oh snap!

For some reason, I’ve started saying “Oh snap!” a lot. Why? No idea. It’s a little embarrassing because: 1. I can’t pull off the attitude that it demands, 2. It’s a really old expression, and 3. Usually I utter it when it doesn’t fit the situation. My misuse of “oh snap!” seems to be a glaring reminder that I’m getting old(er).

Today, as I was searching through my messy computer files, I found an image of a flow chart from 2006 that offers some helpful advice on how/when to use “oh snap!”. I thought it would be fitting to post it here:


As a sidenote, this image was originally posted on Flickr. This seem important to note on the day (December 18, 2012), when everyone is freaking out about Facebook’s new changes to Instagram.

Addendum: After posting this image a few hours ago, I became curious about the origins of “oh snap!” I found this post. My favorite use of the phrase is in Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” video from 1989 (click here for the verse in which Markie utters the phrase. Did you know that you can create/share links for your desired spot in a video on YouTube? Pretty cool):

On Spreadability

In anticipation of the upcoming edited book, Spreadable Media (which looks pretty cool), I’m skimming old posts from Henry Jenkins on spreadability and looking over the Spreadable Media site. Today, I’m focusing on the distinctions between stickiness and spreadability, as discussed in Jenkins’ If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead (Part Two): Sticky and Spreadable—Two Paradigms (2009). In this post, I want to identify a few passages for further reflection.

1. On consumers/readers as active agents, not passive hosts for “alien ideas”:

Consumers…are not simply “hosts” or “carriers” of alien ideas, but rather grassroots advocates for materials which are personally and socially meaningful to them. They have filtered out content which they think has little relevance to their community, while focusing attention on material which they think has a special salience in this new context. Spreadability relies on the one true intelligent agent — the human mind — to cut through the clutter of a hyper-mediated culture and to facilitate the flow of valuable content across a fragmented marketplace. Under these conditions, media which remains fixed in its location and static in its form fails to generate sufficient public interest and thus drops out of these ongoing conversations.

2. The 9 core distinctions between sticky and spreadable:

1. Stickiness seeks to attract and hold the attention of site visitors; Spreadability seeks to motivate and facilitate the efforts of fans and enthusiasts to “spread” the word.
2. Stickiness depends on concentrating the attention of all interested parties on a specific site or through a specific channel; spreadability seeks to expand consumer awareness by dispersing the content across many potential points of contact.
3. Stickiness depends on creating a unified consumer experience as consumers enter into branded spaces; spreadability depends on creating a diversified experience as brands enter into the spaces where people already live and interact.
4. Stickiness depends on prestructured interactivity to shape visitor experiences; spreadability relies on open-ended participation as diversely motivated but deeply engaged consumers retrofit content to the contours of different niche communities.
5. Stickiness typically tracks the migrations of individual consumers within a site; Spreadability maps the flow of ideas through social networks.
6. Under stickiness, a sales force markets to consumers; under spreadability, grassroots intermediaries become advocates for brands.
7. Stickiness is a logical outgrowth of the shift from broadcasting’s push model to the web’s pull model; spreadability restores some aspects of the push model through relying on consumers to circulate the content within their own communities.
8. Under stickiness, producers, marketers, and consumers are separate and distinct roles; spreadability depends on increased collaboration across and even a blurring of the distinction between these roles.
9. Stickiness depends on a finite number of channels for communicating with consumers; spreadability takes for granted an almost infinite number of often localized and many times temporary networks through which media content circulates.

I’m fascinated by this paradigm shift and its implications for how we understand and practice engagement online. I’d like to devote an Undisciplined Room podcast to this question. As a website developer, what does @room34 think about this shift? What are the implications for how business websites are created?

