Topics in Emerging Media and Communications

Posts Tagged ‘social media

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

Connected Consumers

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Modern society is dependent on cultural consumption. We have structured our social and economic relationships around new media platforms that allow freedom of expression and exchange of ideas and information, but are we really connecting?

In “the Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere” Jurgen Habermas argues that there is no room in modern society for rational debate, modernity has made us all lazy and individualistic with no connections to each other or to the great good, but is this true?

Habermas gives an overview of the development of the separation between public and private spheres in society. He argues that the rise of the bourgeois reading class was the vehicle for public discourse and for the identity of man to become both property owner and human being. Man’s new subjective identity changed his relationship to society, town, and conjugal family.

“In the intimate sphere of the conjugal family privatized individuals viewed themselves as independent even from the private sphere of their economic activity – as persons capable of entering into ‘purely human’ relations with one another. The literary form of this at the time was the letter (48).”

With a sense of independence in station comes independent thought, and the vehicle to express that thought was discourse in the coffee houses and later, writing. But don’t we have these interactions in the modern world? Individuals in modern society pride themselves on independent thought and action.

When I walk into Starbucks (the modern coffee house?) I see a dozen people clicking away on their laptops in a communal space with ambient music, overpriced coffee and comfy chairs. Starbucks in an inclusive space, open for everyone. Wouldn’t this be the ideal place to have a political discourse? To ask the questions unknown?

The people I observe at the coffee house appear isolated at their tables.  They may lean over to talk to their neighbor about the Oscar nominations, but there is no need for them to explore the meaning of life, death and taxes.

And what is it they’re viewing on the laptops? I can’t speak for strangers, but I will admit that my RSS feed contains more websites focused on entertainment and fashion than politics or straight journalism. I’m much more likely to peruse the internet than start up a philosophical debate with gentleman checking MLB stats sitting next to me, which leads me to wonder; if the public discourse that existed in 18th century Europe doesn’t exist in our modern coffee houses? Does it happen in the virtual community?

Habermas says no. He believes that the separation between public and private spheres that existed in 18th Century Europe cannot survive in our illusionary world of a dominate private sphere.

“Leisure behavior supplies the key to the floodlit privacy of the new sphere, to the externalization for what is declared to be the inner life. What today, as the domain of leisure is set off from the occupational sphere that has become autonomous, has the tendency to take palce of that kind of ublic sphere in the world of letters that at on time was the point of reference for subjectivity shaped in the bourgeois family’s intimate sphere (159).”

By this Habermas means that our modern culture of escapist, entertainment-centric conception disconnects us from subjectively viewing ourselves and developing personal relationships with our intimate associations. The separation of public and private spheres (due to free market strategies and other political variables) has caused a shift in the subjectivity of the individual. The space available for critical debate has moved online, but new media platforms provide as much or more opportunities for consumption as they do for enlightenment.

So, is Habermas right in his conclusion that the public sphere is dead because we are now a bunch of consumers with no real connections to each other?


I say maybe because I have an optimistic leaning when it comes to man’s innovation and potential. What strikes me as funny to is that we are all consumers, and the connections we make between each other are mostly based on consumption. This doesn’t mean there cannot be another shift to explore the nature of the subjective individual. I just don’t see it happening yet.

And on that note, I need to add a few books to my Amazon wish-list.

image: Lloyd’s Coffee House, London by William Holland 1789

Written by HiuHiMedia

January 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Do Good

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I am fascinated by how people develop connections, whether it be in real life or the digital world. Most people have a presence in both spaces, experiencing a freedom unknown before the explosion of the internet to create personas, expand relationships, and exchange information on a global scale. This kind of communication and community building has the potential to promote much social good in the world. Yes, I said good, but before I mount my humanitarian soapbox, I want to explore how peoples postions on supporting social causes have shifted, are shifting, and will continue to shift because of the internet (and more specifically social media).

