Digital Media Issues

=== Week 14 The Future of Digital Media ===

Net Neutrality

EU (Brussels) lawmakers push for opening cell data across borders

The IoT will have 25 billion sensors by 2020

Wearables are about to become a lot more seamless…and less visible

Afraid of Artificial Intelligence? Guess what…you’re already using it (think Amazon recommendaions) (Scroll down to Rage and Impotence)

SXSW Essay Contest. “What will it mean to be human in the age of machine learning and artificial intelligence? What will this mean to you in terms of human creativity, identity, love, communication, and community? Given that current AI-based algorithms are a big part of today’s fake news problem, your essay might also address human solutions to this pressing issue.”

Dec. 16 is the deadline.


=== Digital Media, Ethics and the Law, November 16 ===

I’d like to do something different this week, other than a phone call. Rather, I’d like to have you all do an online activity – a blog post on a specific topic. I’ll put details below but NO conference call this week, and no meeting – just an online activity.

This week, we’ll consider digital media, ethics and the law and I’m basically going to break the discussion into two parts: First, some links about Internet law, ethics and Net Neutrality, generally; second, some readings specific to last week’s election.

1a) Here are some foundational articles on ethics and the law, here. We’ll start with ethics;

1b) Digital media law:

1c) Net Neutrality:

Supporters of Net Neutrality say taking it away would squelch innovation – for example, a video intensive startup like Rooster Teeth couldn’t afford the higher cost to Comcast or AT&T to use more bandwidth than, say, The Coffee Bean, so only behemoths like Netflix could afford to stay in the game. Right now, they all pay the same. Critics say we meter all kinds of other “utilities” based on how much we use (water, gas, electricity, sewage, garbage, recycling) so why should bandwidth be any different.

Now, an important note about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which is the federal agency, in the Executive Branch, that regulates media. The FCC is led by a board with 5 members. Two are always Democrats; two are always Republicans; and the President appoints the fifth member to be the chair of the Commission. That chairperson has real power because not only can they guide policy decisions about things like Net Neutrality but they’re also the tie-breaking vote. So, with Thomas Wheeler in charge as chairman, appointed by President Obama, Net Neutrality became law. Under a Trump administration starting in January, Wheeler will be replaced by a Republican.

There are two reasons to think Net Neutrality could go away:

First, Republicans tend to be more pro-business (especially Mr. Trump) and non-neutral access means a service provider, like AT&T, can charge more for a data hog, like Netflix.

Second, Jeffrey Eisenach is on President-elect Trump’s short list to chair the FCC. Eisenach is a conservative scholar who has already said he opposes Net Neutrality.

2) Now, an article or two about how this week’s election could impact digital media. It could be changes in policy, economics, access, ethics…whatever. As I’ve mentioned in class more than once, I am NOT partisan one way or the other, so please stay polite with your posts and be respectful of disagreements.

Your assignment: Please find one article, infographic, or whatever about this week’s election and digital media and make a blog post with a short comment about it (Hint: Look at digital journalism sites, like Wired, CNet, Buzzfeed, Mashable, The Verge, Marketwatch, Vice or Vox). Then, over the next week, please make an effort to look at several other students’ posts. If you’d like to make comments under your classmates’ posts, please do, although our blog is set up for me to moderate them so it may take a day or two for your comments to appear.

Also, remember your meeting and Twitter assignments from the syllabus; and please email with any questions about your final paper/project, which is due in about a month (Dec. 11).

=== Communication… Technology… Culture ===

Week 1 – August 31: Visit this link, which is an interactive history of the Web, and take some time to explore the origins of our modern Internet…which JUST celebrated it’s 25th anniversary in August!

Also, watch this Ted talk from Internet co-founder and Cambridge professor Tim Berners-Lee, talking about the role of data in the modern Web:

Finally, read these two links “ripped from the headlines” this week and be prepared to opine about them in class:



=== Week 2: September 7 ===

Josh Morrison will lead off this week’s class (Sept. 7) with a short presentation. Remember, each of you, alone or in groups, will present so please look over the topics in the syllabus or come up with your own and email me who will present, on what topic, on what day. If not enough of you sign up early, I’ll assign these so you aren’t all stacked up late in the semester – thanks!

Take this fun quiz from Pew which tests your knowledge of the Internet – don’t worry, it’s not graded, but we will talk about it in class.

What Internet Users Know about Technology and the Web

Pew also regularly does reports on U.S. media use, including the Internet. My own research, using Pew data, has found that young Americans (under 30) were early adopters of Internet, social media and mobile use – but that folks in their 30s to 50s are the most likely to follow news online. This Pew report looks at the maturing of the Web over its first 25 years of existence. You should read this, make a blog post about it (don’t panic if you don’t have your blog access set up just yet) and be ready to discuss it in class.

