prof. e.

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

Archive for July, 2014

Virtual Tragedy

Posted by prof e on July 29, 2014

The growth of online gaming and virtual reality technology has exploded around the world, but perhaps nowhere more dramatically than in the nation of South Korea. With some of the fastest internet connectivity and a cultural tendency towards all things high-tech, Koreans are experiencing internet addiction at unusually high rates.

Case in point is the tragic story of a young couple who allowed their infant daughter to starve to death while they played an online game in which they raised a virtual child. The irony is striking. Last night HBO aired a documentary, Love Child, which told the tragic story as a cautionary tale to those who are too easily distracted by virtual worlds. Here’s the trailer.

The parents were charged with a lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter because of the nature of their “addiction” and the father served one year in jail. They’ve since had another baby and we can only hope that this outcome will be different.

While this is an extreme example of internet addiction and its horrific outcome, milder forms of the ailment may be present closer to home. If you’re wondering if you suffer from net addiction, you can take this self-guided quiz.



Posted in global media, interactive media, media effects, new media, social media, videogames | 2 Comments »

Cutting the Cord

Posted by prof e on July 22, 2014

antennaHigh price of cable or satellite TV got you down? Not a fan of their customer service? Looking for a cheaper way to access your favorite TV shows and sporting events? Never fear…cord cutting is getting easier every day, and you don’t have to be a computer geek to pull it off. I’m not going to explain the details of what ‘s involved, there are plenty of sites that do that. Here are a few links: WSJ How To,  WSJ MarketWatchWSJ Q&A, Digital Trends, Reddit, and Gizmodo. And for those unsure of the difference between a streaming box, (e.g. Apple TV or Roku) and a Chromecast stick, see dealnews.

The availability of Over The Air (OTA) TV reception using good old rabbit ears or an outdoor antenna may also be an option. Modern TV antennas don’t look like your grandfather’s TV antenna and they are designed to receive digital TV signals. Many of those born after 1980 have never known anything besides cable or satellite TV so the idea of an antenna sounds pretty old-school. But for access to HD TV for only a small upfront investment and no monthly bills, it may be just what you’re looking for. The picture is of an outdoor antenna designed for digital TV reception. And if all you need is ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, FOX, Telemundo, and CW (along with their subchannels), and are willing to put up with the usual TV ads, you’re all set.

To be fair, there are a number of half-truths swirling around the free-TV ether. Lifehacker has assembled the most common myths that you should take into account before you pull out the scissors.

Posted in media industry, tv | Leave a Comment »

Facebook’s Social Experiment

Posted by prof e on July 6, 2014

BigBroYou may have heard by now that Facebook cooperated with researchers from two universities to study emotional contagion. The question that they wanted to answer was, does the emotional tone of others’ posts on your Facebook wall affect the tone of your posts? To find the answer they conducted an experiment…on nearly 700,000 Facebook users. The methodology was fairly straightforward; they began by using software to analyze posts in order to categorize them as either negative or positive. Then, they manipulated which posts were more likely to show up on the wall of certain Facebook users. By analyzing those users’ posts they were able to determine if they became more positive or negative as a result. Sounds like an interesting experiment for those of us interested in social science and the effect that mediated interactions may have on our personal disposition or behavior.

Here’s an excerpt from the abstract:

Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. [snip] In an experiment with people who use Facebook, we test whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.

Unfortunately for Facebook, this little experiment (conducted in 2012 and published last month) will likely become a PR case study of what NOT to do to your social media subscribers. The issue here is one of “informed consent.” In a nutshell that means that human participants in any study must be given sufficient information about the potential risk/harm/benefits of a study before being asked to give their consent to participate. Only after giving consent are human participants subjected to the experimental procedures. In this case the researchers said that Facebook users had already given consent for their data to be used by Facebook in a variety of ways–including research. Facebook’s TOS (Terms of Service) do make reference to using users’ data for research purposes, but according to some sources that clause was added AFTER the experiment was conducted.

While all the negative attention is certainly a problem for Facebook, it is noteworthy that this little scandal has drawn attention to a much larger issue with much more sinister implications. Social media users need to be aware that their data are being used for a variety of purposes…the most obvious being marketing, advertising, and research. Personal privacy is but a mirage and signing up for any of these services constitutes selling oneself on the open market. I hate to be too pessimistic, but short of complete disconnection any hope of control of one’s digital destiny is mere wishful thinking.

You can read the study at


Posted in interactive media, media effects, new media, PR, research, social media | 3 Comments »