This is a research blog

As a PhD candidate I am exploring social media for my dissertation. It is a broad subject and getting broader everyday. This is my sounding board as I try to work out what I think about various things or as I find more things to think about. It is a thinking blog.


Time (February 21, 2011,p21) start an article entitled Singularity with this definition of the word  “n: The moment when technological change becomes so rapid and profound, it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.”  And that time will be, according to Raymond Kurzweill, in 2045.  The article borrows the term from astrophysics where it refers to a point in space time where the ordinary rules of physics no longer apply, but it is essentially a essay on the work being done by Raymond Kurzweil (and others) on Singularity.

Unfortunately singularity does not mean the same thing to all people.  On a broader perspective it is used to describe the radical changes  in our society through technology advances or inventions.   (Wikipedia has a well reference page on “Technological Singularity“, if you want to find out more.)

Kurzweil’s  publication “The Singularity is Near” was a best seller in 2005, but it appears that the documentary of the same name – featuring 22 futurists including Kurzweil, Tony Robbins, Alvin Toffler  and Alan Dershowitz.  If you want to know more about his life, then, according to Time, “The Transcendent Man” is the one for you.  Kurzweil believes the driving force of the next three revolutions will be genetics, nanotechnology and robotics…

Concepts that I found interesting include:- the idea that we are in the biotechnology revolution (genes and genetics) which will be replaced by the nanotechnology revolution and go beyond biology; the idea that nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence and in shades of I, Robot will be able to improve itself through constantly adapting redesign abilities.

Another interesting idea is the speed of the rate of progress; Kurzweil estimates we will make 20 years of progress in 14 years as one example and the idea that while it took 14 years to sequence HIV, it took 21 days to sequence SARS.   Consider the estimate that youths today have 26 hours days… that is an additional 2 hours a day … a the result of multi-tasking.  In a nutshell, we are able to do things quicker and quicker… but soon it won’t be fast enough.   Computers will be faster… and still have the potential to get faster.  Gerald Hawkins called this accelerating change “mindsteps,” Kruzweil calls it the “law of accelerating returns” and he believes   as “History teaches us that the more intelligent civilization – the one with the most advanced technology – prevails.”

Neither is Kurzweil’s singularity without criticism.  Jared Diamond (Author of  “Gun, Germs and Steel:  The Fates of Human Societies.”   A book on how societies build-up with the advantage to those with an east-west axis of orientation (geographic determinism); and a Pulitzer prizewinner) in his book “Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed” raises some interesting points on the human, or human agency, contribution to climate change, hostile neighbours, collapse of essential trading partners, environmental problems and societal response to environmental problems.

A list that is enough to make your blood run cold if you relate it to the earth’s status right at this moment.  Although the first four factors, mentioned by Diamond, might be outside a societies ability to affect; the latter always is a choice, a societal choice and therefore one fully control by the society exercising that choice.  And according to Diamond, environmental concerns are not secondary to economic or security concerns, but could be pivotal to survival.  Wright (A Short history of Progress) believes that societal behaviour at present “is typical of failed societies at the zenith fo their greed and arrogance.”  A short-term view, when long term thinking is needed.

Singularity – so what – the end of the earth is nigh.  We won’t get there or will we?


The verb “converge” means to come together as if to meet or join.[i] The adjective “convergent” means having the tendency to become similar while adapting to the same environment.   The noun “convergence” is defined in Wikipedia as “ the act of moving toward union or uniformity;  a meeting place; the intersection of three electron beams for red, green and blue onto a single pixel in a CRT (cathode ray tube); (Mathematics): the process of approaching some limiting value; (Physiology): the coordination focusing of the eyes, especially at short range;  (Biology):  the evolution of similar structures or traits in unrelated species in similar environments; convergent evolution; and the merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified field.

Clearly there is not one monolithic type of convergence.  And convergence can apply to anything from spiritual to harmonic; political gatherings to festivals, music to literature, social sciences, computing and technology, natural sciences and under mathematics:- properties, theorems, notions, generalizations, applications and modes – yes, it is all there.

