Millenializing Gen-X, Gen-Y and those Gosh-Darn Baby Boomers: Achieving New Media Access for Older Generations

The important aspect to understand about new media techniques is that we as pre-millennials do not realize the extent those who do not use social media.  Because of our deep – and boy do I mean deep – immersion into the vast waters of social media, we forget that not everyone is as savvy as we are.  We, then, must strive to give said strangers an equal opportunity for friendship with this important lifestyle.

To achieve this, we must understand that many people do not have the skills.  Some may be scared of the unknown, some may use it for personal gain but find no other need.  We need to curb these philosophies and create a new schema.  Thus, by using more offline techniques intertwined with new media techniques, we can help create better associations and understandings.  This will then allow for those to ease into their feared abyss.  Offline technology is comfortable for those who do not have the skills.  Online is not.  By merging the two mentalities, we can create a new comfort level for these individuals.  Although it is tougher to reach this market, we must increase our coalition connections because this is their specialty.  Older generations are a part of groups and other face-to-face programs.  By connecting with these groups – even if loosely associated with our own – will allow for others to know more and attempt to join the new fields.

This is not easy.  Thus, we must teach and show and foster growth.  This then can be utilized to help gain an audience that does not only have the skills, but also those who do not have the access.  By using the offline media techniques, we can teach and show those who THINK they do not have access actually do have access – and a lot of it.  It is this unknown that stops these users.  Thus, similar to those who do not have the skills, we must teach and show and foster growth by attempting to showcase the possibilities that exist in different communities.  Whether it is by hosting learning groups or just showcasing the access hotspots, it is possible that these who have no access will find access.

In this time, the skills and access for new media is everywhere.  We are swimming in an ocean of media, however, we must take the time to empathize and forget that we are not the only ones treading water: that there are many drowning in that ocean.  We must throw out our lifesaver and teach these novices the skills, knowledge and information that we possess.  Only by doing that can we grow as an organization.


Late Tech Adapters Might Actually Get a Better Deal

Higgatai mentions that “[college] students of lower socioeconomic status, women, students of Hispanic origin, and African Americans exhibit lower levels of Web know-how than others.” The statement is important because as we are thinking about how to best serve the South Madison community and business sector, we must not forget that many of those individuals living and working within that community are directly labeled as at least one of the aforementioned groups.

Once one realizes that the participation of an audience, or lack thereof, stems from an inability to participate, whether caused by lack of resources or education, it is easier to find a solution.

While the gap in accessibility (internet access) and equipment (smartphone/tablet/PC) is a bit harder to overcome, by introducing individuals to the World Wide Web and giving them the tools to interact within it, we might be able to grow the overall participation of the community. The fact that some things might be relatively new to many of the individuals who we would want to engage might even work to our advantage because it allows us to bring newcomers into platforms that are basically fully developed (Facebook and Twitter for example will probably not be changing their basic function anytime soon) and thus one is able to not only interact with the already large user base, but they also avoid any “growing pains” that some early adapters must deal with during the early development pages of any given site.

I believe that this is a large advantage because we would be able to show both how a social media site works and give proof of the positives effects that they have already had on countless other individuals/organizations. This might make it easier to convince newcomers to experimenting with the medium.

Late adapters often have more choices and more established systems.

Late adapters often have more choices and more established systems.

This leads to how we might motivate users. I believe that if we can effectively convey the distinct advantages of social media, for example, while also providing the necessary tools to utilize the technology in their setting we can convince them to make technology a growing part of their lives/business while continuing to use it to connect themselves with those outside of their immediate community.

We’ve discussed how college students at the University of Madison and their reluctance to visit the South Madison area serve a crucial role in the current status quo. Yet, these are the same students that often throw caution to the wind as they walk home alone at 2am after a party. To me that’s indicative of a willingness to try things they might enjoy, even if there is a possibility of danger. While I’ve come to learn that the South Madison community actually doesn’t really deserve the stereotype for being a “dangerous part of town”, I think that sentiment is still held by many. Yet, it is obviously one that can be overcome and I think that by more closely engaging the student community through technology and social media sites, we might be able to at least reduce the amount of people staying away from the neighborhood simply because they think it might be dangerous.

One way to do this is to showcase the unique people and places in South Madison through images and videos (produced by/for South Madison community members) so that students see and feel how safe and welcoming the community actually is.

