Digital Media Issues

A Discussion of New Media in Today's Society

Research Summary – Traditional vs. Alternative Media Consumption — July 2, 2015

Research Summary – Traditional vs. Alternative Media Consumption

Hello classmates! Well, we made it through the digital media issues course! I hope you all enjoyed this class and keeping up with your blog as much as I did. I learned a lot from my research project, which was designed to find out the media consumption habits of people of all ages. I wanted to find out whether people prefer traditional means of media consumption, or alternative ways, and what those alternative ways are/look like. Please watch my video explanation to find out more about the results of my research.

Thank you for your attention! If you have any questions for me, please feel free to leave them below! It’s been a pleasure learning with you. Good luck in your future studies and careers!

Future Issues in Digital Media, My Experience in this Class, and My Social App Experience — June 25, 2015

Future Issues in Digital Media, My Experience in this Class, and My Social App Experience

The future of the Internet, Web and digital communication looks bright. It seems that we have just about every technology we could ever need at our fingertips, and they’re all easily accessible and user-friendly (for the most part), too. But there are a few important trends and issues that will affect the future of these areas, which I’d like to discuss today.

(Brace yourself – this is gonna be a long post!)

I belong to the millennial generation, or Generation Y. Pew Research tells us that this year, my generation will replace the Baby Boomers (ages 51-69 – my parents’ generation) as the largest living generation. Because of their growing numbers, much research has been conducted on this generation concerning their buying and spending habits across a number of markets, their media consumption habits, and many others. Researchers also focus on their employment-upon-graduation rates, which positions they are filling, starting salaries and more. Because of this influx of information about Generation Y, we have a pretty good understanding of how they think, what their needs are and how they function in society.

Millennials largest generation outnumber Baby Boomers
This infographic, provided by the Pew Research Center, projects the Millennial generation (Generation Y) will surpass the Baby Boomers as the largest living generation later this year.

But what about the upcoming generation – Generation Z? This generation of folks, born between the mid-90s and the early ‘00s, will soon begin graduating college. According to an article by Alexandra Levit, Generation Z “tends to be independent”, since they live in a healthy economy and “appear eager to be cut loose – they don’t want for their parents to teach them things or tell them how to make decisions”.

This go-getter attitude exhibited by many in Generation Z is exactly what employers are looking for – employees who get the work done without a lot of direction or hand-holding, employees who take the initiative to seek out information or teach themselves new skills and strategies. And, since they were raised with a rattle in one hand and an iPad in the other, they are quick to embrace new technologies, as including social media – because of this, Levit explains Generation Z is “well prepared for a global business environment”. This is fantastic news for the future of digital communication – the characteristics that many predict will define this generation in a few years are exactly the ones needed to hold a successful position in digital media.

This photo from presents some of the most commonly held characteristics of the first generation of the 21st century, Generation Z.

Levit also pointed out that Generation Z is diverse – and Jackie Crosby of the Star Tribune agrees. She interviewed Andrea Yesnes, a 7th-9th grade teacher at Hopkins North Junior High School. Today, 40% of the students at her school are of color. Here is what Yesnes had to say:

“Walking down the hall you see girls in hijabs, white kids, African-American kids. We have a big Hmong population here. … It’s really just about every kind of kid you can imagine. It’s not that they don’t see other colors or other religions or differences. It’s just that they’re together. It’s not forced. It’s just who they are.”

As I mentioned in my post about identity, gender and diversity, most tech companies today don’t have a very diverse workforce. As you will recall, “seven of the tech sector’s largest companies are largely white and male”. But with some of the first members of Generation Z graduating college in just three short years, and with such a diverse population, the future looks bright for ethnic and gender variation within the tech workplace. This increase in diversity will bring new outlooks and ideas to the table, thus propelling companies forward towards future success.

This photo from shows two key charactertics of Generation Z: these kids are not only digital natives, but they are diverse.

But, the future isn’t just sunshine and rainbows for Generation Z. The Huffington Post even described this group as “lazy and unaware” – as one mother put it, “In some ways, my daughter’s generation is more unaware of what’s going on the world. I don’t think they’re apathetic, though, I think they just have different priorities like their cellphones and Facebook.”

This reliance on gadgets could be their downfall, but in this rapidly changing digital climate, this reliance could also be used to their advantage. Only time will tell!

It’s important to remember, also, that Generation Z will be an important demographic in upcoming years for things like marketing initiatives, elections, etc. But they aren’t the only living generation, and it will be up to companies that operate on the Internet and in the world of digital communication to appeal to these youngsters without losing the loyalty of older generations.

A few more notable issues that we, as a society, should learn how to deal with in the coming years are big data, social media and media education. As far as big data and social media are concerned, knowing how to interpret and communicate the data, as well as use social media platforms to communicate and share information (and data) will become increasingly important in coming years. In fact, most communications positions will probably make knowledge of and experience with big data and social media no longer a suggestion but a requirement when selecting applicants for their teams.

Big data and social media will, according to Gurbaksh Chahal (CEO, RadiumOne) in an article for AllThingsD, determine the president in the 2016 election. “Social data drove the 2008 presidential elections and big data drove the 2012 election”, he explained. “In 2016, it will be the marriage of the two that will determine the next President of the United States.” Applicable and relevant data on American citizens will be used to determine prospective voters, across the nation and specifically in prospective swing states. And social media will be used to start and continue the election conversation through tweets, social sharing, customized banner ads and more.

What will help candidates reach a wider audience in the 2016 election? Move over traditional advertising and smear campaigns – let’s focus on big data and social media! Photo by Yahoo! News.

Finally, society will need to adapt to the rapidly changing digital climate by offering better education and training for up and coming media professionals. This may mean completely revamping journalism and mass communication programs – as pointed out by Professor Royal in her EducationShift article. This process may be painful, costly and tedious, but extremely worth it – it will expose different types of students to a variety of skills (like coding, web design, blogging, writing for the web) even if they think they will never use those skills in their chosen career field (newsflash: they probably will!). Unprepared college graduates may have trouble finding employment because of their lack of skills across the board, or those who find employment may find themselves very behind with the times, causing them to expend extra time, money and effort playing “catch up” with new strategies, programs and technologies.


As you may already know, this blog has been part of my graduate Digital Media Issues class at Texas State. I’m glad I decided to take this course this summer, as I have learned so many valuable lessons from it. The most important thing I learned this session is that as a communicator, I have to be open-minded, flexible and adaptive to new strategies, concepts and tools within the field. Because taking web design last fall was such a huge fail, I immediately switched my concentration from digital media to strategic communication. I was a real cynic toward everything “digital” – I didn’t want anything to do with live-tweeting or interactive conferences, and especially not web design. But the future is moving toward convergence, and soon, all communicators will need to know at least a little bit about everything in order to be useful in the workforce.

I can’t just rely on my good looks and charm forever – this class has taught me that I need to adapt and embrace the tech world! Photo by

Perhaps the most important message I got from this course is that digital media isn’t something to be afraid of, to scoff at, or to worry about failing at – it’s something to experiment with and embrace. Sticking strictly to content is not going to be marketable for me in my future career. I, of course, will need to know the many strategic communication concepts employed in my chosen career path, but I also need to have a working understanding of, and at least a little experience in, many of the digital concepts and strategies we learned this quarter. Cindy, thank you for opening my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities for my future in media.

To all my classmates reading this post, good luck to you in your media education and future careers. Never stop learning!


Switching gears, let’s end on a note about social media. Remember when we talked about the “Big Three” – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Those aren’t the only social media platforms I actively use. In fact, I also have accounts on Snapchat, MapMyRun, Wanelo, LinkedIn and Spotify that I use on a normal basis. When I get really bored, I scroll through my YikYak or Vine timelines – and even post a few “yaks” (complaints and observations, mostly) and vines (it’s just me singing in the car – nothing too special) of my own.

For a long time, my friends and relatives told me that I just wasn’t living until I downloaded the Pinterest app. Well, I finally gave in. I’d like to tell you about my experience with this app, as it’s a new one for me.

Many of my friends and family members (mostly ladies) spend hours on the app daily. It’s an addiction for many, as they plan an upcoming party, meal, home makeover, hairstyle or even their wedding. Much like StumbleUpon or Wanelo (Want-Need-Love), the app picks out “pins” based on your individual interests – quotes, celebrity photos, recipes, fitness, makeup. The list goes on and on. In addition to showing pins you might like on your home page, it also shows the items that your friends have “pinned” to their boards. The whole board feature allows you to organize your pins into categories, such as home, wedding, beauty, etc.

An example of pins organized onto boards – photo by Slate Venues.

I’ll admit I haven’t spent a lot of time on the app – just because I know that the minutes will turn into hours as I pour through the millions of pins on new exercises, healthy recipes and cute outfits and hairstyles. But from what I have experienced so far, the app is extremely user-friendly. You can scroll through your feed and look at what your friends have pinned or what the app has suggested based on your interest, or you can use the search feature in order to find a specific item. The scroll versus search debate comes into play when time is a factor – do you have a minute to just look through everything or are you crunched to find something specific?

To learn how to use the app, I relied a little bit on just diving straight in, and a little on my boyfriend’s mom. She was the one to actually invite me to the app, and she sends me new pins each day – everything from cute shoes to puppies to funny pictures. She taught me how to open these pins and save them for myself. I think it’s neat how easy it is to be social and share items within the site/app, because even if something on your feed doesn’t appeal to you, it may be perfect for a friend who hasn’t seen it yet.

Share a pin with a friend – it’s that easy! Photo by

I’m a pretty busy gal, so I don’t have a lot of free time on my hands to look through the app right now. But after I graduate, I plan to use the app a little more extensively to plan things like outfits, dinners, workout routines, hair/makeup, home renovations, crafting and hopefully, one day, my wedding! The app offers information from top to bottom for just about any event or item you could think of. This is so valuable for people like party planners, busy moms or even just someone looking for gift ideas.

I’m not exactly the most creative person, but looking through my Pinterest feed gives me lots of help in coming up with ideas. It also saves the time of skimming a blog post with a five-page long story just to find the recipe at the bottom. The app also would have saved me a lot of money had I started using it a few months ago, as I just some pretty expensive purchased workout/meal plans online. This app, although time consuming, could have eliminated that unnecessary cost with information that is just as valuable!

Anything you could ever want to create, cook, style, wear, plan – you can find it and pin it! Photo by

When applying for jobs this summer, I found it incredibly interesting that so many employers wanted a link to my Pinterest account. One position even required the applicants to create a Pinterest board with items of importance to the company’s vision. Not having an account (or even knowing how to create/use one) probably knocked me out of the running for several communications positions that required at least some level of creative/design thinking. Pinterest can serve as not only a time-killer, wedding planner or idea giver – it can also serve as a virtual portfolio of your interests and eye for design and creativity that can be used for future employers. Instead of simply using it for fun, I may use it in the future as a supplemental piece to my portfolio and applications.

Cyberlaw: Copyright, Fair Use & Net Neutrality — June 23, 2015

Cyberlaw: Copyright, Fair Use & Net Neutrality

Let’s talk about “Girl Talk“. When I went to see Sons of Fathers in Dallas in 2013, the artist Girl Talk (real name: Greg Gillis) was playing the same festival. I remember there being a lot of people jumping around, dancing and crowding the stage as this wild DJ played his music. I also remember a toilet paper roll gun shooting into the crowd. But what I didn’t know was that there is this huge controversy surrounding Girl Talk’s music, regarding his infringement – or not – of copyright law.

Girl Talk is known for his remixes of other artists’ music. In fact, his fourth album “Feed the Animals” is solely samples of other songs (according to The New York Times, there are more than 300 samples on just this album). And it’s obviously not accidental – Girl Talk records under the label “Illegal Art”. These artists aren’t just ripping music from other artists – they are taking full advantage of ‘copyright law’s “fair use” principle’.

Even searching for Girl Talk on Google is controversial – check out the message at the bottom of this screengrab.

Since copyright law requires artists to give credit to those whom they sample in their own music, Girl Talk has to be breaking some sort of rule, right? Not so – at least not according to Gillis. He says he is taking music that people already know and love – snippets from music by artists like Jay-Z, Outkast and even AC/DC – and remixing them to make them his own. This trumps the copyright law, in that “his samples fall under fair use, which provides an exemption to copyright law under certain circumstances. Fair use allows book reviewers to quote from novels or online music reviewers to use short clips of songs. Because his samples are short, and his music sounds so little like the songs he takes from that it is unlikely to affect their sales, Mr. Gillis contends he should be covered under fair use.”

As stated by the Copyright Advisory Office in its “What is Fair Use?” document, Girl Talk’s music is art – rather than theft – according to Factor 3: The Amount or Substantiality of the Portion Used. As Gillis said, these are just short snippets of other songs used in his mixes, and manipulated enough to sound almost like a completely different song.

Should sampled artists be worried about Girl Talk’s fame? In my opinion, no. Girl Talk is a cool artist – like DJ Earworm’s annual mix of the year’s hottest pop anthems, everybody loves a good mashup, and Girl Talk adds a unique edge to the songs he remixes. Other recording artists should feel flattered that the artist deems their work unique and hot enough to include in his own work. It’s doubtful that Girl Talk’s fame will ever reach higher than the artists he includes in his remixes.

Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk – a rebellious visionary or a thief? Photo by

If anything, Girl Talk’s music will drive consumers back to the original artists – at least that’s how it is for me. When I hear a sample in a rap or dubstep song, I often want to know where it came from, then I end up downloading the original song. This is just more publicity for the original artist, in my opinion. And it’s not like the artists Girl Talk is sampling are a big secret – if you want to see a list of the artists and song Girl Talk has sampled, check his WhoSampled profile.

