Monthly Archive for April, 2008

Waiting for the “social media strategist” interview report?

I’m quite done with Part 2 of “So… Would you hire a social media strategist” (see Part 1). Right now I’m just getting approvals for the quotes I’ll be using before publishing. While waiting for my upcoming interview report, why not follow up on a few interesting links interviewees have sent in?

Have you any favorite links about social media? Which links do you tend to give friends who ask you about blogging, twitter, etc?

Ethnographic: A Teenage Girl’s Facebook Friend List

Facebook friends list template

“The following event is real but the names have been changed to protect the innocent”

While some of us struggle to manage our online relationships, no one does it better than teenage girls who spend a lot of their online time on social networking sites. They’ve learned to micro-manage their lives with the level of detail certified accountants do with internal audits.

Always interested in how the experts do it, I got a chance to sit through a demo of how 18 year old Sarah sorts her Facebook friends. From using the limited profile feature to reduce exposure to specific colleagues, bosses or creeps (real-life creeps on the rise?), to using the Friend List feature in an extensive way to delineate clusters of relationships (as shown above).

Sarah does represent a heavy Facebook user, blogging via Facebook notes, picky with her Facebook apps, but a deep user of the platform nonetheless. She explores and utilizes every aspect of the social networking service until she has it is sufficiently under her control.

When asked of what she thought about Facebook Chat, she disliked it saying how it just makes it “too creepy”. She currently prefers bantering with friends via Wall-to-Wall, perhaps something to do with anticipation, surprise and reduced attention it requires compared to a live conversation. Sharing her sentiment, we compared the number of Facebook friends reported online through her Online Friends page with the number reported in the Facebook Chat feature, and discovered that a majority of her friends have indeed turned off their chat status entirely.

For the rest of us, maintaining our online relationships can be a lot of work, especially if you use Facebook sparingly just to maintain presence. If you want some basics on maintaining privacy on Facebook (or to help your child’s manage his / her online presence), this video tutorial gives a good demo of how to go about it. Just excuse the heavy British Aussie accent. ;)

GTA IV + Euphoria engine = Mimicking Life on Screen

In honor of tonight’s release of Rockstar North’s Grand Theft Auto IV, here’s something that when executed right, would fit right into the Uncanny Valley.

Mimicking life on screen, particularly in terms of human body physics, has always been tough. While most video games (especially First Person Shooters) have typically relied on ragdoll physics, characters just don’t behave in a realistic fashion. i.e. they just crumple.

As a technical feature of GTA IV, what NaturalMotion’s “Euphoria” Dynamic Motion Synthesis (DMS) does is to essentially add biomechanics and self-preservation AI into the mix, thus you’d end up with different results when putting bodies through similar physical situations, e.g. characters try to balance when hit. The above video does a great job explaining this.

The Euphoria engine reminds me of Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog walking robot, especially when it gets kicked and how it tries to balance itself. Speaking of which, have you ever seen the beta version of the Big Dog? *chuckles*

First time playing with the Kaoss mini-KP

Better known for their hugely popularly Kaoss Pad (now at version KP3), Korg’s new mini-KP puts the power of the dynamic effects processor in the hands of the everyday music tinkerer. Where its big brother costs around $399, this little toy comes at an affordable $199. Since I found it barely used off Craigslist, I got mine for about $125.

What’s it do?
The mini-KP lets you effect sound in real-time, through an intuitive touch-pad interface. Like the touchpad on your laptop, the moving your finger across the X- and Y- axis lets you distort your music through around 99 built-in effects and synthesizers. It’s also the smallest in the KAOSS PAD series, and uses 4 x AA batteries so it’s totally portable.

Additional features include BPM effects, where you can use the “TAP/BPM button” to synchronize the mini-KP to your song’s tempo, and apply a wide range of effects to your music. The “FX RELEASE” function provides a natural decay when changing effects or removing your finger from the pad. The Hold function lets you memorize the position at which you touched the touch-pad when you release your finger. And finally, you can use the two memory keys A and B to store your favorite effect program settings, including the effect depth and the Hold on/off status.

This probably won’t be a toy for everyone, except DJs and music producers who are just starting out. It’s perfect for live audio performances, even on the move (warning: this video is a little irritating).

There’s another toy by Korg called the Kaossilator… now that’s something anyone can get into since it lets you make music, rather than just distort it. It lets you create layers of beats by tapping the touchpad to produce interesting overdubbed compositions. It’s been sold out for months now, but that’s something I waiting for to add to my strange musical instrument collection (theremin anyone?).

The United Nations “Creative Economy” Report 2008

UN Creative Economy Report 2008

It’s so darn ironic that just yesterday, a visual designer friend of mine was complaining about how the U.S. government prefers to give the international students in the hard sciences discipline a total of 26 months OPT (Optional Practical Training). This is an incredible 17 month extension from the typical 12 month work opportunity given to graduating international students in areas such as the humanities and the arts.

