Final Thoughts: YouTube the TV Network of the Future Is Here

Research on the issue of copyright and copyleft led me to the topic of teens generating content that they post on YouTube. At a TEDX lecture in 2007 Creative Commons creator Larry Lessig talked about “laws that choke creativity”. In it he brought up the “fair use” issue and lamented that young people today are being labeled as pirates for using digital tools as a means of speech. (Lessig 2007) He explained the content being created using copyrighted music and images was not piracy, but rather an extension of speech.

 

“The importance of this is not the technique that you see here, because of course every technique that you see here is something that television and film producers have been able to do for the last 50 years. The importance is that that technique has been democratized. It is now anybody with access to a $15-hundred dollar computer who can take sounds and images from the culture around them and say things differently. These tools of creativity have become tools of speech.” (Lessig 2007)

 

I found this profound and wanted to look further into the effects that heavy-handed copyright issues were having on content creation. As a founding member of the Creative Commons Lessig is a part of a movement to change the way digital media is created and accessed. (Lessig 2008)

 

Gabriella Coleman writes in Coding Freedom: The ethics and aesthetics of hacking that the current legal environment is one that is so hostile that developers are coming up with ways to circumvent that environment my literally creating a new economic market not above the law but working within its confines.

 

“Never before has a single legal regime of copyrights and patents reigned supreme across the globe, and yet never before in the short history of intellectual property law have we been graced with such powerful alternatives and possibilities, best represented by free software and a host of projects that have followed directly in its wake.” (Coleman 2013)

 

“Powerful alternatives” should be the new media buzzword and it is why I eventually came around to looking at YouTube and its impact on aspects of the entertainment industry. My interest was sparked by an article I came across that claimed Youtubers, meaning those that create content for YouTube, are more popular with U.S. teens than are traditional movie and TV stars. Susanne Ault writes “a survey Variety commissioned in July that found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen. The highest-ranking figures were Smosh, the online comedy team of Ian Andrew Hecox and Anthony Padilla, both 26.” (Ault 2014)

 

Could this be true? I began looking into this phenomenon and what it could mean for the future of the entertainment industry. What I found throughout my research is that no one really has solid answer on what the future will bring, but many have looked at the trends and hypothesized about what may be coming like Stuart Cunningham and Jon Silver write in Screen Distribution and the New King Kongs of the Online World.  They write that they expect YouTube to be the front runner in the new digital entertainment industry laying the foundation for “reinventing itself as a global television network on-line.” (Cunningham, S. & Silver, J. 2013) Cunningham and Silver looked at YouTube competitors Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu and their race to grab digital audiences. What they found was that all are struggling to find their place in this new digital age as the entertainment industry moves away from movie theaters and television sets, but they are faring better than the cable and television networks trying to play catch-up. They also found that the firms that own major firms in Hollywood have failed in controlling the online distribution of their content despite investing millions of dollars to try and do just that.(Cunningham, S. & Silver, J. 2013)

 

YouTube celebrated its 10th anniversary in February, but the website has gone through tremendous change since Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim created the website after being inspired by the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction controversy and the 2004 Tsunami in Asia. (Wilson 2015) The website started out for user generated content which many times included the copyrighted material Lessig discussed in his TedX lecture. (Lessig 2007) This led to traffic on the site increasing to 100 million video views per day in the first year. That drew the attention of digital giant Google who in 2006 bought the upstart for $1.65 billion in an all stock transaction.(Arrington 2006) The website reported in 2015 it had more than one billion users with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute. (Wilson 2015) YouTube has been described as a new hybrid cultural medium; part industry, part hobby. (Grosswiler 2012) Paul Grosswiler writes “YouTube reflects a symbiotic relationship between amateur cultural products and commercial cultural products.” Jean Burgess and Joshua Green write that the creation of videos by either users or entertainment industry firms are often indistinguishable for users whether or not the videos are “produced for viral marketing purposes or those seized upon by marketing campaigns.”(Burgess Green 2009) As Patricia Lang writes YouTube has asked users to become a partner in the website’s success as they now offer YouTube partners of monetizing their videos. (Lang 2015)

 

“YouTube partners agree to have ads placed within or next to their videos. In return, they receive a share of advertising revenue that results from the ads. Over time partners may develop a more advanced amateur or even professional status on the site.” (Lang 2015)

 

This way of raising revenues involves the user at all levels. It furthers the connection that the users already have with YouTube by involving the user not only in content creation, but also with raising revenues from which the user also benefits. YouTube also searches the content for copyrighted material, which if it appears, they put ads on the video and give the proceeds to copyright holder. I personally experienced this when a video I posted using a Nine Inch Nails song was monetized for the “copyright holder” as it stated on my Creator Studio screen. This policy prevents hordes of content across YouTube from being taken down while also prevent content creators and YouTube from being sued for copyright infringement. YouTube also charges pay-per-view for some copyrighted shows which are mostly generated from traditional film and television studios.

 

A big part of YouTube’s success has been due to what technophiles and Google call Generation C. ( Rushkoff 2014; Google Staff 2013) The ‘C’ stands for Content or as Google describes the generation, ‘C’ because “ they thrive on Connection, Community, Creation, and Curation.” Google has integrated this Generation C into a part of their marketing plan for YouTube. (Google staff 2013)

 

“They’re not a generation in the traditional sense – about 65% of Gen C are under 35, but regardless of how old they are, they’re the sort of mavens who shape opinion and lead thought.  Put simply, Gen C isn’t a quirk of when or where you were born; it’s a way of life.” (Google staff 2013)

 

This way of life is embraced by a majority of teenagers as seen in the article that started off this research stating that YouTube stars are now more popular with teens than traditional media stars. (Ault 2014) I had to check this out with my internet savvy teenage boys, 14-year-old Zach and 11-year-old Gradey who profess to like Youtube better than TV shows. During an interview with me, they professed that the reason they liked YouTube better than TV shows was because of the following were better in their view point on YouTube and they liked or didn’t care about low production quality.(Neeley-Nicolini 2015)

 

  • Availability
  • Relatability
  • Creativity of Content
  • Educational value
  • Production quality unimportant

 

 

 

Zach and Gradey aren’t alone in their affection for YouTube. Other YouTube users commented in a Google generated video and a broadcast news piece on PBS’ Frontline that they also like the website because of the above mentioned reasons. ( Rushkoff 2014; Google Staff 2013)

 

 

 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like

 

 

The first point that comes up with Youtube users is availability. Users like being able to control when and where they are able to view content and the fact that some YouTubers post videos everyday or more frequently than new episodes of TV are aired.

