Posts Tagged ‘Social media’

We have already established that traditional journalism is in a rut, but what can we do about it? I recently saw a clip on YouTube where David Carr from the New York Times and Andy Lack from Bloomberg Media discusses the future of Journalism, but I must admit that as I was listening to them I did not hear anything that I haven’t heard before, nothing revolutionary. They posed questions like ‘how should Journalism be created and distributed in the future?’ and ‘what are the new business-model and how does the changing economic look like?’, they confirmed that the old model of journalism is gone and that the making and distribution of media need to change, that the bag of resources journalists have today is huge compared to before, and also that digital media and traditional journalism is in a state of convergence, but there were no ideas or thoughts that steered us in the direction of what the answer to this might be. On top of this, when Tom Fiedler (Boston University) mentions that ‘Journalism education today is an escalator to no-where’ and that young people’s attention-span might be shorter than before they shake their heads in concert and refuses to see it as a problem. I am more than happy for them to be right, but there needs to be reasoning for it.

On the other hand, Tom Rosenstiel delivers a very interesting TedTalk on the future of Journalism. He explains that news is still on demand, but the audience is demanding when to get them, where to get them and what it should be about compared to adjusting their day according to the 6 o’clock news. He therefore says that news stories today must be presented differently and he points to a very interesting way of thinking; the new model of journalism must study its audience and their devices. People have all sorts of toys today; tablets, mobile-phones and laptops, but we use them at different times and we use them for different things. I found it very useful what Rosenstiel said about people often waking up in the morning and checking their smartphones in bed, then perhaps changing to their tablets at the breakfast table (whatever happened to socializing..), opening their laptops on their way to work and possibly using a stationary computer at work. Understanding this and understanding what content which gadget is good for is helpful in understanding how Journalism can serve the audience best.

Reference:

bu, 2014, NYT’s David Carr on the Future of Journalism, 6 March, YouTube, viewed 16 April 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPlazqH0TdA

TedxTalks 2013, The Future of Journalism: Tom Rosenstiel at TEDxAtlanta, YouTube, 28 May, viewed 16 April 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuBE_dP900Y

Here are some comments that I made to other people that reflected on the same two videos:

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The Arab Spring was revolutionary in one way or another. The question being debated is; what role did social media play in the revolution? Social media is relatively new to us, and therefore I think that none of us are educated or experienced enough to know what it will come to mean to us yet. We have no history or similar technology to compare it with, and so we are not in the position to give any scientific or academic views on the matter. We are “guinea-pigs”, creating history and experience for the next generation’s academics.

When looking at it from this perspective, social media’s role in the Arab Spring becomes impossible to define just yet. It feels like jumping to conclusions without having the evidence. It becomes a discussion between cyber-utopians and those critical to the power of the Internet.

The Internet has come to be our new public sphere. It is a space in which everyone is welcome to participate, and so it may facilitate a perfect place for political debate. During the Arab Spring I believe that social media became a major hub for exactly that. People who had been suppressed for a long time finally found a way to communicate with each other as well as across borders. There is no doubt that social media made is possible for peripheries to make a central (Mitew 2012).

I think we need to ask another question; what would have happened if social media networks did not exist? Would we then have witnessed the Arab Spring? I think that if the Tunisians were not able to share videos, tweets, pictures and blogs in real time, it would not have spread to Egypt, Algeria and other North African countries in the same way, at least not in the same pace. The communication between and within the different countries became a trigger for the different protests. The anger and desperation have been present for a long time, but I think communication through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sparked cooperation, comfort, support and information. Social media networks presented to them a new possibility and potential to be heard.

So I believe that social media played a big part in the Arab Spring. Why else would the Egyptian government censor the Internet? Individuals like Wael Ghonim and Asmaa Mahfouz exploited the potential of social media at its best. Using it as a tool for information sharing they managed to create awareness of the situation worldwide.

The Internet is indeed a political space, but we have still much to learn about its potential. The Arab Spring leaves us one experience richer for further knowledge.

 

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, #mena #arabspring, the social network revolutions, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 8 October.

Introduction

Convergence is defined by Henry Jenkins (2006) as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences.” The ongoing process of convergence is creating a more participatory society for the user by changing the dynamics of media technologies and opens up for new business-models for the industries, like it did with the idea of Transmedia. New technologies enable us to take pictures, record sounds, write and film, and because of the Internet we also have the opportunity to upload, download, remix and share content that are already flowing online. We have become more like “prosumers” (Mitew 2012) instead of consumers.

