Monthly Archives: November 2009

The latent sphere of the network society

Time for a brain dump. I have just completed reading work coming from Mor Naaman, Jeffrey Boase and Chih-Hui Lai at Rutgers, slated for CSCW 2010, on the content of messages in what they’ve decided to call “social awareness streams.”

And right there I have an issue. I’m lumping it together with the term “weak ties” which found prominence in the 1940s (well before the internet was considered in social theory) and the found a new audience a few years back with its adaptation to online networks.

Today, referring to the activity on microblogging sites as either of these is probably very limited, based on myriad case studies of individuals and their very real connections and friendship strength, found through CMC. They are neither “weak” (as in traditional notions of acquaintances who can be called upon when needed), nor simply an “awareness” of others in a network. They are also not built in a heirarchical organization – they are horizontal. In fact, Castells’ emphatic assertions that when we talk about communication we are actually discussing realms of power and influence, means that “communication” isn’t a term to be thrown about lightly.

He’s right.

My theory of the strength of these relationships is discovered through a realm of CMC that is primarily representated in phatic communion. The relationships exist as communities within what I call the latent sphere of the networked society. (In this sense, I use the networked society as defined by Manuel Castells.)

ghostbusters slime

You can buy Ghostbusters-type slime like this at http://www.midnightwarriorsentertainment.com

If Vincent Miller is correct, and Twitter is nothing more than a celebrated phatic technology-a technology which exists purely to support phatic communion, then the very real relationships being discovered today through its use are far more tangible than those discovered through discussing the weather in real life. And the fact that Twitter has existed and morphed in so many ways over these short years I respectfully suggest dispels any notion that it fulfills the “social awareness streams” suggested by the researchers at Rutgers. It, in fact, provides people with real connections, in the most concrete form – in fact (hold on to your hat) in a way that potentially surpasses that experienced in real life.

These people will regularly never have met in real life, until at least having met online first. Homophily still exists – we still form communities on this phatic network. (Just look at the hashtags to find the communities and topic areas that draw people together. And that’s before Twitter added the List function. And then also, what about all the third party tools that operate solely on allowing you to classify your ‘groups’ of people in that space, such as Tweetdeck…) But these communities are not just asking simple stuff like what the weather is like, or just passing the time of day. The depth of feeling is not just as acquaintances. This depth of connection to people we never before would have connected with, and in fact to many we would never approach in real life (such as the homeless), has never before been realised by any other form of media. It’s new. It’s potentially both scary and exciting.

Even though Twitter is accepted by the mainstream middle class to such an extent it no longer receives explanations in newspapers (and in fact is used as the basis for reporting by lazy journalists), it still has not reached critical mass. But it will happen.

I believe the mommyblogger community is leading the way in demonstrating the case study proof of my assertions. We have seen real connections, and real support – people reaching out in very real ways to support each other, typically in times of great need – within this community. This latent sphere bubbles up and is electrically tangible. Like Flubber (it’s highly viscuous, highly volatile, and has a great sense of rhythm) or the slime in Ghostbusters. (Sorry, but you’ll understand my meaning :)) It’s not just “aware”.

So imagine the future – where more communities realise that potential. And then take it that step further, where the brands you love most are able to be part of that space. You know the old saying that if mums ruled the world, there’d be no more war? Here we are in a global networked society, with mums leading the way. Who can tell what comes next?

 

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I’ll pay for content when there’s Twitter with penguins

Usually, I don’t consciously pay for content. I say ‘consciously’ because if I click on a link and there’s a paywall, I won’t do it. I also don’t subscribe to any newspapers or magazines (online or in ‘dead tree’ format). Basically, the quality of the content I’m seeing doesn’t make me want to pay for more of it.

Mr Murdoch does have the right idea. Getting people to pay for content is definitely a way forward. But News Corp. is missing the biggest opportunity they have. It’s a global organization, and while about 1% of their content producers are the best in the world, they are still.. the best. Why doesn’t News identify that globally based 1%, and put it in a paid-for format? At a really, really high price?

If Mr Murdoch thinks that I, or anyone else, will pay for the other 99% of his writers who are complete crap, then he’s mistaken. I’d rather read the far more professional blogs, with the diversity of opinions and transparency News cannot offer.

After freelancing, creating content for a few different publishers it also appears that organizations don’t like to pay their contributors. Waiting six months for a payment on any work done is not a viable business model. I don’t know why some people think it’s all hunky dory. And it’s been this way for many years.