 

The second point YouTube users like about content is Relatability. Many user feel because YouTubers are “normal” people like them they can relate better to them than the average Hollywood starlet. They see content providers are them and could be them if only they get enough likes and views. This is not untrue. In “Generation Like” Youtuber Baby Scumbag is a teen boy who began posting videos of him and his friends skateboarding. Now his popular videos are more in the “Jackass” vein, but he began his rise to stardom as 13-year-old Steven Fernandez from a downtrodden neighborhood in L.A. posting skateboard videos. (Rushkoff 2014; Google Staff 2013, Neeley-Nicolini 2015, Conti 2013)

 

The third point that users say why they like YouTube is creativity of content. There are vlogs, let’s plays, and other forms of original content not seen in movie theaters or on TV. YouTube Users say they like this different type of content and find it entertaining. (Neeley-Nicolini 2015, Conti 2013)

 

The fourth point why Youtube users like its content is they can learn different skills from traditional scholastic studies to how to play a video game. (Thistlewaite 2015; Google Staff 2013) Crash Course and The Virtual School are popular YouTube channels which post videos about traditional scholastic subjects. (Teach Magazine 2015, Buffalo News 2014)

 

Jacksepticeye is one of the most popular Youtubers with his videos called “lets plays”. The video is basically him playing a video game and commenting on it as he plays. (Neeley-Nicolini 2015) Teens say they like him because not only is he humorous but they learn how to play the video game while watching. (Thistlewaite 2015; Neeley-Nicolini 2015)

 

And the final point why Youtube users like its content is production quality seems not to matter to many Youtube fans when it comes to whether or not they like the video. (Mueller 2009, Lange 2015, Neeley-Nicolini 2015 )

 

While it remains to be seen if Youtube can become the next “network television” station or replace traditional media, it is clear that YouTube’s popularity, especially with teens seems to be rising and eclipsing that of traditional media. Lessig’s worries that copyright laws are stifling creativity could be lessened now that Generation C has found a way around the traditional copyrighted material of Big Hollywood, with a little help from their friend YouTube.

 

 

 

References:

Ault, Susanne (Aug. 5 2014) Survey: YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebs Among U.S. Teens. Variety U.S. Edition

 

Lange, Patricia G. (03 May. 2015.) Kids on YouTube : Technical Identities and Digital Literacies. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2014. Ebook Library. Web.

 

Cunningham, S. & Silver, J. (2013). Screen distribution and the new King Kongs of the online world. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Lessig, L. (2007). Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity [Video]. Presentation given at TED2007, Monterey, CA.

 

Lessig, L (Oct 11 2008) In Defense of Piracy Digital technology has made it easy to create new works from existing art, but copyright law has yet to catch up. Wall Street Journal D

 

Coleman, E. G. (2013). Coding freedom: The ethics and aesthetics of hacking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

 

Wilson, Cherry (Feb. 14, 2015) Happy Birthday Tube You: Video-sharing website turns ten. The Sun (newspaper), London UK

 

Arrington, Michael (Oct. 9, 2006) Google Has Acquired YouTube http://techcrunch.com/2006/10/09/google-has-acquired-youtube/

 

Google staff. Meet Gen C: The YouTube Generation (may 2013) web article by Google.

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/meet-gen-c-youtube-generation-in-own-words.html

 

Rushkoff, Douglas. (Feb.18, 2014) Frontline: Generation Like. PBS http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like/

 

Neeley-Nicolini, Melissa (May 2, 2015) Z&G Why We Love YouTubers. YouTube Video

 

Grosswiler, Paul (2012) YouTube,  page(s): 449-451Encyclopedia of Gender in Media Ed. Mary Kosut. Los Angeles: SAGE Reference, 2012.

 

Burgess, J. & Green, J. (Eds.). (2009). YouTube: Online video and participatory culture. Malden, MA: Polity.

 

Conti, Allie (April 15, 2013) Apparently, Women Love 13-year-old skaters named Baby Scumbag. Vice.com

 

Thistlewaite, Liam (Feb 5 2015) Teen Enjoy A Variety of YouTube, The Charleston Gazette, Charleston, WV newspaper

 

Teach Magazine, (May 15, 2014) Webstuff Educational YouTube Channels http://teachmag.com/archives/7565

 

Buffalo News (Oct.30, 2014) YouTube’s educational side: the site where so many teens turn for entertainment is increasingly becoming a place for them to go when they need help with school work. Buffalo, NY

 

Müller: (2009) ‘Where Quality Matters: Discourses on the Art of Video Making for YouTube.’ In: Pelle Snickars & Patrick Vonderau (eds.): The YouTube Reader. London: Wallflower Press 2009, pp. 146-160. E. Müller: ‘Where Quality Matters: Discourses on the Art of Video Making for YouTube.’ In: Pelle Snickars & Patrick Vonderau (eds.): The YouTube Reader. London: Wallflower Press 2009, pp. 146-160.