I’m also interested in what this shift does to our understanding of ethical engagement (in the forms of empathy, caring and paying attention/being curious about). In a more recent post (March 2012) on spreadability, Jenkins applies the theory to the #Kony2012 campaign. In this essay/post, he draws upon a recent working paper by Lana Swartz, especially her discussion of spreadability (getting people to pay attention and to share ideas and information) and it’s necessary complement, drillability (getting people to engage with ideas in a deep and meaningful way; to “drill down” to the complexity of the issue), a term she gets from Jason Mittell. He ponders the problems with the Kony campaign and how it’s been negatively received by its critics. Jenkins wonders,

whether despite our capacity for networked circulation, we have developed collectively the skills we would need for this kind of deliberative process. We do not know how much these other critiques are able to ride the coat tails of the rapidly circulating video, to what degree young people are inspired by the debate to think more critically about the frames they deploy in thinking about injustices in Africa or America’s place in the world.

In wondering about this issue, Jenkins cautions against both wholly dismissing the youth activist who were mobilized through Kony2012 and simply pushing for an increasingly complex articulation of the problem of/with Kony and the Kony campaign:

As Invisible Children’s critics seek to correct what they see as the simplifications and misrepresentations of the video, we can also hope they will do so in ways which respect the commitment of Invisible Children’s young activists, in ways which support their efforts to find their footing as political agents and make a difference in the world. There is a risk that a more complex and nuanced narrative may also be a disempowering one, one which, as so often happens, convince citizens — young and old — that they have nothing to contribute and that these matters are best left in the hands of experts.

The Impact of Twitter

While scrolling through my Tumblr feed, I came across a brief video on the role of twitter in journalism (via Explore):

It’s from PBS’ Off Book, which is “a web-original series from PBS Arts that explores cutting edge arts and the artists that make it.” It’s pretty cool. I think I might watch their video on animated gifs next.

In the video, four journalists discuss twitter’s impact on journalism. Jeff Jarvis argues that journalism needs to “move beyond the article” and think of journalism as not just producing content but as creating an ecosystem. Journalists can (and have/do) use twitter to not only report facts, but to connect and collaborate with others in discovering new voices, verifying facts and participating in the ever-increasing flow of ideas and information made possible through social media like twitter.

Mark Luckie expands on Jarvis’ claims, arguing that twitter is a global resource, an ecosystem of news in which a wide range of folks can participate and engage in creating and verifying news stories. Among other things, journalists can use twitter to find multiple accounts of a story and to crowd-source their fact-checking. He suggests, “journalists should not see twitter as a threat, but as a helping hand on the road to creating better news.”

As the contrarian, Craig Kanalley worries about what is missing when we rely too much on social media. Social media (interestingly, he never explicitly discusses twitter or its unique features, but talks generally about social media) filters our news; we frequently read what our like-minded friends/those we follow share. This provides us with a skewed perspective. Hmm…reminds me of the Filter Bubble. Furthermore, social media provides too much noise; it needs to be mediated by experts (journalists) who can discern what is important and what isn’t. If, Kanalley continues, “the majority of people” are left to their own devices, they will only want to read/hear about celebrities and “things that are funny.” Relying on “most people” to provide and shape news is, Kanalley concludes, “almost scary.” Wow…sounds like some elitism here. Kanalley also briefly discusses the importance of remembering that not everyone is on social media; journalists must take into consideration those people too. His final conclusion: “The important thing for journalists is that we filter through the noise and surface the most important things.”

Finally, Chris Anderson cautions against mythologizing how good news reporting used to be in the past. Using twitter in journalism is not about destroying old (and better ways), but about recognizing that there are all sorts of ways to do journalism and to be a journalist.

In the last minute of the video, each journalist offers a slightly contrasting view on what it means that twitter allows for a wider range of voices to participate in the news process:

Luckie: In journalism, there are isolated pockets of people who have stories to tell. Twitter really enables them to rise to the top.

Kanalley: There are so many voices out there and we need somebody to say, “this is factual information” or “this is what you need to know.”

Anderson: I don’t know if news organizations can honestly make the argument that we are the best anymore.

Jarvis:  It’s not about having professional journalists and citizen journalists, or paid people and unpaid people. Acts of journalism can be performed by anyone.

