A Response to the Changing Structure of Journalism

This week I watched two intriguing videos online. One was a discussion between New York Times columnist David Carr and Bloomberg Media Chairman Andrew Lack, the other was a TED Talk presented by author, journalist and media critic Tom Rosentiel. Both videos explored issues surrounding digital technologies, journalism and media.

I consider myself lucky, belonging to a demographic that has had the privilege of witnessing (and being a part of) this massive, global transition to online media – at such a fragile time of mental and physical growth. These overwhelming, crazy changes to information and communication technologies came about at a curious time of my adolescence. Between the ages of 11-13 I was only just beginning to find my place, attempting to identify myself in this world. I enjoyed reading and writing, and the idea of being a journalist interested me (although I did not quite understand the role of journalism back then). I remember picking up a popular teenage girls’ magazine, Girlfriend. I knew that journalists produced the content, so I would flick through not only recreationally, but also for a sense of guidance I suppose. What struck me, and made me never pick up one of these magazines again, was a giant, bold phrase on the front cover, accompanied with an unblemished, beautiful woman, “SKIPPING BREAKFAST MAKES YOU SKINNY”. This was a confusing message for me, because I had never thought about the number on the scales at this age. In addition, it contradicted my previous knowledge (from school and family) of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. So I was at a crossroad – believe these words and images; from a source I have no personal connection with, or ditch it and vow never to purchase the magazine again. I chose the latter. Looking back, that title still rubs me the wrong way. It also tainted my perception of commercial journalists, and my desire to be one. To think that there was a whole article inside a magazine targeted at teenage girls, blatantly attempting to convince them to compensate a healthy diet for an idealistic reality (a body which most young girls are not aware they wanted). This is one of the only magazines I ever picked up when I was younger, so I dread to think how many inappropriate articles were falsely educating the minds of girls.

I digress; this long-winded story did have a point. I simply wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation for the modern structure that journalism is steering towards today, thanks to the participation of consumers. No more authoritarian, one-way process between journalist and audience. I wanted to use my experience with the magazine to demonstrate some of the limitations in traditional media forms. As I stated, my only two options were to continue reading and purchasing those magazines, just ‘cause that’s all that was available to me at the time… or ditch it and find something else. Now, in 2014, if an organisation were to publish that exact headline, I can only imagine the stir it would cause online; aggressive posts on their Facebook profile, abusive mentions on their Twitter page, and comments from people around the world who work in nutrition and health, all putting their two cents in.

When I come across material that explores journalistic practice in a digital age, there is one recurring thought that stays with me, to try make sense of it all. I think of journalism as a system – it involves ethics, hierarchy and provides a service. Much like a democratic government. We elect our government. In a sense, this same logic is being applied to the structure journalism. For so long journalists have provided citizens with a service, without actually engaging them. Audiences and journalists can now work together to create a system that utilises tools from both parties, ultimately (hopefully) aiming to achieve a consistent, convenient, trustworthy and reliable industry.


Reference List:

Rosenstiel, T 2013, The Future of Journalism, TED X online video, YouTube, accessed 17 April 2014 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuBE_dP900Y&gt;

bu, 2014, NYT’s David Carr on the Future of Journalism, online video, YouTube, accessed 17 April 2014, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WPlazqH0TdA&gt;

Comments:
http://20freethoughts.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/journalism-graduate-seeking-employment-good-luck/
http://inconspicuousblogaddress.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/is-journalism-dying/

Devices in Australian Schools

Modern devices and software offer many educational benefits, with Australian schools opting to take advantage of the mobility that new technology can provide. We haven’t quite landed on an ideal setting that includes equal access to devices for students across Australian schools. In 2007, Kevin Rudd jumped straight into the deep end, when he proposed a scheme for all high school students to receive a laptop. The cost and maintenance of this program was well overlooked, with students consistently having issues with laptop functionality, placing greater strain on schools and government funding (Wright, 2013). Six years down the track, Australian education communities are trying to come up with their own systems for equipping students with devices, which begin to raise concerns of access and equity.

