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Category Archives: 2-travelogue

We’re ready, are they?

In the realm of local politics , does social media create a stronger link between constituent and representative? In my analysis of Corey Booker use of social media, I can say that it brought Corey Booker closer to his constituents, but I am not entirely sure it brought them closer to him.

In my travelogue, I showed how well Corey Booker broadcast his activities to the citizens of newark. From youtube, to twitter, to facebook, there are so many ways to stay up to date and be inspired by all the hard work that Mayor Booker is putting in to revive the city. But how well can Corey Booker hear his fans? Is that the purpose of the fan page? I contacted the mayors office numerous times regarding these questions but got no reply.

While I did point out in my two previous posts that Booker did respond to certain comments, the response amounted to Booker asking to converse with the individual off of the page. Why is this? This lead me to think that the page is really just a place for people to sing the praises of booker’s work. Again, Im all for positivity as a means to get people excited and involved, but the dialogic potential of social media was missing. It would be wrong to label facebook as a public space in the traditional understanding of the public sphere. As Lauren pointed out in a comment on my last post, facebook is a great way to aggregate opinion, but the comments that the posts illicit are more often than not those that wouldn’t benefit anyone in policy making.

Overall I would say that the introduction of social media into the political realm is a good thing in that it provides another outlet for citizens to be aware of local issues, but for the time being, the potential of social media for garnering useful feedback is being squandered. Maybe the reps just aren’t ready to encourage their constituents to tell them how they feel…

Hotter Than Reality By Far: Idealized Bodies in the Digital Realm

In Friday’s post, I looked at how virtual bodies are created through the use of avatars in Second Life.  Through this, I learned that virtual bodies are always, to some extent, idealized. (There are exceptions to this, of course:  bodies in World of Warcraft are rarely beautiful, although one could argue that they are typically ideal for fighting, which has greater currency than looks when you’re facing off against a boss.  And of course, there are always intentionally ugly avatars, but this is usually done for the lulz.)

For my concluding post, I’d thought I’d leave the world of Second Life and talk about the current cultural discourse about avatars in general.  For, while I’ve had a somewhat topicality fail this week (suggestion for researchers:  don’t give yourself a week to completely master and perform ethnographic research in an entirely new technology.  It will be harder than it looks.), it is a topic that’s becoming more and more relevant.

First, I’m sure you’ve all seen the posters for the new-ish Bruce Willis film Surrogates in the subway.  Since I’m sure none of you actually saw it–I certainly didn’t–here’s the trailer.  The first minute or so is the relevant part.

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1. any association or union for common action

2. multiple computing and/or network providers agreeing upon standards of operation in a collective fashion

Thus far, H-Man and I have been exploring Google Wave from the perspective of the user. Now it’s time to look at the bigger picture.

Crowdsourced radio or DJ clique?

My travelogue into the brave new world (?) of jelli.net:

Despite my background in content creation, I would class myself as a fairly late (and generally curmudgeonly) adopter of new media outlets.  I do not seek out the shiniest and newest; if my old standard works just fine, I am happy until clued in to something clearly better.  I actually want to be influenced.  I want the most-informed, most picky person I know to shortcut qualitative analytical processes for me, and just tell me “X is better than Y, you need to check it out.”

Remembering the way I took to sites like last.fm— instantly, and on the recommendation of music lover friends— colored the way I approached jelli.net.  Online radio fit into my life easefully, seemingly from one day to the next, a happy result of intuitive user interface plus real applicability to my everyday life.  So my question regarding jelli.net is rather simple:  can this site have a similar effect on both the influential classes, and the “ready to be influenced” – people like me.

I asked a totally unrepresentative, totally biased focus group— a handful of music geek friends, a few of whom are critics for New York-based publications — to use jelli.net, and let me know if they could envision crowdsourced internet-terrestrial radio in their lives.  Could they, for example, see bopping away to broadcast radio as they went about their day, laptops or iPhones primed to participate, nixing, requesting, or chatting about a song?

Below is some of feedback I received:

Community issues:

“Really like the concept of the shout-outs.  I can’t think of another online radio station/site that does that.”

“Actually using the chat option would really depend on the music, if the music made me burn to throw in my two cents.  If I wasn’t fired up about something, why would I chat about it?”

