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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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Twitter

Using Twitter to Track Drug Side Effects

Using Twitter to Track Drug Side Effects

According to the Boston GlobeBoston Children’s Hospital researchers have found out that online postings could be a new way to identify problems with drugs sooner.

Using Twitter to Track Drug Side Effects

In an FDA-funded study published in the journal Drug Safety, researchers from Children’s, the FDA, and elsewhere searched through Twitter posts mentioning 23 commonly used medications. The list included antidepressants, sleeping pills, and popular over the counter remedies such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and even vaccines. The study was conducted for over a six month period between 2012 and 2013. Of the 60,000 tweets mentioning these drugs or vaccines, 4,401 of the postings described side effects that were blamed on the medications or vaccines.

This methodology certainly appears to be promising. Twitter is, by definition, a quick hit. No one is going to go into detail about their complaints. Further, since people are already at least somewhat cognizant of online issues with their own medical privacy, they might not want to go into too much detail. However, most people would, I believe, feel comfortable enough to tweet something like the following –

  • Aspirin is making me nauseous
  • I think Prednisone is giving me a rash
  • I don’t like taking Lipitor

For any researchers searching for information about side effects, Twitter and other social media platforms might prove to be useful. However, a caveat is most definitely in order – some people go to social media platforms pretty much for the sole purpose of complaining.

Context, as it often is, is important.

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Twitter

Twitter helps Canadiens’ Price Find Lost Dogs

Twitter helps Canadiens’ Price Find Lost Dogs

File this one under awwww.

The Boston Herald reports that Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price‘s two Labrador retrievers took an unauthorized vacation but were later found after his wife suggested that he tweet about their disappearance.

Carey Price, goaltender for the Montreal Canad...
Carey Price, goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Price tweeted, “If anyone finds two labs running around Candiac they’re mine.”

Fortunately, a happy ending was soon to come.

The wayward canines were found by Habs fan John Mastromonaco at 6:15 AM on Monday, May 5th, 2014, when he heard a radio report about the peripatetic pooches. “Almost at the same time, I see this jogger with two Labradors following him, but the dogs didn’t look like they were with him,” Mastromonaco told The Canadian Press.

To me, what is most interesting about this story is not just that a potential tragedy was averted, but that social media and traditional media worked together, and it was completely and utterly unintentionally. John Mastromonaco was not even on Twitter; he was listening to the radio. But that radio report would not have been made, had it not been for Carey Price tweeting. And Carey Price’s tweet would never have been made, had it not been for the quick and resourceful thinking of his wife.

Think about this in terms of attribution qualitative analysis, and seeking context for online behaviors.  It seems to me that, when a lot of athletes think about using Twitter or any other form of social media, it is often for self-promotional activities. They may be personally mentioning that they are excited to be playing in a particular venue (or anything else, for that matter), but this tweet was different. It was more like a neighbor reaching out to fellow neighbors.

By knowing the entire story, we know which networks to attribute the outcome to: Twitter and radio. Twitter for the initial message, and radio for its amplification.

Twitter to the rescue!

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Opinion Twitter

Bruins denounce Twitter Hate

Bruins denounce Twitter Hate

According to USA Today,  the Boston Bruins organization quickly moved to denounce the racist tweets that surfaced in 2014 when Canadien PK Subban scored a winning goal against the black and gold in overtime.

Bruins denounce Twitter Hate

In a statement, Bruins President Cam Neely said, “The racist, classless views expressed by an ignorant group of individuals following Thursday’s game via digital media are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization,” 

Twitter is, I feel, a wonderful medium. But it also has a capacity for speedy publication of half-thoughts. It seems, sometimes, to be a nearly perfect medium for rapid fire hate speech. What, if anything, could be done? How could something such as this incident be prevented in the future?

Subban was targeted for his race. Certainly Bruins fans were angry about their team’s unsatisfactory outcome. Yet the response was absolutely and completely out of proportion to the offence. In fact, it was thoroughly misplaced. Disappointed sports fans of course have the freedom to speak their minds. There is really no law or rule against becoming emotional, or even incensed. Many, many sports fans have perhaps overly deep emotional investments in their beloved teams. But this was different. In this instance, Subban was set apart, isolated, and attacked for not the color of his jersey, no. Instead, Subban was the subject of Twitter fury due to the color of his skin.

