Archive for the ‘MySpace’ Category

So while I was busy getting my affairs in order to close on my first home (yes, I am now officially a home owner!), I missed the big buzz around the danah boyd (all lowercase) blog essay about the social divisions inherent between MySpace and Facebook. For those who haven’t read the essay, she is basically trying to make an argument that class divisions manifest themselves in where people choose to associate online.

I nearly missed all the blogosphere buzz. There have been lots of comments made about her essay — some positive, some negative.

Luckily, I got an e-mail tip (that I finally got around to reading yesterday) from a great PR blogger from our neighbor to the north which pointed me to the essay and its comments about the military’s presence on social networking Web sites.

Her comments about the military — and the class divisions between officers and enlisted — are restricted to two paragraphs. And those who know me know I hate to play the critic. But when it comes to her ill-informed analysis of the military, there is much to be critical of.

Lets take this apart, shall we?

A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook.

The military banned 12 sites at the time — including MySpace and YouTube. I have written about this before, and I can can tell you for certain that the ban had nothing to do with class. The DOD claimed that the sites were taking up too much bandwidth, though my opinion is that some general had heard about MySpace and was scared that a Soldier would misuse it, so it was banned. Either way, not a class issue.

This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. Facebook is extremely popular in the military, but it’s not the SNS [social networking service] of choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities.

I disagree with the premise. I did a quick search of the “United States Army” Network on Facebook, which has over 50,000 members. From the sample I examined (about 50), I found that more than half were enlisted, not officers.

Furthermore, I find the assumption that 18-year-old Soldiers are “poorer” and “less educated” insulting. This type of thinking is a symptom of the civil-military divide in our country — where people have uninformed assumptions about what it means to be a Soldier. People don’t enter the Army simply because “they can’t get into college” or “they aren’t smart” or “they don’t have other options.”

The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook.

Here is where we get to the point. The link between Facebook and college. Up until recently, Facebook was only open to people with a .edu e-mail address. This isn’t the case anymore. So maybe Facebook once was an officer’s club (since officers needed to have a bachelor’s degree). But that is not the case any more.

Furthermore, there is a growing number of enlisted soldiers who are entering the service with an undergraduate degree.

As for a final note on boyd’s essay, she had one thought that I am still stewing on:

When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq. I don’t have the data to confirm whether or not a significant shift has occurred but it was one of those observations that just made me think. And then the ban happened.

What are your thoughts on this shift?

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The Pentagon isn’t trying to destroy the connectivity that Soldiers have with their loved ones, but rather preserve the information network during a time of war, a senior military official suggested to a group of bloggers (including yours truly) on a conference call yesterday.

Rear Admiral Elizabeth Hight, a Pentagon flag officer in charge of global network operations, repeatedly referred to the blocked sites as “recreational” in nature, while only casually admitting that public affairs offices and recruiters routinely use these sites to achieve mission objectives.

The Admiral had some valid points: the ban only applied to official military computers and servicemembers are free to use these sites on personal computers (assuming they have access to them). The military also wants to ensure that the network can be maintained for operational requirements. Commanders were free to issue waivers to allow use of these sites for operational reasons (namely for use by PAOs and recruiters).

However, she admitted that the blocked sites had yet to cause a bandwidth problem on the global grid; this was merely a “proactive” measure to prevent such an event from occurring.

What the Admiral didn’t answer, in my mind, was the bigger strategic question of why the military prioritized a potential threat to the network over a guaranteed benefit to the DoD’s information battle. Beyond this connectivity providing a morale boost for troops, it also has significant benefit in helping to tell the military story.

Yes, PAOs will have access to these sites. And yes, servicemembers can use them (if they can get to a computer where they can access them.) But the value of these blocked sites — and all of Web 2.0 — is for grassroots users to come together organically and share their experience. By restricting access to YouTube and MySpace, the military is also restricting the ability of any servicemember to help engage in the “hearts and minds” war.

When I worked at OCPA, we always said that the Soldier is our best spokesman. With training to ensure that they did not reveal classified information, they could be left to their own to eloquently tell the story of sacrifice and service for our nation. Unfortunately, the new policy to block access to these video and information sharing sites also undercuts the ability of these great soldiers to speak directly to the American people about what it means to serve.

