Blogger’s Block – No Burgers, No Web 2.0, Just Wiki

Grrrr! I can’t seem to find anything Web 2.0 related to write about. At least nothing recent. So…

Food News:
Rougue States in Dupont Circle, one of my favorite places to nom, closed down because white-collar curmudgeons didn’t like grease fumes seeping into their Armani suits. That’s pretty interesting in my opinion (although it makes me upset that such a fine burger place is getting taken off of the menu in the restaurant that is DC). I guess I’ll have to go to north Dupont to BGR, or wait for Go Burger to open up right across the street later this year.

 

Web 2.0 News:
Other than that I’ve been reading up on the history of Wikis and the emergence of the masses taking over where the encyclopedia professionals left off – in small circles huddled around hard-cover books mumbling about changes that won’t take place until the next decade.

It sounds dramatic, yes, but this is the impression I got from the stories about how Wikipedia sprung up in 2001; a cheeky experiment to see if an encyclopedia made by anyone could help with the creation of new articles for an encyclopedia made by  professionals. As it would turn out, Wikipedia ended up being the better option.

Why? To put it succinctly, it’s because Wikipedia had more contributors who wanted the site to succeed than detractors who wanted the site to fail or become a fortress of rebellion and naughty language.  This behavior is much akin to how neighborhoods work try to stay prim and perfect. The thought is that the more people care about the neighborhood, the less likely it’ll turn into a “bad” neighborhood with crime. Of course this is a very large generalization and doesn’t take into consideration socio-economic status, race, class, etc..

However, it seems to be working when all these things are not involved. If you’re a dog with broadband, no one else gives a crap whether your a dog (just don’t forget to cite your sources…and pick up your dog crap from my lawn).

Insightful Thought in 3…2…1…
The ability Wikipedia has in kicking the ass of the professional and giving power to the “people” is only due to the fact that the user community has a vested interest in what the site represents and what their thoughts represent (which is the historical record of mankind). This is how Yelp works as well. The power of Yelp is created by the user community. In the end, just like in your neighborhood, the actions of the community are as narcissistic as they are noble. Picking up trash in your neighborhood and mowing your lawn are acts that make both you and your neighborhood look like nice places to hang your hat. Multiply that by 100 and form it into PTA meetings with bake sales and boring late night Wednesday meetings and you have yourself an aware  public who’s looking out for the best interests of the place you call home.

Random Thought in 3…2.

Hey, weren’t we talking about burgers?

Group Think = Smarter Think

Yes, well, only if you play well with others and, umm…have women in your group.

In a study that was co-authored by Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Union College and is published in Science,  researchers found that the intelligence of an individual has very little bearing on the intelligence of the group he/she is in.  What made the group in the study more intelligent was the way the group interacted and how well it could “distribute turn-taking, how socially sensitive the group members were, and how many woman were on each team [they suspect it’s because women exhibit higher social sensitivity and can read social cues better than men].”

This doesn’t read like a politically correct statement, and I doubt that this study (which included 699 participants) will result in managers strategically placing women in more brainstorming groups for obvious gender bias reasons. However,  this does make one wonder if managers will use this study to think of better ways to facilitate brainstorming sessions to fully optimize knowledge building. Will they supplement these sessions with wikis, content management systems, etc? Who knows.

One thing’s certain; group think kicks way more ass than what one person may come up with. I think Wikipedia has proven that much. Just so long as you’re getting ideas from different viewpoints rather than hearing echoes from your your chamber of comfort, you’re doing the right thing.

Play nice. You might just get a gold sticker.

Clay Shirky v. Malcolm Gladwell

After reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody and Malcom Gladwell’s October 4th article in the New Yorker, I thought I would give a comparison between the two minds and make some thoughts of my own.

 

Clay Shirky

 

Enter Clay Shirky
author of  Here Comes Everybody:

A new media enthusiast who believes in the gathering power of new media. Protests in Iran, political activism in Egypt, and teenage girls who get blasted on the Internet for stealing a cell phone prove how social media is a force to be reckoned with in the 21st Century. Shirky uses these as examples of how social media is changing the way we interact due to our need to share, edit, and play nice with each other’s digital contributions to the world.

 

Malcolm Gladwell

 

Enter Malcolm Gladwell
author of The Tipping Point:

A social media realist who believes that the power of social media can only be thought of as a place where weak ties between individuals and groups can exist. This power is only good for fleeting moments of togetherness and collective activism. For Gladwell, to think that a “@MLK #CivilRightsMovement” in the 21st Century can have the same or even a much larger and effective impact than the  Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s ignores the basics of group formation and social psychology.

What Do I Think?