The Web at 25 in the U.S.

I mentioned this in class in week 1 – ICANN, which has already administered assigning/approving domains since 1999 – is about to have more control and less oversight over the Internet.

U.S. Ready To Hand Over Internet Control On October 1st

Read this brief from the Internet Society, an international organization that has led the charge for an open, international, lightly-regulated Internet since 1991.

And this report from the Society on why shared “governance” of the Web (multiple stakeholders, all with the same influence) has worked.

So, nobody really “owns” the Web but in terms of reach, traffic, advertising and revenue, a handful of companies dominate. They tend to fall in three categories: 1) Those which dominate online traffic (hence, advertising); 2) Internet Service Providers (ISPs – i.e., Time Warner, AT&T), and; 3) Mobile service providers. Note that one company – Google – is uniquely placed with a big presence in all three: It dominates search and online ads; it’s storming into the ISP space with Google Fiber (which includes cable TV); and it offers the Android mobile operating system and Google Play store, which offers more than 2 million apps. Glance at these articles about those who profit from/dominate the Web:

(It’s funny – in the “recode” article about Adestra and marketing, they treat $4 billion in revenue as, basically, “leftovers” from Google and Facebook)

Finally, there was a big debate last year over “Net Neutrality” – the idea that each bit of Internet data is equal to another. The central issue in the debate was this: Can an ISP like Comcast charge one company more because they use more bandwidth? Or, can a company with deep pockets, like Google, offer to pay an ISP more to get favored status, so its videos can muscle out, say, Netflix? This wasn’t about you, the “receivers” of information – folks who watched Netflix, for example…it was about the “source” or providers of information, especially data hogs like streaming video (Netflix, YouTube). ISPs wanted to charge big data users more for Internet access than it charged companies that just shared things like text. The two sides to this debate are:

1) That’s wrong – it will stifle innovation and creativity by punishing companies like Rooster Teeth, which are trying to experiment with a new business model. The fear is that innovators won’t even try something new because they’ll know they would have to pay a premium. And it would let wealthy companies, like Apple, buy better service, leaving competitors at a disadvantage…or forced to pay more themselves. Besides, the Internet has always cherished equal access and the equal value of every packet of data.

2) That’s right – we charge by amount used for all kinds of stuff, like electricity, water, gas, cable channels and phone data. Besides, the ISPs, like Comcast, Time Warner, and now Google Fiber, spent billions in infrastructure installing fiber optic and coax cable all over the country. Why shouldn’t they be able to set their own rates?

An undercurrent of this debate was the idea that some things we depend on, like electricity and phone service, are vital utilities – necessary for society to function. Others, like broadcast TV, cable TV and radio, have long traditions of regulation, including how much companies can charge. All of that was woven into an intense debate that got settled by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 with a ruling for option #1, above – all data is equal and ISPs can’t charge type of user more than another.

Read more here and we’ll debate this topic in class.

NY Times: A Super Simple Way to Understand the Net Neutrality Debate

What Everyone Gets Wrong in the Debate Over Net Neutrality

It’s official: Apple went with BlueTooth headphones but with a Lightning cable adapter, added two cameras (telephoto and long), brighter display, water resistant and longer battery life. Apple Watch is waterproof, adding GPS and getting PokemonGo for the Watch.

Here’s Everything Apple Announced Today

=== Week 3 September 14 ===

Week 3, Sept. 14, virtual class; Defining the web; futurists; and online trends

Please see the readings below and blog something about them by Tuesday night. One short blog post is fine, total (you don’t need to comment on every item) but concentrate on sharing your opinions about them, examples and/or questions we can discuss: (remember to scroll down and click “Digital Media Issues” on the right side of your Post). I changed your roles so you ought to be able to upload photos, and the like.

Please email me your Gmail address (you don’t have to share it with everybody, just me). On Wednesday evening around 6:30, you’ll get an email invitation to join a Hangout, with a link. Just log into Gmail and click on the link and you ought to be able to join me. You can explore Hangouts, and play with your video and audio settings here:

I often have audio problems, so you may want to have some earbuds or another headset handy, just in case. You can also listen in and type comments.

Defining digital media

How digital media affected traditional media industries (especially the ability to share instantly)


Douglas Engelbart was a visionary engineer working in the Stanford research institute in the 1960s. He wrote this report as a theoretical guide for scientists/inventors/technologists as a sort of road map. Here’s the need, the goal – “augmenting” human abilities with technology so that, together, both are more powerful and practical. This is an introduction to the theoretical need for a framework in which to build the technology. He has a great example, a little past halfway through this section, of an architect at work using a computer to aid his work. Computer Aided Design (CAD) is a staple of contemporary architecture but this was 1962 and none of it existed yet.

