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We Can’t Rewind, We’ve Gone Too Far.

Well fellow bloggers, it’s been a good (almost) seven weeks. Before I get into my final social media ramblings, I’d like to thank DeNel for doing such a great job with this class. Every day has been interesting and we’ve had the privilege of engaging with such a variety of communicators and social media experts. I appreciate that we got a lot of information from a lot of different sources, so thank you!

I’ve been trying to think about social media today and figure out exactly what I’ve learned and how my perspective has changed over the past few months. After a few hours of thinking and typing, I can’t find any way to sum it up in a few short paragraphs. And that, I think, is a good sign. 

Every day I’m realizing a little more that social media is changing the way we talk and listen, write and read, argue and agree, accept and reject, process and create. The list goes on and on! We have been given the tools and it is always our decision what to do with them. I’m excited to graduate and head into the ever-changing world of communications as a professional equipped to take on the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media.

Who knows where social media will take us. No one could have guessed that technology would come this far and I have no doubt that we still have a long way to go. One thing I do know, is that we always have to be ready to move forward because things will not stop changing.

Video did kill the radio star…but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

June 22, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , | 3 Comments

To text, or not to text: that is the question.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Shakespeare wrote sonnets in iambic pentameter.

Did u know ur def like summer?
Ur so cool and I ly4e.

We write text messages in two-letter slangameter.

This week on Spark, Nora Young recaps a texting experiment they did with Al Rae (artistic director of the CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival). In response to a New York Times article that reported some unbelievable statistics about teen texting, Spark challenged Rae to start texting as much as the average teenager. Neilson Company reports that at the end of 2008, American teens were sending an average of 2,272 texts a month. That means almost 80 texts a day. 80!

Rae stepped up to the challenge. After a few texting lessons from his daughter he attempted to become just another regular text message maniac. After a few weeks of non-stop texting, Rae didn’t quite reach an average of 80 per day; however, he did come away with an interesting perspective on text messaging. Rae said that after a few days of texting he felt a strange disassociation with the world around him. Rather than spending time fully interacting with other people, he was “subtitling and paraphrasing” his life, and publishing “a glib version” of himself.

A few Spark listeners/readers sent in their own experiences with teenage texting:
-One parent found her two children texting each other about the meal while sitting together at the dinner table.
-One high school student was sending 2000 texts a month and a significant portion of those were sent between 1am and 3am.
-A parent received a phone bill for over $500 accumulated during less than a month of texting by her teenage son. He was averaging 200 texts a day.

I’ve been a little slow getting into the world of text messaging. Right now, I’ve got 100 free texts a month and that is usually more than enough for me. When I think about teenagers who send 80 texts a day, only one thing comes to mind: communication overload. Is there such thing as TOO much communication? Too much connectivity? I think that text messaging is redefining our boundaries of availability and our standards of communication. We’re expanding quantity and downsizing quality. It’s a 24/7 world and it’s getting hard to separate ourselves from the technology we’ve created.

Texting isn’t just a teenage trend, but some of the effects on teenagers are a little startling. According to this article, physicians and psychologists have said that excessive texting is leading to “anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation.” Instead of going to sleep or even finding a few minutes of peace and quiet at the end of the day, teenagers are interrupted by a beep, ring or vibration that is calling for an immediate response. And many times, where you find a teenager thumbing away on an unlimited texting plan, you can also find a parent leaning face first into a BlackBerry. I could write a lot more about this article and the effects of text messaging on teenagers, adults and families, but instead I’ll recommend that you read the article and leave you to think it over.

To text or not to text? That is the question.

June 21, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That was so last week.”

Yet another interesting week on Spark. Nora Young posted her interview with Bill Wasik, senior editor at Harper’s magazine and author of And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. Wasik is also the creator of the ‘flash mob’ and he has a lot say about the media culture we’re living in. In case you’re not hip with the lingo, according to Wikipedia, a flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, and then quickly disperse. A good example is the T-Mobile video we watched last week in class.

