Archive for the 'Web 2.0' Category

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theorycast.64 :: Visiting Brandtology – an online brand intelligence startup from Singapore

During my Singapore vacation in October ’09, I caught up with Kelly Choo, co-founder of Brandtology.com, to learn more about their online brand intelligence service.

While there are numerous online sentiment monitoring companies in the States, such as Radian6 and Omniture, this space is relatively new and growing in South-East Asia.

As mentioned before, my friend Ben Koe works at JamiQ, which differentiates from Brandtology’s intelligence suite with a straightforward, hands-on approach to social media monitoring. There’s also ThoughtBuzz, which I recently read about.

To better understand the strengths of each startup, check out SG Entrepreneurs’ interviews with Brandtology’s Kelly Choo, JamiQ’s Ben Koe, and the ThoughtBuzz team.

Businesses have traditionally (and still do) debated about the lack of proper social media metrics. As many in the online space would explain, there’s in fact a deluge of metrics which leads to a dilemma of choice. While concepts of viewership and circulation were somewhat sufficient for traditional media, social media affords a broader range of metrics. The real first step is really determining what we want to measure.

MarketingSherpa.com: Leveraging Social Media

For instance, as seen in MarketingSherpa’s 2009 Social Media Marketing & PR Benchmark Guide (PDF), it’s been found that social media is very effective at building brand awareness and reputation, while it’s yet to prove itself at driving online sales. There’s no silver bullet; every media has varying levels of richness, with leaner media tending to be more distributive. Our choice of media involves a host of factors, which is why media intelligence (social or not) gets more valuable than ever.

Did You Know: The music in the end credits comes from Starfish Stories’ latest album, Crystal Tears and the Dream Nebula. It’s track 5, “Stroke of Midnight v2.3″, which I bought for a dollar.

Download theorycast.64 :: Visiting Brandtology (.mp4 / 35mb), or watch this on Youtube and Blip.tv. Feel free to subscribe to theorycast on iTunes.

NLB’s ‘myLibrary’ Facebook App is damn shiok!

Sivasothi (@sivasothi) and Ivan Chew (@ramblinglib) tipped me off on the Singapore National Library Board‘s new Facebook app, simply called ‘myLibrary‘. What’s interesting about the app is that it integrates much of our typical library transactions right into Facebook.

At first we might wonder, “What’s the big deal about a Facebook app? Can’t we already access the same services by going to the library’s web site?”

True that, but more than just a matter of accessibility, it’s about being “within reach” to users, and extending their library use into the third place. Allowing users to recommend books to friends or posting what they’re reading directly onto their Facebook profiles is very much for the library’s win (i.e. word of mouth).

Since the Facebook app does require an NLB account to play with, I’ve made a quick five minute screencast above for the benefit of our international librarian friends (also on Youtube for the kiasu ones). If you can’t or hate watching videos, you can also read all about ‘myLibrary’ at NLB’s Facebook FAQ page, which includes a user guide (PDF) complete with annotated screenshots.

So far, the tweets about the ‘myLibrary” has been largely positive (many of whom were surprised!), so I do hope NLB keeps up the great work. I love our innovative librarians, and this in turn makes me proud of Singapore.

UPDATE 1: Some folks have asked if NLB has plans for mobile apps, and while there’s no official word, my sources have quietly hinted in due time. Meantime, we can always point our iPhones to http://m.nlb.gov.sg

UPDATE 2: If you’re so inclined, Ivan Chew (@RamblingLib) has shared screenshots of NLB’s myLibrary Facebook app.

theorycast.63 :: What is Transmedia?

Download theorycast.63 :: What is Transmedia? (.mp4 / 52mb), or watch this on Youtube, Facebook and Blip.tv. Subscribe to theorycast on iTunes.

At the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference in MIT, I asked academics Xiaochang Li, Sheila Seles and William Uricchio of the Convergence Culture Consortium on their definitions of transmedia.

As defined by Henry Jenkins in his book Convergence Culture (2006 // see book and video), transmedia storytelling is published across multiple forms of media with each element making distinctive contributions to a viewer/user/player’s understanding of the story world. By using different media formats, it attempts to create “entrypoints” through which consumers can become immersed in a story world. Jenkins also compares highlights sticky media vs. spreadable media, where we once stuck viewers into specific media, now we’re now encouraging the content to be perpetuated across media and users.

