Category Archives: Media

Hashtag Sympathy: Boston, Disaster Porn And The Law of Zuckerberg

Cyborgology

In my essay for Cyborgology, I explore the use of social media to express sympathy. I critique the media phenomenon known as disaster porn and apply it to the the logic of social sharing on Facebook and Twitter.

…documented sharing incentivizes Facebook and Twitter users to traffic in disaster porn. This is the depiction of destruction or tragedy in ways that do not enlighten, but merely sensationalize, pervert, exploit. The ego-stroking affirmations of social networks—the likes and RTs—the ones that push us to share new music and comment on engagement photos, seem perverse when dealing with gory misfortune. From this unsavory perspective, many of the declarations whizzing around Boston look like sympathy but smell like attention-seeking.

…As with older forms of news media, this risks entering into a perverse agenda-setting of the moral. To accept an attention-grabbing rubric to determine cultural significance is to bolster the same kind of news norms that we recognize to be malevolent. These include a preoccupation with the global north, xenophobic privileging of moneyed American interests, highlighting pornographic disaster over chronic, pervasive crime, a disregard for victims who are not white, downplaying environmental degradation with no immediate, visible harm.

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Court Declines to Rule in Wikileaks Complaint

“A military appeals court on Wednesday declined to rule on a lawsuit seeking greater access for journalists to court filings and proceedings in the criminal case against Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has admitted to leaking 700,000 confidential government documents to WikiLeaks,” reports Scott Shane of the New York Times.

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Reddit Sleuths for Boston Bomber Suspects

On MSNBC’s All In, Gawker writer Adrian Chen discusses the problematic investigative work of a community of redditors.

In a subreddit dedicated to examining surveillance images from the Boston Marathon, redditors incorrectly identified a suspect whose likeness later appeared on the cover of the New York Post. Chen says that the subreddit chatter was filled with blatant racial profiling, where “every brown person in the city with a backpack was circled.”

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/all-in-/51590561

Tumblr’s Failed Journalism Experiment

Hamish McKenzie of PandoDaily explain’s why Tumblr’s in-house journalism project, “Storyboard” was nixed.

Even though it had success with its partnerships program at placing stories into other forums, Storyboard’s stories always had the whiff of marketing, or what is these days being described as “native advertising.”

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Do Men Read?

Bryan Goldberg, entrepreneur, founder of Bleacher Report and contributor to PandoDaily, explains why his next business venture will be a news/content site just for women.

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We Don’t Need News Summaries, We Need Better Analysis: Yahoo, Summly And The Folly of Semantic Analysis

With Yahoo’s recent acquisition of the startup Summly, an app that summarizes news articles for iPhone consumption, Hamish McKenzie of PandoDaily raises a good point: is it news summaries we want, or succinct analysis?

McKenzie’s thoughtful piece riffed off a razor keen blog post by Cornell professor Emin Gün Sirer who argued that not only was Yahoo’s purchase preposterously stupid, but that the technology behind Summly represents a culture of mindless news consumption. Gun Sirer explains:

Our time is valuable, and we definitely need tools that help. And because digital information sources have become repetitive echo chambers, I would welcome tools that can extract the latent signals. “This article is really a fluff piece paid for by tobacco interests.” “This picture of attractive happy people of different races mixed together in the same proportion as society at large, sipping lattes at Starbucks, is probably an image ad by Starbucks.” “Yahoo makes outrageous purchase to get people to talk about its dying brand, and perhaps to indicate that it has cash to waste…

Instead of providing insight or the guiding light of expertise or data, Summly relies on technology that merely extracts basic facts using natural language text (this can be accomplished by cutting out the first sentence of news articles and copying the 2nd paragraph, where the who/what/where/when/why can be found, according to Gun Sirer).

And the natural language technology that Summly deploys isn’t even all that impressive. As Gun Sirer writes, “if Yahoo were to look at the work of anyone who is active in [natural language]…it’d immediately discover that this is a deep field full of exciting developments at its core. Gluing [a natural language] engine up to news surely adds some value, but pales in comparison to what cutting edge [natural language] algorithms can accomplish.”

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The Wild Ambition of Youth Journalism And Vice media

Writing in the Guardian, Tim Adams summarizes the allure of Vice, “Twenty years ago Shane Smith set up a hip little Montreal magazine called Vice. Then along came the internet and Vice reinvented itself as the edgiest, wildest online media brand in the world. It’s staffed by twentysomethings and aimed at a global youth who have no interest in mainstream media. Which is why he is courted by everyone from Rupert Murdoch to Google.”

Where public trust towards long standing new outlets has eroded, especially for young people, Vice aims to explore the absurdity of contemporary life and the mass hypocrisy of Western politics. Adams interviews the cofounder and CEO of Vice, Shane Smith, and extracts golden nuggets of media wisdom:

But the fact is four corporations own all of American news, and they are all equally scared of losing Budweiser or whoever as their advertisers. The greatest propaganda coup of the American right has been to convince its citizens that we are in the grip of a liberal conspiracy. As a result, Obama is to the right of Richard Nixon on most issues. And there is we believe, certainly some space to exploit there.” He pauses, smiles, concludes his lesson for the day. “And we, Vice, aim to exploit it.

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WikiLeaks, The Pentagon Papers And The Free Press

The Columbia Journalism Review interviews James Goodale, chief counsel of the New York Times during the release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and author of the forthcoming book, “Fighting for the Press.”

On the similarities between the Pentagon Papers and WikiLeaks/Julian Assange:

Well, I think it’s very much the same thing. We have a leak of classified information. And by the way — you’ve got to remember [Bradley] Manning’s the leaker. Everyone says Assange is a leaker. He’s not a leaker. He’s the person who gets the information.

So why we’re so concerned about the prosecution of Assange is what he did is the same as what the Times did in the Pentagon Papers, and indeed what they did with WikiLeaks. The Times published on its website the very same material WikiLeaks published on its website. So if you go after the WikiLeaks criminally, you go after the Times. That’s the criminalization of the whole process.

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With Fake Viral Videos, Tradional Media Are Duped

First there was the bird of prey nearly snatching up a baby in his talons.

Now an adorable, heroic pig saves a drowning baby goat.

As it turns out, both of these videos were manufactured stunts. Writing at paidContent,the media observer Mathew Ingram praises these vids for their entertainment value, but criticizes the journalistic outlets who broadcast them without verifying if they are, in fact, authentic.

Where BuzzFeed and Reddit specialize in this kind of sharable, internet gold, traditional media merely amplify the marketing efforts of these viral campaigns, Ingram argues. He also notes that this both erodes the trust we have with journalists, and by imitating linky internet sites, renders their journalism more irrelevant.

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