Monday, November 24, 2008

International Influence of Media Rhetoric

With obtainable, fast paced technology, the media is able to cross international boundaries connecting countries with other countries information. My case study attempts to demonstrate how the media persuades its audience and predisposes feelings among its audience with war rhetoric. The case study I chose compared specific words, repeatedly used by four newspapers, two from the U.S. and two from the U.K. The study used computerized content analysis to obtain their results.

The results found that rhetoric from the U.S. newspapers concerning the War on Terrorism tended to have emotional appeal, influencing its readers to support military action, government policy and promote national unity. U.K. rhetoric concerning the War on Terrorism had different results and was not infiltrated with agenda setting. Due to the location of the U.K. in relation to many other countries, (who also have a pronounced interest in the current terrorist situation at hand) and its cultural proximity to the values encouraged by the U.S., rhetoric used by U.K. newspapers took on an international perspective and collected information from many possible sources, such as internationally acclaimed professors, military officials and council members from multiple different countries. Rather than promoting immediate military action it took on multiple points of view in regard to the actions the U.S. should take and situational/international factors that underlie the intentions of the terrorists. For example, the following words were found to be repeatedly used by U.S. newspapers: Bin Laden, terrorism, national security, bombing suicide, plot, all found to facilitate intense feelings of dislike towards Muslims.

Even still, all evidence from my case study seems to tend more to the idea that the media shapes our messages, it is not impossible to rule out that we have no influence upon shaping our media. As pointed out in the discussion, many believe that we do. For example, consider how important polling or headlines are to advertising and keeping readers. Both take into account what will sell and what news to endorse and/or sell. Public opinion cannot be ruled out and should remain as a prominent factor in media news reporting. Concluding, that although mass media does shape our thinking and messages, there is an equal role that the public plays in creating and shaping what the mass media displays.


Polls and the American Voter

With history being made in the very recent presidential election, I wanted to present a topic that affects us, the American voter. My case study revolved around polling. I presented different research methods in polling, theories that have been apparent in political elections, and the accuracy of polling in past and present elections.

Before I reflect and discuss my case study, I will provide a brief summary of the research, theories, and accuracy of polling. Polling falls under the group of survey research which makes generalizations about a population of people by addressing questions to a sample of that population. A type of survey research, opinion polls, better inform the public about opinions taking place in that culture. Opinion polls have been the most popular and successful method of determining how the American voter feels about a particular election. There are 2 main sets of opinion polls in an election; that of pre-election polls and exit polls. Over the years, polls have become more accurate in representing the American public. In a time span of 60 years, we have moved from the 1948 election of Dewey vs. Truman, where the Chicago Tribune Herald mistakenly claimed the wrong president won the election from bad polling results to this past 2008 election where the polls showed the correct results in all states except North Carolina. From the research conducted about polling, two major theories have arisen. One is the Bradley Effect which is a theory proposed to explain observed discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in some US government elections where a white candidate and a non-white candidate run against each other. The second is the Spiral of Silence which asserts that a person is less likely to voice an opinion on a topic if one feels that one is in the minority for fear of reprisal or isolation from the majority.

Following my presentation, the class felt that polling can both encourage and discourage the American voter. Depending on the location of the voter and the popular beliefs held in their proximity determines how polls will affect a particular individual. It is a case-by-case situation. The discussion also followed the question of whether the Bradley Effect or the Spiral of Silence was present in this past 2008 Presidential Election. Surprisingly enough, the class felt like the Bradley Effect did not present a problem in the election even though there was a black candidate running against a white candidate. Yet, there was a belief that the Spiral of Silence did take place in this election. Many students talked about how their family members or friends were nervous in proclaiming who they would vote for if it went against the popular candidate of that area.

This course theme was extremely interesting to study. It showed how much time and effort is put into researching media effects and how to carefully examine the data that is presented. Although I feel that media research is helpful in many aspects, there is also the problem of stereotypes arising in determining a particular phenomenon about a certain culture. A particular website a found very interesting that I did not present in my case study is the following:

Monday, November 17, 2008

DTV: Into The Future

In my presentation last week, I gave a smorgasbord of information concerning the government's involvement in forcing the broadcast industry to adopt a digital format. I alluded to and mentioned that the United States Congress has been interested in changing the broadcast system since the late 1980s. All of these documents, which are available due to public disclosure requirements, can be found through the Texas A&M Library website. Feel free to reference these documents, as you will find them both informative and easy to read.