That friend was just hired to work for Google.

From the academic circle of the tweeterverse (@ChristyDena), comes this particular U.N. report, which I believe is a first of its kind on a global scale, for anyone in government, creative businesses as well as peer-producers like ourselves (least if you’re reading this blog).

The United Nations has released a Creative Economy report for 2008. If you’re wondering what the creative economy is about, it refers to something I recall seeing Australian scholars (like Axel Brun) write about “creative industries” back in 2005. The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has programs focusing on the Creative Industries.

What is the creative economy?
The “creative economy” is an evolving concept based on creative assets potentially generating economic growth and development. The United Nations adopts the UNCTAD definition of the creative economy, where…

  • It can foster income-generation, job creation and export earnings while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development.
  • It embraces economic, cultural and social aspects interacting with technology, intellectual property and tourism objectives.
  • It is a set of knowledge-based economic activities with a development dimension and cross-cutting linkages at macro and micro levels to the overall economy.
  • It is a feasible development option calling for innovative, multidisciplinary policy responses and interministerial action.
  • At the heart of the creative economy are the creative industries.

What types of industries fall under the Creative Economy?
Wikipedia might also be a decent place to start, but it’d be better to compare this with the concepts and definitions as laid out in the U.N Report, which details various classifications systems used to define such creative industries. As seen in the U.N. Report, a widely quoted definition of the Creative Industry comes from the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which points to “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.” (DCMS 2001, p. 04).

Types Of Creative Industries

While the other classification systems list more disciplines, the 2001 DCMS definition recognises eleven creative sectors, including Advertising, Architecture, Arts and Antique Markets, Crafts, Design, Designer Fashion, Film, Video and Photography, Software, Computer Games and Electronic Publishing, Music and the Visual and Performing Arts, Publishing, Television and Radio.

Given that responsible governments are constantly updating their media policies to encompass new modes of production (e.g. Proposal for Internet freedom in Singapore), perhaps cues could be taken from the United Nations. As highlighted in their foreword: “The creative economy has the potential to generate income and jobs while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development.”

Click here to download the entire United Nations Creative Economy Report 2008.

Update: Singapore isn’t behind either. According to the Rambling Librarian, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) has been at it for the past four years, taking elements from the U.K. initiative and adapting them for the Singapore context. MICA provides reasons for developing local creative industries and shares blueprints for the future creative industry landscape in Singapore.

DIY: Unacceptable Employee Behavior

How to deal with unacceptable employee behavior

Status update: Right now I’m busy trying to make a dissertation progress submission by Friday, so I’ll be sharing a compiled report for “So… would you hire a social media strategist?” sometime next week. Meantime, something silly.

I saw this seminar handout (yes, it’s real!) which begged for a remix… and so I complied. Warning, totally inappropriate language ensues after the jump….

Continue reading ‘DIY: Unacceptable Employee Behavior’

Mapping the Social & Legal Consequences of Mediated Identities

Digital Ego: Social and Legal Aspects of Virtual Identity My last two blog post had an interesting commonality; they both reflected the increasing significance of mediated identities.

In the physical world, your identity is already represented in a multitude of ways, often delineated by geography (e.g. neighborhood), function (e.g. housewife, doctor), tribe (e.g. runners, software developers), and so on. Despite these variations of self, it is the presence of our physical being which authenticates and reinforces the imagination we have of one another.

In the online environment, this body of meaning stretches in more dramatic ways, especially when we consider the types of media to choose to represent ourselves (mediated identities). From the early Internet days of text (IRC, newsgroups ASCII art), to the rich and often exaggerated depictions through photos and videos on media sharing sites (e.g. Facebook, Youtube). Do watch Derek Lackaff’s explanation of this in my recent video interview. The by-products of these virtual selves include everything from the rise of DIY microcelebrities to satirical manifestation of an ex-Prime Minister on twitter.

While the physical realm of identity has been constantly studied under numerous disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and communication, some work has been done to illuminate the mysteries of our virtual selves, much of it to reveal why we’re willing to displace so much of our time for games like World of Warcraft or social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Still, not enough might have been done to examine the impact that mediated / virtual identities could pose in the context of the real world.

My friend Shady pointed out an article on Massively (a MMORPG meta-blog) hinting about this topic. It lead me to Smartmobs for quick pointers on a new book focusing on the impact of virtual selves.

The book is “Digital Ego: Social and Legal Aspects of Virtual Identity” by Jacob Van Kokswijk. Here’s an abstract from the academic publisher based in the Netherlands:

Non-human virtual identities have an increasing impact on our society. A virtual identity is not just an online identity of a person, but a new technical and social phenomenon. What if software agents, powered by artificial intelligence, start acting on your behalf in a digital marketplace? What are the legal consequences of decisions made by these autonomous virtual agents?

