Category Archives: Social Media

From #MeToo to #RiceBunny: how social media users are campaigning in China

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A fascinating article by Meg Jing Zeng from the Queensland University of Technology, which was originally published in The Conversation.

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In Chinese, the phrase “rice bunny” is pronounced as “mi tu” and has become a nickname for the #MeToo campaign.
Marcella Cheng/The Conversation NY-BD-CC

Meg Jing Zeng, Queensland University of Technology

Rice bunny says, “the only thing I want for the coming Lunar New Year is anti-sexual harassment rulings… You can take my plate away, but you cannot shut my mouth.”

So reads the opening line of a discussion page for the #MeToo campaign in China, posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.

“Rice bunny” (米兔), pronounced as “mi tu”, is a nickname given to the #MeToo campaign by Chinese social media users. The #RiceBunny hashtag, accompanied by emojis of rice bowls and bunny heads, is used by Chinese women to expose sexual harassment – often in conjunction with other Chinese hashtags, such as #IAmAlso (#我也是)and #MeTooInChina (#MeToo在中国).

Using emojis to circumvent censorship

A sign used to protest sexual harassment posted on Weibo.

The adoption of nicknames and emojis is not just a public relations strategy designed to increase the popularity of the campaign, it also serves as a tactical response to circumvent online censorship.

Similar practices of using homophones and images are widely used in China as a form of coded language to avoid censorship on social media.

“River crab” and “grass-mud horse” – both invented by internet users – are two cases in point. Because of their pronunciations in Chinese, the former is used to indicate censorship and the latter refers to a Chinese obscenity.

Internet censorship is a major challenge for the #MeToo campaign in China. Internet users have reported numerous instances of posts and chat pages relating to the topic being removed.

Around January 19, the primary hashtag of China’s #MeToo campaign – #MeTooInChina – was temporarily blocked. In response to this, Weibo users launched the alternative hashtag #RiceBunnyInChina to continue the campaign.

How #MeToo came to China

On January 1, Luo Xixi – a Chinese citizen who now resides in Silicon Valley – decided to bring the #MeToo campaign to social media in her home country. She began by publishing a 3000-word post on Weibo, revealing a secret she had kept to herself for 12 years. While studying for her PhD at Beihang University in Beijing she was harassed by Chen Xiaowu, a renowned professor and Luo’s former supervisor.

Luo’s post received millions of views, and was widely circulated through both state media and social media. The university and education authorities quickly responded to the scandal by sacking Chen Xiaowu.

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Encouraged by the triumph of Luo’s allegations against Chen, more women from China broke their silence and shared their own accounts of sexual harassment at the hands of university professors.

According to a recent report, students and alumni from over 50 colleges have signed online petitions, demanding their schools develop mechanisms to prevent and deal with sexual harassment on campus. In solidarity, professors from over 30 universities also reportedly signed an open letter, calling for educational institutions in China to strengthen regulations and institute a reporting system for sexual harassment claims.

Why universities are ground zero

It is no coincidence that universities became China’s first battleground in the fight against sexual harassment.

The institutional power structure of universities leads to a power imbalance between students and their advisors. That disparity is particularly problematic when the education system is opaque and corrupted.

From primary school through to university in China, gift giving and bribery are common practice among students and parents to secure opportunities. This culture is ripe for abuse.

As several victims of university sexual harassment have revealed, predatory teachers often used coursework scores, scholarships, and even the outcome of degrees to lure or blackmail students.

A university library in China.
MatthiasRipp/flickr

But mistreatment is not unique to male professors and female students. In late December, a male PhD student Yang Baode was found drowned in a river in Xi’an. His girlfriend later published an open letter on social media claiming that Yang committed suicide after years of abuse from a female supervisor. According to her statement, and the results of the university’s own investigations, during Yang’s PhD study he was forced to become a servant to his supervisor, watering her plants, going shopping with her and picking her up from parking lots.

Calls for anti-harassment mechanisms in educational institutions have been supported by the Ministry of Education and state media, but this success might not be easy to replicate in other sectors of Chinese society.

Feminists as ‘trouble-makers’

Unlike its Western counterpart, the #MeToo campaign in China lacks the freedom to turn into a large-scale movement due to inevitable government intervention.

For the ruling party, online campaigns that seek to mobilise large swathes of the population are like wildfire that can easily spread out of control. At this stage, those exposed are mostly relatively low-profile figures, such as university professors, but it is not hard to imagine the scandal escalating up to those in positions of power.

Popularity is the the kiss of death for any civil movement in China. The Chinese government is known for preventing online activity from growing into collective action – especially demonstrations – no matter how politically innocent in nature.

