Social contract: How social media increases civic engagement

Matthew Hurst sits on the Capitol Steps in Washington, DC
By now we know that the internet has changed political communication, offering new platforms for political candidates, citizen journalists, and advocates alike to share their ideas in this uniquely democratic forum.  Yet many others have noted this rhetoric has turned increasingly polarized, especially as partisans share news from self-selected sources like blogs which affirm their own ideas without seeking to represent both sides equally.  Even with increasing turnout the last few election cycles, the question remains: Is the internet good or harmful for democracy?

Last weekend I attended the Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, DC, alongside thousands of other patriotic citizens who shared a disdain for divisive rhetoric that seems so pervasive in American newsmedia.  While at first it’s easy to assume that ideologically driven blogs only reinforce this divisiveness, many I spoke with said they were encouraged to attend the relatively apolitical rally because of  what they read on the internet.  The event built up anticipation and interaction through countless platforms: using Facebook events, Twitter accounts, photo contests, event microsites, an iPhone app, and of course their TV shows’ website to promote the rally.  It seemed as if the rally was everywhere, effectively turning every channel of communication online and off into another soapbox its advocates could recruit their friends, myself included.

Even among those who would ordinarily be silenced by divisive rhetoric common to political blogs, this rally established the value of using the internet to spark civic participation among many who would ordinarily have become disengaged.  In the past organizations like Rock the Vote successfully engaged young voters, but it seems social media has increased civic participation exhibited the last few election cycles.  It got me thinking of all the tools at our disposal this election: Continue reading Social contract: How social media increases civic engagement

Blog Action Day 2010: Measuring the impact of Water use

Bottled Water Bar in Chicago's Museum of Science & IndustryWater is one of those things we never notice unless it’s unavailable. Sure I’ve been known brag about my hometown’s great tap water and am known to enjoy tasty beverages made from this resource, but besides the occasional outage I rarely consider it’s impact on my everyday life.  Yet for millions of people, access to clean, safe drinking water is not available, even if the solutions to this basic Human Right are simple.

As long as Water is a finite resource with limited availability to many, we should conserve this natural resource while increasing access to those who deserve our help. When I was writing my Master’s thesis on Energy Conservation (and last year’s Blog Action Day post), I had water in mind as well because it is another resource subject to increasing demand and inefficient use we take for granted in the United States.  Among my findings were that consumers were best encouraged to improve their usage of a resource when they have concrete examples of steps they can take to reduce their consumption (and the tools to measure them).

To better understand this issue, here’s a few ways to measure how we use Water everyday: Continue reading Blog Action Day 2010: Measuring the impact of Water use

October’s 10

Matthew Hurst riding on a boat by Lower Manhattan, New York City

In the last month I’ve begun new endeavors, publishing my first major Press Release and attending AdWeek as representative of my new employers. You could say I’m on a roll, so In celebration of 10.10.10 here are the Top 10 ideas shaping my life over the last month.

Blog: Mashable. I read Mashable every day because it is the best source of current news on social media and online marketing, period. When Facebook was down this month I looked to them for the first to explanation of what was happening and why. Ditto on Foursquare and Twitter. It’s become such an obsession of mine a friend recently asked “when did you become the Mashable promoter?”. Thanks to Pete Cashmore and company for giving me something to look forward to reading everyday.

Colleague: Sean Ludwig. I want to recommend Sean because he’s a talented journalist and writer with in-depth knowledge of technology (especially mobile) and experience using social media.

Film: The Social Network. As a Film Studies major and Communications grad, I think I’m qualified to say this film lives up to the hype. Audiences should already be aware that the film is not biographical, and I like it better that way; their writers created dramatic (if oversimplified) characters who would make this film enjoyable to anyone, even if they’ve never used Facebook (including Mr. Sorkin). In other words, Mark Zuckerberg is going to become the Bud Fox of this generation; see this movie and bring a Friend.

Meme: Rally to Restore Sanity. I plan on attending this satirical event, organized by the producers of The Daily Show and Colbert Report, at the end of this month. Establishing once again my own zealousness towards this radically irrelevant television program, I’m looking forward to renewing irony in DC. Hopefully with thousands of other friends of rational discussion. Continue reading October’s 10

Brooklyn Skillshare returns!


Because education doesn’t end after you graduate, last year I attended a day-long series of workshops during the first annual Brooklyn Skillshare. There I learned how to brew Kombucha Tea, an experience I speak about 0:30 seconds into this video filmed at last year’s event. That same curiosity to learn from my neighbors has me excited for this year’s Skillshare event, which will take place this upcoming weekend.

