Why pay more while you can have it online for less or even free?

In this global village where information is shared from one part of the world to the other through the internet medium we are seeing the rise of open source movements through online collaborative projects. By making all kinds of data such as books, movies, software, and music, accessible online, all members of the online communities are working hard together striving to make the best out of the internet world. When competing to bring all kinds of information to the table, communication becomes much easier and more affordable. By communicating on a much higher and complex scale, online communities are not just limited to conversations and synchronous meetings but they constitute the place now where free information is exchanged across the border.

internet-of-things

According to Clay Shirky, “…as all media gets digitized, the Internet also becomes the mode of carriage for all other media, meaning that phone calls migrate to the Internet, magazines migrates to the Internet, movies migrate to the Internet. And that means that every medium is right next door to every other medium. Put another way, media is increasingly less just a source of information, and it is increasingly more a site of coordination, because groups that see or hear or watch or listen to something can now gather around and talk to each other as well.” Starting from Shirky’s statement, why would anyone spend a lot of money in paying for phone and cable services, movies, books, and magazines while they can get them on the internet for less or even for free? New phone companies such as Vonage, Ooma, Fonality, Grasshopper, and RingCentral are now offering VOIP (voice over IP) service through the Internet for lower prices compared to the traditional telephone network companies like Verizon or AT&T which charge an arm and a leg. Today, we can even make free phone calls all over the world through applications such as Skype, Viber, Tango, and Oovoo. We can watch movies and shows through the internet on websites such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon for a nominal fee. Sling TV even offers live TV services through the internet for a $20 a month. Open source media such as Kodi (previously known as XBMC) actually offers an unlimited library of movies, shows, music, and pictures absolutely free, and Wikipedia covers different arrays of articles, news, and definitions online for free as well.

IoT-BLOG-HEADER

The collaborative efforts of each member of our online communities are absolutely making the telecommunication sphere more affordable and more competitive. However, does this mean that internet providers (such as Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner) will put restrictions on the internet flow or make it more expensive to offset the loss in other services? Does Wikipedia offer accurate and reliable information since anyone can modify its content and share it online? Will applications such as Sling TV, or Kodi change the way we watch TV and movies forever and make it more convenient and affordable to the public?

 

 

Reference:

Shirky, C. (2009, June). How social media can make history. From: http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history

Advertisements

Kids not scared to be public!

In this new digital age, kids open their eyes to the world to find out that technology is an essential part of their being. Through the power of the internet, smartphones, and social media they can basically defy the world including their schools and parents and construct their own reality in online communities. When I was young, I was under the control of my parents one hundred percent. They know everything about my life and I couldn’t hide anything from them. They know my friends, the parents of my friends, they know what is happening in my school, the kind of courses taught there, the kind of food I eat and everything. On weekends we all go to the park where we meet cousins, family friends, and neighbors and spend the whole day roaming in nature, eating homemade food, singing songs, and playing games. There was no room for errors because my life was monitored closely by my parents who were making sure that my actions are within the social constraints. In my case, my mom was a housewife and dad would leave to work at 8am, come back at noon for lunch, then gone to work for a few hours and be done by 4pm or sometimes even earlier. Most kids growing up in my generation lived similar kind of lives and hid no secret from their parents because they were just “good kids”.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 11.04.41 AM

Today’s kids, on the other hand, are nothing close to my childhood. Even if they live under their parents’ roof, they can basically do whatever they want in their own little world using technology to their advantage. By utilizing smartphones, and applications such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat they are exposed to other kids in their communities or from other parts of the world and share ideas, pictures, and even say what is going on in their private lives without any reserve. The question raised is whether technology is really helping our kids build their social identity and cognitive awareness or just violating their privacy and exposing their lives to online predators? The scary reality is that no one is completely safe using social media.

