Tag Archive for Social Media

Digital Connections in a Digital Landscape

RuinsDigital citizenship is a blanket term describing challenges and shifts that result from communities being geographically far more widespread and driven by electronic communication and connection. As with any stereotypical Western community, we consider individual needs in social contexts. The landscape of digital citizenship has undergone monumental change, as have the social groups served by that citizenship (Ohler, 2010). In this post, I will consider the transformation of one such group- extended family- as well as the transformation of the face of digital citizenship, and finally what these changing landscapes mean to media psychologists.

I remember getting two very sad phone calls as a child. The first came in second grade from my “boyfriend” Ryan. He called to tell me he was moving to Washington DC and he wouldn’t be coming back from Christmas break; I cried for days. The second call came when my best friend, Erin, moved to Hawaii. I got what we now affectionately refer to as “snail mail” letters from her a few times, but there is only so long a 6th grader can keep that up. Both of these examples involve people being separated across country, but even a move across town used to mean never seeing someone again. Telephones were (and are) amazing ways to keep in contact with loved ones, but if you lost the number in a move, or the number changed you were out of luck. Add this to the cost of out-of-state and long distance charges or collect calls, and it became nearly impossible to sustain geographically dispersed relationships. Luckily, media has helped us overcome these tribulations.

With each new media development, our ability to stay in contact has improved. From phones, to local bulletin board systems using 2400 baud external modem connections, each progression was a step closer to social media and constant contact. Now we have clouds, social media, and Google search to help us remember or find phone numbers. And that’s only if we want phone numbers. Email addresses, URLs, social media accounts… they all facilitate the (re)connection of loved ones. One simple search (along with a, hopefully, recognizable avatar), and you can reconnect with the entirety of your past (and yes, I reconnected with Erin). snail-mail-suzikThis climax of intense media availability resolves with relationships that have shifted from physically centered connections to relationships that are more sociomentally centered (Chayko, 2008). We get to know others more fully, and make connections with them based on interests and emotions, rather than appearance. Suddenly, distances aren’t so insurmountable, and we find ourselves connecting with others across the globe. As we ride off into the sunset at the end of this narrative arc, we take with us every friend and family member we’ve ever cared to reconnect with, thanks to evolved digital mediation.

With the proliferation of constantly developing media that connects us in a variety of ways, the responsibilities and rights so cherished and fought over throughout history (Ohler, 2010) shift and evolve as well. Online anonymity gives way to disinhibition, flaming, and dishonesty (Joinson, 2007). It also, however, allows us to explore who we are and what we value (Burke & Stets, 2009). Validating identities- if we can wade through the cyberbullies and hackers- helps meet some of our basic needs on the individual level. But the civic traditions of our ancestors haven’t been completely lost on us. Social norms and constraints motivate us to participate in a global community where collective intelligence (Jenkins, 2008) and critical value (Shirky, 2010) push the limits of what we could have created in the times of the Spartans, Romans, Italians, or Revolutionaries (Ohler, 2010).

Media has allowed our communities to expand almost infinitely and, as my hero’s uncle aptly said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Ancient civilizations trudged through the fight for participation in their communities. That fight was punctuated by the creation of media. spider-man-ethicsTheatre, text, movies, and so on allowed them to spread communication further, thereby spreading influence (Ohler, 2010). The climax of this narrative is the culmination of seemingly endless forms of communication to the farthest reaches of the Earth (and beyond), and a people who are more altruistic while simultaneously becoming aggressively antagonistic. How can we overcome the antagonists? How does civility overcome disinhibition? That’s where media psychologists come in.

As media psychologists, we have the tools to create our own critically valuable footprint in the sand. By understanding the way people do and are likely to act given the constantly evolving media, we are able to educate others (using the light side of the “Force”), help them learn what it means to be a digital citizen, and how to share with others the rights and responsibilities inherent in membership.

As global, digital, and local communities evolve, adapt, and merge, our power as citizens follows proportionately. With that power, we have a responsibility to protect ourselves and others, allowing all citizens the chance to get what they need from the communities while creating opportunities for others to simultaneously do the same. If the world comes to an apocalyptic, riotous, cannibalistic end when technology defies us so, then, must we flourish, support, and defend in times of connection.


