All posts by kingofthestreats

The Media’s Future: “Infotainment”?

The new media culture and its ever-changing technology has greatly changed both the way we live and communicate. What began as a mere way to spread information to the public has since been high-jacked with the bombardment of advertisements trying to sell us, not only a product, but a lifestyle. We now see a polarization of viewpoints represented across various different cable TV channels, but even more than that is the selection made available to us. All of these channels cater to an audience wider than ever before (i.e. The ‘Golf Channel’ exists, I kid you not). Any cable subscriber can flip through tons of channels, and this speaks a lot to how far we have gone as a collective society.

Gone are the days in which we spend our leisure time “outside”, a word we are now completely unfamiliar with. The programming itself has become so much more centralized around entertaining the public rather than informing it. As discussed in class, there is the notion that we are collectively ‘dumbing ourselves down’. The evidence as of late would clearly support this argument, i.e. CNN’s ‘Breaking News’ alert when Justin Beiber was arrested.  Even I myself am guilty of this, as an avid reality TV viewer who spent a good majority of his weekend watching a marathon of America’s Funniest Home videos. While watching guys skateboard into rails and end up hospitalized is great and all; it really offers me no sort of intellectual benefit. Am I aware that I should have been reading a book or using my time more productively? Of course. Will this realization change my overall actions in the future? Most likely not, and therein lies the problem. Society’s obsession with celebrities and entertainment speaks volumes about where we are headed.

The future is difficult to predict, as we already know. What I can be certain of is that technology will continue to change at a rapid rate. We are above and beyond where we were even 10 years ago. This ever-changing technology will continue to out-do itself as we progress further. Technologies today are constantly working to be ‘the next big thing’ as companies attempt to actively out-do one another. We have recently seen our phones evolve into smartphones, and then tablets and watches, and even now to smart glasses (i.e. google glass) and this competitive fight to be the ‘top brand’ has only made the general public the “winners” as we stand back and buy every new product out there. This new technology, while engaging and highly efficient, has also come with its fair share of burdens. What used to be the norm was mailing letters to distant relatives, and now we instead Facebook them. What used to be the norm was having face-to-face conversations with friends, and now we instead Instant Message or text them. Just last week my geography professor Dr. Russel Fielding told us about how he facebook friend-ed a native of Tristan Da Cunha (very small remote island off the coast of South Africa) and he spoke to this individual about how our class was learning of the island’s unique geography. To which the islander responded, “Oh how fun! Please feel free to come on by anytime.” Dr. Russell Fielding now plans to create an Interterm course where he will hopefully be able to take a few DU students out there. Had this exchange taken place a mere 20 years earlier, it would have taken months of letters going back and forth. This new instant communication is quite powerful, but also makes us very lazy.

Taking it further, parents often times use an iPad as a parent figure as a means of quieting the child, which may seem like the easy solution for the moment, but this begs the question: Is that really the most beneficial solution for the child?  We see children today receive their own phone at such a young age, and this is a trend that will continue to be monitored moving forward. I would argue that having children rely on technology does more harm than good in that they ultimately learn very little. Since we have google to find any answer to pretty much any question, our actual in-depth understanding has diminished. In order for us to succeed moving forward, it is in our best interest to maintain the appropriate balance. Will society act on this notion? That’s the big overarching question yet to be determined.

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How MTV’s “Girl Code” Reinforces Gender Roles/Stereotypes

When viewing any/all programming from MTV, it’s almost a given that you will undoubtedly run into something that makes an effort to “push the envelope”. This is seen on MTV in a variety of ways stemming from how our culture craves the need for promiscuity, drama, and controversy. Of all of MTV’s robust examples programming  to choose from, Girl Code really stood apart from the rest in how it has (somewhat) good intentions from its creation, only to ultimately get in its own way and fall flat. As a spin-off from the less successful Guy Code, this show aimed to “open the dialogue about the wonders and woes of womanhood” as MTV described it. The show centers around 3-4 topics of discussion each episode, as a slew of comedians we’ve never heard of give their take on these “topics”. Why the quotes? Well the topics in question are merely age-old gender-confined tropes that are only reinforced again and again. We see the classic reinforcement of how young woman are supposed to act, think, behave, and ultimately feel. There are also scenarios that add to commonplace stereotypes, such as: tips on what to do in a heterosexual relationship, dealing with pregnancy scares, getting dumped, the notion that all guys care about are food, video games and porn, and the perception that all girls like sleepovers, to name a few.

