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Archive for the ‘interactive media’ Category

I Hope I’m Not Being Too Pushy

Posted by prof e on January 9, 2017

attentionNew Years is a time of reflection and looking forward. It is a time to take stock of what is working and what is not…making plans to maximize the good and minimize the bad. I just finished an interesting book…The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu, and, if I may be so bold, I would like to make a suggestion that I think will improve your focus and productivity in 2017. And that suggestion is…..(drum roll)…..change the way you currently give your attention to media.

Media companies want your attention. No great revelation there. Your attention is valuable, and the more of it that they can collect and sell, the more money they make. So they work really hard at finding new ways to collect your attention. Sometimes in tiny fragments (e.g., preroll ads and billboards), and sometimes for long periods at a time (e.g., binge viewing).

Media companies know that you’re busy, and that they can’t always count on you to volunteer your attention. They can’t count on you to remember to go to their website or click on their app. So they devise ways to bring the content to you. This strategy has been around for quite a while and it is known as “pushing” content to the consumer. Rather than counting on the consumer to “pull” in the content that they want, media companies “push” it out to those who have opted in. You have probably opted in to all kinds of push notifications…typically when you initially sign up for some neat bit of content that you want to receive. From that point on, they have permission to push new content to you…to notify you that there’s something new to see, hear, read, etc.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that our attention is not infinite. If we’re going to focus on anything worthwhile, we need uninterrupted attention. We need to be free of the distractions that push media provide. Social media may be the most obvious and blatant example of constant clamoring for your attention, but it’s not the only form of media that is working overtime to suck you in.

You might think that you can handle it…that you can manage several streams of incoming data at the same time. But you would be wrong. All of the research indicates that multi-tasking is a myth. What your brain is doing is switching quickly from one stream to the other, not doing anything particularly well.

There are several ways to reduce this threat and I’ll let you figure out which one works best for you. But I can assure you that taking control of who’s in control of your attention will make you a more focused and productive student (friend/employee/etc.) in 2017.


Posted in advertising, applications, interactive media, media industry, new media, social media | 1 Comment »

Free Speech for All in a Fact-Free Era?

Posted by prof e on December 2, 2016

Overheard in a newsroom: “What is journalism even supposed to be now? We reported the facts, but they didn’t matter.” In case you didn’t hear, “post-truth” is Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016. Here’s how they define it on their website. post-truth

The challenge for journalists, and really anyone who get to the bottom of things, is sorting out fact from fiction, reporting from commentary, and bias from perspective.

The problem with the newsroom quote above is that too many “journalists” DIDN’T report the facts. Or when they did, they didn’t put the facts in proper context. Added to that is that reality that nearly anyone can become a de facto journalist thanks to the wonders of modern digital media and social networks. Given a place to stand and a megaphone, the most strident voices have suddenly found themselves with the ability to sway opinions…even, perhaps, influence elections.

If it seems that this blog is stuck on this topic (see recent posts about fake news and fact-checking), you’re right. But this is important…and if we don’t get this right we’ll have to live with the consequences. What consequences you say? Well, for starters how about a future where ideological conflicts spill over into the streets…where discourse and discussion give way to hate-filled rhetoric designed to alienate and subjugate the opposition?

Unfortunately some of the proposed solutions may turn out to be worse than the problem. Giving social media platforms a reason and permission to edit users’ posts is a dangerous and slippery slope. Do we really want Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithm and a team of editors deciding between fact and fiction, bias and perspective? We’ve already witnessed the failure of that approach earlier this year.

Recently Twitter booted accounts from those connected to the alt-right movement for “harassment and ‘hateful conduct,’ which includes “non-consensual slurs, epithets, racist and sexist tropes” and “behavior that incites fear about a protected group.”  This led the editors at Slate to ask if Facebook or Twitter might possibly ban President Trump. Twitter responded that it wouldn’t rule it out. As Slate said, “That’s a tough line from a company that once declared itself the ‘free speech wing of the free speech party.’” (BTW, the click-bait headline for this post might have been: “Twitter considers banning President Trump!”)

