Today’s Mobile Phone Business Etiquette: Rude or Acceptable?

I undertook this research topic as my  final capping project for the University of Alberta Master of Arts in Communications & Technology.  The final report can be accessed here: Sturgess.

This exploratory research study examines employers’ views on whether technology etiquette in business is an issue and investigates their expectations for appropriate workplace behaviors. With mobile telephone technology now so pervasive, our behaviors and attitudes regarding the practice and etiquette of communication appear to be in flux. The impetus for exploring this topic came from observing the mobile phone etiquette crimes committed by my business college students at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). I wondered if business employer perceptions were similar to mine, and where responsibility resides for educating students – colleges or employers. To investigate this question, in-depth in-person semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive non-random sample of six Edmonton business employers representing the six different advisory boards within the JR School of Business (Marketing – Advertising, Marketing – Sales, Finance, Accounting, Management, and Human Resources). The findings were analyzed within the theoretical framework of Bandura’s social learning theory, and informed by the theories of Goffman and Meyrowitz regarding how appropriate behaviours are acquired in society.   Cell-phone-630x420

Photo credit: iStock
Research revealed this to be a popular topic across academic literature and many other mediums.

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My Digital Literacy Journey

This was my first assignment for a Masters Elective in the Communications & Technology Program. It was a course titled New Media Narratives. This was my first Podcast production and the subject was my digital literacy journey to date.

Assignment 3 for Digital Narratives, Distributive Publishing

Digital network media has radically changed the relationship between publishing institutions and society.

Clay Shirky (2008), in a McLuhanesque insight, says that when we change the way we communicate, such as with the emergence of digital networks, we change society (p.17).  Digital networks have enabled new ways for groups to form and media convergence; both have had a profound impact on society (Jenkins, 2004; Shirky, 2008).

This post will explore the impact of digital network media on the democratization of publishing and the epochal changes occurring in the relationship between publishing institutions and society through three examples:  new economic publishing models such as crowdsourcing; self-publishing on platforms that circumvent traditional publishing avenues; and lastly, transliteracy as an integral part of published works in order to engage the audience and remain viable.

Decentralized economic models

Pitch for Incente Documentary on Kickstarter (Source: via Teresa on Pinterest )

Traditionally, the media and entertainment industries have enjoyed virtual control over what gets produced via barriers to entry afforded by their market dominance, ability to raise money to bankroll projects, and access to technology. Digital network media, however, are creating business models that break the traditional rules and provide access to resources – both technological and financial – that were previously out of reach of individual artists. For example, crowdfunding lets creators publicize their projects using the Internet and social media. The first crowdfunding site, aristShare, launched October, 2003. Another site, Kickstarter, has raised huge sums of money and achieved commercial and creative success.  In 2012, three Kickstarter films ranked among the best-reviewed films of the year and six films garnered Oscar nominations (Geist, 2013).  Inocente, a documentary on a 15-year old homeless girl who dreams of becoming an artist, raised $52,527 on Kickstarter and won an Academy Award.


Another recent development underscores the flux in the digital economy.  Warner Bros., a major film studio, turned down creator Rob Thomas’ movie pitch based on his cult TV show Veronica Mars. The show was cancelled in 2007 after three seasons, but had enough of a following to raise $2 million on Kickstarter in less than 11 hours. It went on to raise over $4.5 million with time still remaining. Fans receive rewards for their level of donation but ultimately the win is their collective abiliy to create something that otherwise would not materialize (Jenkins, 2013).  The power of the audience to resource and hence decide what gets created marks a fundamental change in relations between media institutions and society.

New media gurus predicted these models would emerge. Benkler (2006) explains the new economic models as “commons based peer production” (p.59) where individuals, neither hierarchically assigned or even paid, act on their own will and passion to develop or contribute to the development of a shared vision or product. Jenkins (2004) predicted the emergence of a digital economy negotiated between producers and consumers and the emergence of a micropayment system allowing producers to sell their content directly to the consumers, cutting out intermediaries and lowering production and distribution costs.

