An article about a logo controversy at the University of California appears in today’s Christian Science Monitors and puts the spotlight on the impact of social media.
For better or for worse, the logo controversy has been fanned by social media comments. (I confess, I guess I’m now contributing to that controversy by writing about it.)
The article by Daniel B. Wood, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, makes note of UC’s recent decision to redesign its logo “to stay abreast of the times and attract new students.” The move triggered what Wood described as a “New Media revolt that includes insults on Twitter, e-mail memes that mock the new look, Facebook spoofs, and calls for the new representation to be tattooed on its creator’s foreheads.”
Is UC’s new logo as good or better than the old logo? Let the beholder decide.
When asked by the CSM to comment on the social media controversy I opined: “It’s a great example of the democratization of individual voice bestowed upon people with Internet access,” says Bernard McCoy, associate professor of mass communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Internet access means more people, regardless of title, economic standing, or experience, have a voice whose reach and audience is potentially global.”
Here are my unpublished answers to Wood’s questions:
- Is this a real story?
Yes, it demonstrates that people care about institutions such as U.C., even if they may have very different perspectives about those institutions.
- What’s at stake here?
UC’s ability to understand how rapidly controversies unfold and multiply when driven by social media and the relative anonymity they may possess. .
- Did somebody screw up/ask the wrong questions, or is this par for the course?
Increasingly par for the course. It’s a great example of the democratization of individual voice bestowed upon people with Internet access.
- What can be learned from this?
Internet access means more people, regardless of title, economic standing, or experience, have a voice whose reach and audience is potentially global.
- What lessons can a reader take away before just rolling his/her eyes and moving on?
Anyone can say anything on the web. This is good in that it allows people broader access to express/communicate thoughts and ideas. This may be bad in that messages don’t guarantee responsibility by senders. Example: Shouting “Fire” in a crowded theater. With fewer traditional channels in place to provide attribution and context for messages, it’s increasingly up to audience to decide the motives, accuracy and validity of messages.
- What do outsiders not understand about the pressure to make a decision like this and the inherent mine field?
Logos and other branding symbols play important perceptional roles that help define institutions, products and individuals. Change a logo, change a brand and you run the risk an institution, person or product’s reputation will suffer, especially in a world where communication is instant, often irrevocable and uncontained.
I was especially struck by the democratization of individual voice bestowed upon people with Internet access when I taught New Media reporting classes at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communication between 2007-2010.
In the post-war years of Kosovo’s NATO intervened war with Serbia, media censorship suddenly relaxed. A new generation of ethnic Serb and Albanian Kosovar journalists who studied at KIJAC discovered that the Internet gave them four advantages to reporting about their post-war world.
- There were no censors.
- The audience was global.
- The costs of publishing were cheap.
- Reporters could publish whenever their content was ready.
Another reminder of the “democratization of individual voice bestowed upon people with Internet access” came in the form of an e-mail response I received regarding today’s CSM article. It was from Ryan Elswick, owner of Sunset Digital Communications. Elswick’s company provides broadband Internet access to customers in rural Tennessee.
As an owner of a private company that has received federal stimulus funding to bring broadband to rural Tennessee. “So many people, especially those with a voice in government, think that money is wasted in rural America on broadband,” wrote Elswick who described how this connectivity changed many of his customer’s lives. ” They are able to work remotely making good wages from companies like U-Haul, 1800FLOWERS, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, and DirecTV. They can get their educations online, and get degrees, and as you say, they can have a voice,” Elswick said.
Just as I saw it in Kosovo, Elswick noted the empowerment and “level field” voice the Internet brings to people. “It isn’t too far of a stretch to realize that those on the outside carry prejudices against those of us in rural Appalachia as a whole. Thank you for your words – I’ve shared them with my team,” wrote Elswick.
Thank you for your words Mr. Elswick. I’ve shared them with my readers, colleagues and students.