MIT Press Bookstore FOE4 selection
MIT Press Bookstore selection @ #FOE4

Why is transmedia a big deal now?
I expect that the first point is technology, where we see the proliferation of networked media forms, such as video games, the Internet, and mobile platforms. The second point is cultural, such as the Web 2.0 movement, where the participatory design, distributive ease and integrative form of digital media lends itself well to stories flowing across media platforms.

Inspired from Lucian’s analogy of greek mythology, one of the obvious questions on transmedia lies in its distinctiveness. If stories have been reiterated across media (even tablets and statues) since the early B.C., isn’t that already a form of transmedia? If so, how is it different from cross-media or intertextual forms of productions?

From our video interview, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, Prof. Urrichio, describes transmedia as a new “lens” for us to make sense of experiences, both present and past (thus history is ever exciting). The concept clearly existed long ago, but only now are we gathering more precise vocabulary and practice for it. Perhaps it’s like seeing new colors for the first time.

An instance of transmedia in the everyday is Wikipedia, where users are co-creating and co-sustaining the continuity of the online encyclopedia, as well as reproducing the content in print and through development of mobile applications. Prof. Urrichio argues that the magic of transmedia practices, like Wikipedia, lies in its algorithm. In any transmedia practice, it is the algorithm (I offered rule-making) which defines the social outcomes of the story. If a transmedia story were an organism, it seems to me that the algorithm is much like its DNA. Open user participation on a transmedia story means that we can’t really predict how users (or fans) would re-shape the storyline, but with its algorithm in place, we can expect how it would eventually look like.

Futures of Entertainment 4
FOE4 session 3: Transmedia for Social Change (video). The Harry Potter Alliance is ingenius!

Transmedia inevitably offer a canvas for free-play, which leads us into the idea of games, specifically alternative reality games (or ARGs). To explain, Cayden Mak shared with me a neat paper by Henrik Örnebring entitled Alternate reality gaming and convergence culture: The case of Alias (2007). In it, Örnebring describes Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) as a form of internet-based mystery game in which participants are immersed in a fictional world and engage in collective problem-solving.

What makes this paper particularly interesting, is that it takes into account the potential exploitative aspect of transmedia (and ARG) practices. While part of fan culture, the paper problematizes the fact that many ARGs are actually marketing tools.

An ARG I’ve personally observed was called ILoveBees.com, in which a seemingly innocuous web site gets hijacked by an A.I., offering clues throughout the site. As documented by ARG researcher, Christy Dena, “I Love Bees (42 Entertainment, 2004) was a radio drama delivered through fragmented sound files that were released one-by-one to the players as they answered over 1,400 payphone, in over 50 states, in eight countries. Once a call was answered and a challenge was successfully completed, an ‘axon’ (sound file) was unlocked for the players online.” Thing is, I Love Bees was essentially a marketing campaign for the Halo 2 game.

While not explicitly a game, we do see online services such as Facebook come under fire when their terms of agreement seizes the copyright of media shared by its users. On the other hand, Wikipedia threads the line carefully as it remains non-profit and posts no ads. This awareness of potential online exploitation brought about the recent conference called The Internet as Playground and Factory (Nov 12-14, 2009).

I vote @mikemonello for Best Laptop Lid Theme evar  #foe4
@mikemonello, best known for producing The Blair Witch Project, has awesome laptop stickers from Vinylville

FOE4 Conference Aftermath
If you’re wondering how the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference went, let’s just say there’s way too much for me to write about. Thankfully @rachelclarke liveblogged all the sessions, so just scoot over to her blog and search under “FOE”. Here’s my favorite session which she documented, FOE: Producing Transmedia Experiences: Participation & Play. Also, videos from the FOE4 sessions are out on MIT TechTV. I video captured some of the sessions and tweeted them from my iPhone OWLE rig, but they’re not as professional.

Update 1: This theorycast video is now featured on ConvergenceCulture.org (thanks Sheila!) and the MIT Comparative Media Studies web site (thanks Andrew!).

Update 2: I have to point you to the Futures of Entertainment 4 conference videos. If you have time, they are a treasure throve of real-life case studies and experiences. A must-watch is the keynote session by Henry Jenkins entitled “Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Five Key Principles of Transmedia Entertainment”. Session 3 “Transmedia for Social Change” is relevant to folks like me. Very inspirational session, esp the Harry Potter Alliance project (mindblowing!). Session 4 “The ROI of ROFL” is where Grant McCracken, author of Chief Culture Officer, lead the panel on the disconnect between “corporation and culture”. I’ve yet to blog about my interview with him. Watch them all 8 sessions here, or download all 8 videos to iTunes, then sync to your iPod to watch.

