During spring 2012, I enrolled in an online course called Electronic Communication. The class was divided into two main parts. The first half of the semester was dedicated to exploring new social media services. Then, the second half focused on completing a project for a local nonprofit that helped improve its web presence. Throughout the semester, the class was assigned two books to coincide with the coursework: Paul Levinson’s New New Media and The Networked Nonprofit by Kanter and Fine.
NEW NEW MEDIA
First, New New Media by Paul Levinson was published in 2009. The text introduces a new term for examining developing media. Levinson claims that technology has developed beyond the initial term “new media” into an entirely different area. Each chapter then concentrates on one of these areas included in the distinction “new new media”. These topics range from blogging to Wikipedia to Second Life. The suggested retail price for the book is $72.00 and its ISBN is 9780205673308.
In his book, Levinson recognizes a delay in the distinction between what was initially categorized as “new media” in the early 90’s and what current exists. He attempts to bridge this gap by coining the innovative term “new new media” to categorize this technological improvement. He intertwines personal narrative with examples to create a close examination of numerous services.
New New Media is organized into individual chapters that all fit into Levinson’s category of “new new media”. He starts the book with an introduction and explanation of the term. At the beginning of the very first chapter, Levinson explains “New new media is about the advent and impact of media newer than ‘new media’—as different from the classic new media of email and Web sites as those new media are different from old media such as newspapers and television”. Then, he addresses many forms of “new new media” in each chapter including: blogging, YouTube, Wikipedia, Digg, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, and podcasts. At the end, he also includes a few chapters dedicated to important issues surrounding “new new media” in general. Each chapter is relatively independent from the others, which enables the book to be a handy resource on all of the services. This format doesn’t require the user to read the book straight through in order. It instead allows the reader to focus on the services he selects.
Although Levinson made a reasonable case for the term, it has not appeared to catch on since the book was published three years ago. Wikipedia does not even recognize the term’s existence. Levinson provides a lengthy explanation about why he prefers the term “new new media”, which is rather convincing. However, I think there are a few challenges with the term too. For example, when will it end? When the next progression of media presents itself, will it be new new new media? The repetitiveness seems awkward and difficult to type over and over. Although I am now conscious of the difference between new media and new new media, thanks to Levinson, I am not completely convinced “new new media” is the best phrase to use.
One of the most useful features of the book is the specific examples describing a popular event associated with each service. Besides simply describing a service, Levinson provides many examples where the service was utilized for a popular movement. For example, the Twitter chapter discusses “the congressman who tweeted too much” and the Facebook chapter addresses the banning of breastfeeding photos.
Personally, I learned a few key ideas from New New Media. First, the most interesting information I learned from was in chapter 12, which examined “new new media and the election of 2008”. While reading it, I realized that I was one of the individuals who participated in Obama’s online campaign to an extent. This great step in American politics truly reflects the important role “new new media” plays in everyone’s life. Also, it’s inspiring to see a presidential candidate recognize the importance of social media and understand that it is very important to the younger generation. Second, Levinson’s discussion of “gatekeepers” when referring to Wikipedia was an eye-opening topic. Personally, I typically accept the information provided on Wikipedia. Levinson describes Wikipedia as “mass-intelligence driven and explains that the vast amount of information available on Wikipedia would not be available if it had to come from experts. That’s why it’s so useful. It can keep up with the constantly changing world.
In summary, although New New Media became somewhat convoluted at times, it was very informative in exposing the reader to the newest form of media. However, it was readily outdated and is not as applicable currently. To combat this issue, Levinson is releasing a new edition in August 2012. The retail price of this edition is expected to be $40.00, which seems much more reasonable for the content. In the end, it will be impossible for Levinson to remain absolutely relevant unless he abandons the confines of physical publishing. Overall though, the text was very introduction and reference when beginning to explore each service.
THE NETWORKED NONPROFIT
Second, The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine was published in 2010. The book acts as a guide for nonprofit organizations to adopt and incorporate social media. Kanter and Fine provide an in-depth introduction to potential services with specific examples and defined terms. Also, the book provides many images and tables for reference. The suggested retail price for the book is $34.95 and its ISBN is 9780470547977.