So where are we now? Some of the ejected Twitter users have moved to a new platform that promises greater freedom of speech. is, according to the New York Times, the far right’s “new digital safe space.” It’s much too early to tell if Gab has any legs, but if it does it will likely do little to advance dialog and understanding between those contending for the future of our country. Amanda Hess of the NYTimes sums it up nicely, “It’s the next logical step after all the blocking and muting on Twitter and filtering and unfollowing on Facebook split America into two social media realities. Where there once was a bubble, now there’s a wall.”

Posted in 1st amendment, ethics, interactive media, journalism, politics, regulation, social media | 1 Comment »

Not Safe for Advertising?

Posted by prof e on September 3, 2016

We’ve all seen the acronym NSF, which stands for Not Safe for Work. YouTube has generally been pretty careful to ensure that content on its site is devoid of overtly offensive material. But now they’ve gone a step further to protect advertisers who may be squeamish about appearing alongside content that pushes the boundaries. A new policy announced by YouTube allows them to remove certain videos from their monetization program if the contents of the videos is potentially offensive to advertisers.

YouTube producers are pushing back claiming the new policies are too strict and have a chilling effect on their creative output. According to AdAge, “On Wednesday, YouTube video creator Philip DeFranco, with 4.5 million subscribers, said he was put on the no-ad list after he mocked ‘political correctness.'”

According to Google’s guidelines, videos with the intent to “inform or entertain” and more likely to get a pass than those intended to “offend or shock.”

This is nothing new for websites and apps that rely on user-generated content. Again, according to AdAge,

The video site is just the latest to find itself embroiled in a social media battle with voices that oppose “political correctness” or claim free-speech violations over any pushback to their activities on a given platform. Last month, right-wing advocate Milo Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter for allegedly leading a bullying blitz against “SNL” and “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones.

Here’s a link to a somewhat lengthy video (the first 4 min is about this issue, but the rest is pretty informative on related topics) from DeFranco that explains his position. (warning: graphic language)


Posted in 1st amendment, advertising, interactive media, new media, social media | 2 Comments »

What’s NOT Trending on Facebook?

Posted by prof e on May 16, 2016

TrendingWell, for starters there’s less conservative news from conservative sources than one might expect. A recent report by Gizmodo reveals that the Trending feed on Facebook may be less objective than many thought. One might fairly assume that these are organic results based on what is popular and being shared on Facebook…and you would be partly right. But the revelation that has the media world talking is that insiders say that Facebook intentionally directs human curators to leave out conservative news and opinions while injecting other news stories that are not actually trending.

Now, just to be clear, we fully expect traditional news sources to make decisions regarding what is news worthy and which stories to place on the front page. This is standard practice and any debate about the ethics of this practice is only to the extent that the editorial policies of any given news organization are consistent and transparent. The objection here is that Facebook appeared to be suggesting that the Trending stories were simply the result of algorithms analyzing Facebook for popular results. But if that’s not the case, and Facebook is injecting some stories and holding others back, then there is a real problem that deserves a response.

Sure, the news industry has long been viewed as an uneven playing field where liberal voices have had an upper hand. More recently talk radio and Fox News tilted things back towards the other side. The rise of the internet was seen as a solution for the potential threat of big media controlling access to information. But if Facebook (or Apple, Google, Microsoft, or any other new media mega-corporation) is willing to inject their own biases into their products and platforms, the playing field will become a swamp where no one will dare to venture. This idea that platforms ought to be agnostic is at the very core of the argument in favor of Net Neutrality.

Social media is increasingly becoming a source of news. While mainstream news media (broadcast and cable TV, newspapers, and news magazines) struggle to remain relevant, social media has stepped up to offer bite-sized morsels of news for the highly-distracted audience. Facebook, Google, Snap Chat, and others have been competing for the attention of this audience.