Unlocking the wife achievement (comic)

Unlocking the wife achievement

This twitter comic was brought to you by @schoebdoo and @k3v2.

theorycast 61 & 62 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 – John Larkin & Kevin Lim @ NTU

John Larkin & me @ NTU talk
Me, my papa and John Larkin at NTU. See photo slideshow.

Alex Halavais, John Hendron, and AcademicDave are just some of the education folks who have been exploring the future of learning, and how schools as institutions are going to have to adapt to stay relevant in an increasingly participatory media age.

On 14th Oct 2009, as part of the edUtorium series at the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Aussie educator John Larkin and I delivered a comprehensive look at the ways social web tools have been implemented within our classes in order to enhance learning interaction among students. I did a pre-talk synopsis here and so did John.


theorycast.61 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 @ NTU (Part 1 by John Larkin)


theorycast.62 :: Imagining Classroom 2.0 @ NTU (Part 2 by Kevin Lim)
BTW, here are my slides…

Presentation Overview:
The democratic nature of the social web means that the ability to learn and produce meaningful work can now happen at any level – from the independent student, to the individual teacher, to the entire education institution. Now, more than ever, instructors are able to motivate active learning among students, by empowering them with relevant online tools that allow for more creative approaches to go beyond the traditional class-based education.

In this two hour session, we showed instructors how they could…

  • cultivate learning beyond the classroom
  • encourage participation in the class conversation
  • inspire student pride through greater sense of ownership of their work
  • include new literacies in research, organization, and synthesis of ideas
  • support multiple learning styles
  • create exemplars by raising the bar of student achievement
  • archive learning by creating a record for both you and the students

John Larkin & me @ NTU
Kevin, Hazman, Carolyn @ NTU talk
Hazman and Carolyn Lim came by too!

Big thanks to cameraman Christopher Tan of Singapore Polytechnic for coming down, capturing the event, and providing us with video footage. Very thoughtful fella!

Minds for Sale: Jonathan Zittrain explores the rise of Cloud Labor

It’s been a LONG while since I’ve blogged, mostly because I’ve been:
a. out of it
b. at mindblowing conferences
c. swamped with short-term work (while job hunting)

While working on my paper, I chanced upon a video of Jonathan Zittrain’s talk entitled “Minds for Sale”. It’s similar to the one he presented at “Internet as Playground & Factory” which I recently attended (*yet to be blogged). You can download the video via Berkman Center’s page.


Here’s his abstract:

Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, explores the evolving world of cloud computing. Cloud computing is not just for computing anymore: you can now find as much mindshare as you can afford out in the cloud, too. A new range of projects is making the application of human brainpower as purchasable and fungible as additional server rackspace. What are some of the issues arising as armies of thinkers are recruited by the thousands and millions? A fascinating (and non-scare-mongering) view is offered of a future in which nearly any mental act can be bought and sold.

What’s so significant about this talk is that it not only encapsulates the buzz I’ve picked up from the transmedia conferences I’ve just returned from, but he recognizes a pattern which finally takes us beyond the material, and into the conceptual. I’m referring to the emergence of shared cognitive power or rather, cloud labor as he calls it.

In his hour long presentation, he discusses…
2:05 Ubiquitous Human Computing or “Minds for Sale”
2:32 The Tween Bot
4:14 Crowdsourcing “The Future of the Internet”
7:36 A tour of the Ubiquitous Human Computing pyramid
8:37 Example 1: The X-Prize
10:24 Example 2: Innocentive
12:08 Example 3: LiveOps
15:43 Example 4: SamaSource
16:16 Example 5: Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
20:13 Example 6: The ESP Game
22:47 Example 7: Human Computing for Electronic Design Automation
24:01 Example 8: Google
25:24 Why Should We be Pessimistic?
26:38 Child Labor on PBS
28:11 Laboring for a Devious Cause
29:23 US Border Webcams
30:05 Smart Drive
30:45 Internet Eyes
32:09 Identifying Protesters
33:21 A Speculative Example
35:05 Mechanical Turking your way to a Fake Reputation
39:36 Mechanical Turking your way to a Political Movement
41:20 Captchas Sweatshops
43:03 “Crowding Out”
44:41 The Future of Crowdsourcing and How to Stop It
47:14 Clickworkers of the World Unite!
50:45 Monetizing Kindness

Enjoy!

theorycast 59 & 60 :: Michelle Thorne’s walkabout with Creative Commons Singapore

Singapore Tour for Michelle Thorne of Creative Commons - 01
Big Trouble in Little Chinatown…

As a fan and community manager for Creative Commons Singapore, Ivan Chew took a day off to bring CC Project Manager (International) Michelle Thorne (@thornet & blog) on a tour of Singapore’s Chinatown. I tagged along to learn about recent developments and challenges for Creative Commons in the international space.

