I’ll never let go, IAB260

IAB260This will be my last blog post for my university subject: Social Technologies (IAB260), however, hopefully it won’t be my last blog post ever. I’ve discovered that I really do enjoy blogging, but without the pressure of being graded or having a deadline, I may find it difficult to blog simply for my own enjoyment. We’ll see how it goes.

In this wrap up post, I will be giving some feedback on the subject, speaking of my learning experiences, and putting forward some ideas on how to improve my own learning.

Unit Feedback

Expectations vs Reality

1 2(Gifs by minastirith from Tumblr)

Despite my use of the gifs above, this class exceeded my expectations of what I thought it would be. I came into IAB260 expecting to learn how different types of people used different social media platforms, and how to better use them to my own advantage. I thought this unit would probably be pretty boring because I thought I knew everything about social media already. Honestly, I was really looking forward to an easy 7, because, well, Facebook. However, this unit was so much better than I expected it be! It was fun, interactive, and a different type of learning environment that I really enjoyed. I also learned a whole lot more than I thought I initially would. From blog writing skills, to understanding how others use social media, to getting to know my online self better. I’ll speak about all the amazing things I learned later in this post.

Goodbye, Blackboard

I was a bit unsure of the learning environment for this unit at first. I thought to myself, “How on earth are the tutors going to keep track of our assessment and learning without QUT Blackboard?” While I certainly think it was a greater effort for Kate and Tracy to keep track of everything, the IAB260 website was easy to navigate and find the resources I was looking for, not to mention much more aesthetically pleasing than Blackboard.

At first, I wasn’t comfortable using Google+ to interact with this class. However, now that I’m used to it and have gotten to know my way around, I quite like it. The community aspect makes it easy to communicate with others in the class with the ability to pin posts and view and navigate content easily with tags and categories.  I would use Google+ again for this type of class, but for now I will continue to stick with Facebook groups.

The mix of online activities and workshops was excellent. Both were engaging and suited my university lifestyle. The various media for learning materials is something I will miss from this unit. Having YouTube videos, blog posts, news articles, TED Talks, and scholarly articles all thrown in together as learning resources was fantastic! I didn’t get bored having to listen to or read the same thing every week. The multitude of learning materials kept my learning exciting, and I looked forward to new resources each week. This is something I believe all lecturers and tutors should learn from.

I genuinely enjoyed the nature of the assessment too. Never in my life have I actually been excited to start working on an assignment. The assignment tasks were fun! If I’m being honest, I used this class as my procrastination for my other subjects this semester. When I didn’t feel like working on an assignment for another class, I’d put off work by creating parts of my persona poster, or writing a blog for this class, because those were fun activities to do that I really enjoyed. They just happened to be marked too, which was a bonus!

My Key Learning

Identity MapThe key take away from this unit for me is a deeper understanding of who I am as a user online, specifically on social media. It’s not something I’d ever thought about before this unit. Our first assignment where we had to create a persona and identity map forced me to analyse how I interact within the multitude of social networks I have. On the vast majority of my networks, I actively engage with others and am the creator of my own content. However, the way I engage and interact with my connections varies from network to network.

For example, on Facebook and Instagram I post whatever I like, sharing with my friends and followers what interests me and what I happen to be up to at that moment. It is never inappropriate, however it’s certainly not considered professional either. Whereas on LinkedIn, you see the strictly ‘no funny business’ version of me. I only share articles which are intellectual and written by other professionals. Any photos you see of me on LinkedIn consist of me looking well put together and formally dressed. Private messages I send to people within my network are well constructed and formally written, they certainly don’t contain any 🙂 or 😛 or XD.

After creating my Identity Map and analysing why my identities are the way they are, I decided to venture out into my social media networks and have since worked on changing a few of my identities. I try not to be a The Lurker as much as before. For example, I now tweet and retweet more personal content on Twitter. I’ve now also come out of my shell on reddit and have started contributing more to conversation. The same goes for YouTube, I’ve actually uploaded a video for the first time ever! Even though I made it specifically for this unit, it was still a contribution that I’m quite proud of. I can’t say it’s very professional though, so I may want to think about who I want to view it.

