Finding Sanity in the Madness

Exploring Social Media

#Tech621, A Reflection April 27, 2011

So, we wrapped up our final class meeting last night for Tech621, and I have decided to sort of reflect back and give some thoughts on the class in general, what I have learned, and some general comments on the topics throughout the semester.

When we began this class at the start of the semester, I honestly wasn’t quite sure how the structure would be. I could get an idea by looking at the syllabus, but one can only get so far by reading a timeline about the course. When this class began, I also was oblivious to some of the many SNSs out there, as well as their usefulness and conventions. You could say I started with a less than positive feelings towards blogging and Twitter. Blogging, in my opinion, was something like this: “people who have an online journal and think that others care about what they think”. I felt like it was some pretentious effort in getting attention. With Twitter, I felt like it was just some silly online status update, where people, once again, felt like everyone else needed to know their every move. I do not believe either of those cases anymore. It took time, but through the course of this…course(?) I have come to appreciate blogging and Twitter. There are other uses for them, great uses that can empower, enlighten, and provide insight to ideas that one might not have had. You can be exposed to these ideas as well as engage in meaningful and thoughtful conversation with people that you would never have the chance to otherwise. There are real benefits with these two methods of communication, and I now see that.

My AA #5 involved a RQ that asked what the correlation is with students who take a course in social media and positive feelings towards social media as a strategic communication tool. Unsurprisingly, there was a positive correlation. Students who took a course in social media were more positive in their feelings towards social media. I think when people like myself have these negative feelings initially on a new type of media, it really stems from the unknown. Change is hard, acceptance is hard, and with the volley of new media being thrown at us every day/week/month, how can we ever hope to keep up? Consider the TAM (Technology Acceptance Model) where one weighs the perceived usefulness, and the perceived ease of use. Where something like Twitter fell short for me initially was the perceived lack of usefulness. I didn’t see how it would benefit me. For others, things like blogging might be a daunting task. The perceived ease of use for someone younger might be why typically the demographics of people who actively blog are older. New technologies such as Twitter (I hope) consider the TAM when designing and creating interfaces, uses, advertisements, etc. Could this be a reason why people get angry when Facebook changes? The perceived ease of use changes because they have to learn a new interface.

Lastly, I want to just mention some thoughts about the course in general. I have some more thoughts on social media and the Elaboration Likelihood Model, but I think I will save that for another post. I am thinking now that I could have divided this up into at least 2 posts, but meh,” sounds too much like work” (Miller, 19XX-present). The course this semester was very interesting. I find myself getting more and more interested in combining theories with social media (as evidenced above). ELM, TAM, etc. My favorite lecture was when we had the long discussion on Technological Determinism vs. Human Agency. The theoretical and sort of logical/philosophical debate we had on this topic was fantastic. I am the type of person who loves to discuss ideas such as this (maybe that explains why I LOVE talking/debating topics such as politics and religion?).  The readings throughout the course were a bit much, but I think I could have managed my time a little better. I could see the clear purpose of each paper, but I wonder if focusing on maybe 1-2 fewer papers per week if we could have been more in depth on some and really focus on the ideas they present. I believe we accomplished this with the paper talking about how Google is “making us stupid”. That is, I believe, the paper that lead us into the Technological Determinism vs. Human Agency discussion. The week we had that lecture, I talked about that and debated with my running buddy for hours during our runs that entire week. So much fun.

To close, I just wanted to say what a nice surprise this course gave me. I came in excited and oblivious, but I feel like I am finishing with insight and a wealth of new knowledge, as well as a much more interested outlook on social media. I look forward to my next opportunity to do research in this field, play with Radian6, or even consult friends on some of the topics we discussed. It’s been a fun ride.

Take care, #Tech621, have a safe summer 🙂


AA #5: Social Media Perceptions April 26, 2011

I came across this article while searching around for something involving social media adoption/attitude with respects to the Elaboration Likelihood model (so if you have something like that, do share!)

