Archive for the 'PhD' Category

ICA 2010 Conference: Photos & Videos + Download Our “Leveling Up Students” Poster

ICA 2010 Conference @ Suntec Singapore - 15

Here’s the digital copy of our International Communication Association 2010 conference poster – Leveling Up Students with Class Blogs: Engineering Active Learning through Game Mechanics. This was color printed on an A0 size paper, so you have a choice of a JPEG or PDF versions.

Derek Lackaff and I wrote this up after conducting our experimental semester with students in Buffalo and Singapore back in 2007. On the whole, everyone had a good time… we even managed to throw an MTV-style awards party at the end of the semester!

I had more fun at #ICA2010 than I expected, mostly because the poster session was disorganized. A few of us received wrong instructions and printed our posters wide (72″ x 48″) when the conference boards were actually portrait format, and sticky tape became hot commodity. I also bumped into old friends while making new ones. Everyone was smart, friendly and most importantly, excited to share their discoveries.

Read on to see the ICA conference posters submissions I found interesting (presentation quality varied greatly), as well as a few video interviews with academics and curators while I roamed the Suntec City Convention floor.

Continue reading ‘ICA 2010 Conference: Photos & Videos + Download Our “Leveling Up Students” Poster’

Seth Gordin’s The Dip… Singapore style

Over on the Google Buzz side of my joblessness story, friends have been reminding me of A Singapore Taxi Driver’s Diary, probably the only taxi driver in this world with a PhD from Stanford.

I called him a genius because he’s managed to turn a downfall into an upturn (i.e. Seth Gordin’s The Dip)… he’s just published his blog into a book! Storytelling is such a crucial art.

My PhD buddy @MrBigLive then pointed out Amanda Marshall’sEverybody’s Got A Story” where back in 2002, the amazing singer had already called out academic inflation, with her lyrics which included “…and that taxi-driver’s got a Ph.D”. Don’t believe me? Take a listen…

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.

theorycast.58 :: Kevin’s Graduation Party @ TLC


Kevin's Graduation Party @ TLC

My colleagues at the Teaching & Learning Center (TLC) threw me an awesome graduation party. Big thanks to @RobinSullivan and Becky for making it happen, and for my friends at the University at Buffalo for coming by, including @ssperson @sunrisesomeday @bschu1022 @jhsu @ChrisVanPatten and @denidzo.

Mark Deuze’s MediaWork // “Precariousness” of Media Industry

"Life's short. Get a Divorce."
the 360 of mark deuze

Yesterday, Prof. Mark Deuze was invited to the UB Department of Media Studies (DMS) to discuss about his recent book, Media Work: Digital Media and Society (2007). His work runs parallel to the participatory culture theme we’re running for our graduate seminar.

Here is Mark’s biography as taken from the Facebook event as listed by Trebor Scholz:

Mark Deuze’s research focuses on the working lives of professionals in the global media industries (film, TV, video games, advertising, and journalism), and shows that careers in the media industry are not open, inclusive, or a free for all‚ as often suggested in the popular press.

It is a cut-throat and precarious business where the feminine‚ qualities you need to get in– excellent communication and social skills, a talent for team work — are the same that will keep you from moving to the (male-dominated) top. Furthermore, digital media – think YouTube, Wikipedia, Ohmynews – threaten to make the work and role of media professionals obsolete, as creative production gets increasingly outsourced to consumers. What makes this research relevant on a broader scale is the fact that the working lives of media professionals are looked at by all other industries as pioneer-models for the management and organization of labor in the global cultural economy.

Mark has a joint appointment as Professor of Journalism and New Media at Leiden University in The Netherlands and at the Department of Telecommunications in Bloomington, Indiana. As a journalist he has worked for newspapers, magazines and websites in the United States, The Netherlands, and South Africa. As bassist/singer of the metal-band Skinflower he has toured extensively throughout The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

Click “Read more” below to watch a 45min video of our discussion with Mark Deuze during our graduate seminar…

Continue reading ‘Mark Deuze’s MediaWork // “Precariousness” of Media Industry’

State of mind based on Amazon purchases…

Latest Amazon purchase

Thought I’d share my latest Amazon purchases. A reflection on my state of mind…

iGo Stowaway Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard (bought at $27.99)
I’ve got so many mobile devices that this portable bluetooth keyboard would definitely come in handy. Got it at a sweet price!

