Technological Debate 2016

 

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The population of the United States continues to soar, approaching nearly 325 million people.  Electing an individual to support, represent, and embody that many people is nearly an impossible task.  Clay Shirky (2002) distinguishes a difference between communities and audiences by the connections or relationships between its members and the means information is able to be spread.  Communities tend to be much smaller and have closer connections, leading to information traveling directly between members.  The opposite is true regarding audiences.  An audience can be essentially innumerable, with loose connections and information traveling one direction.

Shirky (2002) explored how as a group size reaches approximately 30,000; the number of potential connections surpasses a billion.  The sheer size of these larger groups prevents interconnectivity between members of groups.  These fundamental aspects transform a United States’ populace into an audience during an election.  Modern day technology, specifically, web forums, blogs, social media sites, etc. allow for the formation of communities or something resembling a community to form within an audience.  Individuals find relatively small bands of like-minded individuals.  This separation of members and lack of connections, may be in part responsible for approximately 40% of eligible voters not participating in the election.

As early as 2001, Shirky (2011) gives credit to technology for preventing President Joseph Estrada of being absolved of well known corruption.  Specifically responsible, a message reading, “Go 2 EDSA. Wear Blk.”, for organizing over a million people for a protest within four days.  Online resources have since been involved in many cases of civil unrest.  Not ever scenario brought about successful results.  The results of the Presidential 2016 election were influenced by rallies and rhetoric spread via online resources.  March 4, some sixty rallies were held in support of the United States President across the country.  Rallies like these may play a role in the 2020 election.  Shirky (2011) explains this evolvement of the, “developing public sphere, where public opinion relies on both media and conversation, is the core of the environmental view of Internet freedom.”  Shirky goes on to expand upon a process by which individuals’ views can be altered.  Media alone is unable to persuade individuals, but a similar belief must be reiterated by those they have personal connections with.

The effective of online communities or means of communication have already been established, now the prevalence is on the rise.  Kalev Leetaru (2013) discusses the self-proclaimed “global town square”, more commonly known as Twitter.  Twitter boasts over 170 billion tweets from a user base climbing well past 200 million.

This technology allows for not planned press conferences and debates, but rather an intimate glimpse into an individual’s thoughts they wish to share.  Opinions and beliefs about outstanding issues, current events, or run of the mill topics, Twitter provides a platform for such interaction.  Trump doubles the followers of his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, at 31,800,000 to 16,100,000 respectively.  Given so many factors, it is difficult to truly assess the influence one form has on the actually ballot cast by a voter, but it has drawn the attention of researchers.

Over half a year later, hostility between the candidates can still be felt as Clinton mocks Trump over a typo on his twitter account.  On its current course, Twitter and other online media played large roles in the connectivity of Americans and the spread of information, but can be presumed to make even more of an impact in the next election.

Online media penetrates our society, by way of our personally and professional relationships.  With its current prevalence, is it a matter of time before government takes social media in any sort of official capacity? Not simply to the election, but other aspects as well.

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Twitter Is Bigger Than 140 Characters

The United States 2016 Presidential election was a mess. No matter what side of the isle voters were on, there were more reasons to not vote for that party’s candidate than ones that reassured the best outcome. Obviously in hindsight, the outcome was one that has yielded very little universal success or minimal praise. It (in my opinion) will go down in history as a defining election that will frame all campaigns in the future, especially the implementation of online tools and their abilities to reach the American public.

In the article Audience, Scale, and the Political Power of Social Media, there are many references to the influences of shared information through online mediums. One particular point that fit very well within our recent election was the distinction between activists (activism) and social media activists (“slacktivists.”) This point is made to first show a negative of social media as it relates to activism, and then proves that it is also a positive when used correctly. The negative is pretty obvious, those who are looking for causes and support social change, but don’t want to give much effort, can just “support” all they want through pages and posts (and feel some satisfaction from it.) This “slacktivism” is what much of the left participated in leading up to the election, gaining satisfaction and attributing effort to only being active online. This was a major fault, and one that was learned quickly. The positive of using social media for activism is the efficient and easy-to-use features of these sites that allow for the organization of events and meetings. Now that much of the adult population is connected online (especially by smartphones), it is now much easier to carry out demonstrations or other activist events with little planning or resources. After the election, the same left, that had been most active online, began to assemble and demonstrate in huge numbers. I think that if these people had been able to see the difference between the two types of activism, this election may have turned out much differently.

