Parody, popularity and pay days…

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(Screenshot image of the ‘’ website 13th October, 2014)

In contemporary media it seems parody is everywhere. Though the origins of this type of humour date back to ancient times – consider the early Greek word “parodia” and that the first recorded usage of the word parody occurred in Aristotle (Dentith 2000, p. 40). Today, ‘Youtube’ is full of clips, aimed at a youth audience, made with the intention to make light of someone else’s work, or just to get laughs. For teenagers parody is seen as being so popular, Hollywood has worked hard to cash in, producing a range of big budget parody films in the last decade (Scary Movie 1, 2, 3, 4, Scream 1,2, Team America, Not Another Teen Movie, Superhero Movie, Happily N’ever After – 2014). Though you do not need to be based in Hollywood, to earn an income by making teenagers laugh.

For the non-teenager of modern times it can sometimes be difficult to ‘get’ the joke – just as it is when attempting to understand the historical context of Shakespearean comedies like “The Tempest” or “The Comedy of Errors”. Recognising the parody can become an issue and it can be challenging to make “judgements about its force or direction” (Dentith 2000, p. 39) . This possibly explains why I don’t ‘get’ many of the teenage clips or find very much humour in them – I don’t know who they are referencing to begin with so am ‘outside’ of the joke. Another reason could be that I am outside of the target demographic (polite for too old) as the clips are made by teens for teens. In Australia, one teenage youtube producer who I really don’t get (mostly because due to the amount of swearing he uses in his clips and I don’t like the direction of his sketches), who is hugely popular amongst many teenagers is Perth resident, ‘Maxmoefoe’. He has almost one million subscribers to his four youtube channels, and manages to earn a living by posting about three different videos most weeks, usually prank phone calls or clips of himself opening gifts from his fans. I recently asked a teenage high school student about this producer. “ You often mention the name ‘Maxmoefoe’ in conversations, what do you like about him?” His response was, “I don’t like him. We sometimes talk about his pranks or how much he earns. He is mostly followed by twelve-year-olds who find his stupid jokes really funny.”

“How do you know how much he earns?” was my next question.

“That’s easy, by checking on ‘SocialBlade’” (

“That’s quite a lot of money for posting a few videos each week”, was my response (estimated $14,000 to $100,000 per year).

“Oh that’s nothing! Compared with a Swedish guy called ‘Pewdiepie’.

“Does he make funny clips too?”

“Kind of… (Enters ‘Pewdiepie’ into the “Socialblade” search button)…He makes clips of himself playing scary video games, with mostly himself screaming whenever he gets a fright and uploads them every week. He earns about $10 million per year”.

That’s no joke.

Which parody producers or youtube channels, have you heard, are popular with today’s youth?


(Clip by Sarah Ada -New York State Reading Association Published on Jun 21, 2012)


Dentith, P. S. (2002). Parody. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.


“Don’t confuse mercy for weakness”…



“League of Legends” Tournament, Supanova Gold Coast, April 2014- original photograph by author.

“Don’t confuse mercy for weakness,” these are the words that I heard over and over as I played my first ever “League of Legends” Game today. I am not much of a gamer, however, with the help and guidance of my twelve-year-old stepson, I somehow had a victory. I can’t say this initial experience was fun, it was too fast and too confusing but it has given me a healthy respect for the ease in which the two male gamers in our household play this complex team game. I also now have some insight as to why they love playing this ‘MOBA’ – Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.

Up until earlier this year, I had never really heard of this game. “Minecraft” was the preferred game being played in our house (I am yet to play that one). My son used to tell me how much he enjoyed playing “League”. He would mention it was a team sport and that some teams compete for huge prize money. My first actual viewing of a game was at the Gold Coast Supanova Pop Culture festival in April, 2014. I was really surprised, at that time, that so many of the crowd were so obviously “into” it. The game was being played by two teams, each with four members. The teams sat on opposite sides of a huge stage, each member’s head popping out from behind a computer screen. Not much to watch really, for the uninitiated but the roar of the crowd and the sheer numbers following every move on the big screens did make me realise this was indeed a popular “sport”. It had all of the hallmarks of being at a live soccer match or MMA bout: roaring crowd, knowledgeable of moves; instant replays; half time interviews; presentation of trophies and fulltime interviews. Doubting what I was really seeing and hearing (I was astonished that an audience would actually cheer the outcome of a computer game), I made my way to a young organisor to ask a few questions. “My son says that these winners are vying for a prize of $50,000 and a trip to compete at the world championships to win US$2 million. Is this true?” I was assured that all of this was the case.

