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Playful participatory culture and design: The case of Reddit.com
 

Playful participatory culture and design: The case of Reddit.com

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Talk for IIT's In the Loop series. Please contact Adrienne Massanari (amass (at) uic.edu) before distributing or citing this work. All use of copyrighted material in this presentation falls under fair ...

Talk for IIT's In the Loop series. Please contact Adrienne Massanari (amass (at) uic.edu) before distributing or citing this work. All use of copyrighted material in this presentation falls under fair use as it is reproduced for scholarly/critique purposes only.

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    Playful participatory culture and design: The case of Reddit.com Playful participatory culture and design: The case of Reddit.com Document Transcript

    • Playful participatory culture through design: The case of Reddit.com Adrienne Massanari Department of Communication University of Illinois at Chicago amass@uic.edu @hegemonyrulesWednesday, February 20, 13
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Describe front page of reddit:- account holders can subscribe to subs- front page /all or not logged in shows highest voted and newest content- users can upvote/downvote material (shown by orange/blue numbers)- comments on each posting
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Typical page on reddit. Comments thread and can also be upvoted/downvoted.Notice rules about sub on right side of screen
    • Wednesday, February 20, 1350th most visited site in the USRanked #118 worldwide by Alexa.comUsers can create multiple accounts to interact on the site - these can be totally anonymous (not even tied to email accounts)
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Top 20 subscribed - those in pink are NSFW subbreddits. Many of these are the default subs subscribed to whenyou create an account. Each individual on Reddit may have a very different experience on the site as they chooseto subscribe or unsubscribe to subs of their choosing. Still, a look at the top-subscribed/most active subssuggests something about the Reddit cmty - that it is interested in politics, worldnews, gaming, technology,movies, popular culture, and atheism.
    • http://soshable.com/who-is-reddit/Wednesday, February 20, 13This isn’t surprising, given who Reddit is (at least, who answered a survey about who Reddit is). It’s American,Male, Young, and Educated. It’s a privileged community that is often unaware of its privilege. Thus we cometo...<click>
    • Theory • Actor-network theory and activity theory (Callon & Latour, 1981; Kaptelinin & Nardi, 2006) • Participatory culture and fan labor (Jenkins, 2004; Gauntlett, 2011; Baym 2000) • Identity and community online (Donath, 1999; Ellison, 2007; boyd, 2007; Nakamura, 2002) • Design affordances (Norman, 1988; 1999)Wednesday, February 20, 13ANT - particularly the idea of the network of relationships between humans and technological objects; AT -notionof contradictions/tensions within activity communtityParticipatory culture - the idea that platforms for creativity are critical spaces to interrogate and understandIdentity and community - emphasis on the multiple and fluid nature of identity and a blurring of the divisionbetween RL and VLDesign affordances - how does design influence or afford certain interactions?
    • RQ: what does play look like on Reddit and how does the platform’s design afford/support it?Wednesday, February 20, 13
    • Reddit as “carnival” (Bakhtin, 1984)Wednesday, February 20, 13One important sensitizing concept in understanding Reddit I propose is Bakhtin’s idea of the carnival/carnivalesque.: hierarchies up-ended: the “grotesque body”: irreverence or rejection of established order: excess?
    • The “magic circle” of Reddit (Huizinga, 1955; Salen & Zimmerman, 2003)Wednesday, February 20, 13Another critical concept is from game studies - the idea of a “magic circle” - a liminal, permeable space where playhappens.: rules bound space: interactions have special meanings for participants: space is special - like carnival, hierarchies may be overturned: looks weird to the outsider
    • (1) Play through memes - remixes and mashupsWednesday, February 20, 13 1. Remixing memes - Meme starts (like 3 AM chili and ice soap), Reddit gradates perhaps because they are ridiculous/gross/ disturbing/profound/hilarious/etc, then the remixing happens = 3 AM ice chili soap 1. How is this facilitated? Partially because karma points encourage people to repost/refer to older posts. Maybe also because the community loves reliving its own past. Maybe something else?
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13A meme is born - 2AM chili - which is a ridiculous time to start chili as most commentersnoted. This, plus the humorous presentational style almost guaranteed that it would behighly upvoted.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Around the same time, someone posted an idea for ice soap - frozen soap in a block of iceyou could use as a portable shower.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13And, in classic Reddit fashion, a meta-meme was created - 2 AM Chili ICE SOAP. Reinvoking these memes in laterthreads becomes a kind of cultural “touchpoint” for the community. Reddit members often codify theirmembership in the community by retelling important stories or events, even (or especially) if they are dark ortitillating or ridiculous (in this case), while refracting/remixing them through a lens of humor. These exchangesboth solidify membership in the Reddit community (by signaling, “I’ve been here for a while, and I remember that”)while remixing the original meaning and renewing its relevance to the community.
    • From: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thekog/6886709962/sizes/l/in/set-72157629710255725/Wednesday, February 20, 13Starting here -from a flickr stream that someone posts to reddit with the title: “My friend callshim “Mr. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy”
    • RPG memesWednesday, February 20, 13Becomes an “advice animal” on the site with shorthand “RPG”
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Finally does an AMA after appearing on television.
