Assessment 3 · Breastfeeding · Online Communities · Social Media Communication

The imperative of promoting media literacy education

Name: Lizhang Wang

SID: 460440891

Thursday 12:00-15:00

Introduction

In today’s era, network new media are ubiquitous. Acquiring massive amounts of information through new media not only facilitates faster understanding of the objective world, but also promotes changes in people’s ways of communication as well as facilitates the satisfaction of spiritual needs. However, while the new media provide convenience, it is accompanied by a large amount of spam messages and false information passed on to people, thus causing people to make erroneous judgments. At this time, individuals need to think critically about the information that comes pouring in through their own cognitive abilities and media literacy. This leads to new media literacy.

Concepts

The new media literacy is different from what we used to say as media literacy. ScreenShot2013-07-29at10.41.09PMIt is the use of citizens’ judgments on new media on the Internet that were born and developed under the social network, internet network, and mobile network revolution. New media literacy requires individuals to be able to understand, sort through and analyze the information they were bombarded with daily. In other words, traditional media literacy skills of merely being able to read and write is not enough in a world saturated by new media.

Now, one of the problems faced by new media on the Internet is that the speed of development and progress of network new media is significantly higher than that of citizens’ media literacy, and the development of the two is not synchronized. Silverblatt (1995) pointed out that process, context, framework and production values are the four main aspects of message interpretation in media literacy. From his point of view, people who are media literate are supposed to be aware of media impact on individuals and the society; understand the processes of mass communication; analyze media messages through critical approaches; have awareness of media content in terms of text, sound and images; explore cultural and social constructions as well as enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of media.

Information explosion is an important feature of the era of Web 2.0. The advent of self-media on social networks has made the boundaries between news producers and consumers less obvious. Therefore, everyone can be a journalist by uploading materials on social network platforms, which makes information overload. However, according to J.H (2018), the credibility of information is in doubt because people who post information on social networks probably do not follow the code of ethics like professional journalists. It should be noted that the public lacks the ability to question what you are reading of media information online. Now many media are trying to attract attention and deliberately exaggerate certain aspects of news information which causes content to be distorted. Obviously, there are many audiences believe that information is true. To avoid this from happening, the public need to be more discerning than ever in order not to be deceived.

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Case study: the death of Wei Zexi

On April 12, 2016, Wei Zexi, a 21-year-old student at Xidian University, died of synovial sarcoma after receiving experimental treatment at the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps, which he learned of from a promoted result on the Chinese search engine Baidu.According to Wei Zexi’s father, by September 2015, Wei Zexi had received four immunotherapy treatments in that hospital, which cost more than 200,000 yuan, but did not achieve the desired effect. Later Wei learned that the technology used in the treatment had been long stopped in the United States.Before his death, Wei’s post on the Chinese question-and-answer website Zhihu had been widely circulated. He accused China’s largest search engine Baidu of its advertising practice. Both the government and its citizens in China criticized Baidu because the top-ranked hospital appeared on search results is a paid advertisement.

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Around May 10th, the Cyberspace Administration of China concluded that Baidu is responsible for Wei Zexi’s death because of its misleading medical information. On that matter, the Cyberspace Administration has demanded Baidu to make the following adjustments: recognize and clean up the commercial promotion service for the healthcare industry that might bring prominent impact on people’s health; change the bidding mechanism for ranking, excluding money from the factors that determine the ranking of organizations.

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The bidding mechanism for ranking is the business model through which Baidu’s search service makes profit and it is the main source of Baidu search’s income. According to estimates from analysts, advertising of the healthcare industry accounts for 20% to 30% of Baidu search’s business income while the search service accounts for 80% of Baidu’s total income.

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  (Baidu Branding)

According to MIT Press (2016), information accuracy issues have been addressed by search engines along with advocacy groups and other organizations. For example, health information provided on Google are verified in clearly delineated boxes. Websites that contain useful and reliable medical knowledge are required to be certificated by the Health on the Net Foundation.Although these efforts may not level up individuals’ media literacy, they will provide people with accurate and reliable information.

 In my opinion, Baidu should take the major responsibility of the scandal. First, it had precedents to allow Putian Group, the involved private hospital group from Fujian Province, to buy control of Baidu Tieba, one of the largest and easily-accessible forums in China, for commercial operation. Second, Baidu scandals have been revealed frequently, such as requesting customers to bid for ad rankings, deliberately allowing its employees to cater for customers to allow apparent wrongful actions. This one is simply a trigger, igniting accumulated anger, which was not expressed simply because Baidu deliberately delete those news. Third, since Google’s exit from China, Baidu is undoubtedly the largest search engine company in China. As such a big company, definitely should take a certain social responsibility, but obviously it is not satisfactory for Baidu in this respect. “Baidu Promotion” is another business of Baidu, glutted with many false advertisements, like the screenshot below. Baidu is largely supported by Chinese government while have lots of frauds on its site. 

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 (A disease search results on Baidu)

For the medical advertising information of the internet bidding, in September 1, 2016, the Interim Measures for the management of Internet advertising began to go into practice in China, and the payment search and sale of goods or services were defined as advertisements. This also completely incorporated the bidding model of medical information into the supervision of medical advertising.However, in the past two years in the event of Wei Zexi, there are still various irregularities in the medical information of competitive bidding. Experts suggest that in addition to supervision to continue to land, ordinary patients should also truly improve their media literacy, bright eyes can let such ads lose space.