What did Martin Luther King say? That he had a dream that, someday, his children would be judged, not for the color of their skin, but for the content of their character. Unfortunately, that day is not quite here yet, it seems.

What do YOU think?

 

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Opinion Twitter

#AmazonCart Debuts

#AmazonCart Debuts

#AmazonCart Debuts as, according to Boston.com, Amazon.com has partnered with Twitter to help simplify the Internet shopping experience.

#AmazonCart Debuts

The #AmazonCart hashtag was officially introduced in early May, encouraging Twitter users who see tweets of products sold on Amazon.com to reply with the hashtag, which then puts those items in the users’ Amazon shopping carts.

The enormous online retailer’s website has detailed instructions on how to connect your Twitter account to Amazon.com, which is evidently a vital step in the process.

Would you do it? I’m not so sure I want people to see if I am buying lingerie, medical supplies, or self-help books. Imagine a potential employer seeing a purchase of cross-dressing supplies, or The Communist Manifesto, or any number of anti-aging products. What if I were investigating products to help me get a divorce, get through chemotherapy, or file for bankruptcy?

If I keep my age (and any attendant clues about it, such as my graduation years, or the earliest versions of software that I claim to be an expert regarding) off my resume, does not the purchase of menopausal relief supplies make it something that a potential employer could reasonably infer? Here in Massachusetts, a credit check is not supposed to be permitted.  Yet if I purchase a book about improving my credit score, would not a potential employer put two and two together? Of course, there is the possibility that I am overthinking this (I have been known to do that before). But still!

Methinks the Internet already knows plenty about my spending habits. I can take the extra five minutes or so and use a regular shopping cart at Amazon. And no one will ever need to know I’m buying disco albums.

Oops ….

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Quinnipiac Assignment #15 – Reflections about ICM 522

Quinnipiac Assignment #15 – Reflections about ICM 522

With the end of my first Social Media class came a request for our overall impressions of how things went. Hence, I prepared Quinnipiac Assignment #15 – Reflections about ICM 522.

Quinnipiac Assignment #15 – Reflections about ICM 522

My classmates and I were also tasked with showcasing what we felt was our best work.

I was so very pleased that I had a few works to choose from, but I narrowed my choices down in order to save some space.

My reflections essay included comments about the video and essay portions of Module #4, Module #9, Module #10, Module #11,  and my Final Project; that video is duplicated below.

Module Four was about the Ad Astra Star Trek fan fiction writing community. Module Nine was about the Facebook page that my partner, Kim Scroggins, and I created for our ‘client’, the as-yet undiscovered Rhode Island rock band, J-Krak. Module Ten was about the creation and growth of the Twitter stream that we made for J-Krak. And Module Eleven was all about our less than successful experiments in spreading the gospel of J-Krak to MySpace and Google+ (the former was a particularly abysmal showing. At least our client’s presence on Google+ assured better placement in overall search results).

The class was great fun, and I could not get enough of studying for it. I have never, ever had a course like this before, where I was so into it that I could not wait to study, and I did all of the extra credit because I wanted to, and not because I necessarily needed to. That has never, ever been my experience with a class before this one. This overwhelmingly positive experience has given me the incentive to not only finish my Social Media Certification training, but I am also rather seriously considering going on and getting my Masters’ Degree in Communications, with a concentration in Social Media.

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Opinion Twitter

Twitter bigots have no place in Boston, says NHL

Twitter bigots have no place in Boston, says NHL

On May 3rd, 2014, ESPN reported that the Bruins and their coach, Claude Julien, are appalled by recent racist tweets against Canadien PK Subban.

Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Subban’s winning goal against the Bruins sparked Twitter outrage that turned racist very quickly.

While fans were angry afterwards, and some threw debris, the organization says that the racist outrage doesn’t seem to have come from the fans who don black and gold and attend the games.

“I didn’t hear anything from the fans — at all,” said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. “It’s all Twitter.” 

When asked whether he’d heard racist comments while on the bench, Julien said, “Not to my knowledge, no. There’s a lot of good fans out there, and that’s the sad part about it is that your good fans get tarnished because of a couple of comments like that who don’t belong in that same group.” 

