Being All that Is Human

Chapter 4 of the Powers book, ‘Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a good life in the digital age’, starts with a concept that being perpetually connected via screens is actually a terrible idea. Everyone already knows this. Just like how the alcoholic beverage industry stands against alcoholism, it simultaneously spends billions encouraging us to drink; Technology promotes a lifestyle of never-ending connectedness at an unhealthy extreme (pg.68).
This chapter is delightful, it was about ‘connections that aren’t’.
It mentions the unpopular method of old-fashion time management (diet style) to only check email certain times of the day, to promote in-person interactions. But just like all diets, people cheat  (pg. 71). Another method of managing our technology, involves inventing more technology to filter it down for us. Humorously magnifying the problem.  The author points out that  people aren’t going to change their habits just because of company policy, but they might if there’s something valuable to be gained (pg.76). And the chapter ends with some ideas about how to get back to ‘being all that is human’.


The ‘meaning’ of Images

For one of my classes, we were asked to describe how a person ‘reads’ a photo.
Regarding an image of the cyclone in Fiji 2016, using terms from chapter five of the MediaMaking textbook.
This photo depicts a weather torn street.  The sky is grey and the ground is littered with chunks and fragments of wood. Several trees are shown in heaps, having fallen and been dragged off the road. There is a power line that is still standing, and portions of houses are visible on both sides of the photo, they are plain white with corrugated metal roofs and walls. A dozen people are shown in the distance, walking  down the road toward the photographer, they wear shorts and t-shirts. The image itself is depressing, and produces a feeling of tragedy. People usually empathize with pictures of devastation like this.
This chapter is all about meaning and interpretations (pg. 137), making sense of something, either as a representation or as a concept (pg.141). The prompt asked how we can “read” the photo, using key terms like: “signified, signifier, sign” to make an interpretation of the photo.   A ‘sign’ is a marker, it has: a signifier and a signified, one is the word/marker and the other is thing the word represents (pg.147). This photo of the cyclone ravaged street in Fiji, is a signifier, and it signifies for me: all cyclones and the devastation they can cause.
Semiotics is the study of sign systems (pg. 143), the code or “systematic organization of signs” (pg. 144) assigns meanings to the signs. Codes are how you recognize and make rational sense of new information. The data presented in this photo would lead the viewer to interpret more information about the condition of the country after this event.
Cyclones are hurricane by another name, and we know that they can last up to a few days, and cause flooding.  We know this photo is from Fiji , an island country in Melanesia, in the South Pacific Ocean, near American Samoa.  These facts combined paint a detailed picture about the natural disaster depicted in the photo. I think most people make these connections when they interpret photos like this. The observable signs from the image is that there was a great natural disaster. The tree debris in the photo is a signifier of heavy winds and rain, it signifies that the water damage is extensive and the wind was strong. The grey sky is a signifier, it signifies that the weather is still gloomy, and not fully clear of the storm yet. The people are out in the street, which could be a signifier that the danger has past, and signifies the repair/recovery of the country.
The chapter starts with a few paragraphs about debatable meanings to songs (pg. 135). The intended meaning by the song writer, compared with how/what the media used the song to demonstrate. People may interpret the meaning of things differently, but for this  particular photo, I think everyone will have the same understanding of what  it means.

Uses and Gratifications

I read this article today, ‘Explaining Why Young Adults Use Myspace and Facebook Through Uses and Gratifications Theory’ [published in Human Communication Vol.12, No.2], examines why young adults use social network sites; or specifically, the uses and gratifications psychological communications perspective, focuses on how and why people use the social network sites to fulfill their wants and needs.  The study opens with the cognitive and affective needs of people (personal and entertainment), which include  personal identity, escape, and self-presentation, and how these needs motivate people to use social networking sites.
The systematic part of the study presented findings about what they established during a questioning of 50 university students about their usage, and the main themes in the responses. They found that people liked SNS because they provide a means of : efficient communication, convenient communication, curiosity about others, popularity, and relationship formation/reinforcement. Or in other words, people like the social sites because they provide: information, interpersonal communication, and entertainment (pg.219), and users can experience selective and immediate connection, and seek approval/support from others, all in one place.
I think the study might be a bit old. The information is still good, but I think most of the findings of this article have become common knowledge at this point. The powerful influences of social networking sites is being taught to children these days (not college students), so that they understand how instantaneous information can travel. Example: I think we’ve all seen a photo on FB along the lines of: “Help my 4th grade class understand how fast social media can spread news! Share this photo”

