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Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 10 – ICM501 – Television and the Internet

Television and the Internet

Nielsen estimates that there are some 115.6 million television households in the United States. According to the US Census, over ¾ of all households have at least one computer, and about 95% of those households use it to connect to the Internet. That’s about 122 million households. It’s clear that many American households have both.

Ratings

Quinnipiac Assignment 10 – ICM501 – Television and the Internet
English: Primetime television ratings for 2008 in the Philippines: Blue = GMA Red = ABS-CBN The charted points represented the TV program that had the highest rating for that station for that day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nielsen has had some issues in counting Internet viewing in its ratings systems. A part of this is due to differences in the advertisements delivered (if any), and part is due to pirating. However, Nielsen appears to be, if not getting the details and minutiae quite right, is at least getting the essence correct. What it lists as popular really is popular (although the degree of popularity might not be perfectly represented). As Engler, C. (2011, January 20). The truth about TV ratings, online viewing and sci-fi showsBlastr. [Link] says, “…highly rated shows are streamed more frequently online, sell more DVDs, have higher sales on Amazon and, yes, are pirated more often. When you account for variables that impact all these metrics (e.g., some movies bomb in theaters but later sell well on DVD, younger viewers are more apt to watch things online than older viewers, etc.), we don’t see the crazy variances that you’d expect if ratings weren’t very accurate.”

Adding Online Streaming

As recently as 2013, Nielsen began making the effort to better include online streaming and other means of television content consumption. As Kelly, H. (2013, October 28). Nielsen adds web viewers to its TV ratings. CNN.com. [Link] says, “Shows that don’t include the same ads online as on TV will be counted as part of separate Nielsen Digital Ratings. Shows streamed directly by networks through their own sites and apps typically include the same set of ads, and those viewers are counted towards the traditional Nielsen totals.”

Nielsen’s main purpose is to count program viewership for the purposes of understanding advertising potential. E. g. the more viewers, and the more sustained viewers, the more a content provider can charge for commercials. Hence the need for a connection between online and offline delivery that includes the same advertisements. The networks and other content providers need to, as closely as possible, compare apples to apples. Comparing the delivery of different commercials makes it that much more difficult to achieve a reasonable comparison.

If Nielsen’s purpose were purely to measure viewership without wedding it to advertising, counting clicks and downloads would be easier, and it would not matter what was advertised during any delivery of the content.

Piracy also wouldn’t matter quite so much, at least not vis a vis counting an audience. But speaking of piracy …

Piracy

For networks and other content providers, piracy was and is a huge issue. When we talked about copyright and copyleft, the question arose about the grabbing of content. Who enforces copyright? Who pays when it’s violated? And are the punishments excessive at all?

The uneasy marriage of television and the Internet has spawned an interesting child – Hulu. After all, why were people pirating televised content in the first place? Perhaps, as DVRs made time shifting possible, it was just to allow for platform-shifting. Hulu arose as a response to that, and a way to monetize a far better version and offer it to a paying customer. The thinking was that quality would be its own advertisement, and that most people just wanted a platform shift. They didn’t want to steal from artists or cheat networks. As Braun, J.A. (2013).  Going over the top: Online television distribution as socio-technical system. Communication, Culture & Critique 6(3), 432–458. [Library Link] says, “With Hulu, the networks decided they would instead attempt to draw viewers away from pirated content by hosting higher quality versions of the same videos themselves, while selling advertising against them in an attempt to reclaim some of the revenue they believed they were losing to other sites.”

Most People Are Honest

Many users are more than happy to receive a better quality product and pay a commensurate fee for it. But there are still some who insist on pirating, practically seeing it as a right. As Newman, M. Z. (2012). Free TV: File-sharing and the value of televisionTelevision & New Media 13(6), 463–479. [Library Link] says, “Sharers [also] insist that DVR recordings and downloads are ethically equivalent. The difference between recording a show oneself using a VCR or DVR and skipping commercials and downloading a commercial-free file via BitTorrent is regarded as ethically insignificant.” (Page 469)

So, what is it? Theft? Sticking it to ‘the man’? Platform-shifting by (more or less) innocents? As the debate continues, it shifts away from ethics and morals and into monetization. If content providers can make a little cash even from peer to peer networks, and pay artists, can they continue to claim that they’re being harmed?

