CIDER

 

Communication of Information (Digitally Electronic) Report

ORDINARY PEOPLE

Robert Redford, in an interview with Melvyn Bragg in 1980 to talk about his directorially debuted film ‘Ordinary People’, as an aside, observed that the modern world (of that time) was now primarily run on an information based economy. So the digitally electronic world (of this time) cannot be observed as being the progenitor of this profound change to way the world works, but it most certainly is the cause of this change becoming multi-tentacle, causing us to muse on how much this creature has extended its reach into the psyche of ‘ordinary people’, and to further muse if this is cause to celebrate, if everyone is getting a fair bite of the ‘apple’, and if there is cause to turn the ‘apple’ into ‘cider’.

Izzy wizzy, let’s get ‘PROJECT ISIZWE’

In Stellenbosch, South Africa, they don’t make cider, but they do make wine, and on a wine farm in Stellenbosch resides Alan Knott-Craig jr, an electronic communications  entrepreneurial man with a vision for South Africa now called Project Isizwe, a vision that set out to ‘to help bridge the economic divide in this stratified community [of Stellenbosch][1]  through initiating in April 2012 the ‘[launching of] free WiFi in Stellenbosch[1]  with the hope that this would  ‘accelerate the development of a more entrepreneurial ecosystem. [1]  At the time Knott-Craig was running Mxit, a South African social media company. With the availability of WiFi, ‘the company [sold] gaming apps developed by local residents[1] who ‘also helped to develop some of the 187 free “social impact” apps available through Mxit, designed to improve people’s access to healthcare, security, education and civil rights.[1]  With a zeal for social engagement,  [Knott-Craig]  published a book, Mobinomics, which outlines his vision for using mobile technology and social media to make government more responsive and accountable to Africans across socioeconomic classes. “Many people are coming forward to join forces with us after reading the book,” he says. The company already works with a range of partners – including reformed gangsters, professors, presidential advisers and paediatricians – to use the mobile platform as a force for change. [1]

In 2013 the vision was rolled out under the non-profit company Project Isizwe. Its success story speaks for itself through those affected by its intervention. Here are the short stories of three beneficiaries;

Vusi  Mtshoene

The founder of Vusmuzi Social Collective Centre, Vusi Mtshoene’s vision is to help non-profit organisations, young businesses and the unemployed youth by enabling the provision of information about job and employment opportunities so that young people can reach their goals while organisations employ young talent and uplift the community around them. Vusi has developed a programme which trains and develops unskilled volunteers to be assistants through empowering workshops run from the Centre. The Centre is adding to its service offering and is able to provide fundraising training to NGOs and train community members in the use of Free WiFi and basic technology skills. “Free Wi-Fi has played a huge role in what I have achieved. It has helped me do research, send and receive emails and connect on the different social media. Let’s work hard to change Tshwane with Free WiFi.” [2]

Lucky Mphuth

Lucky Mphuthi is a self-taught graphic, motion and animation designer as well as the brand and website developer at WiFi TV. The work he does elevates his creativity and has taught him an adherence to responsibilities and deadlines. [2]

Tebogo Moifo

Tebogo Moifo is 22-year-old student and aspiring lawyer who uses the Tshwane Free WiFi to download old cases that he can study and use for additional knowledge. He finds the Free WiFi useful because he can save data and transport costs. [2]

A further 36 testimonies from ‘ordinary people’  of South Africa can be viewed at http://www.projectisizwe.org/index.php/success-stories/

 

BACKWARDS TO THE FUTURE (if it’s a job you’re after)

While an opportunity may have opened up for the wider population of South Africa, in the Western world there is a perception of a retrogression in job security tied in with the progression of technology, a viewpoint that has gained traction with the increase of academic commentary into the argument.

In 2013, professor Nick Bloom of Stanford University stated there had recently been a major change of heart concerning technological unemployment among his fellow economists. [3]

According to the academic and former politician Michael Ignatieff, writing in 2014, questions concerning the effects of technological change have been “haunting democratic politics everywhere”. Concerns have included evidence showing worldwide falls in employment across sectors such as manufacturing; falls in pay for low and medium skilled workers stretching back several decades even as productivity continues to rise; the increase in often precarious platform mediated employment; and the occurrence of “jobless recoveries” after recent recessions. The 21st century has seen a variety of skilled tasks partially taken over by machines, including translation, legal research and even low level journalism. Care work, entertainment, and other tasks requiring empathy, previously thought safe from automation, have also begun to be performed by robots. [3]

For ‘the man on the street’ (or the ‘ordinary people’)  there is the demeaning and insecure consequences of  the phenomenon of ‘technological unemployment’ , but the incipience of this began at least from the oncoming of the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, the paralysing fears and consequences of this phenomenon are felt  deeply. Thoughts may have become numb and inarticulate with a commentary scatological and unprintable.