Reputational systems:

“I like that I can get ‘credit’ for picking something out and rocketing it up.”

Site design/technical issues:

“I think it should be ‘in-browser’ radio, as opposed to playing a stream through Windows Media Player. That’s definitely what I’m used to as a user and I think a lot of others are as well.”

“When they bring on the mobile apps I could see this being more relevant.  If I hated a song I could ‘bomb’ it from my phone.”

“Like the user interface – saw there was even a chat there.”

“There should be a lot more than three channels, because some songs will never be ‘rocketed’ otherwise (because they don’t fit one of those three general genres).”

Content choice:

“The tracks need to be a little more tailored to users’ tastes. Playing The Cars through Metric on one station is cool, but I don’t necessarily want to sit through Cake just because a user decided 1996 was cool. The station themes need to be a little more narrowed down, or I need the option to skip tracks I don’t like (not just give it a thumbs-down).”

“Musically, this is a little too unpredictable for me, as far as if you’re wanting to strike a mood/genre with what you’re listening to … If I want to stream loungey ‘60s stuff, for example, there’s really no way to do that on here. On Last.fm or Slacker (or even Pandora), you can do that.”

“I’m a bit hesitant to say I think it’s a revolutionary concept. I think last.fm (or even Slacker Radio, which I can play online as well as through my Blackberry) is more likely to be on at home because it’s extremely personalized and you know what you’re getting.”

“The way the music is selected is right now a little too broad for me personally. I’m not sure this is something I’d use on a day-to-day basis, especially with something like Spotify just coming out.”

Interestingly, regarding music choice I heard from two sides of the fence, from those who were afraid crowdsourced radio would denigrate rather quickly into infinitely recycled top-40 mush, as playlists were hijacked by a herd of over-involved teenagers ― and, conversely, from those who were afraid that a small crew of music geek media elite would wield disproportionate control of a station or show, perhaps leading to very esoteric and crowd-alienating selections.

My general sense is that it will indeed be the music fiends who are drawn to something like this — providing shows/stations are micro-targeted.  The community discussion aspect of this may have the most resonance with music die-hards, as they meet up online with others with similarly defined tastes – providing of course, and this is a large caveat, that the size of the listening community stays manageable enough for meaningful communication. Regardless, to succeed jelli will need a committed user base, whether it is in the tens or the tens of thousands.

That said, it is just really hard to envision this actually working by the thousands of users.  It’s easier for me to imagine 50 or even 500 fans having a meaningful Altcountrypunkpolka Evening, where everyone could have a voice, where 20 “bomb” votes could yank a bad polka off the air – but could 5,000?  Would the logistical challenges of 5,000 committed and active users, all weighing in enthusiastically with their music choices, actually lead to a very incoherent listening experience?  As jelli is very new, and its user base growing (and presumably far off its target numbers), it is just too soon to track how increases in users will affect the listening experience.

On the flip side, I could see great numbers of people trusting and enjoying the musical choices of a small team of tastemakers— just as if the trusted DJ of yesterday has been supplanted by a small, buzzing hive of committed and knowledgeable listeners.  Still, this would not be genuinely harnessing a crowd’s collective music wisdom, but a crowd ceding its agency to a few select representatives.

Wavin’ Along…

As promised, here is a little update on the use of this wonderful and controversial thing called Google Wave…As mentioned last week in class, Jason and I have acquired a copy of it, and we have started messing around with it. First off, there is only a limited amount we can do with it, as we don’t have any friends on it (which i would say is the first weakness of Wave, there aren’t that many people on it…), but we can no get an idea what it is like by being able to mess around with it and watching tutorial videos.I searched for someone whose user name i had, but was unable to find it…


The first thing i wanted to comment on is the interface, which is extremely user friendly. With the help of the shorter tutorial (not the 88 minute one!) i was able to pretty much figure out how to do basic functions. Ther are options tha are so user friendly that its almost unbelievable, you can now drag photos directly into the wave, and they appear in real time to whoever you have chosen to see your wave. By dragging the “Blogger” icon into the wave, it publishes the wave onto the website and the wave is embeddable. The livetype function is interesting, no more wasting time waiting for people to reply, and the playback function (which lets you go through from the beginning of the wave and visualize every contribution or change to it) is also very handy. You can even embed Google maps onto the wave!