Code Is Speech: The fight to write freely

In the world of the software developer, sharing of ideas and information has become not only a personal issue, but a legal one as well. Coleman writes in Coding Freedom: The ethics and aesthetics of hacking that the current legal environment is one that is so hostile that developers are coming up with ways to circumvent that environment my literally creating a new economic market not above the law but working within its confines.

 

“Never before has a single legal regime of copyrights and patents reigned supreme across the globe, and yet never before in the short history of intellectual property law have we been graced with such powerful alternatives and possibilities, best represented by free software and a host of projects that have followed directly in its wake.” (Coleman 2013)

 

In 1977, Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple II ready-to-program personal computer. The user was able to use software from anyone and anywhere. Only two years later the first digital spreadsheet, VisiCalc, was created to run on the Apple II. That prompted businesses to begin quickly buying up the computer to use as a business tool. (Zittrain 2010) Once business became involved in the mass use and purchasing of computers the legal landscape began to change. Entering into the information age transformed how businesses viewed their proprietary creations and what lengths they would go to to ensure a profit from their creations. Sun and Baez writes that four significant developments in the software industry and intellectual property rights are what fueled changes to the legal landscape. (Sun & Baez 2010)

 

  • The growth of personal computers led to the increasing need for software
  • Early software became extremely successful and used by businesses
  • The legal decision to offer protection of software under copyright law and the decision of the Copyright Office to discontinue its policy of requiring the full text of source codes be deposited
  • The legal decision of offering patents for software

 

This fueled a hostile legal environment towards hackers and developers who wanted to be able to tinker with programs and create new ones from them, just as most scientific studies progress. It was fueled by two software developers and Microsoft creators, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who believed that for “good software” to be written the authors must be given a financial incentive in the form of copyrights, and therefore be given tight control over the reproduction of software. (Coleman 2013) Meanwhile, developers like Richard Stallman viewed the sharing of source code as the bedrock supporting the hacker practices of inquisitive tinkering and collaboration.

 

In 1992, President George Bush redefined a class of copyright infringement as felonies. Through international treaties and the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995, the stringent copyright and intellectual property rules of the United States became international with member nations committing to enforcement of U.S. laws. Stricter controls were put on developers with the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1996. (Coleman 2013) The battle came to a head in 1999, when 16-year-old Jon Lech Johansen released a software program called DeCSS, which he authored with two other developers. It unlocked a piece of encryption called a Content Scramble System (CSS) used to prevent DVD’s from being played on anything but a computer with either Microsoft Windows or Apple’s OS. It allowed the owner of the DVD to play it on a computer operating on Linux. However, industry leaders saw it as way of making the DVD easier to copy allowing for potential piracy of the content. Johansen was prosecuted for computer hacking in his home country of Norway in 2002, but he was acquitted of all charges. The prosecution lost on appeals and eventually dropped the case. (Coleman 2013) Coleman also writes about Dmitry Skylarov, who was arrested after the 2001 Def Con, an annual convention for hackers. Skylarov also allegedly had written a piece of software that unlocked digital files, this time for Adobe e-books.

 

These events brought the issue of the tyrannical legal environment into view for many developers and brought more support for ideas of open source software and the free software movement that had been supported by hacktivist Richard Stallman. (Coleman 2013) Academic lawyer Lawrence Lessig began the Creative Commons in 2002, which provides a collection of alternative copyright licenses. These “copyleft” licenses allow for an author to let users modify work and distribute it as long as that user then also honors the “copyleft” license. (Lessig 2007) According to Coleman, the hacker community has embraced the legal theory “that links software to speech and freedom” and the belief that code is speech.

 

Tony Liao looked at competitions with monetary payoffs that industry uses in order to inspire developers to create software or algorithms for the company. He found that competitions are less effective when there is less sharing among developers and found that allowing for more sharing and input from developers creates a better working environment for them. When there is a more open environment of sharing information in the creative process the more developers want to participate enhancing the harnessing the creativity of hybrid-OSS communities. (Liao Forthcoming)

 

As the legal battle for the soul of software continues, no doubt hackers and those like minded will continue to innovate creative processes in order to escape the tight grip of the current copyright and patent law environment. As Liao shows in his research, the answer may be a happy medium between the need of developers to be free to code and for businesses to profit from their work.

 

References:

 

Zittrain, J. (2010, February 3). A fight over freedom at Apple’s core. FT.com.

 

Liao, T. (Forthcoming.). Open source challenges: The role of the android developers challenge in shaping the development community. New Media & Society.

 

Chapters 2 & 5 from Coleman, E. G. (2013). Coding freedom: The ethics and aesthetics of hacking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

 

Sun, Jeffery C. & Baez, Benjamin (2010, Apr. 22) Intellectual Property In The Information Age; Knowledge as a Commodity and Its Legal Implications for Higher Education: ASHE Higher Education Report

 

Lessig, L. (2007). Larry Lessig on laws that choke creativity [Video]. Presentation given at TED2007, Monterey, CA.

Let’s Do The Time Shift Again

 

21st century technology has created what I call time shifting. This is the phenomenon where people are no longer tied to punctuality or doing tasks at a certain time due to the advent of cell phones and text message. Howard Rheingold mentions in his book The Next Social Revolution that researchers in Tokyo, Japan found that it was no longer taboo to show up late for a party. Rheingold also writes that he witnessed the same phenomenon in Norway. (Rheingold 2002)

 

I have witnessed this in my own life, not just from my teenage daughter, but my grown-up friends and myself as well. We just recently held a 40th birthday party for my sister to which our very large extended family was invited. Since there are so many members of our family, our chosen way to keep in touch is to use Facebook. The original invitation was sent out on Facebook and then written invitations were also extended. Some invited guest responded on Facebook, other by telephone. Some guest responded they would be late or gave an approximate time they would be there. During the actual party, guest who had not arrived yet were sending instant messages relaying their estimated time of arrival, or regrets that they would not be able to make it due to some reported circumstance. These last minute updates and changes would in the past be impossible. While it was common practice for guest to telephone if they weren’t going to show up or be late, the host would have had to excuse himself or herself from the party to take the call from the nearest telephone. Now a guest may leave a quick instant or text message and the party goes on. At a family party, such as I have described people I believe people would be less likely to redirect their plans because of the social pressure from relatives to show up.