The audiences’ future is looking bright, but convergence also carries negative baggage. With these new technologies we have started to act as we please online, and thus a fight for survival between audiences and industries has emerged. In this essay I argue that convergence has affected the audiences’ use of technologies and respect for copyrights, the audiences’ choice of technologies, and the emergence of censorship due to the audiences’ use of new technologies. I will use Flickr as an example of technology throughout the essay.

Copyrights

The Internet and our new media platforms enable us to create mash-ups and remixes of the content online, and currently we are actively taking advantage of this. At the same time the copyright rules we have today are very strict, and because of our increasing level of participation the Media Industry keep lobbying for even stricter laws. Many users are frustrated with the copyright regulations, because the things that they create are removed from the web and sometimes the user even gets sued, but we should not forget that copyrights are a necessity and that they are made to protect our intellectual properties as well from being used as others.

We should think twice about using copyrighted material and give the industry another reason to fight for their content, instead we should embrace the solutions that are already out there. Maybe the media industry softens as time goes by, and realises that we are only using their work for new ideas and creativity. It is actually interesting to see how some users complain on copyrights, but still their own work is guarded and cannot be shared or copied.

Trey Ratcliff (2012) says “a pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world.” If we want to use other peoples’ content to create new material, we need to allow other people to borrow our content as well. By committing to Creative Commons (2012) anyone can use your content as long as they acknowledge you and ask for permission if it is for commercial purposes.

The photo sharing site Flickr has enabled Creative Commons licenses (Flickr 2012) for a long time and it shows how sharing and attribution can be practised. You can choose which images you want to keep as private and which ones you want to share with the public, this way you provide images and videos for other people to use freely. With an open sharing ideology your content can travel all over the world via other peoples’ blogs, newspapers and online albums, and can even result in actual revenue! Although there will always exist thieves we must believe that most people are honest and willing to pay for the work of others, and most importantly this must start with ourselves and our own ideologies.

Generative platforms

A media platform today is expected by the user to grant us constant and immediate access to the world. It must enable us to multitask, and provide a place where everything can be produced, stored and shared. If a media platform cannot follow up on all of these “minimums”, it will be replaced by a more innovative technology. These technologies have “become interfaces to the flow of content” (Mitew 2012) that comes with convergence.

What I think few people realise is that we should choose wisely when we decide which platform to use for participation. There are several industries that fight to regains control of both users and content, and thus construct the platforms to do so. Facebook and Apple are both examples of media platforms that are locked appliances. Everything you post on Facebook are owned by Facebook, and by using it you agree to give them the rights to distribute “your” content as they wish. Apple provide a “walled garden” (Mitew 2012) for its users, a garden where Apple has already decided which applications you are allowed to use, and it is not possible to explore anything else.

I believe that in an era where we are fighting for Internet freedom and milder copyright laws, we should we be aware of ideologies where the Industry controls everything we can and cannot do. There are other media platforms which operate in freer environments, where the users own their own material and are even welcome to explore and improve the operation systems. In a Top Ten (2012) review of Flickr it was said that Flickr “want to get photos and video into and out of the system in as many ways as [they] can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home computers and from whatever software [the users] are using to manage their content.” In addition to this, Flickr also invite users to construct their own applications via their Application Programming Interface (API) (Flickr 2012).

I believe that by choosing a media platform or technology which is open and generative, we build an environment for ourselves where the flow of content between us and our media platforms flow freely.

Censorship

We are “the people formerly known as the audience” (Jay Rosen 2006), and with our media technologies and platforms today we now have the ability to use these technologies to freely express our opinions and share our knowledge with the world, it is the closest we have ever been to democracy. Social media platforms are increasingly popular in our daily lives; even the industries are finding new and innovative ways to implement these platforms into their businesses. For advertisers sites like Facebook act like a buffet of what is popular and what is not (Li 2012), some newspapers welcomes citizen journalism through to their news via blogs, images and videos (CNN-IBN 2012), politically Twitter has been used efficiently to organize demonstrations in the world and lately news have travelled faster via social media sites than anything else.

As it get more difficult for the media conglomerates to maintain control, they now try to lobby our Governments for a more definite form of control; censorship. Bills like the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (CISPA)keep sneaking up on us, claiming that they are there to protect against online theft, but the intended result is to set us back as pure consumers by gradually blocking social media sites which will be blamed for hosting infringing links.

Our new media technologies and platforms can be used for creative purposes, but now more than ever we must remember what they are fundamentally constructed to do; spread messages. Several social media sites have demonstrated against these bills, Flickr for instance, was part of the campaign where they blackened, or censored, a lot of the pictures online to demonstrate what SOPA would look like. So far, the Internet and its users have won the battles, but given the different interests between the media conglomerates who wants to be the sole producers, and us who wants to participate, the war is far from over.

