Demystifying Media Reflection – Week 6 & 7

Social Video Discussion

I find social media to be a kind of devil of our time. Devil, for lack of a better word. I’m not a fan of the influence and subsequent repercussions of social media use by a large swath of our society, but I do acknowledge that I am on somewhat of a lonely island in that regard. It’s in the line of thinking that I was actually fascinated with the discussion and display of social videos in our class for week 7.

The reason it was fascinating to me was that I tend to forget that there is a whole industry surrounding social media. The social videos that we watched as a group are a part of that larger industry. While I’m not a fan of social media, I am fascinated as a budding media scholar in the thought that goes behind what is displayed on social media.

I do have to say that I am a fan of the Tasty set of cooking videos. They are an obvious example of social video that is a good combination of being designed for social media use, and also being extremely informational. One of my gripes with online recipes and even YouTube recipe videos were that they either didn’t show the finished product or that they take 10 minutes (as is the case with the videos) to show the finished product. With the Tasty set of videos, they show you the exact process on how to make something, and they show you the end result.

One of the examples that came up in class was Martha Stewart’s attempt at creating videos in a similar style to Tasty. These videos were show on her company’s Instagram page. We discussed how it was really a ploy to just sell Martha Stewart cookware. The realization that the videos were selling something was where I think they failed, and where I think Tasty is superior. Tasty is for sure selling a product. Their videos link to other goods and services. Where as Tasty is more covert in their advertising, the Martha Stewart videos are more overt in their methods, and to me, more apt to turning me off to the product.

I was also a fan of the video that was provided by Damian (our instructor). This isn’t an attempt to butter him up (seriously), I had a genuine interest. The video was released by the BBC’s Media Action charity. According to the charity’s website, they look to “…support media and communication efforts that strengthen governance, improve people’s health, increase their resilience and improve humanitarian response.” The video, called “Your phone is now a refugee’s phone” aims to put the viewer in the mind and experience of a refugee who is reliant on their phone during their journey to a new place. The video was effective, because it asked the viewer to view the video in the same way as you would on your phone. The video was impressive because there were times where you actually felt it was your phone. Quite a few times I felt the urge to touch the screen in reaction to something what was happening in the video.

Perhaps the most interesting part of that video for me was that it was creating to do something good. This feeds into my reticence about using social media in the first place. Instead of promoting armchair activism or “like” activism where the user isn’t responsible for feeling anything after pressing a button, the BBC Media Action charity found a way to make a user become a part of an experience that is both telling of a serious experience and emotionally draining. Videos like that wont appeal to me to use social media more, but I am impressed that there are groups who are using the platforms for good.

Class Dicussion

Week 6

My takeaways from class on week 6 involve the diversity of interests among people in the class. Each person is assigned to a specific news outlet (mine is TechCrunch), so there’s not a lot of diversity there, but there is a lot of diversity in what articles are picked by each student. Articles that were picked out ranged from social media news, such as SnapChat’s new features, to media news, such as specific shows that were about to come out. I specifically enjoy the news about current trends in media (whether news or social). I’m not much of a quantitative fellow, but I do enjoy hearing about statistics of trends. There were quite a few students who had those types of articles.

Week 7

I was happy to hear the ideas that the other students in the class had regarding the “hot topic” assignment. I really enjoyed the round table function of what we did as a class. It was a neat idea to pitch two different ideas and then talk together as a group as far as what we found most interesting. I think having the affirmation of others was good in the sense that it gives some sort of confidence that the idea was good enough to do. I also liked that there we ideas of supplemental things that could be done in regards to the topic we chose. Similar to what came up with the week 6 discussion, I’m loving the diversity of interests in the class. For example, I am not a public relations person (or fan really), but it is interesting to hear other people’s passions for the subject. The intent of the class is to expose people to a broad range of ideas, and the discussion about people’s topics did just that.

Week 6

Hang in there Mates!

“But there is a remarkable cooling of the excitement thermometer, particularly from investors who were investing for financial returns rather than faith in blockchain as a decentralizing force.”

The quote above is possibly the most succinct statement I’ve heard about the recent meteoric rise and subsequent fall of cryptocurrency and cryptotoken prices over the last 4 months. “Blockchain is entering the valley of despair phase, and that’s a mistake” is a February 21st TechCrunch article that describes how technology proponents are mostly optimistic about the future of blockchain technologies, but investors in blockchain are starting to restrict what their pocketbooks give out.

The article draws on parallels between the surge in blockchain awareness and investment, and the turn-of-the-century days of the World Wide Web. Many people who were alive at the turn of century remember the speculative bubble that took place around websites and web technology. Investors started pumping enormous amounts of money into projects that weren’t monetarily, ideologically or technologically sound. The main difference between the two time periods (according to the article) is that, “Investors are not the story about blockchain [as they were with the Web], the engineers are.” The technology of both the Web and blockchain are driven by “tinkerers and hackers” and not the the speculative investors.

