COMM 0011 #6 Blogging for the Cult of Creativity

One of the many reasons I have come to appreciate blogging and the energy people put into bringing forth their voice is my new but genuine appreciation for this type of creativity.

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I recently read a book called “Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert and found myself in awe of what she explains as creative energy. She illustrates creative energy as a force which bounces around the universe. She explains ideas as independent energy bundles that look for receptive vessels to carry them forward. Independent of people, ideas can germinate in one mind, then suddenly leave and come to fruition elsewhere! Have you ever thought of something you found brilliant, sat on it for a while, then forgot about it or put it aside for whatever reason, only to see that idea resurface elsewhere? You might even think it was stolen, or perhaps the idea/project came to fruition in another part of the planet independent of you? Well, this is the magic of ideas, as Gilbert explains.

If you are not willing to engage into a contract with an idea and take it for a ride, see where it goes, it just might get tired and find someone who is willing! This has happened to me personally, and just recently, after reading through this book, I came to realize that two of my major ideas have replanted themselves and come to fruition elsewhere!

The first one is a long-standing interaction I have had with a project that never left the seat of my imagination. I have considered embarking on a venture to open a Montessori daycare in our neck of the woods. No one was doing this, though the market and the demand was huge! I knew that such a project would be fruitful but lets face it- quitting a full-time job, security and all the baggage that comes with it just wasn’t my cup of tea so I played with the idea for a number of years and then recently, coming into a new job, decided that I no longer wanted to engage with this inspiration. What do I notice, now, 8 months after taking my new job? Yes folks, you guessed it- a Montessori daycare- but wait, not only in my neck of the woods but at my exact parking spot, the place where I leave my car every single day of the week! Did the idea bounce off me into fertile territory? Perhaps it did!

The second incidence is a bit stranger since the idea is so specific it freaked me out to a certain degree. Years ago, after finishing my masters degree, I decided I had a burning question that needed answering- that was my sign that I needed to embark on the PhD road and began the process quite seriously. I established my research question- one so specific- related to Moroccan women’s discourse in Islamic scholarship with the emergence of female imams and plotting that against trends of female scholarship throughout Islamic history. Now, let me tell you, this is VERY specific. It targets A group of women, in a country half way across the globe in a somewhat underground movement! Well, lo and behold- there is a PhD candidate at Yale University taking on this EXACT topic. Now, unfortunately for me, my idea didn’t fly high, I was not admitted and in order to move ahead I would have had to take on some coursework and put in lots of extra time and and and and… I gave up. I let that idea fly away, not too far apparently! Yale is NOT far way!

This does sound a bit crazy if you think about it, but it makes perfect sense! Creativity and inspiration do not belong to one person, in fact, you can lose your train of thought or the spark for an idea quite easily, even if you are slogging over it. How wondrous is that? Personally,  I found it fascinating and I find it liberating to know that both ideas that touched my life, happened. I am not saying they happened because of me, but according to Gilbert, sometimes ideas need a resting place to germinate before they can find the right place and time for liberation. Wow.liz_gilbert_quote

So this brings me back to my initial thought and how I can appreciate blogging and the thoughts and perspectives people bring with them, they are bouts of creativity, and sometimes they generate movement, or instill inspiration in others. Isn’t that fantastic? Have you had an idea move onto greener pastures?

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COMM0011 Blog#5- Social Media, Privacy and Our Kids

I love my kids, to pieces and pieces and pieces. I am so proud of them. I could shout at the top of my lungs how much I love them and are proud of them. And so could every other parent who has ever had a child! Naturally then, I feel prompted to share milestones, beautiful smiles as well as late nights with my virtual friends, with the hopes of recognition. The innate desire for someone else to say- awwww how sweet! How brilliant! What a great mother you are! And the list may go on. This is the dark, narcissistic corner of the human ego I am referring to. That one that thrives on recognition, praise and approval. OK, I am entering the dark side of the debate, let me come back for a minute.

To post or not to post, that is the question… it is a tough question for many, an easy one for others. I believe it is clear that nothing online is private, it never has been and I doubt that it ever will be. Consider what you put out there as permanent, as you walking down the street for any observer to see. I might click on an icon on Facebook that says I only want to share a picture with my friends, but what prevents my friends from saving a picture, sharing it or doing what they like with it? It officially belongs to Facebook once it leaves my desktop and crawls into cyberspace.

