UGC and participation produce dynamic results

“Participation” is one of those ambiguous words thrown around in the communications field. It goes right up there with “engagement.”

Tacchi (2011) and Jonsson and Ornebring (2011) are no different than any other pair of researchers. Jonsson and Ornebring analyze newspapers in the United Kingdom and Sweden to see how users interact with the publications’ online content.  Tacchi, on the other hand, took the approach of investigating how impoverished citizens of India, Indonesia and other Southeast Asia countries were able to adapt to using information and communications technology (ICT).

In comparing tabloid content to broadsheet news content, the former article describes how consumers of the different types of print media use or participate with the online versions differently.  Jonsson and Orneberg view participation as making a personal connection with the content and/or the other consumers, who can also be prosumers or producers.  This includes personalizing the types of stories someone receives when he visits the website, making comments about stories on the website or uploading pictures or video to one to those sites.  The authors note how, although a computer and Internet connection is required to perform these functions, inviting the audience to participate with the news content has existed before the Internet (2011).

In the Tacchi article, however, the author discusses participation as being able to use new technology.  There are a few anecdotes about women in villages who had no prior experience using camera and editing equipment until the “Finding a Voice” research project arrived. The project was designed to give a “voice” to those who lacked the technology and knowledge that someone in their impoverished village could make a positive difference in the community (Tacchi, 2011).

 

I can certainly relate more to the Jonsson and Ornebring online participation article.  Not only does this study compare consuming news articles against tabloid-entertainment articles, it looks at the different ways this consumption occurs. The results in the first article show that the article comments and higher degrees of UGC have a better shot at producing change in society because a larger portion of those communities can access the content.  If there is an unpopular article or editorial, then users with anonymous names can voice their opinion to a large audience, though more so in the broadsheet publications than in the tabloid stories.

 

The “Finding a Voice” article just does not resonate as well from a participation standpoint.  It’s fantastic that the citizens of a developing country can learn digital/multimedia skills, but this does not mean that they can continue to use these to interact with their country’s media producers. Additionally, no matter how advanced the skills are that the citizens in the project are, just how much of the public are going to be able to see their work?  It seems like the more advanced someone’s ICT skills are, the smaller the population that can actual access the product of such skills. There is the possibility of having these skills spread throughout the communities by the one’s being taught, though.

Crowdsourcing could get the Monroe bypass built

Problem: From 2000 to 2010, Union County, N.C. was the fastest growing county in the state and currently has a population of approximately 205,000 people (Simmons and Chessner, 2011; U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).  Despite these figures, the county does not have a freeway-only highway, leading to heavy congestion on U.S. Highway 74.  The North Carolina Turnpike Authority has planned to build a bypass from Matthews in the west to Marshville in the east.  There have been numerous setbacks, however, that have delayed the construction of the highway for several years, which is planned to be the Charlotte area’s first toll road.

The primary obstacle in the construction of the Monroe Bypass is the stance of environmental groups.  Just this year, there have been two court rulings that side with these groups. In addition to the environmental impact of the highway, there is also the looming commercial impact.  Highway 74 is a popular route for commuters and folks from Charlotte and points west to go to NC beaches.  There are countless businesses lined up alongside the road that count on this traffic to provide customers.

This situation presents an opportunity for a crow sourcing movement like the one described by Brabham (2012) or Andersen (2009).  Instead of continuing to rely on the same environmental impact studies from the same groups, it may be time to turn to the citizens of Union County.  Brabham discussed how people who don’t necessarily have expertise in a certain field can often find new solutions that professionals in those fields wouldn’t be able to encounter.

How do regular citizens get motivated to solve a problem like this?  First, make sure they are educated on the factors that are holding this project back. Have them briefed on the more recent court rulings since most people likely wouldn’t want to read full decisions.  Additionally, they can physically go to the locations of the environmental issues in question.  There is a mussel on the endangered species list that has been the source of one of the rulings.  Citizens can learn about where this organism lives and the consequences of removing it.

