Recently, I stumbled across the article, What if Interactivity is the New Passivity? by Jonathan Sterne at McGill University. It is the sort of media theory stuff that I suspect many of my friends looking at how to monetize their social media activity tend not to read. It builds on the criticism of people passively consuming broadcast media, and asks if the interactions that we have now, liking pages, following friends, maybe even retweeting, or playing a game in Facebook, is really all that different than people watching television a generation ago.
It is an interesting question, and my thoughts quickly drifted to 1984, “If there was hope, it must lie in the proles”, or at least with those who are engaged in social media. Yes, I feel the ghost of Marshall McLuhan standing over my shoulder, whispering in my ear, “the medium is the message”.
Yet, perhaps, McLuhan isn’t all that far off. Perhaps what Sterne is saying is that interactivity, at least in terms of Slacktivists signing online petitions, isn’t really that much warmer of a medium than people a generation ago cursing at the news on the television.
Perhaps, the new, passive interactivity, reflects an even older idea; Henry David Thoreau’s “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. That paragraph, goes on to say, “A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.”
So, how do we transcend this desperate slacktivists passive interactivity? Sterne’s article starts off by talking about Malcolm Bull’s essay, “Where Is the Anti-Nietzsche?” Perhaps there is more of a relationship between these questions than the analogy that Sterne suggests. However, that should probably stand as a blog post on its own.
When I started this blog, many years ago, it was intended to serve as a place where I could gather my writing from other places. Over the years, I've found more of my writing specifically for the blog. When I started at the Community Health Center, I didn't have as much time and energy for personal writing and so the tenor of the blog changed. Likewise, as the audience changes, so does my writing.
I have not been cross-posting blog posts I write for the Community Health Center here, for a large variety of reasons. However, I there have been some blog posts there that I've felt were particularly important. Today, I posted one of them. Psychiatric Telemedicine for Uninsured Patients without Stable Housing. It has a wonky title, but I hope you will stop by and read it. As an aside, SB 13, AN ACT CONCERNING A STUDY OF TELEMEDICINE SERVICES passed the Insurance committee with all 18 members at the committee meeting voting in favor of it. Unfortunately, it was tabled for the calendar.
Another topic I've been following is a very lively discussion on SpinSucks, PR Crisis for Skittles In Wake of Controversial Teen Shooting. How should Wrigley's respond to the increase in sales and people suggesting Wrigley's should donate the money "to the family or causes that would help with racial reconciliation or underprivileged communities".
With around 150 comments there, mine might get lost, so I figured I'd share them here:
John F. Kennedy once said, "When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters.One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity". It seems as if there is too little focus on the danger, and not enough on the opportunity.
Like many corporations, Wrigley's has a commitment to social responsibility.http://www.wrigley.com/global/principles-in-action/people.aspx
"We aim to make a difference by respecting diversity and encouraging inclusion, consistently improving our health and safety practices, providing volunteer opportunities for our associates and through philanthropy with real impact."Wrigley should focus on this and highlight efforts to help make communities safer. "Any kid should be able to walk safely to a neighborhood store."
Use the opportunity to build the brand's Social Responsibility cred.
In a follow up I was asked how I would advise them to do it while staying out of the politics. I responded:
I believe that focusing on neighborhood safety can be presented as a neutral issue. Everyone wants safer neighborhoods, whether they be members of Neighborhood Watch, or parents of black youth. It is a common ground, and by focusing on the common ground, they aren't giving into the activists, they are staying neutral to the politics, and are probably least likely to end up in legal problems.If I were there, I would probably look at putting money into grants to neighborhood organizations that are working towards this. I'd probably try to do a little branding with this, something like the "Safer Rainbow Initiative".
I'd probably do it as part of the Wrigley Company Foundation as part of their "sustainable local initiatives... to improve communities around the world"
Last week, Dave Lucas wrote a blog post entitled Blog Comments: 7 Scenarios. It explored different reasons people leave comments and whether or not you can really tell anything about a blog by its comments. Dave dropped me an email asking for my thoughts on his blog post, and I was going to add it in a comment when I had time.
However, I've been pretty busy over the past week, and really haven't been interacting much online. I think Dave's description of common motivations for adding comments are pretty accurate, even if they are a tad cynical. While I don't participate in comments on my blog as much as I would like, I appreciate comments as a chance to hear different people's viewpoints and discuss them; pretty close to the 'comments as forum' that Dave describes.
Yet his final thought, "Comments do not make or break any blog or website" is pretty much on the mark.
I thought about this again today as the I read a post in the New Haven Independent, Time Out!, about how they are taking a sabbatical from publishing comments. It seems as if some of the trolls that have been posting obnoxious comments on other news sites have found their way to the New Haven Independent.
While there wasn't a place to comment about it on the New Haven Independent, the link to the post on the Independent's Facebook page drew quite a few comments, including close to a dozen from one person, illustrating why comments needed to be closed. He claimed that is rationale was to show that the comments would occur elsewhere, no matter what, which is true.
However, Facebook does give individuals the ability to block offensive users, so I blocked the person.
Yes, comments will take place other places. But it may be best to let them occur elsewhere on sites that have better tools for blocking spam and obnoxious users, and on sites where full time community managers can keep things on track, allowing reporters, or bloggers to do what they do best.