The above clip centers around weight gain, and all of the negative backlash that comes with it. We see an overall negative stigma around weight gain, and the idea that women have to be thin to be considered attractive. The comments made by the guests are sometimes going against social norms I will admit, but in terms of the overall message of the show, the ideology behind it still manages to reinforces the norm.  The Parents television Council had this to say about Girl Code, “it is a series which degrades young women by teaching them that they are valued only for their looks, and that servicing men sexually is their purpose in life.” The quote may seem a bit extreme at first, but after watching a few episodes it’s hard to argue. While yes, the goal is to open a dialogue about these topics is done in a successful manner, via the integration of social media, is it something that is hurting or helping young women?

The heavy use and references to popular social media go a long way in how it has managed to connect with its audience. The show has a huge presence on the micro-blogging site, Tumblr and over 854,099 followers on Twitter. The show’s stars take this a step further and often live-tweet the show and create unique hashtags, and retweet the best responses from the public. While highly successful, the messages the show provides give a good arugment to the idea of post-feminism. The women of the show have all of the agency in terms of what they say, and their opinions on subjects, but what they actually end up saying is merely a rehashing of stereotypical social norms, unbeknownst to them or not. This is more an operation of the hegemonic ideology and less about the individuals agency. What is considered common sense to these speakers really isn’t anything more than a clear demonstration of the masculine power that still exists. The show’s stars are the agents of there own oppression. The show speaks to female empowerment, but at the same time argues about what it takes to look and feel attractive in order to attract the opposite sex. Evidence can be seen in a segment around the female genitalia, when regular Carly Aquilino says, “A vagina is something every girl has, THAT YOU LET A LOT OF PEOPLE IN”, as we see a cartoon illustrate this point with the following image:

Image

The image above tells viewers everything they have to know about MTV’s attitude toward women. “Rampant promotion of sexual promiscuity, without concern for consequences or potential problems…standard procedure for MTV”, says the Parent Television Council. The show does aim to be sarcastic and funny, but even the jokes themselves are disjointed and the “advice” given to the audience is so obvious that we are left wondering what the actual message behind the segment was.

The Feminist movement itself is an intellectual, conscious raising movement to get peole to understand that gender is an organizing principle of life. The belief is that women and men should be accorded equal opportunities and respect, but having shows that segregate the genders while reinforces certain masculine stereotypes to a younger audience goes directly against that goal.

Sources:

https://w2.parentstv.org/blog/index.php/2013/11/14/1369/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/14/mtv-s-girl-code-is-a-wildly-popular-show-with-nothing-to-say.html

http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/girl-code

https://twitter.com/GirlCode

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eerZjQS2D7c

The Power of Citizen Journalism

In the early hours of the morning after the 2012 Aurora, CO theater mass shooting, professional journalists were  rushing to provide an accurate timeline of what exactly occurred inside. Both local and national news outlets scrambled to present breaking news to the public; however, little did they know, 18-year old Morgan Jones of Denver had already posted a minute-by-minute thread of up-to-the-moment information on the social media site, Reddit. What is rather shocking was how it evolved into a cohesive narrative of the tragedy.  It grew far beyond Reddit’s character limit and eventually overflowed into ten additional posts (of which you can find starting here). Morgan combined traditional media reports along with police scanner information, and social media updates. Morgan unknowingly became a “Produser”, in that he was producing information of various sources into a singular news-feed of information, as merely a general user of the social media site. His profession isn’t that of a journalist, not even a junior reporter, but that of a Gatecrasher. Morgan chose NOT to have his voice heard through traditional mainstream media channel, but rather via his own profile on Reddit. Social media’s rise in prominence is what ultimately lead to this new edge to citizen journalists, because now anyone and anything can become viral in an instant. Gone are the days where only mainstream media determined what is/isn’t deemed “newsworthy”. The citizens role has taken a new, and interesting form as a result.