Peter Friedman offered his two cents on why Girl Talk hasn’t been sued yet. Check it out:

“Well, I think I am a lawyer just like the lawyers representing Metallica, the Guess Who, and anyone else whose work has been sampled and repurposed by Gillis. And if I were advising one of these clients (or I were representing the RIAA and could influence the lawyers for Metallica and the Guess Who), I would advise that client not to sue Girl Talk; Gillis’s argument that he has transformed the copyrighted materials sufficiently that his work constitutes non-inringing fair use is just too good. I’d go after someone I am more likely to beat. Otherwise, I’d lose all the leverage I have with the existence, as yet undisputed in case law, of the decisions in Grand Upright Music and Bridgeport Music.”

A few years ago, I gave a presentation in my Media Law and Ethics undergraduate course about copyright and fair use. I included this hilarious fake interview Vanilla Ice gave that defended his right to use the hook from Queen’s “Under Pressure” in his hit “Ice Ice Baby” – because it was sooo different. Check it out!

in this famous music copyright case, Vanilla Ice admitted that he ripped the bassline from Queen/David Bowie, and paid/gave credit to both artists for their contributions to his big hit. Photo by University of Texas.

Fair use isn’t just a legal issue with copyright in music, movies and other media – it’s also a legal issue when it comes to Internet use. This is an issue we know as net neutrality – and it’s a big one.

According to the ‘What is “Net Neutrality”?’ video from SaveTheInternet, phone and cable companies want to lock down parts of the web and make sites pay steep prices to use them – those who don’t pony up extra money will have to suffer slow Internet speeds. The video explains that the principle of Net Neutrality means that phone/cable companies aren’t allowed to mess what is inside the Internet “pipes” we use to access information. “Everybody’s website”, the video explains, “has the same speed and quality”. It’s only fair that way.

This sums up a world without strict regulations on net neutrality. Photo by

In November of 2014, President Obama publically urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to crack down on companies that attempt to block or slow down legal content on the internet. He wanted them to think of “wired and wireless broadband service as a public service utility”, according to the New York Times. He said:

“For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access into and out of your home or business. It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call or a packet of data.”

In 2014, President Obama took a strong stand in favor of net neutrality. Do you stand with him? Photo by

In February of 2015, the FCC voted 3-2 on new net neutrality regulations, according to TechCrunch. In March of 2015, the FCC released the details of how it would “regulate broadband Internet providers as a public utility, producing official wording that almost certainly sets the stage for extended legal fights”, said The New York Times.  The new rules on net neutrality revealed how the “strict laws would be modified for Internet providers, exempting the companies from the sort of price controls typically applied to utilities”. The FCC’s attempts to protect the “open Internet” are nothing short of convoluted – taking every instance that challenges these restrictions on a case by case basis has certainly opened a whole new can of worms.

So, what are the cultural implications of the legal mess that is net neutrality? In other words, why should we, everyday citizens who use the net, care about this issue? Here are just a few of the top ten reasons, summarized for brevity, according to How Stuff Works:

  • We, as Internet users, expect the Internet to be free and open. If broadband companies have control over the access and speed of certain websites, we lose that freedom.
  • Net neutrality calls attention to ISP monopolies. “There is genuine concern that a handful of powerful ISPs have become the gatekeepers of the Internet, picking winners and losers according to the size of their checks.” Tim Wu says the real issue isn’t fast lanes – it’s increasing competition among Internet service providers. The U.S. could adopt the practices of the United Kindom, where “regulators require ISPs and cable companies to lease their fiber optic lines to competitors at cost. Without that rule, it would be far too expensive for an upstart ISP to enter the market, which is exactly the reality in the U.S. today.”
  • A neutral Internet promotes competition. This statement from the FCC website pretty much sums it up: “The principle of the Open Internet is sometimes referred to as ‘net neutrality.’ Under this principle, consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use and are free to decide what lawful content they want to access, create, or share with others… Once you’re online, you don’t have to ask permission or pay tolls to broadband providers to reach others on the network. If you develop an innovative new website, you don’t have to get permission to share it with the world.”
  • Net neutrality protects free speech. One of our inalienable rights as U.S. citizens is the right to free speech, and an open Internet facilitates this right as it is an “open forum for free speech and freedom of expression”. If ISPs are allowed to charge extra money for “fast lanes”, those who can pony up the money would be able to express their opinions and ideas more easily than those who chose not to pay up – and that’s just not fair. Free speech? More like expensive speech.

(Be sure to check out the full article for the other top reasons to care about net neutrality.)

So, where do you stand? Is net neutrality as big an issue as the media makes it out to be? Or do you think its importance is not stressed enough? Also, how do you feel about Girl Talk’s (and similar artists’) mixes and mashups of popular music? Is it original enough, or does he need to give credit where credit is due? Leave your comments below!

Business and Entrepreneurship in Media — June 22, 2015

Business and Entrepreneurship in Media

Because it is essentially free to access information on the Internet, through social media and via smartphones/tablets, and because people just don’t want to pay $1.99 for an app or a subscription, sometimes media companies have difficulty monetizing on their content. Because of this, two business models “The Long Tail” and “Free” have been developed in order to help struggling media companies make money from their services.

The Long Tail is a business model that relies on “niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream” in order to be successful in monetizing. This economic model emphasizes the importance of providing consumers with everything – even if it seems extremely obscure – because there is a market out there for that product. Another part of employing this model includes presenting these obscure items (songs, books, movies, other products) as recommended items for people who purchase something similar.

One great example of a company who employs the long tail business model is Amazon. You’d be hard-pressed to search for something on Amazon and the online “superstore” not have it – no matter how strange or obscure. As Wired tells us, Amazon created a phenomenon for the not well known Touching the Void book by “combining infinite shelf space with real-time information about buying trends and public opinion. The result: rising demand for an obscure book.”

Canned Unicorn Meat
Canned unicorn meat – just one of the crazy items you can purchase on Amazon. Is there a huge demand for it? No. But because of Amazon’s “long tail” business model, obscure items are still for sale because there is some niche market that really has a hankering for…unicorn meat…? Photo by BuzzFeed. 

The other successful media business model, Free, employees the idea of giving away something for free that requires the purchase of something else. For example: free razors – but one must purchase the blades (the “Free” idea actually came from King Gillette, the creator of the shave and save” idea); free cell phones – but one must purchase the monthly phone plan; free installation – but one must purchase the actual machine being installed. The list goes on and on. As Wired tells us, thanks to Gillette, “the idea that you can make money by giving something away is no longer radical.” “Free” could mean giving out free music downloads in order to boost album or concert ticket sales, offering free-to-try demos of video/computer games, or even offering “Freemium” content – the music, movies, etc. are free to a point, but to upgrade to the next level, you must pay a small fee.

