New Found Love for New Media

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Image courtesy of conexusmarketing.com

I entitled my WordPress blog “Old (Media) Dog, New (Media) Tricks” in connection with my Intro to New Media college class. I was the only senior student and was one of the few who did not regularly show up to class with a laptop, as I have always preferred taking notes by hand rather than using a computer. Although before this class I was and still am a fan of Facebook and had done some basic work on WordPress, I had never had a Twitter or a Pinterest account. I was unfamiliar with and nervous about utilizing these types of new media. Needless to say, I certainly felt like the old dog in the class, not only in terms of age but also in terms of being behind the times. However, through my Twitter, I have now successfully completed over 100 tweets of personal thoughts, observations, photos and videos revolving around new media. I created two Pinterest boards, one on the intersections of sports and new media and the other on computer generated imaging and motion capture in movies. Finally, I wrote 10 blog posts, learned how to add and drop photos and link content to URLs. Through my blogging experience, I have been able to add WordPress to my computer skills on my resume. I now enjoy being able to navigate different new media worlds through the exposure and experience of Twitter, Pinterest and WordPress and have become more integrated into the phenomenon of new media. I no longer feel scared of trying out new media and feel as if I have a much more comprehensive understanding of what new media is and how to use it. It is now safe to say that this “old dog” has certainly learned some new media tricks.

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#PrayforBoston: Reflections on the Boston Marathon

Courtesy of The Atlantic

Courtesy of The Atlantic

On April 15th, I overheard a friend talking about people killed and injured in an explosion. I quickly checked CNN.com to see what had happened and was shocked to learn of the bombings in the Boston Marathon. I followed as much as I could on the website but details were slow to come in. I switched to Twitter where I was provided with a constant and overwhelming stream of news updates, photos and videos. Alerts continued to pop up, warning all Boston residents to avoid where the bombs went off and to avoid the trains. And the words #PrayforBoston were tweeted and retweeted everywhere I looked. I did pray for Boston and its citizens. There was nothing else I could do. I was completely overwhelmed with what I saw and read. As a newcomer to Twitter, never before I had experienced such a horrific event with moment-by-moment updates. I saw firsthand how in moments of tragedy, now more than ever before, people turn to social media such as Twitter to find out the latest of what’s going on. I have seen how Twitter alerted the nation and the world to the tragedy and how it has become the new instant newspaper, the new radio alert, and the new emergency TV broadcast, all in 140 characters or less. Finally, in ways that no other type of social media did, Twitter not only sent out national and international alerts of the tragedy but also sent out a national and international call to prayer. A simple hash tag and three words. #PrayforBoston. I will indeed continue to pray for Boston.

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On the Job Hunt with LinkedIn

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

I just finished my last college class today, I’m graduating in two weeks, and I am on the job hunt. I suppose not having a job such is the life for anyone nowadays. It’s not as if jobs haven’t always been hard to find. The fact that the U.S. economy tanked in 2008, 5.5 million American jobs were lost and the struggle to recover ever since has certainly  hindered employment for most people. I know I am not alone and quite honestly, I don’t mean to complain of First World Problems. In this day and time, I have tools readily available to me that were nonexistent for so many who came before me. LinkedIn is one such example. I recently ventured into the world of LinkedIn earlier this semester and have been pleasantly surprised with what I have found. LinkedIn is a much more professional version of Facebook and allows users get connected with businesses, students and alumni as well as other professional contacts. LinkedIn also allows for users to search for jobs and build an online portfolio of work experiences, skills and opportunities for professional employment. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is about connecting rather than friending, as the site strongly encourages users to only connect if they know one another or if they are at least connected to someone they know. I now have my own LinkedIn profile to connect with classmates, colleagues, and alumni networks, all of which has given me access to future employment possibilities. I am alerted on LinkedIn every time there is a job opening posted one of these networks and other jobs opportunities are suggested to me as I fill out my work experience and skills page. In just a few short months, I have built a type of online resume, gotten connected with alumni and professionals. Whether or not the job market is tough, I am blessed to have access to a professional social media tool such as LinkedIn that has only been around since 2003 to aid me in my search for employment. So, if you need someone who is a fluent Spanish speaker, Hispanic studies major, interested in community and youth development with a passion for working with Latinos and working in Christian ministry, just let me know. I would be more than happy to get linked in.