Having read a few criticism of Google Wave, the main one seems to be that it is ahead of it’s time.  They tried to jump the gun and get users to switch to something that combines everything from IMing, E-Mail, Chat…basically any social function online along with document editing and collaboration. Mushon commented on our last post, and as we do more research, we will be examining WHY Google would want to create this, especially when it already has quite the lock on e-mail at the moment…to be continued, i will look forward to more comments from all of you in class.



Corey Bookers Social Media Arsenal and how he uses it

Since his election in 2006, Booker has overseen a 36% drop in crime, doubled the amount invested in public housing development, attracted some 100 million dollars in donations to local charities, and recently turned down an appointment to Obama’s cabinet. After graduating from Yale Law, he lived in a public housing complex in Newark where he organized the residents to fight for better living conditions. Now, as mayor, he lives in a neighborhood traditionally known to be overrun by drugs and gangs.

Mayor Booker is the type of public servant who, despite coming from a wealthy family, being a rhodes scholar, and generally being a member of the professional elite, keeps his feet on the ground and lives with the people he is working for. So how does he use different social networking tools to further his quest to stay as connected as possible?

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What’s the appeal of Google Wave?

If you’ve been on the net lately, chances are that you’ve heard of Google Wave. There is an incredible amount of hype surrounding this new software, which Google defines as a product, a platform, and a protocol. This hype is most apparent on Twitter, where people are attempting to connect with strangers to obtain an invite or to collaborate. What’s is the appeal of Google Wave?

Will the Wave have any such effects?

Will the Wave have any such effects?

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Crowdsourced radio: Will we actually like it and use it?

I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
And everything I had to know
I heard it on my radio

You had your time, you had the power
You’ve yet to have your finest hour

- “Radio Gaga” lyrics, Queen, 1984

Radio has fallen by the wayside in the last decades, as we have gotten used to micro-selecting the music we listen to – buying individual tracks, setting up our own playlists, carting our music wherever and whenever we choose via an ever-increasing array of technological devices.  As Freddie Mercury noted even as far back as 1985, the days of radio stations being major influencers in our lives seem rather distant, but I for one can vividly remember when radio “mattered”, when a top-40 song actually had cultural significance, or when college radio stations  were the  saving of music lovers fleeing the mainstream.

For my travelogue I will be looking at jelli.net, an expirement in “100% user controlled radio” that has just come off beta last week, and has just signed a deal to be featured on 400 radio stations.


While crowdsourced music sites aren’t new (e.g.,last.fm, where users opine on and recommend artists), jelli.net is trying to merge both the online music discussion with real radio.  I think this is a really interesting concept.

I’m curious to see how a listening public will accept and engage with this site in its initial stages.  As such, I have asked a few friends (of varied musical tastes and obsessiveness!) to help me out with this analysis, by using the site, reporting on their experience and telling me how crowdsourced radio might or might not realistically fit in their lives.

I will be looking for first impressions/general answers to the following questions:  Will we rediscover radio if there is a whole other social dimension added,  when the music is not just being beamed at us by sources unconnected to us, but chosen by a community of listeners not unlike ourselves, whose (online) thought process we will now be privy too?  In the simplest terms, will we like and use something like jelli.net – or have our listening habits so far advanced beyond radio, that re-incorporating the medium into our lives will not come intuitively.

Take the “M” off of “Masses” and you get “Asses”: Jaron Lanier’s beef with the little people.

Check out Jaron’s resume and you’ll see this guy is at the top of his game. Consultant and advisor to some of the biggest businesses south of san jose, regular speaker and visiting scholar at top universities, Jaron, a renaissance technologist of sorts, manages to apply his tech wisdom to fields ranging from medicine to artificial intelligence. But it doesn’t end there, Jaron has a musical career that has put him on stage with the likes of george clinton and vernon ried! Jealous yet? Get this, he is credited with developing the concept of Virtual Reality.

So by most accounts this is the guy you love to hate. Because he has done it all, one would think that he is a fairly confident character, however, when you read his article “Digital Moaism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism”  he comes across as horribly insecure about his future as an expert. Jaron believes that when you let everyone into the sandbox (crowd source, open source, flat organizational structure, etc.), the chances of creating something of value declines because those who actually know what they’re doing will have their voices drowned out, which, in turn, dooms us to a future of crap decision making.

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