Decentralized editorial power

Garbage Patch  Story Picked up by The New York Times:  Source: via Teresa on Pinterest




The convergence of media industries and resulting loss of diversity in journalism is being counterbalanced by the emergence of a crowdfunded blend of journalism, production and consumption (Aitamurto, 2011).  For example, the site Spot.Us acts like a collective intelligence site for freelance journalists. Readers make cash donations in order to fund a story, providing collective judgment about issues they believe deserve attention. Readers can also donate other resources such as knowledge on an issue, photography, or editing.  Crowdfunding is a form of participatory culture where donors feel empowered and encouraged to participate – becoming co-creators.  This is also an example of collective intelligence; rather than rely on an expert to determine what is newsworthy, the wisdom of the crowd becomes the arbiter of what is newsworthy. Mainstream media is paying attention and exploring new sources outside their traditional publishing process. On November 10th, 2009, the New York Times published a story from Spot.Us by Lindsey Hoshaw on the Pacific Garbage Patch, an island of trash afloat in the ocean. This was the first crowdfunded story to be picked up by a major US publication.

The rise of the amateur publisher

Self-Publishing is Growing Across More Platforms: Source: via Teresa on Pinterest

Digital network media have given society its own means to publish, resulting in “the largest increase in expressive capability in human history” (Shirky, 2009). Toffler (1980) coined the term prosumer to describe the emerging trend of consumers as co-creators and active producers in the economy.  This new peer-based media ecosystem is creating a lot of content that competes against traditional publishers for audience share and relevance. The rise of the amateur publisher is supported by HTML coding tools that make it easy to create and update blogs, and comment boxes create opportunities for dialogue to take place between authors and readers (Lessig, 2008). Internet search engine hubs like Technorati count links to blogs and index and rank them to “show the revealed preferences of the blogosphere” (p.61), allowing us to see that many blog sites outperform traditional media.

In this new media ecosystem Canadian internet users have the 2nd highest level of engagement in the world, spending more than 41 hours per month online and ranking 2nd worldwide in video hours consumed (comScore, 2013).  Social Media sites in Canada are increasing their visitor base and engagement. The annual growth rates of the visual web are particularly significant – Tumblr (96%), Pinterest (792%) and Instagram (900%) (comScore, 2013). Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says “The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well — even more so than at the dawn of blogging. It’s just morphing onto other platforms” (Kopytof, 2011).

Self-publishers: the future of publishing

Amanda Hocking Self-Publishing Superstar:  Source: via Teresa on Pinterest


Tim O’Reilly, publisher and founder of the Tools of Change Publishing Conference says that self-publishing is enabled by the democratization of technology. He predicts self-publishing is the wave of the future (Webb, 2013).  Best-selling author Amanda Hocking is an example of self-publishing success. After constant, frustrating rejection by traditional publishers, she self-published on Amazon and quickly entered Kindle Million Club for sales (Pilkington, 2012).  Marketing is done by her fans, through positive reviews on sites like Goodreads or Amazon whose computer-generated recommendations do not differentiate between self-publishers or legacy publisher titles (Fowler & Trachtenberg, 2010).

The transition from print to electronic publishing is opening up new business models that benefit both publishers and authors. The e-book eliminates intermediaries and enables direct contact between author and reader. Compared to print publishing, the creation and distribution of e-books is economical, enabling an almost infinite numbers of titles to be carried and electronically distributed to numerous platforms. The e-publishing marketplace is an example of the Long Tail theory reflecting “culture unfiltered by economic scarcity” (Anderson, 2008, p. 53).  Readers benefit with lower prices, an average of $2.99 on Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of self-published eBooks (Pilkington, 2012). Numerous options exist for self-publishing. Pressbooks promotes that if you can blog you can make a beautiful e-book. Their open source software is built on WordPress and authors can make an ebook alone or with collaborators and export to numerous e-book formats. Apple recently launched Breakout Books to promote high performing self-publishers in their iBooks store (Coker, 2013).