 

Lee Humphreys describes redirection as when users of a social network change their intended destination due to information they may get about the location of other users in their social network. Humphreys writes that the decision to redirect location is based on timing of the received information, the distance the user is from the location, and the traveling time to get to the location. (Humphreys 2010)

 

I believe it is partly due to redirection that the phenomenon of time shifting comes into play. I was supposed to meet some friends at a party at a given time. This particular time I was late. I was late because on the way there my daughter texted me to remind me she needed a ride home from work. Instead of asking her to see if she could get a ride home from a friend or co-worker, or me calling another person to pick her up, I chose to pick her up myself because I was already in the vicinity. So I picked her up and dropped her off at home, where I received another text from my father. This one reminding me I needed to pick up a prescription for him. However, this time I was not near the requested destination, so I declined to do the task requested and replied I would have to do it later. All this time, I was texting the friends I was supposed to meet. They had relayed back that only a few people had arrived promptly and not to worry other friends of ours would be late, too. When I arrived, no one seemed upset or put off by my tardiness. I believe this is because my texts were used as a form of time shifting. My friends had expected me a certain time, but because I was able to let them know I would be late, they shifted the time they were expecting me and I shifted the time I was expecting to be there because of the texts I received from others.

 

I remember when being late was considered rude and unacceptable unless there was a “real” emergency. Now it seems that a shift in social attitude has occurred because of the ability of people to communicate in real time their whereabouts. I believe the phenomenon is being seen in the U.S. just as Howard Rheingold witnessed in Japan and Norway. (Rheingold 2002)

 

 

 

References:

 

Humphreys, L. (2010). Mobile social networks and urban public space. New Media & Society, 12(5), 763-778.

 

Rheingold, H. (2002). Shibuya epiphany. In Smart mobs: The next social revolution (pp. 1–28). New York: Basic Books

If It Weren’t So Popular, No One Would Care

Denise Mann writes that the collaboration between fans and show creators began in the 1960’s “when Star Trek series creator Gene Roddenberry encouraged a letter writing campaign by fans to persuade the network to save the series.” Mann writes that these “mass collaborative activities increased exponentially” once the internet became widely in use. While there may be more fans on-line and television creators accessing them, it doesn’t always work out well, with the objectives of fans or creators not being met. (Mann 2014)

 

Take the case of one of my favorite short-lived sitcoms, Samantha Who?. During the 2008 downturn in the U.S. economy, studios were slashing their budgets like many other businesses were at the time and Samantha Who? got the ax from ABC. (Schenider 2009) Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton reported Samantha Who? Star Christina Applegate went to Twitter to urge fans to protest the closing of the show, which had good ratings. (Schneider 2009, Hilton (2009) Unfortunately, times were tough and the studio decided to shut down production.

 

While Applegate was able to garner over 13,000 signatures on her petition, The fan base may not have been wide enough or maybe wasn’t connected to Twitter enough in order to hear the callout for help. When you compare the Samantha Who? situation to the letter writing campaign of the Star Trek days, the use or access of the internet doesn’t seem to matter in some situations. Gene Roddenberry was able to keep his show on, while Applegate failed. (Mann 2014, Schneider 2009) While fans are able to get more content on-line and interact with each other, they did not come together in a political or willful way in Applegate’s instance. They have, however, as a collective of general TV fans been the motivator for change as far as how that content is delivered to them on-line.

 

Chuck Tryon writes in On-Demand Culture, “Digital delivery offers the promise of ubiquitous access across multiple sites; however it also challenges the role of movie consumption as a social activity.” (Tryon 2013) There are now more options for people to choose in the way they view movies and television. Many of these ways enable solo-or-multiple user viewing, like a PC or laptop, while some limit viewing to only one person at a time. This narrowing of audience size is what I believe has brought as Mann describes the increase in collaborative activities of on-line fans. (Mann 2014) These fans then create a type of on-line frenzy or “buzz” that may not be possible in the off-line world.

 

This is why I believe the file-sharing “problem” that Michael Newman describes in his essay “Free TV: File-Sharing and the value of Television” exist at all. If it weren’t for the high demand of movies, television shows, and clips of both, then websites like BitTorrent or The Pirate Bay wouldn’t be useful at all. Newman writes about users being driven to use these sites because they are unable to access them “legally” elsewhere. He also talks about the mindset that people traditionally view TV as free because of its past way of transmission. (Newman 2012) All that was needed to access TV was a set and antennae. You could also record transmissions onto tapes and then share those tapes freely with other people without violating the law.

 

Newman and Braun write about attempts to assuage the demand for personal access to digital media. Braun writes that when fans started posting clips of NBC shows on YouTube in 2006, the network had them taken down. NBC executives discovered the value of posting clips on-line and eventually worked out promotional partnership with YouTube. (Braun 2013) Some networks also currently use Hulu or their own flagship website to post content. Newman talks about increase access of content to fans through streaming websites like Hulu. (Newman 2012) There is also the website Mubi.com, which Tryon mentions has worked out deals with multiple countries to stream movies from around the world. (Tryon 2013) We also now see cable channels like AMC, making deals with internet providers to stream content from their websites. There are also attempts to have purchased downloaded files be able to be played across multiple-platforms, like iPOD, iPHONE, laptop,etc.

 

I had my own experience with this as I attempted to watch an episode of “Mad Men”. I was prompted to list my internet provider and I replied. Only to find out I am not currently purchasing the correct subscription to access that content. That I believe is a type of situation where a user might then go to a site like BitTorrent or The Pirate Bay. I believe media companies are not done, yet, trying to lure back their audience from engaging in activity with such sites. And who knows, maybe TV will really be free again.