Lewis, B. K. (2010). Social Media and Strategic Communication: Attitudes and Perceptions Among College Students. Public Relations Journal, 4(3).
The purpose:
This particular study had one hypothesis and three research questions:
H1: Public relations and advertising majors will perceive social media more positively than other majors.
RQ1: How will gender affect college students’ attitude toward social media?
RQ2: How does number of years in school impact students’ positive perception of social media as strategic communication tools?
RQ3: How will the beliefs of students who use social media as a primary news source be affected regarding whether corporations should consider employing social media as tools in their communication efforts.
RQ4: How will taking a class on social media affect students’ perceptions of social media as strategic communications tools?
The Findings:
The research questions posed had what I would consider predictable. For RQ1, the study found that females had more positive feelings towards social media. I didn’t think there would be much of a difference, but thinking about our own class demographics and also thinking about people I know who use social media often, it makes sense. RQ2 showed a positive correlation between number of years in school and perception on social media. RQ3 showed differences based on general perceptions as surveyed previously. RQ4 showed a positive correlation as well. Students who were taking a course in social media had a significant correlation and much more positive feelings towards social media as a communication tool.
I enjoyed this article, especially since it had a RQ that directly dealt with this course. I am happy to have found some information on the topic of social media perception. I can agree with the findings on their RQ4. I find that since the beginning of this course, my perceptions on social media as a whole has increased in a positive light.
The idea that time in school having a positive correlation to perception on social media makes sense to me as well. Throughout the semester, we have touched on the idea that more educated people use Twitter (as seen on infographic, etc). This came as a nice surprise to me, as this is probably the only RQ that I couldn’t pinpoint with utter confidence.
Overall, this seems like the type of article I can directly relate with, and it was an interesting read. Hopefully I can find more research regarding aspects of classes, education, social media, etc. Good stuff!

AA #4: Twitter, Students, Learning April 23, 2011

Filed under: Article Review,Research,Social Media — karch10k @ 8:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

This article analysis will be focused on a paper I decided to read into due to it being directly related to our current Tech621 class, as well as a topic we have lightly discussed in the class.

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119-132. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x
The Purpose:

The purpose of this particular paper is to study and determine if Twitter has a significant effect on student interaction, engagement, and achievement (grades). I liked the reasoning they chose for this article, and some of the justifications for choosing Twitter as the channel of choice.
  • The course the researchers chose to use only met once per week for an hour, so Twitter was a good candidate due to being able to quickly and easily be a medium where students could continue the conversation from the single class they had each week
  • More introverted students are able to ask questions outside of class they might not have in front of everyone else. I think this is a true advantage of this technology, as I know many people who have this issue.
  • Helped students become more familiar and comfortable with each other. I feel that during our course this semester, communication on blogs as well as Twitter helped to hasten the familiarity process that happens in any class where you are required to share out loud in front of the class. It is a stress reducer.
These are just a few of the listed reasons, but the ones I felt I most personally could associate with.
The Study:
The study encompassed seven different sections of a first year seminar class for pre-health professional majors. There were 132 students who participated in total, and 125 of them ended up taking the pre-test survey (91% caucasian, 6% latino, 3% native american).  The median age of the participants was about 18 years old. It is also interesting to note that none of the participants had ever used Twitter before.
There was a pre and post test, as well as a control group. After two weeks in the course, the students were divided up. Some of them received a one hour long crash course in Twitter, whereas the others experienced the class as normal. The study lasted for 14 weeks.
The Findings:
There were interesting findings in this article, but many of them I expected (I suppose I have a bit of an insight on using Twitter in the classroom). Some of the more interesting findings were dealing with the participation.
  • In terms of student participation, it was very easy for an instructor to sort of lead the students to begin a study group using Twitter, and after the initial help, students continued to form study groups without the push from the professor.
  • Students scored much higher in engagement while using Twitter than not utilizing it: Tweeting each other, talking online, and continuing conversations.
  • Twitter promoted experience sharing and learning in the classroom. It allowed them to easily discuss and talk about how issues in the course related to their real life experiences.
  • Study also shows a positive correlation on use of Twitter in the classroom and the grades of the students.
I thought this paper was interesting, but I also feel like it was predictable. Maybe it is simply because we have been using Twitter in the course and I have direct experience with it. It has been a positive experience for me, so I hypothesized a couple of their findings before I even read the paper. I think papers like this are needed. When I tell people what I am interested in for research, and I mention social media, they sort of scoff at me, disregarding any potential use of Facebook or Twitter research. Studies like this has real use and will be important in the evolution of how education works.
A final thought is about future research, or even future implementation. The ideas behind this paper are the backbone of our course. Collaborate, communicate, and engage with fellow students online to further education in a particular field. While we are doing it to “dive into” social media and experience it first hand, you could employ this tactic into almost any subject. I would guess to say that in any major academic field, one could find people in that field Tweeting about their research, and communicating results, articles, findings, etc. I think Twitter has some very real uses and should be encouraged to be used in the classroom, no matter what field or subject area.
I also find it strange to feel about Twitter in the way I do. I was one of “those people” who began this course thinking Twitter was nothing but a stupid means of a status update. Boy was I wrong. I legitimately enjoy using Twitter as a means to touch base and stay in touch with certain individuals. It is to the point where I am all but ignoring Facebook and only being on Twitter. Hopefully in the near future, there will be more professors and other educators waking up to the realization that social media can vastly improve education.

