Archive for the ‘Communication Theory’ Category

Instantaneous responses of online users to an object of attention in the Internet can make that material viral and so help the source achieve its intent –  hits for virtual stardom.This aim is not easy to achieve. Network metrics are now available to monitor which are potentially viral for corporations to plug in advertisements.

The Internet as a communication platform allows for any user with access to available free or paid applications to create, upload, download, post and share videos, photographs, texts, music and other programs. What we find now online are various displays that appeal to our multiple senses. Everything is seeking attention, in any form measured in terms of hits, views, reads, likes and shares.

The web is an interconnected network of information. When users connect and access any information in the Internet, others will surely know that behavior. With cloud networking technology, virtual platforms or websites have advanced into a more interactive social community. Business entities have interest on these online sites to connect to the users and market their products.

Consider Youtube, blog sites, and Facebook. In YouTube users can take advantage of its utilities and people can comment and share the videos to anyone else. In Facebook, advertisements are placed on the sidebars of your wall, and with those people or organizations you subscribe to. Sometimes, you will receive notifications of advertisements from your friends, and your friends are using them as well to market their own products. There are bloggers too who write for advertisements, just pay attention to the links and pop-ups aside from the obvious display ads in their site.

The Internet is a hyperreal market, where the users are potential consumers. There the demand for information is heightened by the frequency and the adjunct elements of interest in the displayed attention object. Value to the display object is added when attention is put to it. More views, more shares, more likes, more comments, more backlinks means more hits.  Those make the source an instant online star, and business wise could earn a lot from it.


Passing the Virus On

Instantaneous reactions result from our immediate perception of the display object. “Awesome”, “This gave me goosebumps”,  “Nice”, “good”, “OMG”, “WTF is this?”, “Darn”, “That’s not true”. Those are several of the comments tagged to a viral photo, video, message that we could find in an online social network are public site. Whether we react positively or negatively to the object on display, our consequent response to “share” that.

Online, we still bring our human side as social individuals. We feel and react with and towards another. When we see that someone “liked” what we posted, our esteem is affirmed. When comments  go deeper to tell something about our character or personality, our identity is validated, so we try to sustain such behavior. If we do not get any response from others, we tend to find ways to get their attention with another post, shout out or anything we could share.

Because we are social individuals we share. Since sharing is free, uninhibited and unregulated in a social network and in most interactive sites, we immediately click the like buttons or the share buttons. This reaction is instantaneous. Most often, we do not think and rethink of the consequences our online behavior could have on others. We are not much aware that we make an online display object viral by that instantaneous response.

Then after awhile we realize that we were so ignorant and irresponsible of our actions. That we merely followed bandwagon even if we did not know where it came from and where it is really going. We justify our actions as correct because we know others did the same thing. It is always easier for us to just get along what others are doing, but rarely do we pause and think about what we were doing.

The Internet is a potential source for anyone to make a name for his/her self. It is a potent media to lash on other people. It is an easy source to spread information or any display object like a virus. However, we need to know the source of the information or the material we are sharing, and also their intention, before we make our little individual online space a node to transmit that to our network members. While everyone seems to be interconnected online, we have to be more responsible.


Caught by the Virus

More and more people are getting online. With Wireless Broadband technology more accessible, and mobile communications getting cheaper and more adaptive for online usage, the web has more users connected to a network.

There are two posts in this blog, which I have earlier written, one about a campaign in Facebook dubbed as “invasion of memories” that went viral, and another is on “scampaigns” or “scare” messages that had many panicking about the nuclear radiation coming from Japan when it was hit by a tsunami. However, just recently while I was not busy replying to emails, comments on my blogs or shout outs, I have suspicions as well as criticisms to two videos being shared in my social network.

Malicious Dadalicious – The first video is about how to have a Benilde Accent“. This came infuriating and insulting to many students and faculty members of the school. In this video uploaded in Youtube, a girl named “Dadalicious” tried to tell her story of encountering a student from the said school, whom she despised because of her accent which the girl described as pretentious and characterizing that of Captain Hook’s. She probably wanted to make a funny video and create a name for herself, but she was irresponsible to name a specific school and even identified her friend’s name.

The students from the said school are active online users, and so some of their teachers too. Affected by the video, their instant response was to comment about it, and post their comment in their own Facebook walls. In 24 hours, it had 8,967 visits in YouTube, including my two visits. How this got to a Benildean’s attention must be intentional, if not a curious user must be searching about “Benilde” and unhappily stumbled on this video. Only one graduate of the same school directly replied to it using the same technology.

The video content as per its message was offensive to some, but only one Benildean replied in a video format, while others kept on sharing the said video. Now in this case, the affected ones (offended or not, having the purported accent or not) or just the concerned members of the school’s community are contributing their share by keeping the “link” in their walls. They are making Dadalicious, whose intent was malicious, rise to infamy.

What made this video “viral” though it really is not as per social network metrics, is that it appeals to the emotion with a particular bad taste. It is is insulting and outright directly hitting on some group of individuals. Naming the student or the school are offensive tactics to get some response, practically when it is making a faulty generalization by stereotyping the whole for an impression about a single individual. It was rude, unethical and irresponsible, but since the degree of offense is not immediately obvious to an online user, it stirs curiosity.

Random Girl Video – Another video on YouTube is getting a plenty of hits, likes and shares over Facebook. This video shows a girl singing in videoke at a certain mall. Indeed she has a beautiful voice. The video as of the time of this posting has 373,585 views. Behaving like the others in my network, I checked the link from their wall, because it has been frequently appearing and the video is getting “nice” reviews. But, I reserve some suspicions.

Why would a talented individual keep her face off the screen, like keeping her voice to be heard by everyone else? When this girl has that beautiful voice, she should have auditioned in the proper venues? Is it just because, the video was taken by some random person who happened to like the way she sings and caught it and uploaded it without her knowledge? Does she want to be a sensational hit over the Internet or just happened to be unsuspecting of the said video? There are a plenty of questions as to the intent of displaying the video.

The elements of surprise and mystery are in that video. The voice was brilliant but had no face in it. Anonymity made users more curious to know about the “random girl” and to hear her voice. However, in the same video the name of the “random girl” appears. If you search her name in Facebook, you will find a fan page where you can subscribe. If I am not mistaken access in altering or adding any content to the video is restricted for the owner of the video only. The owner of this video was able to identify the “voice” and his video was a hit. The elements to get the attention of an audience “hungry” for objects of attention were just right there to get such number of views.

It must be sheer surprise for the source of this video to capture it and upload it in YouTube. So far, he has uploaded 137 videos in the site, but only this video has gotten that huge number of views within one week. That video has helped the “random girl” get the attention of online users, that it was even supported Yahoo Philppines SHE.


Display and Attention

Sources of any display online are there for the users attention. They want comments, likes, views, reviews, shares. Advertisers prey on users’ creations shared online, and they are out there vigilantly monitoring the behavior of the online users. They are in the lookout for what is hitting the meters that measure audience share and responses. Those who gets the right number of hits become an instant star.

Traditional media like the television, radio and print are also capitalizing on the potentials of the social media. In some news nowadays, their source of information and materials are those posted online. They are also in the lookout for trends in the Internet and they broadcast this in their news reports. Likewise, online writers, bloggers and copywriters are also immersed in wave of information transferred over the Internet.

The primary reason of display is to get attention. However, online users have selective responses and filters towards materials on display. Despite their possible instantaneous affects, they also have values to make judgments and decisions.  Online users, the active and more so the inactive, would like to be updated, and they have to that tendency to the ride the waves of attention poured into a specific displayed object. The users’ behavior are affected by the many other elements in front of their screen and so with the task they are doing by that time.

So, it becomes more probable that online users tend to take actions that they regret later on. Hitting the keys and clicking the mouse are really easy, being more responsible doesn’t operate that way regarding our online behavior. We need to be responsible with what we share online, as we do not have the control of who can get this and how they will use it, and in most cases, links provide permanence to what we post online.

Online social networks, specifically Facebook, have provided people across the world free, accessible and interactive communication platform to present one’s self to others and get the attention of the many other people, and connect even disenterested parties into hyperreal communities. Trending now are calls for reunion, homecoming, assemblies and other gathering of sorts. Here is man’s conquer of the virtual world, extending his territories with technology and so extending his identity.

This phenomenon was made easier when Facebook introduced its group application. Although, prior to this `official’ pages were already in. Here, anyone can open an account, invite and add friends, and do the same stuffs an individual can do in his wall. The group application allows any user to link with other groups, add friends, chat, post multimedia and other documents. Any member of a group can add anyone, unless the moderator kicks someone out. The power here is shared by the moderator to every other members of the group.

Facebook, as a social network, has just become a platform for group interaction and socialization. This manifest in how people are using the tool to connect with a number of people as long they are in the group’s site. Facebook has stepped up from one-to-many networking site to a many-to-many networking site with the introduction of the group application. In this manner, control or moderation is less attended and power is redistributed and shared by all members. Such is what Jurgen Habermas theoritically  describes as an ideal speech situation in the public sphere.

The said technology for group interactions is not new. The earlier versions of the chatroom like that of the MIRC served the same function. But because of the vulnerability of the platform to be intruded by viruses, it slowly got out of the picture. Well, Facebook has to take responsibility for that as well. The hyperreal communities have become more evidently active nowadays. The term hyperreal, according to Baudrillard is the meshing of the virtual and real, so intricately intertwined that the boundaries become gray and the distinction between the real and virtual becomes more ambiguous over time.

Because of the convinience, benefits and advantages of using technology in reaching people and getting them to the discourse process, openly and freely, people have taken the liberty to ‘join’ and be a part of the hyperreal communities. Here, they get updates and they get to interact with a lot of people, even those they do not know or have never had physical contact with. To them, they are in social interaction, just the same as that of the real experience of social interaction. Likewise, they bring their experiences in the virtual world to the real world, or vice versa.

Hyperreal communities are social groups of individuals connected through an information communication network, bound by a common interest, purpose, situation, experiences or identities. The motivation of the members to be in the network are likely to be shared to keep the network active. Performative communication through display and attention keep the line of social exchange alive. Messages posted on the group’s wall or chatroom have to appeal to the various interests and sensibilities of the members or else, communication becomes static.

Because rules and roles are undefined in these communities, unless the moderator establishes so with the agreement of other members, some unexpressed expectations can lead to conflict. This entropy can start from two individuals and then other members will be affected emotionally and psychology. Then, there will be regroupings in support of the parties in conflict. There will also be arbiters and peacemakers. In worst situations, members who do not conform to the ambiguous ‘norm’ will be unfriended or removed from the group. But, due to the vulnerability of technology, the deviant who was casted out can join the group with another identity to shatter the group dynamics again.

The connection established in the virtual community has strong links to the interest of the physical social world. Connection, that is. But the purpose will vary. For socieities that have high collective values, connection in either of the two worlds are esential to one’s esteem and the group’s esteem. The value of unity, cammaraderie, or fraternalization are significant to be projected in the members of the group. When these are violated, group members may lose interest to sustain membership. Distancing and withdrawal are still easy options. Being silent is manifestation of such, when participation in the exchange is construed as engagement and interest.

In the meshing of worlds in the hyperreal communities, the identities of individual members are transcended to cut across the two world. Hence, actions or one’s communicative behavior in the virtual world represents the identities of individuals in the phyisical world. In their exposure to the virtual world, their identities are transformed as well and they bring such back in the physical world. Assuming one opens a group for a clan, based on one’s surname, members who joined the group will feel proud to notice how the imagined and reconstructed ‘clan’ has increased.

New patterns of relationships are developed. In the Philippines, when the natives were given surnames, it was more likely that surnames will be repetitive. So, one can be surprised that there is another family or clan with the same surname from other islands. But with this mere identification, the family is reconstructed. Stories will be told, people will speak in different languages, and there will be no physical semblance at all shared by all those people. This reconstruction of the ‘clan’ goes beyond paternal or ethnic lineage. Even if stories told dont’ match with stories lived, the fantasy in the virtual world can keep the members together, in a while.

It is interesting to inquire on why people open groups and seek connection. Have the people been so tired in their physical world? Have they been so disconnected that they are pushed and pulled to utilized online technology to create virtual connections? How much of these virtual connections live to their purpose of building communities? How long will they be there and how are members affected by these hyperreal communities?

We create the world as we recreate ourselves with the tools we made and use.

Mobile computing is minicomputing with the cyberspace at the touch of your fingers. The trend has been charted decades ago, but underdeveloped countries are lagging and the price of getting connected remains unreachable for the masses. This keeps the divide between the technological have’s and have not’s to widen.

In theory, the gap is supposed to be dismal as time passes. But what experts failed to see is that of the speed of innovation and the attitude of market towards technological change, and the rate of population increase from the poor sector. Those who can not afford access to the latest technologies, undoubtedly lag behind. If we compare students from a state university who rely only on technology that they can access in school, with those students from private colleges and universities, the difference is clear.

I teach in a private college where the facilities provided to the students are well updated. It is also noticeable that my students can afford advanced mobile computing devices with access to the Internet. When I ask them to prepare for oral presentations, they amaze me with their creativity and savvy use of technology. While I could tell them theoretically, what they can do more with technology, all I got is the theory but I lag in the skills of optimizing technology.

I guess I need more time to learn and update myself on technological applications. If one time I show my students a skillfully crafted presentation, with full animation, transitions and hyperlink, next time around they can beat me into their works. We’ll at least I am trying to be a good model to my students. But my point is not all students in a developing country are like my students.

Generally speaking, many students in the rural areas don’t even have access to the Internet or have never had enough time to at least know how to turn on and off a PC.  Technology is for all as it is with basic education. The UNESCO’s drive of Education for All (EFA) aligned with the UN’s millenium Development goals, stresses the acquisition of new technological competencies for all students.

How many computers do our public schools have compared to the number of student? How many of those schools with computer laboratories have Internet access? How updated are those computers to provide the students efficient training and use in the limited time that they will be allowed to access such technology? How are students required to apply technology in their outputs? How adept are the teachers in public schools to teach students to maximize the use of technology in their studies?

When we compare public and private schools, the former are larger in number, but the latter has more potential in practically utilizing technology to advance student’s learning. I have no answers to the question I posed, but the public school administrators, the division heads, the Department of Education and the Commission and Higher education should have a database to answer these questions.

Now that the K12 will be implemented in the coming school year, what will students be taught about technology and how? Will those kids in the rural areas be asked to draw a computer, practice with carton keyboard, pull a rat’s tail or 50 or so students will watch a video on YouTube in a single PC if a projector is not available? Will the kids still be taught how to make rags, dustpans, parol, fruit salad, how to massage, pedicure toes or perm hair?

Surely there is  a need for vocational graduates, they should be certified for taking such course. But as we move forward, if we do want to move forward, the basic education curriculum for the K12 program should address the social need to ready the learners in mobile computing world. I remember then a dream to connect the Philippines with national broadband project that was thwarted from the beginning.

In this digital world, everyone is a member of a networked community. Each one is connected and has access to information through the Internet and mobile communication. The rate of information transfer is too fast than our capacity to rationalize on the information we receive, and in most cases we react instantly without even going over our thoughts.

With the speed of information transfer compared to our desire to be critical about the information we receive, we tend to sweep on the messages rather than really pay attention to its purpose, source, meaning, and effect. Sometimes, we are not really receiving a message that is essential to make us really informed to enable us to make the right choices. Instead, we receive noise but act on it as we felt it is the right thing to do.

The first situation I could site about this is when someone through Facebook initiated that campaign against child violence. When users saw everyone in their networked changed their profile pic into a cartoon character within December 2 – 6, they changed their pics and hid their identity from the rest of the world. Simply, because they felt they were doing the right thing even though they were acting on the wrong message.