This sentiment is popular in online blockchain circles like the cryptocurrency subreddit and the cryptocurrency forum in how they promote the technology to newcomers. An emphasis is placed on investing in the technology and holding (hodling) on to a currency over a long period of time, and not investing and expecting large short-term gains. The article hits the right mark in describing how people who are smart will stop looking at blockchain as purely a moneymaking scheme, and look at more as what it is, a decentralizing tool.

Would YOU commit murder?

Perhaps the most terrifying story to come from TechCruch in a while is in an article that describes a new Netflix show that tries to see if someone would be willing to commit murder. No, this isn’t a joke. According to the article, The Push, looks to ask: “Can social compliance be used to make someone push a living, breathing human being to their death?” TechCruch describes the show as, “A group of 70 highly orchestrated actors will put a poor guy named Chris in a situation wherein he feels murder is his only option.”

There is some debate on whether the premise of the show is real, but even if it isn’t, the implications of producing a special that gives the appearance of reality is truly horrifying. If the special is real, it appears that there needs to be a new discussion on what kind of lines television programming should be allowed to cross. Maybe in the days of fragmented programming, programmers such as Netflix need to continually move the taboo line. Freedom of Speech is an important part of the American (and mostly worldwide) experience, but there is a scary precedent being set when the subject of a reality series starts to turn toward more forbidden or previously “off-limits” subjects. Discussion of taboo topics or moving the acceptable line isn’t necessarily always bad, but when the line is to murder or not, the line needs to be reinforced.

The Facebook Behind the Curtain

The court system in Belgium ruled this week that Facebook broke the law when it tracked the online movements of people who were not Facebook users. According the the article, Facebook faces fines of up to $100 million if it chooses to not change its ways. At the heart of the issue is Facebook’s ability to place tracking cookies on people’s computers, even if they are not a user of Facebook’s services. Belgium found that that is a violation of its citizens right to privacy. This recent ruling is one in a series where Belgian courts have found Facebook guilty of violating people’s privacy. Facebook has appealed each decision, claiming that because its European operations are located in Ireland, Belgian law doesn’t apply.

This case is important in the battle for online privacy, because it could set the precedent for continued privacy action against the social media giant in Europe. It’s doubtful if America would be affected or empowered by European court rulings, but it is interesting that there is a slow but steady movement to re-secure people’s privacy rights.

Week 7

Do You Accept Rakuten?

In exciting news from the cryptocurrency world, it was announced that Rakuten, Japan’s Amazon-like online retailer, would be releasing its own cryptocurrency token. The token’s name is Rakuten Coin. The token would be used as a reward system for users of the the retailer. For example, holders of the currency would be able to receive discounts on services and shipping from the platform. A few platform are already using similar systems. Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, uses its token Binance Coin (BNB) as a way to remove tradings fees from its users. Users who store their BNB coins on Binance get a discount. The benefit for organizations that use such tokens are that it provides a quick infusion of cash into their coffers. Rakuten would issue the coins, and investors and platform users would pay fiat money to the company to purchase the coins.

While the idea of a platform token is not near, the news is exciting because Rakuten is a large organization. The creation and distribution of its own currency adds legitimacy to the idea that blockchain-based cryptocurrency has valid uses in the “real” world.

Who’s the Driver?

California announced this week that is it no longer requiring a driver to br present in the testing of self-driving vehicles. Until this week, a safety drive had to be present in the vehicle during testing to prevent (as best as possible) accidents from happening. The new requirements do however require that there be a dedicated communication channel always open on the vehicle. Vehicles still aren’t able to autonomously operate on their own without human assistance. An interesting requirement that also came with the new rules is that the vehicles have to be “hardened” or stringently tested against cyber attacks. It is also required to give out information about the owner of the vehicle in case it is in a collision or other incident. If anyone was wondering how far along the autonomous vehicle industry was, this news is a good indicator.

The requirement to focus on cyber security with the cars is interesting. The article didn’t state what the guidelines were for convincing the California Department of Motor Vehicles that the car had been hardened against attacks. It would be interesting to find out if there are exact standards that are being placed upon the makers of the vehicles, or if the DMV is trusting that scrutiny of security is taking place.

Protect Our Nets

TechCrunch featured an article that announced that Senator Ted Merkey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, introduced legislation to the Senate that sought to reinstate net neutrality rules. A recent vote by the Federal Communications Commission removed rules that were put in place in 2015 by the Obama Administration. The recent removal of net neutrality rules allows Internet communications companies to slow down or speed up internet traffic as they see fit. Opponents to the removal of the rules say that the change in rules will be used to raise prices on consumers and limit the accessibility of new Internet websites.

The article notes that the legislation, in both the Senate and the House version, is unlikely to pass given the current political makeup of the Senate and House. It’s even more unlikely to be signed by the current president. That being said, the article says that it’s important to take such votes, because it gives the public a view of which legislators are on which side of the issue. In theory, that could influence the results of future elections. It’s also heartening to see that some semblance of a legislative process is taking place in regard to Internet issues.

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“Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.” - Harvey MacKay