MIT Press (2016) pointed out that, it is critically important for us to realize that what we are searching for, search engine algorithms, and information available on the Internet, altogether influence the search results. We should treat the information wisely, especially when it relates to our health problems.

Conclusion

The promotion of citizen’s media literacy is not only the efforts of the citizens themselves, but also requires the help of network operators and the government. Only a good collaboration between the three parties can effectively promote individuals’ media literacy. According to J (2016), media literacy teaches that information and images are built on a variety of goals, and everyone has the responsibility to assess and interpret these media information. The creator and disseminator of mass communication may be individuals, businesses, governments, or organizations, but the receiver of it is always an individual. Education, life experience, and a multitude of other factors allow each person to interpret constructed media in their own ways; there is no right or wrong answer with regard to how to read the media content. However, media literacy is an essential skill for us because in a media-rich environment it enables us to be “better democratic citizens, smarter shoppers, and more skeptical media consumers” (J, 2016).

References

Lule, J. (2016). Understanding media and culture: An introduction to mass communication. University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing.

Lipschultz, J. H. (2014). Social media communication: Concepts, practices, data, law and ethics. Routledge.

MIT Press. (2016, May 11). Cancer and the internet: The strange, sad case of Wei Zexi. Retrieved fromhttps://mitpress.mit.edu/blog/cancer-and-internet-strange-sad-case-wei-zexi

Death of Wei Zexi. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 28, 2018 fromhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Wei_Zexi

Maniac. (2018, April 23). Internet medical advertising enforcement difficulties: experts recommend strengthening mobile terminal management. Retrieved fromhttps://www.waonews.com/news/16241-Internet_medical_advertising_enforcement_difficulties_experts_recommend_strengthening_mobile_terminal_management.html

TMTPost. (2016, June 28). The Wei Zexi Incident Has Cost Baidu 2 Billion RMB In Three Months And It’s Not Over Yet. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@TMTpost/the-wei-zexi-incident-has-cost-baidu-2-billion-rmb-in-three-months-and-its-not-over-yet-tmtpost-3f6657f59815

 

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Assessment 3 · Online Communities · PRODUSERS · Social Media Communication

NICOLE DUNN – Cultural Intermediaries – Visions of the Social World

Nicole Dunn

SID: 450146723

Seminar: Wednesday 5-8pm  Rachael Bolton

Introduction:

Bourdieu’s original conception the cultural intermediary refers to ‘those sets of occupations and workers involved in the production and circulation of symbolic goods and services in the context of an expanding cultural economy.’ (Adkins.) Where tensions between stakeholders with aligned interests meet, intermediaries operate as ‘facilitators, translators and mediators.’ (Hutchinson. 2017) With the emergence of social media as the preferred location for advertising as audience participation is now a necessary element of a successful, engaging social media strategy, cultural intermediaries have unprecedented influence over the cultural economy. Their professional relationships with brands imposes values on products. In order to discuss modern cultural intermediaries and their relationships with social media, a strategic affiliation between intermediaries and the media is necessary. Maguire and Matthews locate cultural intermediaries as working within the media, for the media with the mutual economic goal in promoting consumption of mediated content. (Maguire.2013)

For the purposes of my analysis, I wish to specifically discuss the relationship between cultural intermediaries and non-for-profit organisations. These relationships are niche subsets of cultural mediation as non-for-profit organisations and charities often do no have the fiscal freedom to pursue highly sought after cultural intermediaries. By undertaking a case-study analysis of the Global Women’s Project and their social media presence, I wish to demonstrate the extreme scope of influence these people possess and how difficult it can be to convince audiences of your legitimacy in a crowded marketplace. As the followers of influential cultural intermediaries are similarly cultural producers making cultural product, data surrounding their participation is invaluable to businesses attempting to represent cultural life in their marketing materials. (Carah, Shaul. 2016)

Types of Intermediaries

Hutchinson extensively analyses cultural intermediaries within the context of audience participation within social media, and delineates between four different types of cultural intermediaries who operate within this field of cultural transmission. They are social media producers, community managers, micro-agents and change agents. Though features of all are needed for organisations and stakeholders to have their strategy effectively implemented, micro-influencers are the subset whose existence and legitimacy are the most crucial to successful consumer-business relationships. (Hutchinson. 2017) Micro-influencers are the ‘Instagram Intermediaries’ – the independent third party endorsers who shape audience attitudes through blogs, tweets, and the use of other social media.’ (Freberg, Freberg, Graham,McGaughey. 2011) They are agents of culture who have disrupted the equilibrium between hierarchies and individuals by re-energising cultural production with audience engagement within the media. (Bolton. 2018)

Through their promotional material, such as sponsored post (Image 1A) or an unsponsored ‘shout’ out post they weave legitimacy into the public image of a brand, company or movement.

Morello clearly identifies her paid affiliation with the brand in her public Instagram post.

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Image 1A: Morello clearly identifies her paid affiliation with the brand in her public Instagram post.