In 2015, five women’s right activists were arrested by Chinese authorities for “provoking trouble” for organising protests against sexual harassment on public transport. In 2017, Zhang Leilei, an activist based in Guangzhou city, made similar efforts. Zhang attempted to crowdfund a nationwide anti-sexual harassment advertising campaign. But it was eventually rejected by local officials, and Zhang herself was asked to leave the city.

 

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The ConversationIt is naive to expect women in China to follow a Western trajectory to achieve gender equality. But as the #RiceBunny hashtag on social media shows, even under political pressure activists continue to use their creativity to circumvent the system. So long as these fighters do not cease “provoking trouble”, we can feel optimistic about a safer, more equal future for women in China.

Meg Jing Zeng, PhD candidate, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Campaign takes the cake

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A #TSBakeOff entry from @MelissaJensen_ – Gouldian Finches are threatened by altered fire regimes which reduce the availability of seeds & hollows #Wildoz

It’s Thursday … so let’s have some cake!

Like many Australians, my first decade of birthdays were celebrated with a highly artistic cake creations from the Australian Women’s Weekly. Choices, choices, choices!

So it’s not surprising that a cake competition, to bring attention to today’s Threatened Species Day, caught my attention. Mmmm cake!

The cool concept is a freshly baked idea from Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner, Greg Andrews, with all baked goods featuring favourite threatened species.

It’s such a great example of clever content creation and a great way to engage an audience spread across the country. Perhaps it’s a recipe for your next campaign?

Entries have been flying in from ovens around the country and will be judged by the Commissioner, alongside Dr Bec West from UNSW and Annabel Crabb.

We can’t wait to see which cake rises to the top?

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

PS. Pardon all the cake puns!

Social media’s unprecedented role in #DebateNight

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debate-926-hrc-trump-feed-cover-1400x600While social media played a role in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, the influence of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in previous election cycles pales in comparison to this year.

Social media makes for a great unofficial battleground, with the candidates both trading blows.

Candidates now, more than ever, are bypassing traditional media and engaging with voters directly. Donald Trump even launched a national ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign and filter on Snapchat.

Well over 80 million people watched Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off on television, setting a new record in the sixty year history of televised presidential debates. According to Nielsen, the debate averaged a total of 84 million viewers across 13 of the TV channels that carried it live in the U.S. This beats the previous record for a presidential debate held by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan back in 1980. While it didn’t reach some predictions of 100 million (making it Super Bowl worthy), it was certainly a big audience.

Both candidates were very active on social media leading into the debate, and throughout it used platforms, especially Twitter, to push out key messages. Twitter streamed the debate live and it was the most tweeted debate ever.

But which candidate won over Twitter? According to the social media monitoring tool Brandwatch, neither of them. Both had more negative than positive mentions. In fact, the night’s big Twitter winner wasn’t a presidential candidate, but a hip hop star.

@chancetherapper tweeted’ Dear God, the words law & order shouldn’t strike so much fear in my heart as a law abiding citizen but I am so damn scared of Donald Trump’ which generated 58.5k retweets and 115k likes.

If you want to check out more tweets from the event, you can as Wired have collected some of the best tweets here.

Aside from Ms Clinton, Mr Trump and Chance the Rapper, the Twitter handles with the most debate-related mentions included moderator Lester Holt of NBC, Fox News and the fact-checking site Politifact.

It is also fascinating to watch how companies and individuals responded to mentions during the debate. Take Ford for example, who Trump singled out by saying “Ford is leaving,” Ford quickly took to Twitter to tweet to its own defence.

Sean Hannity, Alicia Machado and Rosie O’Donnell all got specific mentions during the debate and used Twitter to respond. Rosie calling Donald “an orange anus”.

In the past, companies, brands and people referenced in a debate had minimal opportunities to defend themselves — at least in a timely fashion. Not anymore. Can’t wait for the next two debates.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

And, in case you haven’t seen it – Will & Grace are back:

Communication lessons from #Rio2016

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For more than 100 years, the modern Olympic Games have been celebrated as a testament to human physical achievement and power. On another scale the games are also an opportunity for peaceful cooperation between nations. They’re also a huge global marketing opportunity. With the world watching, the right mix of communications can make or break an Olympic sponsor. With the large audience and participants involved in the international event, there has been some form of controversy in nearly every Olympic year since 1906.

5591054268_40c2a4b3ce_mEven before Rio had its official opening ceremony there was controversy surrounding it. One such problem affecting the Rio Olympics — not to mention the rest of Brazil — is the spread of the Zika virus, which was declared a public health emergency earlier this year. There was the slumping Brazilian economy and let’s not forget the water tests that showed the public that Rio’s Olympic waters were heavily polluted with human sewage; not to mention an alarming number of disease-causing viruses and bacteria that were present. These were all handled with poise by the respective Olympic representatives.

