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Moderating online Conversation

Communication online is a great deal different to the communication we experience in everyday life through face to face contact. One of the biggest factors determining how individuals converse physically is the ability to read the second party by gauging their emotions and gaining greater understanding of how the message is being sent or received. Individuals can comprehend an array of different physical factors, including tone, volume and pace of voice, as well as facial expressions and bodily gestures which all aid in gauging an individuals stance on a subject, or their interpretation of a message you’re sending to them. It can also mean, as a message sender, we can act more cautiously in certain situations when communicating certain messages. We don’t want to necessarily offend a stranger, as if we rub someone up the wrong way, we don’t know who they are, what they’re capable of, how they will react to our comments. This is potentially why we’re more reserved in person and feel like we have greater freedoms online.

These freedoms, for some individuals, admittedly go beyond what the majority of people would deem as acceptable, ethical behaviour online and snowballs into negative, aggressive and abusive conduct online, which we’ve seen in recent years with cyber bullying and trolling, such as depicted in this weeks lecture with a tweet directed at Julia Gillard, with an individual saying they would give her a noose for her birthday (Martin, 2013). 

 

The lecture, conducted by Fiona Martin of Sydney University delved into some of the emerging issues surrounding online conversation and anonymity, citing that “new ethics of communication [are] required” (Martin, 2013) in this environment.

 

The weeks prescribed reading glanced over the ABC’s experiences through facilitating online conversation as it’s become infinitely more popular over the last ten years. “It’s as if people feel so voiceless in the old media and now they have a voice, now they can express what they think publicly, they want to scream it out – and if anyone questions that or tries to moderate it they respond with this incredible anger” (Taylor, 2010 cited by Martin, 2013).

Australian Cricketer David Warner recently had found himself amidst a twitter argument with News Ltd journalist Robert Craddock after his image was used in an article talking about India Premier League and match fixing allegations in the sport. An impulsive, angered Warner took straight to the social media platform to speak his mind and criticize the journalist.  After being fined by Cricket Australia for his colourful language, Warner stated “I’ll keep speaking my mind and always have my opinion and I’ll always try to defend myself in the right choice of words.” (ABC News, 23rd May 2013).

So what place does moderation of online conversation really have? Individuals like these open forums to freely voice opinions, regardless of whether they’re negatively motivated or positive, constructive or destructive. We’ve moved from an era of passively consuming content to being able to actively engage with it, direct responses and challenge what we’re handed. Individuals don’t want these babied platforms where they can’t swear or speak ill of something they don’t like. Whether it’s ethically permissible or not is a completely different conversation, defamation laws can still protect individuals’ reputations from online scrutiny if it’s that big an issue. Essentially, we’ve been granted with greater freedoms of speech than we’ve ever experienced before, and through platforms like Twitter, Facebook and WordPress, individuals can say whatever they want. And so they should.

References

ABC News, ‘David Warner Apologises for Inappropriate Language in Twitter Outburst’, Thursday 23rd May 2013, accessed http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-23/warner-apologises-for-twitter-rant/4708016

Martin, F 2012, ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the risks of dialogic interaction’, Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the web, editors Brugger, N & Burns, M, New York: Peter Lang pp 177-192.

Martin, F 2013, Moderating the Conversation, lecture BCM310, Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, University of Wollongong, delivered 20th August.

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Digital social inclusion & disability

“If those inventing, designing, commissioning, implementing, programming, and paying for, information and communication technology, had in mind the needs, expectations, and desires of people with disabilities, then accessibility and use would be incorporated in the technology – rather than having to be an expensive and not particularly compatible add-on, and after-thought”

– Gerard Goggin, 2007.

A quote pulled directly from this week’s prescribed text on accessibility for those living with disability or impairments in a digital era; a technologically advanced society. Goggin essentially argues that, contrary to popular belief that newer technologies create greater inclusion for those living with disability, newer technologies (such as smartphones) create further barriers through design for those individuals, rather than breaking down barriers of inequality.

Goggin in more recent years has publicly criticized Apple’s iPhone as continuing along a road of digital exclusion, as Anastasia Vesperman cites in an article posted on divine.vic.gov.au (2010): The touch screen had no raised of recessed buttons, users could not use voice-activated commands, nor could users not use alternative pointing devices.

Below is a video that depicts an early mobile telephone device, I guess initially designed to wirelessly connect to a network enabling calls away from phone lines:

Let’s compare this to an iPhone that offers an array of features made for greater accessibility, including: voice control, voice over screen reader, zoom to magnify screen, vibrating alerts, closed captioning and predictive text entry, to name a few.