Then, a website can be created, likely from the Charlotte Observer. This site needs to have a clean interface, making it very user friendly.  Without offering payment, Union County citizens can post what they have learned about the potential impacts of the highway.  Since this is a written forum, users would be more likely to express what they really think about the situation (2012). There is no commuter rail in the county so cars are by far the most popular mode of transportation.  This could potentially create a bias in the information presented on the site, though, since travel times would be drastically improved. However, business owners along 74 could also provide a large presence on the site, too. Extrinsic motivation would include becoming more known in the community as long as real names are used on the website. This motivation could be provided by showing a list of the users with the most threads on the site.

Elections and citizen journalism provide interesting survey results

A few weeks ago in class, the question was brought up about what makes a responsible citizen.  The response that I agreed with was “being an informed voter.”  These two articles certainly stress the significance of informing voters, via both ‘traditional’ and citizen journalism.

In their essay on the African Elections Project, Akoh and Ahiabenu (2012) discuss how several African nations are making a push to educate both their citizens and journalists, with the intention of creating more fair elections.  Despite the continents’ severe deficiency in Internet access at 11 percent of the population, there is a greater use of cell phones, with 38 percent using that technology.  The organizers at the Elections Project is looking to capitalize, for good reason, on the higher cell phone use.  Citizens and journalists alike can use SMS texting, as well as Twitter and YouTube uploads, to disseminate information about elections.

Like the much of the rest of the world, African citizens relied almost solely on radio, television and newspapers to gain information on elections and other public affairs.  Unlike the United States, though, the broadcast companies are government owned in in countries like Ghana and Mozambique (2012).  This presents biased reporting challenge that even the most educated and trained journalists must face.  Additionally, the voters are being fed information that is heavily in favor the incumbent candidate.  Although the information broadcast from these stations may remained biased, citizens now have several other avenues to access the information necessary to make an informed vote.

In the second article from Kaufhold, et al (2010), the behavior from certain types of media consumers is analyzed from survey results.  One of the key findings was that users of citizen journalism are more likely to become involved in offline political activity like attending city council meetings and contacting public officials.  This could mean that more blogs and hyper-local publications will receive more political coverage than ‘professional’ media outlets.

The survey also looked at trust in the media, which a lack of could spawn many of these non-professional citizen journalists.  However, the survey also found that users of professional news media had more political knowledge than users of citizen news media. This could mean that the citizens who attend civic meetings and engage in communication with public officials are doing so blind to the state of the issues they are addressing.

Both article mention CNNs iReport as a popular source of citizen journalism.  Despite its contents’ origins, the information on that report is still moderated by a large media company in CNN/Turner Broadcasting.  This draws a parallel in the state-run media in those African countries.  Although they deal with the State’s control now, the more journalists can learn about the electoral code of conduct and regional frameworks for free and fair elections, the more democratic the elections can become.  As long as both professional and citizen-generated stories include factual information, then the readers will be able to make an informed vote. Of course, persuading some loyal viewers of certain stations is another challenge.

 

 

Viral Online Media: Tebow is worse than everything

Just because something on the Internet goes viral, doesn’t mean that it is political or life-changing.  Berger and Milkman (2012) argue that the content simply has to either be positive or evoke anger.  Sports bring out large swings of emotions to those invested in teams or players.  My example of viral online content is the bashing of Tim Tebow by ESPN.com blogger Bill Williamson.  In his article “Time for Elway to think post-Tebow,”which was written October 30 of last year, Williamson suggested that the Denver Broncos should not count on Tebow to be their quarterback in the future.

This was not just an example of a professional athlete being criticized, however.  This was a run-of-the-mill act of sports writing that sparked a “revolution.”  Here is the article, “How Contempt For Tim Tebow Caused An ESPN.com Commenter Revolution,” from Deadspin describing the events that unfolded later that night and into Halloween.  The revolution was the “X>Tebow” meme, which took over the comment section for that article and eventually other ESPN.com article comment sections. Here is another article about the X>Tebow comments.

