Archive for the ‘Food for thought’ Category

One of the ideas that, if you think about it, flows through the entire course, is that of power shifts – and possible revolutions 🙂

Many authors argue that social media bring about a restructuring of power relationships in society, because they tend to empower the masses.

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

I invite you to reflect upon the many factors, scattered throughout several readings this semester, that account for reasons why power relationships are changing. I also invite you to envision daring possibilities about what the world might look like.  Beware of “2.0”s thrown after big terms such as government, health, education, politics, etc. – sometimes they signal a real shift, and sometimes, a superficial adoption of Web 2.0 technologies but not philosophies.

What do you think it means to adopt a Web 2.0 philosophy? And how is that different from simply adopting some Web 2.0 technologies?

To illustrate, here is an old post of mine that applies these ideas to public relations. But I invite you to reflect on these ideas on your own.

While I’m a technology lover, I do agree with the point of view that by using technology (especially cell phones) so much we miss out on or plain avoid the opportunity to be alone.

There is a lot of self-knowledge to be gained from being alone and free of incoming information. But it often hurts and is scary. So we avoid it by reaching for connection (aka cell phone). Sherry Turkle argues that the kind of connection we get this way is not always authentic and satisfying. It is a cheap replacement, like a cheap “nutritional” drink is a replacement for a healthy, nourishing meal.

Anyway, arguments like the one above are boring. But this comedian explains it much better on Conan:

Can you try to pay attention and notice when you are using your phone to avoid being alone? Can you try practicing being alone, just sitting there, without music or any other stimulus, for maybe 5 minutes every other day, and see what happens?

We will talk more in class about this in a few weeks when we discuss the topic of attention and distraction.

LOLspeak study

Posted: December 12, 2011 in Food for thought
Tags: , ,

[cross-posted from PR Connections]

I have been arguing for a while that LOLcats belong in graduate courses and they are worthy of scholarly research.

So, here is a presentation about the linguistic study of LOLspeak (the language cats speak). It is analyzed as language play that has a function in the construction of online identity – as a cat and Internet savvy person.

I thought I’d post a reading reflection, partly to show you what one could look like… certainly less intimidating than you would think.

This is about how tagging has the potential to change information organization – but it has not, really. And the reason why it has not is because it is hard to implement at the interface level in ways that are easy to use and likely to be adopted by users.

I have been thinking that the File Manager on my computer should work very differently. I should have one instance of a file and be able to associate it with various projects (e.g. class readings and a research project). I wonder what an interface for File Manager would look like, what metaphor it would use, to enable a radically different system of file organization. There are a couple of barriers to adoption, and a number of criteria this new interface should meet. Here are some thoughts:

  • theoretically, there’s no need for a File Manager. You could just dump all information in one place and retrieve it by searching. This is possible, it works, and I bet some people already do that. However, getting rid of the option to organize files would not be accepted by users, because:
  • some people (like me) may not remember what to search for. Instead, they remember information by its location. This method of retrieval by location (see Cooper, About Face, 3rd. ed) is very much ingrained in our cognition and memory. It is often much easier to remember the location of an object than its detailed attributes (which are needed for search).
  • In addition, there’s something very comforting about knowing what you know – or knowing what you have. I feel much more in control when my files are organized, and the act of reviewing and organizing lets me know what I have, where I am in the process, what else I need. For example, the Readings folders for each class are organized by week and topic, and within each folder, the readings are numbered and named by title. A quick look at these folders lets me know what readings I have available for each week of class. Dumping everything in a quick pile would enable me to retrieve one file at a time, but I could not easily see my organized library of class readings for a specific course. And given that I am so forgetful, I would probably reinvent the wheel every semester and build the reading lists from scratch. No, thank you.
  • Therefore, a new File Manager would have to combine the visual organization of information by location with tagging and search, and enable one leaf to hang on more than one branch.

Right now, I’m thinking of a “master file” and its shadows, or avatars. The master file could sit in the master dumping place, but its shadows could be used for visual organization into files and folders, or possibly an entirely different metaphor.

[So, it took me about 15-20 minutes to write this. It is a reflection on the readings, a way of making the readings mine by applying them to some of my own interests.]


Here are some thoughts to help you as you’re preparing your Internet culture presentation:

Culture is, essentially, shared meanings.

