“The Internet, put simply, is a low-cost communications network. Everything else, like the web, builds on top of that. And having so much information online can be a gold mine for reporting . . . Silicon Valley is a caldron of innovation.
But all of the big issues surrounding technology impact on the world – like automation, economic opportunity and income disparity – are playing out outside the tech hubs, across the $20 trillion American economy. Tons of research is being done on those subjects, and it’s all online . . . What it means is that you can test your assumptions for any trend or explanatory story . . . The other similar change is the ease, speed and cost of one-to-one communication means you can talk to far more people, wherever they are, on any given story. (NY Times, 6/28/18).”
So it’s all about the innovation and change. But that may not be the information people are looking for. It seems that a lot of Americans (not the majority) felt that the country had to be made “Great Again.”
P.S. Happy Fourth of July. Enjoy the holiday “week.” Will be back on Monday, July 9th.
It’s just too easy. We can write blogs, tweet our anger about the state of affairs in the U.S. today, but do you often wonder about who is really listening or who really cares. It is all so easy and self-satisfying to let people know how angry and upset we are. But at the same time, do we really begin to ask ourselves whether this is all having any impact? Mere words may not be enough.
I think the Bully-in-Charge (a.k.a, the so-called president) really has the upper hand. He uses Twitter to communicate with all his adoring fans, and they really like it. Nothing is really complicated – just listen to my harangues and we will all feel a lot better. He will lead us in making America Great Again. Just read and believe! He is tweeting while “Rome burns,” and very few seem to really care. I am sure we can all write statements in opposition to all this “fake rhetoric” but what have we really accomplished? Many worry that ceaseles statement -writing is sucking us dry.
In a New York Times’ opinion piece on Sunday Tiya Miles wrote: “I doubt my own courage and wonder each day whether I could deploy my body beyond the relative safety of marches approved by permits. But I am certain of this: The change we seek to make won’t be accomplished by words alone.”
Now it seems that you may never have to live in the “real world.” Or at least when you are watching TV or searching for the latest news online (some people, I guess, still buy daily newspapers, and end their searching there). But technology has made it possible for us to go online and search for whatever news we may like. Sorry, but I am getting very confused here. Maybe Kellyanne Conway was right: there may truly be “alternative realities” out there, and you can pick whatever one you like.
Some reporting on the recent South by Southwest Interactive Festival may be helpful in trying to understand it all. “(Netflix) is developing new interactive technology allowing viewers to direct the plots of certain TV shows, Chose-Your-Own Adventure style.” They are also focusing on children’s programming, more as a developmental learning tool than as some new twist on the modern media sphere’s rush to give you exactly what you want when you want it. Well, as the old expression goes: “Good luck with that!” It just might turn out that it will be more profitable for Netflix and others to give their audiences what they want, and then what? They are already giving viewers the opportunity to choose their own endings!
So much news, so little time. Who do you trust? Dan Rather? Kellyanne Conway?
I know it might be heard to believe, but it has only been three weeks and three days since Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States. Seem longer? It has for me. A recent article in the Washington Post compared the surge of commentary and political opinion on social media to attending an opera. “Like opera, social media is dedicated to amplifying human utterance so that a single voice communicating an intimate thought may be heard by hundreds, even thousands of people.”
“But the attempt to experience and broadcast information about things that deeply move us, in a public forum, has left many people across the political spectrum feeling emotional, wrung-out and exhausted. Opera may have some practical tips to offer anyone who is feeling drained and hoarse, literally and figuratively. There’s a difference between raising your voice to make yourself heard, and degenerating into mere screaming.” That may be the hard part. We all know how to scream, but we are now being encouraged to “Resist.” What’s the best way? Ghandian nonviolent civil disobedience? Political activism aimed at the Congressional election in 2018? “Throw the scoundrels out!”
Social media is indeed a powerful tool for mass communication, but people also need to “connect” in a very traditional political way. And I think we will have to start from the ground up with family and neighbors. Only three weeks and three days have passsed and we still have a long way to go. So let’s “Persist” (thank you Senator Warren) and “Resist.”
Just as the Internet has changed most Americans shopping habits, i.e., stay at home and shop online, it now seems that you can now shop for your news and take your pick of what you like. Recent polls show that many of us have burrowed into our own echo chambers of information where we can “shop” for the news that will confirm our own opinions. For years, technologists and other utopians have argued that the online news would be a boon for our democracy. That has not been the case.