During the early hours of the tragedy Morgan’s coverage of the shootings was not only done in real-time, but became the most comprehensive source of information. Actual professional reporters even began looking to the Reddit posts themselves, only to repeat what Morgan had already compiled, says Linda Sharps at The Stir. The fact that an 18-year old sitting at his home in front of his computer was able to out-scoop the media alone is not only astonishing, but opens up a new realm of possibilities of citizen journalism. What we witnessed signaled just how effective a citizen journalist can be, by providing real-time updates from eye-witness accounts who posted their own stories via Twitter & Reddit. The news was more raw and more real in that it came directly from the individual’s personal account. Was the news thread of information 100% accurate, no. But Morgan didn’t just “copy and paste” and move on, he made the effort to correct old information, address questions from users, and continue to provide updates throughout the night. He stated that the Reddit community’s own demand for transparency is what influenced his conscious decision to share the data.

   I don’t delete things and replace them with something else. I do a strike through and put [latest information] I have below so it gives people an idea of how it’s changing. So it’s transparent. People will put up with minor inaccuracies because they know someone will call them out and change it. (source) -Morgan Jones

The inaccurate tendencies is something that the mainstream media made sure to pick up on as CNN’s Howard Kurtz went on to criticize Reddit on-air. During CNN’s Reliable Sources, Kurtz took note of how the public should take everything from citizen journalist’s reporting with a grain of salt because of the fact that information can be inaccurate. Kurtz suggests that this isn’t the case with traditional mainstream media, and that the media will tell the public what is right and what is wrong, because they undergo certain processes of fact-checking and gatekeeping. The flow of information is to be trusted and respected he states, because the media won’t tell things that are in the heat of the moment.

The power of the internet really revealed itself as Reddit users were able to unearth something every news outlet missed, an adultfriendfinder.com profile of the shooter, 24-year old suspect, James Holmes. It was first posted as unconfirmed to the site, and as it garnered more and more attention, the news and police soon took notice of this development. The profile picture matched the description of Holmes provided by police when he was arrested, and the overall appearance resembled photos released to the public. Soon afterward, TMZ, The Huffington Post, and CNN reported the profile, but without crediting Reddit for its initial discovery.

While Kurtz’s argument is valid, the future of citizen journalism does STILL seem a bit brighter. What Morgan Jones was able to accomplish was newsworthy itself, he crashed the gates and became something the media could not ignore. Morgan Jones showed us how to crash the gates and become more of a gatewatcher, as he was curating/controlling what news to display on the feed. Thus providing the public an important and vital service. The fact he took into account the Reddit community’s need for transparency alludes to how he opened up the discussion and allowed for that audience engagement that the mainstream media lacks. Traditional journalists do have certain advantages that citizens do not; such as resources and contacts. So we need not to compare and contrast the two in a way of doing away with one, but rather, learn to incorporate BOTH into one cohesive new form of journalism. Citizen journalism should not “replace” in any way, but CAN bring forth additional benefits that the mainstream media doesn’t. In internet’s ability to provide on-the-ground reporting from first-hand witnesses gives the public something no reporter could ever access. The mainstream media should find ways of letting the people contribute in as many ways as possible, and to take advantage of the fact that journalism is everywhere.