Gladwell has a valid point. I don’t think social media is a place where strong ties are made. Any interaction through media, regardless of their relative richness (email v. phone v. skype v. etc.) will yield much weaker results than old-fashioned, strategic group organization. Strong ties can only be garnered through face-to-face relationships, such as friendships and partnerships.

However, it’s unfortunate that Gladwell doesn’t argue for the need to incorporate social media into strong ties between individuals and groups in order to make the relationship between them stronger and easier to access. Hasn’t he ever used Facebook to keep in touch with his buddies from undergrad? He simply states that the passion and success of a long, sustaining movement cannot hinge itself upon the ephemeral nature of social media flash mobs. True as this is, he’s not thinking past the social media/social organizing dichotomy. he should be think towards a combination of the two.

Gladwell assumes that people like Shirky are “tech first people second” new media scholars. This is hardly the case. In Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, Shirky clearly makes the statement that social media and groups must be corralled in some way by an organized structure in order for it to work. Also, and most importantly, Galdwell states throughout the book that social media and technology are simply extensions of the needs of the people (like how the printing press came out of the need to distribute literature, which was once done by scribes).

In the end, I’ll have to give more credit to Gladwell for pointing out a significant flaw in new media theory because he makes note of the myth that social media create strong enough ties among individuals and groups to develop long and sustaining social movements (something that he convincingly disproves in the New Yorker article). However, Gladwell fails where  Shirky begins. Shirky takes this myth, and acknowledges it’s faults; explaining how  fleeting relationships can be used for good. Again, Gladwell seems to be 100% people oriented and does not make the attempt to bridge social media and pre-Internet group formation.

What I would like to see in the future is a practical explanation on when social media can be used to gather certain types of people for certain types of movements. With such a map, users of new media can plan accordingly and use social media to turn what was once a fleeting relationship into a long sustaining relationship of people willing to do what is called of them.

In the end, I’m still waiting for the Million Twitter March, which will be streamed live on Ustream and updated live Wikipedia faster than the papers can say “print” :P. Just so long as mankind continues to act human and form strong relationships, social media will be there (and improved upon) to support these relationships.

Want My Music? Just Ping Me

So digital music sales have stalled this year. It looks like the music industry can go back into panic mode and release their lawyers on unsuspecting college students illegally sharing tunes by the terabyte.  I’m not saying that they already have, but we all know that’s a realistic option for the music behemoths. Over the past decade they’ve learned slowly but surely the lengths people will go to hear their favorite Lady Gaga single, whether that’s flirting with accidentally downloading a virus, getting poor quality files, or being caught by the man.

How can the music industry raise the bar without tightening their grip around the neck of progress? They’ll have to embrace social networking, the very thing that they’ve been fighting against since Napster almost brought them to their knees.

Apple is trying to use their clout as the number one seller of digital music to convince the music industry to embrace such a future with Ping, an add-on to iTunes that allows people to share music. When Ping first came out in early September, it was met with very little positive reviews because it stymied social interactions. However, a recent software update has made Ping a much more social tool that will allow it to climb the ladder of Web 2.0 success.

Where will this take the music industry? Hopefully the same place iTunes and video game downloadable content (DLC) took Steve Jobs and console and PC game developers over the past 10 years, which is out of a rut. Where will this take consumers? Hopefully to a place where music is cheaper and more readily available and where new music is discovered every day. Never heard of the group who was “formerly New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo”? In the future, if Ping is a success, you and the entirety of your social networks will know who they are before the Lenos and Lettermans of the world can lay a finger on them.

That’s the world that I want to live in because I’m tired of grainy tracks filled with viruses…not that I would know anything about that of course 😛

What are your thoughts?

Hack to the Hills. Hack For Your Life!

Being a technological determinist isn’t easy. I get called things like “cyber-crony” and a “slave to the machine”! Well, not really, but I know you’re thinking it! When I really stop to ponder my viewpoint , my technological bias on the evolution of society is quite surprising considering my favorite movie is The Matrix. But hey, “Fate it seems isn’t without a sense of irony”. Right Morepheus? This is because I’m also of the belief that man has the uncanny ability to make technology into what he wants without having to stand in long lines at the Apple store like another drone waiting for the new iWhatever (for the record I like iStuff, but you can’t help but realize that it’s cultish).

For those who either disagree with the technological deterministic mindset, or for those who simply want to get their gadgets house-broken I recommend Lifehacker, a place for DIY enthusiasts and control freaks to share and indulge the many ways you can make technology work for you.  Sure, it may be ironic to refer to a website in order to rage against the machine (also one of my favorite bands, oddly enough), but that’s just the point. You can’t fight the system by becoming a hermit. You have to use it and understand it so that you can change it (kind of like running for office).

