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Social Media in Spain

With so many different social networking sites out there, how do  you choose which one to use? In America we use Facebook, Twitter and Youtube primarily, but what do other countries use? Well, in this blog post I will examine one country’s social media usage and one of their most popular sites in depth. I have decided to do this international social media project on the country of Spain and will focus on the social networking site, Tuenti, which is predominantly used by Spaniards and is based in Spain as well.

CULTURE OF SPAIN    

I will start with a little background about the country of Spain and it’s digital landscape before I delve into Tuenti. In 2011 the population of Spain was about 47 million, according to the municipal register found on Google. To put that in perspective, the U.S. had a population of about 300 million in 2011, so Spain is about 1/6 of our size.

The median age in Spain is 40 years old versus 37 in the U.S. and over 90 percent of the country is Roman Catholic. Just to give you an idea about what is produced in Spain, here is a list of the top Industries in Spain: Machinery &Metals, Textiles (clothing and shoes), and Food and Drink.

DIGITAL BACKGROUND

Percent of Spain on the Internet

The total online population in Spain as of 2012 is 30,654,678 users and of those users, the median age is between 25 and 34. Similar to the U.S., internet usage is much more popular among the younger generations who have grown up with it, but the numbers continue to grow rapidly; about a million new users a year for Spain. By 2015, Newmediatrend.com predicts that Spain’s internet users will total over 33 million.

Here’s a little fun fact. Over 3 billion videos were viewed online in Spain in March of 2011, according to ComScore.com. That’s all in one month, so apparently the Spaniards love their online videos.

 SOCIAL MEDIA BACKGROUND

Social Media is very popular in Spain with Facebook leading the way. Of the 30 million people on the Internet in Spain, 69% of them use Facebook, followed by Youtube at 10% and Tuenti at 10% as well. Twitter is still behind at 5% but is gaining popularity. As of June 2012 the Facebook users of Spain totaled over 16, million and the users of Tuenti totaled 13 million, which shows that Tuenti is rapidly gaining popularity in Spain (newmediatrend.com).

Another popular Spanish site worth mentioning is Meneame, which is a social news website where users can share stories, post links and leave comments. Meneame is very similar to the English site Digg, in that it allows users to vote web content up or down, so the most popular stories show up at the top.

TUENTI vs FACEBOOK

Tuenti is a Madrid, Spain-based social networking site that values privacy and simple communication. It is very popular among students age 18-24; especially graduate students, in Spain, according to Alexa.com. Tuenti prides itself on its clean interface and tight security. According to their corporate blog Tuenti is “the easiest way to communicate with everyone and share experiences with the people who matter most at all times.”

Tuenti is very similar to Facebook in its design, down to the blue color scheme and features of the site. It has even been called the “Spanish Facebook.” The Tuenti profile allows you to do almost everything that a Facebook profile allows you to do. You have your profile picture, friends, photos, notifications, a wall or timeline to make posts and a chat feature. You can also create events and link videos.

DIFFERENCES

As I mentioned, Tuenti has a cleaner user interface, which users of Facebook might think is too minimalistic. One of the main space-savers is the decision by Tuenti not to allow banner ads or sidebar ads on profiles like Facebook does. This gives the site a more spacious feel and makes it less cluttered.

Tuenti has tighter security features than Facebook. Tuenti is an invitation-only social networking site and each user only gets 10 invites to send out. One of the other security features I found appealing and interesting was the ability on Tuenti to designate real friends from people who are merely contacts or acquaintances. When you share photos or links you can choose to just share among your friends or with everyone. All users have their default settings at maximum privacy and protection level for their personal information, being only visible to people identified as “your friends.

Tuenti’s group chat feature allows users to share private photos with their group or invite friends who were not connected to the realtime chat to read the conversation later.

Tuenti wasn’t always available on mobile phones, but with their recent global expansion they now are. I know what you’re thinking; “Facebook has been on mobile smartphones for years.” Well Tuenti does something that Facebook does not. Tuenti offers its users data and phone service plans. They offer 1GB of data or 3GB for smartphones and tablets and calls cost 3 cents a minute.

 TUENTI FOR BUSINESS AND JOURNALISTS

Tuenti is a great way to develop relationships between companies and user because of a couple different reasons. 1. Hypersegmentation is the targeting of specific audiences (sex, age, location) 2. Broad coverage of platform - With 14 million users and the majority between the ages of 14-35 years old there is a huge potential audience for companies. 3. New ad formats:

A. Social Advertising – visual material is especially highlighted, and links to external pages are allowed. B. Stronger engagement – New pages, games and apps have been designed to give users the best experience C. Branded Content – Tuenti provides content advertisers with exclusives, uping the value to the customer. D. Co-marketing campaigns – Tuenti offers development campaigns in which companies work to gether as partners to better promote and growth their business faster.

Just like on facebook, Businesses can create their own pages in which users can follow and receive updates when the business promotes a product.

I didn’t find much about how journalists in Spain use Tuenti but I would assume they use it the same way journalists use Facebook: as a way to promote their stories or their blogs either on their wall or on their business page. They probably also use it as source of information.

 CONCLUSION

Tuenti continues to gain popularity in Spain and other countries, due to its recent global expansion. Tuenti is available in over 10 languages, including French, German, Italian and English. Privacy is Tuenti’s number one concern for its users, which can actually make sharing certain things a little difficult, but overall is a plus and is one of the main reasons it is popular. Tuenti continues to make innovations in order to be true to their philosophy of being the simplest way to communicate with the people who matter most all of the time.