Watch only the second and third videos (Clip 2: Doug Introduction and Clip 3: Word processing) at this link. It’s a live demonstration of a desktop computer and early word processing program at Stanford which also included some ability to link to other files and manipulate text. What makes it interesting is that it was in 1968! Electronic word processing, which we take for granted, offered three huge differences from typing:

1) The ability to get it just right – no typos, etc. – BEFORE it gets on paper;

2) Short cuts, like copying and duplicating text, and;

3) Electronic options, like adding links and sharing a file without need to mail it.

Marshall McLuhan was a prominent professor and media theorist in the 1960s and 70s – he was especially good at self promotion. Watch McLuhan, in 1965, describe “the cloud,” including online education and data storage. Pay special attention to what he describes at 1 minute and 30 seconds in, discussing driving downtown. He also describes the tensions that derive from different access to or ability with technology.

McLuhan predicted – with a mix of excitement and trepidation – that technology would dramatically change how we live. Good: We could learn other languages and cultures, access our work files and share knowledge around the world without leaving home; Bad: The folks in charge of building and programming a technological network might have the ability to control us all.

Nicholas Negroponte founded the MIT Media Lab and devoted a big part of his career to closing the digital divide, providing the greatest possible access to the largest number of people as cheaply as possible. He predicted some of our 21st Century tech…in 1984. This one is actually fun to watch because you’ll find yourself nodding your head and smiling at various points.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft)

Gates came from a privileged family of really competitive people. That competitiveness may have helped make him decisive enough to benefit greatly from two quick-thinking, aggressive business moves: 1) He bought a small company with an operating system so he could sell the OS under the Microsoft name; 2) He partnered with IBM (and then a whole bunch of IBM competitors) to be the sole provider of the OS (first DOS, then MS, then Windows).

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Apple. Step through these Top 10 moments in Jobs’ career, which may include some surprises for you. Wozniak, by the way, was the technical genius who built a personal computer from a kit and also built a universal remote control and game console. Jobs was a genius in marketing and the user-experience.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Did you know is nearly 20 years old and not only survived but thrived through the “dot-com” recession of the late 1990s?

Most intriguingly, recently, is his purchase of the Washington Post – some traditional journalists are very concerned about how he might “use” the Post to further his personal political agenda and others are concerned that multiple billionaires (investment legend Warren Buffett, Red Sox owner John Henry, a California real-estate developer).

Larry Page and Sergei Brin were classmates at Stanford (in the computer science Ph.D. program) who sort of backed their way into creating Google. They didn’t get along at first; and they tried, and failed, to sell their search idea. When they couldn’t get a decent offer, they “reluctantly” created Google themselves, LOL.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg followed a different path. He dropped out of Harvard as an undergrad and fought a 5-year dispute over the origins of and credit for the creation of Facebook with classmates, who had conceived Harvard Connect before Facebook.

=== Week 3 Addition: “Issues of the Week,” September 13, 2016

This is what the Internet looked like on September 11, 2001 – and this was weird for me because it totally evoked that day and what I was searching for and seeing online.

Gawker’s new owner (Univision) removed posts that are linked to current lawsuits.

Politics and digital media interact often. There was a move afoot in the European Union to expand roaming across the continent to anybody with a cell phone contract in a European country. In other words, if you had a cell phone in France, you could jump on a train to Germany or the Netherlands and make calls, send texts and use data at the same price as you could in France. It didn’t last long. Most plans give EU citizens up to 90 days of free roaming each year. Guess who led the pushback against unlimited roaming?

=== Week 4 Theories of Digital Media 092116 ===

Digital Media Issues Week 4 theories of digital media 092116

Apologies in advance: Some the readings this week are much more dense, including full journal articles (20-ish pages) and a bit of Marxist theory. At least skim everything and PLEASE be ready to argue with me about the ethics of big data, or women and technology or any other theory! See you (in person) Wednesday.

Uses & Gratifications; Diffusion of Innovation; Domestication of Media; Social Network Theory; and Participatory Media Culture

This brief article gives you short abstracts on five important, seminal theories which have mostly been around for a while (in some cases, half a century) and applied to other media, but which can easily be applied to digital media, including mobile.

Habermas: The Public Sphere

Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist. Remember me talking, on the first night of class, about how revolutionary the printing press was after its invention in 1451? It led to dramatic increases in books, then literacy, then fueled revolutions against churches and governments. It’s because, for the first time, individual people could widely share knowledge. That’s the idea behind the Public Sphere – that we aren’t beholden to or intimidated by, say, royalty because we can all talk, write, communicate and that ability to get communication in the hands of “the public” takes power away from elites and hands it to everyone.

