31st Oct2011

Ambient Awareness

by sam

(disclaimer: this post does not tie in the topic of Televison very much)

In Thompson’s article, “Brave new world of digital intimacy” in New York Times Magazine,he talks about how the change to a facebook page with a news feed originally scared many people.  “When students woke up that September morning and saw News Feed, the first reaction, generally, was one of panic. Just about every little thing you changed on your page was now instantly blasted out to hundreds of friends, including potentially mortifying bits of news.”  I did not have a facebook before the news feed was standard so I didn’t experience it first hand but I know when I was learning to use facebook I got scared when I wrote something on my friends wall and realized that everyone could see it on their news feeds because it was something embarrassing and I immediately deleted it.  I also thought it was interesting that the original news feed had no privacy settings but only 2 days after it had been installed 284,000 people had joined a group demanding those settings.

Thomson also discussed how Mark Zuckerberg knew that once people tried the news feed and got over the shock, that they would actually like it.  I told my mom for the longest time to get a facebook because I would tell her things and she would always say, “How do you know that?” and almost every time it was because of facebook.  She always said she didn’t have time or the patience for facebook but when I finally convinced her to get one she grew to love it.  She connected with other family members, old friends, and current friends.  She also now plays Words With Friends like it is her job.  I currently have 4 games going with her.

The news feed on facebook, the timeline on twitter, and many other micro-blogging applications are what social scientists call “ambient awareness.”  It lets you know what is going on with your friends or people you follow at all times of the day.  It allows for you to scan everything at once rather than having to open each email at a time.  Facebook has made it even easier to be ambiently aware by adding a second news feed in the top right corner of your normal news feed that shows every minuscule thing that your friends are doing, like who commented on what picture and who liked someone’s status which would not be important enough to put on the real news feed.  It also scrolls as new things happen where as the timeline only does that periodically, or when you tell it to.

Although the beginning of ambient intimacy was abused by celebrities trying to push their careers to the next level, it has now expanded to include useful information as well.  Many news networks use twitter to tweet up to the minute information on stories and twitter has even been used to report things that happen before the news gets a hold of it.  A person tweeted a TwitPic of the plane that landed in the husdon river only 10 minutes after it took off when the traditional media outlets didn’t get the word out until 20 minutes after it happened.

Alfred Hermida says, “Twitter has been rapidly adopted in newsrooms as an essential mechanism to distribute breaking news quickly and concisely, or as a tool to solicit story ideas, sources and facts (Farhi, 2009; Posetti, 2009),” in Journalism Practice: Twittering The News. Companies are now hiring people just to run their twitter accounts and create a presence for the company.  This article also mentions the main four uses for Twitter, “daily chatter, conversation, sharing information and reporting news.”  Although twitter is helping get the news out quickly, it is also causing many rumors to be taken for fact such as the almost weekly “RIP (insert still living celebrity name here).”  But I have to admit, the first place I heard about Osama Bin Laden’s death was on twitter and then about an hour later the president came on the TV and announced that it was true.  It is such a useful tool but you have to remember to get a credible back up source when using twitter, unless it was tweeted by a news organization.