 

The importance of being ERNEST

Having said that, a small corner of the printing world, that of the independent  travel magazine such as Ernest,  has been experiencing a revival, that ‘far from killing off print, the internet has helped foster … new [high end] titles in several ways’.[4]   The overall decline in printed matter is one of the more obvious consequences of the electronic age, not helped in regards to travel literature by the decline of content standard. Editor-in-chief  of travel magazine Avaunt, Dan Crowe, is quoted as saying;

‘mainstream magazines …. treat their readers as idiots. It’s like they are scared to say, ‘Well, this       is a piece of writing: take it or leave it’.” He is more generally critical of mainstream publishers’ conservatism: “If you’ve got an amazing story, don’t just give it a few pages — give it 20!” ’[4]

Although there was less printed output the flow of creative students from college did not stem. Some students and others had ideas of their own. Erin Spens of Boat magazine commented;

‘The recession meant that, all of a sudden, there were far fewer creative job openings but just as many, if not more, creative graduates. Our generation doesn’t have a pre-paved career path ahead of us, and with the internet and democratisation of art and creative fields, if we can’t find a job in the field we want to work in, we create one ourselves.” ‘[4]

What to do? The internet was covering the low cost end, so where to make money was at the     high-end where quality money would buy quality, being prepared to pay at least £10 to have something to behold to make ‘print…..a luxury item’. [4]

In fact,  ‘subject matter [could] be almost self-consciously esoteric. [An] issue of Ernest includes a piece by Queen guitarist Brian May on diableries (19th-century stereoscopic photographs of clay model demons)’. [4]

Thus, it may be seen that the relentless path into an ever more virtual world driven by digitalisation has not escaped the laws of counterintuitivity.

Ernest, for example, began life as a blog, then a website, enabling it to establish an audience before consolidating into print — a process that was in part funded by online crowdsourcing.[4]

 

OBAMA CARE

But, sometimes you don’t need to be counterintuitive, just simply intuitive, that meaning anticipating what’s coming.  Now, intuitivity has had relevance ever since sentient beings had to go foraging and hunting for food, but it is a nice segue into the theme of the power of social media.

JFK understood television, Obama understood social media. They both understood the nascent media platform that was before them before it was understood by anyone else that had intensions of becoming  POTUS.  Kennedy’s ease, and Nixon’s discomfort  were what springboarded the impact of television as a medium in political debate. Obama’s effective use of social media, in his campaign strategy in his quest to become President, woke the rest up. But by then, he had become President.

And in what way did Obama’s campaign team understand the potential of social media?  Like any citizen of whatever economic means, there was no fee chargeable in order to sign up for Facebook or Twitter. In other words, here was a communications platform that was for free! Not only for free, but it was the preferred media  to interconnect for young people, the section of the electorate with most potential to be galvanised into engagement and possessing previously unavailable or unused votes.

 

Here are some facts;

The Obama campaign reached 5 million supporters on 15 different social Networks over the course of campaign season; by November 2008, Obama had approximately 2.5 million (some sources say as many as 3.2 million) Facebook supporters, 115,000 Twitter followers, and 50 million viewers of his YouTube channel. [5]

But here’s the thing, it’s not just signing up that does it, and here’s the crucial thing about the internet (etc) and connects it to all other things in life that have been before it,  it’s the intelligent use of it.

And how exactly did [the Obama campaign team] use technology to change the face of campaigning?   The campaign didn’t simply create a Facebook fan page and a YouTube account and expect things to take off: they created an energy of involvement, of participation, and a sense of purpose in their supporters, each of which was funneled through social networking technologies.  The medium wasn’t the message, so to speak; it was the vehicle.  It connected real people, with real enthusiasm, in real time, and gave them an easy and accessible way to show their support for change.  Obama’s ever-present campaign slogan was, “Change we can believe in”.  In retrospect, the slogan could have been, “Change we can be a part of.”[5]

Obama dominated the social media space because his team got how networks work.  The real power of social media is not in the number of posts or Tweets but in user engagement measured by content spreadability.  For example, Obama logged twice as many Facebook “Likes” and nearly 20 times as many re-tweets as Romney.  With his existing social media base and spreadable content, Obama had far superior reach.[6]

To requote, to re-emphasize,  ‘the medium wasn’t the message…. it was the vehicle’.[5] The Obama campaign understood this,  they understood that ….

‘the real drivers of an effective social media campaign, however, are based on the psychology of social behaviors not the current technology.’[6]

In other words, it’s all in the mind, as it ever has been.

 

CyberPSYCHO  (Let’s face up to it, but let’s not write a book about it)

The trouble with any field of activity is that there will be some that overexcited . The study of  how this plays out in the virtual world is called ‘cyberpsychological behaviour’.

What is really meant by this term is the idea of psychological dysfunction played out in the virtual world, and the popular study of this is viewed through the observation of people’s interaction  with social network media.

There are disorders related to overuse of this media namely eating disorder, anxiety disorder, social isolation, ostracism, and sleep deprivation. But these spring out of two more crucial disorders that seem to create a vicious circle for those caught up in it, they being depression and addiction.

Studies have shown a connection between online social media such as Facebook use to addictive behaviors, emotion regulation, impulse control, and substance abuse. Results from a survey of university undergraduates showed that almost 10% met criteria for what investigators describe as “disordered social networking use.” [7]

Recent research from  the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has highlighted connections between the use of  social media and depression, and  associations with addiction, with consequences of the other  previously mentioned disorders.

There [are] significant and linear associations between social media use and depression whether social media use [is] measured in terms of total time spent or frequency of visits….. social media  may cause depression, which could then in turn fuel more use of social media. For example:

  • Exposure to highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives.

 

  •  Engaging in activities of little meaning on social media may give a feeling of “time wasted” that negatively influences mood.

 

  • Social media use could be fueling “Internet addiction,” a proposed psychiatric condition closely associated with depression.

 

  • Spending more time on social media may increase the risk of exposure to cyber-bullying or other similar negative interactions, which can cause feelings of depression.[8]

 

 IS THERE AN END TO THIS?!

It is possible that people who are depressed use social media to fill a void. [8]

Internet addiction is a subset of a broader “technology addiction.” Widespread obsession with technology goes back at least to radio in the 1930s and television in the 1960s, but it has exploded in importance during the digital age [9]

In conclusion, all human potential has been there latent in the mind from the very beginning.  If not busy at work, man has been looking to fill his time with something to do when he had nothing else better to do. The potential for addiction has been around at least since alcohol was discovered.  Even the idea of man’s mindset becoming more ‘virtual’, lost in one’s own cyberspace, cannot be deemed originating in the discovery of digital media. If not before, man was going his way this way when he began to goggle at the gogglebox. From being a social animal that congregated with large groups of people at the theatre or cinema, now he was mostly congregating at best in single figures with other people, if not singularly on his own. Now we ‘google’ at the ‘googlebox’, be it smartphone or tablet, which has been designed and  made that really only enables, with the occasional look over your shoulder from your friend,  interaction with digital matter  that is done singularly on your own.

Platforms have been around at least since the construction of railway stations. Digital electronic communication technology is a platform, but it is a new platform, a new means of embarking to where you wish to go. It is for you, the ’ordinary people’, to make judicious and intelligent use of this means.

It may be said that however and wherever  digitally electronic communications technology advances its way, the way of making cider organically will always remain the same. It is your way of having, if not a fair bite, a fair sup of the apple.  Now there’s something to celebrate, a fanfare  to the common man, the imploration to the ‘ordinary people’, be organic!

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. ‘At home: Alan Knott-Craig Jr’ Margaret O’Connor  12/10/12 (Article from FT)

https://www.ft.com/content/ab45309c-0e28-11e2-8d92-00144feabdc0

 

  1. Project Isizwe – Success Stories

http://www.projectisizwe.org/index.php/success-stories/

 

  1. Wikipedia –  Technological unemployment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_unemployment

 

  1. ‘Adventures in print’  Tom Robbins    20/06/15  (Article from FT)

https://www.ft.com/content/a59bfada-1100-11e5-9bf8-00144feabdc0

 

  1. Dragonflyeffect Blog  – The Obama Campaign

http://dragonflyeffect.com/blog/dragonfly-in-action/case-studies/the-obama-campaign/

 

  1. MPR Center Blog  – Dr Patricia Routledge, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara http://mprcenter.org/blog/2013/01/how-obama-won-the-social-media-battle-in-the-2012-presidential-campaign/

 

  1. Wikipedia –  Cyberpsychology                                                                                                 Hackethal, Veronica MD. (December 16, 2014). “Social Media Potentially Addictive, Linked to Substance Abuse”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpsychology

 

  1. Lui yi Lin, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine 22/3/16

http://www.upmc.com/media/NewsReleases/2016/Pages/lin-primack-sm-depression.aspx

 

  1. Wikipedia –  Cyberpsychology                                                                                                    Rosen, L. D. et al. (2012). iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold On Us. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberpsychology