than I could have even imagined, and I ended up having to choose what was most important. I next selected images from each episode that I felt were well aligned with the events I would detail.
In total, I ended up with thirty four separate entries that followed Walt from his time as a high school teacher to his run as the drug kingpin Heisenberg. I felt that my work was effective because I had to really assess how each experience shaped Walt into the man he becomes by the show’s conclusion. Although extensive, I feel my collection is an accurate portrayal of his character’s transformation.
The idea of curating content has become vastly popular on social media sites, thus it is no surprise that other major websites are looking to this procedure as a way to increase sales. eBay is just one of the many sites that have experimented with the idea of curation. Recently, they launched a new site feature, Curated Collections. According to their press release, eBay feels that “shopping on [our site] is unlike shopping anywhere else – it’s a place to discover things you love and things you never knew you needed. Now anyone can create their own collection on eBay and fill it with all their dream items.”
Personally, it somewhat surprises me that sites like eBay and Amazon have taken so long to acknowledge the benefits of curating. However, the press release states that “eBay is a technology company” and that they “understand that retailers, brands, and sellers of al sizes need a new set of solutions to deliver the kinds of experiences consumers expect in today’s environment.” The addition of Curated Collections shows that eBay is committed t keeping up with the times.
Curated Collections come along with many new features for the eBay website. They are as following:
1.) Collections: groups of products that have been carefully chosen from eBay’s extensive online catalogue by expert curators, as well as everyday buyers and sellers
2.) Curators: “top trendsetters” whom have been selected by eBay, representing a variety of different interests. These curators work to create collections that will help users find content they love more readily and easily.
3.) Follow: eBay has taken a note from many social media sites and added this feature to their own site. It’s a simple and easy way for you to personalize the information you receive. Each user has the ability to follow collections, curators, fellow eBay users, and interests.