Academic: Indiana University Kokomo – Web 2.0 Strategy

Indiana University Kokomo Web 2.0 Strategy (Written in 2009)
Case for Change

Now more than ever current and prospective students are alive and thriving on the internet. They form their college choices based not only on what their advisors and high school counselors recommend, but they form opinions collectively online in a phenomenon known as the groundswell. The groundswell is defined as a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather from traditional institutions like corporations. In IU Kokomo’s case, they aren’t getting it from an educational institution.

Indiana University Kokomo has a limited web presence. The current website is convoluted and ineffective to navigate for the average user. There is plenty of information that the general public doesn’t need and not enough of the information that the public wants. That’s just at the frontend of the IU Kokomo presence.

There are currently a handful of educators who have embraced the groundswell as a means to promote and collectively gather input from their students. Dr. Scott Jones, an Indiana University Kokomo professor, is one such educator. Dr. Jones’ strategy using Facebook is a collective area of knowledge where current alumni can gather together to share resources and job knowledge for their fields. Dr. Jones also uses it as a podium to discuss changes in the degree program and class offerings. The advertising element is subtle and the community is still growing. As a result of Dr. Jones’ efforts, he now has a greater understanding of what his students want to see in the New Media Degree as well as the overall interest and understanding of these students’ needs.

Dr. Raul Mosley is a professor at Indiana University Kokomo specializing in Communication Arts. Dr. Mosley’s approach has been an attempt to involve students in blogging communities as a requirement in one of his classes. Dr. Mosley embraces Facebook, but not in the same way that Dr. Jones has. As a result of Dr. Mosley’s class, many students have begun maintaining their own blogs and befriending each other as well as Dr. Mosley on Facebook. He has turned inactive participants into active contributors and shown them they that have the ability to share knowledge.

These educators are ahead of IU Kokomo in embracing the groundswell. The case for change is this: the prospective students of this institution are ready and willing to participate. Only by listening to them can IU Kokomo grow in both retention and enrollment. What would make a student choose IU Kokomo over Ivy Tech Community College? There’s a stark difference in per credit hour costs. Ivy Tech is less expensive, so how do you convince a prospective student to choose IU Kokomo over Ivy Tech? Involvement.

What the web is saying about IU Kokomo
At the time I wrote this I utilized Google to search for what the unapproved web presence of IU Kokomo was like. The unapproved web presence being what others are saying about IU Kokomo that is unsanctioned by the university officials.  What’s highly beneficial is that there’s virtually no negativity about the campus. This gives IU Kokomo the opportunity to shape their involvement and image.

Now even though there isn’t any easily accessible negative information, I have befriended many of the students and a few of the faculty. I hear generalized complaints about many aspects of IU Kokomo, but these voices aren’t being heard by the appropriate people for changes to be made. Anyone who follows these individuals online may develop a negative impression of the campus based on their friend’s experience. So here lies an opportunity to address the needs of students and to increase awareness of IU Kokomo. This will forge the way for an involved community from within and without the IU Kokomo campus.

What to do about it, immediately.
IU Kokomo should take the knowledge gained in previous market research and use that to create a strategy to leverage the groundswell.

There is plenty of knowledge to be gained on the subject of retention by asking the professors to perform research. There are over 3,200 students according to information provided to me by Dr Jones. If IU Kokomo was willing to listen, there is a lot learn on how to retain the current student body.

Li and Bernoff, co-authors of “Groundswell”, have much to say regarding what attracts new students. Li and Bernoff would suggest using the POST method (People Objectives Strategy and Technology) for establishing what potential and current students (People) are ready for as far as groundswell ideas and technology, what (Objectives) goals are to be gained by execution, how IU Kokomo can leverage the message being given by the implementation (Strategy), and then of course what hardware is necessary to support these objectives (Technology).

People
The people have been using many of the adaptive social media for quite some time now. It is more and more common for even the non-traditional students to appear on Facebook or Twitter. If more educators would encourage the usage of these technologies this would increase the participation of the inactive percentile of current students. This by word of mouth would infect their friends drawing more people into these social media sites. The students and prospective students that IU Kokomo would like to know more about how the campus will impact their long term goals.

After implementing research to determine how effective each technology will be by researching to discover where IU Kokomo’s social technographics lies in IU Kokomo’s students and how effective each approach will be. IU Kokomo will be better equipped to implement an approach to the groundswell.

What better place to tap into the groundswell than to use some of your already active creators and critics and utilize them to found a community in which to listen to the groundswell? Discover what students have a voice and opinion negative or positive and see what can be done to impact them and if they are willing participate in a community to help better IU Kokomo. These students have become the founders of your community and once it starts there’s no turning back. Have faculty who are willing and excited about the communication with students start blogging and posting within an online community and answer the questions and concerns of the community in as timely a manner as possible.

Objectives
What are IU Kokomo’s objectives? To market themselves to potential students and retain the ones currently attending. This seems straight-forward but how do you utilize the groundswell to the ends of this objectives and what are the objectives of IU Kokomo in relation to their Web 2.0 presence.

IU Kokomo has yet to establish itself even on the web. The website in use even though it is slated for destruction and recreation is convoluted and unable to be updated easily. The information is unorganized and not quickly accessible. The goal of any restructure of this website should be making information finding as effortless as possible. The same should be true of the accessible community through forums, blogging, and social networking. Determine who will lead these areas and make them accessible to more than just a select few and continuously updated as opposed to the current nature of the website.

Strategy
A complete information architecture overhaul is in order for the website as well as implementation of willing and effective faculty members to spearhead the Web 2.0 community sites. I would also strongly encourage members of the student body and alumni who are excited about this community become a part of it as advice and listening from people on the same level go a great distance to expand influence.

The faculty could answer questions as reasonably as possible towards the ends of policy and educational requirements. The students could answer questions of life on campus, clubs, groups, and overall effectiveness of teachers, classes, and curriculum.

It is important to understand that in this strategy you must listen to the voices of the people of the community as these voices are waiting to be heard and if you can accommodate and evaluate the issues they present everyone benefits and it shows the community that IU Kokomo is listening. It will take some time to build this up, it would be best as previously stated to offer some incentive at first to join this community build it into a semesters curriculum as an experiment or offered as extra credit for varying degrees of contribution. Criticism will occur, allow this to happen and do not under any circumstances censor it. Respond effective and carefully!

