Wheat Thins Van


For decades, advertisers have relied on the meticulously crafted spokesperson to reach out to their target market audience, a fabricated ‘Average Joe’ that appeals to the least common denominator and unambivalently states, “I’m just like you; this product is for people like us.”  Whether it is with the Marlboro man proffering a pack of ‘Reds’ to the self-styled bad boy, or the simple farmer informing other farmers of a better way to buy insurance, or the model two-kids-and-a-yard household family relishing in the delights of frozen dinners, advertisers have historically represented their brands with an image of their intended customer that is tailored to be so extremely ‘average’ that he/she captivates vast numbers of consumers without actually embodying any particular individual.  However, as Frédéric Filloux points out in his article “The Death of Joe Average,” this kind of advertising is becoming increasingly more inefficient due to the fact that “as the content scatters on the internet, so does the audience,” and “analyzing trends [in consumption] has become more complicated” because “audiences are no longer monolithic, their breakdowns are hard to ascertain” (Filloux, 2010). More simply, people have no reason to pay for material they can access freely online, which disintegrates the subscriber base demographic upon which advertisers have traditionally based their marketing decisions.  At the same time an individual consumer no longer relies on one source of information, but rather scans various websites with different stories and perspectives.  As Filloux bluntly asserts, “Forget about Joe Average, he’s dead” (ibid.).  How then should firms reach out to their consumers?  Nabisco’s Wheat Thins brand is certainly not the first company to tackle this difficult question, but it is one of the most creative in its attempts. Through the use of viral ads and extensive, hands-on involvement with its Twitter fan base, Nabisco has successfully adapted traditional marketing strategies to the new media environment, promoting its product in a way other firms strive to imitate.

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The open source movement of the 1980s – 1990s did wonders for the distribution of free, quality software like GNU and Linux. Best of all, open source allowed the public to continuously develop the code, allowing for rapid improvement and benefitting from “cheap failure.”  So what happens when we take the same principle of global collaboration and apply it to global issues? Can the methodology behind software development be useful in creating social innovation? Read the rest of this entry »

With the constant inundation of various social media sites, it seems near impossible to keep up with the latest trends. One website that has gained popularity throughout the past year has been Formspring, a question-and-answer-based social website. Formspring was launched in November of 2009 initially by Formstack , an online form builder that allows users to create surveys, but as a result of the website’s success, Formspring.me became its own separate company in January of 2010. Formspring emphasizes a facet of the internet that very few other social websites exploit–anonymity. Most social websites such as Facebook take pride in obtaining as much information about you as possible and publicizing it. Formspring, on the other hand, is focused around the lack of knowledge of its users. In an attempt to further examine the social phenomenon that Formspring poses, I created my very own Formspring account as well as a survey for Formspring users. To further my research in a more factually grounded manner, I conducted brief interviews with a Formspring administrator, in addition to three Formspring users of various ages-middle school, high school, and college. Through my research, I examined the asymmetrical social interaction that Formspring has created between users and how Formspring has aided in changing social behavior and culture.

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In a world where image is everything, Dump.fm fits right in. Co-founded by Internet Archaeology‘s Ryder Ripps, Scott Ostler of the publishing framework MIT Exhibit and core social bookmark programmer for Delicious, Tim Baker, Dump.fm is an outlet for real-time image communication. Says Ripps, “In a way, it is an iteration of both the chat room and the image board, as it uses pictures to create conversation.” The site allows users to upload images from their hard drive, post from their webcam, or paste URLs of images from anywhere online into single chat room.

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The ads are everywhere. You see them on your Facebook page, on video streaming sites like YouTube, on pretty much any website you can imagine, and now they are on TV. It seems, at least to me, that Groupon came out of nowhere, and came out full force with an aggressive marketing campaign that would ensure visibility. In the past few weeks of researching Groupon, I have found this campaign to have worked as the company has become so popular and successful that it turned down a $6 billion offer from Google. Not the kind of offer just any company would turn down, especially one as new as Groupon.

