Twittersphere: The NEW News

No one understands how hesitant I was to title this post what it is. You have to understand, we, as a generation have been conditioned to believe that twitter is for fun, casual, and NEVER reputable. Imagine the world’s disbelief when the greatest political debate platform wasn’t a town hall in a city ripe for tourism and money making, but it was actually none other than twitter. I know what you’re thinking. Are we really in a place in society where our political leaders are engaging in similar social media feuds that our celebrities made famous? Are our political leaders and celebrities becoming the same people? (Of course they are. Ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

A 2011 Clay Shirky foresaw social media influence in current events. “The idea that media, from the Voice of America to samizdat, play a supporting role in social change by strengthening the public sphere echoes the historical role of the printing press.” (Shirky, The Political Power of Social Media, 6) So if  we as a society have not completely disregarded the legitimacy of our politicians who engage in twitter debates [and instead, we elect them] then why have we not regarded twitter as a reputable research platform where literal history is being made every day?

It’s also Clay Shirky who recognizes, however, that our progression as a society to be more apt towards twitter and other social media platforms as reputable sources is limited by our ability to communicate cross-cultural ideals and have a “single community” social media presence. In his 2002 “Communities, Audiences, and Scales“ “With such software,the obvious question is “Can we get the best of both worlds? Can we have a medium that spreads messages to a large audience, but also allows all the members of that audience to engage with one another like a single community?”(Shirky, Communities, Audiences, and Scales) The answer seems to be”No.”” Shirky talks about the difference between an audience and a community and how we struggle with connections online because we can’t truly connect with each other in the way a community needs to, therefore our messages don’t reach people in an effective way. Since we cannot reach each other in a community aspect, we cannot connect. This limits the depth of social media connectivity and therefore we cannot explore the full potential of social media transforming them from shallow communication portals, to reputable in depth communication channels.

In efforts to take twitter beyond the threshold of just another social media platform, we have to acknowledge its limited audience. Because twitter is a free speech medium of sorts, it’s banned in many countries which allows mainstream news outlets to take the lead in coverage and access. “Overall, mainstream media appears to have more even coverage, with less clustering around major cities” (Mapping the Global Twitter Heartbeat, Twitter versus mainstream news media.) With Twitter really coming into it’s prime as a social media platform, we have to recognize it’s not prominent on accessibility the way traditional news coverage is which goes back to our inability to reach each other to make twitter more effective.

So what will it take to verify twitter? We have to acknowledge the evolution of news media. If our politicians can utilize the platform to discuss matters of the country, we should be able to take our news from the site. Information falls directly from the mouths, or the hands, of the people we are reporting on. Next we address the communication gap and accessibility for all people across the globe in efforts to take the Twittersphere from an audience, to a community. If we make these changes, we can evolve how twitter is viewed and maybe, how social media is used in future elections. (Social media was a mess due to the this being the first election social media was utilized in this way. Traditions have to start somewhere!)Twitter-South-Africa-Social-Network-Social-Channel-Social-Media

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Did Trump Have the Upper Hand?

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In general, the internet has allowed our world to grow in terms of global communication tremendously.  Of all the social media platforms available today, Twitter is one of the most popular, especially amongst political candidates.  “In 2016, 44% of U.S. adults reported having learned about the 2016 presidential election in the past week from social media, outpacing both local and national print newspapers” (Pew Research Center, 2016).  In comparison to previous election years, this is a pretty significant change in the way our world is choosing to receive its information. For most “people, especially in the United States, social media is the easiest and most convenient way to receive news.  Social media seems to be a means of connecting in the hopes of receiving real information.  While this is not to indicate that all tweets and posts are inaccurate, the growth of social media is beginning to treat users more like an ‘audience’ instead of an inclusive group with opinions that are being addressed appropriately.  According to Shirky,  “growth in group size alone is enough to turn a community into an audience, social software, no matter what its design, will never be able to create a group that is both large and densely interconnected” (Shirky, 2002, p. 1).  We see this playing out in the world of Twitter.  So many people turn to this particular platform to receive any and all information, making it a very powerful source to users. Unfortunately, the more popular these types of social media sites become, the less personal they will feel to its users.  

Hamby addresses the issue of the lack of experience that political reporters now possess. It seems that more and more political candidates are turning to social media to make their mark on the public.  “More and more, the mainstream political press is being cut out of the election process, raising questions about the value of being a reporter” (Hamby, 2013, p. 5).  Interestingly enough, we saw this to be true in the most recent election.  While Clinton, Sanders, and Trump all had active social media accounts, Trumps were the most successful with the public.  While both Clinton and Sanders focused more on linking their followers back to their campaign pages, Trump focused moreso on connecting his followers to the news media online.  Essentially, he relied less on reporters and his campaign team and strived to direct his followers to material that was already floating around in the media that was available to him.  In the end, this gave Trump the upper hand in terms of retweets, comments, follows, and Facebook reactions. Could it be that the way Trump utilized social media was one of the main reasons he won the election?