“If the game is free, how can they come up with this amount of prize money?”, was my next question. This is what I was told: “Oh that is because of the micro transactions.” My querying, dumbfounded, unknowing look in response, compelled him to further explain. “The game is totally free. You don’t have to pay to play or compete. There are 121 characters, ‘champions’. You don’t need to pay in real cash to play as a ‘champion’ because you can win points and buy them with that. Though there is an option to buy them, if you don’t want to wait and earn points. Most players will play on average as 14 to 16 of the characters. You can customize the look of your character. To do this you buy a ‘skin’. Most players buy about six to eight skins – cost varies $5 to $10. Last year total revenue for purchases from around the world was US$628 million.”

“Wow,” was my response. (That is a lot of micro-transactions).

I am not yet a convert to this “League”, though I will give it another try because I enjoyed being part of the action and “in the know” with a game my children love.

Which games are popular at your house?

What does getting chased and philosophy have in common?

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(Photo obtained 6th October, 2014 from


For teenagers who are into Parkour, everything! Wikipeadea describes Parkour as “a holistic training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training”. The past time is becoming so popular in Brisbane, that the City Council has recently dedicated a section of a Spring Hill park for these young dare devil athletes to practice their human body propulsions including running, vaulting, jumping and rolling. The Parkour ‘playground’ was funded by Energex. The Brisbane City Council is hoping it will give a place for youngsters to practice, instead of trespassing onto private property which is unsafe and illegal.

The aim of Parkour is to get from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. Practitioners say that Parkour is much more than a method of physical training. It develops one’s abilities to overcome physical and mental obstacles. It is used if one needs to help others in an emergency or if one needs to quickly escape an immediate danger – being chased by an aggressive dog or dangerous human. Underpinning all of this is a philosophy of altruism, useful strength, longevity, self-improvement and self-understanding (, 2012)

The founder of Parkour is Frenchman David Belle, who in 1988- aged fifteen- started teaching his friends how to jump, climb and clear obstacles. Belle attributes many of the movement’s used to the ones his father – a child soldier in Vietnam- taught him and the principles of Herbertism taught to him by his grandfather. George Herbit developed a holistic training method developed to emphasise the integration of the human mind and body to overcome obstacles. His work lead to development of the French military obstacle course (Lawrence, 2011).

The ABC recently showed a segment on Parkour: “Brisbane teens turn city into Parkour playground”. It is definitely worth a watch if you are interested in understanding what motivates these teenagers to follow this high energy passion. (

After viewing the clip, I wondered what other physical activities do teenagers pursue that also have a strong philosophy that is integral to the practice? Here is a short list that I came up with. If you can think of any others please let me know via a comment.

Yoga – various influences depending on the school: Hinduism, Buddhism & Jainism

Kung Fu- Discipline, respect and correct interaction with others

Tai Chi- Taoism, living in harmony.

Capoeira- Understand the futility of fighting with force instead uses creativity to get around the established rules of a system.

Ballet – discipline to give you control over your body and a way of conquering it’s limitations.


