Blogs vs. Wikis

March 24, 2010
Twenty years ago, blogs and wikis were not even part of our vocabulary. Today they are valuable elements in the networked world we live in. Both forms of media are created, controlled, and accessed by the public, but they are different from one another in several ways.A blog is personal and usually has only one author. A wiki is collaborative and has many authors. That is the most basic difference which all the other differences stem from. Since each blog is created by one person, information is posted only as fast as that person types and hits the “publish” button. That means blogs are posted one at a time. Wikis, on the other hand, can be updated by several people which means multiple information can be posted simultaneously (given that two people aren’t editing the same section at the same time, in which case the info entered by whoever clicks “save” first will be posted). Another difference would be that a blog usually contains someone’s opinions about certain issues or facts, but a wiki contains only the facts. It doesn’t mean the “facts” are accurate, but the information is not subjective.

Also, not everyone who starts a blog constantly updates it, and if they do then they don’t go back to edit or delete their older posts even though the information is outdated. After some time (weeks, months, years), a person might stop using their blog because they don’t feel like posting anything or because they started a new blog. Therefore, since a wiki is collaborative, there is a higher chance that the information is up to date because it doesn’t rely on anyone specific to edit the information.

That is not to say that blogs can’t be used collaboratively. A NYtimes article by Michael Wilson called Brooklyn Blog Helps Lead to Drug Raid talks about a neighborhood blog (BayRidgeTalk.com) that helped police catch major drug dealers/users. Some members of the community posted comments in their blogs about suspicious activity going on in one of the houses in the neighborhood. Other members replied to those blogs with their own comments about what they observed. These comments (such as “I’ve heard loud fighting for almost a year now but did not realize until recently that it’s a crack house.”) became evidence for police to arrest 5 people.

That blog is an example of why convergence is important in society. The blog itself is a virtual meeting place for people who are part of the same community, but otherwise would never have actually met. Such blogs can serve many different benefits for those who edit them and others who just read them because it caught their attention.

The same goes for wikis. Ezra Goodnoe mentioned the following about wikis in her article called How To Use Wikis For Business: “They are intended to maintain a series of unique documents as their content evolves and to provide an organic means of organizing that information.” Based on this statement, it is safe to say that there are more potential uses for wikis which have not yet been thought of because as people and technology evolve, new content will need to be organized. As of now, wikis that are meant for public use can be edited by anyone. Wikis that are intended for specific groups of people are only edited by those people and even though the public can access them, they are of no use to the viewer. I would suggest creating a wiki that can only be edited by experts and intended for use by the public, which would contain highly demanded information that is credible. That would mean the public will know who the sources are. I’m not sure if a wiki already exists under these conditions. For example, a wiki which can only be edited by doctors (who must submit their identification number to prove they are real doctors) and perhaps patients living with certain illnesses (who are granted access by a site administrator who gets proof from the patient’s doctor and are only allowed to edit their personal experience with their condition). The different sections of the wiki would include various fields of medicine. Although there are regular websites which contain medical information supposedly posted by experts and used by the public, a wiki like this would become the only credible source for medical information. It would be edited by doctors nationwide which would rule out the possibility of someone promoting themselves to get more business (which is a flaw of some of those websites). Also, as medicine evolves info would be updated (as opposed to not knowing when info was posted). The convergence of doctors would benefit a wide range of people.

It is important to acknowledge blogs and wikis: understand what they are and know how to use them to our advantage (even though Microsoft Word still underlines blog or wiki in red indicating that you’ve typed a word that doesn’t exist).

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Twitter experience

March 22, 2010

At this point in time (after just creating a Twitter account) I cannot say I am a fan of this website. Perhaps I have yet to discover the potential uses it has for me (or perhaps I will stick to the original plan to stay far far away). In order to actually have the desire to tweet and check other peoples’ tweets, I think a person needs to have the right set of followers and follow the right people. Of course “right” is purely subjective. If a person who tweets about their every move (e.g. “I’m eating”, “I’m laying down”) has a bunch of followers who do the same, then one can assume these people genuinely care about these little things. Chances are, that same person posts their entire life (hour by hour) in their FaceBook status’ and gets a zillion comments on each post from people who like to do the same. At least on Twitter, you can choose whose tweets to follow (i.e. whose posts to see).

