Blog Post #5

Techies, numbers guys, nerds. What do these terms have in common? These descriptions– while wildly restrictive and (mostly) inaccurate– are often used to describe an organization’s information technology department. IT jobs are commonly viewed as the difficult, tedious roles that support the rest of an enterprise. With these quick-fire heuristics in mind, it’s fair to wonder why an IT professional would ever need to create a personal brand. It’s a reasonable question, but a closer look reveals the many benefits– and emerging need– of self-branding in the IT industry.

Rich Hein of CIO magazine– a popular periodical serving IT leaders and their surrounding ecosystem– wrote an article back in 2013 summarizing the state of the tech industry and explaining how to separate oneself in it via self-branding. With technology becoming a focal point in nearly all businesses, IT jobs are high paying and respected more than ever before. This means more competition. Hein gives multiple recommendations– playing to your strengths and building an online presence, for example– for how to outpace the competition, and sums up his point with a quote that proposes that discovering your personal brand statement is “the most critical step” of becoming a good job candidate. No, these sentiments aren’t unique to IT, but this illustrates that the field is just like any other when it comes to the need for self-branding.

How to formulate a personal brand statement, via LinkedIn

If the reasons for creating a personal brand as an IT professional seem vague, consider the benefits. Rajesh Setty is an experienced tech entrepreneur and author who currently lives in Silicon Valley. He described how a technology professional can distinguish oneself from the pack and the benefits they’d reap in an article he wrote for Intulogy and Compassites. Setty now considers personal branding a necessary skill for the career– how else can IT professionals market their technical skills and experience? By cultivating a strong personal brand, tech professionals can realize three main benefits. First, strong brands are associated with higher value, so employers will perceive your potential impact as greater if your brand is strong. Second, you’ll have a lower cost of sale, meaning you’ll spend less time persuading others of your abilities. Lastly, those with a strong personal brand carry an implied assurance with them. Those with a noteworthy brand statement have an implied level of trust and customer satisfaction.

When you think about it, the importance of personal brands in the IT industry shouldn’t be a surprise. IT professionals can possess various technical skills, gain experience in a wide number of industries, and often work as consultants. How is this any different from jobs where self-branding is traditionally important, such as graphic designers or writers?

With how competitive the job market is today, it’d be more surprising to find evidence of not needing a personal brand. Even famous actors, some of the most recognizable people there are, use self-branding to their advantage. In Generation Like, we saw Ian Somerhalder use his large social media following as a valuable tool. He outsourced his social media management and analysis to ensure that he was appeasing his followers, and used it as a platform to sell ads. Different jobs, similar principles.

 

References

  1. Hein, R. (2013). 9 steps to build your personal brand (and your career). CIO. Retrieved from http://www.cio.com/article/2385635/it-strategy/9-steps-to-build-your-personal-brand–and-your-career-.html
  2. Setty, R. (2006). Personal branding for technology professionals. Intulogy. Retrieved from http://www.rajeshsetty.com/wp-content/uploads/pbtp.pdf
  3. PBS Frontline (2014). Generation like: Social media and self-promotion. PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/fl32-soc-glselfpro/generation-like-social-media-and-self-promotion/
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Blog Post #4

A recent topic of media interest is the Apple vs. FBI standoff over the San Bernardino shooter’s locked iPhone. Earlier today, the FBI said that they found their own way into the phone without Apple’s help. This prompted a New York Times article by AP contributor Mae Anderson that summarizes the debate until now. This same narrative was also the topic of a BuzzFeed news video, which was posted March 23. While the difference in post date is noteworthy due to the recent events, the focus of the two pieces is the same.

The style of rhetoric used in the New York Times article is much more formal and complex, composed with the intricacy of a press release. It’s longer, and uses its carefully selected words to dig deeper into the issue than the BuzzFeed video does. In line with its formal tone is its presentation; in its web form, the article still looks like a traditional newspaper piece, with black words on a white background and a clean cut font.

The New York Times’ formal, classic style and presentation has a lot to do with their audience. The following graphic from Pew Research Center data detailed in an International Business Times article describes who reads the New York Times.

news preference-01

Based on the data, it can be inferred that the New York Times’ audience is generally younger, educated, and middle-to-upper class. This accounts for the level of detail, complexity, and angle of their overall approach.

On the other hand, the BuzzFeed video wishes to give its viewers a much more high-level understanding of the issue. Its style of language is a lot more straightforward and is free of in-depth analysis, opting instead for key points and base-level facts. Its presentation is a lot showier: the video is complete with background music, visual aids, and graphical support.