Digital Ego counters the common belief that a virtual identity is only a temporary and innocent phenomenon, which disappears when a computer is switched off. Influenced by markets, politics and culture, cyberspace is becoming a highly regulated world where, compared to our tangible world, behaviour will be much more tightly controlled. The author addresses a broad range of social and legal aspects of virtual identities, such as the position of virtual environments in real world legal systems, and the difference between virtual and real identities.

Jacob van Kokswijk is a communications expert. He has written several books and articles about digital interactive media, user controlled technologies, cross media development and human behaviour in cyberspace. He is Adjunct Professor HCI at KAIST Graduate School of Culture Technology (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). Jacob is also a Research Professor in digital media at the Dutch Twente University , and is currently researching the phenomenon of Virtual Identities at the Law School of the Faculty of Law, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Strathclyde.

It’s currently a pre-order on Amazon, but you can get it through The University of Chicago Press for US$25.

Twittering “Lee Kwan Yew” to test Singapore’s Internet freedom

Twitter / LeeKuanYew has FakeSteve to deal with, while Singapore has her own twittering “Lee Kwan Yew” on the loose!

Will this “Lee Kwan Yew” be able to entertain us with his satirical ways, or will he be subjected to some form of defamation suit (a first for twitter)?

Given that a high profile group of political bloggers has just submitted a 20 page “Proposal for Internet freedom in Singapore” (pdf) to the Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang, perhaps our twittering Lee will be a fresh test of the civil liberties of our pending media landscape.

As a member of the group of 15 bloggers making these recommendations, Bernard Leong invites Singaporeans (especially bloggers) to provide feedback about the proposals. A summary of the key proposals is available right after the jump…

Continue reading ‘Twittering “Lee Kwan Yew” to test Singapore’s Internet freedom’

theorycast.38 :: Reality TV + Web 2.0 = DIY celebrities

Here’s an interview I did with communication researchers, Dr. Michael Stefanone and Derek Lackaff, at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) about their discovery of a strong link between reality TV viewership, social networking site usage, and celebrity identity formation.

Via Michael: As an article forthcoming in ACM’s Hypertext (June, 2008), the study found a link between reality television (RTV) consumption and behavior on SNSs like Facebook. Stefanone, Lackaff and Rosen found that RTV consumption predicted the size of user’s online social networks, the number of photos shared, and the level of ‘promiscuous friending’ (the frequency users friend others they haven’t actually met).

I have a particular interest in this study because it’s quite straightforward and timely. The study brings together concepts of Benkler’s peer production in Web 2.0 environments, promiscuous friending (which leads to Boyd’s Law), game metaphor of social networks, modeling of celebrity identity (microcelebrityship), media displacement theory, and historical shifts in online identity formation (from anarchic textual self-representation to present day actual self-representation).

We’re All Stars Now: Reality Television, Web 2.0, and Mediated Identities” (downloadable PDF) will be presented in June at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Hypertext 2008 conference. Congrats to Michael and Derek, whom both I know personally.

If you want a better understanding of this research, Alan Boyle, winner of the AAAS Science Journalism Award, has written an excellent feature for it on’s Cosmic Log entitled: Are you an Online ‘Idol’?. There’s also a humorous piece by io9 bloggers entitled “Your Future Will Be Filled with Promiscuous Friends“.

First time playing the mini-theremin…

Some of you might have remembered my fascination with the mini-theremin played by a cat not long ago. This evening, I received the package from Japan.

As you’ll see, the Otona no Kagaku magazine / assembly kit is beautifully packaged. I’ve got the mini-theremin build process as a series of photos, where you’ll see it’s easy and fun enough for anyone to put together. Only problem was tuning it, which turned out to be quite a bitch. Still, the intrigue kept me going. This is my first time playing a theremin, so it’s less of a performance, more of an experiment. You’ll see me trying to back up a track from Portishead’s new album, Third.

mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)
mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)mini-theremin (from Otona no Kagaku)

For the uninitiated, Wikipedia has a decent explanation of how to operate a theremin:

A theremin is unique among musical instruments in that it is performed without being touched by the operator. The musician stands in front of the instrument and moves his or her hands in the proximity of two metal antennas. The distance from one antenna determines frequency (pitch), and the distance from the other controls amplitude (volume). Most frequently, the right hand controls the pitch and the left controls the volume, although some performers reverse this arrangement. Additionally, some theremins use a volume dial and have only one antenna.

Aside: Youtube now has hidden links to download higher quality MPEG4 versions of your video. Here’s the link to mine.