Devo Explains Attention Grabbing in the Internet Age

This week we’ve been reading about intelligence and attention. We are talking about concepts like: is Google making us dumber, and forms of multitasking. As I’ve been reflecting on what I had read, I had a connected yet really distracted thought: “Devo was right about something.” I should probably explain this.

Devo is a band that is well known for their 1980 single “Whip it”. Unknown to American Pop Culture, they’ve recorded a lot more than that single. A lot of their music was very distinctly from the 1980s, but much of it was also social commentary and predictions of where the music industry may be headed. One example is the song “Uncontrollable Urge”. I think they captured the spirit of Twitter to the untrained eye in the song :

Yes Twitter is more complicated than Tweeting what your “urges”. However if you have a Twitter habit, you do find that you are reporting back a lot of the things you’re doing. It also seems to hit on the point that beyond the silliness, there is a point. People are using it to connect with each other and collaborate, but when if you remember back to when you started Twitter, you probably had a similar thought. However this song is a little more related to this week:

The song “Fresh” is on a more recent Devo album, and I think it really illustrates more of the urges people have. A lot of electronic entertainment, anymore, is geared for the short-attention span. If you can see in this video, there’s a lot of messages being conveyed, but I’ll just address one: multitasking. There’s a lot going on in this video, and there seems to be more than one thing going on at once. Is it a commercial about fruit? Is it about new technologies? Hard to tell, and that’s the point.

As we have been reading this week multi-tasking makes it hard to retain information. With the Internet and other technologies, it’s become a commonplace. It’s hard for us (me at least) to sit down and read a novel without feeling like there needs to be music or something else going on to keep things from being too quiet. In essence reading with the music on is synonymous to college students going to a large lecture and using Facebook instead of taking notes. The problem is that we are multi-tasking too much, and I think that’s what Devo has predicted: the technology, along with its applications and distributions, may be conditioning us to be this way.

Posted in Commentary, Humor, Personal Reflections, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Research Update: Data Collection

For my Tech 621 final project, I am researching Congressional Tweeting habits. My progress has been slower than I would like, but I think I’m finally getting through much of the data collection.

I’m content analyzing the Tweets of 4 Senators: Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Kerry (D-MA), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on a 4-month time period. I’m trying to categorize each Tweet into 3 keywords: What the Tweet addresses, an issue area, and why the Tweet was sent.  For example a Tweet could be about Congress, more specifically about Economics, and it was about a piece of legislation being discussed.

Because of the nature of the social sciences, I’d like to keep the rest confidential for right now. For those of you who are not understanding what I mean, social scientists have a tendency to steal ideas from each other. Because this is online and a potentially revolutionary idea, I’m not going to delve too much further into specifics. I will tell you that I’m probably 30-40% of the way through my data analysis. I may be slightly behind schedule on the data, but I’ll have a draft done in time for the Dec. 1 deadline.

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The Internet and US Voter Participation: RAA #2


Schlozman, Key Lehman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady. (2010). “Weapon of the Strong? Participatory Inequality and the Internet.” Perspectives on Politics 8 (2): 487-510. Accessed at DOI: 10.1017/S1537592710001210

NOTE: This article is available at Purdue!

Purpose of the Research

The Internet has become an integral part of elections and campaigns. Since this is the case, social scientists have been attempting to understand its effects. The big question being posed in this article is about whether the effect of the Internet on political participation is consistent with older literature with respect to participatory inequality. Participatory inequality, is the idea that people who are more wealthy and have more time to research political information are more likely to vote. Also, does the hypothesized “digital divide” exist? The digital divide is the concept that those who use the Internet are distinctly different than those who are not, and that the move to these technologies leaves certain groups of people who do have access to these technologies are left behind.


The article is mostly explanatory, and evaluates the prospects of the Internet within the context of political participation. Schlozman, Verba, and Brady evaluate socioeconomic status, political financial contributions, and political engagements. Most of the analysis and statistical methods are trend analysis from surveys and prior public opinion research from Pew. In a similar context that has been seen in other political science work that has evaluated public opinion and public attitudes over time.

