Reflections on Readings Week 6

This week’s readings in my Social Media & Theory class focused on the power of new social tools to do social good (or not). In Chapter 8 of Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody, the author describes the Prisoner’s Dilemma in which two prisoners, without communicating, have to decided when to cooperate and when to deflect. In describing this thought experiment, Shirky also notes that the “shadow of the future” is at work. This concept is about direct reciprocity and assumes that if you do someone a favor today, that person will do you a favor tomorrow — kind of like pay it forward. As I have assumed more management duties at work, I can definitely see this at play. The more interaction coworkers have with each other, the more friendly (hopefully) they will be — in turn, this generates its own goodwill. I am more likely to help someone if I consider them a friend because they have helped me in the past. When you think about it, the basic societal structure can be boiled down to this concept. 

Shirky also notes in this chapter that many other authors have written of the nation’s declining social capital (we don’t meet for bowling leagues or community civic endeavors as we once did). However, the promise of cyberspace is to rebuild that lost sense of community, but not in all ways that social scientists expected. For example, Shirky details the rise of MeetUp groups — that groups of people who can’t necessarily find each other easily in society at large can congregate online (i.e. witches as on the most popular/active MeetUp groups). I really thought it was a good point when Shirky said, ” Falling transaction costs benefit all groups, not just groups we happen to approve of,” and when he noted that “it’s not a revolution if nobody looses.” These new social tools have created improved centers of communication and assembly, but we have lost professionally (news media/journalists) with mass amateurization, traditional definitions of what is a journalist and being more connected (even the bad guys like terrorists).

In Chapter 9, Shirky discusses the Small World Pattern and Six Degrees of Separation. The primary advantage of small world networks is that they are highly resistant to random damage because the average person doesn’t perform a critical function (unlike in a traditional hierarchy). I think this holds true, and is applicable to many of today’s online groups and friend-of-a-friend networking. Another good point here is that the tools like Facebook that rely on friend-of-a-friend networking actually work better when they augment human social choices versus replace them. I also agree that these tools boost the leverage of the most connected people/businesses/organizations/etc. In the end, it really is more about who you know versus what you know.

For the additional article reading, I thought the Steve Buttry article on Pinterest was really good. I use Pinterest a lot personally. In a professional capacity, my university Tennessee Tech uses Pinterest too – we have boards pinning items in the school colors of purple and gold, boards of campus photography and boards to give inspiration on what’s best to wear to an interview. I think the potential to use Pinterest for commercial brands has a much higher success rate versus what we have been doing — it’s harder to sell the college experience versus a particular designer brand. But it is a platform that our audience uses, and having a presence is important. We also use it internally as a place for our Creative Services unit to showcase some of their design work.

The second article for this week focused on tips for good digital photography. I have always been big into photography as a hobby — always taking photos at the birthdays, kids’ milestones, reunions, vacations, etc. I actually have a love/hate relationship with digital since I now rarely ever print my photos — they are just archived online — versus when I had film to process. Any photography/video is a must now for web and social media. Our most active social media posts at the university have a multimedia component. In last night’s Twitter chat #PRStudChat, several participants noted that your posts on Facebook that have no photo/video with them get pushed down below those that do. I also think this is good to keep in mind that today’s modern journalist needs to be a jack-of-all-trades — must be able to interview, write and photography/film a story from beginning to end.

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