Monday, July 27, 2009

Media Studies: Are Blogs Production or Theory?

Is learning media about production or theory? Is there value in learning one or the other exclusively?

Recently my Alma Mater, USF discussed the Media Studies program at USF on a blog. The blog belongs to the journalism class but the discussion takes on the whole department. The discussion is energetic and, I would argue, useful but it does at times seem to get a little trivial or even verges on the level of flaming.

The main issue being discussed, outside of the student body itself, is whether or not students should be required to get involved in media production of some sort. It seems that one can coast through the department with little or no contribution to actual media production, which was not the case when I was there.

In the Financial Times of Monday July 27th, Josep Valor of Iese Business School argues that when educational institutions are critiqued on a blog, the educational institution should "consider such complaints "gifts" and take advantage of them." He argues that blogs should be taken seriously and the criticisms should be acted upon. "Ignoring blogs" he said "is not reading the writing on the wall."

Certainly, as a form of new media, one would expect a media department to be aware of the blogsphere, to be taking notes and perhaps selecting suggestions for discussion from it. But caution must be employed. If it was known that the university powers-that-be were acting on blog suggestions there might be a huge outburst of "requests." The cartoon accompanying Valor's piece in the Financial Times hints at the narcissism of blogging about oneself and perhaps blogging positive criticism of self on a public blog for all to see. (One might wonder if Valor is speaking from personal experience?) How many professors rate themselves on Rate-my-Prof?

It has to be acknowledged that if every educational institution was to monitor every blog about education there wouldn't be much time for education. His recent search for the term "MBA" gave results of 10,000. Some blogs I enjoy deal continuously with educational issues. My own blog in March talked about theory and production. It suggested that theory should always be included in the study whether it is production oriented or not. It is in the production of media that we can get to use the knowledge of theory for the good of others and society.

Digidave has a great way of talking freely about Journalism school. While Rab acknowledges that Media Studies graduates are being highly sought after as employees, it is difficult to imagine that he is happy about this!

It might seem like a good idea to monitor the blogsphere for ideas and criticisms but is it really feasible? Perhaps a blog for students to anonymously critique the courses would be feasible. Similar to the way professors look at the student evaluations we could eliminate the nasty, nasty ones and discuss the mature evaluations of each class and course.

Maybe this idea is simply an extension of the class evaluations we do at the end of each semester. On a public blog we could benefit from past pupils weighing in on criticisms made by current students for the good of the whole group. This kind of community spirt of cooperation and participation is worth the effort.

Sources for this post:

Valor, J. (2009, July 27). Blogs can help schools win the marketing war. The Financial Times, p.9.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cloud Computing: Real or transcendental

[Note - the audio on the embedded video is not even]

Like every new innovation there will be naysayers. Also there will be the proponents who assume that the new innovation is the way froward and will laugh off the naysayers. Well, I am neither a proponent nor a naysayer. Rather I am interested and a little concerned, and a little skeptical. So, what is "cloud computing?"

Basically, as I understand it, cloud computing will eliminate the need to purchase software and some hardware. All the applications necessary will be online, in the cloud, and all the data created will be stored online, in the cloud.

Imagine you own a small restaurant and your books are stored in the cloud. Imagine you are a graduate student ready to turn in your thesis and it is stored in the cloud. Imagine all your photographs taken over your life are stored in the cloud. Imagine... you get the idea.

If the cloud is secure then we would have no issue I suppose. But how secure can this cloud be? As secure as a safe in your basement? As secure as your filing cabinet? As secure as the biscuit/cookie tin/jar that houses all your nostalgic photographs? Or perhaps the cloud is more secure or less secure? Which one is it? Do we really know? Are we ready to give our "life" to the custody of google and "the cloud." What are the implications for our privacy?

Not so long ago there was "a widespread cyber attack that overwhelmed government websites" and US officials are blaming North Korea. It is not definitive but the attacks were traced to Internet addresses in North Korea.

In another internet based hack Twitter was compromised to allow a hacker to access and share confidential files about "corporate and personal information of employees that was compromised, not users' Twitter accounts."

The Internet is fantastic. How would we live without it nowadays? It has become a part of our existence.

But will we float in a cloud? If the US government files can be compromised is any file safe? Does it really matter?

