About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The dangers of good communication in the networked society

This week was very busy in our region as the president came to one of the community colleges in the region. It was very exciting as both my children were able to listen to his speech, the president's motorcade went by the son's school, and one of my daughter's teachers attended the speech live (they had a police escort for their school bus from the farm where they were doing scientific field work so she could attend in shoes borrowed from one of the students as she was wearing heavy boots coated with mud!).

I took the time out from my day to listen to the speech as it was telecast live on our campus. But for the second time now, I have been disappointed in one of the president's speech. Upon reflecting about my disappointment with the president's speech, I realized what the problem was. I feel as if there is a role for me to participate in the healthcare, economic, and educational discussions going on at the federal level. The White House has done a good job of setting up incoming messages. However, I feel they need to close the loop. I feel as if my messages posted on their site is just one out of a million (just like buying a lottery ticket) and it just goes into the cyber black hole. How are my posts any different than discussing my opinions with my husband as we watch the president speak. I KNOW my husband's not listening to my remarks and could care less about MY opinions. Rather, my husband would like to get HIS point across and have me agree with him. Although it took a number of years of marrige to figure it out, now I just agree with him and keep my opinions (if they are contrary) to myself.

I feel the same way with the communication system the way it currently is set up at the White House. I don't see an online community developing where there are public discussions of what others have posted, nor is there anyone facilitating these discussions online. The closest has been links to blogs where there are some discussions. Likewise, when you send an email comment, you are put on the listserv, but you don't get a message saying, "Thank-you for offering your opinion on ....(the issue, which can be electronically generated). The messages ...(explain what happens to the messages: chosen randomly to be read, all read by volunteers and passed on to policy makers, deleted the next day and not read?)." This at least allows the writer to feel like they are being heard.

Implications for others developing communication policy

As the communication technologies allow us to connect with larger networks and communities outside of our geographic location we can learn from our current administration.

Lesson 1: People want to be heard. This includes having their opinions VALIDATED even if the listener doesn't agree. "I understand what you are saying, but I don't agree," or "that's a good point, but..." Even a message that states, "We have so many comments that we may not be able to respond personally. However, be assured that we are reading your comments."

Lesson 2: Let those you are communicating with know what your processes are. How will communications be used? Who reads and responds to the communication? What are the time frames?

Lesson 3: Understand the networks. Usually, networks are based on common values and ideas. An perceived insult or snub can be very damaging, but a note of encouragment can have positive ripples through a network. Only imagine the impact had the president sent an email (even if it were a form one) to my daughter's school or teacher. This could then be forwarded through each of the students' own social networks.

Lesson 4: Don't ask for feedback unless you are going to use it. This is something marketers and researchers learn early. Related to this is make sure you are asking the right questions. I always begin with very broad questions, then narrow in on the discussion. The broad questions will help you to determine where the conversation/dialog should be steered.

Lesson 5: Understand that those who use new technologies have high expectations. It is difficult to control those within a network and someone that uses web 2.0 must prepare for those who are receiving your messages to disagree and want to give their opinions. As a result, it is important that some policy is developed on how to handle "audience" reaction.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

This is all highly complex stuff. Relationships, and the opinions possessed by those in relationships exist in a hierarchy that is often not understood and is often misunderstood.

The need to be listened to is something that, I think, is often taken advantage of by some individuals, organisations and governments. I feel insulted if my time is wasted in soliciting my opinion when I find that I was engaged in the dialogue simply to make me feel that my opinion was being listened to.

My reaction is something like, 'Don't waste my time if you are not really interested in what I have to say!' I feel the same way about some bloggers who do this.

If I take the time to write a comment in support or otherwise of the post I write it against, I feel quite used if the blogger ignores me - and especially if there is other engagement in the comments. There are lots of authoritative icons who do this. There are some precious communicators who do not.

You would be among those, as others you and I know well in the blogosphere, who genuinely respect and consider opinion when it is proffered.

But it it complex, for relationships are complex entities.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

I think one of the difficulties in entering into dialog is to make sure that those who contribute understand HOW their opinion will be used.

This is true in classes as well. I have seen teachers who have students submit projects, then tell them why they can't use them. It is very important to express the boundaries of the dialog. For example, I tell my students that I want them to discuss any problems they have with their grade face to face. I also tell them that SOMETIMES I will change the grade, but more often I don't. However, I want to the students to understand how I grade and at least come to a mutual understanding that the grading process was fair. Sometimes, I really have missed completely what they were trying to say because of my preconceptions, and I do end up changing their grade. But more often than not, they end up agreeing with the grade I gave them. However, if I were just to say to them, "let me know when you have a problem with the grade," I am setting unrealistic expectations.

This is how I feel the current system for the White House communications is. There are really no boundaries so a false sense of expectations is set up. They need to outline the process so people don't feel "they've wasted their time."

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Virginia!

I fear that this practice of eliminating (visible) boundaries is part of the custom of the times we live in. My experience in education in the school and classroom is that people (kids) need boundaries, enjoy boundaries and look for them, for it gives them a needed security in knowing that what they do is acceptable.

Without the boundaries many learners at school plunge into a state of insecurity, and in some instances, fear.

Catchya later