Dr. Marko Milosavljević: “The danger of media capture is that it consists of subtle practices”

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Institute for International Communication, St. John's University

22404007_1022532311223108_1269317833_oDo we know who owns the media we consume and use? What are the algorithms guiding our consumption? Who can curb hate speech? The phenomenon of “media capture” takes place when both governments and commercial interests align against public interest media and transparency in governance of media organizations and platforms.

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Theories of American Media Failure: A Post-Election Map

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Reposted from MediaPowerMonitor.
Everybody agrees that media helped, to a great extent, make Trump president. So what went wrong? The week after election day, theories about media failure flooded American public sphere. 
Everyone has become a political scientist today: the United States elections have sparked a cascade of theories about why few people within the country and abroad anticipated the outcome. Equally, many commentators, on TV or in the pub, claim that they saw it coming, but that no one listened to them.
Judging from the public debate in America and abroad after the elections, no other institution or phenomenon is as much to blame as the media for how badly informed the public was, which in the end was what led to the election of Donald Trump. When citizens, pundits, and the media themselves are all calling for the reinvention of quality journalism, reform of news organizations, and rethinking of social media algorithms, looking back and mapping the explanations of how it all went wrong is a useful, and in some ways cathartic, exercise.
The Elitists
The most often invoked explanation is that the old-school, legacy media are no longer the Fourth Estate, the watchdog that informs citizens about the actions of the Power Elite. The media have become elitist themselves, focusing on the rich and famous instead of covering the concerns of Middle America. Instead of policy proposals (if there were that many), headlines captured Clinton’s health and Trump’s relationships with ladies.
The Media Are Profit-Driven Pollsters
The essence of this theory is that, to keep the news going and the eyeballs stuck on their broadcast or websites, the mainstream media focused on bombarding their audiences with data, but did not properly analyze those data or put them into context.
The week leading to the elections featured 40+ polls a day during the weekday and some 20 polls on Saturday and Sunday each, according to Realclearpolitics.com. No wonder that after the elections, media analysts kept browbeating the media for throwing on readers data that eventually failed them. “It was a rough night for number crunchers,” the New York Times wrote on 10 November 2016. “And for the faith that people in every field — business, politics, sports and academia — have increasingly placed in the power of data.”
Some theorists say that perhaps the trust of media in polls was too exaggerated or even bordering on naïveté, or journalists were too eager to write yet another election story and thus needed some numbers.
The Media Are Bullies
A third explanation of the failure of media in the past elections is that they acted like bullies.
However, there are, in fact, several opinions about who the bully was. One is related to polling and public opinion. It claims that the mainstream media ridiculed Mr Trump so much that that many of his supporters were silenced (but did not change their political views). They did not want to admit their views to journalists or talk to the pollsters. That massively distorted the media depiction of reality.
Another version of the bully theory is that Mr Trump used mainstream media to publicize his outrageous statements, and media happily obliged as they made great headlines. And we know that great headlines bring audience and ad cash.
The third, but related strand blames semi-independent, sometimes semi-professional trolls who could now mobilize fringe groups by shouting ugly things very loudly in social media.
Finally, many consider the Wikileaks revelations right before the elections as targeted bullying. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks mastermind, sees in WikiLeaks a new kind of journalistic organization. As America was embroiled in the campaign for president, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of emails and documents related to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  Mr Assange said that they decided to do so because they believe in the right of the public to be informed. He said that they didn’t publish anything on Mr Trump simply because they didn’t receive anything.
The Media Are Liars
What is worse: to be a bully or a liar? By taking a strong stance for their preferred candidate, many mainstream media outlets are said to have alienated audiences, especially of the opposite camp. At the same time, they did not fact-check enough, or early enough, to push candidates to respond on air.
The trust was gone. Some say Mr Trump’s supporters didn’t even care. They did not take the content seriously, but rather trusted the spirit, the intent, and the core mission of his campaign. Social media reinforced this by fostering bot-created tweets and fake news, and by promoting them through algorithmic selection.
The Media Create Filter Bubbles
Maybe the worst, or fundamentally saddest theory of social media failure in the past election, is about the social division they created instead of building a common, transparent, equitable public sphere for rational debate.
While social media was hailed as the mobilizing and unifying force for Barack Obama in 2008, now these platforms helped to form very distinct camps that hardly ever conversed beyond insults. The division, so sharp as also shown by the vote split, seems to go on, a week after the election, spilling over to the physical world: #notmypresident.

How to communicate global challenges?