And if the day comes when the government(s) get behind this cloud(theory), and they are advocates for the cloud, and there are none to very few against the cloud - then be wary.

It is in the titanic audacity of safety that great tragedies are born. Let us not forget the titanic.

[The audio is not the best but this is worth viewing to get a "sense" of the views of cloud computing.]


Baldor, L. C. (July 9, 2009). U.S. officials eye N. Korea in cyber attack. Marin Independent Journal, p.A8

Kopytoff, V. (July 16, 2009). Hacker snatches files from Twitter. San Francisco Chronicle, p. A1-A11.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Privacy Issues

In England there is a scandal. The privacy rights of some individuals was intruded upon. In a culture where it seems that the news is all but overtaken by personal issues it is refreshing to learn that individuals actually have rights to privacy.

There are differences of course but living in the US I am entertained by the concern over this privacy intrusion in the UK. I have lived in a culture where phone-tapping in the name of national security was defended strongly in recent history.

Andy Coulson may very well have to step down as the Conservative Party's director of communications on the head of this. I wonder if we were still in the BUSH-2 era would this scandal be a scandal at all. In fact, I wonder if this invasion of privacy policy at the News of the world and other newspapers was a "spin-off" of the culture of phone-tapping and privacy intrusions of the Bush-2 leadership. Remember that the Bush-2 era was very well supported by the Blair leadership (at least publicly).

And now, years later, Coulson's closet is opening up and haunting him. He left the newspaper business and probably felt he was free. Did he realize that this would resurface? Does he now regret his alleged actions? Will he admit to any of these allegations? Is he guilty?

Or will he claim forever that he left because he couldn't live with the phone-tapping ideology that was the climate of his newspaper while he was editor? Will he hide behind others and claim innocence? Will he send others to the guillotine in his place? Will he ride off into the sunset saying that he knew nothing for most of the time and when he did learn of the policy that he resigned his post?

And how will Rupert Murdoch deal with all this? Now we might be in for some entertaining publishing by the Guardian. And while it is entertaining it might actually be an example of good journalism.

Now why did it take so long for it to come out?

Added on July 10th, 2009: The Bush story keeps trickling out.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cell Phone Ring Tones: Where would we be without them?

Have you ever wondered why the person next to you has such a "creative" ring tone? We learn of one answer to that question today in the San Francisco Chronicle. It's free.

Benny Evangelista reports on the debate over ring tone royalties and gets no less than the front page! Is this a testament to the importance of our cell phone ring tones in society? If it is, it makes this reader pause for a moment and think what that might mean for our society.

If cell phone ring tones and the debate over royalties associated with them is front page news, what stories are not on the front page to facilitate this headline? Are we pushing stories of hunger, loss, socio-economic issues to the hidden pages to make room for ring tones?

So, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is asking a federal judge in New York to require AT&T and Verizon to pay for public performance licenses for cell phone ring tones (Evangelista, p. A1.). The stakes are fairly high. They range from 510 million to 5 billion according to two studies. The Electronic Frontier Foundation weighs in saying that if the royalties are enforced it would be at a cost to consumers, and technically turn consumers into copyright violators. ASCAP says, through it's attorney Richard Reimer, that this is a business-to-business issue (I suppose implying that they want to get money from the phone companies and not the consumer - naive).

Is this important? Are ring tones this necessary? Am I so out of touch that I cannot understand the placing of this story on page one of the Chronicle today? I know people like their tones. But one reason for this, I presume, is that they are free. If they start charging, I presume, people will do without them. Maybe we would only hear the old fashioned ring that is the original of the species - ring, ring, ring, ring.

Actually, I have noticed the popularity of the old fashioned ring on newer phones lately - in coffee shops and such places. Does this mean that these old-fashioned ring tones are not going to be copyrighted? Or is there a chance that my Granny's old ring tone will be copyrighted to ASCAP?

I don't care if you charge for ring tones as long as I can have the old fashioned ring. I just won't use them. And I assume many many more will not use them either. So what's the big deal and why is this front page news?

Source for this post:
Evangelista, B. (2009, July 5th). Debate rages on ring tone royalties: Composers group wants royalties for cell phone ring tones. San Francisco Chronicle, P.A1, A7.

Friday, July 3, 2009