sizing up media, technology, and society

Archive for February 2008

Daylight Conquered by Darkness: Should we distrust the machine?

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In one of my all time favourite Onion pieces, the satirical news site reported in February 2006 that the rotation of the earth plunged North America into Darkness.

I find that this story does a fantastic job of sensationalizing that which was previously thought to be un-sensationalizable. The narrative of the subject matter really calls out the dramatizing rhetoric employed by traditional media to describe events of similar magnitude. They even go as far to address location bias of North American news, declaring the continent “officially dark” at 5:46pm PST while failing to recognize that other continents live in darkness as we enjoy the light.

This article works in nicely with our class discussions regarding the feasibility, effectiveness, and popularity of fake news. The opportunities afforded by fake news and clearly demonstrated in the Onion piece include the adoption of journalistic and media practices for the examination of bizarre or mundane content, and forms of mimicry so effective that they actually call into question the legitimacy of the form and/or content that they mock. To be sure, the internet is filled with examples and accounts of what happens when satire and fake news are taken at face value or as the real deal. Interestingly enough, there have been some instances where Onion articles pop up in automated news sites, such as Google News, adding yet another layer of hilarity and greatly expanding their potential audience.

Now all of this could be saying something very interesting about the state of news media circulation. Skeptics remain, well, skeptical regarding the viability of machine or algorithm-filtered news, and they argue that such sources could never properly address the needs and concerns of audiences. They often make reference to the fact that machine sources return arbitrary results based on keyword weightings, frequency, and other criteria. This belittling of a new form of information circulation (which granted, is not perfect) overlooks the fact that even news conduits regulated by people or groups of people make decisions as to what makes “relevant news” based on, you guessed it, arbitrary criteria. Sure, there are the seven or nine or eleven criteria of journalism that are used in the decision making process, claiming to have the best interests of the audience (citizens) in mind, but all too often we find the criteria being skewed by other interests, including the taste for entertainment and the sensational, or the political and economic inclinations of a “neutral, objective, and unbiased” news organization.

I think what mix-ups like the Onion being taken as truth and neglecting the “how” of the decisions made in the circulation of information actually illuminate is our typical lack of a critical response or reflex to the content we receive via the media. We should share our hesitance of machine filtered results with the top stories that are fed to us at 6pm each night. That, or we should start to recognize the alternate devices and sources available to us in order to fully substantiate our understanding of an issue. This is an essential variable to the success of democratic pushes in the politics of media and information circulation.



Written by jon.

February 20, 2008 at 7:17 pm


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I’ve been putting off writing because I’ve been angry. At first (say, when Ian asked us if we were angry), I greeted the revealing of “real fake” news with a sense of expectancy, with the typical and generalized cynicism of our skeptical tendencies of thought. I was in a state of awareness and recognition, but something was different: this realization was dulled by that idle expectancy that I (ironically) fully expected.

This dull idleness stayed with me, and largely prevented my consideration of any other blog ideas, even other coursework. Thinking about idleness kept me idle: a strange sensation indeed. During this past week, I have picked up Hartley’s reference book (the optional course text) time and time again, developing the vocabulary that I felt I would need to properly address my changing perspective.

What happened is that I got angry. After the jump, I will share my account of disillusionment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jon.

February 18, 2008 at 3:20 am

Posted in Class discussions

Tagged with , , ,

From Print to the Web and Back Again

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hey y’all

Just giving you the heads-up about a site has recently caught my interest for its efforts in the remediating process. A feature on the site Newseum grabs the front page of world newspapers and locates them on an interactive map (or gallery, or list). It’s an interesting and engaging way of bringing localized news and print publications into the fold of “have-it-now” internet media. However, the site only collects the first page as an image and offers access to the content of the paper via the paper’s own website (instead of images of the pages themselves), which might be writing on the wall for the future of print media.  Be sure to check out the cool map function here

The editors of Lifehacker, on the other hand, feel that they should go in the other direction. In order to earn what the mainstream media considers “real world merit”, they have assembled some of the blog’s best tips into a book format in hopes of penetrating more print-oriented consumer markets. I snickered at the book’s 480 page length, as the monthly content of Lifehacker posts (including linked pages) easily tops this. It really makes print seem as slow as molasses when it comes to keeping up with the latest information (an experiment I’m concocting). Being a How-To book, I suppose its value is merited as a guide that you could pick up periodically, but for the true Lifehacker experience, I’d stick to the blog.

How are the Wars of Remediation treating your favourite sources these days?


Written by jon.

February 6, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Reading Responses

Tagged with ,

Spaces, Culture, and Watching

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hey all,

I keep coming back to ideas of space and remediation, and they don’t go away. I found a rather funny take on Google Map’s Street View feature, which pushes their goal of world mapping to a new level: that of 360 degree van-level views of all intersections of major cities. Google’s omnipresence takes on an otherworldly quality, which ironically might not be far from the cybernetic truth.

At what point does the remediation of space and its subsequent rerelease to a curious public become too much? The intiative to render all street corners into images follows the siren call of our “underwatch” culture: YouTube invites us to watch others through video; Facebook through information, communication, and image timelines; and TV shows like Big Brother are premised on their subjects being watched constantly.

Shocking video after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jon.

February 4, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Test Post from Mobile WordPress

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So I just discovered that wordpress has a mobile section that I can use to post via my iPod…..Pure awesomeness


Written by jon.

February 3, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized, Updates

The Watery WWW

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The Guardian has posted an interesting article detailing what exactly happened to internet access across India and Asia two days ago. Almost more interesting than the article itself, is the diagram they included alongside it: a map of the underwater cables that connect users around the world with telephones and internets (ha). Direct link to picture can be found here, but the article is good reading so I’d opt for that.

I found it fascinating to finally glimpse the architecture that makes our global information society possible, and it really drives the severity of the crisis in the East home. Some points of interests: check out the U.S.A.’s huge proportion of conduits passing right through Washington D.C. and New York. Does this central location facilitate surveillance? Hmmm…. technological access and societal design=big implications for free information flow.

Granted that the land cables aren’t shown, I still find it crazy to think that this is literally a world wide web. It is yet another example of space being remediated at the hands of technology: I can barely reach a book on the bookshelf in front of me with my own hands, and yet I can reach across the globe via these underwater cables and snatch a virtual tour of Heathrow Airport’s new Terminal 5.


Written by jon.

February 2, 2008 at 12:26 am

Posted in Random

Collaborate! Media Charter of Rights and Freedoms

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Hey everyone,

We’ve spoken often about the media’s superstructure, in all its complicated glory, including the social/political/economic implications of its menacing march forward. In our discussion of The Death of Media, we considered the notions of manifesto and a “Media Bill of Rights”. If you find these kinds of discussions especially relevant to your understanding of our mediated world, then I invite you to participate in the creation of our class’s Media Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I’ve gone ahead and created a Google Doc that everyone that wants to participate will be able to edit. You need only a Google account (no big, as it can pair with an existing email, whether a UofG email or not). As this is a volunteer class project, I have not included a link here but will do so via email. You are free to participate as little or as much as you like. One spin I can use to entice you is the prospect of free blog posts i.e. you develop an idea for the gDoc, post it on your blog for class credit and feedback, and then onto the gDoc for karma! Sounds pretty sweet to me, I hope you can join!


Written by jon.

February 1, 2008 at 10:16 pm