MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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“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!”

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

Get Up, Stand Up: Stand up for Your Rights!

Online privacy issues have dominated the news both nationally and internationally for the past few weeks. Coverage has ranged from Bill IP21C (Way to represent Matt!) to Iran’s chokehold on civilian Internet access. Since Papyrusnews.com hasn’t updated since May 24 (Seriously, guys, get with it!), I’ve decided to blog about what these issues mean for us as users. I’ve also thrown a light article in to the mix to help validate a few of my points.

So, as the story goes, the city of Bozeman, Mont., has invoked a human resources requirement that has job applicants forking over tons of personal information. The requirements include, but are not limited to, “…any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc.” The etc. here includes email passwords by the way!

Bozeman Attorney Greg Sullivan defended the requirements in the media, stating that a number of the positions (Police, Fire, lifeguards) require people of “high integrity.” So, they conduct these types of investigations to “make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the city.”

While I admire the effort this city is going to ensure it has the finest town council possible, I feel that it’s a tad ludicrous. I mean, it’s a bit like allowing your employer to snoop around in your underwear drawer. Sure, the town would like upstanding citizens to serve the municipality, but where does it end in regards to background checks? It is really necessary to have access to personal email and websites? When did the disclaimer “this is not a reflection of XYZ organization“ expire? Did Bozeman miss the memo that grants civil liberties to ALL, and not just those outside of civil service?

For me, all of this dialogue around state officials demanding personal information and pushing bills that allow authorities to take personal information from ISPs is a blatant violation of the constitutional amendment. Are we shifting toward a communist type approach to Internet governance? Are we moving toward a state-run-media like China?

Just Friday, it was reported in the New York Times that the Chinese government had ordered Google to take down its Google Suggest application because it gave search results with “suggestive implications.” Alike their Iranian counterparts, Chinese computer users are also outraged by such government censorship. What’s more, the Chinese government has also announced plans to “force computer makers to install Internet censorship software on all computers sold in China after July 1.”

Again, I get that there are good intentions behind these outlandish requests, such as limiting pornography, but aren’t adults capable of making their own choices as to what they should or should not view?

My dear colleagues, it seems that sadly, our privacy is being threatened, and that the line between being secure and being invaded is incredibly blurred. My hope is that our friends in Iran and China continue to fight for their online rights, and that we Canadians blogg and tweet like nobodies business to have our online voice heard- we will NOT be silenced!

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You’re not intelligent, but your pen is smart!

This social media thing gets a little redundant from time to time. I find myself knowing the same information, learning new tools, asking and answering similar questions, but mainly I find myself losing and gaining interest almost as much as I shower. Okay maybe that was a bit much, but seriously—every time I begin to write my blog I switch from losing interest in social media to becoming completely fascinated by it.
Five minutes ago that exact thing just happened. But then I read this post on the blog I’m monitoring (mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg).  This was a post from Prof Wesch on Mar 11, 2009 titled “SmartPen as Digital Ethnography Tool”.  This is the craziest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I mean, have you ever seen something online or on YouTube and said “this can’t be real?” I.e. the YouTube video, “Microsoft Surface” that received over two million views.
But this SmartPen is real. Prof Wesch describes the pen by saying “In short, it records audio as you write and links what you are writing to the audio (by recording what you write through a small infrared camera near the tip of the pen).  When you are done recording you can actually tap the pen anywhere on your page and the pen will play the audio that was recorded at the time you were making that specific pen stroke.  Students are already sharing lecture notes in the community section of livescribe.com.  As recording devices become increasingly embedded into everyday objects the days of protecting lectures from being recorded seem numbered.”
He includes his first use of the pen during his midterm research updates by his assistants. You can enlarge the image and actually click anywhere on his notes and you can here the discussion that took place while he wrote his own notes. The interesting, and I hate to say it but –ironic- part is; when I clicked on his notes, the discussion happened to be centered around “ownership” and “authorship” in the context of code, and developing websites.
He uses the example of a painting belonging to the artist who painted it, but if he used Photoshop, would his image belong to the creator of that software, where the image now belongs to the paintbrush and not the person using the paintbrush. I say this is “ironic” and I say that lightly, because if a student uses a tool like this to share lectures and lecture notes isn’t it the same idea of ownership? Who will own that knowledge or lecture? Will it still be the professor who originally wrote the lecture and taught it to his students? Or the student who wrote her notes and recorded it with her pen? Or the makers of the software that allowed that pen to copy the lecture? Or even still would it be the person who coded the site that allowed that student to upload his/her professor’s lecture with the Livescibe pen and share it with the world?
Ahhh this is so exhausting…but so fascinating.
Chew on that for a while ☺

