Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but can we be Facebook friends?

With over 1 Billion profiles and 584 million logging in daily, Facebook is a big freaking deal in our world today.

So with all of these people on the site, how do we decide to become friends with each other? According to Pew research, the average number of Facebook friends is 229 with users ages 18-34 averaging 318.5 friends and users ages 35-46 averaging 197.6 friends.

 

Watch the first 27 seconds of this video to see how awkward it can be to “Facebook” in real life

Video

 

There are many articles and blogs on the Internet about Facebook etiquette and so called “rules.” Each one has some comment on when we should consider adding someone as a friend on Facebook. “Don’t add someone as a Facebook friend unless you meet them offline first.”

“But if you wish to add someone for some valid reason, like to get to know this girl you have a crush on, do so with some introduction or through a mutual friend.”

Contrary to the others, Salam says that you can friend strangers, but not without a little “Facebook foreplay,” or sending messages as to not come completely out of the blue with request.

All of these are valid points when it comes to initiating the new friendship and what we should do about it on Facebook. As we meet new people both on and offline, what role does Facebook play in developing these friendships?

If you are a user of Facebook, and based on the statistics you probably are, you know that there are these “rules” that apply to how we use Facebook. Facebook doesn’t tell you when to add someone to your friend list; we, the users, create these rules based on our social expectations. In his textbook, A First Look at Communication Theory, Griffin describes the theory of Coordinated Management of Meaning (known as CMM) developed by W. Barnett Pearce and Vernon Cronen. This theory, briefly, says that through our social interactions we create the social world while simultaneously that social world is creating us. In other words, we, as users of Facebook, are shaping the rules that guide our actions on the site, but at the same time, as those rules are changing, they change us and our expectations for the site. This may be a little confusing at first, but once you wrap your head around it you can begin to see how it works and how important it is to understanding our behaviors and communication on Facebook. It is important for us to be conscious of our interactions on Facebook and how they relate to our real, offline life because, as CMM says we create the rules and the rules create us. When it comes to our newly forming friendships, how does Facebook and the “rules” surrounding it impact our actions?

So, this blog is about interpersonal communication, so let me bring in some info from Julia Wood’s textbook Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters.

Chapter 10 of the book deals with “The Development of Friendship” on page 260. In this section, the course of development a friendship takes is outlined. Here we are mainly talking about the first stages of new friendships and when it will be accepted to take that step into being Facebook friends. According to Wood, the first step of the friendship process is “Role-Limited Interaction” where we have the initial contact with the other person (for example in a class or at work or on a softball team). In this stage we tend to limit personal information and stick to the standard scripts set by social norms. The second step is “Friendly Relations” where we begin to find commonalities and discover more about the person and their likes and dislikes, but there is still some formality and hesitation toward a full friendship. The third is the “Moving Toward Friendship” stage where we initiate more contact and move the friendship from a social context to an interpersonal context. In this stage we consider the other to be a casual friend; not too close, but not too far away either. There are higher sages in this process, however I think that if you are in those levels, I will assume you are already friends on Facebook and this doesn’t apply to those relationships.

Somewhere in there we must make the decision to add this new-found, real-life friend to our Facebook friend list. When is that appropriate? Some would say immediately in the role-limited stage when others may say not until the moving toward friendship stage has begun. When making this decision, we should take into account other aspects of interpersonal communication to make our decision.

One aspect that will guide our decision will be the level of self-disclosure we wish to have with this new friend. Self-disclosure, part of having a trusting communication climate (described in Wood’s Chapter 8, page 199), is revealing things about your identity that could not be discovered in any other way. As the level of self-disclosure goes up in a relationship, the level of closeness also increases. Facebook is the ultimate area of self-disclosure. We post our relationship status, or thoughts, our likes, our favorite books, movies, web pages, photos of our lives, our past, and so much more. Letting someone into our Facebook page is equivalent to telling someone all about your identity in one nice, neat, well designed package. Research shows that status updates on Facebook are used primarily to display “current emotional state,” meaning a large part of self-disclosure that used to occur privately in interpersonal communication is now a semi-public announcement that many can see at once.

