This is a final for my Media Issues class. It’s based on three books covered earlier in the semester. I wrote blogs for these books which you can find by clicking the Interactive Media Issues link. The final centers around a conference covering new media issues. I was supposed to outline each of the books read in class and then critic two.
Robert W. McChesney Opening Remarks
Reasons why Journalism and its future are your concerns:
- Journalism and the news is how we stay connected.
- Marketing is forcing professional journalism to lose its objectivity, so this is the reason for more entertainment news over hard hitting journalism and investigative journalism.
- Capitalism is also creating conglomerates and mergers that force news to parry to someone else’s interests.
- What we know as professional journalism will be destroyed by commercialism leaving room for weak and superficial news from bloggers and corporate puppets!!!
Ken Auletta Opening Remarks
Looking to Google’s success as a method for building companies today:
- Google is a multibillion dollar company whose corporate model is “Don’t Be Evil”.
- They’ve made their success on making things simple and giving users what they want.
- Their corporate money maker, Google Ads, falls within’ their guidelines of helping the user find the best match while still making money.
- While Google has had some bumps along the way, their main goal to cure inefficiency of everyday life still holds true through each of their corporate ventures.
Daniel J. Solove Opening Remarks
Why we need to think about Privacy and Reputation on the Internet:
- Looking at examples like Dog Poop Girl and Star Wars Kid, we’ve learned that the Internet can bring a permanent dent to your reputation.
- Professional and Personal lives are blending through social networking. With corporations following their employees on the internet.
- Blogging is becoming more professional, so what does this mean for reputation?
- New norms on the internet frown upon anonymous commenting something that was common only a couple of years ago.
Jonathan Zittrain Opening Remarks
The Internet is changing for the worse:
- Things that were once open source or generative are becoming closed in order to protect corporate interests.
- This non-generative trend in products for the internet, are stifling creativity that will allow for innovation.
- The Internet is slowly becoming more privatized and controlled.
- Fears of viruses are unwarranted because there have only been a few major examples.
Auletta and Google: Google is run by robots, literally. That’s probably the best way to describe the efficient engineer thinking that runs Google. Instead of thinking like most corporate giants, Google instead focuses on making life simple, easy, and to the point. It’s no wonder, my brother, who is also an engineer by the way, loves them. While Google may see themselves as humble robots who want to help humans, what they don’t realize is that they are a multibillion dollar corporation whose actions affect a huge number of people. And while they spend a lot of time telling us of their “don’t be evil” motto, we are a people full of suspension and even Internet giants like Google are not immune.
For instance, what about Google’s “scale” model? While we were using Google’s search engine, Google was storing data, data that would be able to tell the corporation were to move next. The information that Google has collected has made into relatively easy to move into any kind of business venture on the Internet from cloud computing to selling books. Google has put itself in an interesting situation to “scale” into anything (Auletta 323), and because of this Google becomes a huge target (for anyone, hackers, governments, terrorists) and a danger to control on the Internet. We’re are still mulling over issues of privacy (Solove’s The Future of Reputation, FutureWeb 2010 conference Privacy session), and Google is moving at a rate that could be detrimental down the road. Google Baggage as Solove calls it is not helping.
Solove and Reputation: While the internet may seem as if it’s giant baggage for any person looking for a job or wanting to protect their reputation, it should also be important to wonder why people live their lives on the internet as if no one is watching. Something that Solove doesn’t cover or bother to really think about is that the Internet has created this image of transparency, so much so that networks like Facebook continue to lower privacy settings and Twitter doesn’t mind giving away your tweets for the government to save. In your book towards the end (189), you discuss the fact that as people we simply enjoy talking about ourselves and each other and because of this we’ve been placed in a pickle.
The problem lies with ourselves and buying into the Internet’s moniker of transparency, as consumers we need to learn (or rather relearn) that while blogs can be a place to share our thoughts, that anyone can get to it and that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are not bound to protect us. At the same time while corporations want to know more about the person their hiring, using Google and a person’s Facebook may not be the best practice for creating trust with a new employee.
In my post on Online Television and the Revival Model I mentioned that the Muppet’s rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody was up for a Webby Award.
