November 2008


This is my first experience in blogging. So far, though, the learning process has been very smooth. For this, I must thank the user-friendly features of weblogs, which makes communication so easy here.

Having finally posted a few long posts in the blogosphere, I no longer doubt that the marginal voices could finally find a haven in here. Weblog’s multimodal environment is truly a great asset to a communicative medium. When pictures and texts are able to work together, communication has always been easier (Schriver 1997).

Just as I would refrain from using offensive and defamatory statements in public, the pulpit that my weblog has afforded me has obligated me to be even more discreet and cautious now. My stand as a blogger is to be as fair as possible, by getting information accurate and treating my subjects indiscriminately (Tanner et al. 2005).

References:

Schriver, KA 1997, The interplay of words and pictures, Dynamics in document design: creating texts for readers, Wiley Computer Pub, New York, pp. 361-441.

Tanner, S, Philips, G, Smyth, C & Tapsall, S, Journalism ethics at work, Pearson Edu, Australia.

Our internet-dependant idiosyncrasy always places us in a very awkward dilemma. While we often hesitate over the question of whether trust or not to trust certain websites, the temptation they offer are so great that we sometimes have to give up our vigilance.

Just recently, ABC’s Media Report (2008) has raised concerns about the credibility of certain websites, which give us access to information we need, but in the process, collect our data for usages not readily known to us.

Google Search Ads

Google Search Ads (Bgtheory 2008)
Google Search Ads (Bgtheory 2008)

We need not venture far to see how the data is being used against us; all you need is doing a quick search with the famous Google search engine, and you will see a list of relevant advertisements that appear just beside the results of your search. Now, do you feel that your privacy rights have been threatened? According to Latanya Sweetney (2002), “privacy reflects the ability of a person, organisation, government, or entity to control its own space, where the concept of space takes on different contexts,” including cyberspace.

Do you not feel betrayed that your move in the cyberspace is being monitored and constantly reacted to? Perhaps not; because we have known this to be a trade-off of our ‘free’ meal, and this is but one means for Google to sustain its operation, so that it can continue its great service for us (Sullivan 2006). But of course, besides our self-content, there is also an underlying trust in big conglomerates like Google that they understand the tacit rules of this fair trade.

Facebook

Profile of a Facebook member (Seomoz.org 2008)

Profile of a Facebook member (Seomoz.org 2008)

Yet, that is not always the case. Facebook, a widely-used, well-known, and supposedly trustable, advertising-supported site, has been surrounded by controversies over invasion of privacy over the years. It provides social-networking service which allows it users to share their (often personal) information with others users, but on the condition that it can store and archive the information its users submitted online, even after they have been removed by the owners (Facebook’s Privacy Policy 2008). This poses another problem to users who regret having published certain information and want them to be effaced permanently.

However, the users, who are too tempted to share in the community, often reveal too much information in and update too frequently their profiles (Jones & Soltren 2005). To escalate the problem, most users are also oblivious to the privacy policy set up by Facebook which states clearly that it has the right to disclose user’s information to third parties (Jones & Soltren 2005). These then constitute a silent, rich mine for advertisers, and through the help of Facebook, they can direct relevant advertisements to the users by their demographics.

Being a profit-driven company, Facebook was not at all content with its achievement, and had resolved to broaden the scope of information it could gather from its users. Last year, it introduced another advertising feature, “Beacon”, which told users what their friends were buying online (Rose 2007). Though, Facebook publicly said it would not collect this type of information without permit, it had been proven guilty but still this feature remains (Perez 2007).

Until a time when there is truly such thing as ethical labelling for website, I dread, we still have to wallow in the same dilemma.