Flash cards for trick questions

‘How can you possibly study  when you know that the test questions are tricks?’
Easy, just tell yourself that you read the chapters, and there’s no reason for you to do poorly… and then get mad at yourself when you do poorly, and buy yourself sushi to cheer yourself up.
Things you know for sure about Social Media Communication: Factoid mind-vomit, GO:
Social media and social networks are NOT synonymous.
As screen-time rises, human to human contact declines. Many users of social networks(like FB) are NOT looking to meet new people.
Companies become part of their consumers community by contributing to the conversation. ONE person doesn’t manage a corporate blog, and the corporate blog needs to increase reader trustworthiness.  Companies should be selective when deciding on social media platforms.
The digital crowd not only has power,  it also has wisdom. Bill Gates said we’re Perpetually Connected and Content is King. Our free time is no longer free. Foucault’s idea was of ‘technologies of the self’.
Online social networks are Totally influenced by demographic factors, even though  Identity is shaped by choice, and the self appears through social behavior.
Men and women differ  A LOT when it comes to online social networking accounts.
Even though the first form of social media was the postal service, the roots of social media began way back in BCE.
Public relations should be a part of every department within a business. Approx 70% of a company’s core public relations or communication budget goes to social media monitoring. Corporations using social media overlook how smart their consumers really are, and Company social networking sites are established to engage in meaningful conversations with consumers.
Online social networks and real life social networks are significantly different is size, and CMC is less valuable for building and sustaining close social relationships.
Listserv have a low level of communication activity, and a high turn over rate, and they Are Not like traditional small groups.
The Socratic Method is the Question and Answer technique.
Howard Rheingold coined the term “Social Media”.
Media Gratifications can be either Process or Content. and users can NOT differentiate between representation and reality. People use FB for interpersonal communication satisfaction.
It is Ethical for companies to offer coupons in return for ‘likes’.
Digital connectedness begins at home, Not with social circle.
Apparently Arguing with Facebook fans is always wrong and never appropriate, and Computers in the workplace DO NOT keep everyone focused inward.
Marketing departments, not public relations departments, tend to retain control of email marketing and SEO optimization.
Digital devices are used to nurture relationships:



Technological frusterations

Back to another book I’ve been reading, the Powers book, ‘Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a good life in the digital age’.  The 3rd chapter starts with a story about the author moving to Cape Cod, buying a boat, and subsequently falling out of the boat, killing his phone. The author remarks that “society is constantly throwing up obstacles, telling us that we’re worthless without the crowd, that everything is riding on its approval” (pg.42). Which I personally find hilarious, because it goes directly against one of my five long-standing life-mantras: “none of that really matters”. As I read on about the authors many years of technological frustrations with limited connectivity, it suddenly made sense to me that we must be from different age-groups.
Phones and computers became really reliably popular when I was in high school, so I’ve never been without them, and I now take them for granted. I’ve mentioned before that my cell-phone has always been a leash, and I could go hours and days without it, because I know it’ll be there when I get back. But the author of this book seems to go through this same action with a great pain.
The author rambles on-and-on about ‘needing to  be connected’ for so much of his life, and as I’m reading it, I realize that I’ve recently ridiculed people who have said similar things. “The internet isn’t going anywhere… but the sunlight sure is”, I would say. This chapter seems to be ‘preaching the choir’.
The chapter continues with the illusion of workplace efficiency, and how all the new technology decreases employee productivity, and ends with a pitch about “Isolation Vacations”, where you surrender your technology to the hotel for a week. This vacation strategy seems ideal for people with not enough  will-power to put the phone down for themselves.