Social Media at Suzuki of Wichita

Of all the companies in Wichita using social media effectively, there is one in particular that stands out to me: Suzuki of Wichita. Scott Pitman, operating partner at Suzuki of Wichita, has a philosophy about car buying that holds true in their social media presence as well. It is a philosophy based on the idea of not bugging the customer, which is why their sales team is all non-commission.

Pitman says, “Our number one goal is to make you feel comfortable and even thrilled about the car shopping experience you’ll find at Suzuki of Wichita (even if you don’t buy a car).” It is this attitude that makes Suzuki of Wichita the #1 Suzuki dealership in the country, and this is the way they approach social media as well.

ORGANIC BUZZ

Suzuki of Wichita doesn’t even air television commercials like almost every other car dealership. They are so confident in the car buying experience they provide that there is no need to make annoying TV ads. Instead they spend their money promoting the business organically through social media.

But they don’t just post videos and links saying, “hey look at us; look what we can offer”. Suzuki of Wichita posts videos, photos, and stories that showcase how much fun they have, and people naturally gravitate towards this fun, low-pressure environment.

This idea of gaining followers organically is what social media is all about; and its more than just social media, this is a concept that relates to life as well.

When a person is doing their own thing, on their own path and then including others, it’s completely different than when they’re trying to fit in or be with people on their paths. The person that stands out naturally draws a crowd and that is Suzuki of Wichita.

As David Meerman Scott points out in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, social media is not so much about all of the different technologies and tools but, rather, how those technologies and tools allow you to communicate directly with your buyers in places they are congregating right now.

This is exactly what Suzuki of Wichita does; they go to where their customers already are and use the social buzz to promote organically. Suzuki of Wichita has a social media presence on almost every popular platform including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Pinterest, as well as their own blog that documents events and various happenings at Suzuki.

Social Media Manager, Aaron Wirtz, who seems to have the most fun of anyone at Suzuki, runs all of this. He has the enjoyable job of creating content for their various social networks.

CONTENT & THE CREATORS

Drawing from what I learned at the Labor Party in Wichita, KS, Brandi, head of Diets in Review, talked about making the change from freelance writers of content to an in-house staff, which is exactly what Pitman has done at Suzuki hiring Aaron as the head of social media. Brandi also referred to their analytics department which found that the best time for them to post to Facebook is on Wednesday at 7 pm, so that is the only time they post. This is a strategy that Suzuki uses as well when posting content.

At Suzuki, they employ what is referred to as the Mullet Concept, which means business in the front, party in the back, or in Suzuki’s case the opposite. Suzuki promotes their fun environment up front, but on the backside, there is also a serious car dealership that is all about getting you the car that is right for you.

Aaron Wirtz posts pictures and videos to Suzuki’s social media platforms about everything from corky Suzuki raps to thank you videos. Recently there was an employee, from one of the lenders Suzuki works closely with, who made lunch for the entire team at Suzuki of Witchita.

So Aaron made a short video of the team thanking her for preparing the food. Now this type of video probably won’t go viral or anything but it is the type of social media that impacts people on a much deeper level. The people that do see this video will think, “Wow, that person likes Suzuki of Wichita so much that she made lunch for the entire office”, and that says so much about the environment and people at Suzuki.

One specific thing Suzuki does that is a huge boost in terms of social media exposure is taking pictures of customers and their new cars with the sales rep that sold it to them. When people see photos of customers and sales reps jumping for joy at their new car purchase they automatically think, “Wow, I want to have that much fun when I buy a car.”

 

 

Another social media strategy that Suzuki utilizes is getting involved in the community. They have a cook out every weekend and whether or not you plan on buying a car, you are welcome to come out and enjoy a free meal and have a look around the showroom. It is this kind of community involvement that gives Suzuki a great name and stirs social buzz by reiterating their goal of building a relationship with their customers.

TRANSPARENCY

I am hearing more and more about this word transparency when it comes to social media. The idea that your customers can see what’s going on behind the scenes of your company as well as upfront establishes trust and credibility and makes them feel more a part of the buying process.

At Suzuki this is exactly what their blog does for them; promotes transparency. Suzuki is not shy about sharing exactly what is happening in the showroom through their blog posts. Also, Scott Pitman points out that even all of the offices at Suzuki are transparent, literally. The offices are all glass cubicles, allowing customers to see exactly what is going on in the back.

CONSISTENCY

Suzuki of Wichita’s social media is very consistent which is another key part of their social media success. Keeping your customers excited about your business through a constant stream of social media is a must in a country where almost everyone has attention problems because of all the content out their. Being consistent keeps your company on the top of people’s mind and Suzuki does an excellent job of this.

Overall Suzuki makes the stressful process of buying a car fun and for the most part stress free, and they do a great job of showcasing this throughout their social media.

When all Media is Social

In a day and age where social media is constantly buzzing around us, one cannot help but ask the question, “What is social media exactly?” Well, in this blog post I will attempt to define social media and it’s future by drawing from various sources on the web.

In an article called Defining Social MediaBrian Solis, a principal analyst at Altimeter Group, says that social media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers.

It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism, one-to-many, to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers. Basically, social media is any tool or service that uses the Internet to facilitate conversations.

TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION

The exchange of information is no longer a one-way street like it used to be. We, as the audience, are now engaged with the information we receive these days, and love to share stories and produce our own content.

Newspapers that used to rule to world of breaking news are now competing with blogs and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Radio stations are competing with Internet radio shows and internet based radio channels such as Pandora and Spotify.

Television companies are up against Youtube and Vimeo channels that draw niche audiences to their pages and away from traditional TV.