Wasik has been studying what he calls “nano stories” and the internet phenomenon of the micro-celebrity. Everything on the internet is delivered faster and information is boiled down to these little provocative stories. Susan Boyle, who skyrocketed to fame after an amazing performance on Britain’s Got Talent is a prime example of a micro-celebrity. As Wasik says, “move over big celebrities because here come the amateurs”. In order to make your big break, all you need is a comfy chair, a computer and a high speed internet connection. Our society is becoming so accustomed to the rapid speed of the internet that our thirst for novelty is growing insatiable. Susan Boyle sang one song and became an instant celebrity, primarily through the viral market of YouTube. A week and a half later, the excitement was dimming and viewers might have looked back and wondered where it came from and where it’s going to go.

For Susan Boyle, she rode high on the wings of fame for about a month and then came in second place on Britain’s Got Talent. The Star reports that after some makeover backlash, a few meltdowns and being admitted to the hospital for exhaustion, Boyle has begun to sing again. And how many people are watching now? Probably only a fraction of the 200 million who viewed her first performance on YouTube. “Swept up, forgotten, and we’re on to the next thing.” We built her up, and we can easily knock her down.

Now this can’t all be a bad thing. I doubt that Susan Boyle intended to become and remain the greatest celebrity in the world. Maybe these 15 minutes of fame have brought her a great deal of happiness. What I find really interesting is our speed-dating approach to information and entertainment.

Wasik makes a few more interesting points:
-Discourse has migrated to the internet. This is shown in the phenomenon of the micro-celebrity. Something or someone is the talk of the world wide town for awhile; but, soon it’s onto the new idea or new band.
-Internet forces people to market themselves in the same way corporations do. “We use the tricks we’ve been taught, but on the other hand, we know the tricks well enough that we’re not entirely fooled by them. We’re way more aware of them than we used to be.”

After listening to this interview, I was asking the same question as Wasik: is it a good thing for our culture that we’re so aware and that these cycles are turning over and over?

I’m still sitting on the fence. The fast pace of the internet world can be exciting and refreshing, yet also frustrating and overwhelming. It’s changing the way we create and process information, and I think our culture is taking the fast lane when it may be wise to enjoy the scenery for a little while. Okay, so maybe I’m not completely on the fence. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, “Slow down, you move too fast!”

June 21, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I see it, but would I buy it?

What a week! Thank you DeNel for going to such great lengths to find some really interesting and informative guest speakers. Martin Delaney’s presentation on Wednesday especially helped bring an understanding of how to successfully evaluate the use of social media beyond our academic walls. It was easy to tell that he is passionate about his own work and really believes that many forms of social media are expanding, not limiting, our capacity to communicate.

During the presentation, Martin made a few comments about the shift in evaluation methods from ‘awareness’ to ‘likelihood to refer’. No longer can businesses and organizations use awareness as a stand-alone mark of success. With television advertising, it is easy to watch a commercial and be aware of a product while remaining a passive consumer. Maybe once in awhile you will yell at the screen when you don’t like a commercial or laugh to yourself when you really do like one. On the internet there are many opportunities to actually respond, reflect, and refer to an advertisement. In many ways, the internet has transformed us into a society of engaged consumers.

Businesses and organizations must stay on their toes when it comes to evaluation of internet consumers and their likelihood to refer products or services. Consumers don’t take an individual journey from awareness to action; it’s more like a road trip where you pick up a busload of talkative people along the way. If we like it – we will let everyone know. If we don’t like it – we will most definitely let everyone know.

June 12, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , | 2 Comments

Power to the people. I mean ALL people!

On the current edition of the Spark radio show/podcast/blog there are many interesting topics to explore. I’m really enjoying this exercise and finding myself constantly surprised by how many relevant issues are discussed on Spark.

This week Nora Young interviewed Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online. Zuckerman mentioned that in 2006, Technorati reported that there were more blogs written in Japanese than in English. Zuckerman says that today English is actually a minority language on the net. There is a great need for translation so that more information can be shared. Global Voices serves as a social translation site, where people from all over the world can offer up translation services to make blog content available in multiple languages.

Social translation seems to be similar to the wiki concept—people who are bilingual or multilingual and who are willing to translate content in their free time are able to register on the site and begin translating. As Zuckerman points out, many times Google Translation and other websites don’t provide the best translation services. “Translation is about taking text and making it comprehensible”, not just word for word. Global Voices uses volunteer authors and part-time editors to create the site that emphasizes “voices that are not ordinarily heard in international mainstream media.”