Technology
I believe IU Kokomo’s best candidates for groundswell technology is a wiki, departmental blogs, and an online community with roots in Facebook. I believe these two technologies would cover a gap in knowledge and a gap in inspired innovation on campus.

Wiki
The IU Kokomo wiki should include many things and allow the community decide beyond these basics. The wiki should include pages for every club and society offered on campus. It should also maintain a section for every degree program and subsections on class offerings and usability in the workforce, what kind of jobs you can get with each specific degree, and who to contact with questions Beyond those basics, allow the community to add content or contribute by way of submission of changes or by addition of comments.

Facebook Community
While some of the current faculty of IU Kokomo have already started tapping into Facebook. It would be in the best interest of IU Kokomo to participate in a unified format while assigning individual pages to each degree program to allow current and former students to unite and help each other as per Dr Jones’ ideals. The implementation would require constant fostering to develop a following that is more than just an “added friend.” This would require charismatic community leaders both faculty and student body to generate the necessary effect.

Utilizing Facebook to create a blog like environment to update students and educate future students would allow for generous amounts of feedback and exposure to Web 2.0. The presence would speak for itself if carefully maintained by the right people. This will generate an excellent start and be willing to adjust the plan as necessary to keep up with the rolling changes to both technology and student body. Making these resources accessible to the average prospective student gives IU Kokomo the opportunity to catch the decision making process mid funnel. This gives IU Kokomo an opportunity to show the prospective student that it is innovative and is decidedly better and worth the cost of attendance. What to do about it, growing and adapting over the next 3-5 years.

By the time the community is alive and well with proper promotion and maintenance, it will have grown to have a life of its own. IU Kokomo will need to review the feedback continuously and make conscious choices to adapt and forge changes as required and by demand.

It’s very possible the social technology will change over the next 3 to 5 years and it’s important to be aware of changes. The existing community will most likely inform everyone of the changes so all that has to be done is effective listening.

Allow students to rate their experiences, professors, clubs, offerings, and develop strategies to address these concerns. These will allow the community to continue to grow, and never ever stop addressing the needs and concerns of this valuable community. It will self promote as its users see that IU Kokomo is doing good things.

Identify and encourage the rebels, these against the grain individuals will most often have radical ideas that will help to change things for the better.

Keep information and responses up to date and take care to show the community that IU Kokomo is always listening, in an effective concerned way. Maintain the standards of the goals IU Kokomo has set out with and evaluate and update goals based on the needs and effectiveness of the plans.

Website Usability/Architecture Analysis: Indiana University Kokomo

Usability
In Prioritizing Web Usability the authors state that you have two minutes to grab a potential customer’s attention. With that logic, I believe that the IU Kokomo website fails to understand that with an excessive amount of labels and links without clear definition of what falls under each category. There are inconsistencies in navigation, issues with search, typography, and overall organization of the website. There are also some positives in usability that I will discuss as well. I will discuss many of these individually and the ramifications of each.

One of the problems with usability on IU Kokomo’s website is the significant amount of scrolling a user with 800*600 would have to use to scroll around. This was slowly becoming irrelevant as a problem as wider and wider screens with higher resolutions were becoming common place. However, the netbook has arrived and now we’re back to smaller screens that make it difficult for the user to get around on the pages once again. It would be best to bear this in mind as a large number of potential students are returning adult students with limited budgets available to purchase technologies. Netbooks start at roughly $279.99 and some even lower that. The cheaply available technology contributes to its adoption and usage. I have personally sold several hundred of these in the last year to college students in both Kokomo and Muncie.

The IU Kokomo website is already a convoluted mess of twists and turns with inconsistent navigation. The fact that the links simply do not change color when they have been visited just further adds to the confusion. There is standard CSS coding for roll over and highlighting through the use of an arrow marker when the mouse is hovering on a link. However, as the authors of Prioritizing Web Usability have stated this is still considered a three skull problem. The skull rating system goes from one to three skulls, with three being the most severe.
There are quite a few design elements on the IU Kokomo website that look like advertising elements. The IU Kokomo Programs box, the IU Kokomo Events box, and the IU Kokomo Chancellor search informational picture all have the look and appearance of advertising. There is also blatant advertising for college portrait which from what I could tell is statistical information about students and their ethnography. However, since it’s not clear what this leads to it makes it difficult to not just ignore the item. Prioritizing Web Usability also considers this to be a three skull problem and this should be corrected immediately.

The events list on the side of the page also contains outdated information; this is also considered to be a usability issue. The website was last updated on December 12th, but the event that has since passed on the 10th is still posted.

IU Kokomo has a frozen layout that does not resize. It maintains a constraint of what I believe is 1024*768 optimal viewing. I am currently working on a 24inch widescreen monitor so it’s difficult to judge. This is considered to be a two skull problems as well.

The website includes a pull-down menu to get to different features of the website. This is also considered bad but it’s only a one skull issue. The pull-down menu is obvious to returning users who have navigated the website more than once but initial users rarely if ever make the connection. I tested a few individuals (Geek Squad Agents) familiar with computers to see if they understood how to get around and many of them were thankful that Ball State’s website was easier to navigate. Only one of them found the pull-down menu to get around to various parts of the website.

The positive features of the website are unfortunately slim in my opinion. There is a logo in the usual conventional place on the upper left, side navigation and top navigation in the usual position and appropriate updated information near the bottom to show that information. That’s honestly about all I can say good about the site.

The search features of IU Kokomo I will touch on later in more detail but it has severe problems with low relevancy listings. This is considered a two skull problem and should be addressed. This leads me to the next section where I will discuss search.

