Posted by: lunacouture | February 17, 2008

Reading Response Week 4

The book Naked Conversations commences by putting everything into perspective for the reader. It paints a clear picture in terms of how companies may channel technology towards their greater good.  The authors suggest that blogs help consumers view businesses more favorably. The book uses the example of how Microsoft started blogging in order to seem more approachable to its consumers.  Along these same principles, the book also suggests that businesses will function best once they tune in and realize what the public thinks about them.  They emphasize that this may be particularly useful for smaller businesses.  Blogs seem to create conversation by causing people to be more open about what they say. The text argues that publishing on any number of issues gives people a sense of collectivity and working together.   

The text discusses this idea of the “word-of-mouth” (p.43) relating to blogs. The concept is that blogs will be able to spread news faster and probably more accurately than any other communication method, due to people’s natural inclination of indulging in conversation.  It is also harder to hide issues because everyone is on the lookout for new information that can be made accessible to the public in a matter of minutes.  In the final chapters, the book also discusses blogging tendencies around the world.  It is interesting to note that even within the same continent, there are such discrepancies. The example they give is France that has many more bloggers than Germany, despite the lower population level overall.  The book emphasizes that cultural habits and mentalities will have the largest impact on the way people blog.                  

 Although Scoble and Israel make some excellent points, there are some aspects with which I do not concord.  For instance, I do not agree that all businesses are better off if they start blogging.  While I think it’s advisable for businesses to keep up to date with what is going on, I do not think all business types necessarily work well with a blog. I think it really depends on the type of business and what they are working to promote or sell. Some businesses have products that may be of greater interest to the public, so customer feedback is necessary and appreciated.  On the other hand, some businesses may operate in sectors in which it is best for them to keep on a low profile and work with a very specific type of clientele. In this case exposing this type of company on the web with a blog is probably not in the company’s best interest, primarily for reasons related to privacy. 

I agree with the book’s point that blogs have helped society speak more openly about several issues.  Citizens will be more honest about what they write, as opposed to the media which does not always present readers with the full story. This has proven to be true, and people have done a great job at overcoming this breach in the digital age. A relevant, recent example is the scandal associated with the American Idol TV show.  People are speculating that the show is possibly fixed this season, as several of the contestants were not amateurs.  I have never watched the show and yet I know all about what is happening, thanks to bloggers who have done research and written several posts on the issue.   As someone who has some experience working in show business, I am not surprised to know of these occurrences.  However, people who are not familiar with the business can now know what’s going on thanks to the potency of blogs.    

 What’s even more remarkable is the sense of collectivity mentioned in the readings that can be seen throughout the web.  I recently discovered a travel blog on the New York Times.  I think it is remarkable the way people post their travel related questions and then someone they do not even know responds to them accurately.  This is also a perfect example of the word-of-mouth idea mentioned in the book that gets around much more effectively on the web.  In the past, travelers were mostly dependent on travel agencies for answers, which surely had their own interests in promoting certain destinations. Today they can get a more realistic view of what a place is like by listening to the experience of others.  

I thought the cultural differences mentioned in the book with regards to how people blog was fascinating.  As someone who lives in Europe at the moment, I was surprised to see the statistics.  It is interesting because Germany is considered to be one of the most technologically advanced countries in Europe and yet they do not like to use technology for blogging purposes.  In comparison, places such as Italy that are later adaptors of technology, seem to be more comfortable using blogs, as mentioned in last week’s book We the Media.  I think this is interesting because it demonstrates that having a blog is not about being technologically savvy, but rather about a culture’s level of expression. No doubt Italy is a low-context culture, with a population of extroverts that oppose society openly. I think this makes them more suited for blogging. The book mentions that German people are more reserved, which makes them less inclined to blogging. If they do not express themselves much in person, it is probably not very likely they feel comfortable doing so on the web.  

Much of what was written by Scoble and Israel reminds me of what has been stated by Gillmor.  He suggested not undermining blogs because they may really produce some amazing outcomes.  Gillmor also mentions how citizen journalism is slowly replacing traditional journalism because people tend to be skeptical of traditional news sources.  Gillmor also talked more about countries that may not encourage freedom of speech (such as Iraq and China), and how blogging in these nations is more difficult.  Scoble and Israel are focusing more into the Western world and why blogs have not reached widespread popularity is some countries yet. All three of these authors would agree that Hollywood and the music industry have been hit hard by the digital age. I would have liked to see more in Scoble and Israel about copyright issues that may arise from using electronic sources.   

The assigned reading blogs for this week also tied into some of the points that both Gillmor, Scoble, and Israel have made in their books.  In his blog, Jay Rosen from Pressthink presents a cynical view on the media, trying to remind readers that it is indeed an entity, rather than an individual making decisions. His critique is thought provoking and gets to the point that the media no longer gives the public what they really want. I think that Gillmor, Scoble and Israel would all agree on this point because they forsee and even greater increase in citizen journalism. All these would also support the notion that citizens are creating the news nowadays, in a manner that’s more interesting to the public.  

 Israel and Scobe’s point that the businesses must be aware and adapt to changes in the digital age can be seen in the two blogs we read for this week.  PaidContent reports that Borders Books and Music is opening up a digital store starting in May.  Borders Books and Music has taken advantage of digital technology and used it to benefit their company.  Similarly, a blog on the Washington Post  announced at the beginning of the month that there would be a specific blog set up to keep people up to date with the technological advances taking place in businesses of the DC area. These pieces of information support Israel and Scobe’s point that business need to be au courant of technological developments if they are to survive.             

The week’s readings show that blogs have a remarkable way of connecting everyone around the world through a mutual exchange of information.  The readings also suggest that the digital age opens its doors to everyone.  Anyone can participate and contribute to an expanding plethora of information on the internet, regardless of where you come from. It would have been hard to imagine any of this taking place ten years ago, which indicates that society has come a long way.   

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