The Whole Point

In this blog, I wish to post the first assignment for the University of Washington Graduate Program I am in titled Masters in Communication in Digital Media, or MCDM. This assignment was to outline our “Terms of Engagement.” Why are we here? What do we want to become? What do you want to be when you grow up? This is the whole point, right?

Well, maybe in one fraction of my life, this is the whole point. This is the whole point of my professional goals. And I have to admit that there isn’t much I wouldn’t give up to pursue these as far as they can go.

At the end of the quarter we need to rewrite them to see if we have learned something about the program, industry, ourselves, our writing, our communication. One piece of feedback I do believe was very justified by the leader of the program, Hanson Hosein, was that I need to consider the idea that the digital and the real are no longer separate, the barriers are melding together. Digital is so present in real life that is has become our real life. Touche Hanson, perhaps I already have one edit for the end of the year.

Technology is changing at a ridiculous pace. Ridiculous in that it looks ridiculous if you step back and watch – like shoppers on Black Friday crawling and scrabbling over each other in attempt to be the first one to grab the item of the year.  As a communicator within the raging river of technological development, I must take into account not only how the medium changes but how the audience’s relationship with each medium adjusts. It has been noted that with the evolution of social media, consumers who previously had little power, now easily voice their responses to an equally large audience. Now, potential consumers talk, yell, praise and most importantly, listen to other consumers. This is not a river that cannot be navigated. With experience, observation, preparation and creativity even the rapids can be successfully crossed. I would like to be recognized for this ability to navigate the changing organization-consumer relationship and develop strategies that bridge this ever shifting gap.

Ultimately, the organization is still a public speaker proposing an idea to the masses with hopes of influencing individuals to take some action. In this way, I need to master communication as an artful address, or, in other words, by using the Rhetorical Tradition defined in Em Griffin’s “A First Look at Communication Theory.” Using this tradition as a foundation for developing the skills I will need to be successful, I will learn to evoke emotion through storytelling and micro-stories. I will learn to create a voice of expertise, empathy and problem solving that will build a relationship with the audience just as Aristotle emphasized replicating friendship bonds between speaker and audience.

However, this specific tradition does not fully encompass the current organization-consumer relationship. As previously mentioned the audience now responds without hesitation and without regard for the speaker. Therefore, I will need to expand this theory to include elements of the Phenomenological Tradition, also referenced in Griffin’s book. This theory is defined as “communication as the experience of self and others through dialogue.” Social networks, because of their existence primarily in digital form, present unique challenges to communication unfamiliar to a speaker in a public setting with a live audience sitting before him. There is constant and high danger of misunderstanding in digital communication. After all, how often have we received a text message from a friend that we have severely misunderstood due to lack of contextual clues? Therefore, the communication between organization and consumer over digital platforms must not only rely on one-way messaging but strongly on those responses from the audience in order to learn and understand their perspectives. This mastery is depicted well in Hanson Hosein’s “Storyteller Uprising: Trust and Persuasion in the Digital Age” in an example the final section of the book when he references the U.S. Army’s campaign “Army Strong Stories.” As Hosein describes, this organization was able to allow the audience powerful voice while still staying in command of the overall message sent to the masses. I imagine, based on this description as well as personal experience, this campaign not only affected people while online, but also inspired action in real life, including changing opinions on the organization as a whole, changing option of the members of the army as individuals and shifting potential soldiers away from hesitations and towards passionate enlisting.

This brings me to my personal Action Idea for my time in MCDM. Online Social Networks are generally underutilized for their greater potential to impact real life. I want to develop an understanding of communication and storytelling strategies to become a recognized innovator in building social graph connections to drive inspired engagement that affects the audience beyond the digital world in a positive or revealing way.


Thoughts on what else I should consider before my time is up in this first quarter?


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