The fun thing about Memes

Monday is always considered to be the worst day of the week.  So today I woke up tired and low of energy after two weeks of break. I had a shower, made my bed and took the bus on gorgeous Bondi Beach (even more depressing).  After one hour and two buses, I arrived at UNSW and as I was about to complain about my Monday the Online and Mobile Media lecture number 10 started: INTERNET MEMES. I have to say, fun topic for a lecture.

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Almost anyone who has had access to the Internet has seen a Meme. Whether they have understood it, ignored it or laughed at it is a matter of personality, cultural background, age, genre or language among others.

As common as they are, Internet memes have been a topic of interest for professionals across many disciplines including sociologists, media professional, anthropologists and marketers. Internet memes are part of today’s culture as they express human creativity and identity through humorous, shareable content

Part III of the book  The Social Media Reader,  is dedicated to Humor and one of the chapters that we had to read for the course was Patrick Davison’s article, “The language of Internet Memes” in which the author describes:

“An Internet meme is a piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmissions”

The word “Meme” was first discussed by British Biologist Richard Dawkins in the book The Selfish Gene published in 1976 where the author refers to a meme as the cultural equivalent of a biological gene that signifies transmission via mimetic imitation”.  

The word ‘meme’ comes from mimeme Ancient Greek word for ‘something imitated’ and that is in fact what Memes tend to achieve. They are content that needs to be created, produced, adapted and ultimately imitated, this specific characteristics are the ones that allow Internet memes to differentiate themselves from other viral content.

With the rapid development of the Internet, and specifically social media, sharing content has become not only easier but one of the most popular activities of Social Network Sites. The fact that hundreds, thousands and millions of people can easily share photos, videos and all sorts of content has encouraged regular individuals to become content creators.

An Internet meme can be very simple to produce. Basic memes require a good idea, a defined target audience, a visual or a photo and a text.

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But Internet memes can also become more sophisticated, for instance audiovisual memes require better planning, editing skills and creativity. This was one of the examples that Tom (our tutor) showed us in class:

The fact is that today memes have become a language, people use them to give advice (as shown by Davison with the example of Advice dog’), to make fun of someone or something, in sign of protest about a particular situation they dislike and even for business purposes such as marketers do to sell products and services.

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Advertising like any other discipline has had to adapt to the rapid development of technology, Internet and most of all Social Media. Today, traditional forms of advertisement such as TV commercials have lost the power of reaching specific target audiences. In the digital era, people changed the TV for YouTube, they often download their favorite TV shows to watch them without being interrupted by ads and who ever does still own a TV can choose to fast forward through the commercial ads and right into the series, movie or show of their preference.

Internet Memes are a fairly new tool in the advertising industry and the brand Old Spice  would agree with me when I say a very powerful tool if put to good use. Old Spice developed one of the most successful advertising campaigns in the past decade starting with the commercial The man your man could smell like released in 2010. The Old Spice man, actor and NFL player, Isaiah Mustafa, became so popular that turned into a meme that is still available in meme creator websites and apps.

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In 2011, Old Spice Guy won the G4’s contest: MEMEFIGHT against Demotivation Poster turning the Old Spice Campaign into an online and offline meme, an icon and most importantly a brand success.

Here is an example of an Old Spice meme.

So it seems Internet memes are not only funny, entertaining and the main reason why people are unable to study or work for long periods of time but they also can help make millions of dollars.

If you want to keep learning more about Internet Memes and are interested in understanding the relevance they have in advertising, marketing and public relations take some time to check out the following:

http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33197/10-Popular-Memes-Masquerading-as-Marketing-Campaigns.aspx

http://knowyourmeme.com

http://www.ruderfinn.co.uk/blogs/dotcom/2013/09/what-every-pr-and-marketing-professional-should-know-about-internet-memes/

If you already know everything about Internet Memes and this post inspired you to make you own, here are some Websites that can help you:

http://www.memecreator.org

http://www.quickmeme.com/caption

http://memegenerator.net

http://www.memecenter.com/memebuilder

Please leave a comment, I would love to know what you think of  Internet Memes.

Algorithms sound complicated

I realized “Google it!” had become one of the most popular phrases in today’s culture when I heard my father say it to my younger brother when he was failing at explaining how to fix a flat tire over the phone.