Image 1A.

A successful example of this is the #Ham4All Challenge, created by Tony-Award winning composer Lin Manuel Miranda to raise money for a coalition of immigration organisations. (Chen.2017) For the celebrities who participated and exposed the charitable cause to their online followers and fans, there was no financial gain for participating. Their video posts, which were widely circulated and then replicated by others, are an example of an intermediary activity. These celebrities were taking the form of ‘third wave’ cultural intermediaries who Hutchinson denotes ‘use cultural capital in order to improve our social society.’ (Hutchinson. 2017)

 

The Global Women’s Project

The rise of the conscious consumer not only denotes the increased interest and demand for transparency between businesses and consumers in relation to ethical practices, but a desire from consumers to make purchases that are considered investments into their social status. As cultural intermediaries operates as agents of change by translating one form of capital into another – such as transforming economic capital (a young woman’s purchase of a dress by the label Bec & Bridge) into social capital – this women receiving increased social currency in the form of  likes, comments and new followers on her Instagram profile. ( Hutchinson, 2017.)

Analytics company Annalect produced research carried out in conjunction with Twitter that discovered approximately 40% of people have purchased an item online after seeing it promoted by an influencer or celebrity. The implicit trust given to the intermediaries by their followers is the equivalent of a personal friendship. (Oppenheim. 2016) By mobilizing their fan bases to commit to monthly donations, the intermediaries will have successfully transformed their social capital into economic capital for the charity.

This emergence of the conscious consumer is a particularly welcome development for non-for-profit organisations and charities who are attempting to accumulate cultural and economic capital through non-traditional endorsements. (Baker.2015) Individuals have been able to successfully commodify and monetise their online presence, and must can then endeavour to inject their own ideological and political beliefs with the choice of professional affiliations they agree to. Using their power to improve social society is an emerging trend amongst cultural intermediaries. (Hutchinson. 2017) Audience are no longer passive users but are integral, active participants in the processes of content creation and distribution. This has been conceptualised as the cyclical practice known as Produsage. Any article produced in the public media sphere is an artefact of that cultural period and possess innate value. (Neti. 2011)

Maguire and Matthews suggest that the work of cultural intermediaries involves processes that are often ‘invisible to the consumer’s eye.’ By analysing the our social media strategy for the Global Women’s Project and the growing leverage of cultural intermediaries within the field of social media, I will suggest that modern consumers are acutely aware of these processes, making the composition and implementation of a successful media strategy even more crucial. (Maguire, 2013)

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The Produsage model. From Axel Bruns via https://www.slideshare.net/Snurb/produsage-and-beyond-exploring-the-proam-interface-5631254

My group and I decided to suggest some cultural intermediaries for the Global Women’s Project to work with as we felt it was necessary for them to accrue some cultural capital. Though an established organisation that are seeking grass-roots change through fiscal donations and support, consumers won’t think to support this charity unless they are given compelling evidence to do so. Cultural intermediaries operate at the intersection of economy and culture, defining what is relevant, worthy of a ‘like’ or ‘follow and what people should spend their money on. (Maguire.2013)

We particularly focused on Instagram as it is a tool that calibrates and captures attention. (Carah,Shaul. 2016) For GWP to try and successfully penetrate the dense market of brands, individuals and movements attempting to amass relevance and dedication from the most profitable viewership demographics, they need to amplify the potential for gratification felt by potential investors. This would explain why famous intermediaries would choose to associate themselves the organisation, complimented with the burgeoning ability to mobilise social change within the platforms of site such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Individuals who wish to become effective cultural intermediaries must pre-emptively determine what their followers will respond to and engage with. Now that cultural intermediaries are indispensable operators in the field of social media advertising and communication, it is now possible for these users to be selective about which products they wish to endorse and align their personal branding with. Agreeing to associate their meticulously crafted image with an organisation can be an ideological decision, as intermediaries can function as agents of culture, and assist ‘organizations in adapting to an environment characterized by networked communication systems.’(Hutchinson.2017)

Summary:

The relationships between organisations, cultural intermediaries and consumers are so intimate and blurred in the sphere of social media that all stakeholders now possess an implicit understanding of how intermediaries function. The failure of the Global Women’s Project to successfully engage their desired audience on social media platforms can be partially attributed to the lack of social transmissions about their core mission and vision for the social world. It is clear when assessing the content on their platforms that they have a clear vision for their social branding and can produce this effectively without third-party assistance, but have not established themselves within the marketplace as of yet. The intersection between cultural intermediaries and organisations, especially non-for-profit, allows visions of about the social world to be circulated in a way that is profitable, timely and guarantees exposure. Just as the reliability of traditional marketing methods has been reconsidered in the age of the Instagram Intermediaries, so to these influencers must consider how to generate diverse forms of capital to ensure the sustainability of media-centric intermediacy.

Word Count: 1395

Bibliography:

Adkins, Lisa. (Unknown) Cultural Intermediaries in Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture

Baker, J. (2015, April 2). The rise of the conscious consumer: why businesses need to open up. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2015/apr/02/the-rise-of-the-conscious-consumer-why-businesses-need-to-open-up

Carah, N., & Shaul, M. (2016). Brands and Instagram: Point, tap, swipe, glance. Mobile Media & Communication , 4(1).

