Intro to Mass Comm review


Illustration: The Dees Illustration Studio.

Below are some of the ideas, topics, videos and websites that we have discussed in Introduction to Mass Communication since the class began in January.

Continuous change: Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation: “We’ve entered an era of continuous change. Did you change last year? You’re a year behind. Did you go digital in 2002? you’re a decade behind.”

Newton mobile phones, tablets: “For the first time in human history, billions of people are walking around with digital media devices linked into a common network. The digital age is changing almost everything — who a journalist is, what a story is, which media work to provide news when and where people want it, and how we engage with communities.”

Impact of mass media: The influence of mass media is pervasive, yet we don’t always realize the impact that it has on us. Marshall McLuhan, a noted philosopher on communication theory, asked, “Does a fish know it’s wet?”

Media and culture: We are defined by our culture. Example: Americans spend $12 billion per year on cosmetic surgery.

Question to consider: Does popular culture overwhelm higher culture? Our textbook says American television exposes viewers to “thousands of hours of trivial TV commercials, violent crime dramas, and superficial ‘reality’ programs.”

Crowdsourcing. The power of the audience. Example: One Red Paperclip, the story of Kyle MacDonald.

Smart mobs: From Author David Weinberger: “As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it.”

Digital DNA. The traces of our existence that we leave on the Internet.

Literacy: The concept of literacy has evolved. Past definitions: You can sign your name. You can read and understand Latin. You can read and understand a newspaper. Today: You can filter and make sense of massive amounts of material.

Information Diet: Clay Johnson created the website Info Vegan. He contends that just as our society has learned to mass produce cheap food, it also produces information. And not all that information is healthy. It’s like junk food. He says it’s best to consume primary information – facts, documents, source-level information. It’s not so healty to consume opinions and other information that drfits away from the primary source, he says. – 19-year-old George Washington University student Kyle Stoneman created, a website aimed at showing how easy it is to put false information on the Internet and watch as people pass it along as facts. One claim was that LSD guru Tim Leary had discovered a new primary color: gendale. A fact was born. The Guardian newspaper was among the publications to state it as a fact. It remained online for three months without being corrected.

More recent examples:

  • Two percent of men who live in North America own kilts.
Four percent of men who live in North America know how to tie a bow tie.
  • Of men who own kilts, 24% know how to tie a bow tie.

Google: Does Google make us stupid? Does it encourage us to skim the Internet and never dig deep? How do advertisers benefit?

Civility: Does the Internet somehow dehumanize us? Does it make it too easy to act immorally? Example: Bumfights.

Quick fix vs. deep thought and reflection. Searching for information gives us a “fix,” researchers say. Searching stimulates the production of dopamine, a chemical produced by reward-driven learning.

Last text message of University of Northern Colorado student Alexander Heit. Police say he was texting when he lost control of his car, crashed and was killed.

Last text message of University of Northern Colorado student Alexander Heit. Police say he was texting when he lost control of his car, crashed and was killed.

Information overload: We consume 34 GB per day on average. That is so much information that it can limit our ability to focus and keep a clear mind.

Networked knowledge increases understanding in science, technology, education, government, business.

Deb Roy. Human speech project. 11 cameras, 14 microphones. Recorded 300 GB of data per day. Charted the learning of the word “water.”

Video: Deb Roy: Birth of a WordSocial TV analytics, Bluefin Labs.

Social media. 300 million comments per day. Two thirds of the comments – or 200 million – on Twitter. 10 million comments are about TV. What can we learn from this conversation? At stake: $72 billion in TV ads. Example: A 9 percent increase in buzz about a show before its release translates into a 1 percent increase in ratings.

Reality TV. Many shows are rigged (surprise, surprise). These shows alter the traditional definition of fame. Some shows promote promiscuity, violence, binge drinking.

Era of exponential growth. Example: Instagram. Founded in October 2010. Now has more than 100 million registered users. In April 2012, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock.

Video games: Using video games for good. Super Better. Jane McGonigal, Institute for the Future. We play games 3 billion hours per week. Question: Any way to convert that energy to something positive for society? Example: Free rice

Video: Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Twitter revolutions: Role of social media in political change. Arab Spring uprisings. Cuba. Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Other reading:

Jan. 11, 2013: Why Journalism Matters: 10 reasons
Jan. 16, 2013: Those amazing crowds
Jan. 18, 2013: The world of Google

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