Category Archives: papers and presentation

Join me at the 2010 Mom 2.0 Summit

I’m very excited to be attending the Mom 2.0 Summit in Houston, Texas from February 18-20. The schedule of events is chock full of sessions that I want to learn from.

I think this conference is one which really does enlighten all parties – marketers and ‘moms’ –  on how the other operates. I regularly hear complaints from both sides – it seems there are as  many different expectations as there are companies and bloggers. I’m looking forward to  seeing both sides have an opportunity to describe their experiences, and make  recommendations that lead to even better relationships.

I’m even more excited to have been invited to share my insights as part of the panel for the f  first professional session of the conference. In the session we’ll be discussing setting a strategic  path for your blog through creating a marketing plan and SMART objectives that are both trackable and achievable. I’ve been thinking for about a month now on exactly the best way for me to support the session with additional materials – and I’m considering doing an e-workbook for attendees to use in creating their own marketing plans.

I’m about to plan all my travel arrangements and start thinking about what I’d like to achieve from this conference. I have had a number of women tell me that Mom 2.0 was the best conference they’d attended last year. I firmly believe that with the schedule and talented women I’m lucky to be surrounded by leading these sessions, and the amazing array of women and companies who will be attending, 2010 will be just as successful.

I’m looking forward to getting along and meeting all the exciting, inspiring women who will be there. Will I get to meet you?

Do online communities pretend to care?

I am fortunate enough to have been invited to attend IMSI, the Invitational Masters Student Invitational, to be held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, the weekend of October 16-18. Given Rutgers received over 100 applications, to be one of the 25 students invited to discuss their current research and proposed dissertation topic with Rutgers faculty, existing doctoral candidates, and other invitees is a privelege and real highlight of my academic career.

In my application I had to submit an existing paper to demonstrate my research. The paper I chose to submit was on identity work performed on twitter through the use of language and sentence structure. This paper looked at how people create and present an identity of themselves on Twitter, primarily through the use of @ replies, hashtags and retweets. While it’s a decent paper, for Rutgers I’d like to extend it to look at this identity work, and how the Twitter community sees its need to create an identity of concern in crisis and tragedy. This is where I’m headed.

Online communities and crisis

We’ve all seen media stories of tragic events, and how people are affected by them – and how they’ve gathered together online as a result. While sites exist to create online memorials, sometimes it crosses over and a personal fun page is morphed into a place for others to gather when they’ve passed on. On Twitter, I have personally witnessed multiple occasions where someone has ended up tweeting their own tragic events. The death of a wife. The death of a child. I wonder what would have happened if Twitter had been so commonplace during larger tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shootings.

I have watched the online community gather to provide concern and support to individuals directly affected by tragedy. It is this kind of resonance that led me to undertake a small content analysis on the tweets associated with the Australian bushfires last year. I wanted to find out who was tweeting about it? How were they involved? What were they saying and why?

The paper was a very small, very specific analysis in which I was surprised to discover that two thirds of people who twittered during the high point of the bushfire-related tweets were located nowhere near the tragedy. In fact, they were overseas. None of them knew people directly affected. And what were they saying?

Apart from retweeting basic information, the majority of people wanted to know how could they help?

Seeking triangulation? I’m not quite there yet…

Last week I attended the presentation of Leysia Palen’s to-date work in crisis informatics at CU. And the data appears to be reflected in her unit’s research (in particular, on the American-located Red River floods) as well. Exactly the same percentage – two thirds of people tweeting during a disaster are not directly involved.

So, is this real?

I hear a lot of people who doubt the friendships experienced in online communities. They say “how do you know they’re real?”

Now, of course they’re not doubting that the person tweeting is human (sometimes now, however, that presents an entirely different issue), but they are definitely doubting their authenticity. How do you know someone is really concerned about you if you’ve never met them face to face before? And it’s a really good question.

