Posts Tagged ‘Mashable’


In an article on Mashable which I read today, the author’s argument is that how we search can tell us a lot about how we feel about the search object or subject. Basically, researchers are now conducting rhetorical analyses of the most commonly searched terms and how they are written in order to understand better how a country’s internet users skew on a number of diverse subjects: products, brands, services; and more recently now: race, ethnicity, socio-economics, politics, etc. The article is entitled, Search Stereotypes: What Web Content Reveals About Cultural Biases, and it most closely examines how Latinas are depicted in the context of search terminology.

This is very interesting to me, and it’s a large reason why I still believe a career in search marketing or search analytics would be incredibly edifying and interesting, especially at the sociological level. What new more socially and culturally oriented organizations are trying to do is to manually re-adjust those perceptions through the same media that the information is coming to them on.

As the author, Sandra Ordonez, writes “The online stereotype of the hyper-sexualized Latina is simply not true. Statistically, most Latinas are the exact opposite: smart moms with families. This is exactly why we launched Mamiverse — to fill the websphere with more content that is truly reflective of who we are,” Martinez said. It’s basically fighting fire with fire- analyzing search engine content for racial, sexual and cultural bias and then manipulating search results in the name of promoting a social cause, rather than for a product or company, and they’re calling it “Content Activism.”

Many months ago now I wrote about sentiment analysis and the Affective Norms for English Language index that allows for this type of rhetorical analysis. This approach has been applied to Twitter and the search engine optimization/marketing fields for use in better targeting and improving public brands in the public view.

Basically it all comes down to diction- word choice. Whether we each think about it every day or not, the choices we make in vocabulary to describe things can tell our audiences a lot about how we feel about the things we are describing. Additionally, whether we think about it or not, every time we type a word or search term into a Google box, we are sending a transmission to an audience that will never disappear. The ongoing record of data and information that Google represents is like a sandbox for academics, and a historical record for the rest of us. That, in itself, is a striking image.

The article lists a number of racialized and gendered search terms and their most commonly returned meta search terms- a table which I found very interesting:

Top Three Search Results and Suggested Group Information


The following descriptions are based solely on meta site descriptions found after each title. The actual sites returned were not visited. This is only a sample of searches conducted.

  • Latinas: All three results are pornographic. Descriptors include “hot,” “young” and “legs wide open.” Seems to hint that women on 8th street, a historic street in an internationally-known Latin neighborhood in Miami, are sexy and “doable.” (Search for Latin women results in various dating sites for men seeking Latin women).
  • Latin Men: Since “Latinos” is used to describe an entire group of people, we used the term “Latin men.” One link is for a site that helps you secure a stripper or exotic dancer. The other two links are porn sites. Descriptors are a bit too pornographic to list in this article.
  • Asian Men: Two links for the “Angry Asian Man” blog and an article exploring whether Asian men are good in bed. Only descriptors are found in one sentence that directly addresses stereotype: “We all know the stories about Asian men’s sexual prowess, or the lack thereof, and the age old jokes about the ‘size issue.’”
  • Asian Women: Two links for organizations that provide Asian women with domestic violence support (NYAWC and SAKHI) and a dating/marriage site for single men looking for both Asian women and Asian girls. Only descriptor includes the word “survivor.”
  • Black Men: A Wikipedia article describing the term “black men,” an article explaining why white women prefer black men, and a link to Black Men Magazine, which seems to focus on pop culture and sexy women. No descriptors, but phrases include “racial” (comes up twice), “mugger button” and “Ink Candy Party.”
  • Black Women: A link to a “black women’s interracial marriage site,” a link to “Black Voices News and Opinion” on The Huffington Post and a Wikipedia article describing the term “black people.” Descriptors include “slaves” and “enslavers,” with a sentence describing them as “surviving.”

I highly recommend checking out the article, which does a good job of acknowledging that the search results analysis is not an entirely accurate snapshot of the world’s views simply because it self-selects according to a higher echelon socio-economically. In other words, not everyone in the world has access to the Net, so the sample bias is definitely a source of some anguish in this budding field.

Still, the area of “Content Activism” connected with sentiment analysis is an interesting one- food for thought!

 

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October 08, 2010- http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978584428

MTV and Foursquare are being recognized by Mashable as one of the most creative social media campaigns of 2010 for their efforts on the first-ever cause-related badge: GYT. In September of this year, FourSquare and MTV partnered to launch the GYT campaign, which stands for “Get Yourself Tested.”

