Tweet, Tweet Technology

During the 2016 presidential campaign and elections, the social network Twitter was highly popular and visible.  Both candidates utilized this platform to connect with the public to update, deliver information, and make comments about each other.  Initially, I thought, “Twitter? So what.”  But according to Leetaru (2013), “Twitter has become a pulse of a planet-wide news organism, hosting dialogue about everything from the Arab Spring to celebrity deaths.” (Stone, 2012).  Over the past few years, governments have utilized Twitter, sort of like an international 911 to attain real time correct information regarding emergencies and other phenomena that affect people in large geographic areas. Continue reading “Tweet, Tweet Technology”

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Did Trump Have the Upper Hand?

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In general, the internet has allowed our world to grow in terms of global communication tremendously.  Of all the social media platforms available today, Twitter is one of the most popular, especially amongst political candidates.  “In 2016, 44% of U.S. adults reported having learned about the 2016 presidential election in the past week from social media, outpacing both local and national print newspapers” (Pew Research Center, 2016).  In comparison to previous election years, this is a pretty significant change in the way our world is choosing to receive its information. For most “people, especially in the United States, social media is the easiest and most convenient way to receive news.  Social media seems to be a means of connecting in the hopes of receiving real information.  While this is not to indicate that all tweets and posts are inaccurate, the growth of social media is beginning to treat users more like an ‘audience’ instead of an inclusive group with opinions that are being addressed appropriately.  According to Shirky,  “growth in group size alone is enough to turn a community into an audience, social software, no matter what its design, will never be able to create a group that is both large and densely interconnected” (Shirky, 2002, p. 1).  We see this playing out in the world of Twitter.  So many people turn to this particular platform to receive any and all information, making it a very powerful source to users. Unfortunately, the more popular these types of social media sites become, the less personal they will feel to its users.  

Hamby addresses the issue of the lack of experience that political reporters now possess. It seems that more and more political candidates are turning to social media to make their mark on the public.  “More and more, the mainstream political press is being cut out of the election process, raising questions about the value of being a reporter” (Hamby, 2013, p. 5).  Interestingly enough, we saw this to be true in the most recent election.  While Clinton, Sanders, and Trump all had active social media accounts, Trumps were the most successful with the public.  While both Clinton and Sanders focused more on linking their followers back to their campaign pages, Trump focused moreso on connecting his followers to the news media online.  Essentially, he relied less on reporters and his campaign team and strived to direct his followers to material that was already floating around in the media that was available to him.  In the end, this gave Trump the upper hand in terms of retweets, comments, follows, and Facebook reactions. Could it be that the way Trump utilized social media was one of the main reasons he won the election?

Lastly, I want to address the way Trump handled the public in terms of social media. McGonigal states that “The economy of engagement is also an economy of feelings, in which positive emotions—pride, curiosity, love, and feeling smart—are the ultimate reward for participation” (2008, p. 16).  Trump played on these “feelings” as McGonigal states.  Over time, our world has been brainwashed to believe that money is the root of all motivation.  Of all people for this statement to fall on, it would be Donald Trump.  However, he proved us wrong in terms of the election. Of all the candidates, he was the one to engage with the public most.  He took the time (or maybe people he hired took the time, which would be ironic) to answer the public and post what they were saying.  He cared more about the people following him than his campaign.  Do you feel like his engagement with the public was sincere?  Did you notice that Trump seemed to be the most prominent presidential candidate on Twitter during election season?  

 

Candidates differ in their use of social media to connect with the public. (2016, July 18th). Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2016/07/18/candidates-differ-in-their-use-of-social-media-to-connect-with-the-public/

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?

Open Source Warfare

The ideas behind how Open Source patterns are being applied to areas outside the realms of software, as Clay Shirky discusses, that “…my initial optimism about simple application of Open Source methods to other endeavors turned out to be wildly overoptimistic” (p. 484, 2005). Personally, I find this as an intriguing statement because at that time, a group the world knows as “Anonymous”, a collective of activist and hackers all over the world had existed for at least 2 years using the Open Source pattern to function as an organization. The only problem here was they were not in the public eye by any means as they had yet to really show the level of Open Source operation they would eventually develop. A similar group, formed in 1999 has garnered similar status in its use of this format and currently is effecting citizens around the world is the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Both use the same pattern of operation to great effect and both of them fall into the category of extremist groups, something I am sure Shirky would never have wanted to see as so successful.