The Karen Walker factor

Karen Walker was a special character who found life, and resonance with many in the hit sitcom, Will and Grace.  While the show has had its day, there are many Walker moments that still hit the nail on the head.It is what is swimming in my head as I plan my paper for the Rutgers Invitational.will and grace

One of these is in an episode when Will and Grace are not talking (after a massive argument in which Will tells Grace to move out, which I swear was one of the strongest bits of acting on television I’ve seen). In chatting with Jack about how to get Will and Grace to talk again, she firstly says, “pretend to think, pretend to think.” She then follows it with “Pretend to care, pretend to care.” Of course Karen does care. She’s just conscious of the need to appear to care as well. Plus it’s funny.

So here I am:

* Are people who offer support in online communities ‘pretending to care’?

* Is the expressed concern a demonstration of identity work that gains them favour and positions them as caring individuals you’d want to have as a friend?

* How does the caring from the community affect the person experiencing tragedy?

Do you have any experience of this? Would you be willing to undergo an interview for my research? What do you believe is true?

My sincere thanks goes to the SJMC at CU, without the support of which I wouldn’t be able to conduct any of my research and also in particular to Dean Paul Voakes who saw fit to support my application with a letter of recommendation that I never saw, but am convinced was highly influential in my acceptance.

Research on Twitter and friendships

I’m a grad research student focusing on social media for my final thesis. So it’s time for me to move on from boobs to my next adventure. (I know, I know… we loved the boobs.)

Anyway, my next project will be on relationship/friendship/connection strength on Twitter. My impression is that the strength of the ‘relationships’ (for want of a better word) forged on Twitter is as strong (if not more so) as those which are begun in real life.

twitter-cartoon

These Twitter relationships, built over time in 140 characters or less, lead people to expressing genuine concern for other members of the community, both on Twitter as well as leading to IRL. This genuine concern leads to things such as offers of employment; support during times of grief, stress and celebration; connections for people who find it more difficult to connect in real life due to shyness or geography; and probably heaps more.

I’d love to gain a pile of Twitterers who would be willing to help me with this research paper. I would imagine it would just involve an in-depth survey where I ask you some questions. This could definitely be done online and before you answered it I’d like you to think about the connections you have made on Twitter, how important to you they are, and what sort of level of concern you have for the others. Consider things like do you think of yourself as part of a community? A family? How many strong connections you have? etc. Your responses would be completely anonymous.

If you’re willing to be involved, just comment below with your Twitter name and I’ll let you know when it’s ready to go – probably in about 2 or 3 weeks time. Alternatively, DM me on Twitter (@mediamum)!

Ignite Boulder fun with breastfeeding and media

What a great night we all had at Ignite Boulder! The presenters were all wonderful, well prepared and community vibe was enormous. The ATLAS theatre was packed – you can definitely see why these were some of the hottest tickets in town leading up to the event. This community is incredible. I’m so grateful to have been welcomed into it.

It’s so kind of Glenn Letham to have filmed it all from the audience, and posted presentations on YouTube for everyone to see. (The official ones are going to be available on http://www.igniteboulder.com in the near future.) Here’s mine, courtesy of Glenn. By the way a sincere thanks to everyone who make it happen, and to the massive support and great feedback I’ve gotten. It was spectacular.

Ignite Boulder 3!

igniteboulder3

I’m really excited to be presenting this coming Wednesday evening at the third Ignite Boulder, being held at the ATLAS building at CU. Tickets to the event sold out in just 7 hours. (When I say ‘sold out’ I mean they were taken… the tickets are actually free.) That’s scary fast.

Ignite is a fantastic event in which speakers have just 5 minutes and 20 slides to present their topic. There’s no restrictions on topic and in fact this time around much of the topic selection was crowd-voted prior to selection. There are no sales pitches allowed and the presenters’ slides are on auto pilot, so you have to keep up because once the ignition is pressed, there are no delays or going back!

In a town like Boulder which is so focused on tech and business, it’s great to have an event which allows the community to present on stuff just for fun. Ignite lets you meet lots of other people, possibly learn something and laugh a heap.

If you’re not in Boulder or missed out on a ticket, you can see the videos of all the presentations a day or so after the event. It’s also going to be live through KBFR Pirate Radio here in Boulder.

