“The internet has evolved from simple information retrieval to interactivity, interoperability and collaboration” hub (Campbell C. et al., 2011), it is becoming ever more important for organisations to have good channels of communication with consumers online. Social interactivity has seen the shift to users now creating and consuming information. One organisation that has embraced and excelled in the digital public sphere and interactivity world is Sony PlayStation, by allowing users to network with each other in a virtual reality. They have been trying to bridge the gap of how the online gaming community consume; from the switchover of physical to digital copies and also online gaming, where members of the community happily hand over their personal details. As we become more dependent on technology (Rauhofer, J., 2008), have we become naïve to completely trust that our data is safe somewhere tucked away in the depths of the internet. However, on the April 20th 2011 the hacking group Anonymous were able to penetrate the security walls of Sony and hijack the PlayStation network for over 10 days which has affected 77 million consumers around the globe, so what are the social implications of this disaster for PlayStation?
Renowned hacktivist1 group Anonymous had been making threats to take down the PlayStation network due to the handling of hacker George Hotz’s  lawsuit with Sony, over jail-breaking the network previously. This resulted in the group successfully blocking service for over 10 days to Playstation.com, the PlayStation Store, the PlayStation Network and even the website of the company handling Hotz’s lawsuit; as well as gaining access to user’s personal details from all of these sites. It has been one of the first major hacks of its kind where personal data has been accessed and possibly exploited. As discussed in blog 7 digital activism is on the rise due to the anonymity of the internet as well as its global reach. From “opening up pathways for the global flow of information, ideologies, and commodities, capitalism has unintentionally opened the routes for a global contraflow of news, dialogue, controversy, and support between movements in different parts of the planet” (Dyer-Witheford, N., 1999), which increases the risk of extremist groups like Anonymous.
This huge hole in Sony’s security has opened the digital world’s eyes to see that their data isn’t as safe as we once thought. Many of us believed that your data would be safe with the big organisations that invest in data security. Schneier talks about people having a tendency to “exaggerate spectacular but rare risks and downplay common risks” (2003) with the Sony case most consumers believed that the chances of their personal details being effected out of the 77 million would be low. As highlighted in blog 6, PlayStation plays on that feeling of virtual consumption within the gaming world, that sense of another reality where people can play out their fantasies whether it is an army solider or a formula one driver (Smed, J. et al., 2002). This virtual bubble could be blinding Sony consumers that they will be safe from this security breech, especially considering they have many millions of minors that own their consoles. So how has Sony handled this situation?
As with most companies experiencing a major PR disaster, they spent as long as possible down playing the extent of the problems by releasing little detail on the situation. Blog 8 touched upon the importance of corporate social responsibility for companies within the digital era (Lawrence, A., 2011). With such a socially aware demographic this had led to mass discussions on many social networking platforms. PlayStation needed to utilise these platforms to reassure consumers and ease panic (Paine, K., 2007). However, this has led to many PlayStation users not only fearing identity theft, but also financial concerns over their credit card details being obtained from the network, of which there is an estimated 22 million customers have their credit card details on their PlayStation accounts. Merlin Stone (2009) talks of the importance of having trust from your consumers within the digital age. As things are becoming more and more intangible consumers need to feel that an organisation has the security their personal assets as their priority. Especially within such a competitive and loyalty driven segment as the gaming console market, Xbox is dribbling at the opportunity to gain market share from PlayStation after this attack.
It took the company ten days before announcing an official and honest review of the on-going situation. On May 1st they announced that the chances of credit card threats were very low and that they planned to move the PSN customer data to a new securer storage facility. Also the company will be introducing a new security officer position to oversee data protection as well as adding new firewalls, encryptions and monitoring servers. They have also asked the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to launch an investigation into the cyber-attack. Which is all well and good, but ten days in digital time is years. Cyber security is becoming more of a talking point within society, acting quickly and effectively for organisations in the midst of digital disaster is becoming ever more important due to the growing influence of social corporate responsibility (Hansen, L. and Nissenbaum, H., 2009).
This attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network has raised the question for organisations as whether they should treat our personal information with the same seriousness as they do our credit card information. As the name of the blog identifies this is the power of the digital age, and in the words of Stan Rapp2 “in the 21st century, the database is the marketplace”, so when the database is violated what happens to the marketplace, I guess the answer to that is we will have to wait and watch the aftermath of this major crack in PlayStation. The real question is if extremists can hack a server like Sony’s which contains our personal details, what is to say that they can’t hack into other networks, like our financial industry?
Word Count: 1,000
1Hacktivist – Digital Activism through Hacking Online Networks
2Stan Rapp, MRM Partners Worldwide
Campbell, C., Leyland, F., Parent, M. and Berthon, P., 2011. Understanding Consumer Conversations around Ads in a Web 2.0 World. Journal of Advertising. 40 (1). p97-102.
Delahaye Paine, K., 2007. How to Measure Social Media Relations: The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same. Institute for Public Relations. Available at: www.instituteforpr.org/downloads/92. [Accessed on 21.04.2011]
Dyer-Witheford, N., 1999. Cyber-Marx: Cycles and circuits of struggle in high technology capitalism. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Hansen, L. and Nissenbaum, H., 2009. Digital Disaster, Cyber Security and the Copenhagen School. International Studies Quarterly. 53 (4). p1155-1175.
Lawrence, A., 2011. Community relationship management and social media. Journal of Database Marketing & Customer Strategy Management. 18. p31–38.
Rauhofer, J., 2008. Privacy is Dead, Get Over it! Information Privacy and the Dream of a Risk-Free Society. Information & Communication Technology Law. 17 (3). p185-197.
Schneier, B., 2003. Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World. New York: Copernikus Books. p26-27.
Smed, J., Kaukoranta, T. and Hakonen, H., 2002. Aspects of Networking in Multiplayer Computer Games. The Electronic Library. 20 (2). p87-97.
Stone, M., 2009. Staying Customer-Focused and Trusted: Web 2.0 and Customer 2.0 in Financial Services. Journal of Database Marketing & Customer Strategy Management. 16 (2). p101-131.
With more and more people / organisations / governments becoming more and more socially aware online, we have seen a rise in the use of social networking sites like Twitter. The accessibility, simplicity and instancy of this kind of technology are the reason behind its success. “More active users, consumers and user-created innovation were seen to have increasing economic impacts and social importance”  on the world, which has seen organisations, use this as a marketing opportunity to appear more “ethically sound”.
This is due to the increasing development in citizen engagement and public dialogue online (as touched upon in last week’s blog on the public sphere and digital activism). By enabling consumers to participate with celebrities and organisations on a more ‘personal’ level from increasing interaction, sites like Twitter have created an innovative platform for communication between both B2C and B2B consumers. Twitter acts as a way of ‘self-branding’ for both corporate and citizen usage.
However, sometimes all this exposure can have a negative backlash. As seen in recent weeks from the disaster in Japan, the digital world was quick to react. This was seen from the personal recordings from the live devastation within the country, being uploaded to You Tube, to the relief effort being the top trended item on Twitter. The natural disaster was sure to be an attraction to organisations, like Bing who approached their Twitter following by claiming to donate $1 for every re-tweet they received to the Japan relief effort. This had huge negativity from the online community, claiming it was cheap was at the company trying to gain personal exposure from the disaster. The controversy surrounding the tweet bought them the wrong kind of exposure the company aiming to achieve. The flash-mob backlash resulted in Bing donating $100,000 a mere 7 hours after the initial tweet as an apology.
These online communities are gaining more and more control over their opinions and their influence. So what does this mean for organisations? Well as touched upon in previous blogs, corporate social responsibility is becoming more important than ever. With one bad experience consumers could damage the brand for other consumers, as seen with the Bing situation. “Regardless of what your organization does or who its constituencies are, the revolution that social media is creating will sooner or later have an impact. What that impact is, and how you respond will depend on data. Only by measuring this new social media will you be able to manage that impact.” .
 Shepard, T., 2009. Twittering in the OECD’s “Participating Web”, Micro-blogging and new media policy. Global Media Journal. 2 (1). 149-165
 Delahaye Paine, K., 2007. How to Measure Social Media Relations: The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same, Institute for Public Relations. Available at: www.instituteforpr.org/downloads/92
The online public sphere is becoming a place where everyone and anyone can share their opinions and beliefs. Agreements or “arguments can be made that as long as the Internet is open and permits people to connect” . The internet has started forming communities, where people share and debate their thoughts and feelings; and more importantly these communities can have an influence on the world. As this week’s lecture highlighted the power of social networking whether it’s controlling the Christmas Number One, spreading the need for aid after natural disasters or even promoting international political issues.
“It only takes one ripple to make a wave,” as touched upon as an example within this week’s lecture on the on-going government versus citizen conflict seen in Egypt over the last couple of months. This saw the battle between the governments trying to gain control over public speech to subdue public uproar, and citizens trying to overthrow their president Mubarak, who has been in power for over 30 years. This saw the government cut the internet cord for the country, bursting their viral bubble, in order to gain control and keep external influence in the dark over what was going on within the country. However, as I said before, it only takes one ripple, one person being able to get their voice heard across the internet. The image below shows that very ripple effect.