The campaign seeks to promote STD testing among young adults by offering them the GYT badge of courage for checking in at an STD clinic. As reported on Mashable, “The Foursquare partnership encourages people to follow MTV on Foursquare, check in after getting tested and shout “GYT” to their followers. After doing so, users will earn the GYT badge, and thereby make it known that they’re taking control of their sex lives. Those who score the badge will also be entered to win a trip for two to New York City, as well as backstage passes to MTV’s 10 on Top.”

Despite the offer of a trip and backstage passes, one would think that the still-widespread cultural stigmatization associated with STD testing would keep users away from this campaign. Yet the campaign has achieved a solid amount of success, with more than 3,000 GYT badges awarded since the campaign was launched a few weeks ago.

The campaign is most definitely a vital first, and a great example of how geo-location technologies may help non-profit organizations all over the world to mobilize and support positive causes. It remains to be seen how many non-profits are able to capitalize on the success of this particular campaign, and use location-aware technologies to aid in the struggle to promote their own causes.


(This post can also be found on Gather.com here: http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978618733. It was originally posted October 20, 2010)

Although the coffee giant has been offering free Wi-Fi in the majority of its U.S. retail locations since July 1st, a new exclusive content network called the Starbucks Digital Network (“SDN”) launches October 20th in more than 6,800 of its U.S. operated stores.  The new content network will be specifically curated by the company and is being launched to enhance the customer’s in-store experience on what some might call a fourth dimension- the Web.

“The vision,” Starbucks’s Vice President of Digital Ventures Adam Brotman told Mashable, “is for Starbucks Digital Network to be a digital version of the community cork board that’s in all of our stores.” The move is a strategic one, despite the financial free-wheeling philosophy it seems to represent.

Starbucks has struggled publicly in the last few years with its big-brand, corporate generic image and how to compete with much-loved “mom and pop” coffee stores in big cities. The initial backlash was palpable, but with CEO Howard Schultz back at the helm, Starbucks is now trying to improve its public dedication to the local communities it moves into, and to incorporate many of the elements that make the neighborhood coffee joint a favorite for locals.

Because Starbucks relies so heavily on the in-store experience, the company is attempting to enhance the “third space” look and feel of the retail locations while also providing a stellar “fourth dimension” experience online.

As part of its extensive content network, SDN will offer access to news sites such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today, but will also offer additional content channels such as “entertainment, wellness, business and careers, my neighborhood and the customer-personalized Starbucks.” The incorporation of the “my neighborhood” content channel is a pillar in the giant’s strategy to compete with the local feel of smaller community-based coffee shops.

As Brotman told Mashable, SDN “delivers on this objective by serving up content to users based on the exact whereabouts of the store where the user is accessing the free Wi-Fi. Community fare includes local news from Patch and a look at nearby DonorsChoose.org classroom projects that could benefit from small contributions. Foursquare users can check in via the web from Starbucks stores, and Zagat makes available full ratings for restaurants in the surrounding area for free.”

But when is too much, just, too much content? Reportedly, Starbucks will be tracking user activity via web analytics to get a sense of what users respond to. From there they plan to taper the content network and its offerings based on usage research what is most popular.

From the research the company has already gathered based on its free Wi-Fi offerings since July 1st they now know, according to Brotman, that “more than 50% of users logging on to the free Wi-Fi are doing so from mobile devices, so the company was motivated by usage behaviors to build a mobile web experience just as good, if not better than, the standard web experience.”

As a boon for what many regard lately as a foundering hi-tech company, Yahoo is the coffee retailer’s technology partner for the SDN, having developed the site, hosting the SDN, powering search and also providing content. Yet Starbucks is not exactly following a hi-tech profitability model. The coffee behemoth is not charging its content partners for placement on the network, and no financial transactions are taking place unless SDN users make purchases.

Yet as traditional tells us, location is everything. As emerging technologies and social media allow consumers to make more educated, location-based purchasing decisions, perhaps this is Starbucks’ and Yahoo’s way of embedding themselves in communities via an increasingly location-based technology market. As Brotman said, “We’re really excited about the fact that we can leverage the location-based nature of the site to connect our customers with the communities around the stores,” he says.