Take Home Exam

May 12, 2010

The perspectives of Robert McChesney, Ken Auletta, Daniel Solove and Jonathan Zittrain:

Robert McChesney:

As a distinguished and knowledgeable communications professor, author, and radio host, Robert McChesney has made his opinions clear in his book The Political Economy of Media. Within this piece he discusses his concerns about the deterioration of journalism in today’s digital world. He suggests that the lines between journalism and commercialism have been blurred which, in his opinion, has developed due to a struggle for journalism fields and careers to stay afloat.

As technology has advanced, market pressures have pushed various media groups to form mergers and conglomerates that emphasize neoliberalism (the idea that social progress or success stems from economic gain).  McChesney believes that this alters the objectivity that journalists normally embrace because they will cover stories that focus on their parent companies or partners more than the actual facts and news.

He also touches on the idea that the value of journalism has decreased due to a lack of professionalism that the Internet and new media have greatly influenced. People can become journalists overnight because of the creation of outlets such as blog. This concerns McChesney because he questions the quality of the reporting and how it will affect journalism as a whole.

Ken Auletta:

Having quite a bit of insight into the world of Google, author Ken Auletta describes his experiences, concerns and perspectives on this renowned search engine and it’s connection to issues of privacy and the controversy surrounding intellectual property and open sources.

He suggests that Google has been true to their motto of  “Don’t be Evil” by protecting our information and trying to make the results of online searches more relevant and helpful.  However, the public may need to watch out for how much information they are providing, as well as be aware of how our current trust in them can easily be mistreated.

Auletta also states that the rating system Google adheres to provides people with the best sources possible and most relevant to their search. He believes that the Internet should always be free so that Google can continue to provide their efficient search engine for everyone.

Daniel Solove:

With new media and advancing technology affecting the way we document our lives, the issue of privacy and cyber bullying has become more of a concern over the years. In Daniel Solove’s book The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy in the Internet, he discusses the permanency of the content that people place on the Internet and how the exposure can negatively affect an individual’s life.

With new societal norms of being more transparent, always connected and putting personal information online, Solove asks the question of whether or not it is our responsibility to be private and protect our information or the responsibility of the online service.

Jonathan Zittrain:

Harvard law professor and author of The Future of the Internet, Jonathan Zittrain delves into the idea of generative and non-generative devices and their impact on the future of collaboration within the Internet.

Since the invention of various technological pieces, anyone and everyone has the opportunity to exchange information, collaborate and add content. Computers and the Internet are probably the best examples of generative devices, and are usually appealing to majority of the population. However, they can also be considered overwhelming which makes some opt for more non-generative sources.

Locked devices, sources like the iPad that already provide the platform and all the software or information so the user can only be pushed information, are Zittrain’s main concern.  He believes that if we adopt more non-generative devices we will lose creativity and the opportunity to collaborate in the creation of information in the future.

Critiques:

Solove on Privacy:

Throughout Daniel Solove’s book, he showcases several different occurrences that have depicted the Internet’s ability to influence a person’s reputation (mainly in a negative way). He stated within the first chapter that the Internet can be a cruel historian and that the norm police can now publicly punish a person. These, unfortunately, are things that everyone has seen and some have even experienced. However, the real question is whose responsibility is it to protect an individual’s privacy?

Solove believes that it is mainly a person’s responsibility to protect their information and privacy. A person should know that whatever they do put on the Internet will not only be kept for years to come, but it will also be open to the entire world. Although I agree that a person should understand this before placing content online, I also feel that the online service or site provider should be partially responsible as well.

Occasionally there are small disclaimers but the online service usually assumes that their users understand that what they put online will be open to the public. I believe that people should not only be warned that their information is public, but also be given the chance to place privacy restrictions or sharing (copyright) restrictions on their content. Facebook is a perfect example since they have provided privacy settings for their users so if a person does not protect their information after being given the option then it was their choice.

At the same time you have to wonder whether or not the privacy feature always matters because the content is recorded no matter what and is somewhere within the millions of content stored online everyday. Someone has all the information and there’s probably other ways to get it even if it isn’t being distributed out to the public openly at the moment.

