Saturday, February 27, 2010

Socializing Through New Media

Understanding New Media
COMM 6090
Dr. Lance Strate



Introduction
Computers have been transformed from mere office machines to communication devices. Computers have defined new modes of communication in every society. Western society enjoys computer mode of communication in a steady way allowing for its rapid expansion. Accessibility and feasibility of this medium has been increased because of cheaper prices of hardware and software making this medium even more interactive. Hosts on internet are increasing on a daily basis and it has been reported that daily there is 8 to 10% increase in internet hosts in United States and every month, 150,000 new users join the already existing 200,000 internet users. This rapid growth asserts the assumptions that computer medicated communication is new mass media (Walther, Slovacek, and Tidwell, 2001).
Technological development is one of the most powerful phenomena that heavily influence the direction of an economy and behavior of public. As the communication gadgets gets affordable and sophisticated while internet are virtually accessible from any parts of the world, the development of virtual media also grow faster than conventional ones such as print media and even radio. Moreover, the development of online media enables the peer-to-peer communications that television and radio hardly fulfill it. The phenomena would not only affect societies from economic perspective, but also from social, legal, and other related perspectives. It is interesting to see that around us, there are many gadgets that entertain us and also help us to perform several activities much easier. As computer increasingly becomes a reliable medium of communication coupled with the advancement in telecommunication technologies, this paper will examine its development and how it affect the way society communicate in this new media environment.

Figure 1 show that contents in the cyber era have incredible number of audiences that other media can hardly keep up with. Google for example is considered to be new entrants in late 1990s but turns out to be the most visited website in the U.S, surpassing MSN and Yahoo! as search engine portals at that time.


Figure 1 - Top 10 websites in the U.S.
Source: ChrisMonty, 2009

In the 21st century, the development of online media has presented new trends as social networking becomes one media that grew faster. This trend underlines the basic need of human being to have social life. Starting with messenger applications like MIRC, Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN among others; the need grows to have audiences that share something in common in a group. In this situation, social media like Friendsters, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter grew rapidly.
The above developments are examples of new media creating new ways of communications in the 21st century. As every time, users or audiences might develop other contents that could be the next booms in cyber space, it is no doubt that internet together with the advancement in mobile gadgets will create many opportunities for new media and the way people in the world communicate.
Factors Contributed to New Media Development
1. Telecommunication Network
In the early 1990s, a book by James Martin with the title “Telecommunication and Computer” describes the early ideas of convergences technologies where computer works hand- in- hand with telecommunication network to enable the exchange of information. As the network already connects one location to another that is separated by ocean and using submarine cables, this exchange of information gets easier and faster.
Currently, there are two types of connection: wireline and wireless. Wireline refers to the media that use cables; meanwhile, wireless refers to telecommunication media that use propagated electromagnetic wave.
Wireline technologies have two main forms, in which each has different advantages and disadvantages in terms of lifespan, bandwidth, installation, and reliability. The types of wireline or cable include Fiber Optics, Shielded Twisted Pair (STP), Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP), Coaxial etc. Wireless technologies also develop into several types such as microwave radio, satellite, and infrared, laser, etc.
2. Customer Premise Equipment: Mobility
The development in the telecommunication network was also followed by the advancement in the customer premise equipments. In 1980s, the majority of customer equipment that enables them to communicate is dominated by desktop phone. A decade later, the use of mobile phones start growing as people show tendency to mobile when doing businesses.
Historically, mobile phones development commences in 1983 when Motorola DynaTAC 8000X becomes the first handheld available commercially in the US market. Due to the attractiveness of cellular-based network like portability, roaming capability etc, the mobile phones industry immediately expand its services all over the world.
However, since many countries develop their new system and standard, we witness many kind of cellular phones standard such as TACS, C-Netz, AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone System) that grew in the US, NMT (Nordic Mobile Phones), and GSM (Global Mobile Phone System), which grew in the Europe and become major standard in the world.
In addition to portability, mobile phones also have many benefits; they include data communication support, multi service/carriers support, and roaming capability, to name a few. The development of cellular phones is obvious when dealing with the visualization issue. Figure 2 shows the development of mobile phones that obviously differ in terms of visualization and appearance of the devices.