These ideas hint at the core of BuzzFeed’s MO, which has put them at or near the top of new media news outlets. An article on the website of Harvard’s Institute of Politics explored BuzzFeed’s singular ethos, and characterizing it as “provocative” and noting BuzzFeed’s heavy use of visual aids to condensed content to “make it more interesting and more relevant.” Their Apple video article certainly matches this description. It’s geared towards more general, casual consumption than the in-depth analysis often used by traditional outlets like the New York Times.

In the end, much of the differences between the two pieces can be attributed to medium, but the New York Times and BuzzFeed still clearly have fundamental differences in their models. These differences in form and supposed credibility aside, I think that the New York Times article still does a better job summarizing the Apple vs. FBI issue than its BuzzFeed counterpart. The BuzzFeed video outlines the gist of the conflict, and its visuals definitely make it more aesthetically stimulating. While the visual element is advantageous, the same ideas found in the BuzzFeed video can be found in the New York Times article, and then some. The article’s stratification of defined sections, objective analysis, and formal language paint an effective picture of the issue. In addition, since the point of consuming either text is to extract its content, the article’s less elaborate presentation is helpful by limiting distractions.

 

References

  1. Associated Press (2016). AP explains: Apple vs. FBI _ what happened? New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/03/28/us/ap-us-ap-explains-apple-iphone-standoff.html
  2. BuzzFeed Staff (2016). What you should know about Apple’s standoff with the FBI. BuzzFeed. Retrieved from http://www.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeednews/what-you-should-know-about-apples-standoff-with-the-fbi#.hbJvaWvek
  3. Mahapatra, L. (2013). Audience profiles: Who actually reads the New York Times, watches Fox News, and other news publications and channels? International Business Times. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/audience-profiles-who-actually-reads-new-york-times-watches-fox-news-other-news-publications-1451828
  4. Choe, J. (2016). How BuzzFeed is like a Parisian cafe. Harvard Institute of Politics. Retrieved from http://www.iop.harvard.edu/how-buzzfeed-parisian-cafe

Blog Post #3

On March 5, 2012, Invisible Children uploaded “Kony 2012” to YouTube with the hopes of spreading word about the crimes of Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony. Their goal all along was to go viral, but nobody could’ve predicted the extreme heights of their success.

“Kony 2012” subsequently became the fastest growing video of all time, racking up over 100 million views and in just six days. Even more were reached through social media platforms like Twitter, where the hashtag #Kony2012 instantly became ubiquitous.

The “Kony 2012” video is an obvious product of numerous properties identified by Jenkins and company in Chapter 5 of Spreadable Media.First, it’s a digital product, so it’s at once readily available, portable, and reusable. All of these characteristics contribute to its immense ease of share.

Second, some of the principles they laid out regarding shared fantasies can be traced to “Kony 2012.” For example, the video is an embodiment of the acceptance of mutual obligations. When somebody sees or hears about the video and its cause, they feel responsible for furthering its message. This is also in line with wanting to operate within familiar social patterns; when a video generates this much buzz, getting involved becomes the norm. Both of these contribute to its overarching theme of community– one of the central tenants of shared fantasies.

Additionally, “Kony 2012” displays characteristics of unfinished content. Investigative research was conducted, explanatory essays were written, and further documentaries were produced in the aftermath of the YouTube video. These following producers saw the video and its content as an unfinished message and took action to help round out the story.

Perhaps “Kony 2012″‘s most relevant spreadability aspect was the timeliness of its controversy. At the time of its publication, African conflicts were a nonstop topic of media discussion. To name just a few, the Egyptian political conflict was in full swing, the Sudanese and Libyan civil wars were imminent, and Somalian pirate attacks were frequent. The world’s people were already sympathizing with African conflicts. So, when the video started to educate viewers on this long-lasting Ugandan feud, the public was ready to embrace its controversy. The fact that “Kony 2012” embodies so many of Jenkins’ ideas– and embodies them so profoundly– makes it a good example of his ideas.

While “Kony 2012″doesn’t display evidence of Jenkins’ other listed factors, additional spreadability factors relating to it can be found elsewhere. TINT– a consulting firm that specializes in social media– posted an article on their page that lists several commonalities of viral content. Some that relate to “Kony 2012” are listed below:

  • Sentimentality– viewers are likely to empathize with its emotional message
  • Informativity– the video educates viewers on a previously unknown topic
  • Researched content– viewers respect the work put into making the video and want to see its conclusion
  • Video– its informative yet entertaining at once and requires little work from viewers

Each one of these characteristics contribute directly to how likely viewers are to share.

