Target Audiences in a Virtual World

Smith and Wollan (2011) discuss barriers to using online social media for customer feedback. The need for instantaneous response to feedback is a grave one. Work of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. As such, it also has a large effect on negative feedback. This is called aggressive consumer activism (Smith & Wollan, 2011). By immediately addressing concerns and comments, companies can effectively minimize the damage done by this negative feedback. Of course, it isn’t possible to deal with every single piece of information/feedback/criticism given by customers. This is challenge number two. Companies must have a fluid and well constructed way to deal with customer input. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/--N6cn5nBwkE/T8rH8nUm9FI/AAAAAAAAAVc/u-sU9YbkBWk/s1600/targetaudience2.jpgThis is a challenge in and of itself. There are a variety of media at the customers’ disposal for feedback. It all has to be monitored, data input and checked against the company’s goals and measurement standards. And, even if they did have a program for dealing with customer data, no one can please everyone all the time. What one customer likes the other may not; even within the same target audience. For that matter, there may be a significant difference between what the customer who expresses himself thinks/wants/feels, and the customer who doesn’t express himself, but whose opinion matters all the same.

Smith and Wollan (2011) also offer suggestions as to the way around some of these barriers. By partnering with influential users of social media, companies can target audiences within a certain area of their market. Organizations can allow existing networks to work for them. Influential social media users have the ability to harness their credibility with followers and friends in a persuasive manner. By obtaining the support of these influential few, companies are able to zero in on their target audience, monitor feedback in a more concentrated way (e.g., monitor the youtube comments of their video blogger who is followed by zillions), and immediately respond to that feedback.

It is my opinion that we all have trusted sites, bloggers, and critics who we find closely represent our personal opinions. By accessing those key people, marketers can reach a larger group of customers. I know that I personally read very specific websites for game reviews. If they don’t like the game, I won’t buy them.

Tell me this isn’t bad ass…. Also… it clicks SO PRETTY!

When I worked for one of these review sites, marketers gave free copies of games to me, asking me to write a review. By giving me a free copy, they were getting their foot in the door, and I was more likely to enjoy the game, as I had a good taste in my mouth about the company gifting it to me. My favorite example of that was when I was given a keyboard to review. My review was so positive and reached so many people, that the company gave me the $130.00 keyboard as a gift. I STILL rave about it. A good example of reaching one to affect the masses (also, I LOVE THIS KEYBOARD!)

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Research Review: Attachment Style Differences in Online Relationship Involvement

This week, I figured we would change it up a bit; go more vague media, less specifically gaming.

Dr. Jiali Ye (2007) decided to look into whether or not relationship development and satisfaction differs in ways similar to offline relationships. A questionnaire was sent via Google Newsgroups, fetching just over 100 respondents. On average, the respondents were 35 years old.

Dr. Ye was asked about how long respondents’ relationships had been going on, to what extent they interacted online, and how satisfied they were with those relationships. Repondents were asked whether the relationships were casual, close, or romantic. Finally, items were included that measured attachment types: secure, dismissal, fearful, and preoccupied. Let’s clarify what these mean before I continue.

I knew I was a Lucy fan! Wait…

In this case, a secure attachment style is one which the individual is comfortable being intimate, but also okay doing things on their own. A dismissal attachment style means the individuals tend to want to be alone and don’t really do the relationship thing. Fearful individuals want an intimate and close relationship, but they’re afraid of failure, so they avoid them. And preoccupied individuals are dependent on their partners, but still afraid of rejection.

What Dr. Ye found was not surprising; those who are have closer relationships tend to be more comfortable having deep online relationships and are more satisfied with them, as well. And this seems to be true for all four attachment styles. Dr. Ye theorizes that this may be due to the lack of cues that we tend to make judgments based on, created a more level playing field for the relationships. The only time any of the attachment styles differed was in casual relationships; secure and fearful individuals were okay sharing more online than the others were. The only real difference in satisfaction was that casual relationships didn’t appear to be as satisfying as close or romantic relationships- duh.

So there you have it! Though this is, in no way, the end all authority on relationships and the internet, it is one of the early measures of online attachment styles and how they interact with online relationships. Ooh! Maybe next week, I’ll talk about all the reasons that long-distance, online relationships are likely to create more intimate connections than face-to-face ones!

/digs out research while laughing maniacally

References:

Ye, J. (2007). Attachment style differences in online relationship involvement: An examination of interaction characteristics and relationship satisfaction. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(4), 605-607. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.9982

Research Review: First-Person Shooter Games as a Way of Connecting to People: “Brothers in Blood”

I love this article. There are a few reasons for this. First, in the disclosure statement there is a note about how no competing funding was provided for this research. That is important because there have been other researchers (who I won’t name, but I REALLY want to) who have accepted monies for their research which may have been influential in the results of their research. This makes their research controversial and more pseudo science than psychology. So, I appreciate that this research was done without “competing financial interests”. Second, the findings of this back up a lot of my favorite gaming research and it was done in a much different way than the others. Allow me to illuminate.

Frostling-Henningsson studied players in Stockholm in two online-gaming centers (yes, I know we don’t use them much anymore here, but this is a great place for qualitative research). She spent time from September 2006 to February 2007 observing gaming sessions, and interviewing gamers. Her participants were 19 males and 4 females between the age of 12 and 26 years old. These ages are slightly younger than typical gamers, but seem to be more accurate of typical FPS players.

She found themes of motivation for play in the responses of the participants. The first one she found was communication. Players like to socialize. This is nothing new to us. Other research I’ve reviewed here has shown the same theme in EQ and WoW players as well. The second theme she found was connection in ways that were unanticipated. In other words, players enjoyed the fact that real world identifiers (i.e., age, gender, sexuality, or appearance) don’t affect whether we are willing to connect with others. Rather, things like personality, kindness, support, maturity, and game skill/cooperation inform our connections. This is a very positive theme in gaming. It means that gaming transcends borders and boundaries that tend to stop us in real life. It makes us less biased and allows us to judge based on more solid grounds; things that matter. This is consistent with what Chayko (2008) says of virtual connections as well; our sociomental connections (i.e., connections we make in mental spaces and not physical, face to face spaces) are a more real kind of real and tend to be more intimate because we invest more time and energy into them.