like

Studies have shown that even Facebook “likes” can actually reflect something about people’s personalities and private attributes. According to Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell, and Thore Graepel, “Likes represent a very generic class of digital records, similar to Web search queries, Web browsing histories, and credit card purchases. For example, observing users’ Likes related to music provides similar information to observing records of songs listened to online, songs and artists searched for using a Web search engine, or subscriptions to related Twitter channels.” Even if we are being very careful using Facebook privacy settings and control who can see our status updates, photos, and personal information, we are still exposing our sensitive personal attributes through pressing the “like” button. “We show that easily accessible digital records of behavior, Facebook Likes, can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender.” Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, one time mentioned “that if he were to create Facebook again, user information would by default be public, not private as it was for years until the company changed dramatically in 2009.” There is no such a thing as privacy in Facebook, our names, pictures, personal information such as gender, date of birth, and location, as well as friends’ list and all the pages we liked before are publicly available online and anyone with bad intentions can access that information easily.

As we rely more on technology every day, younger people try to distinguish themselves from previous generations and prove that they are actually different “cool” people. The sad reality is that today’s kids are not even afraid to reveal their personal lives to the public and that privacy means nothing to them. Recently on the news we all heard about the sexting scandal in a Colorado high school where students themselves exchanged hundreds of naked photos online. These high school students wanted to defy the social constraints imposed on them to “be good” and wanted to show the world that they have full control over their actions at least through their private online communities. George Welsh, the school’s superintendent, said “Some of the nude photos are believed to have been taken on campus,” which is even scarier. The teens’ mastery over technology enabled them to create a world of their own that adults have no idea it existed until the police found out. The frightening part is that students were able use a photo vault application that disguise the naked pictures and make them look like a calculator or a weather application. Welch said “When you go into it and you … hold a certain button long enough, a prompt for password comes up. Once you enter that password, then any messages that have been sent from photo vault to photo vault start coming up,” The app is “a little bit like Snapchat,” he added. “You can choose for the photo not to be able to remain on the device.” Although some of the teenagers are caught by police and are under investigation, we have no indication how long this sexting issue has been going on!

screen shot 2015-11-08 at 1.08.07 pm

How can we regulate the use of technology mainly applications such as Facebook that start by keeping our information private then all of a sudden become widely public? How can we implement parental control on using the internet and smartphones? How can we gain control over our kids’ actions before they destroy themselves using technology and ruin their values?

References:

Kirkpatrick, M. (2010, January 9). Facebook’s Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over. Readwrite. From http://readwrite.com/2010/01/09/facebooks_zuckerberg_says_the_age_of_privacy_is_ov

Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013, March 12). Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior.PNAS, 1-1.

Martinez, M. (2015, November 9). Sexting scandal: Colorado high school faces felony investigation. CNN. From http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/07/us/colorado-sexting-scandal-canon-city/

Trump and his Twitter weapon

Since the inception of the internet in the early 1990s, the concept of the “Global Village” that McLuhan coined is becoming even more accurate today after his death in 1980. People from all over the world can communicate with a touch of a button and share their ideas within the online communities anytime. As online communication is becoming more complex and gaining popularity via smartphone platforms, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram appeared as it is time to build a participatory system that encourage people to engage and connect on a higher scale. Shirky says “social media have become a fact of life for civil society worldwide, involving many actors – regular citizens, activists, nongovernmental organizations, telecommunications firms, software providers, governments.” Since its appearance in 2006, Twitter has evolved as fast as lightening, with users more than 2.9 percent of the world population and 9.1 percent of the US population. The success of Twitter is mainly attributed to its brevity (140-character messages) and straightforwardness in transmitting important messages in personal life, marketing research, or political campaigns. All kind of people from Obama to Trump to congressmen to the Kardashians rely on this service which shows how Twitter became an integral part of communication in the American society.

In campaigning for the Whitehouse between 2004 and 2008, Obama was the first president to use the medium of Twitter to reach the masses and win people’s hearts. As opposed to previous presidents who relied on more traditional media such as TV, radio, and newspapers, Obama used the Internet to organize his followers and ran ads on platforms like Twitter and YouTube or websites such as change.gov. Unlike the Romney team who only cared about the national message, the Obama team gave a great importance to local papers and TV channels and monitored them on a constant basis. A strategist for Obama’s campaign stated “I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is I go to the Newseum website and look at the front pages in every paper in every important state. As newspapers, especially regional papers, cut down on staff, you’d be amazed if you looked at it. Everyone’s got the AP wire on their front page.”

06trumptwitter-web-master675

In 2016 presidential campaign, Trump is somehow following the same tactics that Obama used a few years ago even though he clearly expressed scorn on the president on numerous occasions. In addition to Trump’s emotional appeal to regular citizens who are sick and tired of politicians who are not helping the country, Trump is the example of the unfiltered spokesman who says what’s in his mind the way it is. Twitter for Trump has become an important tool of his campaign to promote his ideas, reach out to people, and attack back whoever decides to criticize him. Trump’s dominance over Twitter is remarkable; not only has his name been mentioned in 6.3 million tweets, but also his Twitter followers have reached 4.36 million leading and giving a hell of time for his rivals especially Hillary Clinton.

https://twitter.com/huffingtonpost/status/642436236670574592/a

For a powerful man like Donald Trump, Twitter represents a powerful weapon to attack and defend himself against other candidates, either democrats or republicans. Mr. Trump one time mentioned in an interview that “there was nothing you can do other than sue” when threatened by a deceitful rival, “which I’ve done,” he added. “But it’s a long process.” Now, Trump, with the backup of his skilled online team, simply uses Twitter for the purpose to strike back and attack his enemies before they attack him by saying things like “I have more power than they do,” “I can let people know that they were a fraud,” “I can let people know that they have no talent, that they didn’t know what they’re doing.”

I don’t think Trump would ever have gained the popularity he has today if it is not for Twitter and online campaign. Even when he screws up like when he called Obama a Muslim not born here, or when he used provocative remarks, like the one about Fiorina’s face, or the one about Megyn Kelly’s bloody nose, he goes back to Twitter like nothing happened and tweets an explanation to justify himself. However, Trump was not able to use Twitter to justify himself successfully in the case of the actress Kim Novak who showed up in the Academy Awards last year. The Unfiltered mouth of Trump made a silly comment about Novak’s appearance saying “I am having a real hard time watching,” “Kim should sue her plastic surgeon!” When Ms. Novak saw the tweet after the show, she was distraught and subsequently locked herself up at home for days. Later on when Trump felt guilty about his actions he posted on Twitter: “I was always a fan of Kim Novak,” but after he did not receive any type of feedback from Ms. Novak he decided to send her an apologetic private letter to make her feel better.

In presidential campaigns like Obama’s and Trump’s, do you think Twitter helped and is still helping strengthening and broadening the scope of the campaign and make it more competitive? Do you think Trump could get away with his provocative remarks on the three women if it was not for Twitter? Do you think Trump did well by sending the apologetic letter to Ms. Novak instead of posting it online? Finally, Mr. Trump thinks that we should take off nuclear weapons from Iran because they are not responsible people. Following this logic, shouldn’t we do the same and take off Twitter from people like Trump by regulating what things can be tweeted and what things cannot?

References:

Barbaro, M. (2015, October 5). Pithy, Mean and Powerful: How Donald Trump Mastered Twitter for 2016. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/us/politics/donald-trump-twitter-use-campaign-2016.html

Hamby, P. (2013). Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign. Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

Leetaru, K. (2013, May 6). Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter. First Monday.

Shirky, C. (2011). Political Power of Social Media-Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change. The Council on Foreign Relations.

What can we do with our free time?

Technology has undoubtedly changed our social life from the flat communication system we used a few decades ago to the more elaborate system based on participation and collaboration online. The internet today is not only a source of information but also a site of coordination where people can get together and engage with each other and are not just limited to being an audience. According to Shirky, “The Internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversation at the same time. Whereas the phone gave us the one-to-one pattern, and television, radio, magazines, books, gave us the one-to-many pattern, the Internet gives us the many-to-many pattern. For the first time, media is natively good at supporting these kinds of conversations.” Just like the printing press had a catalyst effect on spreading ideas across Europe in the mid-1400s causing the church reformation and stirring a communication revolution, the internet today is a giant medium that facilitates the rise the of the mass collaborative movement. From news systems on TV that invite viewers to participate and share their ideas, to marketing campaigns that ask consumers to promote a product to the rest of the world, to open source search engines such as Wikipedia, Congresspedia or even Kardashianpedia on Twitter, the world is becoming a “global village” where sharing information and engaging with the audience is more convenient and effective than before. However, by relying on televisions or the internet to launch a participation network and keep us engaged in society, people spend more time glued on screens or playing online games and therefore they are escaping from the real world. Shirky notes that “With many more possible groups competing for the average individual’s time, the speed with which a group can become unglued has also increased.” In this new digital age we are exposed to more opportunities to contribute with in the participatory platforms than what we can handle raising the question of creating something of value or just wasting time.