The enormity of the power that can be deployed by a company the size of Facebook is staggering. Just a short time ago Facebook was caught manipulating the emotional state of its users by selectively posting content to their wall intended to make them feel certain emotions. An earlier experiment was designed to discover if manipulating a person’s news feed could make them more inclined to vote in an upcoming election. Now, imagine for a moment if that same persuasive power were exerted for one side or the other in an ideological or political contest.

In response to the allegations Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has denied the charges but has offered to meet with conservative leaders. That meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 18th and one of the conservative leaders who will meet with Zuckerberg is MCCNM alumnus Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary.

Posted in 1st amendment, ethics, interactive media, journalism, media industry, new media, politics, social media | 1 Comment »

Internet Cats to the Rescue

Posted by prof e on November 23, 2015

Everyone knows that the Internet is for cats. Keyboard Cat, Colonel Meow, Grumpy Cat, and now…the BrusselsLockdown Cats! In response to recent attacks in Europe, Belgian security forces have been conducting raids intending to root out remaining terrorists. Police

In response to requests for social media silence by Belgium’s minister of defense and local police, Belgians and members of the international community have responded with the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown and lots and lots of cat photos.


Every once in awhile the concerted silliness of the millions of inhabitants of the interwebs gives one reason for hope…even if you’re not a cat person.

Posted in global media, interactive media, new media, social media | Leave a Comment »

Security v Privacy: Choose Carefully

Posted by prof e on November 18, 2015

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have raised new questions about safety and security in a globally connected world. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, readily available encryption is easy to use, and impossible to access even by government agents with warrants.

Some of the most powerful technologies are free, easily available encryption apps with names like Signal, Wickr and Telegram, which encode mobile messages from cellphones. Islamic State militants used Telegram two weeks ago to claim responsibility for the crash of the Russian jet in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 224 people, and used it again last week, in Arabic, English and French, to broadcast responsibility for the Paris carnage.

Another report, this one published in the Wall Street Journal, provided the following graphic to show which apps are most secure, and therefore most likely to be deployed by those intent on avoiding the attention of military and police counter-terrorism forces.


A lower-tech approach to terrorist communications is to use the online gaming platforms, e.g. PS4, to share information. According to this approach the terrorist are counting on the sheer volume of messages using similar violent language to mask their terrorist communications.

Meanwhile the cyber-hacking group Anonymous is waging its own war on ISIS. “Vowing to silence extremist propaganda and expose undercover operatives,” Anonymous claims to have deleted 5,500 Twitter accounts that had been used by ISIS. In a video just released they warned, “Expect massive cyber attacks. War is declared. Get prepared.”

According to the WSJ,

The bloodshed in Paris will likely exacerbate a tense debate between governments that want inside access to those encrypted tools and tech companies that say [they] are trying to protect customer data and are wary of government overreach.

What do you think? Does personal privacy trump security, or vice versa?

Posted in 1st amendment, applications, ethics, global media, interactive media, new media, politics | Leave a Comment »

Help Us, Please, Somebody Help Us

Posted by prof e on October 3, 2015

What’s more fun than going out to a baseball game? Well, for a group of sorority sisters from Arizona State University the only thing more fun than the game was taking selfies. While the game continued in the background, the TV crew and commentators became mesmerized watching the gals enjoy their cell phones. The commentators offered their own perspective, calling for someone to “help us, please…somebody help us.” They went on to ask for an intervention, suggesting that someone go out and “collect all the phones.”

This raises serious questions about several issues:

  1. What is appropriate cell phone behavior at your local __________ (insert public venue of your choice)?
  2. Is living life through your smart phone screen a viable substitute for living life without the assistance of technology?
  3. Does the announcers’ commentary cross a line into public shaming? And if so, is that an appropriate response?
  4. Why is social media so obsessed with calling people out for what is perceived bad behavior (on the part of either the gals or the commentators)?

Here are two of the comments I read on posts about this topic:

Yeah, the announcers are correct. You are completely wrong and asinine. We have a pathetically Narcissistic, ego-manically infantile society. Selfies are the most disgusting revelation of the new century. People used to take pictures of other people, places, things… Now they just take pictures of themselves.


How mature of a bunch of middle aged me to mock girls for doing what girls do. They should stick to baseball comments and stop bullying people.

Posted in interactive media, new media, social media | 4 Comments »

Sketch Artist Draws Criticism

Posted by prof e on August 31, 2015

brady-sketchThe courtroom artist who drew the assignment to cover Tom Brady and the deflate-gate trial came up short her first time around…and social media pounced.

Like so many things that distract us from real life, deflate-gate is the gift that keeps on giving. This time the fiasco was the questionable depiction of the Patriot’s QB as he sat in the courtroom. Sketch artists are supposed to be impressionists, but this “sketchy” rendition attracted more derision than usual.

According to an article in CNN, the twitter-sphere lit up with people piling Courtroom artist Jane Rosenberg with a more pleasant sketch of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brad. Rosenberg's sketch of Brady during his first appearance in Manhattan Federal Court broke the internet and lit up the Twitter-sphere after overwhelming reaction to Brady's glum look. (Photo By: Jefferson Siegel/NY Daily News via Getty Images)on courtroom sketch artist Jane Rosenberg. But just to show the world that she really can draw, Rosenberg later offered up a more careful sketch that captured the essence of the handsome and debonair defendant.

(Photo By: Jefferson Siegel/NY Daily News via Getty Images)


One twitterer decided to “fix” Rosenberg’s ill-conceived artwork. Brady-fix

Just in case you don’t get the joke, see this.

All of this just serves to prove that the internet, and social media, can be a mean and unforgiving place for screw-ups. Thick skin comes in handy, and not just for celebrities. When they tell you that they’re laughing with you…don’t be so sure.

Posted in interactive media, social media | Leave a Comment »

Couch Potato Dumplings

Posted by prof e on March 25, 2015

Question: What do you call someone who binge watches TV shows about binge eating? Answer: Someone who needs to get a life. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but seriously! Apparently the new hit YouTube TV genre in South Korea involves watching people eat.

Mukbang performance artists eat in front of their webcams for live audiences who apparently get a voyeuristic thrill out of the experience. “Rachel Ahn, who goes by ‘Aebong-ee’ on her broadcasts, is kind of a big deal in the mukbang world.” For three hours a night she eats for an audience, and the audience rewards her with virtual prizes that combined amount to a salary greater than her day job.

You can read/listen here on the NPR website.

Sadly, the fact that their neighbor to the north has perennial problems with mass starvation may be lost on these seekers of fame, and their followers.

Posted in interactive media, new media, social media, tv, video | Leave a Comment »

Are we all ADD now?

Posted by prof e on March 2, 2015

Black and Blue, or While and Gold? It’s the question that appears to have captivated the ever-so-brief attention span of the online world. The more philosophical are asking again the age-old questions; what is the nature of reality and perception?…and, can we ever know for certain what we think we know? Yes I’m talking about #TheDress. And if you haven’t been paying attention, suffice it to say that the “twitterverse” has been embroiled in a heated debate about the real color of a dress that was worn to a wedding in Ireland. Here’s just one of the many tweets having a bit of fun with the whole thing.dress

Well, that was before the llamas got loose in Arizona…which was just briefly before Leonard Nimoy passed away. We are an easily distracted lot, humanity. One might argue that we need a distraction every now and then to give us relief from the pressure and demands of real life.

But seriously, is this what we’ve come to expect from our media? Was there nothing important going on in the world at the end of last week? Oh yeah, there was. “Jihadi John” was  identified as a college grad from West London; Net neutrality was adopted by the FCC (thanks, perhaps, to John Oliver); and a Russian politician, and foe of Putin, was executed on a city street.

But perhaps there is an explanation. According to this article by Mel Robbins at CNN, “the emotions that make a story go ‘viral’ are not fear and anger — they are awe, laughter and amusement.” Well, there you go. I feel just a little better now about #TheDress and #LlamaDrama.

Posted in interactive media, journalism, media effects, new media, social media | 1 Comment »