Future Experiment with RRR

Filed under: Random,Sports — karch10k @ 4:07 pm
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Last weekend, I took part in a race I have done for the past 2 years called the River to River Relay (RRR). In this race, a team of 8 runners join up together and run a relay from one side of Illinois (Mississippi River) to the other (Ohio River). This is an 80 mile race, and each runner covers around 10 miles each throughout the day (I covered 10.7 miles). Each runner has 3 seperate legs of the race to run. So Runner #1 will start the race, hand off the baton to the Runner #2 at the exchange zone, Runner #2 runs his leg, hands off to Runner #3, and  so on. While the runners are racing across the state, the guys NOT running at that moment on the team are riding in a van from exchange zone to exchange zone to keep ahead and have the next runner out and ready for when the next guy comes in to hand off. It is a frenzy of flying down country roads, jumping out of the van to cheer on the guy coming in, and to also cheer on the guy who is taking the baton next. Getting back in the van, and heading to the next exchange zone (all while cursing and taunting the current runner when the van passes them back) so we can do it all over again! The process of going from Runner 1-8 happens 3 times, so you race 3 times throughout the day of a distance around 3 miles. This race, for the lack of a better term is EPICLY awesome. There is plenty of downtime between races to recover, eat something and relax while you cheer on your other teammates, which is where I think I will be when I try out my “experiment” next year.

During the race, and especially during down time, people are sitting in vans and many of them are on the phone (texting, etc, etc). I think next year I want to try to advertise a Twitter hashtag to use by runners and officials during the race. This race provides a unique opportunity where people can use something like Twitter during the race to trash talk, give updates on the course, express feelings, and probably just be silly. I can imagine me tweeting about how we are catching the team ahead of us, maybe warning racers behind us of a fallen tree over the road, or even of hostile dogs to watch out for. People could see this, and be ready for it. I think it would be extremely interesting to test something like this out and see how much response I could get from people. The only thing I worry about is cell service. Many times throughout the race, I didn’t have cell service since we were in the middle of nowhere half the time.

To get something like this off the ground, the easiest thing to do would be to push the RRR officials to endorse the hashtag and advertise it. Maybe have it on the registration site or something. Tell the teams at the team meeting the night before the race, maybe. This is something I will have to think more about, but I hope that next year, I can make this happen!

Also, if you are wondering about the picture: Yes, that is an Optimus Prime piñata. We bought it ($20, but SO worth it!) at Wal-Mart and he was our mascot. You would not believe how many comments we had on that thing!


Dark Side: Mirror of the Physical World April 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — karch10k @ 11:49 pm

As we are discussing, the “Dark Side” of the internet has many different aspects about it. I had never really considered all of the topics we are discussing as they relate to the real world. Everything on the internet in terms of being a Dark Side is just as important to address in the real world.  Below are a list of our topics:

  • Geo-Location
  • Identity Management
  • Digital Divide
  • Being Anonymous/Anonymity
  • Privacy
  • Cyberstalking
  • Internet/Gaming Addiction
  • Internet Crime
  • Failed Relationships
  • Porn at Work
Many, if not all of these I have dealt with in my life at some point or another. As a kid, you were taught to never give out information about where you were going to strangers. You should be nice to other people (treat those how you wish to be treated!).
I think what I am trying to convey is that the internet world and the Dark Side of it mirrors the world we live in, and it almost functions as a totally seperate world, living, breathing, and having it’s own culture (which we discussed last week). I find it incredibly interesting how the internet seems to organically evolve at an increasingly fast rate, adapting to user needs and changing at will. More thoughts to follow I think…