McLuhan: Technological Determinism

You “met” Marshall McLuhan last week. He describes technology as a tool to extend the reach of the human body and mind; that we have this need to keep improving communication technology; and that old “styles” of media migrate into new media spaces, at least for a while. (Early online newspapers looked just like print papers). He also wrote about “the Global Village” in which the world “shrinks” before technology and you’ll see a reference to “Hot” and “Cold” media here.

Winner: Politics of Technology (Do Artifacts have Politics?)

Langdon Winner teaches at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and has theorized for 35 years that technology has the bad habit of just extending society’s evils into new realms. His seminal article looked at the construction revolution of Robert Moses, who ran New York’s transit and port authorities, and how new capabilities (cars, construction techniques, etc.) were used to further racial divisions in the city rather than to diminish them.

This is Winner’s full original article on technology, “things” and politics.

Bray: Women and Technology

Francesca Bray is a social anthropologist at the University of Edinburgh and has spent a lot of her career applying anthropology to other fields. The debate over women and technology has a few core features, most controversially: Is this an argument over training or anthropology? Are men and women oriented differently when it comes to learning and using technology? Are they discriminated against in access and training?

Wajcman: Technofeminism

Judy Wajcman is a sociology prof at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has been writing about technology and women for more than a decade and wrote an important, foundational book about it in 2004 called Technofeminism. This is a journal article on the same topic.

And here’s a provocative look back at an infamous mis-step over women in science by the president of Harvard University.

The Ethics of Algorithms and Data

The use and abuse of “big data” is more of an ethical conversation than a theoretical one, but that’s changing. We’ll talk more about this when we talk ethics later in the semester.

=== Week 5 September 29, 2016 Digital Media Research ===

Two important “lists” I neglected to mention during the theory lecture last week, which would make excellent midterm exam questions:

There are 3 levels of “media effect” – and media effect is at the core of a lot of our media theories, from film studies in the 1920s all the way through today.

1) Cognitive: The media makes you aware of something you didn’t know about before, it informs you. There’s a food brand most folks haven’t heard of, Goya…now every time you see Goya on the shelf at the grocery store, you’ll think of me and this class. That’s a cognitive effect.

2) Affective: This is a feeling about a media message. It can be emotion – think of Susan Boyle’s debut on Britain’s Got Talent (which makes me cry) – but it can also just be valence: I feel good or bad about something (i.e., “I like C-Span but I hate CNN”). Playing a violent video game, like Grand Theft Auto 5, can increase your heart rate and agitate you.

3) Behavioral: This is the hardest level of “media effect.” We all know people who play violent video games or watch violent movies, but none of them become violent themselves. There is some behavioral affect from media exposure – advertisers spend $600 billion a year to try to make us buy their products – but the media is far from all-powerful.

There are 3 distinct eras to media research…possibly 4, counting digital media:

1) Universal, mass effects (also known as the “magic bullet” or “hypodermic needle era”), from roughly World War I through the late 1930s. Because of tremendous urbanization – migration of millions of people, U.S.-born and immigrants – to a handful of cities, suddenly millions of people were getting their information all from the same sources: major newspapers, and later, radio. This era also witnessed the birth of modern propaganda, with George Creel and Edward Bernays. The fear was, with everyone consuming the same few information sources, it would be easy to manipulate everyone – think the War of the Worlds broadcast, Halloween, 1938.

2) Limited effects, in which research showed the media didn’t seem to have much effect at all, from WWII through the 1960s. A typical example is the 7-film Why We Fight series, propaganda films made by director Frank Capra (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) to persuade U.S. soldiers to support the war (to only minimal effect); Lazarsfeld and Katz’s Two-Step Flow of News (which found that friends and family could be more important news sources than news outlets).

3) Moderate effects, from 1972 (the first Agenda Setting study) to now. The belief now is that some media have some effect on some people some times. Agenda Setting, for example, found that the media is very powerful in telling people what to think about…IF those people are undecided voters who intend to vote, hence are glued to news, trying to decide.

Okay, digital research…

This week will be fairly dense, with a look at some published, peer-reviewed academic research, but that should help expose you to some literature reviews and research studies as a model for your work. Starting with the literature review, which is due on Wednesday, October 5, you’ll be building toward your final paper in this class. I’ll talk a little more about that in our meetup this week but the point is that I’ll help you build to your final paper in steps, so you won’t have to worry about writing the whole thing, with no guidance, in a weekend marathon; you’ll write it in stages, with help, over two months.

So, first, here’s a quick list of research topics with are unique to the digital media era (about 20 years old, now):

  • Speed (things happen much faster than in the pre-digital age, both in evolving technology and in data generation)
  • Interactivity…which made possible and includes…
  • Social Media (the good and the bad)
  • Digital participation (the good and the bad)

While thinking about those topics, I’d like for you to log in to the Texas State library and look at Volume 15, Issue 5 of the journal Information, Communication & Society. It’s a special issue: The evolution of research in the digital media age. You’ll be prompted for your Texas State NetID and password but ought to be able to access the whole issue.