Supporting these views are journalists Christina Hernandez and Melanie D.G. Kaplan. In a recent article that discusses Google’s controversial social media outlet entitled Buzz, they interview attorney Parry Aftab who is an expert on Internet privacy issues. Aftab says, “I shake my head all the time. A lot of people want everyone to be involved in what they’re doing and see what they’re doing and they live out loud. When it comes down to the bottom line, people talk online the way they would to a journal or a diary they used to keep locked away in their underwear drawer. They don’t realize lots of people can see it. You no longer control anything you post online (Hernandez, http://www.smartplanet.com/people/blog/pure-genius/protecting-your-privacy-and-reputation-online/2480/).” She later encourages people to not only be careful of what they post but for them to seek out privacy settings that are offered by the service or other software to protect their information. By using privacy settings, the journalists believe that you are choosing to be aware of what you post and who sees it, which in turn will protect your reputation.

McChesney and Blame

The underlining message of McChesney is that capitalism is to blame for several of the issues that media, specifically journalism, is facing these days. In his opinion, journalism is losing a sense of context and objectivity due to commercialism, which is affecting the quality of journalism. He also states that citizen journalism is to be taken with a grain of salt because they do not have the same professionalism as trained journalists.

It is capitalism’s fault because he feels the journalism field is now more worried about profit and being driven by economics than the actual story. Citizen journalists are cheap or even free labor, while technology has created multitasking journalists that report on stories that favor their parent companies.

Although I do feel that the economy has obviously impacted journalism, I do feel like it isn’t all about capitalism or profit but also based on the current audience. So technically it is the audience’s fault as well. We are the ones consuming certain content and as the entertainment as news project has pointed out, we are more interested in soft news stories rather than hard-hitting news all the time. So maybe journalists just found out what we prefer and began to provide it more and more. Unfortunately, it is in my opinion that people should know the importance of real news and that journalists should know when to give us what we want and when not to. It is not just money driving the content, we have choices and the ability to regulate if we change how we consume news and how much we are given.

Candy is Dandy

May 3, 2010

For years candy companies have undoubtedly made their delicious treats synonymous with fun. Whether they were tempting people with dancing candies across a theater screen or paying a pretty penny for advertising spots, these businesses have tried to incorporate themselves in people’s lives as often as they could. This is the same today as it was years before, only this time these sweets are more prominent in a whole new media platform.

Since we crave entertainment and a certain level of involvement, candy companies have had to figure out a way to reach a myriad of audiences and maintain people’s attention by creating more interactive brand ads. This usually requires the company to adopt new mediums and to present itself in a way that incorporates actions made by the customer. In other words, brands are being strengthened by connecting themselves with ideas and mediums such as gaming, movie tie-ins, viral videos and online sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

One of the more successful and aggressive marketing strategies currently seen is the M&M online campaign. Not only have TV viewers seen clever commercials that make us giggle:

But we also have the opportunity to “become” an M&M ourselves. When visiting the M&M site, which according to an article from iMedia Connection had 283,000 unique visitors in June of 2009 alone, you can choose from a wide selection of physical features and accessories to create an M&M personality that mimics you or any other person. This has made the brand more fun for people, while building a relationship between the consumer and the company.

Mars also reached beyond engaging people with M&M personalities by creating holiday related games. During Easter, the company created a 3D “Easter Egg Hunt” type of game where they hid codes on their site, as well as some others, and encouraged customers to find and decode the pin numbers. The winners walked away with points and prizes.

Other companies have also been successful by utilizing social media tools. A perfect example of this is Cadbury’s Creme Egg Twisted Campaign.  The corporation gained millions of followers by asking customers to make creative videos or photo stories that gave information on the “missing” twisted bar. They made an interactive site that showed the wanted or fugitive posting for a Mr. Twisted Bar on the grounds of “gooing public figures. Celebrity gooings. Conspiring with other bars to create Gooey mayhem and organizing illegal gooing attacks online.”

By involving their customers in a fun activity that focused on their brand, they  achieved not only great marketing but entertained consumers on a whole new level.

Unfortunately, sometimes the sugar rush ends when using these newer media outlets incorrectly. Skittles, for example, did well in the beginning when they redesigned their site to be more colorful and modern, but soon plummeted when their Twitter account was bombarded with negative and uncensored buzz from “pranksters” and others that seeked to market their own products.

