Twittersphere: The NEW News

No one understands how hesitant I was to title this post what it is. You have to understand, we, as a generation have been conditioned to believe that twitter is for fun, casual, and NEVER reputable. Imagine the world’s disbelief when the greatest political debate platform wasn’t a town hall in a city ripe for tourism and money making, but it was actually none other than twitter. I know what you’re thinking. Are we really in a place in society where our political leaders are engaging in similar social media feuds that our celebrities made famous? Are our political leaders and celebrities becoming the same people? (Of course they are. Ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

A 2011 Clay Shirky foresaw social media influence in current events. “The idea that media, from the Voice of America to samizdat, play a supporting role in social change by strengthening the public sphere echoes the historical role of the printing press.” (Shirky, The Political Power of Social Media, 6) So if  we as a society have not completely disregarded the legitimacy of our politicians who engage in twitter debates [and instead, we elect them] then why have we not regarded twitter as a reputable research platform where literal history is being made every day?

It’s also Clay Shirky who recognizes, however, that our progression as a society to be more apt towards twitter and other social media platforms as reputable sources is limited by our ability to communicate cross-cultural ideals and have a “single community” social media presence. In his 2002 “Communities, Audiences, and Scales“ “With such software,the obvious question is “Can we get the best of both worlds? Can we have a medium that spreads messages to a large audience, but also allows all the members of that audience to engage with one another like a single community?”(Shirky, Communities, Audiences, and Scales) The answer seems to be”No.”” Shirky talks about the difference between an audience and a community and how we struggle with connections online because we can’t truly connect with each other in the way a community needs to, therefore our messages don’t reach people in an effective way. Since we cannot reach each other in a community aspect, we cannot connect. This limits the depth of social media connectivity and therefore we cannot explore the full potential of social media transforming them from shallow communication portals, to reputable in depth communication channels.

In efforts to take twitter beyond the threshold of just another social media platform, we have to acknowledge its limited audience. Because twitter is a free speech medium of sorts, it’s banned in many countries which allows mainstream news outlets to take the lead in coverage and access. “Overall, mainstream media appears to have more even coverage, with less clustering around major cities” (Mapping the Global Twitter Heartbeat, Twitter versus mainstream news media.) With Twitter really coming into it’s prime as a social media platform, we have to recognize it’s not prominent on accessibility the way traditional news coverage is which goes back to our inability to reach each other to make twitter more effective.

So what will it take to verify twitter? We have to acknowledge the evolution of news media. If our politicians can utilize the platform to discuss matters of the country, we should be able to take our news from the site. Information falls directly from the mouths, or the hands, of the people we are reporting on. Next we address the communication gap and accessibility for all people across the globe in efforts to take the Twittersphere from an audience, to a community. If we make these changes, we can evolve how twitter is viewed and maybe, how social media is used in future elections. (Social media was a mess due to the this being the first election social media was utilized in this way. Traditions have to start somewhere!)Twitter-South-Africa-Social-Network-Social-Channel-Social-Media

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Media Technology: Better, Stronger, Faster…and Beyond

“In the words of Wyndham Lewis, “The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future, because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present” (McLuhan, p. 77).  McLuhan was ‘the artist’, because of his ability to “pick up the message of technological and cultural progress” ahead of its time and before it’s transformational impact occurs in society.   Continue reading “Media Technology: Better, Stronger, Faster…and Beyond”

(Not enough) News Media

News today has changed directions. This is not to say that news is not being produced by media outlets, but rather that the information consumed is no longer what it once was.

I am describing the shift in news that is no longer stories of substance, but rather a new marketing strategy to gain views and clicks where no beneficial content can be found.

Marshall McLuhan said this of news media: “Both book and newspaper are confessional in character, creating the effect of inside story by their mere form, regardless of content. As the book page yields the inside story of the author’s mental adventures, so the press page yields the inside story of the community in action and interaction. It is for this reason that the press seems to be performing its function most when revealing the seamy side. Real news is bad news –bad news about somebody, or bad news for somebody.” (p. 226)

The draw of newspapers and books was the promise of information to come. It brings readers in, from the cover to the story. Bad news is also the news that will create the most buzz. This is an unfortunate fact about how news is received, but when was the last time that you stayed with a story for more than a day when it was generally positive (besides that baby giraffe being born.) Nowadays, news can be distributed in more ways than at the time of McLuhan, which means there is more accessibility, more content, and much, much more competition. The blame for this transition can be followed back to the beginning of 24-hour news. The movie Anchorman 2 is a perfect example of how news changed at its conception. I do believe though that news has now taken an even steeper shift in a negative direction due to the push for more constant and current content than ever before.