While reading “Blown to Bits” by Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen, and Harry Lewis, I kept coming back to the problem of changing the individual’s perception of how they live in the digital world. What does this mean? Can it be done, and if it can how do you do it? Changing perceptions happens slower than the the growth of technology and flow of information, much slower. People are naturally suspicious of new ideas and change, and to get them to experience a paradigm shift in thinking feels near impossible. And that’s just the thinking part. Getting people to act on a shifted perception is like moving a mountain (a lame attempt at metaphor I know, but you get the idea).  So how does this relate to doing social good?

There are numerous campaigns flooding the web, drumming up support and funds for social causes, so many that the individual quickly feels confused and overwhelmed. How can clicking a link or reblogging a post help starving children in Africa? Which social causes to trust, who controls the dollars, how to participate, the list goes on. There is also the perception that the younger generations are apathetic to the idea of being socially active.

My own concern with doing social good by harnessing social media platforms is how construct a model that is effective in changing how people perceive their role within the community. Instead of clicking a button for a second of instant gratification, they feel that they share a long-lasting responsibility for supporting and promoting the greater good, which promotes connections and community building in both the real and digital realms. I suspect that a shift like this happens via slow, incremental change, but by exploring methodologies and trends of current social causes we can more accurately predict the future of social good, thereby designing programs and implementing changes more effectively.

Written by HiuHiMedia

January 20, 2011 at 2:43 pm


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I wrote this post a few weeks back but had internet difficulties. In an attempt to cover my proverbial ass, I posted a list of nonsense notes I had made while watching the film Remix!

Later, I tried to repost my original work, but my computer crashed and managed to lose all my brilliance. As an act of frustration and defiance against the system, I left my notes up and called it art. But is it art? It could be considered a stream of consciousness, a river of ideas that, if one looks closely, reveal a hidden truth about the world.


So here is my original posting:

How random is random?
Ideas are most lucrative
Manifesto: Culture is always built on the past
The established powers of the past will always try to control the future
Our future is becoming less free
To build free societies you must limit the control of the past
Digital rights management
In rainbows Radiohead
$4200000 for16 songs
fair use allows for free speech
Copyright was meant to foster creativity
A balance between the rights of the artist and the public
Peer to peer network
Creative commons sets art free
No one creates in a vacuum
Largest free library of information ever in 18 months
Our extremism should no t be forced on developing nations
Viva Brazil!!

Meaningless as it may seem, I think there are some important points made regarding the price of ideas. Ideas, stored information, creativity is powerful. Our society still deals in oil and corn, but the commodity of technology is a serious threat. This is especially apparent in the push for patents and copyrights on intellectual property.

No one is allowed to own anything, manipulate anything or distribute anything without a team of lawyers and a pile of cash. Progress is halted while dealers make deals and the average people fear the consequences of downloading Happy Birthday off a torrent site. Copyrights were put in play to protect the artist and foster creativity, but when companies saw the dollar signs behind copyrights, the creative process died.

But art is not dead. Creative expression, scientific exploration, innovation will happen, regardless of law or penalty. The people, humanity, that is where creativity lies, not in policy. Countries like Brazil are providing an education system that is structured around collaboration and connection. Watching Remix reminded me that there is a need for the individual is still important. GirlTalk will still make music, whether he gets paid or not. That to me is an inspiration.

Written by HiuHiMedia

November 10, 2010 at 6:15 am

Media Overloaded

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Confession: I didn’t own a cell phone two years ago. You heard me, I had no cell phone. Instead, I had a home phone with an answering machine. If people needed to get in contact with me, they could leave a message. I was in control of my own time and personal space. I spent my free time painting, writing short stories, cooking, meditating, practicing yoga and studying.

My friends and family thought I was crazy for not having a cell. What if I got lost? What if I was in danger or my car broke down? Why couldn’t they get a-hold of me whenever they wanted? My argument was always “leave me a message and I’ll get back to you.” If something bad or inconvenient happened, I would figure it out, I didn’t mind tempting the fates.

