The readings from this week got me thinking about my own experience with media during election years. It is interesting to me that the readings mention how campaigns used media to reach out to younger voters. I was 18 at the time of the 2004 election, so I guess I was part of the demographic the campaigns really wanted to target. I remember a lot of political talk and campaigning on the UNF campus in 2004, so the politicians must have done a pretty good job of reaching out to college-aged voters. There were no shortages of Bush or Kerry bumper stickers, signs, and other trinkets that were distributed around campus, and many people were very passionate about their chosen candidate. But I really didn’t get into the campaigning myself. My favorite source of political information actually was (as horrible as this may be to admit) late-night TV. I really enjoyed Jay Leno’s monologue jokes about the candidates. Of course, I had enough common sense to know that the punchlines were not factual, but the set-ups actually made me aware of a lot of political issues. I don’t think that I would ever base my political opinions on Leno’s jokes (as funny as they may be) or comedy sketches, but watching Leno as he mocked the politicians actually did make me more interested in the political debates, and I think it played a part in increasing my interest in actual news concerning politics. This habit of being informed about politics partially through “infotainment” (to use Jay Leno’s term) stuck with me. I enjoyed Leno’s jokes as well as the SNL sketches in the 2008 election season and even after the election was long over. Here are some of my favorites:
A couple of weeks ago, in my post “Week 10 Readings,” I discussed the viral marketing project (I promise it’s not as devious as the name suggests) that I did while I was interning in the new media department of Jacksonville’s largest newspaper. I won’t go into detail again, but basically, my supervisor had me go into MySpace groups and post links to our website’s online photo galleries. I made up fake profiles to do this because I did not want to use my personal profile and open myself up to whomever looked at the group pages. After this week’s readings about how companies are (or should be) using social media as part of their communications efforts, I realized that I – along with the new media department of the paper – was going about it all wrong. Instead of making fake profiles for individuals, I should have developed a profile for the newspaper’s website, posted the photo gallery links to the group pages under the paper’s name, and invited group members and other MySpace users to friend our website. Although it seems like the obvious thing to do now, my internship took place in 2006 (hence the use of MySpace), before every company and business had pages and fans or followers on social network sites. If only I’d had this thought five-and-a-half years ago.
Also, I found an interesting article about some companies that are using social media with great success.
This week’s readings about internet privacy made me think about my own experiences with Facebook. I knew that Facebook used information I posted on my profile to select ads that are targeted to my interests, but I was surprised when I found out that it would also monitor my chats with friends for the same purpose. Although I often see ads that have nothing to do with my profile information, I had never seen a BMW ad on my profile until one night when I was on chat with a friend and mentioned something about his BMW. When I clicked on a new page, the ads changes, and there was one for discounted oil changes at a BMW place. I was surprised and felt like it was a violation of privacy. To me, a private chat that supposedly only I and the person I am chatting with can see should be free from being monitored. Things that I post on my profile for all of my friends (or friends on certain lists) to see seem less private, so I am not so bothered by the fact that Facebook would use that information for targeting ads.
I found <a href="http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/cbsnews_player_embed.swf“>this clip from a news program about a teacher who lost her job because of pictures she had posted on her Facebook profile. Even though she had used privacy settings to control who could see the pictures, her principal somehow found out about them.
Last week, my post about social network sites contained a link to Brad Paisley’s music video for his song “Online,” which humorously portrays a man (played by Jason Alexander) who makes untrue claims about himself in his MySpace profile and manages to become “so much cooler online.”
Obviously, many people publish false or misleading information on the internet and many even make fake SNS profiles for a variety of reasons. For the most part, these activities go largely unnoticed because they are relatively harmless. I’ll admit that I have been guilty of this. I interned for the New Media department of a major metropolitan newspaper while pursuing my B.S. in Communications (journalism track). This was back in 2006 when MySpace was still popular. My supervisor asked me to go into MySpace groups and post links to our online photo galleries of events related to the groups’ interests to get more visitors to our website. This seemed harmless enough, but I did not want to use my personal profile to make these posts because I did not want to open myself up to contact attempts from whoever might see the posts. So I chose some common names (most names are incredibly common compared to mine) and became Zack Jones and Zooey Johnson. I created profiles for Zack and Zooey (not using any photos of people), giving them interests that matched the groups they joined (which happened to line up perfectly with the content of our photo galleries). It just so happened that Zack loved to fish, so he joined groups that fit that interest and posted a link to a photo gallery of a fishing tournament he had attended. Zooey was a Paris Hilton fan, so she joined Paris Hilton fan groups and posted links to the photo gallery of the grand opening of the new Club Paris (OMG, it was SO incredibly awesome!).
Although this wasn’t entirely honest, and at first I felt guilty, I was glad that I hadn’t used my personal profile to make the posts. Zack and Zooey got a lot of friend requests and messages from other MySpace users – a lot. Their Hotmail accounts were flooded with MySpace notification emails, some from people who wanted to meet them in real life, without so much as a picture of them on their profiles. The problem with that, of course, was that they didn’t exist.