On a larger scale, Global Voices aims to:

  • Call attention to the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world by linking to text, photos, podcasts, video and other forms of grassroots citizens’ media.
  • Facilitate the emergence of new citizens’ voices through training, online tutorials, and publicizing the ways in which open-source and free tools can be used safely by people around the world to express themselves.
  • Advocate for freedom of expression around the world and protect the rights of citizen journalists to report on events and opinions without fear of censorship or persecution.

    Finally, another thought-provoking quote from the website:

    “At a time when international English-language media ignores many things that are important to large numbers of the world’s citizens, Global Voices aims to redress some of the inequities in media attention by leveraging the power of citizens’ media.”

    Personally, I think this is a global step in the right direction! What do you think?

    P.S. If this whole social translation thing really grabbed your attention, I dare you to check out another really interesting site: TED -“Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world”.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , | Leave a comment

If You Build It, Will They Actually Come?

In the same spirit as many other recent blog posts, I too really enjoyed Harold Simons’ presentation via Skype on Wednesday. I am starting to learn a valuable lesson in the realm of social media—don’t knock it ‘til you try it. Now, I don’t think this mantra applies to everything; however, as an outsider looking in on the Rogers Plus internal website, initially I was quick question their social media strategy. Do they really expect employees to jump on board with an interactive internal site? What about when the hype wears off and they are left with a lacklustre employee gossip page frequented by five disgruntled employees?

I know, I know, hard to believe I could be so cynical. Realistically, I’m always a little hesitant to believe that new initiatives are really as great as they sound. In this day and age we see beautiful words, beautiful pictures and beautiful people promoting beautiful things all the time. But until you actually try on the dress, use the new vacuum cleaner, drive that car, or try out the new interactive website, it’s hard to know if it’s all as beautiful as it sounds.

As Harold continued with his presentation, I realized that Rogers Plus really does seem to have a good thing going. It is encouraging to hear that Rogers has found a way to increase employee involvement, start dialogue, and enhance organizational culture through social media. Nothing is perfect, but I can tell that Rogers Plus has a positive attitude and an effective strategy when it comes to the use of social media as an internal communications tool. Am I ready to pitch this idea to an organization? Am I ready to believe that social media really can benefit an entire organization (internally and externally)? Lots to think about…but I know one thing is for sure, I am a cynic no more.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , | Leave a comment

Top Secret Government Information? Not anymore…

This week on Spark, Dan Misener posted some interesting thoughts on open, accessible government data. A few days later, Spark radio host Nora Young interviewed Vancouver city councilor Andrea Reimer who is introducing the concept of open government data out on the West coast.

Upon Councilor Reimer’s recommendation, Vancouver City Council recently passed a motion to make its government data “open and accessible to everyone where possible, adopting open standards for that data and considering open source software when replacing existing applications.” So basically, they are going to make their existing and future information available online to anyone and everyone.

Councilor Reimer says that this move will “allow the city to improve transparency, cut costs and enable people to use the date to create new useful products, including commercial ones.” Obviously, the city must still respect security and privacy concerns when it comes to certain data, but for the most part, they will be freely sharing “the greatest amount of data possible”.

 A few other cities like Toronto, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco have started moving in the same direction. Just last week, the White House launched a website solely devoted to open government information. In my opinion, Data.gov is a surprising move from the U.S. government. The purpose of the site is to “to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.” Not exactly the kind of openness I would expect from the government who has spent much of the past decade peering over its own shoulder to make sure there’s no one sneaking up from behind.

I find this new level of government transparency very intriguing. I think Councillor Reimer is correct in saying that this move will benefit the City of Vancouver; however, I also believe that with any new initiative there are new problems to face and challenges to overcome. This will be an interesting story to follow!

What do you think?

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | Leave a comment

Living (With) A Second Life

It is three days later and I’m still thinking about Second Life and trying to decide how I feel about using it socially and professionally. As I ponder the social ramifications of Web 2.0, I can relate to a few other comments that have been made.

When we finished our class experience on Second Life I sort of felt like I do when I sit down and watch a reality TV show. In a world where we all have so many REAL issues to contend with every day, there is obviously a societal cry for an escape from our own reality. So we’ve created TV shows where people are on display 24/7 and we are told that they are ‘real’ people living ‘real’ lives. Deep down I don’t think we have ever believed this, but yet, reality TV has not gone away. In fact, it’s become more popular.  Often we pretend not to enjoy it, or talk about how fake and unbelievable these shows are. But don’t we still watch them? Isn’t it sometimes easier to watch Jon & Kate Plus 8 and make up our minds about their lives, their insecurities, their relationships, their ‘reality’, instead of addressing our own?