This journal has been around since 1998 but this special issue from 2012 came out of a symposium organized at Oxford in 2011 to examine the evolution, current status and future of Internet research. It’s a great repository of articles on the unique nature of digital media research. I especially want you to look at these four articles:

1) A Decade in Internet Time, Loader & Dutton

2) The Next Decade in Internet Time, Lievrouw

3) Social Science Research Methods in Internet Time, Karpf

4) The Logic of Connective Action, Bennett & Segerberg

Okay, finally, some Literature Review tips:

Remember, a Lit Review should do a few things:

1) Identify, cite and paraphrase previous research in your area. IF there isn’t anything in your exact area – which may be a good thing – that’s okay, just look for and cite the pieces of your research idea. So, for example, if you want to study crisis communication, athletes and social media but can’t find research combining all three (you can), do a section on each;

2) IF you want to use a theory to guide your research (you don’t have to), start with the original citation in that theory, then find literature on that theory which moves into your area (for example, Agenda Setting: McCombs & Shaw, 1972, was about newspapers, TV and presidential politics but now there’s agenda setting research about social media);

3) Look for literature on research methods that will let you explore your phenomenon (content analysis, surveys, interviews, focus groups, experiments, etc.);

4) Your Literature Review should END by leading directly from your Lit into research questions or hypotheses. Remember, you won’t be doing a study this semester, just designing one.

Research questions (RQs) are, literally, just questions: How do athletes use social media?

Hypotheses (Hs) predict a relationship between variables: High social media users will be significantly less likely to follow news.

Your whole literature review will be about 5 pages – you should try to write maybe 3 pages for October 5, double-spaces, font size 12. I’d like to have you use APA (American Psychological Association) style. That means you’ll cite author(s) last names, comma, year in the text (Kaufhold, 2010) or (Kaufhold, Valenzuela & Gil de Zuniga, 2010) or (Gatlin, et al., 2009) (if it’s more than 3 authors, use “et al.”).

The citation at the end of your paper goes: Last name; first initial; year; article title; journal title; edition; issue; pages. Here’s what it looks like:

McCombs, M. & Shaw, D. (1972). The Agenda Setting Function of Mass Media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36(2), 176-187.

Citing books, book chapters and websites is a bit different – here’s a link to a style guide. And relax, I won’t punish you for wrong citations, but I will advise you and expect you to fix them later:

This site automatically generates a correctly formatted citation if you type in all the info – I happen to think it’s more tedious than just typing the citation, but that’s just me…

To search for articles for your own research, I recommend a couple of sources:

Start with (seriously – it’s a great resource!)

The trouble with Google Scholar is that you often can’t read a whole article. So keep that Scholar tab open and go to the Texas State Library site for periodicals, here:

You can type in the name of the journal you found on Google Scholar (many, but not all, journals) then find the exact issue and article, full text, for free.

And here are links to a few of my Literature Reviews as examples (you’ll need to log in with you NetID). See you soon!

=== Week 6, October 5, 2016 ===


So, Web browsers aren’t all equal and they aren’t just different choices for the same purposes. In our world, as users, they are – but their origins are very different.

  • Some are open source: Mozilla Firefox; Opera; Chromium
  • Some come embedded with operating systems: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (and Microsoft’s new browser, Edge); Apple’s Safari
  • Some are corporate but independent of any OS: Chrome; Vivaldi

The biggest browser controversy was Internet Explorer being bundled with Windows 95. Windows, by the 1990s, had a near monopoly on operating systems in corporate America. This was before the resurgence of Apple and, in fact, 1996 is the year Steve Jobs returned to Apple after his exile. Netscape Navigator, which was a dial-up service and browser, was the top browser in 1995; Mosaic was also popular. When Microsoft released Internet Explorer (IE) with Windows 95, three things made it unique: 1) It was the first browser so intricately linked with an OS; 2) It was compatible with all IBM-compatible machines running any version of Windows; 3) It was free (assuming you bought Windows). And there was huge pushback from Netscape, Mosaic and others who made their money selling browser software. So 1995 is known as the year of the first “Browser War.” Several other Browser Wars followed in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Read this history of the evolution of browsers – lots of good historical trivia here.

If you’d prefer a video, this is much longer than reading the timeline (43 minutes) but it’s an entertaining look at the origins of the Web and the need for a tool (a browser) to find pages online 20 years ago:

This article examines the tension between open-source independent browsers and those authored, sold and bundled by the corporate titans.

These articles capture the clash of the titans between Microsoft (IE) and Google (Chrome) in 2012, which is the year Chrome surpassed IE as the most-used browser

By the way, from 2005 to 2015, the dominant browser completely flipped, from 70% iE in 2005 to 70% Chrome in 2015.


People sometimes wonder why Google gives away access to its browser and search engine. Why not charge sites to appear? You can pay to get more favored placement but that’s labeled ads, at the top of searches – and research shows that people ignore those top 2 or 3 responses which are labeled as ads. So why does Google give away access? Because most Web traffic profits Google in myriad other ways – most prominently, Ad Sense ads.

Folks tend to forget this, but Google hasn’t always been the dominant beast it is now, either as the leading browser or as a revenue monster. Until about a decade ago, Yahoo was, by far, the dominant browser.

Here’s a quick (3 minute) video tutorial of just how a Google search finds and favors pages in a search.

And this one is optional but it’s a full program from Discovery Science (43 minutes) on the origins and working of Internet searching.

=== Week 8 101916 Diversity, Gender and Race ===

First off next Wednesday, October 19, we’ll meet in person for the first time in three weeks. We’ll start off with two group presentations about diversity, gender and race: Samantha Lopez, Undria Wilson and Cameron Wilson; and Vera Fischer and Carissa Kelley. Watch for discussion questions from both groups and be ready to talk about these potentially provocative topics.

We tend to think of Silicon Valley as a place still dominated by white men, and that’s still largely true – but it isn’t universally true. A number of women, and African American men and women, have succeeded in established companies or excelled with their own startups – in some cases, with businesses oriented around serving members of their own communities.


One of the criticisms of the technology sector is that it has been too welcoming of technologists – mostly male – from East and South Asia, including importing many thousands of workers while under-hiring U.S.-born technologists. One of the criticisms of that trend has been that the immigrant labor can be paid less than American workers.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-3-39-20-pmThis article shares some numbers and gives you a look at some reasons (or excuses) why tech isn’t more diverse.


Let’s start with this article from Business Insider listing 4-dozen prominent African Americans working in technology, including some that may surprise you (for example, Bush Administration Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice serves on the board of Dropbox. People forget she was Provost of Stanford University, the academic home of Silicon Valley).

This is a link to a whole series of short articles and infographics about being black in Silicon Valley and beyond in technology:

This is a great article from FastCompany about Tristan Walker, who started at Twitter, founded FourSquare (a location app which was launched here in Austin at South by Southwest) and now runs a company oriented around providing cosmetics to African Americans. Note the 4th paragraph, which discusses what percentage of tech employees are black.


Let’s start with a success story. This is a super long article, but at least read the first portion. It’s the story of Sheryl Sandberg, who was a senior executive with Google by the time Facebook launched outside of colleges in 2006. The next year, she had a chance meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and, not long after, joined Facebook where she and Zuckerberg have worked ever since. She brought business and startup experience, and maturity (she’s 15 years older than Mark Zuckerberg) to Facebook and helped move it into profitability. It’s a great story. She has inspired women by her very presence near the top (chief operating officer, #2 to Zuckerberg) of a top tech company but has also been a crusader for women in business and technology.

And this is her 15-minute Ted Talk about why we don’t have enough women in technology. It has been streamed more than 6 million times. Her key point is that women join many industries but don’t lead any of them.

Here’s a list of the most prominent women in technology in 2016. The numbers reflect where these women fall on Forbes’ list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in any industry, which is why they jump around. One of the things that made Meg Whitman a viable early candidate for president was that she’s so prominent in the tech industry that she placed high on this list.

This article, by Texas State Professor Cindy Royal, helps explain why Texas State is, uniquely, such a leader in teaching digital media – tech majors, like computer science and engineering, overwhelmingly enroll men; journalism overwhelmingly enrolls women. Cindy, and others (like Dr. K) view this as an opportunity to introduce many more women to coding and technology by embracing it in journalism school.

See you Wednesday!

=== Week 10 Mobile Media November 2, 2016 ===

Hi, all! Reminder, we will do a conference call this Wednesday, November 2 (Dia de los Muertos!) and will discuss Mobile Media (readings below).

The following week, Wednesday, November 9, we’ll meet in person with TWO topics: 1) Digital Media Economics and Entrepreneurship; 2) Online Journalism (we’ll have FIVE presenters on Online Journalism: Debra, Michael and Eun Jeong; and Nikole and June). I’ll get you my readings for those sessions late this week.

For this week, November 2, I want you to consider these 2 questions:

Q1: Is MOBILE MEDIA the MOST CONSEQUENTIAL media innovation in history? Even more than the printing press or the Internet?

Q2: Is it possibly the MOST CONSEQUENTIAL innovation of any kind in history? Even more than steam engines, the wheel, control over fire?

