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.

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)

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 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.

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. 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.”

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.

Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM501 – Regulation & Resistance

Regulation & Resistance

One of the hardest concepts for the legal field to grasp, it seems (at least in America) is the concept that something might be out there, and it might not be subject to any real sort of regulation. The Internet and the world of computers can often be strange places, anyway, and attempts to regulate them can make them appear even stranger.

Consider the TIVO case, where a rival was found to be infringing on patented technology. Without so much as a by your leave, data was wiped from users’ hard drives. Yet not one door was knocked on, and no one was asked to turn their hardware over or anything of the sort. Instead, like a thief in the night, users’ data was simply wiped. No fuss, no muss.

No harm, no foul?

And what did the users think? Had they even read and/or understood any information they were given about this wholesale wiping? How many users complained about lost data? Did any shrug and blame the technology, not realizing that what had happened was all a part of a legal settlement?

If the technology had not existed, or at least had not been so easy and clean to implement, what would have happened instead? Certainly it would have been harder to enforce the settlement. But that’s been the case for the hundreds (if not thousands, by now) years of jurisprudence. Settlements, court orders, and judgments often aren’t so easy to implement. That is not necessarily such a bad thing. Convenience isn’t always a benefit.

As Lessig, L. (2006). What things regulate. In Code: Version 2.0 (pp. 120–137). New York: Basic Books. [Link |PDF] points out, “We should worry about this. We should worry about a regime that makes invisible regulation easier; we should worry about a regime that makes it easier to regulate. We should worry about the first because invisibility makes it hard to resist bad regulation; we should worry about the second because we don’t yet—as I argue in Part III—have a sense of the values put at risk by the increasing scope of efficient regulation.” (Pages 136 – 137)

What happens to our society when it’s fast and easy to just jigger OnStar and listen in on conversations? Do we lose something when we can grab camera footage from tollbooths and match it to license plate images to names to Facebook accounts to tax rolls online? Do search warrants look like yesterday’s news? Or are they needed more than ever?

As early as November of 2003, the FBI was already trying to use OnStar as a surveillance device. cNet reported at the time that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the FBI could not use OnStar that way.

Regulation & Resistance
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the finding wasn’t based on privacy concerns; it was contractual, as in the usage was not a part of the generalized agreement between car owner and OnStar provider (General Motors).

In 2011, OnStar felt the need to go to YouTube to reiterate to their customers that they can’t listen in without a customer knowing about it. They further explained that customers can always opt out.

Centralized control of electronics isn’t confined to just TIVO and OnStar. Appliances are also becoming the kinds of consumer goods that are black boxed, and made more difficult for the average tinkerer to repair or even understand. I have little electronics knowledge, yet I can set up a PC or a printer, and I can swap out a battery. What happens when even these more simple tasks are relegated to only a centralized control system? Of course the first thing that can happen is to charge for every sales call, and monetize basic repairs and upgrades. As Zittrain, J. L. (2008). Tethered appliances, software as a service, and perfect enforcement. In The future of the Internet and how to stop it (pp. 101–126). New Haven: Yale University Press. [Link | Whole-book PDF | Other Formats] says, “A shift to smarter appliances, ones that can be updated by – and only by – their makers, is fundamentally changing the way in which we experience our technologies. Appliances become contingent; rented instead of owned, even if one pays up front for them, since they are subject to instantaneous revision.” (Page 107)

What is most fascinating to me is that we have become a far less tractable culture. We aren’t passively consuming entertainment and information as much as we are now making it. We are content creators, many of us, rather than being content watchers and listeners. Yet this push to centralize appliance and consumer electronics repairs and upgrades seems to fly in the face of that. But Zittrain said it best, “In a world where tethered appliances dominate, the game of cat-and-mouse tilts toward the cat.” (Page 113)

Centralizing repairs and adding a kind of black box-style mystery to computers and similar devices is the kind of thing that happened with automobiles about a century ago. According to Kline, R., & Pinch, T. (1996). Users as agents of technological change: The social construction of the automobile in the rural United States. Technology and Culture, 37(4), 763–795. [Library Link], “In addition to providing a stationary source of power, cars found a wide variety of unexpected uses in their mobile form. Farm men used them as snowmobiles, tractors, and agricultural transport vehicles.” (Page 776)

But people don’t do that anymore; at least, it’s not so common outside of the Third World.

And so some good questions to ask are – is our ingenuity being squelched in worship of the almighty god of convenience? Is our liberty being compromised because law enforcement doesn’t have to get its hands quite so dirty, or take so many risks? What are we losing in the process?

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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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 #13 – Review of the J-Krak Communities

Review of the J-Krak Communities

Once again, this was a week where we did not have to create a video. Instead, we conducted a review of the J-Krak communities that Kim Scroggins and I had created. We compared our efforts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and MySpace. We also reviewed our efforts in the blogosphere.

