A carrot or a candy?

In my prevschool_choiceious posts I have talked about how much information there is surrounding us every day. It is not physically possible to go through all the information that is delivered to us, so the individuals need to start filtering the messages that they are getting from various samples. This „filtering” needs to happen efficiently and resemble the individuals’ opinions and first choices.

As explained in Stanley J. Baran’s and Dennis K. Davis’s book „Mass communication theory”, there are three different ways how information can be altered, observed or selected in mass communication theory – exposure, retention and perception. Selective exposure is the idea that people like to expose themselves to ideas that are similar to their own existing ideas. Selective retention tells us that people will remember the messages that are meaningful to them better than the ones that are not. And selective perception shows that people will alter the meanings so that they become consistent to their existing ideas.

Some of these ideas seem to be obvious to everyone, as that is what we do all the time. When opening a newspaper, we will first go over the whole paper to see the topics, and later pick the ones that are most interesting to read first. People have the tendency to do the most pleasurable things before the least pleasurable. That is the whole art of procrastination that students master every day.

Big mass media concern is the question “how to approach people and deliver to them knowing that according to the attitude change theory people will only relate to the topics they are passionate about?” We are exposed to more and more information, but in order to gain anything from it, we have to choose to absorb the messages. Many people would fail to expand their interests and learn from information that doesn’t seem appealing. And media would fail in the same area when not delivering the news in a way that could attract the readers. This all would cause a downward spiral decreasing the interests of individuals – as they learn less, they become less interested in things, so they will learn less from that. I could continue demonstrating the spiral for a while.

What is clear is that people seek information that they are passionate about in order to be able to expand on it and forward it to others – more confident I am about a topic, bigger chance there is that I will become an opinion leader about this particular topic. This all comes back to the “two step flow theory” that also proves that mass media can be inefficient in order to affect the society.

Building influence

An influencer is somebody with a different way of thinking, different way of expressing themselves. They are able to predict what is going to be the next thing, and comfortably engage with this novelty. These are individuals whose coevals would choose to follow to, because the things they are paying attention to will be the things that everyone else is going to be crazy about in a short while. timemostinfluential1

We see large-scale influencers around us all the time – starting from the cool kids in the school backyard, ending with movie stars and celebrities that we see all over the media. However, how does this concept work? How comes that in a world where we are so passionate of being individuals, we pay so much attention to what the “cool kids” of the society are saying and trying to adapt? In my opinion, one of the matters is time saving. Being an influencer must be very hard – it takes time and effort to always follow the novelty, to always be updated with what is “cool”. It is hard to always stay informed, especially in the world of millions of choices and offers.

Influencers’ opinion is the one that matters for many people. Being an influencer is often about the activity. Everyone can be a journalist and promoter in these times. However, to be an influencer, one has to follow the trend, to be one step ahead and think in advance. The other thing is gaining trust. It takes time to develop sources that you trust. Where there is a risk, the trust becomes a major issue, which can put the influencers under pressure.

Klout is one of the companies that offer the measurement of influence, depending on your social network activity on a scale of 1 to 100. On the top of their list you can find Barack Obama and Justin Bieber. To raise the score, one must have a wide network and many people engaging with their updates on media. They even offer the opportunity of getting in touch with influential people to cooperate in future. This score is pretty much chowing what this whole concept is about – more people engaging with your ideas would mean wider network, therefore bigger influence, therefore a higher score. And we all love to listen and engage with those who have earned our trust.

I am a consumer in this crazy world of innovation; I am the typical lost consumer that is confused by all these different options and offers. I am the typical person that when in need of something, would choose the option with the most “likes” and “thumbs up”. I choose which video to watch on YouTube by looking at how many people have viewed it before me. I choose a movie by seeing its popularity between my friends. But when it comes to areas where there is any risk, I would be a typical laggard. I like to stick what I have and what I am used to. I would switch only at the very end and necessity. Yes, I am pretty mainstream, even if I have the potential network of contacts from many parts of the world to become an early adaptor one day.most-influential-100-1024x428

Did you forget to have a conversation today?

Recently in class we listened to Sherry Turkle’s TED talk about the dangers of social media and networking. In the speech she repeatedly  described people as “connected, but alone”. She was explaining that in our virtual reality the connections are superficial and lacking communication. We are able to be who we want to be, and pay attention to what we want to pay attention to. She argues that we are removing ourselves from real time, and hiding behind technology that distances us further. It is easy to agree with her, but it is also easy to disagree. I will discuss the points that I find it harder to agree with her about.

Finding_peace_in_solitude_by_Si2I think that Turkle does a good job arguing for solitude. I think that society needs to re-learn how to experience solitude and be alone, because it seems to have lost its value, especially in cities. We need to regain that value of free time, so regarding that, I agree with most of her points. However, when she starts arguing for conversation,she loses me. Mostly I am concerned about her research presentation – the qualitative data is represented by anecdotic examples that are hard to relate to from the viewpoint of audience (A nursing home resident comforted by a mechanical seal, a businessman not being able to have a conversation at work, so engaging with technology, and the 18-year-old hoping to learn how to have a proper conversation). And further on, in my opinion, it is overgeneralised.

World with a perfect communication has never existed, but Turkle keeps on referring to the past, using it as the ideal example. Even without technology we tend to not listen to the boring bits. Even without technology we would get distracted. The perfect world with the perfect communication doesn’t exist yet. That exists only in movies, but I don’t live in a movie. Unfortunately.

Turtle also mentions that face to face conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. However, I don’t think it is the case. Many real life face to face conversations are aggressive, with the participants trying to express their personal power and opinion. After some research I could come up with extreme examples from this viewpoint throught interviews, but would it prove that communication through technology is richer? No. Sherry Turkle tells us to balance the time we spend connected with the time we spend in a conversation. it is right, but that is the key point of all the things in the world. Our life is a constant game of balancing between different opportunities and chances. It is not only about technology, it is about our habits, our relationships, and our lives.

Every day I find myself thankful for the social media and technologies we have nowadays. Because I am an international student, and I have friends all around the globe, it is the only chance to stay in close touch with people I love. When talking to an old lady in my village in Italy, and she kept on telling me how fortunate we are as a generation to have Facebook. It makes it easy to communicate with people that are too far to reach. I must admit that I spend a lot of time online, contacting people I haven’t seen in months or years. I spend way too much time there. However, I am still thankful for it. And I believe I am able to engage myself in a real conversation with those people, which is what I do, when I see them.And those conversations are real. Even if we have spent months sending electronical hugs. enhanced-buzz-22919-1372710142-34

Do you believe in mass media?

http://www.radiolab.org/story/91622-war-of-the-worlds/marvel_classics_war_worlds_1_x

I am sitting in my room with an open internet browser, and thinking about the time when radio was still modern. Humans depend on information, and they want to be able to trust the source of this information. I remember visiting my grandparents as a kid, and sitting in the kitchen listening to radio with my granddad. He kept on telling me to be quiet so he would not miss the news or his favourite radio show. When I was being loud, he got angry, because he missed a part of this information flow. Radio is a complicated tool, it is so easy to miss the context, and a gap of knowledge is created.

One of the episodes of the programme “Radiolab” talks about “The war of the worlds”. “The War of the Worlds” is an episode of the American radio drama series “The Mercury Theatre on the Air”. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938. Directed and narrated by actor and filmmaker Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds”. The broadcast contained from several new bulletins that suggested that an alien invasion was taking place. These news caused panic in many listeners who believed that the events were actually taking place. At that time society was used to trusting what they heard on the radio. And the fact that it is so easy to miss parts of the broadcast when switching channels, made this broadcast even more influential. Its aim was to trick people, and it is easily done if the information is out of context.

After the broadcast, Welles’ station gained huge popularity, even if there were split reactions toward the broadcast. To go against critics, Welles said that the original intention was to teach the audience a lesson not to take everything that is heard in mass media for granted. It is a good lesson indeed, as we tend to rely on the information that is delivered to us so strongly. Although I still believe that this was mostly done to attract bigger audience – we can see the same thing nowadays – in journalism pumped up language and disasters are used to attract the audience. The media is basically our 6th sense, we depend on it, and we can’t imagine living without it. That is why media is such a strong manipulation tool – this consistant dependence is allowing media to influence us on a high level.

The same as in 1938 has happened again in the history, and society has always responded to these broadcasts. In the episode of “Radiolab” creators cite people’s reaction, and it is hard to believe how influenced these people are from what is heard in the radio. Repetitious attempts to influence the audience of radio programs have been made, and they have always resulted in serious consequences, even riots. The conclusion of this will be similar to the conclusion that I often come to in my communication classes – media is strong. Even stronger than Chuck Norris.