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Following Rudd’s unsuccessful laptop scheme, the Department of Education has introduced a new policy for high school students, BYOD – “Bring Your Own Device” (Smith, 2014). Many schools have adapted this new policy in various ways, with some requesting that all students must have the same operating system (e.g. students can only bring in devices manufactured by Apple). While it may be more convenient for schools to run and maintain appropriate software and Wi-fi access for one operating system, it places financial strain on families. However, schools that have an open BYOD policy then struggle to ensure the quality of resources among students, as there may be gaps between devices functionality. Additional limitations include a school’s location and socio economic rating. There is also concern that too much technology can hinder the significance of interpersonal communication and cognitive function, being a major distraction for students. High school curriculums are undergoing a dramatic transition, being consistently challenged by the tendency of IT models in learning and teaching (Foo, 2013). Devices aid learning for students, whom can also help teachers with modern technologies – ultimately, we need to create an educational infrastructure that can achieve a balance in access, as well as usage.

References:

Foo, F 2013, Schools Make a Move to BYOD, The Australian, weblog post, 7 May, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/technology/schools-make-a-move-to-byod/story-e6frganx-1226636277661&gt;

Smith, A 2014, It’s BYO Laptop now as Schools End Free Program, Sydney Morning Herald, weblog post, 21 February, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/end-of-free-laptop-program-means-its-byo-device-now-for-many-high-school-students-20140220-334bz.html&gt;

Wright, J 2013, Computer Cash in Lap of Chaos, Sydney Morning Herald, weblog post, 3 February, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/computer-cash-in-lap-of-chaos-20130203-2dr65.html&gt;

If You Can Think of It – It’s About to Happen.

In the not-so-distant future, everyone and everything in the world will be connected to the Internet. This phenomenon is already in its early stages – and is known as the “Internet of Things” (Kevin Ashton, 2009). There are approximately 2 billion people using the Internet right now, however the Internet contains a larger number of data. Our ability to produce information has far exceeded our ability to control it. We know that the Internet has extreme potential, now it’s just a matter of developing an effective way to harness it. Technologist John Barrett states “Every major global government, and every major economic block, is investing heavily in the IoT”.

Since the emergence of the Internet, we’ve recognised a unique sense of harmony to the dimensions of life. Now, by accessing real-time data of the way systems are interacting, we can better understand global dynamics and thus make more intelligent decisions. From space, the world is visible as a neural network with cities as nodes, a literal image that we are a system of systems. We can see it, hear it, and capture it – the world has virtually developed a central nervous system, it is early days but the planet is speaking to us. Ongoing accessibility and innovations make for a very efficient society, and with the matrixing of services we will generate more resilient systems.

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The Internet of Things cannot be simply explained, so I recommend watching this lecture by Dr. John Barrett. Barrett describes the Internet as a digital cloud or universe, 4000 Exabyte’s in size (whoa). All of our lives are about to change – by merging the physical world to the Internet. We will be able to control and communicate with everything from anywhere – goods, objects, machines, appliances, buildings, vehicles, animals, plants, soil and even humans will become a part of the IoT (we kind of already are). The possibilities are only restricted by our imagination… so buckle your seat belts, hold your horses, and put down your Smartphones. Actually pick them back up, because soon you will be able to point your device at anything or anyone and learn as much as you can about it through embedded circuits. Barrett quotes, “Facebook will look like a minor event”.  So if you were concerned about privacy issues on social media… think again. One major concern regarding the IoT is the devalued notion of privacy. Google has the potential to become a real life search engine as everything will be tagged, locatable, and can give us information about itself and its surrounding environment (via RFID – Radio Frequency Identification).

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Another major concern is if everything in the world is connected, issues of terrorism and hacking will be magnified. The IoT will be extremely vulnerable, creating immense opportunities for the security software industry. This may seem frightening and preposterous, but it is a reality. Pre-schoolers are now learning on iPads – young children brought into this technologically dependent world will embrace the IoT effortlessly. However, I think it will take us (gen X & Y) some time to get used to.

Apple & Android: Different Ideas, Great Success.

The two hottest Smartphone’s on the market: Android & iPhone, with the battle of locked vs. generative appliances coming into play. Both successful in appealing to different tastes, however there has been much debate over one being better than the other. Ultimately, I feel it comes down to personal choice. If you’re a tech-wiz, or simply enjoy being able to fiddle with every minute feature on your phone, the Android is an appropriate choice for you. The Android allows you to take control and responsibility over the usage choices you make (via rooting) whereas the iPhone is a ‘sterile’ or closed/locked device.

