Family ties: Rates of social media adoption

26 01 2009

I read Roger’s innovation-decision process and agreed with how he defined the process into steps: Knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation and confirmation. These steps can, of course, be defined correctly in a number of ways, but I saw no flaw to Roger’s approach.

I especially agreed with Roger’s generalizations of “early knowers” because of a recent interaction I had on Facebook with my aunt, a “late knower,” that I could relate to:

1. Earlier knowers of an innovation have more education than do later knowers.

Related to Facebook, this is absolutely true. She contacted me to ask how she could “become friends” with my sister just last week. Because I’ve been on Facebook since 2002, I obviously have more knowledge about Facebook than my aunt (who just recently joined Facebook) because I’ve had more time to acquire it. However, I have a hard time seeing a general correlation between higher education and early knowers related to social media because quite often early adopters (teens and tweens) are far less educated than late adopters (adults).

2. Earlier knowers of an innovation have higher social status than do late knowers.

I don’t mean to brag, but… Really, I have more friends, more connections, more of a network than my aunt because of my early adoption.

3. Earlier knowers of an innovation have more exposure to mass media channels of communication than do later knowers.

I’m not sure if I have as many mass media channels, if those channels are to be defined broadly into, for example, music, video, etc. However, if the channels are defined as sources rather than media than, yes, I do have more channels via groups, news streams, etc.

4. Earlier knows of an innovation have more exposure to interpersonal channels than do later knowers.

I definitely have more exposure to interpersonal channels because of my more extensive networks and access through these networks.

5. Earlier knowers of an innovation have more contact with change agents than do later knowers.

This is totally true. Having joined Facebook when it was just limited to college students, I was much closer to the structural changes that occurred on the site as well as the feedback channels, which have since become more distant. Because my aunt just joined Facebook, she missed the opportunity to access these.

6. Earlier knowers of an innovation have more social particpation than do later knowers.

My participation is much higher than my aunt’s because of the amount of time and opportunity I’ve had to particpate in Facebook. As a result, I have more wall postings, pictures, etc. However, I have far fewer messages and applications than my grandmother, who, despite her short time on the site, has invested a large amount of time into it. Thus, time of adoption may not always correlate to level of participation.

7. Earlier knowers of an innovation are more cosmopolite than later knowers.

Related to my aunt, this makes sense. I live in Ballard, she lives in Lake Forest Park. Enough said. However, my roommate has yet to adopt Facebook at all, so the correlation is defintely a generalization. I’d be curious to know what percentage of Facebook users live in urban vs. suburban vs. rural locations. I’d assume, like Rogers, that the majority live in urban locations.


Shaping songs: Music distribution and its affect on the art

22 01 2009

Ever since Columbia produced the first vinyl record in 1948, the physical distribution of music has affected its form.

Albums of songs could only be as long as records could physically hold, which affected how artists wrote music. The length of songs and albums expanded with evolutions of vinyl and newer, popular distribution forms — from 8-track to cassette to CD and digital, which we have today.

What’s beyond digital and how will that affect songs and albums? By researching the cause and effect of physical distribution forms of the past, I hope to explore in my term project what the future may offer.

As Albin Zak says in The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records, “Even if rock and roll had its roots in live performance traditions, it was nevertheless… first and foremost a recorded music. Its rapid rise in popularity was a result not of live performances but of mass radio exposure, which was fed by records — primarily the new and affordable 45-rpm singles that were the staples of teenagers’ record collections.” These 45-rpm records were physically limited to holding approximately three minutes of music on one side. Thus, songs of the pioneering rock and roll era were written to be within three minutes — forever shaping popular music.

In contrast, digital distribution forms today free musicians from having to create music around physical constraints. For example, Nine Inch Nails last year released “Ghosts I-IV,” comprising of nine-track instrumental EPs, 36 tracks in total.

This freedom is not unchallenged. Within popular music, there is tension between artistic creativity and popularity, which continues to be driven by traditional song forms — shaped by distribution methods of decades past.

This term project will examine the history of music distribution and its affect on the art today and in the future.

Class reflection #6

19 08 2008

One of the more interesting discussions we had in class yesterday was related to the iPhone being a closed system. Apple seems to defy the idea that monolithic, closed systems are dead, as suggested by the authors of Wikinomics. Despite logical thinking that a closed system would be unattractive to people, along comes the iPhone, just like the iPod before it, to defy convention.  The iPhone is:

  • Only available on one carrier (AT&T) in the US
  • Only available in one form factor (touch-screen; no flip phone or QWERTY keyboard)
  • Only available in two colors (previously just one)
  • Only allowing users to access content and applications through iTunes
  • Moderating which applications are available to users
  • Relatively expensive in terms of both price point with contract and data plan

Compared to other smartphones from BlackBerry, Microsoft and Nokia (Symbian), which offer multiple phone styles, carrier, applications and services, the iPhone is greatly limited. Yet, it is the fastest selling phone of all-time, attracting mobs to AT&T and Apple stores when the latest 3G iPhone was made available. It was TIME Magazine‘s “Invention of the Year.”  The iPhone is adored by consumers and press alike because it trumps its limitations with an unprecedented user experience and has become a status symbol.