Burke, P., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.
Joinson, A. (2007). Disinhibition and the internet. In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (pp. 76-92). Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.
Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.
Shirky, C. (2010). How cognitive surplus will change the world. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/clay_shirky_how_cognitive_surplus_will_change_the_world.html
Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture where old and new media collide. New York; London: New York University Press.

Understanding Media Psychology… err…

understandng comicsUnderstanding Comics (McCloud, 1994) presents comic readers with a comparatively comprehensive look at comics (e.g., how they’re formatted, what cognitive processes they depend on, reality vs. abstract, etc.). A variety of these principles can be generalized and applied to other forms of media (McCloud, 1994). Understanding these principles lays a foundation for understand the field of media psychology.

EgocentricThe Story– McCloud (1994) points out the more iconic the face, drawn in the comic, the more we as the audience are able to see ourselves in the story. Robert McKee (1997) explains that stories are powerful because they carry universal truths. We connect with stories (and media) that help us to make sense of the world (Jenkins, Li, Drasuskopf, & Green, 2009). We enjoy stories more if they carry a personal meaning to us; something of significance that helps us identify with the situation or the characters (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004). Additionally, media, such as social media, virtual communities, and role-playing games, allow users to uncover, verify, and even try on identities (Bessière, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007; Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria, 2008). The story and universality of comics are true for any medium carrying a story, facilitating immersion, whether for enjoyment, emotional response, or seeking to convey a message.

The GutterThe Message– Comics, as well as mediums such as books, films, games, and television, allow concepts and feelings to be understood in personal ways even though they are iconic and representative delivery methods (McCloud, 1994). We experience things using senses that are not required for consumption of the message. For example, in a video game, you may be looking at a computer screen and physically touching a mouse and/or keyboard, but the content may remind you of smells and sounds that are not presented in the book. Our minds fill in blanks based on experiences we’ve had. These blanks are in the blank space in comics, in the scenes we don’t see in movies, and in the events that are eluded to but never described in books, just to name a few. Memories, actions, thoughts, and physical responses are often conditioned to be triggered by a variety of stimuli (e.g., media) (Anderson, 2000).

The Conclusion– There are many ways in which the theories behind comics may be generalized into theories about other media and mediums. Here, we briefly explored message content, the universality of stories, and identity. However, concepts such as transmedia storytelling, branding, the influence of graphic design, persuasion and marketing, and global media are all presented to us by Scott McCloud (1994), but are concepts which are transferable to a great deal of the media used today and in the past. These concepts are all components of media psychology. When we understand these concepts and how they affect us, we can use positive media psychology to facilitate educational, social, and global advancements.

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Anderson, J. R. (2000). Learning and memory : an integrated approach. New York: Wiley.

Bessière, K., Seay, A. F., & Kiesler, S. (2007). The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 530–535. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9994

Green, M., Brock, T., & Kaufman, G. (2004). Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14(4), 311-327.

Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one):

Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: the invisible art. New York: William Morrow.

McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: Regan Books.

Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qwdQLSt2I&feature=youtube_gdata_player


Web Bias

In considering bias, I have come to realize how important common sense and investigation are when we are receiving messages.

There is no way around bias regardless of the source. Whether it originates from us or another source it has to be considered if we are to undertake critical thinking. Web 2.0 brought us post-modernism and the prevalence of prosumers and convergence, where the knowledge of the many dwarf the knowledge of the few, and the media that the message is conveyed on makes a difference (Jenkins, 2008). This should all be common sense to those who apply critical thinking to incoming information, but it isn’t necessarily. And even if it is, a reminder every once in a while so we aren’t taking it for granted doesn’t seem like it could hurt.

There are several things to think about in controlling for bias. In fact, the sheer amount of things to consider gets to be nearly overwhelming; neither ignoring the notion of bias nor letting it paralyze us will get us further in our pursuit of truth. Though I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of what is thrown out at me, and leaned toward trusted resources for information, there are things I hadn’t considered: whether the information matches what is commonly accepted as truth, how the information was obtained (e.g., scientific methods vs. intuition) or changed (e.g., how it was edited), the opposing argument’s validity, and how things like audience and context may affect the message (Driscoll & Brizee, 2013; Kirk, 1996; Shermer, 2009; “The PhotoShop Effect,” 2006).

Because everyone is biased (both producer and consumer), there is no perfect way to correct for, avoid, or abolish bias. However, the more cognizant we are of it, the better chance we have of getting to the most accurate information available and using it in the most effective ways.


Driscoll, D., & Brizee, A. (2013). Purdue OWL: Evaluating sources of information. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/553/3/

Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture where old and new media collide. New York; London: New York University Press.

Kirk, E. (1996). Evaluating internet information. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20040825040101/http://www.library.jhu.edu/researchhelp/general/evaluating/

Shermer, M. (2009). Michael Shermer. Baloney Detection Kit. Retrieved August 26, 2013, from http://www.michaelshermer.com/2009/06/baloney-detection-kit/

The Photoshop Effect. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP31r70_QNM&feature=youtube_gdata_player


RPDR as Transmedia Storytelling

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is a reality television show in which the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul, seeks out the next generation of drag queens who are able to use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to champion the art and its rich history. The intended market for this brand is anyone over the age of 21; their biggest sponsor being Absolut Vodka.

The protagonist in this story is the winner of the drag race. That being said, every competitor undergoes the hero’s journey to one extent or another as they all endure a transformation due to trials within the competition which result in their either winning or being told to “sashay away”. Competitors start by going through a series of trials (i.e., application process, mini challenges, main challenges, and runway walks) designed to test their drag related skills as well as their personal development (e.g., social skills, personal conflicts, etc.). By the end of the competition, regardless of the outcome for the competitor, they have likely learned something about themselves and their skills. However, the only true hero’s journey, based on a real and tangible outcome, resolution, or change that is definitive is the winner of the competition; they have the crown.

The archetype of this story is that of the magician. Competitors learn the art of transformation and are motivated by achievement. There are other archetypes which, in one way or another, are also represented within RPDR (e.g., Jester or Outlaw), but the competition is about transformation in all its forms and masteries within the art of drag.

A variety of media are used to bring the journey of the drag queens, as well as their art, to life for consumers. RPDR itself is the flagship of Logo.tv. All episodes of the competition, as well as a show called Untucked, and one called Drag U, are located on the site/channel. Untucked allows consumers a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the competition; a way to connect more personally with the competitors. Drag U is a spin off which allows women to participate with RPDR competitors to undergo their own version of a hero’s journey using the principles and art of drag. Both Untucked and Drag U allow resonance with the brand, as consumers are able to identify with competitors as well as picture themselves in their shoes.

Another way in which consumers can see themselves in drag stilettos is through the Dragulator. This is an online application which allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and make themselves up in drag. They can then share the result via a variety of social media sharing options. In addition to the Dragulator, consumers can participate in live chat with competitors and fellow fans during the broadcast via LogoTalk. In addition to discussing the show as it airs, consumers are able to converse with and direct questions to the latest competitor to be eliminated via Elimination Lunch with Michelle Visage, also on LogoTalk. LogoTalk is a convenient way to participate in Twitter conversations which follow the given hashtags during the show, allow for stickers to be gathered on GetGlue (another achievement driven social media). One of the most prominent features of RPDR is the ability for consumers to participate.

While the hub of RPDR remains on Logo.tv, and links to all branches of the transmedia network, Facebook remains a more easily navigated and immersive place for participants to explore. Social media are used heavily within the network. While Facebook is an easy place to share photos, ask questions to promote conversation, and link to other elements within the network, Twitter is used heavily to connect consumers during the shows. Hashtags are given at random times during various segments of the show to promote consist discussion between viewers. Twitter is also used as a way for competitors to connect to their fans and promote their personal performances throughout the country.

Other media are used successfully to immerse consumers as well. An online game called Ru-Dunnit, allows consumers to play a choose-your-own-adventure mystery game with the fierce Michelle Visage as the gumshoe (or “gumstilleto”, as she says in the game). The goal of the game is to determine who stole Sharon Needles’s crown. The game includes product placement by Absolut Vodka, and clothing worn by suspects are consistent with drinks featured in the video. Another example of a game used in the story of the ‘Next drag superstar’ is the Best Friend Race. This is a game hosted by SocialToaster.com which allows for the collection of points which are earned by sharing elements of the network via social media, how many likes and retweets you obtain, and how many of your friends sign up to play the game. This allows those who are achievement driven (consistent with the goals of the Magician archetype) a goal related to the brand with inadvertently further promotes the brand and takes advantage of social networks.

RPDR uses transmedia storytelling to tell a variety of stories about what it’s like to be a drag queen, but also promotes an art form which tends to be, in and of itself, at the forefront of the acceptance of LGBT individuals and culture. By expanding the in-group inherent in RPDR supporters, a social cause is promoted as well.


Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

**The trading cards in the slideshow came from The LogoTV Tumblr page. Thanks guys! Great pics!**

Do the Hustle!: JK [Wedding Dance]

The JK Wedding Dance video is interesting because it challenges our social normatives, much like iconic brands do. Jenkins, Li, Krauskopf, and Green (2009) note that in order for something to be spreadable (clearly, this video is an apt example of spreadable media), it must answer a question for us, speak a truth, make sense of something, or touch us emotionally. This video allows us to experience a ritualistically sober ceremony in a non-traditional way, and allows us to do so safely from the comfort of our own home. It shows us  that something we may have previously considered socially taboo, is actually fun and completely acceptable. It allows collective intelligence to demolish pluralistic ignorance.

Chris BrownBowrey (2011) explains that many cases of copyright infringement and related disputes do not actually have the backing of the law that may be assumed. She notes that most people make assumptions about what is actually enforceable, but notes that trademark and copyright laws (and processes) are meant to cover very specific items and not thematic elements (e.g., characters). Additionally, IP laws change with the culture, and interpretation is done with an eye on the current state of culture and conceptualized future progression. This is similar to idea that the medium is the message (Federman, 2004). IP laws are flexible enough to anticipate legal needs as culture and use norms change. By understanding what is underlying and looking for those issues which are not glaringly obvious, IP law can effectively maintain the freedom and cost-effectiveness of amateur material with the commercial and professional, as suggested and called for by Cunningham (2012).

Sony’s brand relies on the notion that using their products, individuals can create whatever they can imagine (Sony Global, 2013). In the case of Jill and Kevin, they imagined a wedding outside the traditionally accepted social norms. They created an individualized ceremony, using Sony’s product (i.e., the song), because they believed they could, and they made it happen: make.believe.

Sony ElectronicsNot only does Sony have a variety of options for promoting their brand, but it seems to be recognized by many consumers that they already have benefited from the video’s popularity. Deighton and Kronfeld (2012) explain that when the video was at the height of it’s popularity, a number of people challenged the integrity of the video, accusing Sony of creating the video to induce sales and reputation reparations. It stands to reason, then, that the perception is that there was an increase in sales, as well as a shift in the artists popularity, despite his domestic abuse arrest. Rather than focusing on the negativity of the personal experiences of the artist, Sony could instead focus on the phenomenon promoted by the video which encourages a happy and unique marriage. Jill and Kevin donated money made from the video’s unexpected virality to a charity in just such a way (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). Allowing the song to be representative of something more positive is one way for Sony to not only take advantage of the popularity of the song and the video, but also do something socially supportive while profiting in non-direct ways. This is one of the possible actions to be taken as pointed out by Deighton and Kronfeld ( 2012). Were Sony to do something to threaten Jill and Kevin, they risk not only alienating customers who purchased the song for their wedding in the first place (i.e., Jill and Kevin), but those who spread the video, as well as those who identify with and support the charity they support with the proceeds. They also risk lash back such as that exhibited by Lenz when she the Electronic Frontier Foundation about her YouTube video (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). And that is not even taking into account a possibly unfounded complaint which, according to Bowrey (2011), is a very real possibility.


Bowrey, K. (2011). The new intellectual property: Celebrity, fans and the properties of the entertainment franchise. Griffith Law Review, 20(1), 188-220.

Cunningham, S. (2012). Emergent innovation through the coevolution of informal and formal media economies. Television New Media, 13(5), 415-430.

Deighton, J., & Kornfeld, L. (2012). Sony and the JK Wedding Dance. Boston, MA: Harvard Business College.

Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one): Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html

Sony Global. (2013). Sony group brand message “make.believe”. Retrieved from http://www.sony.net/united/makedotbelieve/