However, this is a very good example of my key learning for this unit. I am now more aware than ever of what I post online, where I post it to, and who I share it with. I believe this is excellent to learn, especially at this stage in my life, before I’ve started my professional career. I don’t have to be afraid of future employers discovering information or photographs that could portray me in a negative light. I can be confident walking into an interview knowing that my interviewers haven’t found something inappropriate on my Facebook profile. While my online identities are still largely separate in some places, where they overlap isn’t a cause of concern. This is something that helps me to sleep easy at night.

Other Learnings

I certainly believe I was able to tick all the boxes for the learning outcomes of this unit, which were to:

  1. Apply analytical and critical thinking skills to understand the way people experience social technologies, including how people construct personal and professional online identities
  2. Assess and critically reflect on social technologies and their applications
  3. Demonstrate broad knowledge of issues and topics related to social technologies and deep knowledge of one or more specific topics
  4. Apply verbal, written and visual communication skills that effectively convey information in social media contexts

I will take you through my learning for this unit one week at a time.

Week 1:

I learned that this unit doesn’t have lectures! Wooh!

-cue instant happiness-

Week 2: Blogging and Channel You

I learned how to make a blog, write a blog, what makes a good blog and how to appeal to my readers. I made my very first measly IAB260 post which you can read here. Writing my first blog post was an interesting experience. Despite reading the learning materials, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I received some good constructive feedback on it though, which lead me on the right track of knowing how to write effectively.

Week 3: People and social technologies

I learned how to understand the different types of users of social media, from pregnant mothers, to people with disabilities, to Indigenous Australians.  This would become important when creating my persona poster. Most importantly, I learned the importance of empathy. I recommend watching the following video to understand empathy a bit more:

I also recommend watching this video on blame, simply because I found it funny and enjoyable. It’s also an important concept to understand:

Week 4: Networks and communities

Networks, communities, and tribes. This video by Marc Samet on network theory helped me to understand these topics in more detail. However, it wasn’t my week to blog, so I won’t yabber on about them.

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All Lestrade gifs by f4ndom-qu33n from Tumblr

Week 5: Information in social media

I learned how different people experience information on social media, and the way we interact with information now that it is online. danah boyd’s Educause Review was an interesting read on how times have changed: the majority of us don’t read the newspaper, we just read Facebook. You can read my blog post on this topic here. I am very proud of the title I gave that blog post: ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Other Current Affairs‘. It was very clever and engaging, if I may say so myself. I tried to come up with similarly clever titles for my other blog posts (including this one), but none of them were ever quite as good as that one. On the downside, I believe my Week 5 blog post lacked structure. This is something I tried to improve in my following posts.

Week 6: Social media in natural disasters

It was interesting to learn how social media has changed the way we interact during a disaster, and how it can even be used to save lives with nifty new features like Facebook’s Safety Check and Twitter Alerts. This video about the use of social media during the 2011 Queensland floods gives an overview of the explosion of social media use in Queensland for disaster management and is an interesting watch. I didn’t blog on this topic, so I won’t say any more.

tumblr_n4190p2lsZ1s0twm9o1_500Week 7: Activism and Citizen journalism

I learned how citizen journalism is beginning to take over social media, with average, everyday people reporting on the true current events and happenings, without the censorship of mainstream media. I focussed my attention on activism for my blog post. From studying the learning resources, I learned how technology is changing the way people demand for change and stand up for causes they believe in. Social media has led to a form of activism called ‘slacktivism’, and despite its degrading name, has caused an incredible amount of change through clicking, sharing, and changing your profile picture from the comfort of your own home, as described by Mary Joyce in her article: The 6 Activist Functions of Technology. I tried to improve my blog post this time around by incorporating headings to allow for better post structure. I enjoyed using headings to break up my content, so continued to use them for the remainder of my posts.

Week 8: Quantified and connected lives

This week covered lifelogging, fitness tracking, wearable technology, and how they can be used to improve daily life. This blog post by Ted McCarthy talks about the important concepts of this topic. Again, I didn’t blog about this, so moving on!

tumblr_n4190p2lsZ1s0twm9o9_500Week 8 was also the week we had our persona posters displayed on The Cube!

