Emergence

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Please Vote! Vote! Vote! Thank you.

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This last week I’ve been doing some investigating for my research topic. I’ve decided to focus my attention on Kohl’s Cares and Pepsi Refresh campaigns, as they are the most prominent users of crowd sourcing for corporate philanthropy and they primarily focus their efforts on voter campaigns.

In a few of my readings I came across some questions I had not yet considered. One of the major problems with corporate giving campaigns is that they are not legally required to disclose information about their charitable giving. The crowd sourcing component helps alleviate some of this secrecy, but if you peruse either campaign’s website, it is difficult or impossible to find statistics or concrete information about completed projects or where the dollars were distributed.  Both projects provide a spotlight for less visible charities, as well as the possibility for financial support, but from what I’ve observed, there are so many charities vying for the same grant that it feels overwhelming for the voter. After all, Pepsi Refresh’s campaign slogan is “refresh everything”, quite a tall order if you ask me.

Kohl’s focuses their charitable giving efforts on women, children, and environmental causes, while Pepsi Refresh spans the spectrum of social causes, community and nation-wide. What both companies tap into is their customer’s brand loyalty, but could they potentially lose their followers by aggressively promoting voting campaigns? Customers may be confused by the number of charities to vote for, they may question the effectiveness of the grants being distributed, And they feel pressured to constantly vote, they will become apathetic to the cause and overwhelmed. These concerns will likely be a challenge for corporations to overcome as the future of crowd-sourcing  expands.

Written by HiuHiMedia

April 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm

The Tumblr Echo Chamber

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Because of the complicated, multi-networked structure of the Internet, the concept of Freedom of Speech has been put under a microscope. We now conceptualize that freedom differently in a democratic society, simply because of the amount of information available and space in which to share that information.  What is important to understand when talking about Freedom of Speech in the network is that there needs to be parameters set to protect it, but more importantly it needs to be understood as a connector in and of itself.

Let’s first look at what freedom means online.  In his book “Republic 2.0”, Cass Sunstein claims “Freedom should not always be identified with ‘choices.’ Of course free societies usually   respect free choices. But sometimes choices reflect, and can in fact produce, a lack of freedom. But perhaps the argument is rooted in something else: a general hostility to any form of government regulation (Sunstein 153).” One of the primary uses of the Internet space is the spreading of ideas and information, and blogging has become a contributor of this spread, especially with regards to the political landscape.  Blogging provides a platform for individuals to say whatever they want, free of government censorship or corporate media influences.  They amass followers, support grassroots political efforts, and pick fights with the opposition while enjoying virtually no intrusion or censorship. Every voice can be heard, every idea fleshed out, and the consumer has the freedom to access and participate in all sides of the dialogue, all at once.

Now that we have this kind of freedom of expression, it is a natural reaction for us to want to protect it, fight desperately against interference or any form of regulation. What this does, however is open up the floodgates of access to all information. And once the floodgates open, it is extremely difficult for the public to decide on a filtering system for unwanted, unnecessary or damaging information.  Sunstein argues that filtering the system limits sharing of information and compromises freedom “For citizens of the republic, freedom requires exposure to a diverse set of topics and opinions” but he also acknowledges the echo chamber phenomenon that persists, in part to the overwhelming amount of information.

My personal echo chamber is the micro-blogging platform Tumblr.  Tumblr allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio to their tumbl-blog and they can follow other Tumblr users, share messages, chat, and re-post content.  The user has a dashboard where they conduct communication and view the tumbl-blog posts of all the other users they follow. This type of blogging platform is designed to promote ease of use and connectivity within the community, and it works quite effectively distributing information. I can track how my posts move across the Tumblr community and the more followers I have, the more my voice is shared with the community, the more social capital and influence I build.

This is what makes Tumblr so appealing, the community of ideas is already set in place and the individual just has to start contributing. The Tumblr community has set up a fund for Japan relief, has organized social cause movements, distributes news in immediate time, and provides support to members. But there is an inevitable opposite to all this social and community good, sharing, happy fuzzy bunny stuff.

