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Category Archives: Social Change

Journalism Professor Analyzes Role of Political Cartoons, Social Media During Syrian Crisis

Journalism Professor Analyzes Role of Political Cartoons, Social Media During Syrian Crisis
By Mike Krings


Political cartoons aren’t just for newspapers any more. A University of Kansas professor and her students analyzed how political cartoons were presented on Facebook during the Syrian uprising, the themes they explored, reactions to them and what they can tell us about social media use in Syria.

 

 

When Syrians rose up against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, the government began a severe crackdown against its people. Hyunjin Seo, assistant professor of journalism, and doctoral students Goran S. Ghafour and Ren-Whei Han archived and analyzed 164 political cartoons from the Comic4Syria Facebook page, a site devoted to posting cartoons from professional and amateur illustrators about the conflict and the suffering of the Syrian people. The researchers examined cartoons from July 24, 2012, when the page opened, until Nov. 23, 2013.Seo and her co-authors analyzed the images to understand more about the topics of the cartoons, the frames they used, characters depicted in them, how they depicted men, women and children and which types of images drew the most reaction from viewers.

Examining political cartoons from Syria in a digital age served several purposes, as social media has allowed more people to share political opinions freely. The medium is also undergoing transition from being the domain of newspapers, especially in countries such as Syria with significant media censorship.

“As the platform has become more democratic, I think there are a lot more studies that can be done about the role of political cartoons,” Seo said. “Their use in Syria was very interesting as the landscape of Syrian opposition is very complicated.”

The researchers analyzed the structure of the cartoons to determine common features. Of the 164 images studied, 81 percent featured Arabic only, while 11 percent featured English only and about 8 percent featured both Arabic and English. Nearly half, 47 percent, of the cartoons featured both male and female characters, 39 percent featured only male characters, and only 1.8 percent featured only female characters. The rest featured characters whose gender was unclear or did not feature human characters at all.

Of the cartoons featuring human characters, 60 percent featured only adults, while 28 percent featured adults and children, while 3.7 featured only children, and the remainder were characters whose age group was unclear.

Syrian cartoons averaged more than 243 “likes,” with the highest number of likes reaching 1,531. Comments made on the images averaged 11.77, ranging from zero to 110. The images were also shared frequently, including one that was shared 3,237 times.

The researchers examined frames used in the cartoons and identified six: freedom, oppression, international influence, hypocrisy, media influence and sectarianism. Oppression was by far the most common frame, at 52 percent, while freedom and international influence followed at 14 and 12 percent, respectively.

The president’s regime was by far the most common topic, featured in 89 percent of analyzed comics. Mental torture and physical torture were also common, featured in more than 50 percent of the cartoons as well.

The most common topics and frames did not necessarily draw the most viewer reaction.

“There were cartoons examining media effects and how they were distorting facts and supporting al-Assad’s propaganda,” Seo said. “Those were the cartoons that received the most likes.”

Cartoons with a hypocrisy or oppression frame followed media influence in most likes generated. Freedom and sectarianism received the fewest. Media-influence cartoons were also the most shared, followed by international influence and hypocrisy. Those patterns held true for cartoons that generated the most comments as well. Media influence was once again at the top.

In terms of cartoon topics, martyrdom was the most effective, generating more likes and comments than others such as mental torture, al-Assad’s regime and others. However, in terms of which topics were more likely to be shared, mental torture rated the highest, followed by martyrdom, international influence and the Syrian regime.

When examined by types of characters featured, those with political leaders of other countries received the most likes, comments and shares.

Seo and her co-authors will present their research in May at the International Communication Association Conference in Seattle. The research is part of an ongoing line of work in which Seo has analyzed the role social media can play in social change. She has studied social media use during the Arab Spring, Twitter images used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Internet connectivity in the Middle East. She is beginning a new grant-funded study in which she’ll analyze the Facebook use of al-Assad and opposition forces during the ongoing uprising and civil war. She was also selected as an emerging scholar by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in recognition of her work.

The analysis of Comic4Syria images not only adds to visual communication studies, it helps provide a deeper look at how Syrians viewed the uprising, especially important in a region of the world in which media censorship is common practice and crackdowns were common against both Syrian and foreign journalists.

“Social media has emerged as an important channel through which Syrian civilians document the Syrian revolution and people around the world get a glimpse of what was happening in Syria,” the authors wrote. “By analyzing political cartoons posted to the Comic4Syria Facebook page, this research helps provide a more nuanced understanding of digital media-facilitated communication practices in Syria.”

Mike Krings is a public affairs officer in the KU News Service.

Your Social Campaign Needs 1000x Followers

Your Social Campaign Needs 1000x Followers
By Chris Abraham



Very few people hang on your every word. Everything that comes out of Ellen’s mouth is duly noted. Same thing with Bieber, Gaga, and Katy. But if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ll need to speak up, maybe repeat yourself, and be more persistent than the Earth’s top celebs or our most hallowed social media motivational speakers.

Yes, we might be heroes to a few people in our lives — our moms, namely, and maybe our dads, partners, children, if we’re lucky, and maybe a couple few people who either have deep crushes or are gunning for our jobs.

Don’t worry.

Just because you were BMOC or BWOC in high school or college doesn’t much matter in social. Actually, being a big muckety muck right now, no matter how much you’re worth or how much your local paper adores you, doesn’t guarantee social media celebrity.

So, there are three strategies that you’ll need to pursue if you’re interested in harvesting some ROI from your social media marketing campaign, be it in the form of content marketing, digital PR, or using social as part of a multichannel sales strategy — and I will only go into two of them in this post. If you don’t have any followers, speaking about activation and conversion is stupid: convert who, right?
 

 
You need more followers

You need more followers!