It is a fact that Google has immediate answers for almost every question we can think of and that we have all become dependent of having knowledge just a click away.

What happened if

During this week’s reading, ‘The Algorithm’, in Planet Google: How a company is transforming our lives, Randall Stross (2008) writes:

“An algorithm is the set of rules for solving a particular problem; it’s the essential building block used in constructing complex computer software.”

As complicated as algorithms sound (and they are in fact very sophisticated) they can be explained as computer programs that look for clues to give you back exactly what you want.” If not for algorithms, for every question we type on a search engine, millions of webpages would appear instead of relevant information in response to our question.

From complicated algorithms to answers the power of Google’s search engine relies on algorithms that have over 200 “clues” to actually guess what the answer to each question is and what the user is really looking for. As discussed during this week’s lecture, Algorithms have been changing over the years, improving and being modified constantly to provide a better service to users.  The following is a video of Google experts explaining the evolution of search:

Google’s present to the world

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On September 27th, Google turned 15 years old. The famous search engine celebrated its birthday with a lovely Piñata Google Doodle  and a present to all Google users:  a huge update in its search algorithm called Hummingbird.

Hummingbird is the first major update that the company has released in three years providing an improved service for Google fans. The new Algorithm makes search easier and is capable of answering longer questions, complex information, spoken requests and comparisons.

The name of the new search algorithm means “precise and fast” like a Hummingbird and it combines the 200 “clues” that I mentioned earlier and new technological elements that allow users to ask more complex questions and receive answers.  Danny Sullivan, “search engine guru” published an article in  Search Engine Land that explains how Google’s new algorithm “is a new engine built on both existing and new parts, organised in a way to especially serve the search demands of today, rather than one created for the needs of 10 years ago, with the technologies back then.”

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It was no long ago when we would turn on our enormous PC, plug a cable to the home line, listen to the dial tone and then enjoy expectantly two or five minutes (depending on the connection) of alien sounds. After 15 minutes we were “Online” chatting for hours on ICQ and researching our homework on good old Google, AOL or Yahoo. But technology is exponential and the tools that we enjoy today don’t require patience nor time, today everything is fast, instantaneous.

Hummingbird is part of the exponential development of search and technology. Google is leading the way making significant changes and adding new features that affect 90% of searches. With the changes made to the search algorithm, Google can:

  • Answer follow-up questions
  • Use the Knowledge Graph for comparison and filters
  • Provide a search app on iPhones and iPads that allows users to sink all their devices.
  • Deliver a ‘better look’ on phones and tablets.

Amit Singhal, Senior VP and software engineer at Google says

We’ll keep improving Google Search so it does a little bit more of the hard work for you. This means giving you the best possible answers, making it easy to have a conversation and helping out before you even have to ask. Hopefully, we’ll save you a few minutes of hassle each day. So keep asking Google tougher questions—it keeps us on our toes! After all, we’re just getting started.”

 This blog post was written to honor Google’s 15th anniversary.

If you (like me) love Google, can’t live without it and feel interested on finding out how the Google algorithm works click on the link bellow:

http://www.google.com.au/intl/en/insidesearch/howsearchworks/thestory/

So what do you think? complicated but interesting right? Please comment on this blog post and tell me what think about Algorithms and how they contribute to make your life easier! They sure have helped me while researching for this blog!

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Mobile Media: the communication revolution

Mobile media is anything that is based on mobile/portable technology so if we look around us almost anything that we use to communicate, work, study or entertain ourselves is in fact mobile media. Right now as I started writing this Blog Post I looked in my bag and found three mobile devices plus the one I’m currently using  (iPhone, iPad, Kindle and Laptop). This makes mobile media not only the most common thing in pockets and handbags but also a revolutionary concept in terms of communication.

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During this week we read an article published in the book ‘A Companion to New Media Dynamics’  by Gerard Goggin called Changing Media with Mobiles and it explains how during the beginning of the 21st century “mobiles were commonly recognized as a pillar of media and communication” and this was in fact correct.

Today, mobile media has altered how we understand time and space. It has changed the world as we know it by redefining privacy, modifying how humans relate to one another and even transforming our entire body.