Freberg, K., Freberg, L. A., Graham, K., & McGaughey. (2011). Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 90-92.

Hutchinson, J. (2017). Cultural Intermediaries: Audience Participation In Media Organisations .Palgrave MacMillan.

Maguire, J. S. (2013). Bourdieu on Cultural Intermdiaries. In J. S. Maguire, & J. Matthews, The Cultural Intermediaires Reader(pp. 15-24). tUnied Kingdom.: SAGE Publications .

McDuling, J. (2017, April 7). How Google and Facebook trillion dollar duopoly strangles the internet . Retrieved April 27, 2018, from Financial Review: http://www.afr.com/business/media-and-marketing/advertising/how-google-and-facebooks-trillion-dollar-duopoly-strangles-the-internet-20170328-gv7zxi

Neti, S. (2011). Social Media and Its Role in Marketing. International Journal of Enterprise Computing and Business Systems, 1(2).

Oppenheim, M. (2016, May 12). New data reveals people trust social media influencers almost as much as their own friends. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/new-data-reveals-people-trust-social-media-influencers-almost-as-much-as-their-own-friends-a7026941.html

Assessment 3 · Online Communities

Facebook Communities

By: Malinda Hadiwidjojo 460288581
Lecture: Fiona Andreallo, Thursday 12-3pm

In this essay, we will lightly touch on the explanation behind online communities, before looking at three examples to attest how distinctive these communities can be. Furthermore, we will elaborate the rules and guidelines online.

In their book, Hinton and Hjorth (2013) stated that Howard Rheingold popularised the idea of virtual communities back in 1993. His book mentioned that online communities were seen as escapism from the real world – a social isolation – but many saw its potential to be a new space for social interaction. A research conducted by Preece et al. (2003) discussed that over the years, the amount of users in online communities increased tremendously. They mentioned that ‘the internet provides virtual “third places” that allow people to hang out and engange in activities with others’.

Just like in the offline world there are countless of different communities available online, catered to each interest and serving various purposes accordingly, which brings us to the next part: examples of Facebook communities.

Catspotting

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Figure 1 Catspotting group on Facebook

Catspotting is a closed group on Facebook where members can share cats that they encountered in unexpected places, or ‘catspot’ as they call it. It is unclear when it started but as of today, the group has nearly 93,000 members globally, all sharing a common interest: cats.

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Figure 2 Post by member Jordan Schuelzke

Due to its growing audience and interest around it, the group has branched out onto Instagram where they post the best catspots, now with over 1,900 followers and a post count hitting almost 500.

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Figure 3 Catspotting’s Instagram page (@officialcatspotting)

Although the group is specifically for catspots, it is not uncommon for some members to ask questions about cats when they do not know where to go, for instance on how to take care of a stray kitten that they just rescued and are planning to keep. With so many passionate cat lovers, experienced owners, and vets within the group, it is rare for these questions to go unnoticed and ignored – everyone provides answers and guidelines to someone who needs it. Unfortunately, an example of this situation cannot be provided since similar posts have been buried under the multiple posts that have been shared.

Jakarta Feminist Discussion Group (JFDG)

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Figure 4 JFDG group on Facebook

In a country where feminism is still considered taboo by many due to rising conservatism in the majority of the population alongside the society’s strong patriarchal mindset (Sidarto 2017), JFDG was created as a safe space where its members can discuss and share feminist issues. As of today, the closed group has 1,800 members based in and/or from Jakarta that makes it a more local community compared to Catspotting. Some members knew each other offline whereas many became friends through this group.

Members participate in the exchange by sharing articles, videos, images, Facebook posts, and so on, which can spark discussion within the group. With this group’s purpose, users can speak their mind and debate healthily; something that can be difficult to execute in random internet spaces where the possibility of not being taken seriously by ‘trolls’ is high.

Their interaction is not limited to within the internet – it is not uncommon for them to conduct events such as meet-ups and book clubs where members can get together in real life.

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Figure 5 A list of their past events

what if phones, but too much

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Figure 6 what if phones, but too much group on Facebook

This group was created under a much lighter intention than JFDG that is sharing images that shun technology, particularly phones (although computers and social media are also acceptable), which they find funny. Sometimes they post satirical memes as well. At the moment, the group almost has 14,500 members.

Unlike the previous Facebook communities, there is not much discussion going on in this group because they simply bond over technology-hating memes. From observation, there are two main reasons why the members find humour in these posts:

  1. Irony – the people behind the illustrations and memes share their post in social media, complaining about social media and smartphones, through their smartphones (or other devices they may utilise).
  2. Technology will never stop growing no matter how hard humans try, but many are still stuck in the idea that their generation is the best due to the lack of internet use they were exposed to when they were younger, hence the technology-hating memes.
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Figure 7 A meme shared by member Zane Raptor Zepik

Though these communities serve vastly distinctive purposes, they are established because of the same reason: common interest, similar to how communities in real life are formed. In these groups, it does not matter if a member would like to remain anonymous – it is not unusual for someone to create a fake Facebook or social media profile without intending to scam others, but simply to preserve their privacy – but rules and community guidelines still apply, just like in the offline world, although it is clearly stated unlike in real life where it is merely assumed.

