Michelle Eberhart's Study Guide Blog

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Smart Mobs and Flash Mobs

As organizations are evolving, new types of communication are developing, and new technology is being developed, specifically for temporary use. These technologies are used for one specific purpose and then disposed of. This temporary technology comes in two forms, smart mobs and flash mobs. They are both used for communication within an organization, but they are quite different from one another.

A smart mob is a concept introduced by Howard Rheingold in his book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, and is defined as "group that behaves intelligently or efficiently because of exponentially-increasingly network links." A flash mob, as this web site states, “is a group of people who, usually organized through the Internet, assemble suddenly in a public place, do something unusual, and disperse quickly.” As Suzanne says, flash mobs are usually created via the internet and disappear fast, hence the name "flash" mobs.

Like Courtney, I agree that although these organizations are temporary, they can help the organization that is already established become more productive and sufficient. They can be used just as sufficiently in temporary organizations as traditional organizations. An example like text messaging, a smart mob, could prove helpful to quickly contact another individual and get a reply, no matter how tempoary the organization. In a more traditional setting it helps things run more smoothly by having an almost immediate response from a colleague, without having to report to any hierarchies.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Communication Technology

New technology has given organizations many new opportunities and ways of communicating. The most common of these new tools is probably email, but even email still has many limitations when it comes to communication. With any email, be it for personal or business use, the junk mail, porn, and simply the unimportant messages clutter the inbox, making finding what we are interested in quite overwhelming. As Danielle points out, anyone who has ever tried to organize their email here at Marymount knows how frustrating this can be. And once we do find what we are looking for, trying to find it again becomes another problem. Because email has no search tool, lost emails are a very common problem.

Another problem is redundancy. This is another problem we are familiar with here at Marymount. Sending out a universal email to an entire organization generates too many emails, and again clutters inboxes. And as we have seen, replying to these emails leads to even more clutter, especially when the “reply to all” function is used.

Wikis, weblogs, and aggregators are new technology which have been created in response to these drawbacks, and are now being used in many organizations. Elizabeth gives many great examples of how these tools can be used. Weblogs are used to post messages in a sort of diary format from most recent to oldest. News aggregators are used alongside weblogs in organizations to keep members of the org updated. The aggregator puts posts from many different weblogs in reverse chronological order to connect an entire group of weblogs. A wiki, which means “quick” in Hawaiian, is a type of internal webpage used y an organization. Any member of the org can add comments or delete posts from the single webpage. Because these are inexpensive and almost effortless to use, they are ideal for team projects.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Command and Control

Globalization has given us many things from the “global village,” in which we are now equipped to communicate with someone on the other side of the world as easily as we would someone down the street, to lower-priced products which have been assembled by someone in a manufacturing plant in a foreign country.

Products like computers and other electronics are manufactured in pieces, or stages rather, all over the world, producing one product as a whole. The example used in the article, and possibly most frequently in discussion, is Dell Computers. Dell outsource to factories all over the world to produce their product most quickly and with the littlest cost. In their factories in Texas, a worker receives a partially assembled computer on his or her assembly line, with 1 to 3 minutes to install their components.

“Dell’s success depends at least as much on the efficiency of its processes as on the quality of its product.” If one thing goes wrong somewhere within the process, the entire production is halted, and this could happen anywhere on the globe with about 4,500 parts and hundreds of suppliers worldwide. Imbar expresses many of her concerns with the global assembly line.

As more and more companies begin to rely on outsourcing for the production, many may begin to rely on a single company for a specific part, violating the universal concept of always having a “plan B.” A few years ago, an earthquake in Taiwan caused Dell, Apple, and Hewlett Packard’s stock prices to drop. In the wake of September 11, when U.S. borders were closed and flights were grounded, several automobile plants were forced to shut down production as they were cut off from their supplies. Carrie details more the downsides of global outsourcing.

At first, I was confused as to what this had to do with Communication, but looking at it abstractly, it involves many of the same principles. In a network, relying on one other node could cause you to essentially be cut off from all other communication if that node became a single point of failure. Having more connections to reliable sources ensures that you will always be kept in the flow of communication, and productivity will not be halted due to a single point of failure.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Social Network Analysis

The relationships and flow of communication within an organization are recorded in a social network analysis (SNA). The SNA is made up of two basic components, nodes and links. The nodes are the people or groups within the network, while the links show the relationships between the nodes. A connection is developed between two nodes if they regularly talk or interact with each other. This “provides both a visual and mathematical analysis of human relationships.”

The number of direct connections a node has is its degrees, a concept used for measuring activity of the social network. This is where the “six degrees of separation” theory comes in. Stephanie mentions playing the "Kevin Bacon Game." The lower the number of connections needed, the more effective a node is. In many instances, less is actually more. Having many connections does not necessarily mean a node is useful and effective if it is only connected to a group of nodes connected to each other.

A node may have very few direct connections, yet still be an important entity if they are between two other nodes of importance. In this case they are in a “broker” role. While they are quite powerful within the network, they can also become a point of failure if there connections are somehow destroyed. At the same time, nodes with the shortest paths to others may well be in the best position in the network because they are best able to monitor the communication flow. However, Brynn points out that contribution is a factor not taken into cosideration.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Meanings in Networks

“Meaning is not in ‘words,’ or in ‘people’ but in the network.”

After taking a second look at the lecture notes and the text, it became clear that the meaning is in the network. The network differs from the source, because the source is the endless possibilities and combinations of all messages. The network is all of the people who whose language and communication is derived from the source. The network makes up the source that is distributed to the people’s brains. No one person can contain the entire source, but together, all these people with their somewhat limited versions of the source make up the network. Aubrey discusses the network in gretaer depth.

Jacques Derrida was an important theorist who established the theory of deconstruction. In examining Saussure’s theory, and observed that one must re-evaluate meaning. Michael gives a good description of signs. In Saussure’s theory of signs, meaning comes from their differing from other signs. This means that meaning is constantly changing based on its relationship to other signs.

Having spent most of the last 24 hours working on my Comm and the Future research paper, I automatically think of my Microsoft Word thesaurus. You type in a simple word, but hope to find a better one that just jumps off the page, so you push Shift, F7, and a list of related words appear. You click on one, which give you another set of words, then click on one of those which give you a totally new list. After a while you are so far from where you started (without that fabulous words that just grabs you and makes you want to read on) that it’s hard to remember exactly how those words were ever related in the first place.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Shannon & Weaver Model Part II

Shannon & Weaver’s Model of Communication is relatively simple, yet vastly significant to the study of human communication and Communication theory. Yet originally, their model did omit some not so minor aspects of communication. As Courtney-Leigh states, it does not explain its use in everyday communication. One major problem was that it did not include the meaning of the message. Because, as we learned, messages are made up of symbols, a sent message is not necessarily implicit. In Part II of the Shannon & Weaver reading, we learn that semiotics is the study of signs in relation to symbols and meanings.

Ferdinand de Saussure developed this concept more fully. What Shannon & Weaver classify as a sign, de Saussure calls the signifier. This principle is based upon two things: the signified which is the actual word, and the signifier which is the concept or meaning. A good way to understand this is by using an example, such as the word “right.” “Right” is the word, the signified, but the signifier tells you what this word actually means. It could mean the direction opposite of left, or it could mean correct, or it could mean an entitlement, a birthright. How the word is used tells the receiver what is the signifier. Lauren also points out that the signifier and signified can not exist independently of each other.

Feedback is an important, yet still often overlooked variable in this equation. Jakobson and de Saussure's additions helped to incorporate this. Feedback lets the sender know that the message was received and understood. Without feedback, there is no true communication.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Shannon & Weaver Model of Communication

The Shannon-Weaver model is definitely nothing new to Comm students at Marymount. Every textbook I have had up until now, from Principles and Theories, to Interpersonal, to even Advertising and Public Relations, have in some way incorporated this model of Communication. Although it was originally developed for Bell Labs and telephone communication, Shannon and Weaver’s model basically illustrates how humans communicate with one another.

One aspect that has not yet been covered in other classes, however, is redundancy. Redundancy is defined as any part of a message that does not carry any new information. Shannon states that in the English language, the level of redundancy is 50%. It has been proven that even if half of the letters are removed, a message can still be restored.

Another characteristic of the model, which is important no matter how many times it is covered, is noise. Noise is anything that interferes with the receiving of a message, which can be physical or psychological. Nicole uses a great example of George W. Bush’s speeches. He often has trouble getting his point across due to noise (whether it is a delay in his earpiece, being unable to read his own handwriting, or as Nicole suggested, the noise in his head). Noise may make us thankful for redundancythough, which makes it easier to determine what was actually being said, even when a message was disrupted.

The one thing Shannon and Weaver do not touch on is feedback, which is a major part of communication. Without feedback, we do not know if the message was transmitted successfully.

This model has proven useful in all types of communication, not just interpersonal. Stephanie discusses ways this model may be helpful in digital communication.