References:

Facebook’s Privacy Policy 2008. Viewed 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.facebook.com/policy.php?ref=pf

ABC’s Media Report, ‘Ethical labelling and the web’, 6 November. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/mediareport/stories/2008/2409990.htm

Jones, H & Soltren, JH 2005, ‘Facebook: threats to privacy’. Viewed 12 November, 2008, from

http://72.14.235.132/search?q=cache:TkC2JUcxbPEJ:groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/classes/6.805/student-papers/fall05-papers/facebook.pdf+%22facebook:+threats+to+privacy%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=my&client=firefox-a

Perez, JC 2007, ‘Facebook’s beacon more instrusive than previously thought’, PCWorld, 1 December. Retrieved, 12 November, from

http://www.pcworld.com/article/140182/facebooks_beacon_more_intrusive_than_previously_thought.html

Sullivan, R 2006, ‘How google makes money?’, Enquiro, 24 Febuary. Retrieved, 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.enquiro.com/marketing-monitor/how-Google-makes-money.asp

Rose, I 2007, ‘Facehooked’, BBC, 20 December. Retrieved, 12 November, from

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7151690.stm

 

 

Music has been an integral part of our lives. Apart from entertainment, the music that we use and consume is also a great self-promotional tool. For instance, Andersson & Rosenqvist (2006, p. 98) observe that, especially in young consumers, using music as ringtone to express individualism has become a current trend, and this is also reflected by their perceived need to keep their ringtone up-to-date.

New means of consumption

Before the advent of Internet, obtaining music used to be very difficult. This is because of three reasons: inaccessibility, inflexibility and high cost. However, ever since the new genres came into our lives, these have not been an issue anymore.

Goggin (2006, p. 316) defines the new genres as “a suite of digital communications technologies that are variously mobile and/or multimedia and/or networked”. Furthermore, Bryant & Tompson (2002, p. 367) note that content in these new genres are extremely flexible as they can easily convert into other formats and merge with other genres with a very low storage requirement.

In terms of accessing to music, it means that we no longer need to carry our CD player everywhere, because our music in a digital format can almost be played in any genre, from our cell phones, iPod, to laptop. Also, free music nowadays is available to us in abundance on the Internet that most of us no longer travel to music shops to obtain music. However, this also means most people who obtain music through Internet often opt to illegal downloading and file-sharing than purchasing them through some legal music service providers.

As Gorard et al. (2005, p. 6) state, Internet has now become a means of production and consumption, it is of little surprise that Napster has decided to launch a new online music store (‘Napster launches MP3 music store’ 2008). It is said to be an effort to combat illegal downloading activities that have threatened the revenues of many music companies.

Copyright

Copyright (Wikimedia 2008)

Copyright (Wikimedia 2008)

But as far as Copyright law is concerned, the purpose of such law is to “safeguard creators and other producers of intellectual goods and services by granting them certain time-limited rights to control the use made of their productions” (Garcia 2005). People who infringe the Copyright law by procuring and using others’ intellectual goods (such as music) without permission from the creators have no respect for the hard work others invest in the creation of these intellectual goods.

Digital Right Management (DRM)

To amplify its effort, this time Napster has offered to eliminate the Digital Right Management (DRM) which was originally intended to grant owners greater control over the distribution of their creations (Consumer’s guide to Digital Right Management n.d.). But the removal of this means that buyers can enjoy more flexibility in transferring the music they purchase from Napster from one genre to another, making full use of the new technology.

As more and more music lovers have chosen to obtain music through the straight way (‘Music fans back legal downloads’ 2008), I would say, this is a lauded compromise from the music industry.

References:

Andersson, P & Rosenqvist, C 2006, ‘Mobile music, customer value, and changing market needs’, International Journal on Media Management, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 92-130.

Bryant, J & Thompson, S 2002, Fundamentals of Media Effects, McGraw-Hill, New York.

Consumer’s guide to Digital Right Management n.d, Indicare. Viewed 13 November, 2008, from

http://www.indicare.org/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=195

Garcia, R 2005, A semantic web approach to Digital Right Management. Viewed 13 November, 2008, from

http://rhizomik.net/~roberto/thesis/

Goggin, G 2006, ‘The internet, online and mobile cultures’ in Cunningham, S & Turner, G 2006, The Media & Communications in Australia, Southwood Press, Sydney.

Gorard, S, Selwyn, N & Furlong, J 2005, ‘Whose Internet is it anyway?: exploring adults’ (non)use of the Internet in everyday life’, European Journal of Communication, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 5-26.