It was a winter Saturday evening in a small New England College town in the mid nineteen-seventies. It could have been just about any such evening, because there was a similar pattern, a similar flow to such evenings. I was a dorky townie living up on Henderson Road looking down over the Village Beautiful.
I sang in the school choir and played in the band; not very well, but enough to get a little bit of a sense of belonging. I worked in Audio-Visual pushing carts with film strip projectors to classrooms or setting up the video camera. It was an early chance for me to get paid for playing with technology. Either that or I would work in the library around beloved books. When all the returned books were shelved for the day, I would straighten out sections where books were out of order. 811 - Poetry, American always seemed to be in good order, but 796.332 Athletic and outdoor sports and games, Ball Games, Inflated ball driven by foot, American Football, always seemed to be out of order as did 612.6 - Human Physiology - Reproduction. I would always be embarrassed spending long periods of time putting 612.6 back into order.
The evening would start off in a familiar manner. I would get dropped off at the Student Union; my base of operations for the evening. Back then, we didn't have cellphones, so the framework for the evening would be established ahead of time. I would have a dime to call home from a pay phone, if necessary. I might have some money to buy some French Fries at the Student Union or to buy pizza from one of the two local pizza shops in town. The default would be established. If I didn't call by 10:30, for example, I would get picked up at the Student Union at 11.
There was bound to be something going on. Perhaps it was a hockey game, either high school, or college at the skating rink. Maybe a classmate was having a party, or there was some college party I could find my way into. I was never invited to parties, but I always heard about them at the Student Union and would end up showing up, uninvited.
Maybe there was a party at the ABC house. ABC stood for "A Better Chance". It was a program for bringing students from poorer, mostly black under achieving city schools, to mostly well to do, white over achieving schools in the country. Mount Greylock Regional High School was one of those over achieving schools. It was supposed to be so that the kids from the under achieving schools would get a better chance at a good education, but more often than not, it was us country kids that were getting learning the most from the experiences.
Back then, we had a small black and white television set that received three channels. There were no VCRs or DVD players. You watched what was on when it was on, if your parents allowed it. For me, that meant we could watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. Later in the morning, Soul Train would come on; about the closest we ever got to seeing music videos or different cultures, unless, of course, we caught a little bit of Lawrence Welk when we visited relatives. Parties at the ABC house were wonderful. They were Soul Train come to life with great dancing that even though I was normally too embarrassed to join in, sometimes I would get drawn in.
In the basement of the Student Union was the Ratskeller, a coffee house that often had good folk music, and down the hall was the college radio station. For me, the radio station was the place to go. There was a good chance I would run into friends there, and if not, I could enjoy the music while reading the news as it came off the ASR 33 Teletype.
The ASR 33, would click clack along at about 10 characters per second with news coming off of the wires. It was a familiar comforting machine, since I had used an ASR 33 years earlier as my connection to some of the first computers I was ever on.
The old ASR 33 came to mind this morning as I drove up to a discussion sponsored by the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists about Citizen Journalists. I had a shirt on that Kim had had made for me which said, "I get my news on Twitter". Back when I got the shirt, several years ago, it raised eyebrows, especially at various "future of journalism" conferences I would attend. Now, many people are used to getting news via Twitter. I thought about how writing good tweets is a bit like writing good headlines and how a good headline editor should be a natural on Twitter. I thought about how cool it would be to get an old ASR 33 and hook it up to a computer that would feed tweets to the teletype similar to how the wire service delivered stories years ago.
The discussion took place in an old factory building that is finding new use as the newsroom for the Torrington Register Citizen. it was a good discussion which moved past the tired old discussions about untrained amateur reporters posting biased unverified information on websites they can freely set up thereby driving real journalists, those who went to J school, and sometimes get paid, out of work.
The discussion focused on legal issues anyone writing online needs to know about. It focused on how professional journalists and citizen journalists can work together to improve openness and transparency in government and public life.
The newsroom reminded me of Mass MoCA. In North Adams, MA, next to Williamstown, I had worked at Sprague Electric in the buildings that would later become Mass MoCA. In fact, it was at Sprague that I first encountered an ASR 33. Now, the old factory in North Adams is an art museum and the old factory in Torrington hosts a twenty first century newsroom. The space is wide open. People can join in on the daily story meetings, either in person, or online. There are blogging stations and microfilm readers available to the public. It is a place to gather, to find out what is going on, similar to what the college radio station with the ASR 33 was for me back in the 1970s.
For nearly four years, Fiona has been doing an Internet based radio show on Blogtalkradio. Earlier this month, she interviewed Jen Alexander about Middnight on Main, a big New Year's Eve celebration in Middletown, CT.
I've been working to help promote the event and I asked if Fiona could get a press pass. Everyone agreed, so she will be attending the celebration as a journalist. She is very excited.
We've spent time pouring over the list of great bands and other performances, as well as the food trucks and other wonderful eating opportunities. I've tweaked Kim's phone to make it easier for Fiona to tweet and blog and do interviews from Kim's phone.
I've also set up some new pages for Fiona. She is too young to have a Facebook account according to their terms of service. However, an older person can set up a Facebook page for her, so I've set up Facebook Fan Page. I also set up a page on about.me to make it easier to find some of her postings.
With that, it is time for us to rush out and begin the festivities and the coverage.