So then I think about Second Life. We are creating avatars in a world where we know that we are always on display. We pretend that it gives us freedom to be anyone we want to be, but judgement prevails and stereotypes are often perpetuated.  

At the beginning of “The Electric Self: Doing Virtual Research For Real In Second Life”, Julie Rak cites an interesting quote:

In one way or another we all have this hope. The yearning to transcend, to reach up, to let go of our skins and find a new place without sorrow and loss. Virtual worlds have the capacity to promise that redemption, to entrance us, to make us forget ourselves until it’s too late.
—Tim Guest, Second Lives: A Journey Through Virtual Worlds (351)

I guess I feel the same as I do about Facebook, Twitter and other social mediums. Second Life can be a good tool when it is used to enhance and not escape reality. Second Life is innovative and promotes creative communication. But it also provides an opportunity for people to mask their real life issues and live within their very own virtual bubble. If we don’t understand how to live a first life as confident, intelligent and compassionate individuals who promote equality and acceptance, we certainly won’t get it right in a second life.

May 30, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , | 1 Comment

Questions, queries & quandaries: The high standard of communication

I’ve been thinking about the readings we had to do for class last week and the great discussion we had in class on Wednesday, and I’ve been trying to decide what stood out as a point worth pursuing. I realized that this class and the use of social media have gotten me thinking about a lot of small things and a few big things all at once. I am constantly digesting new information and adapting to the nature of my ever-expanding perspective. Ok, I’ll move on from that statement for fear that I may sound a little too ‘Deepak Chopra’.

What I really mean to say is…am I processing this information from the perspective of a twenty-something individual or as a soon-to-be PR professional? And, does my perspective matter?

This week we’ve been talking about issues like the right to communicate, the age of ‘slacktivism’, gender and self-identity. As an individual, I take all of this information and apply it to my own frame of reference. As a PR professional, I take this information and think about it within an organizational or maybe even a global context. But where do the two meet?

Let me give you an example. We have been taught that transparency is an important aspect of organizational communication when it comes to social media. If an organization does not practice open and honest communication while using these tools I would have a difficult time working there. We don’t like to hear that organizations have employees going undercover as bloggers to promote various products. As PR professionals (I hope) we would never encourage an organization to hide the truth or pretend to be something that they are not.

Now what about my personal use of social media? I can go on Facebook, create a profile and write anything I want about myself. I can start conversations and relationships, post pictures and videos, basically create any identity that I want-whether it is true or false.

As communicators are we called to a higher standard of communication in our individual lives because of what we do professionally? Should my individual standards when it comes to using social media reflect my professional standards, or are the two even related?

My response is yes. Everything I do as an individual should reflect what I do as a professional and vice versa. When I work for an organization and encourage them to follow a certain standard of communication I think that my professional integrity depends on how well I ‘practice what I preach’. Don’t we expect a police officer to obey the law even more so than an average citizen because that is his/her profession?  

So obviously I’ve got an opinion and lots of questions. My final one is, what do you think?

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , | Leave a comment

Exclaiming (!!!) the variety of Spark

This week on Spark there were many topics to explore. Although I couldn’t help but read or listen to everything, for sanity’s sake I will give you only the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version. Here are two interesting tidbits:

-An interview with Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl about all things grammatical. She talks a lot about the overuse of exclamation marks in email writing.
Do you think we’ve taken advantage of the exclamation mark?  Is it unprofessional to use multiple exclamation marks in an email? What about emoticons? I think this is a relevant discussion for PR practitioners.  Please, do tell!!!!!! (grammatical pun intended)

-Spark conducted somewhat of an online experiment in partnership with a website called Sidetaker.com.

Allison Buchan-Terrell writes, “Have you ever been embroiled in a fight you just can’t resolve? You’ve talked to everyone you know about it, but you can’t seem to find an impartial ear. Why not trust the blind wisdom of the online masses to solve your dispute and get a crowdsourced resolution.”

Sidetaker.com allows people to make anonymous postings defending one side of an argument and then the ‘crowd’ gets to decide who the winner is. This is an interesting concept. I’d like to know if Sidetaker actually helps end arguments, or if it just becomes the root cause of many more arguments.

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | 2 Comments