First some quick history: Remember, the first touch-screen mobile phone was the iPhone, in January of 2007. In fact, at the demo, some of the things Steve Jobs showcased didn’t even work yet – they were faked for the launch! Reports on the 10th anniversary iPhone, likely coming in September of 2017, hint at a curved screen and no “bookends” on the display. But the big point is that this technology, which we all take for granted, is less than a decade old! It took Gutenberg 4 years to print only 4 dozen bibles; Apple, in the same 4-year period, sold nearly 150 million iPhones; more than half a billion by year 6! By this year, 1.5 Billion iPhones and Android phones had been sold. We’ll talk more about the economics of that on November 9, but, for perspective on how that has affected our media behavior, the Apple App Store has 2 million available apps; Google Play has 2.2 million; Apple’s 1 Billionth app download came in just 2 years, in 2009. By the way, the 1 Billionth iTunes iPod song download happened in 2006 – before the iPhone even launched.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-22-04-amThe first public radio telephone was available in the 1960s but the first digital cellular data network (3G, for “third generation”) launched in Japan in 2001; in South Korea in 2002; and spread globally in the mid-2000s. The presence of the network created the marketplace for Internet-enabled “smart phones” like the Blackberry and Palm Treo, which were the first handheld devices that let you both make phone calls and do limited Internet functions in the West in 2003. Those evolved over 4 years through better navigation tools, including wheels and trackballs, and keyboards – all with real buttons, which, of course, encroached on the size of the screen. The touch-screen iPhone – withscreen-shot-2016-10-30-at-10-37-52-am more natural navigation, a color display and a quickly growing collection of apps, dramatically changed things. Subscriptions to 3G data networks jumped 10% in 2007, to nearly 300 million – 30 million new users in one year. The next two innovations were: 1) Competing phones; 2) A bigger, faster network (4G) which launched in 2009 to accommodate the growing demand for sharing photos, streaming videos, etc.

This article looks at how quickly mobile media “diffused” through society and how it upended the concept of and old, top-down, one-way “mass media.”

That reading, by the way, is from the first issue of a new journal dedicated to mobile media: Mobile Media & Communication, which just launched in January, 2013. You can log in with your NetID and glance at that whole issue here, although it’s optional.

Okay, catching up, here are some current trends in mobile media. Take special not of how mobile is a 2-way street in the collection (our “donation”) of data. Our mobile media use instantly becomes some company’s data (think Waze, Google Maps traffic, the wait time at Great Clips, etc.):

This video tracks two companies creating apps for Apple’s App Store.

And this video walks you through what we call “responsive design” in which we code multiple style sheets (CSS) for the same “content” (HTML) to be viewed in different ways on different devices. So, a page with the same words and images looks different on a 17-inch desktop monitor, on a tablet and on a phone. As a quick example, if you view this on a computer, click on a corner of the screen and drag the window down to the width of a phone and watch how all the content aligns in a single column.

By the way, this video, from 2013, says mobile hurts your SEO (search engine optimization – how easily Google finds your page) but that isn’t true anymore. In fact, Google knows what kind of device you’re using and, last year, started favoring mobile-friendly pages and sites IF you were typing your search on a phone.

And some mobile current events:

-The UK has such terrible cell service that the government teamed with cell operators in 2014 and paid about $6 billion to improve service – but the country is still full of what they call “Not-spots” and foreign visitors with providers from other countries often have better access:

And this week’s breaking news about the FBI looking into a new trove of emails related to the Clinton campaign is linked, at least in part, to disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner’s use of his smartphone camera and Twitter apps in inappropriate ways.

=== Week 11, November 9, Online Journalism and Entrepreneurship ===

This Wednesday, November 9, I’m going to set the stage, then we’ll have our two group presentations about online journalism: Nikole Smith and June Leal; and Debra Price, Michael Coker and Eun Jeong Lee. Watch for a post from them with some discussion questions. As you might imagine, I have opinions about online journalism, after having enjoyed a stable 20-year career in (mostly) traditional journalism.

I originally had Online Journalism alone on the schedule, a couple of weeks before Media Economics and Entrepreneurship on the syllabus – and there’s enough complexity to both to spread them over two weeks. BUT, they’re intricately linked. I was an early multimedia journalist and I teach multimedia – but I also teach and research media economics and entrepreneurship, so my perspective is a bit unique. The migration to online journalism exacerbated and helped accelerate a decline in media economics that began in the 1960s. I have a provocative hypothesis which I’ll share with you all in class and which guides much of my research…I’ll leave you in suspense for now.

But let me make two points about media economics:

1) Newspapers, radio and TV stations overwhelmingly make their money from traditional ad sources (print ads, commercials). Despite the huge push into online news, more than 80% of revenue still comes from print newspaper ads and broadcast commercials. Research shows you need up to 20 online news consumers to provide the same revenue as 1 print subscriber.

