Effects & Impact of Electronic Media II

by Shana Lawrence, Luis Lopez, Anthony Palomba, Si (Phoenix) Wang

1. Introduction

This Wikipedia entry seeks to isolate developments in the areas of media effects dealing with politics, children and the future outlook of the Internet and technology during the fall of 2011. Although these groups are inherently unique, the implications of these four facets all have a major impact on societal progress.

2. Political Implications of Media

As it currently stands, the connection between the media and the political realm is one that is inexorable; but, a union that has evolved over several decades. Most significantly, great strides have been made in social media, especially in relation to political campaigns. The 2008 presidential campaign was the first political contest to feature different facets of social media in a major way. Candidate (now President) Barack Obama employed the use of social media extensively, and parlayed that use into a successful run for the presidency. All in all, Obama was able to amass more than 13 million e-mail addresses, retained over a million friends on Facebook, sent thousands of messages via Twitter and his website had millions of registered users. Also, his fundraising efforts online totaled more than $250 million dollars (Dominick, Messere and Sherman, 2011).

The stark difference between the fall of 2011 and the 2008 presidential election is that social networking in 2008 was something of a “…o ne-way conversation, where candidates could put a message and it may or may not be heard by an audience” according to Richard Schultz, CEO of Floop, a social polling app (Pham, 2011). The 2008 presidential contest opened the floodgates in terms of utilizing social media in tandem with a political campaign, and the tide of including social media sites with political campaigns will not recede anytime soon.

In preparation for the 2012 presidential election, candidates have recognized the power of social media, and have made overtures to incorporate social media as integral components to their campaigns. As an example, this fall Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson held an un-moderated online town hall on a website called Yowie.com, which allows its users to ask Johnson “…questions by video and watchers will vote on which questions Johnson answers” (Schoenberg, 2011). But, Johnson’s appearance on the site is something of an anomaly, since the site usually garners the likes of celebrities, rather than politicians. Jamie Snyder, the 26 year old co-founder of the site, said that the site “…fits the needs politicians have to address lots of their supporters via the web and do it in a face to face environment” (Schoenberg, 2011). Moreover, Snyder notes that the site “…simulates a real-life town hall… and gives everyone access to it” (Schoenberg, 2011).

Furthermore, there is an evident trend of social media companies actively pursuing a role in the political arena by “…hosting debates and sponsoring presidential town halls while remaining indispensable tools for candidates looking to connect with voters in the digital sphere” (Fouhy, 2011). Not only are sites like Facebook promoting civic engagement, but the move can also be seen as social media sites making moves to form political action committees as well as courting lawmakers to make votes that will favor the companies’ bottom line. In fact, Facebook formed a PAC in September of this year so that it can make contributions to candidates.  In order to set a foundation for this movement, during the first half of 2011, Facebook spent $550,000 for 21 lobbyists, anticipating privacy, patent and regulatory issues throughout the future (Fouhy, 2011).

Other than just Facebook, Twitter has also made tremendous overtures towards making themselves viable in the political world. Once considered only a novelty, Twitter is firmly ensconced politically, with President Obama maintaining a Twitter account as well as “…all of the GOP presidential candidates… as do 85 senators at least 360 House members” (Fouhy, 2011). Also, Twitter held a town hall at the White House in July 2011 with President Obama.

Despite all of the advancements that have been made in this new synergy between social media and politics, it is fair to posit how campaigns will utilize social media in order to mobilize actual real-world volunteers. “Social media campaigns should be focused on getting volunteers in the campaign office door, on the phones and out in the community” (Fitzpatrick, 2011). Further, three steps should be deployed in order to make the preceding task a reality: “ [candidates] should share ideals, goals, accomplishments and behind the scenes footage; engage followers and turn digital followers into real world volunteers” (Fitzpatrick, 2011).

In terms of the first goal, a candidate can have the ability to link with existing supporters and also court voters who may not be yet convinced. Moreover, candidates also have a chance to be integrated into a campaign. Social media can communicate the experiences of the day-to-day operations of a political campaign. For example, “a volunteer live-tweeting event advertises that event and highlights volunteers’ work, giving them a sense of ownership in a campaign” (Fitzpatrick, 2011).

Secondly, in order for the social media-political nexus to flourish, it must consistently engage followers. A voter’s intrigue with a candidate can clearly be increased if a candidate takes the time and effort to respond directly to people. Voters will be exposed to not only political rhetoric directly from the politician, but also comments from others viewing the same material. This can potentially strike conversations about organizing community groups around a politician’s message.