Sources:

http://theweek.com/article/index/231070/reddits-coverage-of-the-colorado-massacre-the-future-of-citizen-journalism

http://thestir.cafemom.com/technology/140813/colorado_shootings_details_reported_best

http://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/wv8t1/comprehensive_timeline_aurora_massacre/

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cnns-howard-kurtz-attacks-reddit-showing-that-either-he-doesnt-get-it-or-just-likes-being-the-stodgy-old-media-guy/

http://www.mediaite.com/online/colorado-theater-shooting-witnesses-take-to-twitter-and-reddit-to-share-their-stories/

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/23/reddit-aurora-shooter-aff/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Net Neutrality: The Open Internet’s Demise

Back in 2010, when the FCC issued the Open Internet Order, then FCC commissioner Michael Copps told The New York Times that he wanted to make sure the Internet “doesn’t travel down the same road of special interest consolidation and gate-keeper control that other media and telecommunications industries — radio, television, film and cable—have traveled. What an historic tragedy it would be,” he said, “to let that fate befall the dynamism of the Internet.” (Ashley). The Open Internet Order was created by the FCC, and restricted internet providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content on the internet.  However, Verizon Communications challenged this order by pointing out a technicality in a previous FCC classification ruling. In 2002, while under chairman Michael K. Powell, the FCC elected to classify cable modems in the same category as cable providers, also known as an “information service.”

The underlying question here is what should the classification of cable modems actually be? To fully try and distinguish this we must first look at what each category entails. As Seth Ashley asks in his online blog post, “Do you think home internet connection is more like a landline telephone service or like a cable television service provider?” (Ashley). The difference between the two goes a long way in exactly just how much reign the FCC has in terms of regulations and guidelines. The major distinction is that a landline telephone allows you to make/receive calls to anyone you want, without any price deferential who is phoned. This is a “Telecommunication Service”. Cable, on the other hand, is provided through various different packages at different prices. You have the basic cable package with a select few of options to choose from, and then you have more expensive options with a lot more channel options. This is referred to an “Information Service”, which does allow the provider editorial control over what type of content it wants to provide.

The recent Verizon vs. FCC court ruling brought fourth this reasoning as a means of justifying the verdict’s ruling in favor of Verizon. The winners and losers of the ruling are clear, with Verizon and other broadband web providers having received their control as originally desired. The losers here, many believe, is the general American public because now these internet providers have the opportunity to slow down or block any website they choose (ex: their ‘On-Demand’ competitor Netflix). To be in favor of Net neutrality is to be in favor of having a level playing field for anyone who has access. Which would make the internet much like a landline phone, in that we would have unrestricted access to what ever website we choose, all at the same speed. Net Neutrality supporters also fear that broadband providers could create tiers of service that allows for internet companies to pay a fee in order for their website/content to receive the highest speed in terms of how quickly its loading speed is. This sudden change would mean each high profile website company, such as Netflix, Amazon, etc. would have high loading speeds, but not for the smaller internet companies who do not have such funds readily available.

On the other side of this coin, the broadband internet providers asks everyone to trust them. Broadband providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have argues that imposing such rules (stated above) on their networks would make it more difficult to manage congestion (Reardon). Their stance of the controversial argument centers around allowing room for more innovation, and for consumers to have more choices in terms of internet providers. These internet providers do all agree that it is unfair to black traffic, but can those who oppose really trust this sentiment? Broadband companies also believe that the free market competition, created as a result of this ruling, will ensure that they do not prevent consumers from accessing any internet connection.

I personally favor Net Neutrality and argue that the FCC should take immediate action to aid this mis-classification of internet service as an “information service”, to a more adequately-fitting “telecommunications service” title. Which would delegate authority to the FCC and force broadband providers to adhere to a restriction-free unbiased internet service for each American citizen.

“The court in its decision acknowledged the FCC’s conclusion that without Net neutrality or Open Internet rules, network operators may abuse their power.” (Reardon). Stating that broadband providers do represent a threat to internet openness, and that they could very well act in ways that inhibit the speed and extent of future broadband deployment. All due to the fact that they now have the underlying option to do so, but will they at some point down the line? That is the real question.

Sources Cited:

Ashley, Seth. “The end of the open Internet: Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality .” The Blue review. N.p., 23 JAN 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://thebluereview.org/net-neutrality/&gt;.