Despite trends in self-publishing O’Reilly is optimistic for the publishing industry. Using himself as an example, he predicts self-publishers who enjoy the experience, will in-turn become publishers and extend their acquired publishing expertise to help others. Despite her solo success Amanda Hocking signed on with a traditional publisher in May 2012 explaining that she was burned out by the stress of solo publishing.

Transliteracy for engagement and viability


Transliterate brothers, John and Hank Green, sell out Carnegie Hall:  Source: via Teresa on Pinterest


O’Reilly (2013) also predicts the rise of the cross-media star becoming the backbone of the industry — those who engage audiences through a variety of mediums. Jenkins considers the new literacies to be social skills that require new ways of thinking about how to communicate (Jenkins, 2008).  John Green is an example of a popular author whose books, video channel entitled VlogBrothers, and live appearances, most recently at sold out Carnegie Hall, are all outgrowths of the same spirit and the same engagement with his audience, yet each requiring different skills in order to engage with his audience.  Green says, “For me there is no bright line between publishing and making stuff on the Internet . . . They are both about collaborating with others to make something new (Kaufman, 2013). His ability to move easily across discursive communications platforms demonstrates his transliteracy skills (Thomas et al, 2007). As literacy practices alter around new genres, our understanding of what constitutes legitimate fields of publishing will also change (Ware, 2008).  O’Reilly says the book as a user interface will continue to change and that people who embrace all the ways to express what we (publishers) do and think that way will be the stars, not those who stick with one form of expression (O’Reilly, 2013).

Digital media provides new publishing models, new means to publish and media convergence to enable what Tim O’Reilly (2004) has coined “an architecture of participation”. Functions once only the domain of professionals in publishing institutions has transferred to broader society, transforming roles and relationships.

To see the entire Pinterest Board supporting this post please link here.


Aitamurto, T. (2011). The impact of crowdfunding on journalism. Journalism Practice, 5,(4), 429-445.

Anderson, C. (2008). The Long Tail: Why the future of business is selling less of more. New York: Hyperion

Coker, M. (March 4, 2013). Apple iBookstores in the U.K. and Ireland Promote Self-Published Authors in Breakout Books Feature [Web log message]. Retrieved from

comScore. (2013, March 4). Canada Digital Future in Focus 2013.  Retrieved March 24, 2013 from:

Coyle, J. (2013, March 22). Veronica Mars’ campaign rattles movie industry. MSN News. Retrieved from

Fowler, G. & Trachtenberg, J. (2010, June 2). ‘Vanity press goes digital’. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Higgins, C. (2013, January 17). John and Hank Green Sell Out Carnegie Hall. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Hoshaw, L. (2009, November 9). Afloat in the ocean, expanding islands of trash. New York Times. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2004). The cultural logic of media convergence. International Journal Of Cultural Studies, 7(1), 33-43. doi:10.1177/1367877904040603

Jenkins, H. (2008). Combating the participation gap:  Why new media literacy matters. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2010). Transmedia storytelling and entertainment: An annotated syllabus. Continuum: Journal Of Media & Cultural Studies, 24(6), 943-958. doi:10.1080/10304312.2010.510599

Jenkin, H. (2013, March 26, 2013). Kickstarting veronica mars: A conversation about the future of television (part one). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Lessig, L. (2008). Remix. Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. New York: The Penguin Press.

O’Reilly, T. (2004, June). The architecture of participation. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Geist, M. (2013, March 1). How ‘crowdfunding’ is changing the way movies are funded: Geist. The Star.Com. Retrieved from

Kaufman, L. (2013, January 16). A novelist and his brother sell out Carnegie Hall.  The New York Times.  Retrieved March 25, 2013 from

Kickstarter. (n.d.) Retrieved March 24, 2013 from

Koppytoff, V. (2011, February 20). Blogs wane as the young drift to sites like twitter.  The New York Times. Retrieved on March 24, 2013 from

O’Reilly, T. (2013, February 12). Tools of Change Publishing Conference 2013. Tim O’Reilly, Some Reasons for Optimism. [Video]. Retrieved from

Pilkington, E. (2012, January, 12). Amanda hocking, the writer who made millions by self-publishing online. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybodyThe power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin.