The third theme Frostling-Henningsson found was that there is a feeling associated with gaming that participants experience. One unlike that of reading (though described to be similar to that type of immersion) or movies, tv or real life. Gaming allows us access to experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to; running through the Sphinx, or shooting up a hospital whose only inhabitants happen to be brain munching zombies. These things don’t happen, they’re not experiences we’re ever likely to have. Yet gaming allows us to experience them. One of my favorite thoughts in the article come from this section as well. The comment is made by one of the participants that he feels relaxed when he is playing CS but his girlfriend says it’s really just a way for him to take out his aggression. Do you think expressing or expelling pent up emotions is or can be a form of relaxation? I certainly do, but I just might have to research this and let you all know what I find out.

The fourth motivational theme found was that of teamwork and cooperation. Gamers preferred to work together, even when they were on opposing teams. Think of all the meta rules implemented when you and your friends game, “Let’s kill everyone else first, then square off one on one,” or “NO CAMPING, YOU NEWB!” The fifth theme was gaming allowed for an escape from the anxieties and stressors of the real world. However, some of the participants mention that they play CS rather than WoW because they feel some sense of control over just exactly how immersed (or ‘sucked in’) they end up being. I’ve heard that plenty of times, but I’m not so sure my CS playing compatriots are any less ‘sucked in’ than I am by League of Legends, or my brother is by World of Warcraft. Could there be personality, perception, or motivational differences in who gets consumed by which games? Another item on my research “to do” list, I assure you.

Finally, Frostling-Henningsson found that gamers like to play because they feel like the virtual world is a real world, just a different real world. This is consistent with research that says virtual worlds are just as real, if not seemingly more real, as the offline real world. People can become different selves, try on personalities, let their hair down, as it were, and become disinhibited all without worrying about real world consequences. Don’t believe me? Check out last week’s article about permeability between virtual and real worlds. The bottom line is that we’re social beings who love, live for, and grow from all kinds of exciting experiences; real, virtual, or otherwise.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2009). First-person shooter games as a way of connecting to people: “Brothers in blood”. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(5), 557-562. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0345

Desperately Seeking Future

This is the portion of the show where we contemplate what our dream social technology would do. I’m not great at dreaming big (the hazard of being a realist). I am, however, great at explaining why I like what I like; we start there.

First and foremost, my favorite social media is Google; all of it. The reason being that there are so many ways to connect, types of uses, and useful media all under one roof. That being said, Google doesn’t work under one application (at least on my phone), so moving from one to the other can be challenging. Google, as a company, seems to be mindful of ways in which the internet COULD be used better, rather than just coming up with more options for current use (although Google+ did kinda do that).

I love Skype because it allows me to see and hear friends who are far away (same reason I enjoy Google Hangouts). I like Twitter because it allows me to connect with people I don’t otherwise know via networking and like-minded communities. Most of my new friends come from Twitter. Twitter, for the record, is also where my secret venting account is. Control over who sees you ginger rage is good. Facebook allows me to keep contact with friends from long ago, keep up on current events (because that’s where they get posted… sadly), and keep in (distant) touch with family that is, well… family. StumbleUpon and Pinterest allow me to explore sites and places on the interwebs that I would likely never find on my own, as well as connect with people who are like minded. Foursquare feeds my competitive side while I’m out doing chores I would be doing otherwise, helps me connect with people in my community who frequent similar places, and gives great access to great tips and discounts. I love texting because it allows me to have instant access to my friends and let’s me word things deliberately. Email gives me a similar outlet, but I tend to use it more formally, and typically when I don’t need an immediate response. I love Pandora because it let’s me discover new music for when I’m studying or gaming, as well as let’s me customize a playlist of music I don’t necessarily own. Dropbox allows me to share things that I don’t want everyone else to see. Gaming let’s me socialize, achieve, and escape. And I love the skills I develop from gaming as well. Finally, WordPress, of course, gives me a place to share my passion, as nerdy as they tend to be. 😉

So, now that I’ve nearly exhausted my list of social technologies I love already, what can be better? Having them all in one place. While the cell phone is nearly that (and allows for immediate and mobile access to boot), I’m talking about an all in one, open source (Apple and Microsoft give me a headache with their exclusivity and partnering), simply designed but fully customizable, social technology that allows for all of my contacts, venting, exploring, connecting,  sharing, etc.

Oh… and here’s the kicker; the reason it’s a dream: I want it to be ad free. No sponsors begging me to allow them to control all of my doohickies… none of that.  I know it’s a lot to ask. But this is MY dream, right?

OOH! And since we ARE dreaming… I want it all to be in an AR contact lens that allows me to drive and still wear my vision correcting lenses. 🙂

Research Article: Virtual World and Real World Permeability

Finally, some positive research about the virtual world we all love so much. Games can make us happy? Who would have thought… OH wait. WE would have. 😉

Cabiria’s SL Avatar

In his breakthrough research, Dr. Jon Cabiria (2008) studies the potential positive effects of virtual communities on marginalized groups (in this case LGBT). He hypothesizes that positive identity verification is transferable from the virtual game Second Life to real life. In other words, people who feel comfortable being themselves in Second Life are able to feel more comfortable in real life.

Using questionnaires and interviews, Cabiria first established a baseline for each individual’s offline identity (i.e., how they typically acted and felt offline). His goal for this portion of the study was to see if there was a significant difference in behavior from previous research done in LGBT studies. The participants relayed the same themes as in previous research: “loneliness, isolation, depression, low self-esteem, withdrawal, lack of authenticity, and lack of useful information (p.7).” He goes on to say:

Specifically, these expected results dealt with developmental obstruction,
negative psychological affect of being in the closet, the power of hetero-normative forces, and
compartmentalization, to name a few (p.7).

He then asked the same questions of the Second Life self. This time the purpose was to see if there were any differences between the online and offline selves. What he found was:

… seven main themes emerged from the data, namely belongingness, connectedness, improved well-being, higher self-esteem, optimism, sense of authenticity, and evidence of transferable positive benefits (p. 8).