Figure 2 - Steps of Visualization in Cellular Phones
Source: gsmarena.com

3. Internet
In addition to telecommunication network and gadgets, another important innovation in the new media is internet. This is considered as critical to the development of new media as nowadays the exchange of information is carried out electronically. Unlike postcard or surface mails that take some days to reach the receivers, electronic mail can reach the intended receiver in just few seconds. Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the famous World Wide Web, this becomes the basis of e-commerce. Historically, in 1989, Tim develops the internet-based hypermedia to help business to foster the information sharing between individuals, customers, partners and colleagues (W3, 2004).
Moreover, the development of internet technology also enables manufacturers and service providers to provide better services to their customers since Internet is widely accessible from almost anywhere in the world. Due to the unquestioned benefits that internet and electronic commerce (e-commerce) possess, we find that many and many corporations launch official websites to boost their sales.
Towards Social Networking
There are many inventions that characterize the development of digital era that emerge several decades ago, representing the combination two binary digits “0” and “1”. The coming of digital technology makes the development of gadgets much entertaining since information can be transformed into various forms (sound, picture, and video).
In addition, the convergence has present capability of internet to convey all type of information to be shared. Coupled with the increasing number of mobile phones and applications embedded have increased the number of users that access the internet by using their mobile phones. Figure 3 shows the top 10 website that accessed via mobile phones in the US (data in October 2008).

Figure 3 - Top 10 most visited websites via mobile phones in the U.S
Source: ChrisMonty, 2009

However, this figure does not have similar condition in other part of the world, since each region or country has specific characteristics. For example, in the UK, the most visited website turns out to be UK Yahoo! followed by Google.co.uk and facebook.
1. Activities in Social Networking
The development of computer has enabled the information sharing between peers. Social networking websites provide mode personalized features that increased the possibility to share information within a group or among friends. The first popular social networking in early 21st century is friendsters.com. Friendsters enable user to search friend by school name, interests, location etc.
Several years later, other social networking websites like Facebook exist with better features than Friendsters. The features of Facebook enable users to posted video, comment on peers’ page, create quiz, etc. These features represent that user-generated content also play important role in determining the preference of users in using the social networking.
Figure 4 shows the activities that users do in the social networking websites in which it underlines that posting photos become the most activities that users do. The second most done activity is responding to posts of others. This condition represents that in the cyber space, people need to be recognized, have the need to share something with others, and communicate with others through comment on their status or photos.


Figure 4 - Activities in Social Networking (2009)
Source: Corwin, 2010

2. Social Networking web sites
As described previously, there are many social networking websites that grew fast in the 21st century. A survey studied the social networking membership based on the use of electronic mails (e-mails) reveals the following:

Figure 5 - Users’ email and social networking membership
Source: Michael, 2009

The figure shows that when subscribing to social networking websites, a typical AOL and Gmail users connect to Facebook. Meanwhile, hotmail and Yahoo! users mostly become users of MySpace and Facebook equally. The other social networking website is Twitter, which is popular in the U.S. but not so popular in other part of the world since Facebook is still a dominant site (Michael, 2009).
Moreover, the following figure below shows the popularity that MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn have when compared to those email users on Facebook’s. For example, the number of Gmail users on Twitter is only 40% of the number of Gmail users on Facebook (Michael, 2009).