Continue reading “Open Source Warfare”

Social Media to Social Life: It’s All About Signals

Social media has been working its way into our everyday lives for over a decade and as the years have gone by more and more of our personal data is now online. Years of buildup on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram are now proving viable sources for marketing. The information gathered from sites such as Facebook according to Kosinski, et al. (2012) state “…relatively basic digital records of human behavior can be used to automatically and accurately estimate a wide range of personal attributes that people would typically assume to be private,” (2012). The study conducted by Kosinski, et al. used the rudimentary Facebook Likes to predict various pieces of personal information about an individual Facebook user.

What was found from this study was that many of the more personal questions they had posed were easily answered by users own likes through Facebook, with many certain likes correlating to how the personal information was determined. This means that anytime anyone posts or likes something on social media they are beginning to create a definable profile about themselves. Whether they want certain aspects of their lives known or not does not mean they cannot give that information away by how their behavior can be tracked online.

After reading through this article, it had me thinking about how much of a goldmine this is for modern marketers and organizations. Consumers are willingly putting all this information about their interest, personality, family etc. online in the form of social media and are far more accepting of the ensuing marketing/advertising blitz they are receiving so long as it fits their needs or desires. As a society we keep wanting technology that has smart functionality, we want to have products that know us better than we know ourselves and therefore make our lives easier. This is where a recent article on the site Gizmodo caught my attention about a new, affordable development with smartwatch technology.

The article by Andrew Liszewski discusses how almost all electrical devices put out varying types of frequencies that make them distinguishable from one another. Now a research team comprised of some top-level minds including those from Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research has developed a way to detect those signals using a modified smartwatch radio. What the team has done is adjust a low cost smartwatch radio to detect these emitted signals from objects and then designed a specific program that can identify what object is making what frequency noise. This means the software theoretically can tell when you are opening the fridge door, checking your phone or opening the microwave. The modified smartwatch device is called EM-Sense and is something that can prove another extension to how our personal, private life can be identified by the smart technology we use.

Let us say like other social media or smart tools such as Facebook and Google Now that like to access our photos, web searches and location data to provide us useful information this new EM-Sense does the same thing. This means it could learn your routine schedule by what you interact with every day from what you do at work and providing you at work providing a task list or when, where and how long you like to take a run on Saturday mornings. Beyond this, it has other interesting applications such as for the blind or physical therapy where the data can help those individuals become more independent in their daily lives.

What are your thoughts on this new technologies potential? What do you think are the positive and negative implications this can have it becomes as prevalent as smartphones are today? Or is this a technology that has no practical use?

The Changing Landscape of American Journalism

Woodward and Bernstein
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein: Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate Scandal.

Hamby (2013) explains that during elections, journalists need access to  candidates for good reporting and that the mainstream media has become increasingly restricted from this privilege. When reporters spend time with the candidates, they develop richer stories and share “key insights about a candidate” (Hamby, 2013, p. 4) through conversations, body language and other personal observations. Hamby (2013) explains that many news organizations and networks cannot afford to pay journalists and camera crews to follow political campaigns. Additionally, the investment is a gamble if the news organization has the “wrong audience” because Hamby (2013) claims that candidates are more likely to cooperate with organizations that have the biggest audiences or internet traffic. They are also more inclined to work with journalists who will cast them in a positive light.

The digital era is changing the landscape of journalism. The internet allows reporters to send and publish content in a matter of minutes, creating a highly-competitive atmosphere. This means that not only are journalists required to gather information and report stories, they are also expected to be the photographer, camera person, and producer. Hamby argues that digital media platforms like Twitter, Politico, and Buzzfeed, have become increasingly influential with politicians and the American public. As a result, newspapers have been transformed into news organizations that promote a vast array of content through multiple online platforms. Hamby (2013) explains that despite the media’s enhanced ability to publish stories on more platforms than ever, the Pew Research Center found that political candidates and “their allies—spokespeople, cable news surrogates, Super PACs and the like—were the source for about half of the prevailing narratives about the campaigns in the press” (p. 33).

cell phone reporting
News reporting in the Digital Age

There is less incentive for journalists to check the credibility of their sources or stories because there are few, if any, ramifications. Journalists escape responsibility by using disclaimers that they do not endorse their retweets or that their account is personal and not affiliated with their news organization. Hamby believes that these behaviors reflect a decline in journalistic values. Many reporters, having a narrow perspective of a campaign, tend to make small and seemingly insignificant matters into newsworthy events. Restricting journalists from gaining access to politicians significantly limits the the topics they can cover. This has lead to journalists writing about trivial and superficial matters like a candidate’s appearance or sense of fashion. Smart phones allow reporters to discreetly record audio, video, and images, blurring the distinction between ‘on the record’ and ‘off the record’ statements. As a result, politicians are hesitant in trusting members of the press and the competitive nature of journalism continues to pressure reporters  on being the first to break a story. The problem with being first is that it comes with the risk of being incorrect.