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Interests and Advertisers on Social Media

facebook-ads

Courtesy of Google Images

We are what we eat. Or according to Hugo Lui in his book Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances, “one is what one is what one consumes—books, music, movies, and a plenitude of other cultural materials” (252). Lui writes about how what we consume is linked to our entertainment tastes, which in the social network world, are reflected in our social media profile pages such as on MySpace or Facebook. From movies to books to music and TVs shows, our interests and what we like to watch, listen to and read are easily conveyed through our profile pages. Liu speaks on the concept of taste statements, which”is the highest-level expression produced by a profile’s lists of interests” (259). Indeed, what appears under our profile interests comprise a personal statement of not only what we consume but also personal statement of who we are as consumers. Whether we like Star Wars or Star Trek, Radio Head or the Beatles, or Batman over Spiderman or perhaps a combination of some or even all of the above, our interests demonstrate where our allegiances lay in regards to investing time, energy and resources into a particular pursuit. These interests then belie a type of performance as who we are as social beings and as consumers. Finally, it would appear that these interests and allegiances would allow advertisers to specifically target and cater to niche audiences on social media such as Facebook and MySpace. If someone were to list classical music as their favorite type of music, advertisers would be able to post specific advertisements to their profile that would be similar to their already established interests. For example, advertisers could be more likely post advertisements for upcoming classical concerts of works by Bach and Beethoven rather than posting advertisements for Metallica or Korn. Advertisers may bank on the new media adage that we are what we consume based on what our profile interests reveal about us. All in all, social media such as MySpace and Facebook can sell audiences to advertisers, as our profiles convey interests, our interests convey our choices and finally our interests convey who we are as consumers.

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Jesus Online: Christianity in the Digital Age

I recently attended a Christian Fellowship meeting at my school Wheaton College and wondered how my faith fits into and connects with new media, of which I am constantly using as a college student. For me, calling myself a Christian has a lot less to do with religion than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, talking about faith and Jesus may not be the most popular subjects but I figured that an new media online space such as WordPress was a place where I could express myself, what I believe in and explore how my faith can connect with my interest in new media.

In my experience in the U.S., religion is not always a popular subject, particularly Christianity. In new media, Christianity is often associated to pertaining to images or personas related with conservative extremists or hypocritical people. Christians and non-Christians can perpetuate similar ideas based on comments, posts, tweets, etc. Furthermore, Jesus is often trivialized as someone that anyone can friend on Facebook or “like” the Jesus fan page of a church, organization, or community.

However, there has been a growing awareness of how to intertwine one’s faith into new media in other ways than simply through Facebook pages. There are Youtube videos where theologists answer questions about Christianity in order to debunk rather than spread stereotypes and myths. There is the annual Christian New Media Conference held in London with seminars ranging in topics from everything of an explanation of what new media is to how to talk about matters of faith through social media  to the “depixelation of God” of examining how God is portrayed online.  And finally my church pastor, who reads Bible verses off his iPad, pointed out in last week’s service how both religious and non-religious people were tweeting #prayforBoston in the aftermath of the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Whether positive or negative images of Jesus and Christianity or uses of new media regarding such topics, the Digital Age enables the topic of faith to be at the forefront of public consciousness. Many people realize that conversations and manifestations of the Christian faith no longer happen just in church, they can happen in everyday conversation and interaction, both face-to-face and virtual. Not everyone will go into a church. But most people do go online.

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Lessons from Calvin and Hobbes: friend vs. “Friend” in Social Media

I grew up reading the comic “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson and to this day I still have a fondness for the six year old troublemaker Calvin and his tiger friend Hobbes. Like almost any kid his age, Calvin was a troublemaker who would rather goof around than do his homework, and often received failing scores as a result. Nonetheless, Calvin was brilliant and made many astute observations such as this one shown here in the image: “True friends are hard to come by”. I came across this image by Googling word “friend” after reading the article “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being On Social Network Sites” by author danah boyd. I realized the image was perfect for what I had just read, for what Calvin said appears to address the very heart of the complex nature of friend vs. Friend in the age of social media.