The creators of the earlier mobile device I doubt had much else in mind other than let’s make a telephone wireless. Which, admittedly, is where Goggin’s central argument spawns from; those in position of power do not consider every potential user. Yet I fail to comprehend how we can sit back and criticise a new technology before it has time to adapt to the way in which consumers will use it.

It would surely be a lot more difficult to reach a technological breakthrough in the first place by placing barriers and restrictions at every point of the way by factoring in what may or may not happen, or how a technology may or may not be used. Goggin (2007) himself cited that “the intimate link between technology and disability is found in a wide range of technologies adopted, consumed, and used by people with disabilities, who do so in unexpected and innovate ways, often unforseen by the designers and promoters of such technologies”.

I intend not to be so critical of what is inherently thoughtful observation intended to better society and provide greater equality for all individuals regardless of physical or mental (dis)ability, yet if we rule out potential innovations through the design process before effectively assessing how they may are used, we may be dismissing breakthroughs once never thought possible, before they come to fruition.

References

Goggin, G & C Newell 2007, ‘The Business of Digital Disability’ The Information Society: An International Journal, Volume 23, Issue 3, 159-168

Vesperman, C 2010,  ‘iPhone accessibility criticised’, accessed 15th May 2013 via http://www.divine.vic.gov.au/main-site/tech-talk/mobile/iphone-accessibility-criticised;storyId,2265

Whitebread Media

Just think about ‘White Bread’ itself for a second. Well it’s white; it’s fairly processed, plain, boring and lacking in the nutrients or goodness that either a wholemeal or multigrain cut can provide, so I guess it’s less healthy to consume.

Apply this train of thought to Media in Australia; a platform that Samoan actor Firass Dirani describes as adhering to a ‘White Australia Policy’ (cited in Dreher, T 2013) in that our commercial television broadcasting doesn’t adequately represent who we are today. Dreher (2013) also states that “..media matter because they do not merely reflect, but are also players in, key public debates, providing representations and frameworks which shape understandings and action”, highlighting how much audiences rely on media to determine how they act within the society they live in.

So let’s consider then what type of shows are broadcasted for Australian audiences: long running soaps like Home and Away and Neighbours, ‘dramality’ programs such as The Biggest Loser and more recently [and unfortunately] The Shire, as well as ratings juggernauts Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules. At least in the latter, cultural diversity within our country can be somewhat displayed through food and contestants of many different racial backgrounds, such as previous Masterchef contestants Poh Ling Yeow or Alvin Quah.

What I hadn’t really considered in the media I’m consuming is the relevance of it to my own culture. I mean personally, most of this is boring and irrelevant to my interests with the exception of sporting programs, but I can at least understand and find some relevance in what’s being shown in regard to my lifestyle and upbringing. What I hadn’t considered however, were audiences of other ethnic backgrounds. In an article entitled Tv’s White Australia Policy published on thevine.com.au (2012), author Clem Bastow shares his beliefs: “I’m sure the “argument” goes something like “Well, if we cast a non-white actor, our audience will turn off”. So? Good riddance! An ethnically diverse TV landscape means other communities will tune in”.   Are we excluding potential audiences through our programming? Perhaps. Without depictions of people of differing racial backgrounds in our programming we may be both excluding these groups from feeling including and represented in our country whilst simultaneously creating a sense of ‘other’ that underlines a broader sense of discrimination in our country today. The first step to a society benefiting from cultural diversity may very well be recognizing that there is one present.

References

Dreher, T (forthcoming 2014) ‘White Bread Media’ in The Media and Communications in Australia eds. S Cunningham and S Turnbull, Allen and Unwin

Bastow, C 2012, TV’s White Australia Policy, accessed 09/05/13 via www.thevine.com.au

Feudalisation of the Internet: Walled Gardens

Until this weeks guest lecture from Ted Mitew, I had only ever heard the term ‘Walled Garden’ yet had never really considered its relevance in the landscape of the Internet today.

So here’s how I, for the most part, view the Internet:

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Wild, untamed, messy and unstructured. Depicted here as a jungle. It’s foreign uncivilized land makes it dangerous yet also intriguing in venturing through and discovering new things you may not have seen or thought of before.

And here’s a depiction of a ‘Walled Garden’:

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It’s neat, it’s structured; it’s safe. Through exploring the garden, it is well lit, it’s safe and easy to navigate. There are barriers to stop external forces penetrating and threatening the peace. The Chateau itself can even be Facebook’s administrative team, watching over every step the gardens occupants make.