The iPhone’s success begs the questions: Do people really want an open system if an alternative closed system can provide better experiences? Do people want variety and flavors (as suggested by Yochai Benkler and Chris Anderson), or do they want a single product to be like everyone else? The iPhone is yet another example of Apple challenging logical economic approaches to markets with products that provide experiences that trump all other purchasing decisions to gain market share from competitors.

Questions for We’re All Journalists Now

18 08 2008
  1. How should we qualify who should receive preferential press treatment when dealing with non-traditional journalists?
  2. What are the advantages/disadvantages of federal shield laws for journalists?
  3. Is journalism actually a practice, rather than a profession, as Gant asserts? How can “professional journalists” define themselves beyond the pay stub?

Review: We’re All Journalists Now

18 08 2008

We’re All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age.  Scott Gant.  New York: Free Press, 2007.  240 pp.

On the 2008 US presidential campaign trial, a select group of journalists follows the candidates and gains special access for interviews and photo opportunities. Whether it be a press conference, sporting event, or parade, the pack of journalists has greater access to the candidates than average American citizens. Rarely does anyone ask why.

We see the same privilege granted to journalists in presidential press conferences, sessions of Congress and Supreme Court trials. With technology advancing the ability to create and disseminate information online and quality of online journalism on the rise, who are “journalists” today anyway?

“Although we are not all engaged in the practice of journalism, any one of us can be if we want to,” says Scott Gant, a distinguished Washington attorney and constitutional scholar. “In that respect, we’re all journalists now.”

In his book, We’re All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age, Gant explores press privilege within the context of US law and politics. Through thorough examinations of court rulings and how each branch of government regulates press access and privilege, Gant argues that this “more perfect Union” has a less than perfect system for regulating the freedom of the press.

“Preferential treatment for professional journalists is so common today that we often don’t even notice it,” Gant says. In our passive state, Gant argues that we’ve wrongly misidentified journalism as a job rather than an activity.

Gant takes a historical, methodical approach to supporting his argument. He reviews the rise of the American press system and points out that although recent technological advancement has pushed the need for updated rules of engagement for journalists, it is only the most recent catalyst. He says freedom of the press, since its inception, has been narrowly bestowed by government branches to professional media companies, wrongly excluding individuals, book authors, freelancers, libraries and other publishers of alternative media. Gant says online journalists are only the latest group to be left out.

He reviews how the courts have defined press freedoms as constitutionally guaranteed by “The Press Clause” in the first amendment in the Bill of Rights and identifies the ambiguity of 1972 Branzburg vs. Hayes Supreme Court decision, which rejected reporters’ contentions that they should be exempt from compliance with subpoenas, as the cause for confusion about press freedoms today. He faults the Supreme Court for evading the hard questions about the nature of press freedom since Branzburg and avoiding to evolve the definition of journalism despite renewed urgency by online journalists. Gant says journalism is “in flux” with traditional media organizations and online journalists at odds and trying to determine how they can exist harmoniously and if they should enjoy the same privileges without direction from the courts.

Gant is not shy to assert his own opinion. “There is virtually no historical support for the claim that that the Press Clause bestows rights on the ‘organized press’ that are not enjoyed by others,”  he says. “Moreover, attaching constitutional significance to judgments about who is a member of ‘the press’ would invite one of the few things we now the First Amendment was designed to avoid: conditioning of speech on securing a license.”

After he argues that press freedoms should be extended to individuals practicing journalism rather than just blanketed over the traditional, professional media industry, Gant transitions to define what privileges the freedom of the press should guarantee. He dedicates the discussion to shield laws and criticizes state shield statutes for being “woefully outdated,” and limited in scope. He uses as example the 2006 Connecticut shield law that only protects an undefined “news media” and does not expressly cover blogs or nontraditional media.

Regardless, Gant says even if more specific or amended state shield laws arise, “…The absence of a federal shield statute leaves an enormous gap in protection for journalists.” He blames the ambiguity of the Branzburg decision for limiting support in Congress or efforts by media organizations to pass a federal shield law in the past and the current Bush administration for undermining renewed efforts and believing that “a shield law would undermine national security by tipping the scales in favor of journalists…”

Gant concludes that we need to overhaul the structure of press privilege and freedoms, which do not meet today’s demands. “We need a thorough reexamination of existing laws to debate how they should be changed to properly account for the reality that we’re all now capable of being journalists, and to avoid relegating non professional journalists to second-class status,” he says.

