Hobby or career? Working in new media.

The internet has presented new opportunities for employment, allowing people to collaborate and contribute to projects that may previously have been impossible because of geographical limitations.  This has been applied to great effect, by many companies offering prize money to anyone who can provide solutions to specific problems, often in the field of science (Zittrain 2009).

Barriers to entry have also been lowered for people without high levels of expertise however, such as citizen bloggers, who may participate in any part of the news production process without training in journalism. Successful bloggers such as Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo have been able to exploit the ease which new media allows content to be shared, to build a following, and make their contributions profitable.

Receiving equitable compensation for work within new media has become a challenge, however, in addition to issues of ownership, portability, and work-life balance (Gill 2007). Bloggers such as Martin (2011) note however, that the flexibility afforded to those working in new media, for example, by having the power to set your own hours and employ efficient communication tools, remains a desirable prospect for some.

A balance must be struck then, to allow individuals the freedom to create work in an online, mobile environment, and protect their right to fair compensation and working conditions.

References

Gill, Rosalind. 2007. “Informality is the new black.” Technobohemians or the new                           Cybertariat? New Media work in Amsterdam a decade after the web: 24-43.                       Accessed April 11, 2011. http://networkcultures.org/_uploads/17.pdf

Marshall, Joshua. 2011. “Talking Points Memo.” Accessed April 17,                                                       2011. http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/

Martin, Pevashini. 2011. “The future is free…lancing, that is!,” NuMedia, April 18.                             Accessed April 18. http://pevamart.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/the-future-is-                    free-lancing-that-is/

Zittrain, Jonathan. 2009. “Minds for Sale.” Video, posted 18 November. Accessed April                   11, 2011. http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive/events/2009/11/berkwest

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Googling our way to good health

New media have been credited with empowering users, giving citizens the opportunity to participate in “mass conversation” rather than the traditional top-down communication model. This dialogical approach to communication becomes controversial, however, in the context of health and medicine on the internet.

Wyatt, Harris and Wathen (2008) argue the internet has fostered new kinds of health “info(r)mediators” or people and technologies that transform and modify the meaning of information. People seeking advice about health issues on the internet may unwittingly be subject to the biases of mediators, who intentionally or unintentionally distort medical information.  The spread of unreliable material about prescription drugs for example, has been identified as a risk posed to users (Nielsen and Barratt, 2009).

However, panic about the danger of new media’s implications may unfairly characterise users as passive and uncritical. Lewis for example, found individuals who sought medical information online were sceptical of its credibility, and actively compared it to other material in order to make informed decisions (2008, 534).  As a result, the legitimacy of online health providers, such as that discussed by St. George (2011) would be determined by the examining a range of factors.

The internet’s capacity to empower individuals to take control of their health may be strengthened by growing media literacy therefore, and an ability to evaluate the role of info(r)mediation.

References

Lewis, Tania. 2006. “Seeking health information on the internet: Lifestyle choice or bad                  attack of cyberchondria?” Media, Culture & Society 28 (4): 521-539.

Nielsen, Suzanne and Monica Jane Barratt. 2009. “Prescription drug misuse:                                    Is technology friend or foe?” Drug and Alcohol Review 28 (1): 81-86.

St. George, Jillian. 2011. “Dr. Digital,” Not so new to Media, April 10. Accessed April 10.                http://notsonewtomedia.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/dr-digital/

Wyatt, Sally, Roma Harris and Nadine Wathen. 2008. “The go-betweens: Health                              technology and info(r)mediation.” In Mediating health information: The go-                          betweens in a changing socio-technical landscape, edited by Nadine Wathen,                      Sally Wyatt, and Roma Harris, 1-12. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Blinded by bright lights

Critics of social media and mobile technology have pointed to a celebration of narcissism as the reason behind their popularity, with individuals’ lives played out online for an ever-growing audience. This perception may have been legitimised by the clinical diagnosis of  “Truman Show Delusion” or TSD, a belief that everything a person does is monitored, as though they star in their own show (Deuze 2011, 141).