 “We graduate from wanting media when we want it, to wanting it without the filler, to wanting media to be way better than it is, to publishing and broadcasting ourselves when it meets a need or sounds like fun”, says Jay Rosen in his article The People Formerly Known as the Audience.

We as the audience are no longer waiting for the six o’clock news. We go straight to social media sites or our favorite mobile app to find information we want to know about or to find new music and videos. We don’t wait for what “big media” corporations decide to dish out. We seek out the information that is important to us on sites or sources that we deem credible.

It’s both a beautiful thing, for obvious reasons, and at the same time, not so beautiful. Due to the ridiculous amount of information on the Internet , it is not uncommon to find incorrect information on or content that is out of date. But not to worry, there are thousands of other news sources to cross reference the information we find.

MEDIA TRANSFORMATION

This is not to say that traditional forms of media are completely extinct. On the contrary, traditional forms of media and related organizations can grow stronger through the use of social media if they are open to the idea of using blogs and social networking sites to build their following. Charlene Li talks more in depth about this in her book Open Leadership.

The idea behind divulging information about what your company is doing all the time through social media is something called transparency, which builds trust between companies and their customers. It is no longer like the Wizard of Oz, where the audience is left wondering what is going on behind the curtain.

They can find out what’s happening, through social media, if the company is open to that. This also lends credibility to the company and encourages buzz amongst social media. The more open you are as a company the more likely you are to be talked about on Facebook or other forms of social media.

Where is the first place people go when they open their Internet browser? For most, it’s Facebook or Twitter. Real news, as in coming from a newspaper site or publication, is the last thing on most peoples’ mind. They are more interested in seeing what their friends are talking about, which usually involves news from professional sites, but it’s filtered through the Facebook feed, which makes it more appealing to most.

SOCIAL NETWORKS AND PRIVACY

This brings me to another point about Facebook or any other site that collects personal data. We, as users, are given the illusion of privacy on these sites, through privacy settings and other devices, but we do not think about the fact that the site itself is collecting data from our “likes” and what we post and is creating a portrait of us. This portrait is something that cannot be erased.

Danah Boyd, a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research touches on this in her article, Networked Privacy. She says, “Everything that everyone else does that concerns you, implicates you, or might influence you will go down on your permanent record. It’s a networked world.  And the people that are watching may be well intended or they may want to manipulate us into buying their goods, voting for their candidate, or believing their message.”

LEVERAGING FOLLOWERS

This is why Facebook is such a great social media tool for people who know how to use it. Anyone can create a fan page on Facebook and once they’ve gained followers, they have access to their followers likes and interests, which they can use to leverage their followers into buying a specific product of supporting some candidate or whatever.

Facebook has done this time and time again to advertise to all of its users. It collects data about you then places ads and links on your feed that are relative to your specific interests. Some may find this invasive while others feel it is helpful.

Either way Facebook is building a relationship with each of its followers and as Charlene Li mentions, it is not always about mastering the latest technology, but more about having a clear idea of the relationship you want to form with your audience.

For Facebook, this is an extremely personal relationship which draws people in, and encourages them to share more and more of their personal information. Quick story about privacy and the issues that it can cause.

Back in high school, in the early days of Facebook there were some photos uploaded from a high school party where people were drinking alcohol. Long story short, some parents saw the pictures on facebook and immediately send emails to all the other parents of students in my class and everyone suffered the consequences. Moral of the story is to be careful what you upload to Facebook. It is not as private as you think.

Employers are now using social media sites to find out more information about potential employees they want to hire so it is a good idea to check your Facebook page for any inappropriate content you wouldn’t want potential employers to see.

FUTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

“Social Media will eventually become ‘media’, representative of an important chapter in its advancement and transformation”, says Brian Solis. Companies and corporations in the near future will not be able to function if they do not bow down to the social media gods and join the buzz. As media becomes more streamlined it is crucial for any company to have a social media presence, because as I stated before, it is where most people find their news first. Social media will turn into just ‘media’ because it will all be social and there is no stopping it.

The Future of the Internet

What started with harmless LOL cats has turned into an overcrowded arena of content sharing that leaves many users of the Internet feeling overwhelmed. Between pesky pop-ups, commercial clutter, and potential viruses many people have turned their backs on the World Wide Web and opened their eyes the world of Apps.

But what is so appealing about an Application you pay for that gives you the same information as the free open web. Could it be the sense of security you get when you have to login with a username and password or is it the clean, friendly user-interfaces of the apps that draw people in. Well it’s a little of both and then some.

According to Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times, “Apps sparkle like sapphires and emeralds for people bored by the junky nondesign of monster sites like Yahoo, Google, Craigslist, eBay, YouTube and PayPal. That sparkle is worth money.” But it’s not just about the sparkle either. The ease of access to specific or time-sensitive information, while on the go, is something that is priceless for many consumers.

CONNECT WITHOUT YOUR COMPUTER

Barry Glick, the founder of MapQuest points out, “There’s been this association, like you need a computer to be connected, and I think that’s rapidly, of course, going away.”

As the Internet continues to expand, so do the devices that facilitate it. In the near future, the majority of Internet surfers will be riding on the wave of a wireless device as opposed to a traditional computer.

In fact, according to Larry Greenemeier of Scientific American, “Traffic from wireless devices will for the first time exceed traffic from wired devices by 2015, when wired devices will account for 46 percent of IP traffic, while WiFi and mobile devices—including smart phones, laptops, tablets and other portable gadgets—will account for 54 percent of IP traffic.”

This change is not just because people are always on the go but also because the traditional open web has been flooded with information and devices allow user to be much more selective in the information they receive. Apps are developed specifically for certain types of users and the information they seek, which reduces the amount of clutter and disheveled information users have to sift through. With the explosion of Apple’s Store, there is literally an app for everything and as technology permits, the capabilities of these wireless devices will only continue to become more advanced and complex.

