Intellectual property: the Open-Source debate & making your work public

A few weeks ago, the other section had the pleasure of video-chatting with Liz Henry, who knows about both the technological and written field and is currently a web producer for BlogHer. (Visit her  blog).  The chat, although on time restraint, was educational and Ms. Henry is certainly someone excited and invested in her career. She had a lot to say regarding both the idea of open source code as well as advice regarding breaking into one’s field of interest.

The open source debate is one that, as Liz Henry explained, has been going on for a while. “Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.” An article in Wired published in 2004 discusses Sun Microsystem’s internal debate about open-sourcing the code for Java. At the JavaOne conference, Rob Gingell, chairman of the Java Community Process stated, “If open source is the answer, then please tell me the problem.”

While criticized, there is a fair amount of people in support of the overall idea. Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a California public benefit corporation that “is actively involved in Open Source community-building, education, and public advocacy to promote awareness and the importance of non-proprietary software.” One of their important activities is to act “as a standards body, maintaining the Open Source Definition for the good of the community. The Open Source Initiative Approved License trademark and program creates a nexus of trust around which developers, users, corporations and governments can organize open-source cooperation.” It is still a question on how open-source, or, as Ms. Henry noted, “free software” as others refer to the idea as, will mature, but the debate is primarily on language and does not seem to be ending anytime soon.

Liz Henry also explained that as far as generating interest in one’s field, she encouraged posting one’s work and pushing its existence on the public. When you put more work out there for people to use and reflect upon, the more notice it can receive, and the more chance one can have of the right people noticing it. It follows that when your work is on the web, it’s also there for forever, while an article in a small publication will get recognition, the web can keep it in the forefront of someone’s memory for the length of its availability, and where intellectual property is concerned, Liz Henry advocated for publicizing one’s work for creative purposes.

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Importance of Social Media

Lena West is the CEO and Chief Strategist of xynoMedia Technology, a New York-based firm that helps high-growth companies leverage the power of social media, blogs, podcasts and online communities. A few weeks ago she discussed what a “social media strategist” entailed, and where new media was headed.

Media, expressly, is now interactive, compared to ten years ago, when one couldn’t actively participate with regard to the content published on-line. The internet’s now cost-effective, and with the sweep of what is being called “Web 2.0”, there is less static with how things are viewed and circulated, as ideas and strategies constantly fluctuate and redefine themselves.

Social media, as Ms. West describes roughly, “the use of media to be social,” is extremely revolutionary in that it was a medium used by consumers first, and then actively pursued by corporations to market themselves directly to their target audiences. A criticism West had, however, was the relative lack of businesses that are actively involved in utilizing social media, which should not be confused with social networking. Social media is an arching term that social networking falls under, as applications such as Twitter and Facebook are social networking tools.

West relates that it is important for companies to understand and recognize the power of social media in today’s market; therefore, while still growing, its increasing influence in the popularity of consumer purchasing is credit to its value to corporate marketing strategy.

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Thought leadership.

When Randall Rothenberg, the president and CEO of IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau), a trade association for interactive marketing in the United States, talked with the other section of my Intro to Professional Writing class last week, one thing he mentioned was this idea of thought leadership. Thought leadership, he explained, is the “application of all manner of organizational assets to establish a position for that organization as  a leader,” both strategic and operational. When one is a “thought leader,” your ideas are discussed openly, and allowed to be shared with other aspects of your industry.

He highlights Procter & Gamble, a leading corporation that is at the forefront as a thought leader in consumer marketing, as the company is revolutionary in defining how to connect with consumers. What is of note is that the executives at P&G published their ideas in trade publications, distributing their marketing strategies to others in the industry with the idea that “when the tide rises, the better boats rise higher.”

Rothenberg, who’s involved in the “business of media” introduces thought leadership as “business jargon,” but its a fascinating term in the sense of what it is intended to do – influence a widening sphere for the business and marketing world with which to develop and culture new strategies. This is important when thought critically about in terms of a personal branding mechanism; if one could set themselves apart as a thought leader, who has invested interest in the success of the company and its value to the world of consumers, it could be a definitive characteristic to maintain.

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Just HOW relevant is Political Science?

As a political science major, it would be nice to believe that the field of study is so necessary articles like this would not be an issue; however, it bears looking into.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican from OK, proposed that the National Science Foundation (NSF) stop “wasting… federal research fund[s] on political science projects,” and while political scientists rallied against this in opposition, many acknowledge that the field’s direction is under debate.

This main debate is based upon quantitative and qualitative methodology. Jeffrey C. Isaac, a professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, is the editor of Perspectives on Politics, a journal created to “bridge the divide” after a “revolt” was led against the “growing influence of statistical methods and mathematics-based models.” The concern about the method the field utilizes is frankly where the problem lies; with political science, it is not simply the facts and figures that are relevant, but the influences behind them–an abstract measure that is simply an interpretation.

One of the concerns is that “the field is  not producing work that matters. ‘The danger is that political science is moving in the direction of saying more and more about less and less’,” says John Nye, a professor at the School of Government at Harvard. This comes to the forefront when there is such a divide on what kind of research should be used.

Despite Coburn’s proposal, it is relevant to mention that social science is a leading field being utilized by the Defense Department, which has been “recruiting scholars… to work on security issues like terrorism, Iraq, and China’s military.”

So what does this mean for someone, say, this author, who is currently studying this field? One may be holding up hope that even if this bill passes, the faith in the field stays strong. Political Science, “a social science concerned with the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior” is–one would argue–ultimately important in today’s world. Analysis of how the dynamics of political systems function, and the demographics and circumstances states and nations are influenced by may shed light on why future events happen, or at least why past events occurred.

Mr. Isaac relates: “…political scientists can and should do a better job of making the public relevance of our work clearer” and I agree. Not everyone immediately understands the breadth of political science and its relevance in the career world or its functionality in society today; however, it is the lens political analysts use in structuring and answering the question “who gets what, when, and how.”

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You are not your degree.

Such are the first words of Anaezi Modu, a Fast Company blogger and innovator of ReBrand™, a “global resource for visual examples and case studies on effective brand transformations.” Ms. Modu offered the Professional Writing class important things to consider when en route toward developing a career.

“You are not your degree” translates to looking beyond the confines your major would like to put you in; she stresses people to “get out of the box” others have put you in as you forge your own personal identity, your personal brand. Branding, she explains, is the “look and feel of you,” the “sum total of experiences with a person, place, or thing” and therefore not one defining aspect of a person brands them. Your brand is you, and every aspect you put into displaying who you are and what you have to offer correlates to your return on investment.

Regarding Rebrand.com, it is the direct evolution of this philosophy – as Ms. Modu was an architecture student, with degrees from Princeton, one of the fundamental areas in design is what is the main focus? What do you want others to see and notice upon looking at the infrastructure? Applying this thought of looking outside the box, she then asks, “Who says I have to design a building?” In identifying a niche, a new way of looking at what is in front of you, she applies this idea of physical space that an architect uses, to the abstract view modeled in a website. Rebrand focuses on how people access information and who is accessing it, and offers experiences on how to then transform this information to improve usability.

Such a concept is vital in today’s world, as the use and importance of internet and the success of “new media” grows.

Interview with Ms. Modu by Chris Butler

Visit her website: http://www.rebrand.com

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“Coloring the News”

As a political science major, with interest ultimately founded in political journalism, the discovery of Coloring the News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism by William McGowan raises questions about the seemingly over-political correctness in journalism of late. He argues that “the on-going media crusade for diversity has made American journalism weaker, particularly on complex stories involving race, gay rights, feminism, affirmative action and immigration.” He claims that journalism today “encourag[es] a narrow orthodoxy that restricts debate and affirms identity politics” fostering a “journalistic climate in which important reporting is… skewed.”

His criticism looks at the world of journalism in a new way; when before political correctness and respect for the representation of minorities was not involved enough in the media, McGowan argues that it is present too often, that it has “colored,” double meaning intended, how news outlets deliver the news. For example, McGowan introduces how some news organizations use “bureaucratic instruments…. [to] monitor racial, ethnic, and sexual fairness,” such as the Gannett chain, which has a system to evaluate their editors and reporters based on how many minority faces appear in photographs and how many minority voices are quoted.

Such a system is striking; that a news outlet has and readily uses a system to ensure equal representation, though designed perhaps with good intentions, should not be in place. Equal representation should not be forced, but should naturally occur – at least that is what the utopian ideal is. On one level McGowan’s argument is intriguing; he continues that the reason alternative news has garnered so much popularity is the fact that there is a “perception of bias in ‘mainstream’ media [which] has fueled” programs such as talk radio and Fox News; however, on the other hand, it is important to encourage minority representation – but one cannot over-indulge it.

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Jobs in the new media market

So what’s going on? A couple weeks ago the second section of my Professional Writing class was privileged to participate in a Skype chat discussion with Reginald Ponder, who has a heavy hand in the media market of today’s world. He offered different perspectives and interpretations on the types of jobs available to someone looking to work in the media, which is important as print jobs in journalism are steadily decreasing.

Fields he mentioned include a “media career,” which he outlines as a focus on how to buy and sell media, becoming a “media guru”; a member of public relations; and the promotional aspect of marketing. These jobs are moving into the forefront of late because there is a new demand for them, especially public relations. Mr. Ponder outlined that working with public relations required good writing and people skills, and it was important that one know how to influence people.

This idea cemented current knowledge, for one has to be able to relate to others in this day and age if the product (or opinion) is to sell. With advertising and many market segments linking to areas of new media – video games, movies, television – new strategies are in effect changing the face of media.

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