The Tumblr community, like most online communities has an echelon of posters who dominate the collective voice of the community. Because of their social weight, it is easier for them to set the tone of the group as a whole.  Tumblr is also open to all types of contributors, which means that voices from corporations, news organizations, fringe groups, individuals, everyone is sharing all the time. Sunstein says “These shared experiences provide a kind of social glue, facilitating efforts to solve fellow citizens, and sometimes helping ensure responsiveness to genuine problems and needs, even helping identify them as such (117).” But the individual has a choice in which blogs they follow. This filtering creates an echo chamber effect that Sunstein discusses at length. The people I follow on my personal Tumblr are people that are like me. They, for the most part share my ethics, interests, even political leanings and I purposely filter out Tumblr’s who don’t. In some ways, the people I communicate with on the platform are simply a reflection me.

And maybe this is the fear Sunstein talks about his book. He reiterates his concern about our new concept of freedom and how it actually causes group polarization, “But freedom properly understood consists not simply in the satisfaction of whatever preferences people have, but also in the chance to have preferences and beliefs formed under decent conditions – in the ability to have preferences formed after exposure to a sufficient amount of information and also to an appropriately wide and diverse range of options (45).” The danger is everywhere. It confronts you every time you join a conversation, read information, participate. And confronting the natural tendency to filter the amount of information your exposed to on a daily, hourly basis is exhausting.

Most people in the network don’t take the time to listen outside of their personal echo chambers, which is the real danger we face. So, will I open up my Tumblr following to different points of view? Will I start following Fox News’ Tumblr to balance NPR’s or The Atlantic’s Tumblr? I’ll have to think about that one.

Written by HiuHiMedia

April 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

Posted in Social Media

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The Unconscious Crowd

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Our relationship with media has changed forever. Reading “Premediation” by Richard Grusin was a revelation for me because I was able to look at my own responses to the information flow of the news media, government and military entities from a new perspective.  The salient point that arose in the book is how we document and exchange images, memories, personal stories through digital media, so much so that it has become an ordinary occurrence in our lives. Grusin refers to this as our “technological unconscious – the way in which they are integrated within our everyday unconscious use of technology (72).” When we experience something, we immediately want to share that experience, and what better way to do so is through the wired network?

When we are participating in an experience via a media source, we have an awareness that others are simultaneously experiencing the event as well. This provides a feeling of connection, regardless of physical proximity, which seems like an important argument for the benefits of interactive digital communication. Grusin acknowledges this , but he explores the questions of how our interactions with media technologies elicit emotional responses and how those responses effect us socially and politically.

I would like to take this a step further by exploring how our relationship to each other through a digital platform can be utilized in an effort to promote change. Grusin focuses his arguments in “Premediation” around the change that happened after the attacks of 9/11. He believes that the powers of the government, military and news media focus our collective attention on possible threats as a way to instill immediacy and fear, while also establishing a protective patriarchal relationship.

As stated above, this effects not only how we view the information flow we live in, but it also effects how we view other individuals swimming in the flow. To turn the idea on its head a bit, if individuals can be mobilized as a group force for political concerns, as we’ve seen in the War on Terror or Tea Party rallies, than it’s not a stretch to assume that individuals can be brought together to play an active roll in bringing about change in the world, specifically through crowd-sourcing methodologies.

Grusin’s theory in “Premediation” is that we each have a technological unconscious is reinforced by the sheer volume of the information distribution in the network space and our awareness of our participation in the sharing will only grow smaller and smaller as technologies improve and information spreads. People experience a sense of connection on the web daily, whether it be the photos their share, their activity on social media platforms, their blog responses or their charitable donations (i.e. clicktovisim).

Government, corporations, and activist groups are well aware of this participatory landscape and seek out ways to exploit connectivity.  Crowd-sourcing has already been established as an effective way to direct the flow of information, so much so that people are often unaware of their contributions. The question then becomes not whether it is possible, but how using a group participation model to elicit ideas and information changes our relationship to each others and the idea of group cooperation.

Written by HiuHiMedia

March 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Posted in Social Media

Tagged with ,

Pepsi and Participation

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Corporations that want to glean information from a crowd have one important job: to get the participants to care.

In this post I discussed the non-profit’s use of corporate sponsorship to draw an audience for social good, but what if it’s the corporation that is trying to attract attention?  Is it effective to use themselves as a brand? Will they be able to gain participant trust? It is widely understood that individuals will act if there is something in it for them, hence the rise of contests and prizes in crowd-sourcing efforts. However, corporations that are successful at attracting participants understand that it is more than giveaways that attract people to their cause, it is tapping into the participant’s passion and sending out an effective challenge for action.

An effective model of corporate crowd-sourcing with regards to this example is the Do Good for the Gulf, a campaign propelled by Pepsi Refresh to fund participant’s ideas for “refreshing” the Gulf Coast states effected by the oil spill.