    • (2) Linguistic playWednesday, February 20, 13
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Pun threads - perhaps to reinforce a sense of community in a space that can be cluttered? Pun threads/song/story threads areboth collaborative (each comment in some ways builds on one another, whether directly through referencing the prior one orindirectly, through engaging in the play to begin with) and distinguishing - that is, individuals are noticed for their contributions.We can see how karma points encourage this behavior. 1. Downside: pun threads also become the target of many complaints on Reddit as people deride them for being so prevelant 2. this example has a couple of things going on - a person whose username indicates the nature of their posting (threesentencecomment) uses word play. Then people pile on.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Cultural references - Biella Coleman’s work on hacker culture is especially useful whenconsidering the kinds of humor Reddit often relies upon. Games, technology, science,politics, pop culture (of a certain kind), zombies, etc. tend to be fodder for much of the playon Reddit.Like pun threads, much of the play on Reddit can be predictable. As in this case, with severalpeople contributing lines from the television series “Archer” when confronted with a pictureof a baby ocelot (a key point from the series). This string of commentary is recreated overand over by different individuals, making it a cultural touch-stone for the community.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Often times, threads on Reddit will have comments that simply link to a response gif - likethis one.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13verbal shorthand - here a gif/meme response is turned into aintnobodygottimeforthat.jpg.
    • (3) Novelty accounts and botsWednesday, February 20, 13Play on Reddit includes clever turns of phrase (aka the much maligned pun threads) to novelty accounts - whichare specifically enabled by Reddit’s technological platform. Individuals can register lengthy usernames and theReddit platform does not restrict the number of accounts one person can have. This, coupled with the assumptionthat many usernames are already in use, requiring new Redditors to be especially creative in their choice ofusername. Reddit’s love of play takes over, and the “novelty account” is born.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Shitty watercolour - illustrates stories or usernames
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Following the popularity of Shitty_Watercolour, other novelty accounts have become popular on the site - this one“AWildSketchAppeared” often responds
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13And “ICanLegoThat” does just that - responding to photos or illustrating usernames with Lego
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13or this one, that makes “Magic: The Gathering” cards inspired by individual comments on thesite.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Other novelty accounts play with language - in this case, “Gradual_BillCosby” starts out with a rather seriouscomment, but inevitably ends by talking about Jello pudding.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Or this account, “Boos_the_worst_pun” that takes issue with the worst pun in a thread
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13And one of my personal favorites - a novelty account that poses discussion questions one might assign studentsin a humanities class - in response to comments made by others.Of course, not all novelty accounts are upvoted. Some, like one that posts “baby talk” in response to othercomments has been rewarded with much negative karma. So, there are rules around this play.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Bots - often related to novelty accounts, but not the same thing. These are automated (at least, presenting as automated)accounts that reinterpret or respond to certain threads based on a programmatic choice. For example, haiku_robot findscomments that are written in the style of a haiku (5-7-5) and reposts them in the style of of a haiku (with line breaks and adifferent font to differentiate them from the rest of the commentary). Bots can receive a lot of upvotes, but Im not sure if themotivations are for upvoting the actual content of the comment or the *idea* of the bot to begin with.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13But, not all novelty accounts or bots are popular. This one - a bot that simply turned imagesupside down to “translate” it into Australian - is seen as an annoyance.
    • (4) Humor-specific subredditsWednesday, February 20, 13 1. Humor-related subreddits: often grow out of comments or memes seen on Reddit. For example, /birdswitharms, / harlemshake, /stapgirl, /catreddit. These take several forms: 1. Reddit mentions something, like, "I wish there was a reddit for cats" - poof, /catreddit. 2. Some are traditional humor-based, such as /photoshopbattles - common to other participatory platforms online (such as worths psd contests). 3. Some are peculiarly representative of Reddits sense of humor - /fuckingphilosophy (http://www.reddit.com/r/ fuckingphilosophy) with posts such as "Dawg, I got a bone to pick with Marx" (http://www.reddit.com/r/ fuckingphilosophy/comments/14hn0u/dawg_i_got_a_bone_to_pick_with_marx_yo/) and "STOP THE FUCKING PRESSES: PHYSICAL OBJECTS EXIST YO" (http://www.reddit.com/r/fuckingphilosophy/comments/14zvvs/ stop_the_fucking_presses_physical_objects_exist_yo/). Another example:  (http://www.reddit.com/r/ RedditThroughHistory) - /RedditThroughHistory - where people present historical events as if they are current events. Points to Reddits fascination with "properness" (see the use of Esq. for all mods) and preoccupation with both Reddit as a genre and the past.
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    • But the “magic circle” of Reddit is not impenetrableWednesday, February 20, 13Questions abound:how does reddit deal with the “real world”?large questions, like how does the site handle inappropriate content, and what aboutcopyright in a playspace full of memes and remixed material?
    • Who can play? Who can’t play? What if they don’t like the “rules” of Reddit?Wednesday, February 20, 13