I appreciated my disconnected lifestyle, in fact I took pride in it, until I was required to have a cell phone for work. My sacred space was thus infiltrated by media. The cell phone started a spiral into email groups, blogging, Facebook, message boards, Tumblr, Twitter etc. etc. etc. I was texting all the time, my phone super-glued to my palm, readily available for everyone and anyone to contact me. I couldn’t go an hour without checking on the status of my media outlets.

With time and my chosen graduate field of study, I’ve become completely engrossed by the sharing of information and technology.  It’s exhilarating to be part of a movement, and to learn discover the inner workings of media, but it often feels overwhelming. More and more I find myself stressed, on the verge of obsessed with excess connectivity. There is so much information out there and not enough time  to absorb it all. I feel left behind the pack, like I’m watching the wave of knowledge pass me by.

Is my brain quick enough, my ability to multi-task, multi-conceptualize fast enough? Am I handicapped because I didn’t play video games or watch TV as a kid?  These and so many other questions plague my dreams of becoming a social media expert. I fear that I will forever feel like a fraud.

What I’ve realized recently is that I have been so busy playing catch-up and thinking about all the information I need to absorb that I’ve lost sight of my priorities. I haven’t spent enough time away from the computer screen. I haven’t put my phone down and picked up a paint brush. As much as I’m in love with the possibilities of social media, I’m more in love with being creative and innovative within my own life sphere.  I miss taking time for quiet contemplation, I miss practicing yoga, I miss the sound of my own thoughts.

Now I’m faced with a dilemma. How do I find balance now that social media has taken over my time?  My personal goal is to make my use of media in a meaningful, safe and effective way so that I can stay connected but still have time for the practices and people that bring fulfillment.

I don’t want to be the girl with the cell phone in her hand, I want to be the girl with her hands in the air, dancing to her own personal soundtrack.

Written by HiuHiMedia

November 2, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Posted in Social Media

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Collective for A Cause

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Last Wednesday, October 20, was declared Spirit Day as part of National Bullying Prevention Month and National Domestic Violence Month. People across the U.S. and Canada wore purple to raise awareness not only for bullying and domestic violence, but also in honor of the recent suicides of LGBTQ youth.

The movement to start Spirit Day was dreamed up in Canada by a girl, Brittany McMillian, with a Tumblr page. She then created a Facebook page with over 71,000 members. Even I joined this movement, wearing purple and, along with my internet friends, changed my various social media avatars a matching shade.

In an effort to create awareness and tap into the social media community, MTV has just launched “A Thin Line” an interactive visualization tool with corresponding app to stop cyber bullying. Upon visiting the site, the user is given a short survey to complete with questions regarding the posting of nude photographs, online privacy, and text stalking, all posed in youth-appropriate vernacular. When the survey is completed the user sees a map of the U.S. with lines indicating other participants who are fighting against digital bullying.  There is also the promise of winning a free trip to the MTV Video Music awards for completing the survey.

MTV’s motive behind this site is to bring in a collective awareness of a National issue, a collective intelligence if you will.  GLAAD and Facebook have also joined forces to spotlight bullying, and Youtube has a channel It Gets Better of stories of pro – LGBTQ supporters and public figures sharing messages of hope. The channel has received almost 2 million views and has created a large amount of political and entertainment buzz, even President Obama submitted a video.

One might be suspect of large corporations joining forces with individuals to support this cause, considering their motives for lucrative sponsorship deals and marketing and promotion, but information and and awareness is still being distributed and in most cases larger corporations (money and connections) help distribute these messages to a wider audience quicker and more efficiently.

Spirit Day is a great example of grassroots, network efforts: what started with a tumblr post turned into a movement which made people stop, consider, and act on an important issue.