Metadata and Thesauri
From the IU Kokomo website this is the keywords metadata from the homepage.

meta name=”keywords” content=”IU Kokomo, Indiana University Kokomo, IUK, college, university, higher education, homepage, home page”

They did a good job of thinking of all the usual names that students or prospective students might call IU Kokomo. The relevancy of how this will show up in the search engine results page (SERP) on say Google will put this near the top for anyone searching for IU Kokomo. I might suggest adding continuing studies and adult students as well. These might catch a few of the returning adult students I mentioned previously.

meta name=”keywords” content=”major, program, degree, certificate, bachelor, bachelors, bachelor’s, graduate, masters, master’s, associate, associates, associate’s, IU Kokomo, Indiana University Kokomo”

This is the metadata from the degrees section of the IU Kokomo website. They have effectively used thesauri ideals to use synonyms that web users may utilized to locate a degrees site from a search engine. This increases the likelihood of this page showing up high in the SERP. I believe that this is one of the parts of the website that IU Kokomo has done very well. This bring is to the internal search engine of IU Kokomo.

Search
I decided to utilize a set of search terms to test relevance and abilities of the search engine software employed by IU Kokomo. The terms I chose were: computers, programming, graphic design. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web says that the search function of any website should do its best to mimic the functionality and look of standard SERPs such as Google.

My initial search was for “computers”. I had hoped that it would lead me to knowledgebase articles or degrees related to computers. The search engine returned two results. The first, iuk.edu, linked directly to the main website. The second, a news article, linked to news from the biology department with a class named “Computers in Biology.” I am not impressed. Thus far, it would seem that IU Kokomo needs to invest some money into revamping the search engine for the site.

My second search was for “programming.” It returned nothing but a link back to the homepage.

My third and final search was for “graphic design.” It also returned nothing but a link back to the homepage.

The problem here is that if the user doesn’t know exactly what they’re searching for such as “New Media Communication” which actually does return the website link for the degree information as listed on the site, they aren’t going to find what they’re looking for. New Media is the degree for someone who’d like to do graphic design but if they don’t know that, they’re likely to assume IU Kokomo does not have a degree for them and move on.

Simply put, the search on this site is very ineffective and needs work. There is a large amount of data on the website and a fair amount of users will utilize the search function to sift through the data. This should be painless and easy for the end-user and it is currently extremely difficult to navigate utilizing the search.

Typography
The typography on the website leaves much to be desired. It is difficult to read serif fonts on a website. It is much better to utilize a sans-serif font especially with the contrast of white on crimson. If IU Kokomo would like the name of the university in large time with serif fonts that is perfectly fine but the links should be in an easy to read sans-serif font.

There are considerable inconsistencies in typography throughout the site. On the homepage alone there are at least two if not three different typefaces utilized for no particular reason. All the links and titles are done in a serif font, and the information under news and events is all sans-serif. The “Site Index” and “Find People” links are sans-serif as well. The site should utilize an Arial or Verdana typeface for maximum readability. Serif fonts typically become harder to read the smaller they get on the page, making them effective as large labels only.

Page Elements
The page elements are laid out ineffectively. Prioritizing Web Usability says some of the most common mistakes are not prioritizing the order in which elements exist on the page. This also has a great deal to do with labeling which I will discuss later in the paper. The current layout is ineffective in the fact that it is not consistent from page to page. The elements are haphazardly distributed from page to page and never the same layout. This makes the user learn the page layout again and again until they become frustrated and leave.

The search function is very small and should be larger to stand out more and offer more area to type a search string. Prioritizing Web Usability has suggested roughly 80 characters for the search box is standard. The page layout includes a flaw in the graphic layout of the site as well as the entire box over by the search engine utility sticks out a few millimeters past the edge of the site’s right margin.

The Prioritizing Web Usability also states that a major issue is that site elements are not grouped together in a way that makes sense with logical like with like items. This again is a problem with labeling and navigation which I will discuss next.

Labeling
The labeling for the website is ineffective. There are many items that the average user would not understand. There are many links that are repetitive and if properly grouped could trim down the overall cluttered feeling of the site.

There are a few labels that are appropriate as well. What labels I believe are effective are the following: Alumni, About IU Kokomo, and Employment.

In a previous assignment for site design, I had worked with this site and developed labeling structures that I felt better suited the needs of the end-users coming to the website. I will revisit them quickly and summarize why I believe they are effective. I feel that that a complete restructuring of labeling would be appropriate at which point the new labels under which all other content would fall would be the following items: About, Admissions, Academics, Campus Life, Current Students, Faculty & Staff, Alumni, Contact Us, Calendar, Events. There more appropriately grasp the needs of the end-user and organized correctly on the page by utilization of element priority would increase the likelihood that a visitor would stay and at the very least consider IU Kokomo as a university choice.

Navigation
The IU Kokomo website’s main problem with navigation is that it is simply inconsistent throughout the website. From one page to the next the links are not the same and the navigation is far from easy to follow. This could easily be fixed by creating a new page with a template that includes side and top navigation that remains the same throughout the site allowing the user to both know where they are and know how to get to the other parts of the site.

Organization
The overall organization of the site is ineffective. The site has been continuously added to over and over again and the initial design was not appropriately suited for continued growth by making vague yet informative labels. The site is due for an overhaul and if proper labeling and navigation are put in place the overall organization of the site should improve.

Use of Multimedia Technology
IU Kokomo’s website doesn’t use multimedia technology currently. However, given the number of New Media Communication students it would seem fitting to utilize some of the tools at their disposal. It would not hurt to have flash animation for some of the scrolling news, video of the campus, video of students talking about the campus, etc. These could all be utilized to increase the overall experience of a user who is interested in the campus. These items should not be located on the homepage but perhaps in the degree programs section or the about IU Kokomo sections.

Business Strategy and Effectiveness
As I alluded to in my previous site design assignment, the current effectiveness of obtaining new students and keeping old students via the website would appear to be ineffective. I think the recent surge in students is the economy and the lack of jobs causing many returning adult students to seek additional training to create job security for themselves and financial security for their families.

The site needs to be designed with the beginning new user in mind with emphasis on admissions, about IU Kokomo, and the degree offerings. These are crucial to addressing new student needs. However, as current students also have needs their links and appropriate subheading should follow closely after the admission and degree offerings.

Conclusion
The site needs a redesign to increase its overall usability. This has been discussed in class more times than I can count. The site simply needs to have strong consideration for information architecture with the growth of the campus in mind making it easier in the long run to add to the pages under appropriate labels and effective metadata. However, as I’ve discussed metadata is probably the strongest point of the overall site. The weakest point being the navigation and search functions. I believe if these are addressed the impact of the website and potential for student gain and retention is well worth the effort.

