Our Last Class Yet The First Campaign

Posted April 19, 2009 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Uncategorized

Well, can you believe the semester is already over? Your final papers are, as a friendly reminder, due at the beginning of class on Wednesday. For your reading this class, tackle my book and these pieces: Edelman’s Obama write-up (PDF), Michael Silberman’s Obama write-up, and my piece on the campaign (PDF). For your final blog post, please predict what you think will be key to winning the 2012 election online.

Make sure all the rest of your blog posts are all caught up by class too. 🙂


War 2.0

Posted April 9, 2009 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Class Topics

Good morning! I realize that we didn’t spend a ton of time last night talking about Chinese censorship, so here’s a good James Fallows article on China’s Great Firewall, as well as an interview on the same subject.

Our subject this week is going to be the war in Iraq and the unique stories that have come out of it—the first war fought since Web 2.0. Remember how I said last night these tools are open to everyone? Here’s a story from today’s Washington Post about the Taliban’s website—that was hosted on a server in Houston!

The depth and breadth of this war’s coverage is unlike anything we’ve ever seen—particularly because of who is covering it. Feeling the traditional media wasn’t covering Iraq went and using VOIP technology, Swarthmore college students started putting together a regular news show interviewing Iraqis. Here’s an NPR story on it and then go listen to some of the podcasts.

The newest aspects of Web 2.0 in the war is how it allows us on the home front to hear from soldiers and civilians in the war zone in real time. Salem Pax was one of the first Iraqi bloggers in Baghdad, and the Baghdad Burning blog actually ended up being turned into a book. Its author, Riverbend, is still unknown.

Here’s a roundup of the best military blogs (or milblogs) right now and a site that rounds up milblogging. Army of Dude is one of the biggest. The military isn’t sure exactly how to deal with the bloggers (but then again, it seems to be like John Kerry: Both for and against the same things). Colby Buzzell‘s blog ended up launching a successful book (it won the Lulu Blooker Prize, for best blog to become a book) and he’s continuing to write for GQ. I recommend picking up the book if you want a good soldier’s memoir.

One of the biggest controversies to break out online is over Kevin Sites, who was an independent journalist in Iraq and videotaped what appeared to be a soldier shooting an unarmed wounded Iraqi. He now has a book/documentary out about his career. You can also see his Flickr feed. Here’s an interview that discusses his offbeat path.

Of course Sites isn’t the only one in Iraq with a video camera—the troops have them too and seem to spend a lot of time mixing patriotic videos (WARNING: some of this is graphic war footage). Dig around on YouTube and see what good videos you find. Controversial videos have also surfaced of private contractors shooting at civilian cars. This week, Del.icio.us at least one YouTube video of the war.

The web is also being used to rally veterans to oppose the war. But is that a good thing? And remember games and the internet are how the military is signing up its new recruits.

This week, dig around, read a few blogs, and write about what surprises you. Is seeing and reading about war a good thing or a bad thing? Should we have this much access to the front lines?

UPDATE: This is your second-to-last response blog (which means it’s #11). Cecilia points out that while I’ve said you should have 13 response blogs total, you’ll actually only have 12 since I didn’t assign a blog post during spring break week. Thus, you’ll only need 18 blog entries total—12 responses and six additional—rather than the 19 the syllabus says. Congratulations—everyone starts off with a two point bonus!

You can’t do more than two additional blogs per week, so if you don’t have two extra blog posts already written you’re in trouble. Get blogging!

Your Final Project

Posted April 2, 2009 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Uncategorized

For your final project, as we discussed in class, my hope is that you will be able to apply the lessons learned in class to your own professional lives and careers. You will prepare a project plan to incorporate social media/Web 2.0 techniques into your current workplace or towards a cause on which you work or care about. My recommendation would be to use the same topic/cause/project that you started on with your social media report a few weeks ago.

The final project must include no fewer than five different “Web 2.0” platforms, including but not limited to social networking, blogging, gaming, Google ad campaigns, podcasts, vlogs, online viral videos, wikis, Wikipedia, and anything else you’ve stumbled across that interests you. Want some ideas? Refer to TheConversationPrism.

The ideas need not be budget-constrained (i.e. even though games or Facebook widgets can be incredibly expensive to build, you may include them). For each idea, you must outline and include the following characteristics: (1) the tool’s purpose; (2) the intended audience; (3) the social component; and (4) how it fits into your larger strategy. For instance, if you’re building a game, who would you want to play the game, what would the game play be like, and what’s the game’s intended message? If you’re building a Facebook widget, what would it do, what’s the social component that would make people put it onto their Facebook pages, and how does it advance the your workplace or cause, and/or educate people as to your position? If you’re building a Google Adwords campaign, who would you hope to draw into your website, what search terms would the campaign be built around, and what’s the hook/language you’d use to get people to click on your ad?

You must also include a survey of the existing Web 2.0 landscape for your project: Who are your online competitors? Your online friends/allies/potential partners? What are the leading authorities on your topic online? If you choose a cause, what are opponents doing? What’s going on around the world on your topic/cause? What lessons can you draw into your own projects from the successes or failures of allies/competitors? This is where your social media report should prove quite useful.

Your plan should be written in the form of a memo to your boss (in this case, me), outlining each tool and its potential applications. While there is no set page length, I would be very surprised if you could accomplish all of the above in fewer than five pages with normal spacing and font sizes. Ten pages should be considered the outside maximum.

As the syllabus says, your final project is worth twenty points, i.e. twenty percent of your final grade. You will be graded on how realistically your plan is outlined, how fully you demonstrate comprehension of the Web 2.0 landscape and its various tools, and how clearly you establish your goals and objectives. I want to specifically emphasize the first and third criteria, because those can get lost in the rush of fun tools. I don’t care *WHAT* tools you use as much as I do *WHY* you’re using them. What about them helps you communicate with the community you’re trying to reach?

Any project plans not turned in on April 22nd will be docked three points. Any papers not turned in by close of business on April 24th will not be accepted, meaning that you will not be able to pass the class.

Please email me if you have questions. We will also discuss this more in class next week. Make sure to put some good thought into how you approach this. Your social media report should be a good start.

Online and Overseas

Posted April 2, 2009 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Uncategorized

For next week’s class, I want you all to go to Global Voices Online, which rounds out the bloggers around the world, and pick a country that begins with the same letter as your name (to get the country listing click on countries in the upper right-hand corner). Explore that country’s blogosphere and write your blog post of the week about your findings.

For April 1

Posted March 31, 2009 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Uncategorized

I meant to post earlier your blog assignment for the week: Blog about your experience doing the Wikipedia project. Was it harder/easier than you expected? What problems or challenges did you run into?

Wikipedia Reports

Posted March 19, 2009 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Uncategorized

Good rainy Thursday morning to you all! I’m not going to assign any reading for next week’s Omni-Class, though if you have any other subjects that you’re interested in, please email me to ensure that we can incorporate it into the class. I want you to devote the next week to getting a good start on your Wikipedia project. Here’s what I’m looking for, due April 1st:

* Write a new page or substantially edit an existing page within Wikipedia. By substantial, I will be looking for more than 200 words of original material or the equivalent in terms of reorganization or “wikification.” You’re going to be graded not just on your contribution but how well you do within the bounds of Wikipedia—whether your contributions are welcomed, fit within the context of the Talk page within your particular entry, your adherance to NPOV and “notability” guidelines, and the like. You’ll need to spend some time learning the ethos of Wikipedia via its tutorial and reading through the tutorials and talk/discussion pages where you want to make your contribution. You won’t be penalized if your changes are undone, as long as you have a good case for your notability/NPOV, etc., and engage in the discussion if necessary.

Here’s the tutorial page to get started. Make sure to play around this week so we can answer any questions you have in class next week.

Go forth and conquer!

UPDATE: For your blog post for this week, pick something out of the Del.icio.us feed and write about it. Make sure to label it a response post. Also, since I know some of you mentally appeared to still be on spring break last week, make sure that you wrote *last week’s* entry too, on Wikipedia.


Posted March 13, 2009 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Uncategorized

With the Wikipedia class, we’re going to delve into the world of what Stephen Colbert calls “Truthiness.”

As your first journey into Truthiness and the challenges of the web, take a look at the documentary “Loose Change,” which was put together online to highlight the U.S. government’s role in the 9/11 attacks. On YouTube, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to view “Loose Change”—and, if you take the time to watch it, it makes a pretty convincing case that we don’t know the full truth about the 9/11 attacks. All told, across its various postings and versions, more than ten million people have watched the video. The challenge, of course, is that at best the documentary aspires to “truthiness,” that is it’s hard for a lay viewer to judge its actual level of factual interaction. Places like Popular Mechanics have tried to debunk the theories. One student last semested pointed out to me in class a parody of “Loose Change” called “Unfastened Coins.”

It’s easy to dismiss endeavors like “Loose Change” (or is it?), but the journey into Wikipedia is much more complicated. Here’s some background reading and viewing on Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia. Its founder, Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, has turned into one of the web’s big celebs. He’s a big proponent of collaboration and “crowd-sourcing.” The project, though, despite becoming the default research tool for most college students and lazy journalists/researchers is very controversial for its “truthiness.” It’s very hard to know what exactly you can and can’t trust on Wikipedia. Newsman John Seigenthaler got very burned by a libelous write-up, and not surprisingly Encyclopedia Britannica thinks the project is the devil incarnate. On the other hand, a Nature study found that the two are about equal in accuracy. Of course, the beauty/challenge of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it, as Colbert likes to demonstrate by raising the subject of “Wikiality” on subjects like elephants.

If you want a few other examples of wikis and how they’re used, check out the DisInfopedia and these useful resources on what wikis are and how to use them to collaborate. The articles also include some useful tips on how you might apply wikis to the work that you’re doing.

This is the week that I want you to be most wary of what we’re learning. Ask hard questions about wikis and Wikipedia—we’re going to talk in class about your mini-project, which will include contributing to a Wikipedia entry and preparing a research report on using a program that allows you to track who’s been editing a particular entry. Your blog entry should focus on the following two questions: Should we trust Wikipedia or an expert-led encyclopedia more? How could Wikipedia be better set-up to better provide accuracy? Should it be open to everyone or just verified “experts”?

In class, I’ll walk you through some Wikipedia pages, help you set up accounts, and explain WikiScanner.

REMINDER: Your social media report is due at the beginning of class. Do not be late to class. I will be collecting reports at 7:45 and anything turned in after that will be marked late.