Blog 2

Blog assignment posts

I Found You: The (U/Dys)topia of Geofencing

Geofencing refers to a virtual barrier, which, when entered, presents viewers with location-based push notifications

Geofencing refers to a virtual barrier, which, when entered, presents viewers with location-based push notifications

Imagine the following scenario. You’ve arrived at your local grocery store with one hand on the cart and the other on your phone, which holds your shopping list. You enter the store, and immediately, without prior notice, your phone begins actively buzzing. A flood of notifications pop up on your lock screen, advertising “buy one can of soup get one for $0.99,” and “SALE! OLIVE OIL for $3.99!” Such is a world with geofencing, and its coming quickly.

A geofence is a virtual barrier. It uses your phone’s GPS or radio frequency identification (RFID) to recognize that you have entered a certain area, and can push notification to your device, should you allow it. Geofencing is important and cool! As mentioned in the example above, phones can behave differently depending on which area they approach. A restaurant, for example, can trigger a text message with the day’s specials to customers who enter a defined geographical area. It can be easy to consider this feature as the next-generation of location-based, digital awareness. It allows our devices to connect with the world around us, and enrich our lives by merging digital content with live content.

But such features are controversial. In an age where privacy issues hold precedence over innovation, geofencing can be a risky move by retailers. How would you react to retailers gaining access to your location as you walk about a mall or a shopping district? Would you prefer to be bombarded with offers and specials? Not many people, I presume, would answer positively.

Fred Turner from Stanford University’s Department of Communication points out a dominant approach to explaining the rise of digital libertarianism in America in his piece, “How Digital Technology Found Utopian Ideology: Lessons From the First Hackers’ Conference.” This approach affirms: “[N]ew technology will bring universal wealth, enhanced freedom, revitalized politics, satisfying community, and personal fulfillment.” Can geofencing bring all of these values to a not-so-easily accepting public? Furthermore, how can we consider geofencing as a conduit to enhanced freedom when marketers decide what content gets pushed to our devices? These are all questions that challenge the utopian view of location-based push notifications, which – despite being present on most modern smartphones – has yet to take off with the mainstream market.

Geofencing has tremendous, clear benefits. It is a matter of protecting privacy and maintaing marketing integrity in the implementation of geofencing. In the meantime, still expect to be clipping coupons for your local grocery store for a few more years.

For more information on geofencing and its implications in the retail industry, check out this Wall Street Journal article titled, “Geofencing: Can Texting Save Stores.” It provides insight into retail attempts to combat “showrooming,” where a shopper comes into a store to see an item but then makes the purchase online after finding a better price via smartphone.


Tweet Tweet

Since joining Twitter in 2011, I’ve tweeted almost 6,000 times. Usually, my tweets consist of silly pictures, random thoughts, and the occasional horoscope retweet – never anything important or serious. For example…
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It’s obvious that I don’t put much thought into my tweets and creating a “thick tweet” had never even crossed my mind. While writing my thick tweets, it was a struggle to fit the entirety of my message into only 140 characters. It was also difficult to find the RIGHT content to post. I wanted something that represented who I am, but also something that my followers would be interested in. For my first tweet, I posted a link to a quirky article about Mondays.
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Today being Monday, I figured the content would be relevant and the title would be enough to make my followers want to click the link. My second tweet was a link to a blog post and playlist. Again, I felt that it caught the reader’s attention with it’s play on words.
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In both of my thick tweets, the content was very accessible through the links. In today’s culture of constant media consumption, I like that information is so easy to attain information. Contrary to what Carr argues, I think it’s good that we have so much content at our fingertips. Instead of making us dumber, Twitter opens new realms of communication. It gives the user the opportunity to share bite size thoughts quickly and efficiently. Dibbell argues that Twitter is a more productive mode of communication, which I and probably most of my generation would agree to be true. As she points out, Twitter is a multi-faceted network that can be used to market oneself, connect with friends, stay updated with family, etc.

