MSVU Social Media Course Blog

Just another weblog

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

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

Spark and The Adventures of Team Digital Preservation

The blog I was assigned to follow throughout the course is the online component of a CBC Radio show called Spark.  So what is Spark? And I quote…”Spark is a weekly audio blog of smart and unexpected trendwatching. It’s not just technology for gearheads, it’s about the way technology affects our lives, and the world around us” (

To be honest, as some others have mentioned, this first week has been a little overwhelming as I’ve begun to discover just how much I don’t know about the World Wide Web. I was excited to find out that I’m following a CBC blog because already plays a role in my daily internet routine. As far as I can tell, Spark is a smart, well-written blog that touches on just about everything you could imagine in the world of technology.

The first article I read on Spark was “The Future of Our Digital Heritage (or “Why Metadata Matters”)” The article talks about digital preservation and asks the question: how do we design systems to preserve the vast quantities of digital information we’re now creating?

It’s an interesting concept to think about. I’m one of those people who keeps just about everything on my computer. I have music, pictures, school work, and a multitude of other important files, and while I do have a few trusty USB’s that serve as ‘back-up’ if my Toshiba goes haywire, I don’t really understand how digital preservation works. I expect that when I save a document to my computer it will be sent to some digital universe where important information is magically kept (intact) forever and ever, amen. But does it really work like that? Are we putting faith in machines that may not have the capacity to maintain the mass amount of data we are feeding them?

If this makes you wonder about all your files dangerously floating around in the digital universe, check out the article and watch the quirky, yet brilliant, YouTube video about various threats to digital information. The video alone is worth it.

May 18, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , | Leave a comment