Fung, Brian. “Federal appeals court strikes down net neutrality rules.” the Washington Post. (2014): n. page. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/01/14/d-c-circuit-court-strikes-down-net-neutrality-rules/&gt;.

Reardon, Marguerite. “Appeals court strikes down FCC’s Net neutrality rules.” CNET. N.p., 14 JAN 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2014. <http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57617199-38/appeals-court-strikes-down-fccs-net-neutrality-rules/&gt;.

The Comcast Corporation

Company Overview:  In 2011 the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) approved the takeover in majority share holdings of NBCUniversal, from General Electric to the Comcast Corporation. The initial merger combined the nation’s largest cable company and residential service provider with one of the world’s biggest producers of TV shows and motion pictures. In early 2013, General Electric divested its stake and sold its remaining holdings for approximately $16.7 billion and as a result, Comcast now owns 100 percent of NBCUniversal.  The merger has since expanded the company exponentially, both vertically and horizontally, in the media market.  Vertical integration includes the combination of video producer (NBCUniversal) and video distributor (Comcast Corp.)  Horizontal integration includes adding NBC’s programming to Comcast’s programming. Secondly, adding NBC’s broadcasting station to Comcast’s video network, which shows us how Comcast has become a powerful conglomerate entity.

Comcast’s media holdings now reach almost every home in the nation. It serves customers in 39 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to its vast NBCUniversal holdings, Comcast has 23.6 million cable subscribers, 18 million digital cable subscribers, 15.9 million high-speed Internet customers and 7.6 million voice customers. The company also recently reached a deal with Verizon Wireless, in which each side will market and sell each other’s services.  As a current Comcast customer, I have to say nothing really surprised me in my findings as I am pretty familiar with all of its properties.  However, it was surprising to find out just how many channels Comcast owns, as I myself did not know they were all connected by a much larger Corporation.

Annual Reports: Can be found here

2011 Revenue: $55.8 billion

2012 Revenue: $62.6 billion

Ownership Map: Full list here

Television:

  • NBC Network
  • USA Network
  • Telemundo
  • CNBC
  • Syfy
  • MSNBC
  • Bravo
  • Oxygen
  • Chiller
  • E!
  • CNBC World
  • The Golf Channel
  • Sleuth
  • mun2
  • Universal HD
  • VERSUS
  • Style Network
  • Hallmark Channel
  • G4
  • Comcast SportsNet –
  1. Philadelphia
  2. Mid-Atlantic (Baltimore/Washington D.C.)
  3. Chicago
  4. Sacramento
  5. New England (Boston)
  6. Northwest (Portland)
  7. Southwest (Houston)
  8. Bay Area (San Francisco)
  9. New York (8 percent stake)
  • MountianWest Sports Network
  • The Weather Channel (25 percent stake)
  • A&E (16 percent stake)
  • The History Channel (16 percent stake)
  • Biography Channel (16 percent stake)
  • Lifetime (16 percent stake)
  • The Crime and Discovery Channel (16 percent stake)
  • FEARnet (31 percent stake)
  • PBS KIDS Sprout (40 percent stake)
  • TV One (34 percent stake)

Film Production:

  • Universal Pictures
  • Focus Features
  • Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Digital Media Properties:

  • MSNBC.com (50 percent stake)
  • Hulu (32 percent stake)
  • Daily Candy
  • iVillage
  • Fandango
  • Plaxo
  • CNBC Digital
  • Flipboard

Telecom:

  • Clearwire Communications (9 percent stake)

Communications:

  • XFINITY TV
  • XFINITY Voice
  • XFINITY Internet

Theme Parks:

  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Wet ‘n Wild theme park
  • Universal Studios Florida
  • Universal Islands of Adventure

Sports Mangement:

  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Wells Fargo Center
  • Ovations Food Services
  • New Era Tickets (ComcastTIX)
  • Front Row Marketing Services
  • Paciolan
  • Flyers Skate Zone

Other:

  • Comcast Interactive Media
  • iN DEMAND
  • Music Choice (12 percent stake)
  • SpectrumCo (64 percent stake)