Given grades giving ratings – of professors.

During the hectic preregistration week in the beginning of each semester, college students in the US struggle to work out the perfect schedule for the next months. Too many things to consider: subject, credit count, time slot, classmates – and of course, the professor. Does she give a lot of assignments? Is he an easy grader? How does she feel about absences? Is she chill? Is he strict? Racist? Sexist? Leftist? To check on all of the above, everyone keeps another tab open on the browser: ratemyprofessors.com

Rate My Professor is a controversial online community of students that is hushed on campus grounds but remains a guilty go-to for many university students in the US. Participants rate their professors on a scale of 1 to 5 in the categories of easiness, helpfulness, knowledge and clarity as well as an “overall quality” score. They are also free to post comments and share their own experiences with the professors and the respective course. The site currently features over 8000 schools and 1,000,000 ratings.

Due to its lack of legitimate standards and proper validation, the RMP has been criticized for potential bias and relevancy. Although many schools had attempted to censor the website, both members and non-members protested the ban on account of free speech and administrative violation of the right. While the posts are inevitably subjective in nature, the very subjectivity of the reviews is the essence of any online community shaped by real thoughts and real talks from real people. At the end of the day, RMP creates a larger and more accessible platform for the conversations that would naturally take place in real life. Regardless of its “accuracy” or “reliability” (that many students agree that most of the reviews are), RMP can be noted for the active participation of the members of the community as well as for its inclusive nature for anyone willing to raise their voice.

Joseph Gordon Levitt’s HitRecord project brings in creativity from audiences

In 2005, the 500 Days of Summer star Joseph Gordon Levitt started a website with his brother to post self-made videos and receive feedback from his audience. But by 2010, the website had evolved into a collaborative platform for his audiences to join the actor in the making of artistic projects that range from short films to full-length DVDs. Now the website is in operation under the title HitRecord for anyone to contribute to and collaborate on various multimedia works. The hitREC●rd logo features the red circle to symbolize audio/video record, which Levitt has described as “a metaphor for taking things into my own hands and doing it.” The site now hosts over 80,000 members with as many as 1,000 videos, songs and text pieces pouring into to the website on a daily basis. 

I learned of Levitt’s project through one of his talk show appearances (Jimmy Kimmel Live) where he presented RE: Number One, the first short-film episode of the first HitRecord season. I was entranced by the film that was comprised of different styles of video footage, visual effects, animations, music and voices, cohered by 426 individual artists. Due to its motley nature, the overall ambience of the film comes across as rather surreal – seemingly random in structure but so tightly knit by the level of creativity that each artist endeavoured to exhibit in one segment of the episode. The fact that your art can align with the creation of anyone else in the world is something that is perhaps obvious in such a globally wired community, yet the potential of humankind is further extended when you see it in action.

AfreecaTV takes over the internet in South Korea

In South Korea, people have a more intimate relationship with the online media with the activities of online communities and individual users having a rather large effect on not only social matters but also on political and cultural issues. Even without undergoing an exhaustive study on South Koreans’ relationship with technology, as I go back and forth my home country and Europe, I am able to see the difference in just how wired people are at two different parts of the world. South Korea boasts the world’s fastest average internet connection speed, which allows the 92.4% of the total population that is connected to the internet experiment with any and all tools available to them in their area of interest.

Before the age of Facebook and Twitter, social media was already popular and a surge of user-generated contents took over the Internet several years before the rise of Youtube and forums. And now, the current trend among the digital users in South Korea is Afreeca TV, a  P2P technology-based video streaming service, where any user is able to create their own show and broadcast it live to an audience that is able to give immediate feedback in a realtime discussion board displayed on screen. The platform itself ranges anywhere from TV broadcasts, live video game broadcasts, artist performances and personal daily-life video blogs. Afreeca TV converges the traditional media of live TV broadcast with the Internet, as well as an online chat room that takes the general appearance and function of an already popular instant messaging mobile app, KakaoTalk. 

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A renowned chef giving realtime cooking lessons on Afreeca TV. A live chat discussion among the audience is displayed on screen.