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Here, there and everywhere

It’s fascinating to see how social media, viral marketing and on-line technologies are becoming prevalent in almost all of the PR courses I’m taking this semester. Whether it’s media relations, employee relations or our co-op placements, these electronic tools are becoming a huge part of how we conduct business as communicators.

Last week, in my media relations class we had a student YouTube day, where every student had the opportunity to teach the rest of the class something. I chose to speak about how bloggers influence mainstream media using a video featuring Bad Pitch Blog co-founder Kevin Dugan. Dugan had many interesting points, including how bloggers are becoming official sources and experts as they, unlike the journalists of today, have the time to focus on one beat at a time. He also discussed how bloggers are changing the news curve by extending the traditional peaks or breaking news to include pre and post-analysis of media coverage. It’s amazing to see how the blogosphere is broadening how we define official sources and conduct media relations! Likewise, it’s exciting to think to about how we can use this knowledge to help organizations conduct accurate media monitoring and extend its brand visibility and audience reach. 

Last week, I secured my final co-op with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). One of the reasons I applied for this position was because it offered the opportunity to use many of the tools I’m currently learning about in this course (wikis, blogs, video and other multimedia). I was pleased to learn that NRCan has its own version of YouTube called NRTube and has an internal wiki that they say gives wings to employee ideas. Furthermore, I was informed that Facebook and other SMS are not blocked from the server and that employees are encouraged to use the tools they deem necessary to achieve their communications goals. I’m so excited to be able to hone the skills I’m learning this semester in, what I see as, a progressive national institution. Having the ability to choose the best medium to reach your audience, as opposed to being limited to traditional communications tools allows for more effective strategies and targeted audience reach. It was also refreshing to hear my new employers say that just because these tools are available to employees doesn’t mean they’re always the most appropriate vehicles. We are all learning that there is no point in using these tools just for the sake of doing so. The message must lend itself, we must have interesting video and material that is relevant to the target audience. 

One of the most important things I have learned about blogger relations and increasing your online presence is to remain relevant. I know I have so much more to learn about social media, but I am thrilled with the foundation this course has provided. I can already see how the knowledge I’ve gained is starting to transpire in other courses and how it will allow me to remain relevant to future employers. 

Muchas gracias Dr. D!

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Online technologies:The good with the bad- we gonna work it out

It seems June has been a busy month all around. Papyrusnews.com has yet to post any new content for this month. So, in following a common trend, I went through some old contributions and found something that peaked my interest, and hopefully it will yours as well.

 

Back in April, Papryus blogger Sonja Lind commented on how discussions around online technologies seem to focus on the negative and what’s bad about electronic mediums. She referenced cyberbullying and the loss of human connection. Likewise, we, as a class, have also discussed whether or not the internet is making people antisocial or allowing individuals to hide behind their online persona. Lind acknowledges that these are valid arguments, but counters her statement with a link to a good news story about how an American teenager was able to save a British teenager’s life through the use of Facebook. Supposedly, the British male send a private message to American girl saying that he was going to hurt himself. The girl, not knowing his address, told her mother, who then called local authorities. The police called in a “special agent” from the British Embassy who then narrowed down the suicidal teens location. He was found after four attempts, haven already taken an overdose, but still conscious. 