This website is definitely one of a kind (for now) because it only allows short posts (140 characters or less) and it allows people to “follow” whoever they want. There is no such thing as a request that needs to be confirmed  in order to be able to see someone elses tweets. It is similar to Blackboard Discussion Board in the sense that one can post information, view other people’s posts, and reply to posts, but Blackboard can only be accessed by those who attend a CUNY college. Twitter, on the other hand, is widely accessed. Supposing an entire class is logged onto Twitter at the same time (via mobile phone, etc.), a class discussion on Twitter can take place more efficiently than an actual in-class discussion. In real life, people can only listen to one person speak at a time. On Twitter, everyone in the class can simultaneously post their (short) thoughts and read everyones’ posts within a minute (and then reply to them).      

Personally, I don’t make Facebook statuses too often, so I don’t see myself using Twitter to post my daily/hourly activities (especially since none of my friends are on Twitter and no one else actually cares). Although I guess I wouldn’t mind checking Twitter if everyone I followed tweeted something humorous, interesting facts, cool websites, or anything semi-useful. I can also see Twitter being a good resource for quick responses to random questions considering you follow many people and they are constantly logged on.

New vs. Old

February 27, 2010

It should be understood that “new media” is really just “old media” that has evolved. In fact, media technology has transformed so much (not to mention so fast) that we had to divide the term media into two separate categories: old and new. I’m sure most people have a basic idea of what should be considered “old media” and what should be considered “new media”, but what really separates new from old? Better yet, what effect do the technologies associated with new media have on society?

Media is defined as a means of communication that reaches or influences people widely. If old media was in the dictionary as a separate term, the definition would probably include the words “less personal”. Think about it: newspapers and magazines can be read by anyone who chooses to. Radio and television can be accessed by everyone that wants to listen/watch (given that everyone owns a radio/TV set or at least knows someone who does). There is nothing exclusive about these things. Sure there are different channels to watch, different radio stations to listen to, different magazines and newspapers to read because people have different tastes, but these “choices” still target large groups of people. Individuals do not have any control over the content or the time the content is released. So with old media, communication is limited to whatever a person decides to watch, hear, or read at the specific time that a media source has made it available to the public.

Such is not the case with new media. The internet has practically erased these limits and opened up new forms of communication. Anything that people watch, listen to, or read can be accessed online at the time they want to access it. Not only can people access media whenever they want, but they can become a part of media that can be accessed by others. The definition of “new media” should then be a personalized means of communication that influences people widely. Just think of all the social networking websites that are available to the public and how they are used, along with blogs, P2P file sharing, and other forms of communication in which the content is controlled by the public. A video of your dog chasing its own tail on YouTube is considered media. The content is not new or unusual but the fact that half the world can see your dog is. This may seem like old news, but this is the foundation of new media.

The ironic part is that while new media has made communication more personalized, it has almost dehumanized people. Even though it sounds contradictory, it is in fact another way to distinguish new media from old media. Think about this: Hypothetically, a person can, from their computer, watch their favorite TV show, pause it, read some major news stories for that day, and then have 10 different conversations with people in different countries via Skype, Facebook, and others all at one time. It is not humanly possible to carry on several conversations about different subjects at the same time in person or over the phone. With the help of the internet, this is no longer impossible. A person can be having as many “live” conversations as they want, communicating in different languages if they choose, at the same time. And any conversation between two (or more) people easily becomes media if it takes place on a public website.

Perhaps that person who was “multitasking” will share the news stories they read about or tell their friends how awesome the last episode of Family Guy was, and then those friends will access the same things within minutes. Information travels fast. Recall how you found out about the death of Michael Jackson. I initially found out from a friend who sent me (and probably 20 other people) a text message. She probably read someone’s Facebook status, who posted it because they heard it on the radio, which got their info from the news, which got their info online from TMZ. More than half the country knew about Jackson’s death and the man was not even dead for an hour. You can also send out 200 invitations at the same time (or just post a status on Facebook or Twitter) and be guaranteed that each person received it and will view it within 24 hours. In “real life” this would not be possible on account of time.