‘Music fans back legal downloads’ 2008, BBC, 12 October. Retrieved 13 November, 2008, from

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7664088.stm

‘Napster launches MP3 music store’ 2008, BBC, 20 May. Retrieved 13 November, 2008, from

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7409865.stm

“Although in civil society man surrenders some of the advantages that belong to the state of nature, he gains in return far greater ones.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

It is not by chance that journalists, broadcasters, media presenters and public figures are always subject to high public expectation, decent demeanours and ethical codes. For these are the people, whose words, acts and images, make up part of the daily consumption of other people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds and cultivation of different (quite possibly conflicting) ideologies. So that, if they cross beyond the ethical line, make provocative speech and gesture, and lure people out of their comfort zone, odds are certain people will react angrily to it, bringing threat to national security—at least, this has been the pretext given to sustain the rightful use of Internal Security Act (ISA) in Malaysia.

Jon Gaunt, “The voice of ordinary folk”

Jon Gaunt (The Independent 2008)

Jon Gaunt (The Independent 2008)

However, some people apparently do not buy into this kind of reasoning. Jon Gaunt, a TalkSport presenter, is one such example. Plunkett (2008) reports that Gaunt has, in a radio show, called a London councillor a “Nazi” and an “ignorant pig”.

The many complaints that TalkSport radio received clearly show that intertextuality is at work here. Intertextuality happens when “audiences try to make sense of the signal by references to its relation to other texts” (Schirato & Yell 1997, p. 110). The pre-requisite is, there must be a semiotic landscape, in which are stored the relevant requirements, histories and values of societies and cultures, that makes possible the sense-making process (Kress and van Leeuwen 2006, p. 35).

Nazi Parade (WII in Color 2008)

Nazi Parade (WII in Color 2008)

Similarly, the word “Nazi” would not have conveyed any meaning in this context, unless the audiences were like Gaunt, who knows the history of Nazis, the crimes they committed, their anti-Semitic views and Darwinistic expedient on child selection, so that they can borrow the relevant texts to help make sense of this word’s implication.

For people who know his background, they might be able to understand why Gaunt had reacted in such way over the councillor’s statement that defends the plan of banning smokers from fostering children. But to have carried it to that extent in a debate, Gaunt has betrayed his professional codes of ethics.

On the journalistic notion of fairness, Tanner et al. (2005) hold, “presenting information fairly can be a matter of language. The choice of particular words, or the tone of stories, can distort and be unfair.” This should apply in the context of debate as well. I am always of the belief that debate is a part of the process of seeking for clues to truth, and that the parties involved should always share a reciprocal notion that they are actually helping each other out. So why is the need for such personal attack?

But the irony is: we are talking about a man who has won the Sony Radio Academy Awards in the news broadcast category, who has five times confronted the Broadcasting Standards Commissions, and who dismisses journalistic ethics with “either say I’m the future of British radio or slag me off” (Brown & Deans 2001).

That said, I cannot help but to ask: What has happened to the media?

References:

Brown & Deans 2001, ‘Local Hero’, Guardian, 7 May. Retrieved, 12 November, from

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2001/may/07/mondaymediasection4

Kress, G 1997, Visual and verbal mode of representation in electronically mediated communication: the potential of new forms of text, Page to screen: taking literacy into electronic era, Allen & Unwin, St. Leornards, N.S.W, pp. 53-79.

Plunkett, J 2008, ‘TalkSport suspended Jon Gaunt for “Nazi” jibe’, Guardian, 11 November. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/nov/11/jon-gaunt-talksport

Schirato, T & Yell, S 1996, Framing context, Communication and cultural literacy: an introduction, Allen & Unwin, St. Leornards, N.S.W, pp. 90-117.

Tanner, S, Philips, G, Smyth, C & Tapsall, S, Journalism ethics at work, Pearson Edu, Australia.

New age brings new hope and opportunity.

True. Yet, among those that it offers, we often overlook that which is more definitive and which makes the prospect of new hope and opportunity possible: the uncertainty. The new technology, namely, the Internet certainly has unveiled a new chapter in our lives and societies. But in the pit of uncertainty that the elder generations have yet to uncover, are trapped the very curious young, tasting the first fruits of bitterness that the era of cyberspace yields.

