I have been researching & developing new types of web services and studying how various (informative and instructional) services for youth are moving to the web. I have also been working with associations and organizations who have understood the potential of utilizing ”fun as a frame” when offering more serious content in online communities. This presentations will focus on such brand parasites and lessons learned from their pioneer activity.
Currently the discussion on youth and digital media is biased. Some parties try to protect children where as the others try to go with the flow and utilize services and virtual worlds that are already inhabitated by children and youth.
This slide set will present stories of some successful experiments of turning e.g. drug prevention or youth services into virtual services in Finland.
Attitude towards the web are often very biased Some actors are willing to utilize existing services or create their own ones. The other extrimity tries to restrain or limit the use of the net because there are potentially harmful material online. Such persons don’t understand that web is already crucial part of being young and growing up. Denial or limitations do not do the trick.
Brand parasite is a sub-service that depends on mother (online) service without reciprocating in business. It is referring to novel type of online business actors. The sub-services grow, feed, and are sheltered on or in a different web service while contributing (functionally or logistically) nothing to the survival of its host.
Usually the mother service is a brand with identified symbol or mark that distinguishes it from its competitors. Brand draw customers to the service. Brands are regulatory authority and cannot be used (utilized) by other parties except brand parasites who live inside the mother service. For many products and companies, branding is an essential part of marketing, that is the same reason brand parasites exists in online communities (such as Habbo and Second Life).
Gaming lifestyle developed when gaming become more common in digital youth cultures. Gaming lifestyle contains expectation towards more serious or boring content. Users expect experiences and fun and often more serious content is framed with fun. Gamers add gaming to part of the entertainment experience. It becomes part of a "normal" life.
What separates a normal gamer from someone who uses gaming as a basis for a lifestyle is that the former plays games because of their values or attitudes, while the latter play life because of their gaming based values or attitudes. Having gaming as a lifestyle is about taking the medium beyond its place in a normal life, and extending it into one’s activities outside the virtual realm.
[Partical source: David Supina: http://www.gamer20.com/features/127]
Stories of brand parasites and the utilization of gaming lifestyle
Northern Hotline (Nettivihje in Finnish) started in October 2002
It is child welfare service on the net and f ocuses on illegal and harmful material and child pornography
Save the Children Finland has crises chat ”Manteli” at popular chat services such as Suomi24, Irc-Galleria and Habbo and Hiiripiiri (”mouse circle”) for 6-12 year olds. Hiiripiiri is a free of charge online learning environment focusing on media education.
Save the Children Finland also provides studies on children and youth and their media use and related issues as well as is a member of European InHope and InSafe networks.
37263 online tips have been sent to Save the Children Finland between 1.10.2002 - 29.2.2008
44% of the tips have been focusing on illegal material
Save the Children has sent 8479 tips to InHope network and 8167 to National Bureau of Investigation
According to their user statistics, people have learned to know about the service and have sent increasing number of tips to the service. The number of tips have grown from 2002-2003 (3254 tips) to 2007 (9091 tips)
Many associations and organizations have understood how central role digital services and computer-mediated communication have in youngsters lives.
The link between real world circle of friends and virtual communities and virtual friends is blurred. Adults may think virtual reality to be a separate universe from the real world but youth do not think the same way. Virtual communities offer more personal and heart-to-heart communication channel to classmates, a possibility to explore and act out.
That is where youth work and various association have their potential. To link fun with function and be present on arenas where youth spent their spare time.
Hubu (EOPH) is an example of a Brand parasite. Hubu operates inside Habbo community and is getting its visitors from Habbo user base.
All or at least majority of Habbo users sign in to the Habbo-service because they want to be a part of Habbo community and meet friends, not because they would like to get information about drugs or alcohol.
As a parasite Hubu also have its function at the development chain. It gives positive image to the mother service and easy access point to needful information for children and youth.