Some group of people share the meaning that a woman dressed like this is a bride:


Some group of people share the meaning that a woman dressed like this is a bride:


As a shared set of meanings, culture translates into opinions, attitudes, values, expected behaviors, social norms, and behaviors. But these are all intangible. How can you infer what values and attitudes are when you cannot see them? We infer them from behaviors and artifacts (objects produced and used by that culture). So, lolcats are artifacts of Internet culture. What are the values, attitudes, and types of behaviors underlying lolcats – in addition to a healthy appreciation for cats, of course? >’.'<

Now, objects (artifacts) play an important role because they are the product of culture, but they help influence and create it at the same time. Even more so with social media sites. They are the product of Internet culture, but their use creates Internet culture (we should talk about structuration theory soon). So, of course they are important – but they are not all there is to talk about when you describe culture. When you describe culture, try to focus on these shared meanings, values, norms, and behaviors.

Hey, Facebook: Relax

Posted: September 19, 2011 in Food for thought
Tags: , , ,

[cross-posted from PR Connections]

Facebook has a pattern of innovation by (knee-jerk) reaction. The newest Facebook feature? The Subscribe option.

Here is why it sucks, and here is why innovation by knee-jerking is a bad idea, and unnecessary, especially for Facebook.

Facebook is, by far, the SNS market leader.

SNS adoption

As market leader, it is unnecessary to freak out and patch-up your product with random features, in an effort to compete with Google+, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, etc. You’re in no danger. You can afford to think and be strategic about what features you add. You’re not going to lose market share to Google+ overnight. SNS migration is slow, and for so many people, FB is mainstream, it’s become a habit. Early adopters may migrate, but the majority will stay put.

Speaking of the majority: All these new features confuse them. They don’t know what Google+ is. They have heard of Twitter, but it is more foreign to them than Romania. They know exactly what they use Facebook for, and they are happy seeing what the crazy cousin is up to, and sharing photos of the baby with extended family. I bet you the majority, which form Facebook’s biggest market and ARE its strategic advantage, can’t keep track with all these innovations and don’t even understand them. So, by adding new, confusing, features, you’re confusing your main market. Bad idea. I do informal research whenever I present to student groups. I ask them if they’re aware of and use certain (new) Facebook features. They’re not. And these are your Digital Natives. If they can’t keep up, how about auntie Mae?!

As MacManus points out, Facebook started off as a private social network. This IS was Facebook’s strategic advantage. As Facebook adds Google+ and Twitter-like features, it loses its strategic advantage and its definition. What is Facebook these days, exactly? What does it want to be – besides “the biggest, most popular SNS in the Western hemisphere”? A product without a unique proposition is diluted, confusing. Rather than trying to be everything to everybody, I think Facebook should step back to search and find its soul (too late for that) defining, unique proposition. The danger of knee-jerk responsive innovation is that you dilute a product and forget its strategic advantage and position in the marketplace. Rather then be Google+ AND Twitter AND Foursquare AND Instagram, Facebook should figure out what it is and what it is not – and how it is different from all of the above. From the market leader position, it can afford to relax and think strategically.

* Image captured from a slideshare presentation about social media adoption and uses around the world:

I wrote this post over on PR Connections about the most valuable thing I learned in grad school. I’m cross-posting it below for you. I ended that post with the question: What’s the most valuable thing you learned in grad school? I’d like to modify that question for you, because I’m really interested in your perspective:

  • what’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned in grad school so far?
  • what specifically has helped you learn how to read, think, learn? Can you give me some examples of what works for you?
The most valuable thing I learned in grad school

All the knowledge you could possibly want is out there. You’re a smart person. You can teach yourself anything you want. Then, why go to grad school?

What can grad school do for you that you can’t do for yourself?

In other words, why do you need a teacher?

I remember a time when I looked at an academic research paper, understood almost every word on the page, yet the meaning of the article as a whole was a mystery to me. Then a teacher came along, asked some good questions, and all of a sudden, the meaning of the reading appeared, as if a secret code had been deciphered.

The most valuable thing I learned in grad school has nothing to do with content. I learned how to read. How to think. I learned how to learn.

It’s this process of thinking, inquiring, and understanding that I hope to teach to my students. Beyond content, this is the skill that changes who you are forever. It changes how you see the world.

I asked my husband what’s the most valuable thing he learned in grad school. His answer was:

To know how to look for something when I’m not sure, and to know when I found it.

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in grad school?