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Adventures in Interactivity/Interactivity by candlelight Posted by gerikfurlan on October 28, 2009

For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the release of “The Future of Privacy (Law),” you’ll have to wait just a little while longer. I finally had something kinda interesting happen to me that I wanted to share. Wandering around the brick streets of campus this evening, I came upon a curious sight. Those of the Elon community will recognize them as “luminaries” … typically only seen on campus around the holidays. This evening, there was a display spread out on the lawn in front of the “Elon University” sign found in front of Alamance building and Fonville fountain (seen below in a photo taken with my smart phone).

The display as seen from across Haggard Avenue

In the darkness in front of the brick and stone Elon University sign, I could make out the shadowy figures of a handful of people, four, maybe five at the most. Not much foot traffic passed the display, although the site did garner its share of glances, looks and outright stares. I admit, I passed the display a few times, trying to figure out what it was all about. Finally, leaving the campus for the evening, my curiosity got the better of me, and I had to ask what the display was for. As it turns out, it was an anti-death penalty vigil sponsored by Amnesty International. The shadowy figures were dedicated, passionate students, braving the cool October evening for a cause they cared about, complete with letters on behalf of particular death-row inmates available to sign. My curiosity fed, I bid them a good night and headed to my car. Crossing Haggard Avenue, something clicked. Being in the Interactive Media master’s program, learning to be a future captain of iMedia industry, my mind constantly resides in the state of interactivity, and I just had an interactive experience of the most rarest kind – human-to-human. Think about it — the display of candle-lit bags arranged across the darkened lawn on the main quad of campus was meant to grab people’s attention, get them to come over and see what was going on, just like I did. It is the same principle we speak of in class in relation to web design – you have to have something to hook the audience, draw them into your site (just like the display drew me to the group). Once you have the audience’s attention, you can make your pitch, share information, get them to buy your product, or as in the case of the vigil, try to persuade others to join your cause. I found it rather eye-opening, almost an epiphany of sorts, recognizing an interactive design outside the context of technology. Maybe there is something to all those books our classmate Paul tells us about on F2F Fridays. While we may be holed-up in class, learning to master the latest tools of the iMedia trade, it is refreshing, perhaps even liberating, to know that the same ideas of interactivity can apply to even the most basic of situations. There’s hope for us yet.

Double-file restart, shootout style Posted by gerikfurlan on November 11, 2009

As you may have noticed, I’ve restarted my blog — making a few changes in an effort to liven things up and personalize it a bit more. As you also may have noticed, it is still early in the race, so more “restarts” may be coming. With the formalities properly dispensed, on to the compelling content you’ve been anxiously anticipating. They say you should write what you know; find something you are passionate about and go to town so-to-speak. Personally, I really would like to know who “they” are since “they” seem to have quite a bit of power … but I digress. Let’s see … I could write about NASCAR – I like it and I’d like to think I know a bit about it. Not exactly the right forum for that, yet. Next! I could write about interactive media, since I live and breathe it on a daily basis. Wait though, I don’t really “know” it (yet) — I am in the process of learning all about iMedia (short for interactive media). I can share with you what I learn along the way, like today’s nuggets on web analytics. Took in a lecture earlier today by Mark Tosczak, Account Supervisor at RLF Communications, and it was all about web analytics. It may be a brave new world of interactive media, but it is still media, and in the United States that means it is commercial and needs to make some money in order to be viable. Web analytics is a means to that end. According to the Web Analytics Association … Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage Basically, the more you know about your site (how it works, how effective it is, etc.) and the users that visit, the better equipped you are to leverage your web presence to turn a profit. After all, the media business is still a business. Tosczak, as a public relations and marketing professional, has developed five commandments when it comes to web analytics – 1. Your metrics shall be tied to your goals (measure stuff that relates to what you are trying to do) 2. Evaluate results, not activities (it doesn’t matter what you actually do, what matters is did it produce the desired effect) 3. Thou shall understand the data (don’t just throw around terms and numbers without knowing what they mean)

4. Don’t trust computers (know and embrace that web analytics is an inexact science, seek other data to supplement and put all the analysis in context) 5. Always measure (without it, you can’t answer the fundamental questions — ‘are we achieving our goals?’ or ‘what results has this produced?’) Hmm … guess I know a bit more than I thought I did. Hope you learned something too. Till next time, here’s hoping you stay in the groove and out of the marbles (I managed to write about NASCAR after all).