Of even greater interest to you will more than likely be some of the more interactive ways that you can learn about the digital transition and be able to inform others. At the beginning of my presentation, I learned that many of you had heard about the digital transition, but post-presentation conversations revealed that this knowledge was limited to simply knowing that it will happen. The government and the broadcast industry are working together in order to better inform the public of what they must do in order to continue to receive television signals. This is all part of the FCC/Congress working together in order to enact the law that they have established. Now comes the interactive part. You can become a DTV Deputy!!! The FCC, in order to draw in people to understand the DTV switchover better, has created a 10 question Flash quiz. Score a 70 or better, and you too can become a DTV Deputy!

If reading documents or being deputized isn't your thing, check out these YouTube videos on the history of television. Each decade is only about three minutes long and covers some of the information we learned in class. It can be a great way to see where we have been, and where we are headed with the transition next February. As finals approach, I would recommend these videos to help review parts of television history. They're made by the Consumer Electronics Association, so you know that the information within is quite accurate. I've posted a link to the channel as well as an example below. I have also posted a video that they made concerning the digital switch. It's more animated than I could be in class, and may help you understand more of what will happen next February.
YouTube Channel: DTV Transition

Digital television will revolutionize some of the ways that we communicate. As we continue to merge technology into technology, we can only ask more questions of what the next generation of devices will bring. Could television, with the advent of digital broadcasts, begin to replace the computer as a primary form of personalized information? Will your TV more intimately interface into your home network without a third-party device? As TV goes digital, we can only expect that the industry will find more ways to stun us. Because of government action, we can expect that our technology will continue to evolve to higher speeds, and more content. So tune in on February 17, 2009 and see what's new in your neighborhood.


Last week I presented my case study on smartphones and how they have come to affect society. Smartphones have come to be a crucial part of our day-to-day business. The first smartphone was started out in 1992 by IBM. IBM named the phone that they produced “Simon.” Simon was able to have a calendar, games, send and receive fax, a notepad, and a calculator. Since then telecommunications companies have developed more intellectual phones and have added cameras, wireless internet, and countless other applications that make our day-to-day business easily accessible, fast, and efficient. These new applications have enables us to be mobile while still communicating with each other. While most of our cell phones are of the 2G or 2.5G generation, phones are now coming out in the 3G generation. 3G is giving us the opportunity to have faster internet, download documents faster, and better reception on our phones worldwide. Multitasking with our phone, e.g. talking on the phone while looking at a map is also another function that the new 3G is letting us do.
Even further I focused on how smartphones have had an impact on our society. We looked at a book by Jarice Hanson titled “24/7: How cell phones and the internet are affecting the way we live, work, and play.” In the book the author talks about the age differences and how they use their phones differently. People at younger ages such as 18-27 personalize their phones much more and use them for more tasks than do people who are ages 45+. The author also makes a point that because we rely so much on our phones we have become less communicative in that we abbreviate everything into letters or shortened words. What used to be a relationship between people has become letters on a screen no bigger than the palm of your hand. We also looked at a lawsuit from citizens of Berkley, CA who are suing Verizon Corp., Nextel, the City of Berkley, and Patrick Kennedy, who is the owner of a storage unit business where the telecoms want to place 18 new antennas. The citizens are worried for their safety saying that it is unfair to place those antennas in only their part of the town. They aren’t opposed to them they just want the spread throughout the city where the radio frequency radiation would be evenly distributed and not going directly into their homes. Smartphones have a smaller service area and thus need more antennas to get the reception that we are used to. Technology is a must have in today’s society however, are we actually communicating less because we are able to communicate in such a fast and efficient manner? Has society lost its ability to have personalized relationships and communication?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Net Neutrality and It's Effect on Society

Last week, I presented a topic that was fairly new ( to the public at least), network neutrality. I explained the definition of network neutrality, the concept of content discrimination, who is for network neutrality, who would want to get rid of network neutrality and what is being done in the government about it. Just to recap, network neutrality is the principle that keeps us in charge of what content we have access to on the Internet. Now, major telephone and cable companies want to take that right away from us by charging us to access certain content.

