In this unit you will analyze media and its effects on society today. In this packet, you will find the articles we will be reading as a class as well as the homework readings.
At the end of each article is a news analysis sheet that you must complete.
When you are finished with your research, you will write an essay discussing whether the effects of media are mostly positive or negative.
The basis of your essay will be the articles and the completed analysis forms. PLEASE make sure you keep up with them because you will NEED them in order to write you essays.
New York Times
January 27, 2011
Revolutionary Arab Geeks
By ROGER COHEN
LONDON — Ill-timed books are an interesting subculture. “Dow 36,000” comes to mind. It was written by James Glassman and Kevin Hassett and published in 1999, just as the tech bubble peaked. Now we have Evgeny Morozov’s “The Net Delusion” — sub-title “The Dark Side of Internet Freedom” — hitting stores just as the Facebook-armed youth of Tunisia and Egypt rise to demonstrate the liberating power of social media.
Morozov — born in Belarus, educated in Bulgaria, living in California — is a rumpled, bespectacled 26-year-old (“I am embarrassingly young,” he told me) with no driver’s license and an outsized brain. He’s funny and talks very fast, as if the words issuing from him are trying, in vain, to catch up with the thoughts zipping through his head like electrons around an atom.
These thoughts, as gathered in his exhaustive book, go like this: Cyber-utopians, not least Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have spawned a dangerous illusion by suggesting the world can blog, tweet, Facebook, YouTube and Google its way to democracy and freedom.
In an age where “The best and the brightest are now also the geekiest” — Morozov can turn a sound-byte — the so-called “Google Doctrine” has, in the author’s view, become a seductive trap. The reality, he argues, is that too often the Internet “empowers the strong and disempowers the weak.”
Far from favoring the oppressed, Web 2.0 gives new tools to the oppressor in cracking down on some opponents — “One stolen password now opens data doors that used not to exist” — and lulling others into passivity — “All they want to connect to is potential lovers, pornography and celebrity gossip.” Kremlin ideologues, he notes, have become very adept, sometimes with sexy shows, in forging “digital captives” distracted from politics.
The fact that social media is dominated by U.S. corporations allows repressive governments from Belarus to Beijing to hatch persuasive conspiracy theories conflating, say, Twitter with American government plots, especially when, as with the Iranian uprising of 2009, there are publicized contacts between U.S. State Department officials and the company.
A big Clinton speech on Internet freedom, like the one she made in January, 2010, may only expose dissident bloggers to added danger by making them appear as the long arm of American subversion — or so Morozov contends. A 69-page bibliography attests to his reading in unearthing arguments against cyber-delusions.
I think Morozov is brilliant and his book is a useful provocation. I also think he’s dead wrong.
Sure, the first decade of the 21st century has seen anti-Western authoritarianism hold its ground, and there’s no question the people running repressive systems are quick studies who’ve learned to exploit, or suppress, a revolutionary technology that challenges them. Still, they’re swimming against the tide. The freedom to connect is a tool of liberation — and it’s powerful.
I am writing this on my return from Tunisia, where Facebook gave young protesters the connective muscle to oust an Arab dictator, and as I watch on YouTube images of brave young Egyptians confronting the clubs and water-cannons of President Hosni Mubarak’s goons.
“All they have, all they have,” says one bloodied protester of the brute force he’s encountered. Yes, when all you have is a big hammer — and that’s what’s left in the arsenal of decaying, nepotistic Arab regimes — everything looks like a nail.
The truth is these men — add the 23-year rule of the ousted Tunisian dictator Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali to the reigns of Mubarak and Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya and you have almost a century of despotism — are relics to whom a wired world has given the lie.
Organization, networking, exposure to suppressed ideas and information, the habits of debate and self-empowerment in a culture of humiliation and conspiracy: These are some of the gifts social media is bestowing on overwhelmingly young populations across the Arab world.
Above all, the Internet’s impact has been to expose the great delusion that has led Western governments to buttress Arab autocrats: that the only alternative to them was Islamic jihadists. No, the Tunisian revolution was middle-class, un-Islamic and pro-Western. The people in the streets of Cairo are young, connected, non-ideological and pragmatic: They want a promise that Mubarak won’t stand in the presidential election this year or hand power to his son, Gamal, who, by the way, has a nice pad on London’s chic Eaton Square.