 

 

References:

 

Mann, D. (2014). Introduction: When television and new media work worlds collide. In D. Mann (Ed.), Wired TV: Laboring over an interactive future (pp. 1–31). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

 

Tryon, C. (2013). Introduction: On-demand culture; Digital distribution and the future of cinema. In On-demand culture: Digital delivery and the future of movies (pp. 1–17). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

 

Newman, M. Z. (2012). Free TV: File-sharing and the value of television. Television & New Media 13(6), 463–479.

 

Braun, J.A. (2013). Going over the top: Online television distribution as socio-techical system. Communication, Culture & Critique 6(3), 432–458.

 

Schneider, M (May 18, 2009 ) ABC Cancels Samantha Who

Variety.  http://variety.com/2009/scene/features/abc-cancels-samantha-who-1118003871/

 

Hilton, Perez (May 28, 2009) Christina Applegate to Save Samantha Who? http://perezhilton.com/2009-05-28-christina-applegate-to-save-samantha-who/?from=post#.VSHx6rq0D1c

Selling The Game

Steven Johnson in “Everything Bad Is Good For You” writes that what is beneficial about gaming is not what is learned through the plot actions of the game but the fact that the game forces you to choose and make decisions in order to play. Johnson writes “learning how to think is ultimately about learning to make the right decisions: weighing evidence, analyzing situations consulting your long term goals, and then deciding.” Johnson calls this type of thinking telescoping because of the way “the objectives nest inside one another like a collapsed telescope.” (Johnson 2005)

 

In my understanding, telescoping is a type of stacking of tasks and rewards. Do A to get B, so you can do C, which will give you the clue on how to get to D, and so on. Johnson also talks about neurological studies that he believes shows “the power of games to captivate involves their ability to tap in to the brain’s natural reward circuitry” Meaning the brain releases hormones that cause chemical reactions in the body, which may trigger a feeling of well-being in the person receiving the reward. (Johnson 2005)

 

It has always been mystery to me what people who play MMO’s get out of it. I have tried to play at the behest of a friend, Brian, who “just loved the game.” I thought it was interesting at first but I quickly lost interest because I just felt like I was wasting my time not doing something in the real world. The winning of objects and coins seemed fun at first but then it just became tedious after a while. My brain was not getting the message apparently that the rewards were something good. Meanwhile, Brian clearly was getting a feeling of satisfaction of winning his next prize because he would spend hours after work playing. He expressed to me he really like the “raids” which him and other players would gather to conduct in order to slay a beast none of them could slay alone. They would then split the loot gained from the adventure.

 

Johnson brings up players spending a good amount of money on guides to help them through games, while the New York Times Magazine article by Julian Dibbell describes the real life industry of selling gaming items and levels for real money called real-money trading or R.M.T. (Johnson 2005, Dibbell 2007) What does not surprise me is fanatic players like my friend, Brian, would actually purchase game items to help them evolve in the game. As he explained to me, in order to be a part of some advanced raiding parties in the game he needed to be at a certain level or have certain skills. So when not conducting raids, he set out to acquire needed skills. And here is where I could see the purchasing of certain items or money might help in this process.

 

In Dibbell’s article, 22-year-old Wang Huachen is described as a graduated law student who chose to work at a gold farm in China. At his workplace, the gold farmers have 12-hour shifts with few breaks and demanding output goals. He told Dibbell that he was in no hurry to take his test for his certificate to practice law.

 

“I will miss this job,” Huachen told Dibbell. “It can be boring, but I still have sometimes a playful attitude. So I think I will miss this feeling.” (Dibbell 2007)

 

This was shocking to me that this young man would prefer to take a low wage job playing a MMO game rather than become a lawyer. This takes me back to what Johnson described how the brain reacts to the rewards the players are receiving in the game. (Johnson 2005) Industry has been able to tap into this reaction, not only in the product it sells and the users of that product but also in its workforce.

 

In 2010, Jesse Schell, an entertainment technology teacher at Carnegie Mellon University, told NPR’s Steve Inskeep about how gaming is fueling brick-and-mortar business through on-line games. If you do things like sign up for a Target credit card or a Netflix account, then you get time, credit, or points added to your gaming account. (Inskeep 2010) Here, again, is another example of industry using the reaction of the brain to the rewards of gaming to fuel a rewarding economic outcome. The three referenced articles all support that there is a trend that is continuing to grow showing both rewards in the virtual and real worlds.

 

 

 

References:

 

Johnson, S. (2005). Games. In Everything bad is good for you: How today’s pop culture is actually making us smarter (pp. 17–62). New York: Berkley Publishing Group.

 

Dibbell, J. (2007, June 17). The life of a Chinese gold farmer. New York Times Magazine.

 

Inskeep, S. (2010, March 8). Video game technology shifts to rewarding play [Radio segment]. In Morning Edition. Washington, D.C.: NPR.

 

21st Century Politics: Digitize Me

As a journalist, I spend every day following politics in the U.S. and abroad. In following political campaigns there has been a tremendous change and difference in organizing grassroots efforts. In the excerpt from Daniel Kreiss’ Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama, he tells of how powerful new media has been in organizing supporters at the local level. Kreiss writes about how the veterans of the Howard Dean campaign went on not only to create a new media marketing company, Blue State Digital, but also remained with the Democrat party to further its investment and expansion of using digital media to organize their base constituency. (Kreiss,D 2012)

 

During the 2003-2008 time period, I was re-entering the media field but prior to that had extensive use with on-line communities for personal, professional, and educational use. Not only did our use of new media increase in the newsroom, we were also continuing the transition from old broadcast technology to the new computer driven digital media. Personally, I was increasingly using digital technology to find out information and keep tabs on sources. I subscribe to everyone’s e-mail, social media accounts, etc. While my experience in anecdotal, I think it is a good example of a first hand encounter with campaign materials.

