Ethics: Mediating the Conversation

This week in BCM310 we looked at dialogic interaction and the mediation of the online exchanges between users and broadcasters.

According to Bakhtin (1986, cited by Martin 2012, pg 181), dialogic interaction refers to the online ‘utterances’ and ‘self-contained expressions which nevertheless presuppose an earlier speaker’.  The Internet allows for high levels of interactivity and for instantaneous communication to occur; this functionality has been embraced by the majority of media organisations who offer services such as discussion boards, online chats and the ability to comment on news articles. Martin (2013) noted that the characteristics of the Internet, including its existence as a ‘borderless social space’ and the ‘immediacy of publication’, have led to a need for new ethics of communication.

The question is: what should the ethics of communication be?

I think one of the major issues we face in the development of online communication ethics is the attempt to balance civility and openness. A strong case study to apply to this issue is the story of Samantha Brick. An article written by Brick was published by the Daily Mail (2012) on their website, which discussed the struggles she believes she has faced as a result of her self-perceived beauty. This article received a lot of backlash – not only in the comments section of the actual article but on a wide variety of social media networks and websites across the Internet. Some of the comments were quite harsh: examples include this tweet by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle and one woman who claimed that Brick should be ‘bricked to death’ (2012).

Should comments and tweets like this be censored?

Freedom of conversation can allow for a variety opinions and even ‘different, dissident voices’ to be heard (Martin 2012, pg 184). On the other hand, there is the potential for harm if certain uncensored comments are published. People who publish these types of comments are known as ‘trolls’, and trolling has recently become a heavily discussed issue in the Australia media. Palan (2013) reported that there has been an increasing amount of requests for police intervention in social media trolling incidences.

I think there will always be difficulties in mediating and censoring online content.  It can be difficult to draw the line between what is ‘unacceptable’ and what is ‘controversial’. In terms of a solution to this problem, I believe the answer lies in education and awareness, leading to self-censorship.

Thanks for reading!

Katie

References: 

Brick, S 2012, ‘There are downsides to looking this pretty’: Why women hate me for being beautiful’, Daily Mail, 3 April, accessed 22 May 2013 via here.

Brick, S 2012, ‘The I’m so beautiful backlash’, Daily Mail, 3 April, accessed 22 May 2013 via here.

Martin, F 2013, Mediating the Conversation, guest lecture, BCM310, Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, University of Wollongong, delivered 20 May.

Martin, F 2012, ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the risks of dialogic interaction’, in Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the Web, editors, N. Brugger and M. Burns. New York: Peter Lang, pp 177-192

Palan, S 2013, ‘Police step-up efforts against trolls’, ABC News, March 20, accessed 23/5/2013 via here.

Image sourced from here.

Ensuring Technological Accessibility for All

This week in BCM310 we looked at the issue of technology and disabilities, discussing how although we are a technologically advanced society, our information technology is not consistently inclusive and accessible to those with a disability.

Gloggin & Newell (2007) remark that the ‘introduction of new technologies sees people with disabilities overlooked, omitted, neglected, or not considered’.  This is becoming a larger issue as the number of disabled people utilising technology is rising. The ABS (2009) reported that the number of persons with a reported disability accessing the Internet at home had increased from 41% in 2003 to 62% in 2009.

A significant problem in Australia has been the lack of television accessibility for visually-impaired people. Australia is far behind with regards to audio description (AD); the feature was first introduced on the BBC in 2000 and is accessible in a variety of countries including the US, Canada and New Zealand (Mikul 2012).  In 2012 the ABC held an AD trial; however, AD has yet to be adopted by the network. After the 2012 trial ended, a campaign entitled ‘It’s as easy as ABC‘ was launched by Blind Citizens Australia, Vision Australia and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network in order to promote the need for AD services (ACCAN 2012). These groups campaigned heavily in the lead up to the Federal Budget of May 2013. Unfortunately, Media Access Australia (2013) recently reported that the Federal Budget has failed to include any funding for audio description services.

People with a disability in Australia should be able access all technologies. Taylor et al (2005, cited by ACCAN 2012) note that there are ‘approximately 600,000 people in Australia who are blind, vision impaired or can benefit from using AD’, and this is a significant group that has been overlooked.

Goggin & Newell (2007) suggest that we are slow to adopt inclusive technologies because it is not profitable or because there is a lack of awareness.

I believe you cannot put a price on ensuring that every Australian, regardless of their physical capabilities, is able to enjoy the full use of technological services.

