Posts Tagged ‘news’

Ready Player One

April 30, 2014 Leave a comment

In this 2013 podcast, Douglas Rushkoff makes a poignant observation on how media companies curate content and present stories. He suggests that “comic relief” stories are presented to maintain a “cultural wave” of interest. He suggests that sad stories like natural disasters or other mass casualty events create a need for lighter fare. Do we follow plane crash stories with the comments of racist farmer avoiding taxes? Might a secret recording of a racist NBA team owner satiate a public drained from foreign diplomacy or missing boats?

Rushkoff suggests there is a “cultural wave” of attention that must be contained. The visual suggested is a mass of moving water that the media stirs and quells to maintain power. Maintain the water’s height and our attention is kept piqued. Bore us and the water falls and the ocean wave is smooth as silk: peaceful yes, but a bored public is a public not interested in viewing. For the media company to maintain our attention we must be engaged: emotion is attention.

This seems to suggest our society can be unified by media. Do we unite in sharing the news? How do news stories function to create a sense of shared suffering and experience. Though only a select group of people directly experienced the Boston Marathon bombings, millions of others watched the video, considered media analysis and worked to track down suspects.

Rushkoff is a keen observer of the media and our relationship with it. He urges us to be “less consumers” and more educated users of technology. He argues that we must recognize the utility of technology and steer clear of hazardous uses. His sense of consumer use of technology is one in which the user acts as brainless cog in the machine. One wonders how these skills will be developed in future generations. As newer generations use technology their relationship with these plastic tools will be very different from generations of the past. Might we worry less in the future when less experienced users of technology are fewer?

No matter our experience, one’s list of essential skills for an educated citizen has to include digital literacy. In a world where technology plays a major role in daily life it is essential that each user understands a healthy way of using tech and the significant implications that arise with every keystroke. Though the media works to keep us interested, we are individuals with choices. To understand the system is to be an intelligent user. True power is the ability to both see the games at play and make a considered choice: Do I want to play their game or is something better out there?

Old Forms/ New Forms

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Events in Egypt show us the dichotomy at play with technology and society. Historically, regimes have been the gatekeepers of communication in a society. Access to communication networks came at the expense of companies within a society; however, the government which oversaw the network or which utilized regulatory bodies to control a market had the largest amount of control. Again, Tim Wu’s The Master Switch is a great resource for this relationship.

Globalization created a global internet and lead to the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt. The internet did not cause these revolutions; instead, they broke down walls that have historically limited interested but small revolutionary factions. Social networking has played a unique role in the Egyptian revolution by functioning as a connection platform for multiple small groups. Often a revolution is driven by a sole source whose ideological foundation is implemented and used to carry through the change in power. This isn’t taking place in Egypt, it seems that multiple groups are coming together to change the leadership. Perhaps in cases where popularity is so low or the levels of abuse are so high the coordination of disparate elements becomes more likely.

There is much to learn from the events in Egypt. A technology focused reflection suggests that governments have yet to mesh with a connected society. Slow to respond and often fragmented in message, even the United States has shown a level of slow-handedness in the affair. 24/7 media have been quick to seek out perspectives and leaders have been off-message or off-key in multiple situations. Note the moment on Friday when Secretary of State Clinton, President Obama and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs presented three different outcomes. A connected environment greatly reduces or perhaps even eliminates the planning time governments have had in the past. There are no hours to consider the right message- when the media needs a sound byte it will find it. Real time news leaves little real reflection.

All major events can be viewed as “teachable moments”, to borrow a phrase from President Obama’s rhetoric, and this is not an exception. Coupled with the Wikileaks fiasco, we learn from the Egypt revolution that an informed population exists beyond government control. Disparate figures are better skilled at using modern communication networks and actively seek out (and find) holes in government networks. Governments need to accept the fact that the population has the ability to amalgamate rapidly and possess a cadre of tools to assist and expand at levels beyond historical models.

The old forms of government will either fall Egyptian style or evolve through a process of implementation. There is no room for dictators in the modern era. The internet eliminates the ability for a leader to act as gate keeper to knowledge. The modern network creates a system of universal access wherein the entire planet can focus and provide support to a population of victims. Too often we view globalization in terms of economic perspectives. Beyond the financial implications we see a drastic expansion of human rights concerns and a growing perspective of a collective human species. When Egyptians lost internet connectivity there was a slew of concerned citizens who tweeted alternative DNS connections and 56k dialup numbers. The world saw a crime being committed and responded with ease.

The old forms of government are quickly seeing a transformation via modern technology. The new form of government is one with recognition of its connected population. The new model of government recognizes a population of highly aware and highly skilled citizens whose ability to work together towards a common goal to be far simpler than in the past. In order to fulfill the roles of representation and the maintenance of society, these new governments should strengthen the now crucial social bonds and integrate the machinery of government in the network. A connected population will only support a government that works together. Representation begins with connection and the connected world is now online.

Manifest Unreality: The Media and Fake Truth

January 9, 2011 Leave a comment

As a virtual perspective into reality, our media functions as a device to contextualize the events and people in our world. For some, the media is the only lens: it is the sole source of exposure to everything beyond one’s current location. Some benefit from a less limited lens on the world and utilize the media as a view to foreign lands and leaders or to the diverse collection of opinions the form provides. There is a power beyond this lens though.

As Tim Wu’s The Master Switch argues the lines of communication are a critical public good. His text argues for a need for greater understanding of the figures who control these lines, referencing a one-time power player’s term “the master switch” to reflect the power that our media often devolves into. The media is power and those who possess its capabilities are presented with multiple responsibilities and powers. Add a business model to these responsibilities and principles are easily disregarded, add an advertising industry and kiss goodbye the possibility of a rational consideration of sober versus attention-grabbing coverage. Advertising expects attention, it craves more minds, more eyes and functions in a world where millions of possible viewers hover in the ether. Compete they must or risk death by failure or dismissal by lacking effort.

We see the actions of this “attention grab” when major media stories break. Note the distinction here: there are major events and then there are major media events, moments that possess significance on their own but when delivered via the media take on an added importance as interpretation twists the story as the media player needs. Added distortion comes from the system of multiple players. Each station interprets the story differently (one must place a unique perspective after all) and then each, in turn, interpret these interpretations and aggregate, adjust and recast interpretations multiple times. In such a system each minute means the lens of perception has been distorted once again. When the media touches a story the story is never the same and forever made unreal.

In The Waste Land, TS Eliot referred to London as an “unreal city,” are we not living in a world where the unreal city’s media has extended the lack of reality to its truth? Unreal city, I loathe your unreal stories.

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