Singapore Tour for Michelle Thorne of Creative Commons - 03

On an overcast Monday morning (12th Oct), we started the day with a relaxing Chinese tea drinking session at D’Art Tea Station on 63 Temple Street, Singapore 058608 (Tel: 62258308). Not only did store assistant Ms Cheong educate us on the intricacies of Chinese tea drinking, but we managed to use it as a springboard for critical discussion into how tea drinking seems to run counterculture to contemporary consumerism (i.e. slowing down, minimalism, tradition vs. efficiency). Watch the hour long video below to see what I mean…


theorycast.59 :: Tea-drinking with Creative Commons Singapore

Next, we met up with Chung Nian, who serves as the Legal Project Lead for CC Singapore. We discussed the intricacies of CC adoption in Singapore, and shared ideas on how we could make CC more relevant to Singaporeans.

Singapore Tour for Michelle Thorne of Creative Commons - 10

An exciting idea was to offer localized starter kits which catered to different genres of creators. For instance, I could volunteer to produce an Educator’s CC starter kit, which might include online videos, project ideas and Powerpoints which instructors could readily use in their classes to teach students about Creative Commons.

Singapore Tour for Michelle Thorne of Creative Commons - 14

After all the talk (and tea), it wasn’t long before we were starving. We paid a visit to People’s Park food center for lunch, then rounded it off with Bubble Tea at Koi Cafe, which lets us stipulate how much sugar we wanted in our drink. Michelle apparently loves Bubble Tea, which is pretty unusual for a caucasian from my experience.

Singapore Tour for Michelle Thorne of Creative Commons - 17

Our last stop was the new Popular bookstore franchise called [prologue] at Orchard Ion. Over coffee, we took turns to interview one another. I like the idea of passing the video camera around… it’s reciprocal and balances control of the discussion among participants.


theorycast.60 :: Roundtable with Creative Commons Singapore

In this roundtable discussion, we each shared how we first encountered Creative Commons, how we’re involved with CC, and what CC meant to each of us.

Singapore Tour for Michelle Thorne of Creative Commons - 06

The day ended with the appearance of Michelle’s boyfriend, Peter Bihr (@thewavingcat & blog), who was himself a web strategist based in Berlin. I wish we all had more time to learn more about one another, but it was bittersweet while it lasted. I hope to encounter both Michelle and Peter sometime in the near future. Thanks Ivan Chew for making this one of the most spectacular Mondays for me ever ;)

Fun Fact: Thorne claims to be the inventor of Nutellachino, a dessert combining Nutella and cappuccino powder.

Remaindered Photos: See slideshow of extra photos from our Chinatown tour.

Speaking @ NTU: “Education and the Social Web: Taking Learning Beyond the Classroom”

Education on Singapore's $2 bill
Scene from an upcoming short video I did with John Larkin…

Please help us spread the word about our talk this Wednesday at the Nanyang Technological University. Do note that the $80 fee is a norm for NTU’s edUtorium series; it’s not stipulated by us speakers. The talk is now FREE! Thanks to Senior Assistant Director, Alan Soong, for organizing this special event.

Date/Time
14 October 2009 (Wednesday) · 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm (2hrs)

Location
NTU Lecture Theatre 6, Level 2, Academic Complex North, Singapore (PDF map)

Abstract
The democratic nature of the social web means that the ability to learn and produce meaningful work can now happen at any level – from the independent student, to the individual teacher, to the entire education institution. Now, more than ever, instructors are able to motivate active learning among students, by empowering them with relevant online tools that allow for more creative approaches to go beyond the traditional class-based education.