In the article Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign, there is a unique quote about the shift in Twitter’s role in political campaigns. “Twitter is where that central conversation is taking place. It’s not that Twitter is where you’re discussing the news. So much of it is actually happening on Twitter. It was just the central stream of the conversation for everyone.” This quote by Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith really demonstrates the power of Twitter for news outlets. The article discusses how major networks will now browse Twitter before going on air, simply to find more for a story, or to find a new one. This is a scary new reality for journalists who are not comfortable with this shift, but after this election, looks to be the future of how we get information. Trump fits this idea especially well because of his constant involvement on Twitter, creating stories from each thread or tweet. This can eliminate the need for journalists who would have broken whatever information Trump is now sharing, but it does allow journalists to quote him in a way that was never before possible. Twitter has become the news, no longer just a news sourse.

The importance of focusing on social media and traditional news media as separate focuses is supported by findings from the article Mapping the Global Twitter Heartbeat. In their conclusion on the mapping of news media and Twitter, they found that even in overlap, both entities do cover areas that are virtually untouched by the other. When keeping this in mind, it is important to remember that both are important mediums to focus on when reaching consumers, and should be still equally used. This dynamic may change in the future, as it is clear that there continues to be a shift in how United States residents receive their news.

Now that social media (especially Twitter) has been established as a major factor into how information is shared and how people communicate online, what are its limits? Will election campaigns just be focused online and will those in opposition continue to organize through social media? What does the future of journalism look like when those who were once being written about are now the ones writing themselves?

The power of Twitter in the 2016 election

I will start this week’s blog post with a little disclaimer ** yes, I am a journalist, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything other journalists do or how some things are done in the industry.
Even though Twitter was used in previous elections, I think one of the most popular topics discussed this election was President Donald Trump’s use of the social media site throughout his campaign and in his first several months as president.
In “Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign,” from the start noticed a connection to the 2016 presidential election – a hatred for media. Maybe it’s because I was in college during the 2012 election and wasn’t the most involved then, but I didn’t realize in the Romney election, his chief strategist Stuart Stevens hated the media just like now President Donald Trump (#fakenews), and he also used Twitter as his medium of release.
“Stevens’ missives were often more whimsical or esoteric than mean, but it was clear he harbored some deep resentments about the press and its treatment of his candidate.”
The use of Twitter was talked about in 2013 when the article was published, but what would it say now about the recent election? “Candidates and politicians are increasingly trying to present their messages on their own terms, either through politically friendly news outlets or their own social media channels.” I think this is proven even more true this election with President Trump’s excessive use of his Twitter account, and certainly his freedom of speech mentality.
Reading the section “Boys on the Bus,” made me realize – as a journalist – how I would love to report on a presidential campaign. However, I noticed with the 2016 election (and maybe it’s been done before, but again I never paid much attention the way I do now) is there was actually news stories done on television about the journalists who road on the buses, planes and gave up their lives for the year to report solely on the election and candidates. Good Morning America I know sat down with three journalists and spoke with them about their experiences, which I thought was nice because it allowed the viewers to learn more about the people behind the keyboard. I think this helped to give them more credibility.
I also felt with this election, more eyes were on it following the candidates every moves largely because of the media. I agree in the “Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus?” article, “Every one of their moves is obsessively documented and breathlessly promoted, either on websites or on Twitter, by reporters hungry for even the tiniest crumb of unique information.” However, my argument to that would be … if people didn’t tune in or read what the reporters put out there, they wouldn’t do it. There’s a reason reporters do the things they do. Believe me, it’s not because we always love it, but because that’s what some people feed in to. I’m not saying it’s always right.
The 2016 presidential election, I think, really highlighted the use of two-way media discussed in “Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet: Networks, Economics and Culture.” Obviously we all know the internet reaches more people quickly. But, once again with our “unique” new president, Trump used Twitter more of a two-way media than I think most other candidates did. Between the Twitter wars with Trump and democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, to Trump and Rosie O’Donnell battling it out in 140 characters each. “The growth of two-way media, however, shows that the audience pattern re-establishes itself in one way or another…” But I think this might have made the candidates more “human” to voters. It made more people tune in to see what’s next and engaged the voter to be able to side one way or another.
Twitter also allowed the candidates to spread to more voters by not being limited to geography (“The internet era on the other hand has created a world in which a person may speak to another on the other side of the planet with a just a few millisecond delay, effectively removing the geographic barrier,” said in the article “Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter.”). Twitter also allowing voters to know where they’re tweeting from. Mentioned in “Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter,” “since 2009, Twitter has allowed tweets to include geographic metadata indicating the location where the tweet was authored.” Voters were able to follow candidates closer on the campaign trail through Twitter. I think this was highlighted particularly toward the end of the campaign season for the candidates when they were still holding rallies up until the last second possible, including last-minute rallies in Pennsylvania.
I think Twitter was a defining factor in the 2016 election between the use of the medium from the candidates themselves, to the journalists who followed their every tweet and putting more information out to the voter through Twitter. But Twitter seems to be becoming less popular with the younger generation. Do you think it will eventually become like Myspace and go away? Or do you think we will see it used just as much in the next election?