GREATER CONNECTIVITY EQUALS GREATER CONTROL

Stated by John Villasenor of UCLA “For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders–every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.”

As the reach of the Internet grows, so to does the reach of government control. With smart phones and other internet-enabled devices, we are connected to networks that are constantly being monitored by certain government personnel in order to “keep us safe.”

Safe from what I ask? Bomb threats via text message? Pssh! I mean come on; the whole monitoring of phone calls and text messages is just a way to keep us in control, by making us monitor ourselves in fear that government goons in masks might abduct us, because of a text message we sent. It’s just another fear tactic.

Make us panic as a nation with so-called terrorist attacks such as 9/11, then come to our rescue by passing laws that strip us of our civil liberties like the Patriot Act, but oh its ok because “we are safe now.” Thanks Government!

All of this monitoring in the name of security for our people is a load of crap, for lack of better words. Now I know what your thinking, “Why in the heck would the government be interested the text conversation I’m having with my friend about Bagels?”

John Villasenor, of UCLA gives us the answer in his research for the Brookings Institute. “The ability to record everything will tilt the playing field back in favor of repressive governments by laying the foundation for a plethora of new approaches to targeting dissent.”

He further explains that this type of control would allow authoritarian governments the ability to perform “retrospective surveillance.” So if someone is convicted of a crime, police or authorities will be able to look back in time at the offenders phone conversations, travels, contacts, and any other information available on their phone or computer that might lead to further conviction.

CONCLUSION

Personally, I use the internet/iPhone as my second brain, and why not? The Internet is like the brainpower of everyone combined. But not all of the information on the Internet is good. It is still at a point where you have to sift through a host of crap to find what you’re looking for. As mentioned before, the App Store has solved that to a certain degree, giving people their own clean little niche interface that makes them feel comfortable and only presents the information they want in that App.

This is a great advancement in terms of filtering and organizing data into neat little platforms of information, but I think that eventually the Internet will function just as intuitively as our brain does, literally becoming part of us. Kind of scary right?

This is still a ways off in the future but I see it like this. All of our devices from phones and iPods to computers and TVs will be linked between the Internet and our brains, so that if we think about how to bake a cake, for example, multiple results for baking a cake will present themselves on whichever device is physically closest to us at the time.

Or maybe there will be a sensor developed in laptop track pads for the future that can pickup the electrical pulses send from our brains. We will simple think about what we want to see or hear while touching the pad and BAM! There it is.

As stated by Barry Glick, “Over time, as the Internet matures, it will become something that is completely inter-woven [into] the fabric of our lives and not even something that we specifically tap into, but is just always presenting information to us.”

 

Adapting to Changes in Television

Due to advancements in technology, mainly the Internet, the future of traditional broadcast television has been called into question. In this post I will put myself in the shoes of a TV Network CEO as I try and understand how to adapt to the changes we have seen in television and the way we watch videos.

  The way people watch TV and the reach of television has changed dramatically over the course of a decade, and continues to change. As a Television Network CEO I am now competing with companies such as Netflix and Hulu that have capitalized on the ability to stream video on the Internet. This explosion in Internet video watching has slowly been stealing away my viewers. Nielsen.com estimates that almost 145 million people watch video online in the U.S., compared to about 290 million who watch traditional TV.

In order to maintain my viewers I am going to invest in high quality shows that make money because they are specialized for certain loyal niche audiences.

This is a transition we have seen in television with many stations, because television can no longer survive on advertising alone. In the old days, according to Rob Levine, “Since networks only made money on advertising, they chose shows that would reach as large an audience as possible, whether or not individual viewers felt strongly about them.”

Now we have seen a transformation in the quality of show being produced. Hit shows like Mad Men shown on AMC or Modern Family on ABC are making money because they appeal to a loyal niche audience that will practically pay anything to see their favorite show.

I will invest in high quality TV shows that appeal to a loyal niche audience, because they are going to be willing to pay the high cost of a cable subscription to my networks shows if they are quality. As technology becomes more individualized and personalized toward the consumer, it is crucial to appeal to individual interests as opposed to mass appeal.

The idea is to capture audiences with narrowly defined interest areas and the advertisers who covet them.

I will also invest in technology that allows me to directly measure which channels my viewers are watching and at what times, so that I can better advertise to them. According to Dave Morgan, “For system operators, their ownerships of directly measured data and access to smart digital set-top boxes could transform their heretofore limited advertising businesses.”

Dave Morgan is CEO and founder of New York-based Simulmedia, a TV ad targeting company. I can use technology like Simulmedia to help improve the relevance of the ads I run on my Network. My customers will be more inclined to watch my station if they enjoy the TV shows, but also the ads in between because they are actually relevant.

In an article by Marco R. della Cava of USA Today, we learn that Youtube has invested millions of dollars in order to start producing their own line of web only TV shows.

“For now, YouTube isn’t likely to serve up the next Modern Family. Instead, it aims to provide short niche content for an increasingly fractured audience, says Shishir Mehrotra, vice president of product management.”

So as long as I continue producing quality shows, like Modern Family, my viewers will continue to pay their high cable subscription to keep my networks channels.

I will continue producing quality TV shows and using the data I have collected with data collection services, I will be able to measure which one of my shows is the most popular.

As we have seen with the introduction of Smartphones, every form of media is going mobile. This is the next big concern for a Network CEO like myself. How do I make the transition to mobile TV?

 

How the Internet has changed our lives.

