Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 In Review

This is my 52nd blog post on the Internet. I have regaled you, my captivated audience, for 52 weeks this Monday.

Oh boy, a meta-post!

Having blogged now for a full year, I'm ready to take a break on this project in order to focus on other things. So this is the last post that I'll be making on this blog (or at least, the last one on the usual once-a-week schedule).

I'd like to take this post as an opportunity to reflect on the past years' writings, where we started, and where we are now.

When I started this blog, I was looking for a more productive way to spend my free time. I already spent lots of time on the Internet, so I figured, why not use what I was already doing to create something new? At the time, I was beginning to learn about the inner workings of YouTube, so the first post was about that. I was nervous about my ability to deliver a new blog post on a weekly schedule, so I split the long post into three posts, giving me a nice head start.

The idea of the blog was to explain the Internet to people who don't spend a whole lot of time online. I had family members who fit this description pretty well, so they were a nice reference point for how I should explain things. Perhaps more broadly, as someone who spent a lot of my adolescent years online, it was interesting to see how the Internet had become so...mainstream. I thought I could offer a unique perspective as someone who was online when we weren't all so tightly networked. Back when online culture hadn't matured to what it is today, when the Internet seemed a little more mysterious.

There's definitely a correlation between what I've written about and what I was most intensely thinking about at the time. I wrote my post on online dating at a time when I was getting frustrated with online dating. I wrote my post on the Internet polarizing politics after a conversation with older conservatives and being absolutely baffled at how disparate our perspectives are (I still think I'm right, by the way). I wrote my post on online research when I started graduate school.

At the same time, some posts were definitely sort of churned out in order to keep writing going. I had some friends help me every now and then, especially on subjects that I didn't really know anything about. My post on film and the Internet, for example, was the product of a long conversation with a friend who understands film on a level that I probably never will. I learned a lot in that conversation, and synthesized the information I was given into the thesis I eventually developed.

For all my criticisms about the insularity of some websites, I sure loved to cite myself a lot. I wonder which post I've cited myself in the most. I like the concept of my posts building on each other (which I think really showed up best in some of the later posts), but I probably got carried away sometimes.

But I managed to put something out every week, and I could always find something to talk about. It forced me to seek new perspectives on things that I'd only passively considered before. It inspired many a conversation with people. And, of course, it built up my writing chops.

I started things on YouTube, so I thought I'd end things on YouTube. YouTube's 2013 in review came out pretty recently:

Something about it feels a little less dense than 2012's iteration. A lot of the things in this video feel more...commercial, as compared to last year. It might be that instead of focusing on viral songs like Gangnam Style and Call Me Maybe, this year just focuses on chart-toppers. We already knew that YouTube was getting to be a major contender in how artists distribute their music, and now YouTube's own self-reflection of its online culture involves these pop artists more heavily than ever before. It almost makes me wonder if next year, they'll just invite the actual artists to do a video with them.

A lot has changed on YouTube over the course of the year. Pushes against copyright infringement have ramped up in intensity, but not in the way that you'd necessarily like to see. YouTube's recently implemented Content ID system is targeting YouTube channels that have been partnered with larger networks. This new system has disproportionately affected content relating to video games, and may even be exploited by companies in order to take down unfavorable product reviews.

YouTube is shaping its image, and it increasingly caters to commercial pop culture.  Its tool for shaping itself is through automated copyright claims that don't actually work intelligently. The age of the viral success might be on the wane. If you're a consumer or someone trying to get their foot in the door as a content creator, it's hard to be optimistic about YouTube.

A part of me is saddened by what the Internet seems to be becoming. I feel like things are getting more centralized. It isn't really any one group's fault, though the current online population sure seems to do a good job pinning the Internet's troubles on government-related things, even if it isn't entirely fair to do so. Another part of me is skeptical of these feelings I have, since they sound dangerously close to a stereotype. It makes me think of the curmudgeonly old man, skeptical of newfangled things, complaining about lost values and ultimately not having the correct perspective on the forward motion of society.

That leads to an interesting question - how quickly does the Internet change? At one point, I started going on the Internet, developed ideas on how the Internet is, and then started feeling disillusioned when the nature of the Internet changed into something else. Let's call that cycle the equivalent of an "online generation". How long is an online generation? Is the duration of a generation cycle getting shorter?

Hoo, what a question! And not one that I really want to address in a casual, reflective meta-post.

Maybe one day, I'll go through old posts, replace pictures with more original content, and see if there's a place for my material on a more public space. Maybe I'll write some more posts a few months from now, if any new Internet-related thoughts come into my head. But in the meantime, I've got to give thanks to family and friends for being inspirations (whether intentional or otherwise), and thanks to the tens of readers who were following my ramblings this past year. Here's hoping for new lessons and fun conversations in 2014.


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