Well, they won. The award was for Best Viral Video.
Not even 15 minutes after a lecture on the dangers of too much entertainment coverage, a group that I will affectionately call the peanut gallery* went into a frenzy of discussion on interesting topics including Toni Braxton’s new look, Tyra Banks’ soon to be husband, the benefits of wearing boxer briefs, and the final episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race; that we were hit by this new shocking revelation from People magazine.
Sandra Bullock’s got a baby?!
Apparently Bullock has been going through the adoption process without anyone’s knowledge and has officially adopted a baby from New Orleans. Going past issues of interracial adoption, as well as international vs national adoption, we (yes I will include myself as one of the said peanut gallery) quickly tried to figure out what was going on because as one of the anonymous members of this club had said before, “I like Sandra Bullock and I hate what’s happened to her.”
I wasn’t going to write about this topic because celebrity news is celebrity news and is driven more by humans as species building communities than anything else, but reading this article from Jezebel on the Bullock revelation changed my mind especially this final bit:
“Sandra’s story just underscores that all celebrity “news” is a charade. With all the claims made by “an insider close to Sandra” in the past few months, not a single one even hinted that she had adopted a child. If Sandra could evade the paparazzi, what does that say about the celebrities who get “caught” by photographers and the stories we do read about?”
Sandra has managed to control a situation revealing what needed to be revealed at the right time, but not only has she revealed her new son, she has also poked a hole in the system of celebrity news. In the end we get the news because we want the news.
During the lecture, they talked a lot about online real state, the fact that often there isn’t a clear line between celebrity news and what’s considered hard news and we only have ourselves the individual cater that the internet allows. Where a newspaper allows for easy division and categorization, the same can not be said for the internet where the main page is about capturing a person’s eye and content management
systems are built to give the person what they want. The more I’m on Netflix, the more they offer me foreign films because I watch foreign films, if I don’t feel like watching a foreign film but that’s all that’s recommended to me who do I blame: the CMS for trying to get to know me or myself? What I’m saying here is that in the end maybe news sources shouldn’t rely on whims of the public (they can’t easily flow with the internet) if they want to offer balanced news (see Issues is Journalism).
In the end, I think it’s best to say that I agree with the thought that it’s not more celebrity news, just more celebrities. Because in one way or another, the press has always been in the business of knowing someone’s business whether it is a socialite, a movie star, or the President. And as more news outlets become consolidated there will be a blurring of the lines.
And finally, there was a statement made during the lecture that celebrity news has gotten worse over the years and I want to refute that with this clip from The Women made in 1939.**
It hasn’t gotten worse, there are just pictures now.
*Peanut Gallery: an audience that heckles the performer. The term originated in the days of vaudeville as a nickname for the cheapest (and ostensibly rowdiest) seats in the theater; the cheapest snack served at the theater would often be peanuts, which the patrons would sometimes throw at the performers on stage to show their disapproval. The phrases “no comments from the peanut gallery” or “quiet in the peanut gallery” are extensions of the name. In the late 1940s the Howdy Doody show adopted the name to represent their audience of 40 children.
**Sorry this video goes out of sync part of the way in but you get the general jist of what’s going on here. Please enjoy it.
You have talking 3 foot sized M&Ms, you have pieces of the Rainbow with Skittles, and you have jerk off boyfriends with Twix, but while branding and candy have become synonymous with entertainment and joy and fun; you can’t beat a candy who’s branding is all about the imagination that comes from eating Willy Wonka candy.
Willy Wonka candy company is a subsidy Nestle and while Nestle has proven to not be able to let go of some of the control on their branding, I think it’s fair to say that when it comes branding candy and using entertainment to do so, Willy Wonka has an edge that most candy companies do not.
They have Ronald Dahl.
Probably one of the most influential children’s book writers of the English speaking world (think a time before Harry Potter), Ronald Dahl has the unmistakable knack for creating stories with imagination and impossibilities. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the character of Willy Wonka has proven that imagination is infectious even in the oldest of persons’ mind. So building an actual company that revolves around this world is almost too easy.
Then you have the movies. M&Ms maybe a nostalgic part of the American zeitgeist, but does Red, Yellow and the rest of the gang have a movie let alone a remake?
