John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Is Digital Media eroding away at our cultural values?

        "Radical changes of identity, happening suddenly and in very brief intervals of time, have proved more deadly and destructive of human values then wars fought with hardware weapons " (Laws of Media, Marshall and Eric Mcluhan, 97).  The authors concern is that not enough art (right hemisphere) and too much logic (left hemisphere) will erode our culture.  The author goes on to say that "new service environments of information has left whole populations without personal or community values."  I think main stream media has created a problem with people losing their culture, values and ideals.  For example, take some of the crappy t.v. shows that create a lot of drama and produce nothing of value.  I tried watching the show "Desperate Housewives" which for me was a very high drama show with nothing of value.  After watching one episode, I asked myself "wow, what was the point of this show and did anything come out of it?"  My answer was nothing and I have never watched it again.  This is just more enterainment and people look at it in this way with no discussions being had, just more noise surrounding the drama.  This is were the author makes a good point, of our society "eroding away" which can be directly realated to bad television programming.  Medawar sees motor accessories as an extenstion of ourselves and are there to enhance our lives by creating convience and lessening hardship. 

        Sensory objects, like the T.V. has a different effect on people which is nothing of an extension of a person but an object which can be used to entertain, educate, or be complete nonsense and a waste of time.  According to an online article, "The Good and Bad effects of TV on Your Kid", kids watching cartoons and entertainment television during pre-school years have poorer pre-reading skills at age 5 (Macbeth, 1996).  This is true if parents do not restrict and or monitor what their children watch.  The T.V. has a lot of subliminal messages to try and sell or convience people into different ideals and ways of thinking which may not be true.  This is why not only monitoring but having deeper discussions about media, especially digital media is critical.


        T.V., if used properly, can be a great tool for educating people and can help to preserve our cultural views and values.  Take for example The History Channel, which talks about historical events and shows the viewer what we have learned from history.  The history of World War II, talked about how the world mobilized against Germany, Italy, and Japan.  Then showed after the war how the world advanced in medicine, transportation and communication technologies.  This is one of the many great educational programs that The History Channel provides for people.  Science ficiton shows like Stargate SG-1 have a very interesting storyline and at the end of each show reveal a lesson that was learned.  Having these type of programs or well written T.V. series, can keep the cultural values alive and people educated.  Digital media, especially T.V., need to combine and promote more elements of quality enterainment like The History Channel and Stargate SG-1 type programs.

        As T.V. has started to go online (, Netflix, Youtube, etc.) it has given us more choices and freedom to watch the programs that are of interest to us.  So these new digital media platforms can provide everything that T.V. can provide and more which can help us preserve our values, culture and identity.  I believe that people can choose to watch and discuss digital media in a way that is fun yet constructive.  My girlfriend and I have cut out cable T.V. completely and watch only movies or Netflix programs that are worthwhile.  We then discuss the programs or movies that we are watching which opens up a lot of different discussions.  Last night, we watched the movie, The Rite and had a great discussion about exorcisims and the Catholic religion.  Another show we watched was Prison Break on Netflix which we discussed some of the believable and unbelievable events that happened on the show.  This is were I believe digital media can be an "extension of a person" in that what can be learned or taken away from a digital media experience is the key 
to preserving cultural values and intellectual inquiries.   It is not just about the experience but the overall feeling, development, inquiry and reasoning behind what we get out of digital media. 

Overuse of Social Media

        Common phrases heard are "follow us on Facebook" or "look for our tweets" which more businesses are starting to use.  The new social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are two great mediums which reach a lot of users.  The problem is that are people inundated with all of these new online social media tools it is hard to decide who to follow and on what platform.  The worst is on the news channels like CNN or Fox news.  I think the worst channel is CNN were you will hear follow us on twitter on almost every news cast on this station.  After a while you start to tune it out unless there is an added bonus for following a business on one of these platforms. 

        Win a chance to get $50 off our product or service when you "friend" and say you "like" us on Facebook.  These type of luring incentives will definitely help to weed out the bombardment of useless advertising people do on these social media sites.  Take for example people who use these sites to bombard people with useless information or people who want to follow or friend each other who don't even know the other person.  Again this seems like a waste of time and energy unless you are making some real connections or getting access to incentives like what some businesses are doing.  Some recruiters do say that social networking is a good place to get yourself out into the lime light if you are looking for a job or networking for business opportunities. 