Sometimes the concept of “Freemium” is a little irritating – but if you really want the product or app to perform to its full potential, you may shell out a few extra bucks. Photo by

Both of these business models have completely changed the way that we understand approach, marketing and scale. “The Long Tail” teaches us that it’s okay to take risks and offer products that aren’t necessarily in high demand, simply because there is a niche market for this product somewhere. Businesses using the long tail can also boost such products by offering them as suggested products for people who purchase similar products. And “Free” revolutionized the way many businesses think – as many believe there was no way to make money from giving away things for free. Quite the contrary is true in many cases, as Gillette and others have proven through successfully employing this business model.

The Internet itself continues to revolutionize business operations, more than just through the aforementioned business models. Media legend Gary Vaynerchuk emphasizes the importance of expanding one’s personal brand – or even the brand of one’s business, company or organization – through the power of social media. Creating a positive image for one’s self or one’s business via Twitter, Facebook, blogging platforms, etc. is easy and free. Another Internet phenomenon that has shaped the face of business is crowdfunding – websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe can be used in order to raise funds for a cause, a company, a charity, etc.

This infographic explains the ease and potential of asking for donations for one’s business, cause, project or startup. Photo by

As for the future of entrepreneurship in media, I believe that creativity and design play a huge role in the success (or failure) of a new product or service. Because of this, media companies will most likely begin hiring more employees that have education in (or at least a thorough understanding of) creativity and design, as well as communication and creating content. The two areas go hand in hand.

Employees like these, the creative team at Temple & Webster, will continue to be in high demand for media companies as we move further into the future of media business and entrepreneurship. As important as it is to be able to write, code and work with technology, it is equally important to understand the fundamentals of design and be able to think creatively. Photo from Temple & Webster blog.

As I discussed in my last post, ingenuity, innovation and uniqueness are hard to come by in the media world. Almost every idea can be struck down because some other company has “been there, done that”. It’s up to media companies to continue to think creatively when coming up with new ideas. People want products and services that are easy to use and understand, functional, designed well and affordable. And, if riding the coattails of a previous product or service – what sets this one apart? Why is it better? These questions need to be addressed in order to bring in more customers or users.

Mobile Applications —

Mobile Applications

If you’re looking to market your new idea for a mobile application – good luck! It is so hard to come up with an idea that hasn’t already been taken and perfected in the app world. When Apple said “There’s an app for that”, they really meant it.

When I began brainstorming ideas for an app that I would like to create that would make my life easier, I had a really hard time since it seems like every idea has already been taken. But I finally came up with an application that would help with my active and busy lifestyle.

As a member of the Texas State Triathlon Team, I spend a lot of time going on training runs and bike rides. I also go to lots of races that are out of town and end up spending the night. In addition to this, I’m rather nomadic by nature. I travel all around the country visiting family and friends, and going to races and other events. So when I am in an unfamiliar city, or even in a city with which I’m familiar and looking to switch things up, I’ve created SafeRun/SafeCycle, the smartphone/tablet/wearable app that will keep me and others like me safe when exercising.

Using geolocation services, this application will find safe routes close to where you will be training. The app will also take into account safety factors such as road closures, weather patterns, public information (residential, municipal and police reports), lighting and houses with large dogs to determine the safest route for exercise, for a distance that you will predetermine.

To add extra safety features to the application, users will be asked to input information of the contacts they would like to be notified in the event of an emergency. If the user pauses on the route for longer than five minutes and does not interact with the app (An “are you okay?” screen will appear and an alert noise will sound), the emergency contact(s), as well as emergency responders, will be notified and given the exact location of the user.

As someone who is always on the go and running in unfamiliar places, and as someone who has been hit by a car before while on a run, I think an app that finds the safest route would give the user and his or her loved ones real peace of mind while they are out training.

Below is a rough, simple sketch of a few of the app’s screens:

The Future of Journalism — June 18, 2015

The Future of Journalism

Journalism as we once knew it is evolving at a rapid rate. Rather than kicking our feet up at the breakfast table with the morning paper or catching the early news report on TV, I would say it’s more common, especially for younger generations, to peruse the news on our smartphones, tablets and computers through a number of websites, applications and social networks. We want quick, digestible content, coupled with photos and videos, that gets to the point of the story in a short amount of time so that we can move on to the next piece of news.

Consuming news on a smartphone or tablet, via a news application or even a social media platform, is not at all uncommon in modern media. Photo by

It was incredibly troubling, when I was the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, to view the analytics of both our website and our social media pages. Why weren’t people reading our content? Why weren’t people clicking our links? The answer was simple: we were still operating as and writing for a print newspaper, but wearing an online newspaper costume. We didn’t provide links, we didn’t host a blog, we didn’t effectively implement social media, we didn’t provide enough multimedia. Granted, my first year as editor was the first year that the newspaper was completely online, and there were obviously lots of changes that needed to be made but couldn’t because of funding. But in hindsight, I can see that our newspaper wasn’t catering to the target audience – college students – because we weren’t implementing enough digital technology into our news dissemination. We needed apps, video, consumable and digestible content that lazy students didn’t have to seek out – it just found them where they were. Since I left, the new editor has attempted to embrace some of these new strategies…but the newspaper still has a long ways to go.

This is why the efforts of Buzzfeed – the self-proclaimed “social news and entertainment company, redefining online advertising with its social, content-driven publishing technology…[that] provides the most shareable breaking news” – are so effective, especially with younger crowds who need their news now, but want to enjoy the experience of doing so. Consuming Buzzfeed news is fun – you get to read the information you need to know, but you also get to see compelling video and photos, as well as helpful and informative charts and other data. Buzzfeed authors know how to combat short attention spans by grabbing the readers quickly, getting to the point of the news and explaining why it should matter to the reader. Buzzfeed also features pop culture, quizzes and other fun items on the site/app to add to the overall user experience.

Buzzfeed is the Apple of news organizations. While they like to keep it light and fun with quizzes, funny videos, pop culture and listicles, they also make sure that people are getting the news they need in an interesting and easily consumable way. Photo by

The future of journalism is being paved by innovations like Facebook’s Instant Articles. According to an article by Buzzfeed that explains the company’s push for reaching users where they are, Facebook has begun “rendering stories natively within the app” in order to reduce wait times for loading the content. Since Buzzfeed articles (and the articles of other news companies like Buzzfeed) contain lots of images, GIFs (moving images) and videos, they can often take a long time to load; this new idea from Facebook could certainly speed this process along, and keep users around who would usually lose interest because of long wait times. This marriage between Facebook and Buzzfeed is a great move, as Buzzfeed will be able to better gauge who is engaging with their content because of the social network, or because of the site on its own, in order to perfect its strategies and reach more users. If people are not visiting the site on a regular basis, they may see one or two posts or Instant Articles on Facebook and decide that they would like to engage further, perhaps by perusing the site or even downloading the app.

