Sunday, May 13, 2012

So you thought it was going to be so hard

So for the past two classes I've taught about social media (theory and practice?) - there's been outright rebellion. What? No paper? How do you mean? Are you serious? What are the guidelines? What are we supposed to do. But my dear students, you excel, far beyond any kind of comprehension I can expect.

You do such amazing jobs showing how YOUR interests intersect with the theories we've discussed, and in some cases, create fascinating intersections that can be shared with audiences that then take them up and reuse them. Case in point: Ms. Stephanie Linka. Her video on Caine's Arcade and its Spreadability was used at the Caine's Arcade Foundation meeting in Los Angeles. @henryjenkins tweeted her and his research group took this up. The filmmaker that discovered Caine favorited my tweet - sharing her video more.

This is spreadability in action. Here's the video.
How Caine Won the Internet from Stephanie Linka on Vimeo.

Then there's Andrew Clark's ridiculous Texts from Hilary - Texting Cats mashup - which created a bit of a stir among my Twitter followers (and Henry) when he tweeted it out. I told Andrew that his final grade depended on his response to all of this, but I was kind of just kidding. Though not quite as shareable, you can see this 25-point exchange between two memes. As Andrew put it:
This semester we discussed what makes a meme: how memes are not self-replicating, but are constantly changing as they pass from person to person, through culture, as each individual adds value to the original meme. Successful memes - such as LOLCatz - are those that can be used for a wide variety of purposes while still maintaining their most basic structure. To illustrate this point, I adapted two popular memes - Texting Cat and Texting Hillary Clinton - to suit a purpose that adds value to me and you while still keeping the memes basic DNA. What if Texting Cat and Texting Hillary Clinton had a conversation about memes, according to Henry Jenkins? 
Chris Watts' Tumblr really took apart the first "social olympics" and did a great job looking at core theories from the class, thinking about how and why the IOC might have made some miscalculations with their social media strategy. One of his critiques is this:
One of these guidelies related directly to “Domain Names/URLs/Page Naming.” The verbatim language from the document is: Domain names and URLs including the word “Olympic” or “Olympics” or any similar words related thereto (or any foreign language equivalents thereof) are not allowed unless approved by the IOC beforehand. For example, www.[myname] would not be permitted while www.[myname].com/olympic would be allowed, but only during the Period of the Olympic Games during which these Guidelines are applicable. 
Similarly, participants and other accredited persons may not create stand-alone Olympic-themed websites, application or any other feature to host coverage of the Olympic Games. This seems like am almost imposible task to regular and an incredibly bold move by the IOC to regulate how the the word “Olympic” can be used.
Matt Maschino's project takes a look at the problem with Wikipedia -- that it is having trouble attracting new editors. While the site is fantastic at being sticky, and even spreadable, he argues Wikipedia is actually in danger...he definitely goes through much of the course's reading, offering a good intro for anyone interested in these theorists to learn more. Here's one of the cartoons he used to describe why one might not want to have a "like" button, or track one's browsing history, but why Wikipedia is so sticky.

Then, Courtney McKay took on the subject of whether social media could be addictive, posing the question to her friends:

She talked about the day-to-day issues we experience with social media, and for this project, she took on the subject of addiction.

And I have to say, Lynn Evans has just gone nuts this semester with her night at the movies blog. It started small, but it has turned into -well now she has a PINTEREST board for her movie obsession... She's been starting to amuse us - and tell us more about movies - through personalized videos and criticism. This blog is truly an amazing blog about a personal interest that I hope she continues because she's made to be a movie critic. And she gets convergence culture. Check out this pic.
It's not every day that Ms. Piggy comes to your wedding. (P.S. Lynn, you look fantastic!) And here's everything with the links. Do follow them. You will be stoked.
HK does a brilliant takedown of what stays on FB doesn't well, stay on FB.... she gathers some pretty insane details, using sources such as the Wall Street Journal to tell us about some of the serious ways in which Facebook keeps track of our behavior. More disturbing is the lasting effects that what we do on Facebook can suddenly become part of whether we are hired or fired.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Would have could have

What should I have talked more about this semester? What could I have talked less about? Recently I went to the Sunlight Foundation's Transparency Camp I was inspired by ideas of open-government, hacking and journalism all working together, access to information, and self-organizing. Should I have included this? Should I have talked more about Facebook? Should I have talked more about the idea of Facebook as a platform? At Transparency Camp, after all, I learned how in the country Georgia, some people just get the Internet to go on FB, and that some restaurants don't have Websites, they just have FB. So the country has literally leapfrogged past the Web. Which concerns me... Privacy? Did we do enough on privacy? What do you think we could have talked about more?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Admittedly confused

So, Google tells me that I have to migrate blogs. I don't really remember my blogger username or password. That's how connected it's always been to everything. Am I part of the new blogger already? Help me! Help me! There is no way to recover my username that I have found. #technologyfail It always sucks when it is YOUR job to understand all sorts of social media, and you can't figure out how to fix this one thing. I'm just hoping all my blogs don't disappear and I don't have to start all over. They do seem to be in the new blogger? Maybe they've migrated already? I have no idea. Help someone! This is my cry. That is all.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Occupeep and MemePeep

Admittedly it's a little after Easter for this post, but I thought I would draw upon something quite appropriate to this class: the Washington Post's annual Peep diorama contest.

This contest combines the physical with the virtual. Take something like Peeps: apply the principles of convergence culture (remix big media: Peeps, Media, with creativity) and then make it shareable -- all via the Post Web site.

Now, of course, the Post gets to decide which of the THOUSANDS of Peep dioramas it will select for final peep viewing, but consider this: the user is invited to be part of the process. Big media is opening the gates to user production. It's silly but it's a great example of ordinary people getting involved in something that we might be able to consider civic participation. The Post gets to continue to be authoritative, even if it's just putting forward a Peep contest, and we might see the act of making a Peep diorama as an act of citizenship.

What I really loved, though, were the social media inspired Peep dioramas. Of course, we can all have our own thoughts about Occupy Wall Street, but to some degree, it was facilitated through social media.

So here's the winner:

I also love Meme Peep, inspired by the meme. My sense was that the Post could not pick this as a winner because not everyone was a meme follower on Facebook.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How Do You Get Something to Spread?

For reasons that will be later explained in the class, I don't like using the term viral.

Viral implies, as Henry Jenkins argues, the idea that we are not active participants in the sharing and distribution of media content; that there was no preexisting structure to share this content; and that there was no way that our own emotions, tags, etc. influenced how this meme, etc. got shared.

So I saw an amazing video yesterday about Travyon Martin.

When I first saw it on a friend's FB, it only had a few hits. Then I pushed it out over twitter, and got a couple of RTs.

Henry and I were talking about how to spread it, and he pushed it out over his Twitter.

I found this video so compelling because it was a remixing and appropriation of Howard students looking at the Travyon Martin situation and responding in a powerful way. I want this video to spread. What is my power to do this? I guess the only thing I can do is share it through my social networks.

So the question becomes: How do you get something to spread? What takes off and what doesn't? How can we get substantive content to be shared?

Sunday, March 18, 2012


So, admittedly, I love baby animals. Well, to make that more clear, I love fuzzy and furry animals.

You probably guessed it would come to this, but I joined a small listserv put together by a friend, and friends of friends, about animals. So throughout the day, I get a steady stream of animal news. It's awesome.

For example, I learned about this fuzzy creature:

Seriously, a snowboarding possum...

This week is the first episode of what promises to be the greatest show ever: Frozen Planet, narrated by Alec Baldwin.

In fact, it's so awesome that TWO penguins were flown to New York to see it


So, natch, Animalist is getting together IRL as Howard Rheingold put it, to see the screening of Frozen Planet at my house. I don't know if I've messed up by inviting one or two other people to Frozen Planet - if it will mess up the vibe - but I'm pretty stoked about Frozen Planet. It will be, in a word, awesome.

But it will also be one of those great examples that is so rare now where I've heard people's names, don't know them on facebook, and only know most of them from their good humored postings on animalist. So this is online community circa 1993.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Twitter in the Newsroom

It's getting to that point where I will, indeed, try to publish all my data from The Times that I used in my dissertation as a book. One of the things I looked at was how journalists were using social media.

At a conference, NYT editor Lauren Heron said:

"I think my job will probably not exist in five years."


Presumably, everybody will be on social media platforms.

But as I was writing up my research yesterday, I discovered what my colleague Dr. Hindman would call something like a Power Law effect with social media users at The Times. (It's funny, once you start to look, you see power laws operating everywhere).

It goes a little like this.
@nytimes: 4.5 million followers
@nickkristoff: 1.4 million followers
@pogue: 1.2 million followers
I think I'm missing some more people with millions of followers but it drops sharply to those who have about 300,000 followers like
@carr2n (David Carr)
And then to people who have just about 10,000 +/- 5,000 followers, like, ironically, @jillabramson, the Times' executive editor.

This tells us relatively little about how these journalists are using Twitter, but I encourage you to take a look at their feeds. The @nytimes bot tweets out links to headlines - there's no engagement with audiences. It's a robot. @nickkristof does an awesome job answering audience questions. @pogue uses audiences when he happens to have a question, but rarely do we see any signs of audience engagement otherwise. David Carr and Brian Stelter are generally carrying on conversations among elites.

On another note, I embarrassed myself with Evgeny Morozov on Twitter today:

Evgeny Morozov ‏ @evgenymorozov Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
@nikkiusher there's nothing to translate there - these are real Web cam captures from the Russian polling stations
Evgeny Morozov ‏ @evgenymorozov Reply Retweet Favorite · Open
@nikkiusher dunno, seems like a regular Russian plebiscite ;-)

Apologies for not being more visual and linky like I preach. Not sure how to use this mac, to be honest!