Academic Work: New Media Communication Theory Comparative Analysis

Question #1 “From Postman, to Jenkins, to Benkler, we have a lengthy discussion and argument about what is happening with our culture both creative and political. Trace this argument out, seeing where they agree, disagree, and reinforce each other, and differ. In the end, give a quick summary of where you fall.”

Preindustrial Society

Postman discusses preindustrial society at length in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. He develops a well-rounded historical argument by discussing the events leading up to his “Age of Exposition” and the dominance of typography.

The preindustrial society was dominated by oral tradition first and slowly transferred to typography. The American culture was very much stimulated by books imported from Britain. It is important to note that during this time frame the church primarily owned the original printing presses and controlled the distribution of literature for quite some time. The original printings were replications of the Gutenberg bible. The oral dominance of our creative and political culture was complete until the first printing press in America was opened at Harvard University in 1638. After that the majority of printed materials in the American colonies were newsletters. The first newspaper was started in 1690 but was banned after the first issue. However, the primary reason for the lack of typography was lack of an abundance of paper available and thus primarily our culture both creative and political was based on oral tradition in preindustrial America.

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman describes oral tradition in terms of greater truth being granted to the person who knows the most colloquial anecdotes or proverbs by which to pass judgment on the situations at hand. This meant that a man’s intelligence was solely based on his ability to memorize massive amounts of data. It is quite feasible that in terms of creativity we have lost much works from this time period in the American colonies as these works were never written down.

Postman discusses a term called “resonance” that he borrows from Northrop Frye in relation to cultural significance. Resonance is the idea that a particular context acquires a universal significance. However, the idea of resonance symbolizes the fact that something can transcend its original context to absorb a larger meaning such as the phrase “the grapes of wrath.”

The political elements during this time frame were strongly based on oral rhetoric. In this period of time it was acceptable to pause or even break before responding to an opponent’s argument. In our time it is considered a sign of weakness or even incompetence to not have an immediate retort prepared. This is very different from the world today, or even industrial America.

Benkler discusses, in his Wealth of Networks, this time period in short references he notes that throughout history that technology have made human actions harder or easier to perform. He notes that having a technology does not necessarily equal an emergence in social constructs. He mentions for an example the idea of ocean navigation only being heavily important when land empire ambitions are hindered by strong neighboring countries. The technology was available and possibly understood by most cultures but was only adopted on-demand. He only states this because he believes that it is important to note that society does not always adopt a new technology on the basis of its existence.

Benkler also mentions that in political culture that there was a changing to liberalism from the “divine right of kings” and established religion conventions. John Locke was also noted building the political foundations of modern liberalism.

Industrial Society

The first continuous periodical newspaper was started in 1704, in 1730 there were seven, and by 1800 there were more than 180 published newspapers. The change from pre-industrial oral traditions had quickly given way to typography. “The Age of Exposition” has come to pass, according to Postman. The “Age of Exposition” was signified by a central focus on typography as the primary source of cultural and creative discourse. It was a considered to be a thought process, a means of expression, and a method of learning. Postman clearly values the “Age of Exposition” above any other period of time in the history of the Americas.

Postman discusses the similarities between oral rhetoric and written word in this time period which he called “The Age of Exposition.” The political ramification of the “Age of Exposition” was the fact that most public figures were known by their written works and not by their pictures or paintings.

It was evident that political speeches were prepared well in advance and so were responses. The careful precision of wording and length of sentences suggested a heavily written preparation prior to speech delivery. Postman specifically discusses the Lincoln-Douglass debates and how a given candidate would talk for 3-4 hours and it not be uncommon. However, during this “Age of Exposition” the average man could easily endure this and be attentive the whole time and comprehend these presentations of oral dictation.  This is in stark contrast to the average attention span of 15 seconds for the modern human.

The creative culture of American society was affected by the typographic mind according to Postman. Postman believed that print encouraged rational and objective utilization of thought to interpret the positions of authors and artists. The rationalization of typography as a mode of communication lead to beautifully constructed prose and well-thought out lyrics and verse. Something that Postman believes is lacking in the post-industrial society.

Benkler notes that since the industrial society mass media communications have required ever increasing amounts of capital to conduct their business. Benkler also mentions that from a creative aspect that in the 19th century music was something that was done with friends not something that was purchased. Benkler nor Jenkins spends a great deal of time talking about the past more focused on the current trends with brief references to the past.

Emerging Post-Industrial Society

Postman’s thoughts on this are referenced by what he calls the “Age of Show Business.” Postman notes that transition to images and video from text which he holds in higher regard.  Postman tells the story of a doctorate student who argued with a review board about the relevancy of interview data that had not been published in an academic journal. The board retorted that despite having witnesses that written work is considered to be more truthful and accurate as it is assumed the author has read and re-read, edited, and had it reviewed before publishing their works. That speech is simply an off-hand delivery and it’s easy to utter something completely inaccurate verbally. They further pointed out that the student would prefer a written account of his passing this verbal exam as opposed to their word which would be regarded as a rumor. This is his way of vocalizing his argument and substantial evidence that typography is held in higher respect and truth than image, video, or speech.

The advent of television is where Postman’s understanding of post-industrial society ends. It could be argued that we could easily apply these principles forward to the internet which is quickly taking the place of television in our lives for news, entertainment, and connectedness.

Postman goes on to discuss Post-Industrial society and claims the signpost for the change is the invention of the telegraph. Postman believed that the irrelevancy of news from Maine transmitted to Texas was simply the beginning of a greater travesty of irrelevant information sharing. He points out his argument by asking a simple question. How often do you change your plans on the basis of the news? Withholding the weather, typically the news blasted to our ears is irrelevant. Even as I write this the recent fiasco of useless un-news was Tiger Woods alleged affairs with multiple women. Is this truly relevant? What “resonance” does this hold?

Postman discusses the political culture and the changes created by the “Age of Show Business.” Postman states that politicians, who in the “Age of Exposition” were known for their relevancy and ability to mesh words together intelligently, are now known for their looks and how they fit into stereotypes. He points out that he truly believes that Nixon simply lost the battles in his career because he looked like a liar. With constituents now able to see their potential candidates via television, this is why you rarely see candidates of displeasing nature or overweight candidates. Potential candidates who could do wonderful things in office are now subjected to the prejudices of their outward appearances.

