Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Internet as a Medium

The Internet is quite different from any other form of communication media. Types of communication media are usually defined by the number of people who participate in either sending or receiving a message through the specific medium. (Adams & Clark, p.28) The most basic form of communication occurs when two people are sending and receiving messages to each other, either face to face or through a medium. Other forms of communication can also include messages being sent to reach small groups, and larger groups through what we know as mass media. The internet of today is different from all these previous forms of communication media because there are many different ways for people to communicate and interact through the communication medium called the internet. (Adams & Clark, p. 28) The internet holds many defining characteristics that make this medium work so well.

The first characteristic which clearly defines the internet as superior to other communication media is the fact that it is a dual-medium. The term ‘dual medium’ means that is can function as a ‘macromedium’ as well as a ‘metamedium’. (Adams & Clark, p. 29) When Adams and Clark defined it as a ‘macromedium’ they meant that it knows no boundaries, and reach any internet user worldwide. On the other hand, it can also be known as a ‘metamedium’ because is serves as a ‘platform for older’ and other types of media as well. (Adams & Clark, p. 29). This is also the key component that distinguishes the internet medium from the television medium. The television sends out messages to an audience and they receive it. They do not have the option of responding to what they receive. While on the other hand, users of the internet medium have the option to send and receive messages. (Adams & Clark, p. 29)

Another defining characteristic of the internet is that it is ‘multimediated’. (Adams & Clark, p. 35) It can display a wide range of media, such as different graphics, words, pictures and videos all on the same page or in a message. It can do this because of convergence. Adams and Clark define ‘convergence’ (p. 35) as the integration of once separate technologies together. An example of this on the web would be a photo gallery that someone has uploaded along with text describing the pictures. This demonstrates convergence and two separate technologies are being used together to create a more powerful outcome.

Another characteristic that defines the internet is that of ‘hypertext.’ Adams and Clark describe hypertext to be the ability to link any type of content to any other type of content. (p. 37) An example of this would be when you are on a webpage and say that there is a picture of Derek Jeter hitting a home run. The hypertext comes into play when you click the picture and then that brings you to the video of Derek Jeter actually hitting the home run. This characteristic of the internet is key to how the internet is easy to use and navigate because of the simple luxuries like this and in fact is the characteristic that the world wide web is based on. (Adams & Clark, P. 37)

Another characteristic of the internet that separates it from other forms of media is that it is ‘interactive’. On the internet we get to choose ‘our own path’. (Adams & Clark, p.59) We have control of what we access, view, read, and post. This is quite the difference from sitting in front of a television and receiving what is given to us or opening up a newspaper and only getting the news they want us to see. With the internet you access what you want when you want it. You can be reading about the Yankees at one moment, and then receiving e-mails from professors the next. This is unique and important to the ‘surfer’s’ experience with this medium. (Adams & Clark, p. 59)

A fifth characteristic that defines the internet from all previous communication media is that of it being both synchronous and asynchronous at the same time. This means that we can read something immediately as it is happening, or we can save it to read or respond to at a later time. (Adams & Clark, p. 40) This furthers the freedom and reinforces the advantages of using the internet to communicate.

These characteristics plus many more is what makes the internet a more reliable, and user-friendly type of communication media than ever before.

From: Adams & Clark. C.2. What Is It? Characteristics of the Medium

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Key to a Small World

In Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, by Clay Shirky, the author explains how large social networks exist. The term large social network if often taken for granted because people do not fully understand how they function. They are a part of many but do not know the theory behind it. This is why Shirky explains in his article how these social networking patterns are formed and maintained.

In 1998, Watts and Strogatz released research they conducted, titled, “Small World Network”. (Shirky, 215) This was published with the intent to inform readers how exactly these social networks are created and maintained. They broke down their theory into having two main parts. The first part being that “small groups are densely connected.” (Shirky, 215) This basically means that in a small group of about five friends, everybody knows everybody. They all speak regularly, and know personal facts about one another. If one person leaves the group, it is not phased because all the people are still densely connected and do not rely on anyone to communicate with another person. The second part of Watts and Strogatz’s theory is that ‘large groups are sparsely connected.’ (Shirky 215.) This means that as your group gets larger, it is more likely that people who are in the group will not know everyone in the group. (unlike the first part of their theory) Because of this, one must combine both parts of their theories in order to have a successful social network. For example, “Instead of one loose group of twenty-five, you have five tight groups of five. The network will be sparse but efficient and robust.” (Shirky, 216)

After reading about how social networks function I realized that the social network that I am a part of works exactly the same. I have a group of friends from my hometown in Staten Island. We are all very close, and have been friends since the grammar school days. I also have a close group of friends that I made in college from the Albany area. Even though everyone that I am speaking about from the two different groups are facebook friends, dosen’t necessarily mean that they are to be considered ‘densely connected.’ Instead they are two separate smaller groups that are connected through me, because I am part of both groups. This is a prime example of the research Watts and Strogatz presented backing the theory of the “Small World Network”.