However, with the way the site is taking off, it seems like the 30-year old CEO of Groupon, Andrew Mason, made a wise gamble. Read the rest of this entry »

The online world of blogging has taken the globe by storm. It’s considered a form of self-expression, an outlet for creativity and a space for anonymous or a full-disclosure style of conversation to take place. As is already apparent, blogging has recently taken on a more legitimate form and usually establishes itself as a credible source of information, regarding any topic under the sun. Music has advanced in previously unimaginable ways because of the Internet and websites, such as blogs and Twitter. I truly believe that very few could claim to have predicted such a radical shift in the music industry resulting from the advent of the Internet, the labels did/do not seem to have be prepared for it. Yet, such a shift indeed took place and now we remain with just four major music labels, all of which are scrambling to discover new ways to maintain revenue now that so much content is available for free online. It’s ultimately impossible for them to prevent.

I took on the role of trying to understand what contributed to this major shift. How are the music blogs changing consumers’ tastes and desires? Does the act of receiving constant updates on music and news related to that music, change our expectations of how music is to be acquired? I take a stab at answering these theoretical questions by observing the “movement” on three hip-hop music blogs, The Chuckness, Smoking Section and We Wore Masks, and also reached out to each blog’s contact person (also the main contributor),all of whom assisted me in obtaining valuable information. Read the rest of this entry »

This travelogue took a lot of self-control and focus to complete because I realized, on behalf of ‘research,’ that OkCupid is super addicting! I found myself in a blackhole I like to call ‘the man hunt.’ Without realizing it, I had wasted hours and hours just rating people, looking up matches, and reading ridiculous messages, pretending to be annoyed but secretly enjoying the attention I was getting. The reason I was so absorbed with the site was due to OKCupid’s “Quickmatch” service, where they show you a preview of possible matches – their photos, interests, basic information – and reveal their username (for further snooping or message initiating) once you rate them out of 5 stars. The cool thing about this application is that if you rate someone 4 or 5 stars and he/she rates you 4 or 5 stars too, both parties are notified of each others’ high ratings. Let the flirting begin!

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To many people, Foursquare simply is the childhood game they played with their friends in the playground. For other, Foursquare is a way to stay connected with their friends and to learn more about the city they are in. Foursquare is a location based application that aims to make cities easier to use and more interesting to explore. Users check-in to venues using smartphone application, mobile web or text messaging. Their check-in location is shared with friends and each check-in awards the user points and sometimes “badges”. There are many types of badges and some badges require users to check-in to a venue a certain amount of time. Foursquare allows users to bookmark information about places that they want to visit, to read friend’s suggestions about the venue and also to see other user’s suggestions about nearby places . Businesses and brands utilize the Foursquare application to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences. Businesses owners are able to use the information and statistics provided by Foursquare to see who comes through their store and better target their marketing and advertising towards the right demographic.
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The Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) represents one of the first and most sophisticated attempts at organized social transformation and movement building under globalized neoliberal capitalism. Central to their strategy and analysis is the role of media and communications as a cohering/unifying factor in the midst of contemporary isolation and fragmentation of the working class. This understanding is reflected in the everyday practices of MMP, including through their use of new media tools and platforms. In order to better illuminate the uniqueness of how MMP operates, I’ve taken indymedia, and specifically the Philly Independent Media Center (Philly IMC) as a point of comparison, since it is often held up as the exemplar of new possibilities for organizing centered around new media. The Philly IMC is a part of an international network of Independent Media Centers founded on the idea that anyone can and should “be the media” as a counter force to increasingly centralized and commercialized global powers. The two groups have very different ideas about how to best make use of these tools- ideas that come out of very different ways of looking at the roots of our current social, economic, and political crises.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have personally been involved with MMP for the past 3 years or so, and have shared in their process of development. This project comes both out of my personal experiences (which I think we can count as participant observation) and out of interviews conducted with people involved with MMP, including founding members Todd Wolfson and Shivaani Selvaraj. Any comparisons made to indymedia is based on their discussion of MMPs values, and is not a reflection of their thoughts about the value of indymedia’s work. It’s also important to point out that the organizations have a complicated history and relationship- one that warrants further exploration, but not here necessarily. Two MMP founders are in fact on the Philly IMC editorial board, and one wrote his dissertation on indymedia. There’s a lot more to it than that, but it’s a good illustration of the connectedness. Despite this closeness however, the two groups do have different origins, and use new media technologies in markedly different ways. The best place to start with this analysis is with both groups’ main sites/blogs. Read the rest of this entry »