For the love of it …

hanging around

(Five year old boxer and reader ‘hanging around” at K.A.P.O.W. gym Gold Coast , Saturday 27th September,2014)

Do you love reading? I do. I believe that cultivating this passion in students is more important than worrying about which format they choose to read books (E-readers or real books – or preferably both!). In my work as a boxing coach, I tell young students the benefits of reading as well as being physically active. I am happy to have children hang around after their class and read while mum or dad is still training. I also believe – based on a recent Nielson poll- that encouraging teachers and parents to share their love of reading, must be every teacher-librarian’s (TL’s) primary goal. Here’s why:

In January this year, Nielson Book survey showed that (in the US) more teens (41%) now say they “don’t” read for fun – up from 21% in 2011. Fairly shocking statistics and one that should motivate all TL’s to do everything in their power to help reverse this trend. The action I am referring to should by no means be forced, or a solo effort. Rather, it should be an impassioned, united, sharing of an important past time we all enjoy – TL’s, teachers and family members. Here’s why:

In “Kids Books Online and Off: Changing Buying Behaviors in the Digital Age (Nielsen – Jo Henry – Jonathan Nowell, 2014)” from Publishers Launch Conferences slide thirty shows that 17% of teens strongly prefer print and 33% generally prefer print. This is more than double those who strongly prefer e-book (6%) and generally prefer ebook (15%). 28% show no preference. While data about preferences is important, as it will help guide how to spend future budgets to match our student’s preferences, our main concern still lies with the getting those who “don’t” read for fun (41%) to read in either format. From slide 24 of the same survey of 3000 people across 10 countries, information about the “The Most Important Factors in Children’s Book Discovery by Age” is revealed. This data shows that the teacher has almost twice the influence (18%) over the school librarian (10%) – who is slightly lower than the public librarian (12%) – in what children, aged seven to twelve, choose to read. Though the combined effort of teachers and librarians (public and school) is 40%, greater than the highest factor in children’s book discovery surveyed -37% – “directly from the child”. Family and friends account for a huge 27% influence on discovering a new book in this same age group. Imagine the collective influence that will be harnessed with the combined persuasive power of the TL, teachers and family members all working to spread the same sincere message – a love of reading?

Do you have any strategies that involve the TL, all teachers and family members sharing a love of reading with students? If you do, please make a comment. I would love to read them.

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Slide 30 – What Format Do Teens Prefer . Source: Neilson’s Childrens Deep Dive US, Fall 2013.

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Slide 33 – Most Important Factors in Children’s Book Discovery by Age. Source: Neilson’s Childrens Deep Dive US, Fall 2013.


Explore to your heart’s content…

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“Explore to your heart’s content”, is how Jennifer Baker (2013), describes popular social networking site Pinterest. She views the site as a great way to curate and create something that is useful to your school or wider learning community. Based on my first time using it to create a ‘board’, I think she is right. Wilkinson (2013), believes Pinterest can be used by librarians to interact with patrons and a wider community of librarians. Whilst Thornton (2012), asks ” Is your academic library pinning?”.

My intention was to curate images of things that many of today’s youth find to be of interest. To make the ‘board’ look more credible, I asked two sixteen year olds and one twelve year old their tips on ‘what is currently popular’ – to point me in the right direction. I was encouraged to find images of popular gaming consoles and on-line games. New television series from the US, anime characters and popular music artists, were also recommended. This is what I gathered:

Being a visual learner, I found the experience stimulating and fulfilling. My only frustration was caused by the decisions involved in on-line digital curation – namely which images to keep, which ones to delete. Regarding the selection of other people’s content to display, I found myself challenged by the sheer volume of choices. On reflection, I see that I was doing more than just ‘re-pinning’ or broadcasting the work of others. I found myself taking in ideas and content from these places.

One idea that strongly stuck, came after pinning Meghan Trainor’s number one song for this week, “All about that Bass”. The lyrics and video clip concern the notion of ‘body image’. It seems like a positive message to young people, though it has been criticised by McKinney (2014), for favouring larger girls at the expense of ridiculing ‘skinny’ girls. She does, however, view the clip as a possible gateway to feminism for Trainor’s fans. I think this song could be used in the curriculum, as a discussion point regarding body image and unrealistic portrayals, in many on-line images.

