Interactive Media Theory and Audience Analysis Portfolio Fall 2009 Andrew Rushton
COM 530 “Past & Future: An Interactive Media Chronology” eBook Synthesis Notes Internet = greatest device to change concept of interactivity among humans Future = likely network accessing every item we own, it’s information, location, etc., being developed now. The limits of this process are unclear; we will determine them as humans advance computer technology. But, in reality, are we prepared for computers to advance beyond us instead of us advancing computers as it is currently? We must not lose sight of the many possibilities for misuse that comes with the territory such as: -how to define privacy, will concept of privacy even exist 20 years from now? -should children be exposed to online technology from day one or should there be a limit as there is suggested age for TV viewing? st 1 Computer (electronic): Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) -1946 at U. Penn., cost $500,000, relied on vacuum tubes, Army & Navy financed project Computers originated as ideas/concepts with no physical components…..OH my how things have changed! 1830s: Charles Babbage envisions “analytical engine” 1925: Vannevar Bush expands ideas to encompass a device for knowledge, NOT just numbers BIG shift in thinking *Top 10 iMedia Thinkers contender* This was a really interesting and significant corner of thought that Bush saw around. He realized that instead of crunching numbers, why couldn’t these machines actually store and transmit a person’s ideas to someone else. That concept, when paired with technical knowhow that came with hypertext = basic foundation for World Wide Web. 1960s: idea of hypertext realized, electronic transmission of an action from one device to another, World Wide Web stems from this practice Computer’s physical operation changed with microprocessors in 1970s -conduct numerous operations -no vacuum tubes -literally led to major multi-tasking by electronic circuits that has not been possible before Led to Moore’s Law: microprocessors could perform 35% more actions every 18 months than preceding chips = smaller, faster computers for home use….still very active in today’s marketplace as smartphones keep gaining more memory + features + capabilities Pre-World Wide Web originated from Advanced Research Projects Agency -meant to improve U.S. defenses from Soviet threat -first time scientists realized potential power of linked computers exchanging information for set purpose… Question: Did Soviet’s have any comparable systems in development/use? Clearly they beat the US in the Space Race but…
What To Do with New Technologies: Telegraphs initially lauded at shrinking the world, dissolving existing forms of media -nearly exact prediction to Internet in early 1990s, ironic as history has way of repeating itself -telephone mirrored same predictions of impact on people Radio- was claimed in 1920s “government will be a living thing to its citizens instead of an abstract and unseen force” QUESTION: Can same be said about Internet currently? Could argument be made it has depersonalized government, less connected with constituents? Since TV became mainstream media, rumors radio would disappear for decades, yet it is still used everyday. LESSON HERE about newspaper futures?????? Television- interesting divergence of opinions on the medium, radio pioneer Lee De Forest admits potential for TV exists in 1926 but no need to spend time/money on it while others predict potential for TVs that deliver taste and smell capabilities for viewers of programs. In 1950 a radio worker openly states belief TV will be primary media source of choice, radio will fall to second place. Internet- due to constant technological evolution, remember Moore’s Law!, can computers overtake humans in terms of intelligence? In 1995 claims made that by year 2090 computers will be twice as intelligent as smartest human. Can creators be dwarfed by a machine that WE created? FUTURE PROBLEMS….1) Internet serve as weapon to physically destroy human populations, 2) how to apply basic tenets of Constitutional law to online world, 3) how to punish when actions online cause harm 3) How to distinguish what is living and what isn’t, computers seem like living organisms so should they be treated as such? Phillip Tetlow “The Web’s Awake…” “The more powerful and connected such clusters of capabilities become, the greater the likelihood they will produce even more superior capabilities.” -mirrors Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, only the strongest survive -do humans have measures in place to realize and stop this before the evolutionary process usurps our power and intelligence Virtual/Augmented Reality constantly being developed by governments, usually for defense purposes -versions of VP and AP already utilized by public though, will increase too -the User Interface cited as big motivator for consumers to adapt a VR/AR platform such as Nintendo Wii, people have to enjoy using the product for it to catch on. WHY do people desire to be online, interacting with humans through online networks like Facebook and MySpace?? Neuropsychologist Kurt Goldstein states it is because people realize their point of “self-actualization” i.e. wanting to be most effective, creative, moral communicators. By not having an active presence on these networks, individual is missing out on what they COULD be. PERFECT marketing slogan for Goldstein’s concept: “Be all you can be.” -Nike
As VR/AR infrastructure advance = more people will spend greater amount of daily life in these atmospheres -advertisers already shifting billions $$ in advertising into these markets, away from traditional mediums Forms of Virtual/Augmented Reality: devices, wearable computers Ex: smart umbrella that scans city forecasts for weather reports, illuminates when weather requires need for umbrella *Transforming real world needs with virtual information significantly blurs differentiation between what is real and what is virtual.* Mirror-World is this being played out….basically a technological world that exists in parallel to the real world we live in -This is interesting as it represents an entire world that is under the surface, like a city street. However, if someone or something takes unwelcomed control of this parallel world, I see MANY problems that can be experienced in the real world. Ex: while outside a house for sale, cell phone can access virtual floor plans, age, taxes, school district info, major repair history etc. Ubiquitous Computing: a near complete integration of computer capabilities such that there is no discernible way to tell what is in the “virtual world” or what is in the “real world” Human and Computer Data Comprehension- we understand instructions best by reading YET we transmit information best by speaking -technological devices MUST adhere to these basic guidelines for greatest efficiency Question: Can computers in ubiquitous computing be able to tell someone who has a disability such as deafness and react accordingly to allow full integration of content to all individuals without concern people will be left out? BENEFITS of ubiquitous computing: 1) Don Norman, computer interface engineer, claims it forces us to design computing around our design, NOT work around the computers design or limitations. This way technology can be ever present and working without ANY disruption to our daily routine, seamless yet fully capable. CONSEQUENCES: 1) Constant awareness and surveillance of one’s actions and location, spying 2) Could redefine what is considered friendship among humans 3) How could a person separate from a ubiquitous computing landscape if they wanted to? How can that be done without being ostracized by greater society? Haptics: “refers to touch output or delivery of a tactile sensation from a device to a user” Used to mimic or manipulate human sense of touch, so feeling like something is there when it really isn’t. ex: flat cell phone screen feeling like actual buttons are present WILL PLAY INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT ROLE as blurring of virtual/real worlds continues, ex: iPhone click and resistance touch on screen buttons that are only images Hyperconnectivity: being constantly engaged via some form of interactivity like email Problem is when is it too much? Personally I feel this to be an ever-present drain on an individual’s ability to live life, experience a rounded perspective of what daily life offers; almost as if it is a constant distraction. We should be asking, are we living to live or are we here to support and coddle innumerable electronic devices? Rather, are we here to be coddled by electronic devices?
Continuous Partial Attention: person focusing main attention on one action while maintaining shifting attention among numerous other secondary tasks Ex: Twitter prime example of distraction juggled while people go about daily life FUTURE OUTLOOKS: 2010-2014 aprx. Global Environment for Networking Investigations (GENI) will replace current Internet, focused on security + bandwidth 2010 RFIDs & GPS be used for innumerable purposes to track goods, people, payment options at stores 2011 Super computers likely more intelligent than human brain, Japan may produce first computer of this caliber (SCARY!) 2012 Foods genetically modified to solely aid human performance, possibly allowing medicine bred + delivered through foods (interesting if can eliminate famines) 2012 Fabrics and Materials sensing and responding to environmental changes, mood changes, increased versatility 2015 Genetic profiling will allow understanding of plants, animals and human genetic composition and allow manipulation of such for disease prevention 2015 Human cloning taking place on small scale due to lacking government control 2015 Automobiles will be at least partially capable of utilizing autopilot 2020 Complete virtual reality worlds will exist, many people will spend majority if time competing, socializing, conducting business in these worlds. Possibility may exist that world control could shift to AI, BIG threat to humans. 2020 Robots everywhere doing almost every job, humans shift into force to care for robots smooth operation instead of performing labor tasks 2025 3-dimensional holographic television will be common, allowing full size figures in your home delivering content as if present in real life 2026 approx. Survivability in outer space will allow humans travel to far planets by hibernating for decades without aging 2045 Base on Moon and elevator to space will exist 2050 Small colony of researchers living on Mars Post 2050 Time travel may be utilized; human brain contents can be downloaded to computers and saved or reused forever I cannot help but wonder how all of these material inventions, physical objects, will be powered in the decades to come. We are increasingly finding ourselves being squeezed for energy to power all kinds of devices. IF progress of â€œalternative energiesâ€? has not taken root to supplant fossil fuels are primary energy suppliers, how can all of these advancements take shape? How can anything electronic function fully if the most basic component to succeed, energy in some form, is not available or at least financially feasible. PREPARING for the FUTURE: Futurists must map out where they will be at progressive points in the future and HOW they get there. Key actions: 1) balance risk to know what to invest resources towards and what to ignore 2) Preferable Futures are primary goal, trying to anticipate as much outcome as possible
Business people examples of this in action: Sir Richard Branson establishing space tourism business in AZ to sent people up for space flights, he anticipated will be growth industry. Strategic Foresight involves asking WHAT IF questions: 1) What if this happened today? 2) What does it mean for me? 3) What does it mean for others? Classify topics as EASY or DIFFICULT, DIFFICULT ones present most risk and or profit potential to come. Foresight requires ability to warn of a weakness = ability to prepare or react -cannot provide absolute answers BUT allows grasp of plausibility’s, can strongly guide decision making among individuals and groups regarding the future Leadership is important factor for future advancements. Good leadership should: Inspire (explore, innovate, stimulate) Engage (relationship strengthening, common shared values) Enable (direction is critical, accountability, joy of purpose) Trends are identifiers for the future, if understood correctly. Trends are changes within political, technological, social and economic arenas. Tipping points and inflection points can reflect future reactions under stated conditions when things go awry, allowing innovation and growth opportunities when these unexpected situations surface. Continual searching for tipping points, weaknesses are valuable tools, increasingly so, in ones ability to thrive during unexpected downturns because it provides agility. Problems to Organization Foresight: -lack of thought to future, liking status quo (THINK U.S. AUTO INDUSTRY!) -restrictions on communications between people and groups -lack of stability, constant transfer of responsibilities, turnover Ok so how do humans Handle the Future How? Need these skills to succeed in future oriented perspective: Trend ID: ability to id and understand a trend along with its potential impacts Patterns: must recognize generally instead of single isolated components, big picture, don’t be a day trader rather a long term investor Anticipation: think through short and long term outlooks, potential problems Analysis/Logic: able to combine all previous skills together to shape new approach, NOT relying upon previous standards must map new ones In a system-based mindset, where all components work together for a united goal, the futurists can map a desired outcome by “…analyzing patterns of change in the
past, identifying trends of change in the present, and extrapolating alternative views of possible change in the future in order to help create the futures they desire.” BINGO!
5 areas contribute to make this approach feasible *Top 10 iMedia Theories*: 1) Trend assessment 2) Pattern recognition 3) Systems analysis: crafting scenarios to view new contexts or alternative approaches 4) Anticipatory planning: show what is wanted or present in order to highlight areas needing attention to make new situation possible, filling in gaps 5) Instinct/Logic: utilize forward oriented tools and perspectives, no reliance on old PLANNING an APPROACH to FUTURE ISSUES Project Basis Why do people question it? Because they want to consider possible change Basic determination Probe what the point is behind effort, is it clearly defined. Outcome Determining agreement for what the desired outcome should be among all constituents is critical, should have agreed upon result from all contributors BEFORE beginning work or else efforts wasted for uncertain/unrealized results. Identify & Attract Stakeholders People/groups who are actively working on topic related issues OR will be affected by change to come. Must understand their perspective(s), weigh their position and knowledge in desired outcome. Important to keep them interested to lend support or will lose short/long term credibility. Strategic Thinking Intentionally trying to craft a desired position through information analysis for a group/company to achieve over a long-term timeframe. Trends must be identified through data analysis for strategic planning to work, allows early determination of most likely outcomes in order to plan accordingly. Ex: think EverElon Campaign raising $100 million for endowment = long term stability Assessing Trends Selecting Trends Isolate several trends to research heavily within the determined time frame to apply towards your goal(s). Classifying Trends Careful organization of trends, with consideration given to numerous factors of change, must be done. One change say in time might affect one trend significantly for one company while having no affect on another. Organizing the trend data well allows runthrough scenarios to test viability for various purposes more easily. Quantitative evaluation Classifying scales of measurements to determine ranking for information to be used in guiding trend development. Online surveys one of most accurate and reliable means of scanning future outcomes through peopleâ€™s collective opinions and experiences. Ex: surveying people, ranking peoples feelings on issue Reporting of Trends Begins to isolate more detailed assessment of which trends are most likely to occur and their impact on your organization, purpose etc. Basically picking out the outcomes that
have greatest likelihood of actually taking place based upon information collected in earlier stages of this process. Make Scenarios Do this to get good grasp on most likely outcomes by adhering to middle grounds, not extreme positions that encompass greatest risk if one little aspect of scenario changes Networking is vital Utilize engaging means through different mediums to best connect to all those involved to weigh in on plans. Varied perspectives can increase viability of future outlooks to be true. Action Planning Taking information learned from data collecting and turning it into actionable steps. Basically, mapping a route that can be used to put feet on ground and get to the intended destination. Relies upon small steps with diagrams to show the overarching relationships among each individual step to the greater whole. Future Briefings Reports in either detailed or summary forms that highlight research undertaken thus far and or the likely outcomes within certain circumstances. Good briefings are clear, well organized, unbiased and built upon trusted information sources. Editorial Review Necessary to ensure proper formatting and clear delivery of facts. Material should be reviewed by experts in the subjectâ€™s field (peer reviewed) and reviewed by those who will use the reports findings (clients). Dealing with Resistance Two key classification of resistance: 1) FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) 2) ECA (Excitement, Challenge, Achievement) Addressing these points will shift peoples energies from resistance to desire to learn more, take part in proposed changes to come, eliminates anxiety because they are involved in the process and have better grasp on what is or may happen. 3 types of persons to engage for eliminating resistance (How to get the most people paying attention): Adventurers (first to try new things, trendsetters), Adopters (follow after adventurers succeed), Abstainers (resist change) Convincing Adventurers to do something, will motivate others to also act, so they Are KEY in progression of a futures outlook. Horizon Scanning Looking at the surrounding environment to grasp changes in the environment and possible effects had on organization or mission. Think of as a radar that identifies potential threats to be aware of and respond to before damage is done. Allows planning by considering potential future outcomes and steps to take in order to move towards a preferable outcome, where organizationâ€™s destiny is controlled, greatly reducing risk. Realizing Trends Change characterized by hits, changes in how something is used, and the more hits are realized, the greatly likelihood can be grouped collectively as a TREND. Pay attention to social response and opinions of experts to these trends. Determine if relevance exists for trends on your organization. Only can do this by considering the present trend and
POTENTIAL future trend and how they interact in those timeframes. Make move if trend does impact or will likely impact your organization. “By starting to see the events of the day as parts of trend, and those trends as symptoms of underlying system structure, one can consider new ways to manage and new ways to live in a world of complex systems.” (p.156) There are no guarantees for the future outcome but the quote shows how you can minimize the impact of surprises in turn minimizing the impact those few surprises that do surface will have on progression towards the trend/future outcome you and your organization have predicted and planned for. This is SO applicable to businesses in that those, which are most flexible, are most likely to survive and prosper; diversification is a prime example of the concept in action. ex: Record companies had major issue with that dealing with electronic downloading of music, old method of CDs was outdated, they were inflexible and consumer market dried up
COM 530 “Reaching Interactive Media Audiences” eBook Synthesis Notes Spreadable Media *Top 10 iMedia Issues contender* is a term proposed by MIT professor Henry Jenkins among others to replace the current reliance on terms that inaccurately classify “viral” media as biological things. How does the name “viral” affect people’s perspective? Are there connotations associated with this phraseology? Points of this renaming: - current use of viral media is just taking the original message and ramming it through to numerous delivery platforms such as online, text, print with no consideration to how the message will be tweaked/watered down as it is redistributed - messages must adhere to users environments to be effective, otherwise message will be lost quickly, therefore must adapt in ways that the main point gets across but not in a close-minded framework Ex: music industry held on to old business model of CDs sold in physical stores while consumers adapted online means of music acquisition = record companies lost huge $$$$ until they began to change to an online marketplace model that is still being built Critical to understanding the vehicle by which this all happens is a meme: a messages underlying blueprint, highly malleable yet hidden, similar to genes Memes are not isolated though from change, contrary is true -MUST account for environmental factors which can alter the original message -online dispersion of a meme can easily introduce users own take on an issue, opinions, rants, raves etc. which may not mirror what the original meme encompassed -remember……variability must be acknowledged, do not necessarily take at face value as original Viral media is a poor terminology because it falsely presents ideas of how media evolves via social interconnections, also big problem how to measure if a viral campaign is successful because hard quantifiable data is difficult to come by FIX = concept of spreadability: members of mostly online communities or social networks work together by encouraging the use of new products which in turn makes the members active disseminators of something they truly enjoy (legitimate testimonials)……UNLIKE viral media models where the product or message acted as a parasite getting a free ride Why concept of spreadability works: 1) provides greater relevance 2) diversity is attractive, either the message or audience 3) flexibility allows changes as word spreads, adaptation is key, morphing allows meaning to carry significance to each situation which ensures impact instead of static content which will not attract that particular audience’s attention
4) believability is critical in social networks, most effective advertising ALSO, must remember that marketers should not build a product and expect communities to coalesce around it, this is ineffective. Instead, build a product, realize a community or communities already do exist that would really like the product and determine best approach to have them start talking about the product. This way it is an organic means of building a brand from the ground up by relying upon the users to do the heavy lifting and telling their friends (Word of Mouth) to buy the product. There exist 3 basic foundations that content delivery is built from: Commodity Culture: view on human relations where actions have a price, everything is seen through a $$ lens, is this profitable or not etc. Moral Economy: involves the understanding of where acceptable boundary lines are in relation to a particular social group and this understanding allows two or more parties to conduct business by adhering to the social guidelines, this greatly helps in legitimizing their messages, heavily relies upon trust for this to work -can be seen as building long term trust by not using fast sell tactics, slower means of connecting with desired audience Gift Economy: describes a relationship where people can contribute ideas, information with others without expecting any monetary transaction, basically giving and receiving based upon helping others where the contributor will receive help when they need it later from others in same position, NO MONEY is involved -contrasts the commodity economy where everything is seen from business perspectives = all transactions based upon $$$ -value is build upon good will and expectation that people feel good about giving or receiving gifts -this contrasts commodity economy where no enduring relationship is necessarily established, rather you pay a fee you get what you paid for then you leave. There is no basis for future transactions or unwritten means of reciprocity. -PROBLEM with gift economy model is that when there are two different methods of exchange being used, the determination of value is at odds with each other. For instance, some businesses expect to make money (point of their existence) while others, consumers, expect no money to change hands. A middle ground must be established to bridge such a divide but how to do that is debatable. Because marketers/companies want to convince the public to buy their products to make a profit, the best way to get people to favorably see their products is through word of mouth, people telling their friends. This creates value, which can then be translated into a measurable profit from the amount of product sold. Difficult in classifying users in online spaces in order to provide an identity to use in calculating status or desires, particularly in business Prosumers: those that produce and circulate materials, becoming part of every stage in spreading media Community Types and What are They:
Affinity Groups: people together for a common topical interest, not for personal interaction primarily Spreadability is the concept that allows messages to move among people and is determined by community worth, NOT the individual worth. If it is seen as valuable to the community, it will get picked up and passed on. -individuals can have their own assessment of worth on something but it will only take off if the message translates more broadly to many in a community. This makes marketing very difficult for companies to realize what will meet these criteria. -exactly why PUSH models of advertising are falling flat, the message must resonate with communities so they allow the product entry into their lifestyle ↑IMPORTANT -SUCCESS IS DEPENDENT upon the presentation of the product in numerous forms so different groups in different mediums can most easily pick it up. No static approach can work in this theory, must be flexible. Otherwise, presenting in one form that works for one social group may totally fail to attract attention of other groups. In that case, money is wasted on advertising. To spread content, it must be Producerly: allowing content to be modified so that personal experiences, insight or perspectives are can be associated with its meaning. In turn, this encourages self-expression that builds support among social environments. Ex: whenever companies allow public to modify a product they show off the personal touches people make to it, which builds a connection with larger audience Some of the more prominent approaches to “spreading” media are: >Humor: this presents content in a non-traditional manner where the brand connects with audiences by being silly, something everyone can relate to >Answer Searching: companies can release little bits of info on a product to the extent that it generates buzz and actively involves people to unite to ask questions and establish firm answers. Plays very well off of human curiosity and mystery. Recent examples of this included future Blackberry models where people form groups to determine levels of truth to rumors online and share spy pics of prototype models. >Open Final Production: this method is similar to movies that present multiple endings that each viewer can choose from to customize the final product. In this sense, advertisements gain traction by relying upon users creativity and reflection of their own sense of humor and importance. Users can decide how a character acts, what they say or how it is said all under the guise that the brand is still present and gains popularity as this “personal creation” is passed on among social circles. Spreadability is good for: smaller companies targeting very specific audiences while working with very limited financial resources Spreadability is bad for: larger commercial interests with commonly known brands that already are established via traditional mediums such as TV that rely upon push methods to get word out. The large budgets for these campaigns also create resistance for change
by handing control over to the intended audience. Maintaining this old method though does not build value with desired audience nearly to the degree that consumer controlled approaches do. Two methods for understanding a website audience = more effective message transmission: Statistical Analysis: this is where hard statistics when compiled can tell a lot about the relationship users have to a website. This is important to be able to see the numbers and determine if current methods are working to garner attention or spread the website’s message. Soliciting User Data: instead of taking hard figures that covertly tracked users activities, turn to the user themselves and encourage their candid input. This can be done through surveys, feedback forms etc. These methods can show a more detailed reasoning why users behave as they do and help to get into the users mind why they come to a site, stay as long as they do or do not. Information Visualizations are important in learning + showing info about websites for instance. How does one make sense of them? By these steps: -Collect Statistics -Carry out Data Munging: meaning you have to dissect the hard figures to have them useable for presentation in reports etc., must present the data in way that it can be a useful tool otherwise the facts do no good -Visualization: last step is doing the plugging in of data into a visual form, where the cold hard facts come to life to show patterns. Basically this step is what makes the figures digestible to the widest audience so they can work towards a solution stemming from the data set. Real-time Searches are pretty self-explanatory. However, they have become really popular because they align with our societies lack of patience that grows it seems each day. People want into immediately, if it isn’t updated they look elsewhere for info that is up to the minute. In making this point clear, one quote hits the nail on the head: “Real time (searches) taps into consciousness….search taps into memory. That is why it is so potent. You experience the world in real time.” SO TRUE!!! Analytics: the study of data to gain insight on impact of material online Two methods of doing this: 1) On-site Analytics- considering data from visitors actions within the site itself 2) Off-site Analytics- taking into account the potential possibilities that exist beyond one website, areas that could be taped into to if data suggests it to be a good idea such as newly recognized market audience for a product Usability: testing to make sure the product will work within the necessary guidelines or conditions, making sure that what is attempted to collect is actually collected or learned Testing using focus groups, gathering opinions, ease of use for a targeted group Online video is the fastest growing form of media today. It also is the most focused area for marketing as it is deemed an effective vehicle getting a message out to the relevant public.
