Tag Archives: social media

Weekly Post # 11: 2012 Presidential Elections- Another Campaigning Revolution?

We all witnessed how President Obama revolutionized the way that  presidential campaigns are held and will be held using technology and community efforts. This historical campaign has been a subject of discussion and analysis until today and has raised the bar in terms of the way the next elections will be held. Public engagement powered by the evolution of digital technology have brought Mr.Obama way ahead of other candidates and changed the election campaign landscape forever.

It not only fundamentally changed the logistics of a political campaign, but also formulated key principles that we will never forget. For me the most powerful one is that “crowds and communities have an immense power if given the tools to use it” – a concept  so extensively discussed during the course of my Social Media class and one of the most important ones that I will try to apply during my future career as a communication’s professional.  Never would he’ve been able to organize such large numbers of supporters without giving them the opportunity to organize and support themselves, energizing them and giving them the power and authority to contribute.

During the semester we read the book “The Long Tail ” by Clay Shirky. In it he mentions that the 3 key elements for a successful online campaign are: democratized production, democratized distribution, and connection between supply and demand.

Undoubtedly, Obama had them all. He used the democratized tools, his website, mobile phones, the existing social networking software. He used the democratized distribution, be it social networks, mobile, video or emails.  And finally he connected supply (used existing networks) and demand (people’s willingness to be involved).  Obama directed crowdsourcing –  he gave opportunities to large masses to contribute.

It is hard to predict what the next elections will look like. If we try to predict them, we need to predict technology and the developers’ genius minds are hard to guess.  The volunteer organization and empowerment will likely be times more sophisticated. I can imagine Obama’s opponents opening up and adopting this model of community energizing and engagement.

Two years from now is a long time. The Moore’s Law states that in two years the technology advances twice as much and becomes twice cheaper. So just to give you an example – in two years the IPad will be totally outdated and be replace by a two times more sophisticated and half cheaper device. What other platforms will be out there is hard to guess. But I think that no matter what they are, the core concept of community engagement and collective action will never get old and will be the driving force of the 2012 presidential elections as well, the way it is increasingly being adopted by the business world as well.

Another trend that we might possible see is Clay Shirky’s Long Tail. During the last elections Obama’s camping has overseen more than a hundred different websites.  I think that during the next elections he might go after even more niche audiences, no matter how small they are, and double the sites he oversees. I see his campaign reaching out to niche communities providing them with even more interactive tools to collaborate such as different apps and widgets.

Weekly Blog #10: Wartalks – a necessary or unnecessary truth?

We read news titles such as this one – “A roadside bomb killed yesterday X civilians and Z soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan” – almost on a daily basis. Yes, the violence and the number of lost lives are striking. But we read about this so often, that at some point this news becomes something usual and impersonal. We are disconnected from the reality and complications of a war conflict, either by voluntarily choosing to not think deeper about the intricacy of the issue, or by not being exposed to all of its aspects.  But we should know more – soldiers’ participation in a war is an impressive act and deserves more attention. They and their emotions are the human face of the bitter war reality which is much more obscured than, for example, its political face. The Web 2.0 serves the purpose of unveiling that reality. The fast-pace advancing digital revolution has provided those directly and indirectly connected with the war with a venue to express their opinions, ideology, and feelings. It has provided many soldiers with a way to talk about their extended period of service.

The internet has also turned into a medium for us to gather news reports, images and videos, especially since the start of the 2003 war in Iraq, of what it is like to be on the ground. According to a study conducted in 2003 by “77% of online Americans have used the Internet in connection with the war” since the 2003 Iraq War.

I know that some of you will ask: Do we need to be exposed to so much violence? We are exposed to it enough by the news outlets and by many of the movies we produce. I agree. But I also realize how important citizens’ and soldiers’ voices are in a time of a war, and how important it is for all these reports to be out there and available to the public.

As Alex Horton, the author of the Army of Dude, reveals in one of his last posts before going back home  “the intention of this blog from day one was to chronicle my experiences in a way for people to understand and interpret what was going on beyond what was being filtered, distilled and spat out of the mainstream media.”

Warblogging and other forms of citizen journalism in a time of war allows us to change our misconceptions and disinformation about what it takes to be on the front lines. In addition,  it can serve an educational tool for future generations to understand  war and its savagery.

This video is a short confession of a US soldier in Iraq who pictured and videotaped everything from his first to his last day of service. The material was later used for the production of the documentary “My War Diary” .He explains that he did it not  only for his fellow soldiers, but also for their families  – to know that “this is the truth and what happened over there.”

On the other hand, warblogging also allows the ones living in war conditions , the locals, to be heard. I read both Salem Pax’s blog, as well as Bagdad Burning , which illustrate the hardship of war on the local people, their perspectives and differences.This is how one of Bagdad’s Burning blod posts starts: “It takes a lot to get the energy and resolution to blog lately. I guess it’s mainly because just thinking about the state of Iraq leaves me drained and depressed. But I had to write tonight”. Warblogs not only describe war, but also touch upon other socio-economic and cultural issues.

