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Conceptualizing personal media

Lüders, M. 2008. Conceptualizing personal media. New Media & Society 10, 683–702 (available on-line: http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/10/5/683, accessed 10 April 2010).
Abstract
The digitalization and personal use of media technologies have destabilized the traditional dichotomization between mass communication and interpersonal communication, and therefore between mass media and personal media (e.g. mobile phones, email, instant messenger, blogs and photo-sharing services). As private individuals use media technologies to create and share personal expressions through digital networks, previous characteristics of mass media as providers of generally accessible information are no longer accurate. This article may be situated within a medium-theoretical tradition, as it elucidates technical and social dimensions of personal media and revises the distinction between mass media and personal media. A two-dimensional model suggests locating personal media and mass media according to an interactional axis and an institutional/professional axis: personal media are de-institutionalized/de-professionalized and facilitate mediated interaction. The implementation of digital media technologies has important consequences for social networks and fits well within a theoretical discussion of the post-traditional self.

Overall
• A useful article which focuses on reviewing existing models (by Luhmann and also Thompson) that distinguish between personal media and mass media in the light of convergence and digitalised media
• Citing Hutchby, amongst others, Lüders argues that it is necessary to “acknowledge the materiality of technology […] without losing sight of the discursive practices through which we understand it.” (p687). She develops a three level model of media that incorporates media technologies such as the internet or the telephone, which allow media forms such as blogs or telephone conversation to develop. For the third level of media genres, she argues that “Media forms with near-naturalized, socially-implemented characteristics at this level constitute points of departure for more specific types of the same media form, that is, the development of different genres.” (p687)
- This is a useful way of looking at the types of media available
• It concludes that there are more overlaps now than before – e.g. a letter was between two people, whereas an email can be strictly symmetrical and interpersonal, or in effect delivered to a mass audience.
• It proposes a model that outlines the continuum that is present – the axes are institutional/professional vs the opposite, and symmetrical/mediated vs asymmetrical/quasi-mediated
• It notes the relevance of a network analysis, in that the types of interaction enabled by media differ and affect the types of communication and potential formation of strong and weak ties.
• It notes the increasing use of personal media forms by the mass media, to generate interest and loyalty amongst the audience. This underlines the increasing blurring between these two areas.

Please note - these are rough notes only, based on a first reading. They may be useful to someone interested in a considered perspective on this paper.
However, these notes do not necessarily represent a final opinion, and are subject to revision in the future.

Notes on Media Violence by Barrie Gunter (2008)

GUNTER, B. 2008. Media Violence. American Behavioral Scientist 51, 1061 –1122.

Some overall points
• Gunter paper is a review of behavioural research on media effects on violence - extensive and useful, goes over the different types of research, etc
• The most fundamental difficulty is that everyone is different, media effects get filtered through individual cognitive and cultural screens, "certain forms of media violence can exert certain kinds of effects on some media consumers some of the time." (p1113)
– Real or fiction: people more likely to respond and be affected by real violence (or violence said to be real, e.g. in experiments)
– Also legitimacy: when violence is shown as legitimate, people more likely to repeat/be violent
– The lab experiments (mostly with college students) tend to show effects (violence analogue, electric shock, 'angered' subjects) - aslo the Bandura one - tend to support media violence causality, but these are always artificial situation (altho eg when children left to play after the experiment has 'finished' then arguably natural, socially complex, environment) (see also p1111)
– More effects on younger children - hardly surprising
– Tend to be more males apparently affected, but this leads to on bias present in many - people who are already violent probably prefer violent media content and therefore there is not necessarily a causal link, only an associational one
– Literacy: positive results when children taught to interpret the texts - this implies that without such training, there is more likely to have negative effects
– Statistical significance: what does it mean exactly? Correlation /= correlation... (pp1109)
– Many studies done on violence, and on youth - why? (Ruddock's political point). Somewhere in Gunter he speaks of this bias also, and one (meta analysis I think) showed that depending on initial assumption (violence, neutral, or non violent) the outcome tended to support the assumption (see also p1111)
– "A simplistic, unidirectional model of media effects therefore may hamper the achievement of a comprehensive understanding of why individuals respond to media violence the way they do." (p1112)