Though TSD represents an extreme in terms of media engagement, it could be viewed as symptomatic of the pervasiveness of media in everyday life. Deuze posits that life is now lived ‘in’ rather than ‘with’ media, so much so that it has become an “invisible interlocutor” in people’s lives (2011, 139). The argument that media use has become so automatic it has become invisible may be at odds however, with the suggestion that technology has led to an edited or redacted form of identity, requiring conscious decision-making (Hartley 2000).  For example, Harbison (2011) discusses the portrayal of different versions of her identity on LinkedIn and Facebook.

The generalisability of the invisible media concept is also limited by research documenting different cultural and generational effects in new media use (Bell 2006). For example, where some may view media solely as a means for connecting with loved ones, others may see a launch pad to stardom.

References

Bell, Genevieve. 2006. “The age of the thumb: A cultural reading of mobile technologies                 from Asia.” Knowledge, Technology, & Policy 19(2): 41-57.

Deuze, Mark. 2011. “Media life.” Media Culture & Society 33(1): 137-148.

Harbison, Jessica. 2011. “The realities of new media: Multiple identities,”                                          Jessica Harbison, April 3. Accessed April                                                                                        3. http://jessicaharbison.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/the-realities-of-new-                          media-multiple-identities/

Hartley, John. 2000. “Communicational democracy in a redactional society: The future                 of journalism studies.” Journalism: Theory, Practice, Criticism 1(1):39-47.

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Tweet freedom

The ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak by civilian protesters has been cited as a significant demonstration of the power of social media.  Twitter and Facebook were used by protesters to mobilise and coordinate action, and to galvanise will against an oppressive regime (McCarthy 2011). Perhaps the greatest testament to the influence of social media in this case, was the Egyptian Government’s attempt to shut down their use completely, albeit unsuccessfully.

Shirky (2011) suggests that internet freedom aids advancement of a civil society, and as in the case of Egypt, openness of the internet may act as a gauge of democracy, or the political health of a nation. It has also been proposed that empowerment through social media might be achieved on psychological level, and that civic engagement online might have real effects on individuals’ feelings of self-efficacy and control (Leung 2009, 1330).

Like every facet of new media however, political activism and social media are double-edged swords, with governments using the same social media tools to monitor dissidence and crack down on protesters (Shirky 2011). Lee (2011) suggests strategies for new media use by political parties are still in their infancy, however, and could also carry significant risk. The public nature of new media may therefore have dangerous consequences that must be weighed against the potential to achieve social change.

References

Lee, Faith. 2011. “Politics and new media,” Faithchantal’s Blog, March 26. Accessed                      March 26. http://faithchantal.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/politics-and-new-                      media/

Leung, Louis. 2009. “User-generated content on the internet: An examination of                              gratifications, civic engagement and psychological empowerment.” New Media &                  Society 11 (8): 1327-1347.

McCarthy, Caroline. “Egypt, Twitter, and the rise of the watchdog crowd.” Last                                modified February 11, 2011. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-20031600-                     36.html

Shirky, Clay. 2011. “The political power of social media: Technology, the public                                   sphere, and political change.” Foreign Affairs 90 (1): 28-43.

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Entertainment on demand

Levy (2006, 41) concludes that what is discovered on another person’s iPod playlist “is not merely a revelation of character but a means to a rich personal narrative, navigated by click wheel” and for some, this may be true. It could equally be argued however, that this is grossly hyperbolic, given the range of experiences, meaning, and functions individuals may derive from the same entertainment content or device.