Main Findings

There is perhaps a digital divide due to who is using the Internet and that the engagement of political information is growing on the Internet. Despite this fact, they find there is little evidence to show that SES and political activity are any different on the Internet.


I sincerely and respectfully disagree with this study to an extent, however I think that Schlozman, Verba, and Brady have findings that merit consideration moving forward. The big point that I think Schlozman, Verba, and Brady that merits consideration is on the fact of the digital divide. There have been a plethora of studies that show there is a divide in who is using the Internet and who is not. In political science literature, younger individuals tend to hold more liberal opinions, which tend to become more conservative over time (Page and Shapiro 1992). There could be ideologically biases to the Internet as well.

Where I disagree is the effect the Internet has on voting. I think that the Internet helps voter turnout, because it lowers information gathering costs (Baek 2009). Because the Internet allows us to access information very quickly, learning about the issues is not as difficult as it may have been 30-40 years ago. Voting is economically costly. It has been long theorized that someone with low information gathering costs will be more likely to vote (Downs 1957). The only issue with this theory is that we should see increased voter turnout, and that has not quite happened. Despite this, it’s likely that the electorate is in fact more informed. This is a phenomena that is difficult to measure, and we may not be able to understand until there is more data-points available.

Other Sources.

Baek, Miejong. 2009. “A Comparative Analysis of Political Communication Systems and Voter Turnout.” The American Journal of Political Science 53 (2): 376-393.

Downs, Anthony. (1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper & Row.

Page, Benjamin I. and Robert Y. Shapiro. (1992). The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Posted in Commentary, Research Article Analysis, Social Sciences | 2 Comments

5 Reflections on Enterprise 2.0

This week’s topic for TECH 621 is about Enterprise 2.0. Here’s some things that I’m thinking about with the readings:

1. Web 2.0 adoption has been rapid by the business community. Earlier this week, there was a report that business adoption of Web 2.0 is slowing. I don’t think this means we will see less use of web 2.0, but rather that less firms do not have an Internet presence.

2. Enterprise 2.0 is changing the structure of businesses. There is perhaps a relaxing of rigid hierarchy. I almost feel like this is also changing the face of business from a public relations standpoint.

3. The concept of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) is fascinating (Koch 2008). It seems like this format can apply to not only computer programmers, but a slew of other individuals. The fact that this construct allows for more remote work environments, that it allows for more flexibility. Researchers who are working over long distances can benefit from this!

4. Is there much of a difference between crowdsourcing and CSCW? The only difference I feel is that there is more structure, and the participants are not being “used.” However, I could see that this organization does not necessarily mean that individuals will necessarily be paid.

5. If CSCW is reshaping organization and business, could this be put to good use for grassroots social movements? This would imply that a lot of the mythology and ideology of a given movement could be diffused quicker and allow for more transparency and/or consistency. If this is the case, then CSCW could have a lot of sociopolitical implications.

Posted in Personal Reflections, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reading Socially: The Washington Post Integration into Facebook

I have been an avid reader of The Washington Post  since my high school research project about the Watergate scandal. So to no surprise, when The Washington Post introduced a new social reading app on Facebook recently, I signed up right away. As an avid online news consumer, I am very excited about this project.

What does this app do?

The Washington Post social reader essentially takes the newspaper and puts it into the Facebook platform. Users can also read a selection of news from The Washington Post and its partners (Reuters, Slate, Foreign Affairs, etc.). This app emphasizes discovering the news of the day through friends. It can also help news agencies to determine what is popular, or even for agenda-setting purposes.

What do I like?

I only have to open Facebook in the morning to get my daily dose of news. Being a political science grad student, I appreciate not having to go to a slew of websites to get my news*. I also like how I can still recommend articles to my friends, to point out the ones I like or recommend reading.

I also like that The Washington Post has included some of their other partners. Outlets such as Slate and The A.V. Club publish a lot of articles I’ve enjoyed in the past, but are not generally places I look first for news and entertainment. So I do like that this app can bring out the material of these outlets.

What do I dislike?

