Day 450: “The journey is the thing”

Two plus years ago I started with the idea that I would like to do my PhD in Social Media.  It was a vague idea and resulted in a vague title “Emerging patterns in social media.”

The best that could be said about this was, “It was a start.”  But not a particularly helpful one.  One of the areas I really battled with was how to make sense of the data that I would be collected.   And after many sessions …  I finally decided that activity theory could provide the lens.   I could not have been more wrong.  Activity theory is an education focused lens and not what I needed at all.

The title became more complex but no clearer.  “Emerging patterns in social media:  A case study on mmmmm.com.”  The advantage of this title was that it presented a context.  The context was the online publication mmmmm.com.  This round was heavily influenced by the work of Paul du Gay and the production of identity (Organising Identity, 2007) and the circuit of culture, as presented in the Story of the Sony Walkman (Paul du Gay et al, 1997).

And further readings and ponderings this title morphed into “Content creation in online media:  mmmmm.com – a case study of neo journalism.”   A change motivated by the shift away from general emerging patterns to a focus on ‘content creation’ or ‘news production’ in the traditional print world.  However the idea of a case study, together with a content analysis, discourse analysis and interviews, was quite rightly dismissed as most likely to produce “a description  which would not add to the body of knowledge.”

Further readings were required and, as is often the case, confused matters.   The honeycomb model of Kietzmann et al (2012, 2011) presented seven functional blocks of social media as the investigative lens to look at social media.  I failed to notice that I was not investigating social media, but investigating content creation.  So once again the title was adapted to “Individualisation of content creation in a networked society:  A case study of neo journalism at mmmmm.com.”  And in addition to the other methods mentioned above the term ‘analytics’ was introduced into the methodology.  The title was edited into “Content creation in network society.”

The saddest thing about lacking knowledge is that one has no idea of one’s ignorance.  Despair and despondency began to take hold.   Further readings, further thinking and a not so gentle nudge into looking to social network analysis as a method of investigation for this research led to a revised title “A social network analysis of mmmmm.com.”   Further readings and the title shifted again “Online media ideology:  Representational or Performative?”  In essence I was back to the beginning looking at the construction of identity.  However I was not to remain here long.

More reading … and now I am finally where I think I should be “Journalist or netwoker?” An analytic approach to online publishing.”   It might take a while to decide to remain here, but finally I feel more positive.

As Homer said in Iliad “Even a fool learns something once it hits him.”

Extract from Fourteen August:  A journey of 500 days

How others see you?

That headline should not have a question mark, but how others see you is always a question mark so please forgive my bad grammar. My students see me as a teacher, my daughter as a mother, my mother as a daughter, my work fellows as a pain in the ass.
But the more important question is how do I see me… Like the rest of you I am complicated and conflicted because I am not just one thing. I am ME. But who is me… Let me try with attributes and see if that makes a whole (or is it hole) me. I am not a doughnut.
I am friendly, except when you are needy, lying and trying to manipulate me. I am kind, except when you take me for a fool. I am honest… always for everyone (being honest makes you more unpopular than popular – nobody likes the truth). I am difficult, because I walk to my own drum and really, really like doing things my way. I am complicated because I play many roles and some roles are not to my liking or my choosing. I am arbitrary because I like to try new things – sorry guys – I know why you say that. I am old in years and young at heart because the world still excites me. You are many things too, I look forward to seeing the multi-dimensional you

Free to …

In the prologue of his book “Free” Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail, editor of Wired magazine and holder of a B.Sc Physics – George Washington University plus more…) states that the central question of this book starts with a loose end from The Long Tail. “My first book was about the new shape of consumer demand, when everything is available and we can choose from the infinite aisle rather than just the best-seller bin… there is only one way you can have unlimited shelf space: if that shelf space costs nothing.”  And Anderson takes it from here.

Broadly Anderson defines the term FREE in three ways  – free as defined by liberty or unconfined; free as defined by the cannons of freedom of expression and free as defined as having no cost or being a gift.  He also distinguishes between the 20th century free with the 21st century free.  Free in 20th century terms involves hidden costs (In other words, not free, just marketing or advertising free).  21st century free is an expectation that the digital generation has grown up with.