Why? videos are easy to make and upload, compatibility issues have made videos easy to post online in numerous places for visibility, they are a current form of media that are not static -most popular among younger generations Success is based largely upon how users experience something = good experience = good associations meaning they will use again, builds loyalty Hence User-Centered Design: the user is the sole focus of the design process, everything is built to please the user Process takes 6 unique steps: 1) Define target audience 2) User Task Analysis: understanding how the user in terms of their tasks 3) Prototype: mock up showing functionality and user interaction 4) Test Prototypes on Users interestingly users less likely to offer criticism to prototypes appearing in polished final form, if clear still can be changed they will speak up on need to improve 5) Beta Release: early version used to understand needs for improvements 6) Continual Evaluations: tracking real world use to improve later versions Visual design = #1 factor for credibility Usability is to function as visual design is to memory How to factor audience participation? 4 criteria: Self-evidence- easy to use so no explanation is needed, intuitive Speed Feedback- provides understanding to user based on their actions Accuracy- error free Users needs must be primary focus when designing an interface, must mold around the users needs. If interface is easier to use, reduces user stress, they will remember this and return. Plan out the paths how users can navigate an interface or complete a task. Instead of just planning for the “expected” course of action, must account for unexpected or roundabout ways of doing the same thing. Should take ALL possibilities into account through usability testing. Taking real people, placing them in situation where they interact with the interface, should provide valuable feedback on areas needing improvement while still in developmental stages. EXAMPLE: Right Hand Side Blindness -I never even considered this but it is so true and relevant -based on design premise that webpage users will not pay attention to content that is posted to the right side of a webpage regardless of how important it may actually be WH IS THIS THE CASE?? Users have grown accustomed to finding info and exploring websites by menus usually on left side of pages or at top. From the first time online to present have intuitively developed usage patterns to carryout their workflow in this manner. Hence, material grouped on right side of a webpage becomes dead because the design has not meshed with the users expectations and experience. EXACTLY WHAT YOU DON’T WANT TO DO AS AN INTERACTIVE MEDIA DESIGNER.
Principles of Interactive Design –Bruce Tognazzini *Top 10 iMedia Thinkers contender* Best designs provide user with sense of control and do not require user understanding of behind-the-scenes processes. Basically, allows greatest degree of efficiency. How? By abiding by the following criteria: -Anticipation: should realize what user wants to do, accomplish -Autonomy: provide ability to make own decisions -Status indicators: keeps user updated with what’s going on, feeling of control -Consistency: keep familiarity within applications, based on user expectations -Allow backtracking: users will make mistakes and need to go back, if trapped they will likely not return in the future -Learnability: present material in format that minimizes learning curves at all costs, easier to grasp the more likely users will enjoy and return because it maximizes efficiency 3 levels of human input processing Visceral Level: immediate first impressions, instantaneous reaction without any thought association, lacking contemplation Behavioral Level: experience with interface/product, usability reigns supreme here Reflective Level: realization of thoughts associated with use, meaning is associated in this stage so that product can take on a deeper connection with an individual user Tagging is meta-data that allows people to express their own interests towards topics and making them accessible to others that helps in locating searched for information -tagging is like an ID card for a website or item on a website Advantages: tagging is more flexible in grouping information, real time, builds off of previous tags which makes them more useful than traditional folders where information has been dumped and if less efficient to update, provides better management within websites to keep track of information by measuring its relevance What good is a website with the content loaded on it if it cannot be found because search engines or users cannot easily determine what is there? Tagging = organization + relevance 7 Categories of Tagging Meta data: Descriptive: New Jersey, Golden Retriever etc Resources: video, book, speech etc Source: CBSNews, NPR etc Opinion: awful, lame, boring etc Self-reference: me, mine etc Task organizing: to do, work, complete, call etc Performance: live, performed, attended, present etc Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical to getting a site noticed online How can this be done? Focusing on 2 components: attracting users and links to/from other sites
There are numerous means to improve the way a website appears to search engine bots. Presenting accurate information of the content on every page is critical. This is done by way of a page title so that the results can be related to the search query. Within every page should be heading tags to identify specific areas inside a page to more clearly define the website’s structure. Website addresses should be sensible and not too long. Along similar lines, the website should be easily to navigate. Pictures should employ alt tags in order to allow search engines to account for picture significance in searches, otherwise, pictures not weighted in searches. Users should not be confused about where they stand inside a site. Meta descriptions should be used to give basic idea of website’s purpose through a quick glance, not extensive reading. Accessibility - Important? ABSOLUTELY 8% of Americans have some form of disability affecting Web use……. 300 million x 8% = 24 million Web users!!!!!! -people with disabilities cannot use websites in usual manner -alternative approaches must be employed to make websites friendly for multiple audiences IMPORTANT LESSON IN DESIGN: keep USER in mind!! -for every “common” or typical design, usually helpful to have 1 or 2 alternate designs for those with varying degrees of disabilities to they can function on website Accessibility plays big part in determining value of content online where’s the value if people cannot get to it? Value depends upon several factors: 1) Delivering WHERE content is wanted 2) Getting content WHEN audience desires 3) Delivering content in FORM audience wants it Working as a professional in the interactive media field requires several basic tenets for success. Being a good listener is very important and often under accounted for. Talking to and absorbing a user group, their background, and perspectives allows for stronger relevancy to designing interactive media materials. Having a basic ability to quantify material or crunch numbers makes usability patterns more obvious and focus attention on more efficient ways of getting material to an intended audience through the means of least resistance. While keeping the above tenets in mind, when searching for jobs in interactive media, scoping out the landscape is key. Identify key players in the field who you admire. Their work should have an impact on you and drive some degree of desire to build off of what they have done. Also, notice the job requirements and skill sets for various jobs then match them as closely as possible to you as a person. Do not apply for jobs which you know you will not be interested in, identify ones that you are mostly qualified for (80% of job description) and that match your personality or interests. Gary Vaynerchuk *Top 10 iMedia Thinkers Contender* -great example of someone who took their passion (wine), extended it into new spaces and built a devoted following in the process -nobody else paired wine with interactive media and personal branding!
The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited by Emanuel Rosen *Top 10 iMedia Resources Contender* -lists multitude of ideas, their applications and how ideas can be spread so that they gain recognition and validity -this is useful because it showcases examples of people who have harnessed the power of new media while addressing some needs of users online, proves to be a powerful match when mixed together Hugh MacLeod’s book of tips: IGNORE EVERYBODY *Top 10 iMedia Thinkers* This piece contains some off-hand, untraditional insights pertaining to all media formats. But, the ideas behind it are really insightful and encourage people to think outside the box. It is worth mentioning some of the more impacting bits from all his information. -“Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships, that is why good ideas are always initially resisted.” EXCELLENT realization here! His writing is a real and unusual in what it preaches. He says that you must follow your own paths in life, your own desires regardless of what others tell you. If you do this, success will follow. Guard your ideas carefully because when they become real and tangible, they are ripe for exploitation and profit for others. Originality is key to everything. Do not try to take a path others have already done and think you will amazingly stand out and reap massive rewards. The odds are stacked against this line of thinking. Carve out your own niche. Doing this leads to happiness, sense of fulfillment and allows you to be the individual that you are.
COM 530 “An Introduction to Interactive Media Theory” eBook Synthesis Notes Definition of Interactivity is…….there is none! -so fluid that pinning down one definition is not feasible due to constant changes *Top 10 iMedia List contender* : researchers Downes and McMillan established a scale to assess interactivity: Message Dimensions direction, time, place Participant Dimensions control, responsiveness, perceived goals Communication between people and computers is most effective with high levels of interactivity. Greater interactivity, greater attention is paid, more popularity. Studies have shown this to be true. Passive media does not garner attention as does media where users play a role. *Top 10 iMedia Thinkers contender* researchers Koolstra & Bos created a criteria to score levels of interactivity in 8 subject areas with scoring 0-2, 0 meaning no interactivity: 1) Synchronicity 6) Use of Sight 2) Timing flexibility 7) Use of Hearing 3) Control over content 8) Use of other senses 4) Number of additional participants 5) Physical presence of add. participants I see this as good for establishing a baseline measurement but are there other elements that go unmeasured? Either way, it helps to build a solid structure of understanding for what interactivity actually is since it has a fluid definition. Provides some structure. Interaction Design (IxD) describes how it is important to define how products work and the ways that a user can interact with it., coined by Bill Verplank + Bill Moggridge in 1980s PRINCIPLES of IxD (How researchers/designers map out means to an end, figuring in there maybe multiple approaches): 1) Design research (researching user actions, the environment they operate in to allow understanding of what is needed) 2) Research Analysis/Content Generation (try to devise actionable approaches to solve problems based upon research info, walking in users shoes basically, establish goals for work) 3) Alternative Design/Evaluation (rough solution in mind, construct rough alternatives that all aim to solve problem for user while adhering to user requirements) 4) Prototyping & Usability Testing (testing design by weighing the role of the idea how it will impact, the look & feel and its implementation) 5) Implementation (designers should actively participate in building to make changes when necessary without losing focus of original intent) 6) System Testing (completed product goes through more testing to hammer out bugs for end user)
This really is like a step-by-step instruction manual for taking an idea and turning it into an actionable result. Tweaking throughout the process is necessary and built into the plans to ensure all parameters are abided by to collect the most accurate information to ensure a solid interactive experience for the user. Two major factors of Interaction Design: 1) Social Interaction Design focuses on the interactions between user and user or user and computer, heavily influenced by psychology, sociology, anthropology. BUT, will this change as computers increasingly replace humans since theories of psychology do not apply to none living machines. Therefore, Social Interaction Design could become useless. 2) Affective Response to Interaction Design focuses on emotions of users, must aim to produce positive emotions not negative. Good designs lead to good feelings in users and aesthetically pleasing designs cause good feelings. Once information is collected, interactive designers must decide how best to measure results to determine if designs are good or bad. This is done by 2 main approaches: Quantitative Research: systematic means of understanding by gathering information through mathematical models and theories (hard info) Qualitative Research: relies upon relationships, language, meaning to understand patterns of relationships via ethnography, content analysis, case studies, focus groups etc. (soft info) *Top 10 iMedia Theories contender* Claude Shannon’s “A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948)” -summarized problem of communication is the reproduction of a message from one point to another point, and all that can change in the process -the more noise in a channel, greater need for redundancy which reduces the entropy of the message, more redundancy more likely message can make it to intended destination in original form
Activity Theory (AT)- from German philosophers Kant, Hegel, Marx and Engels, allowed way to understand how things happen based upon users past experiences which influence their view. Interesting because this sounds very similar to the concept of schemas I learned in psychology. -heavily used in computer designs now to isolate how or why a function should be shaped one way to meet needs of the population, providing a discernable meaning behind why something is one way or should be one way, fills in the blanks
Social Network Theory- (*Top 10 iMedia Theories contender*) originally described as sets of relationships between members of a social system, J.A. Barnes advanced thinking to now it looks at peoples ties cutting across different categories Mark Granovetter determined smaller + closer networks with strong communal ties were less useful than larger + weak ties due to allowing members exposure to new ideas (Facebook basically) Small World Phenomenon: based off Stanley Milgram’s study in 1967 that explored this idea 1998 Duncan Watts + Steven Strogatz build mathematical model showing small world networks exist beyond just humans, whole universe “They proved that the addition of a small number of random links can transform a disconnected network, making it highly connected.” LinkedIn.com This theory can be seen in action today on LinkedIn.com, which is a real life example of the theory’s premise played out. Many, many people from all over the world, many never meeting in person and never will, but “connected” through a website via a shared occupation, interest or possibly former colleague.
Albert Lanzlo Barabasi applied concept to Web, determining all 1999 web sites connected by 19 clicks, led to term scalefree (connectivity is uneven) ‐ realized scale‐free networks have “hubs”, ie Internet hubs are the popular web pages ‐ same relationship on human social networks, popular people are hubs as they know most people Basically by realizing how networks of any sorts are connected, seeing the relationships between the networks and their behavior of what they connect, we can grasp better understanding how our world works. Online Communities Theory *Top 10 iMedia Theories contender* Based around idea of people communicating via electronic means such as blogs, networking websites in place of physical, face‐to‐face methods. I think this theory will play an increasingly prominent role in future as more human interaction goes online. Peter Kollock identified reasons why people participate in online communities: Anticipated Reciprocity: contributing info with assumption that people will help you when needed Increased Recognition: by posting more info more often person grows associated with info and knowledge, seen as an expert leading to good feelings about contributing further Sense of Efficacy: person feels real connection to the community, their actions making a difference and this builds egos as well Sense of Community: person will become more involved with online communities if they receive positive feedback If this is wholly true, makes me wonder if there should be more moderators online?