List of presentations:

The History of the Mustache – Tim Poindexter
How to properly prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse. -Ace Harmon
10 Design Predictions for 1909… or so I reckon. – Brandon White
How to Sing Your Way out of Danger -Ef Rodriguez
In the face of a bad economy, we techie folk are resourceful – Ingrid Alongi
Breasts and media’s obsession with them. – Joanne White
Everything I Learned About Marine Mammals I Learned While Cutting Them Up. – Bruce Wyman
The world is burning but I still have my yogurt – Jen Mayer
New Music Biz Model: What Would a Crack Dealer Do? – Grant Blakeman and Reid Phillips
How to use Twitter for marketing and PR – Brian Shaler
How to Make A Rap Song -Brandon Whalen
How to piss off people and lose friends in Boulder – Tara Anderson
Awkward Rules – rules for awkward situations – Vikas Reddy
A needle in a stack of needles or getting people to notice you – Matt Galligan

Breastfeeding in America

Recently many Twitterers (and their associates) contributed to my survey on American women’s attitudes to breastfeeding and its representation in the media. I promised to share the outcomes of my research and the survey, which this post seeks to do. For those interested, the entire paper (30 pages plus 15 page complete survey result appendix) is available by emailing me or asking on Twitter and I’ll get it to you straight away. If you’d like to see the summary of survey responses, this link takes you to the final Survey Monkey summary.

American Breastfeeding Rates

America has a dismal breastfeeding rate. The World Health Organization and the US’s own CDC recommend babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives, and then breastfed with additional food until they are two years old and beyond. The American Government then worked with the CDC in 2000 to develop the Healthy People 2010 initiative. It includes breastfeeding goals which fall short of the WHO and CDC’s own recommendations – that rates of breastfeeding be targeted to 75% initiating breastfeeding at birth, with 50% at six months and just 25% at one year.

Each year since 2000, American media has been fed press release diatribe on how successfully this plan is being implemented. And mainstream media have unquestioningly spurted it back at the general public. Headlines like “Breastfeeding rate soars” (USA Today 2002) and Reuters 2007 story headlined “US breastfeeding rates rise to record high” disguise the real issue – that even after 8 years of a government promotion to increase breastfeeding in America, 25% of women never even try. In 2005 only 11% of American women exclusively breastfed for 6 months (as opposed to the WHO recommendation of 100%) and in 2007 a quarter of women who initiate breastfeeding at birth have introduced formula within the first week of their child’s life.

So what’s the problem?

Media loves boorolling-stone-janet-jackson-coverbs – as long as they’re shown in a sexual way. We’re all familiar with advertising and other images of breasts. For example, this 1993 cover image of Janet Jackson on Rolling Stone won critical acclaim. The story focuses on Jackson and her embracing of her sexuality. The focal point is her breasts.

But a full 13 years later, BabyTalk magazine’s cover created outrage. No less than 700 complaints were sent to the editor over a cover promoting breastfeeding. So getting it straight, a magazine committed to mothering and babies, getting flak over a cover which promoted – mothering and babies.

babytalk_cover_2006-08

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my paper I explain how I believe this has occurred. The movement of women into the public sphere has seen them embrace their femininity in a new way. There’s a whole “look, I’m in the boardroom and I have breasts” ferocity which has been associated with feminism. Women don’t like being confronted with images which remind them of the roles their mothers had. Feminism’s abject failure through the 1980s and 1990s was its devaluation and disempowerment of the importance of nursing.

Yes, I argue that the feminist movement has contributed to a sociey where even women more readily accept images of breasts that celebrate them on a sexual rather than a mothering level. This is reflected in media too. TV programs such as Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives and Ally McBeal feature women who embrace their sexuality and power as successful. Women who hold traditional mothering roles are less successful, frustrated, angry or just plain stupid.

And then to have the audacity to bring those breasts, feeding infants, into the general public? No wonder women in general lead the call for ‘discretion’ and ‘hooter hiders’.

The survey

I hoped to get about 30 responses. The survey went viral and in three days I received 128 responses. More than a third of respondents added extra information to each of the basic four questions asked. Women have strong views. In my paper I relate this passion to religiosity. The religion of breastfeeding meets all the academic standards of definition. No longer is breastfeeding normal, usual practice. And I find that distressing.