I envisaged the Internet for a long period of time as displayed in the former as I feel it is just that. This external communications network spawned with no boundaries or control. In one corner 4Chan provides an environment free of rules and regulations, maybe the Vegas of the Internet; existing in its own world, segregated from ‘real’ life. 

I guess I’d never really considered the relevance either. The reading delves into people using ‘tethered appliances’ that are more centrally controlled, citing technologies such as iPod’s, smart phones and video game consoles as media hubs centrally controlled (Zittrain, J 2013) – safer platforms for us to have fun on as long as we adhere to the terms and conditions of entry.

Ted also shared with us a quote in the lecture: “The old Internet is shrinking and being replaced by walled gardens over which Google’s crawler’s cannot climb. Sure, Google can climb public pages, but that represents a tiny fraction of the pages on Facebook, and are not informed by the crucial signals of identity and relationship which give those pages meaning”

– John Batelle

I’d always until now taken Facebook as a kind of ‘it is what is is’ scenario. Yeah cool, Zuckerburg’s raping me of information and earning squillions off me, but I’m not alone. A platform has been provided where we can all log on and connect and share with each other what we please, when we please. If I were that phased by what goes on I’d deactivate my account and become an e-recluse.

But imagine if the Internet were one big walled garden. Not just sections of it, but one entire controlled, continually watched environment. The freedom to do what you want, browse where you want, venturing new and exciting pockets of cyberspace would be hindered by a voice in the back of your head saying ‘where’s this information being recorded? Who’s going to see this?’

I feel we need sections of Internet that are wild and untamed and unstructured. Why can’t I enjoy safer walks along footpaths where I know I won’t trip over tree roots simultaneously with enjoying the thrill of venturing through pockets of unchartered land, not knowing what’s around that bend or tucked behind that darker corner.

References

Mitew, T 2013, BCM310, ‘Feudalisation of the Internet’, lecture notes, accessed 02/05/13, eLearning@UOW

Zittrain, J. ‘Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement’ in The Future of the Internet and how to stop it’, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp. 101-126

Universities in the Digital Age – MOOCs

moocs

As somewhat a continuation on the last couple of posts uploaded, and a trend common in Media and Communication today; a lot of what we know is changing due to technological innovations and the digital age we find ourselves in.

Perhaps a bleak topic at first glance for undergraduates with mountainous HECs debts such as myself, as well as academics working in the institution that is (a physical) university, we’re seeing the current system unravel as information becomes free and individuals access to it become increasingly easier in this digital age; ‘The Internet has transformed the ability to disseminate knowledge, a capacity once exclusive to publishers’ writes Dr.Tyler Neylon, in an article published by the Guardian in 2012.

What captured my attention amidst the gloomy overview of the current and projected future outlook on the tertiary educational environment was the concept of MOOCs. No, not a new surf brand; an acronym for MASSIVE ONLINE OPEN COURSE, or simply put: free online education geared toward mass participants.

Who does this affect and why? Current students may be annoyed they’ve had to fork out for knowledge that’s starting to become available through online platforms. Tutors may face job losses through physical classrooms on campus. Universities in general face decreasing profit margins (at which point parking costs will probably rise, AGAIN).

What else is possible through these innovations? We can reach a greater number of individuals in a broader, global sense. Those in lower socio-economic areas or from these backgrounds can learn through undertaking courses they previously couldn’t afford. Or perhaps a family member can finally sit back and learn about a topic which they previously couldn’t devote their attention to due to being time poor. Newer learning techniques can be experimented with, having individuals bounce ideas and knowledge off one another in an environment facilitating diversity of thought.

Of course, many questions will arise through the growth of MOOCs and online learning in general: “How do you assess learning in a course enrolling vast numbers of students from countries around the world? Schools are experimenting with crowd sourcing of questions and responses, chat rooms, embedded quizzes, and peer assessment. Should schools offer credit or certificates of completion? How can MOOCs offering credit guard against cheating and plagiarism? Can or should MOOCs be linked to traditional courses? How should faculty be compensated for developing and teaching them? Who owns copyrights?” (Paldy, Lester G. 2013). Of course, amendments to this new environment will change as the popularity and recognition of online learning prospers. I do not think universities as we know them will necessarily die out, as aforementioned in regards to Journalism, the institution as we know it will have to adapt and accommodate for such trends.

Perhaps MOOCs will bridge the gap between us as privileged individuals learning specific skill sets to benefit us and future careers, with those who could benefit from learning on a more basic level.