        The other issue from the over use of these social networking platforms is communication.  I can't say that using these platforms is not communication because it is.  Someone I know a couple of months ago sent me a message on Facebook and then later in the month asked me why I did not respond to his Facebook message.  I did not see the message right away since I do not check my Facebook page all of the time.  More and more people are moving to social media platforms as a way of communication, which I think is a poor way to communicate.  Another communication issue is that people will stop communicating in person with certain people since they are in a conversation with a person online.  This is a new way of being impersonal and communicating which should be looked into carefully if people start using these platforms as their only method of communication with other people. 



Media and the Control of Government

        According to Habermas, The news media was influenced and controlled by governments or state authorities.  Take the quote "In order that the writer of the journal might know what sort of domestic decrees, arrangements, and other matters are suitable for the public, such are to be compiled weekly by the authorities and are to be forwarded to the editor of the journal." 
        Also, Habermas states that parliament even insisted on certain things not being published publicly about them.  From this example, we can see that trying to control the media has been an on going issue even though governments or states have tried to exercise control over the media (journals), the reporters of that particular time would always find a way around it even if reporting on the issue was deamed illegal.  I get that certain types of information would not want to get published and broadcasted out in the public domain.  Yet, the more a state or government tries to censor the media, the more media will continue to expand and grow. 

        Look at the election in Iran and how the iranian government shutdown local T.V. and radio broadcasts.  The only news coming out of Iran during the 2009 elections were the protesters on the street tweeting about what was going on inside Iran.  The tweets also started to go as far as criticizing CNN on their failure to report on the event.  I think Habermas saw the start of the media and journalists reporting on the affairs of the state then the state trying to control the reports, but I don't think he saw how the media would start to be goverened by other people in the public reporting on the same event. 
        The explosion of the internet caused a shift of power that now the public and private spheres are collapsed into one which the government can try to influence but cannot control.  The tables have turned were now the media controls the government and the government has less control or influence on the media.  A mediaocracy has been created, which is maintaining control over a nation by utilizing the media, usually perpetrated under the guise of  "Freedom of Speech".  Habermas points to this stating that the state authority is public and has to address public issues.  What is not mentioned is now the state authority or government of a nation now reacts to the public (since the private sphere is now public) outcries which are initiated by the media who controls the state authority through different mediums.

First Week Assignment, mental laziness and information overload

          One issue I see in the readings and video is that people are overwhelmed with information.  This allows people to become out of touch with themselves, other people and allow their minds to become lazy.

        For example, Socrates would not write anything down since he existed in an oral culture who saw writing as a new technology.  The only way we were able to get access to his works was through his students who wrote down his oral presentations.  Plato's Socrates states that writing destroys memory and that someone who uses writing will become forgetful.  He saw writing as a new form of technology which distracted and disconnected people.  He felt that oral presentations were the way that people could truly express themselves and authentically connect with other people. 

        In today's world we are relying more on technology to think or process information for us instead of thinking for ourselves.  We are so overloaded with information we do not really connect or think about things or people, instead we just react.  For example, we have our cell phones or mobile devices with us and on all the time.  When our phones ring or buzz we feel obliagated to answer them.  Then when our technology breaks or we forget our technology (leave our cell phone at home), we fell naked and lost.  The same is true when communicating with people or trying to do a math calculation in our head.  Instead of trying to do the math calculation in our head, we pull out our cell phone and use the built in calculator to solve the problem.  This eliminates errors and increases accuracy but also makes us dependent on a device to solve a problem for us.

        In the realm of communication, we have gone from talking to people on the phone to having the phone communicate or talk to people for us.  This can be seen as people being lazy or covert when wanting to communicate as seen when people use text messaging.  A couple of days ago, I was on a conference call and asked someone on the call to call another person who was not on the call.  Instead of calling the individual they sent a text message to the person which did not have the same impact of dialing the other persons number to have them be on the call.  This is easier to do but makes us evasive and lazy not wanting to use our mental energy to engage in a conversation with another human being.

        This is the same point that Plato's Socrates was talking about in that writing (texting) weakens the mind and that those who use writing will become forgetful.  Forgetful to the point of people using text messaging as a means of thinking they have reached out and commuincated to another person.  Instead, when a text message is sent, it is one phone transmitting data to another phone.  It is up to the other person to respond back to the other phones text message so in reality people are just communicating to devices instead of live people.

        Linda Stone makes some great points about how we are moving into a different era.  She argues that we are now moving from the information overload era to the quality of life era, and using technology to create a better quality of life.  She also sees that people are seeking filters and time away from technology to allow people to become more productive thinkers and users of technology.
The wisdom age is were she says we are heading, using technology to seek wisdom and propel ourselves into a search for knowledge.  We are being selective with processing information by using filters and other activities to give us a break so we can become greater information or data workers. (yoga, exercise, blocks of time breaks, etc.).