FYI Posted by gerikfurlan on October 4, 2009

A departure of sorts – a more informative/educational post this week – Arguably, the key to any successful project is having a clearly defined goal before you start. When it comes to a successful informational multimedia project or web site, there are three essential components to defining the goal: * Business Context * Data * Users Each of these components has particular parameters that need to be considered in the process of defining the project goal: * Corporate goals, resources, brand (Business Context) * Document types, formats (Data) * Information needs, research modes, expertise, technology, culture & language (User) A useful tool in helping to understand the interactive program user is the use case. A use case delineates the step-by-step information or action needs of a particular user of a particular program. Basically, it lays out in detail each and every single step in the process of using whatever it is being used. Within that use case there is a detailed description of the user and multiple user scenarios (describes the steps user will take and the response of the system). While goals are certain to be specific to the project at hand or the company overall, there exists common informational goals, each with particular methods of execution: * To persuade (modes — ethical, logical, emotional) * To entertain (continuum from pure information to pure entertainment) * To enable transactions (still teaching, just teaching how to perform the transaction) * To create a sense of community (online user forms, social networks) * To inform (creating a database/loosely-related body of material, grouping by categories, concept maps, customized and personalized information*, search, guides & agents) * To teach (characteristics: immediacy of response, feedback, bidirectional communication, interruptibility, help, personalizing instruction/nonsequential access) *Note: customization and personalization are not one in the same. Customization involves the user deliberately entering their preferences into a system to tailor the information/program to their needs. Personalization differs in that the user does not provide conscious input of preferences, rather, the system “learns” the user preferences based on previous activity. Retail sites (ala are usually the best examples of personalization

One more nugget of information before we conclude the week’s festivities – Tips to reduce cognitive overload – * reduce number of choices on screen ( 7 +/- 2) * reduce level of difficulty available at any different time * build into the system a note-taking function * give opportunities to mark/bookmark a section for later * build in clear orientation (users know where they are in the system and the pieces are connected) Here’s hoping you learned something from this week’s post.

MC Escher Blog Posted by gerikfurlan on October 21, 2009

A blog about blogs — is that even possible? Or will it turn into some mutant MC Escher piece where you can’t tell where a blog ends and a blog begins? At any rate, here goes: From BlogWorld in Las Vegas, the 2009 State of the Blogosphere presented by Technorati – * Bloggers can be broken down into segments: o Hobbyists + do it for fun and to express themselves + not in it for the money (although some hope to make money eventually) o Professional – Part-time + do it to augment there income, not a full-time gig + do it to share their knowledge, attract new clients o Professional – Self-Employed + do it full time for their company + about 1 in 5 consider the blog the company + 1 in 10 blog 40+ hours/week + 70% blog about the business they own o Professional – Corporate + do it full-time for a company + 70% blog in order to share knowledge/expertise + Just over half blog to bring in new clients Segments of Bloggers

* Bloggers have blogged more this year, with enjoying the interaction with the audience being the most often cited reason, nearly 60% * 40% of bloggers have worked in traditional media, 27% still do * Hobbyists lean toward blogging in a “sincere” style; Professionals in an “expert” style * Just over 60% say they have become more involved with things they are passionate about because of blogging * 70% of all bloggers write about brands, with 80% of the Part-Timers and the Self-Employed doing so * Just over half of the bloggers surveyed plan to blog more frequently in the future, slightly more for planning to expand the topics blogged about For more, see the report “2009 State Of The Blogosphere: The Full Video From BlogWorld” by Michael Arrington on TechCrunch — In the spirit of blogging, check out the latest posts from these up-and-coming pro bloggers: * In the year 3000 from iMattHunter — * MEDIAtion Way Station from Dave Hollander — * My Blog from Emily Doelling — * Fun Bytes of Media Nonsense from Karen — Fun, random fact: The term privacy is neither in the Bill of Rights nor in the body of the Constitution (thanks futures research project). That is all.