 

As Kreiss mentions, Dean staffers were using e-mail and meet-ups as a way to encourage supporters to gather together to organize various events. (Kreiss,D 2012) I remember at that time seeing the Kerry campaign utilize these techniques after Dean had left the race with their “grassroots” Kerry On campaign. The campaign sent e-mails linking to the main website where supporters could get merchandise, volunteer to organize events, and make donations. At the time, I don’t recall the Bush campaign having anything quite like this. I did see campaign e-mails, but it wasn’t interlinked.

 

The 2008 campaign was totally different. As Kreiss writes, Joe Rospars served as the new media director and headed up the creation of My.BarackObama.com, where “over 2 million users created accounts” where they could then organize campaign volunteers and fund-raising events. (Kreiss 2012) There was nothing like this for the McCain campaign. Although, I did start to see the use of more e-mail and websites for Republican candidates, it was the Democrats who were able to use the new technology to organize supporters on the local level. Although, some describe this as a “grassroots” organizing, I see it more as a top down approach. As Kreiss writes “the (Dean) campaign expressly created its online tools with the end of convening and centralizing the independent supporter efforts that were taking shape around the campaign.” Which was then used more vigorously in the Obama campaign. (Kreiss,D 2012)

 

Since, 2008, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube now dominate social media and I have noticed that Conservative groups are now more readily using them as well as e-mail, websites, and other digital media. Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin’s Twitter curation site or Glen Beck’s The Blaze.com are a few examples of how conservative factions are reaching out to their base. Also  TEA party factions gathered followers through e-mail exchanges drawing them to participate in in-person events. I personally witnessed the growth of the TEA party in Central Virginia in my work as a reporter there. During my work, I attended the event that cemented the movement in the current political spectrum, the Taxpayer March on Washington September 12, 2009.  See footage here:

 

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With the creation of sites like Malkin’s and Beck’s, this gives the liberal dominance of new media a challenge. Here is where the studies by Cass Sunstein and Eytan Bakshy come into play.

 

Sunstein assumes that because of the targeting of supporters by both liberal and now conservative groups will increase the separation between policy support. In his study, he found much like Solomon Asch found in his research that when the majority of the group has strong opinions that will usually but not always sway the opinions of others. (Levine 1999 , Sunstein 2007) However, in the Bakshy study mentioned in Farhad Manjoo’s article he found that “novel information” travels through the network despite the Edgerank algorithm which decides what posts come up on your newsfeed. (Manjoo 2012) I think Sunstein’s assertion has two problems for me, one in the study “participants were screened to ensure they generally conformed to (partisan) stereotypes.” (Sunstein 2007) Which means to me, they were already holders of a belief that was not moderate or in the middle. So it’s no surprise when you get like-minded people together, they find out they are like-minded and feel free to express themselves more freely that in a “politically correct” environment.  I don’t see it as “enclave extremism” as much as “opinion confirmation.” Just like in Asch’s studies and even as Sunstein shows, a person on the fence or maybe not confident in their opinion, may agree with the strong opinionated. (Levine 1999 , Sunstein 2007) So for me, I believe it’s not changing someone’s opinion as much as it is giving him or her the confidence to express it.

 

 

 

 

Resources:

 

Kreiss, D. (2012). Innovation, infrastructure, and organization in new media campaigning. In Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama, (pp. 3–32). New York: Oxford University Press.

 

Sunstein, C. R. (2007, December 14). The polarization of extremes. The Chronicle of Higher Education 54(16), B9.

 

Manjoo, F. (2012, January 17). The end of the echo chamber: A study of 250 million Facebook users reveals the web isn’t as polarized as we thought. Slate.

 

Levine, J. (1999). Solomon Asch’s legacy for group research. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3(4), 358.

Twitterizing The News

Alfred Hermida writes in his essay “Twittering the news: The emergence of ambient journalism” that “journalism norms are bending as professional practices adapt to social media tools such as microblogging.” (Hermida 2010) Since I am a journalist, I can say that this statement is wholly true in the current newsroom. Let me begin with my own personal journey using social media to gather information about current events.

 

In 2007, I was hired as a News Director for a cluster of radio stations in the college-town of Charlottesville, Virginia, The company I worked for brought me to create a news department and let me have a wide breadth of autonomy in doing so. It was a small staff so we had to use all the sources we could.

 

It was about that time that Twitter and Facebook were becoming more widely used. (Yarrow 2009, Yarrow, Angelova 2010) I signed up for my own accounts thinking I could keep up with friend and relative across the country. I started seeing more and more people I knew or knew of sign up on social media, including community activist, politicians, and government entities. I started monitoring Twitter a lot, and I even installed TweetDeck, which made my computer run slow but it was so great at monitoring different topics I was trying to follow in the community. Then another thing started to happen, fire stations and police departments started putting up on a website or sometimes on Twitter or Facebook when they received a call. To me, there was never any question that this new technology was going to forever change the way I did my job. However, some of my colleagues and managers viewed it differently. Many told me I should be careful and that most of what was on the Internet was just advertisements or lies. I believe the root of the naysayers beliefs were steeped in what Hermida describes as the “working routines and entrenched traditional values of a journalistic culture which defines the role of the journalist as providing a critical account of daily events, gathered, selected, edited, and disseminated by a professional organization.” (Hermida 2010) In other words, change. They were used to what are called “beat calls” in which journalist call out to various sources to get the latest on what was going on. This however I realized at some point was completely useless because I would see what was happening on Twitter/Facebook/blogs before I could even get anyone on the phone from the police, fire dept., etc. Of course, I would still call if I wanted to clarify facts or interview a source for actualities/sound bites. I still adhere to this practice.