Our efforts were all as strong as we could make them (at least, I believe so), but our levels of success were certainly all over the place. We ranged from exceeding our thirty follower requirement for Facebook in about an hour, to nearly no engagement or followers in Google+. Although, in all fairness, the number of views on Google+ was fairly impressive. We were about to join the overall conversation in Twitter. Our experience on MySpace was, we felt, a waste of time. And our blog had a decent following, and the followers were, by the end of the semester, beginning to tip more heavily into the realm of true followers, as opposed to our classmates, friends, and families, who would follow us in order to be nice and help us out, versus people who were truly interested in our message.

Review of the J-Krak Communities

Instead, we wrote up a PowerPoint slide show to get together our strategy for the final two weeks of the semester.

We spent time over the past week performing a lot more social listening and analysis. We grabbed screen shots of all sorts of things which ended up in our final project, which I will post next week.

J-Krak Final Project Presentation

I hope you enjoy our presentation about our review of the J-Krak Communities.

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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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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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Quinnipiac Assignment #9 – J-Krak Facebook Page

Quinnipiac Assignment #9 – J-Krak Facebook Page

J-Krak Facebook Community
KrakHeads logo

J-Krak Facebook Page

Once again, we did not have to create a video this week for Quinnipiac Assignment #9. Instead, my partner, Kim Scroggins, and I were required to create a Facebook page for our J-Krak fans community (which in our blog, we were referring to as KrakHeads). We decided to call the page J-Krak RI in order to better emphasize our intimate connection to the state of Rhode Island.

The Facebook page was designed with a standard Creative Commons background image of sheet music and our preexisting KrakHeads logo (Kim made it by combining a Creative Commons image of a vinyl record with lettering in a font that we selected together) was used as our logo and the avatar for the page itself. That avatar has since been replaced with an image of John Krakowski and John Cairo together (the avatar was replaced after our class was finished).

We were pleasantly surprised when we hit one hundred likes in about six and a half hours. Currently, the new page has 125 fans on Facebook.  We are very excited about this, and Kim and I feel that we have definitely found our platform!

Thank you for following! And party on!

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Quinnipiac Assignment #8 – J-Krak Blog

Quinnipiac Assignment #8 – J-Krak Blog

This week, we did not have to record a video. Instead, my partner, Kim Scroggins, and I created a blog for our ‘client’. We will be adding content to it. I hope you will read what we have to say.

Our main concern, to start with, was to properly design the blog. To that end, we spent some time crafting a representative logo. This was an image of a vinyl record (it was simply a Creative Commons image that Kim had found online somewhere), and then adding verbiage over it, in a free use font. We did spend some time going back and forth over font selection. We wanted something that would be somewhat edgy but would also be clear to read. We did not want it to appear amateurish in any way.

Another activity was to obtain as many free use Creative Commons images as possible which could somewhat generically evoke music and musicians. This was done as, sometimes, there are no good images for a particular blog post or another. The concept was to have some of the ‘port in a storm’ images so that we could put some sort of an image into each and every blog post.

I also took some pictures with the camera in my cell phone. The quality was all right, although these images will certainly not win any prizes for their somewhat dubious artistry. These were images of things like a stack of compact discs, a bunch of vinyl long-playing records, a number of single records, and CDs in a holder.

J-Krak Blog

J-Krak Blog
Justin and John of J-Krak

As we continue in this class, I am sure that we will add more media and will change the design, in addition to adding content.

Thank you all for following!

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Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method Building Social Media Strategy

Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method Building Social Media Strategy

Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method Building Social Media Strategy – For Quinnipiac Assignment #7 of ICM 522 (Social Media Platforms), I worked with my partner, Kim Scroggins, in order to develop the first three pieces of what is referred to as a POST Method – building social media strategy.

Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method in Building Social Media Strategy

POST (in the realm of social media strategy) stands for –

  • People
  • Objectives and
  • Strategy

Technology (the fourth piece of four) will come later during this semester. For now, we are to concentrate on the first three areas. This is, I feel, a great idea, as we so often (myself included) tend to put the cart before the horse when it comes to social media behaviors. We chase shiny new platforms without performing any social listening whatsoever, without doing any investigations into feasibility or even whether anyone thinks that the platform will be around next year, and without much of an idea of what we are even going to say once we get there.

Working with Kim Scroggins was great, and we began to truly gel together as an effective team. I do not believe that we ever had a serious conflict, and that is no exaggeration on my part.  Plus, at any time that some task or another needed to be accomplished, one or the other of us would simply do it. There was no nagging, and no feeling that one person or the other was taking on too much. There was no feeling that the workload was somehow unfairly divvied up, either.

Here is my half of the presentation (which just so happens to be the second half):

And here is Kim’s half of our joint assignment, which I hope you will also watch, partcularly as it is the beginning half and does act as something of an introduction to my own piece of our project,  Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method – Building Social Media Strategy.

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