If self-disclosure increases closeness in relationships, Facebook friends can be closer to you than others who are not friends with you on Facebook.

So, back to where in the development process we add someone to our friend list. Based on this information about self-disclosure, I would place the ideal time for adding them in the 3rd stage, “Moving Toward Friendship.” This way the friend has some background information about who you are and your identity before being inundated by all the information about you that is provided on Facebook. Any earlier in the development stages and you may run the risk of disclosing too much in the relationship and thus stopping the process. Also, by this stage, you have developed some level of a relationship offline, an important factor for sustaining relationships. If you friend them too early, you could run the risk of stopping face-to-face communication and only interacting online.

Now that you are in the “Moving Toward Friendship” stage and are friends on Facebook discovering more about each other, there is one word of caution I can give. Based on the concept that language is symbolic and defines our perceptions, we must be careful about how we use the information we get from our new friend’s Facebook profile. Wood, in chapter 4, describes how language can totalize. Totalizing is where one aspect of an individual is used as the only aspect of their life. If a person reveals an aspect about their life on a Facebook status that you do not agree with or like, such as a religious or political belief, it could be easy to use that language to define the entirety of that person. This can cause troubles in a new, developing friendship if there is no basis formed offline where you know the individual as more than that one aspect. We have to understand that a person is much more than they self-disclose on Facebook, and an offline relationship is necessary for a healthy friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image from Creative Commons – Originally posted to Flickr by malias at http://flickr.com/photos/62752875@N00/2836740097)

Wrapping things up, I think it is easy to see how it can be so hard to understand the rules around adding Facebook friends. The rules are constantly changing based on how we define them and each friendship is different and has a different development rate and pattern. When does this random guy in my class move from the “role-limited interaction” to the “friendly relation” stage? How much do I want him to know about me? How much do I want to know about him? Do I want to know what his emotional status is?

What I think is the most important to take away from this look at the role of Facebook in the development of new friendships is that there are no real “rules.” There are guidelines and research and theories that help us to better understand what happens in these situations and what they may mean, but overall, in interpersonal communication, it is all about what is right for that specific relationship. The communication between two people in a friendship is just that, between two people. There is no set-in-stone rulebook that must be followed. What is best is that you and the other person are comfortable with the level of friendship and have your ideal communication climate.

 

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I Need to Poop: TMI?

Earlier today I was sitting around doing some homework and my phone buzzed telling me have a text message. This is what I saw when I picked up my phone:

Now this person is my friend, I would consider her a really good friend, but we have never really had that open of a friendship where we talk about stuff like that. Don’t get me wrong, I found it absolutely hilarious, but it caught me a little off guard. That got me thinking about why I thought it was weird to get a message like that from her. Would I have thought the same thing if it had come from someone else?

In the textbook “Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters” by Julia Wood the idea of self-disclosure is discussed as part of trust in interpersonal relationships. Wood defines self-disclosure as telling someone information about yourself that they wouldn’t find out any other way. By telling others more about ourselves than they would know normally it builds up trust in the relationship, therefore bringing the two closer together. This self-disclosure should be gradual, becoming more and more personal over time, it is not an all-of-a-sudden free-for-all of information (which would scare the other away). You have to slowly build up to being able to self-disclose things that are more personal.

In my example above, we have been friends for 6 months or so, so I would say this was the next level of the building self-disclosure in our interpersonal relationship. I was able to recognize it happening in real time because of recently learning about self-disclosure in class.

Research has shown that the level of intimacy in an interpersonal relationship can be determined by what is self-disclosed. In the study, the researchers found that revealing facts and information suggests a lower level of intimacy than revealing emotions.

My best friend of almost 4 years and I are very close, and we self-disclose emotions very often, almost without any hesitation or second thought about it. So when I compare the communication between this relationship and the relatively new one with my friend who texted me today, I can see how emotional self-disclosure can be used to bring people closer together in interpersonal relationships.