Permeability FTW

So what does this mean?

Well, it means that people who are afraid to be themselves because they’re marginalized, because social norms tell them they’re not ‘right’ or ‘good enough’… they have an outlet for true self-expression; a place to be themselves, and be accepted for who they are. People can try on identities in a safe, anonymous way and when they are ready to ‘come out’ (whether LGBT, gamer, math geek, dyslexic, eccentric or otherwise) as who they really are, they are bolstered up by the knowledge that there are those out there who are like them and who accept them unconditionally. It means there is a way for fears, challenges, self-esteem, withdrawal, anxiety, and any other number of scary feelings and emotions, to be overcome.

Permeability between virtual and real life… isn’t it exciting?

Reference

Cabiria, J. (2008). Virtual world and real world permeability: Transference of positive benefits for marginalized gay and lesbian populations. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research1(1), 1-13. Retrieved from: https://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/viewFile/284/238

Collective Intelligence in Gaming

What collective intelligence looks like as a gamer

As Holland touched on, gaming is an area in which tangential learning has become something of a researcher’s playground. Barnett and Coulson (2010) sought to understand player interactions in massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). They looked at factors such as socialization, transference of skills from virtual to real world applications, immersion, and group achievements. They note that MMOs have been used as tools for teaching, and players who develop social skills via gameplay (e.g., forming groups, effective communication, etc.) are able to then use those skills in out of game settings successfully. Specifically, with regards to collective intelligence, when a gamer gets onto a game, and comes away with skills such as socialization and effective team participation or leadership, that is a credit to the group as a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

But it isn’t just MMOs that create this kind of tangential skill learning. First-person shooters (FPSs) also allow team coordination, the dissemination of knowledge between players, and real world applicability (Frostling-Henningsson, 2009). Players in this study reported feeling a greater variety of experiences (which they then share with other players… collective intelligence), and were found to be most motivated by the socialization and communication factors inherent in the game. Diane Carr (2011) found that gamers make game choices or have genre preferences based on their own experiences and the experiences others have shared with them. She calls it “peer culture”.

While these games typically don’t change much (some patches are created to accommodate game play or gamer preferences on the whole), people continue to play. In my experience as a game review, replayability is one of the most important factors, and typically the most replayable games are the ones that have a social component. Because, in games like League of Legends (my personal favorite MMO), the game is the same over and over, but the people you play with, the things you learn from them, the experiences you gain via the combinations of players/characters/teams, are what keep you coming back for more.

References:

Barnett, J., & Coulson, M. (2010). Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology14(2), 167-179. doi: 10.1037/a0019442

Carr, D. (2011). Contexts, gaming pleasures, and gendered preferences. Simulation & Gaming36(4). 464-482. doi: 10.1177.1046878105282160

Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2009). First-person shooter games as a way of connecting to people: “Brothers in blood”. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(5), 557-562. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0345

If You Love It: Long Distance Relationships Revisited

There’s no doubt about it: Relationships are tough. But the age old saying, “If you love it, set it free. If it comes back, it was meant to be” has plagued hearts young and old for what seems like ages. First of all, no one WANTS to let the <person> go, because they don’t want to take the chance of losing it forever. What if it doesn’t come back? This advice is one of two traditional responses when someone decides to try a long distance relationship. The other, of course, being, “Long distance relationships don’t work.” Either way, not something people want to hear. With traditional media a connection was possible, but the immediacy- the sharing of current thoughts, feelings, events, etc.- was difficult, if not impossible. 

Chayko (2008) mentions a sociomental connection that allows us to connect on a deeper level. She brings attention to the amount of emotional and mental investment needed to create a concept of someone who we haven’t necessarily been wholly exposed to. Though we miss the things that Harlow (1958) helped us understand our deep seeded needs for, we are able to maintain a mental and emotional connection that, at times, may supersede the strength of those connections in person. This idea got me thinking, very intently, about long distant relationships and how viable they are compared to before such facilitating connectivity. Especially living in Alaska, when a friend left the state, you were likely never to see them again. Now, when my best friend leaves the state, we’re almost MORE connected than we are when we’re cuddling in front of the television. I guess my point is that there are benefits to both connections.

In general, however, the readings got me thinking about how I relate to others around me, whether in online communities, or in person. I have taken a more specific attention to the ways in which my actions change based on which group I’m currently in, and what about that group makes me a part of it, or WANT to be a part of it. Though the catalyst for this focus was Identity Theory (Burke & Stets, 2009), it has carried over into the Chayko (2008) readings as well. On the one hand, how do I connect to my communities and what do I bring to the table. On the other hand, how has that changed based on connectedness. The result, as mentioned above, is a focus on the relationships I have and do have, and how they’ve been effected by not only portability, but emotional and mental availability.

References:

Burke, P., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.
Classics in the History of Psychology — Harlow (1958). (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2012, from http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Harlow/love.htm

A Social Marketing Proposal to TBA Theatre

Proposal Companion Prezi (A summary of the prezi, with photos, videos, and links)

TBA Marketing Proposal (The PDF version of this proposal, in case you like the double spaced goodness of APA formatting)

  TBA Harnessing the Transformational Power of Theatre

            Augusto Boal introduced the concept of Forum Theatre in his book Theatre of the Oppressed. Forum Theatre is a type of play which encourages audiences to participate in the resolution of some social issue. The core of the story is scripted and presents a protagonist with a conflict. However, the protagonist is unable to overcome the conflict, and the audience is brought in to suggest possible solutions to the conflict, turning the audience into what Boal referred to as spect-actors.  Those solutions are then played out by the actors. (Forum Theatre, n.d.)

This type of theatre was originally created to deal with sources of external oppression (in Boal’s case the Brazilian government), however, it has since evolved for use in things such as employment training and problem solving. Boal extended his theories in his book The Rainbow of Desire, which focused on the individual and dealing with internal oppressions. The techniques and theories in this book are the basis for drama therapy.