A few weeks ago, I came across shatterbox, a social network centered around video narratives of twenty-somethings’ paths to career satisfaction, usually by way of entrepreneurship. The site is in its nascent stages – there are only 28 videos and only 106 members in New York state. Of those members, few of them are very active, many seemingly joined just to view the videos. A few users, though, seem quite enthusiastic, uploading pictures, writing answers to questions on their profile and creating ‘project’ pages to detail the things that they are working on towards realizing their career dreams.
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It was practically stealing. A gaze at the screen of my phone by the cashier was all that was needed in exchange for a falafel meal—no cash, change, or receipt was involved in this transaction. I had done nothing to earn such a bargain, and neither would the other eight hundred individuals that would enjoy the same offer throughout the week. My time and an automated Facebook update would be the only form of “payment” required, which was well worth the benefit.

This is exactly the kind of interaction that was envisioned by Mr. Nhon Ma when he began his start-up online service company, Tenka, in October of 2010.

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Board games used to be played on live boards in real time with live people. However, as with the advancement of technology, these times are changing. Now, thanks to Facebook applications and Apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android, people can compete against friends or strangers in the classic game of Scrabble or the new, Scrabble-like Word With Friends. Although these games are extremely similar, the concept and following behind them are very different, especially in the way players interact with each other. The advent of implementing Scrabble on Facebook and the popularity of Words With Friends indicates a new aspect in social media; people do not just use Facebook or smart phones to communicate with friends, but to compete with them.

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This week’s assigned readings came at an ideal time. After a few phone conversations with marketing teams for the Met and ABT and extended research on how companies are making use of new social media, I was still unable to find specific answers to all of my questions. These conversations and readings about building community however caused me to look at Facebook in a new way, and find a new angle for this travelogue.

College students love Facebook. It is truly a website made for the people, by the people. Since its founding in 2004 however, Facebook is no longer a website dedicated solely to college students. It is a global community used by students, parents, and professionals. College students originally went onto Facebook because, as the film The Social Network puts it, “Facebook is cool.” Now Facebook is not only who your friends are and what party you went to, but your identity.  It was your social life, online; now it is your entire life online.  As Facebook continues to play more and more of a role in defining individuals, users are more cautious about how they present themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

Your weekly reading summaries and questions by Elizabeth, Hannah, Danielle, and Kevin

Here Comes Everybody, Chapter 1 (p. 1-24)

Chapter one talks about the changing idea of forming, joining, and acting in a group since the creation with the new ease of the internet.  Here are some key phrases to make note of:

  • The Former Audience-Dan Gilmore’s term describing the people who react to, participate in, and alter a story as it is unfolding. In our reading, the message board participants and viewers of the StolenSidekick website were the “former audience.”
  • A Plausible Promise-Eric Raymond (remember him from open source?) defines this term as the “sweet spot” is an idea big enough to inspire an audience, but still achievable so as to also gain their confidence.
  • The Institutional Dilemma-Shriky’s point highlighting the contradiction of all institutions that exists in order to make use of group effort, but at the same time lose resources by directing/paying for that effort. “Institutions expend resources to manage resources.” Read the rest of this entry »