Shirky. (TedTalks, Producer). (2009, June).  Clay Shirkey: How social media can make history. [Video]. Retrieved from (n.d.) Dissecting the great pacific garbage patch.  Retrieved on March 25, 2013 from

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S. & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing divides. First Monday, 12 (12). Retrieved from

Ware, I. (2008). Andrew keen vs the emos: Youth, publishing, and transliteracy. M/C Journal, 11(4). Retrieved from

Webb, J. (2013, March 5). Self-publishers will be the publishers  of the future: Tim O’Reilly on self-publishing and the cycles of democratization via technology. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Collective Intelligence Assignment 2 for Digital Narratives Class

With the recent Alberta budget cuts, the Education Minister is requesting a new “more unified post-secondary system”, a collaborative approach to controlling costs, while continuing to ensure accessibility. The education landscape is changing. Henry Jenkin’s believes that schools have not kept pace with the changing media landscape or the ability to exploit the participatory culture it offers.  Could Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) be a step in the right direction? MOOC design fits nicely against Jenkin’s key requirements for participatory learning. MOOC’s are voluntary, free and available online.  A learning community develops around a common interest in a topic. Collaboration and mentorship opportunities emerge as students help each other and a sustained interest in the community motivates completion and a connection beyond the course timeframe.

The three texts I have chosen look at the MOOC as an emerging form of participatory literacy from three different sources.  First, a TedTalks Video from Dr. Daphne Koller,  a professor of Computer Science at Stanford and the co-founder of the online MOOC platform Coursera. Second, a column from The Guardian by Clay Shirky, author, consultant and adjunct professor at New York University who specializes in the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. Third, a short informational video on MOOCs created by Dave Cormier, Web Communication and Innovations Manager at the University of Prince Edward Island (and attributed with coining the term MOOC) and his fellow research team all Ph.D.’s or candidates with appropriate areas of expertise.

Please click on the images to access the chosen texts on my Pinterest board.  A brief analysis of each follows. Here is the my board  Also each text has been embedded in the visuals that follow.

1.  TedTalk Video from Dr. Daphne Koller: What we are learning from online education.

This inspiring presentation uses fact based, credible evidence, moving emotional testimonials and examples to persuade us on MOOCs. Her academic credentials and experience in designing and delivering MOOCs adds to her credibility.  No opposing perspectives are addressed. She pitches MOOCs as a means to provide the fundamental right of education for all. She uses graphs to demonstrate that tuition has increased by 559% since 1985 with less than half of students attaining employment, using that education.  She says MOOCs can improve this by providing the best professors and courses to whoever wants them.  There is no support to indicate that the courses currently being developed or delivered by Coursera are strategic in considering how to address the gaps in employability. Some of her claims are not backed with evidence. For example, she tells how students are using MOOC course certificates to get better jobs and attain actual college credit for completion.  But this is anecdotal and not backed with data. Impressive stats on participation are shared but controversial completion metrics are not.  Her most impressive argument comes in the unprecedented opportunity MOOC course data analysis has in being able to understand human learning and hence improve education.  The video format puts the onus on the viewer to dig deeper on Koller’s arguments.  For example, I searched for the last research paper she displays graphically on the benefits of Active Learning in a Large Physics Classroom.  I found it in the Journal of Science along with two separate published academic criticisms of the research results.