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Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM501 – Gaming: A Persuasive Industry?

Gaming: A Persuasive Industry?

Video games seem to have a reputation of being easy, mindless, and violent. Certainly a lot of them are any combination of those three characteristics, if not all three.

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM501 – Gaming: A Persuasive Industry?
Cover of Everything Bad is Good for You

But there is more to games and gaming than that. It’s often a complex reward system, with promotions and prizes that are difficult to obtain. As Johnson, S. (2005). Games. In Everything bad is good for you: How today’s pop culture is actually making us smarter (pp. 17–62). New York: Berkley Publishing Group. [Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard] says, “The game scholar James Paul Gee breaks probing down into a four-part process, which he calls the ‘probe, hypothesize, reprobe, rethink’ cycle:

  1. The player must probe the virtual world (which involves looking around the current environment clicking on something, or engaging in a certain action).
  2. Based on reflection while probing and afterward, the player must form a hypothesis about what something (a text, object, artifact, event, or action) might mean in a usefully situated way.
  3. The player reprobes the world with that hypothesis in mind, seeing what effect he or she gets.
  4. The player treats this effect as feedback from the world and accepts or rethinks his or her original hypothesis.” (Pages 44 – 45)

The Good Side

Hence games seem to cultivate a measure of curiosity, and perseverance, and determination. Roll one more boulder up a hill; look through one more doorway; or craft one more suit of armor, and you can level up. Rewards come from patience, persistence, and attention to detail. Gamers are rewarded for their time spent, and they might even be learning something along the way. Everyone can participate, and everyone can succeed.

The Not So Good Side

However, the Chinese gold farming economy turns these ideas on their collective heads.

Quinnipiac Assignment 09 – ICM501 – Gaming: A Persuasive Industry?
Star Trek Online (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Dibbell, J. (2007, June 17). The life of a Chinese gold farmerNew York Times Magazine. [Link], the law of supply and demand has given rise to a kind of shadow economy where players pay – with real money – for fake money and treasure that allows them to level up and advance within the game (and, presumably, garner more in-game prestige). This removes at least financial equality and it might remove other forms of equality (e. g. of maturity levels and patience levels) as well. “This development has not been universally welcomed. In the eyes of many gamers, in fact, real-money trading is essentially a scam — a form of cheating only slightly more refined than, say, offering 20 actual dollars for another player’s Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly. Some players, and quite a few game designers, see the problem in more systemic terms. Real-money trading harms the game, they argue, because the overheated productivity of gold farms and other profit-seeking operations makes it harder for beginning players to get ahead. Either way, the sense of a certain economic injustice at work breeds resentment. In theory this resentment would be aimed at every link in the R.M.T. chain, from the buyers to the retailers to the gold-farm bosses. And, indeed, late last month American WoW players filed a class-action suit against the dominant virtual-gold retailer, IGE, the first of its kind.”

Pay for Virtual Play

Zynga, on the other hand, has apparently embraced the pay for virtual play culture wholeheartedly. By allowing players to purchase Farmville credits, Words With Friends ad-free versions, and faster healing in NFL Showdown, Zynga takes advantage of players’ competitive instincts, all while raking in the all too real cash. Woe be to those who have time to trade yet not enough cold, hard cash.

It seems that the players lose something, and it’s not just actual money. It’s the learning experience, and the cultivation of patience and curiosity. It’s also the flattening of economic and age levels in a game. As in offline life, it becomes more about who can flash cash versus who can master a game’s intricacies. Adding an element of purchase to bypass perseverance just seems to reinject mindlessness back into the experience, and validates criticisms of video and online games as being intellect-free diversions.