The more followers you have, the more likely that there will be someone paying attention to your messaging when you share your content, your announcement, your promotion.

It also heightens the probability of someone sharing, re-sharing, or actually clicking through to your content or your brand. A secondary benefit is that people respect numbers, no matter how authentic or real or true these followers are.

It’s a sad truth.

And finally, you can’t build a following unless you have a following. It’s very difficult to grow your followership with only the right people if you’re also not willing to collect everyone else. I am not going into how to do this right now (we’ll save that for another article), but you need more followers by hook or by crook — even, alas, if you need to buy them (if it comes to that). It’s easier to get rid of spammy followers than it is to develop a real following. I call it a social media bootcamp.

You need to work on things that are kind of inconsquential, but seem to be important to people: follower numbers (be it Twitter or Facebook) and your Klout score. The too cool for school crowd is preparing hateful comments right now, but it’s true: Klout scores and pure number of followers matter.

I mean, according to SocialBaker’s Fake Followers app, my President, Barack Obama, only has 46% “real” followers on Twitter. 35% of his followers are “fake” and 19% are what are called “inactive.” All that follower buying and yet the President of the US is still the number four most followed Twitter handle on the planet, right?

So, even though follow back schemes, Twitter’s promoted “who to follow” list, and full on buying hundred, thousands, hundred of thousands, or even millions of Twitter followers, cash-on-the-barrel. You need to start somewhere.

I guess when it comes to Twitter at least, and also Facebook and Pinterest, fake it ’til you make it seems to be a pretty great way to kickstart your Twitter empire. How else can you explain the shadow-obsession with applications like TweetAdder and Twiends?

I hate to say it here, but when it comes to celebrity, the more popular you become the more popular you are, and the more popular you become. When it comes to celebrity however, you cannot choose who adores you. Who even knows how much of all that is real grass root obsession or is the combined simulacrum of a dozen agencies and publicists?

Me? I think over the course of the last seven years that I have been on Twitter, I have tried loads of things. I am sure I bought Twitter followers at a time when I found a good source through my team whenever my team bought Twitter followers for clients and all that.

That said, I am lean: of all my followers on Twitter, only 1% are fake, 1% are inactive, and 98% are good — but it isn’t always that way. I spend a lot of time trimming, mowing, and pruning my own Twitter lawn. Tweetscaping, I guess I would call it.

OK, now that I have burnt all of my bridges and told you a little too much, and now that I will probably be drummed out of the Twitterati by everyone except possibly Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki (my shameless Patron Saints of Twitter), let me continue.

You need the right followers

I guarantee you that you’re much more likely to attract the right people once you have a certain amount of gravitas, and online that gravitas is defined by: who you are, of course; who you work for; what you’ve done; what you say; who you’re associated with (those are the old reliable); but also how many followers you have, the ratio of number of followers to number you follow (you need way more people following you than you follow to be a cool kid), your Klout score, and simple things like your bio, if you have a profile photo, if you have a nice background image, or if you’ve been on Twitter for a long time.

We people are a little like chickens: if a couple hens are really into a particular rooster, then all the hens will be into him.

And, if you spend all the hard work in finding the right people to follow, you can’t make any of these “right people” follow you back, can you? You can surely ask, implore, and demand, but you cannot make them.

I guess, at the end of the day, we’re simple creatures — and very superficial at that.

You need to be interesting, popular, successful, relevant, powerful, connected or influential enough to make that follow back worthwhile, especially when people want to keep their ratio as “cool” as possible by only following back high Klout, high influence, and high caste individuals (thereby benefiting from the friend and Klout association — what a racket).

To quote Tony Montana: “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.” And, the corollary, “On social media, first you get the followers, then you get the influence, then you get the business.”

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Chris Abraham

Principal Consultant at Gerri Corp.
Chris Abraham is a leading expert in digital, including online reputation management (ORM), Internet privacy, social media marketing and digital PR with a focus on blogger outreach, blogger engagement and Internet crisis response.
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New Competition to Encourage Innovation on E-Waste Prevention

New Competition to Encourage Innovation on E-Waste Prevention


The Future Tense initiative has announced the launch of the Green Electronics: A U.S.-China Maker Challenge, an unprecedented online DIY competition focused on preventing the creation of electronic waste (e-waste). The competition, a collaboration between Future Tense, China’s Tsinghua University and other partners, invites U.S. and Chinese makers to find creative ways to turn yesterday’s cellphone battery into tomorrow’s treasure.

 

 

“This is a great opportunity for the United States and China to work toward common goals,” said Emily Parker, senior fellow and digital diplomacy advisor at New America, who helped spearhead this project. “Both the U.S. and China want to encourage the innovation happening at the DIY or maker level, and both countries face the challenge of reducing e-waste.”Electronic products tend to become unusable after just a few years, and items such as computers, DVD players and cellphones frequently wind up in landfills. Some of the most creative solutions to this problem may come from U.S. and Chinese makers, many of whom already incorporate old electronic components into their DIY creations. Green electronics will encourage makers to showcase their creations online.

Participants will be invited to upcycle or hack an electronic product to create a new electronic product; repair an electronic product; create a sustainable electronic product; or create artwork from used electronic products. They will show their inventions on Instructables.com, where submissions will be accepted from April 7 – May 31, 2014. Following a round of public voting, a panel of judges will choose the best selections from each country.

Judges include Chris Anderson, former Wired editor; Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab; Mitzi Montoya, Vice President and University Dean for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University; and Sun Hong Bin, Dean of Educational Affairs at Tsinghua University. Partners include Instructables, TechShop, Hackerspaces.org, XinCheJian, Autodesk, and Inventables.

For more information, please visit: http://www.greenelectronicschallenge.com/