Blog Post 2

The age of Facebook has finally started to pass, and from its ashes a new form of media has taken its place. This new social media is Twitter. As someone who is fairly active in social media, the appeal of Twitter is very apparent. The problem with Facebook is the fact that there is a certain social norm for the way people post. People who constantly post and rant via Facebook are looked at as out-of-the-ordinary. Why is this the case? Well, Facebook is a way to interact with a large pool of people in a way that shows off who we are. There is this sort of ‘formal’ feeling in presenting our personal information, activities, occupations, pictures, etc., to the public. It is almost like an online resume of who you are and what you do, and while it is okay to post opinionated posts, it can be seen as annoying if one is constantly ranting via Facebook. The typical user does not want to hear all the nitty-gritty details of people’s opinions, especially if they don’t really know them that well.

So, if people want to rant or talk about anything from political issues to what they had for lunch, where do they go? To Twitter!! Twitter is a designated space where there is less focus on presenting personal information and more focus on just letting our random tid-bits of information. It is a good way for people to say what is on their mind. There is also this notion what my friends call ‘Twitter Therapy.’ This is when a person uses twitter to vent on things that may be on their mind, and a lot of the time they feel better after!

Twitter also differs in Facebook in the sense that it focuses on shorter updates, having a text limit for tweets. While some of us may find this method of shorter text intervals convenient, others see harm in it. With short bits of information that are being updated every few minutes, we see the way information is presented changes, and thus the way we receive information changes. It is Nicohlas Carr that describes this new way of receiving information as a “swiftly moving stream of particles.” Since this stream is giving us new information constantly, he believes it is taking away from the brains ability to form strong neural connections. This negatively affects the brain and how we take in information. He tries to come to the point that this will actually make us dumber. Now, maybe the method by which we receive information has changed, but that does not necessarily imply that this change is a bad thing. For some, a constant exposure to various sources of information may actually be a more effective way to process information.

Regardless of the opinions on Twitter, good or bad, it is safe to say that twitter is going to be around for a while. It is a growing form of media that is both easy and fun to use!

The “Social Network” of 140 Characters

I joined Twitter early last year for the sole reason of procuring what the hype was about. That’s it. The only social network I devotedly followed was Facebook. The reason? I wanted to check out what my friends were up to on a daily basis, and if anything interesting from the web was posted or shared. Before I even tap on the CNN for my daily dose of news, major stories are shared by my friends online. Twitter was a whole different ball game. Its vernacular was a difficult adjustment. I found pleasure in adding “friends,” aka celebrities who I found interesting, talented, or historical, maybe even a combination. Now, my twitter account contains less than a handful of people I have actually met, and hundreds of people whose posts I deem as “entertainment news.” A symbol of Twitter’s rise to the top of my social networking priorities lies in its position on my iPhone’s home screen: adjacent to the instantly recognizable blue “f.”

Thick Tweets 

Using this twitter account, I tweeted the following tweets in hopes of visualizing and practicing the act of producing thick tweets.

Thick tweets, according to author David Silver’s appropriately-titled blog post, “The Difference Between Thin and Thick Tweets“, are tweets that convey two or more layers of information (often with help from a hyperlink) as opposed to one layer like that of a thin tweet.

My first thick tweet, discussing Apple's release of the iPhone 6.

My first thick tweet, discussing Apple’s release of the iPhone 6.

First Thick Tweet

My first thick tweet refers to the recent launch of the widely-popular, next-generation versions of Apple’s acclaimed smartphone brand, the iPhone. After a typically popular release, Apple released information stating that they had acquired more than 4 million preorders of the two versions of the phone in less than 24 hours. Apple’s new iPhone 6 is coupled with the next version of its highly-regarded iOS software, which has infamously opened its latches for consumers to begin to customize their phone more than ever before. Per Silver’s description of the purpose of a thick tweet, I attempted to post a tweet that packed multiple layers of information within 140 characters in an attempt to “craft creative, meaty, and to-the-point messages that attract other people’s attention” (Silver). Now, due to the lack of close friends associated with me on Twitter, and due to my lack of active followers, my tweet will garner little-to-no attention, and that is perfectly okay.

