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A Keystroke of Genius

October 4, 2010

In a recent story posted on Yahoo, I read about a tiny university in Pennsylvania that decided to conduct a little social experiment – they blocked all social media websites from their server for one week. That meant no Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or anything else was available on campus for any of the 800 or students or the faculty for SEVEN WHOLE DAYS. Apparently, the idea behind this macabre and sadistic experiment was to survey the students and faculty after the week was over and find out how they were affected. Did they study more? Was class attendance up? Were exams and papers graded faster? Was it harder to form study groups without the use of an instant messenger (I mean, God forbid any of those students had to pick up the phone and call each other to coordinate)?

I know what you’re saying to yourself – “There’s no way I could go a week without social media! I can’t go a day without checking Blogger University!” According to school officials, they had planned on students finding ways around the block (which they did) and were going to incorporate that data into their research. Dare I say, there seems to be something bigger and much less academic going on here?

These innocent, social media-addicted students and faculty were part of an elaborate (and genius) plot to get some PR for a school that would otherwise never register in anything other than the local newspaper. Suddenly, they were thrust into the spotlight and were front-page news on Yahoo. USA Today, NPR, and the Huffington Post were writing feature stories on this little experiment and now, high school students looking for a science or technical school have a new prospect on the horizon, and it’s one that seems to be on the cutting edge of research (please know my tongue is placed firmly in my cheek).

Whether they meant to or not, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology just pulled off a public relations coup and will no doubt be reaping the rewards of that for some time to come. Kudos to you Harrisburg, you’ve shown us all how to get positive PR without the distasteful side-effect known as spin.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. B.G. Smith permalink*
    October 6, 2010 2:22 am

    Excellently written, and such a cool angle. I would be interested to know the results of the “study” (it was a formal study, right?).

  2. October 6, 2010 5:11 am

    great read Kelly! love your writting style.

  3. kellyrizzo permalink
    October 6, 2010 3:14 pm

    Thanks guys! I had fun with this one.

    I don’t know how truly formal the study can be – my understanding is that they were planning to conduct surveys of the students and faculty to find out how they were affected. Quite a few students admitted accessing social networking sites with smart phones and some even made the 3-block trek off campus to a hotel with free Wi-Fi. Apparently, all of that was going to be taken into account when they began studying the effects of the blackout. I”m going to keep looking for an article that discusses the results and, if I find one, I’ll post the link on here.

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