Figure 6 - Percentage of emails use in social-networking websites
Source: Michael, 2009

Blogs
Blog is one example of how technology helps a person to share ideas in the Internet for free. It is exactly similar to writing a column in a magazine or newspaper where people can also share ideas on particular subjects. By definition, blog refers to a “Web page that serves as a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual” (“Blog”). This web page can be updated several times as it reflects the personality and interests of the author. Blogs can be personal or organizational.
In addition, the existence of blog in e-commerce is very important since it becomes a new way of communicating at personal level by attracting audiences to comment and share their experiences. Blogs can deliver valuable and credible information to other customers and therefore will be an attraction for them to visit a company’s web site to give their opinions (Richmond, 2005).
As mentioned above, a Blog is somewhat similar to a public diary and sometimes it is more effective than online advertising or marketing. For instances, Tom Wark, owner of Wark Communications, a company that do business on wine industry, has a blog that display his comments concerning various issues on wine-related industry (Richmond, 2005). He believe that blog provide his company a great benefit since the number of traffic into his company’s web site becomes two fold.
However, the use of a blog will not directly lead to more money since people or readers do not pay for seeing or writing a blog, but it can become a tool for luring consumers to buy products or services the site has. Therefore, the company has the opportunity to create a massive customers database just from blogging.
Example of a powerful social network
In today’s internet era, the global internet network becomes the key driver behind the development of social network websites. They include the popular Friendsters, My Space, and the continually growing Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg discovered Facebook in 2004, using an initial investment of US $ 500,000 and in 2005 the company reported a net loss of $3.63 million. Facebook was originally a software-networking website dedicated and restricted only for Harvard College students. The website receives enormous attention from college students and only one month from its launch, half of the Harvard college students were registered on the service. The website then expanded to Stanford, Columbia, Yale and various other Universities in the United States (“Facebook”, 2010).
The company then launched a high school version of its service, requiring invitations before people could join the network, but the idea lasted only for 15 days before Zuckerberg changed the policy into allowing anyone to join. In the end of 2005, many institutions composing of 25,000 high schools and 2,000 colleges throughout the United States, Canada and United Kingdom had networks registered on Facebook. In the later part of 2006, Facebook became open to the public. After the website has been opened to the public, its number grew even further to include offices and companies around the world.
There are several different perspectives regarding the causes of Facebook’s strategic methods. Most of them however, agreed that Facebook’s success was based on the simplest and most effective marketing tool, which is word-of-mouth. Taking advantage of the social nature of human beings, it is appropriate for Facebook to focus its business marketing strategy simply by getting people to talk to other people about their products and services. Others however, believed that Facebook’s success is built from its unique offering of services and from a series of fortunate or supportive events. However, there are several conditions surrounding Facebook’s business environment that supported its success:
1. Powerful platform
Facebook’s platform has three important components, which are: identity platform, community platform and application platform. The identity platform underlines the fact that Facebook have rich metadata and they have massive intelligence on users. Users can even see detailed metadata regarding friends connected to them. Other forums and blogs do not provide such detailed amount of user’s data. The community platform on the other hand, represents the fact that Facebook’s ability to map relationships and affinities and segmenting communities from interests. As an application platform, Facebook uses API platform to gather intelligence from application deployment
2. Various applications media embedded and event management
Those are some of the most interesting features Facebook has offered to its consumers. These attributes generate significant progress for the company. For instant, in less than one month, the application sections exploded from hundreds to thousands. The application is created by a PHP developer. Within the system, audio, video and live streaming video are available. The richness of media embedded is one of the value creators of Facebook’s services. The affinity groups within Facebook can also organize and promote events from Facebook (“Facebook”, 2010).
3. Influential Conditions
Besides their unique attributes and service offerings, there are several conditions that contributed to Facebook’s phenomenal rate of growth, which are: invites through emails, increasing interests on group discussions, increasing trend in creating affinity groups and its limited search crawling