Shirky, Clay. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations (chapter 9). New York. Penguin.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Observing the Blogosphere

For my fourth essay, my assignment was to explore the blogoshere. “The blogosphere is a collective term encompassing all blogs and their interconnections. It is the perception that blogs exist together as a connected community, or as a social network.”

After looking around this ‘blogosphere’ for a while I chose the blog called This is an unofficial Manchester United Team blog created by loyal Manchester United fans. It is a highly active blog which generates hundreds of responses to each article written by the main contributor who’s user handle is ‘red ranter’. This blog allows fans of the team to come together and interact from all over the world. Fans typically go on rants reacting to the articles posted, voice team frustrations, predict lineups, and almost anything else you can possibly think of. I chose this section of the online community because like everyone else belonging to this blog, I too, am an avid Manchester United supporter. I observed the interactions on this blog for over a week and also posted a few comments as well. (User name: cr7boywonder) After reading every article and user post for over a week, I saw one main theme that Aaron Barlow discusses in his book, Blogging America, occurring over and over again. The theme that Barlow spoke about that was constantly jumping out at me was the new ‘horizontal’ structure of journalism. (Barlow, 2008)

Blogs have a ‘horizontal structure’ because it is democratic and anyone who chooses to participate in the conversation can actively do so. (Barlow, 2008) Traditional journalism, which tends to follow a ‘vertical structure’ is far different from that of blogs. This type of structure tends to have a hierarchy where only trained journalists or elite write about a specific topic. (Barlow, 2008) There are gatekeepers who regulate what types and forms of information are put out to the public. This is where blogs differ from this vertical structure. Anyone can post to a blog, without being a trained journalist. These people who decide to openly post or write about a topic who are not professional journalists can be called a ‘citizen journalist’. (Barlow, 2008) There are no ‘gatekeepers’ to regulate or say what information can be posted for internet users to instantly access and read.(Barlow, 2008)

This theme is represented many times through interactions and posts that I read while I was observing and participating on the redrants blog. The first way this ‘horizontal structure’ was demonstrated on the blog was by the pre-match lineup predictions. Before every game, hundreds on users log on to this blog and guess which lineup the Manchester United manager will send out to the pitch. There are all different views and opinions of the lineups and tactics that will be used by hundreds of fans. This interaction and conversation shows that blogs are democratic, and anyone who chooses to participate in a conversation can do so without being part of the upper end of the hierarchy. (referring to the vertical structure) (Barlow, 2008) A second way that I learned this new ‘horizontal structure’ was in effect for blogs was through my own post. Early Tuesday, November 11th, Owen Hargreaves, an important midfield player for the United club was ruled out for the rest of the season due to injury. Once I found out about this I immediately post to the blog, “hargreaves is out for the rest of the season. he played a vital role down the stretch last year to help united with the double, with scholes out and nani struggling in the midfield fergie better get something together before we fall too far behind.” This post stirred up a small conversation as frustrated fans then preceded to voice their frustrations and ongoing worries about the team. Now, I have never taken a journalism class in my life and was not trying to be professional, yet I was still allowed to post this comment. This shows that there are no gatekeepers in the structure to regulate who or what type of information is put up on the site. (Barlow, 2008) It also furthers the point that anyone can take part in the new form of ‘horizontal’ journalism and write whatever they choose to a blog.

After observing and actively participating on a blog for over a week, I now truly understand what this new type of ‘horizontal’ journalism is. It is truly democratic, as it allows anyone, professional or unprofessional, to write whatever they want without any regulation. It also shows that journalism does not have to follow a ‘vertical structure’ in order to be successful and that this new form of ‘horizontal’ journalism may catch on quicker than we think. (Barlow, 2008)

Barlow, Aaron. (2008). Blogging America. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Observation #5

My final observation day was Tuesday, November 11th. Red Ranter’s article was quite brief and just stated that all rants, frustrations, conversation and thoughts should go below his post. He seemed very irritated, like many other Manchester fans with the current form of the team, and just left a window open for the fans to converse a bout current topics. I put up a number of posts today in response to team news that happened over the night and early this morning. The first comment I made was about Sir Alex Ferguson’s (manager of Manchester) outburst at the English Premiership. He was upset because of his team having all away games on the schedule after their Champions League matches which take place midweek. (my handle is cr7boywonder) No one responded to this message and could have been due to when I put up the comment. I put it up during lineup predictions and it seemed that no one wanted to be bothered with this topic. A few hours later in the day, it was announced over in England that star midfielder Owen Hargreaves was out for the remainder of the season. As soon as I read this I posted the news on the blog, it generated a few responses. Fans again were upset, as this news added more fuel to the fire. The team is in great danger of finishing trophy-less as their problems continue to build up and no one was afraid to tell their peers how they felt. Fans ended the responses from today’s blog just hoping that the team can get their act together, and quick enough to salvage the season.