Staying Focused, Being Oblivious to Weather Change April 11, 2011

Filed under: Random — karch10k @ 4:20 pm
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This weekend has been a bit rough for me, but I can begin to see the light at the end of tunnel for this semester. It is nice to be able to put everything into perspective, know what I need to get done within a certain time frame, and focus on them one by one. I spent the better part of this entire weekend (which so happened to be the nicest weather we have had this year) in the West Lafayette Library across the road from Einstein Bagels. The place is nice, the tables are big, and the atmosphere is conducive to getting a lot of work done.

Saturday and Sunday mornings, my friend and I meet to go for a run. Typically somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour of running, and normally around 7:00 mile pace (this probably means little to you unless you run). We cover anywhere between 6 and 9 miles on said run, take a stroll through the trail at the Celery Bog, and sometimes take a loop around the cross country course. Saturday morning, it was nasty outside. It rained on us the entire run, and was just not very enjoyable (running enjoyable? crazy!). We finished our run, headed back to our respective homes, got cleaned up, and met back at the library. Now, at this point, it is still nasty outside, and even raining. We walk into the library with jeans, long sleeves and coats on. It was somewhere in the mid 40s when we ran, and is probably in the 50s now. About 5 hours later, we walk out of the library, once again tired, and crashing from the coffee wearing off. To my surprise, people are walking all over, shorts, tank tops, sandals, it is 75 degrees outside. I have a full regalia of fall/early spring attire on. What happened out here!?

During this time of year, everyone is stressed, everyone is short on time, and everyone really wants to just go outside and forget about all the work. My duration in the library this weekend helped me more than any trip outside would at this point. Getting a LOT of work done right now makes the stress disappear quicker than escapism, because escapism is similar to how alcoholics deal with issues. Sure, by going and doing something fun, you can postpone the stress and dread, but it all comes back to you after the fun is over. I am attempting to keep my head above water and make the final push to finish off the semester, and also attempting to do it with more dedication than in semesters past.

To finish up, I want to post an image. I was looking around online with some of my favorite links and places to go in between work periods. I found a comic that works perfectly for my experience with the weather this morning as well as Knoy 374 (where I hold office hours, will refer to it henceforth as “the dungeon”). The comic is taken from Ph.D Comics and is awesome. Enjoy!


Radian6: Awesome April 10, 2011

Filed under: Research,Social Media — karch10k @ 5:49 pm
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For the Tech 621 course this year, our final project tasks us with utilizing Radian6 to conduct research with social media. What is Radian6, you might wonder. I’ll tell you what Radian6 is: awesome. Doing research with and about social media isn’t exactly a new concept, nor is it completely easy. Radian6 is an interface that runs in your browser that allows you to become a social media researching master! Radian6 is described as:

Radian6 gives you a complete platform to listen, measure and engage with your customers across the entire social web”.

For the purpose of this course, we aren’t doing any engaging, or at least not what I would call engaging, but we are definitely listening, and measuring data on our various topics. We also have access to this tool for free during this semester, which is quite the discount from the normal going price (around $600 per month for the lowest setup). To have access to this tool is amazing.

So far, using the tool with very limited direction has proven to be like any other new interface/program. Frustrating in the very beginning due to not getting the results I thought I should be getting (bias?) to sheer excitement when I finally started narrowing down my topic, reading into some of the trends/timelines/etc. The interface as a whole is relatively simple, and once I got used to it, I felt it was quite intuitive. I can search and sort by media types, I can gather timelines, I can see top influencers on a topic, and even slice and dice my data until my hearts content. Once I narrow everything down, I can then also choose individual posts, comments, or Tweets, and read them for further detail if I wish. The power of a tool such as this seems vast, if not limitless. I have a shot of the interface to give a glimpse of what I have been working on for my project:

If you are looking for more information on Radian6, I would suggest checking out their website or read this post by Jason Falls at social media explorer for some comparative (but mostly talking up Radian6, detailing some interesting features).