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The Internet revolution challenged copyright laws, with users freely downloading music, applications, images and software (pretty much anything) – being impossible to manage. Apple attempts to prevent illegal activity used on the iPhone by controlling it as a locked appliance. Therefore a newly purchased iPhone comes tethered to Apple’s desires. To ensure this, Apple has created relative programs to use in conjunction with the iPhone, such as the iTunes store and a walled garden of applications (App store). This means that Apple have complete control over the platform, user and content. It’s also a bonus for Apple, as they receive a 30 per cent profit of everything sold in their App store, which holds almost one million applications. Some would argue that not providing the user with complete control is a negative, however the set features Apple provides seem to please a bulk of the Smartphone market. In addition, not everybody cares about the fiddly elements of their phone and prefer the simple layout Apple provides. The Android is an example of a generative and free platform, with an open garden of applications. Considering these two different devices, there has been much debate over which is better to use or preferred by consumers. The ideologies are completely opposite as Apple states that locking the options for audiences is for their own good, whereas the Android market believes users take responsibility for their free choices. Nevertheless, it is possible for iPhone users to “jailbreak” or gain ‘root’ access to the code, which allows complete control over the hardware and software.

The Significance of Social Media

Interaction is a significant aspect of human culture. An article by Mike Laurie investigates the different ways social media has changed us. Over time many different forms of communication have evolved. From inconvenient, labour intensive technologies such as Morse code and carrier pigeons, to instantaneous connections through wireless devices. Rather than posting a letter or buying a newspaper we are now able to share, produce, and circulate endless amounts of information in simple and effective ways.

Skeptics consider social networking to be straining society with regard to social etiquette and identity. However, I would deem these to be issues within the media as a whole and not just social media. Consider a teenage girl reading a magazine – the collaboration of articles and images would produce something to the effect of: “Wear this. Wear that. Act like this around boys. If you’re thin and pretty you will be happy and popular”. In this sense, the consumer only has the option to do just that – consume. And while these same messages may be sprawled across the Internet, we are no longer lazy consumers of passive messages – we are active participants. Social media is about being connected, engaging with old friends and creating new experiences. Instead of being limited to the information in a 25-page magazine, we can now explore what feels like infinite amounts of content. Laurie describes time before the Internet to be when limitations of learning existed due to poor literacy and lack of access to books. If “knowledge is power” and you have access to continuous information distribution, your desire for knowledge is legitimately within fingertips.

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An article By David Wallace outlines the statistics with regard to the influence social media has had beyond the notion of socialising. Employment, news, law enforcement, education, political participation, economy, music industries and marketing systems have all been prompted and enhanced through social media. A report by PEW suggested that social networks have encouraged younger generations to be more involved in political issues, a fine example of society being more interested and informed with the world around us.

Through citizen journalism comes the rise of “gatewatchers”, where user-generated content flows freely among platforms. Axel Bruns (2003) states that social networks fabricate participant communities through various understandings and interpretations. Bruns states that blogging should be recognised as a significant form of journalism. Online gatewatchers may actually compliment the mainstream journalism industry through the diversity of discussion and debate, no longer being limited by the “gatekeeper”.

Convergence Culture

Communication between individuals constitutes a lot of what makes us unique. Mark Deuze explores participatory culture and media convergence in his journal Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries. Deuze states that the emergence of a media environment where we are not only consuming, but also our whole online behaviour involves participation, co-creation and collaboration to some degree. Engaging with content through social networks can be defined as citizen journalism. When commenting on a YouTube video or sharing something on Facebook, you are propelling the flow within this online ecosystem. A clip by Henry Jenkins explores convergence culture as a world where stories, sounds, brands, images and relationships plays itself out across the maximum number of media channels. For those of us born in the digital age, this technological shift is one that we can adjust to and advance with little effort required. We are so used to doing everything instantaneously, at the click of a button. One of the most significant themes of media convergence is the ability to send more information further and faster.

Technology is so intertwined with our lifestyles now that we consider traditional forms of media as being “old” and useless on some levels. Why go out and buy a newspaper when I can read it on a website? Why rent a DVD when I can stream it online? Cartoons such as South Park often reference technological convergence in a humorous way. South Park’s episode A Nightmare on Facetime (Season 16, Episode 12) mocks physical media distribution when the character Randy buys a Blockbuster video store and is certain it’s going to bring his family into wealth. ’We’re going to have customers up our ass!’ Randy is proven wrong while the store poses as a “haunted” and “creepy” place that everyone avoids. This was a clever imitation addressing the death of DVD’s and video rental stores.  While Randy’s son Stan is stuck at the Blockbuster with his family, he is still present with his friends trick-or-treating via Facetime on his iPad. The use of the iPad was quite witty – throughout the episode Stan is constantly streaming videos and chatting to his friends, which really contrasted well with the eerie feel of the DVD store. While he was physically stuck in one place, he was also using multiple media platforms and entering cyberspace. South Park really utilised the relevance of convergence culture and this idea of an online environment.