The Deadspin article does not address whether people accessed the site through links to the article, but that is likely the way most comment posters reached the page.  If not, they could have seen the type of comment on another article on ESPN.com and traced back to the Williamson article.

Although this article and the proceeding comments were inherently negative, online word of this certainly spread quickly.  Self-presentation is one of the motives users displayed in order to share this article and meme.  Berger and Milkman say that these motives shape transmission and “people may share interesting or surprising content because it is entertaining” (pg. 194).  The entertainment value on this had to be high, especially for a football fan, or any sports fan for that matter.

More importantly, the study also revealed that more positive or more negative content is more viral than content that does not evoke emotion.  The nature of the article, and especially its comments, fall under the more negative category.  The negativity about Tebow went from being fair in the article, to playful in the first group of comments, to very offensive as the comment section exploded.  Since Tebow is very open with his faith and religious practices, many comments played off of that.  Additionally, the first full day of this viral online media was Halloween, which may have lead to be people posting not in a good frame of mind.

It would not be hard to argue that some of the individual offensive comments are sad, as well as something like that becoming so popular. Of course, that could be stated for many things in pop culture today.  Devout fans of Tebow, rather based on his play or religious beliefs would become angry at this article and comments, further complementing the findings of the assigned reading.

Media Diary: Day 7

When I woke up, I was listening to 92.5 WIND FM.  As I was making my preparations for tailgating, I put on my iPod attached to the speakers in the living room.  I played the theme from the movie “Grindhouse,” which was by co-director Robert Rodriguez.  This is a very cool instrumental song.  After a few more songs from shuffle mode, my friends and I walked up to the bus stop.

When we got to campus, we got some food from the Reitz Union, then walked to the College Gameday set in front of the stadium.  Even though this was a live event, there were monitors next to the stage facing toward the crowd showing the broadcast. We stayed here for about 30 minutes because even though the crowd could see the show, there was no sound.

I noticed earlier that a group of people had a TV at their tailgate spot a few spots down form where I was parked ( I parked my car the night before). When we got back to the parking lot, we asked these people if we could join them in watching Gameday, with sound this time.  We watched the final hour and a5 minutes of the show here, then at noon, the LSU-Texas A&M came on.

After about 30 minutes of watching that game, we went to another tailgate spot behind Gator corner dining.  I didn’t consume any media here.

I went up to the stadium at about 3:00, and watched all the promotions and highlights on the video boards throughout the game.  Although the game was a blow-out (44-11), it didn’t feel like the Gators were dominating.

After the game, we went to some of the bars at Midtown.  They had some music on and football games on TVs, but I wasn’t really engaged in watching the games since I was enjoying good company.

A few hours later, I got some food at Jimmy Johns and then took the bus back home.  While I was on the bus, I checked Facebook on my phone.

When I got back to the apartment, We watched “Eastbound and Down” on DVD.  This is an HBO show about a former major league pitcher who is a PE teacher at his hometown high school. Maybe the funniest show of all time, especially when Will Ferrell shows up in a few scenes.  After I episode, I went to bed, listening to 92.5.

Summary

Through writing these posts, I have learned that I am very dependent on media.  I have a need for ambient noise when I am doing an activity, whether that’s doing homework, cooking or working out.  Sometimes, I turn on the TV or radio in a room, only to immediately leave so it will be on when I come back into the room. I do turn off these devices when I leave the apartment, though.

Although I check Facebook and Twitter probably two or three times each during the day, my sessions are pretty brief, usually comprised of just scrolling down, skimming posts from other people.  Only when I’m procrastinating bad will I go through large chunks of pictures at a time.

Finally, and most significantly, I watch and read about a ton of sports.  This is something I have pretty much always done.  As shown from the diary, I don’t have any appointments to watch sitcoms.  “30 Rock” is the only prime time/sitcom show I watch on a fairly regular basis, but this is often online.  When I had DVR in undergrad, I would record “30 Rock” and usually watch football or baseball during that time and watch the show the next afternoon.

