At the Crossroads of Media, Culture and Technology

Viral Video: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Show New York How to Start the Day

New Yorkers have a reputation for being cool and sophisticated – even, dare we say, jaded? But clearly they can be won over by the charisma and super talent of our own Seattle sensations, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Are we sounding a little smug and celeb-proud? Shouldn’t we be? Watch this week’s viral video and decide for yourself. (All this, and Seahawks too – look at us go!)

As for your mode-of-commute options next week – you might want to take the bus. Yes, this is really an ad for the Grammys.

But we’re still taking the bus more often from now on.


You’ve Got to be Kitten Me! The Internet Cat Video Festival Comes to Seattle

Cats wih Light Sabres

Photo by Helen Pitlick

The year was 1984 and in Spokane, Wash., Charlie Schmidt was “unemployed and destitute, but there were three things that [he] had: a cat, a camera, and a keyboard.”

Charlie made hundreds of videos of his cat playing a keyboard, now immortalized as Keyboard Cat. The videos lay dormant until he posted one on YouTube in 2007. Cat videos as we know them were born.

Yesterday, the Internet Cat Video Festival made a Seattle stop in its multi-city tour. Cat ladies and gentlemen gathered at Showbox in the Market to watch a series of the web’s most beloved feline shorts.

Everyone in the audience was palpably excited and had been eagerly anticipating the event for weeks. Everyone else was all, “you’ve got to be kitten me.” (according to Buzzfeed, cat people like puns…)

Love them or hate them (and you love them, right?), cat videos have become an industry, launching celebricats like Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat, Maru, and more. So what’s the appeal? Wired Magazine tried to get to the bottom of the phenomenon, but I think that Amber Armstrong, a Seattle-based software developer attending the event, sums it up nicely: “Because they’re funny and they make me happy, and they’re also cute.”

Charlie and the Keyboard Cat

Charlie with the current Keyboard Cat (Photo by Helen Pitlick)

A Cat Lady Networking Opportunity

Just about everyone I interviewed shared the same sentiment. “Who’s not a cat video fan?” asked Beth Steinhouse, a volunteer with the Seattle Humane Society. “They’re fun and cute and just a nice little escape.”

But why pay $20 to watch cat videos in a theater when you can watch them for free at home? MC Will Braden, creator of Henri (winner of the Golden Kitty award at the first Internet Cat Video Festival), told the audience: “It’s not about watching cat videos. It’s about watching cat videos together.” Continue reading

Net Neutrality Rules Are Dead (For Now). Why Should Students Care?

Net Neutrality Toll Both

Image from Lindsay Kinkade via Flickr Creative Commons. Adapted by Hanns-Peter Nagel

Students on university campuses everywhere or learning online in massive open online courses (MOOCs) will be sad to hear that a federal appeals court has rejected key parts of the FCC’s Open Internet rules. If they aren’t, they should be, as access to online education and information for all is potentially disappearing behind a toll booth.

So, what are the FCC Open Rules? Here is the CliffsNotes version (I am a student, after all):

Essentially, FCC Open Rules ensure that data on the internet should flow equally from publisher to user without publishers or users being additionally charged by the internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver content in a reliable way. ISPs would not be allowed to discriminate in delivery of their competitors’ information or to only return results of a business partner of the ISP.

In their decision yesterday, the judges did not rule against the open internet rules themselves; they ruled against the FCC being able to enforce them. Currently, ISPs are not classified as entities the FCC can regulate. The FCC is empowered to regulate “common carriers” like phone companies and right now the internet infrastructure is not classified in the same way as public broadcast, radio, or phone lines, which are identified as common carriers.

Bottom line: as things stand today, ISPs can throttle speeds of certain sites, allowing them to push their own services or seek payments for preferential treatment. Cable TV, anybody?

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An Anatomy of Timeless Content

Orchestra flashmob

I know that this video is nothing new and that using a flash mob in advertising is commonplace, but when I came across this video while browsing videos today, I was reminded of the power of great content. Though the length of the video immediately gave me the urge to click the back button, I stayed and watched…

As I was watching, I was aware (as I am sure you were) that the performance was orchestrated, that it was simply a flashmob of the classical variety designed in hopes of gaining some digital traction and going viral. I knew that it was one hundred per cent, without a doubt, a staged performance. I did not care.

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So, why did I find this video so engaging ?

It told a story. A story of a girl who dropped a coin in a musician’s hat, and got way more than she (or anyone) could have expected. As I watched, I constantly wanted to know where she was. Had she had moved? If so, where? The narrative was enhanced by the fact that I was experiencing the story from every possible point of view. It unfolded through the eyes of the girl, the crowd and the musicians, both as a group and individually.