IMG_3822The IAB260 Poster Exhibition was a fun experience where we were able to view our peers’ work and appreciate all the effort everyone had put in to create such unique posters. I was overwhelmed by some of the posters, they were so intricately and brilliantly crafted and inspiring. We were also given free pizza, which made me the happiest person in the world.

IMG_3832To my great surprise, I won the prize for Best Content! I was incredibly humbled that my peers thought my poster was worthy of that title, and also secretly proud of myself that my amateur PowerPoint skills somehow managed to out-do some of the visual design students in the class. 😛

IMG_3846Week 9: Memes, movements and virality

This week, I learned what it takes in order for something to go viral, whether it be a hashtag movement, meme, or video. I focussed on memes this week, and enjoyed researching where memes came from and what they can incorporate, as explained in SourceFed’s video. I enjoyed this week’s topic the most, because I got to have a lot of fun writing about something silly, yet also very interesting to me. I wrote a case study on Doge in my blog post, and researching the history of the famous Shiba Inu was fascinating.  I also created some memes of my own for the first time ever, and it turns out I really enjoy making them!

Bad Luck Brian

First World Problems

Fry Squint

Week 10: Creativity and making

This week focussed on the ways individuals use social technologies to create or engage people in their creative or making pursuits, and the maker movement. Learning about the maker movement from Brit Morin’s article made me very interested in the way people DIY projects for their own interest and also to sell online. But this topic was not my division.

tumblr_n4190p2lsZ1s0twm9o4_500Week 11: Trust and ethics

This was a very interesting topic where I learned about ethics and social media research, and online harassment, shaming, and bullying. It taught me that we always have to be careful about what we post and share online, how we interact with people and companies over the internet, and how we should always research the facts before sharing them within our networks. I found this topic the most challenging, simply because for some reason I couldn’t get in the right head space to write about it. It took a while for me to think of what to write about and get inspired to create my blog post. However, once I started I couldn’t stop, as usual. I wrote my blog post on cyber-bullying and how easy it can be for one simple slip up to ruin your life. This week also taught me a good life lesson when I watched Sally Kohn’s TED Talk:

“If someone is being abused online, do something. Be a hero. This is your chance. Speak up. Speak out. Be a good person. Drown out the negative with the positive.”

This quote is something I will try to remember and act upon when I come across online bullying in the future.

Week 12: Learning

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and lifelong learning through the internet was intriguing to learn about through this video. I have no doubts that I will participate in a MOOC one day, so it was interesting to hear about the types of learning they can offer. This topic wasn’t on my writing to-do-list, so moving on!

tumblr_n4190p2lsZ1s0twm9o6_500Week 13: Gamification experience

To be honest, when I first heard that we would be having a ‘gamification experience’ in this subject, I thought ‘laaame’. However, I was proved wrong. The gamification experience was AWESOME! How can I not say that though? I came second! The experience was definitely the most fun I’ve had in one of my university subjects so far. It was interactive, sometimes challenging, and appealed to my competitive side. It showed me how interacting with my peers really improves the learning experience.

However, I’m not really sure if the gamification experience worked like Kate had planned. The idea was to get everyone in the class participating, creating content, and interacting with each other, however, for the most part, the students who were already regularly posting within our Google+ community were the same students who participated wholeheartedly in the gamification challenge. This in particular taught me that it’s much more difficult to get students engaged in something than I originally thought. I’ve been trying to come up with ideas on how to improve this situation, but quite frankly, if monetary rewards and additional marks don’t do the trick, I don’t know what will.

Here’s the amateur video I mentioned earlier of me responding to the statement: “Gamification is bullshit”

Personal Improvements

I believe I could have improved my own learning by reading more of my peers’ blog posts. The blog posts that I read were incredibly interesting and portrayed a different perspective on some hot topics. Had I taken the time to read more posts, I believe I would have received a broader range of knowledge on the weekly topics. This would have helped me to improve my own posts too, by taking into consideration the perspective of others. In order to improve this, I should have set aside an hour of my time every night to read through my peers’ posts.