I guess that goes to show that there are pros and cons to utilizing new mediums for a candy brand these days. Although this generation needs to be more involved and companies are finding success in the adopt of various platforms, let the previous Skittles campaign be a warning to all that you also need to know how to use them as well as which ones will be most beneficial so things don’t go sour.

If I Can Dream…

April 18, 2010

A recent presentation became the second time that I have heard of this interactive reality TV show, and it just seems to get more and more interesting and, well, crazy sounding every time someone talks about it. If I Can Dream is a television show that features five young performers, who are living together, that are striving to reach fame and stardom in Hollywood.

Although this doesn’t sound any different from shows like the Real World, it has a little more of a Big Brother feel. According to Kara Kilmer, an aspiring actress that has agreed to be on the show, the purpose of IF I Can Dream is to help them get a job which will ultimately allow them to move out of the house and “on to a bigger career.” But to me, it just seems like another example of our interest in invading someone’s privacy because we are curious about how other people live their lives. Now you may think I am being a little too dramatic about the show but I left out a couple details….

Did you know:

That the If I Can Dream house is wired with 56 AXIS cameras that broadcast what they are doing all day every day?

That you can actually visit their site, http://www.ificandream.com/#/house, to watch live streaming of what they are doing?

If you don’t like the featured camera footage of the moment, then you can feel like a security guard and view all cameras in and outside of the house.

That while you watch them live on the Internet, you can tweet something to them, which they will see on a screen within the house, and they can respond to you by talking to any of the 56 cameras?

That if you are an avid follower and missed anything, you can visit Hulu to watch all the unedited footage?

That you can catch up and talk to the cast by being their Facebook Fan or MySpace friend?

Hi Amanda...whatcha doing in your room?

Or you can Vlog about them and be featured on their site?

Does it feel creepy yet?

We’ve discussed the great leaps and bounds that technology has made when it comes to being interactive, however, maybe we’re taking it a little too far. Sure we’re displaying real people in the lime light instead of celebrities, but we’re doing it in a more invasive way then what has been done ever before. Do we really need to see what these five people, whom we have no relation to and never met, do each hour of every day? Why are their lives so unique and intriguing to us?

Most interesting of all is probably thinking about whether or not this is the future of reality TV shows. Will we, one day, just be watching a bunch of strangers go about their every day life for our entertainment?

The interactivity is astounding, but I am not sure if this is a show that is worth watching…but then again I may be wrong considering that this show has its fans and is getting more and more popular.

But honestly…it creeps me out.

iPad Pros and Cons

April 11, 2010

If you ask anyone how they feel about the iPad there are usually two very different responses. The first is similar to a little kids reaction to being brought into a candy shop; overjoyed, excited and ready to make an investment. However, there is also the perspective that this new digital device is just a glorified iPod Touch or iPhone. This has been the feeling for many people in my graduate class and even outside of Elon University’s campus.

So does this device has a

iPad 2

valued purpose or is it worthless due to its repetition of previous creations only in a larger format?

Arguments:

People who are pro iPad have said that there are several positive aspects of the device that make them want to purchase it. They have stated that it is:

-portable

-easy to use/ intuitive

-when compared to other portable Internet available devices like the iPhone, its larger size is a benefit (especially for those with larger fingers), and unlike the Kindle, can handle many different file outputs.

-10 hours of battery life

-it has a digital compass and GPS

-quality, high resolution images (which makes for better video watching)

– and, found within a CNET article, “Productivity versus consumption: “My home computer will suffice for the number crunching, code compiling and media encoding needs. The iPad will be my encyclopedia, mailbox, newspaper, library, music jukebox, video player for the home and on the go.”

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People who question the iPad’s purpose have arguments which state:

– we already have devices that do the same things and are less expensive, the device may offer even more options

-iPads are not really generative electronic pieces

-it’s a novelty product that people are purchasing because of brand loyalty

-can’t handle Flash

-no multitasking; you can only do one thing at a time, meaning you can’t be streaming music while performing another task on the iPad

-no 3G coverage automatically, which forces you to make an additional purchase

-the battery is built in, meaning if it dies so does the entire product

-no camera, no Skype

As you can see, this has many ups and downs, and even I am still on the fence when it comes to the iPad. I don’t think it’s completely pointless though, if anything it has shown us how advanced technology is getting. We’ll find more efficient ways to implement and integrate it into our lives…even if this way isn’t it.