Research & Research, Attorneys at Law Posted by gerikfurlan on October 23, 2009

To be effective leaders of the iMedia revolution, to be effective media professionals in general, it is all about the audience. Whether you are talking about TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, no matter — you have to know them inside and out – what makes them tick, where they go, who they are and why they do what they do. Now, you must be wondering, how on earth do I learn all that? Analytics Travis Lusk, WCBS Director of New Media and fellow Phoenix, gave us 36 would-be media moguls a crash course in web analytics, where you learn all you ever wanted to know about your audience. Analytics is all about tracking/knowing/researching the web audience, your web audience. Fortunately, there are many tools available for the iMedia professional to follow their audience with alarming specificity. Programs like and allow for real-time monitoring of your online presence. Track number of visitors, bounce rate, what site visitors were at before landing on your site, any number of variables that can help improve your site. Here are just some of the things can track for you, again in real-time: * traffic counts * traffic sources * twitter search term * density of activity * what type of activity (reading, writing or idle) Imagine being able to know at the precise moment it happens and what kind of flexibility, nimbleness and quickness that kind of knowledge can give you. It is a crowded iMedia landscape, and you need all the advantage you can get. Both of the aforementioned services cost money, so the up-and-coming media start-up may want to turn to the free alternative, Google Analytics. Going with the free tool, one does lose the realtime feature (data is available the following day). Now, since this is the weekend for the final push to finish the opus that is the futures research project on the future of privacy, I have privacy on the mind. Listening to all the specific things some of these programs allow businesses to track got me thinking about the privacy implications. One can see/track/log/collect so many specific details, unique to the user — when they clicked

and what, place a cookie on the user’s machine to track where they go after – what about the “right” to have your surfing be private? One saving grace that likely keeps privacy advocates at bay (aside from not knowing this kind of tracking is possible and likely happening to them) is there are no names associated with what is collected. Some may argue that unique IP addresses or e-mails allow for data to be collected on a particular person. This is likely something that will have to be reconciled in the not-to-distant future as more and more of our daily lives are conducted online. In the spirit of blogging, check out these two wild and crazy guys – Elon Educast — Jiggawatts on My Mind? —

Out with the old … Posted by gerikfurlan on September 23, 2009

Every professional discipline has it’s models and such that help to explain in the broadest sense all it’s intricate and complex details and place it in a nice, neat package for consumption. Our profession, communications and the media, is no different. As part of our journey to become leaders in the iMedia community, it helps to know where you came from. Upon examining existing models depicting the communications process, one thing is perfectly clear — they are all virtually obsolete. The path shown in virtually every single one is linear and unidirectional – the message flows one way from sender to receiver. These models of the past were constructed long before interactivity was a twinkle in someone’s eye. So, the question is – what does the model for today’s communications process, including all the interactive aspects, look like? How does one represent the user input, the viewer feedback and the active audience participation? What about the different levels of participation (i.e — active/passive, lurker/creator)? How about the different types of media, is there a need to account for every permutation? Do we need new terms to describe all the players involved in the process? If our clan of 36 is any indication, it’s time for a new model to hit the showroom floor. The tripping point is the interactive aspect. Communication is no longer simply a one-way street; the message doesn’t just go from the sender/broadcaster/producer to the receiver/audience/user – * the audience can participate in shaping the program, the message * the audience can provide feedback to the sender * the audience can manipulate and pass the message around amongst itself, changing its meaning So, do we just need to make all the arrows on the previous models two-way? Is a whole new shape needed? In an effort to blaze the trail toward a new model, us future leaders endeavoured to come up with our own. Here are a few we designed …

As you might be able to see, we all have quite different ideas on what the future communications model should look like. One common thread that runs through all of the proposed new models is the departure from the linear, one-way design. The interactive future is all about participation – get that guy or gal at the other end of the medium involved in some way, invested and interested in the message. In addition, messages can originate from either end or any point along the models, a departure from the passive receiver accepting the message sent to them from a creator/producer/sender. With the fundamental ways in which we communicate changing before our eyes, it’s time to tell the old (as the great Heidi Klum would say) “you are out!”