Postman mentions that the creative culture of our society has turned towards a series of short blurbs and television is the primary source of entertainment. As his book is a little dated, I apply his concepts to the internet as well. If you notice the creative culture of our society has become more social shared through the internet via mediums like MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook. These concepts once broadcast on television with the same three stations are now bombarded to the world in an on-demand lifestyle via the World Wide Web.

Postman mentions that education is altered as well with advent of entertaining education. The problem with this is that now students don’t want to learn if the subject matter is not entertaining, which leads to subjective students. This mentality is leading to a world dominated by humans with on-demand knowledge, now Google this.

Jenkins, in his Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, discusses in great detail the creative culture created by a participatory intelligence of its users. I’ll discuss a few examples from the book.

Jenkins discusses spoiling Survivor where groups of people collectively work together online in order to determine the outcome of the show before the final episode is aired. The users of this forum were very active until an unknown user ruined the fun by taking away the challenge by releasing what could be determined as fairly accurate data to the online community.

Jenkins also talks about the transmedia storytelling utilized by the Matrix franchise. The Matrix story was spread out across video games, websites, and four movies. The ultimate goal was the effective of a greater feeling of participation and understanding of the world of the Matrix.

Jenkins discusses fan fiction, fan art, and fan movies. He covers Star Wars fans who adapt the stories to their own whims. They are separate from the Star Wars movies but the entitlement felt by George Lucas and Lucas Arts caused a generous amount of fear about the loss of intellectual property. This is something that Benkler discusses at length. Jenkins also mentions “The Daily Prophet” a fan site set up for the authoring of fan fiction for the Harry Potter universe. The owners to the royalty distribution for Harry Potter were extremely displeased because the fan fiction “threatened” their intellectual property and crossed their idea of plagiarism. What if one of their new books or movies borrowed an idea from fan fiction, even unintentionally?

Jenkins discusses the political culture of the emerging post industrial age by stating that consumers of popular culture have influenced the ways in which politicians campaign for voters. Jenkins notes that the new media allows access, participation, reciprocity, and a connectedness with peers that the current system is not used to. The recent presidential election shows the utilization of such faculties by the questions posed to candidates on YouTube and the web campaigns hosted by Obama. The online world as well hosted their own campaigns and jokes about Obama and the other candidates. There was a website dedicated simply to making fun of Sarah Palin that was updated daily with clickable features and jokes design to illicit laughs about her campaign comments.

Jenkins discusses blogging and the ability of participatory culture to keep up with the goings on of a feed of a particular political candidate, organization, or other such entity is generating. However, this form of print is not edited as an academic article would be. It becomes a question of what is truth once again. Jenkins refers to monitorial citizens who survey the landscape of the web and are better informed that the average human but it’s unclear on whether they can act on all the bits of knowledge they contain. The internet provides access to the information needed for understanding the political landscape but there is so much data that no one person could ever monitor it all. The informed and ill-informed become participants in a global construct of information sharing that is end result of social networking.

Jenkins talks about YouTube and one of the functions of YouTube these days is also to capture speeches or the mistakes candidates make. In the not so distant past, if someone made a mistake on television and you missed it, you were never quite sure if it happened or not. However, in the age of YouTube the world will forever know exactly what was said. However, as Postman might argue in an age of Photoshop and video splicing how true are the images we see?

Jenkins touches on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” where entertainment crosses over into the realm of news delivery. One wonders how Postman would feel about this, would this represent his fears of “Amusing Ourselves to Death.”

Benkler discusses an emerging “Networked Information Economy”(NIE) in which participants have improved capacity to do more by and for themselves, to do more in loose commonality to each other, and improves their capacity to do more in formal organizations that operate outside the standard market sphere. Benkler states that the current system of intellectual property is failing and is actually an inhibitor for the advancement of ideas and market within the collective human intelligence.

Benkler from a creative culture standpoint sees that the Internet allows people to contribute in various ways and not overwhelming amounts of time. The modularity of contribution is increased.  The cost of computational devices has dramatically decreased enabling many individuals to utilize their own knowledge and backgrounds in a variety of ways to share and collaborate over greater distances than previously possible. Through the NIE we are able to create and learn much faster by association with others who share similar ties; much as academics would on a research project in a local region we can now do globally.

Benkler states that the idea of a commons based system has already proven successful in such ventures as open source software. These commons based developments don’t necessarily preclude financial gain; they simply work towards the bettering of the information and its entities.  These commons systems are the results of many individuals working autonomously. The advances in open-source software outpace Windows and Mac OS by leaps and bounds due to a continuous effort to improve the existing code. If Microsoft where to release their iron grip on the source code for Windows to the world to be edited upon they could still generate a revenue from selling the open source, maybe not nearly as much as they charge now. However, the end result could be a greater experience for the end user. This “commons” style development would serve the possibility that not all individuals are created equal and would lead to a strong product or operating system.

Benkler implies that the networked information economy removes a majority of the manipulation possibilities by those who control the information distribution. This allows individuals to become the creators of cultural information and without distortion from an editor. These unedited ideas are not necessarily met with no resistance, but these voices can be heard when they might otherwise hit the cutting room floor. The implications of this are definitively evident within the political culture of our emerging society.

Arguments

Postman argues specifically that the world is heading down a terrible path. That ultimately our continued deviation from typography as an ultimate truth will lead to our subjugation by government. He believes that Aldus Huxley’s vision of a Brave New World is the ultimate direction in which our world is headed. He argues that because images can be altered and video being live is capable of being retracted before it becomes common knowledge. Part of his argument has become invalid with the invention of on-demand television and digital video recorders but the concept is still valid. Images can be altered to suit our needs. There are many cases of this throughout the years not to mention the wide adoption of Photoshop-ing as a common term for doctoring photographs.