 

I didn’t listen to the naysayers and to great success began using Twitter and eventually Facebook as well as other social media for newsgathering. In Clive Thompson’s article “Brave New World Of Digital Intimacy” he describes Ben Haley and his experience as a new user on Twitter. Haley found that after a using the social-media site for a while he “discovered that he was beginning to sense the rhythms of his friend’s lives.” (Thompson 2008) This is what social scientist call “ambient awareness.” (Thompson 2008)

 

This “ambient awareness” is actually what helps me do my job as I try and gather news for the day. Most reporters from all news organizations as well as the publications or stations themselves have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Watching both sites day after day during work hours, I have been able to clue in on patterns as Ben Haley spoke about with his friends, only I watch my colleagues. (Thompson 2008) Through my monitoring, I know who my colleagues are that work during the same hours I do including ones who work for another news outlets. I am able to monitor what the station’s radio talk show hosts will be talking about on their shows or stories they might share. I also monitor community spokespersons and activist. I can see what they are covering and determine if it’s a story I want to also cover, possibly with a different angle. My longtime Twitter/Facebook has helped me to learn who and when to keep an eye on their posts. Hermida describes Twitter users becoming “citizen journalist” and I believe that is correct because they truly have become part of the newsgathering operation. (Hermida 2010)

 

I laugh now to myself at the resistance to using social media I got at first and still get from time to time. Both Hermida and Thompson pointed how both platforms became useful tools by describing users experience with them. My experience has shown me that indeed, Twitter/Facebook are useful tools. One experience I recently had reporting shows this.

 

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office has a Facebook page and regularly post their “Warrant of The Week”, a page most local journalist monitor. What was different about this one week was the subject of the post, decided to make a snarky comment. Now at first we didn’t know if the person commenting was actually the wanted man. There was retort by the Sheriff’s Office and then another comment from the alleged wanted man. Then other comments began to show from people in the community including one friend defending the young man. So how did I handle it? I reported it exactly as I had witnessed on-line. After it aired and posted on-line, the story rapidly spread and was picked up by every other news organization. The young man turned himself in a few days later because thousands of people had seen his picture in the on-line and TV versions of the story. There was only a slim chance he could have gone on undetected by community members.

 

Hear my story:

 

Read my story:

http://www.700wlw.com/articles/local-news-119585/wanted-man-comments-on-sheriffs-office-13365704/

 

 

References:

 

Thompson, C. (2008, September 5). Brave new world of digital intimacy. New York Times Magazine.

 

Hermida, A. (2010). Twittering the news: The emergence of ambient journalism. Journalism Practice, 4(3), 297–308.

 

Yarrow, Jay (2009 Apr. 2) Chart of the Day: Twitter’s Early Growth Dwarfed By YouTube. Business Insider http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-comparing-the-first-three-years-of-growth-2009-4

 

Yarrow, Jay & Angelova, Kamelia (2010, June 7) Chart of the Day: Facebook Growth Accelerates During Its Privacy Flap. Business Insider http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-facebook-monthly-unique-visitors-2010-6

 

 

Getting To Know You: Virtual Becomes Reality

 

In fledgling years of the internet, studies were done to try and figure out how this new medium would fit into the fabric of our real-life. Barry Wellman and Milena Guilia in “Net Surfer’s Don’t Ride Alone: Virtual Communities are Communities” wrote about critics in the mid-late 1990’s that were concerned that life on the internet would take over but would “never be meaningful or complete because it will lead people away from the full range of in-person contact”. (Wellman, Gulia 1999) It is common knowledge now in 2015, that virtual relationships VR can be just as meaningful as real life RL and can even lead to RL relationships. Many people have met companions on-line and married, or maintained relationships with family and friends far away.

 

The internet widely expanded an individual’s ability to connect to people all over the world. This means those that user may have no real life proximity but are able to interact in real time closing the communication gap that once existed. Katelyn McKenna describes in her essay that those who normally fell out of place in a face-to face interaction may feel more at ease meeting someone on-line. (McKenna 2002) This is why I believe internet dating has exploded in the past decade. According to Statisticbrain.com, 76% of Singles in the U.S. have tried on-line dating. Social anxiety I believe is the driving force behind this statistic. It is not that I believe that that everyone is painfully shy; more I think it’s a matter of less pressure.

 

Here are some of the advantages I think Singles have meeting potential mates on-line:

 

  • You can get a sense of the person’s personality and likes and dislikes up front to compare if they are compatible with what you are looking for in a date. For example, say you like hiking but the person you are looking into to hate the outdoors, probably not your type.
  • You can interact with that person with out meeting them face-to-face. Which If you aren’t interested make it a little easier to say goodbye, especially if the reaction to that isn’t kind.
  • You can form a bond through virtual communications making the likelihood of there being a strong possibility of getting along in real life.

 

I don’t think the popularity of on-line dating is unusual considering as a society we form strong opinions about celebrities, politicians and other public figures we’ve never met based on their “media persona”. I think what can also be said is that really don’t know until you know, you know. I’ve heard a thousand stories from people about their interaction with a well-known personality and sometimes their interactions were what they expected and sometimes they were not. The same is similar for friends who went out on a date after meeting someone over the internet. Sometimes their face-to-face meeting of their on-line love interest was positive, other times it was a total bomb. I think from the popularity of on-line dating, Singles must be having mostly positive experiences. So I think, that virtual communities have the capacity to bleed into and blend with our real lives.

 

 

Reference:

 

McKenna, K.Y.A. (2002). Virtual group dynamics. Group Dynamics, 6(1), 116–127.

