Monthly Archive for October, 2009

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

In Singapore, while stocks last…

Taking off from Buffalo
Leaving Buffalo on a jet plane…

It’s been two years since I last returned to Singapore.

This time I’m back for my sister’s wedding, and will be staying for the month of October. Rather than pouring out a lyrical diatribe of my arrival, I’m pouring out buckets of sweat as I write this. In short, let me just show you my journey so far…

Singapore (Oct 2009)
Click to enlarge…

And here’s a surprise Uke performance (or rather wedding rehearsal) by Lynda and Greta…

Finally, here’s my live calendar showing what I’ve got lined up for the entire month. If you think we should meet up, drop me a line here.


Direct link to the Google Calendar

Pro-Choice: Interviews with Planned Parenthood Advocates

Last Saturday, I was invited to talk about online campaign strategies at the 7th Annual Planned Parenthood Advocacy Conference in Rochester, NY.

Being an all-women event, I was given a glimpse into a world rarely witnessed by men. Curiosity took the better of me, as I interviewed everyone from student advocates to regional leaders in the planned parenthood community.

Who are these pro-choice advocates? What motivates them to work with such gusto? How do they organize themselves to take social and political action? These are but some of the questions I sought to answer.

Big thanks to Amy White and Tessa Walker for giving me the opportunity to share and learn from women who are fighting for greater rights over their own physical bodies.

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.