That is perfectly okay for me for two reasons:

1) I had not only acquired the knowledge, but also practiced producing thick tweets.

2) My Twitter is used so that I can follow celebrities, entertainers, politicians, and popular media outlets. I know that I can receive responses on Facebook, where I have hundreds in my friends list, many of which are active users.

Can my tweet be considered a thick tweet, even though it lacks a hyperlink (the limit of 140 characters has never been easy to accept)? I think so. I included multiple layers of information within Twitter’s 140 character limit, namely: the release of Apple’s next-gen smartphones, its software iOS 8 enriching the platform, and iOS 8’s open customization options.

My second thick tweet, introducing Chicago's Macaroni and Cheese festival in the fall!

My second thick tweet, introducing Chicago’s Macaroni and Cheese festival in the fall

Second Thick Tweet

My second thick tweet is in reference to a macaroni and cheese-based festival in Chicago this fall. As a macaroni and cheese lover, I used the 140 characters of the tweet to call out Mac and Cheese lovers (1), tell them about an exciting event in Chicago this fall (2), and refer them to a link that, according to Silver, not only gives more information about the event in my tweet, but “is so compelling that no reader in his or her right mind can avoid clicking the link” (Silver).


Why does thick tweeting matter? Isn’t social networking all about producing short bits of information? Well, not exactly. It’s about producing short bits of effective, impactful information (No, your cat memes and mirror selfies are not impactful). Thick tweets bring substance to an otherwise widely criticized digital lifestyle that authors like Nicholas Carr deride for reducing literacy rates and standardized test scores. In his piece, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in the current issue of the Atlantic magazine, Carr warns that the Web was changing the way he — and others — think. “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation,” he wrote, confessing that he now found it difficult to read long books.

What Carr, and other critics, fail to recognize at times is that the world, and its culture, are ever-evolving, and while the importance of reading cannot be understated, digital lifestyles are becoming ever-more prevalent and appealing. Rather than critiquing digital lifestyles like social networking, its imperative to adapt and evolve them to best serve as both a knowledge base and a communications tool.

Motoko Rich, in “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” discusses the Internet as being more about a conversation, whereas books are more of a one-way ordeal. Our interaction and involvement through social networking in this “conversation” format may be even more cognitively demanding in the digital age than analyzing literary texts themselves. Internet reading, social networking, and essentially researching involve locating information quickly and accurately, and eventually corroborating findings on multiple sites and from multiple sources. As Rich states, “some literacy experts say that reading itself should be redefined. Interpreting videos or pictures, they say, may be as important a skill as analyzing a novel or a poem” (Rich). As the landscape of acquiring and sharing knowledge – the premise of books and the internet – drastically changes in the digital age, reading should not be the only thing redefined. Our existing culture and traditions should not define us. Rather, they should conform to our ever-changing nature. Imagine reading a tweet this long. You can’t, right? That’s because, in this age, people prefer to get these ideas – and much more – in 140 characters of less. Is that great? Maybe, and maybe not. But for the time being, let’s make some thick tweets. Anyone want to join me for the Macaroni and Cheese festival?

Discussion Questions

Let’s discuss two ideas I think are important in understanding the evolution of media

1) How would you redefine reading and writing in terms of literacy in the digital age?

2) What would be the best way to encourage online literacy while maintaining standardized test scores and strong reading habits?

The following article by Liz Lightfoot in The Independent describes a government adviser’s attempt to make English primary schoolchildren the most hi-tech in the world. However, he is combated by critics who worry that skills such as tweeting and blogging might affect their ability to understand the basics. Read the article here, and sound off in the comments below about your reaction to the article!