While 95% of respondents did not believe media has any influence over their own ideas about breastfeeding, more than half believe media should show it more often. Clearly, women believe media has an influence over someone (if not themselves). One key response was along the lines of “media doesn’t influence my ideas about breastfeeding because it’s not shown in media.” My assertion is that this absence has just as much influence as if it were shown.

Moving forward

So what does this mean for feminists who embraced the bottle as their key to freedom from the ugliness and backward past? It means that the general public can look at American women and say “hey, are you women so stupid that you need to be told to breastfeed? And after eight years, you still aren’t getting the message?” It means that heck, if you’re an educated woman you need to recognise everything about you that’s powerful, not just breaking through the glass ceiling.

 

If media showed breastfeeding as part of normal life on television and other media. If it made it present and normal – not a focus of a storyline, but just part of the everyday life of families with babies on tv, then could we begin to see this overtly sexual obsession with breasts change? Could we begin to see women being more accepting of their breasts as being a special part of a relationship with their child, not just as part of the relationship with their sexuality? If, in a similar way to Hollywood reducing smoking in movies, we began to insert breastfeeding into them… what would happen? And what about the international impact this could have? Hollywood movies are seen worldwide.

Certainly our only hope can be to improve on dismal American breastfeeding rates – and who knows where it could end.

A visit to the A pool

Following my previous post about unhappily swimming in the B Pool, I’m pleased to have been able to scramble my way through to a bit of a splash in the A pool. You know, that place where the cool kids are?  

My final paper for Media Ethics,  Twittering a Funeral: Social media’s challenge to professional journalism received a final A grade. I think my professor was just as relieved and pleased about it as I am. december-2008-001

I’ll be working on the paper further to prepare it for possible conference/journal submission, under the intuitive guidance of Professor Mike McDevitt. Without his assistance in structuring my paper all the stuff in my head would still be struggling for a voice.

Anyway, I’ll happily send it along to anyone who’d like the long, academic version. Just email me or DM me on Twitter. But for those of you with lives not academically focused, here are the key points:

Statement of Purpose
This paper examines the impact on the professionalism of journalism as it integrates the social networking tool Twitter in traditional news reporting. The paper considers the use of Twitter by the Rocky Mountain News in which a child’s funeral was “live blogged,” as well as the ensuing outcry and response from the editor, John Temple. It identifies the particular characteristics of Twitter as a communication tool, and proposes an ethical model which supports the use of Twitter in professional journalism.

The paper then outlines the case study of the Rocky Mountain News’ reporting of a child’s funeral using Twitter, and identifies why this use was not only unethical but a case of unprofessional journalism. This is journalism which doesn’t address the recommendations of the Hutchins Commission, and puts the autonomy of American journalists, as well as their credibility, in the firing line. There is a desperate need for reporters to be trained in the functionality of Twitter and fully understand it as well as the community (not audience) which supports it.

I recommend a model which outlines three ways Twitter should not be used, as well as three ways in which it supports professional journalism.
NO:

1. When the use of Twitter (either through implementing the tool or the result) is perceived as a possible invasion of privacy. 

2. When another journalistic tool would better serve the reporting need or the ability of the journalist.

3. When a journalist or media entity is unfamiliar with social media in its complete form, not just as a broadcast medium.

YES:

1. As a resource for newsgathering purposes, in preparing information for stories, getting leads, etc.

2. As a public journalism tool – where the journalist can attend an event and act as the mediator between the community and the event. Eg: a red carpet event, where the community can ask the journalist questions and she can filter them and respond accordingly (of course, this takes a different sort of journalistic training.)

3. For Amber Alerts (abducted children), especially when the child is suspected to have been abducted overseas; and for issues of imminent need or notice such as natural disasters, etc. The input would come from reliable sources, and media would then be able to aid in important efforts to communicate with the respectability of their professional branding adding weight to the message going out through the Twitter stream. 

I hope the A pool welcomes me back a few more times. It’s really nice.