Smartphones and social media are a good example to illustrate how mobile media has revolutionized communications, technology and connectivity. In the article Goggin writes:

“Smartphones have proved – for a few years at least- a powerful force in mobility, upon which much emotion energy, connection and capital is being concentrated…Most strikingly, social media as the two leaders – Facebook and Twitter – are increasingly accessed via mobile devices, making mobile social media the new face of the contemporary Internet”.

Today whether we are on the bus, out for dinner at nice restaurant or sitting at the beach, we look around us and everyone is looking down at their mobile devices. I often wonder what do people do staring at a screen for hours like nothing else exists? but then, the answer is right in front of me in my iPhone and guess what? We are all doing the same thing! Recent studies have shown that 80% of the time spent on mobile devices is inside apps, and more specifically social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter .

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At present, 65% of Australians use Social Media and the 2013 Yellow™ Social Media Report found that social media users are increasingly using mobile technology (smartphones), more that laptops or PC’s to access Social Network Sites. The report shows that users using smartphones to access social media increased by 67 per cent (up from 53 per cent in 2012), while laptops decreased to 64 per cent (down from 69 per cent in 2012).

Every day, life happens all around us and we are too busy on our smartphones to notice the changes that online and mobile media has managed to achieve in our daily routines.

With the possibility of accessing the Internet and therefore social media through apps on our smartphones, checking our Facebook and Twitter accounts has become part of our daily routines. 37 per cent of users admitted checking social media before getting out of bed and 42 per cent before going to sleep.

I feel bad to admit that I am part of the 44 per cent of individuals that have slept (in my case, every night) with their phone next to them so that they don’t miss phone calls, text messages and notifications.

So how does this permanent connectivity make us feel?

Before, when people first started checking their emails on mobile phones a lot of them felt relieved and thought they could have more time to themselves because of the possibility of receiving information no matter when and where.  Mobile phones and mobile Internet felt like freedom to many:  the days of setting behind an office desk were over, they could all go to the beach, play golf or stay at home because they could be reached anywhere.

Nowadays, we all complain because our bosses, clients and friends expect us to be available 24/7. The sense of time and space changed and we are no longer free.

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In this particular case, Social Media makes us feel connected but in fact individuals are becoming more disconnected than ever before. Human relationships no longer require the effort of making phone calls, meeting for coffee or remembering your best friend’s birthday.

I am a believer that social media is making us less social, we are becoming lazy and human interactions are no longer a priority. Younger generations that grew up in the digital era have no knowledge of how to relate without social media. Recent studies have shown that Generation Y was socialized in a digital world and that it is a generation with high technological skills but that lacks social skills.

 One of the many complaints about Generation Y in the workplace is their lack of social skills and experts claim that it is due to technology. This has become an issue for employers since Individuals are having trouble engaging in simple social tasks like doing proper phone calls, making eye contact and even having face-to-face conversations.

I believe that if social media affects our behaviour to a point where getting a good job is going to be hard it is time for us, (“Generation Y”) to re-think our relationships and the fact that we might be loosing something that we take for granted: our social skills.

If you found this post interesting and would like to know more about mobility and social media the following links might be useful:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-moeller/new-study-mobile-phones-p_b_1927945.html

http://www.news.com.au/technology/australians-now-using-social-media-in-bedrooms-and-toilet-cubicles/story-e6frfro0-1226650573429

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/how-mobile-social-networks-have-become-2013-77

Dear Citizens, please help journalists do their jobs

 “When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism”

Jay Rosen

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Citizen Journalism has become a topic of discussion that has practitioners in the field re-thinking their position and re-evaluating the definition of today’s journalism.

In the article “Preditors”: Making Citizen Journalism Work published in 2008, the authors Wilson,  Saunders  and Bruns , point out that with the emergence of citizen journalism, established news organizations have successfully worked with users to generate content.

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With more than 1.08 billion smartphone users in the world individuals have in their pockets an incredibly powerful tool for news making. Owning a smartphone plus being in the right place and the right time can make a common citizen into a journalist that can capture news as they happen.

The convenience of having 24-7 journalists in every corner of the world is of great advantage for news companies. An example of this put to practice is the “Guardian Witness” program launched by The Guardian on April this year. The program, invites users to download an application on their smartphones or access it or their computers and upload videos, stories, photos and contribute to news making.