I love Jarvis’ last line about acts of journalism being performed by anyone, especially how it shifts the practice of news reporting away from an expert identity, The Journalist, and towards a wide range of practices. As I have mentioned before on this blog, I have a problem with “experts” who supposedly serve as the gate-keepers and sources/controllers of knowledge. Maybe that’s why I really bristled in watching Kanalley’s part in the video. Not only does he suggest that most people aren’t critical thinkers and can’t be trusted to determine what’s important/newsworthy, but he continues to champion The Journalist as the ultimate authority. Moreover, his over-generalized comments about “social media” suggest that he doesn’t even understand twitter and its distinctive features. I’m disappointed that he serves as the critical voice of twitter. Twitter, like everything else, has problems that need to be addressed and explored. Why not have someone who knows and uses twitter to talk critically about its limits, instead of someone who offers up their surface-level, gut rejection of “social media”?

A Tentative Conclusion

I appreciated this serious look at twitter’s possibilities for journalism, but I wonder if some of them still hold true, especially in light of the recent, and very disturbing, changes to the platform by its owners. For more on these changes, see Room 34’s great post: On products, services, and the trouble with twitter. Also, check out Dalton Caldwell’s helpful discussion of how twitter is pivoting (which Room 34 links to). Caldwell concludes: “the future of Twitter: a media company writing software that is optimized for mostly passive users interested in a media and entertainment filter.” Again, my question: how will this pivot affect how journalists use twitter, and for what ends? And, how does it limit/shape who can commit Jarvis’ “acts of journalism”?

Some Monday Reflections

Some days I look at my twitter feed and I don’t find anything that makes me curious or inspires me to ask questions and reflect. But, not today. I don’t know if it’s the 16 oz latte, my 2.5 mile jog at the YWCA, or the early snow that has my “little gray cells” working overtime, but I have a big list of items to think/reflect/trouble/write about on this snowy, cold Monday in November. At first, I was planning to write a series of blog entries on each topic, but I soon realized that that was too much. So instead, I’ve decided to create a post with just a few of the links, along with some reflections.

Item One

Did Jezebel cross the line by ratting out teens for their racist tweets?

Background: Shortly after President Obama was re-elected last week, some twitter users began tweeting their highly racist reactions. And the data-mapping experts over at Floating Sheep tracked and mapped them. This tracking, particularly how the map made visible where certain clusters of racism tweets existed (i.e. Alabama and Mississippi), was a popular topic on twitter, facebook, blogs and online news sources. A few examples: Map Shows You Where Those Racists Tweeting After Obama Election Live (Colorlines), The Racist States of America (Daily Mail UK) and Twitters Racists React… (Jezebel).

According to Slate, Jezebel took their tracking of the story too far, by not only publicly shaming the twitter users, who were primarily teens, but by

reaching out to the tweeters’ schools to get the kids in trouble (and, presumably, to gin up page views). They then meticulously noted each administrator’s response. They also updated us, gleefully, on the status of the students’ twitter accounts: Which kids were embarrassed enough to delete them? Which ones offered half-assed excuses? Which ones doubled down on their racism?

Here’s Jezebel’s follow-up post, detailing their efforts to contact the tweeters’ school officials in order to hold the tweeters accountable and in the hopes that the officials could “educate them on racial sensitivity.” In their critique of Jezebel’s actions, Slate author Katy Waldman, argues that a major media outlet like Jezebel is not the appropriate venue for meting out discipline. It not only punishes these “stupid kids” too severely for their lack of judgment (evidence of their mistake and the resultant shaming will exist for years online), but is more likely to piss them off and shut them down, then encourage them to be educated and accountable for their tweets. Here’s the closing line of the brief article:

Morrissey writes: “We contacted their school’s administrators with the hope that, if their educators were made aware of their students’ ignorance, perhaps they could teach them about racial sensitivity.” Perhaps. More likely, as my colleague put it in an email: “It probably won’t make them less racist if they’re bitter forever.”