The idea of personalisation of access to content generally may be more meaningfully explored therefore, as it represents a measurable trend. The desire for increased control over the delivery of content is evidenced for example by the number of movies downloaded illegally to personal computers (Singh 2008). This trend potentially jeopardises film industries reliant on ticket sales for funding. For this reason, both music and film industries have had to look at ways to adapt to consumer demands on price and convenience, such as that chosen by the Rajshri Group – producers of Bollywood films – who are making films directly available via download to overseas markets, in line with consumer expectations (Singh 2008).

Though what you choose to listen to may not be such a telling insight into your identity therefore, how we get our music and how we listen to it, may indicate significant shifts in our new global culture.

References

Levy, Steven. 2006. The perfect thing: How the iPod shuffles commerce, culture and                       coolness. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Singh, Madhur. 2008. “Bollywood’s viral videos.” Time International 171 (14). Accessed                 March 16, 2011.                                                                                                                                     http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1713342,00.html

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Identity as performance in online social networks

The growth of social networking sites has prompted exploration of what drives people to create visible displays of connection. Donath and Boyd (2004, 73) propose that by making relationships visible to others, our identities can be verified and consequently, build trust in the claims we make.

The authenticity of online user identities is questionable however, as they may strive to portray their “ideal” rather than “actual” selves.  Goffman (1959) suggested that there is a “performance” of the self that occurs, an instinct that has been mediated and magnified through online social networks (Pearson 2009).  Risks exist therefore if there are inconsistencies between the public or “front-stage” persona, and private or “back-stage” identity (Goffman 1959). Some of these are illustrated in a satirical article from The Onion (2003).

Donath and Boyd (2004) highlighted risks to privacy and reputation, as concerns in social networking. However, this paper was published before the emergence of platforms including facebook, which allow users to display their connections arguably, with greater nuance.

A metaphor of ‘exhibition’ was also proposed more recently, which may better describe user identities on newer social networking sites, providing greater archives for interaction (Hogan 2010).

It is clear that the benefits and costs of social networking are specific to each individual, however, and how much of themselves they are willing to share.

References

Donath, Judith. and Danah Boyd. 2004. “Public displays of connection.” BT Technology                   Journal 22 (4): 71-82.

Goffman, Erving. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday.

Hogan, Bernie. 2010. “The presentation of self in the age of social media: Distinguishing                 performances and exhibitions online.” Bulletin of Science, Technology, and                           Society 30 (6): 377-386.

Pearson, Erika. 2009. “All the world wide web’s a stage: The performance of identity in                   online social networks.” First Monday 14 (3).

The Onion. 2003. “Mom Finds Out About Blog.” Accessed March 12, 2010.                                         http://www.theonion.com/articles/mom-finds-out-about-blog,944/

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Experiencing new media

Unprecedented developments in technology are allowing people to communicate in myriad ways, through increasingly fragmented media. Writing this inaugural blog post for example, represents a personal change communication, and brings with it mixed emotions.

Bell (2008) discusses this tension between the desire to be included in online networks in a public way, with concerns about reputation, security, and identity for example. It may be valuable to be cognisant not only of the amount of new media we consume or create therefore, but its impact on measures of wellbeing and what is forgone if we choose to connect.

Though we may have the ability to connect with more people and produce content regularly than we have perhaps in any other time, using platforms such as facebook or through devices such as mobile phones, this constant interaction has the potential to become a burden or diminish the quality of interpersonal relationships (Bell 2008). Potential pitfalls in having new media so readily available and user-friendly have also been identified in terms of quality and reliability of content, from a consumer standpoint (McIntosh 2006).

From a personal perspective, I continue to negotiate my way through new media, adapting my use over time as the technology, and my relationships within it, evolve.

References

Bell, Genevieve. 2008. “Digital Economy Forum: Presentation.” YouTube video,                              posted April 28, 2009. Accessed March 4, 2010.                                                                          http://www.youtube.com/watchv=oE6QWUKIP5M

McIntosh, Ewan. 2007. “Just because you can blog in one click doesn’t mean you                              should.” Last modified November 27,                                                                                              2006. http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2006/11/just_because_yo.html

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