The iMedia runaway train Posted by gerikfurlan on September 28, 2009

As the future leaders of the iMedia revolution, we have to know where this runaway train is headed. For our discussion today, we took a trip “up” memory lane to consider the possibilities, some of which aren’t too far off. In short, the future is the Metaverse, and it’s already here. The future will be online, virtual and three-dimensional. Advances in processors, gaming and graphics have taken us from the 1D world of text only to the immersive, persistent 3D world of SecondLife and beyond. And we have only scratched the surface. Further developments in AI and physics are needed to have the virtual reality worlds like SecondLife get closer to behaving like actual reality. The key to making the worlds work is incorporating a social aspect. Worlds such as World of Warcraft and the like are more likely to catch on, more likely to “stick” if there is some measure of interaction involved. Instead of computers and “gaming” being the social isolator, gamers can gather online and interact, sharing a social experience. Some have even described these types of MMOGs “the new golf” (highlighting the social aspect while playing the game). While the Metaverse may be here, there is still work to be done to fully develop its potential. Browsers are catching up and starting to handle games, video and 3D graphics. The ability to add video to social networking sites and spread around content has never been easier. However, there still exists a have/have-nots divide between those who have access to the technology and those that do not. Ultra-broadband and wireless connectivity on a global scale still hasn’t been achieved. If everyone can’t join in on the collaboration, if everyone can’t be a part of the Metaverse, it loses its effectiveness. The elephants in the room with any discussion of future technology and the Internet are security and privacy. Protections need to be developed or strengthened before the technology gets too far ahead of the law. [Where have I heard that before? Hmmm … that’s right; that is my research topic. Funny how it all connects.] Speaking of everything connecting (wow, that transition is reaching), we will eventually be able to record and store absolutely everything that goes on in our lives. The availability of cheap mass storage is paving the way for things like the lifelog (a storage system capable of cataloging and categorizing every single thing, all the past information created through a person’s life experience). Along with this, the further development of nanotechnology applied to cameras may lead to “sense-cams” – nearly invisible sensors and cameras that will capture everything, sometimes without our knowledge. This again brings up concerns over privacy and safeguarding information. If everything you’ve ever done, ever, is all in this one storage vault, what happens when there is a break in? How will such a vast amount of very personal information be

protected? Who gets to oversee the storage vaults? Having all that information at one’s disposal could be a dangerous thing. This runaway train that is the interactive media revolution is headed down multiple tracks (much like this post). To try and put a bow on the whole thing — no matter what the future brings, no matter where this train is headed, we must ensure the results are equal and fair to all and work toward the greater good (and world peace).

Welcome to the Wide World of Privacy Posted by gerikfurlan on September 16, 2009

When the amazing journey that is the study of the future of privacy began, it truly was a wide world. Early in my investigation, I came across this quote from Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems in 1999 — “You already have zero privacy. Get over it.” That was ten years ago. That got me thinking. Is he right? Is the battle for privacy already lost? Checkmate, game over? The answer is not as clear-cut as many would like. So many different aspects fall inside the realm of ‘privacy.’ * We’ve all seen privacy policies on web sites, but have any of us actually read them? * Social networking sites and the like offer privacy settings for your information, but how many of us have actually set them? * In the post-9/11 world, how much privacy do we sacrifice in the name of national security and the greater good? * With the trend of digitizing medical records, who is responsible for safeguarding such personal, confidential information? * If something is released onto the Internet without consent, who is responsible? Does it make a difference if you posted it willingly? Ultimately, examination of these questions has lead to the realization that the problem lies in protection – aka the law. The courts are lagging behind the technology. New advances are coming even before the old developments have a chance to get old, and the legal system is simply not keeping pace. Take for example the issue of “sexting” – the trend of teens taking and sending suggestive, sexual or nude pictures often via cell phone texts or other social-sharing means. The teenagers involved in the cases are being prosecuted under current child pornography laws – ones that don’t take into account the changing technology and social norms because they were written long before the trend was even an idea. The photographers and subjects (often the same person) aside, what about the receiver(s) of the pictures? Often, they are being hit with charges of possessing child pornography, just by accepting a text message from their significant other with a naughty photo attached. Critics are questioning the use of such statutes, the same ones to prosecute the worst of the worst in the exploitation of children, on middle and high schoolers swapping sexy pictures with their boy/girlfriend. Issues of privacy concerning the Internet and electronic data have not been thoroughly addressed, exposing Texas-sized gaps in coverage, waiting for some ruffian to exploit, leaving lasting damage in his wake.

