Having read the various articles on “media friends” and para-social relationships, I’d like you to apply these concepts to your own experience, or if you have trouble, the experience of your friends or family. What media friends/para-social relationships do you, and/or your friends have? How would you describe these para-social relationships? In addition to thinking about which media friends you have, consider the influence of the mediums through which such para-social interaction occurs — especially social media and the Internet. Perhaps you subscribe to the channels of some YouTube stars, follow Instagram influencers, or watch the live-streams of gamers on Twitch? (or Twitter, or podcasts, etc.). In addition to writing your response, please reply to your classmates’ posts.

(**This is a relatively long article, but it’s not a difficult read and hopefully you will find it interesting. I highly recommend printing out a copy to make it easier to read. This is the most important reading for today, so be sure to read it in it’s entirety (and take notes). Focus on outlining Meyrowitz’s key points about “media friends”. In this article, Meyrowitz is largely talking about media friends experienced via TV– consider how similar “para-social interaction” (key term to understand) functions with regards to the Internet and new media (especially social media, like Twitter). Also, FYI Joshua Meyrowitz a professor in the Communication department here at UNH.

2. Roberton, Lauri (2001), “Anchoring the Nation (Links to an external site.)“, American Journalism Review
Think: How does this article relate to Meyrowitz’s concept of “media friends” and “para-social relationships”?

3. “The Woman With 1 Billion Clicks, Jenna Marbles (Links to an external site.)“. The New York Times, 2013
Here’s a more recent example to think about in terms of “para-social relationships” and media friends

4. “How Shows Like ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘Black-ish’ Can Change Your Brain (Links to an external site.)” Maanvi Singh (August 31, 2015), Code Switch/NPR)

1. Jon Stewart Commentary after 9/11 (Links to an external site.)– The Daily Show (Video, 8 mins, September 20, 2001)

We all have “media friends” in various ways, here is an example of one of mine. I’ve been a fan of Jon Stewart from the very beginning of the show in 1999, and over the years have developed a strong connection with him, as someone I admire, and feel like I “know”. This was Jon Stewart’s first broadcast post-9/11, which aired on September 20th, a moment I remember well as I watched.

2. “Dinner with Barack & Michelle (Links to an external site.) (5 mins, 2012)
Here’s a fascinating piece of campaign material put out by the Obama campaign in the 2012 election. The Obamas are certainly major “media friends” to millions, and many people profess feeling very personal emotions and feelings towards them both. As a couple, many people look up to them for what they see as a genuine expression of love, and an example of a successful professional relationship. In the 2012 election the Obama campaign was well-aware of how many people felt drawn to the Obamas, and utilized this to their advantage in their media strategies. While you watch, make note of a few things: pay attention to how you are “placed” as an audience member — right at the table, as if you’re having dinner with them! Also, note that you’re with “Barack” and “Michelle”, not “President Obama and the First Lady”.

3. “A Candle in the Wind: A Princess Diana Tribute (Links to an external site.)“, (4 minutes, fan made video)
Princess Diana was a “media friend” to millions, especially in England. The news of her tragic death in 1997, and the subsequent funeral was a heavily covered media event, lasting for weeks (and continuing on the anniversary of her death). A good example of how people can build very strong bonds to someone who they never meet, well evidenced by the many people who felt devastated with her death. You don’t have to watch the entire thing; just watch a bit and to get a sense of her influence as a ‘media friend’.

4. 2Pac Hologram “Performance” at Coachella (Links to an external site.), 2012
As some of you might have heard, at the Coachella music festival in 2012, audience members were surprised with an unannounced holgram “performance” by long-dead rapper Tupac Shakur (who was killed in 1996). I find it particularly hair-raising when Snoop Dogg (who is alive) comes on stage and performs with “him” (@ around minute 2:40), and they engage in a rap dialogue. Extra weird when you take into account that Snoop Dogg is now in his 40s (!)

I think this is an interesting indication as to how we will increasingly remember and celebrate our media friends–as Meyrowitz notes, in a way, they never really die (and now we can bring them “back to life”, for more concerts).

5. “Is Miku Hatsune A More Authentic Pop Start Than Lana Del Rey (Links to an external site.)?” – PBS Idea Channel (2 mins)
Here’s one more fun video-for-thought. While the arguement here is about authenticity, keep in mind our discussion about para-social relationships and media friends. Many of Miku Hatsune’s fans (all over the globe) seem to relate to her in much the same way as a “real” (i.e. human) pop star. Given that many pop stars are highly manufactured and produced (like Lana Del Rey, whose real name is Lizzy Grant), and thus, less “real” and “authentic” than normal people, is it that far of a stretch to think that vocaloid animations like Miku, or robots, could have similar effects as “real” pop stars?

World is Mine (Links to an external site.)” Miku Hatsune “live” in concert
For those interested, here’s a brief video of Miku in concert. Wild stuff.

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