What Do Nic Cage, William Gibson, Doctor Who & Justin Bieber Have In Common?

They are amongst some of the topics covered by the very prolific and imaginative Idea Channel from PBS. It is time to catch up once again with all the talks we've missed so far, now they've gone to a weekly schedule, and ponder the unexpected perspectives they present, starting with the most recent:

If you've never seen a website, you are a liar! (You're on one right now.) Consciously or not, the first thing you notice when you visit a website is how the site LOOKS, which is controlled by the CSS Stylesheet. CSS is the fashion of the web- it makes sites pretty (or very very ugly). And as our lives migrate more and more onto the world wide web, our presence online becomes a central way to define and express ourselves. So before you lay out your outfit for tomorrow, take a look at your website and make sure you match!
 
At first glance, Pop Wunderkind Justin Bieber aka "The Biebs" and revolutionary 19th Century pianist and composer Franz Liszt don't seem to have anything in common. And while they might not have any musical or biographical similarities, they both have had a powerful psychological effect on their fans. Fits of hysteria, screaming, and fainting are all common traits of "Bieber Fever" & "Lisztomania." But why? What is it that will cause a person to be so tremendously moved by a performer, a piece of art, a cityscape or even, heck, light refracting off of bits of water in the sky? Watch the episode and find out!
 
There are some deeply ingrained stereotypes about Dungeons & Dragons, and those stereotypes usually begin and end with people shouting "NERD!!!" But the reality of the D&D universe is a whole lot more complex. Rather than being an escape from reality, D&D is actually a way to enhance some important real life skillz! It's a chance to learn problem solving, visualization, interaction, organization, people management... the list could go on and on. Plus, there are some very famous non-nerds who have declared an affinity for D&D, so best stop criticizing and join in if you want to be a successful at the game of life.
 
Dr. Who is one of the longest running TV shows on the BBC, and it's got a huge fandom surrounding it, called Whovians. And while it might not seem like, Whovianism, might just be RELIGION!!!!! Whovians, like other passionate fan cultures, create art & fan fiction and engage in a strong remix and cosplay culture. But it's more than that. Dr. Who provides a philosophy; a way of understanding the universe. Fans embrace this in ways that are similar to most world religions: a positive influence that changes their approach to daily life. Also, the Tardis makes a pretty great shrine!
 
Ah, the MP3, everyone's favorite friendly musical file format. But there's something you might not know about the Mp3 - it has a lot in common with the magical spell!!!! Both spells and music were born from a freely available folk culture, but are now sold as commercial goods. There are thousands of artists and witches trying to figure out how to make a living in an age where their products can be infinitely copied. And with commercialization, the morality and legality of sharing these once open cultural products has become quite complicated. How should we, as responsible consumers, handle this new digital age? Watch the episode and find out!
 
The U.S. economy may be in the dumps, but you can find solace in the fact that your Second Life avatar is living the life of the 1%. But what if the virtual economies of video games could be transferred to the real world? We're actually already seeing this in Diablo 3, where axes, swords, and other awesome gear have taken on real world value at the Diablo 3 Auction House. People are buying and selling them with real US dollar bills!!!!!! The idea that a collection of pixels can be sold for actual money might be confusing to some, as they are neither true "objects" you can hold nor "ideas" that can be considered intellectual property. But despite the lack of tangibility, real world economies have formed around these games and real world profits are being made.
 
Good old Facebook. With 955,000,000 worldwide users, it seems like just about everyone makes use of the social media giant to connect with friends, share photos, and update everyone they've ever met since grade school about their dinner plans. But what you may not realize is that Facebook's new timeline layout is enhancing the ability to construct our self identity by super-charging our memory. Philosophers have been arguing about the link between identity and memory since John Locke first proposed the idea in the 17th Century, but human memory has always been deeply flawed and limited. Now with Facebook's incredibly easy interface and ability to remember anything and everyone we want, people have a whole new way to understand their past and thus understand themselves!
 
If you're unfamiliar, Homestuck is a webcomic created Andrew Hussie that is over 5000 PAGES so far! And it's still not complete!! It has a strong cult following, even though it presents incredible challenges to its readers; including a giant cast of characters, huge walls of text, and animated flash games that you must beat in order to continue. In its own weird way, Homestuck is a lot like James Joyce's Ulysses, where only the strongest, most dedicated readers make it through to the end. Most people don't expect such expansive and daunting works to find a home on the internet, but Homestuck has done it, illustrating that its followers' time and effort may actually enhance rather than lessen their devotion.

 
The science fiction writer William Gibson has not only written some fantastic scifi novels, but in the process predicted the internet, Miku Hatsune, reality TV, and a crazy amount of other technological and societal developments that have come into being. His impressive rate of accuracy seems almost mystical. Sure, he's essentially just an entertainer, but he's got a better batting average than Nostradamus, who was actually TRYING to predict the future. We may not need oracles as much as we did in the past (what with science and all), but a look into the future can be exciting and an awesome preparation for what's to come.
 
Here on the internet, we love us some memes. But where do they come from? Yes we know, they are user generated. But to an internet layman, they seem to just appear, in HUGE quantities, ready for cultural consumption. Are they a sign of a "cultural singularity"? Memes follow rules and code, are varied, self-referential, and seem to multiply at an ever increasing rate. It may seem like science fiction, but we're close to a world where culture automatically and magically creates infinitely more culture.
 
No one would argue that Nicolas Cage is one of the greatest actors of his generation, and simultaneously a very bizarre human being. It's not just his acting ability that makes us love him, it's his total willingness to dive head first into ANY role, with no regard for the quality of the script. He seems to have mastered the trendy YOLO philosophy before it was cool. Even deeper than YOLO, he might more of a Taoist, finding harmony with the now, foregoing calculated planning and strategy. Either way, Nic Cage's wacky life choices feel sincere, attracting a massive amount of fans, some of whom even saw The Wicker Man.