prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for February, 2011

Digital Detox

Posted by prof e on February 28, 2011

I’ve been assigning a “media fast” for several years now as part of the Media & Society curriculum. The assignment provides an opportunity for students to see just how much their lives revolve around mass media, especially electronic media that provides an appearance of being both omni-present and omnipotent. In the past several years, the idea has found more and more proponents and more and more calls urging us to unplug, log-off, and catch our breath.

The National Day of Unplugging is one such effort. With distinctly Jewish overtones, the Sabbath Manifesto website encourages people to, “reclaim time, slow down their lives and reconnect with friends, family, the community and themselves” from “Sundown, Friday, March 4 to Sundown, Saturday, March 5.” You can find their 10 principles here, and their YouTube channel here.

Here’s a video short that also encourages people to take a break from their media-saturated lifestyles.

How about it? Are you ready to go cold turkey?

Posted in media effects | 51 Comments »

Academy Award Apps

Posted by prof e on February 23, 2011

Many people engage in simultaneous media use…often a laptop or smart phone while watching TV. If you’re one of them…and you’re planning to watch the Academy Awards show this Sunday evening on ABC…this may be just what you need to occupy your attention during those boring acceptance speeches.

According to USA Today,  apps for iPhones, iPads, Android and Blackberry devices are available offering a wide range of features.

For example, the Oscar Backstage Pass is, according to their promotional copy, the coolest thing since…well, the vuvuzela app from last summer’s world cup!

Get the ultimate insider’s view of Hollywood’s biggest night with Oscar Backstage Pass! The Oscar Backstage Pass app is the perfect companion app to have when you are watching the 83rd Academy Awards® on February 27th. You’ll get access to live streams from exclusive cameras placed throughout the Red Carpet, the Kodak Theatre and the Governors Ball so you can go beyond the tv broadcast and watch more live Oscar action as it’s taking place. With Oscar Backstage Pass you get more stars, more glamour, more of everything you love about the Oscars®!

To get the Oscar Backstage Pass for only $.99, visit the iTunes app store.

More coverage from the NYTimes.

Posted in film, interactive media, new media | 23 Comments »

Climate Change Getting the Cold Shoulder

Posted by prof e on February 13, 2011

Early last year I wrote about the PR problem facing the global warming community. As I noted then, public interest in efforts to address global warming has fallen dramatically from earlier times when Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth was perceived as, well, truth.

Much has changed since then, including a global recession that has taken the edge off of long-term efforts to avert possible or probable ecological disaster. Ask an out-of-work environmentalists about climate change and you may find that he is much more focused on finding a short-term solution to his economic hardship.

Another setback for the movement was the “climategate” scandal in which stolen emails suggested that climate scientists were hiding contrary data in an attempt to prop up their theories. This fall from grace was too much for some climate-change supporters who jumped ship and joined the ranks of skeptics.

Thirdly, the fact that Europe and the US have experienced a colder-than-normal winter with record snowfalls in the mid-west and east coast hasn’t exactly helped the climate change cause.

In light of the set-backs, those who want to keep climate change front and center are struggling to promote their cause.  A recent article in Der Spiegel highlights the failure of climate change advocates to find a compelling visual or spokesperson to make their case. And without a compelling hook, the climate change story has moved off the front page. (That’s a newspaper metaphor for those of you under the age of 45 who don’t read newspapers.) To try to get the story back in the limelight, climate change evangelists are resorting to marketing tricks like those mentioned in the Der Spiegel piece.

Things may change…actually, they always do. Perhaps they’ll find a compelling narrative that renews interest and concern on the part of the public. But for now, the climate change story is a hard sell to a jaded public that is significantly more interested in short term comfort and the latest tabloid gossip than a far-off environmental nightmare that may, or may not, be headed our way.

Posted in advertising, journalism, politics, PR | 26 Comments »

Radical Transparency in the Internet Age

Posted by prof e on February 5, 2011

When it comes to managing your online identity you typically find yourself caught between the two extremes of full transparency and complete control of your image (which, BTW, is only possible by avoiding all online interaction). You may know some Facebook and Twitter users who fit into that first category. They post updates about every hiccup,  paper cut, and causal encounter with photo and video documentation for good measure.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, argues that “you have one identity.” What he means is that internet-enabled transparency makes maintaining more than one identity difficult at best and impossible for most. So if you accept his premise that you really have only one identity, the next decision you’ll have to make is how to manage that one identity to ensure that your multi-faceted personality is both appropriately presented but not inappropriately exposed? Whose going to be in control of our digital identity, if not us?

Even if we are limited to one identity online, we have ways to manage that identity so that we can provide some separation between personal and professional roles. We all manage our presentation of self in “real life” based on contextual cues. For example, manners are simply the managing of our behavior and speech to reflect socially accepted norms for treating others with respect and dignity. Our language changes when we move from a close circle of friends to family to professional contacts. We’re constantly adjusting how we present ourselves depending on the social situation, and people who are unable or unwilling to do this are seen as rude, ill-mannered or socially inept. In a similar way, your profile on Facebook may have a very different tone from the one that you keep on LinkedIn. However, the problem here is that public access to both profiles may be possible depending on your privacy settings. An acquaintance may make the transition from friend to professional colleague, or in the other direction, and thus have ready access to both profiles. This may or may not present a problem…my point is simply that managing distinct identities becomes cumbersome or impossible.

Add to that new services or updates that constantly change the ground rules. Facebook has had a string of problems with privacy protection. The launch of News Feed in 2006, Beacon in 2007 and privacy setting changes in 2009 are just some of the examples of Facebook policies that led to user rebellion. Facebook’s own privacy policy makes it clear that personal data “may become publicly available” and may be “viewed by unauthorized persons.” According to David Kirkpatrick, writing in The Facebook Effect, a poll of US companies found that 35% of them had rejected applicants because of information found on social networks. This was not information hacked from the sites, but rather personal information that the applicant had posted without consideration of who might be in the online audience. Facebook itself admits that only about 25% of users actively use the privacy controls.

Walking the fine line that is personal privacy, many make the mistake that they can control their digital footprint. As your digital footprint grows, and as computers “scrape” your online behavior and link it to other databases, managing your exposure becomes increasingly complex. Simply remembering all of the intricacies and complexities of your multiple profiles becomes unmanageable. And if you employ deception, the task is even more difficult. You’ve heard it said lies beget lies. In other words, we often have to tell a lie to cover up another lie, and the web of deception becomes increasingly complex and difficult to maintain. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.”

So it is with your digital footprint. The more data you surrender willingly, and unwillingly, to marketers and social media, the more more vulnerable you become to their schemes. Do you trust Google, Facebook and Yahoo! to protect your interests? And if not, what steps are you taking to ensure that your identity is safe?

For more information about online privacy visit the EPIC: Electronic Privacy Information Center website.

Posted in interactive media, media effects, new media, social media | 27 Comments »