My consumption habits may be slightly odd for someone my age, especially the amount of radio I listen to.  I must enjoy the element of surprise, which is further displayed by putting my iPod on shuffle.  Along these lines, I get more gratification out of seeing a show or sports highlight when it’s on TV rather than going to YouTube to look it up.

Media Diary: Day 5

Once again, my initial media exposure was from the music of 92.5 from my radio.  As I gained consciousness, I checked my email, both traditional and on Sakai.  I usually get the most emails on Thursdays since I release the grades to my students the night before.

Then, I got ready to go to campus, still listening to the radio.  When I got to campus, I went to the Reitz food court and bought a large salad from Croutons.  When I was eating it, i was watching ESPN, which had Sportscenter on.  They were showing highlights from last night’s Cardinals-Giants game, Oregon football and the NFL game that was played tonight.

Eventually, i decided I needed to take care of some academic business.  I went down the hall to the lounge area to get some reading down for my audience analysis class.  Before I read my assigned readings, I read a good amount of the USA Today I picked up earlier.  I don’t usually read this paper, but I think the head teaser about the college basketball rankings enticed me to take a look.  The readings for this week focused primarily on focus group research.  There was a large selection from David Morgan comparing this method to individual interviews and participant observation.  This article repeated itself a lot and, therefore, became annoying to read.

After pushing my way through about 40 pages of Morgan’s inner debate, I went down the TA office in Weimer.  I didn’t have office hours, but needed to print out some things.  While on the computer, I checked my email again and gave a few responses to students.  I also checked twitter and facebook.  I made a comment on a friend’s post about the blue trees.  Jokingly, I said it was liberal propaganda.  Eventually I got around to the Union County, N.C. website to find info on absentee ballots. Union County is home to Wingate University, my proud Alma Mater, and location of my voting registration.  After locating the pertinent information, I typed up my request and printed it.  Then, I printed my receipt from the phone I purchased last week since I needed to return it.  I also went on mlb.com to check the score of the Tigers-Yankees game.

When I left Weimer, I went to the copy and fax office at the Reitz.  Here I purchased an envelope and stamps to send off my absentee request.  At the bus stop, I used my phone to check the score of the baseball game, mainly because I knew Miguel Cabrera had batted in between checks. He is really good and hit a home run during that time. I then picked up the Alligator and read that on the bus.

When I got home, I watched a little bit of the game, then got into my car to drive to Verizon.  I was listening to the Brandon Boyd CD.  After I got my phone exchanged, I was listening to the same album.

I got home at 7:25, so I had to quickly get ready for my intramural softball game at 8:00.  On the drive to the Southwest fields, I put in the Cage the Elephant CD, Thank You Happy Birthday. After team Dick Nixon’s victory, I kept listening to the same CD.  When I got home, I watched some of the Oregon-Arizona State football game while eating a banana.

Later, I read a little more for my audience analysis class. Then, it was time to write my comments for this class.  I mentioned Justin Bieber a lot since Sese showed how popular he is on Twitter.  As I was doing this I put on Pandora to was listening to 92.5. They played some Beatles and Bob Segar.

At about 11:15, I left to get some food, but decided to drive up by the stadium to see if College Gameday had set up anything yet.  I was listening to Cage the Elephant, still. It turned out there was a stage up between the stadium and University Ave. Then, I headed back towards my apartment, stopping at Arby’s along the way. health wise, this probably wasn’t the best choice, but it was too temping. Also, since this is a media use series, I’ll mention that everytime I eat at Arby’s, I think of the line from The Simpsons episode that was a parody of Lord of the Flies: “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s.”

As I was eating my beef n’ cheddar, I was watching Sportscenter.  Afterward, I went to room and watched the first two episodes of “30 Rock” on Hulu.  Then, as I was preparing to write this post, I put on the Pandora station for OAR’s “Wanderer.”  Then, I turned on the radio and went to bed.