In their book ‘Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design’, Kraut et al. (2012) mentioned that there are four elements that regulate online behaviour, which are laws, norms, markets, and technology. They also stated that when an off-topic conversation arises, people are less likely to insist to talk about it in its original post when it is redirected to a more appropriate forum. In Catspotting’s case, when someone posts their own cat, administrators or other members often point them to another relevant group after reminding them of the rules.

When members violate these rules and sometimes even upset others in the process, administrators of the group remind the person of the rules and disable comments for the inappropriate post, or even deleting it. This proves that even online, there are consequences to an action that should be taken seriously.

Application to social media project

The idea of how virtual communities bring people together (online and offline) was applied to our social media project where we aimed to attract a younger audience to attend the Greenway Series at the Con.

Our strategies revolved around how to create more user engagement across the Con’s social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube), which included sharing of tasteful images and funny memes, directly interacting with audience by replying to their comments, using open-ended questions to spark a discussion, and implementing hashtags to generate more exposure.

When the strategies are successfully executed, a community is formed, thus more people go to the Greenway Series. Although the goal of the project is achieved, there is no reason to terminate the strategies because it is important to maintain the objective.

References

Hinton, Sam, & Hjorth, Larissa. (2013). Social Network Sites Understanding Social Media (pp. 32 – 54). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Kraut, Robert E., Kiesler, Sara, Resnick, Paul. (2012). Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design. Cambridge Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Preece, Jenny, Maloney-Krichmar, Diane, Abras, Chadia. (2003) History and emergence of online communities. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.118.244&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Sidarto, Linawati. (2017) ‘Feminism in Indonesia is under siege by Muslim conservatives’. The Jakarta Post. http://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2017/03/08/feminism-in-indonesia-under-siege-by-muslim-conservatives.html

Assessment 3 · Breastfeeding · Online Communities · Social Media Communication

Online Communities: Milking Mommas

Four years ago, a small group of mothers attended a breastfeeding counsellor’s training in the Philippines. They wanted to share what they learned to other mothers through the internet, so they created a Facebook group called “Breastfeeding Pinays” (Breastfeeding Filipinas).

Unexpectedly, their simple idea which only had 200 members during the first 24 hours from its creation, already grew to an online community with 154, 948 members at present.

It is now composed of mothers, fathers, doctors, midwives, nurses, lactation counsellors and other health professionals.

Within the group, members exchange questions, advices, tips and guidelines about breastfeeding. It categorizes its information through albums that are dedicated to different subjects, such as a compilation of photo instructions on how to achieve a proper latch, or videos on how to cup-feed expressed breastmilk. Members are encouraged to contribute photos or videos to the group’s albums based on their categories.

unang yakap
Members upload photos to the group’s album entitled “Unang Yakap” or “First Embrace”

The group has become so popular in the Philippines, that it has been featured in several articles and television shows—even celebrities joined the group.

Breastfeeding Pinays is an example of a successful online community, where netizens are gathered by shared interests and goals through a social networking site.

Academic Research on Online Communities

Hinton and Hjorth (2013) discussed communities in social media by looking into how online interactions take place and the structures used in these connections.

They digged into the history of online community studies, by pointing out how it was popularized by Howard Rheingold in 1993, when he discussed about an early online community called the WELL (Whole Earth Lectronic Link). This sparked a discussion about the topic both in the media and in academic discussions.

Some scholars saw online communities as socially isolating, as they promoted escapism and removed users from reality and social connections (Wellman & Gullia, 1999, cited in Hinton and Hjorth, 2013, p.37). For others, these communities generated public discussion and democratic participation, making the internet a powerful medium.

Further research into online communities examined the role of offline relationships in communication. Internet studies underwent an ‘ethnographic shift,’ as real-world settings influenced online communication.

In Daniel Miller and Don Slater’s (2001) study on how Trinidadians used the internet, they discovered the important role of the geographical place and the offline social world of users. Their findings showed that being Trinidadian influenced how and why people in Trinidad went online (Miller and Slater, 2001, cited in Hinton and Hjorth 2013, p.39).

This is true for Breastfeeding Pinays where most members are Filipinos living in the Philippines who share the same language and cultural practices. In the group, new members are added because of an invitation or recommendation of an existing member. In most cases, the new member and existing member are both offline friends or acquaintances.

The factor of geographical place, however, has been challenged by scholars such as Manuell Castells and Barry Wellman, who argue that social ties are maintained through internet use despite proximity. People create and maintain relationships because of shared interests and knowledge, even if they have never met in real life. Although these relationships are not strong, Castells points out that they are still important. This is demonstrated by Clay Shirky’s (2008) example of how a lost Motorola Razr phone was recovered through the efforts of an online community.

In the case of Breastfeeding Pinays, overseas mothers, including myself, have joined the group because of our common goal to exclusively breastfeed.

Personally, I feel a special connection to the members of the group despite our distance, and participating in the discussions give me the feeling of a casual conversation with fellow mothers back home.