The discussion regarding healthy/realistic body images may need to take place during the preteen years. Tiggemann and Slater (2014), conducted a study to examine the relationship between media exposure and body image in preteenage girls. Their study concluded that: the Internet represents a potent sociocultural force among girls aged ten to twelve; and time spent on-line significantly relates to the internalisation of the thin ideal (as was time reading magazines and watching television).

Perhaps it is time to create another ‘board’, “positive on-line body images”, this time with students themselves identifying, selecting, and ‘pinning’ the images? This would be one way to further test the pedagogical potential of this site. (




Baker, J. Y. (2013). Beyond death by chocolate: USING PINTEREST PROFESSIONALLY. Knowledge Quest, 42(2), 74-77. Retrieved from


McKinney, K. (2014). “All about the bass” isn’t actually positive. Retrieved from:


Tiggemann, M., & Slater, A. (2014). NetTweens: The internet and body image concerns in preteenage girls. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 34(5), 606-620. doi:10.1177/0272431613501083


Thornton, E. (2012). Is your academic library pinning? academic libraries and pinterest. Journal of Web Librarianship, 6(3), 164


Wilkinson, Z. (2013). Oh, how pinteresting! an introduction to pinterest. Library Hi Tech News, 30(1), 1-4. doi:

Q & A with a teen bloggist.

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Recently, I chatted with a sixteen-year-old female high school student who enjoys reading, social media and blogging. I was surprised to hear how popular the practice of blogging is amongst her friendship group and impressed with her attitude toward ‘speaking out’ on social justice issues that she feels are important. Her feelings toward content presented by the mainstream media, in television news reports and newspapers, reveals suspicion and shows a developing critical awareness. The opportunity for young people to develop their own opinions, by conducting independent research into issues they view as significant, is something she considers to be highly important for herself and peers. Her most popular author at the moment is John Green (New York Time Y.A. bestseller and famous ‘vlogger’), she follows him (along with 200,000 other young people) on her preferred social media site ‘tumblr’.

Q. I hear that you own a lot of books? Is this correct?

A. Yes.

Q. How many do you estimate?

A. At least one hundred.

Q. Are you buying more?

A. I would like to but there is not enough space.

Q. What are you reading at the moment?

A. “Pride and Prejudice” for school. Then I was reading Tara Moss’s autobiography – “The Fictional Woman.”

Q. What types of books do you enjoy reading the most?

A. I quite like complex stories that are unpredictable.

Q. Any examples?

A. I quite liked the “Great Gatsby” and this autobiography. (Tara Moss)

Q. List some popular fiction books that you have also read?

A. All of: Twilight; Hunger Games; Harry Potters; Divergent. All of John Green’s books too.

Q. What is your favourite show to watch at the moment?

A. “Game of Thrones” and “Orange is the new black.”

Q. Do you watch them on youtube, television, or download?

A. Get it off my friends who download.

Q. What type of on-line reading do you enjoy?

A. “Wattpad” – unpublished authors. So I read my friends book on that, though I don’t usually read online.

Q. Are you a member of any fan clubs?

A. No.

Q. What sites do you post to?

A. Tumblr, facebook, instagram.

Q. How many followers do you have on ‘tumblr’?

A. Roughly 400.

Q. What do you blog about?

A. What ever I like – the books I like reading and social justice issues.

Q. Who’s your favourite band or musician?

A. Taylor Swift. Bastille.

Q. Where do you listen to the music you enjoy most?

A. Internet and Itunes, I don’t really use CD’s.

Q. What are the popular on-line activities amongst your friends?

A. Blogging, because it is uncensored and not distorted by media. It lets people develop an opinion on issues based on their own research – rather than what the media feeds us.

Q. How many of your friends blog?

A. All of them.

Q. Which sites?

A. Tumblr; youtube; other people’s blogs.

Q. Does your school incorporate any of the popular social media into school work?

A. In school work we don’t use media but we do use educational resources on the internet.

Q. Is there any social media that you would like to use at school?

A. Probably tumblr.

Q. Why doesn’t your school use it now?

A. Because of the national curriculum, we haven’t found a way to fit it in just yet.

Our generation is not as laid back as people may think. And we are not ignorant when it comes to social issues.