Public Relations with Social Media

In another book I’m reading, the Luttrell book; ‘Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect’, the 3rd chapter focuses on corporate public relations and how social media works with marketing. The book points out that many companies don’t develop authentic relationships with their customers with social media, because they are only focused on selling (pg.52). Integrated marketing strategies are important because it creates a consistent message  and one strategic plan.
The book goes on for a bit about social media marketing and content marketing, and how the goal is Not to sell, but to connect with people in different ways and places (interactive). Several success stories of  social media marketing are described, where companies create situations where the audience is invited to do things completely unrelated to the product (pg.57-58).  I enjoyed this chapter, because the idea of marketing has always appealed to me. I see the modern social strategies that companies use in their marketing every day, so it has become obvious to me as the most effective way to do it. The name of the chapter was “it’s complicated”, but it’s never seemed that way to me.
The book mentioned Red Bulls social marketing, because they post about extreme sporting events that they endorse, and never mention their product. It’s true that I would be more inclined to follow them on social media if they produced interesting content, instead of blasting me with advertisements.

Transmission and cultural communication

In one of my text books: Media Making;mass media in a popular culture, the authors discuss the difference between the “transmission model” and the “cultural model” of communication.
The linear model is the “transmission model”. It is the standard model of communication, and shows messages being sent and received (p. 17 “linear model” /“transactional model”). There is a sender, who sends a message to a receiver, who receives it and gives a feedback message. It’s linear in that it moves in a line over time. Just like a telephone. The message is created, “encoding” (turning thoughts into words), transmitted, received, and “decoding” (words into thoughts). The transmission model is focused on the information transmitted to an audience. Problems with the model include: accuracy, precision of the meaning, and how effective is the message. The model doesn’t really allow for differing interpretations, or differing purposes of individuals. It would ask things like “How is the audience taking this information and using it to make decisions about what to buy?” The Media Making book recognizes these problems, and offers the Cultural Model as a solution.
The “cultural model” takes into account that people do not always fully understand each other, and tries to understand external factors of how a group views something, given their group beliefs. Culture is a “set of practices” or “a way of life” that are shared by some group of people, and if all these big and little practices are put together, you get a kind of collective culture. Culture includes “shared space” (p. 22), and shared practices. A group believes the “right way” to do something is the way that they have been taught, and that way the practice has been handed down from within the cultural group. Within cultures, people share a certain viewpoint of the world. Because the people within it believe in similar practices, the group starts to build a vision of “what is true” about the world. And this collective picture is called Ideology (p. 23) which is the “shared set of ideas” a group has, or a “a map” they share.The cultural model would ask different questions, like “Does the public bring into this expectations about what an product represents?”  “What do they assume the audience believes in?” In what way do our views of age or race play into how these advertisements are seen and interpreted?”
Merging the two models together would be ideal. A model that can recognize the accuracy of communication and merge with cultural influences, this would be best to develop a culturally sensitive and accurate theory.

Very busy, doing well

I’m reading a book right now, ‘Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a good life in the digital age’, and the first chapter started with an example of a foreigner misusing a pleasantly, by saying “busy, very busy” instead of “doing well”, which incidentally happened exactly the same way to me this very morning, solidifying the point that the author was trying to make about how busy we all are that we can’t even greet each other properly.

The first few sentences of the intro, conveyed a melancholy picture of life in the 21st century, “This book is about a yearning and a need. It’s about finding a quiet, spacious place where the mind can wander free… Our room is the digital space, and we tap each other through our connected screens.” These first few sentences suggest that I am not already free, and need digital space in order to feel connected [since the important things have moved into the digital space]. Which I figured was a mistake, since the overview of this book clearly stated that the book was meant to encourages people to disconnect from media in order to find balance in their lives.