2.  The Guardian article from Clay Shirky: Higher Education: our MP3 is the mooc.

Shirky compares what is happening with the disruption offered by MOOCs in Higher Education as akin to what happened in the Music industry. In critiquing Shirky’s argument it is important to note his expertise and consulting demonstrates a bias towards the internet as a positive revolutionary force to enabling group forming and collaboration. His article takes for granted that MOOCs will positively transform higher education, no other position is considered despite their early days. He makes it appear that Udacity and fellow MOOC providers are the original innovators of online platforms, yet schools like MIT have been offering OpenCourseWare online for free since 2002. He says, “that open courses, even in their nascent state, will be able to raise quality and improve certification faster than traditional institutions can lower cost or increase enrollment.” This is a hopeful statement but not one that he has evidence with which to defend the quality or improved process of learning.  It is also an aggressive claim given that MOOCs are still emerging on the backs of investors, their future business models yet to be confirmed.  To become viable, what will be the model? Corporate sponsorship? Will the consideration be the exchange of participant’s data? When the viable model emerges will it discourage enrollment? Shirky criticizes the for-profit Kaplan college system for poor education and increasing debt. Shirky’s writing also segments higher education into elite and non-elite status, he assumes his Yale education and its big lecture classes are superior to the education that 75% of American’s are getting at “mediocre colleges”.  As a business student I attended a local college and then transferred to a more prestigious university program to complete a degree.  For me, there is no question that the college education was superior in terms of overall value and learning. Shirky is a highly regarded writer but this piece is speculative and opinion based. Shirky’s  Blog version of this article.

3.  YouTube Video: Dave Cormier: What is a Mooc?


This video uses simple line drawing animation to effectively inform the viewer on MOOC benefits by differentiating them from traditional learning.  Informative but assumes the viewer has a certain level of digital literacy describing them as open, participatory, distributed and using symbols like the twitter bird, blog posts and tag icons. Emphasizes there is no single path to learning and that students learn from each other. This develops life long learning networks that can continue long after the course is over.  The video presents an informative yet wholly positive perspective.  Some information could cause confusion, “participants are not asked to complete assignments but to engage with each other and material all over the web . . .” This is not an accurate statement for all MOOCs as this author’s research colleague, Dr. Siemens has provided credit for MOOCs as he explains in this interview with Harold Rheingold. The issues and concerns that MOOCs present, is not considered in this video.  It is an effective, but simplified conceptual presentation. My biggest critique is not apparent with an initial viewing. In researching the authors and credits at the end of the video I learned it is one of four videos created and embedded in the researchers grant funded paper, The Mooc Model for Digital Practice. Which is responding to the Federal Governments consulting paper Building Critical Skill for Tomorrow.  This video is helpful on its own but there is a lost opportunity in that comments could have been posted in YouTube to connect viewer who is interested in more information to the original research paper it was created for, in addition to its three additional companion videos. A concluding URL in the last frame of the video offering more information would be ideal.


Cormier, D. (Producer & Writer). 2010. What is a mooc? [Video]. Retrieved from

Deslauriers, L., & Wieman, C. E. (2011). Response. Science, 333(6047), 1221.

Jenkins, H. (2006, October 20). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century (part one) [Web log message]. Retrieved from

McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G. & Cormier, D. (2010). The Mooc Model for Digital practice. Retrieved from

TedtalksDirector. (Producer). 2012.  Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education [Video]. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2006, October 20). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century (part one) [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Teresa and Judith’s Excellent Academic Adventure

As part of the course requirements for the Masters in Communications and Technology Program at the University of Alberta I took the highly enjoyable course Using and Managing Communication Technology.  Fellow student Judith Dyck and I co-wrote a paper on the e-book and publishing. In it, we explored the growing market for e-books, their impact on the ways people read, and information on the technology of the book. The abstract is below, along with a link to a pdf of the paper.  If you would like to see some portions of the presentation –  link through from the picture below.


We presented this paper at the 13th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association last June in New York.  Thanks to Robert Francos for his still pictures and Paul Ermantrout for his video.