 

 

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Learning to Communicate

 

There is no such thing as a naturally good communicator. We are not born with the skills to get our message to others clearly, these things are learned. Yes, baby’s do have the ability to do motions and make facial expressions and display emotion, all of which are forms of communication, but naturally, they are not the best. Think about when you see a baby crying. Why is he crying? Is he hungry? Tired? Hurt? Even though the baby is communicating that he is not happy with something, we do not know what it is. Good communication comes through practice and learning.

 

The focus here is on learning. Learning to be a better communicator. If good communication is not born naturally with us, we must be able to learn it, somehow.  This is something that is important to all people because we all strive to have our thoughts and ideas communicated effectively to others. If that is not a natural thing, we must then understand how to learn it. As people learn this, they become better communicators in their relationships.

As a communication scholar and a human being, I always wonder how I can share more of my thoughts and ideas, and how I can share them more effectively. As I try to make a name for myself in the working world now that I am getting closer to graduation, I want to be sure that potential employers see me as an effective communicator. So by learning this, I can understand how to accomplish it. As you read this, maybe you too can think about how being a better communicator can help you in some way. Maybe you can see it helping you build a stronger relationship with your significant other, or maybe you see communication helping you get a promotion at work.

John Grohol, the founder and editor-in-chief of the PsychCentral blog, said in a post that “better communication . . . starts with one person making the effort to improve.” (Yes, I know that it is a psychology website, but I think that the ideas he lays out in the article still apply to this post quite well.) Grohol is talking about idea that it is a conscious decision to improve and to learn how to communicate better. If you read the post, he gives 9 good ways that will help you communicate better in a relationship, I recommend checking it out.

Julia Wood in her textbook “Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters” outlines 8 principles of interpersonal communication. The 8th reads: “Interpersonal communication effectiveness can be learned.” This is saying what I have been describing above, that communication in our interpersonal relationships is not naturally occurring. That is, in order to communicate effectively we must learn how. So take for example the crying baby above. That baby will soon grow up to learn words and language. He must then be learn how those words can be used to tell others why he is unhappy. With language comes the ability to communicate more, more effectively, but only if you know how.

When I first started to understand the concept that effective communication is not learned, it hit me in a weird way. I had always thought that I can talk and write pretty well, thats all there is to it. However, in some cases and some of my interpersonal relationships, I am still (metaphorically speaking) a crying baby. I have not yet learned all there is to know about how to communicate my messages and ideas effectively. I think that if you can learn anything from this post, it is that you still can learn something. Interpersonal communication is a lifelong process that never stops or stalls. You must constantly adapt and change and learn new ways of communicating.

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About Stephen

My name is Stephen Hudson and I am a senior in Longwood University’s Communication Studies program with a concentration in Mass Media. I am originally from Richmond, Va, but have lived in Farmville all summer. I work for Longwood University’s Public Relations department as a Multimedia Specialist doing content creation (videography and photography) for online and print media.

In working for Longwood University’s PR Department I have used interpersonal communication on a daily basis as I have been working with multiple departments on campus to work on projects. My main project over the summer was the creation of the Longwood Fight Song music video (see below). This project required me to work with many different people across many different departments in order to create the best video possible. This video also demonstrates my ability in video creation, much of which I learned from the Broadcast Production class in the Communications Studies department.

Enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACeHGOp0U0A

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Cause and Effect: Video Games and the News


On February 22, 2011, in a second grade classroom in Glennon Heights Elementary School in Jefferson County,  Colorado, eight year old Aidan throws a violent temper tantrum. According to the report by the local NBC 9 News, Aidan was threatening teachers with sharp, broken pieces of wood saying he would “whack them with it.” Police were called to the scene where they ordered him to stop and put the stick down and Aiden refused. They then proceeded to pepper spray him twice and handcuff him.

As a journalist, the above account of the incident is the bare minimum of what I consider news. It has when, where, who, and what happened. The only factor missing is the answer to why Aiden acted this way. Here we see the reporter’s attempt to answer why:

“Child behavioral expert Dr. Larry Curry says he is observing a trend of young children becoming more violent, influenced by the Internet, TV and video games. ‘It’s a wakeup call to schools, it’s a wakeup call to parents,’ Curry said. ‘We’re going to see more and more episodes like this. This is not just an isolated situation.'”