It seems difficult to try and enter a foreign community with ideas that one might think would solve their problems without first trying to live in their shoes. Yet, by showing them not only why, but how new communication technologies could personally help their goals I think we can more effectively teach and motivate South Madison community members.

Blog Post #5 – Access, Skills and Motivations

Now that I have learned a little more about South Madison, I can see obvious places where human motivations, skills and knowledge may pose challenges for us as we try to adopt new communication technologies in the area. As Stroud (2011) points out in the second chapter of his book Politics in News Choice, people are less likely to embrace mass communication media if the people around them aren’t using it. I think this idea is very telling when it comes to thinking through the technological limitations in knowledge, skills and motivations in South Madison.

Many people in South Madison don’t have knowledge of new technologies (such as social media) and therefore would never see advertisements for events such as our scavenger hunt on any of these platforms. Without the knowledge of these platforms as a base, they won’t be able to build the skills needed to maintain their own websites. I see this as being a major hurdle for many business owners. I find out about a lot of restaurant deals on Facebook and Twitter. Being in a college town and not having a presence on these two handles in particular would be very detrimental to sales. Finally, I see this lack of knowledge and skills as a direct link to having no motivation. In application of Stroud’s idea, if most people in the South Madison area aren’t interested in social media and other new technologies, there is no motivation for residents (such as these restaurant owners) to invest their time and energy in learning the skills to use the media.

Although I’m not sure how much direct improvement we can achieve in the areas of knowledge and skill, I think we could be incredibly influential on the motivation of the South Madison residents to use new technologies. College students love connecting to people online. If we can drive enough college students into these restaurants, it may motivate the restaurant owners to get involved with social media so they can interact with this group of customers. While we work with South Madison business owners, I think it will be important to talk to them about social media and even show them some of the work we are doing to promote ourselves and their businesses on our website and social media handles. While this may not be enough to give them new technology skills, it will at least give them some knowledge about the platforms and hopefully make them a little less intimidating.

In his 2010 study Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation” Higgatai discovered that “Students of lower socioeconomic status, women, students of Hispanic origin, and African Americans exhibit lower levels of Web know-how than others.” Although his study was specifically on college students, these demographics fit many South Madison residents of all ages. While we encourage the residents to use social media, I think it will be important to advertise our events and ourselves in non-technological ways as well. If we are able to get their attention through posters and personal conversations, we may be able to use these methods of promotion to drive them to our site, therefore reaching all South Madison residents, including those who are less tech-savvy.

Blog Post 3: Technology for Community

After spending simply one day in South Madison at the Celebrate South Madison festival, I had so many thoughts and ideas running through my head. I plan on spending more time in that area to help spark ideas about what we can do in the future to form a bridging connection in that area.

At this festival, there were not many food vendors, and especially not the ethnic food vendors we plan on working with throughout this course. The food vendors included Pizza Hut, JD’s, Famous Dave’s, and one stand from the South Madison farmers market. I was pretty disappointed by this turnout, and hopefully we will be able to get in touch with the ethnic food vendors for future events. Our class needs to start going out to these restaurants and form relationships with the owners and customers to get them more involved in the community. Also, if we promote the restaurants and give directions on our website, it will be more accessible to get to. We need to emphasize that these restaurants are not expensive, which will definitely give people more of an initiative to try them out.

Many of the residents I spoke with made it very clear that they did not have high enough incomes to go out to eat, but if we explained that these restaurants are not expensive maybe they will give them a try. The people I spoke to about their lack of food and wealth also said they were not active on social media. They explained that they either don’t have access to these technologies or they do not know how to use them. We can post on social media daily, but if the residents do not know how to use social media it defeats our purposes. If we established a workshop to help these people understand how to use social media and also notify them of the public resources that are available, that would be one of the first steps to get people involved. Since many of these people do not know how to use social media and are not following our website because of this disadvantage, we should directly and physically go to them to assist them, because if we simply advertise our events and activities on social media many people will not be notified. Many of the residents in South Madison are economically underdeveloped and ethnically diverse. We need to continue brainstorming to help get these people into a bridging community, and part of this can be by establishing them on social media.