 

This is truly an inspirational story.  It not only shows the power, reach and good qualities of such social media tools, but also reiterates some of the points Kim raised in her post “iTube, weTube, we all scream for YouTube,” specifically, that the internet does have a heart, compassion and humility.

 

It is so easy to disregard the fact that an actual living, breathing, feeling human beings on the other end of your electronic exchange. Computer generated messaging have become quite common and users have become pretty skilled at filtering out a lot of targeted messaging. Don’t get me wrong, this is a necessary skill to have to avoid information overload and media bombardment. Nonetheless, I think this article emphasizes the overlap between online and offline and the impact these relationships can have. In this case, it saved a young males life. Had the teenage girl dismissed the message, he might not be alive today. I think it also highlights the importance of good blogger etiquette and treating people with dignity and respect despite lacking the face to face exchange. As common sense as it may sound, we must not forget that behind these technologies are someone’s sons and daughters, real people with real problems, who just might need a virtual shoulder to cry on. 

 

I’d like to leave you all with a song I’m totally obsessed with lately, musical preferences aside, I think we can all appreciate the message: let love prevail. 🙂

 

 


June 14, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , | 3 Comments

iTube, WeTube, we all scream for YouTube

Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University has yet to update their blog, so I went back in time, to my birth month and found another YouTube related blog post from one of Prof. Wesch’s students, Becky.

Becky posted a blog titled “The Internet has a Face”. The blog post discussed her interest in vlogging as “meaningful interaction (with others) beyond the limits of text”. She produced a video compiled of some vlog videos that were posted to YouTube. She says her video was “created to explore the content and purpose of vlogs, as well as the networking and interconnectivity as users respond and reach out to each other within and beyond the YouTube website.”

Once upon a time people wrote in a diary, kept a journal, wrote a letter or phoned a friend. Today people are text messaging, video calling, blogging, tweeting , poking, writing on walls, nudging and emoticoning.

 Oh, and vlogging.

People are vlogging about very personal and private things and posting it to the Internet for the world to see. This at first might seem odd, but it’s working for them.

In class we regularly discuss the pros and cons of social media vs. face to face communication; a very worthy discussion. Becky takes our conversation a bit further; beyond the boardroom and rows of cubicles we will all eventually come to despise and focuses on the “YouTubers” themselves. She argues that the Internet is “no longer just text to text, the Internet has a face. The Internet has a heart. The internet has humanity. …with YouTube.”

The video is actually quite moving. I think that YouTube allows people to connect more than any other social media tool. It allows people to be real and express whatever it is they want, whether it’s humility, honesty, humor, compassion or love. And people are connecting. People are just being themselves, telling a story and other people are coming to support them and share with them. It’s actually quite powerful.

Becky says “if there was a fear that the internet was making society antisocial, vlogging would seek to prove otherwise.”

And I think she’s right.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Paul’s Lie

Learning about Paul’s Story was very disheartening. What really saddens me about the whole thing is that people actually go through this. Young people are involved in so many deadly car accidents it’s scary. And my understanding is that YouTube and social tools are used to connect people, connect people in new ways over common interests. Fooling the public in this way is not only unethical and devious, but it’s just cruel. Those of us who have a heart and feel for these young people that have to live with the consequences of these bad choices cringe at these videos.

In a recent video presentation from Prof. Wesch, he addresses why people use YouTube to express themselves. This is important because it may explain the reason behind why transparency is so crucial to a successful social media campaign. From an anthropological standpoint, he says “anonymity + physical distance + rare and ephemeral dialogue = freedom to experience humanity without social fear or anxiety.”

This is important because people on YouTube usually address the YouTube community directly. They speak into that glass dot we call a web cam to share their emotions, feelings, and experiences with people who want to listen. They don’t know who will pay attention, who will respond, who will care but those that do, will always be there with support.
These phony videos that organizations and agencies produce violate these “rules” to YouTubing. They produced a script, hired actors and didn’t tell the public, they strategically wanted a certain audience to feel a certain way and change their behavior because of it.