If you study the dynamics of how information moves online today, pretty much everything conspires against the truth. Let’s take the traditional standard of documentary proof. Thanks to Photoshop, for example, any digital image can be doctored. Any bit of inconvenient documentary evidence can be freely dismissed as having been somehow altered. Of course, our own behavioral standards play a role in all this. Surveys show that people who liked Mr. Trump saw the Access Hollywood tape where he casually referenced groping women as mere “locker room talk”; those who didn’t like him considered it the worst thing in the world.
Research has has shown that we all tend to filter documentary evidence through our own biases. I think the Internet just makes it easier for us to select only the news with which we agree, or “fits” our definition of the truth.
“All the News That’s Fit to Print.” Well, not exactly anymore, at least in its News App NYT Now. As you may already know, the motto of the New York Times has run into some roadblocks in the digital age. It’s all about the decline in the number of subscribers over the past year. In May 2015, NYT Now had 334,000 total unique subscribers? Over the last three months, the app averaged only 257,000 unique users.
So what is the Times to do? Facebook and Twitter, baby! No “Old Gray Lady” anymore. The Times now has an audience development team that will be looking to third party platforms. I guess it was just a matter of times(s?). NYT Now is not the first app that the Times has retired. In 2014, it shut down NYT Opinion because it failed to gain much traction.
Maybe some people still just like to read the printed newspaper? In this case, it seems that the Times is chasing the digital audience, and there is nothing wrong with that. But instead of printing all the news that’s fit to print, they may be only reporting the news that the digital reader wants to “fit?”
Two weeks ago a new book was published on Amazon as well as other online book publishing formats. I authored one of the essays in this book: “Changed During the Sixties.” The book’s title is “Turning Points: Discovering Meaning and Passion in Turbulent Times.” I hope you will enjoy reading these essays about personal and professional transitions made during this time.
During the remainder of August, I will only be posting commentary on Mondays. I will be “resting” on Labor Day, but will resume my posts on a regular M-W-F basis on September 12.
“The media is the message.” Thank you again Marshall McLuhan, but I am not sure that you ever thought it would come to this. I know I am only commenting on the news media in this case, but HOW we get our news may be as important to our understanding of WHAT is really happening in the world. Why bother reading a newspaper when you can get it all the news on Facebook Live or Twitter Periscope. Or why bother watching the news on TV when it’s all there on your smartphone. Now I must confess that I am one of those “dinosaurs” who still reads the newspaper(s) and watches TV (a lot of time for the news!). So in many ways I am acting my age for better or worse?
“People who regularly watch cable news are old. According to statistics compiled at the end of last year, CNN’s prime time audience was the youngest in cable news – with a median age of 59. The median age of Fox News’s prime-time audience is 68. (TV news isn’t alone here. The median age of a subscriber to The New York Times’s digital edition is 54; for print subscribers, it’s 60. But of course, we all know that with age comes sophistication.)”. This is a quote from the NY Times, 7/14/16. Maybe the reality is that the younger you are, the more digital your world is. A world that is faster and spontaneous, more live video without the benefit of any objective analysis?
The former president of CNN, Jonathan Klein, offers this: “Maybe all these years, the importance of scintillating video has been overblown, and the mission for news outlets could be to help the viewers understand what all the video really means.”
I will taking a short break and will be back, next Friday, 7/22/16. Hope you are enjoying your summer.
Vox populi! Pardon my Latin, but now thanks to the Internet, we really do have a way to let the people’s voice be heard. If you and your friends just start clicking, liking, or tweeting your favorite stories or articles found online, you will be able to become major “influencers” of public opinion. And to think all you really need to do is have the right technology, point and click. Now why did I have to go to college and get a degree?
One of the most recent examples of this Internet phenomenon is all the buzz about “Cecil the lion,” who was unfortunately (accidentally?) killed by an American dentist who was on a hunting safari in Africa. I guess you can only drill just so many teeth before you get the urge to go for something bigger than just killing cavities. But the real story here seems to be how we are becoming more focused on stories that go viral at the expense of being substantive. If you search for “Cecil the lion” on Google News, you will now easily get over 3.2 million results. As one media analyst recently stated, the economics of producing original content and its value is being diminished.
So will Cecil’s death raise our awareness of how endangered life on the African plains has become? Somehow I am afraid that the real tragedy of his death is that he became an overnight Internet sensation. The people have spoken. Now let’s click on something else.