glued to TV

Reflecting on how some teenagers are nowadays addicted to online games on computers, PlayStations, or Xboxes, I can think of my little brother who spends hours playing online. One day I decided to chat with him about his attachment to his games and I was shocked to hear that he has about 300 friends from all over the world who share the same experience as him in his virtual world. Using chatrooms, and even live synchronous conversations through his webcam and headset, my brother can sit in front of his PS4 for hours talking to his virtual friends from all over the planet. They all work together like bees in a hive towards a common goal of advancing in the game’s hierarchy; beating a monster, winning a soccer game, or saving team soldiers in a war zone. This virtual world is not all about playing games and having fun but also it involves a big amount of blogging or chatting about the strategies adopted to defeat the enemy, sharing several cheating codes developed by the online community team members, as well as discussing new games that are just being released to the market. It is very interesting to notice that my brother’s engagement with his online friends outweighs his engagement with his real friends; 300 online friends as opposed to 10 friends in real life. According to my brother, you can even learn about personal preferences of team members such as food or music. In most online games you can play your favorite music in the background while playing online which not only keeps the player entertained and focused but also gives him a chance to be exposed to music from all parts of the world. There is no doubt that my little brother is having a great time playing his games and engaging in his online community; however, by spending so much time online he is not able to focus on the real world; he is just wasting time and not paying attention to his school work. On a similar note, Shirky talks about how in the US alone, people waste a total of 200 billion hours watching TV instead of utilizing their time for something useful, “if all of that were converted into mass collab engagement , the United States alone would produce the equivalent of 200 Wikipedia-like projects a year.”

playstation-4

In today’s diverse technology age, are we just overwhelmed in front of all these participation networks online and therefore unable to create something of quality? Or is it just a matter of time management principles that we have to learn to control the technology media around us?

References:

McGonigal, J. (2008). Engagement Economy, the future of massively scaled collaboration and paticipation. Institute for the Future.

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

Shirky, C. (2009, June). How social media can make history. From http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history

Shirky, C. (2011). Cognitive surplus: How technology makes consumers into collaborators. “Gin, television, and social surplus.” New York: Penguin Books.

Hot vs. Cold Journalists

Thanks to technology, the reception and delivery of news has changed drastically over the last few decades. In the age of the smartphone and the internet “everybody is a media outlet” and people don’t need to remain restricted to using traditional methods of news reporting and publishing to be professional journalists. It is just hard to predict the evolutions caused by technology and I am sure that phone manufacturers did not foresee that this new communication tool could be extended later on to other areas such as photography and editing. According to Clay Shirky, “Because social effects lag behind technological ones by decades, real revolutions don’t involve an orderly transition from point A to point B.” Clay Shirky states that in this new digital age, the boundaries between professional journalists (using hot mediums) and amateurs (using cold mediums) are blurred changing the way traditional journalism has been working for a long time. Today, anyone with a smartphone and internet connection can capture news as it is happening and publish it within a few minutes to the general public. Our world has become just like McLuhan calls it a “global village” where news happening on one side of the world are being transmitted by regular people to the other side of the world within a few minutes. With the introduction of websites such as Flickr, YouTube, Instagram, or IstockPhoto there is no need for professional photographers and cameramen anymore since technology makes it easy for anyone to produce a quality work by following a few easy steps. In todays’ advanced world, publishing is no longer a rare commodity limited to professionals who were exposed to intensive training and who rely on journalism to make a living. Shirky says “if everyone can do something (publish information), it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.” Shirky even jokes that the only thing separating professional journalists and amateurs is an IRS definition of who makes more money and who pays more taxes.

Journalist

In chapter one of “Here Comes Everybody,”Shirky relates an interesting story of Ivanna who left her cellphone in a New York City cab. The cellphone was very important for Ivanna since it contained information of her upcoming wedding from “contact information for the catering company to the guest list.” After her failed attempts to retrieve the phone from the girl who found it, Ivanna’s friend Evan decided to use his technology expertise to retrieve the phone and created a website to draw people’s sympathy about the ongoing search for the phone. Evan was able to post pictures and personal information of the girl who stole the phone and managed to escalate the story to national news headlines, and eventually was able to retrieve the phone. Evan’s success to involve the community and bring his friend’s story on the spotlights demonstrates the power of blogging that people have today. He didn’t require any prior training in reporting and publishing and was just able to use the right technology tools to reach his goals. By making the world a “global village” the internet allows people to spread out the word in a more convenient and effective manner than what it would have been in the real world where face to face interaction is necessary. In his comment about the story’s significance, Shirky says “…one of the themes running through the story is the power of group action, given the right tools.” What makes this story unusual is that Evan used the right technology tools to bring awareness of the incident and made the story popular online.

Journalist Zoe

Nowadays, even younger professional journalists realized that it is time to drift away from the traditional journalism procedures and embrace technology. For those who watch the show “House of Cards”, the journalist Zoe Barnes decides to quit her job at “The Washington Herald” (a fictional newspaper) where she always struggled with her boss to let her publish news more quickly and resisted the layers of editing that slowed the process. Later on she joins the online news site “Slugline” where people think outside the box and write freely about what they want and post news quickly as soon as they have them from their smartphones or tablets. Zoe was actually surprised when her new boss says: “You don’t have to send me things before you post. The goal here is for everyone to post things faster than I have a chance to read ‘em. If you’re satisfied with the article, just put it up. … Whatever hoops the Herald made you jump through, let them go.” The website name “Slugline” actually indicates the notion of time where editors compete with others in a highly sophisticated technological world. In Slugline, editors can just focus on words and passing the news quickly without worrying about format and appearances because the website will do the job for them. If they don’t publish the news in a timely manner someone else will and they lose the exclusivity. This is now becoming the new trend for younger journalists like Zoe who are concerned about integrating technology more in the journalism industry.

The question to ask is, shall we adhere to “cold mediums” such as Twitter, IstockPhoto, Slugline in news publishing, and embrace technology the fashionable way? Or shall we stick with the “hot medium” where we have to double and triple check things and provide the public with the final product at the time it is released?

References:

Moos, J. (Ed.). (2013, February 4). In ‘House of Cards,’ Slugline is the new Politico. From http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/202921/how-realistic-are-the-journalism-issues-depicted-in-house-of-cards/

Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press.

Horseless Carriage impacts

Being the smart creatures we are, humans felt the need for a “technium” to extend their feet into wheels in the world around them.  What started as a horse-pulled carriage millions of years ago is now an automobile that is driven by a person, and sooner, before we know it, it will be an automobile driven by itself. There is no doubt that cars made our life a lot easier than before; however, our reliance on them comes at a big price. Each year in America, 1.2 million people get killed in car accidents due to alcohol impairment, severe weather, distracted driving while talking on the phone or texting, or simply losing control on a speedy vehicle. Furthermore, drivers suffer from stress and anxiety resulting from traffic jams and road rage. Commuters in the DC area for example spend an average of 140 hours a year idling in traffic, which is a valuable time that could have been spent with their loved ones. Finally, the fumes exhausted from our cars present a danger not only to our green environment but also to our health. Breathing high levels of toxic exhaust every day for a long period of time can actually cause certain respiratory problem such as asthma or even cause brain cancer on the long run.

