Monday, November 24, 2008

Clay Shirky

This chapter is about social networking and grouping. There are large social groups and small social groups. Large social groups are formed and function much differently than small social groups. There are different ways in which people are connected in networks. There are people who are very well connected and people who are more reclusive.

Networks vary by the way people are connected. There are small densely connected networks, in which everyone knows each other and messages relay much faster. In contrast there are large sparsely connected networks, where people begin to be connected by friends of friends and so on. The dense network’s connectivity is undisrupted if one of the people drop out, where as in the larger network this would cause some problems. The perfect network would be a combination of the model dense network and model sparse network. In this network there would be several groups of densely connected people, which will then be connected to each other through members in each group that are connectable. According to Clay Shirky, this is called a “small world network.” This network is held together by the highly connected individuals. There are two main tools of connecting people; bonding capital and bridging capital. Bonding capital increases the depth of connections and unity of a group. Bridging capital is used to connect the groups to each other, expanding the network. For the purposes of sharing information and having good ideas, it is better to be part of a broader network. When in a broader network you hear different information, while in a very densely connected network you will hear a lot of the same things. The “small world” network is a good compromise between reclusive and over connected, and being an unusable network and an unbuildable one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fourth Essay

Within the past decade, web technology has broadened the means of communication. Specifically, the advent of the blogosphere has led to an extension of interaction between people all around the world. The blogosphere provides an arena for discussion that most similarly resembles the public sphere. My observations on a particular blog, lead me to accept Barlow’s belief that blogospheres and political spheres share the characteristics of equality, decentralized authority, and inclusivity.

The blog that I chose to observe is called Awful Announcing. Created by Brian Powell in May of 2006, it is essentially a sports blog that focuses mainly on the perils and follies of the Sports Media. In addition, the site critiques and reviews those within the Sports World. The site has gained massive recognition through major sports programs such as Sports Center, ESPN Radio, and WFAN. I particularly liked the manner in which the blog was organized. There was little to no advertising on the website, and the information was easily accessible. The only advertisement on the site was for Yardbarker Networker, which promoted blogs by promising increased blog traffic and wealth of a user. The postings are created by Powell, who operates under the name Awful Announcing. He is assisted by two contributors who are referred to as Signal to Noise and Extrapolater. The three writers create postings and allow users to comment, criticize, and provide feedback on their articles.

For five days, I recorded my observations of all the things I saw in the blog. I made observations regarding the functioning of the blog and the interaction between users. The anonymity of the blog comforted me in some ways. Prior to this assignment, I had only participated in small forum discussions. Because I had known the other users in the forum, I would often refrain from freely expressing my ideas. Awful Announcing, is a large blog site with many different users. Therefore, people are free to express their ideas and discuss topics without embarrassment.

The first article that I observed was one regarding the Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets game. One user made a post questioning a decision made by the referee. Within thirty minutes, another user replied to the question. The users engaged in a discussion about their favorite teams and which team they thought was better. Users were not criticized for their opinions, and the discussion was conducted in a civil manner. The flow of discussion reminded me of an ideal public sphere. Users were equally allowed to express their ideas and opinions without being persecuted for their beliefs. The discussion was not regulated by any governing body, nor was the site in the hands of professionals. The flow of the discussion followed the horizontal structure that was described by Barlow. Average users were able to freely post their ideas.

Over the next few days I noticed that the blogs became more interactive and fostered heated debates. This can be attributed to the wide variety of topics that are discussed in the blogosphere. This characteristic of inclusivity is seen in the public sphere as well, strengthening the notion that the blogosphere is merely an extension of the public sphere. The next post I observed was called “The Pam Ward Chronicles”. It was a post explaining the past week in college football and highlighted pertinent issues in the sport. The author of the article received criticism from a user called Jfein. This user pointed out a grammar error in the article. Soon after, another user came to the defense of the author by calling Jfien a sexist. Although the argument between the users soon became off topic, the blogosphere still was open to any form of comment or criticism without any consequences. The inclusivity of the sphere allows the users to talk about any topic of their choosing even if the purpose of the site is sports issues. The argument between Jfien and the other user reminded me of discussions that happen in a public sphere. Arguments between people often get off topic and statements are manipulated. In political debates, candidates’ often try and twist the words of their opponents in order to make the other party look bad. In this case, the user brings up the issue of sexism in response to a grammatical correction made by another user. Irrespective of the intentions of Jfien, the other user brings up an irrelevant issue in order to place Jfien in a negative light.

After witnessing the argument between the two users, I was curious to see if the structure of this blogosphere was truly decentralized. I decided to make comments that would make me unfavorable amongst the users. My intentions were to see if I would be punished for my comments from a central body. The comment I posted was as follows: “San Fran is going to beat the Card’s what are you guys talking about… You are all stupid… It is a great Monday night game.” I wished to belittle the other users by calling them stupid and imply that I was laughing at them. However, no user responded or reacted to my comment. They went along with their discussion as if I had never said anything. To further press the matter, I posted “If you think the Card’s are gonna win you are dumb. You idiots hahahahaha.” This time, I was convinced that my immature insults could not go unpunished. I thought that the creators of the blog would block or preventing me from commenting on their site. To my surprise, I was still able to post comments hours later. The only responses that I received to my statement were requests for me to leave the discussion. Upon reflection, I realized that no user had any power over the other and that everyone was truly free to say whatever they pleased. However, for the sake of maintaining the structure and purpose of the blogosphere, users attempted to stay as civil as possible.

From my observations of Awful Announcing, I am able to conclude that the Blogosphere shares the same traits as a public sphere. Like a public sphere, Awful Announcing allowed its users to post their ideas freely without discrimination or bias. All users, regardless of their beliefs or opinions, were able to write what they wanted on this website. Furthermore, the site had no government or MSM regulation and was not in the hands of professionals. The structure of the blog was decentralized and there was no punishment for unfavorable postings. As web communication expands its horizons, our perception of the public sphere is extended. The blogosphere has fostered greater interaction allowing us to partake in discussions and debates with people from all across the globe.

Barlow, A. (2008). Blogging America The new public sphere. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Journal Day #5

November 10, 2008

After observing the blog for several days I got a feel how this blog operated and I thought it was my time to chime. I posted comments on a blog with the intensions of sparking a conversation. I chose to comment on a post by Awful Announcing which was about the Monday night football game, San Fransico 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals. The post talked about how there were two bad teams playing each other and how the game was going to be horrible. So I decided to make a comment.

My comment was, “San Fran is going to beat the Card’s what are you guys talking about…….You are all stupid….It is a great Monday night game.” After this comment went up nobody reacted to it or responded to me and went on talking about the game. Then I decided to post another comment. I posted, “If you think the Card’s are gonna win you are dumb…….you idiots hahahahaha.” This comment sparked a reaction.

Someone by the name of ssreporters told me to go away. He is quoted saying, “go away John….” It was like I wasn’t accepted in there online world….then a few comments later someone said, “Yes John, just do us all a favor and go away.” His user name was jamescraven. After that I stopped posting. And the people kept talking about the game and how it was it going.
There was something that I noticed while I read the comments to this post. The comment’s to the post was like a play by play of the game. People were talking about what was going on in the game online as it was underway in real life.

The communication that was going on is like what Barrlow is talking about. It is shown how offline and online worlds are converging. While reading the comments it feels like I am at a bar or sitting home with my friends watching the game and talking about it.

After observing the blog for several days I was able to determine who ran the conversation and dominated it. These people commented most to the posts on the blog and in my eyes ran the conversation. The four people that dominated the blog by there user name was ssreporters, jamescraven, Mal, and Jfien.

Journal Day #4

November 9, 2008

There were numerous articles posted today by AA when I took a look at the blog. One article was about the previous week in college football. It listed the scores of all the games and some of the statistics for the games. I checked back a little later to see if anything else interested me and found a few more posts.

One of the posts was about what NFL games were on today and what channel they would be televised on. I glanced at a similar post and that post showed the progress of the current games that were underway. The last post that I looked at was an article about the way college teams were ranked. After I read the comments to this post I was able to formulate an idea of the things they were talking about. I found that people were discussing the possibility of teams playing certain teams and the match up’s in these games.

Journal Day # 3

November 8, 2008

There was only one post today that I saw opposed to other days where there were more postings by Awful Announcing. The post was called “The Pam Ward Chronicles.” It was a post explaining the past week in college football. There was certain highlights and issues discussed that pertained to college football.

After seeing this I did some research on who Pam was and I found out that she works for ESPN. She is one of two women announcers at ESPN and she covers college games. She writes articles for this blog and is part of it even though Powel has the final say on what is posted.

When I clicked on comments for this post I found that she was criticized on a grammar mistake pointed out by Jfein (user name). He said that is was one of her first of many mistakes today. Soon after that comment was posted an anonymous person came to Pam’s defense and told Jfien he is sexist and to leave Pam alone. I was unable to determine the sex of the individual that defended Pam.

Journal Day #2

November 7, 2008

When viewing the blog today I noticed a post on the outcome of the NBA game Blazers against the Rockets. The post pointed out the game winning shot by the Blazers and an announcing mistake made by Marvin Albert during the last few seconds of the game. There is a video link to YouTube that shows the game winning shot and Albert’s commentating mistake.

When I clicked on the comment section of the post I was able to see people’s reactions to the post by AA. The comments were basically just peoples reactions to the game winning shot. There was one question asked by an anonymous person. His question was about why the clock was stopped during a play. Thirty minuets after the question were asked it was answered by another person.

Journal Day #1

November 6, 2008

The blog that I have chosen to follow and study is called Awful Announcing. It is a sports blog created by Brian Powell on Tuesday May 16, 2006. According to Brian Powell, “The site focuses mainly on the perils and follies of the Sports Media, but also critiques and reviews those within the Sports World. The site has been mentioned on Sports Center, ESPN Radio, WFAN, and various newspapers throughout the Country.” When first looking at this blog I noticed numerous things. There are many posts by Powell, who is also known as AA.

Personally, I like the way the blog is organized. It is done in a way where information is easy to access and there is little no advertising. The only advertisement on this blog is something called YBN. This is also known as Yardbarker Network. YBN is a widget that you can download that helps one organize his or her blogs. They promote blogs, with promises of increasing traffic, and increasing the wealth of a user. They feature thousands of sport websites and blogs.

This blog features postings by Powell who is Awful Announcing and two contributors. The two contributors are Signal to Noise and Extrapolater. The home page of the blog features links to various other blogs that are friends with AA and links to current sporting schedules.

Overall, this blog seems like one that gets a lot of attention and I am glad to be studying it.

Reading on Kendall

"Shout into the wind, and it shouts back. Identity and interactional tensions on LiveJournal" by Kendall discusses the conflicts and tensions of identity and information management that users of LiveJournal have. According to Kendall many users have contradictory thoughts on identity and information management. The model of a private diary conflicts with the reality of public performance. The fact that a user can efficiently reach a broad network of piers conflicts with the users desire to manage its audience. The desire to control their own journal conflicts with the desire to connect with others. The desire for autonomy conflicts with the desire for feedback and approval from others. 26 LiveJournal users were interviewed on these topics, and although the 26 users are not a very diverse bunch, they prove just how conflicting the thoughts on these topics are.

Most of the users on LiveJournal think of their posts as private diary-like journal entries, but at the same time, they are consciously writing to an audience. While they are recording personal thoughts, feelings and daily events, “just for themselves” as they say, these journals are a form of performance. George, one of the interviewees said, “You either want to entertain them or create a change in their behavior.” People are aware that nothing on the internet is private. As Robert said, “If I have things that are actually private they are not up on the Internet.” LiveJournal is both a place for diary entries and performance. Users can catalogue their daily events, say something to an audience, and comment on each others journals.

LiveJournal is a great source of networking. It is an easy way to make things available to friends and family. On the other hand, users don’t always want all of their contacts as an audience. Mark a user, said, “When William was born, that’s the first place I went, to do a post there because I knew that a bunch of [friends from an online group] read it and a bunch of [friends from a previous job] read it and some of [my wife’s] family read it. And it’s like here’s one easy place I can go. I can put up a picture and everyone will see it and so that’s the first place I went.” On the other hand, users like to separate their audiences at times, “These two completely separate areas of my life suddenly collided.”- Dylan. Users appreciate the easy networking capabilities of LiveJournal, but at times like to present themselves differently to different groups of people.

LiveJournal users have a desire for control over what they read; simultaneously they have a desire to establish connections with other users. This is such a conflict, because filtering out portions of a user’s journal will hinder the connection you will make with them. It is important not to disregard portions of journals especially because it is hard to communicate on LiveJournal, as Robert said “It wasn’t designed as a mechanism for holding big conversations, really”

LiveJournal users enjoy the fact that they can write what ever they want in their personal journals, but commenting doesn’t quite have the same autonomy. When you post a comment on someone else’s journal, they can delete it. This can lead to misconceptions to what you were commenting. Users fear that if they write about an individual, that the individual may read it. Both of these factors contribute to hindering the autonomy of one’s journal.
LiveJournal presents many social tensions among its users. These tensions are all present in everyday society, but are more apparent on the website. Users’ desires inhibit their own, and other users’ values. Users truly seeking autonomy should not be concerned with others have to say.