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.


2 Comments on “Blog Post #5 – Access, Skills and Motivations”

  1. Eddy C. says:

    Something that I thought about during my writing of the post this week was exactly how we expect community members to engage with online social media sites without the necessary hardware.

    I didn’t really address it, but I feel that it is extremely important. What percentage of household have a working internet connect and a desktop/laptop PC? My guess would be less than the greater Madison community, but at the same time I would have no idea by how much.

    Showing members how social media works wonders and explaining why might get them interested in taking an active role online, but if they have to drive to a library or friends house to use a computer it all becomes less effective.

    Smartphones present us with a strong alternative since people are more likely to have them over more expensive computer systems, but then maybe we should focus on developing content that would be easily shared and consumed on mobile devices.

  2. katerampone says:

    I completely agree with your analysis of the situation. If we can create a motivation for South Madison residents (specifically the restaurant and grocery store owners), it will help bring students from the UW campus to their restaurants. I also find restaurants from social media and apps, so if they don’t partake in these platforms, I won’t go there simply because I don’t know about it. By showing the residence the importance of involvement on social media platforms and the ability to increase business, I think that they will become motivated to learn more and take part in the social media world.

    However, I have the same concern as Eddy: how many people have internet access at home? This could be a definite barrier if the percentage is low. If I need to put in a lot of effort just to get internet, I usually just end up losing interest in what I was going to search. This is something that we need to figure out so we know how to target our push of social media literacy.

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