the-10-most-traffic-clogged-cities-in-the-us

Sometimes I sit down and reflect about my childhood time when I was limited to my parents’ house and relied on my dad to take us to places with his small Fiat car. Back then I always fancied having my own car and driving anywhere I want without having to beg anyone. Growing up in a small city in Morocco, driving a car was only limited to older people (30 years or older), men, and rich people. At the time there was no such a thing as a car loan, and people had to save up their hard earned cash for the big purchase. Not many cars were roaming the streets and there was no such a thing as a traffic jam and the city was quiet for the most part. My mom says that the degree of pollution was less than today and the air was much cleaner. In addition, people were healthier because they basically walked everywhere, and only took public transportation if they had to go somewhere far. Most people who owned a car (like my father) would only drive on the weekend for leisure purposes with the family and therefore limit their dependence on this piece of technology. For younger people who were just starting their lives, bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters were their main means of transportation unless they drove their father’s car. In the country, people still used horses, donkeys, mules, or carriages drawn by these animals. At the time, it felt just like the street was divided into two sections; high class people driving cars, and low class pedestrians walking on the sidewalks. Back on those days, a car was just like McLuhan mentioned “The simple and obvious fact about the car is that, more than any horse, it is an extension of man that turns the rider into a superman. It is a hot, explosive medium of social communication.” When I arrived to the US for the first time as an immigrant, the first thing I did was buying myself a brand new car to feel the freedom that I did not have growing up back home. The first few months I was very happy enjoying my new technology toy, but then I realized how stressful I was thinking about getting stuck in Washington DC traffic to make it to work every morning, then affording to pay the auto loan at the end of every month. Looking back at the old days when my dad would drive the whole family for a picnic or a trip, I realized how much I wanted to drop everything and go back to that simple life when I used to be happy. In these moments I always find myself wondering if escaping from a high civilized environment or avoiding technology altogether is actually the right solution to live a stable life without losing my mind. I always come to the conclusion that the answer is “No”. Kevin Kelly is absolutely right about his theory that technology is inevitable. Instead of trying to stop it or avoid it, we must have a clear understanding about the principles that shape its evolution. In his book “What technology wants,” Kevin Kelly said “We can only shape technology’s expression by engaging with it, by riding it with both arms around its neck.” Technology will continue to grow no matter how hard we try to stop it. The Amish people for example, try hard to ignore technology by not owning or driving cars, yet they don’t mind using cabs or buses for traveling, or tractors for farming purposes. The same thing applies for the Unabomber who tried to reject technology by moving to a cabin in the woods away from the city, yet he would ride his bike to Walmart to buy food and necessities. Nowadays, technology becomes an integrated part of our life that we cannot avoid altogether. We can shape it and make it more compatible with our life but we cannot reject it altogether. Even today in less advanced countries like Morocco, people become so immersed into technology and things are not the same like it used to be when I was a child. Although people over there embrace technology in slower pace than we do here in America, thanks to the media and the internet the world has just become like a global village and people now rely on cars and other technology tools the same way we do here, if not more. Escaping is absolutely not the solution but “seeking conviviality” just like Kevin Kelly mentioned is the right way to deal with technology and its negative impacts.

lutzmann

Shall we resist technology and ignore it like the Amish community?  Shall we destroy it like the Unabomber? Or shall we try to shape it and make it compatible with our current life style? Shall we let the “horseless carriage” evolve to sophisticate and improve our transportation needs? Or shall we tame this monster by regulating its use and implementing more strict policies on the road?

References:

Kelly, K. (2010). What Technology Wants (p. 191,217,239,261,262,).

McLuhan, M. (1964). Motorcar. In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (p. 221).

Employee Engagement

Employees are the backbone of every organization, and without a healthy environment that encourages new challenges and interactive participation, employees risk to become bored and unproductive, and therefore start considering leaving their jobs.

