Category Archives: Comm506

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.

Tagged , , ,

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

Tagged , , , ,

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)

Tagged , , ,

I am an Angry Bird Read Why. . .

On the topic of Social Capial from your personal networks (the value we earn from trust and reciprocity), would you be ok with your “friend” giving out your phone number, religious and political beliefs to a stranger without asking you?  I wouldn’t consider that a good friend.

Today we heard from guest speaker Chris Parsons (@cparsons) .  It was both interesting and enlightening.  He specializes in privacy issues and surveillance, he talked about how these concepts are being impacted by changes in our culture.   The rules appear to be much more lax for application developers and web 2.0 companies than they are for old school direct marketers.   For example, iPhone owners who download the Angry Bird app from Apple and access it once give the developer access to their entire address book!   He followed the lecture with this tweet reinforcing his point.

So having done a bit of searching tonight I read that Facebook, after coming under fire in 2009 on such issues from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, now support that apps must ask people’s permission to access their Facebook data.  But how often do you immediately hit the “accept” button on these screens?  Humans tend to be impatient and ignore warnings and permissions screens – it’s our nature.   So, Facebook did agree to make some changes such as adding more disclosure but didn’t agree to seek permission from your “friends” when their data was disclosed to an app.  The Privacy Commissioner – Ms. Denham, relented based on Facebooks argument that apps are designed to be social and interactive.  You might want to share this with your friends.

Random Social Capital example: 

I am a sucker for purchasing the boxes of chocolate almonds or frozen cookie dough that makes its way around the office occasionally in support of a colleague’s kid and their sports team.   I will support the raffle tickets or anybody I know personally who is raising money through athletic pursuit for charity.  I do so for a couple of reasons (1) because I have been that kid selling those chocolates, (2) I’ve also been the mom of the kid selling the chocolates (3) I believe in the cause.  I would also like to think you will do the same for me.  This concept is reciprocity and demonstrates the social capital concept that Kadushin talks about in Chapter 10. 

Thanks Google Images for the pix.

Tagged , , ,

#Marketing FAIL and #What Were They Thinking?

Face #2 could be my daughter.  When I read Girls Around Me, I reacted as any mother of a 20 year old single daughter who lives in Toronto and enjoys the life style that goes with their age — with my maternal instincts!! Shock and desire to protect the naive and vulnerable.    I am relieved and not surprised that the app was pulled.  That said, there is no question that it is a service that offered great value for it’s users.  But it is disturbing that in today’s day and age Apple, Facebook and 4 Square would endorse a product that could expose people in this manner without a clear disclosure strategy.  I don’t know what the answer to this is but I think that negative optioning is NOT the answer.  It should not be the consumer who has to take the initiative to turn off GPS and privacy profiles.  It’s like a warning on a cigarette package – at least make the warning – fully identify the implications.

I am also disturbed by the brand and positioning strategy for the app.  Shame on Apple.  I might expect it from Facebook and 4-Square – but Apple?!    This whole thing might have flown under the radar had the service name been better considered.   I’m glad it didn’t.  For-profit organizations are looking for revenue streams.  Remember in 2007 when TELUS launched downloadable porn on their cell network?  They sadly misjudged the power of negative vocal opinion leaders, women’s groups  and the religious lobby.   But, it’s just a question as to when it’s back.  Maybe we will see Girls Around Me be repackaged, repositioned and offered up again when the dust clears.   Ethical and legal issues abound.

Tagged , , ,

How many iPods do we need? Just the newest one.

That new iPod comes out and you want it – seriously – how many of us have 4 or 5 of these in various vintages kicking around the house?  Thankfully we can spend even more on an iPhone now!  Those upgrades are a bit more dear – but we just have to have that latest functionality!   You may be able to relate to this spoof on the Feist Apple 123 ad  (click on the dance scene)

Marketers regularly use the Diffusion of Innovation theory in their target marketing process.  What Marketers might call the “fast followers” is the same target Kadushin is calling those post “early adopters” when he discusses “Opinion Leadership”.

Who is a credible source for you?  When Marketers want to influence target audience opinions this will be a question they focus on.  You value what your trusted friends are saying about a new restaurant experience or a new product.  If they are a credible source – it’s much more powerful than traditional paid advertising.    Those traditional ad budgets are shrinking – and being redeployed in non-paid PR tactics and efforts to create some buzz and word-of-mouth (wom).  I might even hire a company like matchstick

They will hire “brand seeders” on a freelance basis.  These “seeders” are close in age or lifestyle to their clients target consumer.   They are paid to identify potential influencers – this is done through research – the brand seeders are then provided samples to give to the influencers (opinion leaders).  They are encouraged and NOT paid to share their honest opinions AND disclose their relationship with matchstick (full transparency).  The hope is genuine WOM positive comments about the brand.    Seems a tad insidious?  With new tools big corporations will adapt their strategies and continue to try to persuade you.  Don’t get me started on Big Tobacco and their loophole marketing strategies!

There is a lot of power in this word of mouth advertising – so much so it has its own Marketing Association Womma.

*Thanks Google Images

Tagged , , ,

Collective action to save lives

I have various “social circles”  that I attach to the various hats I wear in life – mother, instructor, MACT student, triathlete, TELUS alum etc … Another one of these social circles has become more important of late – my next door neighbours.  When winter is safely over in Edmonton, we all start to slowly creep out of our homes again.   We begin to tidy up our lawns, wave hi to each other and reconnect. Truthfully, I consider all my proximate neighbours to be weak ties.  Regardless that we have each other’s keys or lend out the missing ingredient, help start a lawn mower or shovel a walkway.  But recently we have come together – united under a common injustice – ready to engage in our civic duty!  We have a collective problem and the City, despite our complaints has not responded.  It’s called life threatening pot holes.  If you drive down my local street you will feel that you have been transplanted to a bombing zone in Beirut.  Seriously.  My neighbourhood is central west Edmonton, a beautiful neighbourhood bordering the river valley, but the infrastructure – our sidewalks and roads — are vintage 1959.    My neighbours and I have all individually called the “pot hole” reporting line and we have also registered our potholes and their addresses online.  No progress so far.  So, our next step is to take some advice from Clay Shirkey’s Collective Action Chapter 6.  You see my 17 year old is a freestyle skier who has a nifty camera called a Go-Cam.  He attaches it to his helmet and films himself (and friends) doing tricks which are then shared electronically and uploaded to various sites for sharing.  Why is this relevant? My partner is an avid cyclist.  He is going to attach my son’s way-cool Go-Cam to his helmet and ride his mountain bike down my road.  He will hit every pothole in his path and the Go-Cam will register the depth and visual effects of the shock – seriously about 20 on my block alone.  We will then upload that to YouTube and let the network  diffusion and bridging properties take effect.   The first person I send it to will be @MayorMandell 

Social media is winning!

A common thread in our readings this week in Benkler’s Wealth of Networks, Chapter 3 and Kadushin’s, Understanding Social Networks, Chapter 7, is a concept that Clay Shirkey also refers to in Here Comes Everybody.    The idea of “costs” as a barrier to group action appears to be a central theme in the social networking literature.  The transaction costs view of markets and firms is at the core of Clay Skirkey’s “institutional dilemma” (p.19) where he uses the Coase theory (Ron Coase) to reinforce that organizations live in a contradiction – it takes advantage of its employees group effort, but some of its resources are drained away by managing that effort.   Firms want to lower “transaction costs”.  For anyone who has worked for a large organization – you may have experienced frustrations of time delays in decisions, or too many unproductive meetings or dated processes – these are inefficiencies – transaction costs.  For example, consider the idea of putting a diverse, international work team together.  This would require recruiting, coordinating and sustaining the effort — considerable costs that might have prevented the idea from proceeding a few years ago.  New technologies and networks are enabling what once wasn’t logical.  The old structures and costs associated with traditional bricks and mortar businesses are being rewritten.  Benkler brings out the examples including Wikipedia and Open Source software like the GNU/Linux operating system and the NASA Clickworkers Case study – all fine examples to reinforce Benkler’s/Shirkey’s  “proof “ that new social media tools are successfully  breaking all the old rules by rallying unpaid volunteers to produce an excellent product, with a mass following of customers while functioning  without a profit motive. Winning!

Tagged , ,

Don’t mess with strong ties


The Sopranos as a model for Kadushan Chapter 6 concepts.  “Motivations for safety, effectance and status are critical in establishing rankings within small groups” (p. 88)  The inner core of the system “The clique of insiders” are connected by strong ties and they are “Surrounded by hangers-on who are linked by weak ties.

This “small group” — The Sopranos — is a New Jersey based crime family and part of a larger network of crime with connections to the mafia and other similar crime families who co-exist within their larger “industry” network.  There are informal connections across the families – the “chimney’s” described by Kadushan enable communication across hierarchical systems without having to go to the top of the chain of command.   For example Paulie talks to his counterpart  Johnny Sack from the Lupertazzi crime family.

Tony Soprano has more of what is valued by the system and he directs interaction towards others of less rank – he has the power – he leads.   The “family” becomes segmented by structural similarity – layers are formed in terms of relationship similarity.

The family is motivated by safety and the desire to affirm their worth which leads to the desire to control or make a difference in one’s interaction environment and a need for rank directs the interaction.  “Social climbing” or rank within the group is clear in the family.

*Soprano image courtesy of Google

Tagged , , ,