Beginning with the standardization of the Internet Protocol Suite in 1982, the Internet has grown into a vast computing resource that has profoundly changed the lives of individuals worldwide. Most of these changes brought about by the Internet have been beneficial for humanity but some have affected the lives of individuals negatively.

CONNECTING AND SHARING

One of the biggest and most influential changes brought about by the Internet is the transition from individuals as consumer to individuals as producers. With the Internet every individual has the opportunity to have a voice and to contribute his or her ideas to the world. NYU Professor, Clay Shirky expounds upon this change.

”What we’re seeing is that people weren’t couch potatoes because they liked to be, we were couch potatoes because that was the only opportunity given to us.“

According to Shirky, young people with access to fast, interactive media such as the Internet, are shifting their attention away from media solely for consumption, such as TV, and using this time instead, to produce and share content.

The Internet has also changed the way people connect with each other and has enabled new forms of human interactions. Through Facebook and other Internet-based platforms people have the ability to interact with other individuals from around the world. Whether through instant messaging, video chatting, or blogging, the Internet allows for instant connection.

DEHUMANIZING

Though, the Internet can bring individuals together, it can also pull them apart. The Internet, along with all of its components, directly affects how individuals view themselves. MIT Professor, Sherry Turkle, delves into this topic in her latest book, Alone Together. She discovers that mass immersion in virtual worlds like Second Life, MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) and social networks begins to dehumanize individuals.

Virtual reality pioneer, Jaron Lanier also expresses his concern with the Internet in his book, You are not a Gadget, and helps to point out some of the less opportune changes caused by the internet in the lives of individuals. He explains how because people are constantly connected to the Internet, they are less connected to each other. Instead of talking to a person face to face, most interactions occur online, and people begin to lose the natural connection. Some people spend more time blogging, tweeting, or facebooking about what they did yesterday than they do focusing on what they are doing today.

The Internet is not perfect, but through revolutionizing the way individuals connect and receive information, the Internet has provided much more flexibility and freedom in the lives of individuals. For example, with the Internet, instead of waiting tirelessly for the weather segment to show up on the local new station, individuals can quickly access the weather or any other information on the internet, and for most, directly from their phones. However, this change has also affected the lives of individuals who work in journalism and who rely on viewers to watch their program or read their newspaper.

IMPACT ON JOURNALISTS

With most news transitioning to an online format, many journalists and news staff have lost their jobs, or their job description has changed entirely. According to Kim Hynes, former Anchor and now Digital Content Manager at KWCH Broadcasting, every reporter and most employees they hire are now required to know multiple skills other than just journalism, such as how to edit video.

“In order to survive in the ever-changing world of Internet journalism, you have to know how to do it all and how to learn on the fly”, she says.

One editor of the Wichita Eagle Newspaper, John Boogert, also expresses his thoughts. “I am not longer just competing with the local newspapers to get the latest story out. I am competing with the entire world, so it is a never ending process.” Boogert also expressed his struggle to create an interesting news story that people want to read after they have already heard about it all day on Facebook and Twitter. John Boogert is referring to the boom in amateur journalism brought about by the fast accessibility of the Internet and the introduction of Internet-enabled mobile devices. This ties into Shirky’s idea of consumers becoming producers. Individuals no longer just receive news; they create the news as well.

OTHER CHANGES

The Internet has also brought cloud-based software, which has given individuals the power and freedom to work from anywhere. No longer being tethered to one computer where the software is stored allows for greater flexibility. Individuals never have to waste time storing data or saving content to their computer when everything is self contained and stored on the internet.

The Internet has literally made the possibilities in the lives of individuals endless. Businessmen have the ability to collaborate on global projects with people from across the world. It has changed how individuals meet each other, providing a neutral meeting ground, where individuals can more or less shop for the traits they want in a partner. This gives individual even more selection and possibilities. With access to so much information on the Internet, people are much smarter, and more self-reliant. More people search the Internet for how to change their oil now, before going to a mechanic. These days, most people even shop online, which saves them time and money.

With the collaborative power of the Internet, individuals are building a better, more cooperative world, a world in which everyone is informed and connected. This connection has changed the lives of individuals in so many ways, and despite some of the downfalls, has been an extremely beneficial contribution to mankind. Overall, the Internet has given every individual a chance to produce, share, and most importantly connect with the rest of the world.

The Demassification of Communication

Today, communication happens as fast as we can touch a few buttons, and with the Internet we have the ability to choose what information we receive and from where. Because of technology, the content we receive and the media form it takes is more personalized and individualized than ever.

Where as in the past, few producers aimed to appeal to a wide audience, we are now seeing many producers creating content for smaller niche audiences and individual interests. And it’s not only the elite that are producing content. Thanks to the Internet and cheaper technology, we have seen consumers becoming producers, and many other changes as well.

I take a look back at an article call the The End of Mass Communication written in 2001 to gain some inside on this media transformation. Authors Chaffee and Metzger delve into what they call, the demassification of communication in this profound study of the media we use to communicate and how technology has transformed this.

FROM SENDER TO USER

In the early days, according to Chaffee and Metzger, “Centralized control of media content by professional and typically wealthy gatekeepers quickly characterized most mass communication.” This centralized power over media led to fears that producers could use media to control the masses. Everyone watched the same news station, television shows, and everyone received information from one source. If that source told you that overeating was healthy, you believed them because you had no other sources to compare it to.

However, because of advances in technology, the way we receive information is no longer centralized around certain elite media groups. We now have thousands of different media outlets or sources of information, and with the Internet these sources are growing daily.