This kind of connection over distance distinguishes online networks from online communities. An example of the former would be joining a Facebook group of one’s grade school alma mater where offline relationships have already been established and communication only takes place when called for.

With online communities such as Breastfeeding Pinays, connections are created even by people who do not know each other in real life, because of a shared interest that maintains these online relationships. In a community, a collective will is aimed through individual efforts (Tönnies, 2009), and social capital plays a key role in its creation and maintenance (Hinton and Hjorth, 2013, p.42).

The concept of social capital was introduced by Bourdieu (1984 [1979]), who pointed out that the three important kinds of capital that influenced individuals’ tastes were cultural, social and economic.

This can be applied with the chosen example, as one’s choice to commit to exclusive breastfeeding and thus join an online breastfeeding group, can be influenced by one’s upbringing, connections, and economic conditions. These kinds of capitals are important in sustaining the online community.

Rules Governing Online Communities

Park (2011) notes that there are three conditions for a community to exist, namely, membership, expression, and personal connection. I would like to elaborate on the first as it is interesting to note that for memberships to be retained in an online community, established rules should be followed.

For example, the administrators of Breastfeeding Pinays have always emphasized their set of rules within the group. These include the prohibition of textspeak, the posting of advertisements, or the promotion of the use of artificial nipples. Violators are reprimanded and some are even removed from the group.

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Group administrators always remind members of the rules governing their online community

Kiesler S. et al. (2012) in their book, “Building Successful Online Communities,” point out that rules and procedures play an important part in regulating non-normative behaviour in online communities. They note that social norms are usually violated by newcomers, which is why in the case of Breastfeeding Pinays, administrators immediately send new members a copy of the forum’s rules and files upon admission to the group.

When violations become rampant in the group discussion, the list of rules are posted again in the thread and inappropriate posts are deleted.

Kraut R. et al. (2012) also note that there are online users who purposely damage online communities such as trolls, manipulators and spammers.

Trolls gain satisfaction from disrupting communities, so the authors propose that the best way to limit their activity is to ignore them. Manipulators on the other hand, use multiple “shill” accounts to get communities to produce particular outcomes such as in the case of websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor—therefore, posts from suspected manipulators should be filtered out. Meanwhile, a mechanism has been developed by blog platforms to help lessen spammers, by automatically including the rel=nofollow attribute in links embedded in the comments, to prevent search engines from trusting these links (Kraut R. et al., 2012).

The Impact of Online Communities and How they Mobilize the Offline World

I suggest the expansion of the study of online communities by including how they affect online normative behaviour outside their private group. For example, Breastfeeding Pinays has always encouraged its members to post “brelfies” or breastfeeding selfies on their personal social media accounts, not only to encourage breastfeeding but to normalize it as well. The group also endorsed the “Tree of Life” campaign, where brelfies are edited using an application to include tree branches in the picture. This has been an instant trend among the group’s members.

tree of life
Uploaded Tree of Life Brelfies of Group Members

Initiatives by Breastfeeding Pinays and similar online groups have helped lessen the stigma attached to uncensored pictures of babies feeding on the breast that are posted in social networking sites. In fact, in 2015, Facebook changed its policy and removed its ban on breastfeeding photos after years of censoring.

Furthermore, studies show that digital communication technologies mobilize individuals who aim for common goals whether civic or non-civic (Bimer et al., 2012; Earl and Kimport, 2011; Rheingold, 2002). This has been proven by Seo, H. et al. (2014), in their case study on how social media facilitated flash mobs among teenagers.

Online communities also enable mobilization in the offline world by providing a forum to organize activities in line with their objectives.

In Breastfeeding Pinays, different events are brought together such as seminars and counsellor trainings. Breastmilk sharing is even done through requests and donations mentioned in the community discussions by mothers who have never met in real life before.

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One of the organized events of Breastfeeding Pinays where group members feed their children together in public

Application to our Social Media Campaign

The concept of how online communities connect people with shared interests or objectives in spite of distance was applied in the social media campaign we made for #BetheFilter.

Our strategy revolved around the idea of ambassadorship, which aimed to create as many volunteer campaign ambassadors as possible, who will vow to use social media responsibly in terms of news consumption in their social media accounts. It seeks to create an online community among all netizens across borders, with the common belief in the importance of responsible social media use.

Once a successful community of campaign ambassadors is achieved, the strategy aims to spread its influence and make critical thinking part of normative behaviour among internet users in social networking sites.

Conclusion

This essay aimed to examine how online communities are created and maintained through a case study on a popular Facebook group in the Philippines, Breastfeeding Pinays. It first traced Hinton and Hjorth’s (2013) discussion of how academic researchers dissected the concept—wherein some argue that online communities promote escapism, while others contest that they provide a platform for democratic participation. Second, this paper highlighted how offline relationships help in the creation of online communities; however, it is not considered a requirement since online relationships foster in these communities even if the members have not met in real life, as long as there are shared interests and goals. Third, it looked into how rules regulate non-normative behaviour in these communities. Lastly, it challenged to expand the research on the study to include the impact of online communities on normative behaviour outside their private group and how these mobilize individuals to achieve its goals in the offline setting. It will be interesting to see how online communities will foster in the coming years as current social networking sites will soon lose their popularity, and new web portals will emerge into the picture.