Jenkins argues that contemporary media is shaped by contradictory trends, that cyberspace has displaced traditional gatekeepers of data and now subdues the power that old media once had. He believes that if we focus on the technology and not on the political, cultural, and social aspects of the message we will undoubtedly be lost before we’ve started. He believes that most people utilize the information available to them in an effort to be defense in reference to politics rather than proactive, that these monitorial citizens are better informed but do not know how to do with it. Jenkins mentions from a political standpoint that candidates and parties have lost control of the political process and networks have been ambiguous in defining exactly what constitutes their campaigns. Jenkins believes that in order to bridge the gap between red and blue that there needs to be a participatory culture in which they can learn and grow from interacting with one another and create a collective intelligence where we deliberate together to solve our problems. Jenkins states that convergence encourages participation and collective intelligence, and he believes that participation is an extremely important political right.

Benkler believes that our current beliefs about economics and society do not have to be as they are. He blatantly hates the idea of intellectual property and patent based market systems. He believes the further that intellectual property tries to expand to incorporate more control over the content the more the collective creativity of society will be hindered. He believes that ever decreasing costs of computational technology is leading to increased adoption and participation throughout society. He also shows many examples of how peer production is not only effective but is an excellent method for market production. He does point out that peer production only makes sense as it is the internet equivalent of an assembly line. He mentions that in terms of democratic discourse that the networked information economy allows a reorganization of the public sphere away from mass media enterprises. He acknowledges that the networked information economy will result in restructuring of money and power from businesses that had previously had a large market share to a new mixture of individuals and groups that have adapted their businesses to the climate change. There is a danger of the old model staying in place which would greatly inhibit our ability to grow and it is important to Benkler that we attempt to defeat the corporations now that are trying to retain the idea of intellectual property.

Support

Postman’s believes that the truth of anything creative or political culture being lost is a valid concern; this is true as well to Jenkins.  Jenkins mentions this in his chapter “Photoshopping for Democracy” it is a concern in a world dominated by the ability to modify pictures to suit your needs to be wary of possibilities.

Postman’s fear of the masses being subdued by entertainment and overabundance of data is somewhat supported in Benkler’s discussions of intellectual property and the hindrance of the advancement of mankind.

Jenkins and Benkler both support a common claim that the current structure of intellectual property this is a huge issue for creative culture today because it isn’t working and needs to be revisited. Benkler points out that even if you removed the copyright from a newspaper it would lose virtually no revenue dollars.

Jenkins and Benkler have commented on the effectiveness on participatory culture in both creative and political functions. Benkler notes open source software which as a form of peer produced creation utilizes a Networked Information Economy to produce itself and Jenkins mentions online communities such as “The Daily Prophet” where creation of new storylines, characters, and adventures keep the imagination alive.  From a political standpoint as well, Jenkins discusses blogging and monitorial citizens.

Jenkins and Benkler both touch on the idea of individual autonomy contributing to the larger collective through contributions both political and creative in nature. This is also indicated by open source software and the fan fiction websites as well as political blogging.

Differences

Obviously each author had a different agenda and objective in mind when writing their books. One of them is quite dated in the scheme of things even if some of the potential ideas remain true. There are some contrasts between them which I will now discuss.

Postman was a doom-sayer, he believed the world was going to end in mindless subjugation of the masses by the political things that would be. He also believes there was an overwhelming breakdown of the creative culture. This isn’t entirely inaccurate however it’s safe to say that participatory culture have allowed some of us to remain mindful of our surroundings. Neither Jenkins nor Benkler really support this allegation.

Jenkins and Benkler although two separate styles of writing pretty much agreed with each other, other than Jenkins never made a strong conviction that the current system of intellectual property was wrong, only that  it was questionable. Jenkins strongly supported creative culture and it seemed to me that Benkler simply suggested an alternative means of revenue for it.

Benkler strongly focuses on the economics surrounding the situation and wisely so, as money makes the world go round. However, neither Postman nor Jenkins addresses the monetary nature of the cultural and political sides of the emerging post industrial age.

Where I stand?

I believe as Postman did that the over-abundance of useless data that passes as creative culture is a danger to society. I do not however believe that I will be subjugated by the political powers that be as long as I have the faculties to think for myself. I also believe that Jenkins is right about convergence cultures and how they contribute to the greater creative culture of society. I also whole-heartedly agree that the current system of intellectual property is terrible; I do not believe however that Benkler is correct in believing we should dump it completely. I believe that artists and authors should be paid for their creations.

Question #2 Groundswell, Jenkins, and Benkler all discuss how changes brought about by networked economy are affecting businesses. Discuss this. In what ways have businesses responded? How should businesses adapt? Are some businesses destined to be harmed no matter what?

Businesses are impacted by these changes in different ways. The first and foremost is fear. Many businesses are afraid of the changes if they have not been subjected to them yet. The collective intelligence of their customers now challenges their abilities to control information about their firm and products. There have been a number of scandals and nightmares over the past few years when information is leaked into the world without the consent of the proprietary owners of the information. However these incidents are not entirely limited to truthful information leaks.

A second change is the collective consciousness of the internet users; they share details and give reviews on products. The internet provides consumers the ability to unite and share information in a collective consciousness one that is aware of your problems as a company and is not shy about vocalizing complaints or praises for these items. It’s entirely possible that many businesses have an unapproved online presence that they’re not even aware of currently. This unapproved presence can definitely hinder a business especially if the business does not react well to this.

A third change is how much harder it’s becoming to protect an intellectual property in a world where fans take control by borrowing from the source and creating their own ideas and stories from them. This is mentioned by both Jenkins and in some ways by Benkler.

Depending on the business the changes brought about by this can be severe or simply an integration of a new web presence strategy.  For the most part businesses have to rethink their strategies due to backlashes from the internet. A good example of this would be Digg.com’s decision to allow their users to post the HD-DVD code, the users would not allow this to be buried and continued to post until the owner of digg.com formally released a statement that they would no longer control the content.

For some businesses this has been excellent. In the book Groundswell by Bernoff and Li discuss methods in which businesses can adapt to the overwhelming world of web 2.0. Bernoff and Li suggest that embracing the groundswell is the best thing they can do. They give methods for designing and implementing a plan to not only gain an understanding of your company’s image on the web but to react to it in a way that is constructive and fulfilling for both the company and their consumers.