More than a hashtag

Before reading Silver’s article on The Difference Between Thick and Thin Tweets, I thought of Twitter as a place to be sarcastic about my life in 140 characters or less. I would always add a witty punchline at the end, crafting a perfect joke into something short and without punctuation so it can follow a hashtag symbol. Outside from my friends, I only chose to follow the accounts of people who were funny and of newscasters as well as major news sources. I wanted my Twitter feed to only be filled with current events, from CNN to Rolling Stone Magazine, and jokes, from Adam Devine to Modern Seinfeld. I would read these tweets while on public transportation, figuring out what is going on in the world and simultaneously laughing at it.

My first thought to Silver’s definition of what constitutes a thick tweet was that these are the tweets I usually skim over. When something doesn’t grab my attention right away, I scroll. If something looks like it uses all 140 characters in a cluttered way, I scroll. This “Internet prowling”, as Rich describes in his article Literacy Debate: RU Really Reading?, is not meant to replace reading a book. I’m not expanding my creativity with a fiction novel or having an internal philosophical debate with Plato’s Symposium. I simply use Twitter as a way to quickly stay informed and temporarily entertained. I am taking advantage of the Internet’s ability to give to me different points of view and in a shorter amount of time than it would take me to get that information from a book.

I never realized that I could be the tweet someone clicks on in order to look at an interesting article included among the 140 characters. I was always doing the clicking. From one source to the next, I filled my transit time by jumping from one spot on the web to a different one. My tweets never included anything more than an “@” or a “#”. I didn’t link to the pages I was looking and reacting to. It’s not that I didn’t want to share what I was seeing with my twitter followers, it’s just that the thought never occurred to me to use Twitter in that way. Which is ridiculous, because now I see that Twitter in the perfect platform for posting a short reaction to an article you just read. I like how Zachary Sims, quoted in Rich’s article, describes the Internet as more of a conversation. Thick tweets are a perfect example of that. 140 characters opening up a discussion with your Twitter followers. 140 characters encouraging thought, debate, and reaction.

When do you catch yourself skimming over tweets? Whose tweets are they? What do they look like?

Did you find yourself using Twitter in a more conversational way after posting your thick tweets?

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I also found an article from last year, on Twitter’s advertising blog, about how mobile devices are connected to the use of Twitter. This blog post breaks down mobile users into statistics and includes commentary for advertisers. This opens up a whole new discussion, but since we had been talking about “filter bubbles”, I figured it was relevant to see how marketing direction changes based on how users interact with these platforms.

Capturing Attention in 140 Characters or Less

As far as social medias go, Twitter is one that most people seem to be familiar with. It is especially popular among high school and college students in that it provides an outlet to stay connected with other students. We all use twitter differently; we all have our own way of tweeting. Some of us tweet quotes, some tweet experiences, some tweet only to talk to other people. In the past, I’ve never thought too thoroughly about what I was tweeting and why I was tweeting it. I never stopped to think about the difference between a thick and a thin tweet. I never really spent more than 5 or 10 minutes deciding what my 140 characters would be. However, this week, I had the opportunity to really think about what I was posting and why I was posting it. I posted two ‘thick’ tweets that expressed more than just what I ate for breakfast. The first thick tweet I chose to make was a quote concerning doing what you love, with an article about motivation and the ability to lead a creative life. Both the quote and the article I hyperlinked immediately spoke to me in that it directed mainly to generation y, and the power of living a creative life.

Discussion question #1: When you really think about it, what kind of tweets attract your attention?
This article explains the power of twitter and how it’s not merely an outlet to express our thoughts and observations, but it is beginning to be a tool to help us find jobs and make money etc.

Rich’s article, “Literary Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” relates to the way that I use the internet the most in that I often spend much of my time online reading. For example, in both of my thick tweets I linked online articles that I had read. I spend a lot of time reading online books and online articles rather than actual books simply for the simplistic nature of doing so. These articles inspire me to write my own online articles and to read more and more to maybe gain insight with each piece I read.

I found the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” by Nicholas Carr to also somewhat relate to the way in which I use social media and the Internet. I often use twitter to direct me to interesting facts, or articles, or listacle, all things that would technically fall into the category of “reading”. According to the article, Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University believes the way in which we read online differs from past ways of reading in that the web relies on efficiency and immediacy above all this. She claims this may be weakening our capacity for deep reading, and our capacity to make rich mental connections that form when we read deeply without distraction. When I read this, at first I was a little bit offended. I began to think about how often I read online and whether this was weakening MY ability to read deeply. I think that this claim does hold some truth in that the Internet does primarily focus on providing information quickly and in the smallest amount of characters (ex: Twitter). However, I also believe that as time goes on, so does the way in which we do things. I think that although we may read differently, and we may be slowly changing the way in which we think, that it is inevitable.

Discussion question #2: Can we really grow as a culture, as a society, if we continue to do things the same way?



You Are What You Tweet

By Chelsea Kuchik

I‘ve been a part of the twitter-verse for some time now, but the relationship has been touch and go. In freshman year of college, my social media peak (I’m talking 3-4 Facebook posts a day. Yes, I was that girl.) a friend recommended I use twitter as an outlet for all of this “expression” I was spamming via Facebook.

Yes, the truth was harsh, but honest. I eventually came to really like the beauty of twitter, the ability to subscribe yourself to all these little blips of…whatever, really.

I could follow @seinfeldquotes, @sprinkleschicago, @evilhag (Aubrey Plaza), and all my friends in one place. Scrolling through for a good laugh or a possible codeword for a free cupcake while sitting on the train, or being able to post my sassy witticisms made the app something I thoroughly enjoyed.

Or at least, that’s how it was.

As a journalism major, or just a young adult slowly hurtling towards the “adult world,” things started to come into perspective. I started to learn twitter wasn’t just a place to dump Facebook status overflow, or sassy things you didn’t want everyone to read.

For one assignment I had to try to reach a journalist for an interview. I wrote a nicely worded and well thought out email, and waited. No response. I told my teacher and she quickly responded “Tweet ’em! Retweet and comment on their stories! Tweet ’em!” Let’s just say it was a shock. A 40-something year old woman was telling me I was using social media wrong. The world spun.

Long story short, I had no clue what to do. How could I reconcile this sassy twitter persona, who I felt was me, with professional writer Chelsea, who was another version of me? I wasn’t sure I could be both in one place. Could the girl who tweeted “omg everyone is a dumb idiot today” (not my most eloquent moment, but it was a rough day, okay?) also tweet links to her articles and comment on important hard news?

I did what any normal 20-something would do, avoided the problem. I created a second account.

Is it harder to manage? Sure. Do I feel safer from future employers or teachers judging me based off of my “trying to be as funny as Mindy Kaling but not quite there” tweets? Definitely.

Overall, I feel like my twitter experience does mirror many topics covered by Nicholas Carr and then disputed by Clay Shirky. On the one hand, my on/off again relationship has ebbed and flowed with my beliefs not only as a person, but as a fledgling journalist. Do I want to think that I know the news because I read a headline? (Because let’s be honest, how many times do you actually follow that link?) Do I really want my thoughts to be turned into English mush, where even hard news can look like a tween tweeted it?

Not only that, but like Eli Pariser said in his TedTalk, am I subscribing to a universe where I only hear what I want? No wonder I was trying to tweet like Mindy Kaling, hers and similar twitters were all I was really following.

So maybe I am only seeking what I want, but maybe that’s why twitter is so popular.

Maybe my “avoidance” of the split-personality issue was actually the answer to another problem. By subscribing to two universes: funny and professional, personal and public, I haven’t completely eliminated my information bubble, but I’ve certainly had to expand it.