Instant gratification: Our generation’s double-edged blade

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What is the price of knowledge?

“I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now!” Freddie Mercury sang what has become a societal norm thanks to the capabilities of technology. The world of knowledge is quite literally at our fingertips, our generation quite possibly a cautionary tale in the making.

I want to know what the winning lottery numbers are. Siri, tell me. Phone, voice search, and answer delivery in less than 30 seconds. News, knowledge, lifestyle, shopping, and connection are all instantly digitally available for those with a means of access. In most cases, one no longer needs to work or interact with another human to find an answer as the information is immediately available. Such a flooding of content, however, opens up potential issues of plagiarism to an extensive degree, among other problems.

Sherry Turkle (2012), a professor at MIT who focuses heavily on the relationship between human and machine in a world where we are increasingly “alone together” states that we use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them; think, “I share, therefore I am” (para 22). In order to feel more, and feel like oneself, many connect through devices, however this keeps individuals from the ability to separate, gather, and regroup (Turtle, 2012, para 23).

Our ability to immediately connect to a digital sphere that is abundant with misinformation, repeated information, subjective information as well as a misunderstanding for the effects of such content is unfortunately the bane of our current instant gratification society. The brain’s limbic system can reorient our mental and physiological systems toward any number of short-term goals, from eating a donut that looks tasty to screaming at a terrible driver, even though those goals may be completely outside one’s normal mode of behavior (Roberts, 2014, pg. 68). Immediate connection and gratification through devices stimulate the limbic system, and becomes an urge to feed, a gap to fill. As such, Turkle (2012) reminds us of the importance of real conversation and communications; that we need to step away from the devices and approach one another so that we can learn about each other and ourselves (para 4, 14-15). I could not agree with her more. While devices have made the world smaller, true human interaction and connection are still lacking.

References

Roberts, P. (2014). The impulse society: america in the age of instant gratification. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Turkle, S. (2012). The flight from conversation. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?_r=0

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Is there an app for that? Today’s technology affords a customizable, mobile reality

jyamada. (2015). [Photo]. Retrieved from: http://www.pmug.org/blog/page/2/

jyamada. (2015). [Photo]. Retrieved from: http://www.pmug.org/blog/page/2/

In a growing technologically dominant society many of us have heard, oh, there’s an app for that. And chances are, most likely it’s true. From apps like Zips that simulate a zipper and SimStapler that offers a virtual stapler, one can find the most useful to the most pointless and unproductive applications to use in daily life (Love, 2011, para 4, 7).

But then there are also beneficial apps. Ones that seem to make our lives simpler, safer and more informed. One such called SkinDeep offer users the ability to snap photos of sun screen bottle bar codes to read further into the product, its ingredients, as well as its safety and efficacy to make a better determination for purchase and application (USA Today, 2015, Video). With skin cancer a large issue, this app helps one make the best choice between commercial options when opting to protect against future melanoma.

Apps let us customize our lives, especially on the go. Our bank accounts, music options, social options, food options, news options, games, entertainment, shopping options; nearly anything and everything one could imagine is connected and customizable through our mobile devices and applications (Turkle, 2012, para 4).

As of the beginning of this year Apple revealed that it now hosts 1.4 million apps and as of June 2014 an astounding 75 billion apps had been downloaded from its store (Ranger, 2015, para 5). Let’s not forget there is an Android store, too, packed full of apps that generate countless videos and articles that argue which ones are not only the best, but the must haves like in this video below:

 

Fortunately or unfortunately, technology and its app-infinite world isn’t disappearing anytime soon, but as communicators, we can learn to adapt conversational abilities into our content in order to shape our digital and communicative futures to use and/or create applications that benefit society. Most connected individuals love and expect apps in today’s culture, 75 billion downloads don’t lie, but those creating the apps for the masses to utilize need to understand the global implications of their creations. Just because we love something it doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Sugar is sweet and tempting to eat, and cocaine-addicted rats prefer it (Bennett, 2010, para 2).

References

Bennett, C. (2010). The rats who preferred sugar over cocaine. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/connie-bennett/the-rats-who-preferred-su_b_712254.html

Love, D. (2011). 11 stupid iphone apps that we can’t believe are real. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/stupid-iphone-apps-2011-6?op=1 

Ranger, S. (2015). iOS versus android. apple app store versus google play: here comes the next battle in the app wars. Retrieved from: http://www.zdnet.com/article/ios-versus-android-apple-app-store-versus-google-play-here-comes-the-next-battle-in-the-app-wars/

Turkle, S. (2012). The flight from conversation. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?_r=0

USA Today. (2015). Need sunscreen? Yes, there’s an app for that. [Video]. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/videos/tech/2015/05/21/27740939/

Shaping our culture: How technology and society help to inadequately define gender roles through mass communications

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Equality issues surrounding women is not a new subject. Throughout the times the female counterpart has been expected to meet the demands of the society surrounding her—especially in regards to body standards. Technology and many of its current uses making that ever more apparent.