However the notion of convergence in business and in business profit models or business patterns is gathering popularity.   Convergence in business causes “Frontiers (to) fall. The rules of competition change.”  (Profit Patterns)[ii] They go on to say “competitive boundaries are evaporating. Previously solid competitive walls are disintegrating in industries as varied as materials, financial services, life sciences and retail.  In the convergence pattern, competitors from previously distinct industries start competing for each other’s customers.”[iii]

Patterns exist everywhere, but they are not always exact replicas of themselves.  Patterns are used in learning and in language.  Patterns are certainly not new.  Indeed we learn from experience by learning from patterns – what follows next? – Until we automatically know what follows…  “Chess is a game of patterns; patterns about how the game has unfolded, about where the game stands at the moment, and, most importantly, about where the game is heading.  In chess, the player with the best skill at pattern recognition has a critical advantage.”[iv] Our knowledge, our logic, our problem solving abilities and even our instincts, our survival are based on patterns and pattern recognition.

Patterns can be exact replicas (a carbon copy) and they can be similar, they can be fractional copies, they can be siblings and similar relate or be related to each other or they can be lovers in a relationship.  Synonyms for pattern includes original, prototype, archetype, model, outline, stencil, tessellation, category, blueprint, mould, guide, cycle, example, precedent and similarity. Patterns shift and move around, they are neither always constant nor orderly, nor are they easy to read.  Patterns can be obscured, hidden or simply difficult to spot.  Hence it is the detail and the  nuance of patterns that determine its value.  It is the fine-tuning of the reading that adds expertise and that adds value.  Just as the fortune-teller or tarot-ready is able to assess your life patterns, your cycle, your blueprint of what you have learnt and how your respond to the stimuli of your life, so can other pattern readers assess the pattern.  And answer the ‘what’ questions – what is future, what is wrong with me and what is the weather going to do?

“Patterns open our eyes, our thinking.  They give us clues.  They tell us what signals to look for?”[v]

(Also posted on Media Studies by Marian Pike)

[i] The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1991, 8 edn, Oxford University Press.

[ii] Slywotzky, AJ, Morrison, DJ, Moser, T, Mundt, KA, Quella, JA 1999, Profit Patterns: 30 ways to anticipate and profit from strategic forces reshaping your business.  Wiley.  Sussex, England.

[iii] Ibid p67

[iv] Ibid p 3

[v] Ibid p48

First posted on wtfmediaconf on June 21, 2010

Living online

About five years ago I googled myself and there was not a single return.  I was completely unknown in cyberspace.  I was relieved that I had not done anything to generate publicity or media attention.  I was below the radar and in terms of my parent’s life and etiquette this was indeed a good thing.  My reputation was intact, my good name preserved.  I did another search last week and the result was very different.  There were 3’190 returns,  (and the discovery that there was more than one of me around the world, alive and dead) substantive evidence that I am there, living in the public space, along with every other generation net.  In fact, everyone on the web is living in the public space; my life is out there.  I could be a celebrity, except for the fact that nobody is watching, listening or noticing.  Everyone is more focused on doing their own thing on their blog/s, their social network, Facebook, Twitter, Fickr, YouTube and a host of other applications.  But absolutely anybody could find me and find out all about me because I am living in a public space.  (There goes my right to privacy.)

Despite this public space being overpopulated, third in size to China and India, it is incredibly easy to find me.  Easier in fact on line that off line.  There are roughly 940-million social network users worldwide.  These are people and companies who have chosen to have a presence on the web, to use it for all things, personal or impersonal or a combination thereof.  It might be worth remembering that 2002 was the year the first blogger (Heather Armstrong aka Dooce) was sacked for her online comments.  There are now over 200,000,000 blogs, and 50% post daily or twice daily.  Today the second largest search engine is YouTube, an online video service, which continues to be the playground of the young with 57% (20-35 year olds) and 20% teens which means music, bands and entertainment.