Anyone could submit a grant proposal, large or small for voting on the Pepsi Refresh site. The grant prize was determined by the scale of the proposal, from $5,000 – $250,000, with a total of 1.3 million in grant money. Pepsi provided guidelines for the proposal and emphasized the need for timely execution of the proposal (one year). The project had a blog attached and was connected to Twitter and Facebook to promote further advertising and interaction.

The Do Good for the Gulf project was successful because the model promoted an ownership value. Participants could visualize their ideas come to life, just by making a submission and Pepsi could use their ideas to promote a feeling of connection to the community and market their product. It was a win-win. The Do Good for the Gulf campaign is one example in the PepsiRefresh social good model. There are currently 384 grants that have been funded, all through crowd-sourcing. Pepsi Corp. is an excellent example of how corporations utilize group participation. They promote their product by presenting corporate-sponsored social good campaigns that shape how individuals feel about their participatory role. Campaigns are so effective not because of product placement alone, but because they are to able to motivate people through community-based activism.

Written by HiuHiMedia

March 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Infostreams and Action

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Contributing to the Internet stream of circulating content in a meaningful way is vital to bringing about change. Megan Boler’s “Digital Media and Democracy” discusses tactical media and it’s attempts to exploit online communities to bring about political change.  The arguments around tactical media’s role in democracy can also be applied to the use of crowdsourcing as a way of making individuals and communities feel involved in the process of change.

Crowdsouricng is a problem-solving model that sends out an open call for solutions to a crowd. For our purposes we will distinguish this crowd as an online community. The crowd is encouraged to submit solutions to the problem and the best solutions are then owned and implemented by the crowdsourcer (the submitter of the problem). This method of problem solving  offers the benefit of low-cost solutions in a short amount of time, use of a wide range of talent outside of internal network, insight into desires of crowd, and the crowd developing a sense of ownership through their contributions.

One of the benefits I’d like to hone in on is the idea of contribution through crowdsourcing. In the article “Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Capitalism” Jodi Dean discusses the Internet in terms of a circulating data stream where messages are not necessarily new, just repackaged, “…the message is simply part of the circulating data stream. Its particular content is irrelevant. Who sent it is irrelevant. Who receives it is irrelevant. That it need to be responded to to is irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is circulation, the addition to the pool (107).” Individuals and small communities can contribute to the infostream, which makes them feel as though they experience a registration effect; they are contributing to the big picture. But if the information surrounding the message is irrelevant, then how does the individual gain a sense of ownership in the Internet space, in effect, how does the individual feel valued? Dean says that “Precisely because of this registration effect, people believe that their contribution to circulating content is a kind of communicative action. They believe that they are active, maybe even that the make a difference simply by clicking on a button, adding there name to a petition or commenting on a blog (109).”

Written by HiuHiMedia

February 22, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Social Media

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About This Blog

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The Good Crowd: the convergence of corporate social responsibility, social media and social good. Questions in methodology, responsibility, and current issues and trends will be addressed, with the hopes of a better understanding the effects and relationship between corporations and social responsibility.

Written by HiuHiMedia

February 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Social Media

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Following the Crowd

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In an attempt to define my topic of discussion for this class, I’ve been playing with the idea of philanthropy and social good, specifically in terms of social media. I came across an article that I believe will help me narrow this topic down to something more tangible than the enormous umbrella I was previously brainstorming under.

The article: What Value is Crowdsourcing to Corporate Social Responsibility? provides a survey of fortune 200 business owners involved with philanthropic or community outreach to determine the value of crowdsourcing and social media to corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The questions to be asked in relation to this topic are:

  • Defining corporate social responsibility
    • corporate model examples
    • benefits/drawbacks
  • Crowdsourcing methodologies.
    • data gathering
    • demographics
  • Current trends
    • statistical analysis
    • successful ventures, compare and contrast failures
  • Impact for the future, for both corporate and philanthropic
    • projections from both corporate and philanthropic perspectives

The problem with my initial topic choice was not only that it was too broad, but I came at it from the perspective of social media being a positive vehicle for change and discovering how. It felt much more like a marketing strategy than an researched analysis. What I find appealing in this topic is that it is a relevant example of corporations utilizing social media tools, with a bit of controversy thrown in. It’s also an interesting way to approach the issue of civil engagement through technology.

Written by HiuHiMedia

February 16, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Social Media

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