Lastly, I want to address the way Trump handled the public in terms of social media. McGonigal states that “The economy of engagement is also an economy of feelings, in which positive emotions—pride, curiosity, love, and feeling smart—are the ultimate reward for participation” (2008, p. 16).  Trump played on these “feelings” as McGonigal states.  Over time, our world has been brainwashed to believe that money is the root of all motivation.  Of all people for this statement to fall on, it would be Donald Trump.  However, he proved us wrong in terms of the election. Of all the candidates, he was the one to engage with the public most.  He took the time (or maybe people he hired took the time, which would be ironic) to answer the public and post what they were saying.  He cared more about the people following him than his campaign.  Do you feel like his engagement with the public was sincere?  Did you notice that Trump seemed to be the most prominent presidential candidate on Twitter during election season?  

 

Candidates differ in their use of social media to connect with the public. (2016, July 18th). Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2016/07/18/candidates-differ-in-their-use-of-social-media-to-connect-with-the-public/

The Modern Cyborg: McLuhan Today

Cyborg is derived from the 2 English words cyber and organism. Google describes a cyborg as “a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.” When I was growing up, Cyborg was my favorite team member of the Teen Titans, and I always wondered how long would it take for society to be able to make me a cyborg so I could be just like him. According to McLuhan, we’re already there and we’ve been there for a while now. I don’t mean that in medieval Europe, people were running around with half their bodies made out of technology. However, since then, and maybe even before that, technology has been evolving human ability from the way we talk, to the way we work, cook, sleep, and everything in between.

Bandura taught us that our aptitude for technology, like most things, is created through social cognitive theory. We learn through observation and we  improve self-efficacy by doing over and over again. McLuhan looks at media/technology as the main component of our evolving society. McLuhan shows us that technology has been the driving factor in the development of human ability and interaction. Technology isn’t just a machine we use, it becomes a part of us, and extension of ourselves, integrating itself into every aspect of our life and changing what traditional looks at. For proof of this, you can look at things like radio and tv which are late 19th century/early 20th century inventions that completely revolutionized how we see and hear the world. However, those born and raised in the late 20th century/early 21st century will be raised in a world where radio and tv are relatively prehistoric and the seeing and hearing experience has been propelled into high definition music and video streaming applications that fit cozily on a mobile phone.

Yes, in Today’s society, we have redefined the harmony between technology and human beings. What was once a fantismal concept of a majority robot and part human being, is now a normal human being with the ability to enhance their sensory input/output through technology in their lives that have become second nature. In today’s society, it’s important to note that technology has become the buffer for traditional communication, and according to McLuhan, this is the new traditional. Having a cellphone was just the start, and for the fact, so was texting. Now popular social media platforms have become the primary means of communication between multitudes of individuals. Your profile is no longer a hobby, but has evolved into your social media presence. Instagram and Twitter accounts are being asked for during job interviews. You don’t have to talk on the phone to order food anymore, instead technology has evolved so much that you can have door to door grocery and meal delivery with just the push of a couple buttons.

The ability to live and survive is being compacted into these tiny  devices that we grab off of our side tables and dressers without even thinking of. When my generation were hitting their early teens, we were heckled for being so attached to our mobile devices, but now, members of society who don’t own one are closer to off the grid than on.  Continuing to hound “millennials” about excessive technology use is futile because the next generation is inherently plugged into the world with the amount of technology in society now. What’s normal and traditional will continue to be revolutionized by new technological advances and we, as a society, will continue to be the new Cyborgs.

Twitter Is Bigger Than 140 Characters

The United States 2016 Presidential election was a mess. No matter what side of the isle voters were on, there were more reasons to not vote for that party’s candidate than ones that reassured the best outcome. Obviously in hindsight, the outcome was one that has yielded very little universal success or minimal praise. It (in my opinion) will go down in history as a defining election that will frame all campaigns in the future, especially the implementation of online tools and their abilities to reach the American public.

In the article Audience, Scale, and the Political Power of Social Media, there are many references to the influences of shared information through online mediums. One particular point that fit very well within our recent election was the distinction between activists (activism) and social media activists (“slacktivists.”) This point is made to first show a negative of social media as it relates to activism, and then proves that it is also a positive when used correctly. The negative is pretty obvious, those who are looking for causes and support social change, but don’t want to give much effort, can just “support” all they want through pages and posts (and feel some satisfaction from it.) This “slacktivism” is what much of the left participated in leading up to the election, gaining satisfaction and attributing effort to only being active online. This was a major fault, and one that was learned quickly. The positive of using social media for activism is the efficient and easy-to-use features of these sites that allow for the organization of events and meetings. Now that much of the adult population is connected online (especially by smartphones), it is now much easier to carry out demonstrations or other activist events with little planning or resources. After the election, the same left, that had been most active online, began to assemble and demonstrate in huge numbers. I think that if these people had been able to see the difference between the two types of activism, this election may have turned out much differently.

