Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘media

While some might lament the “evils” of social media, I provide some balance by highlighting how much I learn from people I have only met online. 

The good of social media lies in its curation, not its algorithms. If only the armchair luddites that rant about social media would get that. 

I decided to give an episode in an OGS new series a chance. So I watched their fast-talking host wax on about social media. I am not watching any more videos from this series and here is why.

First, the host spoke so fast and indistinctly that I was thankful for the hardcoded subtitles. I hope that non-Singaporean viewers do not think that all of us talk that fast and swallow our words. I say that as one who talks fast but is acutely aware of non-local ears.

Video source

Second, the content was formulaic. Its key reference seemed to be Netflix’s The Social Dilemma. That “documentary” should raise red flags because it relied on the the tactic of fear-mongering to drive its point home. OGS applied that tactic in its title: Are You Letting Social Media Ruin Your Life?

But don’t take my word that The Social Dilemma was biased. Here is what Nir Eyal had to say:

What I had hoped to see in The Social Dilemma was a sober, evidenced-based dissection of these complex realities. I was disappointed when the film instead advanced a narrative that depicted social media, YouTube, Google, and so many other tech platforms, tools, and companies as mind-controlling monoliths that are “hijacking” our brains, leaving us to do what they want with no resistance. I was also dismayed to see disregard for research that would have challenged its conclusions. Above all, I was alarmed that the film did nothing to inform its viewers what they could do to solve the problems it showcases.

Who is Nir Eyal? He is the author of the book on habit-forming technologies: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and was interviewed by the filmmakers for three hours only to have his segment excluded.

Third, like most superficial pieces, the OGS video was technologically deterministic, i.e., the fault lies in the technology because it is designed to create addicts. It also flippantly used addiction as a lay term instead of a serious and psychologically-diagnosed condition.

People create and feed social media algorithms. We have control and management unless we throw our collective hands in the air in ignorant desperation. 

I borrow a segment from a critique by The Verge on The Social Dilemma

This isn’t to let social networks off the hook. Nor is it an effort to make the problem feel so complicated that everyone just throws their hands up and walks away from it. But I’m shocked at how appealing so many people find the idea that social networks are uniquely responsible for all of society’s ills. 

Unlike the author of Verge’s piece, I am not shocked at how low-hanging fruit appeals. It feeds base appetites of popularity and superficiality. If the OGS new series is to actually inform and educate, it needs to reach higher by embracing depth, complexity, and nuance. To do that, I suggest that it could have focused on providing answers to these questions:

  • What exactly is addiction and how do we treat its roots instead of its symptoms?
  • What is technological determinism and how do we facilitate user agency instead of learnt helplessness?
  • What are concrete actions we can take individually and collectively, and why are these important?

My RSS feed showed me this graphic on media literacy in European countries. No surprises — the Scandinavian countries lead the pack.

I wondered if there was anything similar for this part of the world. So I searched for NGOs that researched it starting with the one credited in the graphic.

I could not find anything from such organisations so I widened my search for “media literacy in southeast asia”. Except for a few old articles like this one in 2008, I could not find comparison or rank tables.

It is not that the rankings are important. I want to know WHAT we are doing compared to elsewhere. An initial comparison of HOW we are doing might have opened doors to the WHAT.

But since media literacy across curricula and goes beyond formal schooling, it must be difficult to collect and make sense of such data. So now I wonder how that credited organisation actually ranked those countries.

Methodology of

I downloaded the PDF of the report which had a one-page description of its methodology. It turns out that that the “measurement” was not about media literacy. It was about predicting media literacy with components like PISA scores. What? My question exactly.

So my tweet is not an endorsement of the graphic. It is an example of not taking data presentation at face value.

Call me biased, but I like featuring news and research that counters the fear-driven narratives of much of the press.


Video source

In the video above, parents learnt how to play video games to connect with their kids. This is not the only way parents connect, but it is an important one. The strategy not only creates opportunities awareness and involvement, it showcases the kids’ abilities to teach their parents.

Another resource certain to ruffle the feathers of proverbial ostriches with heads in the sand is the NYT review of research revealing that fears about kids mobile phone and social media use are unwarranted.

Though not specially labelled in the article, the reported research sounded like meta analyses of prior research studies on mobile phone and social media use on well-being.

The meta research revealed that the effect size was negligible. On the other hand, studies that spread fear and worry tended to be correlational, e.g, the rise in suicide rates in the USA rose with the common use of mobile phones.

But the NYT reminded us that correlation is not causation. Furthermore, there was no appreciable rise in Europe even though there was a similar rise in use of mobile phones.

One reason the NYT has the reputation it has is because it resists the temptation to be reductionist or simply regurgitate what the rest report. This is not about stand out. It is about being critical and responsible.