Social media marketing firm Synecore posted a similar article on their site, but with different characteristics. Still more unique ones can be related to “Kony 2012.” The first is that it’s unbelievable– viewers are abhorred at the jaw-dropping acts of Kony and his rebel army. Next, it agrees with our worldview. People like sharing things that make them feel good about themselves. Is there a better example of this than an activism video? Lastly, it’s taboo. Mainstream media strayed away from the Kony conflict for decades. The fact that a then-small charity group started the movement made it that much more intriguing.

References

  1. Invisible Children (2012). Kony 2012. Retrieved from http://invisiblechildren.com/kony-2012/
  2. Jenkins, H., Ford, S., Green, J., & JSTOR books. (2013). Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture. New York: New York University Press. Retrieved from https://ay15.moodle.umn.edu/pluginfile.php/1249088/mod_resource/content/1/Spreadable%20media%20chap5.pdf
  3. Wikipedia (2o16). List of conflicts in Africa. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conflicts_in_Africa
  4. Unknown author (2013). 11 types of viral content that spread on the internet. TINT. Retrieved from http://www.tintup.com/blog/11-types-of-viral-content-that-spread-on-the-internet/
  5. Horton, C. (2013). Social media marketing 101: What makes content go viral? Marketing Technology for Growth. Retrieved from http://engage.synecoretech.com/marketing-technology-for-growth/bid/184524/Social-Media-Marketing-101-What-Makes-Content-Go-Viral

Blog Post #2

Every time a new medium is introduced to society, the logic that supports it emphasizes how it’s going to bring us further into the future. E-books were going to digitize and simplify libraries. Social media was going to enliven our social lives. And most importantly, these new media are only going to make us more connected.

Or are they? The awe inspired by these transformative technologies blinded us from considering perhaps the most important question associated with them: is it feasible that someday these technologies will begin to make us more disconnected? In a 2012 article on Forbes’ website, Susan Tardanico sought to explore this question. Throughout her article, Tardanico’s tone is condemning. She explains how social media has broken traditional face-to-face conversation and how it’s created a gap between older generations and those accustomed to new media– especially in regards to business relationships– before going on to give suggestions for how to keep e-communication real.

This graphic gives a look into how much different generations utilize new media. It was used in a Pew Research Center article regarding social media marketing.

Her arguments are very similar to some of Sherry Turkle’s in her TED Talk about Alone Together. Both media texts discuss our growing tendency to hide behind our screens and how important interpersonal elements are lost when communication via digital technologies. Another similarity between the two are the solutions they offer. Both advocate for being wary of the detriments these technologies can have on our conversations, and explain that if we do so, we can again begin to derive the conversational benefits these media intended to produce. Tardanico’s piece also possesses similarities to Alone Together itself. Tardanico explains how younger generations are less comfortable with traditional interpersonal communication, instead preferring instant messages or email– a concept that builds on Turkle’s idea of an online identity, where users are free to construct their optimal self.

Overall, I think Tardanico’s article is a good example of general new media effects, as the effects she includes have been demonstrated time and time again using all new media– not just social media– as tests. A study from Elon University surveyed a random sample of students to find out how the rapid expansion of technology has affected face-to-face communication, and the researchers stumbled upon some pretty ominous conclusions. First, they deduced that people are becoming more reliant on their technologies and are less likely to engage with others– even friends and/or family. Another conclusion they drew was that the mere presence of these technologies can degrade the quality of a conversation. These findings are not that different from Tardanico’s or Turkle’s, and their replicability indicates that they’re substantial.

More evidence supporting Tardanico’s claims comes from a Huffington Post editorial by Thomas White. Like the previous works, White emphasizes the prevalence and danger of what he calls the “social media mask” or “social media shield,” referring to both out online identities and the false sense of security our screens provide. He also cites social media usage statistics, inferring that their sharp rise means that more and more people are needing a mask or shield. These findings are discussed everywhere from scientific studies to editorial essays to our classroom. Clearly they’re no hoax.

 

References

  1. Tardanico, S. (2012). Is social media sabotaging real communication? Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/susantardanico/2012/04/30/is-social-media-sabotaging-real-communication/#65d213754fd8
  2. Pew Research Center (2010). Percentage of adults with home broadband, by generation. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=new+media+effects&biw=1252&bih=580&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj3lpirko3LAhWB74MKHU6oBjIQ_AUIBygC#tbm=isch&q=social+media+generational+gap&imgrc=741-yIpdTItWkM%3A
  3. Turkle, S. (2012). Connected, but alone? Ted. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together?language=en
  4. Turkle, S. (2011). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Retrieved from https://ay15.moodle.umn.edu/pluginfile.php/1249071/mod_resource/content/1/Alone%20Together%20Chapters%2089.pdf
  5. Drago, E. (2015). The effect of technology on face-to-face communication. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 6, 1. Retrieved from https://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/academics/communications/research/vol6no1/02DragoEJSpring15.pdf
  6. White, T. (2013). Why social media isn’t social. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thomas-white/why-social-media-isnt-social_b_3858576.html

 

Blog Post #1

It took Leo Tolstoy nearly 1,500 pages to produce his Napoleonic war epic War and Peace. Ayn Rand’s philosophical opus Atlas Shrugged ran over 1,100. When it comes to writing, conventional logic suggests that it takes words– a lot of them– to catalyze a cultural transformation.