Facebook’s Instant Articles are revolutionizing the way social media users consume news. By reducing download wait times and incorporating more multimedia and data journalism, this idea is a genius move for the social media giant – and a great advertising tool for other media companies to drive traffic back to their sites and apps. Photo by

While the future of journalism isn’t just The Buzzfeed Show, since some people feel that GIFs and “listicles” are juvenile, other digital media companies need to learn from Buzzfeed’s example. Chris Dixon, internet entrepreneur and investor, describes Buzzfeed as a “full-stack startup”, and compares the company to Apple in its business approach. Rather than focusing on just one thing you’re really good at (here’s looking at you, Microsoft…), news companies should attempt to, like Apple, control multiple, if not all, layers of the business. While many news companies try their best to create a true digital media convergence, it is often apparent which “child” of the company is the most favored, whether it be the actual content/journalism, photos, videos, social media, or data journalism (charts, etc.). Buzzfeed handles it all, and handles it well, according to Dixon. This all-inclusive approach, as well as a good strategy for understanding where users/readers and reaching them there, is what companies need as we move into the future of journalism.

Professor Cindy Royal brought up a great point in her Nieman Lab article about the future of journalism: everyone in media, whether it’s the old-fashioned editor, the journalism professor or the bright-eyed techie intern, has to be open-minded and unafraid to learn and embrace new technologies, skills and strategies. We work in tech, and many organizations (and univerisites, for that matter) just don’t realize the importance of that ideology.

From the business side of things, a few reports have helped shape the way media professionals should begin thinking about the future of journalism. For starters, media companies should begin relying more heavily on data journalism. The International Symposium on Online Journalism gave an explication of data journalism, stating that “Data can be used as a source for a story, used in infographics as part of a story or it can be the story, a data-driven interactive that allows the user to engage and customize the meaning based on variables and inputs.” While Buzzfeed, Vox and Upworthy have already adapted well to this new strategy, the New York Times was also a data journalism pioneer with such projects as “Is It Better to Rent or Buy?”, “New York State Test Scores”, “Toxic Waters,” as well as projects around The Olympics and Academy Awards coverage, and the interactive dialect quiz “How Ya’ll, Youse and You Guys Talk”.

This New York Times interactive quiz “broke the internet”. It’s a fantastic example of the future of journalism in America – data, charts, graphs and interaction. Photo by

The adoption of data journalism can seem rather intimidating – Bradshaw says in the ISOJ explication that “Data journalism is ‘incomprehensibly enormous,’ in part because it represents the convergence of several fields—programming, design, statistics and investigative research, to name a few”. But companies should not be afraid to begin incorporating this strategy little by little, because as it has been observed, it works, brings in more readers, and holds their attention much longer than just the old-fashioned photos and text on a screen.

The American Press Institute also published a report that predicted the future of journalism as we know it. They key theme in this report is that innovation in the news world stems from culture. Culture, as told by the report, is the “most important factor in enabling innovation — but also hard to change directly or immediately, because it often flows from the bottom up. It can change over time as the result of smaller strategic alterations to the structure and the processes.” This goes hand in hand with the findings from the ISOJ explication – in order for news organizations to begin implementing and building up new innovations, they first must envision the culture they want the world to associate with their organization and take the necessary steps and make the right changes in their current processes in order to get there. an important note on culture is that all teams across the company have to agree on that culture, and work together to decide how to best portray that via their respective departments. This can be especially challenging as many of the moving parts operate very differently from one another, or have trouble communicating with other departments.

But, using that thought as a segway into our next item of discussion, there is a strategy for lessening the confusion across media departments: training journalism and mass communication students to be a jack-of-all-trades, or at least teaching them the basics of each important part of the field so that are familiar with most ideas, terms and technologies used in the field. Joichi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, explained the issue with many journalism programs – “J-schools are like newspapers: They have faculty, a structure, and a system that train people in a traditional way. It’s OK to have some of that, especially until we figure out what we’re going to do next. But it feels like it’s time to start experimenting with new faculty and new students, with innovation on the edges of where we used to be.”

Ito’s thoughts were found in a report by the Knight Foundation, which also indicated another key issue with journalism programs in universities: professors are getting complacent. “Faculty have been comfortable teaching what they know, semester after semester, year after year, decade after decade”, the recommendations portion tells us. “But those times are behind us.” And many educators agree. 39 percent of journalism educators in a 2013 Poynter Institute study acknowledged that their programs are “not keeping up with the changing industry.” This is crucial for preparing students to enter the real, rapidly transforming world of media. Unprepared students will either not be able to find employment upon graduation, will be completely overwhelmed and have to learn almost from scratch when they do find a position, or will have to settle for a job in media (or maybe even another career field) that does not let them use their full potential.

Royal made great suggestions for preparing students for modern journalism, including “flipping the curriculum” (taking a tech-based approach, and teaching things like writing specifically for mobile/multimedia platforms, law and ethics as pertaining specifically to digital media, and the history of digital media). provide new concentrations within the program to help students hone these skills (programming, coding, etc.), and letting them experience digital media firsthand through conferences and meetings, new technologies, etc.

Mass communication students at Texas State University interact with invited speakers by live-tweeting their presentations from the audience. They also use social media platforms to send in questions for the speakers. Professors also encourage students to aggregate key messages from the presentations using Storify, or blogging about the key points on their personal media blogs. This kind of innovation, interactive thinking is a great example for other mass comm programs. Photo from

Before I got to Texas State, I had very limited knowledge of web design, blogging, coding, photo editing, working with CMS, multimedia, etc. But diving in headfirst, I was able to pick up on so many skills and strategies that have helped me so much in my education as well as my career that I feel have made me a valuable asset to a future career in media. I hope that other universities will take Royal’s suggestions (as they have been implemented within our programs) and use them in their own programs, in order to best prepare their students for the world of media that they will enter upon graduation.

Do you think Texas State has helped you prepare for a career in media? Or, if you attended another university previous to Texas State, in what ways was their program different (better or worse)? In what areas do you think our program can further improve? Leave your feedback below!

Cyberculture: Identity, Gender and Diversity — June 17, 2015

Cyberculture: Identity, Gender and Diversity

Gender, diversity and identity manifest in several ways online. Perhaps the most interesting way that people express these things online is through video games, online communities and even social media platforms. Since these channels are utilized from behind a screen, it’s easy and often tempting to completely reinvent oneself when using them.