        I agree with Linda which is we need to take a break from our technology to have a good quality of life and be fully productive in society.  I especially see this in cell phones since they are with us all of the time and are becoming more like a computer then a phone.   I have seen people at malls walking around as they are looking at their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings.  Retail stores are now making us more dependant on our phones by partnering with Facebook, so when we are at a mall shopping for a particualr product, the store will send a special discount ad to our Facebook page when we are physically near the store.  Another example of this is Laduni's restraunt at NorthPark Mall were they will text you on your cell phone when your table is ready.  Technology, especially mobile technology has become so engrained in our daily lives that it is hard to get away from it or put it down.  I think people need to follow Linda's advice in order to have a great quality of life!

How digital technology has changed U.S. politics and the workplace

    It is interesting how digital media influences politics and the work force.  Take for example the waitress in Charlotte North Carolina who was fired for posting a distasful topic about how a couple stayed at her table for 3 hours and left a $5 tip.  After the owners of the company saw this post on Facebook, they later called her in a fired her for violating company policies against speaking ill of customers and depicting the restaurant negatively on social networking sites.  The other example is the shooting of the Arizona governor and how the media has turned this tragedy into a political free for all.  Lead journalists and bloggers stated that Palin’s gun-target map is to blame for the shooting of the Arizona Governor. 

    Others, suggest the shooting is being gamed by Democrats, and perhaps a plot by extreme ‘left’ politicos.  So if it wasn't for Facebook would the waitress of still kept her job?  If the media was limited to only a certain number of broadcasting platforms, would the tragedy in Arizona be honored?  Is the mass media now the judge, jury and executioner? 

    I think it is funny how social media sites were intended to share and transmit information to people.  Facebook was a vision by Mark Zuckerberg who wanted people to make connections and share their lives with other people online.  Not to be used as a big brother tool by employers who could fire or not higher a person over a Facebook post.  Now what the waitress did in North Carolina I agree was stupid but we have employers using social media sites to decided whether they will hire someone based on what they have on their social media sites.  Where do we draw the line when it comes to this type of monitoring of people's behavior?  Or allowing the left and right wing politicians start basing each other over the shooting of a state governor? 

    The upside to the Arizona incident is how people have united and blasted back stating how ridicoulous the left and right wing extremists are using this tragic incident as a political bassing opportunity.  The problem is the damage is already done and it will take some good PR for the two parties to come back in favor in the public eye.  This happened with Dell when a customer got upset about how they received a defective laptop and poor customer service when they tried to return it.  They posted their complaint online in a forum where other people started sharing their own horror stories about Dell.  Dell quickly responded by developing their own forum and started to address these customer complaints.  I think this should be the same style for anything policital were people can turn the bull horn around and make the people in politics responsible for their actions.

Blown to Bits, Social Networking and Online Predators

    The book talks about social networking and online predators (pages 16 and 229) which brings up an interesting point.  Do we create ridiculous laws and try to enforce them in hopes of protecting children? 

    One of these laws is the Deleting Online Privacy Act (DOPA) which would require certain institutions to prevent children from using on-location computers to access chat rooms and social networking web sites without adult supervision.  Of course this Act has meet with alot of opposition and really misses the point of the whole issue.  There is no way to stop children from going to social networking sites, especially if all of their friends are going to these places.  No matter what type of filtering or monitoring device is implemented, children will find a way around it. 

    Especially since the children of today know more about computers and how to access digital information then most parents.  Even the American Library Associaton stated in an opposition statement to the DOPA act that education is needed over regulation.  Partly true except that technology, education, and regulation will not stop someone if they want something bad enough.  The best way to prevent children from becoming victims to online predators or per pressure is to concentrate on morals and values.  Simple principles like "if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all" or "don't hang out with the wrong crowd".  Also, spending quality time and showing kids what the consequences are if they do the wrong thing is the other part to this complex issue. 
    I think people are so busy nowadays that they do not carve out enough time to see what their children are up to in life.  Instead we try to use and rely on the justice system to raise our children.  I believe there should be a mandate that everyone attends an online or in classroom simulation that would allow both parents and children the opportunity to explore the consequences of doing the wrong thing in an online community or environment.  It could be a requirement like taking a driving test before getting a drivers license.  You could have both the parents and the children take this course before they can operate a computer. 

    The person's internet service provider could have a manadate of needing proof of passing such a class before allowing a parent or child online access.  If people do not want to go to this extreme then it is simple, parents need to take the time to teach their kids values and then have their children apply these values when they are online.