“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” – Plato
I don’t know if internet is necessarily “the light” but its apparent that even ancient philosophers were tuned into human motivations and fear of the unknown. This applies to the most pertinent aspects of our lives like making decisions when we cannot predict the outcomes and also less significant occurrences like learning something new and changing habits. In Natalie Stroud’s article, “Selective exposure in theory and practice” she mentions that cognitive dissonance leads to selective exposure preventing people to seek information contradictory to what they already know and believe. After observing the South Madison Community and learning the community’s technological aptitude and Internet use, I predict motivating to adopting new communication technologies will be a challenge. Moreover, South Madison’s predisposed disadvantage with Internet skill, access and knowledge may also pose challenges when utilizing new media to build a stronger community within the community.
In “Digital Natives: Variation in Internet Skill and Uses Among Members of the ‘Net Generation’” Hargittai says it is assumed that issues of inequality are not prevalent once people go online because it is a level social platform; all information is available to everyone. Hargittai disagrees and argues that even when people are online differences remain in how they incorporate the Internet into their lives. These differences specifically in Internet skill and aptitude can be attributed to race, age, gender, parental education, socio-economic status, etc. “While the Internet certainly has the potential to level the playing ﬁeld by offering numerous opportunities to its diverse users…the more privileged stand to benefit from it more than those in less advantageous positions”(Hargittai, 110).
From knowing that South Madison is of a lower socio-economic status, it can be assumed that community members are not as familiar with the internet, its capacities and new technologies due to lack of access. Furthermore, on the October 5th Bus Tour, this distance from “new media” was confirmed after I interviewed a few community members at the South Madison Library. From these brief interactions, I sensed fear and confusion surrounding social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Without accessibility, frequency of use decreases and with that, the likelihood of internet “know-how.” Working with a foundation of less online skill poses a challenge when introducing new online communication platforms. Additionally, we want to make sure that after providing the skills and knowledge to these new technologies, the community will be able to access them. With this knowledge, we may want to approach Savor South Madison promotions from a traditional angle and point people in the direction of the new media platforms; we distribute some paper fliers in the public spaces that direct people to our website and social media accounts.
I also propose social media and Internet use seminars. Though this undertaking may not be feasible during this semester, I think the South Madison community could benefit from Internet guidance. Based on what I learned about the community library, members take advantage of opportunities to learn and engage in community activities at the Library. Savor South Madison could leverage this Community hot spot to introduce new communication technologies at a location where they would be used.
“Come on. You can do this. Last month, you bought an automatic toothbrush for $50 that you still haven’t bothered to set up. Buy Malarious, and you’ll get to see Elizabeth Banks get pied in the face. Is that a good deal or what?”
…A persuading message on collegehumor.com, egging people on to support the non-profit organization, Malaria No More in its “Malarious” campaign. Malarious launched in August 2012 in partnership with the hilariously funny online laugh-makers, College Humor. The organization’s goals were to raise money and awareness with a funny campaign about a not-so-funny but preventable disease. Twenty four videos featuring 30 well-known celebrities were captured doing ridiculously funny acts and posted to College Humor on its “malarious” page. The catch? to view the video required a donation of at least $1 which would go to Malaria No More’s cause to end Malaria deaths. The innovative and engaging campaign spread it’s news via social media platforms like twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Tumblr, Pintrest, Reddit, and others. The non-profit and college humor shared their content to their immediate online social media followers but the majority of the reach was accomplished by supporting celebrities as they donated their online influence. This Campaign is one of many implemented by Malaria No More in partnership with celebrities that are powered by social media platforms. Online promotions on free social media sites allow for an inexpensive manner in which to accomplish a non-profit’s goals.
Societal evolution brings change in community function and dynamic. In comparison to years before the 1970s, the last few decades have seen a decrease in organized activity within the community. In his article, “Tuning In, Tuning Out: The Strange Disappearance of Social Capital in America” Robert Putnam points out that less civic engagement weakens peoples’ connections with the life of their community and fuels the decline of social capital; the key to a well-connected, trusting community.
Putnam analyzes a number of possible contributing factors to the less engaged generation like disparities in education quality, the shift away from a traditional family, multiracial communities, and technological revolution to name a few. Though none are mutually exclusive to the cause of decreased social capital, advancing technology and our increasingly virtual world is the most influential to cause a shift from traditional civic engagement to other, newer ways of organization.
This generation displaced civic engagement with online organization like in social media, blogs, virtual groups, and online entertainment. Social capital is not as diminished as it seems; the engagement is occurring elsewhere. Although people are less involved in traditional community activities, the virtual world has allowed people to engage in other forms of organization, connection, and collaboration outside the constraints of the boundaries of town borders.
New technology helps us discover different avenues to renew and rebuild social capital in neighborhoods that might lack social cohesion. Recognizing the causes of weak social capital help us adapt to our changing societies and utilize new norms for effective communication. Hampton and Wellington introduce Facebook as an avenue to improve and grow social capital. Online mediums like social media sites, social forums and enticing promotions that prompt active participation by both the South Madison and the larger Madison community can help reestablish social capital in the South Madison community.