Conclusion

Flickr is a photo sharing site which enables its users to share “objects, knowledge and resources” (Weiss 2005). It was one of the first websites constructed to function in the web2.0 era, and for a very long time it was a revolutionary website. As a member on Flickr you create a profile, you connect with friends and people you choose to follow and you can comment on your own as well as other images. Flickr is a brilliant host for pictures; it is perfect for sharing and having your images discovered, but lately the photo sharing site seem to suffer by a lack of innovation (Dimech 2012). As the ongoing process of convergence continues, we are constantly presented to new technologies and innovations, and the contest is hard between the components. The one which is the most user-friendly and up to date wins the audience. I find it ignorant to choose a media platform or media technology solely on its design and functions, when there are many other important things that should be considered: Are you the owner of your own content? Are you allowed outside of the “walls” of your technology? Is your media platform supporting CISPA? Sites like Flickr, supports our freedom as users and that ought to be a strong argument for choosing it.

We are surrounded by news 24 hours a day and it is impossible to pay attention to all of it. Most of us skim through the highlights and are informed of what goes on in the world, but seldom do we pay enough attention to each story to discover what happens to it in the media. I have, for the last three months, paid very much attention to the KONY2012 issue and how it has been presented in the media. Not only did I follow the issue but I reflected upon concepts related to the media; like manipulation, the public sphere and semiotics. This post is about what I discovered in relation to that.

The media is important to us, it is our public sphere, and it is where we share, receive and discuss information about the world and what concerns us. Unfortunately the media fails in many ways as a public sphere as information gets distorted in a swirl of bias, lies, facts and opinions. There are so many news broadcasters in the world today and they all filter the news to suit a specific audience. By tailoring the news according to their local audiences’ interests, many different views of one case are told to different people.

In the KONY2012 debate this was very clear. The western audiences have a certain interest in economy and power and so the western media reported on money, facts and the intentions of The Invisible Children. On the other hand, media broadcasters with a different target market, like Al Jazeera who wants to be “a voice of the voiceless”, talked about the Ugandan people, justice, empathy and real experiences. It took over a week before these important views were presented to us. My blogpost “Filtered News” goes more in depth on this.

Of course, social media is now also a big part of our public sphere, and here we have an opportunity for a more democratic sphere, but we also face the problem of a greater digital divide.

In addition to this, manipulation is a keyword within mainstream media. The Invisible Children, either if you think it was exploitive or genius, knew who they were targeting and that is why their video was so successful. Given that they planned to release the video online they knew their biggest audience would be teenagers, and this is why they made a video and not a streamed lecture. Other noticeable tactics were the simplifying of a complex issue, starring of young people and children as key-figures. Playing on emotions and empathy was a clear strategy of The Invisible Children.

While I am on the topic of manipulation I want to bring up George Gerbner and his cultivation theory. He argued that the media, in the long-term, lead people to believe the social reality portrayed by the media, also called “the mean world syndrome”. When Jason Russell had his public breakdown, mainstream media decorated their headlines with words like “public masturbation”, “running naked in streets” and “car wrecking” leading everyone to adopt this point of view, hashtages like #BONY2012 was all over Twitter short after. It goes to show how much influence the media can have on us.

Probably the most interesting part of the KONY issue for me was the relevance it had to semiotics. This is a complex concept, but basically it is about the reading of images and how we interpret them differently due to ideologies and experiences of the world. In KONY2012 there was an American organization which told the story of a long and complex issue in Africa to the whole world by the use of videos, pictures and text. Depending on where in the world we are from, we carry different histories and different experiences and therefore we view the world in different ways, our understanding of one story will be very diverse from others. While I saw The Invisible Children as a caring and thoughtful group who wanted to help, the Ugandan people reacted with disgust and felt the Americans were victimizing their race.

When we are dealing with global issues we should take notice of where other people come from and their history to gain a better understanding of their opinions. I think we often take for granted that everyone else should “see what we see”, we very often miss to see the reasons for other peoples actions because of this attitude.

Also other topics like moral panic and causes and effects are helpful when analysing new headlines. Our public sphere has become a complex space of ideas and information, and we must become active listeners to get the information right. News-reading changes with these concepts in mind, and can help us think before we act.

When you think about the internet, and especially social media, it is really perfectly made for women. Relationships, cooperation and communication are qualities that are almost implemented in women’s nature so one would think that the web could be a woman’s playground. In some cases it really is, like Pinterest, where 97% of the users are female! Despite this point, there has been an ongoing discussion about women’s place in the virtual sphere. Where are the women in the online decision making roles?

