My typical workspace is my room. Its quite, comfortable, and most importantly it has wireless Internet. Though nothing dramatic about my physical room changed yesterday, I was uncomfortable and generally unable to get anything done in it because the WiFi was offline. We don’t always realize it but the internet makes our public spaces what they are without it, the we act, interact, and live would be dramatically altered.
Needing to gain access to the internet, I went to the library and cozied up in a corner to work on my new charitable website: www.doband.org (check it out!). Sitting in Libe Café I further realized how pervasive the internet is in our daily lives, even in our face to face interaction.
To my left sat an, old friend named Emily who was sitting on her laptop supposedly working. We had a few brief conversations in person, but after I realized she was engrossed in a facebook conversation I jovially messaged her online and we continued to have a conversation in some sort of hybrid space, often talking out loud and occasionally messaging on facebook. At the same time I was having a conversation with another friend across the room on facebook, my marketing director in Jerusalem, one of my designers in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a hand full of other people all over Ithaca working with me on DoBand.org.
To me the sensation was natural. I had pretty much overlooked the fact that before the Internet, we would have all had to be in the same room at the same time to be able to communicate. The integration of the Internet completely changes the way we work. It can enable us to communicate with anyone at anytime without anyone. For the most part this is a good thing. It enables us to conduct international business seamlessly without massive amounts of funding and it enables us to conduct business locally without having to leave our homes (or libraries).
There is however a downside. Laptop computers and smart phones also enable us to communicate with friends and certain websites that are not part of the task at hand. Anyone looking at me from across the room, or talking to me online, couldn’t have know that I was in the middle of a meeting with parties from around the world or even that I was talking to the friend sitting next to me. The temptation is to enter into conversations that neglect your obligation to participate in whatever you’re doing at the time in the physical world. Before Emily stood up to leave she told me that she had gotten absolutely nothing done because she spent too much time on facebook. My friend across the room was sitting around a table working on a project with 3 partners, each with a laptop. They were most likely all communicating with at least one other person as they tried to work together.
So the question remains: are we, as students, more or less productive now that we all have access to the Internet? How do we use technology as the portal to massive amounts of information without wasting time on irrelevant websites or unproductive conversations?
BarackObama.com is not merely a vestige of a successful political campaign. It is an up to date information source and communications nexus for Obama’s supporters. The key elements of the site are: the Organizing for America blog, A section stating Obama’s stance on various Issues, an various ways to get involved with his ongoing campaign.
The primary function of BarackObama.com, like any campaign website, is to create political capitol for use in an election. Obama does a particularly good job a motivating support for his issues and causes because each section of BarackObama.com balances delivery of political information, with user interaction.
The issues section on a traditional political campaign site is a medium through which a candidate can express his stances on various political issues. Obama’s issues section explains his points of view on issues ranging from the economy to healthcare to education. This sets the agenda for political discussion about Barack Obama to these issues and does its best to convince voters to side with the president on these issues, as expected. What the site does that is above and beyond the norm is that it includes vast amounts of user input. The healthcare section is primarily made up of stories of average americans who have been positively affected by healthcare reform. There is even a place for users to share their stories with the Obama’s staff in hopes of benefiting the campaign.
BarackObama.com also hosts the Organizing for America Blog, which responds to current events and past statements from the media. In acting both preemptively and responsively, this blog sets the agenda for political discussion in the broader public sphere and allows users to comment on blog posts, enabling political discussion directly on the site. Furthermore users can share content from the blog in any number of ways including on facebook, newsvine or digg.
The website also includes numerous ways to get directly involved with the campaign. Donating, volunteering, or sharing Barack Obama’s messages are all ways to contribute to the political discussion.