For example, the healthcare industry is finding more benefits in adopting the iPad (or some tablet like it) then most of us. From a recent article within http://www.mobihealthnews.com, they found that the high resolution images displayed from the iPad actually help them do specific tasks at work (and with more tweaking, could provide medical applications that will benefit doctors, nurses and other medical professionals even more).

“SoftwareAdvice surveyed 178 care providers, health IT professionals,  and medical students to gauge their interest in the iPad and tablets in general. Here are the features this group listed as “must haves” for any tablet (not the iPad is lacking many of these)”:

Medical Tablet Feature Must Haves

According to Rob Campbell, the CEO of Voalté, “The form factor is ideal for patient education, medical image viewing and interacting with the EMR (electronic medical records). However, point of care workers need a smaller footprint, that can go into the pocket of their scrubs. Everyone needs more effective communication, so you can expect Voalté on both platforms!”

Maybe, with the improvement of the device (smaller in size and the addition of medical applications), it will better serve the public in the healthcare field.

-Network neutrality: everyone has access to information and can contribute.

-Hourglass model: Internet doesn’t rely on one thing; accomplishing the same task differently on each layer

-Procrastination Principle: figure things out as they come

-Reputation bankruptcy: gone so far beyond the bounds of what is considered not acceptable…can try and reclaim it and clean the slate

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Wikipedia was highly spoken of by Jonathan Zittrain saying that this website, which is very generative, should be modeled or closely watched. Zittrain states that this online collaborative resource allows for some monitoring and ethics conversations.

For example, everyone has the ability to go online and educate each other by offering their own knowledge on Wikipedia. However, if someone uses this in a inappropriate fashion, there are people that will remove it. These same people also have conversations about whether or not they should include certain details that may harm another person. This was shown with the Star Wars Kid incident, who does have his own page on Wikipedia but his name is never mentioned because they felt that pointing him out was not necessary even though the media has already.

Today’s Historian

March 5, 2010

In today’s society, people’s lives have been influenced and documented by a technologically based historian…the Internet. This has proven to be both a wonderful invention as well as one that we have come to question.

During our Media Issues course this week, we have discussed several topics that Daniel Solove brings to light in his book entitled “The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet.” A subject that I find most intriguing is how a public realm can be used to punish someone and, at the same time, be created with confidence within a private area.

We have seen the overflow of information, and the overwhelming amount of times in which a person is publically “punished” by today’s norm police. Many times the people who are criticized for their behavior or style are celebrities, but there are more and more regular people being covered and criticized online.

We have seen this occur several times with YouTube clips that capture moments like the ones of the Star Wars Kid or the person that was dancing to the Numa Numa song. Even Solove gave us the example of the “dog poop girl” whose reputation was changed dramatically not only in her home country of South Korea but across the globe because of the public’s use of the Internet.

The public humiliation has been distributed not only through videos but blogs as well. This display of anger or bullying has been justified as something they deserve because they acted a certain way in a public space that goes against what we consider right or does not adhere to our societies norms. But do they really deserve this harsh a punishment? Are our online responses the second wrong that does not make a right? Or are we practicing freedom of speech a little too freely?

It seems as if people are much more willing to express their dislike for something if it is through their computer in the comfort of their homes. Obviously they find it more freeing, which might be due to their ability to be anonymous. This can be a double-edged sword because it’s great that people can express their beliefs and feelings in a public area online (as I am on my own blog), but it can also have consequences.

This reminds me not only of things that have happened on social networking sites or blogs, but of Juicy Campus. This site was a concern for many universities a few years ago, not to mention several students. It allowed anyone and everyone to post anything about you whether it was true or not. This influenced their reputation and even employment.

Although it seems that adults are the ones grappling with these issues, we can’t forget that our digital natives are now mainly youth. It was stated in class that even 7 year olds have blogs and are already beginning to document their lives with the help of the Internet. There is a positive side to this because they are learning how to utilize the Internet to their advantage, however they also must be warned of what repercussions can come from what they post. Why? Because the Internet truly can be a cruel historian.