In all instances, it is our right to be exposed to different perspectives which overcome the limitations of traditional media, as it is people’s right to raise their voices no matter of their role or position on the war. War is heartbreaking, and its brutality should not be hidden.

Personal Blog #2 Social Marketing, Social Media and Social Change

Social marketing is an area I became interested in during the course of my master’s program, and more so after completing a class with a concentration on the effective use of communications for development. A significant part of it was dedicated to analyzing and creating cogent strategies for behavior change, capacity building, and raising awareness regarding social, economic, and political issues. Although social marketing, communications for development, and advocacy communications differ from each other, but at the same time often hard for many to tell apart, they are united by a common objective, that is social change.

In this regard, my interest expands to using social media for social impact. Social media is a powerful, what Chris Anderson refers to, “democratization” of tools which encouraged the use of more sophisticated and participatory approaches by businesses, non-profits, commercial and social marketers. It has  given the crowd precious platforms to exercise its power: in this context, everyone working towards the goal of making the world a better place.

Collective action has formulations and theories in many areas of the social sciences. In this note I must say that, I really enjoyed reading the book “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky which is a deep and engaging insight of how technology bolsters collaboration and crowd-souring.
The two examples that stood out the most for me are: the Belorussian protesters using LiveJournal to organize flash mobs to boycott Lukashenko’s government, and Wikipedia which Chris Anderson compares to a “live organism having the ability to heal itself”, thus referring to the collaborator’s immediate actions towards any form of vandalism. Besides these examples, I wanted to give a couple more on how technology has allowed other great projects to become reality due to a group’s collective activism.

One definitely worth mentioning is TED and its ambitious initiative to translate TEDTalks into different languages. TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading ideas globally, its logo – “Ideas Worth Spreading”. From its beginning as a conference in 1984 it invites the world’s most influential thinkers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). Later TED made all these talks available on Ted.com, making it a powerful platform for collaboration and sharing ideas to a global audience. They cover multiple topics from science technology, food, poetry to origami. TED’s Open-Translation Project launched with 300 translations in 40 languages and 200 volunteer translators. In the beginning, talks were translated professionally into 20 languages, but going on and up to this date, the project is completely reliant on volunteers who were able to do it themselves using the open-source platform they were provided. At the moment the talks are available on 70 Languages, with 2050 translators involved, and 4994 translations. Through the lens of the Long Tail one can argue that TED has one, too. The top left part being the hit talks (Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, etc.), and on the bottom right – niche interests such as bacteria, submarines, and apes.

Another great example of civil action is Earthtour.org which using social media encouraged close to 5000 cities in 88 countries in 2009 to participate in the Earth Hour which is ten times more the number of participants in 2008. Earthhour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change.

For more examples, you can check out the Blueprints report available on thinksocial.org which highlights the most innovative and effective use of social media and the public interest.

Weekly Blog Post # 3 Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web?

Privacy is a fundamental human right recognized in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in many other international and regional treaties. It is a complex and widely discussed topic of the modern age, both offline and online. As we have observed, especially during the past few years, the capacity and capability of the Internet is constantly changing and developing new ways of using it as a communication medium. The abundance of platforms for social networking raises the question of privacy: How much should we expose and is our information protected? Up until 2007 there have not been written rules and there is still no consensus on what online privacy means, who should define it, and what is the golden medium between the consumer and company’s interests.

In September 2007 Joseph Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Michael Arrington created the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web which focuses on privacy, and more precisely – on ownership, control & freedom of personal information. Up to this date it has been a continuous debate, but a question that we as users should think twice about. The social media’s Bill of Rights’s core arguments are that online users should have:
Ownership of their own personal information, including:
o their own profile data
o the list of people they are connected to
o the activity stream of content they create;
Control of whether and how such personal information is shared with others; and
Freedom to grant persistent access to their personal information to trusted external sites.

To me the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web seems fair but quite idealistic. All of the above statements seem to be valid points, having in mind that many platforms do not support true deletion; even deleted or edited information remains on the company’s servers forever. Despite this fact, I personally, still  publish pictures on my Facebook account which is my own decision. We have control of our online behavior and we are responsible for the information we put out there. In addition, we are provided tools to control who is to view our personal information. At the same time, it makes me wonder why I can not share things that I want to share without giving up the ownership of these items. And it makes me wonder why are there 6 different versions of any one of my pictures stored on the site’s servers. Here is an insightful interview with a Facebook employee revealing a few behind the scenes practices and facts which concern the users’ ownership of information. On the other hand, what would happen if social networking sites would give up and deliver the entire content rights to the users by simply providing the service.  Would this freedom then be misused?  I am in a dilemma myself.

Overall, I think it is naive to think that the Bill of Right for users of the social media can be implemented universally, having in mind the number of existing social platforms. Maybe some day the Bill can serve as an ethical guide for the next generation of online social tools. I am convinced that we, and nobody else,  should own our personal information, but unless this changes in terms of  its legality,  if  at all possible, it is up to us to find this perfect balance between living socially and  being private.