In her article, boyd brings into question what is meant by friend and Friend mentions how both terms are ambiguous and neither are rigid concepts. Rather, both have a fluid, fluctuating and complicated nature. On the one hand, boyd uses the term Friend that “refers to the feature on Friendster/MySpace” (2). On the other hand, according to boyd, a friend “refers to social relations between two people” (2). However, based on this definition, are not Friends also social relations? Or in other words, can Friends be friends? At the end of her article, boy states how “[s]ocial network sites are not digital spaces disconnected from other social venues– it is a modeling of one aspect of participants’ social worlds and that model is evaluated in other social contexts” (18). Friends are indeed social relations, as they comprise aspects of someone’s social world. Thus, Friends can also be friends.

However, it is not quite that easy. One cannot simply state that all Friends are indeed real friends. In her article, boyd reasons that the term friend signifies a “friendship that involves some degree of mutual love or admiration” (2). While some online Friends do share a certain amount of love, respect, trust, or admiration for one another, this degree of friendship may or may not translate into actual feelings or behaviors beyond virtual interactions. In fact, boyd mentions how many Friends acquired through social media are more acquaintances than actual friends. Furthermore, boyd states how many people hold to the opinion that “the category of friend carries an aura of exclusivity and intimacy unlike the categories acquaintance or contact, which suggest familiarity but not closeness” (2). This explanation reveals the concept of weak ties vs. strong ties, as some acquaintances or Friends could constitute weak ties and friends could constitute strong ties. True friends, or even best friends, may connote a friendship of an “exceptionally strong relationship with expectations for emotional and practical support” (2). According to boyd, examples of this type of support expected from friends may include someone who will “provide a shoulder to cry on, be a partner in crime, and guarantee to bail you out of jail” (2).

Based on these examples, it would appear that in many genuine friendships, particularly among best friends, a certain amount of emotional investment might be expected, given and received. This is not always the case among Friends, as emotional investment is not always required to be online Friends . The virtual nature of being Friends can also carry a superficial nature as well, particularly being Friends with an acquaintance or adding someone as a Friend just because the one accepting has liked the profile of the one they are accepting. There may be a type of separation and emotional detachment between these types of Friends on social networks. In other words, some Friends can exist without any strings attached. Based on this detachment, these types of Friends may possibly not be friends.

In the age of social media, Friends are not hard to come by. Everything from extinct Friendster to still active yet less ubiquitous MySpace to powerhouse Facebook have helped create and manage Friendships through virtual connection and interaction. However, it is clear that the term and concept of Friend do not always equal friend. It appears that Calvin was right after all. Even in the age of social media, true friends may still be hard to come by.

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Facebook is Epic: Social Computing for Dummies

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Courtesy of Google Images

Do you know what you are doing everytime you log into Facebook? You are participating in social computing! If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, the term “social computing” was new to me as of an hour ago. Allow me to explain. I just read about social computing from authors Alexander J. Quinn and Benjamin B. Bederson in their article entitled “Human Computation: Charting The Growth Of a Burgeoning Field”. Quinn and Bederson reference Whinston M. Parameswaran in his description social computing as being “applications and services that facilitate collective action and social interaction online with rich exchange of multimedia information and evolution of aggregate knowledge have come to dominate the Web” (4). Based on this definition, social media such Facebook are examples of social computing. Facebook is distinct from human computation, as Facebook is driven by humans and not by computational processes. In social computing, computer technology mediates human interaction. As demonstrated in the Youtube video “Facebook Song”, Facebook allows users to make friendships or connections with people through online interaction all at the touch of a button. Facebook users can interact through computer-mediated communication such as chat messaging and can exchange multimedia content such as photos and videos. Users can also create and manage online profiles that demonstrate personalities and social behaviors as similar or distinct to their actual lives as they want. As demonstrated in the video, Facebook users can both connect with and disengage themselves from the physical world through the ease of computation mediated interaction. Next time you post a photo or a video on Facebook, just remember you are a participant in social computing. Now that is epic.

P.S. For more on Facebook and social computing, be sure to check out this epic Wall Street Journal article.

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