Uses and Gratification Theory (U&G) This theory looks at how people decide on the means by which they use media. What is the motivation to Tweet or use Facebook, specifically looks at the need that drives the users actions. This is the basis for audience research and continued progression of communication success as digital media accelerates levels of change. Laswell built off this theory and determined media grouped into 4 functions: 1) Surveillance 2) Correlation 3) Entertainment 4) Cultural Transmission The NEEDS of media users can be classified into these 5 groups: 1) Cognitive Needs (knowledge, understanding surroundings) 2) Affective Needs (strengthening aesthetic, pleasurable, emotional needs) 3) Personal Integrative Needs (strengthening status, credibility, confidence of individual) 4) Social Integrative Needs (strengthening family, friends contacts) 5) Escapist Needs (needs of escape, tension relief, diversions) Knowledge Gap Theory The concept of access is hugely influential; here. Theory devised by Tichenor, Donohue and Olien in 1970 stating each new medium presents a gap in information access between populations, such as rich and poor, due to large differences in accessibility (ie Somalia v. USA, Internet v. no Internet). Media planners must realize disparity and use different media approaches to target individual socioeconomic classes so information gets wide distribution. Effective communication campaigns work by devising unique approaching targeting each population. When this happens, most likely word will spread and cross over the socioeconomic gaps, allowing free flow of information among large swaths of people. ‐this is why companies like Microsoft and others are trying to live by the One Child One Computer initiative to help even the playing field for poor children in developing countries to have Internet access such as developed world children do Cultivation Theory Devised by George Gerbner stating that people tend to shape an impression about a topic due to repetitive exposure of a position on the topic through media. Basically, if the media networks shape an issue one way and broadcast it over long periods, this theory says people will adopt that perspective because it has been cultivated in them via media exposure. Diffusion of Innovations Theory Everett Rogers devised this theory stating that innovations which appear to have greater relative advantage, compatibility, observability and less complexity will be used faster than others. Social groups play big role in this theory, so much so that Rogers designated 5 adopter categories: 1) Innovators 2) Early Adopters, aka opinion leaders 3) Early Majority 4) Late Majority 5) Laggards When the adoption of something does not go well, there must be a way to identify why this was the case. Below are classifications for rejection: 1) Desirable v. Undesirable Consequences
2) Direct v. Indirect did changes come immediately due to innovation or later after other events played out first 3) Anticipated v. Unanticipated The Spiral of Silence Theory devised by Elisabeth Noelle‐Neumann (1973) stating ones willingness to speak out on issue is largely determined by perception of public opinion gathered via popular news/media outlets. Individuals form impressions of public opinion on issue from widely available news sources, if theirs deviates from mainstream, will remain silent for fear of being outcast. Agendasetting + Framing Theories Both theories focus on influence towards what we think and how it ends up that way. Devised by Max McCombs and Donald Shaw they stated that the messages delivered through the media dictate what people think or think about. That is agenda setting. Framing is the idea that individuals are nudged more subtly by media regarding issues by not being told what to think rather individuals utilizes their own experiences to fill in the “frame” delivered through the media. Basically, a generalized version that you the user provides details based on own accounts relating to overarching issue. ‐framing is subtler than agenda setting, which is in your face ‐online hard to identify agenda setting due to lack of control on info Schema Theory *Top 10 iMedia Theories contender*‐ Schema defined by Graber (1988) essentially stating that people do not remember specific details but make mental frameworks where future experiences are compared against the framework they stored mentally. Basically……a memory that is used to compare to present situations and apply lessons from past to present, similar to a mental map Humans are “cognitive misers” by limiting cognitive info storage into simplified mental models…..CRITICAL to realize in age of info excess Graber further realized that humans devise schemas for info processing in three ways: Straight Matching schema to news story: thinking this event is carbon copy of previous event Processing Through Inferences: if something failed in past unlikely success this time around Multiple Integration of Story to Schemas: overlapping of several topics from memory to this one particular story now INTERESTINGLY people remember their conclusions reached through evidence they saw/read instead of remembering the evidence itself. Basically remembering they reached a destination but not HOW they got there. Perception Theory is based around the idea that humans cannot make sense of anything without perceiving it. Both psychological influences (internal thoughts) and physical influences (reality based influence) contribute to shaping perception. Perception forces person to take in message, try to make sense of it for understanding but can often be inaccurate. To understand this process, Vidmar & Rokeach (1974) noticed 4 ways humans work perception:
Selective Perception: psychological factors of the individual contribute to determine how a message is perceived Selective Exposure: only wanting to experience views that align with their own (ex: Republicans to Fox News, Democrats to MSNBC) Selective Attention: centering attention on parts of messages most strongly aligned with the polarized feelings of the individual Selective Retention: ability to remember information is influenced by each persons individual psychological factors, hence why rumors always end up mangled from their origin as each person left out or added info they deemed appropriate
Propaganda Theory devised by Harold Lasswell wrote that propaganda is a means of trying to influence others through manipulation of a message. His attempts were helpful in gaining understanding of mass communications. He isolated motivation for propaganda into 4 classifications: 1) Generate hatred for enemy 2) Maintaining existing friendships 3) Maintaining or ensuring friendship with those who’s having unclear intentions 4) Demoralize enemies Persuasion Theory idea first presented by Carl Hovland but was later revised by Daniel Katz due to greater information. Stated that humans believe something in large part due to the situation they are exposed to the information. Also, the approach used to change someone’s mind is very dependent on the why factor, why is the change being attempted. Due to these constructs, several types of techniques for persuasion have been classified: 1) Visuals 2) Humor 3) Sexual Appeals 4) Repetition Media Richness Theory Richard Daft+Robert Lengel, 1986 *Top 10 iMedia Theories contender*‐ This theory states a key distinction between media as either rich or lean. The richer the media, the more effective it is because it resonates with the audience. Media is rich when it involves more forms of communication signals such as voice plus sight. Lean media is less personalized, such as a mass‐mailing flyer. The message will not be nearly as effective in that form according to this theory. Personally I think this is a no‐brainer theory because it is pretty obvious how
relevant and accurate the distinctions between rich and lean media really is. How many people do I know who enjoy junk mail? Whereas, how many people do I know enjoy a phone call with a loved one? *Top 10 iMedia Thinkers List contender* : NEIL POSTMAN (p.54) Media Ecology‐ This is a pretty interesting area of study that looks at how different elements of the communications process relate to each other and how those relations affect us. As more human interactions move online, this branch of study will likely become more widely known and gain influence. IMPORTANT iMEDIA PERSONALITIES *Top 10 iMedia Thinkers contender*: Stephen Few is a key player in info visualization online, his website is perceptualedge.com/blog ‐*Top 10 iMedia Readings contender* article by Stephen Few : “What Ordinary People Need Most from Information Visualization Today” *Top 10 iMedia Thinkers contender*: Seth Godin expert on how to create marketing that consumers can control and better appreciate, aka permission marketing *Top 10 iMedia Info Visualizations* WOW awesome site that reflects an idea I have had for a year now in terms of visually showing news stories in real time: www.labs.digg.com Also, gapminder.com is an AWESOME info visualization site for showing country statistics in an interactive, exciting manner. Overall Historical Breakdown Interesting to notice patterns of developments with new technologies. Move from paper/mechanic operations to electronic operations. With new technologies in 1980s, problems arise (computer viruses) = new means to respond. Building off of these early foundations, applications and ease of use increase = more attractive offerings to consumer markets. (Mosaic eBay + Amazon) Growth spurs need for order, rules, guidelines opening up new thinking to collaborate for continued growth of online communities (W3C). Now that online presence is growing in popularity, public becomes more involved in directing how applications are used. Napster, blogs, Facebook, Youtube all examples of consumer driven applications that are largely directed by the mass of public users, this was really apparent with uproar when Facebook made sweeping changes to website layout in 2008. Developers begin seeing demand for incorporating existing technology to online applications for public use such as satellite maps for user entered destination and applying phone service through new medium and marketing as replacement to landline telephones = creating new boundaries, new business practices. Currently in midst of bringing all these capabilities from large computers to small, mobile devices with computing power and versatility (iPhone, Blackberry). Breakdown of Important Technical Media Events Technology takes over in the newspaper business in early 1970s as newspapers switch to computer production applications. That same year, what could be seen as a warning sign to print media, Ray Tomlinson sends first electronic mail message via
ARPANET. Later on that decade the groundwork for what would be the Internet was laid, Internet Protocol. As computers began networking around the country the first computer virus surfaced on the ARPANET system. Striving to break free of academic exclusivity, Apple introduced new consumer computer platform meant for the public market. Competition was already clear as Microsoft responded by releasing Windows operating system destined for the consumer market. Now that the computer platforms and operating systems were being produced, the next move to open up these new mediums to the public came through FreeNet. As the public clamored to get online, more personal computers were sold and plugged in. With this growth in online communities, so to were the technical threats. An online worm caused problems at numerous servers nationwide leading to a crash team of sorts called Computer Emergency Response Team or C.E.R.T. for short. This is important to mark the open acknowledgement of cyber defense in response to growing consumer demand. By the early 1990s, technology had moved ahead to the point where text messages had been sent between a handheld device like a cell phone and a stationary computer. The birth of the web cam craze can be publicly traced to the Cambridge University coffee shop. Towards the end of the decade, FinalCut Pro is released allowing consumers incredible versatility in non‐linear editing of digital material. Further steps were taken at the start of this decade to mark significance of online business when law went into affect in the United States stating electronic signatures are just as legal as traditional pen on paper signatures. More recently, Apple’s release of the iPhone and Amazon’s release of the Kindle have further redefined the blurring of media platforms and media accessibility. Breakdown of Important Public Media Events Breakthrough event that allowed public access to media that has previously been isolated to select few occurred in 1991 with World Wide Web, which was created by Tim Berners‐Lee. As people rushed to experience this new medium, the text‐only appearance became apparent. To build beyond this, the Mosaic web browser is released to the public in 1993. This browser was unique because it allowed graphics, meaning that people could have an enriched online experience by pairing images with corresponding text. As text and image built web pages continued proliferation, the Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC) was created in order to serve as a central body to orchestrate and record the registration of domain names. This was important to allow the orderly defining of personal and commercial presence within the greater online landscape. Following on the Mosaic browser release, in 1994 the JPEG image format is approved as a universal standard baseline for photo dissemination online. As more websites try to build audiences, especially within the news field, the JPEG will play a very prominent role in pairing text information with visual information. To better control the images and text material that is presented online, the World Wide Web Consortium is organized in 1994 to serve as an official governing body over the entire online presence. This organization had a major influence in directing the course for future Web construction. I am curious, however, why more protest has not surfaced over the dictates that the W3C has issued over the years. Or have there been greater protests but they have been effectively silenced because of the control that W3C exert
online? Regardless, the W3C has been a heavy mover and shaker. The commercial playing field was significant altered in 1995 when Amazon and eBay launched. Both will grow from their humble beginnings to become behemoths on retail, both online and off, as the pricing structure and marketing methods allowed both to dominate traditional retailers who did not anticipate such a strong consumer presence online. In 1997 the first blogs began operation, allowing new avenues of information access for the general public. Blogs showcase the power that individuals have in deciding how information is presented and how it becomes popular with great flexibility. The real‐time application of blogs was underscored when the Charlotte Oberver relied on them to get information to concerned citizens about Hurricane Bonnie in 1998. Instead of news information, the free transfer of entertainment information or music started in 1999 with Napster. The public reaction to such concepts of file sharing would spur commercial interest to devise products that would cater to demand for selection from music fans while conforming to the legal benchmarks set my Napster. In 2001 Wikipedia is launched and allowed individuals to research and edit content freely online. Further entrenched idea public will engage when they have power to relay individual knowledge and expertise to others if a platform allows it do be done easily and freely. MySpace and Skype begin operations in 2003. MySpace became popular online venue in for musicians to spread word of new work while directly connecting with fan base. Skype combined existing technologies, Internet and voice communications, in new ways by bridging capabilities in free, easy to use format that assists people keeping touch across previously daunting distances. Capitalizing on influx of younger users to online spaces, Facebook begins as a social network limited to select colleges and associated students in 2004. Facebook quickly became popular and viral among students trying to be part of the exclusive community. Showed power that can be had by social networking and will grew to allow membership outside of exclusive college environments. Seeing how popular user contributed media can be, YouTube begins in 2005 built upon premise that users can contribute near limitless array of material and it will connect with others who have interest. The site proved incredibly insightful as it grew exponentially over the next few years. In essence, the site has grown to define the genre of user‐generated content. That same year, Google Earth begins operations allowing public access to satellite images and maps of areas around the globe. The capstone of user generated content, could be attributed to Twitter, which launched in 2006. Twitter allowed people to instantaneously update their actions and opinions to others while presenting a site design that encouraged short communications between users. Solidified the immediacy of modern culture and traditional media outlets realized this by streaming content via Twitter, marking major shift from traditional model as users needed to explicitly sign up for updated from news operations.
The Future of Interactive Media in Government: Redefining Relationships among Politicians, Agencies and Constituents
By Andrew S. Rushton Interactive Media Masterâ€™s Degree Student, Elon University
October 28, 2009
Abstract Current trends suggest a transitional period is being experienced within the United Stateâ€™s government relating to communication processes. The intersection of traditional communication methods with new communication tools is specifically explored pertaining to politicians and political offices, government agencies and constituents. This report explores the current application of interactive media towards government and builds upon this information to consider future projections. Various challenges are examined along with potential solutions that are likely to contribute towards increased adaptability of interactive media for governmental operations.
I. Introduction Rarely can politics be viewed as a singular construct, where the influence wielded by a population of citizens go unaccounted for. This is particularly true regarding a democratic society, such as the one that exists today within the United States. Citizens have a right to communicate their grievances, their approvals and general opinions to those they elect to represent them in political office. However, with the advent of burgeoning communication mediums that encourage multidirectional communications, difficulties are being noted with regard to how constituents can express themselves to their elected officials. These difficulties are not unique to elected officials though. Government agencies are also experiencing difficulties determining how to best maintain communication channels that serve their needs without hindering the rights of citizens to access desired information. Two primary constructs will therefore best serve to facilitate the focus of this paper: transparency and participation. Increasing attention is being paid to the relationship between these two principles and how their interplay can affect a myriad of other functions in public discourse. In order to address these topics within an increasingly digital age, significant attention must be paid to interactive media. The intent of this paper is to focus on the current, and most importantly, future impact that interactive media holds in redefining the relationships among politicians, agencies and constituents with in the United States. The argument will be presented that interactive media holds the potential to increase government transparency and multidirectional communications between private citizens and government entities, if necessary steps are enacted to ensure advancement can occur. Specifically, this work begins by examining the historical framework that has laid the foundation for the current political environment on a national level. From there, the focus will shift towards the challenges faced by politicians and agencies in advancing communications with the public through greater incorporation of interactive media tools. Finally, this paper will examine the potential impacts that can be had on political communications through the use of interactive media by citizens in individual and group contexts. II. History Interactive media is a relatively young outgrowth in the evolution from older, traditional, static media formats to those that are newer and versatile. This is an important understanding as it applies to politics in various ways. Traditional media or the ‘old times’ (Negrine, 1996) were often characterized by television, radio and newspapers, which typically represented the democratic process by serving as facilitators of public disclosure. In this sense, the public was generally more passive relating to politics. Information was mostly unidirectional, in turn limiting how people could respond to information when made available. This was especially relevant prior to online communications becoming commonplace. With the predominance of newer communications, the ‘new times’ emerged signifying greater public involvement and activism (Negrine, 1996). The public began to exhibit a more poignant voice for control and influence through the new technologies that began providing greater options for the
public to access information and express perspectives. If history is any indicator, statistics reflect a growing trend. Between 1994 and 2005 communications to Congress increased four fold. Most importantly, all of these were based on Internet communications as opposed to traditional communication methods such as postal letter writing (Fitch, Goldschmidt, Fulton, & Griffin, 2005). One of the first applications of interactive media within the general political environment was to that of campaigning. Candidates and organizing committees realized the potential that new communication methods held and began experimenting with ways to harness these resources for political advancement. One such example was the utilization of netroots movements. This is a process by which voters across the country would employ online tools to unite others who share common passions and perspectives, as represented by a political candidate or party. Most importantly, the use of these online resources enabled the orchestration of actual, physical events at designated locations (Feld, & Wilcox, 2008). The pairing of online capabilities with political campaigns presented a new means of active involvement for citizens in politics, whereas previously they may have played a passive or non-existent role. Political organizers have continued to refine how campaign material is made available to supporters to such degrees that a campaign manager can send highly specific, and potentially different, information to targeted supporters in different locations (Howard, 2006). Even with these tactics at the ready, attempts were still made to further capitalize off of supportersâ€™ motivations. Political candidates began incorporating subcategories of interactive elements into their campaign websites in order to further solidify support from active campaign participants. These steps may signal further progression of campaign websites becoming more than merely simple information posting platforms but rather hubs of diverse campaign activity. Prime examples of reliance upon interactive tools were seen in the run-up to United States presidential election of 2004. In these instances, candidateâ€™s websites displayed varying types of interactive tools such as encouraging visitors to blog on the respective sites and providing links allowing users to make monetary campaign contributions (Feld, & Wilcox, 2008). When considering the relation of interactive media to politics, it is helpful to classify the relationships into two groups. E-government is the more wide ranging and broadly applicable of these two groups. One can surmise it is due to this broader application that a precise and widely agreed upon definition of e-government is absent (Carrizales, 2008). One particular definition focuses on e-government as providing greater transparency in order to better utilize resources for the public to which the government is meant to serve. In turn, this results in more effective governmental performance (Pascual, 2003). E-democracy focuses more specifically on the concept and practice of public participation in government. This classification is not as broadly defined in that it relies upon the idea that citizens are a necessary component to result in actionable participation. This stands in contrast to e-government, which incorporates many other operations where the public is not necessarily involved (Carrizales, 2008). Within the framework of this paper the examination of interactive media as it relates to politics will be guided by two primary concepts. The first is transparency, which can be defined as focusing attention and resources upon the activities and decisionmaking processes of an organization (Welch & Fulla, 2002). To an extent, the concept of
transparency is comparable to a window in that it focuses upon the ability to look within a construct that may have otherwise been concealed. Limited efforts to improve this application to be more malleable with government are underway. Noted online technology pioneer Tim O’Reilly acknowledged during the build up to the 2008 presidential election that efforts were being used “to build better tools for two-way communication, for government transparency, and for harnessing innovations from outside the public sector to improve the work of the public sector” (Drapeau, & Wells, 2009). Working in conjunction with this transparency is the concept of participation. This second concept differs from transparency, as participation is dependent on actions to one degree or another. These actions, as they relate to government, rely upon the public playing a role in the process. Considering the composition of these two concepts and the relatively new application of both in tandem to politics, there are numerous findings suggesting much work has yet to be done in order for politicians and government offices to benefit. Furthermore, changes are necessary in order to ensure that the needs and desires of constituents are being best served. Studies have shown that more than twothirds of voting Americans utilize the Internet and prefer online tools to communicate with Congress. However, some Congressional offices are still relying upon standard postal mail to reply to electronic constituent communications (Goldschmidt & Ochreiter, 2008). Clearly, there exists a disparity on several levels between the communication mediums being relied upon and the reasoning behind their respective uses. Government entities need to recognize that changes must be made in order to better and more effectively communicate with the public. As the graph compiled by Fitch, Goldschmidt, Fulton, & Griffin indicates, email in 2005 was one electronic communication that trends have shown is likely to continue on an upward swing. Several key aspects ripe for exploration in this paper will include potential means of acknowledging the public’s input on wide varieties of issues, how to respond to electronic inbound communications and how to handle these tasks with efficiency (Goldschmidt & Ochreiter, 2008). Interactive media has potential to influence all of these aspects and more. The body sections of this paper will explore how interactive media is currently
being used along with potential future applications to address these issues in modern American politics. III. Politicians Campaigns Once elected to office, politicians are commonly expected to maintain an array of responsibilities serving the interests of groups typically referred to as constituents. As the twenty-first century progresses, the reliance and predominance of electronic communications continues to increase (Adobe, 2009). Among the forefront of electronic communications that are employed by politicians are interactive media capabilities. If contemporary examples are any indication, this reliance on interactive media can begin well before a person or group are even elected to public office. Campaigns have emerged as a prime environment for the use of interactive media tools. In many ways, presidential campaigns have evolved to heavily rely upon these resources, as they are the largest and most consistent spenders on interactive media tools (Howard, 2006). Several key examples of this reliance were spurred from the run up to the 2004 United States presidential election. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was one of the first to focus primary resources towards Internet based tools in attempts to connect directly with supporters and energize them into action. Much of the campaigns focus on fundraising was through small donations that supporters contributed via the campaign’s website (Campbell, 2009). Bridging the gap between online and off-line relationships with supporters during the campaign season of 2003 and 2004 was the use of Meetups. The campaign for Wesley Clark, a Democratic Party candidate competing against Dean, began rallying supporters to unite at various events organized in key battleground states. The Meetups were organized online with the intent for supporters to meet at different physical locations to share ideas and resources that may prove beneficial to electing Clark. These events were important for uniting supporters in real time and encouraging face-to-face contact among supporters who otherwise may never meet in person. According to Yosem Companys, who has researched the Clark campaign as part of a doctoral thesis, these attempts to eliminate some of the anonymity of the online world were helpful in campaign environments because they assisted in “building commitment” and “trust” that “could be taken back to online relationships” (Feld, & Wilcox, 2008). The Dean campaign further utilized blogs as a resource to solidify fundraising and pool collective public interest. The participatory nature of blogs meant that the campaign was able to introduce discussion topics and monitor what supporters were most energetic in discussing. Within this vein, the Dean campaign realized and harnessed the collective interest of the public to play a greater role in political party participation (Campbell, 2009). This move may have served as a springboard to increasing awareness for subsequent political campaigns regarding the power that blogs can generate among supporters. Howard Dean reflected upon this potential in an article published in Forbes magazine, as he considered “The Internet [to be] the most significant tool for building democracy since the invention of the printing press” (Feld, & Wilcox, 2008). Blogs also contributed in another close election during 2006. The Connecticut Senate primary