I think Prof. Parsons’ class has great questions that need to be answered. I will definitely keep spying on the discussion, I think there is a lot to learn from this disaster and the answers are crucial.

June 6, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , | Comments Off on Paul’s Lie

It’s long, but a goodie!

Since there hasn’t been any new material posted to the blog I decided to try out the website Professor Wesch links his blog from. I found this amazing video of a presentation he gave at the Library of Congress last year. The interesting thing is Wesch decided not to use a PowerPoint but rather prepared over 40 minutes of video – mostly YouTube videos.

The title of his presentation was “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”. Wesch and his students study the culture of YouTube and together collaborated to build this incredible presentation. The video I’m referencing for this post is 55 minutes long, so I’ll spare you the summary and allow you watch it yourself. (Just a word of advice: don’t watch it in the library, you may LOL at any point and “apparently” that annoys people…just sayin…)

In a nut shell, the video tells a story about how YouTube gives people an outlet to create  “new forms of expression, new forms of community, and new forms of identity”. The video is captivating from beginning to end, and touched on some things that Kimberly and Ben talked about last class.

Wesch says there is a “cultural inversion” where people are increasing expression of individualism and simultaneously increasing their value of community. Humans are becoming increasingly independent while longing for stronger relationships and we see increased commercialization all around us but we long for authenticity. As Kimberley and Ben addressed the “argument of authenticity”, I thought about the many organizations we learn about who try to mimic authenticity, and fail horribly. The “wigging out”, “I killed my best friends” and lonelygirl15 vlog that created an explosion of drama all over YouTube are just some examples. It seems almost commonsense to me that a foggy YouTube campaign would fail, and I wonder why, after so many have proved it doesn’t work, organizations continue to try and fool their audience. Clearly all the YouTubers are much smarter than these organizations and will no doubt do their research.

But, back to authenticity, I wonder how authentic one can really be? What about the saying “put your best face forward”? Do we have more than one face, more than one self? How we define ourselves changes depending on who we are defining to and the desired outcome of that definition. Maybe I’m going a little too far, but Wesch makes a great argument for authenticity. He asks, “Can YouTube be authentic?” When everyone around the globe is uploading a video, ripping someone else’s and editing it to create a different product, aren’t those people actively producing content? If we are uploading videos of ourselves, aren’t we producing ourselves? Aren’t we toying with our identity?

I’ll take it one step further, how many times do you “un-tag” a picture of yourself on Facebook that someone else produced? Is that not editing your identity? People get an understanding of who you are by studying your profile, looking at your picture, reading your interests, and watching your videos. By editing or deleting a picture are you not censoring your identity? Which is the real you?

It is important for us, as individual users of these social tools, to recognize this struggle and tug-of-war we have with authenticity. Without understanding it on a “self” level, I don’t see how we could understand it on an “organization” level. To be effective social communicators we must understand how we as individuals identify with the tools themselves and the communities we belong to, and ultimately how we identify ourselves in these spaces.

Are you authentic?

June 6, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

About that Ice Cream Thing . . .

Ice-Cream-Cones

So I was thinking about the Social Media in Plain English  video that we watched in class this week on Youtube. And I was thinking that, while it does a great job of simplifying the concept of social media for those who have been living under a rock for the past five years, it doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

The video uses an ice cream metaphor to explain the social media phenomenon. Before social media tools, we were living in a world where information was disseminated by big companies, and therefore we only received a few types of information—or flavours of ice cream. Once the new tools came along however, people began to create their own flavours at an affordable cost. This created endless possibilities and a variety of flavours for everyone to enjoy.

But is it really that simple?