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Does that mean that I have never shared pictures of my kids? Not at all, I have and I continue to share tidbits of our lives for family and friends to see, but I do understand the value of keeping pictures and writing in a diary their major milestones and private reflections for them to look upon when they get older. I also keep in mind the permanency of what I decide to post. What might they think of my sharing on Facebook as they grow older? Would they feel as though I have infringed upon their privacy as children? This I don’t have the answer to, so I try to be mindful of their unique presence in the world and the stamp that we as their parents leave through social media.

What are your thoughts? Do you share family content online? If so, how much and what are your guideposts?

COMM 0011 BLOG 4: Don’t Forget Who You’re Talking To!

With all the different social media applications, it can seem overwhelming for a business to have to manage all at the same time and even tempting to repurpose content through all the channels you have opened! Of course, consistency and exposure are important in repurposing content and sharing across your channels, however it is crucial to remember that not all platforms are equal!

Let’s have a quick look at what different social media mean to different people.

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Facebook. Yes, Facebook is hugely popular and provides unlimited text and photo sharing opportunities but you must consider who your audience in Facebook is. Are they business professionals? Students? Are they members if you are a member-based organization? In the case of my workplace, a member-based organization with an international education component, Facebook is a student dominated zone. Therefore all posts on that page are directly related to topics of interest for this particular group.

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Twitter. Twitter may be the most wide-reaching channel, with its fast-paced, somewhat urgent nature. You can cater to professionals seeking bite-sized information as well as trend-followers and even students in our case. If you find that you can get the biggest bang for your buck through Twitter, then it is worth spending considerable time mapping out a Twitter strategy and planning your posts in advance (as it is with all social media if you want to be effective!).

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LinkedIn. This one is pretty clear- it serves professionals or a crowd seeking entry into the professional world through networking. This is a great option if you have research to share, professional-development inspired content if you are in the business of data, ideas, research. Make groups on LinkedIn to show you want to engage in professional dialogue, or that you can facilitate an exchange on hot topics in your area. If you use LinkedIn, use it wisely and make sure you know your connections and can cater to the expertise they are looking for. Show you are a leader.

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Instagram. A picture tells a thousand words. Yes it does, especially to a younger crowd. Instagram is more of a leisurely stroll through the park. If sell products, use this well. Don’t overcrowd your account with pictures of the same thing- be original, be meaningful and remember that you are catering to a younger crowd with a very discerning eye.

These are just a few of the most common applications used but you get the picture right?

Now, back to my original point of cross-posting content. It’s looking a bit more challenging now isn’t it? That doesn’t mean you have to scrap your content once it has been posted on one platform, but try tweaking it to suit your groups and your followers. Make the most of your posts by carefully planning them and their purpose. You won’t regret it!

COMM0011 Blog#3 DIY in the Age of Social Media

Social media has, hands down, revolutionized the way people approach projects ranging from reparation to renovation. Have a leaky sink? Google it and find a YouTube video of a plumber explaining the cause and course of action. Want to upgrade your bathroom vanity? You will find blogs, Pinterest photos and links, videos and an inundation of tips and tricks to just get it right! Where would we be without the plethora of DIY information available to anyone at their very fingertips?

Personally, I have done a few useful things with the backup of social media.

First, change a bike tire.

I am an addicted work-cycle commuter and became severely addicted after my husband decided to gift me what I call my ‘second child’- Devinci (yes that makes 3 children total).

Devinci is near and dear to my heart but I have often wondered what will happen when that dreadful day comes- the day when I am on my way back home, time is tight and I run into a flat. Unfortunately that day did arrive and riding home on a rim is never a good idea! That’s when I decided to take action and learn how to change a tire- not just any tire, a road bike tire. Let me tell you it is not for the weak in fingers- but thanks to YouTube and the power of learning through watching, I successfully changed my tire for less than $10. Not bad, not bad at all.

Second- cooking. I have been blessed to marry into a Moroccan family. Moroccan as in couscous and camel rides Moroccan, yes. Oh how delicious the food of North Africa, savory and sweet and reminiscent of all the cultures that voyaged through the strait of Gibraltar or crossed over in caravans carrying spice and all that is flavourful!

How easy it is to put on weight in Morocco. I like to call each and every visit a carb fest, but a well enjoyed one! The reality is, we don’t live in Morocco anymore and there are moments when a beautiful tagine is well deserved. How on earth can someone create something so delicious without the aromas, spices and earthenware necessary for the greatness of a Moroccan tagine? Again, enter Youtube and blogs. It was not until I found Cooking With Alia, a Moroccan-born home cook living abroad (in the US as well as in Asia) who shows you how to replicate the rich flavours of Moroccan cuisine in your very own kitchen with 100% success rate. I did not realize I was a visual learner until I started cooking with her Youtube channel. I am a book hoarder, and that implies a recipe book hoarder as well and have halted those purchases with my YouTube success with Alia. Not only are the recipes excellent but having feedback on her blog from others allows one to fine tune any recipe to a particular region/taste. So when Ramadan comes along each year, I have an armoury of great recipes to entice the palate and help us imagine for a meal that we are back in a Mediterranean paradise.

Of course, these are only 2 of my social media assisted accomplishments. I could probably write a book on all the minute things I have googled and attempted to DIY. It goes without saying how social media has revolutionized taking DIY to the next level, but does that mean there is no longer a need for the skilled and qualified of our society who are typically called upon to do our repairs or train us in the culinary arts? Probably not, but it would be interesting to see it quantified and studied. What do you think? Is there a future for social media DIY?

COMM 0011 Blog #2 Brand Loyalty in CandyLand

I love makeup. Along with millions of other women on this planet, I love opening a new package, smelling a new product and carrying it around with me in my purse all day and every day!

Naturally then, I love Sephora.

If you do not know what Sephora is, let me put it this way: it is a grown woman’s candy shop. If you have ever wondered why children go crazy in candy stores and melt down when they can’t have what they want, then take a trip to Sephora, if you love beauty products. It is that powerful. It is glitzy, beautifully designed. It has perfect displays all of the current top trending brands in cosmetics and all of them at incredible prices. I don’t mean incredible like WOAW DollarStore incredible. I mean incredible: that is going to cost me a weeks’ worth of groceries for a family of 4! That may be an exaggeration, but put a few products together at the cash and that’s what it will look like. So why indulge in such a costly and vain experience?

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There are a few reasons, and social media is definitely a culprit in this hobby! No, the experience of Sephora alone, although tempting and at the same time frightening (because you don’t know how your emotions will sway you into buying something you don’t need!) is not enough to make me put up the cash on a coveted beauty product. What helps propel me into buying are the following strategies that are tried and tested in marketing to millennials (see references at the end of blogpost):

1) Authentic content is empowering;

2) Factual information plays well;

3) Short and sweet is the most effective strategy;

4) Collaboration is key- show me that you care about my input and that you are open to my creative ideas;

5) I appreciate honesty, and brands with transparent campaigns win.

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That being said, this is what I turn to in the search of the above points reference:

  • My YouTube subscriptions to makeup guru channels who tediously go out, purchase and review products so that women like me can make an informed decision as to whether or not we wish to splurge (this sounds like an awful job, doesn’t it?!!!)
  • My Instagram feed– which company is posting the most attractive pictures that can lure me into looking up reviews?
  • Personal blog posts by beauty bloggers who will swatch products, test them over time and even do some company research for us all;

Those are the channels which are definitely convenient for most makeup obsessed women, but let me add a personal flavour to the mix. I find it extremely difficult in a store of hundreds of products to narrow-down which foundation, concealer or eyeliner I want to purchase, when everyone is fighting for my attention and so many are getting good reviews and are all over social media! This is where branding and social responsibility become important to me. How do I slash out companies begging for attention?

Let’s have a look at what the appealing companies are doing well and in line with the 5 points of marketing above:

  1. They are all over social media in a way that creates a personal connection with the brand/spokesperson. Look at TooFaced’s Jerrod and his YouTube videos! Not only are they promotional but they are real, face to face type 5 minute updates on the brand.
  2. They show that they have responded to consumer feedback- again, TooFaced uses social media channels to not only promote new products, but to showcase how the product is a response to consumer feedback!
  3. Social responsibility- There is no reason why any company should still be conducting animal testing. There is no beauty product worth the abuse an animal has to go through to ensure it is safe for humans. We have far too much technology and humanity to consider such things as acceptable.
  4. Personal story behind the company. It is important to know what’s at the root of it all- why does the company exist? What motivates the founders to keep creating?

The example of TooFaced is a compelling one- this is a brand that releases new products online only and has their site crash due to the heavy traffic. They run out of stock within an hour of a new product launch- that is how hot they are to the consumer. They seem to have a right mix of creativity, beautiful packaging, quality product and social outreach through their various social media campaigns and mediums. Clearly they have done some good research!

Do you have a favourite brand that you feel just does it all right? How can companies like TooFaced continue to thrive in the busy and loud world of social media?

 

http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/marketing-to-millennials

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-nour/5-essential-facts-for-mar_b_9677220.html

COM0011- BLOG 1: Social Media and The (de)Construction of Identity

“Hey, where are you from?”

“I’m from here.”

“What do you mean? Ottawa?”

“I live here, but was born in New Brunswick.”

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“I guess, what I mean, is where are you really from?”

Ok, let’s stop right here. This is where I start to get irritable, this is where I start to feel the fire being fueled deep down. This is where I breathe in deeply and find that quiet space that controls my urge to yell at the top of my lungs. This is my first interaction with I would say 9badass28% of people and after almost 14 years, I have to say it is downright irritating.

Let me back up a bit, I’m a Muslim woman (enter exhale- ahhhaaaaaa). I think you see where I am going right? I am a covered Muslim woman, I observe a funky, trendy, colourful, east meets west inspired modesty. Basically, what that means is that I cover my hair . This confuses people into thinking that I must be from a foreign, exotic, faraway place and they fixate on this until they have labelled me in their mind.

In other words, I am in a box. Imagine a big cardboard box, with sharp corners, smooth surfaces and a clearly defined top and bottom. Now, place me in there. That is what most people who speak to me for the first time do. It is suffocating in there, I can’t breathe in this box, I can’t move, I can’t be myself and let loose. Unfortunately, this box has been constructed by multiple groups, not just by the curious first impression group, the odd onlooker on the bus, or at the pool, but by the Muslim community as well. I am neither here nor there, nor East or West, I am a fusion of so many things and this box, this cardboard box, is much much much too small to contain me- my identity cannot be reduced to my covering.

OK, now that I have that out of the way, let us look at how identities can be deconstructed, reconstructed, challenged and reformed- enter social media.

The use of social media among Muslim women is quite the hot topic. So much so that theses are being written about the constructing of Muslim women’s identities on social media by bright young scholars such as Sumayya Daghar. Much of this interest was sparked after the creation of a video on YouTube by Habib Yazdi, called “Somewhere in America #Mipsterz”. “Mipsterz (short for Muslim Hipsters[1]) are a group of primarily young Muslims in their 20s and 30s (and a subset of the Millenials) who have evolving views on religion, identity and culture.”(Wikipedia, Mipsterz). In short, they definitely do not fit into boxes.

You may ask yourself what the big deal may have been, this video is simply of covered Muslim women doing random, inoffensive things. But it sparked great debate in the social media world, opinions being voiced from all streams of the spectrum, mainly critiquing Muslim women trying to “fit in”. How interesting it is to assume that Muslim women, simply by means of dress do not “fit into” American society.

Reporter Hajer Naili, who is one of the featured Mipsterz in the video said, with reference to this assumption: “we do not try to fit into Western society. We are women who were born in the West,” she said. “I don’t try to fit into society, tMipsterz - Muslim Hipsters's profile photohis who I am. And besides that, I’m a Muslim woman. So why wouldn’t it be compatible to express this double culture; this double identity. We are women with multifacets, and this is who we are.” (HuffingtonPost, 2013/12/05). The Mipster movement is alive through various channels on social media, they are on Facebook , have their Twitter hashtag #Mipsterz , a GoogleGroup  and of course a Tumblr account and are pushing the boundaries of a pre-constructed Muslim identity, namely the Muslim woman identity in North America.

My question is- how would all of this be possible without the various social media channels? How could we engage in such a crucial dialogue- of what it means to be a woman of faith, yet be integrated, and challenge the social stereotype. It challenges the architecture of a faith that has the flexibility, the diversity within it’s core to birth an identity that is fluid, blossoming and fully integrated into all societies and contexts due to it’s eternal lasting power. Social media allows these women the opportunity to bust out of the box, to wear the different colours of their identities- be they artists, lawyers, engineers, Olympians, mothers, daughters, partners. It is time to pull a lesson out of controversy, engage social media in the cause of deconstruction of identities or rather its construction. If there is an urgent need for anything, surely it is dialogue.

How have you engaged in deconstructing pre-conceived identities of “others” through various social media channels? ?