Gant’s assessment of press access and privilege is timely and thought-provoking. At a time when the boundaries between professional and amateur journalism are blurring, we have an increasing need to determine to whom, why and when, preferential press treatment should be granted. With a presidential election in the horizon, the need is immediate. Gant provides groundwork for the greater discussion about the role of press in democracy and the definition of journalism looking forward.

As Gant points out, our pervasive system of press preferences has created “a journalistic caste system, in which those working for established news organizations are given priority over others sharing information and ideas with the public.” He demonstrates that this system no longer alone serve the interests of the networked, connected public, which has more diverse, specific demands for information, and has greater access to create its own content and dialogue. Citizen journalism can help fill the void.

“Journalists are not a priestly class. They are citizens just like the rest of us,” Gant says. He makes a compelling argument through detailed examinations of constitutional interpretations and legislative, judicial and excutive precedent to prove his point. Any student of media, law or US politics has something to gain from reading and realizing We’re All Journalists Now.

Abstract: Everything Wired Must Converge

10 08 2008

Christopher Elliott’s article “Everything Wired Must Converge,” is outdated, and not just because the article was published in the Journal of Business Strategy in November 1997. Referencing CompuServe and Prodigy as converged networks that are “beginning to behave like the public Internet,” and introducing VPNs as a new technology also date the article and contrast the technological landscapes of 1997 to today.

However, the article was ahead of its time, identifying network convergence as a turning point for business efficiency and online social interaction alike. Yochai Benkler expanded on the importance and magnitude of network convergence in “The Wealth of Networks,” published nearly a decade later.

Elliott ‘s expert sources in the article also forecast the “Supernet” – a hybrid of what we consider intranets today that would be “faster, safer and more pervasive than today’s Internet.” Article sources say security is the only impediment between the Internet connectivity of the day and the “Supernet.” Today, the Supernet as described in the article, has not yet manifested, but business’ adoption of network convergence vehicles such as intranets, extranets and VPNs has expanded. Consumers have not adopted these vehicles, but features of the preexisting closed networks (Prodigy, primitive AOL) have spun off to primary mediums for this audience: Instant messaging and forums are now mainstream communication tools. More importantly, the maturation of networks and this direction toward a Supernet is enabling access and content creation for all.

This idea of increased access and content creation, namely by individuals, is the driver behind Scott Gant’s book, “We’re All Journalists Now.” He argues that converged networks are skewing the media landscape and threatening some of the rights and privileges (shield laws) traditional media previously enjoyed. As the importance of blogging as a source of news and opinion grows in terms of quality, readership and thought-leadership, courts will have an increasingly difficult time deciphering what news sources should be granted confidentiality and privacy. If these privileges are withheld, a downward domino affect could occur: Journalists will have less access to sources and thus have less to report, resulting in a less informed public.

Often we think about converged networks, as presented by Elliott and Benkler, as positive evolutions, but, as Gant points out, the mostly positive affect of converged networks on media has repercussions, too.

Response for The Wealth of Networks

6 08 2008

This is in response to Sarah’s review of Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks.

I’m glad you share my disdain for Benkler’s writing style! It was a little painful at times.

I agree with you that his view of how networked societies will make radical changes in the world is bold, but I disagree that the view leans toward some utopian goal. I don’t recall reading an extensive section about how societies will settle in perfect harmony one day exist because of networks and the Internet, but, hey, I fell asleep reading the text a couple times myself. Ha!

Benkler’s observations of current events seem to ring true. It’s easy to see that radical changes are taking place. The way people interacted 10 years ago compared to today using digital and mobile communications has changed drastically. Access to technology in third-world countries is growing rapidly. The first computers some people use in remote parts of the world are smartphones. I think Benkler’s point is more that these changes in communication and technology are happening, but not necessarily how they’re being used.

You say that Benkler’s “fatal flaw” was “the idea that the networked information economy will make the world a better place and those in it more connected and aware of one another.” Can we determine if this is a flaw yet? Are we too early to determine if Benkler is foolish or prophetic? Considering he’s talking about major societal changes that we’re hardly a decade into, we are probably too early in the game to declare a winner. I also noticed that he and Chris Anderson used many of the same examples of networked societies – probably because there are too few successful examples at this point worth noting.

You’re right to say that Benkler’s observations of these changes aren’t revolutionary.  Overall, I thought Benkler made very few statements that took strong enough positions that were worth considering arguing, which was my “fatal flaw” with the book. He didn’t offer any cutting-edge statements. To your point, he talked a lot about “opportunities” for society, but never went so far as recommending a course of action that societies should take to improve the world.

I think negative reviews are difficult to write because I often veer into tangents that do not support my central arguments, but you achieved listing a consistent flow of reasons why you advise against reading Benkler. Kudos.