Privacy. What is it? Do I have it? Has mine been violated? I have violated someone’s? We all talk about privacy; we all want to protect it as much as possible, yet do we really know what it is? Do we really know how to protect it? Where can we turn for help?

Giving Thanks for the “Miracle of Media” Posted by gerikfurlan on November 16, 2009

(Note: The post builds slow, but stay with it) Sunday means race day, so I was tuned in to ESPN on ABC for the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 from Phoenix International Raceway, the penultimate race in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Listening to the radio broadcast of the pre-race ceremonies on Motor Racing Network (since I was in my car at the time), I heard something that got me thinking. During the invocation, when going through the typical thanking God for the facility, the beautiful day to race and the fans in attendance, mention was given to the fans not at the track but joined ‘us’ through the “miracle of media.” To be honest, at first I chuckled. I had never heard media referred to as a miracle, let alone in a religious setting. However, being the budding interactive media professional that I am, the prayer got me looking at my chosen life from a different perspective. When you think about it, what we are able to accomplish as media professionals is arguably nothing short of a miracle. The technologies behind being able to: * reach millions upon millions of people simultaneously * span across time and distance, bringing people together * create programs, websites, interactive games * instantly have your message – be it tweet, blog or video – published * give the audience choice and control over their media experience * and the list goes on … The programs, tools and technologies we sometimes (ok, usually) take for granted enable us to do amazing things, unimaginable just several years ago. I’m going to stop short of getting all “evangelical” on you, preaching the word that our media is a miracle, deserving of our prayers of thanks – I am not one to push religion on anyone. Nor am I going so far as to say we in the media are doing “God’s work” – an idea that frankly is presumptuous and overflowing with hubris. Consider this an invitation to think about our chosen life’s work (media) in a different way. Whether or not you drop to your knees and start giving thanks to whatever form of Higher Power you believe in, that’s up to you.

Dream the Impossible Dream Posted by gerikfurlan on December 2, 2009

Racing toward the Halftime Break (NASCAR SuperTruck Series presented by Craftsman reference) of the inaugural Masters in Interactive Media season, the time seems ripe for the proverbial “looking back” to evaluate how far we’ve come (and in some cases, how far we still have to go). With the 2009 NASCAR season over and the awards banquets in the rear-view mirror, I got to thinking about Jimmie Johnson winning four-consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, something never done before in the history of the sport. That idea – something never done before – parallels what we’ve been discovering during the inaugural iMedia campaign. On a daily basis, my cohort and I are regularly asked to do things that have never been done before. From designing new interfaces to concocting levels of interactivity never even dreamed of before, we are blazing the interactive media trail, testing the limits of technology as well as our own. This set of circumstances is not unique – it doesn’t exist just in our graduate school environment — by and large, that is the way of the world. The break-neck pace of technological, scientific and artistic development is redefining the boundaries in which we work and play. Venturing into uncharted waters such as we are elicits reactions from excitement to terror. Discovering what is around the corner, not knowing what is over the horizon taps into some people’s spirit of adventure while at the same time playing on a common, often deep-rooted fear of the unknown. Whatever the case may be, this is arguably the most incredible time to be a part of the media profession; standing on the cusp of what can be considered the most open and creative time in communications history, a time where we truly can “dream the impossible dream” (who would have thought I could reference NASCAR and Man of La Mancha in the same blog post). Many may ask if we are better off because of it all. At this point, only time will tell. We may be approaching the Halftime Break of the inaugural iMedia season, but this is only the beginning of what will be a long and prosperous future of racing in the media/communications profession.


For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the release of “The Future of Privacy (Law),” you’ll have to wait just a little...