Everywhere one goes (or does not go as content finds us wherever we are) magazine covers and spreads, commercials, billboards, social media campaigns, news articles, legislation, and product advertisements like this from Carls Jr./Hardees conveys a lot about what is wrong with our society and its view on women as objects:

After watching I thought the impassive reality, it is what it is. But frankly I’m disappointed technology seems to further illuminate inadequate gender roles, identities and appearances through mass communications, advertising, music and more (Hu, 2015, para 2).

For instance, social media platforms like Instagram found out when they banned the hashtag #curvy, women of all shapes and sizes were outraged at the discrimination as well as the platform’s response on the ban stating the tag was “being used to share images and videos that violated Instagram’s community guidelines around nudity”, yet hashtags like tittyf**k currently remain active (Vagianos, 2015, para 1, 5). This isn’t the first time that Instagram has been under the microscope for it’s attempt at censorship on women’s bodies either, having a history of blocking content that involves women’s nipples, pubic and other bodily hair, and menstrual blood (Vagianos, 2015, para 4). Normal facts and facets of life that are frequently shamed yet in our current society videos of beheadings become a viral sensation. I can’t help but to see an imbalance between the content of our messages and the culture it’s attempting to shape.

However, the same technology that is bringing a daily awareness to issues amongst our culture is also a means and tool to combat the very problem. Media personifying unrealistic gender roles as means to influence, control or otherwise manipulate has also afforded the opportunity for those once without a recognized voice to openly push back against those various systems and close-minded ideologies. Professional communicators have a role in fostering such societal changes. According to the Society of Professional Journalists professional communicators should be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable and to give voice to the voiceless, regardless of gender, race, age, etc. (SPJ, 2014, para 13).

Check out this article ‘11 Projects That Will Inspire You to Fight Gender Stereotypes’ to see how some are working to shape a world of change and equality.

References

Hu, N. (2015). If we want equality, then we must stop perpetuating gender roles. Retrieved from: http://harvardpolitics.com/harvard/want-equality-must-stop-perpetuating-gender-roles/

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). (2014, September 6). SPJ Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Vagianos, A. (2015). Women are protesting instagram’s #curvy ban with body-positive photos. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-are-protesting-instagrams-ban-of-the-word-curvy_55acf7a7e4b0d2ded39f54b1

How technology has changed the communicator’s role

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A communicator is just that, one who communicates. Often the term is reserved for professionals such as journalists, editors, radio emcees, business communicators, scientists, talent agents, those in media and public relations, among others—individuals more likely to have been trained in the roles, responsibilities and ethical practice of the trade. Alder (2002) states in his ‘Handbook of NLP: A Manual for Professional Communicatorsthat the responsibility for a communication lies with the communicator (pg. 78). Though most communication happens as part of a two-way process, one can communicate any number of impressions as well as elicit emotional and behavioral responses that result in a communication effect (Alder, 2002, pg. 78).

Technology has helped to evolve this communication effect and information reach, but not just for professionals. Now anyone with access to an Internet-connected device has the means to communicate on a global level, which can make it difficult for professionals to cut through the clutter, so to speak. Not only are contributions competing for an audience in a wide sea, trustworthy resources are a necessity to validate the credibility of the material. Due to the increasing amount of information contributed daily in our digital recesses anyone seeking to communicate professionally should evaluate and adopt a code of ethics such as those set forth by the International Association of Business Communicators or the Society of Professional Journalists, and above all contribute material that is honest, fair, and credible (IABC, n.d., Article 1; SPJ, 2014, para 1).

While a predominate role of a communicator is to inform, technology has changed how, when, and where this process can be transcribed. The IABC cautions in the preface of their code of ethics that because hundreds of thousands of business communicators worldwide engage in activities that affect the lives of millions of people, being a professional communicator is a power that carries with it significant social responsibilities (IABC, n.d., para 1). Whether in the form of an article or blog, video, or social media post, communications can traverse geographical barriers in an instant. As such, communicators need to evaluate their content and any potential ramifications that may result and to tailor their messages accordingly.