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

February 26, 2010

People have had many concerns when it comes to today’s search engine giant known as Google. These range from the security and privacy of all our information to how overwhelmingly large and influential they have become. The incident with China hacking into Google and collecting information along with the current privacy issue they are facing in Italy only validate the public’s concerns. It was even shocking to media students to see that Google, who once stubbornly said we’re sticking to word of mouth, have bought into advertising and revealed a commercial for the search engine during the 2010 Super Bowl. While all these topics make us a little apprehensive of the company, there was an interesting concern brought up in this morning’s discussion which I have never really thought about before. Is Google making us stupid?

For a company that started on a small scale and armed with a big idea, their intent of providing the public with easy and limitless access to information is now being questioned as to whether or not it has a positive impact or negative one.

In a short video, from the Atlantic Project, we were able to see an on-the-street take of whether or not the public thought Google was making them stupid. Some took a more positive perspective and stated that this Goliath of a search engine makes them more informed and allows them to self-educate.

On the other hand, people also said Google wasn’t making them stupid, but their reasoning did not seem positive to me. For example, one girl said if she were asked to write a paper for class, all she had to do was look up information online, copy and paste it into her Word document and it was simple for her to do. She never learned anything. This seems to be a more negative idea of the company and completely opposite of what Google intended; and maybe that leads to another question of whether it is the public’s responsibility to know what to do with the information and if it is good and bad? Or maybe it’s the content producer’s responsibility instead?

In my opinion, to be quite blunt, I believe that Google isn’t making us any more stupid than we started out. It offers, as one man on the street said, a breadth of information and a depth that we can determine. It may not exactly provide the depth we could find within books at a library (within your first search) but if you are motivated to dig deep enough and utilize credible sources, then maybe you are getting a certain depth of knowledge that is somewhat equivalent to what some books can provide.

Like everything else, Google has both pros and cons, but maybe our real concern should be focused on how we are using it instead.

So what do you think? Is Google making us stupid?

To view the Atlantic Project video visit: http://vimeo.com/9253811

A Second-Wave-Dot-Com Success

February 22, 2010

Etsy, an up and coming if not already prominent art based site on the web, has gained the reputation of fitting the checklist for a second-wave-dot-com success. This site, similar to eBay, has been thriving off of artisans work while keeping the integrity of the pieces and the type of site it is.

I have actually been on Etsy’s site many times and find it really fascinating to see what they have picked up and from whom. The user-generated content has not only helped both the artist and them gain a profit, but has kept alive this feel of original art unaffected by corporations or mainstream trends.

The way this online business was created sounds similar to the way Google and other small starting big idea organizations have, so it is easy to see how people think it has the ability to be a dot com success. This made me wonder…what other sites offer artists a place to show and sell their original work for Internet surfers and art enthusiasts to discover?

One site I realized was somewhat similar to Etsy, as well as one I was purchasing from, is called Threadless. This site allows artists to design the prints and art on t-shirts and present it on this site to the public. Etsy also harnesses the power of word-of-mouth and content created by artists. So maybe this is another user-generated, art based site that may be another dot com success.

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I think some of the online auction sites are organized based on the date items are placed on the site and the popularity of the type of item. Many times the popularity of the item is decided not by the site but by the people who visit and their ranking of objects.

This lends itself to interactivity in that people are placing their original items or previously owned stuff (making this user-generated content) on a site for sale. Much like the Threadless and Etsy site I talked about above. Other interactivity includes the ability for shoppers to choose what items they want to view and even choose what price range or the time they were posted online. There is also a feedback option where people can rate not only quality of what’s being sold, but the quality of the person shipping the item to them.

As technology advances, we have found ourselves facing several questions not only about the media, but ones that connect it with human rights, social situations or concerns, and even the education of future generations.

Robert McChesney has brought up several points about media conglomerates being for-profit evils that create uniformity in content that is presented to the public, but something even more important to consider is their impact.