Another example of participatory or citizen journalism is CNN iReport which also encourages CNN’s audience to participate and generate news that if approved can become a part of CNN coverage.

The fact that user-content is being published and that citizens have legitimate channels to publish information has made the news business gain a bigger audience, more coverage and ultimately, made the journalism industry of greater importance to the general public.

As we discussed in last week’s lecture, the main formats of participatory journalism include polls, message boards, comments on news stories, blogs and now social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social media

It is a fact that individuals that had no relation to journalism and absolutely no interest in publishing and reporting have now become key elements in news making.

With technology as the main tool people can now report breaking news often faster than official media. We see examples of participatory journalism all the time particularly when it comes to accidents, natural disaster and unexpected terrorism.

Last week I was going through my Facebook Newsfeed and I saw someone update their status to “I am currently in my house northeast of Bogota and something just sounded like a bomb does anyone know what happened?” not even two minutes had past when another user replied “It was not a bomb, I’m next to the accident is located in Tenjo, is 30 minutes away from your house and it was a mine explosion caused by an accident, ambulances are already on their way.” In the next hour Facebook users had built the whole story and knew every single detail of it before the nation’s main newspaper could publish the accident on its webpage and social media accounts.

Citizen Journalism occurs almost everyday somewhere in the world and when it comes to major disasters or accidents it becomes a very useful tool for the media as well as the general public. Let’s take for example the plane that landed on the Hudson River in 2009 where basically anyone with a view of the river and a phone reported the accident immediately. Even tough this was four years ago, the coverage given to the accident via Twitter was efficient, instantaneous and well managed by the audience.

“My brother just saw the US Airways #flight1549 slowly land in the Hudson river from his office in 35th floor in Times Square,” said user “gregheadz,” using the Twitter hash code to add the message to a group. 

The plane

Social media and specifically Twitter has become one of the most frequent channels for citizen journalists changing the way news are produced.  The following is a TEDx Talk by Paul Lewis that discusses how citizen journalism has helped him as a professional journalist to uncover stories and reveal the truth to the public.

Despite the negative implications that citizen journalism brings to the profession such as inaccurate information, unverifiable sources, poor writing skills and low resolution audio visual aids, this form of participatory journalism, in my opinion, is very helpful for professionals working as journalists. As I see it, citizen journalism allows big news companies to have worldwide coverage almost every minute of the day. With technology, smartphones, Internet and Social Media there is always someone watching. (That last phrase sounds paranoid but I find it to be true).

If you wonder what citizen journalism has achieved and contributed to relevant news stories and good journalism, the following links provide you with good examples:

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/04/03/opinion/ireport-awards-hawkins-gaar/

http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2013/09/syrian-citizen-journalists-set-ethical-example-focused-on-dignity-truth/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/28/best-citizen-journalism-o_n_405195.html

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Big news for the news business

Reading the newspaper with our morning coffee or watching the 8:00 PM news on TV after having dinner are two things that most of us don’t do anymore.

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Where do you people get their news from?

Traditionally, journalists and editors where the ones to decide what was newsworthy and us (the audience) could not participate in the process.  Today, as Graham Meikle describes in his book Interpreting News published in 2009,  online and mobile media has changed the relationship we have with information allowing us choose when and where we want to be informed and customize the content that is relevant to our interest.

Pew’s annual State of the Media 2013 has shown that the number of people owning digital devices continues to increase rapidly and accessing online news is one of the most popular uses for this devices.  Pew Research Data also shows that 39% of respondents get news online or from a mobile device “yesterday,” in comparison to 34% in 2010, when the survey was last conducted.

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Good or Bad news for the News Business?

The shift from traditional media to online media is a fact but it is not necessarily bad news for the industry.

With the development and the rapid growth of new media, the news business is almost unrecognizable and media professionals working in the field have had to adapt to a new scenario. New media has become not only a complement of traditional media but the main platform in which news are reaching the audience.

The good news is that today, people are becoming more involved with the news, spending more time reading them, are constantly looking for new sources, sharing content, engaging in conversations with journalists and participating in the content creation.

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Many people argue that traditional media and journalism might not survive the digital age, but as we have discussed during the past two lectures, I am confident to say that the news business is not dying, traditional media is not extinct and journalists still play an important role in content creation today.

So who are today’s journalists?   