Will he be violent? (stock image from sxc.hu)

This is the only mention in the article of video games and technology. After these two sentences, the report then turns back to describing the situation gives more information of Aiden and his mother’s viewpoint. We have no evidence that Aiden plays or even owns video games, yet the reporter thought it was relevant to quote Dr. Larry Curry saying that video games are causing violence in children.

The fact that the incident happened and is news worthy is not what I wish to call into question, it is the reporter’s decision to include the above statements which seemingly have no connection to the story.

We as human beings what to find a cause for things out of the ordinary. An 8 year old boy threatening to attack his teachers to the point of needing police action is not ordinary.

Virginia Tech, Columbine and other tragedies were horrific events where people did not act normally.

In his research titled Video Game Lightning Rod, Dmitri Williams of University of Michigan explains that media organizes and frames the world around us to be able to present it. Williams looked at how media frames video games and other emerging technology, providing examples of how both video games and the internet (which was new at the time) were blamed for the Columbine incident. He claims that video games were a “lightning rod” for conservative fears, an easy target. Video games have become that easy cause for unexplainable behaviors.

Winda Benedettie of MSNBC wrote in a 2007 commentary piece that news media is quick to blame video games, she specifically singles out Jack Thompson of Fox News.

According to Benedettie, within hours of the incident at Virginia Tech, Thompson was blaming the popular violent video game “Counter-Strike” for what happened.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/9Uc06vevb_4" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

source: www.gamersmint.com

There was no evidence of the killer having played this or having any connection to gaming. A list of personal belongings from the killer’s room was released to the public and did not contain any video games, consoles, or video game related items.

However, Thompson told MSNBC, “This is not rocket science. When a kid who has never killed anyone in his life goes on a rampage and looks like the Terminator, he’s a video gamer.”

I think that this is similar to Dave Cullen describing in his book Columbine how media was quick to blame the Trench Coat Mafia for the shooting in the high school. He basically says that we (the press and the public) want a simple, easy and obvious answer, and we want it fast. We have to make sense of the unexplainable.

I believe that the media uses this to justify their simplification: If we can blame something tangible, like the TCM or video games, it is possible to take action against it to prevent such tragedy again.

I think that the media should avoid implying that these simple answers are the only answer. In the case of Aiden, the article did not mention any other possible causes for his actions, except maybe an anger problem (but no mental illness). By simply placing the 2 sentences in the article, the media has implied that video games are to blame for Aiden’s rage. Media does not need to be as out-spoken as Jack Thompson to simplify behavior to one cause, video games.

Will she be violent? (stock image from sxc.hu)

We know that the human brain is not simple, it is not a basic cause and effect machine. It does not take violence in and spit violent action back out. Let’s stop simplifying our actions down to one root cause.

I wish to point out that I am not dissolving video games of all responsibility. As I said, the brain is not simple, so I cannot say that video games have no effect on our behavior either. In this post I am saying that simplifying causes of behavior is not appropriate nor acceptable in the news. From a journalism standpoint, this is not ethical because it leaves out other vital influences of behavior. I hope to shed light on this practice of finding the easy answer that on the surface explains some behavior but in reality is not the only factor.

References:

Williams, D. (2003). The Video Game Lightning Rod. Information, Communication & Society, 6(4), 523-550. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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How do you get your news?

Most of us today own or have access to a computer and the internet. What does this mean for us? New ways of getting the news. More Americans now say they get their daily news online over print newspapers; about 40% internet to 35% newspapers (Doctor, 2010).

Our parents got the news Monday through Friday at 6:00PM, a limited amount of what an editor says they should know. For us, we have a vast expanse of nearly unlimited news from hundreds of different sources. And our generation is turning more to the internet for their news than ever before. We watch 60% less TV than our parents and we spend 600% more time online than they do (Doctor, 2010).

stock photo from http://sxc.hu

This means that we now create and control what news we can get. We have taken the place of the editor deciding what stories can fit into the hour time block of TV or the pages of the print edition.

It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.

-Jerry Seinfeld

By his humorous words, Seinfeld pointed out a major flaw of a limited amount of space and time in relation to news: there is no possible way to fit everything in. The essentially unlimited amount of space available to the internet and no constraints of time have changed the way the news is delivered to and received by us. So where do we go to get it? How do we manage and begin to organize and comprehend this vast amount of information being uploaded constantly?

We must become our own editors. We must find ways to categorize and sift through all the sources. I will give 4 examples of ways to read a balanced amount news efficiently. First you should make a list of  sources (yes, plural) that you would like to read, even those that you may not normally read or may disagree with. This is to pull from a variety of different places and viewpoints to get a balanced view of what is going on. No source will give an unbiased view of the news, so pulling from many different sides will help to even out your reading list.

Bookmarks/Surfing:

This may be the most time consuming way, but it may be the way that you are used to looking through the internet. You simply add the homepages of all your news list to a bookmark folder in your internet browser. When you are ready to read them just click through the bookmarks to each page. However this can be time consuming, I mean you are always on Facebook or Twitter, right?

Social Networking

Many local and national news organizations have Facebook and Twitter pages. This is just a short list of some popular sources:

Washington Post: https://www.facebook.com/washingtonpost and  http://twitter.com/washingtonpost

Fox News: https://www.facebook.com/FoxNews and http://twitter.com/foxnews

Local NBC station: https://www.facebook.com/NBC12News and  http://twitter.com/nbc12

So as you can see, the people who bring you news are in the places many of us access every day, possibly multiple times a day. If we “like” them on Facebook, then the info they post will pop up on our news feed (funny name, as it changes the popular definition of news, but more on that in another post possibly). Using social networking to find news is good as it puts it in front of us and gives us easy access, but we still rely on an editor of some sort to post selected stories onto the Facebook page. Let’s move to a different style of reading the news altogether.

Google News

http://news.google.com/

Google news is a service from Google that aggregates the internet’s news sources and combines them to provide the top stories. The site allows you to customize what country you are interested in viewing, as well as adding special topics that you are interested. The benefit of using Google News is that it pulls from many different sources from across the internet to provide a broad spectrum of news and opinions and viewpoints. Here is a list from Wikipedia on the top sources used by Google News in 2007: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_News#Sources_for_news

However, there is still one more service that can be tailored the most for you and your news viewing needs.

RSS Reader

News sites offer what is called an “RSS feed” that you can subscribe to that will update when they update it. The benefit of this would is the full customization and the streamlined process. I personally use Google reader. I have blogs and news site’s RSS feeds that are combined in my Reader for me to look at each day. http://www.google.com/reader

Here you can truly become your own editor. You can combine sources to create your very own news experience by subscribing to what you want, and organizing it into folders and categories. Most sources have multiple RSS feeds for different areas of the paper like sports, business, technology, arts, and sciences. Here is a list of the New York Times’ RSS feeds: http://www.nytimes.com/services/xml/rss/index.html

My recommendation: do what you feel is best for you. In this age of endless customization, create a place for you to go and read the news in a way that is comfortable to you. If it isn’t, then you will not go back there again. The idea of me being my own editor was scary at first, it’s a daunting task, but once it is set up and running, it will become a part of your normal routine. Once you have that routine, then you will become more informed and will be able to view stories of the world from multiple viewpoints, even those you don’t agree with.

Doctor, K. (2010). Newsonomics: Twelve new trends that wil shape the news you get. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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Product Licensing and Children: Class Presentation

Our presentation focuses on product licensing in the school systems and the impact it has on children. We discuss extracurricular products such as branded prize box toys, clothing, and valentines day cards, all of which can show up in the classroom. We then talk about branded school supply products such as backpacks, lunchboxes and pencils. We end on product licensed educational materials such as scholastic book fairs, leap frog, and other books that are in the classroom. We conclude the presentation on the impacts all of these licensed products have in terms of ideology as well as possible alternatives for teachers.

Click Here to view the Google Doc Presentation:

https://docs.google.com/present/view?id=dcmqf4rq_237q9w3qgj&interval=5&autoStart=true

Videos we used in our presentation:
Slide 16 (entire video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdeE8SSVe6U

Slide 19 (from :11sec to 1:19): http://www.5min.com/Video/Back-to-School-Toys-406149312

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“For you, not them,” How kids see adults in ads

Parents/adults hardly appear in children’s ads, how are they portrayed when they do appear?

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Parents/adults are shown as stupid, where kids are shown to be smarter or better as seen in the bubble yum ad. The child knows what the best gum is, and influences the adult to eat some himself, which of course he enjoys.

There is a lack of recent research on how the parental/adult figures are portrayed to children through ads. Atkin and Heald’s study shows that of the 200 toy and food ads shown on a Saturday morning, there were 76 adults in the ads. Of those 200 ads, only 3 made explicit requests for the child to ask for the product. However, with children influencing over $700 billion, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u8HL3Bjygw) parents should be able to recognize how advertisers are portraying them to children in order to get that money.

How media and advertisers portray adults and parents to kids impacts them and how they interact with their parents. Peterson claims that advertising influences the development of the self image and affect children’s idealized lifestyles. If this is true then what images and ideals are created by portraying children as superior to adults?

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While there is no explicit claim saying “tell your mom to buy lays chips,” a child can derive that from this commercial. A kid will see the humor in the ad that portrays adults as dumb and from that, maybe not cognitively, they will believe can control them. Arguably children already control parents with product due to the amount of purchasing power they already have.

The advertisers are using flattery to show the children that they are able to choose their products and make their own decisions.

Flattery is a technique that is effective because we like to be praised for being smart or powerful or better than someone else. When we praise children in advertisements, they feel as if they are better and smarter than the adults, this then ties the product to those feelings.

A perfect example of this is the following Bubble Tape ad:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/DY-LVfz7tjI" width="425" height="344" allowfullscreen="true" fvars="fs=1" /]

It is easy to see why the child would want to chew gum that his principal and bus driver, who are figures of authority, are unable to chew themselves. By telling the child that they have this exclusive product that somehow adults can’t have, children then are motivated to buy because they want to be better than these figures.

The parent child relationship is very complex and is hard to research and understand. The addition of media and advertisements heavily influencing that relationship only complicates it more. If parents can critically think about the ads and what they are teaching the child about that relationship, it is possible to counteract and explain the ideals being presented. If a child comes to the realization that advertisers are simply playing off their wants to be smarter and better than adults, then they will be better critics of the products being offered.

Sources:

Atkin, C. & Heald, G. (1977). The Content of Children’s Toy and Food Commercials. Journal of Communication, 27: 107–114. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1977.tb01805.x

Peterson, R. (1998). The portrayal of children’s activities in television commercials: A content analysis. Journal of Business Ethics 17(14): 1541-1549. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25073988.

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Spider Man the movie is brought to you by…

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Spider-Man was released on May 3, 2002 when I was 11 years old. It grossed over $403 million in theaters (IMDB).  The film, by my most likely low estimations, includes well over 20 explicit product placements. This does not include the covert product placements that I didn’t recognize. From Rolls Royce to Cup of Noodles, this movie is drenched in product placement.

Screen shot of movie trailer (above) seen on www.youtube.com

This movie has become many children’s favorites. Its rated PG-13, however, after being out for so many years it is certain that children younger than 13 are watching this movie. So, if children are watching this movie, how does the heavy handed product placement influence them? This is a very important concept to study, and it is very hard to say for certain, but it is possible to make inferences.

For some of the products featured in Spider-man, I believe that the company uses the basic persuasion technique association as explained in Media Literacy Project’s article “The Language of Persuasion.” Association tries to connect a product with a idea, feeling, or emotion that is favored by the audience. The purpose of this is, if it works, the audience will remember the emotions they felt and, through the process of emotional transfer, associate it with the product.

In Spider-Man, one scene that sticks out blatantly as product placement in everyone’s mind is the Dr. Pepper scene. Peter, after discovering he can shoot webs out of his hands like a spider, goes to his room to practice. He sits a can of Dr. Pepper on the table and then shoots his web at it and whips it back to grab the drink. It’s also notable that he smashes or breaks everything in the room almost except for the drink

Spider-Man likes Dr. Pepper (as seen on http://worstproductplacement.com)


Please watch the video on youtube.com.

The owner does not allow this video to be embedded.

By looking at this as association, we can begin to see why Dr. Pepper would want to be included in this particular scene in relation to younger children, boys in particular. The drink is associated with new found powers, with exciting experiences, and with growing up. By looking deeper into the film, the subtext becomes know: Spider-Man is about puberty. The scrawny awkward kid is becoming stronger and bigger, with new abilities and interests. This scene in particular is very essential to the character and his abilities, and hopefully I don’t need to go into too much detail about the puberty references in this scene (this guy does in the second paragraph). Dr. Pepper has now associated itself in every young boy’s mind (even if they may not know it) as, “the drink to have when I’m going through awkward changes in life, because it will make me like Spider-Man,” simply by association.

When 0:03 seconds of product placement in Spider-Man is valued at approximately $2.5 million (based on a study by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc.,  a media analyzing company), I think that it is important to see what the implications of product placement has on children. If we can pick out these subtle references and associations in the media of our children, we can A) understand why children want the products they do and B) help children to avoid making irrational or unintentional associations about products and the ideologies that marketers attempt to create.

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Throwing The Metaphorical Hammer

Motorola Xoom Super Bowl Ad

Drones with headphones in, wearing identical clothing pack a subway station waiting for the train to arrive, a man walks through the crowd, standing out in “normal” clothes carrying a tablet. He is reading George Orwell’s novel 1984 on the tablet. Finds a florist on a Google maps type application, he turns and goes against the crowd. Back in the crowd, filing on to an elevator, he his holding flowers that stand out in the world of white. ‘She’ gets on the elevator, turns, her face seems to be brighter and stand out more than everyone else. From his desk, topped with nick-knacks and a colorful green plant, he looks at her. He magically swipes his fingers across the tablet a couple of times, and then rolls down the isle of cubicles to her. She turns, sees the tablet propped up on her desk, playing an animation as he steps in behind the tablet; she takes out her white headphones, stands up, he smiles. “The Tablet to Create a Better World” appears on the tablet full screen then the Motorola Xoom logo. Below that it reads, The world’s first Android 3.0 tablet. Finally on the tablet the Motorola logo appears saying “Life. Powered.”

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Motorola has thrown a metaphorical hammer at Apple.

This ad for the Motorola Xoom aired during the second quarter of the Super Bowl this year. Created by the Anomaly New York advertising company, this ad was targeted toward white 17-45 year olds in the middle to upper classes with white collar, 9-5 jobs, with interest in technology, usability, and creativity. This ad targets the loyal Apple “followers” as well as those who have not bought into the Apple craze at all. My reasons for this specific target audience are all based on the commercial. All of the background extra’s are white, between 17 and 45, working in cubicles in a seemingly white collar job that begins at a very specific time (everyone at the subway station at the same time).

The Subtext

The White

All of the white in this commercial, clothing, headphones, walls, floors, lights, subway car, steps, elevator, desks, may at first seem to create a clean, “high-tech” feeling to the commercial. However Motorola is directly referencing to Apple’s branding with their white heavy ads and products: the original iPod (white), the original Macbook (white), the original Macintosh (white, well off white). White for Apple represents clean and high tech, however, for Motorola it stands oppression, brainwashing, emptiness.  Motorola counters the oppression by dressing their character differently, giving him the freedom to choose. He is wearing gray and black, a sharp contrast to the white. He stands out as different and even opposite.

To further understand the subtext of this commercial, you must first have seen Apple’s 1984 advertisement for the newly arriving Apple Computer.