I’m not necessarily a fan of the selection of articles offered. I don’t like the way that not all of The Post‘s content is on here. A lot of the articles seem to be more of the general articles and blog material. For example, I enjoy the “The Daily Fix” blog which is not present.

I also don’t like the assumption that my friends and I are necessarily interested in the same articles. I may have friends who are Indianapolis Colts fans, and I’m more a fan of the Cleveland Browns. If all of my friends are reading about Peyton Manning, I’m probably not as interested. Or even as a political science student, I may be more interested in Congressional legislation than my average friends on Facebook. These loop-holes should be expected, and I think could be accounted for.


I think this app is a good start, but could use some improvement. It would be nice to see this app learn about your interests and suggest articles that you may be interested in. For example, if the app would learn that I’m not reading articles about celebrity gossip, it would stop offering those articles to me. This would make the experience customizable, which is what its missing. I’ll still use it, but there is definitely some room for improvement.

*-but I still will do that, because I should be reading a variety of sources.

Posted in Commentary, Social Media Tools, Social Sciences, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Agenda Setting and Social Media: Research Article Analysis #1


Sayre, Ben, Leticia Bode, Dhavan Shah, Dave Wilcox, and Chirag Shah. (2010) “Agenda Setting in a Digital Age: Tracking Attention to California Proposition 8 in Social Media, Online News, and Conventional News.” Policy & Internet 2 (2), accessed on DOI: 10.2202/1944-2866.1040

Purpose of the Research

In the 2008 election, the Internet took on a whole new role for campaigning. On YouTube there was a lot of support for Obama, for example: “Obama Girl” and the “Yes We Can” videos. This had led scholars to ask: is the professional media setting the agenda?  Is it the social media users posting content that influences the main-stream media, or the other way around?


To evaluate the effectiveness of social media websites in the context of media agenda-setting with respect to California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 was a resolution about defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in California state constitution with its passage. It was the most expensive social issue campaign in US history. The issue received a lot media attention, and very narrowly passed in the election. The issue did not end on election night in 2008 as the measure was challenged and 14 months later the California Supreme Court overturned this decision.

The data analysis in this paper covers this time period. A time series analysis using vector autoregression (VAR), which is derived from a set of equations of multivariate regressions. The variables were was conducted by comparing YouTube content to content found in traditional news media (newspapers).

The statistical analysis was divided into two groups based on the year the information appeared: 2008 and 2009.

Main Findings

The issue of agenda-setting is possibly more complicated than previously conceptualized. There is an inter-related effect between old and new media, but the results were inconclusive of which medium caused the other. The findings are not indisputable due to the nature of error in time series analysis.

The flow of information in 2008 was bidirectional between YouTube and Google News, as well as Google News and California Newspapers. It was unidirectional from California Newspapers to YouTube. In 2009 there was a unidirectional connection from YouTube to both Google News and California Newspapers. Additionally there was a unidirectional flow from Google News to California Newspapers.


Agenda setting seems to be very complex. At times the media is setting the agenda, while at other times social media is setting the agenda. There seems to be a rather complicated relationship between social media and its traditional media counterparts. It’s almost as if they inform each other, and at other times one of the mediums sets the agenda. There is definitely a need for more researchers to look at this puzzle as there are times where it could be unclear of who is setting the media agenda. This is especially true, when traditional media has been venturing into social media. Overall, I think this study is one that can be a springboard for more research in agenda setting.

Posted in Research Article Analysis, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Fun with Pets!

Dr. V uploaded this video of her cat playing with an iPad app.

Now, my classmates are expecting I’m going to analyze this in a political sense, but really I’m not going to. I love dogs, and I know that dogs are just as fun (if not more) than cats sometimes. Having both cats and dogs as pets, I do have to say I like dogs a lot more. Even if they need to go outside early in the morning, all they really want is to be your best friend (and you don’t have to earn it).

I mean look at my parents’ dogs:

They’re adorable, and all they want is to be loved. Even better, is that there are apps for dogs too:

So really, all pets are cute and fun. I just prefer dogs over cats. For the record I don’t hate cats.

Posted in Humor, Uncategorized | 2 Comments