In the digital era, everyone can publish information and news are being provided not only by professional journalists and recognized media sources but basically anyone who wishes to do so.

After studying journalism for five years it is shocking to hear that anyone can actually become a journalist without having academic background, credentials or editorial criteria. Nevertheless, to what point is this true?

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With the Internet and the diversity of channels provided, anyone can produce and publish content online on Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube among others. As a result, individuals are turning to diverse sources of information and traditional media is no longer the only source nor the most relevant.  Nowadays, news are being published without editorial criteria and lacking professional and ethical standards such as verified sources and facts.

Today, more than ever, it is important for audiences that are migrating to newer sources of information (Hayes, Singer & Cippos, 2007) to be able to choose correctly and determine what is trustworthy.

“When everyone can be a publisher, what distinguishes the journalist?” (Hayes, Singer & Cippos, 2007, pp. 59). The answer is trust. A journalist is someone citizens can trust to provide them with information based on professional and ethical standards.

In my opinion, it does not matter where the information is published (newspaper, radio, online news, blog, Facebook or Twitter) as long as it is reliable, trustworthy and the content responds to Journalism Standards and Principles.

Journalists, like many other professionals (PR, marketing, education, etc) have had to adapt to the digital era. Online journalism has evolved to a point that in 2012 online journalism played a very importer role in the Pulitzer Picks. 

Online Journalism has as much value as traditional journalism as long as it maintains the quality and ethical standards offered by traditional media.

As I see it, today’s journalists have an opportunity to reach more people, engage in conversations, participate in discussions and receive feedback from their audience (as scary as this most be).

Nevertheless, as explained during last week lecture, editors of news sites all over the world share the same concerns when it comes to online journalism. The desire to maintain editorial control, the lack of capacity to moderate and Astroturfing are some of the main issues that the journalism industry has to face day to day.

In conclusion for today, a little piece of advice that I also need to follow: lets not be lazy when seeking information. Together we can become an audience that demands high quality journalistic pieces with excellent research, verifiable sources and facts, good writing and interesting topics. The audience can make the difference and help the journalism industry improve day to day.

Tips for choosing a reliable news source:

http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Choose-a-Reliable-News-Source

Sharing is for everyone

Today and all around the world, Social Network Sites (SNS’s) have become one of the main topics of discussion in various scenarios. They keep marketers awake, mothers concern, teenagers distracted, scholars interested and authorities aware.

Woman Using Mobile Phone In Bed

How people spend their time online has changed greatly since 1997 where the first recognizable social network was introduced (SixDegrees.com). At present, users can choose from a wide rage of SNS’s and decide who they are and how they what to present themselves. You can choose to be exclusive (ASmallWorld), professional (LinkedIn), a dog lover (Dogster), a traveler (Couchsurfing), an artist (Flickr), a “friend” (Facebook), a photographer (Instagram) or even an activist (Twitter).

 For each person SNS’s serve a different purpose. Marketers are seeking ways of approaching their audience and making a connection. Mothers use it to cease their concern and reassure that their children aren’t giving out to much information. Teenagers find themselves spending more time online than in the real world. Scholars focus their research on network structures, online/offline connection, privacy issues and friendship performance. And authorities use them for criminal investigations, clues and data.

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SNS’s are for everyone. It does not matter what nationality you are from, what your cultural background is, your age, your interests or what your purpose is. Technology allows you to be online, connected to the world 24/7. A world that changes constantly and that can consist of your friends, sources of information, groups of people with common interests, complete strangers or the person you are having tea with in that precise moment at your favorite coffeehouse.

According to the article Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship written by Danah Boyd and Nicole Ellison SNS’s are defined as web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile, articulate a list of users whom they share a connection and view and transverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

Social Network Sites started appearing around the world in the late 90’s and from that moment on we have seen both successful and unsuccessful attempts of sites as they are constantly evolving.  With each passing day SNS’s are overcoming their technical obstacles, gaining a wider understanding of their users and rapidly growing and offering a variety of possibilities for us to interact with the world.

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“You are what you share” said Charles Leadbeater and to what point do we find that true?

What most experts conclude and agree on is that SNS’s “mirror, support and alter known everyday practices, especially with respect to how people present (and hide) aspects of themselves and connect with others”. (Boyde and Ellisson)