Web 2.0 and human behavior

I’ll admit, I did not see the value of social media when it was first coming on the scene circa 2006/2007. My first foray was getting a Netflix account and that was largely due to my younger brother. He was talking about all these DVD movies he could get in the mail, watch them and mail them back without worrying about late fees. And here I was still using my Blockbuster card. My brother is eight years younger than me but I still felt like an old fogey, stuck in my analog ways. I did give it a shot, and once I saw TV shows were available, I was hooked.

More recently in class, we talked about an article that was originally published in Newsweek, 1995 by Clifford Stoll. He was a man after my own heart when it came to digitizing the world. I am not an early adopter and my career has been in an industry (television) where technology changes pretty quickly. I was made fun of by co-workers that had come over to my home and saw my 14″ Emerson television (pictured above) and remarked “You work at the Worldwide Leader in Sports and you have this thing as your TV??” This was 1997. Shortly thereafter, I “upgraded” to a 27″ Sony and then of course the flat screens came out right after that purchase. There is an part of Stoll’s article that really hit it out of the park when it came to the internet and it’s effects on human behavior.

What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee. No interactive multimedia display comes close to the excitement of a live concert. And who’d prefer cybersex to the real thing?

Indeed. Who would prefer cybersex to the real thing? Lenina Huxley would for one, the character from the movie Demolition Man, one movie of many (Blade Runner, Minority Report, Back to the Future II, Total Recall, The Net) that predicted the future convergence of technology and media into all aspects of life. Even Clifford Stoll’s 1995 predictions were pretty accurate.

Back to Netflix, I love Netflix circa 2007. I could share and write reviews, rate my movies, connect with friends and family that also had Netflix and send them movie suggestions. And then something happened. I started noticing that Netflix kept “suggesting” the same type of movies, even when I just wanted to browse titles, the site algorithm would show me movies based on what I had already interacted with. I missed browsing the shelves of Blockbuster or Hollywood Video and coming across an obscure title with an intriguing plot or discovering that independent film a big star decided to make. For this reason, I avoid Amazon.

Then I got a Kindle. Should I purchase books from Amazon like everyone else seems to be doing? I don’t want to be stuck with digital titles after I read them. Enter something old becoming new again. My local library! I could borrow books through my library (via Amazon) to read on my Kindle. It’s the best of both worlds. Until, while reading in bed, the kindle slips from your hands and lands on your face. Books are soft. Kindles are not. Not to mention if you forget to charge it. Or you lose your spot in the book.

All these devices bring convenience there is no doubt, what is key is to realize and decide how much of that convenience is actually needed.

Pop Culture, Values and Making A Murderer

Digital convergence. What the heck is that? I thought this was about Making A Murderer! Hopefully, I got your attention so I could share an not very sexy thing that’s been happening in media right under our noses. Media, plural of medium: an intervening agency, means, or instrument by which something is conveyed or accomplished. In most cases, this a form of communication; analog in the beginning–paper, radio, telegraph, television, and now digital–information compressed into binary 1s and 0s to be used electronically. Convergence, the merging of distinct technologies into a unified whole. 

Lame-stream media, gotcha media, liberal media, conservative media….no matter the descriptors, the subject is the same. Media, whether on paper, through radio and television signals or via the internet and social media, has seen a massive shift in how messages are given and received and how that message is then interpreted and passed on.

This convergence of digital media (digital convergence) started long before social media became the method of communication as we know it, and to illustrate this, I will use something that has currently permeated our pop culture, questioned our values and tested our media literacy: Making A Murderer. The Netflix docu-series, focuses on a wrongfully accused man that is later exonerated but then convicted of a later crime. What interested me more than the miscarriage of justice was the way in which this story was reported or, rather, presented to the public. Over the 10 episodes of this series, you can take note of the the change in media from 1985 when there was minimal convergence, through to the 90s when an online presence for news outlets became the new real-time news source. These website versions of formerly analog media sources became more interactive with the addition of “comment sections” to every story published online. With comment sections came the sharing of personal opinions and values and how the story was wrong or right regardless of the sharer’s credentials to that story.

This brings us to media in today’s world. Making A Murderer, a story that started 31 years ago has now become a part of our pop culture. Now with the release of the Netflix series, this story has touched almost every form of communication at our disposal. In it’s most recent incarnation, it is being shared via online streaming. Consumers are sharing the fact that they have watched it on social media sites, analyzing the ins and outs of the case, a petition started calling for the convicted to be released or re-tried began online, one petition called for the President to pardon both convicts. Did I mention this Netflix movie was released on Dec. 18, 2015? The petition to pardon was published two days later? What could have happened had this convergence in media happened 31 years ago?

As I mentioned early on, we often hear about the lame-stream media or the liberal media or any other expletive media. What often gets missed today, is just how much power each of us consumers have at our fingertips. Imagine if today’s journalists were able to affect things like policy or government in the same way consumers were able to start a conversation about justice reform and receive a statement from the White House. Imagine if every consumer treated everything they read or saw in the media with the same analysis they treated Making A Murderer?

What do you use that power for? What information do you spend your time on?