An interesting blog site…

While searching ‘Social media + food’ in Twitter, I came across a tweet by HootSuite that shared a link to http://blog.hootsuite.com/dining-social-media/. I recommend reading this blog, because its a good read and provides lots of interesting facts.

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Mobile technology access in Rwanda

Aside

Technology gives users freedom, symbolises wealth and revolutionises the way we live. In different societies, technology can varying in its uses and significance. In Jonathan Donner’s ‘The social and economic implications of mobile telephony in Rwanda: An ownership/Access typology’ (Donner, J. 2006. Knowledge, Technology and Policy, 19 (2): 17-28), the significance of the digital divide is discussed and the African country of Rwanda is explored as a case study.

The reading contextalises Rwanda as a developing nation, still recovering from genocide and a civil war that happened in 1994. Despite this, the use of mobile technology is incrementally rising and Donner explains that in Rwanda it has been both socially and economically beneficial for Rwandans. Mobile technology has encouraged productivity in the region for example businesses can now carry out their business over the phone with their clients. In terms of social implications, mobile technology has helped to connect the 8 million Rwandans whom mostly live in rural areas; it helps keep families and friends in touch with each other.

‘Rwandans are quite optimistic about the potential of mobiles to
improve their lives, and express this optimism by voting with their pocketbooks,
buying and using mobiles almost whenever possible.’ (Donner, 2006, p. 26)

Mobile phone cultures and the reporting of crises and disasters

Larissa Hjorth and Kyoung-hwa Yonnie Kim’s ‘The Mourning After: A case study of social media in the 3.11 earthquake disaster in Japan’ (2011) and Stuart Allan’s ‘Citizen Journalism and the Rise of “Mass Self-Communication”: Reporting the London bombings’ (2007), both explore the significance of how citizens use mobile phones and social media during natural disasters and crises. Because mobile phones, allow us to be on the move and give us access to the Internet wherever we go, this means that we can access the latest news as well report on events that we experience firsthand. In Hjorth and Kim’s article, it is argued that social media helps users to deal with their situation (Hjorth and Kim, Television and New Media, 2011, p. 552) and provides an outlet to channel their thoughts and opinions in times of crises or disasters. Social media provides an effective means to capture and share information quickly and efficiently. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter give the public a virtual space for people to network and consolidate action. In addition to this, social media offers a sense of intimacy (Hjorth and Kim, 2011, Television and New Media, p. 554) and immediacy for example in the immediate aftermath following the London bombings citizen journalists were sharing with the online world the crisis they were baring witness to and their perspective on it.

Kim and Hjorth do briefly mention that there are limitations of social media, namely that users are defining their own boundaries because they have the power to choose who they connect to and what content they expose themselves to (Hjorth and Kim, 2011, Television and New Media, p. 554). I think this limitation also applies to other media formats, for instance when watching TV, a viewer can choose whether they would like to watch a cooking show or whether they would rather watch the news. Social media like a TV remote gives the user control to what they want and consume what they like.

Trustworthiness of news

In this digital era that we live in, anyone can produce news and news can be almost anything. The question is who do we trust to give us this news and should we trust it?

The rise of citizen journalists has demonstrated that the audience want to be a part of the news process but their credibility at times can be questionable, which is why Axel Bruns argues that journalists act as gatekeepers that safeguard the quality of news whilst adhering to a code of journalistic values and ethics. These values include producing news that is honest, accurate and objective. News consumers will always go to traditional news websites for reliable and objective information.

However, times are changing and blogs and journalism are now dependent or rather benefit from each other. J. D. Lasica’s ‘Transparency begets trust in the Ever-Expanding Blogosphere’ (Online Journalism Review, 2004) discusses how the ‘transparency of blogging has contributed to news organizations becoming a bit more accessible and interactive’ which echoes the issues analysed in WordPress blogger Andrewhorgansblog’s ‘Analysis of Rosen’s People Formerly known as the audience’ which was mentioned in my previous post.

Lasica argues that blogs will not supersede traditional news media but admits that they will compliment them in significant ways. This is obvious when we look at the huge numbers of netizens who are turning to blogs for information and opinions on certain topics, for instance with food reviews it is now much more convenient to read food blogs online than it is to physically go to the newsagents to buy a newspaper which only has a select number of restaurant reviews that may not even interest the reader. Yet in saying that we are more likely to trust the words and judgements of a professional over an amateur’s but increasingly we are turning to citizen journalists as an alternative source of information.

Journos & bloggers in the digital era

In Hayes, Singer and Ceppos ‘Shifting roles, enduring values: The credible journalist in a digital age’ (Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol. 22, issue 4, 2007) their findings argue that ‘the professional culture of traditional journalism has a strong inertia in the online newsrooms that prevents them from developing most of the ideals of interactivity, as they do not fit in the standardized news production routines.’ (Hayes et al, 2007, p. 680)

The rise of weblogs and social media sites as well as multimedia have revolutionised the Internet. Not only has it empowered traditional journalists but it has also rewritten the role of the audience. ‘People formerly known as the audience’ can now take an active approach to the new and actually create their own content. These people are commonly referred to as citizen journalists.

Blogger andrewhorgansblog’s ‘Analysis of Rosen’s People Formerly known as the audience’ on WordPress states that this news system now embraces the former audience and he disagrees with the trend that Jay Rosen suggests about how many in the media industry are concerned about the public’s ability to produce their own news. He justifies his argument by juxtaposing the interactivity and effectiveness of the Guardian’s and the Irish Examiner’s website. Andrewhorgansblog highlights that of the two, the Guardian has been more successful in integrating citizen journalists and social media platforms into their site and hence attracting more news consumers which reinforces the idea that citizen journalists and online journalists can work together well.

The advent of the Internet has definitely empowered the audience and gives them the power to have control over when and what they want to consume online. Now netizens can even create their own news content which does have some cynics scared because they are worried it will rewrite the role of a journalist and criticise the shortcomings of the media industry. Although for the large part, in this online environment I think that it has been very advantageous for journalists because now they can reach a wider audience, they can pick up on scoops more quickly and give consumers the quality as well as credibility that other online content may lack.

Continuing in the same vein, it is also the role of journalists to inform the public about the dangers and benefits of eating certain foods. For example, without journalists how would we know that foods like chocolate when eaten help to release endorphins that make you feel good and that eaten in moderation dark chocolate can be good for your health?

Social and political uses of YouTube and Facebook

YouTube like Facebook has the ability to reach millions all around the world. Both social tools connect netizens and provide a platform for users to share content with other users. They document reality and portray events, opinions as well as ideas. Hence, both YouTube and Facebook have been (and still are) utilised for social and political purposes. Alex ‏@viettan160 tweeted (4:22 AM, 10 Oct 12) “It’s amazing how social media has transformed communications—meeting new friends, discovering food blogs http://hochiminhcookingclass.com/

In Mary Grace Antony and Ryan J. Thomas’ ‘“This is citizen journalism at its finest”: YouTube and the public sphere’ (in New Media and Society, 2010), the role of citizen journalism and that of mainstream journalism are examined. They draw on the work of Donohue et al, to discuss how journalism has been relegated from a watchdog that safeguarding society to a guard dog. As a ‘sentry’, (Antony & Thomas, 2010: 1282) the mainstream media is no longer fulfilling the ideal of the fourth estate (as the fourth pillar of democracy) but instead it now protects the interests of powerful stakeholders. This transition they argue is a result of the rise of citizen journalism and the reconceputualisation of the public sphere. Habermas’ theory of public sphere is defined as ‘a network for communicating information and points of view’ (Habermas, 1996: 360) and in saying that it is obvious that YouTube and Facebook are both part of the public sphere.

 

Antony and Thomas, analyse the Oscar Grant shooting incident that occurred in January of 2009 as a case study to demonstrate the effectiveness of social media in terms of providing a forum for discussion and bringing about justice for the victim.

 

I think that in many ways, YouTube and Facebook perpetuate social and political uses. Though the motivations behind the use of these social media may not be apparent at first, there is always a reason why a netizens would put up content or post comments. Tying it back to my theme of food, I would say that these social media platforms are complimenting the cooking/Masterchef craze that has swept Australia in recent years. In tandem with popular reality cooking shows, social media has (amongst other things) encouraged people to cook at home and appreciate homemade meals whilst promoting health and nutrition.

The Twittersphere, Politics & MasterChef

In this digital age, Twitter and other forms of social media are increasingly playing a more significant role in society especially in the context of the elections. This is demonstrated through Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess’s ‘#ausvotes: How Twitter covered the 2010 Australian federal election’ as well as in Saayan Chattopadhyay’s article ‘Online Journalism and election reporting in India’. Both articles show that social media does facilitate discussion and debate but they have limited impact on the elections themselves. In India for instance, netizens who are mostly urban youth who have access to the Internet, seem more interested in the results of the election than the process itself. However, Chattopadhyay argues that ‘social media have in the last few years become increasingly important in the Indian news’ (Chattopadhyay, 2012, p. 340).

 

Where Chattopadhyay examines social media as a whole, Bruns and Burgess focus on ‘How Twitter covered the 2010 Australian Federal Election’. In their argument, they state that Twitter ‘is still in its infancy’ (Bruns and Burgress, 2011, p. 53) that it is still a developing social medium. However during the elections it did provide a platform to disseminate information and it offered sustained commentary on political issues. Hence, Twitter can be used for a range of purposes such as ‘conversational interaction’ and for collaboration (Honey, C, 2009, p. 1).

 

Social media has provided similar benefits and pitfalls for the culinary world, for example I will discuss the hit cooking show MasterChef which has its own Twitter account- @MasterChef_Aust. Its target audience are its TV viewers and food lovers alike, judging by the many tweets that promote the program, its contestants, recipes and sponsors. I believe this parallels what Twitter does for politics in terms of how it connects like minded individuals, how it provides the latest coverage of events as they happen and encourages discussion amongst netizens. Although, Twitter is still in its early years, it has been proven to be a great social tool that disseminates information rapidly whilst fostering the interconnectedness as well as interaction of all its users.