In this two hour session, learn how you can…

cultivate learning beyond the classroom
encourage participation in the class conversation
inspire student pride through greater sense of ownership of their work
include new literacies in research, organization, and synthesis of ideas
support multiple learning styles
create exemplars by raising the bar of student achievement
archive learning by creating a record for both you and the students

In this international presentation brought to you by educators John Larkin and Kevin Lim, the first part of the session will provide a general state of education on the social web, while the second part will demonstrate tactical approaches to meeting your students’ learning objectives through the appropriate use of social web tools such as blogs, wikis, and social networks. The ultimate vision of this session would be to situate student learning in a more familiar and communal environment.

Speakers
John LarkinMr John Larkin is an educator and instructional designer presently living in Australia. He has vast experience in the development and application of educational technologies in primary, secondary, tertiary and corporate educational fields. John is constantly researching the latest trends in educational technologies and as a result he has established linkages with like-minded educators across the globe. He is constantly seeking new tools and technologies that will allow educators of all backgrounds to converge teaching and technology in a manner that is both practical and productive. He has worked on a significant number of web-based and CD-ROM projects. John has led the design on corporate, tertiary and school based web-learning projects. His skill set is enriched with a keen eye for design and a practical approach towards instructional technologies.

me todayDr Kevin Lim studies and shares his interest in the wide-ranging cultural affordances of information communication technology, particularly on the self-organizing and pedagogical quality of the social web. With his academic background in communication, his research has ranged from Internet censorship and civil sovereignty in China, to social capital among online non-profit organizations. He also conducts social web-related workshops and produces instructional guides at the Teaching & Learning Center, located in the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Kevin has been fortunate to be featured on the Buffalo News (New York), CBC News (Canada), Zaobao Weekly (Singapore), Channel News Asia (Singapore), commandN.tv (Canada), as well as several prominent blogs.

Course Fee
S$80.00 FREE!

Registration Link
http://edutorium.ntu.edu.sg/courses_detail.php?course_id=138

On Social Media Strategies, Cultural Lag, Productive Gaming, and Online Activism

The Teaching & Learning Center (TLC) Gang

Everyone’s been asking me, “So what have you been up to?”

It used to be the terrifying “Wow, you’re still here?”, so this has been a much needed improvement now that I’ve graduated. And no, just because I’ve received my doctorate doesn’t mean I’m being sought after just yet. I’m still pretty much a “naked doctor”, which means that I’ve still got to build up a bevy of research publications.

Besides the obligatory job hunt (which I hope to talk about later), I’ve been busy time-sharing my brain with the local Buffalo community. For the past few weeks, I’ve guest lectured at communication classes, spoken at advertising and public relations agencies, and then there’s a conference I’ve been invited to speak at this weekend. The speaking opportunities Buffalo PRSA presented me really paid off.

Despite my focus on online interactions, face-to-face time is still crucial, as I’ve learnt first hand during my interview with several NGOs for my paper on “Social Capital and Online Youths“. The benefit I get from giving these talks is the ability for me to gain an ethnographic perspective on social media use. I particularly enjoy hearing personal stories relating to experiences on services like Facebook and Twitter, something which we won’t find as easily in self-reported surveys.

Here are the folks I’ve met recently…

Social Media Strategies @ Flynn & Friends Inc.
Learn On Thursdays (LOTs) Talk @ Flynn & Friends Inc.

I first met Barbara Keough at Buffalo PRSA when I gave my talk on social media: strategy instead of tools. She invited me to speak at their LOTs meeting (that’s Learning On Thursdays) at Flynn & Friends Inc. Besides helping a local company, I loved peeking into corporate habitats (i.e. workplaces), so I agreed.

I dropped by their office on Thursday at noon (17th Sept), and after getting to know everyone, I started on how we often become enamored by the explosion of social web tools out there, when we should really be spending our time studying our users and what they were doing online.

That said, our approach to social media shouldn’t be too different from how we conduct traditional media planning, except that we now have to account for participants as potential producers (produsers to be exact), rather than passive viewers. I’d like to think that in our networked renaissance known as Web 2.0, almost everyone’s an Andy Warhol; Pop culture exists when it is exponentially reiterated.

Pulling together various studies, I shared measures of user participation as well as the varying types of online friendships, together with the caveat that passionate fans could just as easily turn against your brand; a reminder that respect remains a two-way street. You can see the slides here if interested.

Founder and Creative Director, Mitch Flynn, is known for his involvement in “Ride for Roswell“. He sent me a note recently saying that this talk was one of the best out of twenty-five he’s attended, so I’m glad I’m hitting the right notes. Incidentally Marc Adler, VP of Client Services, teaches advertising at UB, so that’s where most of my younger friends seem to recognize him from.

