Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Internet: More than a "Medium"

Today, almost everything is online. The flow of information, because of the enormous reduction in the cost of transmittion, is fast and endless. Constant news feeds are on display. Despite the decentralizing nature of the online information, institutions, the wealthy and the powerful, aim to release information that would value them strongly. But because of the vast information afloat, publicity form teh top are still very important.

As the Hatchet wrote, new staff members are being hired to GW's Office of Media Relations to gain more media coverage and attention. Even in the digital age, centralized actions are higly significant to increase name recognition: attention deficit is the scariest thing in the new media.

"This change is a positive move for the Office of External Relations," the Hatchet wrote, "but it's important the school remember that the best way to fix a wall is not simply to repaint it." On the use of new media for future publicity, they wrote that "the university will benefit from the capabilities of new media, as well as from having a staff that knows how to utilize that media to connect with current students, potential applicants, alumni and staff."

Neverthless, the Hatchet warned that "image is not reality," and "GW should rememeber that the best way to deal with a problem is not to spin it to your benefit." In the digital age, such dissemination of information must be done by changing the notion of "internet as a medium." Jeff Jarvis, the author of "What Would Google Do?" wrote:
We in the media tend to view the internet in our own image. But the internet is not a medium. Instead, as Cluetrain Manigesto author Doc Searls argues, it is a place. Think of it as a public park. You may not be selectively kept out because of your association with a race, religion ... or aggregator.
It is important to undestand this when GW consciouly aims to promote its "image" online. As Sean pointed out in this week's post, GW is a "unique school that most students chose to attend not because its spirit of tradition, or athleticism, but because its spirit of political engagement." I actually believe that it is good to have many sport events to integrate the GW community, enhancing its "spirit". I for one enjoy GW's basketball and rugby matches -- yes, there is a GW rugby team -- over the weekend to take a break from the academic work. We all need to take a break, right? But GW was my first choice for an exchange program, exactly because of its vibrant political commitment. This is the "spirit" and "image" that attracted me the most, because there was a wide and established conversation online of what makes GW special.

The new "media relations" should not simply be an interation between the surfaces of the billiard balls. They need to recognize the intra-action. No matter how hard some people try to publicize the strong sport "spirit" from the above, even people outside the GW community will ultimately find out what actually goes inside the campus, and what students think about their own culture.

1 comment:

Sean said...

I agree. I sort of addressed this in my post about GW's oddly aggressive and destined-to-fail spirit initiative they are pouring so much time and money into. They are going about branding the University 1) in a way that is not at all accurate, and 2) is not really what students or prospective students want to see the school's image become.