First of all, the video makes the assumption that everyone has access to the ice cream making tools. This is not the case with social media. Not everyone has access to a computer and/or internet. People in developing countries, for example would be hard-pressed to find access to the right tools to create and distribute their own flavours of information—and perhaps these are some flavours that should be shared in order to open our eyes to how diverse our world truly is. There could be thousands of exotic fruity ice creams that the world is being deprived of, because those who know how to make it don’t have the right tools.

Furthermore, not everyone knows how to make ice cream, or social media contributions. Senior citizens, for example grew up in a world without computers, and many of them don’t have the knowledge and skills required to share their stories and viewpoints through new media. I have a feeling that we are missing out on some real classic ice cream flavours here. With such emphasis placed upon social media, will those old recipes be lost once the older generations pass on?

While social media is an improvement in information sharing, it is not the idyllic solution that the Youtube video purports it to be. We still have a long way to go in creating a world where everyone’s voice can be heard. Recognizing the importance of information-sharing, I think it’s crucial that we improve access to and education surrounding social media tools. That way, we can ensure that we’re not depriving ourselves of the array of flavours that exist in our world.

May 21, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

All About Video

I love video sites. I can spend hours on YouTube linking from video to video, enjoying everything from movie previews to instructional cooking blurbs. Needless to say, I was quite happy to learn that I would be reviewing online video tools as a form of social media. I explored the following five video sites:

 1. YouTubeYouTube

YouTube is, as far as I’m concerned, the holy grail of online video. Their slogan, “Broadcast Yourself” has spawned a whole new generation of video bloggers, actors and musicians looking to share their opinions and talents with the world. Many YouTubers have gained marginal celebrity status through broadcasting themselves. Aspiring comedic actress Lisa Donovan (LisaNova) became an online sensation through airing her satirist routines on the site. Folk singer Marie Digby (mariedigby) made a name for herself when she posted a video of her acoustic rendition of Rhihanna’s Umbrella. The site has opened up a world of possibilities to rising stars and attention-seekers alike. We no longer need millions of dollars and traditional media tools to get our voices “out there”. All that’s required is a camera and a computer.

 2. VimeoVimeo

Vimeo, unlike YouTube is dedicated solely to home-made videos. The site regards amateur video-making as a form of art, and allows users to post and share their masterpieces within a community of like-minded artists. Some entries explore photo composition techniques (check out 5D Macro II) while others feature complex animation and editing (check out Secta Chameleon.) Fellow artists can comment on one another’s entries and offer critiques and advice. The site is all about creativity and freedom of expression. Event the design and layout give the site an overall artsy look and feel.

 3. DailyMotionDailyMotion

Based in Paris, France, DailyMotion is quite similar to YouTube. The site features user-uploaded videos in a variety of categories including News, Funny, Science and even Sexy. In the sexy category, we can sense the liberal European influence, in contrast to the more subdued content on YouTube. Users can browse through thousands of swimsuit (check out Sports Illustrated’s Bar Rafaelli) models and even some explicit content. My how times have changed.

 4. ViddlerViddler

Viddler is another YouTube-esque video sharing site. (Pardon me if I’m a bit biased in using YouTube as my chief point of reference.) One viddler feature that struck me as interesting was the B2B or Viddler Business Services corner of the website. This section caters specifically to corporate users looking to employ new online video media to enhance their business endeavours. The section features a frequently updated Customer Spotlight where businesses are profiled and promoted. The B2B section, of course is not a free tool. Businesses must pay for the B2B services which include high-quality video hosting, security measures and in-stream ads.

 5. blip.tvblip.tv

Blip.tv features a variety of user-created content in a series of what seem to be online TV programs. Users publish “episodes” of their homemade “shows” that are made accessible to the online world. Just like TV at home, viewers can choose from drama, comedy, sitcom and even reality-based shows. (Check out episode 17 of Temp Life.) Even the financial side of things works a lot like TV. The site offers an advertising program where users share 50% of revenue, as determined by show viewership. Talk about making the internet work for you!

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment