Week 2 Reflection: Mass Customization for the Masses

As the internet has developed over the years, the ability for users to customize their experience has become more and more possible. Google, Facebook, and other major players in today’s world of digital media continue to add features that allow users to better pick and choose what they are doing, who they interact with, and the speed at which they are doing it. With that, I pose the following questions: Is there any functionality of the internet today that isn’t customizable? And isn’t the entire internet just a system of mass customization anyway?

The moment that you log onto your browser (the browser of your choice by the way), you are sent to a home page that you have chosen. Through that browser, you can customize your experience with bookmarks and favorites, only viewing websites that you so choose to view. And even those websites are entirely customizable these days; you choose your favorite teams on ESPN, you choose who your friends are on Facebook and what type of access they have to your page, and you even make decisions off of the reviews of your peers with sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor. Essentially every single move that you make on the internet is customizable in some way.

And the thing about mass customization is that it benefits more than just the users. Heck, I’d be willing to bet that the customization of the internet is all driven behind the idea of making money anyway (what isn’t these days?). Because Google and Facebook, for example, allow for such a high level of user customization, it also allows them to pinpoint any advertising to target their users based on preferences and actions — which means the aforementioned power companies can make more money from advertisers that pay to do so. As someone who sees this first hand working in marketing, I can attest that it is extremely powerful and useful, despite the annoyance that many users find it to be at times.

I’d almost say that mass customization on the internet is both a gift and a curse from a user’s perspective, but it is undoubtedly a benefit to everyone.

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Week 1 Reflection: Imagining a World Without Convergence

As I was going through this week’s material, and as we engaged during our first live session, I couldn’t help but think that convergence, and specifically digital convergence, is almost inescapable. It’s one of those things that we take for granted, and even if we tried to avoid it, I’m not sure that it would be possible. Imagine trying to go an entire day without using or consuming anything that is a product of digital convergence. I truly don’t know if I would be able to do it — and that’s without even taking into account the need for it to do my job effectively. It’s so ingrained and intertwined with our lives that it feels like a necessity to always be connected and be present digitally.

It’s even prevalent in things that we don’t normally attribute digital convergence to. The discussion during live session sparked a conversation about the convergence of companies in relation to the digital space. I mentioned this in live session as well, but Verizon’s recent $4.4 billion purchase of AOL is a prime example of this type of convergence. While it still baffles me that AOL is really worth that much money, their presence in the digital space over the last twenty years, and the presence of their current properties in the space — properties like The Huffington Post — is truly remarkable. The combination of a virtually infinite digital audience, the large amount of content that AOL (and AOL owned properties) produces, and a super company like Verizon, and the possibilities are endless. Verizon should truly to be able to reach audiences in ways that we haven’t seen before. And it’s not just Verizon either; Facebook’s recent purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion — and no, that number is not a typo — and even Google’s 2003 purchase of Blogger are some other significant examples of companies acquiring other digital companies in order to reach new audiences.

Convergence is a truly powerful thing. It changes the way we consume and use digital products or technologies. Similar to how the aforementioned companies like Verizon are trying to reach people in ways that they never have before, so are we as a society. Our smart phones allow us to reach friends, family, and even complete strangers in an instantaneous fashion — and all through a small, pocket-sized device. This week’s material, and ultimately lessons, got me thinking that literally almost everything I do involves some type of digital convergence. It’s so intrinsic in our culture that even if we tried to rid ourselves of anything that involves digital convergence, would we really be able to do it?