Category Archives: Virtual Communities

Social Marketing’s bet that we’ll do their work for them

Build it and they (us) will advertise for us (them). Genius. If it works.

For a long time now web marketers have been struggling to get heard above the din of flashing web animations and banners. No longer. If you ever wondered how social networking giants Facebook and MySpace made money (and why they’ve in turn been purchased by megamedia companies Microsoft and Fox), wonder no more. It’s target marketing. And it’s powerful. Or at least some are betting it will be.

If marketers believe in numbers, Facebook is betting they can deliver them. Facebook Ads (powered by Facebook Beacon) is a viral marketing distribution system wherein Facebook members are “empowered” to share (recommend) their product and purchasing habits with their online buddies.

To make this work Facebook, to the displeasure of many, lifted it’s longtime ban on member profiles that weren’t actual people. Corporations wanting a piece of the social marketing action can now create brand-specific profiles, but unlike your average-joe-Facebook-member, they’ll be tracking the behavior of their Facebook friends.

Think about marketing distribution channels for a second. Millions of dollars spent to advertise in print and on tv stand to be replaced by….us. And we’re cheap (free).

It’s not like everyone in the socialsphere is chomping at the bit to market to their online pals, but the fact is it’s a seemingly natural attempt to co-opt a fairly normal offline behavior. The markets as conversations crowd sees this all as incredibly natural.

Since Facebook’s announcement there’s been plenty of criticism. There’s the typical rants against insidious stealth advertising techniques, but privacy concerns are the primary cause for alarm. It may even be illegal. But I doubt it.

Don’t worry, the government is getting involved, so it will all probably work out.

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, Business 2.0, Privacy, Social Media, Virtual Communities, web 2.0, When New Meets Old

Lifecasting: The Age of Narcissism, Exhibitionism blooms

Lifecasting comes naturally to today’s youths, who are used to living their lives in public, posting details of every hookup and breakup on their Facebook or MySpace pages. Anyone with a laptop, webcam and Internet connection can do it. As with any new medium, people are trying to figure out the rules of etiquette. The budding phenomenon raises questions about the privacy of people who may not want to appear in the live streams, as well as copyright implications of, for example, broadcasting music that’s playing in the background. But companies such as Los Angeles-based Ustream, which powers Gnant’s webcast, and Justin.tv in San Francisco are racing to become the dominant purveyor of such live, unfiltered programs. In the last year, the technology behind live streaming has become so cheap that start-ups such as Mogulus, MyStreams and Veodia can afford to give it away in hopes that they can make money through the mainstays of TV’s reality shows: advertising and product placement.

Excerpt from Welcome to their world — all of it, from the Los Angeles Times (free password req’d)

A short overview of Lifecasting is available from the UK Times Online.

Previously from WNM: Mommy blogest

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, Technology, our Mirror, User generated content, Virtual Communities

When Sierra Leone crumbled it’s citizens created a borderless virtual nation

The nation-state of Sierra Leone crumbled during the 1990s. A decade-long civil war destroyed the state and brutalized the national imaginings. Despite the lack of institutional structure, some members of its society chose to keep the nation alive through discourse on a listserv, an email forum called Leonenet. Using a multi-methodological approach that incorporated content analysis, interviews with cultural informants, ethnography and participant observation, the findings of the study reported in this article indicate that list members had created a virtual nation, defined as any community that communicates in cyberspace, whose collective discourse and/or actions are aimed towards the building, binding, maintenance, rebuilding or rebinding of a nation. Leonenet was a diasporic communicative space where Sierra Leone’s state-related symbols were generated and then held in conceptual escrow, waiting for the institutional structure to return.

Abstract from Robert Tynes’ Nation-building and the diaspora on Leonenet: a case of Sierra Leone in cyberspace from the journal of New Media & Society

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Filed under Connection/Isolation, Virtual Communities

Cyberchondriacs, Cyberquacks…why is health info on the Internet surrounded by negativity?

Cyberchondriacs are not only using the Internet to educate themselves, many are also using it to assist in their conversations with their physicians. A 58 percent majority of adults who have gone online to get health information say that they have discussed this information with their doctors at least once in the last year. Furthermore, more than half (55%) of cyberchondriacs have searched for health information based on discussions with their doctors.

More from Harris Interactive and commentary at Ars

This article discusses the growing trend towards ‘lay’ people accessing information about health from the internet. Surveying the major studies of online health consumption, I argue that this phenomenon can be seen as a marker of a broader shift in focus within public health discourse and the popular media on health as an individual ‘lifestyle’ issue. Despite this cultural shift, the medical debate over online health consumption has been largely negative, viewing the internet as an unruly and unregulated space of mis-information and lay web users as potential victims of ‘cyberquackery’. In contrast to this reductive account, I discuss a qualitative study I conducted into young people’s use of the internet for health material that showed they are often highly sceptical consumers of online health material. Furthermore, the study found that the kinds of health material young people access is informed by issues of social positionality or ‘health habitus’ complicating individualistic notions of lifestyle ‘choice’.

Abstract from Tania Lewis’ Seeking health information on the internet: lifestyle choice or bad attack of cyberchondria? in the journal of Media, Culture & Society

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, A democratic medium?, Virtual Communities

Online counseling lends itself to desire for anonymity

“(Online counseling) teaches clients to be aware of what’s coming out of their mouths, what they’re feeling and thinking, their wholeness and whole bodies,” Mankita said. “It’s an exciting and empowering thing that we haven’t done in the past (in person) the way we can with text. Text is really powerful.” Online therapy is particularly suited to sex and relationship work, especially for clients who crave a layer of anonymity we can’t get by going through our insurance companies or driving to an office. And clients can seek matches based on compatibility rather than proximity.

Read this item from WIRED’s Regina Lynn

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Filed under Anonymity, Connection/Isolation, Identity, Technology, our Mirror, Virtual Communities

Turns out their are maps for these territories. Lots of them.

With the help of simple tools introduced by Internet companies recently, millions of people are trying their hand at cartography, drawing on digital maps and annotating them with text, images, sound and videos. In the process, they are reshaping the world of mapmaking and collectively creating a new kind of atlas that is likely to be both richer and messier than any other. They are also turning the Web into a medium where maps will play a more central role in how information is organized and found.

Read this article from the New York Times

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Filed under A Culture of Participation, A democratic medium?, Aggregate, Connection/Isolation, Social Media, Technology, our Mirror, Tools, Usability, User generated content, Virtual Communities, web 2.0, When New Meets Old

‘Social’ porn sites and the privacy intrusions we make on each other

As sites like YouPorn and PornoTube that mesh community aspects of social networking with completely free-of-charge pornography rise in popularity, so too do the associated copyright and privacy infringements. Right now, the law is lagging behind in redressing the harm done to victims of “porn 2.0.”….But the worldwide nature of the web makes it difficult to trace and prosecute violators and even more difficult to police privacy rights. There is no universal set of laws that apply to the distribution, purchase, or possession of Internet porn. Still, that’s not to say what happens on the net can’t be regulated, says Benedet. “The idea that the Internet is a borderless lawless universe is quite false,” she adds. Experts like Lane say porn 2.0 is here to stay, given how easy it is to post and view material online. Now lawmakers need to catch up with tech-savvy Internet users, and deal with the potential emotional and psychological damage lurking for “ex-girlfriends” around the world.

Sunny Freeman’s Porn 2.0: What Happens When Free Porn Meets Social Networking from Alternet

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Filed under A democratic medium?, Privacy, Social Media, Technology, our Mirror, Virtual Communities