An example of how Forum Theatre has effected positive change in global communities may be seen in the Youth Theatre for Peace (YTP) (2011) project. This IREX supported project was created to train educators, implement student participation in Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT), and facilitate the presentation of these forum theatre performances throughout communities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The stated goal of the YTP is to successfully affect a sustainable community change in the prevention of conflicts via forum theatre. Additional examples of how forum theatre has affected change include conflict resolution in Philadelphia, Kosovo, and Amani. These examples, along with innumerable others, only begin to scratch the surface of our understanding as to how, and why, theatre has the ability to affect global, community, and personal change.

 Transformational Powers of Theatre

Theatre affects the lives of those who experience it not only via patronage, but also as a result of the creation of the art. Though this may be easily illustrated by performing an internet search, hearing stories directly from the individuals who have experienced them, allows for the emotion which accompanied the experience to become palpable.

Becky Sheridan (personal communication, 2012), a local actress specializing in comedy, recalled a play she performed in while attending college. When Scott Comes Home, based on a true story, is a show about a kid who goes to college in the 80’s for a few years. Upon returning home, he comes out as a homosexual to his parents; this doesn’t go well for him. Eventually, he dies of AIDS. This play was written by Becky’s college professor; the adaptation of a book Scott’s mother wrote. Becky recalls performing the play and being protested by other Christian groups. She remembers feeling very profoundly influenced by the message of the show, as well as the reaction of the others around her. She says it was this show that exemplified the acceptance of others as a part of the Christian life that she strives daily to live. (B. Sheridan, personal communication, 2012)

Justin Oller (personal communication, 2012), another actor in Anchorage, has been involved in theatre since elementary school. Justin fondly remembers an experience in which he travelled to Scotland with an unusually varied group of actors: different theatre backgrounds, incomes, experiences levels, etc. Justin notes how the coming together of artists who varied this intensely, simply for the love of the art, solidified theatre as his career objective. Justin also mentions that every show he is in opens his eyes to some aspect of life or himself. For example, having grown up with a single mother, his work with TBA and, specifically the artistic director, Shane Mitchell, helped guide him towards becoming a gentleman. Shane also affected his perception of what theatre was for: art as a means to communicate, problem solve, and better a community rather than just to entertain from on stage.

Rhiannon Johnson (personal communication, 2012) agrees with Justin. She reflected on her perception of theatre before starting classes with TBA and how they compare to her perception now. She describes Shane’s philosophy on theatre as she has come to understand it: one shouldn’t do theatre to show off, but instead should do it to affect positive change. She says she has learned that the more you learn and embrace art, the more good you do for your community and for others; you facilitate less conflict. Being in theatre has made Rhiannon think more about the effect theatre has on people, and it’s long term effects as well.

Anthony Cruz (personal communication, 2012), who specializes in dance, remembers a yearly HIV/AIDS play that was performed in order to help the students understand the severity of the disease, and what it might be like to live with it. His recollection of this show, exemplifies how theatre that takes on a social cause may affect those who are exposed to it. Anthony also recalls the first time he saw To Kill A Mockingbird. He says he was very taken aback by the transportive feeling that came with the set and the attention to detail. He notes that reading the book didn’t convey the feel or perspective of the time like experiencing the play did. He said it was like history right in front of him.

A Community Based Approach

TBA Theatre’s mission statement is, ” To enrich our community by providing innovative and comprehensive theatre arts experiences through which artists of all ages can develop their creativity and self-expression; and in so doing stimulate human potential.” (TBA Theatre, 2012) It is clear, through numerous interviews with individuals involved in TBA that artists of all ages are, in fact, developing creativity and self-expression. Additionally, they are clearly stimulating human potential. Justin, Becky, Anthony, and Rhiannon are only a few examples of individuals associated with TBA who have uncovered what may have otherwise been a very abstract truth about life, who they are, who they want to be, and how to become that self.

In performing shows during the daytime, and charging minimal rates, TBA also allows for students of all ages to attend shows, as well as providing educational resources for teachers, parents, and students alike. TBA also provides course through the Theatre Store during the winter months, as well as a Summer Academy, and Spring Break Academy, which not only allow students to enrich their understanding of theatre, art, and creativity, but provide a safe place to do so. Parents can rest assured that there is a safe place for their child to play, think, and grow during the long Summer days in Anchorage. These are certainly ways in which TBA enriches the Anchorage community.

Imagine, however, combining the enriching and educating power of TBA with the community based and conflict resolving power of forum theatre. Using TBA’s existing educational structure as the foundation for a week-long intensive, forum theatre could be used to exemplify the mission of one or more of Anchorage’s local community based organizations (CBOs) (see Appendix A). Not only does this afford TBA cross-promotional opportunities in which they gain additional exposure in the community, but they are furthering the enrichment of their community by supporting family based causes similar to their own.

Furthering Theatre’s Reach in Anchorage

Strategy

This plan suggests that TBA include a one week intensive in their existing curriculum structure. This intensive would teach students to write short scripts, based on the mission of a local CBO, in which the protagonist becomes unable to resolve the driving conflict. The students would then sell tickets to the show at the end of the week, in which they act out the scripted parts of the shows and encourage audience members to suggest resolutions for the protagonist. Those resolutions would then be acted out. CBOs would be encouraged to supply TBA with information to be disseminated to audience members who are interested in more information, or volunteering.

Perceived Barriers

As is often the case with CBOs, monetary cost of any marketing strategy is a concern. Costs for this plan may include space rental for the performance and for the class itself, script printing, and light design.

Time may also be a concern, as volunteers are needed to run light and sound, stage management, direction, and, of course, teachers. Though students would be selling tickets, volunteers would be needed to organize tickets, man the box office, and process any monies involved. Additionally, a volunteer to be the liaison between TBA and involved CBOs would be necessary in order to ensure the promotion of TBAs production by the CBO(s) being represented.

Resources Maximized

Several of these barriers may be overcome easily by taking advantage of the existing structure. If students are charged tuition for admittance into the intensive, several costs may already be covered. Also, as this would be presented as a performance, admittance fees may help cover the costs of things such as space rental. Scripts would be minimal, as they are meant to be unresolved in script. This will save on the costs of reproduction, but also environmental costs associated with extensive copying.

By grouping the intensive in with an already volunteer rich educational structure, volunteers may be asked to include paperwork, money transactions, and data entry in with efforts for pre-existing classes at a minimal time/effort increase. Because social marketing is a function of both media studies and psychological studies, volunteers from those fields may be sought after to act as liaisons between TBA and any involved CBOs.

Benefitting Us All

Possible benefits to incorporating the missions of local CBOs into the TBA curriculum may be the desirability that TBA be involved in future social marketing campaigns. Not only does working with local charities and social betterment efforts make TBA an example to the community, but it also makes TBA a commodity which parents, adults, teachers, professionals, and corporations alike, would be desirous to be aligned with. Ensuring that funders may feel secure in their donations bettering not only the arts community in Anchorage, but by association other family based charities and organizations, sponsors and donors are given more incentive to support TBA.

Financial benefits may be reaped as well. By reaching out to a CBO, you are also reaching out to their existing supporters, funders, volunteers, and the families involved or affected by the charity. In the vein of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” assisting CBOs in achieving their goals, creates a bond through which they are likely to help TBA achieve theirs. The financial benefit may come in the form of additional donations, corporate sponsors, or patronage in the form of students or attendees.

Measuring Success

Because the measure of success, regardless of the level of integrity the group, is necessary for the evaluation of any plan, a measure for the success of this plan must be put into effect. Where the goal is to cross-promote with another CBO for the furthering of both groups’ agendas, the attendance for all classes, and shows performed using the forum theatre format should be recorded and compared. If the desirability of the courses and performances climb, or remain at a level which produces a profit, rather than a deficit, it should be considered a success. The initial goal, however, should be to implement the plan, and begin immediately measuring attendance and profit above the costs induced. A record should then be kept comparing subsequent years’ attendance and profit.

In Conclusion

It is true that maintaining an already established habit is easier than affecting change. However, transitioning ways of thinking, learning, and creating, allow for the introduction of forward thinking and problem solving techniques. In a post-modern world, where education means self-directed research, stories are told by thousands of people who have never met, and the advancement of technology creates new venues for storytelling, theatre remains an emotionally charged medium for the stories, myths, and journeys which define us as individuals, families, communities, and nations. Continuing to use the transformational power of theatre to focus on positively affecting those who are exposed to it, ensures its survival and secures its foothold in the future of storytelling.

TBA Theatre, already the gold standard in entertainment in Anchorage, also maintains the unique ability to spread its influence to those in need by using the emotional connection inherent in theatre, to connect supporters with causes worthy of their support.

Appendix A

Community Based Organizations in Anchorage, AK

Friends of Alaska CASA

Target: Children, Youth, & Adults

Mission: More than 2,000 of Alaska’s children are victims of abuse and neglect and are living in foster care. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) speak out to help abused and neglected children. Our Goal: Help CASA programs achieve the goal of providing a CASA volunteer for every child who needs one by 2016.

Anchorage CASA

Target Audience: Youth, Children, & Adults

Mission: The mission of CASA is to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courts. We promote and support quality volunteer representation for children to provide each child a safe, permanent, nurturing home.

Challenge Alaska

Target Audience: Youth, Adults, & Disabled

Mission: Improving the lives of people with disabilities and the whole community through recreation, sports and education. Through the programs offered by Challenge Alaska, participants can develop skills, expand their social horizons, become physically healthier, and increase their self-esteem.

Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Target Audience: Youth, Adult, & Blind

Mission: Equipping Alaskans who are Blind and Visually Impaired for Success in Life and Work. The Center helps youth grow in independence and capability through a summer training, career development, and enrichment program. The Center also supports blind and visually impaired students in Alaska school districts thanks to a grant program providing up-to-date technology and staff training to ensure accessible learning materials.

RurAL Cap

Target Audience: Low income, & Families

Mission: RurAL CAP encourages the efforts of low-income people attempting to break the cycle of dependency and gain control of the changes affecting their lives. Its mission is to protect and improve the quality of life for low-income Alaskans through education, training, direct services, decent and affordable housing, advocacy, and strengthen the ability of low-income people to advocate for themselves.

Standing together Against Rape

Target Audience: Youth & Women

Mission: The Mission of STAR is: To provide the best quality of crisis intervention and advocacy services to victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse, and to provide education on these issues to the community.

Access Alaska

Target Audience: Youth, Families, & Disabled

Mission: Access Alaska is a private, non-profit, consumer-controlled organization that provides independent living services to people who experience a disability. As an Independent Living Center, our mission is to encourage and promote the total integration of people who experience a disability to live independently in the community of their choice. Through our assistance and support individuals with disabilities can identify and obtain needed services in an effort to maintain their independence as opposed to living in an institution.

Stone Soup Group

Target Audience: Youth, Families, & Disabled

Mission: Stone Soup Group exists to sustain the health and well-being of Alaskan children with special needs and their families. Through listening to the stories of families, we identify areas of need and work with communities to find solutions.

Friends of Pets

Target Audience: Families

Mission: Friends of Pets provides vital animal welfare and protective services for abandoned animals, with respect, compassion and integrity.  We intervene to reduce the euthanasia rates at the Anchorage Animal Care & Control Center, to promote responsible pet ownership and to improve the quality of life for companion animals. FOP is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers and supported by donations.

Intervention Helpline

Target Audience: Families

Mission: Intervention Helpline is a non-profit organization based in Anchorage, whose sole focus is to bring hope, help and solutions to those battling addiction and provide support to those in recovery. We actively work to find a solution for every person who calls us asking for help—whether they are looking for a place to detox and receive treatment, a safe place to stay, some words of encouragement, or calling about a family member they are desperate to save and want to know what they should do.

Alaska Cares

Target Audience: Children, Youth, & Families

Mission: Alaska CARES is an outpatient clinic located near Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The clinic provides sexual and physical abuse evaluations for children, newborn to age 18 years, and 24-hour on-call services for cases that are considered emergent. These cases usually come to the attention of law enforcement or the emergency departments of local hospitals.

The Alaska Zoo

Target Audience: Families

Mission: The Alaska Zoo is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing homes for orphaned and injured wildlife. We pride ourselves on providing educational opportunities for visitors, both Alaskans and tourists.

References

Amani Peoples Theatre. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.aptkenya.org/

Boal, A. (1979). Theatre of the oppressed. New York, NY.: Urizen.

Boal, A. (1995). The rainbow of desire. London, England: Routledge.

Chadwick, J. (2005) The Longest Winter and post-conflict theatre in Kosovo. Az
Theatre
. Retrieved from:
http://www.phila.gov/recreation/conflict_resolution/Conflict_Resolution_10.html

Forum Theatre. (n.d.). Retrieved
from http://www.attempteu.org/uploads/media/FORUM_THEATRE.pdf

Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative
solutions to the problems of children and their families: Communicative reason and
the use of forum theatre. Child and Family Social Work
6, 285-293.

Ingraham, D. M., & Nelson, J. (2012). Finding the fun in conflict resolution.
Retrieved from:
http://www.phila.gov/recreation/conflict_resolution/Conflict_Resolution_10.html

Paterson, D. (2008). Three stories from the trenches: The theatre of the oppressed in
the midst of war. TDR: The Drama Review: A Journal of Performance Studies,
52, 110-117.

Solomon, A. (2001). Theatre of the recruits: Boal techniques in the New York police
academy. Theatre, 31(3), 54-61.

TBA Theatre. (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.tbatheatre.org

Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions. (n.d.). USAID. Retrieved
from: http://www.irex.org/sites/default/files/USAID%20Success%20Story.pdf

Youth Theatre for Peace. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from:
http://www.irex.org/project/youth-theater-peace

Cause An Uproar: Social Marketing Strategies for National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative

A friend of mine, Crystal Cierlak, and I created a social marketing campaign improvement proposal for National Geographic’s Cause An Uproar campaign. Also, please check out our companion prezi for graphics and visuals representative of the content and suggestions in the proposal. This was SUPER fun. Also, we got 110% on it. That is fun too!

Cause An Uproar: Social Marketing Strategies for National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative

            National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative is a campaign aimed at preserving the world’s declining big cat population using education, various conservation efforts, incentives, and awareness. The program suggests several steps, the first of which is to halt the decline of lions by 2015, and to facilitate the growth of the population to self-sustaining levels thereafter. With a variety of partnered groups, including the IUCN Lion Working Group and conservationists from various groups in Botswana, members of local and national groups are encouraged to join the efforts. As such, we have worked to facilitate the growth of this important effort, by producing a social marketing campaign analysis including a constructive and critical look at the current campaign website, as well as offering research supported ideas for improvement and growth.

Gardner’s Seven R’s

Howard Gardner, a noted cognitive psychologist, in his book Changing Minds (2006), suggests that encouraging change includes steps which he calls the seven R’s. An effective campaign for behavior, and ultimately attitude, change successfully utilizes these principles. We have used these principles as the backbone of our analysis. Understanding how these principles affect change allows us to continue to reassess the effectiveness of any attitude and behavior change campaign. That is, after all, the purpose of social marketing.

Reason gives the consumer a focus; it communicates the purpose for the change. Reason appeals to those who deal in logic. Tools such as analogies, comparisons, cause and effect relations, and debates may lead consumers to the conclusions sought after. In this case, the Big Cat Initiative (BCI) stresses the decay of the big cat population. An example of this can be found in the ‘About’ section of the Cause An Uproar site. While this site includes reasons for big cat conservation, this is an area which lacks in content.

Research is defined by the amount of information collected to support the reasons given. If an argument does not have supporting documentation, it has nothing to stand on. Research provides this documentation. Though the arguments given for facilitating this change are somewhat weak, the research has clearly been done by the BCI. On the ‘Main’ page, towards the bottom, facts about big cats are separated by cat type. However, as one of the goals of this campaign is global education, information could be more clearly disseminated throughout the site; educating readers at every point in their journey.

Resonance relates to the emotional connection that the consumer has to the material or change. Making the information relevant to the consumer encourages a personal interest in the cause. When someone sees themselves as directly affected, they are more likely to join the fight. This site features two notable activities which bring the big cats home to the consumer. First, the activity “Little Kitties for Big Cats” collects five dollars for the upload of a picture of a consumer’s kitten. This project simultaneously collects monetary donations, and allows consumers to connect the attachment to their kittens at home with the big cats elsewhere. Second, the site invites consumers (specifically children in this case) to write letters to the big cats. In doing so, children are afforded the opportunity to feel a personal connection with the animals. These are  brilliant examples of bringing home the message, and using conditioning to create resonance.

Redescriptions are reiterations of the story being told. This is important because, just as there are several types of learners, there are several ways to present an argument. The BCI uses videos, pictures, and case studies to reinforce the need for action. However, the layout of the site makes these redescriptions difficult to find, and somewhat labor intensive to experience.

Resources and Rewards relate to the gain that a consumer receives from participation; whether it is informational, emotional, or tangible. Sometimes, getting someone to change their attitudes or behaviors is as easy is helping them understand, or see the value in what they personally receive from the change. Just as with resonance, if a change is personally connected to them, they are more likely to partake. There are small rewards for donation and participation included in the BCI. These include descriptions and pictures of grants and their impact, and the pictures of the kittens which appear when the five dollars are donated to the little kitten effort. Another small incentive is the presentation of the avatars of Facebook users who have ‘liked’ the site. Seeing their faces on the front page of the site, and knowing that others see your face as well, gives consumers the emotional reward gained from prosocial behavior.

Real World Events include the utilization of situations which occur on broader scales which facilitate change. The BCI has, on their ‘Main’ page, news articles from around the globe which relate to their efforts. Though real world events are not always plentiful, taking advantage of the learning experiences, or changes which those events inadvertently cause, strengthens the argument made by the campaign. There is not much control over the availability of content in this area, so the news sections, though small and somewhat under exposed, is a thoughtful inclusion.

Resistances denote the reasons why this change may not take place; things which work against a cause. Resistances may include ease of use of the product, reward availability, monetary insufficiencies, etc. Careful contemplation of these resistances, and planning contingencies for them, allows the campaign to overcome many of them. The BCI does this by the inclusion of a variety of ways to contribute and clearly articulating the needs/goals of the campaign. Again, the site format reduces the visibility and ease of use, which is, in and of itself, a major resistance.