Generation Z

Generation Z (Timeout Sdyney 2008)

Generation Z (Timeout Sdyney 2008)

Here, I am talking about the Generation Z, children, who are born from 1995 to the end of 2009 (GenerationZ 2008). These are people who “have never known a life without the Internet, let alone computers, and many don’t know a world without mobile phones” (Cornish, cited in Walliker 2008). These make them some of the first (probably right after Generation Y) to endure the negative effects of the new genres.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is one of them. It can simply be defined as “sending or posting harmful or cruel text or images using the internet or other digital communication devices’ (Willard 2004, cited in Li 2008, p. 158). This is noted to take place across many new communication genres, ranging from cell phone, email, to social networking websites, including Myspace and Facebook (Li 2008, p. 159; Benson 2008).

Cyber bullying (CityNews 2008)

Cyber bullying (CityNews 2008)

The Australian recently indicates that “up to 1 in 7 children is being bullied, harassed or abused online in a new trend called ‘fuming’”. What makes thing worse is that the Australian government has only just begun to tackling this issue, because of lack of understanding of the problem. In his very first attempt, Youth Minister Graham West has decided to use online forum (new genre) to find out more about the new genre issues, saying it is the only way to reach the victims.

Facebook and Myspace are not safe

Online Predator (GET Mail-gear 2008)

Online Predator (GET Mail-gear 2008)

As social networking websites are becoming more and more famous, the number of children registered to Facebook and Myspace has soared to a quarter of their age groups online (‘Q&A: Children and safer net use’ 2008). In these communities, where children are often tempted to reveal their personal information, children are even more vulnerable to intentional attacks, or worse, sexual abuse (Wlliams 2006). A relevant case, which I consider the worst so far, is about a 49-year-old woman who lured a 13-year-old girl into a virtual relationship under a fictitious identity. The woman then broke off the relationship by telling the little girl that the world would be better without her, resulting in the latter’s suicide (‘US “cyber-bully” mother indicated 2008).

However, many parties have already become aware of the issue and are ready to fight against it (please refer to Angwin 2007; Shiels 2008; Byron Review 2008). Ultimately, I believe, it is just a matter of time when this and other problems posed by uncertainty of the new age can be fully overcome.

References:

Angwin 2007, ‘Myspace moves to give parents more information’, The Wall Street Journal, 17 January. Retrieved, 13 November, 2008, from

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB116900733587978625-TzfakoF_hN6f6R45g_cLsm3OJZ0_20080116.html

Benson, S 2008, ‘Home cyber bully attack’, AustralianIT, 6 October. Retrieved 13 November, 2008, from

http://www.australianit.news.com.au/story/0,,24452313-15306,00.html

Byron Review 2008. Viewed 13 November, 2008, in

http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/byronreview/

Li, Q 2008, ‘Cyberbullying in schools: a research of gender differences’, School Psychology International, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 157-170.

‘Q&A: Children and safer net use’ 2008, BBC, 2 April. Retrieved 13 November, 2008, from

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7326246.stm

Shiels, M 2008, ‘Facebook agrees child safety plan’, BBC, 8 May. Retrieved 13 November, 2008, from

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7391170.stm

‘US “cyber-bully” mother indicated 2008, BBC, 16 May. Retrieved 13 November, 2008, from

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7403957.stm

Walliker, A 2008, ‘Get ready, here comes Generation Z’, News.com.au, 25 Febuary. Retrieved 13 November, 2008, from

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23270222-2,00.html

Williams, P 2006, ‘Myspace, Facebook attract online predators’, MSNBC.com, 3 Febuary. Retrieved 13 November, 2008, from

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11165576/#storyContinued

New form of media publishing

One trend in blogosphere that has fueled the popularity of blogging is a citizen-based form of journalism.

This is a rather prevalent trend in Malaysia. Due to media ownership problems and various restrictions from publication laws (such as Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Defamation Act 1957, Sedition Act 1948, Official Secret Act 1972, etc), some of the self-obliged citizens have resorted to using new media (including blogs) to publish the uncovered news stories.