This wave of online communication across different social media platforms, like Twitter and YouTube helped raise the profile of the Egyptian conflict. Even though conflict is still continuing with the aid of the global public sphere allowed there to be a larger Egyptian following people from all over the world taking an interest and supporting the Egyptian citizens, so there is a light at the end of the digital public sphere tunnel? The three criteria laid out for an online public sphere are: 
1. It is a space of discourse
2. It opens a space for a wide range of computer enthusiasts to come together and discuss
many issues (including many political ones)
3. Ideas are judged by their merit
In the Web 2.0 era the creators are the consumers, we make the news. All of the information sharing, interoperability and collaboration has narrowed the gap for governments and organizations to get away with corruption more easily. The digital public sphere is a place of cyber-activism which has allowed emotional communications with dissent and extreme views. However what are the implications from successful targeted campaigns, as they can have huge PR implications. Corporate social responsibility is becoming ever more important as you every moved will be scrutinized online through these online communities. Being accepted by the online public sphere is a delicate relationship with the public and must be respected.
 Poor, N., 2005. Mechanisms of an online public sphere: The website Slashdot. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(2), article 4.Available at: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue2/poor.html
This week’s lecturers were centred on virtual consumption versus privacy. The way I like to think of these two concepts are that consumers are like young naïve children who have never been exposed to the cyber world of consumption, whereas organisations are the strangers who come knocking on the door with big smiles of opportunity (whether with good or bad intentions), but your mother has always told you not to talk to strangers. So why aren’t we listening?
Guest lecturer Janice Denegri-Knott highlighted that many consumers feel they live mundane lives and the world of the internet allows consumers to live out with virtual reality which enables us to play out our imaginations creating excitement and escapism. In Janice’s paper she discusses the element of desire within a virtual environment which is a “way of giving users a platform for easy actualisation through virtual and material consumption” . One example of this is the Zynga game Farmville which is operated by users through the social network Facebook. The game allows players to get in touch with their secret inner farming ambitions, by planting and harvesting crops, ploughing fields, growing orchards and tending to the farmyard animals; as well as visiting friend’s farms and helping out. Doing all these farming duties allows users to receive points and move up farming levels. Over “twenty-six million people play Farmville every day” . There is also the ability to exchange real currency for ‘Farmville cash’ which allows users to by virtual content for their farms, bit much really? However, obviously not everyone agrees with me as “Zynga is currently on pace to make over three hundred million dollars in revenue this year, largely off of in-game micro-transactions” from Farmville alone . There has been a lot of viral hype surrounding the game concerning its addictive nature, and the brand has even recently launched its own real produce range through-out American supermarkets.
Maybe we are getting carried away with playing out our virtual fantasies which has allowed companies to take advantage of our naivety of the digital era. Having that instant ability to receive what we want may over shadow the real implication of purchasing items, just like what is seen in major consumption of games like Farmville. Consumers are purchasing on impulse instead of rational thought.
There are little international laws that protect consumers from how organisations retain and use our data. However the privacy issue is being brought more and more to our attention and the extent to which companies exploit our personal data is becoming discussed and questioned more often. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg believes that’s the age of privacy is over. Non-profit organisations are starting to analyse and question how major companies promote privacy within the marketplace and how they collect and process data. It has also been brought to question how companies retain their consumer’s data, as well as how open and easy it is for consumers to understand what is happening to their information. “The majority of respondents consider privacy and online digital assets management to be important issues, on the other hand other Facebook users think that privacy in social networking websites is a mere illusion” . So how safe is your personal data on the internet and do organisations really care about your data protection?
 Denegri-Knott, J. 2010. ‘I Want It Now!: Ebay and the Acceleration of Consumer Desire. European Association for Consumer Research, Royal Holloway June 30-July 3. (A) (M)
So in previous blog posts we have spoken about the convergence and interactivity culture spreading due to technology advancements and communication developments and the importance of seamless brands within the digital era. So the question is how to spread the word of your digital escapades, your official website, places to buy your products/services, your social media platforms. How to get your audience in, net alone keep them there? For this we turn to the cyber guru which is Google.
Here are some interesting facts: 
There are two tools that can be used to optimise traffic on your website. (For purposes of this example I will stick with the two Google option, but there are many other companies that offer similar services.)
This is the advertising unit created by Google, where organisations can sponsor their links to be top of the related search bar, as well as featuring themselves on Google ad space on AdSense sites, 30% of all online advertising is generated by Google. However, Adwords is renowned for being hungry, it is vital to set a budget when using Adwords otherwise spending can run away from you. Key to Adword success is; Target to the right location, Make your ad relevant, Keep control so ads can be edited and adjusted to suit the budget, Reaching a wide market and having measurable results.
This is another Google service used for site owners to be able to analyse how people find your site, how they navigate through it and how ultimately they become customers. This can be used to improve online results, by discovering the performance of keyword figures, sharing them within the organisation and then acting on the results found to improve site traffic. This allows companies to understand how best to target each segment and demographic of their market, by engaging and converting visitors appropriately. 
The real dotcom boom has only just begun, making your organisation’s site successful, is key to have a good healthy relationship with your fairy godmother Google. The key thing for organisations to realise is you can’t buy your way to the top, you have to earn it. So how do we do this? Take the example Jaggers Comedy Club in Bournemouth. Firstly they need to get noticed by the big search engines, without them how will anyone find their site? Possibly submitting your URL to Google will get them started.
Then find the phrases that pay, thoroughly research keyword popularity and competition to optimise your audience’s search results which will lead them to your site. Understanding the difference between oversupply and undersupply, i.e. targeting key-phrases by making sure you are attracting the right consumers. For example searching “comedy” would be oversupply whereas “comedy clubs/nights in Bournemouth” would be undersupply, but also making sure they are applicable in other search such as “Saturday night entertainment in Bournemouth” Remember that every part of your page is a text block that is consumed by Google, so optimise it!! Also prime your pages for your site traffic. Think prominence, proximity and density when constructing keywords, key descriptions, URLs and page headings. As well as getting your business on the map, literally, with Google Maps.
Once your keywords are utilised for the relevance of your site it’s time to focus on the importance of your site through landing links. Concentrate on both link quality and quantity, as you want many relevant and well-established sites linking your website.
Remember that this is a long term project that takes time and energy continually tuning, tweaking and tracking how people find, access and consume from your site . Think of the tortoise and the hare.
 Matt Cutts: How to get better visability on Google. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GK0aQrCDEo
“In every second of every minute of every day, brands attempt to engage customers and influence purchasing decisions in infinite ways.” – K. Martin 
This week’s lecture was all about having brand consistency within your organisation, by creating a ‘seamless’ brand. Having a strong and coherent brand identity is vital to any successful organisation by being able to gain loyalty and trust from consumers (something I have touched upon in previous blog posts). The cyber world is constantly becoming a more competitive place for businesses. As customers have more options of where to shop as location/distance is no longer an issue. If they are not happy with their initial choice they can easily click the little X button and choose a competing company to do business with instead.
This week’s guest lecturer Mike Crossman from EMC Consulting identified the importance of the little details that companies communicate with their consumers. This enables the brand experience to connect coherently and consistently with customers, by creating that seamless effect. The company Chanel for example focuses its brand image of chic sophistication while oozing glamor and elegance. This can be seen within their 404 error page, which has both the French and English translations in the classical Chanel font in white and black.
They focus themselves on living a certain lifestyle rather than just using their products, which saw the company launching the Chanel Confidential site this week. The name alone exudes the exclusivity of being a part of their brand. This site includes professional insider styling and make-up tips and tricks, exclusives on new collections and special Chanel events. Specialising itself with the dedicated Chanel consumers, who have passion towards the brand.
This sister site exudes the same sophistication, sleek and classic look of the main site. The brand attempts to give out the same brand image through every consumer touch point, from the service on their make-up counters, their twitter account, to the products they create. Making sure every step of the experience oozes the brand. This is an idea touch upon within this week’s reading, on the concept of Design-Driven innovation . This is a concept that Chanel has addressed by accepting both the radical innovation of their brand (the superior products by being the both the trend and quality setter on both the cosmetic and fashion markets) as well as the emotional, psychological and socio-cultural influence their consumers receive from buying their products (from their timeless, casual, elegance and luxurious lifestyle the brand conveys). Providing consumers with both tangible and intangible assets of the company, like Verganti explains a company is putting forward a vision. Chanel has harnessed the transition to putting their brand viral by embracing the social networks and other online resources.
 HOW WILL DIGITAL PLATFORMS BE HARNESSED IN 2010, AND HOW WILL THEY CHANGE THE WAY PEOPLE INTERACT WITH BRANDS? By, Ken Martin and Ivan Todorov. Accessed: http://ehis.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=33a99430-25bb-4cf7-b89e-1e129593ecd1%40sessionmgr112&vid=3&hid=102
 Verganti, R., (2009) Design driven innovation - an introduction. Design-driven innovation: changing the rules of competition by radically innovating what things mean. pp.116, US: Harvard Business Press.