As the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei told my colleagues David Kirkpatrick and Michael Slackman, “I am pretty sure that any freely and fairly elected government in Egypt will be a moderate one, but America is really pushing Egypt and pushing the whole Arab world into radicalization with this inept policy of supporting repression.”
Enough already! If Clinton was serious in announcing that a U.S. priority is now to “harness the power of connection technologies and apply them to our diplomatic goals,” and if she truly sees the Arab world’s foundations “sinking into the sand,” the moment is now to back change in Cairo.
And I can’t think of better atonement for Morozov’s errors than for him to apply his brilliance and Web savvy to the cause of Egyptian and Tunisian democracy.
New York Times
January 9, 2012
Seeing Social Media More as Portal Than as Pitfall
By PERRI KLASS, M.D.
More than a hundred years ago, when the telephone was introduced, there was some hand-wringing over the social dangers that this new technology posed: increased sexual aggression and damaged human relationships. “It was going to bring down our society,” said Dr. Megan Moreno, a specialist in adolescent medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Men would be calling women and making lascivious comments, and women would be so vulnerable, and we’d never have civilized conversations again.”
In other words, the telephone provoked many of the same worries that more recently have been expressed about online social media. “When a new technology comes out that is something so important, there is this initial alarmist reaction,” Dr. Moreno said.
Indeed, much of the early research — and many of the early pronouncements — on social media seemed calculated to make parents terrified of an emerging technology that many of them did not understand as well as their children did.
Whether about sexting or online bullying or the specter of Internet addiction, “much social media research has been on what people call the danger paradigm,” said Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician and the director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston.
Though there are certainly real dangers, and though some adolescents appear to be particularly vulnerable, scientists are now turning to a more nuanced understanding of this new world. Many have started to approach social media as an integral, if risky, part of adolescence, perhaps not unlike driving.
Researchers are also looking to Facebook, Twitter and the rest for opportunities to identify problems, to hear cries for help and to provide information and support. Dr. Rich, who sees many teenagers who struggle with Internet-related issues, feels strongly that it is important to avoid blanket judgments about the dangers of going online.
“We should not view social media as either positive or negative, but as essentially neutral,” he said. “It’s what we do with the tools that decides how they affect us and those around us.”
Dr. Moreno’s early research looked at adolescents who displayed evidence of risky behaviors on public MySpace profiles, posting photos or statements that referred to sexual activity or substance abuse. E-mails were sent to those adolescents suggesting that they modify their profiles or make them private.
Girls were more likely to respond than boys, Dr. Moreno found, and sexual material was more likely than alcohol-related material to be removed.
Her current research, by contrast, approaches social media as a window, an opportunity to understand and improve both physical and mental health. In a study of the ways college students describe sadness in status updates on their Facebook profiles, she showed that some such expressions were associated with depression in students who completed clinical screening tests.
Since freshman year is a high-risk time for depression, many college resident advisers already try to use Facebook to monitor students, Dr. Moreno said. Perhaps it will be possible to help R.A.’s recognize red flags in the online profiles of their charges.
Still, she acknowledged that this new strategy raised privacy concerns, asking, “How do you think about extending this to other at-risk groups in a way that still doesn’t feel like an invasion of privacy?” For example, can we help people in support groups take care of one another better through social media?
Going back and forth, as I do these days, between the worlds of academic pediatrics and academic journalism, I am struck by the focus in both settings on the potential — and the risks — of social media and on the importance of understanding how communication is changing.
Our children are using social media to accomplish the eternal goals of adolescent development, which include socializing with peers, investigating the world, trying on identities and establishing independence.
In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media issued a clinical report, “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families.” It began by emphasizing the benefits of social media for children and adolescents, including enhanced communication skills and opportunities for social connections.
“A large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cellphones,” the report noted.
Our job as parents is to help them manage all this wisely, to understand — and avoid — some of the special dangers and consequences of making mistakes in these media. (We can expect the same kind of gratitude that we get for all of our guidance: mixed, of course, with an extra helping of contempt if our technical skills are not up to theirs.)
“Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all harm model, one of the questions parents need to ask is, ‘How is this going to interact with my child’s personality?’ ” said Clay Shirky, who teaches about social media at New York University. “Digital media is an amplifier. It tends to make extroverts more extroverted and introverts more introverted.”
And both parents and researchers need to be sure they understand the subtleties of the ways teenagers interpret social media.
At a 2011 symposium on the Internet and society, two researchers presented information on how teenagers understand negative talk on the Internet. What adults interpret as bullying is often read by teenagers as “drama,” a related but distinct phenomenon.
By understanding how teenagers think about harsh rhetoric, the researchers suggested, we may find ways to help them defend themselves against the real dangers of online aggression.
The problems of cyberbullying and Internet overuse are serious, and the risks of making mistakes online are very real. But even those who treat adolescents with these problems are now committed to the idea that there are other important perspectives for researchers — or parents, or teachers — looking at the brave new universe in which adolescence is taking place.
Social media, said Dr. Rich, “are the new landscape, the new environment in which kids are sorting through the process of becoming autonomous adults —
New York Times
November 20, 2008
Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing
By TAMAR LEWIN
Good news for worried parents: All those hours their teenagers spend socializing on the Internet are not a bad thing, according to a new study by the MacArthur Foundation.
“It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages,” said Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, “Living and Learning With New Media.” “But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.”
The study, conducted from 2005 to last summer, describes new-media usage but does not measure its effects.
“It certainly rings true that new media are inextricably woven into young people’s lives,” said Vicki Rideout, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation and director of its program for the study of media and health. “Ethnographic studies like this are good at describing how young people fit social media into their lives. What they can’t do is document effects. This highlights the need for larger, nationally representative studies.”
Ms. Ito, a research scientist in the department of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, said that some parental concern about the dangers of Internet socializing might result from a misperception.
“Those concerns about predators and stranger danger have been overblown,” she said. “There’s been some confusion about what kids are actually doing online. Mostly, they’re socializing with their friends, people they’ve met at school or camp or sports.”
The study, part of a $50 million project on digital and media learning, used several teams of researchers to interview more than 800 young people and their parents and to observe teenagers online for more than 5,000 hours. Because of the adult sense that socializing on the Internet is a waste of time, the study said, teenagers reported many rules and restrictions on their electronic hanging out, but most found ways to work around such barriers that let them stay in touch with their friends steadily throughout the day.
“Teens usually have a ‘full-time intimate community’ with whom they communicate in an always-on mode via mobile phones and instant messaging,” the study said.
This is not news to a cluster of Bronx teenagers, gathered after school on Wednesday to tell a reporter about their social routines. All of them used MySpace and instant messaging to stay in touch with a dozen or two of their closest friends every evening. “As soon as I get home, I turn on my computer,” said a 15-year-old boy who started his MySpace page four years ago. “My MySpace is always on, and when I get a message on MySpace, it sends a text message to my phone. It’s not an obsession; it’s a necessity.” (School rules did not permit using students’ names without written parental permission, which could not be immediately obtained.)
Only one student, a 14-year-old girl, had ever opted out — and she lasted only a week.
“It didn’t work,” she said. “You become addicted. You can’t live without it.”
In a situation familiar to many parents, the study describes two 17-year-olds, dating for more than a year, who wake up and log on to their computers between taking showers and doing their hair, talk on their cellphones as they travel to school, exchange text messagesthrough the school day, then get together after school to do homework — during which time they also play a video game — talk on the phone during the evening, perhaps ending the night with a text-messaged “I love you.”
Teenagers also use new media to explore new romantic relationships, through interactions casual enough to ensure no loss of face if the other party is not interested.
The study describes two early Facebook messages, or “wall posts,” by teenagers who eventually started dating. First, the girl posted a message saying, “hey ... hm. wut to say? iono lol/well I left you a comment ... u sud feel SPECIAL haha.” (Translation: Hmm ... what to say? I don’t know. Laugh out loud. Well I left you a comment ... You should feel special.)
A day later, the boy replied, “hello there ... umm I don’t know what to say, but at least I wrote something ...”
While online socializing is ubiquitous, many young people move on to a period of tinkering and exploration, as they look for information online, customize games or experiment with digital media production, the study found.
For example, a Brooklyn teenager did a Google image search to look at a video card and find out where in a computer such cards are, then installed his own.
