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The softer side of pictures

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I recently got an iPhone and I gotta say, I am so addicted to it. I have always been an avid social networker but the amazingly easy ability to take pictures on iPhones to share has increased the amount of pictures I take and share. In a time where I am seeing Facebook decline, taking artful pictures has become the new alternative to share your life online. Many of my friends are hesitant to have any photos shared of them online so instead I find myself taking pictures of my surroundings more than my companions. I like this way of sharing as it avoids the annoying blatant stating of activities that so many complain about people doing on Facebook eg. I am going to the gym, then going to take a shower, scratch my ass etc… Instead, pictures tell a softer side of a person’s life, offering a unique perspective into others daily lives without contrived and posed portraits. From on organizational perspective, pictures also attract followers and are often more neutral in telling a story. When challenged with controversial public topics, try taking a picture and letting the public interpret the story. If you find the discussion gets sidelined, jump in to attempt to steer it in the right direction.

Follow me on Instragram @leahmcyyc

Good eats at Tubby Dog in #yyc

 

Soap Box Activism?

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Tonight I happened to stumble upon an interview between Pierce Morgan and Billy Bob Thorton. Billy Bob has recently written a book that he was promoting. I didn’t really catch the subject of his book but what caught my ear were the cultural critiques he was dishing out about America and his perceived decline of communication. As he is immersed in Hollywood, he obviously comes from an odd view which would make him complain about people tweeting about petty things. These comments did not surprised me. What interested me was his attack on social media. He referred to twitter and other platforms like youtube and myspace as being an instigators for the decline of people being called to action to live fulfilled and inspired lives. He also reminisced about American history where strong leaders like Benjamin Franklin would stand up on a soap box to lead and inspire the masses. 

While I get that a lot of noise and ridiculous information gets passed as news in social media, I think his views are misaligned. In our class discussion today on activism and social networks, Amanda so eloquently pointed out that it is not our communication tools that define society, but the social movements that occur outside the tools that do. Instead of targeting the tools, an examination of societal values should be assessed if one is to criticize culture. His statement about soapbox leaders also confused me, as look no further than TED talks to find the intellectual elite that are motivating the masses. Perhaps it is the decentralization of power and influence that is inherent in the networked structure of the internet that makes it so easy to generalize that we are in a cultural decline with no single representative to lead us to zion. If Occupy Wall Street showed us anything, our culture is yearning for a society of more equality and representative democracy.  I certainly don’t think a single individual standing upon a soap box can serve these demands. 

A media battleground….

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Today in class we discussed differences between independent and mass media. What is the benefit of independent media is also the downfall as having no gatekeeper creates issues of content organization and quality control, leading Dorothy Kidd to question if site owners should be editors, librarians or neither. As the world has grown more accustomed to using the web for news sources, people are becoming more critical regarding the experience and the navigation with the sites they visit. If they have a frustrating experience, you may have lost them as a follower for good. I believe this is the ultimate gate keeping device that threatens these sites, not the supporters themselves who are trying to attract following to the independent media movement. Of course everyone has their biases which will come out, but when you come to a crossroads between good quality content and ease of navigation versus trolled articles and endless navigation paths, I think the former should stand to recruit a larger readership.

The other option is what we see currently; flashy headlines chosen by a select powerful few to support the current political hegemony. As Judith Dyck mentioned today, whenever we discuss working towards a greater balance, it is never a simple activity of stacking scales on either side of the political spectrum but rather walking negotiating a path of tension or witnessing a tug of war. I hope we can move towards a world where popular news presents a larger political spectrum of ideas. However it seems we are moving further and further away from this ideal, especially with CNN and Fox news becoming major players in writing the narrative in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. This is why we should pay attention to those brave enough like Julian Assange who risk their lives to expose hidden documents that highlight agendas behind political motives for concealing events.

My sick fish

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My fish has been on the verge of death for months now, always laying on his side at the bottom of his tank and not swimming. I wonder if he hasn’t been sick, but just depressed. When you are all alone in a tank by yourself and you see cats and dogs playing all around you, I imagine it can be sad as you have no way to advance your stature by networking with others as you are all alone in your sad little tank. I can’t get him a companion as he is a beta fish and he will kill his companion. My other animals frequently meet other pets and have a lot of fun with these interactions. Alas, even in the animal kingdom, social networks are unfair.

