Is Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs worth your time?

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Social Scientists and their Theories on New Media

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Communication Tools and Political Dissidents – Past and Present

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Why did the Concorde retire from service?

In 1969, the world’s first SST (Supersonic Transport) passenger airliner took first flight from Toulouse, France and entered service a few years later in 1976. The aircraft was considered one of the safest for travel when considering the passenger to deaths ratio, however, it was retired from service on November 26th, 2003 after 27 years of operation and with only 20 units built.

Interestingly, the life of the Concorde offers theories relevant to the signals of change which were discussed in Clayton Christensen’s; Seeing What’s Next such as catering to non-consumers, to catering to overshot and then undershot customers.

First of all, the making of the Concorde was considered a huge technological step forward, symbolizing the spirit and aspirations of many in Europe who worked hard for years to bring this aircraft to life, while responding to the hopes and dreams of frequent business travelers worldwide. Undoubtedly, the airliner entered the market as a disruptive innovation in terms of speed of travel with no competition in sight – Consider this for a disruptive innovation: The Concorde takes off at 220 knots (250mph) compared with 165 knots for most subsonic aircrafts. It cruises at around 1350mph – about 1 3/4 times the speed of sound and at an altitude of up to 60,000 feet (over 11 miles high). A typical London to New York crossing would take a little less than three and a half hours as opposed to about eight hours for a subsonic flight. When travelling westwards, the five-hour time difference meant Concorde effectively arrived before she left. It comes as no surprise that back then it was widely assumed that this would in turn open up a new market to compete within. But as more and more companies were no longer able to afford expensive business travel in response to increased costs and security measures following the 9/11 events in 2001, many corporations and business travelers turned to alternate options, mainly flying the traditional jets such as the Boeing 747 and 777. This forced the Concorde to compete against far less expensive possibilities and shifted the playing field from being the only competitor in the market catering to undershot customers to a mere opportunity of upmarket sustaining innovation for overshot customers.  

Although British Airways reported significant profits from operating the Concorde in its prime time – approximately 70 million Euros annually back in the 1980s, the Concorde later was deemed unprofitable by both British Airways and Air France due to increased maintenance costs and environmental considerations. Many would argue, however, that the real reason behind retiring the Concorde from service in 2003 was due to non-market factors, namely it’s only crash in Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris on April 10th, 2003 bringing to an end the era of supersonic passenger transportation.  Others, including an aviation engineer whom I sat next to during a flight back from Philly this weekend, believe that the Concorde would have remained in operation until this day had the aircraft been manufactured here in the US vs. Aerospatiale; a syndicate of highly bureaucratic/ previously state-owned European companies.

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Ruba’s Project Proposal/Idea

There is no denying that with the use of web-based and mobile technologies, new media has turned communication to an interactive/rich dialogue which resulted in permanent impacts spanning across multiple industries such as Media, Education, Health, Politics and more.

For my project, I would like to examine these influences and their implications in one or more (o even all) of the following areas:

Politics: Investigating the possible key role digital media has played in sparking/accelerating some of the uprisings we’ve witnessed recently in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Having been born and raised in Damascus, Syria from 1975- 1992, I have a burning desire to look at the 2011 series of uprisings which occurred in the region, and assess the role digital media has played if any in igniting the revolutions first in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and ending with the ongoing struggle in Syria. For decades, people in the Arab World have given up the slightest hope of ever-living in a democratic, free environment, where the most basic human rights are barely protected. Sadly, we’ve all surrendered to injustice of Arab leaders and their administrations which are infested with corruption and fraud. Not of fear for ourselves, but of fear that people we love will be hurt as a consequence. How significant could the role of digital media have been given that the majority of the population in these countries have not used a computer before or don’t know what a smart phone can do? In Egypt for example, adult literacy levels are only 58% nearly and 20% are living below the poverty line!

Education: Examining the balance between benefits and risks of digital media in shaping adolescents’ attitudes toward learning and the possible impact it may have over their academic success.

Like anything else, regardless of the many benefits new technology has to offer to our youth, it comes at a price. With the unlimited access to the Internet these days, students are fortunate to have the key to valuable educational material and sources from across the globe. Finding answers never been easier, and the opportunity for continued education (be it for working parents, at-home moms, disabled kids/adults, etc.) has increasingly become popular. On the other hand, young students these days are often using the Internet to copy/forge homework, term papers, etc. and call it their own not to mention the invasion of privacy and the distraction the World Wide Web can cause! In this scenario, I would love to take a look at how the digital culture we live in today has enriched or hindered the academic experience and learning potential of our youth.

Commerce: calling out specific examples and case studies of small and private businesses to inspect how digital media may have enhanced or hurt their bottom line.

Business are all rushing and racing to prove their online presence. Some say, if you are not online, then your business doesn’t really exist. Others argue a different point of view; that not all investments in digital media is paying off!  I think it would interesting to observe this kind of dynamic and pull inferences on what it means for businesses if they choose to opt in or out of full participation in new communication technology.

Authenticity: Understand whether or not digital media has encouraged openness among corporations/ leaders or on the flip side of things, it imposed pressure on them to become open or claim openness.

With new digital media and overwhelming popularity of social networking, consumers/constituents are not hesitating to voice their opinions and feelings about products they consume, leaders they follow, etc.  I would love to look at how companies and leaders across various industries are dealing with the new two-way dialogue, and how they are coping with the new pressures and demands of their customer/people. What does this mean for their competitive edge and level of openness, and how does all of this play into their authenticity as leaders in their field/industry.