A similar idea is expressed by Alvin Toffler on the post-industrial society (The Third Wave) when he talks of mass customization offering a personalised product to a niche market.  The Second Wave is industrial and mass.  He states “The Second Wave Society is industrial and based on mass production, mass distribution, mass consumption, mass education, mass media, mass recreation, mass entertainment and weapons of  mass destruction.  You combine those things with standardization, centralization, concentration and synchronization, , and you wind up with a style of organization we call bureacracy.”

A tweet on http://twiter.com/WTFmediaconf compares Chris Anderson’s principle of free with Rupert Murdoch’s principle of payment for content.  As Murdoch contructs paywalls around his newspaper and accuses Google and Microsoft of stealing journalism, he acknowledges the digital generation saying ” This new media audience – and we are talking here of tens of millions of young people around the world – is already using technology, especially the web, to inform, entertain and above all to educate itself.” (December 2, 2009)

In a post (June 14,2009) Seth Godin ranted  about textbooks, particularly marketing textbooks which he stated were expensive, unable to provide insight or sell the topic as well as being incredibly impractical.  He starts by saying that “assinging a textbook … is academic malpractice”  and professors should publish online “for free… its part of their job”  So over time this blog and all its posts will become a textbook – that is if I use it properly and make sure that it is reviewed constantly by my co-creators (students) who resemble closely Toffler’s prosumer.  A prosumer is the amalgamation of the producer and the consumer.

Few would disagree with me if I said that technology has made information abundant and changed the publishing world completely.  Publishing (newspapers et al) is under threat in its traditional format, textbooks are under threat in their traditional format and even the academic world is changing.  No more are professors revered as keepers of knowledge.  This knowledge in bygone eras was hard gathered as information was scarce.  The internet offers this knowledge and more to all. So what then is the role of the future academic.  Especially as ideas and new knowledge can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the careers or professions that are changing or becoming extinct due to the brave new world we live in.

Conversations – the list

I like having conversations when…
1.    You have something to say that is of interest to me.
2.    I can learn something or question something and thereby gain understanding.
3.    I can contribute something on a topic that is close to my heart.
4.    I can get a contrary point of view to the situation.
5.    I can vent – get it off my chest – and be shown compassion, not a fix to the problem.
6.    I get information that is important to me – even if it is only an answer to “how are you?”
7.    I get attention that validates me.
8.    I am able to make a connection – even if it is only passing in a supermarket cashier line.
9.    I can provide information that helps you.
10.    It makes waiting a shorter time.
I don’t like having conversations when…
1.    You want something I am reluctant to provide.
2.    You are picking an argument for no reason.
3.    You don’t want to listen or learn, but prove that you are RIGHT.
4.    I want to think.
5.    I want to do something else and feel held up or inconvenienced.
6.    You are not interested, defensive, offensive or angry so that I feel dismissed, foolish or a nuisance.
7.    You are bragging, artificially polite or superior.
8.    I am reluctant to engage – for whatever reasons.
9.    I am being lectured and not expected to contribute beyond a nod.
10.  I am working or need to focus and do not want to distracted.
Conclusions:
1.    Conversations are selfish and self-orientated.
2.    Conversations suit the initiator not the responder.
3.    Conversations fulfil a need – spoken or unspoken.
4.    Conversations can be time wasting and meaningless.
5.    Conversations are often a manipulation, a one-sided convenience or endurance test.
6.    Conversations need at least two interested parties to be real.
7.    Conversations can be talking without purpose – seldom – more likely a purpose however undefined.
8.    Conversations are often about learning or validation.
9.    Conversations share something when they are meaningful and there is an exchange.
10.    Conversations can be a solution to a problem.
11.    Conversations only take pace amongst equals.
12.    Conversations are not about making you feel better about yourself.
Principles
1.    Conversations should engage and flow, adapting to the circumstances.
2.    Conversations should be two directional with no leader and no follower.
3.    Conversations should not have an agenda.
4.    Conversations should be interesting to both/all parties.
5.    Conversations should not demand anything but engagement.
6.    Conversations should not be judgemental – opinion is not rigid.
7.    Conversations should not score points – it is not a competition.
8.    Conversations should be about sharing love (No not flirting, sharing).
9.    Conversations should be orientated around the other person.
10.    Conversations should uplift not destroy.
11.    Conversations are a process.
12.    People are more than content (when you see them as equals they become people) and amongst equals conversation are comforting.

