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Why does one keep going back to check if a vacation photo one posted on Facebook garnered enough comments?
“As individuals, we have created virtual avatars for ourselves,” stated Dr. Shyam Sundar Sethuraman, speaking to students of the Amrita School of Communication at Coimbatore, over Skype, from his office at the Pennsylvania State University, USA.
“When the avatar is appreciated and receives attention, we feel satisfied,” he added.
As Distinguished Professor and Co-Director of Media Effects Laboratory in the state university, Dr. Shyam researches social and psychological effects of technological elements unique to web-based mass-communication.
His research is supported by such premier agencies and institutions as the National Science Foundation (USA), Korea Science and Engineering Foundation and Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Services (USA).
Acclaimed as one of the most published authors of internet-related research in the field of communications, Dr. Shyam shared his keen insights of the online world with the Amrita students eager to learn.
He cited many results from social media research carried out by his lab at Pennsylvania State University.
“Born to a generation that has taken technology, the Internet in particular, for granted, Dr. Shyam brought to the fore, deep insights on why one actually behaves in a particular manner in the cyber world,” stated Dr. Kalyani Suresh, Assistant Professor at the Amrita School of Communication, who organized the talk for the Amrita students.
“Dr. Shyam spoke of interactivity from the standpoint of source, message and medium. He also elaborated on the different kinds of cues that exist in the realm of new media that spur us to interact or connect better with a particular site or application,” she added.
“For example, the bandwagon heuristic cues or the herd mentality determines why we tend to positively evaluate posts that have received more number of likes.”
Referring to links and videos that we share and those which amass a large number of responses, Dr. Shyam opined that these drive one to engage better with the community.
“Agency enhancement and community building have become new social media tools for gratification,” he explained.
“What makes one follow someone else on Twitter?” he was asked
“Most celebrities are hard to reach in person. If they are on social networking sites, one can easily follow them and get regular updates regarding their activities,” he replied.
A student asked Dr. Shyam about what established credibility to online material. Was it the source, the person who was sharing it or the medium over which it was shared? “It is a combination of all three – a complex inter-relationship that sometimes is too spontaneous and subtle,” explained Dr. Shyam.
Questions were posed also on the nature of SOPA and internet piracy. “For every problem that technology creates, technology will eventually come up with a solution,” was Dr. Shyam’s answer.
“At the end of the day, members of the captive audience emerged as better informed cyber citizens,” stated Dr. Kalyani.
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