The market for e-books is growing exponentially across all publishing markets, including consumer (trade), professional-scientific/technical/medical (STM), education (K-12 and college), and corporate (business to business). This is having an impact on what we think of as a book, how people ‘read’, literacy, academic standards and publishing. In this essay, the definition of a book and an e-book will be explored, along with information on the technology behind the e-book, the standardization of publishing platforms, and trends in print-on-demand and self-publishing. The e-book as a robust example of long tail theory will be illustrated. Throughout the essay, examples will be given of the impact of e-books on communication and the way people perceive information and learning, including applications of the theories of McLuhan and Winston. While not within the scope of the essay itself, a chronology of the emergence of the e-book has been provided in an appendix as an aid to understanding what has been occurring. The essay concludes that the e-book is not just another form of the paper book and is having a profound impact on literacy, learning and access to information. The book is not dead, but the paper book is losing its position of supremacy as a vehicle for organizing and presenting information.


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My First YouTube Video

The is the first video I’ve uploaded to YouTube.  The video was a gift created for me by my number one fan. Although the end result was fabulous — it is painful for me to watch how slow I am in my transitions. There is always something to improve.

The evolving participatory culture — beautiful

Our Social Network class professor @KateMilberry embedded many different video clips and live Skype guest speakers into her course curriculum.  She took the theory and made it real, brought it to life, whether it was through her own network of professionals and friends as our virtual guests in class or through the technology of YouTube or invigorating class discussion.  One video we viewed was of Henry Jenkins, an ‘academic rock star” — someone who truly lives by what he lectures on and studies.    His specialty is participatory culture.

I felt Jenkins would be an appropriate salute and final reflection for my last class blog post.

As my classmates and I worked through an intensive two courses in three weeks —  I call it the tsunami of knowledge — the participatory culture blossomed.   This was enabled by the ability to network face-to-face, and through the social media networks we established for the course, predominantly Twitter, but many others as well.  We truly demonstrated Jenkins key ideas.   We used the technology to participate and improve ourselves and others.  We threw out ideas and they came back in improved ways…

Henry Jenkins Key Ideas around Participatory Culture

  1.  Relatively low barriers for engagement (easy and free to join all social networking sites we used be it Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Docs, the class Wiki,  Dropbox, or email AND it was encouraged through the course itself)
  2. Strong support for sharing creations with others (@katemilberry encouraged sharing but also individuality in approach to presentations including the class content and assignments, this sets the stage for collaboration)
  3. Informal mentorship (some class members have more experience with the tools and skills and were proud to share what they knew, every individual in the cohort has some special talent or skill worth tapping into)
  4. Members believe their contributions matter  (The culture reinforces this)
  5. Care about others opinions of self and worth (bonding capital is born, this culture of participation creates a strong will to reciprocate and the diversity of ideas from many truly makes us better.

        “Not every member must contribute, but all must believe they are free to contribute when ready and that what they contribute will be appropriately valued.”

Sourced from TEDx link here.

Image sourced from Google

We’ll be back!

The last time we talked about the Occupy Movement as a cohort we were taking our history of technologies course.   I sang to you the Buffalo Springfield song “there’s something happening here, what is it ain’t exactly clear…stop, children, what’s that sound.  Everybody look what’s going down…” (1967)

We had a great discussion about this movement, and we collectively criticized the way it was being reported by the mainstream media.   Douglas Rushkoff’s article early on in the protest did I very good job of capturing the essence of the movement and why we can’t compare it to previous historical protests.  The mainstream media  criticized the movement for it’s lack of focus and multiple and conflicting messages – which was exactly  their plan – there was so much to be angry about.  The movement was collectively pissed off about any number of things.  But mainly the growing disparity in the incomes of the majority (the 99%) and the well heeled 1%.

Where has the movement gone?

In fact when I looked to update myself today, they were in the news.  With more of us packing around smart phones there is much more liklihood that news events of the day are going to be recorded by civilian journalists.  In the case of the first Occupy protester, Alexander Arbuckle, on trial for his involvement, it helped him to be equitted as video evidence contradicted the arrest claims.  He had nothing to do with it.