The late, great David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest— whose page count broke the millennium mark itself– predicted many things about a then-future America: TV on-demand, video chats, even celebrity presidential candidates. But there was one thing Wallace couldn’t foresee: the rise of Twitter.

But can you blame him? When Twitter was first conceived, its concept was radical, and in many ways it still is. No lengthy discourse. No instant messaging. Just quick, catchy messages and hashtags. However, a closer study of Twitter’s characteristics help us to understand tweets and how they determine pop culture’s newest crazes.

Tweets, the content produced on Twitter, are limited to 140 characters. Other media can be added and similar tweets can be connected through hashtags. Tweets are appropriate at any time, the feed refreshes at a moment’s notice, and the audience is gigantic, as evidenced by the graphic below:

With these characteristics in mind, Twitter’s content makes sense. Captivating, concise messages are used to capture attention, hashtags are used to join a conversation, and links to longer pieces often accompany tweets. Twitter’s huge user base and the opportunity to “go viral” explains tweets’ memetic nature.

In his The Medium Is the Message, Marshall McLuhan wrote that the change of scale, pace, or pattern it introduces to society is a medium’s “message.” By introducing a real-time, quickly-read platform to practically everybody, Twitter changed all three, so resulting cultural changes are no surprise. Bloggerati, Twitterati— a book by Mary Cross about pop culture in the digital era– details some of these effects. For example, Twitter’s global audience and centralized psyche encourage a mob mentality or conformance to the norm. The concept of an ever-present “panel of judges” studying and analyzing their updates scares some from sharing their true ideas, which, as we learned in class, can carry over into real life. My experiences with Twitter mirror this. In theory, Twitter is supposed to offer a diverse array of voices, but I find that the nature of the majority of tweets seems to be the same. It’s not all bad, though. These very same characteristics allow for rapid and widespread social movements. On her blog, PhD and media researcher Bonnie Stewart identifies Twitter as a still-powerful and visible voice, offering its role in mobilizing the #Ferguson movement as evidence. Twitter’s hashtag feature allows for the consolidation of such a voice, and its sheer volume of users ensures that that voice will be heard.

Another byproduct of Twitter, for better or worse, is its shaping of popular opinion. I mentioned earlier that Twitter encourages conformance, but how? Why? Chinese researchers conducted a study to find out how Twitter can shape public opinion, and had some interesting findings. When an issue first comes about, opinions vary– expected behavior due to the diversity of voices. Over time, however, opinions regress to a mean that’s very difficult to change. Once the opinion is set, it’s seen as the norm, encouraging groupthink. Evidence: run a Twitter search for Nickelback. Everybody seems to dislike them, but does anybody know why? It seems as though Twitter is capable of determining a culture’s views, as if that culture’s individuals aren’t capable of doing it themselves.

 

References

  1. McLuhan, M. (1964). The medium is the message. Understanding media (pp. 23-35). Retrieved from https://ay15.moodle.umn.edu/pluginfile.php/1249054/mod_resource/content/1/medium-is-message-mcluhan%282%29.pdf
  2. Cross, M. (2011). Bloggerati, twitterati: How blogs and twitter are transforming popular culture. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=gw_Nz5RpzVkC&pg=PA62&lpg=PA62&dq=twitter+medium+is+the+message&source=bl&ots=FYdzIld7qi&sig=dl4gG1Zu2aifJ4gzwVC5JGlR3w4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjG7J2bjuzKAhVKuYMKHQn9AXM4ChDoAQgiMAE#v=onepage&q=twitter%20medium%20is%20the%20message&f=false
  3. Stewart, B. (2012, September 2). Something is rotten in the state of…twitter [weblog]. Retrieved from http://theory.cribchronicles.com/2014/09/02/something-is-rotten-in-the-state-of-twitter/
  4. Xiong, F., & Liu, Y. (2014). Opinion formation on social media: an empirical approach. Chaos, 24, 013130. Retrieved from http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/chaos/24/1/10.1063/1.4866011?TRACKPRESS=BARDI