 

References:

Assessment 3 · Online Communities · PRODUSERS · Social Media Communication

r/place for everything… A social experiment that defined community

By: Lee Anthony
Class: Kai Soh, Thursdays 12pm

WARNING: Contains some NSFW content

“There is an empty canvas.
You may place a tile upon it, but you must wait to place another.
Individually you can create something.
Together you can create something more.”        

One of the internet’s largest communities staged a 2017 April Fool’s Day joke that quickly became an extraordinary social media experiment. The diversity expressed by users in Reddit’s 72-hour r/place challenge and the social media dynamics they generated came to represent a microcosm of interaction and “produsage” (Bruns, cited in Hinton & Hjorth, p57) in the online world.

More than a bulletin board

Reddit was launched in 2005, as “the front page of the internet” – a news aggregation and social discussion site. It is still often described somewhat clinically as an ‘online bulletin board system’, but its history of community and sub-community activities, language, and memes show it has grown to become much more than that.

Users, or Redditors, have collectively raised funds for numerous charitable causes and hold regular global gift exchanges – including annual Guinness World Record-breaking Secret Santa exchanges.  They can ‘friend’ each other to follow the posts of specific users, discuss topics either publicly or privately, and attend subreddit ‘in-person’ meetups and events in cities around the world, that is, they network (Hinton & Hjorth, p22). Self-policing and gatekeeping (Nissenbaum and Shifman, p485) is effectively under the control of individual subreddit moderators, but Redditors themselves also play a role in community control via the public-post upvoting and downvoting system. Users’ contributions to subreddit discussions earn ‘karma’, or “social capital” (Bourdieu, cited in Hinton & Hjorth, p42); karma has no material benefit, but is a reflection of a contributor’s popularity on Reddit.

The above traits, combined with an active user base, clearly show that Reddit has fulfilled Parks’ “conditions for community: membership, personal expression and connection” (Parks, 2011, cited in Hinton & Hjorth, p43) and, therefore, is a thriving virtual community and not merely a very large forum.

How r/place was built, razed and rebuilt

The 2017 r/place experiment was a fascinating reflection of Reddit’s collective spirit.

The giant social media network created a blank canvas 1000 pixels by 1000 pixels – r/place – and the riddle at the top of this blog was an invitation to users to fill it in. Anyone with a Reddit account created by March 31, 2017, could place one of 16 colours on one pixel at 5-10 minute intervals. During the three days that r/place was active, more than a million unique produsers from all over the world participated in creating and recreating artwork on the canvas.

The concept of a social media platform as a collaborative community space (Hyde, et al, in Mandiberg, Ch5, p53) was clearly evident in r/place. At first, individual pixels dotted the canvas, then users began to form teams to generate recognisable images. New subreddits were created to discuss strategy, as were Discord voice/text chat servers. Later in the exercise, as teams realised they could not be fully represented around the clock, alliances were formed between some to help protect each other’s input.

Popular Reddit memes were a dominant feature. Subreddit teams jostled for space to include their own “sub-cultural” themes (Nissenbaum and Shifman, p484). Early entries included the infamous Dick Butt character, originally drawn by web comic artist K.C. Green, adopted by 4chan and later by Reddit as the theme of its own subreddit. Dick Butt battled for canvas space against another subreddit meme, the Pink Vomit Monster, which survived to the end. Movie, music, game and graphic magazine memes were posted, painted over and reposted; Star Wars fans rendered a large prequel meme – The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise – and one game logo, Osu!, survived multiple ‘attacks’ throughout the three days. A ‘Blue Corner’ posse took over the bottom left of the canvas and soon faced off against a ‘Red Corner’ and the ‘Green Lattice Team’, all of which created their own strategy subreddits during the exercise.

Other cultural representation (Nissenbaum and Shifman, p484) began with nationality subreddits whose teams placed flags or self-referential memes (Singer, et al, p3), for example, r/Australia and r/straya managed to carve out a large, prime position for Aussie themes and defend the space until the end. A Steve Irwin ‘crikey’ memorial sits alongside boxing kangaroo, redback spider, dropbear and Bunnings-snags memes, all linked by the two Down Under subreddits’ classic greeting: “G’day cunts”.

place atlas Australia
The Australian contribution to r/place. Picture: The /r/place Atlas
War and Peace

An international pixel war broke out as nationality teams invaded each other’s spaces to wipe out rival countries’ flags. Many Redditors were particularly impressed by a German flag’s invasion of a French one (below; video: Aidaman TV, YouTube); another team eventually superimposed a European Union banner on a disputed section of the warring factions’ flags (on the final canvas, a peace dove appears in the centre of the EU logo). The US flag was attacked multiple times during the three days and successfully fended off a last-ditch black-out attempt by The Black Void (see trolls, below).

The appearance of advertising logos midway through the exercise outraged some Redditors. As Shareen Pathak of Ad Age warned in 2014: “Redditors overwhelmingly hate marketing in (almost) all its forms… Brands that try to insert themselves as memes are bound to fail”. A Tesla Motors logo added to the canvas was the subject of a subreddit debate about whether or not it and other corporate logos passed the sub-cultural legitimacy test (Goodman, in Ritzer [2004] cited in Nissenbaum and Shifman, p486).