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism” by Benedict Anderson (bought at $13.57)
I am trying to understand some of the preconceptions of societies, and this book on understanding “nationalism” is pretty awesome in framing how communities are created, sustained and exploited. I’ll compare this to user behavior online, based on specified demographic.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” by Samuel P. Huntington (bought at $10.88)
You’ll experience the how our civilizations differ, an entire gamut ranging from Western Democracy to Asian Confucianism. As an aside, have you seen this awesome political music video by DJ Spooky entitled “Stop the Clash of Civilizations“?

The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom” by Yochai Benkler (bought at $13.60)
Finally… missing this would be blasphemy for social scientists. If you can’t afford it, here’s a free PDF version

Who Controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World” by Jack Goldsmith & Tim Wu (bought at $18.48)
Yup, as Lessig pointed out in CODE, the Internet has no “nature” since it’s largely a human construct. I’m now studying how the Internet is regulated by forces beyond the law.

If you’re interested in these books, might I recommend you checking out the “Participatory Culture Reading List” which I constantly update on Amazon. (Anyone know if we could collaborate on building these lists?)

I also realized that I have an Amazon Profile page as well (which has a Facebook-like activity newsfeed), so feel free to “friend” me if you’d like to trade recommendations.

UPDATE: WTF, I’ve spent the last hour or so trying to figure out how the Amazon Friends works. It seems to have social networking features, but I can’t even figure out how to respond to people who added me via my Amazon Profile. Anyone?

Livecasting: “Web 2.0: What Went Wrong?” by Trebor Scholz

UPDATE: This was livecasted on Tuesday, 1pm EST. Here is Trebor’s high quality videocast in Quicktime format.

Having gotten the green light, I’ll be livecasting (live, not life this time) the first class of Trebor Scholz’s latest UB digital media study course, The Social Web (DMS415). Here’s the course briefing from his blog:

Today, is it feasible to live ethical, meaningful lives in the context of the Social Web?

This course formulates a critique of the Social Web. Based on the rapid growth of participation in social life online and in mobile space– from social news, referral, social search, media sharing, social bookmarking, tagging, virtual worlds and social networked games, social mapping, IM, social networking, blogging and dating, this class formulates a critical analysis of the international Social Web with regard to privacy, intellectual property, and the utilization of social creation of value through the lens of a small number of case studies in the areas of education, political activism, and art. The course starts with a history of computer-facilitated networked sociality. We’ll discuss the preconditions, motivations, and typologies of participation in order to then start to debunk the Web 2.0 ideology. The course concludes with an examination of the future of the Internet (mobile social space, net neutrality, and the changed nature of the digital divide) in order to then locate fields of possibility for social change.

Key theoretical texts that we study include Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks, Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture, Trebor Scholz’ What the MySpace generation should know about working for free, Jurgen Habermas on the Internet and the public sphere, Fred Turner’s Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy, Jeff Jarvis’ “Who owns the wisdom of the crowd? The crowd.,” Nicholas Carr’s “Sharecropping the long tail,” Michael Hardt’s “Affective labor,” Olga Goriunova’s “From Art on Networks to Art on Platforms“ and Adam Arvidsson’s “The Crisis of Value and the Ethical Economy.”

This is a theory-based course that also teaches you to participate, discuss and analyze practices on the Social Web (e.g., the use of Facebook, Twitter, IM, blogs, SecondLife).

This Fall 2007 course will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 1pm to 2.50pm (EST), and though I’m not likely to narrowcast those, I’ll try to share notes. In the meantime, his presentation slides are available here.

BTW: I’m auditing this class under my own academic interest.

Current Status: Mapping out my Academic To-Dos…

Brisbane: Day Four (AoIR IR:7.0 Conference '06)

Giving myself one last year to do this, I’d better get my so-called scholarly act together. If you come across research or articles related to any of these, please drop me a line as some of you kindly have. Here’s a brief on what I’m working on arranged by priority:

1. The Anti-Censorship of China: A Social Media Perspective
Heading: A Critical Assessment of Internet Censorship and Circumvention in China (includes social media)
Event: For Qualifying Paper
Location: University at Buffalo (SUNY)
Date: Draft by 17th August 2007