Q. Such as?

A. Women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, religious conflicts- terrorism and racial conflict.

When children Scratch do they enhance intercultural understanding?

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The article “Prosuming across Cultures: Youth Creating and Discussing Digital Media across Borders“, authored by QUT Senior Lecturer Dr Michael Dezuanni and MIT Media Lab Andres Monroy-Hernandez, helped me to understand how online community spaces can help youth to enhance intercultural understandings. Their study is about the popular Scratch community (over 3.5 million registered users, hundreds of different nationalities). The site is designed for children aged 8 to 16 to create games, movies, art, music and interactions. Dezuanni and Minroy-Hernadez query if this community assists to promote tolerance and understanding between users from different countries.

During a ‘Relief’  teaching day at a Gold Coast primary school, I recently observed Year 5 students using Scratch to create animations. My initial opinion was that it looked like a great way for children to learn the basics of programming and have fun creating digital media. Dezuanni and Monroy-Hernandez study shows that it is much more than this. Their qualitative analysis of community discussions analyses the types of interaction that takes place. They share examples of the typical conversations Scratchers have about their countries, home cities and topics about local food and customs.

The findings show that tolerance of ‘others’ can be increased when the notion of ‘others’ is discouraged. Scratch facilitates this by: placing standards of communication for tolerance; utilizing moderators that assist to uphold these standards; and allowing opportunities for the children to uphold these norms themselves. The authors conclude: the norms of tolerance and diversity established within the community by its moderators makes it more likely that these values will be accepted and defended by community members” (Dezuanni and Minroy-Hernadez. 2012).

Are the students you know using Scratch or a similar digital environment? What is your opinion of unfair portrayals of people and cultural “othering” by users of digital media? Please leave a comment, your opinion is welcomed here.



Dezuanni, M., & Monroy-Hernandez, A. (2012). «Prosuming» across cultures: Youth creating and discussing digital media across Borders/«Prosumidores interculturales»: Creación de medios digitales globales entre jóvenes. Comunicar, 19(38), 59-66. Retrieved from

Is boxing the new international language of happiness?

Photographer : Glenn Shieles. Copyright Owner Barbera Rizzeto (Used with permission).

K.A.P.O.W. Boxing, Gold Coast, Australia -18 Aug 2014 Photographer: Glenn Shieles. Copyright Owner: Barbera Rizzeto (Used with permission).


This is the first post, so please allow me a moment to introduce myself. My name is Tony Szymkowski. I have a passion for surfing, teaching and boxing. Currently I am studying to complete my Masters of Education – Teacher Librarianship, at the Queensland University of Technology. I work part-time as a teacher and full-time as a boxing /kickboxing coach. My dream is to become a qualified librarian.

Two nights ago, new guests arrived at my gym – K.A.P.O.W. Boxing, at Broadbeach, Gold Coast, Australia. The guests trained really hard, pounding the boxing bags, skipping and learning to dodge punches. The visitors were from England, Japan, Thailand, Brazil and Columbia. They were so happy at the end of the workout. They stayed another thirty minutes after the session, laughing and chatting to each other about the experience. Their happiness was so evident and it had me considering “ Is boxing the new international language of happiness?” That night, I slept on the question.

The next morning I woke with the answer …”No, it probably is not”… So what had really happened? The guests had found an interest they all loved and enjoyed sharing the experience in a safe environment. In actuality, they could have been doing any activity. So long as it was fun and each person liked it – it would have broken the language barrier and made each person happy.

There is a real thrill in finding others who share the same love for something that you do – especially if you can chat about your passion and laugh at your obsession. For today’s youth, popular culture – music, movies, games, novels, youtube – gives the opportunity to participate, talk about and share experiences from the safety of a laptop or mobile phone. On-line communities for young people allow social interaction that enhances intercultural understandings. (A topic I will consider in more detail, in my next post).

The aim of this blog is to provide a place for a discourse about Youth and Popular Culture. I would love to hear what you have to say.

So what is your passion?