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Thanks evolution for the extra limb, I shall call it technology.

So the other day my stepdad was telling an old story and mentions that he was “running to get the phone”. One would only assume a landline connected to the wall, right? Well my 6-year-old brother interrupts innocently and confused, ‘Why would you get up and run to the phone? Why wouldn’t you just get it out of your pocket?’ even out of context, this seems to be an accurate depiction of society today. We actually have a home phone in our house, so I found it quite peculiar for him to presume it was a mobile.

As technology continues to evolve, so does the emergence of tech addicts. Does owning a smartphone make you an addict? I felt that what my younger brother said was a great way to point out the moral panics surrounding tech addiction – even though your mobile isn’t physically attached to you, he still observes that it is always on your person. It’s this device you carry around that acts as an extension of yourself, and into the wireless society. Results from 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits study indicated that 72% of respondents claimed their phone is within 1.5 metres of them most of the time.

While moral panics tend to surround media content, I felt it worthy to note that it is also media usage.  An example of this would be the emergence of “quiet zones” requiring a no mobile/device policy. Public spaces such as restaurants, Café’s and airport lounges are now introducing these quiet zones and are becoming more popular. Similar to the vigorous spread of “No smoking” areas once society became wise to the health risks associated with cigarettes. But how is being on my phone harming anybody? You may ask. Ha, this is where the moral panic is – anybody who has worked in customer service would agree that serving someone who is texting, on a call, or completely fixated on their phone screen during a transaction is rude and frustrating. It’s becoming increasingly apparent, and is a poor form of social etiquette. While (as far as we know) addictive use of hand held devices do not have fatal [physical] affects the way cigarettes do, there is a lot of psychological damage that should not be overlooked. Anxiety, stress, severe distraction and social breakdown are some of the mental health risks we all face on a daily basis.

iPhone-Cigarette

Research indicates that out of the 56% of Americans who own smartphones, 40% experience “Nomophobia” – fear of being without your mobile. Furthermore, studies suggest that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drink driving, with 55% of respondents still admitting they do it. Research from Versapak indicated that 51% of the UK residents who were surveyed (1,245) stated they suffered from ‘extreme tech anxiety… feeling a lack of control when separated from their gadgets’. Constantly checking and re-checking your device, coupled with feeling anxious when you can’t, is also a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In addition, if sometimes you think you’ve felt or heard your phone vibrate when in fact it hasn’t – this is known as “Phantom Cell phone Vibration Syndrome” which is another telltale sign of tech addiction.

Be aware of your behaviour with technology. Are you active in your surroundings? Do you lack focus? Is your work suffering significantly? Do you feel anxious? For many of us this behaviour may already be integrated into our lifestyle, but it is important to identify and minimize the risks.

However, it’s not all bad. Devices are used for productivity, entertainment and communication – I just think it’s important that we don’t depend every waking minute on it. The most common sentiment in relation to smartphones is the sense of “connectedness”, as humans, our natural instinct is to connect with others.

Where is the off switch?

Technology has entirely restructured an individual’s way of working. Where we may still have a separate space for work and home, the two are now enmeshed due to the versatility of technological devices (aka casualisation). While it may be a more convenient and efficient way of working, the concept of “liquid” life via convergence of work and home now means that we are living under constant uncertain conditions.

The issue raised now is that there is difficulty maintaining a healthy home life because our lives are so intertwined with technology. Workers now feel the pressures of always being “switched on” and contactable outside of work hours. Even at university, I already have a first hand experience of this. Despite our tutors setting on campus consultation times, I noticed that more people email or tweet their concerns and questions. While this may be appropriate, encouraged (in a media and communications course) and an efficient way to interact, it still poses this idea of always being connected and therefore feeling a strain to relax during off work hours.

TIME Magazine published an article stating that in the past few years, companies such as Google have taken measures to ensure their workers have a healthier balance between work and home life. Furthermore, in January 2012, Europe’s largest automaker Volkswagen vowed to deactivate emails on German staff BlackBerries while not at work. Their devices are set to only receive emails half an hour before and after work hours. It’s good to see a company taking on board the powerful affect technology had on their workers, and finding ways to maintain equilibrium. Whilst we are only just adapting to a digital age, I hope that more boundaries are made for workers so they are able to have “off” time. In light of this, there is research to support that regular downtime prompts better productivity.