Social Media & Cultural Lag @ Marian’s PR Class, Buffalo State
Guest Lecture @ Prof Marian's PR Class
Poor Mary’s right at the back. Yes, that’s a student’s puppy.

After meeting the kind folks at Flynn & Friends Inc, I made my way down to Buffalo State College in the evening to speak with the graduate students at Dr. Marian Deutschman’s public relations class. Like Barbara, Mary had enjoyed my talk at the Buffalo PRSA sunrise seminar and thought I’d be ideal for her students.

Almost all of the students were somewhat practitioners themselves; there’s Peter from the Apple Store (Buffalo), Judie from Channel 4 News, and Marissa from Perry’s Ice Cream, which if you don’t know, is located around Buffalo. One of the other students works at the mayor’s office, while another was getting paid to ghost-tweet for a celebrity rapper.

In jest, the ghost-twitterer admitted feeling sad for the rapper’s unbeknownst twitter fanbase, so I shared the tip I learnt from Travers Collins & Company’s Courtney Quattrini (correct me if I’m wrong) on how 50 Cent had his ghost-twitterers sign off with initials, so fans wouldn’t feel short-changed thinking that it’s actually him tweeting. It’s about mutual respect.

While I generally approach agencies with a tactical perspective, I speak to students from a more historical point of view. After my presentation on social media strategies, we sat around and discussed how each of their organizations used social media, as well as the challenges they faced as communicators transitioning into the online social networking realm.

Quite often, plenty of ideas surrounding social media use inappropriately lends itself from traditional media use (i.e. broadcasting, one-way messaging, spamming). I shared the technologically deterministic concept of cultural lag to explain why new media tends to take a while to catch on, because we tend to replicate old behaviors into new environments. Dr. Marian jumped in to share how we could see this throughout history. While the horse carriage was popular during the 19th century, the automobiles which took over in the 1890s were known as horseless carriages for a period of time. When students talked about the pointlessness of conferencing through Second Life, I remarked that the best applications of Second Life I’ve seen has been for simulations and role-play. Every media excels in through particular ways.

To account for this cultural lag, I emphasized to students the importance of exploration and experimentation in media use. We won’t know the socio-technological affordances until we chance upon it. Blogs (arguably) didn’t gain popularity until Americans saw a need to act on their emotions after the events of 9/11. Meanwhile, the developers of twitter recently credited their users with the grassroots creation of retweets (see Project Retweet).

To get a sense of what students thought about our session, here are excerpts from their class reports:

“With social networking, there are endless ways to complement public relations efforts. Social networking gives more power to public relations practitioners than ever before. We now have ways of putting messages out to thousands of key consumers without having to rely on a journalist to communicate for us. It does carry some risks and potential conflicts with PR. Anyone can post anything they want at anytime.”

“Before we go down any one path, we should ask ourselves some questions. Are our customers likely to be online? How will you incorporate this into people’s daily jobs? Social media is time consuming. How will you measure results? Is the organization ready to handle negativity?”

“Use of these sites for purpose of public relations can be both beneficial and harmful to the company. The “fan haters” can create a poor reputation by spreading nasty comments about a company or person. On the other hand, if there is positive feedback, news will spread very quickly, increasing popularity in a very short period of time. Kevin said, from a business standpoint, it is important to keep good relationships with your fans on these sites.”

“The only downfall of social networks such as Facebook is the amount of time and level of work required to maintain public interest. Without frequent updates, users are not encouraged to view the site, and thus will not be affected by its existence.”

“We need to heed Kevin’s warning about the danger of spreading yourself too thin because you will be unable to dedicate the time that is needed to each networking site.”

“The potential impact of audience as distributor is being played out daily, but for those of us who did not grow up in the Information Age it is important to willfully keep this idea top of mind; we just aren’t used to thinking about comments about our organization being Twittered, Facebooked, blogged about, shared, forwarded, etc.”

Productive Gaming @ Kyounghee’s COM125 Intro to Internet
Guest speaker @ Kyounghee's COM125

PhD candidate & colleague Kyounghee invited me to guest lecture at her Intro to Internet class on Sept 25th, so I picked a presentation topic I’ve been experimenting with entitled productive games. I had conducted this talk to an appreciative crowd at the first Buffalo Barcamp, so this gave me a chance to make updates and refinements.