Reading this chapter makes me feel like an outsider to the social media experience. I’ve mentioned before that I work in a secure data facility with no phones/internet allowed, so even thought I have the latest technology [metaphorically] at my fingertips, I don’t get a single real-time notification all day.   The author states that through personal media we constantly get bombarded with pop culture, news, headlines, politics, scandals, social announcements, ect. But I can honestly say, that the only time I see any of it, is when I make the effort to go looking for it. The 1st chapter indicates that some people don’t have access to the latest tech, and cites it as a possible reason that they aren’t hyper connected like the rest of us. I can’t say if those people are better off for it. If I didn’t have a smart phone, I might just pretend it was 2007 and behave accordingly.

Who I want to be ?

I’m taking a class right now where we had to read an article called: Be Who You Want to Be (Ellis).   The article mentioned that Kim Moldofsky has tried to separate her online-offline identities, but goes on to insinuate that this generation is more willing to give up personal information than previous generations (37). I can’t speak for a generation, but I know that this isn’t true for me. My personal information is enormously private to me, and it is my opinion that it shouldn’t be handled by the reckless hands of the internet. I fall under the #3 camp mentioned in my instructors wrap-up, “Those that engage in social networking but have ‘tried’ to limit public information (by keeping a close watch on FB’s ever changing privacy settings)”.
For a long time, I was without a FB account. I had one way back when it was new, but after a few years it became flooded with games and advertisements and I grew bored with it, and I de-activated. A year or so later, I tried again. Making a new account, but this time I flooded it with misinformation. Fabricating a whole false history. Name, location, employment, interests, it was all outrageously fake, but that didn’t seem to bother any of my new online-friends. I ended up de-activating that account too, after a bad breakup, just over a year ago, in an attempt to purge myself of my psycho ex. I didn’t use it much for anything real, so I didn’t miss it. I hardly ever posted, and 90% of what I used it for was to RSVP to events.
I made a new FB account just for this 1 media class, finally using my real name, and I find myself being overly cautious about what I post. I am almost refusing to post any personal information there. Outright refusing to select my school, or place of employment. George Herbert Mead was all about how the ‘self’ is created from society, how the  social ‘me’ is a generated projection of who ‘I’ am privately. I personally believe that I am only free to explore my ‘self’ when I am free from societal expectations. In so many ways, I was the most like myself online, when no one knew who I really was in-person. Now that my FB accurately reflects my legal identity, I feel utterly restricted. As if my digital accessibility will lure crazy people to my front doorstep, because I was foolish enough to post my name and where I worked/lived.

I saw a classmates posting which said something about the importance of ‘being cautious about their posts’, and ‘not wanting responsibility for constantly up-keeping privacy settings to limit who can see what’,  which led me to believe that IF majority of ‘reasonable’ people have this concern about social media, then the people who are indiscriminately posting every little thought that crosses their mind are not ‘sensible’ enough to consider the ramifications of their actions. They are essentially ‘senseless’, and they are cluttering up the social media with their many senseless ramblings. This micronews is mentioned in the Ellis article, ‘be who you want to be’, and said to be corroding our capacity to determine the important news from the unimportant (40).
My personal opinion about social media, is that it isn’t essential  to my happiness. I have long since worked in a facility where phones/internet are not allowed, so I have been conditioned to view social media as a luxury  [or non-essential].

my job is : dull

I live in the bad part of town, but I work full time in a tech-y part of town, at an office that does digitizing document conversion and content management.  I find my job dull because the office facility denies all internet and wi-fi (and phones) for security purposes, because it was easier than implementing actual digital data security measures. That’s right, in a world dominated by cellular social media interaction, I have the only tech job in the city where if I get caught on my phone [3strikes, and] I’m outta there.
It’s also a small family owned business, with only about 50 people working there.  Since I don’t fit-in with the upper managements old-men-in-suits corporate culture, I feel like I’ve gone as far as I can go,  and hit the low glass ceiling. My office looks like a slightly more boring version of the TV show The Office. No fun characters, just paperwork, and cubicles.  I’ve been working there for almost 6 years, and while the job security is nice, I may go insane if I stay another year. Change is the only option.