In the article Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign, there is a unique quote about the shift in Twitter’s role in political campaigns. “Twitter is where that central conversation is taking place. It’s not that Twitter is where you’re discussing the news. So much of it is actually happening on Twitter. It was just the central stream of the conversation for everyone.” This quote by Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith really demonstrates the power of Twitter for news outlets. The article discusses how major networks will now browse Twitter before going on air, simply to find more for a story, or to find a new one. This is a scary new reality for journalists who are not comfortable with this shift, but after this election, looks to be the future of how we get information. Trump fits this idea especially well because of his constant involvement on Twitter, creating stories from each thread or tweet. This can eliminate the need for journalists who would have broken whatever information Trump is now sharing, but it does allow journalists to quote him in a way that was never before possible. Twitter has become the news, no longer just a news sourse.

The importance of focusing on social media and traditional news media as separate focuses is supported by findings from the article Mapping the Global Twitter Heartbeat. In their conclusion on the mapping of news media and Twitter, they found that even in overlap, both entities do cover areas that are virtually untouched by the other. When keeping this in mind, it is important to remember that both are important mediums to focus on when reaching consumers, and should be still equally used. This dynamic may change in the future, as it is clear that there continues to be a shift in how United States residents receive their news.

Now that social media (especially Twitter) has been established as a major factor into how information is shared and how people communicate online, what are its limits? Will election campaigns just be focused online and will those in opposition continue to organize through social media? What does the future of journalism look like when those who were once being written about are now the ones writing themselves?

The power of Twitter in the 2016 election

I will start this week’s blog post with a little disclaimer ** yes, I am a journalist, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything other journalists do or how some things are done in the industry.
Even though Twitter was used in previous elections, I think one of the most popular topics discussed this election was President Donald Trump’s use of the social media site throughout his campaign and in his first several months as president.
In “Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign,” from the start noticed a connection to the 2016 presidential election – a hatred for media. Maybe it’s because I was in college during the 2012 election and wasn’t the most involved then, but I didn’t realize in the Romney election, his chief strategist Stuart Stevens hated the media just like now President Donald Trump (#fakenews), and he also used Twitter as his medium of release.
“Stevens’ missives were often more whimsical or esoteric than mean, but it was clear he harbored some deep resentments about the press and its treatment of his candidate.”
The use of Twitter was talked about in 2013 when the article was published, but what would it say now about the recent election? “Candidates and politicians are increasingly trying to present their messages on their own terms, either through politically friendly news outlets or their own social media channels.” I think this is proven even more true this election with President Trump’s excessive use of his Twitter account, and certainly his freedom of speech mentality.
Reading the section “Boys on the Bus,” made me realize – as a journalist – how I would love to report on a presidential campaign. However, I noticed with the 2016 election (and maybe it’s been done before, but again I never paid much attention the way I do now) is there was actually news stories done on television about the journalists who road on the buses, planes and gave up their lives for the year to report solely on the election and candidates. Good Morning America I know sat down with three journalists and spoke with them about their experiences, which I thought was nice because it allowed the viewers to learn more about the people behind the keyboard. I think this helped to give them more credibility.
I also felt with this election, more eyes were on it following the candidates every moves largely because of the media. I agree in the “Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus?” article, “Every one of their moves is obsessively documented and breathlessly promoted, either on websites or on Twitter, by reporters hungry for even the tiniest crumb of unique information.” However, my argument to that would be … if people didn’t tune in or read what the reporters put out there, they wouldn’t do it. There’s a reason reporters do the things they do. Believe me, it’s not because we always love it, but because that’s what some people feed in to. I’m not saying it’s always right.
The 2016 presidential election, I think, really highlighted the use of two-way media discussed in “Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet: Networks, Economics and Culture.” Obviously we all know the internet reaches more people quickly. But, once again with our “unique” new president, Trump used Twitter more of a two-way media than I think most other candidates did. Between the Twitter wars with Trump and democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, to Trump and Rosie O’Donnell battling it out in 140 characters each. “The growth of two-way media, however, shows that the audience pattern re-establishes itself in one way or another…” But I think this might have made the candidates more “human” to voters. It made more people tune in to see what’s next and engaged the voter to be able to side one way or another.
Twitter also allowed the candidates to spread to more voters by not being limited to geography (“The internet era on the other hand has created a world in which a person may speak to another on the other side of the planet with a just a few millisecond delay, effectively removing the geographic barrier,” said in the article “Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter.”). Twitter also allowing voters to know where they’re tweeting from. Mentioned in “Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter,” “since 2009, Twitter has allowed tweets to include geographic metadata indicating the location where the tweet was authored.” Voters were able to follow candidates closer on the campaign trail through Twitter. I think this was highlighted particularly toward the end of the campaign season for the candidates when they were still holding rallies up until the last second possible, including last-minute rallies in Pennsylvania.
I think Twitter was a defining factor in the 2016 election between the use of the medium from the candidates themselves, to the journalists who followed their every tweet and putting more information out to the voter through Twitter. But Twitter seems to be becoming less popular with the younger generation. Do you think it will eventually become like Myspace and go away? Or do you think we will see it used just as much in the next election?