2) Some people actually tend to view online news as inferior to traditional print or TV news because it’s free.

Let’s start here, with a very contemporary research study just published by a good friend of mine, Dr. Hsiang “Iris” Chyi, a media economics prof at UT Austin. She has a theory (The “Ramen Noodle” Theory) which compares three things:

  • The current economic environment (are times good or bad?);
  • The cost of a product (from expensive down to free), and;
  • It’s perceived

She argues that, in good times, we’ll “splurge” on a “luxury” good; in bad times, we’ll abandon that and go cheap. So when we’re broke, we’ll shop at WalMart, not because we like WalMart but because we can afford it. When we’re back in the money, we go to Target or even Macy’s and – importantly – we look down our noses at WalMart. We perceive Macy’s as a “superior good” and WalMart as an “inferior good.” They both have their value at a given time, but they have different value and we clearly see one as “better” than the other.

Applied to media, in good times, people will “splurge” on a print newspaper subscription, maybe even subscribe to both a local and a national paper; or subscribe to cable TV with premium movie or sports channels; and spend more time consuming them, partly because they paid for them. At those moments, we view free, online news as an “inferior good.” This is both an economic and a psychological evaluation: This one costs less (it’s free!) which is good; but since it’s free, we perceive it as being worth less. And “free” is, literally, worthless. So Dr. Chyi’s whole point is that we perceive paid print newspapers as superior; free online new as inferior.

Her most recent article hammers home the point that revenue – subscription and sales, and profits, still overwhelmingly come from print newspapers.

That Politico article refers heavily to Chyi and Ori Tenenboim’s study published in Journalism Practice. You can read the whole study here.

As you might imagine, not everyone agrees with this assessment. This article in The Atlantic compares the decline in print revenue to the growth in new online-only news outlets and makes a very salient point: printing and delivering thousands of newspapers is expensive – it usually accounts for 60% to 80% of costs. Delivering online news is cheap – I pay about $20 a year to host multiple websites.

A VERY important historical article on new media economics is the famous Long Tail article by Chris Anderson, published in Wired a decade ago. It examines how the global reach of the Internet means there’s a market – even if it’s tiny – for everything! There’s virtually nothing so obscure that you can’t sell to someone, somewhere, online.

The Long Tail

Here’s another twist: We teach all kinds of journalism in our School of Journalism and Mass Communication and most of our journalism students find work, although not as many land in newsrooms as in the past. Which of our students do get hired in big numbers? Those who studied some HTML, CSS and multimedia (video and audio production, data visualization). Our own Dr. Cindy Royal has been a national leader in teaching many more journalists (including me) to code and in transforming journalism curricula to include more coding.

Here are a couple of historical articles: The first looks at the successful pitch by Aron Pilhofer, digital editor of the New York Times, to dramatically remake online offerings in 2007. It’s exceedingly long but you should read at least the first page.

This is a look at how Buzzfeed has gone all-in for contemporary digital: lots of video, coding for mobile, and applying data to constantly tweak “the user experience,” or UX. The idea is to figure out what consumers want, how they want it and deliver it better than anyone else.

And this is an early look at the Texas Tribune by my friend Jake Batsell of SMU. A VERY important note about the Tribune – it accepts ALL kinds of revenue: ads, memberships (like public broadcasting), corporate sponsorships, events, donations – but most important is foundation funding. The Texas Tribune couldn’t have started and wouldn’t exist now without millions of dollars from various foundations (Knight, Houston endowment, oilman T. Boone Pickens). The point is, the Texas Tribune, which I absolutely love, is NOT profitable like the Statesman or Express-News – not even close.

I wrote a study some years ago looking at the finances of some of the new nonprofit news outlets. My conclusion was that they were utterly dependent on foundation support.

In the end, I believe there are two dynamics at work here – and they are not competing with each other:

1) The quality of the journalism is better – in fact, MUCH better. We preserve all of the quality, depth, integrity, accessibility of legacy media (long investigative print articles; informational graphics; live TV or video placing you at the scene; the instantaneity of radio) but add in searchability, interactive data and the ability for the audience to participate.

2) But the economics are worse because readers, viewers and revenue are fleeing lots of newspapers, radio and TV stations and flooding to Google, Netflix and Spotify. Big new conglomerate outlets – not necessarily news outlets – are monopolizing online eyeballs and revenue. And much of the change in “media” consumption is TOWARD entertainment and AWAY from news. So despite decades of experimentation with the “User Experience” – trying to write more for a young audience; “nuggetizing” news; multimedia and interactivity; involving the audience in stories – despite all of that, news use has been shrinking since the 1960s – entertainment media consumption has grown.

So, here’s my provocative hypothesis:

It isn’t news that’s broken…it’s the audience that’s broken.