I have a belief that we are all communicators. However, there are also many skills and tactics that separate the professional from the occasional conversationalist. When in doubt, as a rule of thumb, professional communication is legal, ethical, and in good taste (IABC, n.d., para 4). Neil Griffiths, Director of Brand & Strategy at SNC-Lavalin says that the future of communications starts with every one of us according to his interesting thoughts in this video from 2013 that are just as relevant today:

References

Alder, H. (2002). Handbook of NLP: a manual for professional communicators. Gower Publishing, Ltd.

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). (n.d.). IABS code of ethics for professional communicators. Retrieved from: https://www.iabc.com/about-us/leaders-and-staff/code-of-ethics/

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). (2014, September 6). SPJ Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

 

Essential functions of a modern day communicator, content creator

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Today, many professional communicators are responsible for a wide range of online content creation, which happens to be a particular area of interest for me personally. To get a measure of what employers are specifically looking for from their prospective communicators, I looked at three current open employment positions within the broad field:

Essential Functions: manage and track analytics of social media and website while maintaining brand consistency, design video and graphic products, implement SEO strategies, optimize website design, usability, and content while directing vendors or internal staff on creative projects

Essential functions: create 5-8 daily stories, photo galleries and videos, monitor trending topics from social media to inform editorial decisions, bring innovative ideas to daily creation and social marketing, prepare for a 24-hour newsroom

Essential functions: brand consistent content creation and strategizing, optimize content through SEO, analytics tracking and content effectiveness measurement, manage calendars, deadlines and deliverables, collaborate with technical resources for content publication

While the required experience ranges between 1 and 5 years for the positions, many of the duties synonymous, only two specify an educational desire/requirement of a Bachelor’s degree.

We’ve certainly come a long way from this:

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But now, professional communicators are expected to be multifaceted Jacks and Janes of-many-trades. One must not only know how to create the content, they must know how to emphasize it ethically through the use of various technological capabilities like visuals and outsourced information that maximize the validity and effectiveness of the message and its reach (Lester, 2013, pg. 13). With the increase in reliance on electronic media for our communications, face-to-face connections have declined, making it even more important that professional communicators focus on the human element and cultural impact of their contributions, not the ratings (Nayab, 2014, para 11).

Back to the three positions I listed above, all involve heavy social media interaction, writing, photography, videography, creative outsourcing, brand understanding and implementation, along with more technical aspects like search engine optimization, and analytics understanding. While many of these skills may be taught now in school, for the well-seasoned communicator or one unable to afford higher education, resources such as Lynda.com offer a way to brush up on new skills and stay competitive in their field for a fraction of the cost of college courses. Professional communicators to the everyday individual can select from courses in 3D, audio, business, CAD, design, developer, photography, video, and web to enhance their technology based communicative skillset.

Essential functions of a modern day communicator have evolved beyond the written word sent to press. Today, communicators must be able to craft content that pulls on the validity of established resources while keeping true to the original message because often, “The Medium is the Message” (Lester, 2013, pg. 196). Because reach and affect are unknown variables in our digitally connected world, professional communicators must also discern what content is appropriate for a given medium (IABC, n.d., para 1, 3).

References

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). (n.d.). IABS code of ethics for professional communicators. Retrieved from: https://www.iabc.com/about-us/leaders-and-staff/code-of-ethics/

Lester, P. (2013). Visual communication: images with messages. Cengage Learning.

Nayab, N. (2014). How communication has evolved with new technologies. Retrieved from: http://www.brighthubpm.com/methods-strategies/79052-exploring-how-technology-has-changed-communication/

 

Visual communications, a digital trend

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Each media source that one is exposed to, print or broadcast, has the ability to physically affect one’s central nervous system and influences the way our brains process information (Saylor Academy, n.d., pg 7). Think of the adage, a photo is worth 1,000 words. A photo can elicit emotion and thought in an instant versus the written word or a video that may take time to establish its point. While visual communications were long in existence before the Internet, our understanding of them is relatively recent.

Spring boarding from scientists Hubel and Wiesel’s 1981 experiment to better understand how the visual cortex works through their probing of a furry feline brain with the help of a vice and some anesthesia while it watched a slide show—which won them a Nobel Prize—other researchers went on to discover that the brain most quickly responds to four major attributes of all viewed objects: color, form, depth, and movement (Lester, 2013, pg. 14).

goodpsychology. (2013). Hubel and Wiesel Experiment [Photo]. Retrieved from: https://goodpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/235/

goodpsychology. (2013). Hubel and Wiesel Experiment [Photo]. Retrieved from: https://goodpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/235/

With advances in our understanding of how the brain responds to visuals, communicators can use this information along with our advances in technology and digital trends to create and shape visual communications to have greater impact. With that, the goal of a visual communicator should go beyond standard publishing and broadcasting and incorporate powerful images that not only enhance a message (ethically), but one that a viewer will remember, too (Lester, 2013, pg. 11).