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”

Extensions, Perceptions & McLuhan

Extensions,Perceptions and McLuhan

Perceptions and Extensions are fundamental to what the Visionary, Marshall McLuhan refers to when speaking about “the new electronic interdependence that recreates the World in the image of the global village” and “The medium is the message (McLuhan,1964).” What is Art then? McLuhan views, “Art is anything you can get away with (McLuhan, 1964).” So, in creating Art you need to see, discover and explore.  Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. Human beings are visual receptors with a set for sensory communication. Seeing establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, our language of communication, verbal, visual as we are sensory beings. We can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by an ever-pulsating HeArt, the World, since the time of McLuhan that HeArt has begun to pulsate even faster as technology advances and we as a Global Cultural Evolution(GCE) within this paradigm. The relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled. The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe/perceive. I would say we are always looking at the relationship between things and ourselves. The reciprocal nature of vision is more fundamental than that of spoken dialogue.

“Media as extensions of ourselves, Understanding Media the Extensions of Man, “It is the persistent theme of this book that all technologies are extensions of our physical and nervous systems to increase power and speed” and “Any extension, whether of skin, hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex. Some of the principal extensions, together with some of their psychic and social consequences, are studied in this book(McLuhan,1964).” These statements made me ponder how our World functions and my part within it. We as human beings are always moving forward as time never stands still but pushes us forward onto the new day. How we move through space and time and how every human being plays a role in this vast Universe, on planet Earth. The visual image that sparks an image in my mind are those images of time lapsed photography where you can view the movement of our world day in and day out the lines of energy traced and viewed from the satellites above are all proof of our interconnectedness. A key concern for McLuhan and one of mine too, what will the implications of this evolution towards the extension of the collective human consciousness be that is facilitated by electronic media? Will we remain humanly interested in others or do we just speed on through this technological fury? Do we need to slow down or push faster? Exploration and discovery are two components that we as human beings have utilized throughout history it is the lymph of humanity, the key is how to keep that ball rolling in a world of instant gratification and speed and stay focused?

Works Cited

Gordon, W. Terrance. ” Critical Reception to Understanding Media.” Understanding Media: The Extension of Man, Critical Edition. Ed. W. Terrance Gordon. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press, 2003. 545-558.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(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.