Reinforcing the Seven R’s: Suggestions for Improvement

While a sense of urgency is certainly important, educating the public about why big cat species need swift and lasting conservation efforts  must instead appeal to their reasonable intellect. The information in the ‘About’ section should include answers to questions such as ‘What happens to an area’s ecological system when these cats are gone?’, ‘What other species are affected by the declining numbers of big cats?’, and ‘How does even a little bit of support help in the long term?’ In the commercials for Cause an Uproar, the narration states that if we do not act now to protect species of big cats, we will one day speak of them the way we speak of dinosaurs now. This reasonable line of thinking is a good starting place but deserves explication on the website.

It is also unclear who the target audience is. The same approach to educating adults does not necessarily apply to children, for obvious reasons. While there is a section ‘For Kids’, much of the content on the site seems to be a combination of adult and youth content. Separation of the site for kids from the site for adults (e.g., rather than a tab for children, redirecting the user to a completely separate site just for children), allows the reasoning to be clear for each target demographic. Where the urgent message currently presented might work for a child’s level of reasoning, more specific information, such as that turned up by research, could be advantageously aimed to reason with the adult demographic.

Documented research need not be confined to a column of text and an accompanying cartographic image. A great majority of the website appears to be targeted at children, perhaps with the aim of eliciting their young minds to adopt a stance on big cats early in life. This may also ensure they will be long-time partners of positive change for the Big Cat Initiative. As such, research presented to children should appeal to their young minds by being interactive as well as educational.

Again, being mindful of the target audience allows the research collected to be representative of what appeals to that audience. If the target audience is children, research presented on the website should be two-pronged: fun and educational. Alternatively, if the target audience is the adult demographic, the research collected should appeal to them. This is another aspect in which separating out the sites may benefit the cause: two sites, two demographics, more room to affect change in more consumers. This also, however, means potentially more work and more capital invested. The good news is that BCI has seemingly done most of the research necessary for both demographics.

Also inherent in the separation of sites, is the opportunity to create content that further resonates with two varied target audiences. Utilizing the varying sensibilities and concerns of each demographic, to convey the most appropriate message, would allow BCI to resonate with target audiences appropriately. If a consumer isn’t exposed to a resonating message immediately, there is nothing keeping them interested, and therefore nothing encouraging them to contribute.

In fact, resonance may well be the most important principle where consistent repeat donations are concerned. Consider the “foot-in-the-door” concept: ask something small of a consumer first, and once they have committed to that small request, they are more likely to commit to something more substantial. Take, for example, ‘Little Kitties for Big Cats’. In this scenario, the initial commitment (i.e., paying five dollars to upload a picture of their kitten) has been made. The consumer is therefore more likely to engage in a second activity (were one to be plainly and readily available) because they were a part of, and saw results from, the first commitment. In tandem with the “foot-in-the-door” concept, producing more and varied content that resonates with the consumer on a deeper level that is appropriate to their particular demographic, will create an opportunity to increase consistent and repeated donor support.

While it is clear that a large variety of resistances were considered by the BCI team, we have found one that consistently affected our research: website build. While there is a plethora of valuable and educational content on the website, it is difficult to find and, in most cases, seems haphazardly placed. Rather than indirectly forcing the user to explore the website like some puzzle with an unknown picture, content should be made readily available from a top-level portion of the website. While pages are currently labeled, the menus are layered with menus from other parts of the National Geographic website. This makes redirecting an accidental click, or attempting to further self-explore the site, very challenging.

In general, it should not take more than two clicks to find the most relevant information and content on the website. There are two consequences to not making this content readily available: 1) if a user does not know the content exists and they don’t happen to come upon it, they will miss out on what valuable information the content has to offer, and 2) if a user spends too much time trying to find content they may give up and leave the website altogether. In order to facilitate the separation of content by target demographic, as well as ease of site use, we propose the following adjustments.

Cause An Uproar: A Site Focused on Kids

Cause An Uproar has a tremendous opportunity to create an awareness campaign that will not only appeal to adults who are able to help now, but also to children and young adults who can create a lasting bond with, and facilitate the continued presence of, big cats throughout the world. Done properly, a social media and networking campaign targeted towards children and young adults can be the catalyst of that desired lasting bond.

The proposed campaign addition is comprised of five main components: character, story, game, socialization, and awareness. Each component is explained below in detail, along with examples of how each component can be accomplished. These changes are based on readily available content from the Cause An Uproar site, and necessitate only a small amount of extra work for implementation.

Character

We’ve created a character to serve as an amalgamation of everything The Big Cat Initiative and Cause An Uproar stands for: Teagan Tigress. Teagan is a young tigress with an appetite for knowledge and a passion for big cats. She travels the globe to study various species of big cats with the purpose of finding solutions to their declining populations. She can serve as a role model to young minds who want to make a difference in the lives of big cats everywhere. Allowing for a role model or authority, someone children (and even adults where appropriate) can look up to or identify with, adds not only resonance, but helps to act as an easily identifiable resource for guidance along the learning and helping path. The creation of a heroic character may also serve as a springboard for developing a transmedia promotional campaign incorporating a cartoon show, products, further games, and much, much more!

Story

Teagan Tigress is an example of a character that could be the heroic narrator of the story which introduces youth to the plight of the big cats worldwide. In her various travels around the world – from the Americas to explore Puma concolor, a.k.a., the cougar, to Southeast Asia to explore Neofelis nebulosa, a.k.a., the clouded leopard – she has amassed a generous amount of information in the journal she travels with. The journal itself can be utilized as an encyclopedic reference guide; something akin to a Wikipedia-like resource, and would encourage students to participate in post modernistic information gathering and distribution, as well as media literacy. This is very useful for kids and young adults who are stronger learners visually and proactively, as well as reinforcing traditional literacy. These additional elements take little to no additional effort, but encourage a more hands on approach to learning, allow youth to better articulate and share the message implicit in the campaign, and creates a learning environment that parents can be comfortable letting their children explore. With a few beautiful graphics, information can be shared in a visually pleasing way that facilitates a variety of learning and processing styles.