Analysts have strong predictions that Facebook’s limited market, which is in the college students market, is one of the important contributors of Facebook’s success. Thus, with its change of strategy opening the website to the public, some believed that Facebook will experience some level of sales reduction. On the other hand, Facebook’s competitors believed that the market niche of college online social group will not vanish, and will in fact, has as profitable potential as ever. These competitors include College OTR.com, CollegeTonight.com and CollegeWikis.com, which all plan to remain loyal to the college market niche. These competitors are expected to pose as potential threats for Facebook.
In reality, Facebook did not lose its market niche, but it is searching for new and more promising ones in other types of communities. It is recorded that instead of experiencing a decline in revenues as predicted by other companies, Facebook has experience an increase in other segments of the online social network market. These other segments include the professional segments of employees and managers and the public in general. Some believed that Facebook would not experience any reduction of customers, but simply jumping to new market base. Competitors might have been advantageous by Facebook leaving the college market, but Facebook is actually more advantageous from the joining of the business and professional segment.
Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) & Face -to- Face Communication
Communication has always been an integral part of human relationship either for work or for personal purposes. As the objective of communication is diverse, the way we communicate also varied. In addition, technology has been the strongest factor that allows such practices.
Computer mediated communications has rather different methods of communication and interaction compare to the traditional face-to-face communication. The differences between these two communication styles lie on several respects. For instance, analysts indicated that compare to the traditional face-to-face communication, computer mediated communications has a rather weaker presentation of ‘self’. For instance, in a traditional face-to-face communication, people are communicating by means of audio and visual connections with each other. Within a chat-room for instance, people are communicating through text messages and text messages alone. Compare to the traditional face-to-face communication, this generates larger possibilities of misunderstanding between the communicating parties. Moreover, the audio and visual connections are strengthening by an actual presence which generate the feeling of closeness and intimacy; and facilitate stronger understanding through human emotions and interpretations. The inability to see facial expressions, voices, and gestures makes it hard to guess and interpret the responses received from other participants.
Moreover, the rate by which messages exchange in cyber world is always associated with thinking process that delays response time and this count for another main difference between face-to-face communications and computer mediated communications. Speaking is much faster as a response as compared to typing (Spears, 1994).
However, computer mediated communications is sometimes preferable because it generate less tension and less pressure of meeting face-to-face with new people. As compared to face-to-face communication, computer mediated communications always require selected features of an identity of a communicator. Any mode of computer mediated communications that is being used by a communicator, lets him or her have some time to develop a response to a message thereby it eliminates any forms of anxiety because of the anonymity of mode of communication being used. Therefore, participants feel free to express their opinions and to talk and debate about their rights, as they are aware that they are not being exposed (Tidwell and Walther, 2006). In addition, participants and communicators in different forms of computer mediated communications can exhibit different traits and characteristics defined by different situations. Thereby communications can become less personal depending upon the situations in which communicators reside, and may serve to decrease any intimacy between communicators. Moreover, higher level of task orientation is achieved in CMC based communication as compared to face-to-face communication.
Conclusion
Media and society are inseparable. This is due to the fact that currently media has been an integral part of our lives. Consider the flow of information that we obtain through various kind of media from printing media like newspapers to popular internet. The development of online media has promoted the new trends of communication where people are likely to communicate through social networking. This situation highlights that the basic need of human being to have social life. Therefore, social networks like Friendsters, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter grew rapidly.
This paper has identified three aspects that contributed to this phenomenon; telecommunication network, mobile equipments, and internet. Telecommunication network is essential in the development of information technology (IT). Meanwhile, customer equipments also important as it allow users to connect to the Internet. Currently, the customers’ equipment goes mobile as people need mobility to do business and communicate with others. Beside telecommunication network and gadgets, another important innovation in the new media is internet as it allows the exchange of information in a broader perspective.
In addition, Computer mediated communication (CMC) is the latest form of communication between social groups and users. Many factors in computer mediated communication have been revisited that make it different from face-to-face communications. These differences may or may not be playing their roles in rendering these communications as personal or less personal.