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Quinnipiac Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM501 – Polarization, Partisanship, and Politics

Polarization, Partisanship, and Politics

Polarization, Partisanship, and Politics. The internet has brought a lot of people together in communities. At the same time, it has also driven people apart. Or has it?

Y2K and Bush v. Gore – That was the Year

Close American Presidential elections are nothing new.

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM501 – Polarization, Partisanship, and Politics
Rutherford B. Hayes, former President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hayes-Tilden election of 1876, after all, was settled by the House of Representatives. But Y2K was the first year within living memory when the popular vote was so close, and the margins so razor-thin that a great political divide could readily be seen in this country.

However, in 2000, the percentage of Americans online was only about 44%.

Contrast that to today. According to Internet World Stats, American Internet usage is at 87% as of March of 2014. Even the American population that doesn’t use the Internet at all is declining, with West Virginia and Mississippi having the highest percentage of nonusers. As would be expected, use and nonuse of the Internet correlates pretty closely with income and age.

The Good Old Days?

But back to Y2K. With less than half of the country online, and neither Twitter nor Facebook (the Huffington Post didn’t exist yet, either), people turning to the Internet for their news were mainly getting it from sites like the New York Times Online. But it was more likely that citizens were getting their news from offline sources, including the paper version of the New York Times. According to Kreiss, D. (2012).  Innovation, infrastructure, and organization in new media campaigning. In Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama, (pp. 3–32). New York: Oxford University Press. [PDF], there was a small presence of candidates online, but it didn’t get too sophisticated until the Howard Dean campaign of 2004.

Per Kreiss, “During the 2000 primaries, Bill Bradley and John McCain demonstrated the potential of small-dollar online fund-raising. McCain raised record amounts of money online after his New Hampshire primary victory over George W. Bush.  During that electoral cycle, political staffers also began to recognize for the first time that the primary users of candidate websites were supporters, not undecided voters seeking detailed policy statements. To take advantage of this, campaigns began encouraging supporter participation instead of just presenting ‘brochureware’ designed to persuade those who sought out information on the candidate.” (Page 5)

What’s the Cause?

Hence with only a limited online presence for candidates, and readerships that mainly consisted of already convinced supporters, it does not appear that the political divide was caused by internet access or usage. It seems to instead predate the ubiquity of Internet access and usage that we see today.

While it seems that there is a gulf between the two sides in American politics (and that gulf is currently getting wider due to various hot button issues such as gun control and the Middle East, both of which lend themselves well to snappy soundbites and infographics online), a bigger gulf is amongst individuals.

Preaching to the Choir

Facebook in particular automatically culls and curates what we see. We express our preferences every single day by either hitting like, or following, or selecting “I don’t want to see this.” We also make our choices in terms of who we add as our friends, and whose content we respond to.

Facebook

Facebook engagement is declining, but a lot of that has to do with the amount of information that is thrown at us every single day. Statistic Brain says that the average amount of time spent on Facebook is 18 minutes, and the average number of friends is 130. Hence for every minute online (on average), you are potentially reading about the activity of a little over seven friends (48% of all users check Facebook every single day). With so much activity, it’s no wonder that users would seek to cut out the noise. Furthermore, much like we don’t purchase every single publication at a newsstand, users select what they want to see.

Echo Chambers

According to Sunstein, C. R. (2007, December 14). The polarization of extremes.  The Chronicle of Higher Education 54(16), B9. [Library Link], “In 1995 the technology specialist Nicholas Negroponte predicted the emergence of ‘the Daily Me’ – a newspaper that you design personally, with each component carefully screened and chosen in advance. For many of us, Negroponte’s prediction is coming true.” But why wouldn’t this happen? Time is a finite commodity. As the number of Facebook (and other social media outlets) users continues to rise, the average number of connections is bound to rise as well. The average amount of time on any given site probably will rise, too, but it will eventually butt up against a brick wall. Day length is finite, and people have lives outside of Facebook. Even with tablets and smart phones, there is still plenty of time spent not engaging in social media-style activities.