Thanks for reading,

Katie

References:

ABS 2009, ‘Internet and computer use by persons with a disability’, Australian Bureau of Statistics, accessed 16/5/2013 via here

ACCAN 2012, ‘Campaign for equal access to ABC TV kicks off today’, ACCAN, 3 October, accessed 16/5/2013 via here

Goggin, G & Newell, C 2007, ‘The Business of Digital Disability, The Information Society: An International Journal, vol. 23, no. 3, pp 159-168

Media Access Australia 2013, ‘Federal Budget Fails to Deliver on Audio Description’, Media Access Australia, 16 May, accessed 16/5/2013 via here

Mikul, C 2012, ‘A minister with vision?, Ramp Up, 29 February, accessed 16/5/2013 via here

Image sourced from here.

Multiculturalism and the Media: Is Everything All White?

This week in BCM310 we looked at the issue of ‘white bread media’ and lack of culturally diverse representations in the media.

As a half-Spanish, half-Lebanese girl growing up near the location infamous for the Cronulla Riots in 2005, issues of racism and multiculturalism are of both interest and concern to me.  Throughout my life the Australian television shows that I have been exposed to, such as Neighbours and Home & Away, predominately portray the traditional Australian Caucasian “nuclear” family. Byrnes (2012, cited by Dreher, forthcoming) notes that these Anglo families ‘do not reflect who we are’ as a multicultural country in the 21st century.

This is concerning because, like Dreher says, the representations made by the media shape our understandings of society.

Actors such as Firass Dirani (a Lebanese Australian) have spoken out about how difficult it is for actors with an ethnic appearance to be cast in television programs; those lucky enough to be cast normally land the role of a stereotypical character of their nationality (Kalina 2012).  An example of this is Dirani’s role as John Ibrahim, nightclub owner and major crime figure, in Underbelly.

‘Neighbours’ tried to respond to the lack of cultural diversity by adding Asian character ‘Sunny Lee’ to the Ramsay Street community. I think Houston (2009) responds to this weak attempt to create diversity well by saying:

“So there you go. Erinsborough will now have one Asian resident. Unlike every other suburb in Melbourne, which has about one squillion.”

The biggest shame is what ‘white bread’ media is causing us to miss out on.  A diverse mix of characters of different ethnicities not only reflects the multicultural Australia that we live in but adds depth and colour, allowing for unique stories to be told.

Houston identifies that there have been a number of wonderful Australian dramas that have addressed issues of multiculturalism, such as ‘The Circuit’ and ‘Kick’. The important thing to note, however, is that these shows screen only on ‘SBS’. ‘SBS’ promises to “provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society” (SBS 2013).  I believe this is the attitude that all television networks need to have; at present, it seems as if television shows with a multiracial cast are deemed by mainstream television networks as being not appropriate for broadcasting (Houston 2009).

Ultimately, it is about time that Australian television echoed reality.

We are a multicultural nation – our media content should not only reflect that, but embrace it.

Thanks for reading,

Katie

References:

Dreher, T (forthcoming 2014), ‘White Bread Media’, in The Media and Communications in Australia, eds. S Cunningham and S Turnbull, Allen and Unwin

Kalina, P 2012, ‘Diversity still out of the picture’, Sydney Morning Herald, March 1, accessed 8/5/2013 here.

Houston, M 2009, ‘A fair go’, The Age, January 18, accessed 8/5/2013 here.

SBS 2013, ‘About Us‘ accessed 8/5/2013 here.

Image sourced from here.

The Shift from Generative to Tethered Appliances – are we ‘killing’ the Internet?

This week in BCM310 we looked at the ‘feudalisation’ of the Internet and how the rise of tethered appliances and censorship has led to the centralised control of networks – a direct threat to an open Internet.

Zittrain (2008) discusses the impact of tethered technologies on our digital freedom, defining them as those appliances that are centrally controlled. Information is ‘tethered’ between the appliance and the vendor and devices are unable to be changed by the end-user.  This is a direct contrast to our traditional understanding of technologies such as the PC as being ‘generative’ technologies, defined by their ‘openness to outside innovation’ (Zittrain 2008, pg 101) which allows for user-driven change.

Consumers have been shifting from generative to tethered technologies because of perceived security issues, including third-party codes (Zittrain 2008). We, as consumers, have flocked to these tethered appliances because we see them as being more secure. However, tethered appliances have their own security issues relating to regulatory intervention and the amount of information that vendors can collect through the information provided by users (Zittrich 2008).

I believe that the control that is being held by companies such as Apple and Facebook is concerning. Any threat to an open Internet is also a threat to innovation and therefore the future of our societal and technological development. An article in the Guardian (1 May 2008) suggests that devices such as the Apple iPhone are ‘killing the internet’ as they do not allow for user tweaking and modification which may actually improve the functioning of the device. They are, in fact, stifling the innovative behaviours that allowed their creation in the first place.