While, as in my experience, fake profiles can be used for harmless reasons, they can also be used for cruel and manipulative activities such as cyberbullying – the topic of one of this week’s readings. The first time I remember hearing of cyberbullying was the case of a woman and her daughter who created a fake MySpace profile for a boy and used it to bully a young teenage girl who committed suicide because she was so distraught over the horrible things the boy said to her when he ended their online relationship. Here is an articleon the case.
All of the readings for this week focus on social networking sites. They mention how SNS users try to portray themselves favorably on their profiles. This reminded me of the hilarious Brad Paisley music video “Online,” featuring Jason Alexander (George from Seinfeld), William Shatner, and Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady).
The discussion of Facebook, including Boyd & Ellison’s statement that sites like Facebook “primarily support pre-existing social relations … These relationships may be weak ties, but typically there is some common offline element among individuals who friend one another, such as a shared class at school” (221) also reminded me of the YouTube video “Facebook in Real Life,” which I mentioned in class after Dean showed the real-life Twitter video.
I thought the articles were interesting because they focus on such a familiar topic. Because I never had any knowledge of SNS before going off to college and finally being persuaded to join Facebook in 2004, I enjoyed Boyd & Ellison’s explanation of the history of SNSs.
This is something I’ve seen posted on Facebook a lot recently. I think it fits in pretty well with the readings.
“It’s gone viral.”
Years ago, if someone uttered this phrase, we would have thought that person was talking about a disease. No longer. Now when we hear this phrase, we know that whatever is being referenced has become a hit in the virtual world. Something that has gone viral will be well known among most people with social media profiles because videos and other items that go viral have been posted and re-posted numerous times by countless users. Facebook users will have seen these things multiple times in their newsfeeds. Sometimes, these clips even make digital headlines on sites like MSN.com. So, when I mention the e-Harmony crazy cat lady in my Strategic Communication class, everybody in the class has seen the hit YouTube video and knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Sometimes people now become famous through personal videos that at one time would have only been seen in their living rooms by their family and friends. For example, a quick Google search reveals that the stars of the “Charlie Bit Me” video and their parents were interviewed for talk shows in multiple countries.
YouTube, online news outlets, and others actually encourage the sharing of content by providing buttons that allow viewers to post the content to their Facebook or Twitter pages with a click. That makes it easy to share great videos, like my personal favorite, “The Mean Kitty Song.”
As Jenkins discusses in Convergence Culture, user-generated content, with low budgets and amateur stars and producers, can become wildly successful. He gives the example of George Lucas in Love, which was created by a Star Wars fan and when released on Amazon.com sold enough DVDs to outsell an actual, professionally-produced Star Wars movie.
In this week’s readings from Convergence Culture (chapters 1 and 3), Jenkins explores the concepts of knowledge communities and collective intelligence, focusing on the world of entertainment (specifically, on Survivor The Matrix). As Jenkins writes, “Collective intelligence refers to this ability of virtual communities to leverage the combined expertise of their members. What we cannot know or do on our own, we may now be able to do collectively” (27).
Of course, professionals have always collaborated and formed teams, working together in order to take advantage of each member’s knowledge and skills and to achieve as a team what no one member could do individually. However, technology has reshaped the ways people can work together and has eliminated, or at least minimized, barriers that used to stand in the way of collaboration. Now, geographic location is pretty much irrelevant. People who live on different sides of the world can easily share all types of files, communicate instantly, and work together almost as if they were not separated by great distances. This is made clear in Jenkins’s example of Wezzie and Dan, the Survivor spoilers who “live halfway across the country from each other, but they work as a team to try to identify and document the next Survivor location” (32).
When reading about the lengths to which these spoilers are willing to go, and the extreme time investment they must put into their activities, I’ll admit I was a bit baffled and maybe even a little judgmental at first. Really, we all waste some time on pointless pursuits, and what these people do with their time is their own business, but I still couldn’t help thinking that the time and effort these spoilers are willing to put into their activities could be put to better use. Jenkins apparently has had similar thoughts: “Imagine the kinds of information these fans could collect, if they sought to spoil the government rather than the networks … Having said that, I don’t want to seem to endorse a very old idea that fandom is a waste of time because it redirects energies that could be spent toward ‘serious things’ like politics into more trivial pursuits” (29).
Jenkins quote brought to mind a headline I came across on my MSN homepage recently. This article explains how “Video-game players have solved a molecular puzzle that stumped scientists for years, and those scientists say the accomplishment could point the way to crowdsourced cures for AIDS and other diseases.” This is a current, real-world example of collective intelligence at work. In 2006, when Jenkins published Convergence Culture, he could only imagine what fans could accomplish if they focused on more serious concerns. Now, we are beginning to find out.