presented the Democratic Party with internal factions divided over support of incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman. Mainly due to the Senator’s support of the United States’ War in Iraq, groups of constituents mobilized to use blogs as a tool to unseat the Senator in the next election. It is important to note in this case that blogs were one factor of many that played out in Connecticut during this period. However, it is clear that in a close election, blogs did contribute to influencing a chain of events that eventually led to Senator Lieberman being deselected as the official Democratic Party candidate (Campbell, 2009). Having considered the relations between campaigns and interactive media, this paper will move on to examine the relations of interactive media to Congress. Congress A Congressional Management Foundation survey of staff members working on Capital Hill found that 79% strongly believe the Internet and email have made the citizens more aware of public policy and increased their participation in the legislative process (Fitch, Goldschmidt, Fulton, & Griffin, 2005). These findings lend support to the notion that greater interactivity as it relates to government communications can reap rewards for citizens at large. In an interview conducted October 5, 2009 Tim Hysom, Director of Communication and Technology Services at the Congressional Management Foundation, elaborated that a growing number of Congressional offices are employing positions such as Director of New Media. Up to three years ago, “there was no such title on Capital Hill. There was no staffer who were exclusively or mostly focused on Members and how they are using new media tools.” Considering these changes as a barometer of sorts for the transitional mindset among politicians, Hysom believes that it is “an indication that Congress is really starting to see the value in these kinds of new technologies. The potential benefits of this awareness are two-sided. A 2005 Pew Research Center survey found that at least one fourth of Americans were obtaining their primary news from the Internet, while relying less upon traditional media such as television and newspapers for the same purposes (Ward, Owen, Davis & Taras, 2008). It is plausible to draw the conclusion that since the study was conducted this percentage will have increased due to the greater availability of mobile Internet access and updating potential inherent to non-static media. Although hesitancy to adopt interactive media for political communications continues to exist within some Congressional offices, there are efforts underway to harness the capabilities these newer communication methods could provide. One such example is the recent unveiling of the first crowd-sourced federal government website. In this regard, crowd sourcing is defined as the solicitation of design concepts from members of the public around the world. The website is the primary online portal for United States Representative Mike Honda (D), who represents the 15th District of California. It should be noted that his district encompasses much of the Silicon Valley ("Rep. Michael Honda," 2009), considered by many to be the epicenter of technological innovations within the United States. Elaborating on the motivation behind this endeavor, Ahmed Bhadelia, Legislative Correspondent and Online Communication Coordinator for Representative Honda’s office, said “One of the main reasons why the Congressman has pushed for a lot of these new technologies…is because he has to be, he is looked upon to
kind of hold the torch because he is in a technology-leading region” (personal communication, October 19, 2009). The decision by Representative Honda to embark on an untraditional approach to present himself and his legislative activity to an online audience can be seen as an example of a changing mentality on Capital Hill. Specifying his reasoning for having the website redesign process being open to the public, Representative Honda remarked: “The purpose of this website redesign is to move America closer to ‘Government 2.0’, where the public’s ability to access and provide advice to Members of Congress is enhanced by new technology and new online participation. Congress must take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies and transform the relationship between citizens and government. Instead of viewing the public as a customer, I believe that we should empower citizens to become our partners in shaping the future of our nation” ("Rep. Michael Honda," 2009). In order to realize these advantages, Mr. Bhadelia stated that Representative Honda is a firm believer of the idea that by ceding various degrees of control to others you are meant to serve, the return on investment is greatly enhanced. This principle served as major motivation underlying the entire project. Furthermore, Bhadelia pointed out that “this isn’t a website we will be using on a daily basis it’s a website they (constituents) will be using on a daily basis” (personal communication, October 19, 2009). In turn, the website is a tool that needed to be designed first and foremost with the consumer, constituents of the 15th District, in mind. Historically, the process by which House Members would design their websites was rather prescribed. Over the last five years, it has been recognized in the House that a streamlining the process by which Members presented themselves online was necessary. As a result, a principle service began being providing to its Members in the form of website templates. “We didn’t want a template,” Bhadelia reflected. “We didn’t want something that was easily replicated.” By turning over much of the design process to the public, over 100 designs were submitted for consideration. The review process was divided into several rounds, the first being conducted by Representative Honda and staff. The power this method holds was apparent as contributions originated from individuals in numerous countries and throughout the United States. As the review process continued, a rating system was established online where constituents of the 15th District exclusively could vote which designs they felt were best (personal communication, October 19, 2009). Some of the most obvious and dynamic features that differentiate Representative Honda’s crowd-sourced website from the standard template sites predominantly used by House Members are numerous “firsts”, as such setting new benchmarks for online functionality. Some of these features include social media bookmarking, to help users easily access content while reducing the need to navigate throughout website menus, allowing trackbacks and establishing a permanent Twitter feed ("Rep. Michael Honda," 2009). With all of these features, users can add value to their experience interacting through the website since the capabilities allow for each user to customize how content is delivered to them and exactly what content is delivered based upon their personal
preferences. These capabilities further support Representative Honda’s motivation to improve civic engagement in political matters. An increasing array of communication methods are being made more widely available and their potential application towards political communication is likely to increase. A study published in the Electronic Journal of e-Government outlined numerous media tools that are important to note for their potential application towards interactivity in politics. Among one of the more prominent examples are blogs as demonstrated on Representative Honda’s website. Webcasts are another tool where audio and video streams are produced in transmission of content, often in real time reflective of live events. Polling features may become commonplace as a means of garnering insight from website visitors on particular issues. Discussion boards hold potential to become an even more commonly used resource for people to provide their own input on topics within an online community setting. Automatic messaging alerts, such as email or RSS feeds, allow users to cater exactly what information they receive based upon their personal interests (Zissis, Lekkas & Papadopoulou, 2009). Each of these tools relies upon varying degrees of user input in order to function. However, they all maintain the potential to increase information transmission between politicians and their constituents depending on how they are applied. The efforts undertaken by Representative Honda and his staff to employ some of these communication tools have not gone unnoticed on Capital Hill. Motivated by some of the conceptual ideas surrounding his website, the House Ways and Means Committee recently concluded its own crowd-sourcing effort in order to better design a website that provides greater value to the public (personal communication, October, 19, 2009). The importance of this event should not be ignored as it represents a clear signal that attention and resources are being paid towards nascent methodologies of improving communications beyond the applications of one elected official. Weighing in on this move, Bhadelia commented, “Imitation is basically another form of flattery.” This maybe so as it remains to be seen whether more government entities will come to rely upon the crowd-sourced model of website design applied by Representative Honda. In any case, greater transparency is a likely byproduct resulting from these efforts. “Everything that he does, every legislation that he votes on, every action that he takes is blogged about, Tweeted about…” Bhadelia said. “That is democracy at its best. That’s what this website tries to imitate” (personal communication, October 19, 2009). Challenges Although the prior example provides evidence that some Congressional organizations are beginning to redefine how the public interacts with government, there remains resistance by some in the complete embrace of new technology. Speculation behind these motivations is varied. One reason cited by Ahmed Bhadelia in conversation (October 19, 2009) is the workload within many Congressional offices. Congressional Management Foundation findings reflect a common sentiment among Congressional staffers that there simply are too few people to perform necessary duties, especially regarding constituent communications (Fitch, Goldschmidt, Fulton, & Griffin, 2005). Elaborating on this problem, Tim Hysom, stated the “1970s was the last time there was really any sizeable increase in the number of staffers in Congressional offices employed
to help them manage their communications.” He continued to point out this was “long before email, fax machines, well before Twitter and all the other things offices are really tasked with keeping on top of” (personal communication, October 5, 2009) in the contemporary political environment. Other potential difficulties include the active fear among some politicians that their electronic communications can be altered for malicious purposes. Stephanie Vance, a Washington, D.C. based advocate and author of the book Government by the People: How to Communicate with Congress, stated her belief that some politicians are afraid their email messages will be rewritten by citizens, insofar not to reflect their true position on an issue, before spreading their words out of context to mass audiences (personal communication, September 25, 2009). Funding also can present challenges in the transition towards interactive media adaptation within individual politician’s offices. Various factors contribute to this such as political seniority and the size of the legislative district being represented, as these factors influence annual operating budgets. In addition, Bhadelia recalled the challenges faced from various government regulatory committees when redesigning Representative Honda’s website. On several occasions, efforts to gain approval for launching components of the website were delayed through the absence of a streamlined approval process within the necessary approval committees (personal communication, October 19, 2009). All of these examples demonstrate to varying degrees that obstacles continue to exist in the application of interactive communication resources for politicians. Even though awareness among politicians pertaining to the existence of interactive communication tools seems to be increasing, changes will likely need to be made to convince more politicians to use these tools while providing them a greater peace of mind. IV. Agencies Challenges Although some common challenges are shared between politicians and agencies regarding communication processes, future integration of new communication models are likely to involve much more effort and resources within the constructs of federal agencies. Bev Noveck, deputy director for open government in the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy put this into perspective as it is crucial “for agencies to design interactive Web sites that ask the right questions, target the right audiences and tie citizen feedback into the policymaking processes (Towns, 2009). However, with this being said, the question remains how do government agencies go about meeting these goals? One resource meant to provide direction for these tasks is the Transparency and Open Government Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies issued by President Obama. This document underscores the intention of the current administration to increase transparency, participation and collaboration among government agencies and the general public. The directive calls upon agencies to use new technologies to convey operational information online, in addition to utilizing public feedback. It encourages public engagement as a means to improve government efficiency
while strengthening existing relationships and fostering new ones with the private sector (Obama, 2009). This document suggests a wide-ranging change in the approach that the federal government will take in transitioning more services through active, electronic mediums. It seems this type of guidance is necessary, as a 2007 federal website managers survey found that approximately 65% of respondent agencies have not evaluated how well the public is able to complete critical tasks on their respective websites (“Critical Tasks Survey,” 2007). These findings suggest there is much room for improvement in catering agency resources to match public needs. The issuance of this document by President Obama does indicate the willingness of the current administration to try and use the latest technologies moving forward to help government better address the needs of the public. However, many challenges still remain for agencies to progress in this initiative. A report issued by the Federal Web Managers Council in 2008 discussed a series of common shortcomings that currently muddle many government websites. An estimated 24,000 United States government websites currently reside online and only a small minority of government agencies has specific content management procedures in place to effectively manage the material they post on the Internet. Furthermore, it is not all that surprising when citizens become increasingly frustrated while attempting to navigate the maze of poorly organized web pages to obtain basic information or to complete otherwise simple tasks (Godwin et al., 2008a). For agencies that do post information online for public access, many times these efforts result in material being organized solely with the agencies own benefit in mind. Orienting material to be effectively accessible to the public is often lacking. In these instances, web spaces are organized within the constructs of an agency orientation instead of an audience orientation (Adobe, 2009). This construct starkly contrasts the intent of President Obama’s Memorandum. Additional challenges exist for government in the online environment with regard to security (“Critical Tasks Survey,” 2007). As more information is made accessible to the general public, resources will need to increasingly be allocated to ensure that this information is appropriate and not hurtful to government operations. Three-quarters of surveyed federal managers cited security to be one of the most significant concerns constraining greater information availability (“Transparency,” 2008). These concerns are particularly relevant to the intelligence community along with military interests. Maxine Teller, a new media strategist at the United States Defense Department, stated, “The free flow of information is diametrically opposed to some of the security things people are obligated to protect.” Additional challenges over control of government content when presented online have been spurred by agency attempts to integrate their material onto third party websites. Certain websites like Facebook have terms of service agreements that must be adhered to in order for users to participate in their online space (Newell, 2009). This presents problems for some government agencies as they operate under their own, highly specific terms of service. These may clash with commercial service terms that dictate the allowance of advertising or establish unique legal guidelines for material posted to their sites. One of the keys to overcoming these challenges will be the wide acknowledgment that these types of challenges exist, especially pertaining to government agencies. Once this has been done, then it may be possible to devise more specific approaches in attempt to devise solutions applicable to various agencies.
Solutions Following his presidential campaign promise and subsequent election, President Obama created a new federal leadership position solely tasked with coordinating the federal government’s attempts to meet the transparency guidelines highlighted in the Open Government Memorandum. The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) will also be responsible for duties that go beyond the traditional attempts at transparency in government. Among these duties, the CTO will be required to identify the best technology services and how to most effectively apply them across federal agencies. It is not surprising that security will also play a major role in the implementation of any new communication tools among government agencies, a task that the CTO will also take a lead roll on (Sargent, 2009). The appointment of this position should serve as a prime means of organizing and unifying government efforts to meet the goals of greater government transparency. Although it is too early to assess whether the creation of this position has reaped rewards in accomplishing the designated goals, it does show there is great opportunity to enact beneficial changes moving forward. Regardless of the exact form government agencies use in attempts to overcome challenges, it is important that success is identifiable. For this reason, benchmarks are the most likely means of establishing clear signs that efforts undertaken by government agencies are successful (Pascual, 2003). If time and money are used to try and overcome challenges, an absence of clear-cut, quantifiable results could hamper future efforts relating to funding allocations or staffing requests. It is along these lines that government entities must grow to accept the fact of modern communications: the Internet is here and shows no signs of disappearing. Furthermore, this reality suggests that if government largely ignores this fact it will place itself in peril as citizens become increasingly disconnected. Dr. Laura Roselle, political science professor and author at Elon University, noted that in order for democracies to work most efficiently for a given population the governing process has “to make sure data is released and can be checked for veracity, checked for accuracy; those things are important to maintaining the credibility of the government, the elected officials, the [legislative] process” (personal communication, September 30, 2009). This underscores the potential solutions that can in part be enacted through interactive media. One solution in acknowledging the importance of new communication tools is through funding allocations. With more material moving online, proportional resources can be used to assist in this transition. There is little reason to treat funding for online resources any differently than traditional “bricks and mortal” office space (Godwin et al., 2008a). Ahmed Bhadelia of Representative Honda’s office cited one example of this from the 2008 Presidential election. “If you look at the Obama Campaign, they talk about the importance of separating online media from everything else” in order to provide an equal degree of importance when related to other media. He continued on pointing out “That is what the Obama campaign did and I think that is what a lot of the offices are doing as well” (personal communication, October 19, 2009). A case in point can be seen in the “Apps [Applications] for Democracy” contest conducted by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer of Washington, D.C. in 2008. By making publicly available large databases of information relating to the city’s operations, contest entrants were invited to produce applications for numerous media platforms that would serve to assist
government offices towards more efficiently completing routine tasks. It is estimated that at the conclusion of the 30-day contest, the contributions resulted in a 4000 percent increase on the government’s return on investment (Drapeau & Wells, 2009). If this does not provide clear proof of what can be accomplished through government transparency, resulting in greater efficiency of governmental operations, it is doubtful anything will. Government organizations would likely benefit by making basic, routine tasks necessitated by citizens accomplishable online whenever possible. In many instances, harnessing existing online tools to assist in task completion could accomplish this. Video sharing sites such as YouTube would be a prime resource for viewing instructional videos on how to complete basic government forms (Godwin et al., 2008a), as opposed to making attempts to locate the same information scattered across numerous agency web pages. One such example is Data.gov (Open government innovation, 2009), which serves as a centralized resource for general government information accessible by citizens around the clock. This portal can reduce time spent by people trying to determine which specific agency an information request is most pertinent to by centralizing needed materials. One solution to reduce the amount of material agencies post electronically is to have relevant populations collectively decide which information is necessary to present. This is already being done within the Department of Homeland Security, specifically in the Transportation Security Administration. The Idea Factory was launched in 2007 allowing employees to submit and vote upon ideas and suggestions that other employees thought would be beneficial agency wide. The submissions receiving the highest votes are automatically submitted to agency leaders to determine if or how they can be acted upon. Since this interactive resource began operation, more than 4,500 ideas have been submitted with various ones being implemented (Drapeau, & Wells, 2009). Extending the reliance upon interactive media towards government agencies and the private sector, the Peer-to-Patent program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office demonstrates what may be possible from collaboration online (Open government innovation, 2009). The program relies heavily upon people working together to streamline a traditional process. Bev Noveck, deputy director for open government in the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy explained, “The program uses the Web to engage citizen-experts to help review patent applications” (Towns, 2009). By relying upon people who already have relevant experience in the private sector, pooling their collective knowledge that they volunteer to contribute, the agency is conceivably able to reduce processing time for patent requests. V. Constituents Unlike the plethora of regulations that can dictate how government agencies utilize interactive media tools, individual citizens typically have greater flexibility in their adaptation of new technologies. One such example how this flexibility can be applied is Govloop.com. Created by an employee of the Department of Homeland Security, during his time away from work, he was motivated to create the social networking website upon the realization his employer lacked any familiar tools for people to share ideas in an informal manner. As a result, the collaborative nature of the website has attracted
thousands of employees and non-government officials to interact in ways that previous were not possible (Drapeau & Wells, 2009). Interestingly, this serves as a clear example of the power that one person can have on government operations. Even though the Department of Homeland Security has not officially sanctioned Govloop.com, the website has served a relevant need by establishing a social network where none previously existed. It is very feasible that similar applications of interactive technology will continue to impact different levels of government based upon the actions of individual citizens. Findings from a 2008 Congressional Management Foundation report show that citizens within the United States prefer email communications to regular postal mail when it comes to communicating with Congress (Goldschmidt & Ochreiter, 2008). Although these findings reflect the growing popularity of email among constituents, it is important to consider the content as well. In an interview with advocacy expert and author Stephanie Vance, she commented that the personal nature of the message is much more important than the medium by which it is delivered (September 25, 2009). Interestingly, Dr. Laura Roselle elaborated that there should be a distinction between simply submitting a letter to a politician and composing a letter that reflects a constituent is a knowledgeable contributor on an issue. Considering what if any role expertise has on this process, Dr. Roselle opined “everyone can have an opinion and they can share them in all these different media outlets” but if the contributor is really not knowledgeable about an issue, “what are they bringing to the table?” (personal communication, September 30, 2009). In any case, Ms. Vance emphasized that if citizens are trying to get the attention of legislators they should “really focus on what the message is, that it’s personal, it’s thoughtful, it’s relevant to the legislator.” Even if citizens do craft a highly relevant message, Vance indicated that there is no “magic bullet” in terms of a communication medium eliciting a guaranteed response from politicians. In this sense, constituents would be wise to form their communications with legislators emphasizing quality over quantity. This is largely why Congressional offices view form letters, often sent to legislators as part of mass mailing campaigns, with disdain (Fitch, Goldschmidt, Fulton, & Griffin, 2005). Based upon references earlier in this paper that Congressional offices are not as well prepared as they could be to handle incoming communications, mass mailings only exacerbate an already detrimental situation. In turn, the results can end up hurting the constituents themselves as time, energy and other resources on Capital Hill are consumed to such a degree that there is an inability for politicians to respond to genuine, personalized constituent communications. Even though there are vocal groups of constituents who actively communicate with their respective legislative offices, there are many more who do not participate. A rather stark indication of this fact comes from a 2008 report by the Congressional Management Foundation, from which the graph on the subsequent page originates. The statistics reflect that 55% of Internet users in the United States who did not contact a member of Congress cited the reasoning behind their decision was that they felt their elected officials did not care what they had to say (Goldschmidt & Ochreiter). In order for constituents to play an active role in politics, it only makes sense that engagement will result from the desire to contribute. Additionally, perceived value in individual contributions will likely be a critical necessity for more users to reach out to their elected officials through electronic mediums.
