sizing up media, technology, and society

Posts Tagged ‘Democracy

Net Neutrality: The Crash Course

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Today I wanted to join Dave on the soapbox and voice my extreme concern over the issue of net neutrality. He has written a fantastic post on his blog laying out some of the key threads of the debate. I want to endorse what he’s said and also provide some of the examples that I’ve stumbled upon in my own research in hopes of spreading awareness of not only the players involved and the current state of the debate, but also shed some light on precisely what is at stake.

A bit of a disclaimer before we jump in: Most of the information surrounding the issue comes from American sources and deal specifically with the American political and corporate infrastructure. Despite this, and independent from the systems responsible for the outcome of the debate, the philsophy behind network neutrality is a position already starting to be eroded by Canadian corporate interests. So, whatever you watch, whatever you read, I hope you realize that the war on the internet is already in full swing on Canadian soil, so be wary.

The Crash Course:

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Written by jon.

March 5, 2008 at 7:50 pm

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