Initially, I felt that the Slate article was a bit too harsh but now I’m not so sure. These tweets are abhorrent and the users who tweeted them should be held accountable, but these teens are minors and represent only a handful of individuals who contribute to (but have not created) the larger systems of structural racism in this country. To shame only these kids (or primarily these kids) enables us to ignore/suppress the larger structures of racism and to fail to consider all of the ways that racist attitudes continue to exist within this country. It’s much easier to focus our attention on a few “stupid kids,” then to face the reality that, as Colorlines’ author Jorge Rivas writes: “racists are everywhere.”

This Slate article raised some interesting questions for me:
1. How should we hold users, especially teen users, accountable for their tweets?
2. What sorts of resources are available for educators, parents, community members for learning how to be more accountable and responsible online?
3. After further reviewing comments from the Jezebel post, I came across this thread in which commenters discuss how they’re contacting school officials. One user refers to these actions as internet vigilantism.

Is “internet vigilantism” an effective tool for holding individuals accountable?

Item two

Two Random Encounters with Judith Butler

1. I found an excellent quotation (from a recent interview) on a great post by Michael D Dwyer about teaching pop culture. His use of this quote comes in a section of his post in which he discusses how we can be both critic and consumer of pop culture (this was a big focus in my pop culture class from 2007).

2. I learned about an advice book that Butler contributed to via this Brain Pickings post. This find is one of the reasons why, even as I am wary of Brain Pickings, I still follow them on twitter. Butler contributes an essay on “Doubting Love,” in the 2007 advice book, Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation. Looking forward to reading this one; I’ve already requested it from the Minneapolis Public Library! I’d like to think about this advice book in relation to my other research on the self-help industry.

Item Three

Well, I’m quickly running out of time (less than a half an hour before I must pick up RJP from school), so I can’t write much more. Why am I not surprised?! Here’s a In Media Res curated series on The Second Lives of Home Movies that I want to read and reflect on…and put beside my work on home tours.

Bonus Item

Inspired by the snow this morning (and by my desire to experiment with my new iMovie app), I created a digital moment: Minnesota Weather. I plan hope to write more about my thoughts and experiments with the iMovie app soon. For now, here’s my digital moment + my description of the story):

minnesota weather: a digital moment from Undisciplined on Vimeo.

I’ve lived in Minneapolis for the past 9 years (plus 4 years in St, Peter, MN for college and 18 months in Minneapolis in the late 90s) and I still haven’t gotten used to the unpredictable weather. Minnesotans always say, “Don’t like the weather? Just wait 10 minutes.” I was reminded of this phrase when I woke up this morning. Just last week it was sunny, with beautiful leaves on the trees. And, just two days ago, it was in the upper 60s. But, when I looked out my window this morning, around 7 AM, there was snow on the ground. This example of pure Minnesota seemed worthy of a digital moment.

Election 2012: A Few Social Media Interventions

The 2012 Election is finally over. I’m extremely relieved. It was too long and too nasty. What made it tolerable were the interesting, creative and powerful ways in which individuals, organizations and communities used social media to engage with the issues and candidates and to resist and disrupt the election process. While I can’t begin to list the variety of ways that social media was a part of the election, I thought I’d mention just a few that I’ve been thinking about on this November 7, 2012, the day after President Obama was re-elected (Hooray!).

A few days ago, I wrote about how some people were using amazon online reviews to challenge and disrupt Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment in the second presidential debate. These online reviews are only one small example of how people used social media during the election season. Many used humor to resist. There were memes with buff dude Paul Ryan and with Romney and his love for Big Bird/hate for Sesame Street and longing for more “horses and bayonets.

Others used social media to connect, mobilize and educate voters on their rights and the issues. Just a few examples on election day: People shared in the ritual of voting by posting photos on Instagram, detailing their experiences as Facebook status updates (or by clicking on the “I Voted” button) or as tweets with the hashtag, #ivoted. They supported those who were waiting in long lines to vote by encouraging them to #stayinline (via twitter), empowering them with important information about their rights as voters and providing them with a space for sharing their own stories about voter problems/abuse.