A Prezi which summarises the main points

Remote control, children, and television

I often hear parents telling me that television is a good way for their children (infants, toddlers) to educate themselves. I usually shudder inwardly and then tell them about this research that shows how too much television for infants is likely to cause short attention spans and possibly also slow learning of language, etc. (By the way he specifically mentions ‘Baby Einstein' DVDs as being a bad idea; also note that Disney had to *remove* claims that Baby Einstein was educational and offer refunds after legal action was brought against them in the USA.) One of the main problems is that the editing of TV programmes is so snappy, with new scenes every 10 seconds or less. We have not had television for a few years now, and when I do see television, I start to get annoyed at the way in which everything moves so quickly.

One of the reasons for this is the need to keep people interested, and to stop them zapping onto another channel if they are not stimulated in the next 15 seconds. So, imagine a world without the remote control - it's an interesting way to think of the effects of technology on our lives.

The inventor of the remote control just passed away, and he could reasonably claim to have been a major contributor to the current short attention span-friendly TV programming, with his invention of, as his patent application put it "a system to regulate the receiver operation without requiring the observer to leave the normal viewing position" (Rosen)

On the other hand, and in a good example of the need to avoid plain technodeterminism (i.e. the argument that technologies cause social change), it is instructive that one of the selling points of the ‘Flash-Matic' was its ability to "tune out annoying commercials" (by reducing the volume, Rosen), and the ability to avoid advertisements is still a motivating factor for most TV viewers.

Toddlers want control, they need it. Which is why they keep saying ‘No'. It's an important part of how they develop a sense of their own individuality in the world. So it doesn't surprise me that they (apparently) pick up the use of a remote very quickly, and one research reported that
One subject, three-year-old Jimmy, was incapable of articulate conversation and could neither recognize numbers nor tell time, but he "had mastered the basics of RCD use." He "primarily used the RCD to change channels on the TV in order to watch his favorite programs," and when told the time, clever Jimmy "knows if his program should be airing." (Rosen)

Frankly, I can't help thinking that if poor Jimmy hadn't been given free reign of the remote he might have learnt more words, numbers, and the time. Let's hope that he eventually managed to learn to read.

Blogging and defamation laws

There's a Forum organised by the KL Bar this Thursday on Blogging and Defamation laws . I'll be checking it out, and it's probably a good idea for any blogger who has a reasonable audience and likes to talk about other people.

The thing that has always struck me about blogging and defamation is the idea that just because you do something in 'cyberspace' it will be subject to different laws (or not subject to the usual laws). My basic opinion is that if you say something about someone, wherever you say it, you should be accountable for it.

I do think there are limits on the freedom of expression - basically inciting violence is my limit: so I can say that all people from Boogerland are congenital idiots, but I can't say that they should be burnt out of their houses because of it. On other issues relating to comment in the public sphere one should be able to pass comment on others, but be prepared to defend what one says if called upon. If I was to say that Joe Bloggs is cheating his customers, and then because of that his business is affected, then he should be able to sue me - it doesn't matter if I said it online or not, what matters is that his reputation and/or business is negatively affected. Of course, if he really does cheat his customers and I can prove it, then he loses the case and pays the costs.

So the bottom line for me is that on- or offline, there is no fundamental difference. But it's surprising how many people think there is - it's because of the whole 'cyberspace', 'virtual reality', thing - that what happens online is not 'In Real Life'. This was the point made in relation to some high school students in Singapore who had blogged about their teacher(s) in 2005.

The first time I remember a legal issue with blogs coming to the fore was around October 2004, when a commenter in Jeff Ooi's blog made some remarks deemed offensive to Islam (the post is no longer online, but the episode is recounted by Oon Yeoh). The issue that arose here was the responsibility of the blogger for the comments - Jeff Ooi supplied the IP address to the police (a move criticised by some) and later stated that "If someone posts something offensive, it is up to the owner of the blog to delete it.- (September 2005).

Around the same time Mack Zulkifli, author of the blog 'Brand New Malaysian' (no longer online since July 2006), was also forced to deal with the racially provocative comments left by a person calling him/herself 'goodman'. He was also accused of promoting censorship because he reported the comments to the police. One point he made was that leaving comments was different to someone just letting off steam in a public place - "[The comment] stays there, available as a form of public record and in the case of the internet, tracked, indexed and stored in public domain by search engines, such as Google, Yahoo etc.- (Zulkifli). Since that 'goodman' incident there was been an increase in the number of bloggers who required that you register with them first, or that they vet all comments.

