prof. e.

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

Archive for March, 2016

What do you fear?

Posted by prof e on March 28, 2016

If you listen to news for any length of time you’ll find plenty of opportunities for fear. Global terrorism, the Zika virus, gang violence, opioid addiction, a White House occupied by ________ (fill in the blank with your least favorite candidate)…all are reasons to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed. The good thing about being a young adult is that most of these fears seem rather distant and unlikely. After all, you’re young and healthy and you live in America (not some undeveloped nation ruled by a despot). Why worry?

News is, by definition, a summary of what’s gone wrong. People always say they’d like to see more “good” news…but the fact is that news is news precisely because it deviates from what is good and right. Crime, natural disasters, political chicanery, moral failings…this is the stuff of news on any given day. When a new virus threatens millions of people, even in a distant country, we pay attention. Even more so if it has any chance of reaching our shores. Suicide bombers and mass shooters get our attention; which, ironically, is exactly what they want. And slowly but surely we begin to think that the world is a more dangerous place.

Media theorists have a name for this. Cultivation theory says that the more time we spend in the media world the more we fear. The Mean World Syndrome studies tracked people who watched a lot of TV dramas and news, and found that they had a more fearful and pessimistic view of the world than those who watched less.

So what do I recommend? Don’t ignore the news of the day. Don’t hide your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Instead, remember that the reality created by the news industry is intentionally biased to show you everything that is wrong with the world. Then, take a moment to reflect on what is right in your world. You’ll be happier for it and we’ll all be better off.


Posted in global media, journalism, media effects | 11 Comments »

The End of Tolerance

Posted by prof e on March 12, 2016

The current political race for President has stirred up a lot of emotion and, let’s face it, anger. Bernie and his supporters are angry about economic inequality; The Donald and his supporters are angry about immigration, the uneven economic recovery and a bunch of other things; Hillary and her supporters are angry about racism and sexism; and Ted and his supporters are angry about a variety of social conservative issues. This is a very simplified depiction of what the various candidates and their supporters stand for, but it begins to explains why this particular contest is so hotly contested.

The brawl at the cancel Chicago rally for Donald Trump yesterday has folks on both sides pointing fingers, claiming intolerance and declaring their First Amendment right to speak and be heard.

Saturday Night Live, like Jon Stewart, John Oliver, and Stephen Colbert, has a track record of making fun of politicians and political issues to make a point. And last week’s fake ad for Trump speaks directly to this matter of racism.

Whether you agree or not with Trump or his detractors, the arguments on both sides have been enflamed with passion. When I watched the SNL video today I took a quick look at the comments (almost NEVER a good idea) and found this.


Apparently [heat-mon] selected quotes from responses to Dianne Bishop, (by people opposed to her support for Trump), and posted them to make the case that intolerance of intolerance also has an ugly side.

And older folks wonder why young people don’t show more interest in politics.

Posted in 1st amendment, advertising, politics, social media | Leave a Comment »

Living Inside the Bubble

Posted by prof e on March 2, 2016

I’ve posted about the “Filter Bubble” and mentioned it in another post, but a new trend is emerging that takes the concept and makes it even more troubling.

First, let me take a minute to review the idea behind the filter bubble. According to Eli Pariser’s Ted Talk, the filter bubble is a dangerous and unintentional consequence of software algorithms that social media platforms use to customize our user experience. In an attempt to keep us online and engaged, social media platforms feed us the content stream that they believe is of greatest interest to us.

DrumpfinatorSounds good so far, right? But the problem is that by putting some things in and leaving others out our social media experience can begin to reflect and reinforce our personally held biases. Pretty soon we’re only seeing Facebook posts from people who agree with our political/social/religious positions. And while that may make us more comfortable it doesn’t do much to make us more aware of, and sensitive to, other points of view.

Now imagine for a moment a software hack that allows you to create your own filter bubble. Google’s Chrome browser allows users to download and install extensions that can do any number of things, including changing your browser to display certain words instead of other words.

This gained quite a bit of attention recently when John Oliver’s rant about Donald Trump went viral. With more than 13 million views in just a couple of days, the video makes reference to a claim that Donald Trump’s family name was originally Drumpf. That was all that some clever software programmer needed to create a Google Chrome extension that is designed to turn every mention of Trump into Drumpf! That’s right, the next time you search for Donald Trump, the results page will display results for Donald Drumpf. When your friends post about Trump on Facebook, your browser will automatically change it to Drumpf. Presto Chango, out with Trump and in with Drumpf!

ChoiceLanguageChromeExtensionsSounds like a great idea, right? But consider this. The Chrome extension website offers up some other “fixes” that are slightly less funny. Don’t like your news feed filled with comments about pro-life or pro-choice arguments. Just download the Chrome extension Choice Language or ProLife. Your webpage will no longer display the offending terms. Choice Language changes the words “Pro-Life” into “Anti-Choice”, while the Pro Life extension changes “Anti-Choice” or “Anti-Abortion” into “Pro-Life.” Simple as that you can browse the web and never encounter an offending phrase.

Ahhh, if life could be so simple. Imagine being able to rewrite the evening news or edit a popular film so that is more closely reflects your view of the world. Imagine the joy of never having to encounter an uncomfortable idea or thought. Imagine living in a bubble…a self-made filter bubble.



Posted in ethics, media effects, new media, social media, websites | Leave a Comment »