Kanter and Fine stress the important role social media plays in today’s technological age. They insist that it in order for an organization to exist and succeed, it will need to accept social media as necessary and learn to utilize it effectively. While acknowledging that most individuals running nonprofits are not familiar developing social media sites, Kanter and Fine attempt to provide a straight forward introduction to the subject. Specifically, they draw upon their own experiences and those of many other organizations to demonstrate their recommendations. The book is directly targeted at individuals working with nonprofits who could then follow the plans detailed in the book.
The Networked Nonprofit is divided into two parts. Part one instructs the audience on how to become a networked nonprofit, while part two explains what to do as a networked nonprofit. Before these sections, Kanter and Fine define the term “networked nonprofit” and address a few challenges and current trends. Overall, the text successfully convinces the reader that this is an important issue to be considered. It provides a clear goal and adequately explains the reasons an organization should attempt to obtain it. It is an easy read that would be an excellent resource to most nonprofit organizations.
The tone of the book is rather approachable and addresses issues in an easily understood way. The book assumes that those reading it will be inexperienced and thus provides definitions and explanations for any jargon. It also introduces specific examples that assure the reader that these actions could produce effective outcomes. Throughout the book, Kanter and Fine attempt to motivate readers to establish and attain goals by giving support for their claims.
One of the most useful features included in the book is the use of bolded terms. These bolded terms are available consistently throughout the book for quick reference. If the reader comes across an unfamiliar term, it is mostly likely bolded and defined in the back in the glossary section. The inclusion of the glossary is useful because it offers extra explanation if it is required by a certain type of reader. This would be especially useful for someone less experienced with social media and the internet in general. By including the definitions in the back, the book acts as a resource for a range of individuals with varying levels of experience. If one understands the term, he does not have to waste time reading more for clarification. However, someone unsure of a term’s meaning could always look it up for reference. For example, I wasn’t familiar with the term “badge”, so I simply looked up the description of that term in the back of the book. The glossary defined the term as “a graphic applied to a web page” and then continued with further explanation.
Although the bolded terms were useful at first, they became rather distracting as I read the text. I felt like I was constantly being bombarded with additional terms and I found it difficult to retain all of the information described. To an individual with little social media knowledge, I would assume it would be ever more overwhelming. To counteract this effect, I would recommend an extended reading period. If the chapters are read over a longer period of time, it would possibly be easier to adequately absorb the information presented.
Another useful feature of the book was its inclusion of applicable examples. Each chapter typically includes at least a few experiences from real organizations. One specific organization included is the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross was one organization that benefited from expanding its strategy to include social media. By reaching out to individuals online, the general perception of the organization was drastically improved. The development sparked an attitude shift in the organization and created a need for a social media policy. Kanter and Fine utilize this example to demonstrate the need for large organizations to implement a concrete policy that gives the organization a reference on what is expected while promoting cohesiveness.
Personally, I learned a few key ideas from The Networked Nonprofit. First, I became aware of the possible challenges nonprofit organizations may face because many of the individuals leading them are unfamiliar with social media. If an organization hopes to successfully continue into the future, it needs to adapt to technological development and the new generation associated with it. Kanter and Fine were proactive in addressing this issue relatively early in the book. Second, I began to understand that introducing a new tool is time consuming. Sometimes, it takes an extended period of time to successfully start using a site and then it requires balance. One must constantly adjust his attitude about social media to stay in line of the organization’s mission. Third, I realized that a consistent schedule for updating social media is essential. Also, an organization should try to focus on transparency. Transparency is a very important area for an organization to practice because individuals really appreciate openness.
In summary, The Networked Nonprofit is an excellent resource for individuals working with nonprofit organizations. It was an integral component that helped my group successfully assess our nonprofit organization’s current web strategy and recommend improvements. While working as a free agent, I kept a lot of the advice listed in Kanter and Fine’s book in mind.