Additionally, a specific skill I could improve is my brainstorming skills. Instead of storing ideas in my head, I should write them down immediately, to ensure I don’t forget any interesting points I come up with. This may be difficult to improve on though, as most of my fantastic ideas come to me in the shower. Perhaps I should invest in some waterproof markers!

Strengths and Weaknesses

I’ve been told my whole life that I write well, so it comes as no surprise that I am quite good at blog writing. I read all the learning materials for my week thoroughly, conducted my own research into topics, and was able to bring it all together in a well-structured manner which lead to some great posts (in my humble opinion).

I do have some weaknesses though: time management and procrastination. I tend to get distracted very easily by the exact same thing this unit teaches us about: social technology. I need to learn to simply sit down and finish my work without having to check Facebook every five minutes. I’ve used Wunderlist this semester, which has helped me to keep on top of tasks and organise their importance accordingly. It also gives me the satisfaction of ticking a completed task off the list. My time management has certainly improved this semester, however it still needs work.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, I have thoroughly enjoyed IAB260. The online environment, multitude of learning resources, and personal engagement with my peers, Kate, and Tracy have made this unit my favourite so far in my university career. I learned a lot not only about myself and my online identities, but about how social technologies have impacted and changed humanity’s way of life (mostly for the better). I have sincerely enjoyed blogging, and hope to continue to do so in the future. Farewell, IAB260! It’s been great getting to know you.

Goodbye
Gif by gazelover from Tumblr

#Hashtivism

What is internet activism? What is slacktivism? Can we really change the world with the use of a symbol?

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Image by Juskteez Vu is licensed under Public Domain

These are questions that I will answer and elaborate on in this blog post, along with some powerful examples of digital activism and my involvement in it.

Internet Activism & Slacktivism

Whether it’s raising awareness or calling people to action, the internet has played a significant role in connecting the world with a common goal of change. In her article on the activist functions of technology, Mary Joyce lists some of the actions internet activism incorporates:

“Signing an e-petition, donating online, changing your Facebook status message or avatar image to promote a cause, emailing your Congressman, carrying out a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.”

In his 2012 essay, Berin Szoka expressed his view that internet activism via social networks is effective. Szoka used the examples of bringing down dictators in the Arab world, stopping the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and electing Barack Obama, as evidence of the important roles played by internet activists. If internet activism can truly do all this, then why has it been derogatorily coined “slacktivism”?

My good friend Wikipedia defines slacktivism as, “…the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism.”

I tend to disagree. It is true that actively going out into the world to fight for what you believe in, and posting about it on Facebook are two very different things. However, I also believe that the “slacktivist” label is unwarranted. As says in his article on the difference between activism and slacktivism, the word implies that slacktivists are lazy and that their actions are not particularly helpful. Bailyn goes on to ask, “…But is posting online about an important issue really “slacking”? If so, what would doing nothing be?”

specifically looks at the use of hashtags in her article on social media and hashtag activism. She affirms that the organisation, creation, and support of hashtag campaigns allow people from all over the globe to get involved with important conversations. Hashtags have the ability to bring attention to and mobilise a large population through the high number of mentions that they gain. It is these mentions that bring hashtag campaigns attention worldwide, and allow people to speak out for what they believe in. The desire to speak out through the use of hashtags cannot be dismissed as slacktivism. In fact, it is a new and powerful type of activism, all the more so because it combines the efforts of millions of people.

Let’s take a look at some examples of this so called ‘slacktivism’, and witness just how powerful hashtags can be.

#YesAllWomen

Before murdering six people on Friday 23rd May 2014, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger posted a video rant on YouTube in which he said he would “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up blonde” in a sorority house because they had rejected him. Within hours, the hashtag #YesAllWomen began trending on Twitter, as women world-wide shared their experiences of harassment, abuse and sexual assault. According to Topsy, the social search and analytics company, the hashtag had been used more than 500,000 times by that Sunday afternoon.

From Elliott Rodger’s autobiographical “manifesto”, the following sentiments were shared:

“The ultimate evil behind sexuality is the human female.”

“…women’s rejection of me was a declaration of war.”

“Women are like a plague. They don’t deserve to have any rights. Their wickedness must be contained in order [to] prevent future generations from falling into degeneracy. Women are vicious, evil, barbaric animals, and they need to be treated as such.”

Rodger’s extreme sense of male sexual entitlement resonated widely with women, with writer Annie Cardi and her friend kicking off the start of #YesAllWomen:

Rodger’s comments inspired an online conversation around the #YesAllWomen hashtag, criticising the way society teaches men to feel entitled to women at the expense of their health, safety and, in Rodger’s case, lives. Here is a sampling of some of the tweets that followed:

An animated heatmap of the #YesAllWomen hashtag was created, portraying how it progressed from its initial creation on May 24 and spread throughout the weekend. The hashtag had international awareness, with most of the tweets originating from the U.S. and U.K., but activity was seen in many other countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia and Qatar.

The New Yorker journalist, Sasha Weiss, expresses that, “there is something about the fact that Twitter is primarily designed for speech—for short, strong, declarative utterance—that makes it an especially powerful vehicle for activism, a place of liberation.” This statement agrees with my view that hashtags and slacktivism are not to be taken lightly.

#HeForShe

A related movement called #HeForShe was sparked by British actress and Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, Emma Watson. In her speech at the United Nations HQ in September 2014, Watson spoke of the launch of her global campaign ‘HeForShe’, which called on men and women to work together towards a fairer society where males and females are treated as equals. “Men, I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too,” she said. Watson then took to Twitter to ask the male population to join her:

The hashtag went viral when many famous men began to post selfies, pledging their support for the #HeForShe movement:

#HeForShe took social media by storm. By October 2014, the #HeForShe hashtag had reached 1.2 billions unique Twitter users. Emma Watson’s speech has been viewed more than 7 million times on YouTube, HeForShe’s Instagram reaching 59 thousand followers, and the HeForShe Facebook page accumulating 371 thousand followers.

The #HeForShe movement, like #YesAllWomen, has given voice to men and women globally to express their thoughts, dreams, and desires for a world in which everyone, regardless of gender, is treated with equality and respect.

Unfortunately, I was not an active Twitter user during the time of #YesAllWomen and #HeForShe, so I did not get the chance to add my voice to the movement. However, I have been, and continue to be, an active member of other movements.

My Role in Activism

During my time at high school, I was a member of Vision Generation, or VGen, which is the youth arm of World Vision. My high school’s VGen group would organise events and movements through Facebook and Twitter, and we would invite our friends to join us in an attempt to gain traction and attention for our causes. VGen’s state leader at the time, Jasmine Mikschi, realised the potential social media had to increase VGen’s online presence, stating, “[social media] is a great way to build excitement and energy especially for young people as we are all interconnected through social media and by everyone getting excited it creates a momentum and ripple effect.” Mikschi was correct, and the majority of the time we were very successful, at one point making the news for our participation in a silent mime protest for women and children’s health:

Some other movements that my high school’s VGen group participated in included:

#Don’tTradeLives

Don't Trade Lives

#ChildHealthNow

Child Health Now

and

#MakePovertyHistory

Make Poverty History

Although I am no longer a member of Vision Generation, their social media presence has continued to grow stronger over the years, with #SaveAustralianAid and #StopChildMarriage as some of their most popular campaigns on social media at the moment.

Unfortunately, since I’ve left high school, I no longer participate in movements like I used to. My involvement in movements has dwindled from actively getting out there and participating, to clicking links in emails to sign petitions for Avaaz and Change.org.  While signing online petitions certainly isn’t a bad thing, it is certainly a form of “slacktivism”. However, until I once again have the time and motivation to go out into the world and participate once more, being a “slacktivist” is certainly better than being nothing at all.

What are your opinions on the matter, dear readers? Do you believe “slacktivism” is a negative approach to movements? Have you participated in any internet activism yourselves? Please leave a reply below and let me know your thoughts!

Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Other Current Affairs

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Work Station Straight On View‘ by Alejandro Escamilla is licensed under Public Domain

[Update: I added some facts about social media usage to my top paragraphs, in order to better structure my argument. I also included some thought-provoking questions towards the end of this post.]

Whilst my interest in the lives of the Kardashians teeters on nil, there are many other topics of interest out there that I like to keep on top of and get involved in. But in the fast and constantly moving society of today, how is a 20-year-old student supposed to keep up with all the latest news when watching the 6 o’clock news and sitting down on a Sunday morning to read the paper aren’t always convenient options? Why, social media, of course!

Social media has changed the way we interact with information for the better. In danah boyd’s Educause Review, she affirms that the ‘old school’ ways of tuning into the nightly news to receive the same message at the same time, and reading newspapers and listening to radio stations which all give the same perspective on the same story is going out the door.  In a study of Social Media as Online Information Grounds, it was found that social media platforms promote the use of virtual spaces to enable information grounds that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and by anyone. The study states, ‘the openness, transparency, and availability of social media has also helped users share, disseminate, and find information in online spaces.’  This statement correlates with the data that social media has become one of the top sources of news, with over 50% of people learning about breaking news over social media, rather than official news sources.

This is certainly true for me. Social media is the only platform I use in order to stay up to date with news on topics that I’m interested in. A review by Lyndelle Gunton and Kate Davis explains how Twitter is an excellent news source, as those who connect to Twitter experience an enormous surge of information throughout the day, with users able to share, bookmark and evaluate information as soon as they see it. I personally check Twitter’s Discover and Trends sections regularly as it is an excellent way for users such as myself to keep up to date on the most recent current affairs. It comes as no surprise to me that Erik Qualman’s video on socialnomics states that grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on Twitter.

According to Buzzz’s Social Media Revolution 2015 video, ‘We no longer search for the news, the news finds us…’ An example of this is when I stumbled across the news on reddit that the House of Representatives passed the Data Retention Bill. The comment section for that particular reddit post was filled with angry redditors cursing the government and debating over which VPN provider is best. It was a very interesting discussion to get into – a discussion that would not have happened had I learned the news from watching the news on the TV, with no one around me to have a discussion with. By subscribing to subreddits such as /r/news, /r/technology, and /r/australia, I get to read the latest news and information on my interests on my front page every day.

Along with reddit, I also use Instagram to keep on top of the latest hair and beauty trends, as well as to see what’s happening behind the scenes of Grey’s Anatomy. Facebook keeps me up to date on anything and everything concerning my friends and family: scholarship offers, travel destinations, new cars, babies’ first steps, what level my mum just passed on Candy Crush. By liking pages such as UNILAD, I can view all the latest pop culture information in a format that is entertaining and easy to read and share with my own friends. I have to this day never liked a page of a typical news provider (think ABC News), however, enough of my Facebook friends have liked the pages so that if a particular news story is popular enough I will end up seeing the story on my news feed anyway. If certain news events are important to me, there will often be a page or group created that I can like or join to ensure I don’t miss any part of the story. An example of this is Cyclone Pam and its devastating effects on Vanuatu. By joining the Vanuatu Cyclone PAM 2015 group I am constantly flooded with updates on what is currently happening over in the South Pacific island nation.

The best advantage social media has over any other news source is that you can choose what information you do and don’t want to see. Like dogs? Follow some dog accounts on Instagram. Don’t like finance? Unsubscribe from any finance subreddits. Enjoy checking out what Hugh Jackman is up to from time to time but don’t want to be inundated by info? Like his Facebook page, but unfollow from constant updates.

‘Social media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.’ Information on social media is ever changing and ever flowing. Social media users today are more informed than ever before, with the option to customise their platforms to their own interests, there is no reason for anyone to be left out of the loop concerning their passions and interests. Social media has brought people together through shared interests, and will continue to enlighten lives with all news of importance. Until my phone runs out of battery again, that is.

Readers, in what ways do you use your different social platforms to keep up with current affairs? Do you prefer the social approach, or are you more ‘old fashioned’ in the ways you gather news?