In conclusion, tethered devices are enabling censorship which threatens an open internet. Additionally, through denying user modification, they are suppressing the innovation which has been the reason for our technological advancement to date.

Ultimately, I agree with Zittrain: – we are ‘fleeing from freedom when the real solution lies in even more freedom’ (Burkeman 2008).

Do you agree?

Thanks for reading,

Katie

References:

Zittrain, J 2008, ‘Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement’. In The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it, Yale University Press, New Haven, ppp.101-126

Burkeman, O 2008, ‘Are gadgets killing the internet?’, The Guardian, 1 May, accessed 1/5/2013 via http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/may/01/internet.gadgets

Image sourced from here.

MOOCs: Opening Education to the Masses

Post University cartoon by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://blog.post.edu.

This week in BCM310 we looked at ‘Universities in the Digital Age’ and how higher education has become the next target for technological disruption.

The issue is that the Internet and digital technologies allow for open communication and the quick, free distribution of content around the world. As Miller (2009) notes, this has caused the ‘wreckage of institutions once thought invincible’, including the newspaper industry and the music industry.  It is suggested that the most recent victim of this rampage has been the education system.

A driving force behind this paradigm shift in our understanding of teaching and learning is MOOCs, or Massive Online Open Courses. An example of a MOOC provider is ‘Coursera’, who provides tuition-free course(s) taught over the Web to a large number of students” (Vardi 2012). These providers partner with leading universities to provide courses to students at no cost. The rising popularity of MOOCs raises a number of issues and questions which are currently being contentiously debated by the media, universities, academics, students and by the public.

One reason why the legitimacy of MOOCs is contested is because many academics do not believe that an online course is an effective replacement for a traditional classroom experience due to the limitations that exist when teaching and learning is occurring via an online medium. Online course providers believe that their courses allow for a collaborative learning experience and make education convenient and accessible (Freeman 2013). However, educators are much more sceptical of the phenomenon because of the large number of students taking each course and the inability of individual one-on-one tuition to occur (Funnell 2013).

Dr Ian Bogost, professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, suggests that MOOCs are simply a marketing tool for private education providers, ultimately concluding that MOOCs are a “technology trend rather than an education trend” (Funnell 2013). I agree with Dr. Bogost; it seems as if MOOCs are another way that companies are trying to exploit industries for financial gain.

The most recent debate lies in whether MOOCs should be accredited. Lederman (2013) reports that five Coursera courses have received accreditation. This means that completion of the course contributes credit points towards university degree completion.

Where do you stand? Should MOOCs be accredited?  Will the proliferation of these free courses destroy traditional educational systems?

Thanks for reading!

Katie

References:

 

 

The Future of Journalism: Bright or Bleak?

This week in BCM310 we have been discussing journalism and how the Internet and digital media technologies have led to a phenomenon known as ‘participatory journalism’ or ‘citizen journalism’.

Our traditional understanding of journalistic practices has been overrun by the increasing involvement of the everyday person in the creation and dissemination of news content. But what will be the impact of these changes on the journalistic profession and the means by which media content is produced and distributed? Should journalists and media corporations embrace participatory journalism as a positive force, or should they fear for the future of journalism?

Quandt (2011, pg 174) interviewed journalists about how they felt about the impact of participatory journalism on their field, noting that overall there is no ‘universal perceptions about participatory journalism’. However, Quandt does acknowledge a general divide between those journalists who see the benefits of user participation in journalistic production, and other journalists who are more concerned about how the validity, integrity and professionalism of journalism is being negatively impacted by citizen journalism.

I am now going to take a closer look at the mindset of each of these distinct camps.

JOURNALISM TRADITIONALISTS: “Not just anybody can call themselves a journalist!”

Journalism traditionalists fear the impact that citizen journalists will have on the integrity of journalism and see it as a ‘threat to traditional journalistic structures’ (Quandt 2011, pg 168). An article in the NY Times (Stetler 2009) identifies the issue of content validity using the example of protests in Iran. Stetler notes that many news organisations use information provided by citizens without checking the source’s legitimacy. Whilst the volume of content available to journalists is great, it is difficult for journalists to filter through this content, verify its integrity and ‘discern what is relevant and what is not’ (Quandt 2011, pg 167).

PARTICIPATORY EVANGELISTS: “Citizen journalists provide us with content and make journalism more democratic!”

On the opposite side of the argument are those that see the availability of user-generated content as an aid to the democratic process and a positive benefit to journalism. New York Times media writer David Carr is a strong proponent of citizen journalism, identifying that social media provides the public with the ability to act as ‘watchdogs’ of official news outlets by ‘correcting mistakes and false information’ (Ingram 2012).