Some professional communicators adjunct their content with digital media tools like enhanced images created and/or edited with programs like Adobe Photoshop. More and more employment opportunities within the creative communications field are requiring knowledge of the platform, too, so one can jump right in and alter the raw. Graphic designers, tech communicators, forensic technicians, industrial designers, and even astronomers use the program to aid them in their duties (SkillPath, 2014, para 3-7).

While altered images can add esthetic appeal, they also stand the risk of complicating content and situations, especially when falsified. A continuous gripe in America is the use of Photoshop on models’ photos, especially women, which help perpetuate unrealistic body image goals for young girls, women, and even men. In 2009, Ralph Lauren took legal action against a blog called BoingBoing to remove an image originally photoshopped by the clothing line the blog made fun of via a tagline, Dude, her head’s bigger than her pelvis, but failed to win the case (Jones, 2013, pg. 25). In fact, the body of the model in the photo had been manipulated to the point that in reality, some of her vital organs would have to be missing as there wasn’t room to home them with her newer, narrower digital frame (Jones, 2013, pg 27).

Shaping our culture’s future through content is a constant for professional communicators. The result, though, is a variable, making it important to consider and weigh any implications, ethical or otherwise that may arise from enhanced visual communications. When crafting visual communications, especially in a digital world, creators should implement color, form, depth, and movement in a way that not only strengthens messages, but also our society (Lester, 2013, pg. 14).

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Rusty on your Photoshop skills? Check out these links to get you on your way to learning:

Adobe Photoshop

Lynda.com

References

Jones, M. (2013). Media-bodies and Photoshop. Controversial images: media representations on the edge. New York: NY.

Lester, P. (2013). Visual communication: images with messages. Cengage Learning.

Saylor Academy. (n.d.). Understanding media and culture. Retrieved from: http://www.saylor.org/site/textbooks/Understanding%20Media%20and%20Culture.pdf

SkillPath (2014). Adobe photoshop skills for a variety of professions. Retrieved from: http://www.skillpath.com/index.cfm/blog/post/Desktop-Publishing-Graphics/Adobe-Photoshop-Skills-for-a-Variety-of-Professions#sthash.dGg0f8qq.dpbs

Reflections: The Power of the Media Revisited

It’s so hard to believe 10 weeks have come and gone so fast with today the final day of classes for me…for a week at least. It has been a roller-coaster ride of media communications exposure as well as a continuous opportunity to flex and hone my own media literacy skills. After re-reading my initial blog post ‘Examining Media Use and Influence’ my views of media’s power to shape my beliefs remains relatively as it was at the beginning of this term; more appropriately, I still have a love-hate relationship with technology. But to be fair, I don’t think that will ever change.

I should note that my types and frequency of media use over the course of the last several weeks have increased drastically through the authoring of this blog, research for assignments, experiencing multimedia and incorporating its usage into my work, as well as personal projects that have me analyzing, scrutinizing, and verifying different media sources and applications.

As stated in my first post, “I feel most outside sources/stimuli have the potential to influence, but it is how each of us interprets the information that makes the influence positive or negative.” I stand by that comment just as solidly today as I did the moment I wrote that line. With the potentiality of such influences, some may wonder if becoming “media literate” will reduce their threat/effect. First, one must note that not all media is “bad”, and in a way can be subjective like art. Media literacy is unique in that it aids a person in their critical assessment of a given piece of media, whether it be a news story, a controversial YouTube video, or the reading/following of a major blog. While becoming media literate is no guarantee one is protected from outside influences, it does encourage one to actively play a role in their own journey of life by deciphering media messages to determine their value and meaning to us on an individual level and how (if) we should apply it to our repertoire.

In the dissemination of information for our society, writers play a huge role. With the capabilities, access, and reach of Internet communication technologies, many people are now content contributors to the world, and arguably, writers. When writers do not act ethically in their gathering and disseminating of information, anyone lacking media literacy skills can be argued that they are in danger of poor influence. However, that same unethical writing can have the potential to reinforce positive behaviors from readers and other writers, teaching not to emulate such a style. This class has taught me a good rule of thumb in order to best avoid unethical writing as a content contributor myself: Follow the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

References

[Photo]. (n.a.). (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://api.ning.com/files/8k2*97pl68yu24gz6bwFXu*BMCD6pEjYau*9e3gMN9r8IRIlPidftmficI-

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014, September 6). SPJ Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp