Social Media – A Revolutionary Tool

The Arab Spring is a term expressing the revolutionary movements in 2010, which began in the Arab region. What made the Arab Spring so unique was the utilisation of social media to establish and promote uprising agendas, as these were the first collective movements in the Middle East since Internet and social media revolutions. A journal article by Richard Lindsey explores the significance of social media during the Arab Spring, allowing individuals to influence public opinion and gain international support through the global distribution of news. Lindsey assures that techniques and procedures via social media will affect future revolutionary tactics in globalised societies, however the degree to which is questionable.

Sharing mass amounts of uncensored and accurate information through social networking significantly prompted the rise in Arab Spring activists. Not only did they obtain supremacy to overthrow powerful dictatorship, but also Arab civilians were now conscious of underground communities whom they can connect with. This may have not been possible without the significant role social media played, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests… Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” – Arab Spring activist from Egypt. Stories of shared grievances and hopelessness was overflowing over these networks. The use of digital storytelling through social media is what drew people into the streets to protest.

ArabSpring-Tweeter

Image source

A blog post on PolicyMic describes the use of social networks as assisting to remove the psychological barrier of fear for Arab civilians by connecting and sharing information. The consistent flow of news provided a sense of reassurance that they are not alone, and that there are others experiencing hardship, prejudice, and similar accounts of brutality. Professor of mass communications from Cairo, Hussein Amin, stated that social networks “for the first time provided activists with an opportunity to quickly disseminate information while bypassing government restrictions”. It is worthy to note that new social networking platforms were not the reason for the Arab Spring but function in serving future revolutions with regard to communication.

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The Alternate Dimension… of Attention

The most important thing in the attention economy is relevancy. An article by Alex Iskold explores the way users interact with online content, and why their attention is valuable. Iskold states that the more relevant a website’s content is, the more likely visitors are to stay on the page, thus increasing sale opportunities. But what can companies do to improve the likelihood of visitors buying their products or clicking on an advertisement? Personalisation. Sites such as Google and Facebook use personal information to filter content specific to your needs. Consumers tend to forget that their favourite search engine or social networking site are businesses (because they are free to use) – and the more information they know about you the better. Iskold claims your tailored search results and ads are typically stemmed from browsing history, online profiles etc.

pay-attentionSource

While browsing websites is technically free, you are still supplementing their value. For the currency of the online economy isn’t money, but attention. And by having the freedom to select where your attention is, your attention has worth. This is the attention economy.

“We want a world where you don’t have to ask for help or permission to write out loud.”
Clay Shirky

While online content value may be depreciating, this is what makes blogging more significant. The overflow of content indicates an innovative and progressive world, where everyone has the freedom to express themselves. If there’s so much of it this suggests that we have found a way to make global publishing effortless, and seem natural. Sounds pretty good to me.

The Network Society

The Internet has altered the way we work, socialise, create and share information. This transformation of social networking does not get the recognition it deserves. There’s been this massive transition in our lives, transitioning to a digital culture and economy.

In a 2011 report, Mckinsey Global Institute stated that in the past 5 years, the Internet accounted for 21 per cent of the GDP growth in mature economies. This technological revolution has assisted large enterprises and national economies, individual consumers and upstart entrepreneurs. Facebook and other social media sites have been some of the utmost beneficiaries from the powerful influence of the Internet – businesses can now interact with their consumers on a personal level. From a few thousand students accessing Facebook to over 1 billion global users today, Manyika and Roxburgh from the Mckinsey Global Institute stated that ‘If Internet were a sector, it would have a greater weight in GDP than agriculture or utilities’. The development and evolution of the Internet has been described as a ‘healthy Internet ecosystem’, boosting infrastructure, accessibility, and a competitive environment. This prompts innovators and entrepreneurs to flourish, nurturing human capital and in turn maximizing the ongoing affect of the Internet on prosperity and economic growth.

The vast opportunities we are provided with are being embraced and embedded into our lifestyle and culture, and it is truly amazing to be a part of it. We create, define and expand this online ecosystem at an astonishing rate. Communication is the foundation of our society, culture, humanity and identities.

‘Consisting of transactions, relationships and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live… We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth…We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity’ – John Perry Barlow

I loved one of this week’s readings, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’. Above are my favourite excerpts, which outline the online world we are (or choose to be) a part of. I found it interesting when he says (repeatedly) about our physical bodies not living in cyberspace. I loved how he separated an individual’s physical characteristics with cyberspace, presented in this sense that you are entering a utopian world.

References:

Barlow, JP 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Davos Switzerland, viewed 18/08/2013,
<https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html

Dyson, E, Gilder, G, Keyworth, G & Toffler, A 1994, Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, viewed 18/08/2013,
<http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/futureinsights/fi1.2magnacarta.html

Kelly, K 1999, New Rules for the New Economy, Kevin Kelly, viewed 18/08/2013,
< http://www.kk.org/newrules/newrules-intro.html

Manrika, J & Roxburgh, C 2011, The great transformer: The impact of the Internet on economic growth and prosperity, Mckinsey Global Institute, viewed 18/08/2013, <http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_great_transformer

You’re being watched

In the short time that social media has been around, the one consistent thing I have observed is that a great deal of people forget they are being watched. In a High Talk blog post, George F Snell III states that the line between public and private is now less defined than ever. Snell raises some points, which to me seems as standard Internet etiquette (studying media and communication helps I guess), however I’ve noticed it isn’t so obvious to some. Snell’s 5 guidelines in his post were ‘be polite, transparent, discrete, trustworthy and admit your mistakes’. Once I read that I realised that the majority of my Facebook friends definitely forget that what they post is not private. For example somebody “privately” chatting on Facebook IM and the other person decides to screenshot and share their conversation. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the time this is entertaining, but what everyone forgets is that we are constantly under surveillance. In some cases, people actually lose their jobs because of something they have posted/been tagged in on Facebook. I often see and hear this happen, and am not surprised by it. I’ve always felt that social media platforms should not be treated as a private space.

Before Facebook and Twitter even existed, there were chat rooms. And the thing my parents said over and over and over (as they could not keep me from using them) was ‘Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t tell anyone your real name, where you’re from, don’t put your birth date in your email address…’ the list goes on. Made complete sense then, nobody wants a stalker. However, today we openly let people stalk us online. Facebook has asked me all this information about my life from my name, to my favourite food and TV show, to what song I’m currently listening to. Not to worry, even if you don’t fill in these details, everyone on Facebook can see where you are if your location service is enabled on your phone. Now this, I feel, is utterly absurd. With relation to media and youth, an article by Sonia Livingstone explores the way media fosters youth culture through both form and content. Livingstone states that young people use the media precisely to discover and transgress established norms of public and private space. However, they are often naive to the power of the media subtly positioning them according to consumerist pleasures and powerful interests. Through content, they directly address the concerns, interests and experiences of youth. Through their forms, they can provide personalised media goods that determine the space of young online identities. Subsequently, the media repositions young people in relation to public and private spheres, casting them as both citizens and consumers for the future.

A friend once told me “never put anything in writing” and I have applied this both online and offline. People creating controversy, losing friends and even becoming unemployed because of the untasteful way they act online. My message to these people would be if you don’t want anyone knowing, don’t talk about it, anywhere. There is no such thing as privacy in cyberspace. This also goes for businesses who create social media pages – it is crucial to treat every interaction as a public one. We need to remember that everybody is a reporter now. Snell explained this brilliantly (with regard to “private” interactions), ‘the disgruntled customer might have 5,000 followers on Twitter. The waitress serving you while you discuss your company’s top-secret new product could be an avid blogger’ etc. Social media platforms are tools, use them wisely and they can work to your advantage, but one wrong move and you’ll unwillingly create an everlasting poor reputation. But hey, no pressure.

References:

Livingstone, S 2005, ‘Mediating the public/private boundary at home: children’s use of the internet for privacy and participation’, London: LSE Research Online, viewed 11/08/2013, <http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/506/1/JMP_6(1).pdf

Snell, GF 2009, 5 Guidelines for Public vs. Private in Social Media, High Talk, weblog post, 23 March, viewed 11/08/2013, <http://hightalk.net/2009/03/23/5-guidelines-for-public-vs-private-in-social-media/

“Networks are the Matrix”

The significance of living in a network society is that networks provide fundamental structure to our lives. Only recently has the media become an influential public space of our time, forming and shaping shared societal experiences. In light of this, Manuel Castells from this weeks reading stated that technology does not determine society, however some social structures could not have developed without it. Communication comes naturally to humans and now the logic, interests and conflicts of this network society globally dominate us. It is not always the message we are sending, but rather the medium through which it is processed. For example, a common frowned upon message to send through social media would be the “break up”. Often in high school girls/guys would be offended and shocked if they were broken up with through social media sites, however if it was a phone call it seemed to not have that much of a detrimental effect.

Charles Arthur in an article for The Guardian referred to networks as the ‘Matrix’.  The first thing that came to my mind when seeing the words ‘network’ and ‘matrix’ together was Google. Google seems to be the center of the Internet. It monitors you closely through every use, pushing ads and even channeling results based on your browsing history. By purely signing up to a gmail (Google Mail) account you now have a YouTube and Google+ account. Regardless if you are actively using these accounts, Google can still track your every move just by being signed in. But it doesn’t stop there; artist Erica Scourti made a video called “Life In Adwords”. Scourti emailed a daily diary to her Gmail account for a year, and then created a collaboration of herself listing the suggested adwords made by Google. So even in what you think is a personal online space, the content of her emails were identified and turned into ‘sale-able’ advertisements. As we use sites such as Facebook and Google as a networking tool it is doing the very same thing by extracting our personal information for its benefit.

Another example would be that you now have to pay Facebook for your posts to reach all of your Friends – it only shows them to those who you interact with most. However, large companies and corporations can pay Facebook to share your post with everyone if you are to mention them in a positive way. For instance “My coffee from Gloria Jeans today was amazing” instead of only going to a handful of your Facebook Friends, Gloria Jeans will pay to have your status reach the maximum audience possible.

References:

Arthur, C 2013, Google+ isn’t a social network; it’s The Matrix, The Guardian, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2013/jun/04/google-plus-the-matrix

Castells, M 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’ in Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world?, pp. 221-224

Killalea, D 2013, Texting, Facebook are the worst ways to break up with someone,
news.com.au, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/texting-facebook-are-the-worst-ways-to-break-up-with-someone/story-fnet09p2-1226669481242

Outcasting 2013, Life in Adwords / Erica Scourti, Outcasting, weblog post, 23 April, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.outcasting.org/2013/04/life-adwords-erica-scourti/

Media and Space

Image

This image represents something I’m sure most of us have done. Been on your phone while at work (when you’re not supposed to). The funny thing is, back in the day – prior to social media – when someone was on their phone you could assume they were reading or responding to an SMS. Now that is hardly the case. It sounds silly when you say it out loud, but a lot of people can’t resist checking Facebook, Twitter, posting work selfies on Instagram, or asking people to send you more lives for Candy Crush. In fact, I would even go on to say that because you know you’re not supposed to be looking at it, makes you want it more. Why do we feel like this? Because we are human. We strive for connectedness, we want to always be a part of something, and we feel the natural desire to belong to this magnificent online structure. By creating online identities we become an active audience of the online sphere. We can fulfill this urge to stay connected with peers, colleagues, friends and old friends. I feel lucky to have seen this transition to the digital age in my lifetime. While older generations are (stereotypically) technologically impaired, younger generations are able to use an iPod before learning to ride a bike.

Street Violence – Reflection

An issue which I found to be significant in the media is violence, and in particular, street violence. All kinds of mediascapes contribute to street violence in one way or another. This includes the influence from certain television programs, films, music etc. Not only is violence represented throughout the media, but violent related behaviour as a result of drug and alcohol abuse is common, sending an important yet persuasive message to audiences. Images and music film clips especially tend to present violence semiotically, particularly through the use of gender ideologies; such as men being portrayed as mysterious and dangerous.

In relation to street violence some popular topics I found the media liked to exaggerate were schoolies, riots, protests and nightlife. When the media focuses on these issues they tend to  single out certain vicinities as well, often producing a poor reputation for that area. An example would be the Cronulla riots in 2005 where the media played a significant role by influencing locals on which side to take in an discriminating manner. The series of incidents known as the Cronulla riots have echoed throughout the town and surrounding areas to this day. Right-wing media groups had been accused of broadcasting political agendas via radio and print media, flaring tension between locals. The media used this sense of community to connect with locals on a personal level,  and even encouraged violent behaviour.

Ageism is also a factor, especially when the media talks about schoolies violence. The ideology of teenagers is highly pressured within the media. For example it is easy to represent a group of teens as ‘out of control’ rather than, say, a group of elderly people. Violence is an easy topic for the media to nudge on the emotions of readers. Language if often in a negative tone which can make the reader feel uncomfortable, concerned, and scared. The way information is presented is just as important as the content itself, as emphasis is placed on particular words and phrases, audiences are more likely to be convinced.

 Violence portrayed in the media through television, films, video games and music has been known to increase the likelihood of aggressive and violent behaviour. This material is harmful especially to the young, prompting immediate and long-term effects. Representations of violence in the media directly provides a child with  particular ideas and experiences which shape their attitudes and influence their behaviours. It is important to consider these mediums as elements in a controlled societal media among children especially. This is because certain characteristics, environments and media content can affect the degree of media violence.

Many people don’t actually realise how powerful the media is. It’s power derives from accessibility and the fact that it is all around us, everywhere we go. Following initial presentations of media violence, other forms of media are then used to perpetuate and emphasise outcomes. This is common within traditional news media such as TV broadcasting, radio, magazines, newspapers and other forms of print media. The media achieves this by blasting biased perspectives on violence related issues, in hopes to mould the minds of viewers to their own attitudes. Language, tone, lighting and sound all add to this effect of influential media.

BUT something I find to be more significant is that…

As violence is continuously targeted and now this new era of social media is evolving, now criticism of violence is also in the hands of the audience – of what is known as the outbreak of citizen journalism. There are new, different, instant types of distribution which are hard to keep up with, proving difficulty when trying to regulate user content. Within the public sphere, sites such as Facebook and YouTube are used to discuss and propel violent behaviour. Violence can often be fuelled or expanded by nasty comments, videos or images online through these platforms. Online video streaming has become an explosive medium, and YouTube has presented a dominance in this area. Whilst this user generated content may be used for research and entertainment, it has also been treated as as a medium for expression or documentation regarding violent behaviour. These videos uploaded by users which incorporate violence are often in public places such as schools, parks and just on the streets.

It’s issues like these which fuel moral panic about the media, as we are told to trust and believe what they say; however the outcome is not always favourable. As citizen journalists, the role of the media is ever-changing in a free and open public sphere. The representation of violence within the media is already being altered as a result of online prosumers.

Street Violence – Online Media

Violence can often be fuelled or expanded by nasty comments, videos or images online. This ‘cyber hate’ is typically used to discriminate, threat, and warn victims. Sites such as Facebook and YouTube have been known to propel violent behaviour.

Facebook, for example, has been proven as a powerful tool with relation to violent intimidation. In some cases it is used to organise a meeting time and place for violent behaviour. When this information is posted on networking sites such as Facebook, it is then able to be dispersed online within the public sphere. Subsequently, this causes more people to be involved in acts of violence.

In August 2010, an article posted by The Economist outlined an issue where  two teenagers were gunned down while riding a motorcycle in Columbia. Their names had appeared on a “hit list” which was posted on Facebook that included death threats and menacing messages. The victims were warned and told they  had three days to depart or else they would be in danger of these violent acts once again.

Online video streaming has become an explosive medium, and YouTube has presented a dominance in this area. Whilst it may be used for research and entertainment it has also been treated as as a medium for expression or documentation regarding violent behaviour. In 2006, the issue became so extensive that politicians in the U.K. sought to legislate against violence on YouTube, with U.K. ministers claiming that the videos “fuel random acts of violence.”

An example would be an incident which occurred  in April 2008 where six teenage girls in Florida beat up their peer whilst recording the attack with the intention of posting it on YouTube. Some news media responses blamed the incident on YouTube itself, however arguments were made that YouTube merely reflected violence. In this instance YouTube was used as a catalyst to the violence as the camera’s presence during the assault was purely for the footage to be uploaded for ‘popularity’. Online reactions included  YouTube videos uploaded by users commenting on the story, an example of citizen journalism. Other users posted amateur re-inactments of the video in an attempt for humorous exposure. Traditional news media such as newspapers and TV shows covered the story, most with a biased perspective using language such as “animalistic behaviour”.

Citizen Journalism

Media convergence has challenged the way journalism has been operating over the past few generations. Citizen journalism is when participants of information play an active role by gathering, analysing and distributing news. This is now integrated into our culture as society is changing the way we receive information by transferring from print media to digital media. Why? Because it’s convenient. Instant. Free. The best part about it all is – you can interact. We as consumers are becoming the producers through blogging, vlogging, and even social networking. Media platforms (i.e. YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress, SoundCloud, Vimeo) allow us to contribute to collective intelligence in the comfort of our own homes, if desired.

I like to receive my news online because it’s usually from people which I know personally. There is no thorough editing process for the information presented to the public. One click and boom. It’s there, online for EVERYONE to see, at any time. I feel information online can be more reliable because you can discover more about an issue by commenting on the source, and there is usually multiple web pages where the story will overlap, OR alternatively you may know the source personally. For example there was a car crash near my house a few months ago. Because many of my Facebook friends live in my area, or pass through here on a daily basis, I knew about this crash within minutes after it had occurred, before I had even gotten out of bed that morning, and before any news station journalist had written or even knew about it. I read details about the car and passengers on various status updates from people who had driven past, or knew the people in the accident. This is where citizen journalism differs from traditional journalists – reading about incidents online from locals you somehow have a connection to – whether it’s someone you knew from school, a colleague, a friend, a friend of a friend… you get my drift. Traditional journalists are struggling to keep up, and I am interested to see what citizen journalism can do in the future.

I’ve got the power

To upload and share almost anything I want through this WordPress account, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and various other media platforms. We are all citizen journalists. Isn’t that extraordinary? Today, we don’t think about it that much. But in comparison to say, a decade ago, we have come a long way into a very different, amazing and continuously evolving form of communication. We are active prosumers, participating in mediated culture more than ever before. Why? Because we want to be heard, and we can.

There are little to no gatekeepers monitoring what you share online and this is why social networking, blogging and vlogging have become so popular. Monologic media journalists have to be very cautious about what they write and how they present their information. Everything stated in newspapers, magazines, television or on the radio goes through a rigorous editing process. This ensures that the media can control what and how we receive information, although now this control is shifting. An example of this would be Han Han, a chinese blogger who became extremely popular online so he created a magazine, which was shut down after the first issue (selling over a million copies) because there was too much controversial information.

A case study in ‘The mobile Phone and the Public Sphere’ by Janey Gordon investigates the London bombings. Gordon states that those involved were providing “direct accounts from their mobile phones” of information and images through phone calls, SMS, MMS and social networking. I’m quite intrigued that it has actually come to this; being surrounded by danger a horrific event and yet the first thing people do is upload and share what they can see/what is happening. I personally think it’s a way of reaching out. All humans want to be heard and seek interconnection.