Maybe this is a new type of technological determinism. Progressive Technological Determinism or Ne0-Technological Determinism if you will. Who knows? Taking Marshal McCluhan literally may not be feasible in this day and age where the masses own the means of production across media to a much greater degree than they did 40 years ago due to the Internet, cheap broadband, and cheap hardware. Lifehacker is proof of the power of man and his need to tweak, innovate, and improve.

So get started and take control of your technology. Or else it just might pee all over your desk. Bad technology! Bad!

Try these hacks on for size:

Insert Commas into Saved Contacts to Force Extension-Friendly Pauses
Insync Keeps Your Files and Google Docs Synced and Backed Up

Media and the Message @InyofaceEnzensberger

I had the pleasure (not really) of reading the work of Hans Magnus Enzensberger called Constituents of a Theory of the Media (1970). Enzensberger is a pretty ingenious guy in that he affixes Marxism to communication theory and likens the mass media to the superstructure trying to keep a monopoly on the unparticipating masses/proletariat.

Is that a mouthful? Yes. Does he have a point? Sure, why not. I mean, before the Internet, it was much more difficult to become a participant in the mass media because the means of production were too expensive to own and distribute. However, this example shows where his ideas are flawed.

While raging against anything remotely technologically deterministic and announcing his deep-seeded hatred for Canadian communications theorist Marshal McCluhan, Enzensberer fails to realize that technology, and the means of production have progressed to such a degree in the past 40 years to render his points about revolutionizing media through purely social participation moot.

There are many ways to create, share, and re-share/tweet, or whatever. Much of it is due to social networking, but the catalyst for our newly empowered proletariat masses has more to do with technology than anything else. For example the only reason why people have changed their day-to-day behaviors is because of technology. Office meeting etiquette, prime time TV viewing, relationships, word of mouth, personal privacy, etc. have all been shaped by revolutions in technology by the likes Smart Phones with QWERTY keyboards, hulu, cheap video cameras, Facebook, and geo-location software.  And as anyone will surely tell you, correspondence using any of these technologies will mean different things depending on what you use (and also depending on who you talk to, but that doesn’t negate the fact that new technology has changed our approach to dealing with individuals and the masses as an individual consumer/producer).

Don’t believe that the medium is the message or the fact that the medium almost completely shapes the way we view things, thus making it a message in and of itself? Take this article in Wired as an firm example of why technology reins supreme. As in the article, depending on which of the semi autonomous creations of plastic and metal you choose, you’re experience will vary considerably

So what say you? Do we have more agency, or are we mostly shaped by our technology use? Before you answer, consider your interactions with your friends and family sans just a cell phone. I can see you twitching with stress already.

Constituents of a Theory of the Media

Watching People Watching Immersion

My Video Project on Watching People Watching Immersion

My Video Project on Watching People Watching Immersion

In my Simulation and Immersion class at good ole GTown, I was tasked with discovering what immersion looks like. No, we’re not talking about bathtub voyeurism.  We’re talking about immersion as a state of mind.

A great example of this, which I based my project on, is from photographer Robbie Cooper. His photographs depicting children playing video games makes us think about  how the virtual can be very much a apart of the real, which becomes even more apparent when you watch his video using the same subjects from these photographs.

Robbie Cooper Pic

He was able to gather such great footage because he implanted a hidden camera directly into the center of the television being watched by his subjects. Also, the subjects gave permission to be photographed/filmed (or at least their parents did, because they all look underage).

With my project, rather than recreating Cooper’s experiment by filming the immersed, I chose to fall a bit further into the rabbit hole in order to discover what it looks like when people are watching those who are immersed while being involved in play. Did your brain explode? let me explain:

When someone is moving their fingers while watching someone play Guitar Hero or Rock Band, or when someone  groans  or cheers while watching an athlete score a goal, this is when pleasure and immersion transfer from the player of a game to the audience. What’s interesting about this is that many people react to others reacting to stimuli (play) in different ways. Some stand still, others watch the person involved in play, and some don’t even watch the person at all and choose to watch the screen instead.

The project speaks to the Magic Membrane where, according to Edward Castronova, play is permeable and can happen out side of the Magic Circle where play is said to exist in a finite space. Castronova says that turning WOW gold into real money is an example of this.

This also speaks to Jean Baudrillard’s idea of the Simulacrum as a fake space that is created within the real world but is considered real to the people who inhabit it (think of the people who inhabit Disney World in Orlando)

Brining this back to my interest in social networking and virtual participation, you can see with these projects that there is a thin line between the real and the virtual, and its becoming thinner every time connecting with technology can be accomplished indirectly through others’ interactions with technology (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc.).

So if you haven’t already clicked on the image at the very top of the page, here is a link to my project. I hope you enjoy it.