So where do I stand? I believe that the rise of citizen journalism is inevitable. Therefore, the positive benefits that these changes provide should be embraced, whilst systems and procedures need to be developed in order to manage any negative implications. These changes require journalists to be dynamic and to make a concerted attempt to adapt to the changes in their field.

How will they handle their online future?

Thanks for reading,

Katie

References:

  • Quandt, T 2011, ‘Understanding a New Phenomenon: the significance of participatory journalism’, Chapter 9 in Hermida et al Participatory Journalism, Wiley Blackwell pp155-176
  • Ingram, Mathew 2012, ‘David Carr on newspapers, Twitter and citizen journalism’, Gigaom,  September 14, accessed 10/4/2013 via here
  • Stetler, B 2009, ‘Journalism Rules are Bent in News Coverage From Iran’, The New York Times, June 28, accessed 10/4/2013 via here
  • Image sourced from here.

Media Content, Regulation and Convergence: It’s Time To Grow Up

This week in BCM310 we looked at media policy and content regulation in Australia.

My area of interest in the topic of media regulation surrounds the introduction of an ‘R18+’ category for games.

The National Classification Code (2005) states the following:

 “(a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want”

However, until January 2013, an ‘R18+’ classification for video games did not exist. In 2010 the Attorney-General’s Department published a ‘Final Report (2010) which summarised the findings of public submissions made in response to a discussion paper released in 2009.

I believe a good way of framing this issue is to take a look at the perspectives of the key stakeholders.

Computer game retailers were in favour of the ‘R18+’ classification as they were unable to stock games that were refused classification, including many popular titles. Managing Director of ‘EB Games’ Steve Wilson indicated that the classification issue was continuing to ‘cripple our industry and cost local jobs’  (EB Games 2010). It is interesting to note that ‘EB Games’ was responsible for collecting 34,210 submissions for the Attorney-General from their customers (Final Report, 2010), through an in-store and online campaign.

Australian gamers want unrestricted access to all games. AusGamers, an online Australian gaming community, declared their support of the ‘R18+’ classification by stating:

Australians are capable of making responsible choices about what games we play and what games we allow our children to play’  (AusGamers 2010)

Numerous organisations presented submissions that identified research which suggests that video games cause violence and aggression in game players. These parties expressed concern about the ‘effects of simulated violence on children’ (Final Report 2010, pg 17)

The Presbyterian Church believes that it is more important for children to be protected against harmful material than adults having unlimited access to media (Final Report 2010, pg 19).

———————-

The Attorney-General’s report also notes the challenges that technological convergence has for the classification of media content. The Convergence Review (2012) directly addresses this issue, noting that our current policy and regulations have not modernised to acknowledge the dilution of boundaries between media technologies.

The AIMIA (Digital Industry Association for Australia) also identified that:

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between various types of media, as the distinctions between them continue to blur as a result of technological advances and what is termed ‘convergence” (AIMIA 2010)

I agree that this convergence culture has made the need for a new Classification Scheme undeniable.  Allowing the ‘R18+’ classification is a positive step in the right direction, but the ultimate goal should be a system which can be applied consistently and meaningfully across media platforms. Importantly, the Classification system must be ‘sufficiently flexible to be adaptive to technological change’ (Flew 2012, pg 14)

But can such an effective and dynamic system ever be achieved whilst simultaneously balancing the interests of stakeholders?

Thanks for reading,

Katie

 

References:

  • AIMIA 2010, ‘AIMIA submission on R18+ classification for computer games’, 24 February 2010, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Attorney-General’s Department 2010, ‘Final Report on the Public Consultation on the Possible Introduction of an R 18+ Classification for Computer Games’ Attorney-General, accesse 27 March 2013 via here.
  • AusGamers 2010, ‘EFA and AusGamers R18+ Submission’, 28 February 2010, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 2012, ‘Convergence Review – Interim Report’, DBCDE, accessed 28 March 2013 via here.
  • EB Games 2010, ‘The time to be heard is now: EB Games launches R18+ Classification Petition, accessed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Flew, T (2012), ‘Media Classification: Content regulation in an age of convergent media’, Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, no. 143, pp 5-15
  • National Classification Code 2005, ComLaw, viewed 27 March 2013 via here.
  • Image sourced from here.

New Subject = BCM310 (last subject ever!)

Hi all,

My blog is alive again this semester as I will be blogging as part of BCM310: Emerging Issues in Media and Communication. This is my FINAL SUBJECT EVER for my degree! So far the subject has been very interesting so it seems as if I will be ending my degree on a good note 🙂

Hope you enjoy the new blog posts that will be appearing each week.

Katie