There were peacemakers, including the Rainbow Road Team, and art-lovers who replicated notable works including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

And there were trolls. A group widely suspected to be 4chan users and supporters swarmed to r/place as The Black Void, collectively attempting (and ultimately failing) to fill the canvas with black pixels.

BlackVoid
The Black Void, r/place. Picture: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/rplace

Of concern to all teams was that their turf would be attacked while they slept. Whole threads on subreddits were devoted to the question of whether to just let it go until morning or organise shifts. On dualshockers.com, Redditor Lou Contaldi described the angst thus:

“A mythos had been created overnight. There were protagonists, antagonists and pure evil taking over the r/place grid. Wars had been started and ended overnight, alliances had been drawn and the war was raging on tirelessly.”

The battles for control of the canvas are an example of “co-operation epidemics and insurgence” by “smart mobs” (Seo, et al, p887). But, as with other multi-player online games, not all the ‘mobs’ were human. Some individuals and teams created and ran bots to colour pixels on their behalf; this was not against the rules of r/place and was even anticipated by the developers. Others took pride in handcrafting their contributions and discouraged team members from using bots.

After 72 hours, r/place closed as abruptly as it had started.

A community-driven “labor of love”

On an official blog summary of r/place, Reddit’s Josh Wardle and Justin Basset explained the canvas was created to “explore human interaction at scale”:

“We thought that for every one person that wanted to do something negative, there would be thousands that wanted to overwrite that with something positive—and we were right. It turns out collaborating to make something bad is far harder than collaborating to make something good.”

The r/place experiment and its final canvas have been hailed by Redditors and onlookers as a successful demonstration of “the internet of everything” (Open Mind, August 29, 2016). Has it furthered understanding of the workings of a social network community? Yes. Discussions and analyses are continuing on numerous forums, media and other sites weeks after the project ended. In addition, the r/place produsers’ input goes beyond the colouring exercise, and to date includes mid- and post-canvas user-created content such as:

  • Bot scripts for placing pixels on a user’s behalf
  • Data visualisations and statistical analysis (links following citations)
  • An interactive atlas of the final art
  • Time-lapse tracking and videos
  • Blogging and citizen journalism articles

One of the best summaries of r/place – underlining Reddit’s status as an active virtual community – was posted by u/_eltanin_ on Reddit’s post-r/place analysis on April 4, 2017:

“What started off as a blank canvas with vague instructions… shortly but surely became a community-driven labor of love that spawned territorial control and aggression, coordinated efforts to build, attack, defend and rebuild, debates over real estate allocation, diplomatic talks and alliances, faction sanctioned protection and other various activities that you’d least expect to come from a random social experiment whose main goal was simply to draw things on a canvas.”

Citations

Bourdieu, P., translated Nice, R. (1986) The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (New York, Greenwood), 241-258.

Bruns, A. (2008) Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang.

Goodman, D., edited Ritzer, G. (2004) Consumption as a social problem. Handbook of social problems: A comparative international perspective (pp. 226-245). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Hinton, S. & Hjorth, L. (2013) Understanding social media. London: Sage Publications.

Hyde, A., Linksvayer, M., kanarinka, Mandiberg, M., Peirano, M., Tarka, S., Taylor, A., Toner, A., Zer-Aviv, M, edited Mandiberg, M. (2012). What Is Collaboration Anyway? The Social Media Reader. Ch5. NYU Press.  http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy1.library.usyd.edu.au/lib/usyd/detail.action? docID=865738. Accessed April 15, 2017.

Nissenbaum, A., & Shifman, L. (2015). Internet memes as contested cultural capital: The case of 4chan’s /b/ board. New Media & Society, 19(4), 146144481560931. doi:10.1177/1461444815609313

Parks, M., edited Papacharissi, Z., & ebrary, I. (2010). Social network sites as virtual communities. A networked self: Identity, community and culture on social network sites. Ch5 (pp. 105-123). New York: Routledge.

Pathak, S. (March 10, 2014). Reddit hates marketing. How to market on it anyway. http://adage.com/article/special-report-sxsw/reddit-hates-marketing-market/292068/. Accessed April 16, 2017.

Seo, H., Houston, J. B., Knight, L. A. T., Kennedy, E. J., & Inglish, A. B. (2014). Teens’ social media use and collective action. New Media & Society, 16(6), 883-902. doi:10.1177/1461444813495162

Singer, P., Flöck, F., Meinhart, C., Zeitfogel, E., & Strohmaier, M. (2014). Evolution of Reddit: From the front page of the internet to a self-referential community? doi:10.1145/2567948.2576943. Accessed April 15, 2017.

The Internet of Everything (IoE). Open Mind. August 29, 2016. https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/the-internet-of-everything-ioe/. Accessed April 17, 2017.

r/place: some data and analysis links

Data on Reddit:

https://www.reddit.com/r/redditdata/comments/6640ru/place_datasets_april_fools_2017/

https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/646ykd/some_of_the_artwork_of_rplace_in_numbers_oc/

Individual redditors’ r/place contribution search:
http://www.facethedayapp.com/