The development of the Internet marks the beginning of the latest transformation of the public sphere. Rushkoff compares its transformative capacity and paramount importance to that of the printing press, by calling it the 2nd renaissance. (Bruns 34) The Internet is governed by the will of its user base, each member of which has an equal ability to produce and access new content. This ability brands the Internet as a produsage project and implies that each user is tasked with evaluate the quality and import of each piece of content. An open evaluation system means that there is potential to ignore the value system that the mainstream media uses to decide what content is appropriate for the public sphere. This potential is both the biggest risk and asset of the Internet and, more generally, produsage. A reinvented value system could do away with the disproportionally enhanced ability of the media and political elites to agenda and frame set within the public sphere, which would lead to a stronger more direct democracy. The flipside is that the user base could decide to value things that do not belong in the public sphere and Internet discourse, though it could seem active, would really not add to any civil democratic discussion.
World Summit on the information society must emphasize freedom of the press and freedom of information
World Summit on the information society’s 2003 declaration of principals laid out the WSIS’s vision for the future of the Internet as one of equality and universal accessibility for the purposes of improving the quality of life of all on this earth. The WSIS sees the Internet as a panacea for development, a place where people can read, share, and learn how to make the world a better place. Their focus is on bridging the digital divide between those with and without access so that those who need it the most are able to use the Internet to improve their quality of life.
However bringing the Internet to the developing world isn’t worth anything if biased governments are undemocratically regulating its content. For this reason I believe that Section B9) on Media is among the most important parts of the declaration of principals. It declares:
We reaffirm our commitment to the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of information, as well as those of the independence, pluralism and diversity of media, which are essential to the Information Society. Freedom to seek, receive, impart and use information for the creation, accumulation and dissemination of knowledge are important to the Information Society.
I think that this principal not being upheld is one of the greatest obsticals that the WSIS faces in implementing its plan of equality. From country to country, policies on internet regulation differ. In some places, including the peoples republic of china, the internet is highly regulated, which prevents the public from being an informed population. In places like the dominant parts of the western world we like to believe that freedom of speech and of the press thrive and that their presence has caused a marketplace of ideas to form, leading to continual progress and development.
As the WSIS impliments its plan, it must ensure that governments no matter how authoritarian or democratic, no matter how strong or weak, sign on to not interfere with the neutrality of the networks that the WSIS aims to create. If they are successful in doing so, the internet will spread to positively influence the lives of millions of new users each year, causing small villages to eat and drink healthier, infrastructures to develop, and general populations to become more educated and more informed about their world.
A bird’s song consists of numerous short high frequency tweets. Each, in and of itself, might seem shrill or incomplete, but when seen in the context of a full song can tell an interesting story. Twitter.com functions much in the same way. Each tweet’s text is limited to 140 characters and is often further limited by strange punctuation marks and tiny URLs. This short format forces user to be concise and blunt in their communication, making twitter stories seem underdeveloped, shrill and even unprofessional.
But where length and depth are lacking, twitter compensates with quantity and currency. Users can tweet in high frequency from anywhere using mobile and web applications, making it easy for users to update their twitter with their newest thoughts and messages. Individual tweets are as ephemeral as they are frequent because they fade further and further into the past as each new tweet is posted. The short life should not however be seen as a downside, but rather a prerequisite to being the most up-to-date public media outlet.
Other twitter functionality can extend the otherwise short life of a tweet. Like one bird mimicking another, Users can retweet or other users’ posts or use a hastag(#) to reference something in a prior post. This ability to refer back to prior tweets enables users to transform one piece of information into the subject of a game of telephone or potentially into a worldwide viral phenomenon. Analyzing commonalities of tweets and retweets in bulk allows us to measure of what twitter users are talking the most about.
This is Twitter’s saving grace. No tweet stands on it’s own as a single note but rather as part of a full song, story, or history, sung by not one, but by millions of twitterers around the world. Looking at individual tweets may be interesting, but understanding what topics are trending (most common) on twitter can lend a keen observer significantly more incite into the current state of world events.
The following images are screenshots of what was trending on twitter earlier tonight and 2 hours later:
So what do Trending Topics tell us about twitter?
1) Twitter is incredibly versatile and can be as useful or as useless as its users desire.