The protection of privacy and the establishment of trust are influences upon whether or not constituents engage electronic political communications. From a hypothetical point of view, there maybe times where a constituent needs assurance that their privacy will be maintained before submitting materials to government officials or agencies. Without this assurance, it is conceivable that some constituents will maintain their status within the 55% of the non-participatory constituents cited above. Along similar lines, individuals are likely to be less inclined to explore the use of interactive media in communicating with government if trust is not clearly established (Pascual, 2003). When establishing interactive communication channels, it would be wise for political leaders to ensure that safeguards are in place, such as encryption technologies for instance, as a means of providing incentive for constituents to engage in the communication process. Generally speaking, constituents in the United States want to engage in better communications with their elected officials. It seems that one of the greatest difficulties in making this an easier process is the overarching perception that politicians are simply not interested in dealing with them. To this affect, there exists opportunity for change that can help to diminish the prevalence of these perceptions among the citizenry. If an average of 81% of surveyed citizens state they openly desire to learn of their elected officialâ€™s personal stance on legislative issues directly from the legislator them self (Goldschmidt & Ochreiter, 2008), clearly there is opportunity for politicians to make changes to better engage this public desire. VI. Conclusion This paper has attempted to explicate the current reality as it relates to political communications and the changes that are most likely on the horizon. Based upon the â€Š
collective input of research cited in this paper, it seems one of the greatest difficulties for elected officials is not necessarily the realization that new communication channels are emerging but how to best utilize them to communicate with their constituents. Transitioning away from older communication methods, such as postal letter writing, will take some time. Elected officials however do have a duty to uphold, in collecting, interpreting and acting upon input from their constituents. Considering much of the modern data indicates that constituents increasingly prefer electronic communications to transmit ideas to Congress and receive information about their elected representatives actions through the same mediums, further changes will need to be made for the greatest benefit of this symbiotic relationship. In the current environment, great potential exists for the desire among constituents to have communications improved with the government. Interactive media harbors the potential to advance government beyond the bounds of its current existence. The full affect however of adapting interactive media towards governance is unlikely to be completely understood in the present. Current trends suggest positive likelihoods of the affects on constituents, politicians and agencies especially when broadly applied. The messages originating from the White House in this regard are further encouragement. It is probable that a combination of executive level guidance, increased awareness of the latest technology tools and greater organization across government agencies will propel interactive media to become an increasingly viable means of prospering government transparency and public participation well into the second decade of the twenty-first century, if not beyond.
Annotated Bibliography Adobe Systems, (2009). An opportunity for the US government. Proceedings of the Government Computer News whitepaper list, http://gcn.com/whitepapers/list/whitepaper-list.aspx This white paper presents a series of recommendations for the federal government on how to best use technology to allow greater transparency. Through the encouragement of utilizing ubiquitous technology, regularly updating information, asking and noting public feedback and altering the security measures to be more specific for the context of information. The argument presented reflects that if these steps can be enacted, which is possible through current technology, the government will make significant strides in meeting the Obama Administrationâ€™s call for greater government transparency. Although this article represents a commercial interest, the information it contains is very insightful regarding specific benchmarks that should and can be achieved to open government to the public. Binetti, D. (2009). @2gov-Civic participation made simple. Retrieved from http://2gov.org/ Built around the popular Twitter social media website platform, this resource is a politically independent social media tool allowing citizens to sent policy messages to their respective representatives. The website acts as a transmission platform, collecting user messages and delivering them in a professional format to each politician. Demonstrating the flexibility and power of social media, this website is a strong resource to reference for my research purposes. The website is showcasing action individuals can take, using tools they are familiar with, to let their input on issues be heard among their elected officials. Campbell, Vincent (2009). Blogs in American politics: from Lott to Lieberman. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 61(2), 139-154. Highlighting three events of political significance in the United States over the last few years, this journal article presents the argument why blogs cannot be over credited for spurring political change. Though influenced to varying degrees by blog posting online, the 2002 resignation of U.S. Senator Trent Lott, the Dean presidential campaign of 20032004 and Connecticut Senate primary victory by Senator Lieberman all resulted mainly due to outstanding political influences where were largely unrecognized among the blogging communities. The perspective presented in this journal article could be useful in recognizing the limitations or misrepresentations that can be attributed to blogging regarding political influence.
Carrizales, Tony (2008). Critical factors in an electronic democracy: a study of municipal managers. The Electronic Journal of e-Government, 6(1), retrieved from http://www.ejeg.com/volume-6/vol6-iss1/v6-i1-art3.htm Focusing on the positive and negative associations of electronic democracy and electronic communications online, this article focuses on why some methods are more practical than others. Contrary to many similar studies that have focused attention on urban governments, rural governments are highlighted here. Case studies of various municipalities in New Jersey provide contextual examples of the discussed practices in action. By explaining the mindset and opinions of government leaders in small communities, this information is valuable in accessing the reasoning why some governments are slower to engage their constituents through online channels than others. Clift, S. (2009, May 12). Government 2.0 meets everyday citizens and democracy. Steven Clift Articles, Speeches and Consulting About e-Democracy, Retrieved from http://stevenclift.com/?p=273 The author discusses a range of topics pertaining to the disconnect between the public and governments, specifically on the local level. Many governments do not realize the need to supply timely information to feed the public interest in governmental business. The problem could be most easily be fixed among smaller governments, if plans for change are acted upon. By outlining problems with legal constraints, lack of infrastructure and poor planning the author paints a problematic picture for the survival of democracy extending into the future. The point is underscored throughout the piece that democracy will not survive and afford its inherent freedoms to currently democratic societies if democratic principles are not translated into practice online. Crozier, M. (2008). Listening, learning, steering: new governance, communication and interactive policy formation. Policy & Politics, 36(1), 3-19. New forms of communication are shaping government policy formation but this should not be made out to represent explicit democratizing. This is the underlying argument proposed by this article, in which the author characterizes interactive forms of government communications as factors in changing dynamics of relationships but not the entirety of what government is becoming. The author specifically downplays the importance that has been generally characterizing the idea of interactive communications. This insight differs from many other sources relating to the topic and could prove valuable in providing a measured perspective of the effects that interactivity is or is not having on government.
Drapeau, M., & Wells, L. II. (2009). Social software and national security: an initial net assessment. Center for Technology and National Security Policy at National Defense University Retrieved from http://www.ndu.edu/ctnsp/publications.html â€Š Paying primary attention on social media tools as they relate to national security, this article does expand social media uses into other government applications. The article specifies four areas of analysis: inward sharing, outward sharing, inbound sharing and outbound sharing. For each area, examples are explicated that provide value to respective organizations inside and outside of government. Additional insight is provided through numerous suggestions as to how best harness social media to aid government while providing greater benefits to the public. The outlook and application of various tools presented in this article provides excellent insight towards current and future understanding of social media roles within government operations. Feld, L., & Wilcox, N. (2008). Netroots rising: how a citizen army of blogging and online activists is changing American politics. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. In this book, numerous examples of election campaigns are referenced regarding the use of traditional and new media techniques. In many ways, the perspectives account for historical commentary about political ideologies. The authors do center in on how the public, mainly the Democratic voters, organized on the Internet to mount a new era of political campaigning, referred to as netroots, which hurt the Republican Party cause in recent years. The authors go on to surmise that drastic changes continue to occur within politics so that any political entity that ignores the collective power of the public in an online space will be doomed to failure. The information provided on specific online political campaign efforts is very useful in showcasing the process by which modern political mobilization is occurring. Although it is apparent the authors political inclinations within the context of the book, the information provided should be very relevant in demonstrating examples of online interactivity in modern elections. Fitch, B., Goldschmidt, K., Fulton, E., & Griffin, N. (2005). Communicating with Congress: how Congress is coping with the surge in citizen advocacy. Congressional Management Foundation, Retrieved from http://www.cmfweb.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=62&Ite mid=109 Statistics are used in this report to demonstrate the changes applicable communications between Congress and the electorate. This data is used as a basis for explicating suggested or necessary changes Congress will need to undertake in order to operate with greater efficiency while serving the best interests of the public. The document also highlights the challenges that face Congress in coping with these changes. The richness
and depth of the statistical analysis in this report will serve as strong evidentiary support of the changing communications methods among political and public interests. Godwin, Bev, et al. Federal Web Managers Council. (2008a). Putting citizens first: transforming online government Washington, DC: Federal Web Managers Council. Retrieved from http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/documents/Federal_Web_Managers_WhitePaper. pdf This white paper is composed by government web managers highlighting suggestions for the Obama administration to implement to ensure more effective communications with the public. Suggestions include mandating agencies to allocate financial and personnel resources to handle information transmission via computers, better organizing content online to prevent duplication, providing clear means by which public opinion is collected and used in future planning efforts and making information accessible to those with disabilities. Collectively, these suggestions serve as a call to mobilize resources among Obama administration officials by means of providing a basic framework to enable more effective communication with the public. This article is very valuable in that it provides strong planning ideas, in clear language, that can serve as fodder for advancing steps of interactivity into regular government functionality. Godwin, Bev, et al. Federal Web Managers Council. (2008b). Social media and the federal government: perceived and real barriers and potential solutions Washington, DC: Federal Web Managers Council. Retrieved from http://assignmentfuture.blogspot.com/2009/02/information-underloadwashingtons-ways.html Social media is discussed in detail in this piece; specifically what actual and perceived problems exist for the government use of social media tools. The paper outlines a series of recommendations of how to identify specific difficulties within government bodies regarding the utilization of social media and provides potential solutions in overcoming the difficulties. The planning and perspective contained in this article are extremely useful in understanding how government entities perceive social media today. This information should be useful as a means of demonstrating potential solution sets that can be applied to specific government agencies or politicianâ€™s online presence. Goldschmidt, K., & Ochreiter, L. (2008). Communicating with Congress: how the Internet has changed citizen engagement. Congressional Management Foundation, Retrieved from http://www.cmfweb.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16 &Itemid=45
Typical approaches used by politicians in Washington to connect with the general public are gradually become obsolete. As more people log onto the Internet, they are communicating with more people, more often and more quickly than through traditional mediums. Politicians will need to realize that as a greater percentage of the public become active online, the communities they participate in more accurately mirror their constituent body. The passage states the risk politicians take by not making attempts to listen and engage the growing online communities. This piece is of relevance to my research as it draws a clear connection to the shifting paradigm between the public and elected officials regarding communication. The most effective path for both sides is a common understanding of the shifting media landscape and how to harness it. Holbert, R. L., & Geidner, N. (2009). The 2008 election: highlighting the need to explore additional communication subfields to advance political communication. Communication Studies, 60(4), 344-358. Citing the historic 2008 United States presidential election as primary focus material, this article argues the need for attention to be paid to communication subfields in order to better understand political communication. The author references examples during the election cycle where communication theories often disjoined from traditional political science methodologies provided valuable material for application to political communication research. Interactive communications are referenced in regards to whether their true existence is interactive, how they differ from traditional communication and the valuable perspective they may provide to understanding modern politics. Howard, P.N. (2006). New media campaigns and the managed citizen. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Paying much attention to the theories that support political action, specifically campaigns, the author expands the ideas to examine how the process of producing and consuming political information has evolved over the last decade. This is done within the framework of hypermedia and the effects that this newer form of information delivery has had and will have on the relationships between government and the public. Of particular relevance to my research purposes, is the examination of how hypermedia has redefined what it means to be a citizen. This book contains highly relevant material on the basic foundation upon which politics has operated upon and how more recent technological changes have created new dynamics that effect communications between the public and political entities.
Negrine, R. (1996). The communication of politics. London: SAGE Publications. This book provides a chapter of material that discusses a general perspective regarding community involvement in political discourse. Though written in the 1990s, the concepts have grown even more relevant in modern times. The author argues that media treats the public as audience instead of involving them in devising solutions to societal problems. Furthermore, the author presents the idea that the media is part of the problem in that potential solutions to problems being considered by political leaders are often ruined by invasive media coverage that results in the polarization of opinions. Even though the material in dated, the viewpoints presented are valuable in comparison to the current state of interactive media in order to showcase the progression that has occurred with regards to government communication with the public. Newell, E. (2009, February 1). News+analysis social butterflies. Government Executive, Retrieved from http://www.govexec.com/features/0209-01/0209-01na3.htm Focusing on some of the challenges unique among government agencies in meeting technology initiatives set out by the White House, this article focusing on interviews and perspectives on these issues from government experts. Among challenges discussed include those relating to security, integration with regulations of social media websites and the influence that the Obama Administration will have on future initiatives. Most valuable to this piece are the quotes from experts that provide insightful research components when considering the challenges from within the highlighted government agencies. Obama, B. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2009). Memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies Washington, DC: The White House. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment/ A substantial document in terms of intent, this directive issued by President Obama on his first day in office, directs all Executive Departments within the Federal government to start composing plans to provide greater transparency to the public of their agency’s actions. Though the document is ambiguous in how to go about these tasks, the document signals a clear intent to begin a large scale transition towards opening up information flow to the public compared to past practices. Pascual, P.J. (2003). eGovernment. Retrieved from http://www.apdip.net/publications/iespprimers.
â€Š Breaking down electronic governance and associated definitions, this work aims to present material that clearly describes what e-government is and how it can be applied. The work utilizes a series of case studies and commentary of experts in their respective fields about successes in the integration of new technology to aid in interactive communication endeavors between government entities and constituents. Throughout the piece, clear designations of actionable areas are presented in order to make e-government a workable solution. Due to the specific attention paid to very specific areas of governmental and societal needs, this document should prove valuable in application towards United States government progression of electronic interactions with its citizens. Sargent, J. F. Congressional Research Service, (2009). A federal chief technology officer in the Obama administration: options and issues for consideration (R4150). Washington, DC: Resources, Industry and Science Division of CRS. Retrieved from http://www.lexisnexis.com/congcomp/getdoc?CRDC-ID=CRS2009-RSI-0360 The creation of a Chief Technology Officer position within the Obama Administration is meant to allow greater transparency to government, strengthen web security and assist in electronic means to spur interagency growth. This article examines the tasks that this position is intended to handle, what necessities will be needed for these missions to be completed and defining how authority is defined within a Congressional context. In essence, the piece provides detailed definitions to define the scope of this position and the challenges that may be faced with full implementation of the role. This information lends itself to an understanding of the approach being used by the White House in harnessing interactive media in new ways to aid government and public communications. Tauberer, J. (2001). Govtrack.us: a civic project to track Congress. Retrieved from http://www.govtrack.us/ Presenting extensive information on nearly all Congressional activity, in an interactive medium, is the basis behind this website. Created by a college student, the website is meant to serve as a collaborative tool for the public to learn what Congress is doing and provides specific resources to allow users to track specific actions of specific politicians, such as those representing their own district. This resource could prove very valuable as a demonstration of ideas put into action. Focusing on open, free, useable content for public information, this website should serve as a strong model of what may be to come in the future of government interactivity.