The question is not if the initial response is successful, it is if that response will last and the end result will be real, meaningful change. This is the trouble across political and social lines: how can the individual’s voice converge with the whole to make effective change happen in real time? How do we dismantle the old system? What will the new system look like? Who will be responsible for policing networks? What are reasonable time frames to establish with a new understanding of political and social movement impact?

Whoa, that’s a lot of questions and I’ve only hit the high notes.

Take your pick which ones to answer, but the conclusion I am making is that any publicity is ultimately good for social movements, but it is importance to be aware that the network is always humming in the background and to question who might be influencing the distribution of the message.

Written by HiuHiMedia

October 27, 2010 at 4:52 am

Techno Burgers

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I’m sitting on my couch watching TV, not feeling the least bit hungry when a commercial hawking the biggest, juiciest, most perfectly staged hamburger I’ve ever seen flashes across the screen. Suddenly my stomach grumbles, my mouth waters, and my eyes grow in proportion to the cheesy burger. Growing, grumbling, growing, grumbling until I just can’t take it anymore. My brain hears my gastromic orchestrations and says, “Hey stomach, that restaurant is just down the street. It would be so easy to get in your car and  buy a burger to ease your pain” and my stomach agrees: Must. Have. Burger.

Somehow, 5 minutes later, I find myself in the drive-thru, ordering a 2,000-calorie burger I didn’t know I wanted, But I feel in control. This burger was my decision and darn it I went out and got it. Victory is mine!

This scenario has happened to me (more than once) and I’m willing to bet it’s happened to you (unless you have self-control, which I lack). But how does an impulsive burger run have anything to do with technology?

My desire for a burger began with technology. I was watching TV and advertisers spend billions of dollars to make sure that their product gets into my psyche and stays put. TV happens to be the medium to best reach me during my hour of weakness. And they don’t just target me as an individual, they target the collective of people who watch my TV show, read my favorite magazine, or visit my preferred online shopping site.

But it’s not solely the advertiser. I, the individual, look for the fastest shopping experience, most streamlined method of communication, and the one product that will make my life easier. Why? Because I want to enjoy all the extra time technology promises. I can stream Netflix from my computer or text Grandma instead of enduring a 3-hour phone update. Look at all the extra time I have! Isn’t technology amazing?

Yes, it is amazing. It also threatens the idea of the autonomous individual. We all use technology all the time, and we all want the newest and greatest. The idea of “The American Dream” comes to mind, complete with ipads for the entire family. It sounds ridiculous to go against technology when it is so accessible and convenient, and yet my parents refuse to buy a cell phone on principle.

Herbert Marcuse discusses how the new, mechanized system of labor, fueled by technological advancements, supports a collective standardization and collective achievement, thereby replacing an individualist, predominantly agrarian labor structure.

Does this mean that Individuality is dead?

We are all cogs in the big machine, consuming, producing, with the same voice and the same desires, but then again, maybe not. Marcuse defends that individuality isn’t dead; it just becomes unnecessary in large-scale industry and mass culture structures. The individual within each of us fights against the idea of being one of the lemmings, part of a collective that is easily swayed by structures created for mass control. But when we allow technology to streamline our daily tasks, we allow more time for other pursuits.

“Moreover, mechanization an standardization may one day help to shift the center of gravity from the necessities of material production to the arena of free human realization. The less individuality is required to assert itself in standardized social performances, the more it could retreat to a free ‘natural’ ground.”

If technology made my crave the hamburger so much I had to buy it, you could say I was now free. I didn’t have to spend time thinking about what I wanted to eat, I didn’t have to grow the ingredients, butcher the cow, or prepare the meal. I have an instant hamburger, a burger that has been served over a billion times, but its homogeny has possibility. I could cut it in little bits and pass it out to all my friends so they could share my experience. I could add some guacamole and jalapenos for a new flavor combination, or I could use the hamburger a inspiration for my next work of art.  The hamburger potentials are endless, and dare I say transcendent, all because I am free to get creative.

Written by HiuHiMedia

September 1, 2010 at 3:12 am