Game

Design a game that anyone can play on the website: The Chronicles of Teagan Tigress! Imagine a storyline such as the following:

Have you seen Teagan Tigress? The last time we heard from Teagan, she was camping out by the Amur River. However, that was almost a week ago! We sent out an expedition team to search for Teagan, but all they were able to recover was her trusty journal. Can you help us? Take her journal and look for clues as to where Teagan might be. Don’t worry! We’re sure you won’t go missing too! (At least, we hope you don’t.)

Using one clue from the game prompt (i.e., Teagan was last seen camping along the Amur River), is the first of many steps that will create a tangential learning experience. In order for the player to begin their journey, they must know where to start. They can search through Teagan’s journal to find a reference to Amur River. This tells them where to start, and the clues lead them on a scavenger hunt. Maybe they’ll have an extremely rare sighting of an Amur leopard while they’re there, and maybe they’ll have to learn something about the Amur leopard being the most endangered big cat in the world, in order to discover the next clue about where Teagan is! Including facts, images, an engaging storyline, and other opportunities for tangential learning (e.g., not one, but two Amur leopards are at the Santa Barbara Zoo in California), can create a deeper learning experience, which can, in turn, be further augmented by visiting real and accessible places throughout the country (in the form of pictures, videos, or wiki entries).

Socialization

With a heroic character in place, a story for her to tell, and a game in which kids can be transported to a rich learning environment, an element of socialization adds to the higher end of the target audience age range. The game itself can serve as a large component of a social network site where young explorers (users) can get together to share clues about where Teagan may be, what they have discovered about big cats, and share ideas they’ve come up with to combat the various issues affecting the population of big cats (e.g., poaching and a variety of human and environmental factors). Another approach may be utilizing already existing social networking sites, such as Facebook, Google, or Twitter. Allowing users to share their progress, facts that they found interesting, or hints about Teagan’s whereabouts allows not only socialization, but word of mouth advertising, and positive reinforcement; it enhances the feeling of resonance. Best of all, these sites are already a part of the Cause An Uproar campaign.

Conclusion

By creating a tangential experience for the user, as well as enhanced and separated sites with content aimed at specified target audiences, Cause An Uproar and the Big Cat Initiative will promote awareness in a manner unlike most other campaigns. When learning and awareness is fostered via means of entertainment, the capacity for growth is exponential. Consumers are spending a great deal of time online. Appropriating a small chunk of that precious time for the much needed opening of hearts and minds to the issues plaguing big cats across the globe, allows for the global awareness articulated in the goals of the BCI. With some minor adjustments to the current content, the addition of a website specifically aimed at youth, and continual reinforcement of support, the Big Cat Initiative can implement a campaign that will provide edutainment to the future minds of our nation while encouraging continued support, of an adult target audience, for the preservation of the beautiful big cats we all love so much.

References

Floyd, D. (Writer) (2008). Brain training: Video games and tangential learning [Web]. Retrieved

from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN0qRKjfX3s

Gardner, H. (2006). Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other

people’s minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Kotler, P., & Lee, N. R. (2008). Social marketing: Influencing behaviors for good. (3 ed.).

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Narrative Psychology: We’re All Storytellers

Scholars analyze the history of theatre not only in search of specific answers, but often in search of consistencies throughout (Wilson & Goldfarb, 2008). Actors, when they are learning to analyze their craft, study tirelessly to master consistencies such as themes, character goals, plots, symbols, etc. Often, this history is used for reasons similar to other histories; the attempt to repeat, or avoid repeating, dynamic situations, for example. And just as there are a variety of reasons to study the history of theatre, there are also a variety of people. Joseph Campbell is one such individual, as is any playwright, literary author, or psychologist (just to name a few).

Psychologists from varying subdivisions (e.g., personality psychology, cognitive psychology, etc.) may use narratives and theatre to different ends (McAdams, 2001). For example, a clinician may ask a patient to reenact an event, or create a narrative which enables the patient to explore alternative endings to a situation. Researching narratives gives us clues as to when, how and why humans retrieve memories and convey them to others. Another use of theatre and narratives in psychology, is the use of the forum theatre, which allows large groups of people to participate as both spectators and actors, in order to collectively create a piece of theatre which fulfills a purpose, whatever that purpose may be (Sliep & Meyer-Weitz, 2003).

Joseph Campbell studied the history of mythology narratives in all mediums, and has presented us with themes that run throughout; themes that we can learn from and grow from as individuals (Campbell, 1988). These themes may also enable us to more competently navigate moratoriums and chisel for ourselves self-identities (McAdams, 2001). Playwrights and novelists research history in order to more completely transport readers/spectators into a world beyond their own (Wilson & Goldfarb, 2008). Transportation is an important consideration when dealing with narratives. When we are transported, we are able to view problems from alternative perspectives, live vicariously through characters, recover from the effects of daily stress, feel intimacy, or even expand our creative horizons (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004).

Narratives allow us to make sense of our pasts, our cultures, our beliefs, and our aspirations (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004). Theatre is just one medium for the relay of such narratives. However, many mediums exist; each effective in their own right. How effective a medium is at transporting an individual, depends on that individual, but the medium doesn’t matter as long as the transportation takes place (2004).

Theatre history, though, is more than just being transported to another place. It is a history of our planet’s development, it’s people, and the ages throughout (Wilson & Goldfarb, 2008). It helps us understand zeitgeists and ortgeists, as well as relays stories of heroes and their journeys (Campbell, 1998). The possibilities are limitless within the narrative, and so too, are their uses.

References:

Cambell, J. (1988). The hero’s adventure [The Power of Myth]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhU99yaOcjw

Green, M., Brock, T., & Kaufman, G. (2004). Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14(4), 311-327.

McAdams, D. (2001). The psychology of life stories. Review of General Psychology, 5(2), 100-122. doi: 1089-2680/01

Sliep, Y., & Meyer-Weitz, A. (2003). Strengthening social fabric through narrative theatre. Intervention1(3), 45-56.

Wilson, E., & Goldfarb, A. (2008). History of theatre: Living theatre (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.