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13William Shatner calls out Reddit!
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Enter SRS (Shit Reddit Says) - a “circlejerk” intended to raise awareness and otherwise mock the discourse thathappens on much of Reddit. The stated goal of /srs is not to “change Reddit” but to allow dissenters to not feelalone when dealing with these issues.Notice that SRS inverts the traditional game of Karma - only allowing users to downvote content in their sub. Theyare playing a different game than much of the rest of Reddit.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Or this - as if “bitching” about a community of which one is a part is not allowed. Thus, the Reddit communityencourages discussion, and even criticism of the itself, if it is a part of the “approved” meta-conversation aboutReddit. One gets the sense that much of Reddit is one big Mansplaining attempt.Or if the engagement with the community that /SRS performs is not considered appropriate “play” within theunstated Reddit rules.
    • Enabling play on Reddit through designWednesday, February 20, 13Loose rules (redditquette)open sourceindividual subs w/ differing rules - focusing discussion around artifact; have some control over look-and-feelabove all else - sense of community ownership (ties to ideas of free labor, but another talk)
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Ease of registration - notice that even email address is optional - means that individuals areencouraged to create accounts and can have multiple accounts. This might also explain whynovelty accounts became popular on Reddit to begin with - registration was so easy thatunique usernames were required b/c other ones were not available.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13In principle, Reddit is open - as a platform for creativity, anyone can create their own subreddit off of reddit.com(and recent attempts to limit even objectionable content are rebuked by the admins - more on this later) - and as acode base, as Reddit is open source.
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Reddiquette is an informal guide to the Reddit cmty - written by Redditors themselves. Thisis a unique design approach for a participatory platform; not only allowing users to upvote/downvote content that they deem valuable, but to author the rules by which the communityoperates. Of course, these rules are subject to interpretation, and may not actually guideindividual behavior on the site.
    • And, what about karma?Wednesday, February 20, 13 1. Karma points - a biggie and toughie. Karma is based on an algorithm that takes into account both upvotes/downvotes and the age of the posting. So, posts that are newer will float to the top (and probably be up on /r/all) even if other postings technically have more upvotes. 1. Downside of karma points - encourages what redditors refer to as karmawhoring where people repost previously popular content and/or may engage in making the same jokes, references, etc. simply because they are often upvoted 2. karma points = endogenous meaning (Costikyan) - no real-world referent, but relevant in Reddit space 3. Play around karma points extends to gifs made that display upvote/downvotes (think downvoting roman, beyonces upvote meme, beating a dead horse gif, etc) 4. Metatalk around karma points also occurs, but is discouraged according to REDDIQUETTE (so, saying "upboats" for this post isnt supposed to be posted/upvoted)
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Much of the play on Reddit centers around the accumulation of “karma” or the upvotes that one receives whenothers in the community believe the comments made are valuable, interesting, or add to the discussion. As thegame designer Greg Costikyan notes about games in general, karma has only endogenous meaning - that is, ithas no meaning outside of the “game” of reddit. Still, accusations of “karma whoring” (or (re)posting stuff just toget karma) runs rampant - but that’s another talk.
    • Why Reddit and not...Wednesday, February 20, 13
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Twitter: Cats
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13Political figures
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13And, certainly there is a backlash against Twitter novelty accounts. Why is this?- users typically sign up for gazillion accounts in beginning- suffer information overload (lack of curated content - so no up/downvote on individualtweets like reddit)- either delete or heavily manage accts of less interest- unlike reddit - accounts pushed to you regardless of interest (megaphone)- part of reddit appeal is the discovery of these accounts unexpectedly (which is different ifyou have to sign up for them like you do twitter) - synchronicity of clicking on a link/artifactof interest and seeing novelty account’s response
    • Wednesday, February 20, 13YouTube:: like reddit, conversation is artifact-driven: not deep threaded discussion! only recently have you been able to reply to a specificcomment - have to click to see original.: likes/dislikes does not move material to the top (except for top two); only sorted by mostrecent comment: relatively lacking user profiles are focused on uploaded material and not comments: little sense of community around commenting
    • Wednesday, February 20, 134chan: completely anonymous - so no reputation associated with a particular account over time: threading of conversation is challenging: chaotic design, lack of archives, changes tenor of conversation: seems like a club that you have to work hard to enter
    • Some conclusions • Play on Reddit takes multiple forms - from visual memes/mashups to linguistic turns-of-phrase to novelty accounts • Play both reinforces and challenges community identity on Reddit • Questions of who can play in this space and how this space interacts with other social spheres still need examination • However, play within participatory culture generally remains relatively unexplored - despite game studies emphasis on the importance of play to everyday life • How can design better afford playful interactions online?Wednesday, February 20, 13
    • Thanks! (amass@uic.edu; @hegemonyrules)Wednesday, February 20, 13