Works cited
ChrisMonty. “Most Popular Website and Mobile Sites in ‘08: Google, Yahoo Mail” 2009
Corwin, Peg. “What Do Site Users Do in Social Networking Websites?” 2010
"Facebook." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2010
Michael. “Social Insight into AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Email Users – Part 3: Social Network memberships.” Rapleaf. 2009

Richmond, Riva. “Blogs Keep Internet Customers Coming Back.” Wall Street Journal. 2005

Spears, Russell. "Panacea or Panopticon? The Hidden Power in Computer-Mediated Communication." Communication Research 21.4 (1994): 427-459.
Tidwell, Collins, Lisa., and Walther, B. Joseph. “Computer-Mediated Communication Effects on Disclosure, Impressions, and Interpersonal Evaluations: Getting to Know One Another a Bit at a Time.” Human Communication Research 28.3 (2006): 317 – 348.
W3. “Tim Berners-Lee.” 2004.
Walther, B. Joseph., Slovacek, L. Celeste., and Tidwell, C. Lisa. “Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Photographic Images in Long-Term and Short-Term Computer-Mediated Communication.” Communication Research 28.1 (2001): 105-134.

6 comments:

  1. Your paper touched upon the phenomenon of social networking. It is really amazing to me that the cell phone can do everything a computer can do, and how we are so depend on them. Your graphics were a nice touch; they offered visuals to show the usages of certain sites it was interesting to see the breakdown of usages. I often wonder what percentages of seniors are using social networking; I think it might surprise us. Great paper !

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  2. Interesting paper Mai. I really like the way that you integrated the history of the technology to explain how the internet came to be and thus all of the new methods of social networking. You have touched upon a very important issue in your paper, the issue of face-to-face socializing as opposed to virtual socializing. One point you brought up really interested me after I thought about it. I believe that society as a whole is losing the ability to socialize face-to-face, a big problem, but you did bring up an interesting point about virtual communication. Virtual communication is mostly in text format. In a way I agree with you that this is the appeal. In many situations talking face-to-face can be an anxitey ridden experience. We forget what we are going to say, we balnk out, and emotions can affect our thought/speech patterns. The ability to write your thought and revise it before sending it does have a great appeal. It is not as spontaneous as a conversation but in a strange way it does let the person communicating form a more cogent thought at times. Interesting point. Great Paper!!!

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  3. Nice job Mai. You do make a good point about the discrepancy between face to face and online communication, where it's much easier to choose our words carefully when talking to someone online. When you're speaking face to face with somebody, you can't go back and change things before you "publish" what you say - it's out there instantly. But I can delete and retype this message as many times I want before I click that "post" button. I liked how you detailed the rise of Facebook also. I remember when the site first started becoming popular when my school was one of the first to get it. It allowed me to communicate with people at that school but most of my other friends had no clue what the site even was because they couldn't get to it yet. Now everybody and their mother (including my own mother) has the site, and now it's being invaded by a lot of the stuff that contributed to MySpace's downfall. I'm starting to get friend requests now from people who probably don't even exist - kinda like MySpace before they increased their spam filtering. Good point on the applications aspect too - that was definitely an addition that REALLY benefited Facebook. Did you know that there are now more farms on FarmVille than there are in America?

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  4. Fred Stein SmithMarch 4, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    Mai, I liked the way you traced the history of your topic to show us how it all started. We all rely so much on social networks now that I wonder how we got along without them. Everybody I know has an account on Facebook, and people spend a lot of time on them. I am glad you pointed out that different parts of the world "rate" the social networks differently. In fact, in the Middle East and China, they use networks we have not heard of. Again, we should not generalize from our experiences what we think others would do. And while we take all this technology for granted, still in many parts of the world, the face-to-face method of communicating is still the norm. I wonder if centuries-old ways of doing business with the personal touch will fade under the pressure of Facebook? And is that a bad thing?

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  5. hey, Mai:
    I like your paper!!! And you share a lot of informations and datas to us, I love all of them!!! You have great points, and your points can touch new media very much! I did not know those things before, I learned a lot after read your paper! And I think that even new media is a tendency, we still have to keep old media, such as newpapers and radio. No matter new media or old media, they are so important in our society!

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  6. Mai,

    It was very interesting to read your paper. The concept of social networking and how relationships have changed with technology’s “intervention” is such a wonderful topic to explore.

    How can face-to-face communication be compared to interaction using some form of technology? We have started to lose the essence of communication and the innate tools of interaction are suffering from people’s inability to distinguish formal, semi-formal, and informal types of communication.

    Social networks are certainly taking over because there is a constantly increasing audience, however, it is up to each user to realize the level of influence exerted by the type of tool selected.

    Great topic!

    Margaret M. Roidi

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