Bringing out the best talent and knowledge from around the borough (my new home at the time), the 2009 Brooklyn Skillshare (BKSS) focused on sharing knowledge for the purpose of community building rather than merely professional development. Organized by individuals who understand that learning happens best in a social context, these event demonstrate the motivation for adults when they learn from their peers. After all, Brooklyn is well-known to be populated by creative souls with talent and knowledge to match, which would ordinarily be lost if individuals kept these talents to themselves. Continue reading Brooklyn Skillshare returns!

September’s 7

Matthew Hurst inspects artwork based on the DC metro transit map
Every month I share a short list of ideas that I think deserve recognition, or at least have some currency in my own sphere of influence .  It’s been a little while since I shared my latest influences, so I’ve included an extra thought this month I hope will introduce you to something worthwhile.

App: Chump Dump. I admit that I have a problem: too many friends and followers on Twitter to keep tabs on those who’s ideas I care about the most. This app should help me attain a better balance (or at least a lower ratio) by helping me loose random twitter followers, particularly those most prolific narcissists currently clogging up my Twitter stream.

Blog: Wonkette. With Election season in full swing, I’ve become a daily reader once again of this DC-based liberal rag with its tongue planted firmly in cheek. Sarcasm runs thickly through each post, pulling together the best (and most embarrassing) news clips from around the blogosphere to add their irreverent take on our nation’s partisan political dysfunction.

Film: Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Comic books, video games, rock and roll; what’s not to love in this romantic comedy? Of course it’s geeky, so I love it.

Meme: Check-in Fatigue. As an early adopter of location-based social media, I’ve been anticipating the growth and inevitable backlash against these platforms as they mature. It’s interesting to watch my friends walk through the same curiosity, excitement, and disappointment as these services start to become adopted by the mainstream, most recently Facebook.  What was first a fun, new way to connect with friends and meet people has grown into an all-consuming competition that frustrates new users with legitimate privacy issues.  Of course I’ll still be playing along, so don’t hate the players (hate the game). Continue reading September’s 7

Why I joined Myspace (again), and why you should too

Everyday I tell my clients they need join the social media conversation, securing their business’ brand names even when they’re not sure of best practices (much less how to leverage them).  As a social media evangelist I usually mention the benefits of using these tools to build their brand.  So last month I decided to put my money where my mouth was and did something I never though I’d do again: I signed up for Myspace, years after quitting the social network.
How I quit myspace, the first time around
Of course I didn’t always feel that way: over 4 years ago I wrote a guide of how to quit Myspace. At the time I had grown enamored with the emerging social networks and what was being called Web 2.0, so I created a one of a kind blog post explaining why I wanted to leave Myspace and detailing how I deleted my account. Since then I’ve joined hundreds more social media websites, become an online marketing professional, and embraced building my personal brand through public conversations rather than using private accounts.  Indeed these days you’re more likely to hear about someone quitting Facebook over privacy concerns than signing up for Myspace.

Since then Myspace has changed.  After signing-up I found some important changes, such as integrating Twitter to update my status.  I’ve noticed significantly less spam in my message inbox, something which MySpace was notoriously annoying for during its heyday, possibly from all of their new spam controls.  Myspace remains increasingly driven by content (musicians mostly), which makes it unique among the social networks.
Along with these changes in how the community functions have come some behavior changes among this audience: Continue reading Why I joined Myspace (again), and why you should too

Links with Your Coffee: News and Notes from Matthew Hurst

Watch live streaming video from smw_newyork at livestream.com

At IDEO’s Humanizing Social Media event in February 2010, we explored the implications of social media on interpersonal communication. Rather than perpetuating the discussion of case studies and e-commerce during Social Media Week, this social experiment left us questioning how the communications shifts have impacted the way we develop new friendships online. Our cellphones were left at the front door and we exchanged our clothes for a plain white t-shirt affixed with buttons which carried tags that describe ourselves, like “blogger” and “geek” in my own case.

It was an thought provoking exercise, and now I can  finally share the results from this experiment with you.  We had a great night at this event, so much that I was awarded the honor of “Person with whom you’d most like to stranded on a desert island with”!  Look for yours truly to take a staring turn during the panel discussions, as captured in this video.

A little further news and notes not quite long enough to warrant a blog post of their own: Continue reading Links with Your Coffee: News and Notes from Matthew Hurst

Public Communications, Online Marketing, and Social Media Strategy