The threat of a tiered Internet should come of no surprise to us. This has already happened to television, why not the Internet? We already have a system in which the price increases for how many channels we want access to, why not do the same with web content? You may be wondering why it took this long for this threat to come to the Internet. Well, until 2005, the network was protected from such restrictions. In my presentation I talked about two Supreme Court decisions that effected regulations on network neutrality. Basically what these two decisions did was declare wireless broadband Internet and such as Title 1 "information services" from Title 2 "common carriers" in the Communications Act of 1934. Title 1 covers FCC regulations that are “reasonably ancillary to the effective performance of the Commission’s various responsibilities” outlined elsewhere in the act. Now I figured to better explain the difference of 1 and 2, I would quote an excerpt from the Congress Report I used in my presentation:

"In contrast to Title I, Title II of the Communications Act, imposes certain specific requirements on common carriers in their provision of telecommunications services. Generally, Title II requires common carriers to provide service “upon reasonable request therefor,” and at a “just and reasonable” rate. Under Title II, common carriers are also required to provide services without “unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” In addition, the act requires certain carriers to provide potential competitors with access to their network."

(Defining Cable Broadband Internet Access
Service: Background and Analysis of the
Supreme Court’s Brand X Decision 2005)

I wanted to bring up this part of my presentation specifically, because I remember all the confusion it caused. After thinking about it after class, I'm almost positive I made a big mistake verbally when talking about this. I believe I told the class that broadband went from Title 1 to Title 2, which wouldn't make any sense because clearly, Title 1 regulations are not as specific as Title 2. This is the technicality that is allowing cable companies to bring up the discrimination of content.

Not only would losing net neutrality cause problems for many different things such as small businesses, bloggers, iPod listeners, telecommuters and online shoppers, but it also creates another big problem. A topic Jason brought up was whether or not it was the governments responsibility to provide everyone with Internet, since those who don't own a computer or don't have Internet are at more and more of a disadvantage everyday. On that same note, if we create that same "tiered system" television has, people in a higher class could afford the highest level of Internet access, middle class will be able to afford an "OK" amount of access to the bare minimum, leaving the low class with little or no access at all. This would severely widen the digital divide. This would happen not only because Internet access will cost more, but there will be different amounts of access everywhere, making things very confusing. This is one of many network neutrality really needs to stay.

In our ending discussion we did talk about how it would be difficult to write specific laws on keeping network neutrality, but there is an online coalition that is getting attention from congress on their attempt to save the Internet. This site helps show people how to get involved and inform them of what is going on with network neutrality. I mentioned them in class, but here is their link with more information. I hope you guys enjoyed my presentation on this new topic and now better understand what is going on with your Internet!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Change is Coming

At first the topic of internet governance was intimidating. It is a subject that I previously did not know much about, and seemed like a complex concept to explore. What I know now is that it truly is not a black and white issue.

Looking at the topic superficially, I learned that the distribution of domain names and IP addresses is handled by a predominantly American led institution. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ) is ideally set up as an internationally influenced body, but just like many things, does not function true to the manner in which it was created. It is mainly a self governing body, but does function under the oversight of the U.S. Congress. Additional consulting groups and institutions also play a role in internet governance, but hardly give a substantial voice to the international community.

There are several concerns held relating to the internet and its future direction. Some fear that industry giants will use the internet to create monopolies. Others feel that corporations will seek control of the internet, limiting freedoms of access to its users. Still others see an evident gap in the digital divide, that only promises to rise as a new 'broadband divide' rises up. Lastly, the age old fear of too much government control comes in place, sadly with instances already present in our country (US Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act). Are these legitimate fears? Yes. The question is, will they be realized?

That is why I wanted to take a closer look into the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). This United Nations hosted event was a leap towards determining the future of the internet and the role it is now playing, and will play, in our world. At this conference, the new face of the internet gave birth. Nations of the world came together and established a declaration of principles, stating our need for a people centered, development oriented information society, accessible to all people, and based on a shared wealth of knowledge.They focused on the universality of human rights and how that related to the uses and benefits of a world connected by the internet. Bridging the digital divide was a pressing matter voiced by many nations. And coming to the topic of internet governance, it was made clear that the international body wanted a piece of the pie. The world is no longer satisfied with America taking claim to the internet. It is viewed as a global facility, a public good that should be available to all. "A democratic, international, multilateral effort managed by governments, the private sector, and civil society/international organizations.

So when I say "change is coming", it is clear that I take this from the voice of the nations of this world. Universal and affordable internet access is desired. The prosecution of malicious cyber crimes is being pursued. A Digital Solidarity Fund has been established to fund the closing of the Digital Divide. I really enjoyed the fact that so many came together with the desire to make the internet a positive tool for social change. I know that there are many that wish to exploit its uses and take advantage of others for personal gain, but thankfully that has not been my focus in this project.

During the Q&A and discussion question time, I felt that the heart and purpose of my presentation really came out. What started out as a simple time for questions and clarification turned into something greater. Individuals didn't just fire questions at me, but engaged the rest of the class and I in a true discussion. I posed the class with the question, "Do you see the internet as a public service, and therefore should be provided for free by the government?" It was really interesting to see people's perspectives on this issue come out. Subsequently, a new interpretation of the purpose of the internet came forth that I really took to. One student posed that no, the internet should not be a free commodity provided to citizens by the government, but that access to the internet should be available to all who may choose to use it. This would mean that every nation would provide its citizens the opportunity to take advantage of the internet if they chose to do so. This is currently available in public libraries and internet cafe's, but mainly in more developed, prosperous nations. It is the struggling, up and coming countries that this would have a larger effect on. On the contrary, the class also made it clear that there were definitely more pressing global issues, such as the simple need for clean water, that take more importance than having online access. Although I agree, I also feel that the internet is becoming an increasingly necessary tool to keep up with developed nations. As we incorporate the internet into our government, health systems, school systems, business and personal lives, we shouldn't leave other behind if we can do something about it. Again, I know that these hopes are lofty, and quite idealistic. But the Digital Divide is real, and it's effects are too. It is promising that the nations that assembled at the WSIS agreed that those of us who are blessed with certain benefits (from basic human needs to comfort items and internet access) should try to bring those benefits to those who do not have them.

Below are just a few links to websites that I felt would be helpful if you wish to find out more about internet governance, and more specifically, the WSIS. You can take a look at the conference summary and several other helpful documents. And no, Wikipedia isn't a 'primary source', but if you want a quick look at the issues, it's quite handy. Good luck, and thank you for your input and insight into my presentation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My discussion began with a better explanation of the aforementioned core programs. Core programs are defined as programming specifically designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children ages 16 and under; it must be at least 30 minutes in length, aired between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., and part of regularly scheduled weekly programs. Core programs were mandated through the Children’s Television Act of 1990. I then explained this concept more thoroughly by including the facts that they provide parents and consumers with advance information about core programs being aired, define the type of programs that qualify as core programs, and air at least three hours per week of core programs. I think this provided better understanding for the reason and intent of core programming. Later I was asked about who seemed to control Children’s Television and have a greater influence on what was aired. I responded with the fact that it is parents who are complaining and asking legislation to be greater enforcers when it comes to regulating television. But then it is ultimately the government that gives the policy. So parents instigate the reforms in policy and government implements them.
I learned more about the weekly theme of TV: How do older forms of media inform new media markets? The children’s television industry has been formed and molded for the past 50+ years. With the more recent development of the internet as well as the merging of computer technology, children’s television has becomes more interactive. The education aspect has become a greater part of this industry and combining all the forms of media to educate children has become quite popular. Television broadcasters are realizing the possible impact they have on a child’s development. The number of hours a child sits in front of a TV has grown as this industry has grown. And due to the high demand of parents and the policies of the government, children’s television is being used more as an educational tool rather than simply entertainment.

Television Ratings

In the discussion raised by my presentation we talked about privacy and a little about how advertisers were going to need to change. Privacy is not an issue because all participating Nielsen families know that they are participating. There is no involuntary participation and Nielsen doesn’t plan on that in the future. We also discussed how it was interesting that we are moving away from the current multiple sponsor model and back towards the single sponsorship model and product placement. I discussed how I hardly ever watch commercials anymore and I know a lot of people who do the same thing. As DVR and TiVo become more popular, advertisers will need to think of ways to advertise during your favorite show, not in between segments with commercial spots. I didn’t bring this up in class but thought about it later, the show Extreme Makeover Home Edition has embraced product placement like no other, while still having your typical commercial spots. I wonder if they will eventually move completely away from commercials and be the first show to do so. What role will ratings play then? It think the same role it plays now but the ratings will be used to calculate the cost of X amount of product placement spots within a program instead of used to calculate CPM. This will be very interesting to see.

Television is one of the most important of today’s media. It is porthole for the world to see news, entertainment, human-interest stories, movies and anything else they want. Today, TV has become a personalized vessel where you can record what you want and watch it when you want. Ratings have played an important role in the progress TV has made. Ratings define which shows stay and which ones go. It is because of ratings that we see a trend towards reality TV today and it is also the reason comedies and game shows were popular in the 1950’s and 60’s.