Observation #4

My fourth day of observation on redrants came on Saturday, November 8th. Today is the day of the big league clash against Arsenal which was spoken about in many earlier blogs on the site. The third and fourth place teams play each other for positioning as well as bragging rights. I woke up at 7 this morning to watch this game live from England on the computer, because it wasn’t televised in the States. I read the blog before the game and redranter posted and interesting dialogue he had with an Arsenal insider. The insider explained to red ranter that Arsenal’s coach Arsen Wenger, is frustrated with injuries to his team and feels that the league has it out to hurt his players. This did not go to well with the people who blog on this site because this is a Manchester fan page and their team has their own share of injury problems. They have 4 out of the usual 11 starters out with injury so they are in the same boat as Arsenal and were not afraid to voice their opinion. After the game was over, and Manchester suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Arsenal fans were irate. They bashed the players and coaching and suggested many different ways to try to improve the situation. Even though they were bashing and irate, you could tell that the people involved in the conversation are still extremely loyal to the club and just getting their frustrations out to their peers.

Observation #3

My third day of observation came on Wednesday, November 5th. Red Ranter previewed the big Champions league game today between Manchester United and Celtic FC. The Champions league is a continental battle between the best teams in Europe to crown one true champion in May. Manchester United won this prestigious trophy last season, which is why their fans are extremely concerned with the slow start to this season. Bloggers gave their predictions for the Manchester starting lineups and tactics that the coach would use. Some fans disagreed with other’s defensive lineups because they felt that with certain players in goals could not be scored to seal a victory. While observing this blog later on that day during the evening hours I found something to be quite astonishing. From 2:45 – 4:15pm, which is the time that the game took place, there were over 250 comments. The fans were conversing about what was going on during the game! This blog serves as a platform for fans to communicate instantly during the game. Fans could voice their frustrations along with their brief spells of happiness and speak about what was happening with everyone else. I never thought of using a blog this way, but it looks to be extremely successful.

Observation #2

My second day of observation happened on Monday, November 3rd. Red ranter discusses the situation with United’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo, and also about the scary but realistic truth about what is going on with Manchester’s poor start to the season. The first half of the comments towards the blog seemed to be written in a very optimistic tone. This is due mainly to Ronaldo committing himself to the club through next season. This was a huge issue over the summer months because the Spanish giants of Real Madrid were trying to lure Ronaldo to their club. Although he was tempted in the end he wound up staying, and this morning he committed himself fully to the club and looks to be getting back on track after he netted two goals against Hull City over the weekend. A few hours after the blog was put up and people discussed Ronaldo, many of the fans began to voice their worries about their team. They admitted that the club does not look like they did last year at this time and that they are suffering from player injuries and also sub-par performances. Things seem to be pretty glum right about now.

Observation #1

The blog that I chose to observe for my fourth essay is This is an unofficial Manchester United Team blog created by loyal Manchester United fans. It is a highly active blog which generates hundreds of responses to each article written by the main contributor who’s user handle is ‘red ranter’. My first day of observation for the blog took place on Sunday, November 2nd. Red ranter wrote about Saturday’s league game against Hull City, which resulted in a 4-3 victory for United. Although United got the victory and the full three points they needed desperately there was still a negative tone to the responses written by the users of the blog. Giving up three goals at home to a mediocre team has gotten fans worried about the Manchester United defense and midfield. They played well for the first 60 minutes, and then down the stretch during the last 30 they let in 2 weak goals. I saw the game myself and agree with the comments from the users. The users spoke back and forth giving suggestions on ways the manger can improve the situation. By reading what everyone else had to say I saw many different aspects of how to resolve the problem from the broad range of fans.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Freedom vs. Commercial

In Blogging America, by Aaron Barlow, the author discusses the role that blogs play in today’s popular culture. He presents the differences of blogging for writers at the individual and commercial levels and how blogging for one end differs completely from the other.

First the author speaks about how important it is for an individual to have the freedom to write and the ability to blog. This allows the author to publish what they want in their blog on internet. The advantage that blogging has over traditional writing in a magazine or newspaper is that allows instant feedback on the author’s work. This allows the author to hear opinions from readers that may agree or disagree with what they have written. Receiving feedback from people who have read article will improve the author’s writing skills, and ultimately make the author’s writing skills stronger. Barlow sites Rosenberg when he speaks about these, ‘seeds of freedom’ and how important it is for us to have these freedoms in today’s society. (p. 114) Blogs can be described as, “this participatory platform allowing people to bypass cultural gatekeepers of all sorts, helping loosen control of content of communication pathways that has for so long rested in the hands of commercial entities.” (Barlow, 2008) This tells us that individual blogs enable writers to exercise their freedom without having to deal with any limitations or gatekeepers that control what is published.

When an author writes at the corporate level, or for a company many can argue that the author’s own words or feelings are not being used. The author’s views or topics written about can be controlled by the gatekeeper of the company. The gatekeeper’s objective is to publish stories and articles that will sell to the media and keep readers coming back for more. When this is the goal, author’s topics and opinions are controlled by this gatekeeper and they are then not able to voice their true feelings because they are catering to what others want to hear.

After reading this chapter I now understand the differences between blogging for yourself with an open mind and no limitations, versus blogging at the commercial level. Blogging for a company means having to deal with gatekeepers that control what is written to satisfy the audience, and to sell your product. For an author to decide which level to write at they must ask themselves what is more important, “Writing to voice their own opinions and feelings, or selling a product?”

Barlow, Aaron. (2008). Blogging America. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.