Here Lies the Future

Monday, March 22, 2010

Digital convergence has paved the way for a greener and easier future for humans around the world. Bringing together two or more different kinds of daily tasks into one media outlet is what digital convergence is all about. Smartphones, laptops, and converged IP networks are just a few examples of how new technology has revolutionized the way individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations carry out their daily life and work-related tasks. The advancement of technology has allowed for user generated content and downloading capabilities. Books, shows, movies, math calculations, and networking are all connected now through the same electronic device.

Below is a chart I created using mild examples of tasks that are now more convenient for people to complete:

Individuals use digital convergence in a number of ways in their daily lives. When one wakes up, they will want to check the weather on their digital HDTV or on the Internet, where they can check their e-mail, bank statement, social networking sites, bill payments, and more. Consumers no longer have to relocate to another room or building to complete many tasks throughout the day. With the invention of Apple's iPad, consumers
can now play games, read the newspaper, watch movies and shows, and download apps via the Wi-Fi or 3G on the new gadget. This technological device is like a hybrid between a laptop and a iPhone, minus the calling feature. Users can browse the Internet and use the touch screen interface as they please. If one is lost trying to drive to work or campus due to sudden closed roads, they can find alternative routes via their iPhone or any other technological device with access to the Internet. Yahoo! and Google both offer maps, with the latter providing people with precise pictures of physical roads and landscapes so they can identify where they are going properly. These points of digital convergence create tremendous potential for new products and services and entirely new markets ("Who's In Charge Here?").

Below is a video by PayPal conveying a  simple message:

Businesses can utilize this move to digital convergence by creating applications to use on these new gadgets and promoting their products. News organizations like The New York Times can make deals with other companies, like Apple, to have their papers provided digitally on their digital devices. If they want to, the news company can start having iPad users subscribe to their digital news. Further information on how the iPad can influence newspapers can be found here. Microsoft's e-book device is giving consumers a digital journal that has media playback features.

New ways to form digital convergence such as the iPhone, helps create tremendous potential for new products and services as consumers, for the first time, influence not only which innovations succeed in the consumer market, but also in the enterprise space ("Who's In Charge Here?"). Below is a chart of standards that users expect as new products come out. I doubt I will ever go to a store and buy a cell phone that only makes calls and text messages. My standards have been raised with the unleashing of all these products with digital convergence. There must be a calendar, a calculator, three-way call features, Internet, games, music...and a whole host of features.

How does this relate to the Long Tail of Distribution? Companies no longer have to create many physical applications or devices to carry out a single task. For example, Apple can come out with revolutionary devices like the iPhone and iPad, and then make money off of letting other companies like PayPal provide "apps" for their devices. High tech cell phones help people stay connected with the world even more than they can with the television. Shelf space is minimized and costs are reduced. There is no need for the expense of physical distribution or transportation. With laptops and Internet, the opportunities are much greater.
People can receive breaking news in their e-mail, read breaking news on sites like CNN, and use everything on their new technological devices as democratizing tools. People can use blogs and social networking sites to share their opinions and petitions. CNN allows ordinary people who are not reporters to send in stories and pictures to allow them added participation aside from blogs and comments sections. When it comes to Creative Commons, people finally have a way to utilize media to share while protecting others' copyright material. People can put licensing on their own material and blogs.

My prediction is that ten years from today, we will have a world that is centered around digital convergence. Gone will the be days of simple cell phones that only call and text with calculator and calendar features. No more desktop computers with a few peripherals to connect only a few media outlets. I think that our nation will have a nationalized version of Wi-Fi or WiMax that will allow all digital media, whether it is digital television, computers, cell phones, and more media to be connected through one frequency. Someone would be able to use their television to check their phone, use their phone to connect to their laptop, or use their laptop to listen to the radio....oh wait, that's already happening! My point is, technology is advancing so quickly in our world that I believe that eventually everything will be connected. Reading the text in my Communications 220 class at UM-D has given me this philosophy that eventually everything will be interconnected.

The future will still be going on by the Long Tail of Distribution because physical space will be shortened. I actually do believe that people will be shopping by holograms and there really won't be a need for physical stores. Here is a very interesting link to some gadgets that are predicted to come out in the future. My hopes are that these companies will stop competing with each other and that we don't completely become dependent on technological devices. I fear that if we do so, then that will the end of a community of people in our nation since everyone will be too busy with their gadgets. Also, if there is a world crisis, such as an attack on a national network that connects many devices, many of us would be without power and information. Maybe I sound cynical and fearful right now, but hey, maybe all those technology-focused books and movies about the end of the world  are onto something!

Works Cited:
All Images Obtained Via Creative Commons (appears in order of appearance in post):

All Sources Cited in Text:

Campbell, Richard. Media and Culture . Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2010. Print.

Patel, Nilay. Microsoft's Courier Digital Journal. engadget, 05 03 2010. Web. 19 Mar 2010.

Who's in Charge Here?. IBM, 26 10 2006. Web. 18 Mar 2010.

Viral Networking

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What does social networking mean to you? There are many different answers to this question depending on how you use social networking websites. Many people around the world come together with common interests to use sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, whether these people are individuals, businesses, or entrepreneurs. What purposes do these different media services offer to the public? How do companies benefit from these services when it comes to marketing and the long tail distribution? We will take a look at a few of the popular sites available to people and how they are a democratizing tool for millions worldwide.