Wellman, B., & Gulia, M. (1999). Net-surfers don’t ride alone: Virtual communities as communities. Networks in the global village: Life in contemporary communities (pp. 331–366). New York: Westview Press.

http://www.statisticbrain.com/online-dating-statistics/

My Life With An Internet Princess

I have the distinct fate of being old enough to be a part of the MTV generation but young enough to experience the onset of the digital age. I had already had my own MySpace page before my daughter had one, and the same for Facebook, Twitter, etc. I don’t think that’s true anymore necessarily because there are websites and Aps she uses that I don’t use, like Snap Chat. However, I am aware of what they are and how they work.

 

So with that bit of background, I will share my experience with introducing my daughter to “the internet”. Jeffery Rosen in “The Web Means The End of Forgetting” reminds parents that they need to teach their children at the very beginning of their on-line use of a profile. His example of the teacher who was fired after posting a picture of herself at a party wearing a pirate hat with a cup in her hand with the caption read “Drunken Pirate”. His also list the example of the young woman who got fired for posting an on-line saying she was bored while at work. (Rosen, J 2010)

 

When I let my 13-year-old daughter have her first MySpace and Facebook profiles, I was adamant that she not post anything inappropriate and that I would be watching. Well, it didn’t take long before controversy stepped in. My daughter and a friend posted inappropriate photos of themselves. They were not sexual in nature or breaking any laws or anything of that severity but they were however inappropriate. From then on, I have monitored her pages and demanded I have passwords. That of course worked, I thought, until I discovered her secret profiles.

 

Danah Boyd points this out as a common way teens get around their parents knowing what they are doing on-line in the essay “Why Youth (Heart) Social Net Work Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.”   I would keep tabs after that on her profiles. One day, I noticed she wasn’t really posting, yet I knew she was still on-line at the same frequency. I caught her using her fake profile and that’s when the gig was up! I found that not only had she used the fake name as a decoy to avoid my review, but that she had become “known” by this fake moniker. That moniker eventually ended up becoming a real life nickname. She had created an actual on-line persona that grew into how she was known amongst her face-to-face piers. (Boyd, D 2007)

 

Although, she was using this fake name she wasn’t really breaking my guidelines for appropriate behavior. It’s just that she wanted to have something as she explained not so she could conduct herself in a manner in which I would not approve but so she could be cool and not have post from mom and grandma on her page. I likened it to professional wrestlers who have names like “The Rock” or “The Undertaker”, or the way some kids have their parent drop them off down the block so as not to be seen riding with their parent. I got it. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t keep an eye on her post, or that there were incidents of inappropriate post, but overall I think she understood that what you post stays forever.  I agree with Boyd in saying “our role as adults is not to be their policeman, but to be their guide.” Although she wanted some sense of independence,  she also needed guidance which I believe was a balance we found through communicating frequently about her internet use. (Boyd, D 2007)

 

 

 

References:

Boyd, D. (2007). Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life. In D. Buckingham (Ed.), Youth, Identity, and Digital Media (pp. 119-142). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Rosen, J. (2010, July 21). The web means the end of forgetting. New York Times.

The Wild Wild West

Ahhh! Sometimes I long for the wild west of the Internet when anything was possible and finding new ways to connect with others either for business or pleasure. An incredible unadulterated unregulated free market, but as with anything cool some unscrupulous people have to muck it up for everyone else. About the time I got sick of it was when every time you tried to go anywhere some how you ended up with ads for porn or something else unwanted. It made searching for anything nearly impossible because you would have to wade through a bunch of what I call crap to find information you were looking for. That was in the early 2000’s.

 

So I wasn’t surprised to read from Batelle’s, The Search Economy that Google had written a new algorithm to take out that type of content. (Batelle, J 2005). Unfortunately, Google took a slash and burn approach to trying to wipe out black hats and other undesirable content. Batelle shows the negative side of change with the story of small-business owner Neil Moncrief who almost went under when Google changed its algorithm in 2003. Moncrief having to buy advertising to get back at the top of the search results. (Batelle, J 2005). And the pendulum keeps swinging on bringing more self-regulation and calls for government intervention.

 

Tarleton Gillespie brings light to the current situation where some believe that Google needs to be held accountable more for its role in the algorithms it create that may result in political ramifications. (Gillespie 2013) He gave an example of a search for Michelle Obama brought forward an unflattering and bigoted cartoon of the First Lady. Another example of when a search for Jews, brought forward a hate group. Google just blames an impartial algorithm, which they claim they are adjusting all the time. (Gillespie 2013, May 17) Gillespie concludes that as a society we need to ask “why algorithms are being looked at as a credible knowledge logic, how they fall apart and are repaired when they come in contact with the ebb and flow of public discourse, and where political assumptions might not only etched into their design but constitutive of their widespread use and legitimacy.” (Gillespie 2013)

 

In the essay “Is seeing believing? How recommender system interfaces affect users’ opinions” the authors point out that users tend to catch on when they are being recommended a sales pitch and not truly recommendations for the products suited to them. (Cosley, D., Lam, S., Albert, I., Konstan, J., & Riedl, J. 2003) I think that is why Google “attempts” to fix problems amongst complaints; however, some decisions do seem to be financially motivated like possibly in the case of Moncrief. (Batelle, J 2005)

 

 

References:

Battelle, J. (2005). The search economy. In The search: How Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture (pp. 153-188). New York: Portfolio.

Gillespie, T. (2013). The relevance of algorithms. In T. Gillespie, P. Boczkowski, and K. Foot (Eds.), Media technologies: Essays on communication, materiality, and society.

Gillespie, T. (2013, May 17). The relevance of algorithms [Video]. Talk given at the Governing Algorithms Conference in New York.

Garfield, B. & Gladstone, B. (Hosts). (2011, August 12). Google [Radio show episode]. In B. Gladstone (Managing Editor), On the Media. New York: WNYC.

Cosley, D., Lam, S., Albert, I., Konstan, J., & Riedl, J. (2003). Is seeing believing? How recommender system interfaces affect users’ opinions. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems, 585–592.