Thirdly, turning digital followers into real world volunteers is the most crucial step. Initiating “calls to action” is key, and campaigns implementing a process that involves organizing by location will make converting digital followers to real volunteers an easier process. Zachary Green, the CEO of 140Elect, which is a company that builds Twitter campaigns for the 2012 election, emphasizes the preceding point thusly: “Organizing Twitter followers by location is essential to building teams for action offline” (Fitzpatrick, 2011). However, this can be problematic because only 1% of tweets mentioning a 2012 candidate have geo-location enabled. To combat this problem, Green’s solution incorporates content. “We now track every mention of a Senator, House Representative, or Governor. That allows us to build a list of every person that mentions a Democratic incumbent in California, for instance. If they do this multiple times, or for multiple Democratic incumbents in California, we can assume that they are from California” (Fitzpatrick, 2011).

From there, Green suggests that campaigns can construct state-by-state lists, and then campaigns can move on to engage people by location. When supporters want to meet at a location offline, “their activity can be the task you [the campaign] want them to perform, such as voter registration drive, a phone bank, or a neighborhood canvas” (Fitzpatrick, 2011). Lastly, Green notes that people should be empowered by having individuals highlight the real-world accomplishments of their volunteering efforts.

In sum, the world of social media and politics is constantly evolving and proving to be a force to be reckoned with. The 2008 election was only a precursor to the advancements that are currently being harnessed and utilized in anticipation of the 2012 presidential contest. It is clear that the union between social media and politics is one that is not going away any time soon. The connection between the two will only flower and social media will serve as an integral part of the political process.

3. SMART Boards and Smart Kids:

In September 2011, SMART Technology released 2000+ SMART Boards into the Kujawsko-Pomorski school district in Poland (Smart Technologies, 2011). It was their latest edition for the SMART Board, which is meant to help “level the playing field” for disadvantage students. The SMART Board allows teachers to create interactive lessons with technology students are accustomed to by updating the classroom environments with modern technology. Smart Board alleviates the financial burdens of urban schools that are in financial arrears by eliminating the obligation to purchase supplies.

Smart Kids is a program that allows students to tell their stories on a media platform while creating a voice in the digital media world. Offering access to video and other interaction tools, this program’s mission is to give disadvantaged students the connection they need to tie their personal story and education together through the common ground of technology. Students attending urban city schools in Syracuse, New York are currently pilots of this program in fall 2011.

Smart Kids gives students a chance to address the issues outside the educational sphere through digital shorts they write, produce and edit. By addressing their issues, founders of this program believe this self-recognition in an academic setting will allow students to feel validated and in turn will feel responsible for their academic experience.

With the new creation media, SMART Kids will allow students to be compatible with the latest gadgets and home improvement technology. Teachers are allowed to create their lesson plans on their iPads in the comfort of their own homes and upload their mobile pads onto the SMART Board. This allows teachers to use their own technologies to help educate the children of our future (Brovey, 2011).

4. Social Impact of the Internet & Future Outlooks

Since the internet is a volatile medium and its progression can only be prognosticated at best within the limitations of our minds, the fall of 2011 has unveiled several key determinants and products that can help us perceive what the future may hold for us. Internet consumption and multi-tasking on multiple windows of media are increasing at unprecedented rates against the backdrop of a contentious debate over net neutrality. Furthermore, with the introduction of the Google Wallet in September and Sony 3D Visor in November, these products are leaning towards isolated, intangible experiences.

4.1 Google Wallet

Introduced in September 2011, Google Wallet has been billed as a way in which to eliminate the use of tangible currency. It functions as a digital credit card, as users may swipe it immediately with a bar-code like application. If it is widely adopted, it could efface the need for dollars and cents in the future.

This initiative may have further implications related to purchasing behaviors.  A 2010 study found that online shoppers were 60% less likely to return goods. As it currently stands, people are reticent to return items, as the process of shipping back goods to retailers is often deemed a hassle. Since Google Wallet is an internet-based tool, it may impel users to be more impulsive while shopping. Without receipts readily available, this has the potential to deter shoppers from returning items, a potential boon for retail industries.

4.2 Sony 3D

On November 11, 2011, Sony’s Personal 3D Viewer was released in Japan for 60,000 yen, which is roughly $783 American dollars. The visor is currently available for pre-order in the United States. The headset has two small screen that sit an inch in front of the eyes. It is eyeglass-friendly, and allows audiences to view 3D media content, which is currently limited to movies and some sporting events (Eisenberg, 2011).

4.3 Net Neutrality

This product has the potential to create unparalleled movie experiences for its viewers, but it also runs the risks of individualizing and dehumanizing the movie-going experience. The effects of a device like this may be correlated to the same effects experienced with internet users, such as depression, aggression and deleterious health consequences (Benson, 2010). Still, industry forecasters are adamant about its potential to completely reinvent the movie-going and media consumption experiences.

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