References

Neylon, T 2013, ‘Life After Elsevier: Making Open Access to Scientific Knowledge a Reality’, The Guardian, 24th April 2012, accessed 17/04/2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2012/apr/24/life-elsevier-open-access-scientific-knowledge

Paldy, Lester G. 2013, ‘MOOCs in your future’, Journal of College Science Teaching, Vol. 42, No. 4, accessed 17/04/2013, http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA322563636&v=2.1&u=uow&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

What is the future of Journalism?

Arguably, the good ol’ days of traditional Journalism are well behind us.
A profession once renowned for continually striving for objectivity with professionals doing their utmost to uphold the highest level of ethics and adhering to morals, resulting in delivering information to the masses containing what they ought to know about politics, society and the world we live in, has come to this:

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Old vs. New Media is nothing new to us as Media & Communications students in 2013. As long as I’ve been alive, Mobile Phones and the Internet have always been these ‘things’ apparent in society; these technologies creeping into our lives. Technologies I’ve grown up with and use competently on a day-to-day basis.  What this essentially means for Journalists and news professionals in general is that every shred of news and information is already old.

By the time a paper has learned of a story and a journo has had time to ‘focus on in-depth research and exhaustive fact checking’  (Quandt, T 2011) and submitting the story to an editor in time for the following days press –  ‘everyday people’ have already tweeted about it, shared it on social networks, voiced an opinion, argued with a mate about it across tweets, blogged their own article and discussed over a schooner at their local pub. And this is probably all before a story has had the time to get back to the editor. Heck, Twitter is probably where the media professionals get wind of he story before they go digging.

The delivery of news is the biggest change Journo’s have to face in 2013 and beyond.  Will it die as a profession? No.  A professional’s degree of objectivity and level of ethics is what will save the institution for future generations and of aspiring reporters and storytellers. Journalists need to be able to stay true to what sets them apart from the masses if they have any chance of adapting the new media environment. This does mean that some jobs will be lost, this does mean media conglomerates will turnover less profits and subsequently hold less of a reach to the masses. This does mean that democratically speaking, more voices will be heard, that more news will creep through to the public that had previously been withheld. New jobs will be created. Higher ethical and moral standards of reporting will shine through the cracks and prevail over bloggers with an agenda. Journalists will adapt, they will not die out.

References:

Quandt, T 2011 ‘Understanding a new phenomenon: the significance of participatory Journalism’, Chapter 9 in Hermida at al Participatory Journalism, Wiley Blackwell pp155-176.

Jihadsheila, 2009, Karl Stefanovic Drunk at Logies pt. 1 720p HD, accessed 10/04/13, www.youtube.com

Regulation and Policy

In 2013 we find ourselves living in an extraordinary era; we as individuals have never before experienced such great power as we now possess through the new media environment, having the capabilities to access endless amounts of information, literally at our fingertips, in a matter of seconds. We have progressed at such a vast pace throughout the last 10 years into this digital era that our media consumption habits have somewhat left regulation and policy in the dust and frantically scrambling to catch up.

Discussions in the public sphere surrounding media include concentration of ownership, classification of content, censorship of certain content and cyber safety. Australia itself has ‘has the highest concentration of print ownership of any democracy, with the duopoly of Fairfax Media and News Ltd account for 90% of daily newspapers’ (Dreher, T 2013), which has in turn fueled debate in policy and regulation in our media environment. But how much longer to hardcopy papers have left in them?

We’re already seeing the downsizing of papers like The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age to tabloid, coinciding with Fairfax cutting 1900 jobs in preparation for a ‘digital-only’ future (Norrie, J 2013) . Sure, it’s important for diversity of thoughts, opinions and information throughout the media we’re consuming on a daily basis. But that’s what we now have to power to do, right?

I asked my dad last night over dinner, who for many years was a journalist and whose thoughts and opinions I value very highly in matters like these, what he chose to read. “The Guardian”, he responded. How does he consume this media? Through his iPad. Why? It’s easy, it’s instant and not every newsagent locally stocks hardcopy versions of The Guardian.

We, as consumers, hold the power to actively seek the media we wish to consume. We no longer have to be spoon-fed potentially biased information from one or two sources. My generation and younger generations will have the freedom to read, watch, listen to and share what they want, when they want, which I hope no policy will ever be able to hinder.

References

Dreher, T 2013, BCM310 ‘Media Policy Debates’, lecture notes, accessed 26/03/2013, eLearning@UOW

Norrie, J 2013, ‘Fairfax to cut 1900 jobs, shut printers in huge downsize’, The Conversation, 18th June 2012, accessed 28/03/2013, http://theconversation.com/fairfax-to-cut-1-900-jobs-shut-printers-in-huge-downsize-7726