These bloggers are seen actively involved in exposing misdeeds and corruption in the government. Now this might sound like a joke, but in actuality it is not. As Trippi (2004, cited in Allan 2006, p. 172) confides, “the little-known secret in newsrooms is that right now reporters are beginning every day by reading the blogs. They’re looking for the pulse of the people, for political fallout, for stories they might have missed.”

Yet, sometimes, in so doing, bloggers carry it insofar as resorting to name-calling, spreading unsubstantiated rumors, conspiracy theory (Cooper 2007). This has led to some serious debates on whether bloggers should be subjected to the traditional journalistic codes of ethics (Webb 2003). Others have even attempted in creating exclusive ethical codes for bloggers only (Kuhn 2007; A blogger’s code of ethics 2008).

Raja Petra inside poblic lock-up (The Star 2008)

Raja Petra inside poblic lock-up (The Star 2008)

Of course, not all bloggers are in the same line, and most who blog for such purposes are often working on an assumption that publishing online can afford them the impunity from the aforementioned publication laws and journalism ethics (‘Danger of misusing blogs’ 2008). But one has only to look at the recent detention of Raja Petra and Jeff Ooi’s trial to know that these laws and ethics still actually apply in the cyberspace (Puah 2008; ‘Malaysia blogger held for dissent’ 2008).

References:

‘A blogger’s code of ethics’ 2008, cyberjournalist.net. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/000215.php

Allan, S 2006, Online news, Open University Press, London.

Cooper, SD 2007, ‘A concise history of the fauxtography blogstorm in the 2006 Lebanon War’, American Communication Journal, vol. 9, no.2.

‘Danger of misusing blogs’ 2008, Sun2Surf, 12 November. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=16789

Kuhn, M 2007, ‘Interactivity and prioritizing the human: a code of blogging ethics’, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, vol. 22, no.1, pp. 18-36.

‘Malaysia blogger held for dissent’ 2008’, BBC. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7612666.stm

Puah, P 2008, ‘NST sues Jeff Ooi, Rocky for defamation’, Sun2Surf, 12 November. Retrieved 12 November 2008, from

http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=16857

Webb, CL 2003, ‘The great blogging ethics debate’, Washington Post, 9 April. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63407-2003Apr9.html

Designing for online vs. print

The natures of both online and print media have cultivated different habits of consumption in the audiences, and thus different expectations have been formed of the design in both media.

As Parker (2003, p. 270) contends, online reading is usually more exhausting, because of high foreground/background contrast caused by the projected light on the computer screen. Therefore, especially in arranging texts in a screen-based environment, designers should always treat them like visuals, making them look visually appealing and comforting (Bernhardt 1986). This can be done by grouping up related text, and carefully placing the texts so that they can generate a sense of balance (Parker 2003).

Youtube

Visually appealing layout (Youtube 2008)

Magazine layout (Design Firm 2008)

Magazine layout (Design Firm 2008)

This design approach is also supplemented by online media’s multimodality and hyperlinking feature (Walsh 2006, p. 30). Designers can cut down a lot of texts by supplementing or replacing them with appropriate images and video clips. As well, by linking audiences to different pages, a page can avoid having overflowing texts, and making reading an overly daunting task. For the same reason, designers should also avoid building a multicolumn layout, which is often used in magazine to save space. Just take a look at the two pictures above, and you will know what I mean.

However, as in the case of print media, providing information about the author in online media can boast trust and confidence in the audiences (Nielsen 2005).

References:

Bernhardt, SA 1986, ‘Seeing the text’, College composition and communication, vol. 37, no.1, pp. 66-78.

Nielsen, J 2005, Weblog usability: the top ten design mistakes. Retrieved 12 November, 2008, from

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/weblogs.html

Parker, RC 2003, ‘Designing document for web distribution’, Looking good in print, Paraglygh Press, Scottsdale.

Walsh, M 2006, ‘The textual shift: examining the reading process with print, visual, and multimodal text, Australian Journal of Languages and Literacy, vol. 29, no. 1, pp.24-37.

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