Sometimes I do not have to share my thoughts about social media. Others have articulated their thoughts more clearly than I could.

In March, Andrea Howard unpacked a magazine article about limiting screen time to counter social media use [full thread].

The TLDR version of this 12-part thread: Blaming social media is a convenient but misleading smoking gun.

Last month, Martin Weller critiqued social media detoxes.

Weller’s message: Take control or lose control. You decide.

I am sad. This is the last episode of Crash Course’s series on Navigating Digital Information.


Video source

This week’s focus was social media.

Host John Green started by outlining how social media has had far reaching consequences, e.g., shaping our vocabulary, changing our expectations of privacy, organising grassroots efforts.

But probably the most important impact of social media might be that it is now the most common source of information and news. This includes disinformation, misinformation, and fake news, all of which are easy to spread with a click or a tap.

The ease of creating, sharing, and amplifying is social media’s best and worst set of affordances. The affordances are neutral, but we can choose to bully and mislead, or make new friends and organise special interest groups.

Regardless of their purpose, social media are powered by targetted advertising and algorithms. Both affect what we read, hear, or watch in our feeds. This can create filter bubbles.

This insulation is a result of social media companies needing to keep us engaged. A consequence of this is that we might not get to process dissenting views or the truth behind the lies we are fed.

If we know what drives social media, we could take Green’s advice by:

  • Following entities that have different perspective from us.
  • Deactivating the recommended results or top posts so that you get a more neutral feed.
  • Avoid going down rabbit holes (deep dives of content or perspectives that result in more of the same or the extreme).
  • Exercising click restraint and practising lateral reading.
  • Having the courage and taking the effort to correct mistakes.

Here some of my notes on the second part of Crash Course’s series on media and digital literacies.


Video source

This episode focused on fact checking. To do this, presenter John Green outlined a Stanford University study on how a group university professors and students evaluated information online.

The participants focused on superficial elements of source sites, e.g., how it presented information, instead of looking deeper on what information it shared.

On the other hand, professional fact checkers armed themselves with at least three questions to evaluate sources:

  1. Who is behind this information and why are they sharing it?
  2. What is the evidence for their claims?
  3. What do other sources say about the sharer and its claims?

Answering these questions is not as simple as ABC, but it does provide an easy-to-remember set of 1-2-3 to evaluate what we read, watch, or listen to.

Near the end of the video, Green highlighted the difference between being cynical and being skeptical. The former is being “generally distrustful of everyone else’s motives” while the latter is being “not easily convinced”.

All of us could use a healthy dose of skepticism every day. The problem is that our bias might raise this shield when the information does not align to what we already know or believe. This is why asking the 1-2-3 regardless of source or our compass helps keep us in check.

John Green and co have just released part 1 of their Crash Course series on navigating digital information.


Video source

If I had to sum up the takeaway from the video, it would be this: Just because it looks like a news article does not make it one. Appearances like layout, graphics, and slickness matter, but these should not distract from the quality and accuracy of the content. To determine those latter qualities, we need to investigate the sources of the article.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

However, Green mentioned a study by the Stanford History Education Group which highlighted how historians and university students focused on the superficial instead of digging deep.

Speaking of digging deep, I could find the Stanford group online, but not the documentation about the study from the Crash Course video page. Might Crash Course consider providing a link to such evidence and not just its main sponsors/collaborators?

CNN took a break from the Trump circus to focus on one ordinary person.


Video source

The man at the centre of a social media storm was roundly criticised for grooming himself on public transport. A mad mob made judgements instead of finding out the facts first.

Some basic journalism revealed that the man had fallen on hard times and had been in and out of homeless shelters. He had just left one such shelter and was on his way to visit an estranged brother. He just wanted to look presentable.

Some from the mob apologised. A few started raising money for the man. The thing is: Could we not have skipped the mad mob and started with the caring crowd?

Common to both the mob and the crowd was social media. The same tool set that spread vitriol also focused on helping.

There are some people who still like to blame social media for our ills. Doing that is a convenient cop out. We are responsible for the tools we use and what do with them.

Tags: , ,


Video source

In the first part of this SciShow video, Hank Green outlined a study that examined the link between social media use and ADHD symptoms.

Bottomline: No study is perfect and this one suffered from a reliance on self-reported data, reporting symptoms without prior baseline diagnoses, and correlational outcomes.

The last point was key. Green pointed out that the study could not prove that social media caused ADHD symptoms any more than the tendency of users with ADHD checking social media frequently. In his own words:

Using this study to say that smartphones and social media cause ADHD would be like looking at ER data and concluding that firefighters cause burn injuries.


Archives

Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: