Applying public ideas to government in the Lone Star State

2 11 2009

I recently completed an academic research paper examining some of the ways in which interactive media, which for sake of this post will include social media, is relating to government. It is along these lines that I find it very fitting to devote a post to the efforts being undertaken in a small Texas town, which could prove to be a litmus test for government adoption of new media tools.

Thanks to the terrific website, I learned about an interesting scenario playing out in the Lone Star State. Manor, Texas is now utilizing the power of collaborative, social crowd sourcing to improve governance. At the very least, that is the idea behind the application called Manor Labs. Essentially, the town realized that there are issues that could be improved for the betterment of the community. However, the questions that come up often in any government body is how to best approach an attempt at a solution to a given problem. Instead of relying upon the combined perspectives of an esoteric few officials huddled inside a boardroom at city hall, why not open up the thought process to the public, the constituents, who interact throughout the community on a daily basis in a multitude of ways. The officials of Manor, Texas Manor, Texas decided to take this process a step further. Instead of limiting idea contribution solely to those living within the town limits, anyone who has Internet access can provide a suggestion. I think this is an excellent advancement to an already great idea, mainly because chances are good that another community elsewhere has or is dealing with similar difficulties and people from these communities can easily provide suggestions that may be applicable in Manor. Voila, a potential solution from someone who has never set foot inside this Texas town!

Motivation can sometimes be lacking when it comes to public participation in local politics this is nothing new. One potential motivating factor may assist in convincing people to check out the Manor Labs application is that of Innobucks. These serve as a currency within the Manor Labs space and can be accumulated from ideas being submitted. A marketplace is therefore present within the application so users can choose to cash in their Innobucks for real, tangible rewards. Although the selection is limited, users Innobucks could be used to spend a shift riding along with the Chief of Police or be Mayor for a day or win a unique custom framed Texas flag. Texas flag

What is happening in Manor, Texas is exciting and could serve as a very valuable model for other communities in the years to come. The fact that a smaller Texas town has realized, coordinated and enacted a working system to harness public insights for the sake of making a better community is proof that government can work for the people. I am curious to see how Manor will build off of this application to make government even more responsive to public input. The future of government, especially relating to interactive media, may be before us in Texas, we all should be taking notice.

Impacting music through interactive media application

23 10 2009

As a nascent interactive media student, I am just beginning to understand and apply concepts relating to the form and function of interactive media. One such example of this application is forthcoming in a small group project. Within this vein, everything revolves around a band…

Hypothetically speaking, a band

Hypothetically speaking, a band

The project is one that I consider to hold great potential if approached with a solid footing and appropriate resources. We are currently in the discover phase of working with an established band to understand how we can best apply interactive media principles, along with our collective skill sets, to elevate the band into the next level of music world bliss. Is it too much for us to handle? I don’t think so, as long as we have a clear roadmap of the bands aspirations. In the first discussion our group held with one of the band’s founders, it was clear that there are at least two key areas where the band feels they are lacking. The first is a lack of micomedia presence. They have social media presence established, such as Facebook and Myspace. However, they self admit that they have avoided venturing into Twitter and similar tools because they are unsure of the point behind their use. Another area where there is room for improvement relates to the bands electronic press kit. This feature is pretty important when considering that many times this is the tool on the forefront of the bands image, the first exposure a performance venue may have with the band. If the press kit appears to be of a template design, where the true identity of the band is constrained, this presents a problem.

I am excited to explore how my skills, matched with those of my group, will mesh with the future trajectory of an interesting musical group. More and more musical personalities are moving greater resources into online spaces to connect with audiences in various interactive manners. If our group can better connect this band with their established fan base, we have provided a service. However, if we can expand the band’s fan base by reaching those who would be interested in their music if only they knew of their existence, we maybe on to the beginning of something big.

Don’t forget a dose of analytics!

23 10 2009

If you have any familiarity with my blog, or if you don’t for that matter, you now know I am a student of interactive media. When people ask what I am studying and I tell them this, the common reaction is a perplexed look on the person’s face as they ask “What is that?” Instead of going into the explanation here, I wanted to share an insightful experience that may help to clarify the topic.
I had an opportunity earlier today to sit in on a talk by Travis Lusk, New Media Manager at WCBS Radio in New York City. He is someone who is taking traditional media, radio in this case, and helping to transition it into an online, interactive space. Highlighting the means by which this is done, he mainly discussed the importance of analytics to the online environment.

Does the mention of analytics scare you? Bring back memories of high school math classes you thought you erased from your memory years ago? I will be the first to admit I am not a math person, neither are most folks within the greater communication fields. There is no need to worry though as Lusk explained analytics do not require you to have an undue degree of mathematical knowledge under your belt to make effective use of the tools within the interactive media environment. He did specify however that it is critical to understand why people are attracted to certain content. I take this to mean you have to establish a way of getting inside the people’s heads. Analytics are a tool for providing that valuable feedback and explanations through pattern analysis.

Speaking of tracking, I was surprised when Lusk divulged just how much information online analytic tools provide. For instance, he showcased on the projection screen some examples of what data he could access regarding any particular user who visited one of the several CBS Radio websites he is in charge over. This information included the visitors name, the time spent within the website and, most eye opening to me, the location from which the user was viewing the website. Just remember, somebody is watching!

To be clear, I am not saying or even suggesting that analytics are intended to be applied for malicious purposes. Could they be, sure. Could my computer crash at any moment, sure. Lusk did provide some encouraging insight, for those who are a little on-edge by this point, about making personal connections with website users. He emphasized that if you as a media expert can reach out and touch a user, not physically but in terms of a value perspective, just once, you have made them feel important. This is tremendously important in building loyalty to foster a long-term relationship. He does this regularly when responding to user emails. Instead of having a generic company email address to respond to user’s questions, he replies with an email address that contains his name. This little step helps to establish a connection, instead of users feeling like they are one of many cogs in the machinery of modern media.

All-in-all, it was an interesting talk. Ponder over some of those points and remember that somewhere, somehow, someone is likely taking note of your actions online!