It’s not that new media slows down time, but it most definitely speeds up people’s lives. Important emails can be viewed on your mobile phone immediately after they are sent. Companies can market (and sell) products online efficiently to people across the world. Restaurants and nightclubs can promote their establishments and events to thousands of people in a specific area through social networking websites. The advertisements on Facebook are even targeted towards specific viewers (i.e. female, male, married, single, college student, etc.). Although you may think they are random since you see different ads all the time, they are in fact personally aimed towards you (e.g. a male would probably not see an ad for laser hair removal and a 15-year-old would probably not see an ad for real estate).

New media has broken barriers in communication, making everyone more united in a way. Time is saved, content is personalized, and the possibilities are limitless, but without old media we would be living completely virtual lives.

The (Near) Future of New Media

February 22, 2010

I plan to research the new technologies that are expected to be released to the public sometime in the near future. My goal is to show and describe several upcoming developments in new media. I’m sure everyone has heard of Apple’s new iPad, the latest model of a computer, which will soon be available for sale. This is an example of something that boosts new media and opens the door to even more advanced technologies in the future. I’ve heard rumors about a few different mechanisms which are supposed to enhance or eventually replace things that we normally use. I hope to be able to find sources that will confirm these aren’t just rumors. I would like to reveal the new technologies that are currently in the process of being developed and also present the possibilities of the future. My research will be based on the idea that new media technologies are intended to make people’s lives easier.

What is New Media?

February 21, 2010

Media usually refers to newspapers, television, radio, magazines, and the internet, right? Basically anything that can be accessed by the public.  New media refers to the same things and serves the same purpose.  So what makes “new media” different? The term is mainly used to emphasize the vast progress in technology. New technology has changed the way people live their lives. What we used to call media should now be called “old media”.

In a New York Times Article called Articles of Faith, Virginia Heffernan points out that the time and effort that goes into magazine making is no longer appreciated and that perhaps most people don’t even want magazines anymore because it is easier to access information online. In fact, she stated that her column was intended for a magazine, but whoever is reading the article is most likely using a computer or hand-held device. “[…] this column is produced in large part for a medium other than the one in which it is consumed.”

The biggest technological advancements are centered around the internet. Everything can now be accessed online. But besides being able to read a newspaper article or view a television show online, new media has opened up a whole new world of communication. Social networking websites (e.g. Facebook) have allowed people to communicate with anyone they ever knew (given that everyone they ever knew is on Facebook) a lot more often. Many high school, college, and even elementary school “reunions” happened online. Friends from different continents are able to be constantly up-to-date in what’s going on in each others lives. Without these websites, people would only contact their friends and family from other countries on rare occasions because of the high cost of long distance phone calls. Not to mention the fact that you need to account for the time difference, depending on where you are placing a call.

Another website that should be considered a foundation of new media is YouTube, the website that allows people to upload videos of pretty much anything. In an article from Wired Magazine, Clive Thompson describes a video that got hundreds of responses within several days. The 41 second long video was of a guy holding up his hand to the camera, and in his palm was written “One World”. The responses people posted were also short videos of themselves with their own written messages such as “Open your eyes”. This is inspiring in a way, and Thompson points out that it would not have been possible (or at least not so fast) if the internet and webcams didn’t exist. “We’re developing a new language of video – forms that let us say different things and maybe even think in different ways.”  Besides the entertainment, many people rely on YouTube as an instructional video guide. Even college professors suggest links to videos on YouTube to their students because it helps students understand the subject matter better.

And let’s not forget Skype: a combination of video and telephone. Thanks to this technology, my grandfather on the other side of the world was able to see me and speak to me at the same time. This was ground-breaking because he hadn’t seen me since I was a pre-teen and there I was, moving around his computer screen. Clive Thompson stated, “I know people who use Skype for virtual closeness, leaving a video channel to their spouses open all day long while they work. […] it’s like emotional wallpaper.”

New media has even played a role in helping suffering people. In an article titled Technology Saves Lives in Haiti, Brady Forrest describes the satellite system that allows volunteers to view crowdsourced maps and send aid to places that need it most. Even an underdeveloped country is able to benefit from new media technologies.

New media is constantly updated and upgraded into something newer. The answer to “what is new media” will be completely different 5-10 years from now. As for now, it is important to understand and take advantage of all of today’s technologies.

Hello world!

February 11, 2010

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