With limited time and attention, the flood of information has to be stopped somehow. We build dams and divert it or dry up some of our sources. We unfriend people, we leave certain sites, and we become more parsimonious with our time. As for what remains, we understandably choose what we want to see and hear – because we are able to now. But diverse and even opposing viewpoints do creep in.

Maybe we’re not so Polarized?

According to Manjoo, F. (2012, January 17).  The end of the echo chamber: A study of 250 million Facebook users reveals the web isn’t as polarized as we thought. Slate. [Link], “The fact that weak ties introduce us to novel information wouldn’t matter if we only had a few weak ties on Facebook. But it turns out that most of our relationships on Facebook are pretty weak, according to Bakshy’s study. Even if you consider the most lax definition of a “strong tie”—someone from whom you’ve received a single message or comment—most people still have a lot more weak ties than strong ones. And this means that, when considered in aggregate, our weak ties—with their access to novel information—are the most influential people in our networks. Even though we’re more likely to share any one thing posted by a close friend, we have so many more mere acquaintances posting stuff that our close friends are all but drowned out.”

Typical Doesn’t Exist

For Cass Sunstein, having an average or typical consumer, reader, listener or viewer in mind means that everyone is fed every bit of political information. He feels that’s better, that people can become informed about more than just their own immediate personal interests. Separation concerns him. And it’s already here. But the truth is, the typical consumer never really existed. I feel he’s pining for a past that seems a bit too golden and fuzzy, wearing a halo that it does not deserve.

Are we more separate today? Yes, absolutely. The United States is far from homogeneous these days. But we’re not quite all confined to our own little silos or ivory towers. At least, we aren’t yet.

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Quinnipiac Social Media Class Twitter

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM501 – The Ubiquity of Data: Ambient Awareness and Information Overload

The Ubiquity of Data: Ambient Awareness and Information Overload

Ambient Awareness. We live in a world of TMI. At the same time that we use avatars and user IDs, we are also putting out tons of information, every single day. As we continue to embrace distributed cognition (the push of thought from internal to external, from personal to shared, as we rely on our networks more and more), interfaces originally meant for one person using it at a time are turning into shared information and interfaces. We collaborate a lot more than we ever have. Certainly, it helps to have, well, help. But we are bombarded with messages these days. And a lot of them are created and spread by us. We are the architects of our own confusion and distraction.

It’s Everywhere

Go to the gas station – swipe your card. Say cheese when the security camera snaps your picture while you pump gas and buy snacks and smokes. Don’t forget to check in at FourSquare. You’ve got to oust the Mayor of the Cumberland Farms on Chestnut Hill Avenue! Drive away, through a toll booth with your transponder, and your license plate will be photographed, too.

Share enough of this information, and your friends will scold you for buying pork rinds and Marlboros. Maybe one of these days, your insurance company will scold you, too. Or maybe they’ll just quietly reassess your risks, get a new actuarial quote, and raise your rates by 1% – and they won’t necessarily tell you they’re doing this, either. Check into enough places, and your route can be mapped. If you’re cheating on your spouse, you’d better not drive your car through a toll booth when you go to visit your paramour.

Is it Really so Bad?

Or maybe it’s all less sinister than that. Maybe your friends contact you because they care – because they see you buying snacks and smokes far too much, and worry that you’ve become depressed. Maybe your doctor sees this activity and contacts you to set up an appointment to check your blood pressure and your cholesterol.

But whatever the motivation is, and whatever the source, one thing is clear: we know all this stuff about each other now. As Thompson, C. (2008, September 5). Brave new world of digital intimacyNew York Times Magazine. [Link] says, “Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it ‘ambient awareness.’