Before we had gaming systems that could connect to the Internet, and even before we had really good online video games, author Sherry Turkle explains that people logged on to Multi-User Domains (also called Multi-User Dungeons), or MUDs, to escape reality and be whomever they wanted to be. “We are dwellers on the threshold between the real and virtual,” she explains, “unsure of our footing, inventing ourselves as we go along.” In the earliest simulations of what we now call Role-Playing Games (or RPGs), users logged in to MUDs based on their interests. Using text commands typed in by the user, their characters would chat with one another, build friendships and relationships, and even have sexual encounters.

Gender and identity come into play in MUDs because all users’ “real life” identities were completely anonymous and hidden from the MUD world. A straight man could portray himself as a woman who likes other women; an African American woman could be an old white man; and a little girl could be a Barbie, or a fairy, or a bunny rabbit. The important thing about these MUDs is that the real gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. of the user didn’t matter. They could choose to reinvent their image and identity – or not – as much as they pleased.

LambdaMOO, one of the Multi-User Domains mentioned by author Sherry Turkle in “Identity in the Age of the Internet”, paints a picture of the earliest stages of online role-playing games. Photo by

Author Howard Rheingold spoke of a similar set-up: WELLs (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), anonymous forums to which those with internet access could discuss topics of importance to them. These WELLS built a strong sense of community with people whom he had never met, and provided the users with advice on important issues, tips and tricks, and even comfort in times of pain. The gender, identity, social status, appearance, etc. of these people did not matter – the important thing was that they were all on the WELL together to build a community and help one another. WELLs help us to better understand this generation’s inherent need for social interaction and a sense of community online.

We see this now in online RPGs. These games, played either on a gaming system or a computer, are far more advanced than the early MUDs, but employ the same principles. Each RPG caters to a specific audience, but everyone is welcome. Players create characters, which can be as much like them or unlike them as they please, and interact with the other characters on the game. Some games (like the Sims, Habbo Hotel, Club Penguin) are completely for social interaction and little games and competitions. Other RPGs, like DC Universe Online, Star Wars Galaxies and World of Warcraft, require users to build alliances, battle enemies and work together as a team in order to “level up”. The great thing about these games is that anyone can play, no matter their age, race, gender, disability, social status, etc. No one on the game is there to judge anyone; they are there to play and make friends. The anonymity of characters using these online services is just one way that gender, diversity and identity manifest online.

(Check out how Ozzy Osbourne chooses to portray his identity on the popular online RPG World of Warcraft in this commercial.)

Social media is another way that people can hide behind a screen to take on a new identity. Users can log in to an anonymous social media accounts on Tumblr or Twitter and be anyone they want to be. Anonymous accounts can sometimes become more popular or followed than the users’ personal account; this can lead to a false sense of confidence of popularity. For as many people that praise “SonOfFratter”, many people think anonymous accounts are straight up lame. No matter your take on “anons”, it’s interesting that social media is another outlet for gender and identity to manifest online.

“Anons” – cool reinventions of one’s self, or totally lame? I guess it depends on who you talk to. Some anonymous Twitter and Tumblr accounts gain a cult-like following.

Cyberculture goes beyond identity on the internet; it also refers to the diversity of people who are actually working in and engaging with digital media. According to USA Today, Apple, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and eBay reports show that “seven of the tech sector’s largest companies are largely white and male. Apple has slightly more Hispanics and blacks, probably due to greater diversity at its retail stores.” We also see a large number of Asian employees at these companies.

Do these results surprise you? Photo by
Photo by

The low numbers of women in tech are surprising, considering Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper were two females who made significant contributions to digital programming. So what gives? Why are women grossly underrepresented in tech companies?

The names Gates, Page, Jobs, and Zuckerberg are just a few of the most recognizable in tech, and they all belong to men in the industry. But two other names are just as recognized, at least to anyone who has a pretty good understanding of media and pop culture: Mayer and Sandberg. Mayer, as we learned in Business Insider’s unofficial biography of one of the most powerful women in tech, was described by many as “painfully shy” and even “awkward”, noting that when working in groups, she did the job and left promptly when the work was through. But even with a shy personality, she is a powerhouse – she guides teams with ease, operates on very little sleep, and knows more about tech than lots of men; the former Google employee even beat out Yahoo’s interim CEO Ross Levinsohn for the company’s open CEO position.

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer’s success proves that you don’t have to be a man to thrive in the tech world. Photo by Fortune Live Media.

And Sandberg of Facebook is another female force to be reckoned with. In a TedTalk, she offered three solutions for combatting the lack of female representation in tech leadership:

First, she said, women need to “sit at the table.” She said that fifty-seven per cent of men entering the workforce negotiate their salaries, but that only seven per cent of women do likewise. Second, at home, “make sure your partner is a real partner.” On average, she said, women do two-thirds of the housework and three-fourths of the child care. And, finally, “don’t leave before you leave.” When a woman starts thinking of having children, “she doesn’t raise her hand anymore. . . . She starts leaning back.” In other words, if women don’t get the job they want before they take a break to have children, they often don’t come back.”

Sandberg gives her famous TedTalk in which she urges women to “lean in”. Photo from

Women aren’t the only ones that have limited contribution to tech companies’ diversity; African Americans, Hispanics and other racial minorities are also underrepresented. USAToday tells us that “with the technology sector fueling the U.S. economy, the low rate of participation in high tech also threatens to drive up the unemployment rate for blacks and Hispanics, which is already three times the national average. Computer science jobs are the fastest growing and command the highest salaries. Yet just one in 14 technical employees in Silicon Valley is black or Hispanic.”

Google and Facebook say they are “increasing investments in education and outreach to draft more young people into the technology field, especially those who must overcome disadvantages such as poverty, troubled neighborhoods and low-performing schools,” according to USA Today. And I think all companies should be doing this. Groups who know that they are underrepresented in a company may feel that they are unwelcome, or not valued. It’s the tech companies’ responsilibity to show members of these groups that they can offer just as much value as any other candidate, no matter their race or gender.

Code 2040, or “The Future of Tech”, is also making efforts to make sure underrepresented groups are aware of the opportunities they can capitalize on in the tech world. Check out their mission statement:

“CODE2040 is a nonprofit organization that creates pathways to educational, professional, and entrepreneurial success in technology for underrepresented minorities with a specific focus on Blacks and Latino/as. CODE2040 aims to close the achievement, skills, and wealth gaps in the United States. Our goal is to ensure that by the year 2040 – when the US will be majority-minority – Blacks and Latino/as are proportionally represented in America’s innovation economy as technologists, investors, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs.”

Code 2040 is paving the way for better representation of young Black and Latino/a techies and engineers in tech companies. Photo by YoungAndCEO.
Education also plays a big part in tech career recruiting. It’s important for colleges and universities to promote diversity in the enrollment of journalism and mass communication programs by reaching out to all groups. Creating specific academic organizations for these minority groups, or supporting such groups in the community (like the NAHJ and Women Who Code), will promote diversity in these fields.

