Author Archives: Robyn Gotch
Both the readings by Spilka and Ishii were eye-opening to me and went quite far to validate the fact that we see the world through our own eyes. Up until this time, I had been considering emerging media in general as an American artifact, when there is no question this has to be taken as a global event.
This is not to say that each country or culture has an obscure view of media relations. In fact, there are many similarities. Ishii’s references to Japanese youth when she says “there has been a trend for young people to create their own unique subcultures in which they communicate predominately through SMS…” (Ishii, p 346) is a compelling likeness to what has been happening in the United States during the same timeframe. What is different, as she indicated through research findings, is that Japanese young people are more introverted and this leads to a greater tendency to use text messages over face-to-face conversations or even telephone.
These global differences continue on in Spilka’s writings. These references to the ways that other countries conduct business hit very close to home for me. I work for a company, Energy Control Systems, which has both a National and International presence. The international side includes a few salespeople in countries such as Asia, South America, Central America, Mexico, South Africa and others. Their main product is Sinetamer, a line of surge suppression equipment that is quite useful in these countries. The main impetus to our overseas sales; however, is the owner of our company. I always thought that he traveled 75% of the time because he liked it. Now I realize that there is more to it than that. Without his ability to meet face-to-face with contacts in these countries, we would have a lot less international business. I now have a much better picture of not only what my company does, but of my own responsibilities when I have opportunities to sell overseas.
It seems that culture is a much bigger issue today, than language is. When I was just out of High School, the biggest issues for college admittance was having so many credits of a foreign language. Today, most colleges no longer have these requirements. It makes me think that culture is, indeed, a more prevalent issue. It is interesting how my thoughts keep coming back to culture.
In with the old –In with the new!
I consider myself a pretty computer-savvy and up to date kind of gal; however, right out of the box, many of the concepts that R. Stanley Dicks presented refreshed my thinking. Ok, I was not surprised to find out that “Today, a majority of technical communicators are women…” (Spilka, 51). What was a wakeup call was the concept that our industry is not only about the here and now – it encompasses generations of techniques and information.
This should not have come as a surprise to me because in my own present industry, we have UPS (uninterruptible power systems) units in the field that were manufactured in the 80’s and earlier. In order to provide technical assistance, we have to utilize old manuals. Sometimes, it is necessary to recap these dusty tomes or adjust our present technology to work on these older units. One example is the ports they provide. A technician can easily communicate with a newer unit via the communications card; however, an older unit used a serial port. As many of you know, serial ports are no more standard today on a laptop than a 3 ½ inch floppy drive. This creates an element of transition and clarification when dealing with these older systems.
Present your greater worth or prepare to be outsourced!
Here is a concept that sends shivers up my spine. Then again, I suppose there are levels and levels of justification to contend with here. A company that does not make a profit cannot afford to hire and if outsourcing menial tasks keeps the boat afloat, then so be it. I know that many charge ahead with “buy American!” I agree with this sentiment; however, I am
also a realist and what is real to me is that we live in a global world, not just a local neighborhood. We no longer compete with only the talented individuals in our home town. We now compete with people all over the country and world!
It hit home with me when the book’s discussion centered on a post industrialist society and referred to technical communicators of old as “word smiths” (Spilka 54). This scenario is
nothing new to our society. There was a time when a person graduated high school (or most often not), went to the factory and worked there as unskilled labor for 40 years until they retired with a pension. These jobs have also been mostly outsourced – it is time for America to work smarter!
As many of you know, I work for a company as a Technical Sales Specialist. What is this? It is not simply a salesperson. In order to protect my job, I need to bring many skills to the table while at the same time helping to keep down costs. I do this by providing the following:
- Work from home which saves over $600 per month in office expense alone
- Maintain my own records, do my own calls and provide sales and service to my customers as:
- Main contact
- Dispatcher for Technicians
- Quoting units, services, batteries, parts and other for a variety of manufacturers
- Provide pricing, availability and freight along with tracking information for orders
- Maintain a database of technical documentation that can be distributed at need
- Handle technical calls when they arise, and whenever possible at all hours
There are other benefits that I provide as well, but in the end it is all about planned job security. I know that I cannot just sit back and do the minimum – this will flag me for replacement.
As is exemplified in the model by Zuboff and Maxim, I have already placed my customer at the center of my universe – I am ahead of the game. As a matter of fact, I would consider my
model to be one of Customer-Centered, not Corporation-Centered.
Just by looking at the titles to read, it is plain that the beginning of our blogging starts at – the beginning. While this may seem simplistic to some, it is a vital art of setting the stage for the articles that lay ahead. As communicators, it is always a great idea to lay everything out so that we are all on the same page.
My reference above to laying everything out was definitely confirmed when I began to read Boyd’s definitions. More specifically, I always wondered about the term “social networking” it almost gave me the impression of working to socialize with people you do not know. I always felt that this was not an apt identifier for blogs, Facebook and the like because as we know, these sites are most often utilized between people that already know one another. Our text agrees when it says “…instead, they are primarily communicating with people who are already a part of their extended social network” (Boyd, 2).
The site that most accurately fits this description for me is LinkedIn. Here I have not only linked to others in my own industry, I have made connections to people that I have yet to meet.
It was quite refreshing to see how many references there were to the actual development of Social Networking. The internet itself did not develop into this full-blown entity over night, and neither did sites like Facebook.
The references made to the fact that “…servers and databases were ill-equipped to handle its rapid growth…” (Boyd, 6), are so accurate. I remember early internet usage being so frustrating due to the hardware issues at many different sites not to mention providers themselves. But, we didn’t know any better and most often took it with a grain of salt. If these same issues would happen today – it would get quite ugly.
Networks and Network Structure:
I have to say that the most interesting section for me was in the Boyd paper under Networks and Network Structure. At the very outset when the author states: “Social network sites also provide rich sources of naturalistic behavioral data” (Boyd, 10), I got a glimpse of some of the ways automatically collected data could produce interesting sets of information. What concerns me about this data is its credibility. Can we really rely on this information when the people providing it are hidden from our view and used to putting on a show? Or, is it the show that provides for the best data?
On this note, I found an amazing video featuring Jon Kleinberg, the Tisch University Professor in Cornell’s Department of Computer Science. This speech was recorded on July 20, 2011 so has a great deal of relevance and immediacy.
In this 1 hour 22 minute video: What can Facebook, Amazon and Google teach us about society and about ourselves? Jon provides insights not about what the “answer” to the question is, but to how to think about the question to obtain answers.
On a Personal Note:
My first experience with a social networking site was MySpace and I only became interested in it because I was monitoring what our teenage children were doing on the Internet. Prior to this, the other social experience was with Microsoft’s chat rooms and online games. I was what was considered a “sysop” for the
community along with my husband. We were empowered with special tools throughout the system. Our job was to monitor openly and in a hidden mode, the gaming chat rooms to be sure that codes of conduct were followed. Our toolset allowed us to gag, kick and ban people from these rooms.
In addition to the job at hand, I also spent a great deal of time “training” other sysops. This entire structure fell apart as the internet grew more sophisticated. Eventually (not unlike the Musketeers) our ranks were disbanded and technology took over.
This was an early trial and error attempt at social networking. I can only look at where we are now, and wonder where we will be tomorrow.