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George Orwell’s 1984

As you saw in the original Apple ad, they referenced 1984 as the force they must never allow to come to power. The one sentence summary of the book from Wikipedia says that it is set in “a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control.”  In the Apple ad they were fighting the feared mind control and surveillance of the technology giant IBM.

By Motorola having their character reading this text, they are saying to Apple:

You are what you once hated; you have become what you once fighting against.

The character in this ad stands out from the crowd, reading the book, looking in on the world, observing the inhumanity of a controlled society. He has broken away. Motorola is the way to break away.

Addressing the Unpopularity

When talking to my friends the day after the Super Bowl, many of them didn’t remember the Motorola Ad at all. I think that this was for two big reasons: 1) it wasn’t overtly funny and 2) they didn’t get it. Most ads apply humor to in order to get people to remember it. On Monday I heard many people talking about the Pepsi and Doritos ads and how they were so funny. The Motorola ad, to me, was funny in a different way. It was funny because of the huge shot they took towards Apple. As I have explained above, the ad tears Apple down as being the IBM of today. Secondly, most people my age did not understand the context. When talking to Dr. Tracy, I found out that she immediately recognized the ad and its relation to the original Apple 1984 ad. I think that the generation that saw Apple take down IBM in their ad see’s the relationship that this Motorola commercial has with it. For the viewer’s that were my age and not well versed in advertising, they just wrote this ad off as one of the un-funny, or serious commercials and forgot about it, if they even watched it all the way through.

Tools of Persuasion Used

Motorola used multiple tools to persuade the targeted audience into believing that the Xoom will allow them to break away from the oppression of Apple:

Association

Motorola associates, negatively, that people who use Apple are brain washed, under the company’s control, and have no freedoms. By visually showing that they are the opposite, they create a positive association for their product.

Fear

In this case fear is used similarly to association. If you are using Apple products then you could become like these people who mindlessly go to and from work with no freedom and as Americans this lose of freedom is one of our greatest fears.

Flattery

The technique is used to say very covertly that you, the consumer, are better than these people. You can be different; you can rise above the mind control, like our character if you use our product.

Name Calling

Apple used it in their 1984 ad, calling IBM a big brother control company. This time around they are the ones being called out by Motorola. By calling Apple an oppressor, they offer their alternative, the Xoom.

New

This technique is used to say that this new tablet, this better tablet, will get you out of your controlled, oppressed state and into a better life, maybe even the cute girl at work.

Positive/Negative Messages

Motorola presents the positive message that they are better, different. People should recognize that there is the option out there for a better tablet and that there is hope to break away from big brother. By saying that Motorola is the opposite of Apple, they are implying that Apple is negative. This ad is saying that everyone who is using an iPad is conforming to the Apple lifestyle and are being brainwashed into doing exactly as they are told.

Power

This message empowers people who have not bought in to the apple hype, who want to be different from the company who originally said “Think Different.” It empowers the people who are looking for another option in the tablet world other than Apple. On the other hand it disempowers everyone who has bought into Apple and the iPad craze. It says that they are all controlled and have no say in their life. They are shown as conformist, possibly forced by the big brother company into buying and using their products.

What’s Not There

This ad leaves me with many questions about what isn’t being show. Questions like: What can be done on this device that makes it so much better than the iPad? What can be done on the iPad that cannot be done on the Xoom? What is the price difference? Is it more expensive? If so, why? Where will you be able to buy it? When? These questions have a serious impact on if I buy the product. While this ad is an amazing example of intertextualization, or referencing other texts within a text, this commercial tells me relatively little about the actual product. I admit, I am interested to find out what this product is all about, but my decision to buy will be based on much, much more than the commercial alone. Who knows, maybe after a comparison, I will still pick Apple’s iPad, but Motorola’s ad has certainly encouraged questioning the power, going against the flow, and choosing something different from everyone else.

The “vs” image above was created by myself and contains the Motorola logo used from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Motorola.svg and the Apple logo taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_logo_Think_Different.png

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