With social media moving almost as fast as the speed of light (or so it seems), anger is the emotion that moves the fastest.  Couple it with racism, and it all seems even more accelerated.

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Quinnipiac Assignment #14 – Final Project ICM 522

Final Project ICM 522

These videos together comprised our final project for Quinnipiac’s Social Media Platforms class, ICM 522.

Final Project ICM 522

At this point in time, I have a short break before starting ICM 524, which is the Analytics class. I am taking it with the same instructor, Professor Eleanor Hong.

In the meantime, here are our project videos.

My partner, Kim Scroggins, went first. I would love it if you could take the time and watch her video, too. We were a true team and really enjoyed working together.

And now here’s my half of the presentation. One of the things that I made absolutely sure of doing was to thank my partner. This was absolutely a team effort and it would have turned out far differently if we had not gotten along as well as we did.

We went over our general experiences with J-Krak and the many social media platforms we tried. We made every effort, I feel, to engage our audience and garner buzz and attention for our ‘client’. We set ourselves up for a rather difficult task, which was to try to get a small measure of fame for a rock band that was not even online in any way, shape, or form when we first started this project.

MySpace was recalled as a failed experiment. Google+, for the most part, was a failed experiment in engagement, but it did help us with improving our search engine optimization efforts. Twitter and our blog were somewhat in the middle. Twitter worked out fairly well as we were able to join the overall conversation. However, the number of our followers remained fewer than the number of people we were following. The blog had an ever-increasing number of followers, but we received few comments. Our best social media platform? Spoiler alert – it was Facebook.

Thanks for watching! Next week, I’ll post my impressions of the class overall.

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Quinnipiac Assignment #11 – J-Krak on MySpace and Google+

J-Krak on MySpace and Google+

My partner and I certainly never intended to create two separate new platform presences for our project. However, it turned out that way. We just didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter as our first choice took a spectacular nosedive.

J-Krak on MySpace

Oh, God. MySpace.  We tried. I swear, we tried. But it felt like a waste of time from the get-go.

J-Krak on MySpace and Google+

The board flashes and zips by, but there are nearly no instructions as to how to use it. Search is little help – you can locate people by city, gender, and music genre. And that’s it.

J-Krak on MySpace and Google+

I could not find (confirmed) professional DJs, but I could sure as hell find professional escort services.

Engagement was virtually nonexistent. And this wasn’t just true about a tiny outfit such as ours.  Britney Spears, God love her,  has a million and a half incoming connections but, since she doesn’t have to connect back, her outgoing connections list is considerably smaller. There are comments on her profile by fans, but she and her marketing team don’t seem to answer them.

Perhaps the most telling piece of information about the Britney Spears page on MySpace is that it seems to have last been updated last December. You know, five months ago.

J-Krak on MySpace and Google+

Hit Me Baby, One More Time?

Don’t you have to hit MySpace once, first?

Like the shiny wasteland that it is, Britney seems to be leaving MySpace in her rear view.

And so did we.

J-Krak on Google+

J-Krak on MySpace and Google+

On Google+, it was easy to set up a band page and make it look good.

While we still need to add music, the look and feel of the page are already there.

Even better is the fact that posts can be scheduled in HootSuite, a capability that is missing from MySpace.

It’s too early to really get meaningful metrics, but we’re trying!

Stay tuned.

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Career changing Quinnipiac Social Media Class Twitter

Quinnipiac Assignment #10 – J-Krak Twitter Stream

J-Krak Twitter Stream

In order to enhance our online reach, my partner and I created a Twitter account for our project.  This was our assignment, to create a J-Krak Twitter stream.

J-Krak Twitter Stream

At the same time, I also took advantage of the offer of free HootSuite University and became qualified as a HootSuite Certified Professional!

J-Krak Twitter Stream
HootSuite Certified Professional
J-Krak Twitter Stream
KrakHeads logo

As for my own personal growth, I had until recently just not cared for HootSuite. The idea of streams had just not made sense to me, for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social networking site. Now, I can see that it is finally clicking.  I will most likely start filtering a lot more through it, even after the course has concluded.

One of the most difficult aspects of social media marketing is all of the monitoring that, by necessity, has to go on. With HootSuite, though, the monitoring of any number of social networking sites is a lot easier. For the gift of time (and maybe some sanity), I’ve really got to thank HootSuite.

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