2) Twitter is an international phenomenon
3) Twitter is incredibly up to date
The topics trending on twitter range from Islamic holidays, American political issues, and interesting or popular obituaries, to sports, and frankly stupid jokes. If you are a Muslim or an otherwise culturally conscious person, Maulid Nabi Muhammad SAW and Nabi Muhammed SAW, references to the Islamic holiday that celebrates the Birth of the prophet Muhammad, might remind you to celebrate or to learn something new about Islamic culture. Blocks Jobless Aid is a reference to Republican Senator Jim Bunning preventing a bill from passing in congress and Monitored Planned Parenthood is a reference to the state department memo written to expose that “The U.S. military monitored Planned Parenthood and a white supremacist group as part of the government’s security preparations for the 2002 Olympics in Utah.” [Source: Wired] Each tweet in these types of categories represents someone’s opinion about a pressing political issue. Diving further into an analysis of these tweets could prove useful to political scientists, politicians, or the voting population in general. Sports fans and patriots can find what they want in any of the five trending topics that are the names of Olympic athletes: Joannie Rochette, Min-Jung Kwak, Cheltzie Lee, Grishin & Jeret Peterson. The above topics are important for political and cultural reasons but rest assured, there is plenty of space on twitter for pop culture and pointless BS. It seems that at any time at least a few of the top trending topics on twitter are classifications stupid one liners. #Thingswedontwantback and #Liestoldontwitter are both tags meant to spread a certain joke about. Each has generated thousands if not millions of comical posts, which though generally funny are hardly relevant to any type of constructive discourse. These types of posts are disparaging to anyone who would like to think of twitter as a viable media source, but do prove that you can use twitter for just about anything and that we as humans are always in need of a laugh.
Twitter users come from all over the world. Each of the five Olympic athletes listed in the first image are from a different country, giving Belarus, Canada, Australia, America, and Korea, each a spot on the leader board. Maulid Nabi Muhammad SAW and Nabi Muhammed SAW are really the same topic written in two different languages, proving that twitter users come from different regions of the world, In this case, Indonesia and Arabic speaking nations respectively.
Despite all of their differences, in topic, author, language, and usefulness, all of these posts have one thing in common. They are current, up to date, and will likely not last long. Andrew Koenig found dead and Actor Andrew Koenig are both tags referring to the Growing pain’s actor who committed suicide in Vancouver this past week and Dawn Brancheau is the Sea world trainer who was drowned by killer whale yesterday. Maulid Nabi Muhammad SAW was trending before any related topic because twitter users in Indonesia, being close to the International Date Line, are the first to experience the holiday. As more and more people around the world entered the new day, more posts in other languages began to accumulate. Each of the political issues mentioned above is the subject of a debate that is not only new, but fresh within 48 hours.Even the least useful of the topics, #Thingswedontwantback and #Liestoldontwitter, are at the cutting edge of what is new in comedy. These jokes have been gaining popularity over the last few days and will likely become unpopular and unfunny just as quickly.
Twitter as a new media outlet is completely revolutionary in its function.
No other media outlet is as versatile, up to date, and internationally used.
Professor Gillespie proposed in his February 4th 2009 lecture that all new media can be put into three basic categories:
- New online forms
- Old media translated to new environment
- New aspects of traditional media
He also spoke extensively about the animated blockbuster hit Avatar. In my opinion avatar, as a piece of new media is a perfect example of the 2nd category. First, it is an instance of the classic media type “movie,” adapted to a new environment, the 3rd dimension through the use of 3D glasses and advanced computer graphics. Secondly, it is a direct rip-off of the 1995 disney film, Pocahontas. If you don’t believe me read through the plot summary below from this article on Huffington Post which classifies avatar as “Pocahontas in space.” Either way you think about it Avatar is just a new form of something very old and familiar .
Welcome to my blog for Professor Gillespie’s New media class.
My name is Alex Frieden. I’m a Junior at Cornell University. I Study Political Philosophy and the impact of technology on the social and political world.
Check back each week for my thoughts on new media and technology. Also be sure to check out the course blog where the best Comm 3200 student posts will be posted.
While you’re waiting for this site to go online. Enjoy comparing these two videos about the iPad: