What I’ve learned about my social network channels

Three months ago I thought I was a social media pro. I was sure that I had nailed it down and that there was not much I could add to what I already knew and experienced in social media practice. But oh boy! I realized I was far from experiencing it all when I read the descriptions and assignments of my winter term course Managing Communications Networks as part of my Masters in Communications and Technology at the University of Alberta. In addition to our regular weekly reading and online discussions with my class mates, I was also challenged to enhance and develop my existing social network. The main task was to apply what we read and talked about on a weekly basis to our existing networks.

Integrating my messages throughout my social networks, my favourite social media program, HootSuite, was extremely useful. HootSuite allowed me to program my messages ahead of time, manage my social networks, and find the information I needed on social networks using key words. HootSuite took the timing weight from me and I was focused more on looking after and analyzing how my networks developed, and what social media channels were strong or weak.

Here is the summary of my findings based on my network:

blog table 2

Anonymous – is it always the right way to act?

 

A few months ago, I watched a video released by Anonymous, asking to take actions against the boys involved in Rehtaeh Parsons’s death. The video release was addressed to the general public, police, rapists, Rehtaeh’s high school, and students who allegedly gang-raped Rehtaeh. The message was very powerful as Rehtaeh’s case was reopened and four boys were charged.

Anonymous is a group of international activists whose goal it is to “help govern the world.” Many of its members are programmers who often hack or threaten to release classified or sensitive information to the public, if an organization does not take certain actions.

One may consider Anonymous as a great organization that helps make our world a better place, but I sometimes question its actions. I personally don’t like when people hide behind a mask and coercing the government to act in a certain way. Such an approach can compromise the work that the government does, and can even be interpreted as being of a terrorist nature. I do understand that Anonymous may have the interest of people in mind, but we need to take a look at the big picture.

The government is there to protect its people. Public servants have the education and experience required to deal with certain situations. Anonymous on the other hand, my not necessarily have the experience or the necessary perspective to respond accordingly to perceived wrongs committed by the government. In fact, due its limited scope, the actions of Anonymous can cause more harm than good. For instance, in Rehtaeh’s case, releasing the names of the alleged rapists would have not only contravened the Youth Criminal Justice Act  that aims to protect the identity of minors, but it would have also prevented justice from being carried out properly. The release of the names of those boys, before the police and courts could determine their culpability would have compromised their security but also their right to a fair trial.

In summary, Anonymous tries to make the world a better place, but unfortunately, sometimes it does the opposite. It teaches other people that making threats and breaking the law are acceptable ways to achieve one’s goals. People must be mindful that such actions may compromise the core foundations on which our society is built.

How I made my term video

In the past few months, I have been exploring the concept of social networks, why people form and join social networks, what motivates them, and how networks are formed? This was the main focus of the Managing Communication in Networks course that I am taking as a part my Masters in Communications and Technology at the University of Alberta. The main focus of the course is on Charles Kadushin’s book “Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings”. In addition to this, I was also exposed to numerous academic journals, articles, and videos about the topic. As a part of the course, my term project was to take a closer look at one of the theories that I learned and to create a short video with my thoughts about it.  I have decided to explore the “Psychological Foundations of Social Networks” chapter, as I like learning about the motivations of human behaviour.  My final video is available to be viewed below, however I want to share the steps I took in order to create this video.

  1. To manage my time better, I started by reading out loud one of my previous papers to see how long it took me. I discovered that in order to create a video of about five minutes, I had to write a 1.5 single-spaced paper.
  2. I wrote the paper and made sure it contained the main components of the assignment: summary and highlights of the reading, as well as questions I found engaging or problematic.
  3. I recorded my voice using the iPhone voice recorder.  I found it much easier to record 2-3 sentences at once, then the whole paragraph.
  4. I then added my narrated pieces into the Windows Movie Maker program, thus creating a new project.
  5. After that, I searched for images online that would resonate with my paper. Once I had the photos, I added them into the video.
  6. In places where I was quoting the author, I wrote the quotes for the viewer to see.
  7. When all the voices, pictures and quotes were in place I began to add animations, which were already programmed into the Windows Movie Maker.
  8. When the video was complete, I reviewed it to make sure there were no spelling mistakes and all animations worked well.
  9. Last but not least, I uploaded in on YouTube for you to enjoy!

I hope you found my steps easy to navigate and you will use them for your personal video projects. If you think that you know a more convenient way of created a narrated video, please let me know below.

Cyber-bullying – a teenager-only problem?

In recent years, cyber-bullying has become an issue of concern. There have been numerous cases of victimized teenagers, who in face of vicious cyber-bullying resorted to suicide.  With Cyber-bullying becoming a big concern, many campaigns have emerged seeking to curb its prevalence. These campaigns target teenagers, young adults and their parents so that they know how to respond in case cyber-bullying becomes an issue.

Since cyber-bullying is always portrayed as a problem of teenagers, I personally have never thought that it could affect adults. You can, therefore, imagine my surprise when I came across the story of Anita Sarkeesian. Anita is a Canadian media critic and blogger, who has devoted her work to exploring feminist issues. During one of her projects, “Tropes vs Women in Video Games”, she explored the depiction of women in video games. Throughout her study, Anita was cyberbullied on multiple occasions through a variety of media channels.  According to Anita, the individuals who cyber-bullied her were mostly grown up men, in their 30s, who viewed the attacks against her as an online game in which she was the target that had to be eliminated. Luckily, Anita received a lot of support from her peers, allowing her to continue her project despite the cyber-bullying.

Based on Anita’s story, I now realize that cyber-bullying is not a problem that is restricted to teenagers, as it can affect all age groups. Unfortunately, most anti-cyber-bullying campaigns that we see are aimed at teenagers only. Thus, I believe that existing campaigns should widen their scope so that people understand that cyber-bullying is not a problem restricted to a single demographic. By talking more about cyber-bullying and bringing more cases like that of Anita to light, I believe we would be better positioned to tackling this problem in all of its manifestations.

Lawful Access may not be as bad as it seems.

If you do not know what lawful access is then maybe you should, because it affects you on a daily basis. Lawful access is comprised of three pieces of legislation that allows the Canadian government to access and retain a copy of all communication that takes place in Canada. The government can access this information through organizations that offer wireline, wireless, and internet technologies to Canadians.  The Federal Government explains on its website that it uses this information to monitor the online life of Canadians in order to prevent terror, drug trafficking, money laundering, and other threats that may affect Canadians.

Being monitored by the government may seem as a privacy breach and unlawful act, but is it actually?

Here is a great discussion among Canadian scholars who express their opinions about the topic:

 

In my personal opinion, I think that the fact that the government is taking those steps may be not as bad as we think. As internet users, we should not forget that the online world is a space where we live, spend time with our friends, look forward to new adventures, and share our life stories with other users. Thus, protection in the cyber space should be as important to us as in real life. After all, we all accept the importance of having the police, army, and other security measures in order to protect us from the bad guys. So why is it such an issue when the government is trying to do the same online?

I think that one of the reasons people are concerned with such surveillance is because they think that the government may abuse its powers to limit people’s freedoms. I agree that this is a legitimate concern, but how else can the government prevent serious crimes that are discussed and organized online? If people want cyberbullying to be stopped, if they want pedophiles to be caught before they commit a crime, and if they want to prevent terror attacks in their cities, then perhaps the government is justified in its actions.

This is my personal opinion on the topic. I wonder what you think. How can the government ensure our safety without compromising our privacy?

Is Your Personal Information Safe?

Recently Canadians and Americans discovered how their governments spy on their own citizens by accessing their personal information online. Many people have become concerned about their privacy and have expressed their dissatisfaction. However, what they got in return from the government were assurances that either the government did not spy on its citizens, and if it did, this was for the purpose of protecting the wellbeing of its citizens.

Many of us (including me) were not satisfied with such an answer and started to look for ways to protect ourselves. Since we are spied on via phone conversations, text-messaging, use of social media, emails, and other technologies, I propose the following suggestions that could help us:

  1. Talk in-person – when possible, avoid texting or calling in order to exchange personal information. If the situation permits it, talk to your friends in-person.
  2. Stop the constant updates on social media – letting everybody know where you are located, which event you are going to, or what you have eaten for breakfast will not help you protect your privacy. When possible avoid posting updates about your personal life.
  3. Think before clicking the ‘send’ button – before sending a message think whether it contains personal information about you or somebody else and imagine what would happen if somebody else reads this information.
  4. Consider the audience – keep in mind the reaction of your intended and non-intended recipient. For instance, a message suggesting to run the car into a bar may seem like a joke to your friends, but may seem as a safety issue by the government.
  5. Know the security features of your channel – many social media channels have good privacy and security features that allow you to protect your information. Make sure you know what they are and use them.

These are the steps I have chosen for myself when I learned about how the government can easily access our personal information. It would be interesting to hear other advises. Feel free to leave your recommendations below and remember that the government is reading it as well.

The Fit of The “Small World” in Communication

Kadushin describes the “small world” phenomena noting that everyone in the world is connected to each other.  He explains that there are clusters of people and communities that tend to share something in common, thus making everybody connected to each other by “six degrees of separations” (p.108). Considering this view, one may have a rather optimistic view of the world. After all, if it takes only five or six steps to be connected to someone living on the other side of the planet, this can greatly increase our ability to cooperate with each other and work together to accomplish common goals.

This is a very optimistic view, but I also think that we need to be mindful that our world is more complex, where positive interactions between people require more than just superficial communication in six steps. Even though we can potentially be connected to each other, we still cannot communicate well, due to existing cultural, religious, and political barriers. These barriers, in some cases, are overwhelming. We can all speak the same languages and connect to one another, but it does little to bridge the gaps.

With this in mind, however, we should not view the world as a dark and hopeless place. I think that in the long run, greater interconnectivity between people and the sharing of information may help bridge the gaps, but this would require sincere and honest communication. As great as it may be to live in a “small world” and to be connected to other individuals, the resolution of barriers requires more than just a text message or a phone call.

If the goal is to try and bridge the various gaps in the hopes of improving communication, we should also be mindful that barriers are part and parcel of the “small world” and that if one gap is removed another may appear. This means that as we strive to improve communication, we must recognize that this is an ongoing assignment that does not have a due date.

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding Social Networks: Theories, concepts, and findings/ Charles Kadushin New York: Oxford University Press, c2012.