For other businesses this has been extremely unsuccessful. The music industry continued to lash out at the people who were sharing their music for free. The laws of copyright got tighter and tighter with no absolution to the problem in sight. The harder the clamped the further they infuriated their fans. Now, stealing music is commonplace and accepted by almost everyone I know. The music industry’s current system is eventually going to collapse on their kneejerk reactions to piracy. The proprietary strategies that Benkler speaks at length about need to change of these businesses are to survive the changes brought on by the Groundswell or Networked Information Economy.

Benkler contends that the further expansions of rights to intellectual property like songs and movies act as a tax on the nonproprietary methods of creation. What constitutes improper usage of a song? At what point is it illegal to backup your own music or record songs from the radio? These questions could be applied to any object that any business provides as a product or service.

Some businesses will undoubtedly grow under this wave of changes. If a business embraces the idea of peer production of for example software and generates a form of payment for a completed project in a non-proprietary environment which is the case in some current communities. There are also communities where artists and developers can bid for jobs in a competitive environment.

Businesses should ultimately adapt by first listening to what is going on in the groundswell/NIE. Listening is the first step to understanding. The next step is to develop a strategy for integration. Bernoff and Li suggest the POST method for deployment. POST stands for people, objectives, strategy, and technology respectively. The people are the human units that a business will be communicating with or utilizing to communicate on behalf of a business. Objectives need to be clear and understood from the start. This will serve to prevent as best as possible any miscommunications by way of misunderstandings.  Strategy in how a business will implement integration. Technology is the software and hardware components that you will need for deployment of these new strategies.

In the effort of a more complete answer, I will further discuss the POST strategy over the next few paragraphs to give a better understanding of how businesses should implement changes to their web 2.0 strategy. The people aspect of POST is the contributors, critics, and spokespeople for your business. The people a business chooses to use to represent it should be carefully chosen with a clear agenda in mind. The person or people from the company should be willing to listen closely to what the consumers are saying and respond quickly and effectively. It is critical to also understand the rebels and critics within the global community as they might well be a company’s best advocates if handled appropriately.

The business should come up with clear objectives and definitely not wander around blindly. What image is the company trying to portray? What image already exists out there unapproved? How should that be addressed without attacking the consumers who buy their products? These thoughts should be at the front of the mind of any executive planning the venture into the groundswell and networked information economy.

This strategy should reflect the objectives and develop and grow as the company’s web 2.0 presence grows and fosters as well. Readdress the strategy if the desired results are not being accomplished but businesses should understand they will have to adapt to the needs of their consumers not the other way around.

Technology is entirely dependent on the needs of the business. Some businesses can get by with a simple blog, some need an entire community started. It really differs from business to business and should be addressed to the needs of each business. This technology comes in the form of websites, blogs, communities, helpdesk utilities, and other ways for the consumer to make contact with the business. This also includes the physical hardware necessary for a presence on the web.

Some businesses will be harmed no matter what happens with the changes to the groundswell or Networked Information Economy. The companies that have embraced the NIE may well find themselves subjected to lawsuits if copyright laws are passed in favor of the gluttons of intellectual property. This could ultimately result in a crash of these companies not unlike the dot.com crashes of the 90s. However, if the economy continues to go forward into the Networked Information Economy and production of information is taken away from royalties driven businesses then the royalty driven business without change will undoubtedly fail. In some cases, it simply doesn’t matter one way or another. Benkler points out that if newspapers gave up their copyright they would virtually lose almost no money from their overall revenue.

Why I left?

I’m not professing this to be the most interesting thing that I’ll spend time writing. I’ve decided that a good starting point would be to explain what lead to putting in my notice of resignation at Best Buy.

First off, I thrive on puzzles. I’ve solved many and I thrive on the concept of picking things apart until I understand them fully. Now apply that to Best Buy and Geek Squad. I’ve worked for Best Buy for a bit over five years. The sad reality is that I became comfortable and no longer challenged myself to anything new. Sure, Best Buy is always advancing new ideas and concepts to increase sales there’s a small challenge in that I suppose. However, I discovered there is no puzzle in fixing computers once you’ve fixed five years’ worth of them. I have gotten to the point where I utilize “Don-sense” and can with a fair bit of uncanny accuracy predict what’s wrong with computers at work as my team can vouch for since they ask me all sorts of questions and ask me to triage their check-in’s daily. Simply put, I’m no longer feeling challenged.

Secondly, when I began my job at Geek Squad in Kokomo I had it in my head that I was going to become a Network Administrator. I thought computers were the Alpha and the Omega for me. I worked for Best Buy for no less than one year and I was quickly working my way up the ranks. I had successfully usurped the Kokomo precinct from the hands of Ryan Gentry thanks to his dissatisfaction with Geek Squad and a failed pilot program… I became the supervisor of Geek Squad. A new puzzle, exciting, a puzzle that I quickly solved and for eighteen months I prospered as one of the best Deputy of Counter Intelligence’s (DCI’s) in the district. I trained several agents, an assistant manager, and several DCI’s throughout my career. I was on track to whatever I wanted from Best Buy. It simply wasn’t what I wanted.

Thirdly, my interests shifted from computers to humans within two years of working at Best Buy. I discovered that humans are a significantly more interesting and ever changing puzzle. People are capable of change, higher thought, and being taught. I discovered one day working at the counter helping an older couple that I loved the ability I had to connect with people and teach. It was the beginning of a domino effect that would eventually lead me to change my major, end my marriage, embrace my inner creator that I had buried, and introduce me to the effect of alcohol. (hah)

The Dominoes fall.

Domino #1: Rick Evans
While I was working in Kokomo back in 2007-8, I had an agent named Rick Evans who was the most wonderful human being a person could dare to be friends with. He was absolutely nice and courteous to everyone. It was that quality that convinced me to make him my senior agent. I needed a person who could smooth over customer issues.
Rick Evans and I discussed writing stories and I occasionally told him of my ideas for novels. Rick was a creative genius and encouraged me to write more often. Rick reminded me of skills I’d long put to bed as a writer. It was then that I started realizing my heart wasn’t into the cold, ticking, silence of computer repair. I was in love with creation, I wanted to inspire, to teach, and mold minds. It took 3 years for the awakening that Rick started to take hold, but am I ever thankful it did. Rick Evans is a great friend and I’m thankful for the conversations.