This reading made me think of a segment (about 1 minute, 55 seconds into the video) on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver where he exposes the inaccuracies of a Fox News story surrounding the migrant and refugee crisis.

The news station broadcasted a video that depicts refugees on a train singing “Allah is great” with a caption reading “Terrorists Inbound?” During the video’s broadcast, the Fox News anchor explained to the audience that the network is not saying that the individuals shown in the video are terrorists or affiliated with terror groups, but wanted to show how many migrants are Muslim. John Oliver ridicules the disclaimer, arguing that Fox News cannot deny casting the people in the video as terrorists when they deliberately paired it with a caption reading “Terrorists Inbound?” Furthermore, Oliver explains that the video is five years old and was posted on YouTube- before the migrant crisis- in 2010. This means Fox News used outdated footage of a group of Muslim people singing on a train and manipulated the context to create a more sensationalized story. I thought this was a great example of how quickly the mainstream media can report a story without checking their facts or sources. Aside from John Oliver’s segment and other news sources that followed up on the story, I did not find any news showing that Fox News apologized or even commented on their inaccurate and outdated report.

Can we really prevent the media from broadcasting false or misleading information? How can we hold media organizations accountable for the stories they publish? Can you think of an example where a media organization took responsibility for publishing biased or incorrect information? If so, how did they handle the situation?

References

Hamby, P. (2013). Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy Discussion Paper Series, 1-95.

Wolf uses social media as Governor

Social media has changed the way we act in every situation. As a reaction to that, politicians have had to alter how they seek to reach voters and a younger demographic. This week, we really looked at how social media ties in with politics. It’s expanded the political sphere from billboards and commercials to Twitter feeds and Facebook advertisements.

Gone are the days of only presidential candidates taking carte blanche on any and all avenues to disseminate campaign and other information. Any public official seat can register a Twitter handle, for instance, from a governor to a senator or House representative.

Every day, any politician with social media access via smartphone, laptop or other mobile device can dispense any volume of useful information or propaganda from a tidbit to a mouthful. Shirky discusses how these tools have strengthened social change and made the public’s voice louder (2011).

While this is most widespread and bordering on obnoxious with presidential campaigns, it’s also been an important tool in state government here in Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf uses social media regularly to not just promote himself, but to hold “town halls,” where he sits down on camera and responds to questions and concerns read from his Facebook page for a chunk of time, usually a half an hour to an hour.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette published this:

Asked why he turned to Facebook, the governor said: “I think in a democracy, you should look for any possible way you can interact with the people who hired you. The voters of Pennsylvania voted for me for governor, and I need to continue the conversation that I think I engaged in in the campaign, and social media has been a great way to do that.”

The Post Gazette reports that these town hall Facebook chats even have Republican support as a way to reach more voters and residents. His March chat garnered over 14,000 views, according to Lancaster online.

WTAE compares Wolf’s Facebook initiative with another recent tool he’s been using, a Twitter town hall. The difference is that, here, Wolf responds directly to tweets sent to him, rather than a video of him answering the questions. WTAE states that there is a much quicker pace to this method.

What I found most interesting, taking into account Leetaru’s explanation that Twitter has greatly changed communication, is how critical we can be with these new advancements. Instead of just recognizing Wolf for his innovation once he was already in office and no longer campaigning, WTAE’s article, as well as countless others, complained about Wolf’s different attempts on the platforms.

Some people preferred the video aspect of watching Wolf answer as a kind of confirmation that it was, in fact, his own answers. Others liked the ability to not have to watch a video, but just stay tuned through their Twitter feed.

Both options have their merit. Is there another alternative you’d like to see politicians use? Or do you think one of these options is already the best way?

References

Leetaru, K. (2013, May). Mapping the global Twiter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter. Chicago, Illinois, United States of America.

Shirky, C. (2011). The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, The Public Sphere, and Political Change. Foreign Affairs , 12.