As Chaffe and Mettzger had suggested, the control has shifted from the sender to the user, and from the few to the many. We, the many users, have total freedom to choose the type of information we receive and the form that it takes, and even at what time of day we want to receive it.

Today, everyone goes to their favorite radio or TV station or website to find the information that they consider credible and they can also cross check information because there are so many different outlets of information.

We are no logner stuck hanging onto, and believing every word that the only broadcast station in our city was saying. We have new media options, but with the introduction of new media, what happens to old media. Chaffee and Metger say that control by elite groups would be harder, but old media like TV and radio would never die out.

NICHE MARKETS

They were right. In fact, today more people watch TV than ever before, one of the main contributors being the freedom we have in choosing when and where we want to watch a specific TV show. Another contributing factor being related to niche markets and the thousands of different TV shows that appeal to those niche markets.

This ability to be so selective in the media we want to see or hear has created certain niche markets that Chaffee Metzger refer to as well. Once a niche market has been created, a new producer of content, like a TV station, will corner that market and continue producing content progressively more relative to that niche interest. The Internet has made the possibility for niche markets endless.

Since the article by Chaffe and Metzger was written, we have seen the rise of Facebook and Facebook advertising. The genius that is Facebook gives the creators access to your “likes” or personal interests and uses this information to advertise more relative products to you. Some feel this is appropriate and even beneficial while others feel like they are being used and its an invasion of privacy. read more (Information at the cost of advertising)

AGENDA SETTING

In terms of news, the number of news sources continues to grow, so there is no longer one centralized media source. “The problem is that the public will not be able to come together over common issues because there will not be any issues that they share in common.” Chaffe and Metzger refer to an example of how centralized media helped provide assistance to millions of starving people in Africa during the 1980s.

So as our news becomes less centralized around the elite broadcasting stations, (Fox, CNN) do we lose the ability to unify as a nation, in order to achieve one common goal? At first I thought, yeah we are less unified, but at the same time since this article was written, media has progressed even further to the point of instant notification. So the opposite might be true.

Even though we don’t all huddle around the same news station at the same time of night anymore, we are constantly informed by notification systems set up on our SmartPhones, for example. This allows us to react even sooner than if we saw it on the news. Eveyone knew about Whitney Houston’s death, for example, in a matter of minutes. This is not as important at the example in Africa, but it shows how quickly we can react as a nation together.

 ONE WAY COMMUNICATION TO TWO-WAY INTERACTIVE EXCHANGE

“The increased bandwidth of the Internet further enhances users’ ability to become content producers and to produce material that is fairly sophisticated at low cost.”The exchange of information is no longer unidirectional, as Chaffee and Metzger point out.

The film industry is a perfect example of this phenomenon. In the early days, few elite studios such as MGM and Warner Bros ruled the film industry, but as technology advanced and became cheaper, more and more studios started popping up. These days technology is much more available and easy to use. Anyone can buy and camera and begin producing, or for that matter a smart phone and begin recording and producing content to share.

Look at youtube. It totally revolutionized the way we watch videos and share content. It has only been within the last ten years, that we as consumers of movies, have had this ability to film, edit, and produce our own movies to share with the world.

NYU Professor Clay Shirky discusses this new ability to share at a 2010 TED Conference. Shirky presents a population study, which shows that young people with access to fast, interactive media such as the Internet and youtube, are shifting their attention away from media solely for consumption, such as TV, and using this time instead, to produce and share.

Chaffee and Metzger state that, “The real problem for anyone producing content in the new media environment will be in figuring out how to capture people’s attention amid the plethora of competing options.”

As we can see today, Chaffee and Metzger were very accurate in their observations about the future of mass communication. The world of mass communication that we once knew has been ‘demassed’ and personalized for the individual consumer. Our media options have expanded drastically in the last decade, allowing everyone total freedom to choose where their information comes from and at what time.

 

Technology Transforms Our Self Image

As technology continues to infiltrate every niche of our lives, how do we remain human, and keep from losing ourselves in the virtual networks and worlds we have created? In this post, I look to Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together, to gain some insight on the matter.

Sherry Turkle - MIT Professor

In one instance, Turkle interviewed a man who openly shared the fact that he was playing four avatars in three different virtual worlds, all at the same time through various windows on his computer.

“He told me that ‘real life is just one more window.’ And he added, ‘its not usually my best one.’ Where was this heading?”

My first thought was, why would somebody spend all day living in virtual worlds, when you can enjoy real life?

Then I began to look deeper at the benefits of living in a virtual world, such as Second Life. One can be whoever they want to be, without any feelings of insecurity, because no one in a virtual world knows the real you. It sounds great, but in reality, these virtual worlds are mere distractions from our true selves.

FACEBOOK FALLOUTS

Among the heart of these distractions lay Facebook. Believe it or not, even though your grandma has a Facebook, there are still some rebels who don’t, despite the peer pressure. One such person, and many others express their distaste for Facebook in this New York Times article.

I am seriously considering quitting Facebook myself. I joined Facebook because all my friends were on it, but it always seemed like one big competition to see who could have the most friends and photos, and now its even worse. Its awesome to connect with so many friends, but when you see someone who has 1000 friends and you only have 100, even though you know it doesn’t matter in real life, some small part of you feels lonely.

Facebook is a vicious cycle. I was always afraid that if I didn’t log on, I would miss out on some event or party only posted on Facebook.  Therefore, if you want to be in on the conversation, then you have to frequently visit the site. When you do not stayed updated on the latest feed, then you begin to feel disconnected because you are no longer part of the conversation, causing you to go back to the site to feel connected again.

I don’t claim to be a perfect user of technology. I have fallen prey to Youtube surfing for hours or playing a video game online all night, but for the most part, I aim to use technology to better myself as a human being, not as an avatar.