Designer PR

“I will have a cup of coffee,” I say waving the menu away.  “Just coffee, please.”
The waitress pauses.  She looks at me expectantly, with a though of irritation that says “I am busy, please don’t waste my time, just order, half-wit.”  She nods, as if prodding further information.
I repeat, “I will have a cup of coffee.  Thank you.”  I add for good measure, after all I have already said please.
She launches into a monologue that I have some difficulty in understanding, “Latte?  Gingerbread Latté? Mocha?  Peppermint Mocha Trio? JavaKula? Brewed Coffee? Filter?  Expresso? Hand Shaken ColdBrewed Originals? Café Alternatives? FruitKula Blended Beverages? Cappuccino? Milk or cream, nonfat milk, organic milk or soya milk?  Sugar, Brown, White, Carmel or Sweeteners, or Syrup – there are 11 including including Valencia, Classic and Sugar-Free Vanilla?  Short, Medium, Tall?”   She pauses for breathe.  “Just take a look at the menu and let me know. “
Whew, I think, blowing out like a whale.  Who would have thought that ordering coffee could be so difficult?  This is not a Monty Python movie – or is it?  I am not that old school, am I?  One would think this was a movie scene – with Sandra Bullock ordering 27 coffees en route to the cop meeting of Ms Congeniality.  This isn’t even Starbucks.  For heaven’s sake, it is Seattle coffee shop attached to the local Exclusive Book Store.   Maybe I should have asked for tea, I conclude as I reach for the menu.
Designer coffee is so passé today.  Who hasn’t order mocha latte tall or whatever.   Sure it is all so last year, but what if we apply the same rules to PR.  Tailor-made designer PR – wow.  Designer PR however is new.  This new level of PR puts PR on the same status as marketing, branding and advertising, if not higher.  PR is at heart all about conversation and finally there, in that conversation, is the opportunity for PR to own the customer.  Everybody knows that only 14% of people still believe in advertising, that marketing is all about sales and that branding is about perceptions – it is about what the customer says it is, not what the company says.  Major shift alert – are you ready.
Imagine a world where PR is no longer second cousins to marketing, branding and advertising, PR – after drooling for so long – can now rule.  Are you ready?  Do you know what is out there – not only on the menu of Starbuck or Seattle coffee shops, but in the PR toolkit of conversation – listening, hearing, replying or initiating.  Only four ingredients make coffee after all – coffee beans, water and with or without sweetener or milk.
This is a world of one to one marketing (conversations), niche marketing, long tail marketing or personalized marketing based on ‘people like me’, social media, social networks, virtual lifestyles and sharing your every thought, moment, fart and event on face book, twitter, bebop, blue world, my space, ning networks and so on and so forth.  Yes it is a lot to take in.  But it is today.
The rather untraditional move, unexpected move, but then ‘not even the wise know all the outcomes’ of moving a business discipline – public relations – from the faculty of business, to the faculty of information and design has opened many more opportunities than it has closed.  Business is so old school, so tradition, so bound up in rules and regulations, so hamstrung by ‘this is the way it has always been done’, that it is unable to acknowledge that the world has changed.  Information is not scared, but abundant, it is all there at the click of a button.  What hasn’t changed is the ability to use it, to shift it to sort it, to spot trends, to back yourself (Richard Branson would agree) and just go for it anyway.  Designer business is a long way off.  Designer PR is here.
I am quite pleased to be in a faculty that prizes flexibility, originality, innovation and new ways of doing things, new ways of looking at things, new ways of making my voice heard or new ways of listening to what needs to be done.  I am especially pleased that if PR listens, learns and grabs the opportunities offered, PR can finally rule the roost.  After all it is all about winning, isn’t it.