News ticker Twitter has 75-million user accounts, not all are active with 73% with less than 10 tweets.  Only 15-million users keep up with Twitter, with almost 80% on mobile, which makes it instant and powerful.   Any bad experience can be shared right now.   Twitter reported 50-million tweets per day (Feb 2010).  In 2007, the figure was 5,000 per day.  Top of the Twitter rankings is Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) with 4,694,900 followers.  In April 2009, Kutcher challenged CNN to a popularity contest stating, “I found it astonishing that one person can actually have as big of a voice online as what an entire media company can on Twitter.”  Today CNN is 11th with 2,978,759.  Twitter is a baby compared to the Facebook  (400-million active users) community. Facebook’s stats are easy to find and kept up to date.  These stats state 50% of their users log on in any given day, 35-million update status daily, 60-million status updates daily, and 5-billion pieces of content shared weekly.  Interestingly Facebook, which allows most people to have a huge number of friends, has not made friendships meaningless.  Despite accessibility, it would appear that the Dunbar number (top number of stable social relationships one person can handle is 150) still holds true.  The average Facebooker has 130 friends and tends to interact with only five or six on a regular basis.  (A little like the T-shirt pile in the cupboard, we only wear five or six on a regular basis.)

One of the original social networks Friendster (2001) with 55 million registered users and 33 million unique visitors per month, remains popular in Asia.  Alongside Friendster (which inspired it) MySpace with its 8-million bands and pop culture demographic had, in 2007, 185-million users and 39 – 45-million page views per month.  Another popular group is LinkedIn, a professional social networking site, has more than 60-million users (Feb, 2010) across the world and just introduced a faceted search to make it easier for their members to find the people they need to find.   (And now having spent some time cobbling together these stats I find someone else has created a similar list has done a better job, such is the way of the WWW world.)

One of the biggest changes to the social media scene is the radical increase in mobile access (91% mobile vs. 76% desktop users).   According to mobile access to Facebook increased by 112% in the last year to March 2010 (65-million users via Mobile) and to Twitter by 347%.   Approximately 31% of the 57-million people with web enabled phones in the USA use the device to connect to the web.  Facebook’s mobile browser audience overtook MySpace in February 2009.  In South Africa we have reached the 10% (5-million) of population access mark for Internet penetration, (15% growth in 2009) while mobile access is approximately 34-million with over 50-million connections.  This is not news to anyone that mobile access is the way of the future – it is easy, instant and convenient – but might be bad news to companies.

Companies are experimenting with, not using social media, to connect, nor to manage their reputation so they are a little behind in terms of hearing what is being said about them.

On a lighter note, here are some stats that you won’t find online yet. There is only 15 seconds of fame online, so don’t expect to hog the limelight.  There is a lot of competition so just forget the 15 minutes unless you are SuBo(Susan Boyle) or Dancing Matt.  Also 99% of what you want to know is on line.  There is sadly almost 0% chance of being original; the competition is about 100,000,000% bigger than ever.  Finally, everything you need to know, someone will tell you, but I don’t know much about Buzz yet!


First posted on Memeburn,con, Media Studies by Marian Pike and then on wtfmediaconf on June 21, 2010

Why social media makes sense

“It is a documented fact, for example, that human consciousness influences quantum energy – the stuff everything is made of – under certain conditions.” so says Gregg Braden in the introduction of his new book.[i] He quotes “ Princeton University physicist John Wheeler[ii], “ We had this old idea, that there was a universe out there, and here is man the observer, safely protected from the universe by a six-inch slab of plate glass.[iii] And adds “Now we learn from the quantum world that even to observe so minuscule an object as an electron we have to shatter that plate glass; we have to reach in there.  . . .  So the old word observer simply has to be crossed off the books, and we must put in the new word participator.”[iv]

“A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it.  This new civilisation brings with it new family styles, changed ways of working, loving and living; a new economy; new political conflicts; and beyond all this an altered conciousness as well.”  so says social critic and futurist, Alvin Toffler.[v] “Humanity faces a quantum leap forward. . . .  Third Wave civilization begins to heal the historic breach between producer and consumer, giving rise to ‘prosumer’ economics of tomorrow.”  He explains that the Second Wave split moved the world from being agricultural to industrial.  It successful split production and consumption and created an exchange platform, the market.  This was accompanied with principles of standardization, interdependency, gender and skill differentiation (or specialization), synchronisation of humans to machines (time management), concentration (space), maximisation (growth, bigness) and centralization.  The Second Wave was division, compartmentalization and the splintering of things into components, smaller, manageable or rather, controllable things.   The Wave broke with earth, people and systems stumbling under the pressure – it was unsustainable – to roll on towards the shore.

Toffler observes, “Throughout the Second Wave era the mass media grew more and more powerful.  . . .  As the Third Wave thunders in, the mass media, far from expanding their influence, are suddenly being forced to share it.   . . . The oldest of the Second Wave mass media, newspapers are losing their readers.  By 1973 US newspapers had reached a combined aggregate circulation of 63-million copies daily.  Since 1973, however, instead of addition circulation they have began to lose it.  . . .  Nor were such losses due to the rie of television.”[vi] Toffler goes on to make numerous predictions of the future, many of which are suprisingly accurate.  (But you will have to read the book to find out more).

What is more interesting is the emergence of the Cluetrain Manifesto (1999), almost 19 years later.  A website which became a book, a book which became the basis of a new way of living, doing business and communicating with each other.   No matter what social media, new media lecturer, consultant, guru, or evangelist you listen too, sooner or later they will refer to the Cluetrain Manifesto.

Why?  The Cluetrain Manifesto proposes that companies move outside their six-inch plate glass bubbles and engage with their customers.  That instead of viewing the customer as being on the outside, the consumer who is separated from the means of production, the enemy who needs to be overcome, manipulated and seduced to buy, the them, but nevertheless the source of income – the market.

Ironically those inside the bubble, the organisation, do not appear to consider that they too live outside many more bubbles than they inhabit.  It is the typical pedestrian/motorist duality.  When you are a pedestrian you are conscious that the motorist has more ‘hurting power’ but do whatever you can to wrong foot him.  And it is the same when you are the motorist.

Perhaps this can be better explained with a sports club analogy.  You join a sports club mainly because you are interested in that particular sport, particularly to participate in the sport with like-minded people. But then you get elected to the committee, which manages the club.  Suddenly, you feel special, exempt from the rules of the club.  You feel that you can impose all sorts of rules and regulations, fee increases, punishments etc without considering how you, a member of the club, would feel if you are ONLY a member.   This sense of being divorced from the members, this autocratic behaviour, this dominance through ‘power’, this elitism, is the very thing that the Cluetrain Manifesto protests, and Toffler highlights as a major pressure which lead to the breaking of the Second Wave.

Last century, the Cluetrain Manifesto called desperately for a conversation not a monologue, for inclusion, not exclusion, for respect, not manipulation.  In the second decade of this century, Leroy Stick ( called desperately for a conversation when he launched the BPGlobalPR twitter page, following what is possibly the biggest and worst oil disaster ever.  Off the southwest coast of America, the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is releasing gallons, no one really know how many gallons, of oil into the ocean daily, nor how many have already escaped, some 50-odd days later.  BP tells us they are dealing with it, but they are not giving us enough information for us to believe them even if we want to.  Nor, when they are obviously stuck, are they asking for new ideas or suggestions.

Sticks’ complete dissatisfaction, 30 years after the publishing of The Third Way and a similar number since the comments by physicist John Wheeler, shows that although much of big business is still behind the six inch plate glass, the people on the outside have the tools to protest, and protest loudly.  On the outside we have the tools to reach in and if you want to stop us, talk to us, because no matter how big you are, how much money you have, there are more of us.  Individually we are insignificant together we are and can change the world.

The Third Wave means that we can reclaim our earth, our time, our lives, our space and most importantly our independence, originality and creativity.  We are not working stiffs, nor are we just a marketplace.  The Cluetrain Manifesto means we want to be part of our world, equal, intelligent and should you ask, we will help you.  You are not alone, we are all in this world together.

This is why social media makes sense.  You are not alone.  Neither are we.  You, with we (your them), could be us.

[i] Braden, G 2008, The spontaneous healing of belief: shattering the paradigm of false limits.  Hay House, Inc. pviii.
[ii] John Archibald Wheeler (July 9, 1911 – April 13, 2008) was an eminent American theoretical physcist and one of the later collaborators of Albert Einstein.  Wikipaedia accessed 13/06/2010.

[iii] Braden, G 2008, The spontaneous healing of belief: shattering th paradigm of false limits.  Hay House, Inc. p37-38 from John Wheeler as quoted by Peat, FD 1987, Synchroncity: The bridge between matter and mind, Bantam Books, NY, p4.