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A team of students from COM 3102 and 3103 (International Communication) have taken on a challenge by Global Challenges Action Network (GloCha). They are to think about, and visualize, communication and marketing strategies for GloCha’s globally broadcasted TV edutainment and fundraising show on youth and global challenges, happening in the UN climate change meeting at COP22 in Marrakesh, Nov 2016.

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Some basic premises

The United Nations and the European Union organized a meeting in April 2016 to discuss how to communicate big global issues, such as the new Sustainable Development Goals, to the general public. Here are some take-aways:

 

In the meeting, that gathered together UN representatives, advertisement and marketing professionals, non-profits, and other experts, several issues emerged:

  • Information is not communication. Just stating the facts doesn’t mean you truly reach your audiences.
  • Action is emotional. We need to feel connection and ownership to the issue to participate.
  • Language matters. The UN, for instance, uses plenty of jargon. So, for instance, translate this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 7.21.59 PM

To this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 7.22.39 PM.png

  • Climate change means something different for different stakeholders — be it economic consequences, political challenges, concrete living environment… Address them.
  • Communication campaigns need to partnerships with local actors (corporations, civic groups, and/or the media).
  • Use influencers — opinion leaders for the ripple effect.
  • Youth need to be equal partners in global action and awareness NOW (no old cliches about “decision-makers of the future”.
  • Communication campaigns should utilize “human centered design” (a concept that COM 3103 has examined…)

Some resources (by COM 3102&3103)

   

Great campaigns:

  • An Inconvenient Truth: http://www.takepart.com/an-inconvenient-truth/film The most successful piece of awareness around climate change. Al Gore’s film pushed the topic of climate change to the forefront behind real scientific data that shows the effects of the human footprint on the environment. This documentary and the case it presents are still in the heart of the conversation surrounding climate change.
  • Global Citizens Festival: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/festival/2015/ The global citizens festival is a huge concert in Central Park focused on the SDG’s and youth engagement. The festival does this through a highly attractive event that includes speakers on issues and facts to show to the audience. They increase awareness through their ticket lottery system, everyone can increase their chances by sharing facts to their social media on the different issues the event highlights.
  • Do Something: https://www.dosomething.org/us DoSomething.org is an organization that is based in spreading awareness about issues by providing opportunities for individuals to be involved with direct service. The organization makes it very easy to go from talk and thought to action and engagement. Whether an individual has a day to serve or just an hour to browse the site the organization provides an immersive experience into issues that lead to an opportunity for already set up service, making it easier for individuals to take action.
  • Here is a campaign for (RED), which is an organization focused on reducing HIV/AIDS and creating an HIV/AIDS free future. The campaign features a plethora of A-list celebrities which I believe is a great marketing technique to draw awareness and buzz.
  •  Here is a video that is a part of a series called “Years of Living Dangerously: Why I Care.” The series speaks with celebrities who care about climate change and they speak with individuals in affected areas.
  • Doctors Without Borders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EuB6tY8yUc
    This is probably one of the most heart-breaking yet effective campaigns I’ve ever seen. For this campaign, Doctors Without Borders wanted to raise awareness of the number of deaths due to lack of nutrition. The video goes into it deeper because I don’t want to give too much away. It’s a great idea though, putting the problem right in front of people so it can’t be ignored.
  • Humans of New York: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/nyregion/a-boy-praises-the-principal-of-his-brooklyn-school-and-a-fund-raising-campaign-takes-off.html
    The success of this campaign has to give credit to the large following that HONY has but it also goes to people’s belief in this one child’s story about education, and more importantly, his principal. When I first saw this photo, I thought it was another great story, pressed like, and moved on. In a few weeks however, a large campaign had grown towards bettering the school due to the lack of funding for NYC public schools in general. People from all over the world started donating and let’s just say, they were able to surpass their original goal.

 

Facts – Resources:

  • Here is the link to NASA’s website dedicated to global climate change. This is a great, all-encompassing resource that features evidence, causes, effects, scientific consensus, and much more.  
  • Here is a link to a report from the UN on Youth and Climate Change. These are some of the efforts the UN has already made to include young adults in the conversation on climate change, and how successful those have been in the past.
  • Here is a pamphlet from the UN, sponsored by the EU and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, regarding youth efforts around the world regarding climate change.
  • The History of Climate Change Negotiations:


I think is a cute video and it’s visually understandable for anyone who doesn’t know much about climate change. These types of videos, in my experience at least, helps to get people interested in a topic. I wouldn’t use it for a room full of scientists but for college and high school students who are hearing about climate change for the first time, I’d highly recommend this.