Towns, S. (2009, May 11). Beth Noveck: government transparency must deliver results. Government Technology, Retrieved from http://www.govtech.com/gt/667712 Comprised of mainly an interview with Beth Noveck, deputy director for open government in the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy, this source sheds light on the approach towards government transparency from an official who very active in the daily activities of such initiatives. The comments contained in this resource provide greater depth of understanding to the motivations and approaches being used by to increase government information online. This information should strengthen other reference sources for my research on this very topic. Ward, S., Owen, D., Davis, R., & Taras, D. (2008). Making a difference: a comparative view of the role of the Internet in election politics. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Although presenting chapters on the role of Internet in elections in different countries, the chapter of greatest relevance focuses on the United States. It is here that content from a data analysis of the 2004 presidential election is compared to assess the effectiveness of interactive Internet tools in supporting a political cause. It is argued that the findings suggest that politicians still serve the functions of their respective political parties but that through the utilization of new interactive tools, it better incorporates the interest of at least some potential voters. The information contained in this reference focuses on campaigning as it relates to elections. However, the information should be useful in demonstrating measurable effects that new media techniques have in mobilizing action among citizenry and allowing direct public feedback to influence political planning activities. Welch, E. & Fulla, S. (2002). A theoretical framework for describing effects of virtual interactivity between government and citizens: the Chicago Police Department's Citizen ICAM Application. Proceedings of the American Political Science Association annual meeting, http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p65852_index.html Examining what interactivity is, how it can be applied to public-government communications and the problems with current applications to government are explored in this paper. Specifically, the authors argue that the current application of interactive communications is multifaceted. Several models are proposed to better summarize the means in which interactive communications are practiced between the public and government officials. By proposing an alternative model that relies upon the selfadopting techniques of virtual communities, the authors focus the application of this framework on a community-oriented program that has been initiated by the Chicago Police Department.
Zissis, D., Lekkas, D., & Papadopoulou, A. (2009). Competent electronic participation channels in electronic democracy. Electronic Journal of e-Government, 7(2), Retrieved from http://www.ejeg.com/volume7/vol7-iss2/v7-i2-art8.htm Focusing primarily upon technological frameworks necessary to make electronic democracy possible, this article pays significant attention to the focus on methods best suited for placing government participation online. Detailed SWOT analyses are conducted to demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of various methods to employ e-democracy tactics. The specific analyses of individual methodologies and tools for public participation in online governance is useful, as it reflects levels of engagement and easy of use for each tool. These resources could be very helpful when demonstrating why one online communication tool would work better than another in relation to government dissemination of information in the online space. (2007, April). Critical tasks survey [Online Forum Comment]. Retrieved from http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/about/documents/strategic_plan.shtml The document serves as a compilation of statistical data and themes resulting from government web manager survey results. Tasked specifically with obtaining quantifiable results regarding their respective agencies in terms of resources, planning initiatives and difficulties in enabling greater transparency within the respective branches of government. A key theme of collaboration is evident through most of the data summations as the majority of government entities represented in the survey results lack collaborative relationships with other governmental bodies. This document is worthwhile as it provides first hand insight to where targeted improvement must take place to help make the government and its resources more accessible to the public. (2009). Open government innovation gallery. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/innovations/ < This webpage serves as simple yet informative resource for accessing numerous government projects that have attempted to increase government transparency. The page linkages here should provide a centralized resource to learn more about certain sources likely to be used in researching for this paper. (2009, October 7). Rep. Michael Honda launches government's first-ever crowd-sourced website. Retrieved from http://honda.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=772& Itemid=110
The press release documents the efforts and outcomes by Representative Michael Honda, representing the 15th District of California, to launch the first crowd-sourced Congressional website. He is quoted in regards to several intends behind the effort and his hopes for the impact that the effort may have in broadening the appeal of greater transparency in government. As a result, this piece is a very useful document in reflecting personal insights from politicians who are embracing participatory efforts for constituents through the use of interactive media tools. (2009, August 10). The Library of Congress THOMAS. Retrieved from http://www.thomas.gov/ Serving as the official hub of legislative information online as provided by the United States federal government through the Library of Congress, this website posts information relating to the actions orchestrated by Congress. In addition to providing current information, the website provides free access to archived records of Congressional actions. This website is the governments version of a library displaying information to the public pertaining to the daily actions of elected officials. It contains an extensive amount of information that will provide reference material for my research, especially original documents. (2008). Transparency- A Good Thing. Nextgov Open Government Survey, http://www.nextgov.com/transparency/ Raw data is grouped by themes and summarize in the visualization of question responses of 430 government managers regarding transparency on government information. The findings, along with analysis presented, indicate a pattern of desire among those surveyed to allow public access to government information in a computer readable format. Survey results indicate the likely challenge in enabling greater government transparency due to differing ideas of how to implement changes, who should be responsible for changes and why changes should be made at all. The data sets contained here are excellent material for my research in providing insight to the feelings about transparency among higherlevel government employees.
Selected Blog Posts Compiled below are a series of selected blog posts listed in chronological order, beginning in early fall and spanning towards up towards the end of 2009.
Group Task: Redefining “Interactivity” 14 09 2009 In an attempt to collectively encourage the flow of ideas and perspectives regarding how we define interactivity, class today was a group exercise in breaking out of the box. Whatever the box may be, well I will leave that up to you to decide. However, what I can say is this…trying to hammer down a definition to terms that are so fluid, new and evolving is not an easy task. Being split up into groups of five or six, we were tasked first with deciding on an operational definition of interactivity. Interestingly, all of the groups’ responses to this single task shared underlying components, though differing to degrees in terms of specifics. Every group underscored the relationship with “two” or “multiple” people; although one even went on to emphasize the communication process outside of human or technical bounds. Remember my mention earlier, breaking outside of the box? Subsequent questions relating to interactivity were posed as well to the groups. The responses ended up going in a myriad of directions. For instance, when deciding on a new series of words to replace “audience”, answers ranged from users, participants, and members to audience architects and interbots! Along those same lines, redefining the word “audience” resulted in more obvious parallels. Every group incorporated descriptive language of an audience’s role as being “engaged”, “involved”, “active” or “influences”. The application of these actions varied among the groups however. Some left their definitions to span a broad expanse of actions while others narrowed it down to be applicable to time, money and intellectual property. The final component involved good’ ole communication theories and which most aptly apply to interactivity. Almost unanimously, Uses and Gratification Theory took the cake, so to speak. I will spare you exact details of these group’s methodologies on choosing this one besides realizing the needs and wants of users. As this thinking goes, users have a need for something, either it be information, a product or an interaction with a friend. Therefore, to help quench those needs, something must happen to take care of the need or needs. Just to be fair, some of the other major theories that some groups did cite included Knowledge Gap Theory, Propaganda Theory and Richness Theory. So, where do you stand? Agree? Disagree with the choices? Regardless, that’s a wrap.
We communicate, through models. 23 09 2009 How do YOU model communications?
That was the question essentially that our group had to take on today. Sure, there are theories about communications but are they correct? Do they always apply, without fail, in describing the communication process between humans?
We attempted to answer these questions not by agreeing with existing communication models, rather crafting our own. What we ended up with was the “Me”dia Model: The Interactive Wheel of Message Processing. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Basically, we approached the task by noting there are differing degrees of audience participation in message delivery. We took into consideration the McHulan’s Hot and Cool Media theory when crafting our model. Therefore, if the “Hot” pie slice in our corresponding diagram represents messages that are devoid of audience influence, “Cold” is totally dependent on that participation. The middle grounds are represented by pink and light blue, respectively. Having established the differing forms of messages, what about the audience, how do we factor in the users? Are they seen as one homogeneous group? The answer is no. However, the audience in our model is emphasizing the singular “ME” hence our model’s title. As a result of the power vested within the individual we had to acknowledge variation in our model. To do this, the model is constructed so that the outer ring is able to rotate. This outer ring consists of four categories: inactive audience, lurkers, creators and responders. The four groupings represents the differing levels of involvement, more specifically interactivity, by the user in relation to the media content itself. This makes sense when looking at the diagram and the “Inactive Media” portion of the outer ring largely encompasses the “Hot” diagram segments. At the same time, the “Cold” media message pie slice lies within the “Creators” section of the outer ring. Whenever the outer ring is spun and stops, the result represents the interconnected relationships among the message types and their levels of interactivity. Is our model perfect? That depends on one’s definition of perfection. Is the model viable in representing communication processes? The answer is yes. Who knows, maybe we are on to something…
Mapping the indoors 25 09 2009
I am a map kind of guy. Two-dimensional? Nope, try three. I have always enjoyed scanning a map and making sense of the symbols, colors, lines and names. With that being said, technology contributes to maps in a significant manner. Think of Google Maps. That single application made it possible for people all over the world to access satellite images that previously were scattered, rather tucked away, within websites all over the Internet. Once again, Google proved to be a tremendous innovator by bringing such capabilities to the online public. This post is not meant to sing the praises of Google Maps. Rather, another application from a small start-up company in California deserves some praise. So here I am to present to you….Micello. Micello is currently an iPhone application, though plans are in the works to expand to other media platforms, in which you can view detailed maps of major indoor spaces. Remember me praising Google Maps above? Well, big problem, Google Maps can’t help you when you are lost inside a government building, or a major mall or an indoor arena. Micello, however, can do just that. The program also runs a search feature so users can type in an item to search for, such as coffee, and the results shown on screen are all the retailers say in the mall that sell coffee. Building off of this, Micello also allows crowd sourcing of information. So, for instance, if a coffee store that had been located on the third floor of the mall on the east wing moved last weekend, a user can post a note indicating the coffee retailer’s new location in the mall before the map data is updated by Micello.
This application touches upon a bigger point regarding mapping in a digital age. We utilize maps almost daily in the form of MapQuest, Google Maps or GPS. But, the great limitation for each of those tools is that when a roof is involved, they are useless. Micello
changes the game by refocusing on areas that are most intimate to humans, the inside spaces. I suspect this technology will gain significant interest as people become more accustomed to being able to find direction assistance in digital formats since they have adopted the outdoor usage as if it is second nature. All in all, the Micello application could prove tremendously valuable.
Crafting of influential interactivity 12 10 2009 Based upon my studies thus far as a Masters student in Interactive Media, one key insight I have noted is that old fashioned, traditional media is largely static. Before you newspaper lovers jump all over this post, I am not saying that is always bad. However, static content only goes so far, it is rather limited in regards to spreadability. People do not want to interact with content that just stares back at them. On the contrary, growing number of people want to experience content that responds to their own input, allows a degree of relationship to be established between the user and the content even if for a fleeting moment. It was along these lines that I participated in a group activity to devise a list of the most important characteristics that make interactive video content influential. We ranked characteristics from 1 to 7, where 1 is most influential. Just because something incorporates interactivity does not mean it carries much or any influence. Therefore, without further anon, check out the list and brief explications of our thought processes below: 1) Relevance Video spreads because audiences can establish some sort of connection to what they watch. Main subcategories of relevance include Audience, Demographics and Culture. 2) Emotional Response Humans are emotional creatures, though to what degree varies depending on whom you ask. Playing on this emotional bond, we subcategorized two areas: -Human interest: something humanizes the video -Identifiable: viewers see relation to what they are watching 3) Innovation The video has to have a purpose to make it influential; otherwise it is just taking up space on a server somewhere. The idea behind the video motivates the content to an extent where it moves others to act or respond. Breaking this down further we settled upon these subcategories: -Content is fresh -Presents new perspective(s) 4) Timeliness This is all about the tick-tock around the clock, timing. When the video is posted can play a significant role on the influence that the video establishes or maintains. 5) Quality There has to be demonstration of effort in the final product to the minimal extent that the viewer can see and hear the material, otherwise, it isnâ€™t going to influence a soul! â€Š
6) Length of Video Many people, either by realizing it or not, have grown impatient with material online. They expect something now, not in 3 minutes. Generally, the longer a video becomes the influence it exudes decreases. I stress the word generally. 7) Multiplatform Accessibility For material to become “viral”, it has to cross borders. In this case, borders are media platforms. Influence is build by having the content easily available in the manner that the user is most comfortable. If the content forces people to change their habits just to experience it, I would bet the material would not reach its full potential. There you have it. Is it perfect, no. Are there relevant points addressed in this list, yes. You are free to disagree but we feel this does a nice job of encapsulating the core components of differentiating the influential videos in cyberspace.
Web design should be effective, right? 21 10 2009 Websites, there are a plenty these days! It seems every time you log online, that’s for those who DO go offline, there is a plethora of new websites covering a myriad of topics. Although there may be numerous websites focusing on similar content, it can come down to the design of one website positioning it to benefit from higher traffic rates than the others. Design plays an important role in the user experience. As Vitaly Friedman of Smashing Magazine did a good job showcasing valuable points regarding what design pointers would best be noted. In many ways, the design alone dictates the user experience. Therefore, it is fitting to list several important principles of website design that can assist the creative minds out there how to best craft a site that has the greatest impact for it’s users. By no means is this an exhaustive list but the tips should still provide value: > Users DO NOT like thinking! Uncertainty is a no no. Users need clear paths to embark upon when in a website. Whenever clear paths are not present, doubts surface in the users mind as to where to go or what minimal options are at their disposal. > Time is money. Think of patience in the same way. Bogging down users with requirements or forms to fill out or long texts to wade through before entering a site is not going to make them thrilled about their user experience. They are busy people too; keep this at the forefront of the design scheme. > Focus user attention Human eyes wander to where they notice the greatest visual impact; they do not follow a strict predetermined path. Design elements so that attention is paid to the most important aspects on a website. > Do not underestimate the power of writing Online content is crafted differently that that in traditional print media. Avoid using big words that cloud the underlying purpose or intent. Keep thing simple and direct. This
way, there is greater likelihood online users — who traditionally scan online content anyway — will get the point your webpage is demonstrating. > White space is your friend in the design world White space greatly assists users in digesting information. Their eyes automatically scan a page to determine if the content can be processed into segments. If it can, the user is likely to engage and check out the material. Use white space to help in this process! > Test in order to complete In order for a webpage or website to be ready for users and maximize its usability, it should be tested. There will be kinks in the works. There will be things that require improvement. Testing is valuable because it can and does expose these blips, allowing for correction. Also, testing provides useful insight from the perspective of an intended user. Designers may see things one particular way; the intended users may see things another way. Testing is a great tool to iron out these differences to see which approach works best with the intended goal. Web design is much more encompassing than the topics I have listed here. These are just some of the basics. If you want to explore a more detailed examination of these design tips, check out Smashing Magazine.
Don’t forget a dose of analytics! 23 10 2009 If you have any familiarity with my blog, or if you don’t for that matter, you now know I am a student of interactive media. When people ask what I am studying and I tell them this, the common reaction is a perplexed look on the person’s face as they ask, “What is that?” Instead of going into the explanation here, I wanted to share an insightful experience that may help to clarify the topic. I had an opportunity earlier today to sit in on a talk by Travis Lusk, New Media Manager at WCBS Radio in New York City. He is someone who is taking traditional media, radio in this case, and helping to transition it into an online, interactive space. Highlighting the means by which this is done, he mainly discussed the importance of analytics to the online environment. Does the mention of analytics scare you? Bring back memories of high school math classes you thought you erased from your memory years ago? I will be the first to admit I am not a math person, neither are most folks within the greater communication fields. There is no need to worry though as Lusk explained analytics do not require you to have an undue degree of mathematical knowledge under your belt to make effective use of the tools within the interactive media environment. He did specify however that it is critical to understand why people are attracted to certain content. I take this to mean you have to establish a way of getting inside the people’s heads. Analytics are a tool for providing that valuable feedback and explanations through pattern analysis.
Speaking of tracking, I was surprised when Lusk divulged just how much information online analytic tools provide. For instance, he showcased on the projection screen some examples of what data he could access regarding any particular user who visited one of the several CBS Radio websites he is in charge over. This information included the visitors name, the time spent within the website and, most eye opening to me, the location from which the user was viewing the website. Just remember, somebody is watching! To be clear, I am not saying or even suggesting that analytics are intended to be applied for malicious purposes. Could they be? Sure. Could my computer crash at any moment, sure. Lusk did provide some encouraging insight, for those who are a little on-edge by this point, about making personal connections with website users. He emphasized that if you as a media expert can reach out and touch a user, not physically but in terms of a value perspective, just once, you have made them feel important. This is tremendously important in building loyalty to foster a long-term relationship. He does this regularly when responding to user emails. Instead of having a generic company email address to respond to userâ€™s questions, he replies with an email address that contains his name. This little step helps to establish a connection, instead of users feeling like they are one of many cogs in the machinery of modern media. â€Š
All in all, it was an interesting talk. Ponder over some of those points and remember that somewhere, somehow, someone is likely taking note of your actions online!
Enrich the EYES and mind with data 30 10 2009 When you hear the terms data visualizations, what comes to mind? To me, at least when I first was exposed to these terms at the beginning of the interactive media masters program that I am currently enrolled; I took them to mean data that was apparent. Pretty basic, I know. However, I have begun to see data visualization differently. Thanks in part to a lecture I watched with other interactive media students this morning, I can further expand my interpretation of what data visualizations really are. Aaron Koblin is a master in working otherwise static data in useful, engaging, interesting products. As a current member of the Google Creative Labs team, he gets paid to apply his terrific skills on a daily basis. One example of his work that really stood out in my mind was his visualization of airplane flight data compiled by the United States Federal
Aviation Administration. Koblin was able to make a visually enticing depiction of all the flights that traveled through United States airspace in a 24-hour period. Furthermore, to demonstrate the power of data when visualized, he did not even make a map of the United States. Instead, he let the data do the work and show the patterns that emerged from the flight paths. As a result, a general outline of the country became apparent as, guess what, planes need airports to begin and end their journeys and they tend to be on land. â€Š
Relating to all of his works, Koblin shared a critical insight during the lecture. He stated that by looking at something ordinary, again think static data, in a new way can produce an extraordinary experience. I could not agree with him more on this. Think of it as a light bulb suddenly illuminating. It can help people realize things about material they thought they already knew. This awakening of sorts can produce some dramatic changes in a business sense by gaining a new perspective, a new interpretation on product use patterns, economic factors etc. There exist numerous examples of sound being used in visualizations, which is very interesting. One example shown during the lecture was a crowd-sourced composition of sound bits that pieced together formed a musical song. Imagine taking many, many strangers single second voice clips and melding them together to produce a musical piece that takes on a very unique sound. That is what Koblin did thanks to the Internet, microphones and curious online users. Finally, a sound visualization playing in the background on my computer while I type this is demonstrating the sound variations of the song “Rest My Chemistry” by Interpol. Interpol – Rest My Chemistry Video from Aaron on Vimeo. Here, the visual cues explode, disappear, vary in size and color based upon the lyrical and tonal composition of the song. While watching the piece, it almost becomes a mystery of sorts as you try to guess what visual elements will pop through the next stanza of the song. Bottom line is this; data visualizations are cool and useful. They can capture an audience’s attention while demonstrating new ideas or building new connections from old ideas based around data. As more of the world’s population spends greater time online, I expect people like Aaron Koblin will play an ever-increasing role in how we understand the world around us.