So I don’t pay for content, and I’m wary of accepting any freelance job at all these days. Because I simply don’t like waiting to be paid when my time is better spent on more pressing things.

But my kids? That’s another thing entirely. I currently pay for three social network memberships. And while I’m a member of about 15 social networks, none of these payments are for me. They’re for my kids. My kids totally expect to pay to get access to information, community and technology. They’re growing up with a pay-for-it frame of mind. At the moment it’s a mum-pay-for-it model, and I’m fine with that because the quality of content accessed by my kids on networks like Club Penguin is really worth $5.95 a month. It’s a vibrant community, with great quality stuff. If organizations continue to treat them this way, by the time they’re my age they’ll be paying for content, and believing they should.

But a key part will be getting rid of the 99% of crap for adults and creating something worth subscribing to. We need a Club Penguin for grown ups.

Sidebar: For the “something shiny” HCI people: Twitter with penguins. Now we’re talking.

 

 

Glade’s sweet smell of good social media PR with Edelman

This week I was happily invited to join some other Colorado-based bloggers for a few adult snacks, refreshments and the opportunity to build a basket of goodies to take home. It was a great evening, put on by Glade’s parent company, S. C. Johnson’s wonderful PR team from Edelman in Chicago, to promote their Sense & Spray product.glade scent sense and spray air freshener

This event demonstrated Edelman actively identifies good people for brands to work with, and can put together an event that suits all parties. Edelman has fantastic staff, for a start. The company also teamed with social media expert, Ann-Marie Nichols, to ensure they are hitting the right targets.

If you ask me, Ann-Marie and Edelman are smart operators. After meeting/catching up with them on the evening, my belief is that the bloggers were hand-picked to represent ethical, good quality content providers who actively engage with their readers. Women who are authentic. At a time when companies are seeking out mommybloggers more than ever, there are now bloggers who do nothing more than run around the USA for the opening of every envelope. Smart companies, like Glade and Edelman, see beyond what I’ll call “the usual suspects.” (Yes, I’m biased. I was invited.)

Edelman’s staff were well equipped with plenty of information for us to take home in the best format – a USB drive. The activity of putting together our basket of goodies allowed us to chat about the product informally, and we also had fun coming up with possible names for a new Glade scent. (Yes, someone said Bacon. I said Aussie Bush. Ambiguity FTW.) I was so lucky to have Jen Goode so kindly say yes to drawing by freehand (magic marker) one of her lovely penguins on my mug. jen goode penguin mug

It has pride of place on my desk and reminds me how special women entrepreneurs like her are. I have always loved Jen’s designs and you can check the penguin ones out on her blog, and buy a whole range of stuff featuring them. She also does other designs too. She’s an amazingly talented woman in so many areas. I feel so lucky to have actually met her too now.

The event was a great success for Glade. The bloggers discussed myriad issues beyond and including the product, and we all came away feeling positive – and that associated value rubs off. Edelman gets it.

But the goal kick for me was the extra mile Edelman went for me. Here’s the thing:

We were all offered a basket to give away on our blog. Awesome. However, I asked if it would be okay for me to give it away to anyone, anywhere – given some of my readership is in Australia. Glade is a global brand, but I completely said I understand if that’s not okay. I just needed to be clear on my blog. On the spot, the Edelman ladies said “Absolutely, we will make it work. We will send the basket to anyone who wins.” So I’m stoked. I love that foresight and appreciation of my needs.

And I’m excited to give away this lovely basket of goodies to you, even if you’re an AUSSIE!

glade basket

What you'll win! (The mug will be a fresh one that you can draw on. Great if you're like Jen Goode!)

The basket contains a snuggly IKEA blanket/picnic rug, Swiss Miss mix with mini marshmallows, eye cover, ceramic mug and some permanent markers to decorate it with, and the wonderful new Glade Sense & Spray plus a refill that we have had now in our bathroom for a few days. It smells great and with the refills costing under $4 each (USD), and them lasting about a month each, even graduate students and startups can afford it (ahem).

HOW TO WIN!

To enter is easy – Leave a comment below with your recommendation for a new scent for Glade, focused on Australia. It can be funny or serious. The winner will be picked by Harry and Charlie on Wednesday and I’ll contact you via Twitter/email (make sure you leave contact details). I’ll also announce the winner on the blog. Go for it!