Employee engagement

Employees spend the majority of their time at work away from their homes and families, and therefore it has become necessary for organizational leaders to develop strategies and activities that focus attention at work while having fun at the same time. While animals can be motivated by material rewards such as food and treats, humans need more than material things to be motivated. For humans the feeling of psychological well-being and participation bandwidth involved at work is actually more important than the amount of “thought hours” spent on a project. Of course, we all work to get paid, but money alone does not mean that our motivation is guaranteed. Nicole Lazzaro, the founder of the research group XEODesign, used the Italian word “Fiero” to describe the joy that we feel when we accomplish a hard mission. Feeling “Fiero” about the work we do creates positive emotions such as pride, curiosity, love, and feeling smart; and these all constitute better incentives for work more than money itself. Looking at the example of Cambrian House, a popular crowd-sourcing website, monetary incentives failed to motivate members and make them more engaged, and therefore the enterprise was forced to shut down. Cambrian House’s financial and investment plans were solid and had the crowd’s attention, yet it didn’t have the crowd engagement and failed to make members participate in the process of bringing ideas to life. Michael Sikorsky, Cambrian House CEO, commented on the online community collapse: “Most of the heavy lifting kept falling back on us (the site founders), or a few select community members … The wisdom of crowds worked well in the model, but it was our participation of crowds aspect which broke down.” Organizations should actually learn from Cambrian House mistakes, that sometimes it is not good to take things very seriously, but instead more “Funware” strategies should be incorporated in the project. In improving an organization without killing the spirit of participation, employers sometimes would have to diverge from the traditional norms and think outside the box to create rapports and relations with their employees. Employees will definitely appreciate a picnic day where everyone just hangs out casually away from the constraints of the office. Similarly, volunteering activities would challenge private and shy employees and make them engage more with the team. Finally, incorporating games such as pinballs or video games in the break room would absolutely create a fun environment while creating an opportunity for competition.

man-playing-computer-games

Organizations should learn lessons from the kind of motivations created by online games in improving communication and participation. In his study of online games participation, MMO expert Nick Yee (2006) discovered three primary motivations. According to him, the first motivation is “achievement” in advancing through the game stages; this is exactly the same feeling called “Fiero” by Lazzaro. The second motivation is “social”, which means that players strive to develop relations and work together toward a common goal. The third motivation is “immersion”, which means that players exercise their imagination in exploring extraordinary hidden things. Game researcher Edward Castranova (2007) also believes that fun should be incorporated in our real world because it motivates people and make them compete for things like brain cycles and interactive bandwidth. According to him “Both traditional organization and start-up communities may benefit greatly from looking to the online “fun engineers” for lessons in how to drive meaningful, passionate engagement with the increasingly crowd-dependent projects we are all creating.” Clay Shirky (2008) in his analysis of participation in online communities such as blogs, social media, online encyclopedias, or online games, confirms that emotional motivations contribute to the “pyramid of participation”. People usually participate in a system either to feel smart about their achievement, to feel their capability to mark the world around them, or simply to do a good thing. Following this paradigm, organizational leaders should start conversations and listen to their employees’ ideas about what constitutes “fun work” and what constitutes “real work”. Opening the door to dialogue would absolutely benefit organizations in adapting to their employees’ needs on working while having fun at the same time. The fun derived from work should be just like the fun derived from online games, and every employee in the organization should collaborate with his/her coworkers to accomplish good results while feeling good about themselves. According to Jane McGonigal (2008), organizations “must commit key resources to mastering the emerging art of making mass participation fun and sustainable, while bringing on staff and consultants who have already spent years working in “fun economy” industries. In the new economy of engagement, whoever captures the most passionate players and participants will have an unquestionable edge on innovation.”

having-fun-in-our-game-break-room

Do we need a “fun economy” implemented in our professional life? Or we should take things seriously because fun will just make us more distracted and less attentive? Should the concept of “team player” at work be extended to the next level the same way we play games online?

References:

Castranova, E. Exodus to the virtual world: How online fun is changing reality. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 7, 111.

McGonigal, J. 5: Capturing Engagement. Institute for the Future, 2008, p.20.

Schonfeld, E. “When crowdsourcing fails: Cambrian House headed to the deadpool.” TechCrunch, May 12, 2008. Available at http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/05/12/when-crowdsourcing-fails-cambrian-house-headed-to-the-deadpool/.

Shirky, C. Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin, 2008, p. 132

Yee, N. “The labor of fun: How video games blur the boundaries of work and play.” Games and Culture 2006; 1:68–71.