Applying public ideas to government in the Lone Star State 2 11 2009 I recently completed an academic research paper examining some of the ways in which interactive media, which for sake of this post will include social media, is relating to government. It is along these lines that I find it very fitting to devote a post to the efforts being undertaken in a small Texas town, which could prove to be a litmus test for government adoption of new media tools. Thanks to the terrific website govfresh.com, I learned about an interesting scenario playing out in the Lone Star State. Manor, Texas is now utilizing the power of collaborative, social crowd sourcing to improve governance. At the very least, that is the idea behind the application called Manor Labs. Essentially, the town realized that there are issues that could be improved for the betterment of the community. However, the
questions that come up often in any government body is how to best approach an attempt at a solution to a given problem. Instead of relying upon the combined perspectives of an esoteric few officials huddled inside a boardroom at city hall, why not open up the thought process to the public, the constituents, who interact throughout the community on a daily basis in a multitude of ways. The officials of Manor, Texas decided to take this process a step further. Instead of limiting idea contribution solely to those living within the town limits, anyone who has Internet access can provide a suggestion. I think this is an excellent advancement to an already great idea, mainly because chances are good that another community elsewhere has or is dealing with similar difficulties and people from these communities can easily provide suggestions that may be applicable in Manor. Voila, a potential solution from someone who has never set foot inside this Texas town! Motivation can sometimes be lacking when it comes to public participation in local politics this is nothing new. One potential motivating factor may assist in convincing people to check out the Manor Labs application is that of Innobucks. These serve as a currency within the Manor Labs space and can be accumulated from ideas being submitted. A marketplace is therefore present within the application so users can choose to cash in their Innobucks for real, tangible rewards. Although the selection is limited, users Innobucks could be used to spend a shift riding along with the Chief of Police or be Mayor for a day or win a unique custom framed Texas flag. What is happening in Manor, Texas is exciting and could serve as a very valuable model for other communities in the years to come. The fact that a smaller Texas town has realized, coordinated and enacted a working system to harness public insights for the sake of making a better community is proof that government can work for the people. I am curious to see how Manor will build off of this application to make government even more responsive to public input. The future of government, especially relating to interactive media, may be before us in Texas, we all should be taking notice.
Analytics awareness, Google has it covered 4 11 2009 Knock-knock. Who’s there? Someone with the IP address xxx.xxx.xx.xxx. What does that mean? Why is the person choosing to visit a particular website over another? What are they doing while visiting the site? These are questions that analytics can help answer. As a result, analytics are increasingly becoming a go-to resource for websites to garner necessary insights on how users interact with their content. I have previously blogged about analytics because they are important and becoming increasingly so as time goes on. With that being said, this post is going to focus primarily on attempts by Google to harness the power of analytics for people who are not expert web designers. The main resource behind the Google Analytics tool is the Google Conversion University. In essence, the compilation of materials is similar to that of an institution of higher learning focused solely on analytics, what they do, how to apply them and how to make sense of them. The Conversion University contains: • two hours worth of video tutorials • video segments range between three and ten minutes each • collectively provide powerful knowledge for users to apply towards their own purposes Considering the depth and breadth of features offered through Google Analytics, I am going to touch upon only a few of the most recent additions I find intriguing. User engagement is one example of recent refinement. Since every website is unique in its own right, it makes sense to measure analytics that reflect data which is catering to the websites needs. Up to recently, engaging a user typically meant them placing an item into an online shopping cart or registering for a mailing list. It was a pretty limited definition of engaging. Now, Google Analytics has moved beyond these regimented standards. Websites can define their own definition of measuring user engagement. Examples include: • time spend on a page • number of pages viewed • comments posted on a page • link use for accessing more in-depth knowledge of material teased from the original page Clearly, much greater customization is available thanks to these newer analytics features.
Advancing analytics customization even further, analytics can now be tailored to generate specific titles upon users based upon a set of predefined actions. For instance, if a user visited a website and viewed an animation of the weather forecast, a tag can be assigned to that user labeled something like “weather”. Now, website designers can look at the data collected from numerous “weather” users and compare patterns of the way users rely upon website resources. Did they commonly move to other pages after viewing the weather animation or did they leave the website completely? Perhaps there is a trend for these users to check out the entertainment section of the site when the weather forecast for the weekend is pleasant. If so, can content and advertising be altered to better reach these users? These are just a couple of the specific resources that now exist with Google Analytics. In order to understand what they do and how they can be best be applied, Google now offers tutorials on Google Conversion University. In fact, if you are interested in not just learning about these resources but want to prove that you understand their application, try taking the Google Analytics Qualification Test. This test is used to determine if a user knows enough about analytics that Google is willing to grant them a certificate to reflect this fact. I plan on taking advantage of this opportunity in the near future. If only I could have Google Analytics show trends in my daily routines where extra time exists for watching the tutorials……maybe someday.
Unified Concepts of Interactivity through a Toolbox 6 11 2009 How would you conceptualize interactivity as it relates to theory and audiences? That is a question that may seem difficult to answer. Granted, it should be. There is no definitive right answer. Presented with this challenge of conceptualizing interactivity, I worked alongside several of my peers to devise a means of knowledge conveyance regarding the overarching topic. After some initial brainstorming, we realized that visualizing information was a necessity. However, how could be show the relationships that are woven together that make interactive media work? We literally and figuratively grabbed a toolbox to complete the task.
A toolbox represents many components that parallel the most important ones pertaining to interactive media. A prosumer approach further guided our efforts in that a prosumer is characterized by a producer and audience combined. Hence, making something while absorbing influences from others. A toolbox relates to all of these relationships. Below are some examples: ➢ Choice – user chooses tool to use ➢ Control – user decides on content that is paired with the decided upon tool ➢ Feedback – depending on tool chosen and how it is applied, the response will vary, varied outcome results from these factors ➢ Design and Function – every tool specified for a use or types of uses and must maintain purpose ➢ Trust and Value – needs to be a discernible outcome from a tools use, clear sign that task was accomplished by relying upon chosen tool ➢ Connectivity – each tool plays a role towards the greater function of the toolbox, remove one and everything else can be affected ➢ Time – some tools allow more efficient task completion than others, just as some websites make task completion easier than others ➢ Usability – tool should be structured for wide appeal and application towards chosen task otherwise user will not rely upon it for subsequent uses ➢ Optimization – since some tools apply more easier to specified uses than others, key is for user to realize this and make appropriate decision ahead of time to optimize their experience ➢ Why Factor – many reasons contribute to user decisions but each one contributes to a degree towards why one approach was chosen over another ➢ Learning Curve – learning is ongoing which is why using simpler tools first allows more intricate tools to be used later I found it really interesting to view a standard toolbox and all its accoutrements in this manner. The similarities of such a non-digital medium with the workings of an electronic medium like the Internet is striking. That is just the point. As humans we have had quite a few of these concepts already working in our daily lives, yet, many people do not realize just how applicable they are in the age of interactive media. Hopefully this little explanation of our group’s efforts help to showcase the connection between a good old toolbox and the interactive media of here and now and beyond.
Analytics and government Web spaces: together or apart? 11 11 2009 Analytics are important in an online, multimedia world. I have touched upon various facets of this reality in prior posts. But one aspect I have not heard much about is how analytics can be used for public sector websites, in this sense government websites.
I had the privilege this morning to sit in on a presentation by Mark Tosczak, Account Supervisor at RLF Communications, a public relations and marketing firm with offices in Greensboro, North Carolina. Even though his perspective represents 15 years of professional communication experience largely in the marketing and public relation fields, several key points he made hold relevance to government websites. Analytics should be used to assist in understanding how people use Web based resources. Furthering this line of thought, Tosczak made a clear distinction that in order to put the analytics data to work it must be understood. Compiling large data sets will do nothing to improve Web performance or improve user experience if nobody on the development end of a Website has any idea what the data indicates. Is it possible that the same information that can be pulled from analytics can be deciphered by other means? I think so. Additionally, I think analytics and other approaches should have their own respective seats at the proverbial Internet table. This is exactly the point made by Avinash Kaushik, a Google Analytics expert who heads the Googlepublicsector blog. He emphasizes that instead of relying on vast data streams and trying to interpret them, government websites could accomplish just as much by simply asking visitors directly how their visit to a specified government website turned out. • • •
Did they find what they were looking for? How easy was navigating the site? Will they return in the future?
All of these simple questions can be answered via a quick exit survey, minus any analytics. When analytics are used however, they should be closely tied towards goals. Tosczak indicated that goals are closely tied to measurable actions. Analytics are rather useful in reflecting these measurements. This may also be true for government websites, although it can be very difficult to isolate an exact goal for some political related spaces online. Overall, analytics can play an important role in helping to understand what is happening online. However, they should not be the only source to guide major decisions relating to usability and website design. That is why simple surveys hold power in this process, in tandem with analytics. Considering both Tosczak, focusing primarily on public relations and marketing, and Kaushik, focusing primarily on government topics, regard surveys as useful applications for gathering information, this should serve as a signal that not all eggs should be placed in the analytics basket. Instead, they should be part of an omnidirectional approach for noting what is happening online and how to advance a web site using the collective intelligence from multiple types of resources.
Encouraging Web design from the USPS 14 11 2009 When it comes to government websites, it is a rather safe assumption that very few people would characterize them as being aesthetically pleasing or easy to use. With that in mind, I recently was surprised by the United States Postal Service website. From my perspective both as a citizen and as a student of interactive media, simplicity is tremendously important to website design. It does nobody any good if content is available online but the means to access it is so convoluted that people do not realize the power at their fingertips. Luckily, the USPS realized that a strong design premise would serve their organization’s needs online by way of catering to American’s mailing needs. Immediately upon loading the homepage, I realized the color scheme is neutral but effective. The white color is, dare I say it, calming! Never would I think dealing with the USPS would be calming. However, for the website it works.
Clearly the website design was conducted from a users perspective. Based upon my recent research, this is a rarity for government sites as many are designed from a government agency perspective not the public user perspective. As your eyes descend the page, information is segmented into horizontal oriented boxes. This helps to show separation between different tools and features on the same page. One of the best elements is a simple step-by-step animation showing how to take care of your shipping needs right through the website. It is appealing to the eyes and simple to understand. Instead of becoming lost in paragraphs of instructions, the images do much
of the work. This helps to engage the user and I bet increases efficiency of the user experience as well. In order to minimize the number of pages on the site, the use of interactive slide shows is demonstrated on the homepage. This is a good use of such a tool because it shows information that is of interest to the user only of the user wants to be exposed to it. Currently, this feature is used to showcase different holiday stamp collections being released in anticipation for the holidays. Not everyone will care to learn of this information so instead of making users wade through it in order to get to what they were looking for, it is made available in an unobtrusive way where the user has control. There are a wide variety of tools and functions associated through the website. Some of these include: • • • • •
package tracking tool holiday mailing deadlines postal rates change of address capabilities business mailing resources
Many more features are presented through the homepage; the ones above just represent a handful of what is available. Overall, the USPS website provides a plethora of tools for people to access online to assist in their shipping needs. The fact that this has been done with a keen eye towards design and functionality is encouraging as it bucks the trend with most government websites.
Advice on website design…….from the government?!? 21 11 2009 Perhaps you are as surprised as I was when I stumbled across a unique website created by the United States government that provides useful advice on website design tips, tricks and tools? Who would have thunk? The website is Usability.gov, which is run by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. I knew this website was a break from the norm when the first title on the homepage reads, “Please don’t make me think!” Along similar lines, the color scheme is vastly different from other government websites I have seen. Instead of relying upon blue hues and shades of white, which tends to be standard government website fare, there is an
abundance of orange, raspberry purple, teal, yellow and white. Certainly this is not what I would have expected to see prior to visiting this site. I find this website encouraging for a variety of reasons. The Mission: to serve as a hub of resources for government website designers to construct more user-friendly websites The Content: numerous documents, lessons and pointers of design processes The Resources: various case studies of improved government websites, free design templates and additional educational tools to further design study Needless to say, this website is a great resource for presenting and understanding basic website design principles. What really surprises me, besides the fact this information is coming from the United States government, is that this website is not more prominently marketed. I for one had no idea this resource existed online. Did you? There are many websites that could benefit from the principles and resources discussed on this site, regardless if they are public or private sector related. The wealth of information presented is impressive and for good reason. Instead of simply stating things should be done one particular way, Usability.gov presents actual case studies conducted by government agencies. Under the Methods section on the homepage, you can view several clearly defined categories of ways to approach website design. The categories are as follows: > Planning the Project > Analyze Current Site > Design New Site > Test & Refine the Site > Methods at a Glance I clicked on the Analyze Current Site option and was presented with six subtopics, each presented in short one or two sentence summations with an accompanying
link for further information. This is designed well as it is easy to read and does not represent a cognitive overload. At this point, I decided to explore the Personas sub-topic. Clicking on the link loads a page with short but clear explanation of key aspects related to analyzing online user personas. At the bottom of the page, a real example of a user persona is presented from the United States Department of Agricultureâ€™s Economic Research Service. Additionally, the side bar contains several additional real government agency examples of user personas that can be downloaded as Microsoft Word documents. The information contained on this page alone is insightful and very relevant. Many people complain or assume that the government operates under a veil or secrecy and the public has no idea what really is going on within the halls of power. To that I say, explore Usability.gov. Here there are not just examples outlining how government entities establish and refine their online presence to better serve constituents but great tools that private individuals can use to make their own personal website more user friendly. As mentioned earlier, I hope this website gets more publicity, it certainly has earned it. Hopefully, my blog post will divert some folks to look into this resource.
The following lists are personal compilations reflecting influential people, theories, ideas, tools and resources pertaining to the study and application of interactive media.
