18 December 2008

Social Media & the Global Village

(17-Dec-2008) - Social media technologies are affecting the way the world works, more and more every day. They are even affecting the way we think.
"Old-timers" like MySpace and LinkedIn continue to evolve in form and to add users, and an innovative crop of entirely new offerings are emerging at an alarming rate. Each swath of a social media product includes both active and passive participants. Everyone is invited.
Two recent articles from The Christian Science Monitor's Innovation section (http://features.csmonitor.com/innovation/) introduce the reader to new forms of social media, including the practices of "microblogging" and "live video broadcasts". Both are good examples of how the Internet serves as a breeding ground for new styles of user-generated content.
Microblogging is best explained with a look at the pioneer technology, Twitter.com. Twitter's main function is to provide an arena for users everywhere to answer the simple question: "What are you doing?". A user, on his/her profile types in a quick thought or sentence answering that question--as often as desired--and it is visible across the Internet. The popularity of Twitter has gained the attention of employers, and there now exist corporate microblogging tools with a larger purpose. Such services as Yammer, Qikcom, and Present.ly "allow multitasking employees to update each other" with the "potential to facilitate collegial collaboration and help organizations collect, share, and disseminate knowledge" (Humphries).
With microblogging, a local message is shared on a global level. There is not usually an intended audience for a personal status update, the audience essentially selects itself. That is to say, anyone in the world who decides to pay attention to someone else's microblog note is free to do so. In an office or within a business the same is true. Such technology brings us together in a global village--we are empowered to witness activity and events from around the world. We are also free to respond to any other person, if the fancy exists. And that is the true compelling interest of microblogging. In a society where who-you-know often trumps what-you-know, microblogging tools provide a framework for those who hold the knowledge to connect with those who require it. Productive behavior may ensue.
The article on live video broadcasts focuses on a technology called Mogulus.com. Mogulus is a technology which allows for the easy, cheap, and amateur broadcasting of live video on the Web. A few webcams, a little techno-savvy, and the world is watching. The new web software is aiming to take TV "out of the hands of 'experts' and give everyone a chance to do their own thing" (Regan). A Morgulas broadcast can be live or pre-recorded, and both can be scheduled. A widget enables a user to embed the live channel on a personal or other webpage, and an important add-on to the live video broadcast is the simultaneous ability for viewers to join a live chat. With Mogulus offering its services free, video channels can be found on all topics in all languages. The Global Village.
Both technologies showcase our Electronic Culture's move toward unpolished, unedited computer-mediated communication. Raw thought can cause some radical commotion, although it can also create a more authentic conversation or relationship. Participation in integrated social media is often an emotional experience and in both the above technologies an attitude of playfulness is generally used as a crutch to mediate the human aspect of the interaction. If an audience is the Global Village, and interest in a microblogged/videocasted idea is genuine and spurs conversation, then a snapshot of today's Social Media has been harnessed.
Humphries, S. (2008).  Microblog while you work. The Christian Science Monitor, November 19, 2008 edition. Retrieved from: http://features.csmonitor.com/innovation/2008/11/19/microblog-while-you-work/
Regan, T. (2008).  Live, from your dining room, it's your own TV channel. The Christian Science Monitor, December 16, 2008 edition. Retrieved from: http://features.csmonitor.com/innovation/2008/12/16/live-from-your-dining-room-it%e2%80%99s-your-own-tv-channel/


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