Also troubling, she admitted that other sites that could pose a threat to military bandwidth could be restricted in the future, meaning that if popular blogging platforms like blogger and WordPress take up too many resources, they also could be restricted.

In spite of my concerns, I must applaud the Admiral and OSD PA. The openness they have taken toward bloggers is an important step in embracing new media that I never could have imagined while I worked in Army Public Affairs. Admiral Hight was trying to be as helpful as possible in explaining the policy, and for that, I know that all the bloggers on the call were appreciative.

Bottom line — the military has chosen to exert control over a space that is moving more and more toward sharing and free expression. And I can’t help but wonder if, while preserving network bandwidth, the DoD does so at its own peril.

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I find it ironic that Strategic Command is cutting off it’s nose to spite its face.

Not much of a strategy.

From Stars and Stripes:

Starting Monday, the Defense Department will block access to MySpace, YouTube and a host of other sites on official department computers worldwide, in an effort to boost its network efficiency.

Troops and families living on U.S. bases will still be able to view the sites through private Internet networks, but the move leaves servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan who use the popular picture- and video-sharing sites with little or no access to them.


“We’re not passing any judgment on these sites, we’re just saying you shouldn’t be accessing them at work,” said Julie Ziegenhorn, spokeswoman for U.S. Strategic Command. “This is a bandwidth and network management issue. We’ve got to have the networks open to do our mission. They have to be reliable, timely and secure.”

What a dumb, dumb idea.

First, access to these web sites are good for morale.

More importantly, these sites are about connecting people. They are about social networks, sharing videos and images and stories. In an age where the civil-military divide is a growing problem, you don’t want to eliminate online outlets for social connectivity.

A better understanding of the military = more support for the military. Is Is Strategic Command saying that Internet bandwidth is more valuable than public support?

Update: AFIS is reporting that the blocked social networking sites have yet to cause problems — the decision to block the sites was a “preventative step.” From the article:

The popularity of the sites has not affected operations yet, but blocking them prevents them from causing such a problem, officials said.

“It is a proactive measure. We do not want a problem with demand for these sites clogging the networks,” a U.S. Strategic Command official said.

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I spent about ten minutes on MySpace tonight, just to see how military men and women portray themselves on the popular social networking Web site.

There are over 120 million members on MySpace, and about 2 million more profiles are created every week.

So with all these people looking, do you want to post photos like this:

Or like this:

Photos like these are abundant on MySpace (in my short time looking, I found a dozen). Yes they are funny, but ask youself: are you serving your country by making a fool of yourself online?

Its your call.

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Army Strong

A new SecDef, a new Army Web site, and now a new Army advertising campaign.

Lots of news coming out of the Pentagon.

From the Army:

Today, the U.S. Army launched its new Army Strong advertising campaign on network television nationwide. The three television ads powerfully communicate the character of the U.S. Army Soldier and the unique and transformative power of the U.S. Army.

“Army Strong advertising was inspired by the experiences and defining character of the U.S. Army Soldier,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, commander of U.S. Army Accessions Command. “These ads have been created with the singular aim of helping us succeed in our mission to recruit the next generation of Soldiers and build a highly capable force sufficient to meet the needs of the Nation.”

Cool stuff. The Army has a great new slogan that connects with America’s youth and resonates with the institutional Army (in a way that Army of One never did).

But it gets better:

Additionally, the Army is working to expand its recruiting efforts by using Web-based technology. The Army will reach out to recruits through the Web, text messaging, an increased presence on popular search engines like Google and Yahoo and video partnerships using YouTube.com. Further, the U.S. Army is taking “America’s Army: The Official U.S. Army Game” into the Global Gaming League, an online gaming league and social network that sponsors and covers video game tournaments.

Army recruiting, and their advertising partner McCann Worldgroup, get that in order to reach prospective recruits, they need to communicate the way they do. Increasingly, that involves the adoption of new media technologies.

It is great that they will increase their use of text messaging and further their participation in the social media sphere — including a an upcoming MySpace page (much like the Marines have done).

It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

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