Top 10 iMedia Thinkers Tim Berners-Lee Widely credited as the original inventor of the World Wide Web. Largely motivated by idea of easier information exchange among users in different locations which was made possible by connecting computers with servers via HTTP protocols. Founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that helps to resolve Web conflicts and establish standards for Web design compatibility. http://www.nndb.com/people/573/000023504/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee Charlene Lee Co-author of the acclaimed book Groundswell, Lee has enabled businesses to under the underlying concepts behind social marketing. The information presented has been transformative for many business entities through the clear analysis of cutting-edge relationship building techniques that are becoming essential for businesses to reach their most beneficial customers. One of several critical assessment methods described in Groundswell is the Social Technographic Profile, which categorizes individuals based upon their use of new media and personal perspectives towards product and brand adoption. http://www.forrester.com/Groundswell/authors.html http://scottmeis.com/2008/09/03/groundswell-learnings-part-1/ Neil Postman A firm believer in media ecology, Postman wrote over the course of his career about the methods by which communication processes relate to one another and their direct affects on human existence. The concept of media ecology should be viewed with an eye towards environments and media being seen as a type of environment that surrounds and influences human survival. Instead of being an independent resource, it is integrated into the daily lives of human beings. This line of thought maintains potential to increase in popularity with greater numbers of people incorporating different types of media to accomplish tasks on a routine basis. http://www.media-ecology.org/ http://www.neilpostman.org/
Vannevar Bush A fundamental thinker who conceptualized the basic idea that would later be used to transform electronic communication through hypertext, Bush tends to be most well known as a result of an essay titled “As We May Think”. Having worked for the United States government during World War II, Bush assisted in devising early information exchange capabilities to help the government war effort. In this essay, Bush foresaw the potential capabilities machines could hold in accessing and exchanging information in a manner similar to that of the human mind. This process is referred to as associative indexing. Although the majority of his most influential work occurred well before the Internet was created, his concepts and perspectives served as motivation for later developers of interconnected electronic communication mediums. http://www.ibiblio.org/pioneers/bush.html http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/by/vannevar_bush Bruce Tognazzini The accumulation of years of experience in human-computer interaction has established Tognazzini as an expert in interactive electronic design. A compiled list of key concepts to advance interactivity with new technology focuses attention on several key constructs that include: anticipation, autonomy, status indicators, consistency, backtracking and learnability among others. Constructing computer-mediated interfaces based upon these concepts is becoming increasingly important in order to engage audiences in a manner that is stress-free while minimizing learning curves. http://asktog.com/basics/firstPrinciples.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Tognazzini Cees Koolstra & Mark Bos With the increasing reliance upon interactivity in various media platforms, researchers Koolstra and Bos have identified the difficulties in measuring direct effects of interactivity resulting from inconsistent definitions. In response, these researchers have proposed a definitive definition of interactivity applicable across different mediums. Additionally, a measuring scale has been created to understand and classify levels of interactivity. The criteria which comprises this scale reads as follows: • Synchronicity • Timing flexibility • Content control • Number of additional participants • Physical presence of additional participants • Use of sight • Use of hearing • Use of other senses http://gaz.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/71/5/373
Seth Godin As a bestselling author of numerous books focusing on marketing in the digital age, Godin specifies the importance of standing out. With new media platforms coming online regularly, many voices now exist trying to sell a product to anyone who will listen. By realizing that identity is key to progression and speaking with audiences instead of to audiences, Godin has served up valuable advice for marketing within the realm of electronic interactivity. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_sliced_bread.html Mark Zuckerberg Founder of the social networking website Facebook.com, Zuckerberg launched a social phenomenon in 2004 that now spans the globe. Currently maintaining over 350 million users, Facebook has evolved into a major driving force influencing how people of all ages interact with each other online. Combining a plethora of features allowing users to communicate in real time via chat capabilities, post comments on users Walls or exchange messages similar to email. Facebook has redefined what is possible when an idea goes viral, considering the website was originally only accessible to college students. However, Facebook serves as a prime example what is possible when control is granted to users in defining their own online identity through resources that are easily adaptable to their daily lives. http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=190423927130 David Mathison Empowering average people to communicate more effectively through the use of community focused, participatory media was the primary intent behind Mathisonâ€™s acclaimed book, Be The Media. In this book, Mathison conducts various analyses of different media platforms and their potential applications, in addition to describing how readers can take power into their own hands when it comes to establishing an audience across different types of media. The upbeat and insightful nature of Mathisonâ€™s experience shine through in this book and help to make it a useful resource for those looking to understand what it may take to engender trust and popularity of targeted audiences in the ever changing media environment of the modern world. http://www.bethemedia.com/mediaroom.htm Lev Manovich Manovich, author of numerous books and professor of new technology, has advanced perspectives regarding the definitions of new media and their application to human processes. More specifically, his research has helped to better understand how new media
and human psychology relate. His work has also provided greater degrees of understanding towards how media users control their interactive relations with interactive media tools. The advanced study on these subjects has assisted in establishing frameworks to analyze new media in a more thorough manner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Manovich
Top 10 iMedia Issues Spreadability Term proposed to more accurately replace meaning associated with the phrase “viral “ in relation to media. Distinguishing clearer connotations helps to analyze how content is passed along to others. Spreadability also brings attention to the fact that in order for messages to maintain their original meaning they must adhere to user’s environments, making adaptability critical. These motivations are particularly important in the decision making process whether users will pass the content onto other within social networks. http://henryjenkins.org/2009/04/how_sarah_spread_and_what_it_m.html Tagging An outgrowth of the Web 2.0 era, tagging involved the assignment of identifiable information, known as metadata which helps to distinguish components on webpages. Additionally, tagging plays an influential role in web searches. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_%28metadata%29
Credibility Determining what information is true and valid among new media sources is an important aspect of interconnected, electronic communications. http://credibility.stanford.edu/ Privacy Determining to what degree personal information is collected, how it is used and for what purpose is becoming especially relevant within the field of interactive media. http://www.internetlegal.com/articles/rightsof.htm http://dictionary.zdnet.com/definition/Privacy.html
Hyperconnectivity The practice of allowing communication to occur, across any or all media platforms, on a continual basis, typically controlled by user input. http://searchunifiedcommunications.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid186_gci1298638,00. html# Ethics Ethics are perspectives that assist in distinguishing right from wrong through the study of moral values. Specifically, this area of study is increasingly being studied as to how it relates towards electronic mediums. http://actionsites.com/beo/index.html Property Rights Involving the legal right of ownership, this field has garnered significant attention as more content is put online and made accessible to others, questions remain how ownership rights apply in new media and hot to enforce established guidelines. http://www.wordwebonline.com/en/PROPERTYRIGHT http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Intellectual+property+rights Freedom Maintaining the ability to access electronic information, under the protection of government legislation while being free from interference of business interests. The motivation for protecting freedom of information and electronic resources varies among different interest groups. http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversation/2006/02/global_online_f.html Virtual & Augmented Reality Characterized as a means of modern human-computer interaction, virtual/augmented reality allows the combination of virtual objects with the real world perspective experienced by a user. As such, virtual/augmented reality allows users to experience a more dynamic experience in computing since previously separate components can be united for a common purpose. Often this technology is applied towards productivity, entertainment and educational purposes. http://www.c-lab.de/en/operation-fields/communication/virtual-and-augmentedreality/index.html
Robots Due to the growth of interactive technologies, robots are positioned to likely exhibit greater influence on human existence. Relying upon feedback and adaptability, robots integrate the latest technologies for wide ranging applications. Growing applicability of robots in the workplace, in homes and heavy industry by way of human oriented programming, can result in greater efficiency of common tasks while reducing risk to humans. http://www.ieee-ras.org/ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080729075109.htm
Top 10 iMedia Readings The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited Emanuel Rosen authored this book attempting to underscore the importance of word-ofmouth marketing. The book contains lists of multitudes of ideas, how they can be effectively spread among audiences and the best means of their application to increase recognition and validity for an intended purpose. By addressing the needs of users online in combination with the successful suggestions provided in the book, Rosen demonstrates the powerful effect that can be produced. http://www.emanuel-rosen.com/ Be The Media In this book, author David Mathison conducts various analyses of different media platforms and their potential applications, in addition to describing how readers can take power into their own hands when it comes to establishing an audience across different types of media. Understanding the basic constructs of various media platforms are presented here in order to aid the average person in understanding the greatest means of efficiency in shaping public awareness. http://www.bethemedia.org/books/ The Language of New Media Establishing a core foundation of theory upon which to study new media is the basis behind this book by Lev Manovich. He does this by examining how new media exists today through the relation of past media theories and those of history and the sciences towards an encompassing perspective that attempts to explain the ways and means by which new media influences humans. Insight regarding theoretical frameworks of new
media is sparse; hence the ideas presented in this piece literature provide value in understanding why new media exists as it does today. http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?tid=8830&ttype=2 The Cluetrain Manifesto Composed of a series of essays, this book aims to assert the changing media landscape and its collective effect on businesses and consumers. The book highlights an important line of thought in that businesses no longer can perceive consumers are static entities. Instead, they hold the power to drastically alter business success if effective lines of interactive communications are not established and maintained. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cluetrain_Manifesto http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cluetrain_Manifesto The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More Author Chris Anderson expounds in this book a new business model of sorts for the future. Due to the proliferation of online capabilities with relatively low costs capable of reaching large number of people, Anderson suggests companies should be focusing efforts on marketing products and services to niche markets. The days of focusing all marketing towards a one-size-fits-all model have passed. This book presents an unusual perspective for businesses in reshaping how they connect with potential customers and potential profits, mainly by reducing emphasis on the majority and instead focusing on the minority where underserved profit potential exists. http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/about.html Smart Mobs Howard Rheingold authored this book in order to explain the increasing capabilities humans have to collectively collaborate for common purposes via technology-enabled linkages. Due to the predominance of smaller technology tools, humans can more easily incorporate technological capabilities into their daily lives that help to organize social groups and associated behaviors. Although the term mob traditionally has negative connotations, Rheingold emphasized that technology does not necessarily lead to negative outcomes within this context. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_mob http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/22 The Tipping Point: How Old and New Things can make a Big Difference Relating to events and the unstoppable momentum that causes them to occur, Malcom Gladwell authored this book to highlight the social dynamics at play within populations.
Specifying how actions become a reality, a set of measurements or rules is outlined to help provide context. The concepts presented are highly applicable to multimedia in attempts to understand social processes that can, even to the smallest degree, shift influence enough to cause irreversible actions to take place. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tipping_Point http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/index.html Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide Author Henry Jenkins looks at the often divergent roles being played by content producers and content consumers. Although much of media today comes from a topdown construct, increasingly influential is the bottom-up construct based upon public input. This book presents insightful views towards the meaning of convergence and the struggle for power that is brewing beneath its meaning and application. In the age of interactive media, the points presented here are significant since the roles played by media companies and the public towards content creation and dispersion are still very much being formulated. The People Formerly Known as the Audience Originating as on online commentary of traditional media ignorance, Jay Rosen tried to bring definition to the title phrase by explicating what meaning is associated with it. The response from the online community garnered significant support. This would seem to indicate greater awareness is necessary for media outlets to realize that the public is increasingly capable of producing their information and sharing it, minus traditional media outlets. As a result, this piece serves as an insightful reflection of public attitudes towards media that fails to account for public input. http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2006/06/27/ppl_frmr.html Groundswell An award winning publication, this book focuses on the basics that businesses must pay attention to if they want to garner success within the social media landscape. By providing numerous examples of successes and failures, success criteria, motivations and potential solution mindsets, the book provides fodder for connecting two disparate worlds: business and the public. Many businesses are clueless how to effectively leverage themselves, their products or services among new media so to connect with the audiences that would most appreciate what they have to offer. By focusing on these facts and providing a basis for application, this book is an outstanding tool to bridge the gap between these two worlds. http://www.forrester.com/Groundswell/book.html http://ericbrown.com/book-review-groundswell.htm
Top 10 iMedia Theories Social Network Theory First devised in the 1950s, this theory considers human interaction to consist of two components: nodes and ties. The nodes represent an individual or group and ties are the relationships shared between nodes that serve a unifying purpose. In many respects, this is what modern social media websites base their operations around, the relationships established through friendship requests and other shared themes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network_theory Uses and Gratifications Theory This theory views media use as an active decision by an individual in order to serve a specific need. Audiences will search and choose media sources that fulfill something needing to be accomplished as opposed to simply taking what is presented without question. The theory maintains tremendous relevance to the importance of interactive media where the individual audience member can decide among media formats to access, which material to view or download and how to apply what is gained for their own individual purposes. http://www.uky.edu/~drlane/capstone/mass/uses.htm Spiral of Silence Theory Based upon the view that people will remain silent in the expression of their personal opinion or perspective if it contrasts that of a majority population. In essence, individuality is greatly seen as a weakness because of the inherent unwillingness for personal expression if the position taken is not aligned with other memberâ€™s positions in a similar environment. http://www.uky.edu/~drlane/capstone/mass/spiral.htm Knowledge Gap Theory Structured around the idea socioeconomics, this theory proposes that populations of higher socioeconomic levels maintain more abilities to access a greater wealth of information that those in lower socioeconomic levels of a society. Largely related to technology dispersion, this theory is important in modern times as greater reliance upon computer mediated devices and electronic communications is necessitating needs for greater information access in order to function among different populations. http://www.cw.utwente.nl/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20clusters/Mass%20Media/knowl edge_gap.doc/
Cultivation Theory First proposed by George Gerbner in the 1970s, this theory states that as people are exposed to large amounts of media, specifically television, they are more likely to believe their surrounding environment reflects characteristics focused on by the media. Essentially, if heavy television viewers see more violence on television than a light television viewer, the heavy viewer is more likely to believe their physical surrounding is plagued by elevated violence levels than it really is. Media maintains power and influence over audiences and this theory helps to provide a means to study how relevant this may be in a given situation of media exposure. http://www.uky.edu/~drlane/capstone/mass/cultivation.htm A Mathematical Theory of Communication Attempts to summarize the problem with communications in the reciprocation of a message from one point to another, Claude Shannon devised this theory. Message meaning can change in transmission due to noise, hence a greater need for redundancy to help in maintaining the closest approximation of the messageâ€™s true form. As it applies today, this theory influences modern communication networks in successfully sending message data, across numerous platforms, to a destination without losing meaning or general appearance. http://www.cogsci.umn.edu/OLD/calendar/past_events/millennium/files/1112230251.htm l Persuasion Theory Theory in which it is proposed that humans believe something largely due to the influence had from situation in which the information exposure occurred. Additionally, in changing a personâ€™s mind the reasoning behind the attempted change is important. As with all media, persuasion plays a key role in believability. Interactive media resources must be able to persuade users to partake in using a resource for a wide variety of reasons either it be to complete a sale or to initiate a form of electronic assistance among others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Hovland Diffusion of Innovation Theory First proposed by Everett Rogers in the 1940s, this theory segments members of a population into five distinct groups, each reflecting different levels of willingness to accept new ideas from the media. This theory primarily focuses upon the influence that media can have on people. The innovators are the group most influential in leading others to adopt ideas conveyed by media outlets. Very relevant within new media environments as this theory helps to explain how social media tools and websites gain popularity so quickly due largely from the influence innovators can exhibit over large populations.
http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwitr/docs/diffusion/ Media Richness Theory Proposed by Richard Daft and Robert Lengel, this theory stipulates that media can be designated into two primary groups: rich and lean. Rich media is more effective in penetrating the intended message to an audience because it employees a greater number of communication signals. Lean media is less effective because it uses fewer communication signals such as voice and touch. This lends great credibility to interactive media as greater user involvement means more awareness of the material being presented. http://learngen.org/Resources/lgend101_norm1/200/210/211_3.html Agenda Setting This theory is built upon the idea that the media is not very effective at telling the public what to think, rather very effective at formulating what the public thinks about. Although the validity of this theory could be argued in the presence of increasingly common social media, it is still noteworthy as the media does influence to some degree what individuals are exposed to, hence shaping public thought. http://www.uky.edu/~drlane/capstone/mass/agenda.htm
Top 10 iMedia Resources Lynda.com Providing a plethora of online tutorials, Lynda.com serves a valuable need as a continuously available learning tool. Expert software application guides, paired with troubleshooting resources and user preferences makes this resource one that cannot be missed in the creative process of new media creation. http://www.lynda.com/Member.aspx Google.com Serving as a dynamic, multi-functional online resource, Google provides free resources such as search capabilities, maps, productivity solutions, email, advertising solutions and social networking capabilities. Since 2004, Google has continually built up a devoted user base around the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google
YouTube.com Although recently acquired by Google, YouTube.com has grown to serve as a powerful advertising and social networking resource on the Internet. Empowering users to share vast arrays of videos for free, to millions of users around the world, YouTube has established itself as a major hub of multimedia publishing, learning and entertainment. http://www.youtube.com Alexa.com In attempts to better understand and provide better resources for Internet searches, Alexa.com was founded in 1996. The company has grown to aggregate data from users online in order to calculate usage patterns for application to client businesses. The services provided are useful in the realization of which websites perform well and which are not. http://www.alexa.com http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexa_Internet Adobe Flash Increasingly becoming a common tool for interactive media creation, the Adobe Flash program is a mainstay within numerous industries. The program has grown popular because of the wide range of applications, productivity and design capabilities available through the program. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_Flash http://www.adobe.com Twitter.com Serving as an increasingly sought after medium for advertisers, Twitter has redefined what it means to be socially connected. Relying upon 140 character text posts by users, other users can immediately view and respond to any other Twitter post that is commonly referred to as a tweet. Due to the brevity of the messages exchanged, the immediacy and ease of use, Twitter may well serve as a foretelling sign of the type of interactive social media desired for the future. http://www.twitter.com Blogs Blogs are online resources that essentially act as a personâ€™s journal. One of the more appealing components to blogs is the freedom that they engender. Users can use a blog to write about any topic, at any time, for any length without constraints. As a result, blogs
have increased in popularity and users in recent years. The freedom that this social platform encourages further positions blogs to likely play an increasingly influential role among online content distribution. http://www.blogger.com/tour_start.g http://www.wordpress.com Facebook.com As one of the most visited websites in the world, Facebook has grown to be a centralized hub of socializing on the Internet. With over 350 users spanning the globe, Facebook provides many capabilities to its users for free. Users can build an online identity by selecting memberships to various social groups, chat with other users, exchange electronic gifts and leave messages on other users Walls among many others possibilities. http://www.facebook.com http://www.crunchbase.com/company/facebook Apple iPhone Application Store Apple created an online marketplace with the opening of the Apple App. Store. The store acts as a display for users to create interactive applications for the Apple iPhone then post them in the store for purchase and download. It is estimated that this year Apple will generate $2.4 billion in sales this year through the store. The creative motivations of iPhone users has allowed this store model to succeed as users craft application they see a need for, then can profit from their work via the store. The collective branding and loyalty this approach seems to have created among customers may serve as a model for future product lines to establish similar stores as a means of engaging customer creativity while providing a money making opportunity. http://www.apple.com/iphone/apps-for-iphone/ http://gigaom.com/2009/08/27/how-big-is-apple-iphone-app-economy-the-answer-mightsurprise-you/ Skype.com Growing into one of the worlds largest international communications companies, Skype is a software application that allows video and voice chats anywhere in the world. Additionally, Skype users can send text messages and transfer files regardless of location. By breaking the mold of traditional voice service, Skype has shown new degrees of interactivity that are possible through multimedia exchange. http://www.skype.com/
Top 10 iMedia Information Visualizations Conversation Prism In an attempt to showcase the distinct characteristics of social media, this infographic categorizes individual tools that correspond with a specific conversation. By breaking apart the conversations, they take on their own identity yet are all connected via the multidirectional nature of multimedia conversations. Enhancing one’s own ability to make sense of the many social media tools that currently exist and the ways they work in conjunction with other tools to make conversations possible online is tremendously valuable. As a result, this visualization has provided value to numerous commercial industries. http://www.wikinomics.com/blog/index.php/2009/10/27/the-conversation-prism-makingsense-of-social-media/ Google Analytics Initially launched for business enterprises, this tool has caught the attention of many online who want to better understand website optimization. Offering in-depth assessment tools, Google Analytics can be customized to report extremely specific data sets which are controlled by the user in order to understand how traffic enters a website, where visitors spend their time, how long they spent on particular pages among many, many more malleable options. The Internet intelligence capabilities provided through this tool are incredible. http://www.google.com/analytics/ Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Model Although not directly related to interactive communications per se, this information visualization provides an easily understood data grouping in order to understand the intent of Maslow’s theory. By arranging data in such a manner that the most fundamental, most natural, needs of human existence are placed at the top of the pyramid, it is clear that there rank as most important. All other needs, though more wide ranging, are subservient to those positioned on the highest level of importance to human survival. http://www.futurehi.net/docs/Maslows_Hierarchy.html Google Earth Presenting geographic information through combinations of satellite images, photographs and location data has established Google Earth as a rich medium virtually displaying location specific resources. Instead of presenting information as a typical map would, this application allows various sets of relevant data to be displayed in relation to geographic parameters specified by the user.
http://earth.google.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Earth Aaron Koblin The unique crafting of data into stunning visualizations in order to showcase data set relationships has become the distinguishing characteristic for Koblinâ€™s work on the Internet. One of his more famous visualizations compiled air traffic route data within the United States and visualized the patterns represented during a giving time period. Making data appear in new ways is important in order to gain audience attention in an everincreasing information saturated online environment. http://www.aaronkoblin.com/work.html Flowingdata.com This resource is a conglomeration of useful advice on the best methods of creating all kinds of information visualizations. In addition, it serves as a continually changing hub of information visualizations that others have already created. The knowledge available through this site is useful and free, which is noteworthy to learning how data can be represented in various attractive manners. http://flowingdata.com/ Second Life With the advent of virtual worlds such as Second Life, it is not surprising that data needs to be presented in virtual worlds that engage user interactivity. In turn, as more users create their avatars in virtual world, data from the real world must translate into digital spaces. Users have begun to craft interactive data models in Second Life to assist in presenting topics of interest for a numerous purposes. This field of specialty data visualization is relatively young yet is likely to increase in prominence as more people find the desire to reflect relevant data from the real world into virtual ones. http://futurememes.blogspot.com/2008/02/data-visualization-in-second-life.html http://sldataviz.pbworks.com/ VisualComplexity.com The primary focus of this website is the showcasing of a wide variety of information visualizations. Visitors to the site can search among many categories of visualizations to find topics of greatest interest. Through regular updating of contributed examples, this site is a worthwhile resource to use in keeping abreast of what is possible in crafting data into visually appealing and engaging displays.
http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/ Commoncraft.com Visualizing information, albeit in a different manner than most other sources, this website creates informative presentations on complex topics. Using the slogan â€œOur product is explanationâ€? as a guiding principle, very simple paper cut-outs paired with narration demonstrate how otherwise complex processes can be summarized in short videos that provide tremendous degrees of understanding. http://www.commoncraft.com/twitter Manyeyes.com Originating as a tool to spark insight, this website has grown in popularity as people begin to explore the data which is presented in different formats. Making data interesting so that people engage in social conversations seems to be a main focus with Manyeyes. Based upon the different visualizations hosted on the site, users have begun to share data that holds relevance and interest to larger social populations. Bringing people together to explore information in new ways is clearly evident and may signal a trend for discussions on data visualizations that may increase elsewhere online. http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/