Poor Frank the Fish, hang in there little buddy.

200 important words…

Cultivating corporate communications: A social media community of practice

The ubiquity of social media has caused many organizations to develop social media programs to increase employee and community engagement, promote the brand, enhance the effectiveness of communication, expand audiences and improve retention and recruitment. The corporate communications department at Canadian Pacific has expressed interest in expanding their social media presence. Social media is collaborative, interactive and democratic, similar to the foundations of Communities of Practice (CoP). To support the expansion of social media at Canadian Pacific, a community of practice has been established within the corporate communications department to 1) assist with the creation and delivery of relevant content 2) to learn and share experiences as they occur internal and external to the organization 3) to develop general and industry specific best practices and 4) monitor and evolve practices as required. Focusing on Facebook, department members will be given questionnaires to determine existing ideas and attitudes about how participation in the CoP serves the social media agenda. This analysis will contribute to organizational knowledge pertaining to factors that influence how corporate communication departments can use the CoP model to support social communication technologies.

Why doing favours are good for you…

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In these days when everyone is so pressed for time, it is sometimes tempting to decline favours when asked as you feel other priorities may hold more weight. However when studying social capital theory, Kadushin reminds us that activating the social capital in your networks by not only asking for favours from time to time, but offering your resources can increase collective problem solving as reputations, actions and benefits become visible and available to both parties. Social capital studies have shown that it tends to be cumulative; as the Matthew effect generally states the more you give, the more you get. While I am not encouraging anyone to whore themselves out and be a social climber by offering too much of their social capital, I think it is important to realize that you yourself are an important resource that if networked with the correct people, you can accumulate rich social capital and achieve greater social support or even possibly career success.  Just last week I tweeted out to the class if anyone could read my cover letter for a job application and two of my very talented classmates offered their services to me. Not only is it free, it feels good to exchange favours, especially when you know you can offer someone a valuable service. The transfer of social capital can also have benefits on your community if done publicly on social media platforms. For example, if I ask for restaraunt recommendations for my stay in Edmonton to the Twitter feed, I receive recommendations from knowledgeable foodies in the area and the rest of my community also gets to learn what places come recommended these days. Information and skills are only good when you share them, so pass be a pal and pay it forward.

Protecting your privacy can protect your dating life

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If you are having a crappy day and are letting lose at a bar with your friends, you may not be looking for love. However if a cute guy approaches you and happens to have a remarkable amount of things in common with you, before social networking you might think its a miracle that someone can be such a good match for you. However with social networking, the ability to publicly display your life online and the difficulties in managing your privacy due to a lack of awareness of consequences and changing privacy settings, the likelihood of this happening is more probable and could be artificial. Social aggregator tools like the Girls Around Me app that I spoke about in my class presentation today create the ability for those with ulterior networking agendas to easily exploit social networking data for personal gain. While I am all about social networking to bridge across social circles and make new connections, using social networking data to discover or fake weak ties to create a new bond with a girl you are interested in feels like cheating or a misrepresentation of character.

There are positive sides of social geo-tagging tools; everyone wants to be around good looking, cool people when out on the town. I see how John Brownlee initially laughed about the characteristics of the app with his buds as it is an interesting way to make sure you don’t land up at a sausage party. I don’t believe the developers intended to make a tool that men could use for stalking female bar patrons. However the scalability of data the app was able to produce struck a chord as it provided rich data on patrons in a venue, most likely without their awareness, and in turn created a visual display of women as commodities.

As challenging as the dating scene can be, I think the element of mystery is a good thing and privacy measures should be taken as a shared responsibility between social networking sites and users to make sure that privacy settings are in place and the consequences with having a public profile. Yes it may subject you to many cheesy pickup lines, but at least you will be able to spot any frogs disguised as princes.

What is your innovative threshold?

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Ever stumbled across a cool idea and thought ‘Wow! I’ve got to tell my friends about this’ but failed to get their attention early on? I found this with quite a few friends with Facebook, who finally signed up as early as last year. Using the theory of diffusion, we know innovations are adopted through stages of early adopters, to the majority of adopters and finally, like my friends mentioned above, the snobs who finally cave. Kadushin (2012) writes that the willingness to adopt certain ideas or tools is due to an individual’s threshold. For example, someone like myself who likes to try out new things jumped onto Facebook in 2007 when less than 10% of my known social network was using the tool. Others, like my snobby friends (haha sorry, you know who you are), have a much higher threshold and held out until closer to 85% of their network was using the tool. The decision on what threshold you have depends on how innovative you like to be with respect to 1) your personal network and 2) your social system. While my lower threshold was motivated by the desire to network outside of my direct personal network and to the wider social system, my friends with higher thresholds resisted as they were motivated to cultivate their personal networks and were highly critical of the impacts of social networking on the wider social system.