Obviously this issue is affecting not just our information intake but the health of our economy as well. These new technologies are having such a prominent role in our lives that it’s changing the infrastructure of our global economy. Other countries are realizing this as well and attempting to adapt and even mimic the U.S.’s communications model.

In a related part of our group’s discussion, David brought up some very good questions: “Is access to information a human right? Should it be? At what point do we recognize that high-speed access to information is becoming as important to a nation’s economic stability as is their access to natural resources or their ability to produce valuable exports? Unfortunately, if a nation cannot keep up with the fast pace of global economics, we will continue to see the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. This does not bode well for current third-world countries, and is just another item to add to their list of needs when considering global aid.”

In some countries laws have already been formed to accommodate for these technological developments. Finland, for example, became the first country to “declare broadband Internet access a legal right” in October of 2009. Do you think that other countries should follow suit? Is Internet access a human right since its role in our economy today is so grand?

Later on in Chapter 16, McChesney also says that new communication technologies cannot solve social problems because “only humans acting consciously can address and resolve these issues.”

To me it is understandable to say that alone and without the participation of people, these technologies will not solve problems, however, I feel that this is one of the great things about the Internet. The Internet has become a place where people can consciously fight for something they believe in and try to gain support. They discuss social issues they are concerned about and many people share suggestions or their perspectives as well. I feel like the Internet is a main facilitator for change socially.

So when he states that new communication technologies can’t solve these problems because only people acting consciously can…well it makes me ask questions.

What does that mean for the people who are stating their opinions and suggesting solutions for issues online nowadays? How about the nonprofits that gain more support through the reach of their websites, which are focused on addressing and changing these social problems? What about our president who utilizes e-mail and video elements to communicate how he’s addressing issues we’ve deemed important?

Isn’t this use of the Internet showing people acting consciously to address valid concerns?

McChesney, I’m not sure how I feel about you.

Celebrities in Headliners

February 12, 2010

“Kim Kardashian Isn’t Engaged to Reggie Bush!”

“An Exclusive Interview: Angelina Jolie from Haiti.”

Not to completely bash news corporations and media conglomerates, but honestly are these really headlining pieces? The world of celebrities and entertainment has seemed to become more of a common feature within news outlets, not to mention a concern for many journalism and communication focused people. This has brought about many questions that mainly come down to the inquiry of why entertainment has been published as news.

News, defined as the presentation (to the public) of important current issues and happenings, has been evolving to fit a new audience, one that seems to be reinterpreting the idea and possibly value of journalism.

Within Robert McChesney’s book, The Political Economy of Media: enduring issues, emerging dilemmas, he states that the faults or defects within the news system existence primarily because of the for-profit mind-set. By providing the public with entertainment, they will gain readership and in turn stay afloat financially. However, while discussing this topic with my media issues group, there was one point that stood out.

Although the media is slightly straying from their traditional mission of providing the public with what we need to know, they are not the only ones to blame for the substitute of hard-hitting and investigative news with entertainment. To carry some of this burden of blame is actually today’s audience that has become the driving force behind the appearance of celebrity-centered articles outside of the entertainment sections.

Why does the public demand such coverage? Patrick Butler of the Collegiate Times asks the same question and determined that a 24 hour and 7 day a week schedule has actually diluted the news by trying to fill spaces with less substantial stories. He also claimed that money talks, which helped to form stations that try to give us what we want to hear above anything else.

I do feel that as consumers for this industry, we have found that entertainment is just more fun in comparison to the more realistic, complex and sometimes horrifying news that is presented to us today. I mean who wouldn’t want to view something entertaining or happy rather than depressing? At the same time, we’ve got to know that this preference is affecting the coverage of news and the younger part of our generation that may not fully be able to establish what is actually news. In case you were wondering…celebrities in headlines such as “Brad Pitt Trims his Beard” in my opinion is not news.

Although the solution to this issue has not fully been found, I wonder if there is a possibility of just making the news more interesting or packaging it in a more entertaining fashion to keep the audience both entertained and informed.

We’ve seen Jon Stewart and his Comedy Central program, The Daily Show, gaining quite a following due to a more sarcastic and intellectual twist on current events, so maybe this is something to take note of. Instead of celebrities becoming headlining news, let’s just repackage the facts so they are presented differently. It’s worth a try, I think.