After years of preparation, what a party so far: the venues have turned out to be amazing, despite the original hiccups.  The sport has come first (mostly), Rio2016 is now in day 5. Listed are 5 communication lessons we’ve learned and reviewed so far.

1. Practice makes perfect

The opening ceremony had to be planned just like any event. Brazil kicked off this year’s Olympics with a low-budget opening ceremony that was full of colour and a Samba bear. Throw in some dancing and some preaching about environmentalism for good measure.

The ceremony seemed flawless until it was leaked to media that Brazilian supermodel Gisele made a mistake in her walk – she was too fast (ironic at the Olympics really).  Her walk in a thigh-split silver sequined gown (amazing) led to a 1,850% rise in Google searches for her name in just one hour. Richard Lawson, of Vanity Fair, said: “Gisele literally just walked across the stadium and it was an event.”

2. Watch your P’s and Q’s even in the pool

When the Mack Horton scandal erupted a few days ago, many Australians had never heard of the young swimmer. The 24-year-old was at the centre of controversy three days before the Olympics began when Fairfax Media revealed that a Chinese swimmer had tried to disrupt Horton by splashing him at the training pool in Rio. Horton responded by saying he had “no time or respect for drug cheats”, a jab at Sun’s positive drug test two years ago. Sun served a three-month doping ban in 2014, which the Chinese federation kept secret.

Earlier this week, Chinese fans took the grudge into their own hands, attacking Horton on his various social media accounts using the hashtag #apologizetosunyan.

“Your parents and whole country should be shame [sic] on what you’ve said,” one user wrote on Instagram.

Another wrote: “You even won the match, but you are still a loser, you don’t deserve to have an Olympic gold medal.”

Many other trolled Horton’s accounts with snake emojis.

Horton hasn’t taken to social media, and is charming the media, he claims his comments have been taken out of context and was quoted saying “what controversy”. It’s now up to the fans to decide as everyone looks towards the 1500m final – both of the swimmers main event.

3. Monitor your social…

London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games had an official social media following of 4.7 million users across all platforms. Two years later, Sochi’s had gone up to over 5 million across two platforms alone: Facebook and VKontakte, the most popular Russian social media site. @Rio2016 is sitting at more than 500K followers on Twitter. Thinking beyond the official channels, and only five days in, the potential impact of social media on the games is endless.

4. Advertising and brands can make the most of any event.

Westpac put together a montage of Olympians’ family members attempting their sports. It’s funny, adorable, and leaves you feeling nice and warm.  Susie O’Neills mum doing the butterfly stroke is cute. Lacoste for team France anyone? Rio 2016 marks the fifth time Ralph Lauren has dressed Team USA. Stella McCartney based the looks she created for Great Britain’s athletes on the signature silhouettes that commonly feature in her fashion designs.  We saw Puma in the opening ceremony looking after Cuba’s team, but it is rumoured that Christian Louboutin has helped create outfits for the closing ceremony on 22 August. The Olympics gives these brands a whole new platform to expose themselves to a larger public.

5. Has Channel Seven’s Olympic coverage controlled and changed the way we can watch sports.

Channel Seven has decided to broadcast the Olympics solo. No Foxtel partnership. People who want to watch Gymnastics live for example have to pay for it via a subscription app. This has already upset the public. Why should we have to pay for an event that is broadcast for free in other nations? The Conversation explores this in a deep analysis.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

Cats and creativity

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Not technically about communications, but two great c-words: cats and creativity courtesy of The Conversation.

Why Leonardo da Vinci would have aced the internet cat craze

Gabriele Neher, University of Nottingham

Leonardo da Vinci may have been ahead of the curve in aerodynamics, anatomy and mechanics, but he also possessed an incredible foresight for another modern staple: cat obsessions.

In some of the last years of his life, Leonardo sat down, perhaps at his desk, perhaps on the street, took out his pencil and absent-mindedly sketched a cat. The resulting drawing is of not just one, but over a dozen of them, grooming, playing and fighting each other, with a couple of stalking lions thrown into the mix and to top it all, a slinky little dragon sinuously twisting backwards and baring its teeth. Evidently he appreciated them for their personalities and characteristics: not such a jump from cat doodles to the ubiquity of cats on social media today.

Leonardo da Vinci, Cats, lions, and a dragon c.1513-18. Pen and ink with wash over black chalk.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

In the week that the latest blockbuster exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci, The Mechanics of Genius, opens to great fanfare at the Science Museum, a second, much smaller show is opening in Newcastle. The Laing Gallery’s exhibition showcases just ten of Leonardo’s best drawings from the extensive collections at Windsor, cats included. Whereas the Science Museum showcases the extraordinary mechanical genius of this remarkable artist, these drawings offers a more playful insight into Leonardo’s mind.