2. “Leveling up” students with class blogs (Gaming + Blogging)
Heading: Engineering active learning through game mechanics (with Derek Lackaff)
Event: Internet Research 8.0 – Let’s Play
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Date: 17th to 20th October 20, 2007

3. Measuring and Reporting Message Impact in the Blogosphere (tentative title)
Heading: Reporting an aggregate score from blog content analysis, including Intensity, Direction, no. of comments, length, etc.
Event: 2nd International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media
Location: Seattle, WA
Date: March 31-April 2, 2008

4. How Blogs Influence Purchasing Decisions (fix the crappy survey)
Heading: How online credibility (blog vs. web site) is assessed and in turn influences an individual’s intention to purchase.
Event: 2nd International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media
Location: Seattle, WA
Date: March 31-April 2, 2008

Possible Dissertation Topics
1. International Citizen Journalism: A Cross-Cultural Examination of Motivations for the Individual Production of News
Brief: In a 2003 Online Journalism Review article, J. D. Lasica classifies media for citizen journalism into the following types: 1) Audience participation, 2) Independent news and information Websites, 3) Full-fledged participatory news sites (OhMyNews), 4) Collaborative and contributory media sites (Slashdot, Kuro5hin), 5) Other kinds of “thin media.” (mailing lists), and 6) Personal broadcasting sites. Thing is, why do some citizen journalism services seem to work better in some countries than others? Does anyone know if this has been done anywhere?

2. Intercultural Motivations of Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) Citizens
– Comparison of MUVEs (Second Life, There, HipHi, CyWorld, etc)
– Inspired from the conference theme at State of Play IV
– Building a better online metaverse through intercultural understanding
– Connecting East and West: Think Gloabally; Act Virtually: Exploring variations in playing styles, the influence of game mechanics on cross-cultural cooperation, the challenge of intercultural communication, and outcomes of forced localization. Issues of society, governance and virtual worlds as a vehicle for people-to-people diplomacy are also explored.
– Include thoughts from “Social Capital in Second Life” survey. The survey questions are partially based on earlier surveys Bullen 1998, de Nood & Attema 2007, NMC 2007 and Holmberg & Huvila 2007.

3. Personal sousveillance streams as 1) memory prosthetic + 2) real-time crowdsourcing
File under: I-would-love-to-write-but-my-dept-won’t-get-it-kinda-paper
Alex Halavais tells me that information society type folks have been looking at dataveillance rather than visual surveillance for a while now. Such is the networking and digitizing of mobile visual content. People I should track include Mimi Ito on the social aspects of mobile phones. There’s also three famous folks in neighboring Toronto, namely Steve Mann (the original cyborg), Jason Nolan, and Barry Wellman, who incidentally co-wrote an article in Surveillance & Society entitled “Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments”. They also recently wrote a chapter in “Small Tech: The Culture of Digital Tools” (2008). How does “UK Rolls Out Police Headcams” (Active) differ from how China deploys around 20,000 with facial recognition (Passive)?

Aside: I am also toying with the idea of getting my lifecasting cam going so you can check on me and send me “gentle” reminders to get my work done.

Be amazing or troublesome, not in between…

Kathy Sierra's The Zone of Expendability

In a conversation about teaching to a diverse crowd (working with both newbies & experts), Kenneth Pinto highlighted Kathy Sierra’s “Zone of Expendability” which explained how it seemed better for us to pick a side. Ironically, that also applies to me right now in a completely different situation…

Just today I just had a demoralizing lecture from my Asian professor for not getting my papers done on time. While he took this flaw and thoroughly expanded it to my entire universe of being (which wasn’t exactly fair), I paid attention to one point: To get my act together. Contrast this with my “rock star” teaching performance in Singapore, I seem to be worlds apart at different times.

What’s Kathy Sierra to say to me?
Both extremes motivate me and has an effect on my environment. If I were just normal good, I’d be boring as hell.

Just read her darn post already…

OK, back to writing papers. Argh.

Happy National Day, Singapore!

Singapore Perspectives 2007: A New Singapore - 2

It’s Singapore’s 42nd Birthday! And just in time…

I checked my mailbox and to find a copy of the conference proceedings from “Singapore Perspectives 2007: A New Singapore” organized by the Institute of Policy Study. Don’t “pray pray”… it’s autographed by editor Tan Tarn How some more.

Here’s what the book covers…

BTW: You do know what 42 means right?