Headlines have become “buzz-lines” designed to bring focus to a story, even if there isn’t much content of substance. Articles online (the newspapers of this generation) run with headlines like: “You Won’t Believe What Mr. Whoever Just Shut Down” or “Senator Somebody Just Ended the Debate on Something.” And these articles come out constantly, with little amounts of content and minimal quotes or facts. They are designed simply to draw in readers with seductive words that sound like juicy drama, but have little true information.

“The speed-up of information gathering and publishing naturally created new forms of arranging material for readers. As early as 1830 the French poet Lamartine had said, ‘The book arrives too late,’ drawing attention to the fact that the book and the newspaper are quite different forms.” (p. 227)

As our ability to receive information grows faster, so does our capabilities to filter what content comes in. Social media has already used this concept to “push” certain content to the users that will most likely agree with it. It is essentially a way of ensuring that your opinion will be reinforced without even going to look for that information. Some publications will even write two different articles (with different perspectives) and portray them as their lead story, and then those who believe in that content will immediately see it.

This new level of immediacy is causing a serious downgrade in what some news outlets (not all) portray as “news.” Clickbait is now the new way to gain readership and ensure that a story will be read. Not only is this a robbery of time and attention, but consumers are becoming more complacent with these minimalist stories and don’t even look at the issues themselves. The pressure of always being forced to produce trending content has caused a major drop in the quality of our news outlets.

What steps should be taken to demand more from our news medias?

 

McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: the extensions of man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

 

A generation of electronic change

McLuhan is right, we live in a world were technology is quickly evolving. Reading our course material and watching the videos’ we see the advances that are being made during McLuhan’s generation which honestly was not that long ago.  Interesting enough, my first job was as a collator in a print shop that still used type setting.  McLuhan believed that the ability to mass produce text was one of the early advances of technology.  It started the movement of information exchange that would permeate the culture of society.  I remember 40 years ago being fascinated by the type setting and the amount of time it would take to produce a four page bulletin.  Each letter set up separately into a word.  Thousands of words.  Then a manual machine that the print maker would crank and it would spit out one side of the page in what was then a mass production.  Then the type setting would be changed and the paper reinserted to print on the other side.  It was truly an art form.

The television came on to the American scene in 1947 and half of all U.S. homes had televisions by 1955. (https://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/History%20of%20Television%20page.htm).  This electronic invention further increased the boom of electric technology and paved the way for mass media information exchange.  McLuhan references John F. Kennedy as the first television president as he was the first president to effectively use television as a medium to carry his message directly to the American people.   This forever changed the face of political messaging and how we would think about elections in the future.

McLuhan predicted the use of an electronic data system, or computer technology way before it was on the minds of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. His early writings and streams of consciousness include language related to this.  We tend to think of the computer as a very new invention but actually, the history of the computer, or rather the foundation for its development, goes back through to 1801.  The following is a link to a brief timeline:  http://www.livescience.com/20718-computer-history.html.  The medium is the message is quite true when we look at all of these advances in technology.  I also agree that with each advance comes some form of effect on our self-image or identification and influences popular culture.  Some of this is positive and some is negative.

What will the future look like? Will our future generations know how to write in cursive?  Will there be books and will they know the feeling of turning a page?  Will we have a daily newspaper?  Will the Publishers Clearing House still exist?  Technology has brought many positive things to our world.  From the days where I worked in a print shop that type set to now as I type this blog post, mechanisms to exchange information just in my lifetime have exploded.  Telephone party lines to the cell phone, passing notes at lunch to blog posts and Facebook, typewriters to personal computers, board games and playing cards to animated video gaming.  Imagine if McLuhn could sit with Norman Mailer today.  What do you think that conversation would look and sound like?  I am thinking it would sound something like this, “I told you so.”  They would probably have new topics to debate such as ensuring that we preserve the past as we move to the future.

Did you know that I am able to get hearing aids that have Bluetooth capability? Monday my ears will not only be able to hear you, they will be able to call you on the phone and potentially send you an email.  Hopefully, you will not hear the music in my head, but if you do, feel free to sing along.

Perhaps in the future my car will talk back to me and also sing along and the sound of my voice describing a scene I want to paint will actually paint a picture on a canvas in my art studio at home.  I hope it understands the color pains gray.