[iv] Ibid

[v] Toffler, A 1980, The Third Wave, Wiliam Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, London, p23.

[vi] Toffler, A 1980, The Third Wave, Wiliam Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, London, p169.


First posted on wtfmediaconf on June 13, 2010

Some statistics… to remind us

One of the things that I find fascinating is the amount of stats that those in the know are able to pull off the internet and its various applications.

Posted at MyNews24 ( is the list of the top 10 most read articles on News24 todate.  The blog states the most read is Malema kicks out BBC journalist – 132 293 reads; 2 is AWB man causes chaos at TV studio – 111 348 reads and 3 is Don’t read this with that white tendency – 98 065 reads.

The first two are news reports, while the third is an opinion from columnists Khaya Dlanga n the Malema incident.  (  Khaya will be speaking at the wtfmediaconf in October. (

However the first two events, the ‘white tendecy’ and Visagie, the “AWB man” who sparked the phrase ‘Don’t touch me on my studio’,  a phrase which gained instant ‘status’ status, took place within days of each other.  It most be one of the most active news weeks in SA for a while.

(Although I would suggest that being in the month of May would indicate that more than a third of the year has past.  That impression would, in fact, be wrong.  This is one reason why stats are wonderful.  They give perspective.)

Perhaps more interesting is the report by Fuseware, a social media and search engine optimization agency, on South African twitter usage.  It is free and you will find the link on the home page of the their website (

Having seen Fuseware’s report my first thought was there are 50 million registered twitter users in the world. Only 15 million are active (equal to SA potholes).  SA’s 55’000 tweeters (active or registered figure I am not sure) simply do not register on the world stage at 0.11% (No, I don’t mean 11 per cent but 0.1 per cent).

Perhaps this is enough for us to be drunk on.  We are a small country with slightly more than 10% of the population online and a fluctuating 100 – 104% mobile subscriptions.  Over-expression, boisterousness, emotional swings (including anger – sadness) are classic symptoms of the 0.11% measure of BAC intoxication and new adoption of Twitter.

Back to Fuseware’s report, a surprising small number of Tweeters swear online and most of the Tweets are indeed from mobiles (34-40%) which is expected in country with 50-million connections.  It would also appear that peak tweeting hour is early evening although tweets are steady throughout the day (after 07h00 to about 20h00) but with a dip after lunch (14h00) until 17h00.

The lowest number of weekday tweets is Thursday .   So is it a question of avoiding the afternoons and Thursdays, is this a lull and an opportunity to stand out or is it no-one at home?

Users with the most tweets (219,392) is howdous (How Do Us).  I thought about following them but if their profile page is anything to go by they only tweet links – so will be giving them a miss.

Strangely the newspapers are 4th (iol)  and 10th (News24).  With so much content and vibrant web pages it is odd that these two news agencies are not putting out teasers to generate sales.  But then maybe it is not as simple as that.

Most satisfying and completely surprising is to see that a simple classroom hashtag #smed10 is listed as number 5 on the list, below now playing, follow friday, facebook and South African Music Awards.


First posted on wtfmediaconf on May 5, 2010

I have a voice

I have a voice on a global platform.  That very fact should make me special, but today it doesn’t.  Having a voice on global platform is no longer something special.  This opportunity is available to every one.  It is not enough to have a voice.  It is not enough to have a global platform for that voice.  This opportunity is available to everyone.  So what would make having a voice special.

Just because the platform has changed, just because the opportunity is there for everyone, having a voice is only special if you have ears listening to that voice, in just the same way that ‘readership’ determines the power of traditional media.  So ‘readership’ determines the power of your voice.  This is actually a fortunate factor.  It means that we are all able to blab on about stuff until we work out what we want to say without worrying if what we have to say is worth saying.   There are a lot of voices out there building confidence, working out what is worth saying and what is not; and more importantly where they, like I, want to lend the energy of their voices.




First posted on wtfmediaconf on April 22, 2010

Gathering information

Now that I am over having too many blogs in too many places.  I am trying to gather the information onto a single platform.  And this will be if for a while.