Guituner - iPhone App

APPS THAT ROCK

I am loving my iPhone, for example, because I can record or jot down ideas for a song or a video or even some points to include in my blog post. Not too mention that I just downloaded an app that turns my iPhone into the most accurate guitar tuner ever. It is incredible! However, these modern conveniences enabled by technology don’t always come without a price.

As Turkle talks about doing research for her book, Alone Together, she expresses great fear about the future of technology and how it will shape our lives and the lives of our children. She makes a great point in saying that these days, when many people are insecure about relationships and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for a way to be in a relationship, while protecting ourselves from them at the same time.

The risk and fear of not being accepted by other people keeps some from making an attempt to connect with people at all. A computer doesn’t judge, or make fun of you. It only responds to the data you enter. Therefore, a virtual world gives you total control, in a world that feels out of control.

Where as, in human a relationship, there is a shared sense of control, and the discrepancies that to along with that are too much for some to handle. This is especially an issue for someone who has faced much rejection in his or her life. Then they are even more inclined to give up on real life and stay hooked into a virtual life. The worst part is that the longer this seclusion perpetuates, the harder it is to reconnect to real society again.

Turkle uses an example of robot animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to further explain the appeal of virtual worlds. It turns out that people thought the robots acted more realistic, because they we more animated, and said that the real animals were basically boring.

Based on Turkle’s studies, apparently this applies to our view of humans as well. Some people would rather interact with a virtual human, because they think real humans are boring. What does this say about the value of life? Does this mean that the heightening of senses we experience in a fantasy world, make real life more dull?

ROBOTS BECOMING HUMAN 

Later in her Introduction, Turkle begins talking about robots and their progressively more intimate interaction with humans. She disputes ideas taken from David Levy’s book, Love and Sex with Robots. From better lovers to better friends, Levy claims that robots will eventually become better at being human than we are.

Robots can never make a personal connection because they can’t relate to the human condition, but they have changed the way we connect with each other. Turkle points out that most of our interaction with each other is still mediated by computers, making them an essential part of us. For example, in this video presentation, Turkle talks about how high school kids reported that they can sense when their cell phone rings even when its in their locker, referring to technology as a “phantom limb.”

This is not far from the truth. After all, technology is a part of us and always has been. A human created every speck of technology, and as with any act of creation, a part of the creator is infused in the creation.

The problem with technology as an extension of ourselves, is that we become dependent of it and begin to feel alone without it. When we feel lonely, we text instead of call or get on Facebook instead of searching for a personal connection, because it’s easy. We are becoming, not only physically lazy, but mentally lazy as well.

As technology continues to become a bigger part of ourselves, it continues to shape the way we view each other and ourselves. The real shame that I see in all of this, is that this technology discourages soul searching and finding your true self. If you don’t like something about yourself, you can make an avatar in a virtual world as a quick fix, instead of dealing with those issues.

People will never learn to accept themselves, and to see the innate beauty that lies inside of them, if they continue to take the easy way out. They will continue to look to their virtual worlds for some sense of self and meaning. However, the more we delve into our virtual worlds, the more we lose touch with reality and the true meaning of life.

Do Virtual Networks Dehumanize?

The way we not only interact with, but access our media has changed dramatically over the course of a few decades. Drawing ideas from chapter one of Jaron Lanier’s book “You are not a Gadget”, I have realized the true potential of the Internet in our ability to store information “in the cloud” (a vast computing resource available over the internet) versus storing information locally on a hard drive. Platforms located “in the cloud” such as Facebook, WordPress and Google allow us, as users, direct access to the software from any device with Internet capabilities. This begs the question that becomes the underling theme in Lanier’s book and in our lives. Does this direct connection to social networks and blogs dehumanize us?

LISTEN, THEN WRITE

In the introduction Lanier describes a speech he gave and how he advised the audience that it would be a “worthy experiment” for the audience to refrain from texting or tweeting during his speech. He continues to explain how if you listen then write, your mind will have time to develop a complete thought. Then, when you write, you will be in it, instead of just a relay of information.

Jaron Lanier

He is not bashing technology but pointing out the downside of being so linked into a virtual network that you are not experiencing life in the present moment, but more concerned with the next tweet or post you will make. You have to have a voice when you speak on the Internet. Make it personal. He advises later in the chapter to think about an idea for a full two weeks before blogging about it.

As the article continues, he explains the background of local software (stored on your computer’s hard drive) such as Unix or Apple and then using the example of how MIDI became locked in as the standard electronic representation of a musical note, goes on to explain the downfalls of local software and the “Ghost of Unix” caused by such lock-ins.

As time moved on and the standard of MIDI for example became out of date, at that point, it was too much of a problem to switch all the soundboards, keyboards and software made specifically for MIDI to a different format, so MIDI remained locked in and remains the standard. Even though there might be better technology out there, that might be able to represent the true tone of a musical note better than MIDI, it remains the standard. Which means that when new software or technology is released, it all has to be adapted to the old standard of MIDI.

I like how Lanier relates the example of the MIDI lock-in to the problems of localized software programs with old standards such as Unix versus platforms like Google that are located “in the cloud” or on the web and allow access to an unfathomable amount of information that can be accessed from any device with Internet capabilities.

Unix

I understand it like this. Local software compared to software “in the cloud’ is like building your house on a weak foundation versus a strong foundation. Sure the weak, simple foundation (Unix) is ok at first, but as you continue to add onto your house, making it bigger and more complex, you are also making it more unstable. Soon there will be cracks and leaks, and repairs will have to be made on a regular basis to maintain it.