What’s difficult about candy and it’s branding is that you don’t necessarily need to advertise for candy. It’s like a Coca-cola and other companies that have been around so long that they’re cultural icons. The advertising is really to just remind people that they’re still there ever present ready for you to pick them up on the way to the cash register. They do the digital thing because everyone else is doing it.
That’s probably why Skittles made the mistake of moving completely to twitter. For a candy company social media is just another thing that people want to do and they might as well go along with it in order to stay current.
What’s great for Willy Wonka is that in ten years when they want to do another Golden Ticket contest, they can just remake the Ronald Dahl classic.
After listening to a lecture about television programming online, looking at different broadcasting models when it comes to the internet and television, I wanted to talk about DramaFever a Korean equivalent to Hulu that provided licensed subtitled videos of Korean dramas. But I figured that a large percentage of my audience wouldn’t know what Korean dramas were, so a large portion would have been spent discussing the world of Korean television online. (It would have been boring and simply a rehash of what was already talked about.)
So instead, let’s talk about the Muppets.
We all for the most part know about the mega creation of Jim Hensen. Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy, Animal, Rizo the Rat, Chef and the whole cast from Seasame Street. For many who are a part of my generation and older, the Muppets were a staple of our childhood through movies and television. But over the years, and particularly after the Jim Hensen Studios was bought by the Mouse (Disney) we saw very little new content from the Muppet Studios. Even when the Kermit and the crew turned 50 the fan fare was nothing compared to their 30th anniversary during the 80’s. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, Disney just couldn’t get the next generation hyped about the Muppets brand of slapstick comedy.
In comes YouTube. If you ever spent hours on Youtube, you know that the site is hot bed for illegal content, parody, and the weblog, but something that Youtube has allowed many bored 20-somethings and older to do is relive the familiar shows of their youth. If you type in the Muppets into Youtube, you get everything from all the movies, the Muppet Babies intro, to even the little known muppet content that’s been pulled from old VHS tapes. YouTube is definitely the place to go if you want to know what the Muppets are really about.
Something I felt was missing from the lecture and maybe that’s because it doesn’t necessarily fit (it’s a combination of the Broadcast First/Online First models), is that the world for online is also the revival place of television programming. Through viewers and even the content producers themselves, television that was once popular is managing a small comeback. This is probably because the world of online works with niche marketing. We’ll feed a niche no matter how small while television is working to gain the largest percentage. When Muppet Studios created their own channel on Youtube, they weren’t necessarily aiming for a younger audience. Instead they brought their brand of comedy to things that would appeal to their (now older) demographic…Queen. And it has proven to be a success for them with their videos gaining views in the multimillions and a nomination for the Webby Awards. At the same time, older televised content has managed to stay up on Youtube (which is surprising since they’re owned by Disney).
The Muppet brand has decided to evolve with its older audience following successful “muppet-like” ventures like Avenue Q and Funny or Die clips that takes on the issue of Don’t ask Don’t tell (with puppets) with an improve stage play Stuffed and Unstrung.
In the end, The Muppet Studio has managed in a small way to boost their popularity with new online content. A combination of the Broadcast first model with users posting older content that isn’t immediately taken down and the Online first model with the Muppet Studios and new online videos has created something of a resurgence that goes beyond plain old Pizza Hut commercials into something that could be considered the Revival Model.
Also…go and vote for Queen + Muppets: Bohemian Rapshody for the Webby Awards*
*This post is in no way endorsed by the Muppet Studios LLC. :-D
I’ve talked about before that we are in an information age that many sites like Facebook and Google are pushing us to think of our lives as transparent information tunnels were we filter our everyday activities for the world to see. “Today, I danced with a Banana” “I wish birds would stop pooing on my car” “I want a cookie” are all things I have willingly said (on Facebook) for the world to see. The information age gives us an opportunity to be truly transparent even to the point that our friends know where we are. I’m not really one of these people since when I write for my LiveJournal blog my location is either In My Bed or On My Couch meaning I become both specific and vague about current location for the reason that I don’t like being tracked (since whatever you input will be made into a searchable link for Google Maps). For others this isn’t necessarily the case, they don’t mind people knowing their exact location.