*    *   *   *   *   *

GloCha is a part of a larger, UN accredited civil society organization called IAAI, headquartered in Klagenfurt/Austria (International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches to Global Challenges).  Together with several UN and other partners, GloCha is planning a globally broadcasted TV edutainment and fundraising show on youth and global challenges in the context of COP22 in Marrakesh, Nov 2016.

Before that, they present their ideas and other input to the forthcoming United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Article 6 dialogue in Bonn in May 2016.

GloCha wants advise from young communication experts, you. They need suggestions, insights, ideas — big and small — for a comprehensive communications strategy for the edutainment/fundraising show, including, but not limited to:

  • Celebrity engagement and activities before-during-after the show;
  • Some pilot concepts and activities for globally feasible crowdfunding campaigns related to the show (and ultimately, related to the ways to engage youth in SDGs);
  • Anything else you think would be successful, impactful, relevant.

 

ICM820: The Future?

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From the future of work we move onto our last “lecture”: The Digital Future in general.

AI for Digital Communities?

As science-fiction-like as it may sound, the biggest development debated right now is Artificial Intelligence.

One of the most fascinating thinkers, futurists, is Ray Kurzweil. He has coined the term singularity:

The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity.

Here is a fascinating documentary about Kurzweil and his work, as well as other futurologists. Like many of his colleagues, Kurzweil believes we will reach immortality at some point. Some prominent thinkers predict that the human race may become extinct, or remain inferior, to AI. See for yourself:

There are differing views about timing, but many technologists expect AI to reach human capacity before 2060.  Kurzweil has made numerous predictions on the development of technology, and here’s what he predicted in 2005 for the 2010s:

  • The decade in which “Bridge Two”, the revolution in Genetics/Biotechnology, is to reach its peak. During the 2020s, humans will have the means of changing their genes; not just “designer babies” will be feasible, but designer baby boomers through the rejuvenation of all of one’s body’s tissues and organs by transforming one’s skin cells into youthful versions of every other cell type. People will be able to “reprogram” their own biochemistry away from disease and aging, radically extending life expectancy.

  • Computers become smaller and increasingly integrated into everyday life.

  • More and more computer devices will be used as miniature web servers, and more will have their resources pooled for computation.

  • High-quality broadband Internet access will become available almost everywhere.

  • Eyeglasses that beam images onto the users’ retinas to produce virtual reality will be developed. They will also come with speakers or headphone attachments that will complete the experience with sounds. These eyeglasses will become a new medium for advertising which will be wirelessly transmitted to them as one walks by various business establishments.

  • The VR glasses will also have built-in computers featuring “virtual assistant” programs that can help the user with various daily tasks.

  • Virtual assistants would be capable of multiple functions. One useful function would be real-time language translation in which words spoken in a foreign language would be translated into text that would appear as subtitles to a user wearing the glasses.

  • Cell phones will be built into clothing and will be able to project sounds directly into the ears of their users.

  • Advertisements will utilize a new technology whereby two ultrasonic beams can be targeted to intersect at a specific point, delivering a localized sound message that only a single person can hear.

Many of the above predictions are here already. Many companies are indeed investing on AI and the examples of the uses are already here. There are plenty of debates about the benefits and risks. Some claim that the people creating the technology are the problem, not AI themselves. Others predict that AI may take over the human race. It’s then no surprise that Cambridge University (UK) has just established a centre for AI Ethics.

Back to planet Earth. We have seen amazing digital communities helping the world; but we have seen destructive dissident communities and mentioned the Dark Web. We have often discussed digital divide, in terms of economies (developing and developed countries) as well as in terms of generations. Whatever the development of AI, there are still plenty of challenges and possible solutions for digital communities to tackle, from E-goverment to MHealth. And yet: A recent global research effort called the Hidden Digital Divide notes that even if the world is getting more connected, having access doesn’t guarantee equality. We need to include questions of speed, devices:

The rapid penetration of mobile phones with some internet capacity into even the poorest, off-grid regions helped reduce the gap. But the digital divide has evolved to mean much more than whether someone can or cannot get online. It now incorporates wider issues such as the speed and quality of access. In the world’s most advanced mobile markets — namely Japan, South Korea and the United States — those on high-speed fourth generation (4G) networks can consume twice as much data every month as non-4G users.

This means that, however fast developing countries race to catch up, those in front continue to accelerate away. All this raises ethical questions.

Maybe A.I. can somehow overcome the digital race for the ever more developed app and fancy gadget. But what does AI do to our humanness, including our need and desire to truly bond with others? Communities are very human constructs, bound by societal developments. Are we already witnessing a new breed in digital communities, where the physical characteristics is no longer necessary, sometimes not even meaningful?