This was my post from back in October, 2011 and I still think the global rich list data is interesting :  “I think this Occupy movement has a complex story to tell and that may explain why they (the media) are just scratching the surface.  Time will tell on this.  I think this is not a “revolution” – but an “evolution” and I am really interested to see where it goes.   One thing I caught out of the back end of a CBC interview on The Current yesterday was interesting.    In Canada – you are in the “1%” if you make over $400,000/year.  But consider this — If you make $55,000/ year you are in the top 1% in the world and if you make just $1000 a year you are still richer than half the people on the earth.  This according to the Global Rich List.    This in no way justifies why corporate CEOs or even athletes and celebrities should be compensated in the manner they are – but compared to many societies – we are the 99% that they aspire to.

We have a lot to be concerned with in the world.  But thankfully we are concerned from the vantage point of a Canadian, we have it relatively pretty good, and I think that fuels generosity.

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Weak tie activists stand on strong tie shoulders

This weeks reading was a super read from Malcom Gladwell, check it out here (Click on the New Yorker Article)

It is an interesting question to consider whether social media can foster activism or if it is really real-life relationships, and the drama that comes with passionate, in your face and in the media, high risk activism?

The point of this article is that social media tools like Facebook and Twitter use weak ties to effect change versus the old fashioned high risk activism associated with strong ties.  I thought these were valid points but at some point wouldn’t the sheer size and density of the weak tie connections of Twitter and Facebook deliver the power equivalency of the strong tie, grass roots activism that Gladwell is referring to?  I see that there is strength in both the numbers and in the transparency that social media tools can deliver on.  They can deliver the real world events, exactly when and how they are unfolding for all to see.    These are the changes that social media tools have bought to activism.  This is how they have added value.  When abuse of political power by dictatorships and authoritarian governments is revealed there is usually always on-the-ground footage of activists who are still putting themselves at risk – the weak ties of social media is diffusing that information to the western democracies who can then express their collective outrage to bring change.  It is true that social media tools, make it easier to organize, and that they distance risk from the activists in many cases, but they are effective in helping to bring change.   That is ultimately the end goal that is the focus for activists.  Additionally, somewhere, behind all the weak ties, there is a group of strong-tie organizers and undoubtedly leaders standing united, physically proximate, in- arms to create the diffusion necessary with social media.

I really liked this critic on Gladwell’s piece and wanted to share.

Credit to Google Images for the pix

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Treat others how you would like to be treated.

The reading this week on Julian Assange:  The Rolling Stone Interview  peaked my curiosity for more information.  I have been exposed to the stories associated with this interview through the mainstream media.  This story is one that would benefit from a lesson in ensuring you get your news from more than one source.  I watched another interview with Assange on Ted Talks.  This was the first I had been exposed to the military video of the American soldiers taking out their civilian targets and their very concerning demeanor in doing so.  If you haven’t seen this video you should.    Public opinion is a fragile commodity.   It can change based on new information you are exposed to.  I can understand the concern that sharing this video would have for the safety of US soldiers on duty abroad.  But it also gives some insight into why the American brand is not well thought of in places like Baghdad, Iraq and Afghanistan.   This WikiLeak was very embarrassing for the American government and the military, and releasing it could bring harm to westerners working and living abroad, but in the interests of truth and transparency it was the only thing to do.  I am glad that increasingly civilians are equipped with the tools to share these types of stories with the world and that technology and WikiLeaks is enabling people to do so.  It is good for those with great political and military power to know that others are watching them too.

Random fun fact:  The Simpson’s 500th Anniversary Episode paying homage to Julian Assange with his guest appearance on the show.  To see a snippet of the episode click on Homer’s picture below.  You know you’ve made a name for yourself when you appear on  the Simpsons.   Assange has many skills, but not so much for acting or interviewing.   (Images credited to Google)

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