Artist Hasan Elahi has been willing giving his location since 2001 when he was investigated by the FBI after 9/11 (he was mistakenly suspected terrorism because of his race). The Orwell Project is a interesting and ironic piece that works much like twitter and facebook work today. Elahi is continuously wired to his website and everything from the gas station he visits to the food he eats is meticulously documented for anyone to see. The only things different is that Elahi doesn’t comment on his location like most Facebook users do it’s a work of art that’s meant to be ironic. But it says something when a practice that was meant to be a “helpful” tool to the government is now an everyday practice for a large percentage of the population (and still a helpful tool to the government).
Also does anyone remember the Where You At? commercials?
“Well you know where I’m at, and I know where you’re at so lets leave it at that.” Doesn’t that sound both creepy and utterly convenient at the same time?! I remember when these commercials first aired and my initial thought was, “I DON’T WANT YOU KNOWING WHERE I’M AT!!!” And really, I still think like this but it has more to do with my own complexes on people knowing too much about me without my consent rather than my unwillingness to share. So a company like Boost Mobile trying to sell me what was essentially is a tracking device back in 2006 bothered me. But today, GPS and being tracked through your phone are almost standard and even I partake in a little LAN (Location Awareness Narcissism) when I take pictures on my phone and randomly send them out to people without explination.
Finally I want to say that we often are told we should give up our privacy for safety. I don’t know if I agree with this our not but situations have proved that being able to be tracked has worked in someone’s favor. Whether it was to find a missing child, or a locate a stolen car, and even get a person to the hospital, location awareness has led to some fascinating stories of people being saved by tracking (and general nosiness). A GPS product that’s proving to be an interesting tool for sex workers is the Aphrodite Project. Named after the god of love (and sex) the Aphrodite Project sells GPS enabled platforms that not only include GPS but alarms and signals that call for help to police (if sex work is legal in that area) to ward off attackers. Helping to keep sex workers safe, these stylish pumps do more than just elongate you leg and give you height.
In today’s world we give out a lot more information then we suspect and I just want to point out examples in location awareness that go beyond commercialism and game play and how really…we’re ok with that.
Like most things in this world there are cycles. The cycle of life: birth life death; the seasons: spring summer, fall, winter; and if you’re an old school art historian: new, pure, gaudy. The same could be said of technology. It goes through a cycle of new and wondrous and scary, then it becomes corporate, and then when corporations start to get out of control there are regulations and what was once new and wondrous and easily explore-able is not filled with gateways and obstacles. It happened to the telephone, it happened to radio…television, and now it’s happening to the internet and Zitterain’s The Future of the Internet And How to Stop It is a response to this ever happening cycle.
In Zitterain’s book we see an internet that is open and free for anyone to explore becoming locked down through pay walls, hardware, and software locking through DRM. It’s a harsh reality for the average consumer as corporations take it upon themselves to police our use of a product through coding we don’t understand, lowering the standards of generativity* (or open source) for a product we buy.
I give an older example from the second phase of the popular PC game The Sims, The Sims 2, EA and Maxis decided to protect their hugely popular game from hackers by adding SecuRom software to its game disc. If you bought the game you received a kick in the pants as well sense SecuRom’s function was to go into your computer detect certain disc copying software and then render the game useless by not letting you install it. In a world where most PC users don’t even know what kind of software is placed on their computer when they buy it (which usually includes the odd disc burning software) SecuRom was a slap in face to consumers who’d actually paid for the product.
After 4 expansion packs, several destroyed hardware systems, and a mini scandal in the computer gaming world, EA made the decision to not include SecuRom when it launched the third phase of the Sims, The Sims 3.
For Sims addicts like myself who bought the game with the fear that SecuRom would take out my slow running laptop for good, this was a win; but what Zitterain is offering is an internet and digital age where even despite consumer pleas, there is still a major shut down on systems that allow users to manipulate and build off of the code someone else has created. And this is an argument that isn’t baseless.
I don’t think in the case of technology cycles the internet is really different, but I think we can ease the coming regulations if we’re open and transparent about what we do with open source.
*generitivity is the ability to add and change the base function.