Cats were a commonplace sight in medieval and early modern houses, kept as pets to curb the mouse population. They sometimes left quite unexpected traces, such as the medieval moggy who marched over the still wet pages of a manuscript, much to the consternation of its scribe. And clearly they featured in more of an esoteric manner too: there are countless depictions of cats within medieval manuscripts, as featured in Nicole Eddy’s fabulous post on the “Lolcats of the Middle Ages”.

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So it’s not so surprising to find Leonardo caught in the act of doodling. It seems as though Leonardo’s cats are drawn from life, attesting to his often commented on interest in first-hand observation. He lets his imagination run riot in the process of turning his playful cats into a writhing dragon.

What makes his drawing so charming is that ultimately, what he is interested in here is nothing more significant than the playing cats. He draws cats on other occasions, such as in some studies for the Virgin and child (with cat), but there the cat is drawn as an attribute, becoming a subsidiary accessory to the telling of the story. In the cat doodle, the purpose of the drawing is nothing other than to record Leonardo’s delight in the carefully observed play and movement of his feline companions.

A 13th-century image of a cat beating a cymbal, from the margins of the Book of Hours.

There’s a rich history of associating cats with imagination and creativity, as well as more negative connotations with heresy and wilfulness. This is especially true of medieval imagery. Cats, with their noted reputation for autonomy and independence, provide a bridge between the unruly and uncontrollable chaos of untamed nature, and the quiet, submissive, orderly domesticity of a well-ruled household. A cat can function both as a symbol for obedience (and is often depicted as such, for example as a companion to devout women) as well as a sign of heresy, in the shape of a witch’s familiar.

So cats are not inherently good or evil. Instead they appear to reflect the moral character of the household they interact with: in accordance with their mercurial, quirky nature. In this light, they seem the perfect companion for a creative and scholarly owner.

Fast forward 500 years and perhaps it doesn’t seem so surprising that social media has become the perfect vehicle for displaying this connection. While Salvador Dali needed to take long walks with his pet ocelot Babou to generate interest in his unusual status pet, Twitter and Facebook offer platforms for often quite witty plays on the link between cats and creativity.

My favourite example of this is the #AcademicsWithCats Twitter feed, which led to the annual “Academics with Cats awards”. I like to think that Leonardo would have entered with gusto. He definitely would have won. With a cat dressed as a dragon.The Conversation

Gabriele Neher, Assistant Professor of History of Art, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Collage of comments: Sharapova thanks her dear fans

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In news this week: Nike, Porsche and Tag-Heuer have all suspended their sponsorships of Maria Sharapova after she announced to the world that she had tested positive to a banned substance at the Australian Open.

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This is a loss for the tennis legend and a swift manoeuvre from her sponsors to disassociate their brands from the negativity (of a positive drug test).

Sharapova or her agents started to manage the situation early. She had her game face on. She called a press conference in LA straight away. Fronted up to the media and her public and explained why she was on the drug.

Meldonium, which Sharapova said she had legally taken throughout her career, was placed on the banned list by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) at the beginning of the year following “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance”.

Dressed head-to-toe in black corporate attire, she said: “I let my fans down, I let the sport down that I have been playing since the age of four and I love so deeply.” One of the world’s richest sports stars went on to say: “I know with this I face consequences. I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”

She had apologised to her fans, but via social media not so much as a flutter post press conference from Sharapova. Until today, when she posted a thank you to her dear fans – on Facebook with a linked to her post on Twitter.

When will companies and celebrities recognise that social media platforms need their attention too? When will they learn that they are a conversational tool and not a broadcasting tool alone.

There was one twitter comment alerting her 2 million plus fan base to the upcoming press conference. And then radio silence – and even though there was plenty of support with ‪#‎IStandWithMaria‬ and ‪#‎LetMariaPlay‬making it could seem to some that she was hiding in the dark, avoiding the aftermath. Not giving her side of the story.

She did acknowledge the support noting that she had remained offline on purpose and her friends had supplied a collage of comments.

When will people and companies learn that social media is a tool to converse with other people, and like in “real life” keep that conversation flowing. It’s a two-way street. Answer the publics questions. Keep the faith.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

Cinema, customers and creativity – catch up on #CommsCorner from 2015

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It’s been a great year in the #CommsCorner with a wide range of communicators sharing what communication means to them.

Pour yourself a cuppa, treat yourself to an extra one of the advent calendar chocolates and spend some time in the #CommsCorner.

Cheers to all of these amazing communicators for spending some time in the #CommsCorner in 2015.

Watch out for the next round of #CommsCorner starting in mid January 2016.