Twitter began as a micro-blogging service that later grew as a social media and news reporting website. People began to use this site to write about their daily life knowing that a mass anonymous audience would have access to read it. Even people who are suffering crisis within their country can post updates to provide the world with information and pictures. Aside from individuals using Twitter, 34,000 jobs were posted on TwitJobSearch in January proving that job recruiters and seekers are using Twitter (Miller). Why does Twitter work for employers and potential employees? Unlike e-mail, a company doesn’t have to come up with a list of people who will receive the "I'm hiring" message because anybody searching can see it and it's a cheaper, faster and easier way to recruit (Miller).  Starbucks' Twitter is an example of one of the many Fortune 100 companies using social networking sites. Starbucks uses Twitter to let people know about any new changes to the company, new gift cards available as well as new flavors for fans to test. Being a Starbucks addict myself, this site is a great way for me to find out new changes.

Facebook is a popular social networking site with 350 million users worldwide (Schroeder). People use this site to communicate, upload and view photos, videos, and other content. Small businesses are creating fan pages and groups for users to join in order to find new customers, build online communities of fans and dig into gold mines of demographic information on its users (Pattison). As the image on the left conveys, a user can see any updates posted by a business on their homepage (known to users as the 'news feed'). Just like Twitter, users and businesses can post updates and announcements, even something as simple as, "New Flip Ultra HD custom skins available on our website" Then other people who are connected to the business would read it and maybe post comments. The update from Flip drew me to visit their website and spend a few minutes drooling over the custom skins I can put on my Flip. If used effectively, companies can upload fresh content and updates regularly as niche marketing. This form of target marketing conducted by Flip worked on me. This also applies to the Long Tail distribution because they can provide information for free and promote products on an endless shelf space, hoping users will be willing to make purchases. Musicians and film makers use Facebook and MySpace to promote their music. Remember the 2008 election? Obama counted more than 2 million American supporters on Facebook, while McCain had just over 600,000 (Fraser).

On YouTube, Obama stole the show as his supporters uploaded more than 1,800 videos onto the channel (Fraser). His political campaign was promoted effectively via YouTube in terms of providing viewers with extra content about his promises of bringing about "change."

Universal Music and Hollywood Records are just two of the many companies that promote content online for viewers to enjoy. Through YouTube, companies can also keep track of ratings and how many people viewed videos. News organizations upload clips of news helping people stay updated. CNN is a prime example of this and such a YouTube link can be viewed here.

LinkedIn is a social networking website geared towards professionals trying to maintain contacts and information within the industry. This website standardizes information entered by users into predefined “Profile Headline”, “Summary”, “Education”, “Company”, etc. categories (Schaffer). People can use this site to find jobs as well. Google Buzz was created to compete with Twitter and Facebook, allowing users to have this social media site built directly into their Gmail. Here's a link to some success stories from businesses and individuals about their experiences using social networking sites. A new University of Maryland survey shows social media usage among small businesses increased to 24% in 2009, up from 12% in 2008 and 22% of those surveyed feel social networking is already helping them turn a profit, with 46% believing the marketing tool will help them make money within the next year ("ASI Central"). 

Below is a video that explains how businesses can use social networking sites as a business tool to connect with clients and build trust:

How do these social networking sites relate to the Long Tail distribution? Businesses can use these websites to promote their companies at a minimum or no cost. They can provide their content for free hoping to generate revenue. Individuals can exercise their freedom of speech by taking to Twitter and other sites to post their opinions and comments. Citizens unsatisfied with their government can post videos to raise awareness. Freedom of press allows journalists to convey their stories through social networking sites, especially on YouTube. The Internet is a democratizing tool and these social networking sites help provide people with a vast amount of information. Creative Commons allows people on these sites to protect their work via free licensing with "All Rights Reserved," "Some Rights Reserved," and so on. The video posted above was found on with a Creative Commons license.

Thus, social networking sites are changing the way people have access to information. People can view these sites through their computers, phones, and tablets. Companies like Starbucks have been smart enough to follow their consumers online and create social networking profiles to promote their own agenda and build trust in the community. Creative Commons allows these companies and individuals to copyright their content as they utilize the long tail distribution technique and niche marketing. So yes, social networking is a means to communicate with people and receive updates on friends, but it is also a form of viral networking and marketing that is benefiting millions of people worldwide.

Works Cited:
Images/Video found via Creative Commons Google Image (in order of appearance):
Twitter Feed: Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Tech Crunch Facebook: Web. 2 Mar 2010.

MySpace: Web. 3 Mar 2010.

YouTube Jennifer Hudson Performance: Web. 3 Mar 2010.

Video: Web. 3 Mar 2010." type="application/x-shockwave-flash

All Websites that were cited within the blog post:
"ASI Central." Social Networking Usage Doubles. 02 03 2010. Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Fraser, Mathew. "U.S. News and World Report." Barack Obama and the Facebook Election. 28 11 2008. Web. 3 Mar 2010.

Miller, Claire. "Twitter Could Become the Unemployed's Best Friend." The New York Times. 01 25 2010.
The New York Times Company, Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Pattison, Kermit. "The New York Times." How to Market Your Business With Facebook. 11 11 2009. The New York Times Company, Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Schroeder, Stan. "Mashable: The Social Media Guide." Facebook’s Road to 350 Million Users. 02 12 2009. Web. 2 Mar 2010.

Schaffer, Neal. "Windmill Networking." What is LinkedIn and Why Should You Join?. Web. 3 Mar 2010.

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