The second case is this text scare, that began today, on nuclear radiation that could possibly hit the Philippines within the next twenty four hours beginning 4 pm. In this message the technical jargon of a melt down is misinterpreted to literally melt our human skin. The solution “bathe one’s body with betadine and come out with an umbrella and wrap over one’s body”. That’s if it rains. It attributes the information to be coming from BBC as a newsflash.

Since we receive too many information and our filters to process those information are not always switched on, we can be overwhelmed by our emotions. On extreme ends, as what I illustrated, a message can easily come to us to be valid. The reason here is that our emotions create an imbalance on our judgment and so affect our propensity to analyze the message before we react to it.

In the Facebook Child Violence Scampaign, a positive feeling triggers a potential response. Since, our eyes delight on the images that we see, and that the message seems to appeal on our universal value to be of help to others, our action was instant. Then, we did not think that masking our identities and all other identities of Facebook users could give chance for phedophiles to prey on children using the network.

In the Nuclear Radiation scampaign, anxiety is triggered to affect our universal value for safety and self-protection. As we value others we pass on this message without really understanding its nature. As we are scared, we get more confused and so we tend to act righteously but in the end we will know that we were overreacting if not acting wrongly.

Communication devices like the Internet and the mobile phone are potential and vulnerable medium for scampaigns. Scampaigns are simple messages that stem from an issue of value to the wider population. It presents itself as a valid campaign with noble intentions to be of help to others or to the readers themselves, but it really has no effect at all to anyone. It seems valid because it masks the intention, if there is at all, with factual and truthful information.


Scampaigns are false knowledge that appears to be true, proper, moral and beneficial, but they have no value at all. It utilizes facts to prompt the receiver to do an action. The instigators of this scampaigns may have other gains, which we do not know unless we are able to track them, but possibly they find gratification in seeing someone do the action. The scampaign is an act to display to get attention, getting that attention is the fullest gratification that the scampaigner could get.

Scampaigners have no regard for others, because what they do have implications that they cannot control later on. The utility of the Internet and mobile communications is so convenient for them, so it can be assumed that these scampaigners are a bit techy and are also informed by their exposure to other medium of communication. Scampaigns, depending on the action required from the receiver can cause mass hysteria, social disorder, cognitive dissonance, confusion or could be a threat to national security.

At one point, scampaigns may appear to be innocent of any other dark motives, but in another it is way to disrupt existing order. So it is anarchaic, egotistic, and self-serving as it is dissillusioned. Thus, what the scampaigner wants to transmit is his personal dilemma or dissillusionment transferred to the action of the reader which he wants to have control of. Such a person, must have suffered social rejection, that he is in isolation and he finds value to his self by misinforming the widest number of people possible. Simply the scampaigner is neurotic.

A genuine campaign has a source, the identity of the source is revealed and recognized by the receiver. The message is not masked with incongruent information. The message can be validated through others and the authorities’ position. It calls for an action, and that task is logical and reasonable. It does not prey on the individual’s emotional weakness, but appeals on their rational mind. It will have plausible and significant results, and it can never be challenged or questioned at any angle.

Think these over? How can changing one’s profile pic save a child from domestic and social violence? Test, look at the statistics of violence on children, then change your profile pic and look at the statistics the next day or so. If the statistics dropped the campaign was genuine. How can betadine protect you from radiation? Test, deep and smudge some meat with very generous amount of  betadine inside a microwave, if it keeps the meat fresh after high heat for 15 minutes, the source of that text scampaign was right, and I am all wrong in whatever I said.

We are living in an information age where knowledge is supposed to be at the tip of our fingers. Because our fingertips don’t think it doesn’t not mean that we lost the ability to be critical of what we read in our mobile phones or the internet. It becomes more esssential for us to challenge and question the knowledge that swarms our networked world. Or is this just the effect of living in a wild wired world where humanity is moving towards its devolution?