I do not mean to criticize the choice to have a higher threshold to innovations when posed to adopt them – it is a personal choice and should remain exactly that, a choice. All the while, I think many of us remember that tipping point when Facebook just exploded before our eyes. It was pretty exciting to be a part of and in my opinion easily worth the ‘guinea pig’ status often associated with being an early adopter.

“The Tipping Point – that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire” (Gladwell). 

iPhone Twitter Change to Unravel Diversity of Social Networks

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Tim O’Reily RT’d a tweet on Sunday that an upgrade to twitter changed the function from listing all your tweets on your iPhone from ‘All’ to only listing the most popular ‘Top’ tweets.

This was not explained on the Twitter blog….To me it seems like just another change made to social media platforms that are pushed through unbeknownst to users who only discover changes through their subsequent negative experience with the tool. I recommend that Twitter seriously examine this functionality change as while it may seem minor, it changes the whole landscape of social networking. As Keith Hampton (2011) found in his study on social networks and their relation to civic and civil engagement behaviors, the more diverse your network is, the more likely you are to engage in community activities and democracy. Removing the visibility of unpopular tweets from feeds on your iPhone will reduce the ability to view and bridge to the periphery of your network. In a world defined by overlapping social circles, our social media tools should enhance our visibility to our similarities, connections and differences so we can continue to learn about and engage with each other.

Burning Man: Virtual Networking for the Pilgrimage

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I want to take a moment to talk about values and the often underscored importance of them in forming networks. While some like Kadushin (2012) try to take an objective analytical perspective when attempting to explain how informal networks form and are often spontaneously formed as a result of formal networks, I don’t think this paints the larger picture. While this is insightful for purposes of retroactive social network analysis, following emerging values can expose new trends that indicate the development of powerful informal networks. With strong cultural values, groups can form powerful coalitions in decentralized forms and may not need many attributes of homophily or propinquity to coalesce (likeness or geographical closeness).

The Burning Man (BM) arts festival, while always very popular with 50,000 attendees last year, has gained huge notoriety in recent years to the extent that a virtual crisis occurred this year with ticket allocation. Historied veterans of art camps were denied access to tickets as an unpredicted and overwhelming increase of newcomers purchased tickets and crowded them out. While organizers may blame this popularity on the Dr. Seuss take Oh the Places You Will Go video of amazing sites and sounds at the festival, I think it points to emerging values of global social collectivity and participatory “action practices that are decentralized but do not rely on either the price system or a managerial structure for coordination” (Benkler, p.63) that more people are wanting to be a part of.

Those who exemplify the values of the festival the most emerge as informal leaders in the massive BM network who volunteer to make the festival what it is. Take for example, the group of 170 volunteers from every corner of the world that combined their money, time and resources to come together last year to build the temple at burning man in 2011 as detailed in Jai Aquarian & Erin Macri’s TED talk.

These people gave up jobs, time with family and lots of money to volunteer to build this temple of worship that is build for the festival and then ceremoniously burnt at the end of the week. It may seem like a lot of sacrifice for nothing but the principles of burning man such as decommodification and communal sharing speak so loud to those who take the annual pilgrimage that many are willing to make great sacrifices to contribute artifacts that help others live out these values. This is not to say that everyone who attends the festival does not make their own sacrifices as well. The climate is harsh and can be unforgiving. The magic of it is that being isolated in a desert where you are stripped of the comforts of home, you are also free of rigid social structures, which helps the principles become exemplified through the spontaneous creation of a no-barriers community.

Where I see a paradox is that what draws many to network passionately about burning man from their remote locations throughout the year is the desire to disconnect from our technologies that physically distance us from each other and focus on engaging in intense face-to-face interaction and human experiences. I get it, I often feel that the more I network, the more I want to turn on, tune in and drop out. I think that if our virtual networking can motivate us to network more face-to-face, collective culture can only grow. What do you think?

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