I’m not ready to publish the slides as I wish to make it more grounded, right now it feels like a scrapbook of interesting case studies. I will share that it involves Amy Jo Kim’s game mechanics as a means of steering user motivations. Video games have typically been given a bad rep in the media for generating social undesirable or unproductive behavior. By harnessing the addictive quality of video games and embedding these game mechanics into traditional labor, can we make work fun? What about steering users towards socially beneficial ends?

In reality, we are subconsciously performing micro-tasks as part of larger systems such as social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. On either of these services, you’ll see the number of friends implicitly considered as a scoreboard, while the profile completion progress meter would look like feedback in the leveling process, all of which are gaming elements that reply on our psychological urges. This prompts the reflexive point of whether we are playing the game, or is the game playing us. This potential exploitation forms the crux of Trebor’s upcoming conference: The Internet as Playground and Factory (Nov 12-14, 2009).

Online Activism @ 7th Planned Parenthood Advocacy Conference
Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo

This weekend, I’ll be making my way to Rochester to attend Great SEXpectations, a Planned Parenthood conference where I’ll be speaking on the topic of grassroots activism through social networks.

Since meeting Tessa Walker and Amy White at the Buffalo PRSA seminar, I’ve discovered how the Planned Parenthood organization has been involved with the Obama campaign, while educating and empowering youth and young adult activists to take action for sexual justice. It’ll be the first time I’m interacting with the lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) community, so I’m looking forward to understanding their perspectives when it comes to social networking. I’ll be updating the presentation I gave to the local fundraising community earlier this year. Here’s the byline for my talk…

The Obama Way: Using Online Social Networks to Promote Your Cause
Ever wondered how President Obama used online social networks to win his 2008 election campaign? Obama’s campaign reminds us how citizen participation has always been key, be it on the ground or on the web. Learn how to take advantage of social networks to gain participation and empower supporters.

All in all, I’ve tried to make the best of my time in Buffalo until I head back to Singapore next week for the month of October. I’ll be back in November to continue my job hunt from Buffalo.

Conference: The Internet as Playground and Factory (Nov 12-14, 2009)

"Internet as Playground and Factory" conference (Nov 12th-14th 2009)

Media activist, educator and human-connector, Trebor Scholz, has opened registration for his present-future conference, The Internet as Playground and Factory.

If you haven’t guess it, this conference is based on the idea of digital networked labor as it questions whether we are being exploited through our everyday online activities. I often get asked how web services like Youtube and Facebook are “free for use”, so this conference is set to explore what we actually trade in return, be it our individual privacy or labor within privatized commons.

As seen from Trebor’s conference introduction:

[…] The revenues of today’s social aggregators are promising but their speculative value exceeds billions of dollars. Capital manages to expropriate value from the commons; labor goes beyond the factory, all of society is put to work. Every aspect of life drives the digital economy: sexual desire, boredom, friendship — and all becomes fodder for speculative profit. We are living in a total labor society and the way in which we are commoditized, racialized, and engendered is profoundly and disturbingly normalized. The complex and troubling set of circumstances we now confront includes the collapse of the conventional opposition between waged and unwaged labor, and is characterized by multiple “tradeoffs” and “social costs”—such as government and corporate surveillance. While individual instances are certainly exploitative in the most overt sense, the shift in the overall paradigm moves us beyond the explanatory power of the Marxian interpretation of exploitation (which is of limited use here). […]

This reminds me of what iconic Obama street artist Shepard Fairey once said in a CBS news feature: “It’s not appropriate for only advertisers to own the public graphic communication space”. Extending Fairey’s idea across all realms, we are living in an era where all public space is being commodified. Is the situation worse online?

Trebor’s been working on the digital labor idea since I was a student of his, and he’s gathered a formidable force of around 84 artists and academic thinkers (including esteemed friends Alex Halavais, Chris Barr and Stephanie Rothenberg) to discover how legitimately concerned about exploitation we as digital natives should be.

It’s FREE (monetarily at least) to participate, goes from Nov 12th to 14th, and will be held at The New School, Eugene Lang College in NYC (Google map). You’re invited to register and for your convenience, I’ve created an upcoming.org event for it so you can easily add it to your iCal and Google calendars.

Pending available accommodations, I am planning be there to help cover the event. If you’re thinking of going and would like a buddy to introduce you around, drop me a comment. BTW, I found the perfect t-shirt to wear for such an event.