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Archive for November, 2014

Uber’s Image Problem

Posted by prof e on November 29, 2014

UberPerhaps you’ve heard of Uber, the smartphone-enabled ride-sharing alternative to traditional taxis. Uber, along with Lyft and Sidecar, work on the premise that a person with a car can offer a service to someone who need a ride, and make a few bucks in the process for both the driver and the company. Now that most everyone has a smartphone–and with real-time location services knowing your every move–connecting drivers and riders is really pretty simple.

But Uber, like the other start-ups, has a few natural enemies. Taxi cab companies don’t like having their business syphoned off by competitors who are not licensed and have little to no overhead.

But it is Uber’s CEO and a senior VP who may become the company’s greatest liability. CEO Travis Kalanick, whose aggressive leadership has been credited with the quick rise of the company, has ruffled more than a few feathers with his aggressive business practices. Uber has been accused of violating its own privacy policy and tracking users for suspect reasons. (You can read more about that on the ACLU blog.) And recently, Uber VP Emil Michael has suggested that Uber should investigate journalists who have been investigating Uber.

Specifically Michael targeted Sarah Lacy, co-editor of the Pando Daily website. Lacy has been critical of Uber’s treatment of women and has been leading the call for Uber to clean up its act. And for that, according to The Tech Bulletin, “A top executive of Uber explained a Nixonian plan to dig up dirt on the journalists who are critical towards Uber and sully their reputations.”

One doesn’t have to be a PR pro to see that this is not a smart move by Uber. Picking a fight with journalists is seldom a good idea. As Bill Greener, press aide to Gerald Ford and Donald Rumsfeld in the 1970’s once said, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel” (Lewis).

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Posted in advertising, interactive media, journalism, new media, PR, regulation, social media | 7 Comments »

#GamerGate

Posted by prof e on November 3, 2014

Over at Vox, Ezra Klein has written an interesting, 25-paragraph essay Gamergate and the Politicization of Absolutely Everything. For those who have not been introduced to the raging debate swirling around the video game industry, gamergate is a controversy that touches on many of the media topics and themes that we’ve been addressing this semester: media effects and concerns related to sexual and violent content, politically incorrect stereotypes, censorship, and journalistic ethics just to name a few. Here’s Gawker‘s attempt to explain what all the fuss is about. Want more?  Here’s a great article by Erik Kain at Forbes.

Klein’s thesis is premised on the idea that everything has been politicized in the extreme. The gamergate battle lines have been drawn between waring factions. On one side the “young, white, male” demo (that has historically been at the core of the gamer community) and on the other side, feminists (more here). It’s hard to ignore the fact that real differences exist between gamers who like to blow things up and those who like to build things together. And finally, differences exist between those who feel marginalized by the present systems and,…well…those who feel marginalized by the present system. In fact the entire controversy has something to offend nearly everyone. It’s as though the controversy is a kind of ink blot test on which we are invited to project our own worldview and moral objections. As Klein notes, “Video games are the excuse for this fight, not the cause of it.” For those with political biases on the left, it’s about “sexism and online harassment,” but for those on the right it’s about “political correctness and speech policing.”

Klein’s essay ends on a cautionary note that predicts other battles, like gamergate, but with even greater consequences. As the culture wars escalate and battles lines are drawn, the battlefield itself will be the online space where digital avatars battle to the death over controversies large and small. Thankfully, digital wars are not nearly as painful as analog wars. After all, when your digital self is mortally wounded or killed a quick reboot is all that’s needed to get back in the fight.

Posted in interactive media, journalism, media industry, new media, videogames | 1 Comment »