Cyberpunk Librarian, photo by Cindi Trainor
from The Backroad Librarian: Generation Next
I am on a project committee with folks who have varying degrees of skill with social media. Varying from no experience to a little bit of experience, that is. When I realized that the subcommittee tasked with creating and maintaining a Facebook page promoting the project either had no interest in it, or did not know what to do with it, I offered to contribute. I am not a social media professional, but I can manage a page, and relate to people (sometimes) and learn more as I go. Since I began contributing a few weeks ago, I’ve brought up our page likes, post reach, and engagement. Engagement went up 3000% the first week I started posting. So something’s working now.
It’s not my intention to criticize anyone or to pretend I know all about using new media. These are observations on what seems to be working now, why I think it’s working, and how we can get even better. Looking back on the recent changes on our Facebook page, I can see how they relate to the principles of “stickiness” (sticks in the memory) we talked about in class. Simple. Unexpected (remarkable in some way). Concrete. Credible. Emotional appeal. Story. more Story.
I really think the principles of plain old social skills are what improved our page. I risk sounding naive for saying that, but there are direct parallels between genuine social skills and the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. principles of stickiness. Before, photos were often posted with no description to tell readers what they were looking at and why it might be relevant. They are CONCRETE elements but they needed CREDIBLE information and a STORY to go along with them. That would allow an audience to trust the source and find something they can relate to EMOTIONALLY. Posting photos with no other information leaves the readers in the dark, as if you started talking to them without introducing yourself and expected them to be interested in you without asking them anything about their own interests. But transferring a general social awareness to social media makes it work so much better.
One example of that is the week of the Boston Marathon. Elsewhere on Facebook, there were sad stories reminding us not to forget the victims. Instead of jumping on that bandwagon, I decided to honor the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon, back in the 1960s, with a photo of her running and a SIMPLE STORY explaining its relevance. This tied in well with our page because our founder, Sadie Kent, was also something of a woman pioneer in her day. It turned out that quite a few (relative to previous images) people liked that UNEXPECTED positive post about the marathon. To build on that interest, I posted a few photos and links about the library in the 1960s throughout that week. They were relatively popular, too. I found some photos online, not from our archives, to post, also. I corresponded with the man who took them. He was happy to let us use his photos and links to his blog. I met him in person, too, to hear some more of his stories. This led to some of his audience liking our page and some of ours liking his blog. Just from the courtesy of expressing my interest in and asking to use his photos, and talking to him about related subjects.
338 people saw that post, which is not bad for a page with only 226 likes so far (up from less than 100 a few weeks ago). You can see that simplicity might be the hardest concept for me to stick to. I may have overshared on details, if not in this post, probably in some others.
In a similar manner, I reached out to other pages and people who might be interested in our content, like the Cape River Heritage museum, the Cape Public Library, my friends who are interested in the history of Cape or who attended Southeast. I’ve shared content from Cape River Heritage Museum’s page, generating more interest in their page and bringing some of their readers to ours. It’s a classic win-win.
My favorite story of building relationships with social media is that of my friend who was preparing a talk on Mark Twain when he learned that Kent Special Collections has two letters by Samuel Clemens to his good friend, Judge Jacob Burroughs of Cape Girardeau. I introduced him to our Special Collections Librarian, who found the letters in an unmarked box after some searching. Randy was thrilled and he gave the library a nod during his talk. He told his audience about the events we have planned next Fall. So we promoted him and he promotes us and people who share common interests find out where they can get their history fix. Social is the important part of social media. It just doesn’t work as well without that element.
My goals are: build our page audience, develop relationships across campus and in the community, generate interest in the library’s history, and promote our current services and next Fall’s events. Other committee members share those goals and weill be posting as the page, as well. Unless we dance around the library in tight skirts and 5″ heels, our content is not likely to go viral, but maybe I/we can make it sticky enough to build up some good will toward the library and greater awareness of what we have to offer. I certainly appreciate the place a lot more since we started this project. It looks like the principles of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. will help a lot with that. And maybe photos like the one at the top, from http://www.dailyyonder.com/backroad-librarian-generation-next
Gah, I think Brooke is saying something really interesting here, but I can’t be sure because the terms he uses must have been defined in more detail in an earlier chapter. I’ll come back to that one later.
The intro to The New Media Reader is delightfully twisty. Now that humans are using more complex technology — like computers and software — to create art, the author speculates on whether the makers of that technology are not also artists. Well duh, we kind of already know that engineers are artists, no? And artists have always pushed the boundaries of technology use farther and farther — even way back when using mineral pigments to draw on cave walls. But the twisty idea of using technology-that-is-art to make art is still really appealing in a Mobius strip kind of way. And new media allow us to create on a grander scale, in infinitely more complex ways.
The familiar Escher drawing below is how I visualize an artist making art with someone else’s art/technology. And the image below that might partially illustrate how New Media can advance (and complicate) that process.
Back when memes were memes, and not images with pithy quotes on Facebook, it seems that ideas flowed rather freely between artist and scientists (Manovich 15):
To prove the existence of historical parallelism, The New
Media Reader positions next to each of the key texts by
modern artists that articulate certain ideas those key texts
by modern computer [
scientistsartists] that articulate similar ideas
in relation to software and hardware design. Thus we find
next to each other a story by Jorge Luis Borges (1941)
and an article by Vannevar Bush (1945) which both
contain the idea of a massive branching structure as a better
way to organize data and to represent human experience.
It would be interesting to know exactly how those ideas flowed — direct communication (letters or actual conversations), indirect (reading of others’ works), or a more subtle flow of memes throughout the culture. For instance, I wonder if the branching structure mentioned above was a move away from straight-line representations, a move which happened in many fields around the same time?
Apropos of nothing, it seems likely that the branching structures were a precursor to the mind maps which are common now. (Mentioned in http://wp.me/p4hVCZ-34). Mind maps add circularity and reflexivity to branching representations.
The idea of using art to create art relates (in my head, anyway) to this passage from Brooke (p. 140):
This means that with the flexibility brought by digitization,
there occurs a displacement of the framing function of media
interfaces back on to the body from which they themselves originally sprung.
If I understand it correctly, this suggests that a certain reflexivity is required. Almost anything we do can benefit from some reflexivity, the examined life and all that. To fully understand what it going on with visual rhetoric in new media it looks like we have to consider at least 3 levels: 1) the actual rhetoric, the words and images, 2) the interfaces or media used to create the piece and to interact with it, and 3) the perspectives from which we come and that the interface creates for us.
I wish we had a few weeks to spend on these topics surrounding New Media, because we are just barely skimming the surface here.