Today I was asked to mention as many influential online male persons that I could think of and several names came to mind; Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Sergei Brin and Larry Page (Google), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) and Julian Assange (Wikileaks). Just after that I was asked the same question again, but this time I was to think of female influential persons, and honestly, I could not think of a single name. There is a clear online gender gap today, but personally I choose to look at it more positively. We have a long history of women fighting for equality, and there are still reasons to debate, but I will say that women have had great success as well. The situation for women in the corporate world is strengthen and is still getting stronger. Gradually there is a change in people’s perceptions and ideologies of “the woman at work”, this is just something that does not happen overnight. It takes time, but I believe that in the future we will see several influential women competing with the men online. I believe that in 2012, women and men stand equally in their choice of education, I think that, in addition to the above, it is a matter of interest that men choose computer science, technology and engineering more often than women do.

But in connection to gender online there is a greater concern to me. Several female media personalities like Miriam O’Reilly and Nina Power, Karalee Evans and Melissa McEwan have lately taken a stand and expressed their frustration regarding misogyny online. As unbelievable as it may sound in our era, there are actually a few men out there who do not think that women should have a say in the world, they have a hate and a dislike of women. They express this by commenting on women’s blogs and other online platforms in a disgusting manner. The comments serve an attitude that bias to undervalue women. Their goal is to threaten women to silence, and in many cases the threats are violent and sexually violent.

A problem with an online world is that people can appear anonymous, this also an invite to an open domain where everyone can freely express themselves, but how open should it really be? We would not approve for misogyny to occur in the real world, so we should not approve for it online. Several women have closed their accounts in fear, some have chosen to remove the option of public commenting on their posts and others are moderating and filtering the comments. This is not right! What happened to the space which we talk of as the closest we have been to democracy?

Being a firm believer of user generated content I will again pt my trust in self-regulation. We have to remember that it is only a few men in the world who share these attitudes, the majority of both men and women would go against that kind of behavior, voting their comments down and away. Maybe if we considered having an even more open domain, where users are able to vote comments up and down, and even like and dislike them, these comments would end up in the bottom of the comment-thread, giving them no attention and displaying them as the least interesting comments. Although the comments may still occur, the self-regulation system would in itself act as online gatekeeper and diminish the credibility of the threats.

I love convergence! How can I not, I mean, convergence is bringing so many new and exciting opportunities to the world. According to Henry Jenkins, convergence changes the use of technology, influences our cultural and global interactions and understandings, shapes new ways for industries and potential economies and even changes the way we act socially! Convergence enhances hybridity and globalization, and a participatory culture which looks like it can be the closest we have ever been to democracy.

It sounds very promising. But is it all good? There are many issues one could choose to discuss for this question, and today I have chosen to write about social convergence and citizen journalism. At this very moment I am writing a post in my very own blog, the blog is public and there are no filters or code of ethics which controls what I choose to publicize. If I have something to add to the news today, I can, and if someone wants to read it, they can. Social convergence is making multitasking very easy and gives us the opportunity to get information and news from several places almost at the same time.

Back in the days Walter Cronkite used to finish his news with his own signature-line: “That’s the way it is”. Being a highly trusted broadcast-journalist this was his way of telling his audience that “this is what the news is today”, and it probably was. But as time has gone by, I believe that we have been met with several incidents that have made us not trust mainstream media as much as before. Politicians being corrupt, ownership of media giving us unbalanced and biased packages of news, I think these things made us embrace social convergence even more. Instead of putting our trust in mainstream media, we now put our trust in collective intelligence.

The negative side of us being able to produce news and share it to the public without being actual journalists is of course that there appears a lot of information on the web which are not true; it is hard to filter what is correct and what is not. There are no code of ethics, like journalists strive to write by and I believe that we need this code of ethic. Henry Jenkins talks about “civic media” instead of “citizen journalism”. He says:

“Civic media, as I use the term, refers to any use of any medium which fosters or enhances civic engagement. I intend this definition to be as broad and inclusive as possible. Civic media includes but extends well beyond the concept of citizen journalism which is so much in fashion at the moment.”

The use of any medium which fosters civic engagement. That means us, as well as mainstream media, and talk-shows, and TV-shows, and politicians and everything that spreads information. Instead of “being at war” with mainstream media, thinking that it controls all information, we should seeze the opportunity and cooperate. Citizen journalism might give us an opportunity to express ourselves, but what are the chances for us reaching a world-wide audience? Cooperation might lobby our stories more than we can do ourselves. Marcus O’Donnell, subject coordinator of journalism at the University of Wollongong, suggested that having news being told to us, as well as being given a space to participate, might be as democratic as it can be. I would have to say that I agree.

Reference:

O’Donnell, M 2012, Citizen Journalism, audio recording of lecture, BCM112 Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 30 April.