Zia plugged in

Results in a study undertaken in February 2012 suggested that because we are constantly immersed in technology, it not only becomes habitual but addictive. The research found the majority of people consider social networking platforms and emailing more difficult to resist than cigarettes and Alcohol. In the study, 205 adults were required to wear devices which recorded almost up to 8, 000 reports of their daily desires. Sleep and sex were the most dominant, however desires for media and work proved the toughest to resist.

Carolyn Marvin, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, alleges that the addiction to our devices is a result of wanting to be “a successful member of middle class society” and states that that this is achieved by “showing our dedication to professional work and being available at all hours of the day”.

 Our concurrent immersion with all forms of media prompts contemporary modifications in the economy. While the various spheres of daily activity converge, the line between work and home are increasingly blurred.

References:

Deuze, M 2006, Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work, March 19, Indiana University

Knowledge@Wharton 2012, ‘Why Companies Should Force Employees to Unplug’,  TIME Business & Money, weblog, 16 February,  viewed 22/08/2013, <http://business.time.com/2012/02/16/should-companies-force-employees-to-unplug/

“Networks are the Matrix”

The significance of living in a network society is that networks provide fundamental structure to our lives. Only recently has the media become an influential public space of our time, forming and shaping shared societal experiences. In light of this, Manuel Castells from this weeks reading stated that technology does not determine society, however some social structures could not have developed without it. Communication comes naturally to humans and now the logic, interests and conflicts of this network society globally dominate us. It is not always the message we are sending, but rather the medium through which it is processed. For example, a common frowned upon message to send through social media would be the “break up”. Often in high school girls/guys would be offended and shocked if they were broken up with through social media sites, however if it was a phone call it seemed to not have that much of a detrimental effect.

Charles Arthur in an article for The Guardian referred to networks as the ‘Matrix’.  The first thing that came to my mind when seeing the words ‘network’ and ‘matrix’ together was Google. Google seems to be the center of the Internet. It monitors you closely through every use, pushing ads and even channeling results based on your browsing history. By purely signing up to a gmail (Google Mail) account you now have a YouTube and Google+ account. Regardless if you are actively using these accounts, Google can still track your every move just by being signed in. But it doesn’t stop there; artist Erica Scourti made a video called “Life In Adwords”. Scourti emailed a daily diary to her Gmail account for a year, and then created a collaboration of herself listing the suggested adwords made by Google. So even in what you think is a personal online space, the content of her emails were identified and turned into ‘sale-able’ advertisements. As we use sites such as Facebook and Google as a networking tool it is doing the very same thing by extracting our personal information for its benefit.

Another example would be that you now have to pay Facebook for your posts to reach all of your Friends – it only shows them to those who you interact with most. However, large companies and corporations can pay Facebook to share your post with everyone if you are to mention them in a positive way. For instance “My coffee from Gloria Jeans today was amazing” instead of only going to a handful of your Facebook Friends, Gloria Jeans will pay to have your status reach the maximum audience possible.

References:

Arthur, C 2013, Google+ isn’t a social network; it’s The Matrix, The Guardian, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2013/jun/04/google-plus-the-matrix

Castells, M 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’ in Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world?, pp. 221-224

Killalea, D 2013, Texting, Facebook are the worst ways to break up with someone,
news.com.au, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/texting-facebook-are-the-worst-ways-to-break-up-with-someone/story-fnet09p2-1226669481242

Outcasting 2013, Life in Adwords / Erica Scourti, Outcasting, weblog post, 23 April, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.outcasting.org/2013/04/life-adwords-erica-scourti/

Media and Space

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This image represents something I’m sure most of us have done. Been on your phone while at work (when you’re not supposed to). The funny thing is, back in the day – prior to social media – when someone was on their phone you could assume they were reading or responding to an SMS. Now that is hardly the case. It sounds silly when you say it out loud, but a lot of people can’t resist checking Facebook, Twitter, posting work selfies on Instagram, or asking people to send you more lives for Candy Crush. In fact, I would even go on to say that because you know you’re not supposed to be looking at it, makes you want it more. Why do we feel like this? Because we are human. We strive for connectedness, we want to always be a part of something, and we feel the natural desire to belong to this magnificent online structure. By creating online identities we become an active audience of the online sphere. We can fulfill this urge to stay connected with peers, colleagues, friends and old friends. I feel lucky to have seen this transition to the digital age in my lifetime. While older generations are (stereotypically) technologically impaired, younger generations are able to use an iPod before learning to ride a bike.