This is one key difference between the old and new media; new media usually involve an element of interaction, so individual responsibility may be blurred. As a parallel - would I be responsible for someone who spray painted a racist comment on the outside wall of my garden?

This does relate to an important difference between on- and offline social interaction. Usually, online interchanges remain visible a lot longer than offline ones: so if I get in a drunken argument with Jane one evening in the bar, and accuse her of having loose morals with a football team, then probably it will just be a blurry memory for everyone the next day, and she will never speak to me again. But if I do it online, and put it in her comments or somewhere, it may be online for a long time, and then one day her fiancé sees it and freaks out and dumps her...

As a society we are going to have to learn to deal with these issues. For example: will everything being cached by Google now still be online in twenty years? Who will own that information? Will we have the right to delete old stuff we don't want anymore (e.g. comments we have left on another person's profile in Facebook)?

It strikes me that that two of the posts I mention above are no longer online, probably because the bloggers owned their own site and therefore had complete control over the contents. Most people, however, use free services that often claim some form of ownership or exploitation rights to whatever is produced via their services. So, one solution is for everyone to own their own sites.

**Update same day**
I just noticed this person saying Yahoo! has deleted all profiles with no warning. I don't know the details but I'll bet it's annoying. The problem is, because it's free you have no control - really, we have to look forward to the day when your 'base of online action' (your profile, blog, avatar, email, etc.) is your own, and operates on open standards.

**Update 2 Nov. 2008**
Here are links to all the posts I could find announcing the Forum - most are simple announcements with little discussion:
• Screenshots...: 'Blogging & Defamation Laws'... Oct 23, Bar Council
• The Middle Ground: Freedom of speech, blogging and defamation
• www.xes.cx: Forum on Blogging & Defamation Laws
• DragonKenLai: Forum on Blogging and Defamation
• all the world's a stage: Forum on Blogging & Defamation
• u-jean: Website, events, events, events
• The Independent Spirit: Forum on Blogging & Defamation Laws
• dyvallion: Forum on Blogging & Defamation Law
• Malacca Bar: Forum on Blogging & Defamation Laws
• thestar Citizen's Blog: Forum on Blogging and Defamation Laws
• Malaysian Bar Forum: Forum on Blogging & Defamation Laws

The Writers for Women’s Rights Programme (WWRP)

I’m posting this on behalf of WW (Wonderful Wife, Wonder Womyn, or Whipping Witch – depending on circumstances :-))– it’s a great opportunity for any young women who want to explore ways of getting their voice heard. This is the sixth workshop and - amongst other things - they published a book called "Young Women Speak Out!" last year.
Are you a young woman between the ages of 18 to 32? Are you interested in what's happening around you? Do you have a passion for writing? Do you want your voice heard in the mass media? Have you been thinking of getting involved in activism but not sure where to start?

It's organised by AWAM, and you can see more about the programme on their website. Or you can download information on how to apply here. Check it out!

The workshop is from 13-16 November, but you need to apply before the 30th September.

The symbolism of blogs

I went for the walk for media freedom yesterday, seeing as All-Blogs was involved and my wife wanted to go also. You can get the details of the event from the links below, so I'd just like to mention the moments when blogs came up, and say something about the role of blogs as an indexical symbol.

First Ms. Norila Mohd Daud - the President of the National Union of Journalists spoke, she said it was an historic occasion where all stakeholders - journalists, bloggers, Benar - had come together for press freedom.


Then Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director of the Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia spoke, for her organisation and on behalf of All-Blogs and Benar. She basically argued that a free press is important for the country, and also emphasised that journalists and bloggers, need to be professional and responsible to make it work too.

Then the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, spoke. I was surprised that he had turned up and it is a sign of the times but, disappointingly for me, he didn't say anything about blogs - though he did say at one point that "control is elusive", referring to the ability of the government to control the spread of information. Overall, he concentrated on issues relating to media laws and how the media can organise itself.
Continue reading "The symbolism of blogs"
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