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How to Interview a Comedian About Comedy

Dartanion LondonSpecial to Flip the Media by Andrew Mitrak, Cohort 2013

When Drew Keller challenged our CommLead storytelling intensive class last year to create a 2-3 minute documentary, Dartanion London immediately came to mind. Dart is incredibly hard-working and super funny (which is important for a comedian). Above all, he takes risks to pursue his passion.

We collaborated on a few videos before, so I thought this would be easy. I was wrong. When we talked in his living room/studio, he stubbornly avoided honest answers. Instead he fictionalized stories about becoming a cult leader. Between questions, he opined that there is nothing more boring than comedians talking seriously about themselves. This frustrated me. I knew Dart had a powerful story because he told me about it before.

Dart was laid off from his part-time job. This job supported him while he did comedy on the side. Shortly after being laid off, his video “How Guys Will Use Google Glass” went viral. He took this as a good sign. It helped motivate Dart to pursue comedy whole-heartedly, without the safety net of a part-time job. I wanted to tell this story through the documentary, but I couldn’t pull it out of Dart. When the camera was rolling, he needed to be funny.

So I proposed a deal. I told him I’d shoot his comedy about his cult, only if he gave a genuine interview for this class project. This documentary would be screened to the class, and that if he disapproved of the final product, I’d refrain from publishing it online. Dart agreed.

We did the interview. Then we filmed his cult comedy video. It was a tricky challenge, and a valuable learning experience. I think it’s a fun little video, and hope you enjoy watching!

Andrew Mitrak (@andrewmitrak) is a member of Cohort 13 in the Communications Leadership program.

Viral Video: Four Graffiti Artists And an Empty Warehouse

Flip the Media Viral Video

Graffiti art got some unexpected time in the limelight when mysterious British street artist Banksy took up residency in New York for a month last year. But while his work is already disappearing, the inspiring video of graffiti collective Sofles is still going strong on YouTube. This amazing piece of time-lapse videography is five minutes long but it’s almost impossible to skip anything – it is just too fascinating to see how these artists make their way through an abandoned warehouse using the walls as their canvas. Oh and by the way: the rather generous use of paint is not only an artistic flourish–the video is part of an advertising campaign of Australian paint company Ironlak.

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Art of Manju: Must-try Japanese Sweets in Seattle

Special to Flip the Media by Claire Qin Li, Cohort 2013

Many people asked me how I found Umai Do Japanese Sweets in Seattle. The answer is Google and Yelp. I moved to Seattle in September 2013. Yes, only a couple of months ago. One of the most interesting things to do when coming to a new city is exploring delicious food. I am very into Japanese culture and have also learned Japanese for several years. A traditional manju shop with good customer reviews was bound to catch my attention. Later, I noticed that the sweets shop actually has a really interesting owner, which became a good story for me to tell.

It is always exciting to see people pursue their dream and passion. It is never too late to follow your heart, even after retirement. For him, making manju became a kind of art and he is always trying to make that elusive perfect piece.

Claire Qin Li is a passionate visual storyteller who loves art, photography and filmmaking. She is currently pursuing her Master of Communication in Digital Media at the University of Washington. As a multilingual professional with fluency in Mandarin, English and Japanese, Claire is especially interested in topics related to culture, travel and lifestyle.

Thinking About Why Seniors are the Fastest Growing Group on Social Media

Image from

Image from

I set aside time on New Year’s Day to catch-up on reading, which seems like such a luxury these days. Recent posts on Flip the Media were on my list of must-reads. Katya Yefimova’s post, Why Seniors are Social Media’s Growing User Demographic, caught my eye.  Katya cited Laura Carstensen, Director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University, who was interviewed on NPR about the subject of digital technology and seniors.

Carstensen said in the interview with NPR’s Melissa Block: “I think one of the myths is older people just can’t manage technology because of cognitive deficits. But it appears that a bigger reason for the failure to use digital technologies is the lack of perceived need. For a lot of older people, they’re quite satisfied with their social relationships, their friendships, their contact with loved ones.”

Carstensen’s quote brought to mind Sherry Turkle’s somewhat controversial TED talk, Connected, But Alone? , filmed in February, 2012. In her work and in her talk, Turkle examines how our devices, online personas, and social media itself are redefining human connection and communication, sometimes not for the better. She describes new patterns of relating via technology that can lead to isolation and loneliness.

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