 

Society vs. Self-Efficacy: The Box Theory

Okay, so the first disclaimer is that I’m not a psychologist, but naming my opinion on how Society limits our view of Self-Efficacy in relation to Social Cognitive Theory “The Box Theory” makes me feel pretty great. This is definitely a thought piece on the relationship between our environment set by pop culture, the US Government, the current political climate, etc. and our ability to recognize our potential and strive for greater heights.

 

Let’s start with the basics. As an African-American male, I’ve been taught growing up that no matter what happens to me, where I come from, who tries to bring me down, I always have to be better than my environment to improve my environment. As an individual, I observed the actions of my parents: I watched my mom hold my family together and strive towards higher levels of education to increase her ability to provide for her family and in turn herself. I watched my father make many mistakes and completely turn his life around to become reliable and a provider for our family, while following the example of my mother, achieve higher education, and level up in his profession. This was the behavior I observed, imitated, and are currently in the process of executing.

 

I am not ashamed to be labeled a millennial but I am a huge advocate for labels no being the equivalent to stereotypes. I view the term “millennial” as a classification, not necessarily as a way of life.  I am more apt to technology than most, I text quickly, I use google for everything, but none of these things hinder my growth as  a human being or limit my ability to grow beyond what the media has tried to limit me to. There you have it. I said it. I believe today’s society tries to limit our Self-Efficacy to fit the labels they’ve created. This is my box theory.

 

As I continue, I understand that this is starting to feel a little conspiracy-theory-ish, but stick with me. Social Cognitive Theory informs us that human behavior is learned and can be changed through cognitive observation, empowered models, beneficial environments, etc. Well in today’s society, our models are starting to evolve into similar people. Our celebrities and politicians, once very separate fields, have merged. Our environment is evolving, and the dreams we are being sold are evolving too. Labels are becoming more relevant than ever and are starting to seriously limit the mind’s scope of what we as individuals can and cannot do. In other words, Self-Efficacy is there but is still limited to our labels. Society is putting us in boxes, and telling us to dream inside of them.

 

Sticking with my own experiences, representation in popular culture, media, politics, government occupations, etc. is very important to me. As an African American Male, I want to be able to see myself in movies, but also be able to see myself running the country. It was important to have models like Barack Obama flourish and never falter to society’s negativity, while also seeing the likes of Mahershala Ali, Jordan Peele, Drake, etc. take the media by storm, succeeding in their perspective areas. While black people have been fighting the good fight of representation for a very long time, we are still fighting, alongside latinos, asians, the LGBT community, women, and so many others. My issue lies in the fact that I now see a trend that media is limiting the popularization of certain models in certain areas that allow us to dream, but only in a certain direction/lane, thus emphasizing a box we’re to stay in.

 

I believe an even smaller box is being enforced on younger generations. Even if the representation is there, my generation, and the generations that follow see these things, begin to work for them, and then get stuck in a vicious cycle surrounding money. We see people drop everything to succeed but are faced with the reality that without money, there’s no way you’ll make it. So we work and go after occupations that we have to struggle in before we can rise and make the big bucks, but society sells us the dream big, go big, risk everything, and succeed model. Still confused? Let me break it down for you.

 

I went to a Creative and Performing Arts middle and high school. They were public schools with arts magnet programs, allowing students to have regular academics coupled with rigorous studies in an art form of their choosing. I studied musical theater in middle school and vocal/voice in high school. I’ve always dreamed of making it big, whether that be on a big stage selling out concerts, or on broadway, selling out shows. The school advocated for self-efficacy. We practiced day and night, went to audition after audition, built repertoires that spanned from german to latin to italian to spanish to hebrew, and we believed in ourselves and each other. When I left my Pittsburgh CAPA, I was told by so many people in “Real-World Jobs” that my dreams just weren’t realistic. My environment shifted and I tried to become a lawyer. That was a failed dream (although now I feel like I’m going after a real world occupations I love.) We as a society have brilliant artists all over the world, but we are limiting our future by forcing younger generations to conform and aim their hardwork and dedication, their self-efficacy in a direction.

 

After typing this, I thought to myself, “can the box be broken?” The answer is an obvious yes. People do it every day. Ashton Sanders, 21 dropped out of school to film an independent movie and that movie went on to win an Oscar for best picture while his costar, Jharrel Jerome, was only 17 at the beginning of filming. But these instances are becoming more rare, because, also, as a society we are putting way too much emphasis on money. If we continue to go down this road, Money will become the biggest influencer on our cognitive ability to believe we are able to succeed. Many would argue we are already too far gone. I believe that there is still a possibility to end this cycle, and that a generation will stand up for dreams and hard-work coexisting hand in hand.