I think it is great that there are many organizations and groups trying to assist in the forming of a community in South Madison. Our class should definitely speak with the different groups and see how we all can work together to create an event or workshop for the residents of South Madison. If we can work together with other organizations, it can prove to the people of South Madison that they can bridge together, too. As Miller explains in Chapter One of The nonprofit marketing guide, nobody wants to feel like someone, especially a charity or group of people, is trying to trick or cheat them. There have been so many initiatives to try and “help” the people in South Madison, and I hope they do not feel like guinea pigs part of a new experiment. We need to offer opportunities and have constant back-and-forth dialogues with residents over time. Miller also explains that non-profits fail when the audience is poorly defined because of a generic message. We need to figure out exactly what our main goal is and how we want our efforts to be shown by the end of this course. If we combine our efforts with other organizations, it might not seem like we are all trying to “help” the people in this area. It will seem like we are all combining our efforts to form and bridge a better community.

Our guest speaker from the South Metropolitan Planning Council, Sheri, seems passionate and knowledgeable about the efforts to bring together this community. She talked about how they have been partnering up with other organizations, such as the Wisconsin Women Business Initiative Corporation to help encourage women to open up their own businesses. She explained how the SMPC really takes the community members’ ideas into consideration, which I really appreciate. It shows how they are truly striving to better the community. She also mentioned that they are trying to form a presence on social media and have been developing their Facebook page. With the use of Facebook comes the need for media literate community members. We should help with these. With the use of Facebook comes the need for media literate community members. We should help with these media literacy opportunities in the South Madison area by helping to create a social media workshop that targets community organizers. After these people are comfortable using social media, they will hopefully allow children to use social media. If we continue using social media in a positive way and show the positive outcomes of social media techniques, the community will be able to increase their knowledge. Rather than having children become introduced to negative and dangerous forms of media on their own, we can show them the positive ways to use social media. At the festival I noticed that the people were very family-oriented and many people talked to me about their children. It is important that we incorporate the safety of their children using social media into any workshop. On our website we should continually post events, articles, and many pictures of food. Our website should serve as a gathering place to bring people to South Madison and start a bridging community.

south madison


Blog #4 – Community Engagement and Collective Action

Based on my field observation, a “social dilemma” I observed in the South Madison community was the lack of attendance at the Celebrate South Madison festival. There were many open seats at the performance stage and the information booths we’re moderately attended at best. Even with the exposure of a clear view of South Park Street, few drivers pulled off the road to join in. To me, this was a missed opportunity for many of the residents of South Madison to come together to not only do something overwhelmingly positive but to also show the rest of Madison that the community is better than the news would lead you to believe and perhaps, for some, leads them to believe about themselves. If even the residents of South Madison view themselves negatively– as poor, as delinquents, as those undeserving of something better– then why would they come to an event like this? Perhaps it would be a reminder of what they perceive that they are not– good and worthy of celebration.

Clay Shirky wrote, “social tools don’t create collective action–they merely remove the obstacles to it.” (p 159). I think for South Madison residents, the use of social media could remove the barrier of their ability to define their own identity instead of someone else doing it for them– namely, the news. When at Celebrate South Madison I did see a determination among the residents to tell others that their neighborhood is better than the news says it is. Because of this I think the use of blogs, being low cost and accessible at a library, could enable these residents, these positive opinion leaders, to write their own narrative to share with the world. They could share their stories via their social networks, on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and start to change the way their neighborhood is received.

It sounds easy enough– so why, you might ask, don’t the residents just simply start writing and sharing their stories? Well, Shirky also points out, “Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies–it happens when society adopts new behaviors.” (p 160). The key here is that the desire isn’t behind such a move as this. There could be many reasons why: perceived lack of power, lack of interested readers, etc. Because of this I think it’s all the more important that our class is careful to weave offline and online components to our campaign to encourage a transition to online media for community organization. One thing we could do that might affect the Celebrate South Madison festival directly would be to help put together more social media advertisements of the event. According to Facebook, the Celebrate South Madison “event” was created only 3 days before the big day. That’s hardly any time at all to advertise and let the word spread through social networks about the event. Perhaps could work with South Madison community and opinion leader to create their own content to advertise the event and put it online. That way the advertisements are genuine, local to the community, and would show other community members that social media can be used by South Madison locals to organize and communicate. Hopefully from there, participating UW Madison organizations would create social media advertisements as part of that campaign (but not run the campaign) to help build a bridge between UW Madison students and South Madison residents for this event. From there, we could enable the communities to build  relationships and empower each each other through our shared involvement.

Blog #3 – Technology for Community

At Savor South Madison I found a small, passionate community base but struggling economic participation. Sheri and Arvin, the SMPC organizers, were a fabulous unifying force for all of the individuals who came to the event, greeting each visitor who came by and directing the day’s events. Their outgoing nature was matched by other booth organizers, like the young woman at the Urban League booth or the woman from the South Madison library reading books to the visiting children. Both women were quick to show their passion for their respective organizations and demonstrate their dedication either through years of service or level of involvement.

The aspect of the event that was lacking, especially for our class, was the absence of local food vendors. Pizza Hut, Famous Dave’s and even JD’s were a sad commentary for South Madison. It lead to much speculation amongst the class about whether the vendors didn’t want to go through the effort, didn’t feel safe, weren’t invited, etc. Had more local vendors been there it would have been easier for us to promote the event day-of on social media and may have gotten people driving by to stop and spend some time at the event, even if just to grab a bite to eat.

I think one way that technology could help the residents of South Madison, especially with regards to food vendors, is to get the word out about these vendors by creating a bridge through our personal reviews via social media. We can use our social connections to lend credibility to these restaurants and, beyond that, use the link to campus (our course) to lend a sense of legitimacy to our advertisements. Now, an association with a course may in fact lead our social networks to believe that we are only endorsing these restaurants because we must. However I think that if we utilize video, where we show through our actions that we’ve gone to these restaurants, met the owners, and ate great food, that concern will dissipate. In addition, if we can partner with people like Sheri and Arvin, who share our passion and lend credibility to our mission, we will build a bridge for our audiences in South Madison and campus. As a part of this bridging, it would be great if we could encourage our followers to make their own videos, thus encouraging an online community that transcends the physical boundaries of the various Madison neighborhoods.

If we can in fact encourage more enthusiasm for these restaurants both on campus and in South Madison, this increased interest may encourage the restaurant owners to come local events like Celebrate South Madison, knowing their customers will stop by. The in-person participation will hopefully help to build stronger bonds between South Madison and campus, turning around the poor reputation of the area and give students a better understanding of the broader Madison community.

Blog Post 4: Community Engagement and Collective Action

Based off of my observations and conversations from Celebrate South Madison, the main case that exemplifies “social dilemma” is the lack of involvement in community events. Honestly, I believe that it is because of a lack of knowledge of these events. A way that this can be fixed is by members of South Madison joining online communities through social media platforms to get informed about all of the opportunities and events that are happening in the area. This brings up the bigger problem: many residents of South Madison do not have social media accounts. The main reasons are because they are afraid, don’t know many people who have accounts, and don’t know how they work.

First of all, we need to show community members of South Madison that social media website are not scary and bad. Negative situations, however rare, that have arisen from social media are widely publicized and this frightens people. We need to take this as an opportunity to teach the South Madison residents about the positives that different platforms have to offer. It’s kind of an unconscious social dilemma – they aren’t participating in community building events and organizations to better the community because they don’t know about them. In addition, since not many people in the community are active on social media, it isn’t as attractive to sign up. When a bunch of people in your social circle participate in something, you are more compelled to join in. Therefore, we need to get the opinion leaders of the community involved on social media sites and hope that this creates an information cascade. Once a few people get an account, that will cause several others to, and eventually a majority of the people will have accounts. Just think, if your friends didn’t have a Facebook, would you? Probably not. Finally, we need to teach the community members about how easy it is to have a social media account and use it. Once we’re able to overcome these hurdles, we can begin to solve the problem of the social dilemma happening in South Madison.

Many people that I talked to were in love with the idea of our campaign to build community in South Madison. By making the abundant opportunities widely known, I’m confident that more people will get involved. The first step if just getting them all connected through social media so that they can readily find out about community organizations and upcoming events. From my experience, social media lessens the social dilemma. For example, I am a part of the “Concerned Citizens of New Berlin” Facebook group. Many residents of New Berlin use this as an outlet to advertise fundraising events, community activities and updates, as well as share general information about our town. Being able to log into Facebook and learn about a multitude of events and happenings in your town makes it a lot easier to get involved and help out. In fact, a few days ago, a woman posted about her bike getting stolen from her garage with a brief description of it and several members offered help and shared the post to warn their friends and neighbors about it.