What are your thoughts on gender, diversity and identity in the world of digital media? Will more stand out women like Mayer and Sandberg rise to the top of tech? Will Code 2040 achieve its mission by the deadline? Leave your thoughts below!

Social Media: The Kings, The Competition, and The Future — June 12, 2015

Social Media: The Kings, The Competition, and The Future

Chances are, if you’re a living, breathing person with access to a smartphone or the Internet, you probably have some kind of social media profile. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube…the list goes on and on. These social networking opportunities have revolutionized the way we connect with one another, consume information (whether news, entertainment or personal), and the way businesses attempt to reach new audiences, just to name a few.

If you asked people to name their top three favorite or most-used social networking sites, Facebook would probably top everyone’s list. And rightly so; it allows people to post information about themselves, join groups of like-minded individuals, follow celebrities or large companies, catch up on news, share pictures, videos and links, re-connect with old friends, and chat in real time. Zuckerberg hit the nail on the head when he came up with the idea of Facebook; now, “friending/unfriending” someone is commonly recognized terminology, and it’s not at all rare to hear “Find me on Facebook” or “I saw that on Facebook”.

The term “unfriending” would not have made sense 10 years ago. Now, everybody knows what you mean when you say it. Photo by MegGoRun.

So Facebook is king, right? Nobody can touch it…or can they? TechTimes tells us that Facebook is “losing its teen audience…now it’s just old people socializing.” Facebook is a handy tool for staying in touch with people you don’t see on a daily basis, but it can also be very annoying. Between the slough of cat and baby photos, pretentious posts, sponsored ads that don’t interest us, fake “1 Share = $1” photos of sick kids, people selling stuff – the list goes on – it’s no wonder Facebook is starting to lose its touch.

For those of us who have been using social media awhile, it would appear that Twitter is Facebook’s biggest competitor. But a new survey conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates tells us that’s just not the case: “Magid’s 2014 Social Media Study, polled 1,934 social media users between the ages 13 through 64. Results reveal two competing social network tools, Snapchat and Instagram, are enjoying “explosive growth” and likely at the expense of Facebook and Twitter.”

TechCrunch agrees that Snapchat is a force to be reckoned with in the world of social media. Snapchat is the platform for posting and sending quickly-disappearing photos to friends. Snapchat users can also follow the “stories”, or daily posts of their friends or favorite brands/celebrities, view news updates on the “Discover” tab, and enhance their photos with filters and text. Facebook “missed the boat” on buying Snapchat, and according to the article, Facebook’s attempts to duplicate this new social media platform have “failed miserably.”

The article also tells us that Snapchat’s Stories feature “has grown into a competitor to Facebook’s News Feed”. Why scroll through your news feed, – trying to filter out all the garbage – to find your news, when you could view short, to-the-point clips from trusted news sources? When it comes to Facebook’s competitors, Snapchat is at the top of the list.

Most young people don’t take the time to read long news articles on the Internet, and many feel Facebook is just a place for social interaction – not a bunch of news. To cater to these folks, Snapchat introduced “Discover”, for news organizations to share quick photos and videos to quickly capture attention. Discover is now one of Facebook’s news feeds’ biggest competitors. Photo by

Now, Facebook’s other competitor, according to the Magid Survey, was Instagram. Granted, Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012. But Instagram users are not required to have a Facebook account in order to use the platform. And many don’t. Scrolling through photos of only the things you want to see is much easier than trying to filter through all the things you don’t. In addition to being a tech-savvy generation, we are also extremely visual people. We would much rather see a picture of someone’s vacation than read their long, snobby post about it.

Filter your photos, follow only the people, celebrities or organizations you want, and share your creations in quick, digestible images on Instagram! We are visual people – that’s why Instagram, too, is a big competitor for Facebook…and Facebook owns it! Photo by

Facebook isn’t the only digital media superpower that’s struggling with competition. My last post highlighted Google’s main competitors, but just as a refresher, Google’s Eric Schmidt explained that his company’s biggest search competitor is People use Google to search for everything, but they usually take to Amazon to search for things they want to buy, rather than going through Google first.

As we move further into the future, many digital media researchers and enthusiasts beg the question: What’s next for social media? Who will dethrone the superpowers? What do we need that we don’t have already? Honestly, I have no idea.

Will social networks that are specifically designed to meet the social needs of wearable users, as suggested by Piera Gelardi of Refinery 29, emerge? Doubtful. Not everybody is hopping on the smartwatch wagon. You remember what happened with Google glass, right? It wasn’t pretty. Others (like Sarah Green, from the Harvard Business Review) suggest that keyboards and touch screens may become a thing of the past for social media – and voice control will take over.

Some media geeks predict the future of social media will exhibit a rise of live streaming social applications like Meerkat and Periscope. Personally, I don’t use them, but I agree that they could be very useful tools a variety of people and groups – educators (giving a lecture remotely, answering questions online), speakers (live streaming could trump calling in via Skype), news organizations, citizen journalists…heck, everyday citizens could use it to make a big announcements, like career decisions, pregnancy, you name it.

Livestreaming events with applications like Meerkat and Periscope – is this the future of social media? Photo by

Is video streaming for everybody? Doubtful. I doubt old people are going to hop on board. And I definitely don’t want to tune in to my little cousin’s “vlog”. But who knows? Only time will tell if live streaming is the future of social media.

What do you think? What will be the “next big thing”? Leave your predictions below!

Browsers and Search —

Browsers and Search

When you need to look up a quick fact, when that actor’s name is on the tip of your tongue, when you need to know the lyrics to the song on the radio…you Google it. Gone are the days of using Yahoo and AskJeeves (Okay, I’m dating myself here). And have you ever heard a friend say, “I don’t know, just ‘Bing’ it.”? No, you haven’t. And if you have…you need to find some new friends. Or stop hanging out with your grandparents so much.

Image result for just google it

Google is a neat little thing. You can look up anything and everything using this handy search engine. But you aren’t being charged, even a small amount, when you use Google. So how in the world does this company make money? The answer is Googlenomics.

Google’s business idea, “AdWords”, is its unique way of selling online advertising. Wired’s Secret of Googlenomics article tells us that AdWords “analyzes every Google search to determine which advertisers get each of up to 11 “sponsored links” on every results page”. It’s the world’s “biggest, fastest auction”. Say you searched “health food stores, Fort Worth”. Companies that are related to ‘health’, ‘food’, and ‘Fort Worth’, and sometimes completely unrelated companies, bid big bucks to make it to the top of each Google Search. This “auction” happens each time someone searches, and yielded $21 million in revenue last year alone.

Image result for hal varian speaking
Chief Economist Hal Varian explains Googlenomics. Photo by

Aside from just running, Google has its own browser, Chrome, which is the most used in America, and one of the fastest operating browsers. It also owns Android, Motorola and YouTube, and operates its own social network (Google+…a social network for Google employees and nobody else, if we’re being honest), an online communicator (Google Hangouts), an email service (Gmail) and mapping system (Google Maps), just to name a few.

So who are Google’s competitors? This article, which was written in 2012, pegged Chrome as the top web browser market share in the revisited “browser war”. And w3schools publishes an annual list of the most popular web browsers, with Chrome earning the top spot every year since 2012 – by a long shot. Check out this year’s stats:

googlestatsLooking at the numbers, Google’s competitors – Microsoft (IE), Mozilla (Firefox), Apple (Safari) and Opera – just can’t stack up against this powerful company.

Is Google’s business model a good model for competitors to adopt? Sure. Will it be as effective? Probably not. Google has established its role as king of the market, and another company would have to do something extravagant, something the brilliant minds at Google haven’t thought of, in order to attract the masses. Google’s also grown a huge following, a following that would be very hesitant to switch their loyalty to another company.

Now let’s talk about SEO, or search engine optimization. With such an influx of information on the Internet, with new information being added every second, it’s very difficult to boost your content to the top of search results. And as HowStuffWorks tells us, if you’re using the Web as a way to make money, it’s crucial that your site gets traffic. To improve a page’s position on a search engine results page, one has to understand how search engines actually work: using keywords, or buzz words that are relevant to the topic.

Here are a few tips for keyword placement, offered by, in order to reach the top of the list. They use the example of “skydiving”.

  • One place you should definitely include keywords is in the title of your Web page. You might want to choose something like “Skydiving 101” or “The Art of Skydiving.”
  • Another good place to use keywords is in headers. If your page has several sections, consider using header tags and include important keywords in them. In our example, headers might include “Skydiving Equipment” or “Skydiving Classes.”
  • Most SEO experts recommend that you use important keywords throughout the Web page, particularly at the top, but it’s possible to overuse keywords. Your skydiving site would obviously use the word “skydiving” as a keyword, but it might also include other keywords like “base jumping” or “parachute.” If you use a keyword too many times, some search engine spiders will flag your page as spam.

What does the future look like for SEO? In an article by, “search industry veterans” gave their two cents. Some of their predictions include SEOS “employing more paid and non-paid amplification to help their content reach wider audiences” (Rand Fishkin), the growth of mobile searches will “start driving the user interface of the search engine results pages” and voice search/natural language will “continue to expand rapidly” (Eric Enge), and the rise in popularity of the delegation (or even creation) of a whole SEO department within companies (Bill Slawski).

Which browser do you prefer? What do you think will happen in the future for SEO? Do you use certain keywords when boosting your own sites, and are they effective? And do you know anyone who says “Bing it”? Cuz seriously, I want to meet them. Leave your comments below! Until we meet again…

Digital Media Research and Interactivity — June 10, 2015

Digital Media Research and Interactivity

For today’s post, the digital media issues to be discussed are the challenges and opportunities associated with digital media research, as well as the definition of interactivity. Unlike scientific research, mass media research is, in my opinion, a little more difficult to conduct, as it requires studying more vague concepts such as behavior, concepts and intangible ideas.

David Karpf, the author of the scholarly research paper “Social Science Research Methods in Internet Time” explains that there are essentially three main challenges associated with social science research in ‘Internet Time’.

1. “The rate at which the Internet is both diffusing through society and developing new capacities is unprecented.” It can be difficult to research digital media when it changes so quickly, as new technologies rise to the top and replace old ones in the blink of an eye. The author tells us that standard practices within the social sciences are “not well suited to such a rapidly changing media”.

This simple graph shows the link between the rate of internet change and rates of organizations’ ability to adapt – or researchers to keep up. Photo by

2. “Many of our most robust research methods are based upon ceteris paribus assumptions that do not hold in the online environment.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what the hell ‘ceteris paribus’ meant – apparently it means “with other things the same” or “all else equal”. Basically, the author means that, much like the first challenge described, the rate of online change “narrows the range of questions that can be answered using traditional tools”, like “old media”, or tried-and-true but outdated communication research methods.

3. “New research methods are untested and often rely upon data sources that are incomplete and systematically flawed.” Think about how much information is available on the Internet. Now think about how much false or misrepresented information is available on the Internet. If you rely on the Internet for part of your research, unless you do some very careful (possibly impossible) fact checking, you can end up with skewed results and inaccurate data in your research.

This way of thinking is the kiss of death when conducting research without proper fact-checking of sources. Photo by

The Norwegian scholars Helle Sjovaag and Eirik Stavelin discussed related research challenges, more specific to measuring news content on the Web. Through a content analysis of the online news output of a broadcasting corporation in their home country, the researchers found that a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring news content simply would not work. They opined that research should be tailored medium-specifically, as methods used for measuring broadcast news would not work in measuring online news. In order to better assist those who wish to quantitatively analyze online news, the authors offer nine suggestions, some of which include operationalizing research questions or hypotheses, running a pilot study, and continuously reviewing the codebook they designed for the research.

Rather than highlighting the issues withs digital media research, scholars Tomasello, Lee and Baer chose to present their findings on the opportunities of such research. In their paper “‘New media’ research publication trends and outlets in communication, 1990-2006“, the researchers mention that media-oriented journals publish approximately half of all new media articles – this generates publicity and exposure for research topics of importance to the digital media community – and that a core set of 14 communication-related journals currently publishes new media research. Because these publications regularly publish new research, information stays relevant and up-to-date in this rapidly changing online environment.

Switching gears, let’s talk about interactivity. When I think about “interactivity”, lots of things come to mind: virtual reality, in which people engage in a virtual representation of a real-life (or near real-life) experience; a hands-on exhibit at a science museum that calls for children to interact with the content on screens in order to learn; or even, simply put, a presentation in which the presenter asks attendees to engage with the content, whether it be by initiating a conversation or conducting an activity.

This photo is a great representation of interactivity. As the speaker gives a presentation, the child (and others in attendance) can learn and experience the content through hands-on activities and digital displays. Photo by

In digital media, interactivity is defined a little bit differently. In his research paper “Interactivity: a concept explication“, author Spiro Kiousis substitutes the word “interactivity” with the word “convergence”. As far as definitions go, convergence is a pretty good descriptor of the idea of interactivity. Although the concept interactivity lacks theoretical consensus, most scholars agree with Rafaeli’s definition of the term: an expression of the extent that in a given series of communication exchanges, any third (or later) transmission (or message) is related to the degree to which previous exchanges referred to even earlier transmissions. In short, interactivity is “interconnected relationships among exchanged messages”. (Thanks, Spiro – that Rafaeli definition was way too hard for me to understand!)

If I had to design a research study to test interactivity, I would probably relate the research to digital media convergence as used in the classroom. I would do qualitative research on students’ perceptions of interactive content used in lectures and presentations; does it supplement or distract them from the material being presented? Then, quantitative research methods would be used to measure things like attention span, student participation, and quiz/test scores.