Google

Now compare this to the strong foundation (Google). As you add onto your house, it remains stable and actually continues to become more solidified because of its complexity, all linked back to a strong foundation. This is how Google works. The bigger it becomes, the more complex the network of data becomes.

In learning about the lock-in of MIDI and Unix platforms, I have realized the true genius that is Google and how this “cloud” located software has influenced other software, most notably WordPress for blogging, which I am using right now, and Facebook for social networking.

Lanier talks about how in the early days of the Internet only a few people knew how to create anything. Even after it was further developed, one had to know how to write html code to create a website.

It has only been in the last century that we have had access to powerful programs such as WordPress and Google. The true powerful and creative potential being in the fact that you can edit your website and upload content from any device with Internet capacity. For me, having recently purchased an iPhone, it means that I can access my site and make changes within a matter of a couple minutes, from anywhere.

Speaking of iPhones. I was impressed at how true and poignant Lanier’s writing is as he talks about the iPhone and the “Ghost of Unix.”

Although the iPhone appears amazing, it may have some hidden issues.

“An unnerving element of this gadget is that it is haunted by a weird set of unpredictable user interface delays. One’s mind waits for the response to the press of a virtual button, but it doesn’t come for awhile. An odd tension builds during that moment and easy intuition is replaced by nervousness. Lanier refers to this feeling as the “Ghost of Unix.”

At first it works great, but without a strong foundation, just like in my house metaphor, the program begins to develop glitches and interface errors, and you either accept it or buy a new product.

The infamous “Color Wheel of Death”. Mac users know.

This makes me laugh because I know from personal experience, after using a MacBookPro for six years now, all about the tension and frustration that builds between me and my gadget when I am experiencing user interface delays.

At least now I know that it’s because of the “Ghost of Unix.”

In conclusion, “cloud” based software has revolutionized the way that we access our media, allowing for a direct link at our fingertips to social media sites and other software. Does this direct access to the Internet dehumanize us as some begin to interact on Facebook and Twitter more than in real life?

I believe that this is a very relevant issue and I agree that extended use on social networking and blogging sites leads to the devaluing of our own human interaction and reduction of face-to-face interaction. Not to say that social networking is all bad and can’t be beneficial, but it must be limited. There is unbelievable power in the ability to connect with people and share your thoughts on a blog. For me personally, I want to be able to share the various media projects I am working on in my classes currently, with my family across the nation. With that being said, I will leave you with one last note, and get back to the real world.

I have deemed Lanier’s experiment worthy. I took the advice he gave in the introduction of his book about listening or in this case reading. So instead of thinking about what I was going to write while I was reading, I focused on absorbing the content and being in the moment while reading chapter one. I feel like I actually consumed and digested the information before blogging about it the next day.

From Consuming to Producing

As the world of communications continues to change, I ask myself, How can I be part of it? How can I leave my mark on the world? The answer is simple really. Jump in and start producing content to share with the rest of the world.

I look to NYU professor Clay Shirky who presents a population study in one chapter from his book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, which shows that young people with access to fast, interactive media such as the Internet and youtube, are shifting their attention away from media solely for consumption, such as TV, and using this time instead, to produce and share.

I noticed this change happening in myself from the time I got my first video camera in middle school. I started watching less TV and spent more time filming and editing. Now I rarely spend any time in front of the television, because I have the resources that allow me to produce and share.

My blog makes me a part of what Shirky calls the “cognitive surplus”, which is basically the shared, online work we do in our spare time. This makes me a producer and not just a consumer. Furthermore, my blog/website allows me to share what I have produced, continuing the cycle of consumption and production.

For example, having access to the Internet allows me to search the web for tutorials on video editing. I consume this information. Then I take the information that I have consumed and I use it to edit and produce a short movie, which I can then upload to my site to share, and the cycle starts over again.

Shirky states in a 2010 TED Conference that even the stupidest act of creation such as LOL cats is still a creative act and one that contributes to the cognitive surplus, where other consumers can find ideas like LOL cats and improve upon them or incorporate them into the production of a whole new idea.

In writing this blog, I am providing information about a topic of my interest to the rest of the world, and when people with the same interests find my blog, they can use the information however they like, or just enjoy reading my post. As Shirky talks about, I am creating a way to connect with individuals who share my interests, and if not anything, creating a way to feel connected.

The beauty of digital media versus print is that once I post something to the web, it is there forever until I take it down which allows me to be as involved or not involved as I like. I could make only one post in my entire life, and by the end of my life it would still be on the Internet. Social media never ends.

Unlike a newspaper, digital media allows you, for instance, to go back and find a blog post from 5 years ago in a website’s Archive. If someone searches for a keyword that is contained in one of my blog posts, then a search engine might pull up my blog post.

In an interview with New York Times writer Nick Kristof, although Kristof is a print man traditionally, he can see the power in blogging and different types of media other than just print, especially when it comes to communicating with the younger generations. This shows that even traditional print people can learn to use this tool of communication to reach more people or followers.

In an interview with John Battelle, he says “The best companies create communities of interest that are independent: they are rooted in the independent Web, with expressions on Facebook, or as an iPhone or Android app – those all become instances of their brand.”

Ironically, to fit into the changing world of communication, I have to separate myself from other bloggers. I have to become independent, which means having my own domain name and not just a Facebook page. Luckily for me, I have a father who jumped on the opportunity to purchase his domain name and mine over five years ago. I just let my domain sit empty until I enrolled in this class, and now my website is up and running.

I will use my website and the content I present to secure my place in the changing world of communications. Through my website, I have the opportunity to produce, share, and connect with millions of people who I could never have reached alone.