It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye. Facebook is no longer alone in offering this sort of interaction online. In the last year, there has been a boom in tools for ‘microblogging’: posting frequent tiny updates on what you’re doing. The phenomenon is quite different from what we normally think of as blogging, because a blog post is usually a written piece, sometimes quite long: a statement of opinion, a story, an analysis.

Updates

But these new updates are something different. They’re far shorter, far more frequent and less carefully considered. One of the most popular new tools is Twitter, a website and messaging service that allows its two-million-plus users to broadcast to their friends haiku-length updates — limited to 140 characters, as brief as a mobile-phone text message — on what they’re doing.

There are other services for reporting where you’re traveling (Dopplr) or for quickly tossing online a stream of the pictures, videos or websites you’re looking at (Tumblr). And there are even tools that give your location. When the new iPhone, with built-in tracking, was introduced in July, one million people began using Loopt, a piece of software that automatically tells all your friends exactly where you are.”

In The Numerati, Stephen Baker talks about the data that is all over the Internet, and how data miners are trying to gather information to paint a picture of individuals.

That interview is from 2008 – the pervasiveness of intimate data is nothing new.

Twitter

One of the best-known places where intimate details are shared and reshared is Twitter. It’s become an odd admixture of personal anecdotes and preferences, sprinkled with some news, although the news becomes a proportionately larger percentage when it becomes more sensational or local, as in the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent manhunt.

As Hermida, A. (2010). Twittering the news: The emergence of ambient journalism. Journalism Practice, 4(3), 297–308. [Library Link] says, “As with most media technologies, there is a degree of hyperbole about the potential of Twitter, with proclamations that ‘every major channel of information will be Twitterfied’ (Johnson, 2009). Furthermore, social media services are vulnerable to shifting and ever-changing social and cultural habits of audiences. While this paper has discussed micro-blogging in the context of Twitter, it is possible that a new service may replace it in the future. However, it is important to explore in greater depth the qualities of micro-blogging—real-time, immediate communication, searching, link-sharing and the follower structure—and their impact on the way news and information is communicated.”

It’s All Around Us

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM501 – The Ubiquity of Data: Ambient Awareness and Information Overload
English: Seal of the United States Department of Homeland Security. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We get the news about elections or a manhunt or the latest scientific breakthrough, alongside what our friends are eating for lunch, and what they think of the latest Charlize Theron movie. This avalanche, this garbage can full of data comes at us 24/7.

Going back to the initial example I gave, with its combination of voluntary and involuntary data grabs, how can an individual retain a measure of privacy? How can a person get off the notification train? It’s even harder than it was when Baker was interviewed. He says that a person would be able to retain some privacy by paying for tolls with cash. But that’s not true anymore – all toll booths are now under the purview of cameras. Certainly all credit and debit card transactions leave what is still quaintly referred to as a paper trail.

If we are going to try to maintain a semblance of privacy, we’ll need to do it pretty close to home. After all, in the wake of 9/11, purchasing a plane ticket or hiring a rental car by using cash will get you a look-see from the Department of Homeland Security. Maybe we should all just sit at home and order pizza.

But then, inevitably, someone would upload an image of their pepperoni and mushroom pie onto Instagram. We’d know that their cholesterol level and blood pressure were probably about to go up, and we’d be right back where we started.

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Community Management Facebook Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 06 – ICM501 – Virtual Groups & Online Communities

Virtual Groups & Online Communities

As John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island.”

On the internet, there seems to be a similar but not identical truth – few people want to be an island. And so we create enclaves.

Some of our enclaves mimic those we see in the offline world – we associate with people we went to school with, or work with, or live near. We associate with the people who used to be in such relationships to us as well. And we associate with family, and sometimes even ex-family. We might expand our horizons a little, to also include members of the same political party, or age group, or others who enjoy the same activities as we do, like knitting, or the same entertainments, such as Browncoats.

Online Dynamics

This changes online with virtual groups, but maybe less than naysayers had originally thought. The online world is not restricted by geography. It’s not restricted by socioeconomic background, either, except that you need to have access to a computer. But you can often get that for free from a library, so you don’t necessarily have to own the hardware, although that does make it easier.

As McKenna, K.Y.A. (2002). Virtual group dynamicsGroup Dynamics, 6(1), 116–127. [Library Link] says, “One of the most basic interpersonal needs is to ‘belong,’ to feel that one is a member of a group of others who share similar interests and goals, and to feel that one is a valued (and unique) member of that group ( Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Brewer, 1991). On the Internet, there are a wealth of venues where one can connect with like-minded others who share core interests and values and thus fulfill this important need. Chat rooms, newsgroups, electronic mailing lists, message boards, interactive games, and major interactive Web sites provide individuals with the opportunity to join existing online groups or to create their own.”

Belonging

This need for a sense of belonging appears to drive a lot of members of virtual groups. There is also a need to break the internet down into more manageable bite-sized chunks. With trillions of webpages online (estimated, See: http://www.factshunt.com/2014/01/total-number-of-websites-size-of.html), no one user can experience it all, not even if that person makes an executive decision to only look at sites written in Norwegian, or uploaded after June 15, 2012, etc. Therefore, users look for something smaller and easier to take. Otherwise, the scale is unfathomable.

Clay Shirky’s Take

As Clay Shirky says, in Shirky, C. (2003, July 1). A group is its own worst enemy. Networks, Economics, and Culture Mailing List. [Link], “You have to find some way to protect your own users from scale. This doesn’t mean the scale of the whole system can’t grow. But you can’t try to make the system large by taking individual conversations and blowing them up like a balloon; human interaction, many to many interaction, doesn’t blow up like a balloon. It either dissipates, or turns into broadcast, or collapses. So plan for dealing with scale in advance, because it’s going to happen anyway.”

Communities that become too large tend to suffer, as the number of conversations grows faster than the number of users (e. g. for three users, there are four possible conversations; user A + user B, user B + user C, user A + user C, and all three users). Users like to feel that they belong, and that a place can be understood.

Safety

Adventures in Career Changing - Virtual Groups

At the same time, they also want to feel safe. In Dibbell, J. (1998). A rape in cyberspace (Or tiny society, and how to make one). In My tiny life (pp. 11–30). New York: Henry Holt and Company. [Link | Alternate Link], Julian Dibbell argues that a behavior whereby one user’s account was able to control another user’s account (against the second account holder’s will) was practically a cyber-rape. The site’s lack of moderation seems almost laughable today, that the designers and administrators of a large online community would leave it to its own devices with zero supervision. After all, even the most libertarian or even anarchic of users usually wants the spam to go away quickly.

Closeness

Beyond basic safety, they often want positive support, too. As Wellman, B., & Gulia, M. (1999). Net-surfers don’t ride alone: Virtual communities as communities. Networks in the global village: Life in contemporary communities (pp. 331–366). New York: Westview Press. [PDF] say, “Even when online groups are not designed to be supportive, they often are.” (Page 7)

Finally, the use of internet communities is sometimes for even greater closeness than what the members can get in person, perhaps analogous to telling your troubles to a stranger in an airport bar who you will never see again.

As McKenna,  (Ibid.) says, “The relative anonymity of the Internet allows individuals to take greater risks in making disclosures to Internet friends than they would to someone they know in more traditional, face-to-face settings (McKenna & Bargh, 1998; McKenna et al., 2002). Users are more likely to express how they truly feel and think (Spears & Lea, 1994) when interacting on the Internet, and when identity salience of the group is high, those who interact under conditions of anonymity are more likely than their nonymous, face-to-face counterparts to conform to group norms (e.g., Postmes, Spears, & Lea, 1999).”

When users mourn the deaths or departures of people they have never met in person, when they hug and kiss relative strangers when they finally do meet, and when they can provide comfort to the lonely online as a function of kindness and not for a quid pro quo, that’s when users move from a Gesellschaft to a Gemeinschaft, or from a rough collection to a true community.