Domino #2: Dad dies.
My father died in November of 2009. I never got to know my father; I never resolved my anger with him for his divorce and his subsequent marriage to a woman that I didn’t care for. Whether or not that was jealousy for a broken home or whatever, I don’t care to rehash. However, I never got to tell him that I loved him. He never knew and I never knew whether or not he loved me. I felt miserable for knowing that I would never get to know for sure. I didn’t get past it until I made a commitment following domino #3

Domino #3: RENT
In December 2009 a friend of mine introduced me to RENT. There are hundreds of musicals that tell you to embrace what time you have and to never miss an opportunity to better yourself. However, this one struck a chord in me. I believe the part from the musical that I enjoyed the most was the affirmation.

“There’s only us. There’s only this Forget regret– or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way, No day but today” — Jonathan Larson

This inspired and continues to inspire me not only to tell my friends and family I love them, but to make sure that I seize the opportunity every chance I get to learn something new, to understand something, meet new people, and to try to believe in something greater than myself. I started doing this as often as possible and this lead me to spend a week with my mother in Florida simply because I could. I really wanted to make sure she knew I loved her, I’d had a rough childhood with her. I was a pretty unhappy kid and I hope that she knows how much I appreciated her never giving up on me. However, right before leaving for Florida… I met Laura through an online dating website, Plenty of Fish.

Domino #4: Laura!
Laura and I talked through email throughout my trip to my mom’s in Florida. I had a rough go of getting back in time to have our date. I scheduled our first date the day I was returning from Florida, March 21st. My airline allowed me to get on my flight despite knowing that my connecting flight to Indiana from Washington DC was cancelled. I had to do some major schmoozing with a hostess at the AirTran counter but I finally got a flight directly to Indianapolis. (I was originally going to Fort Wayne and driving to Indy for the date.) I had told Laura that she was going to be the highlight of my day and of course that made her nervous to live up to.

There is something wonderful about this woman. She’s a perfect mate for me in every way. She worries when I’m care-free and she makes lists when I think in abstracts. We use both of our ways of thinking to conquer everything and though our life gets a little messy sometime I know that I’m going to marry this woman. I can’t even begin to imagine life without her.
Laura has seen that increasingly I have come home depressed and drained from working at Best Buy. It wasn’t anything in particular, it wasn’t bad managers, it wasn’t a bad work environment, but what it most certainly was… was not for me. Laura has been supportive and has done a great job of making me feel better when I got home. A few conversations and a pile of money from taxes and student loans later… I have a failsafe cushion that will last a substantial amount of time. This will give me time to search out and obtain a job that is more about giving back than taking away.

What’s going to happen now? Who knows, but when you’re living in America, 11 years past the millennium, you are still what you own. I don’t want to be that, I want to be remembered for what I’ve done, what I’ve given, and what I’ve taught.

I’ll see you all on the road. Hopefully, the rest of you stop waiting for Godot and start living your lives.

~Don Sedberry, January 25, 2011.

Midterm Exam: Informatics

2. In article,  Rape in Cyberspace, Who was Dr. Bungle in the real world?  What are the implications of this discovery in online governance?

Dr. Bungle was actually a collection of students at New York University in a dormitory.

The problem with online governance is that there is no way to clearly hold someone in the real world accountable for actions in the virtual space. It is my opinion that it would amount to very weak legal case to even begin to prove that any particular person is responsible for an internet action. The only way to truly hold someone accountable would be to catch them physically in the act of typing or otherwise executing the commands.

Some people might argue that you could utilize IP addresses and enlist the cooperation of the Internet service providers and that would “prove” that a particular person in a particular location did commit such infractions on the human condition. However, the internet is both capable of anonymity and despite the capabilities of the IP address as a “digital fingerprint” it simply does not prove that anyone was at their computer chair committing an action. The nature of a wireless router despite security precautions allows a network to be shared, sometimes without the knowledge of the bill payer. It’s also possible that viruses sometimes known as bot-nets or other computer controlling devices that may send your entire contact list an email or do any number of other nasty deeds as if you had done them.

That’s governance of the online realm by external forces such as utilizing the law or police enforcement.

What about people governing themselves collectively within a realm, a game, or an online community? I imagine that this would work about as well as it does in the real world. We as humans and all our infinite wisdom prepacked with prejudice or preconceptions built into the way we view the world have made it nearly impossible to agree on anything. Is it any shock that LambdaMOO community failed to reach a consensus? No. Do I believe any other “large” group of diverse individuals would have done any better? No. It was this same problem that in some ways invented a need for democracy and representational government. You’ll always have the Royalists(or as in the article “Wizardists”), people who would rather have choices removed from their daily lives and that’s fine. However, the problem with living in governance by a Wizard or any other force capable of dictating policy is that eventually people get tired of being told how to exist. In LambdaMOO the beauty of the realm was that you could choose to be whomever, or whatever as was the case with the author of the article, that you chose to be. At some point, dictating policy about who, what, or actions comes down to defeating the purpose of the system. Online self-governance will likely only work in a small homogenous group with strong group ties. It is necessary to provide a means to change policy or at least argue policy with the developers of a realm.

World of Warcraft, for example, is an online realm that is in constant flux in both policy, balance, and governance. It has become apparent over the years of following the game that the monthly subscribers have a great deal of power when it comes to effecting change even if it doesn’t feel like it. Each new patch comes out and with each new patch a new group of groaning. If these groaning groups are loud enough, responded to enough, and followed by a large enough following. The lords of Blizzard change the item. They have done so, so much, and so often that World of Warcraft is a shadow of the game it came out as. The game has become ridiculously easy to play and items increasingly easier to get. World of Warcraft has become the Velveeta of the MMOrpg community a gooey melt of a once great game and an easy to play preschool version of an RPG. This unlike LambdaMOO is a case in which the community has far too much power and the developers/Wizards have very little control.

What’s the answer and what have we learned about online governance? I don’t believe we have a solid answer. I believe that despite our wish to impose rules and limitations on a global community, we simply do not have the knowledge, ability, or power to govern as diverse a world as the Internet is. The Internet transcends continents, countries, ideals, and beliefs. It is neutral, so why shouldn’t we be? We have the ability to be open to greater learning, be open, accept that with the good comes the bad. We have always had the option to close the window, log off, and walk away. Utilize it freely.