What the study calls “geeking out” is the most intense Internet use, in which young people delve deeply into a particular area of interest, often through a connection to an online interest group.
“New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting,” the study said. “Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults.”
New York Times
February 17, 2012
By Wael Ghonim
In the embryonic, ever evolving era of social media — when milestones come by the day, if not by the second — June 8, 2010, has secured a rightful place in history. That was the day Wael Ghonim, a 29-year-old Google marketing executive, was browsing Facebook in his home in Dubai and found a startling image: a photograph of a bloodied and disfigured face, its jaw broken, a young life taken away. That life, he soon learned, had belonged to Khaled Mohamed Said, a 28-year-old from Alexandria who had been beaten to death by the Egyptian police.
At once angered and animated, the Egyptian-born Ghonim went online and created a Facebook page. “Today they killed Khaled,” he wrote. “If I don’t act for his sake, tomorrow they will kill me.” It took a few moments for Ghonim to settle on a name for the page, one that would fit the character of an increasingly personalized and politically galvanizing Internet. He finally decided on “Kullena Khaled Said” — “We Are All Khaled Said.”
“Khaled Said was a young man just like me, and what happened to him could have happened to me,” Ghonim writes in “Revolution 2.0,” his fast-paced and engrossing new memoir of political awakening. “All young Egyptians had long been oppressed, enjoying no rights in our own homeland.”
Ghonim’s memoir is a welcome and cleareyed addition to a growing list of volumes that have aimed (but often failed) to meaningfully analyze social media’s impact. It’s a book about social media for people who don’t think they care about social media. It will also serve as a touchstone for future testimonials about a strengthening borderless digital movement that is set to continually disrupt powerful institutions, be they corporate enterprises or political regimes.
An accidental activist, Ghonim tapped into a shared frustration that became immediately evident online. Two minutes after he started his Facebook page, 300 people had joined it. Three months later, that number had grown to more than 250,000. What bubbled up online inevitably spilled onto the streets, starting with a series of “Silent Stands” that culminated in a massive and historic rally at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. “We Are All Khaled Said” helped ignite an uprising that led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the dissolution of the ruling National Democratic Party. In turn, Ghonim — who was arrested during the height of the protests — reluctantly became one of the leading voices of the Arab Spring.
Ghonim’s writing voice is spare and measured, and marked by the same earnest humility he has displayed in media appearances. During the interview he gave on Egyptian television after his release from detention, when he broke down crying as a photo montage of young Egyptians killed in the protests played across the screen, he was quick to point out that “the real heroes” of the revolution were those who had been martyred. He resists being labeled an icon. He insists he represents just one story and says his online activism should be seen only in the context of “hundreds of other pages, Facebook accounts and Twitter profiles” dedicated to covering and organizing the Arab Spring.
And he’s right. But his individual story resonates on two levels: it epitomizes the coming-of-age of a young Middle Eastern generation that has grown up in the digital era, as well as the transformation of an apolitical man from comfortable executive to prominent activist.
The Middle East is home to roughly 100 million people ages 15 to 29. Many are educated but unemployed. Though only a fraction of Egyptians have Internet access, Ghonim writes, the number of Web users in the country increased to 13.6 million in 2008 from 1.5 million in 2004. Through blogs, Twitter and Facebook, the Web has become a haven for a young, educated class yearning to express its worries and anxieties.
Technology, of course, is not a panacea. Facebook does not a revolution make. In Egypt’s case, it was simply a place for venting the outrage resulting from years of repression, economic instability and individual frustration. Ghonim writes that in 2011, out of Egypt’s more than 80 million people, some 48 million were poor and 2.5 million lived in extreme poverty. “More than three million young Egyptians are unemployed,” he says.
A father of two, Ghonim comes from a relatively prosperous family. Though he places himself in “a small, privileged slice” of Egypt’s population, he once shared his countrymen’s indifference to politics. “Most of us shied away,” he writes, “believing that we could not do anything to change the status quo.” Connecting online with other young, educated Egyptians changed his mind.
The Internet, Ghonim says, was “instrumental in shaping my experiences as well as my character.” Like many who grew up with instant messaging, online video games and the here-comes-everybody ethos of sites like Wikipedia, he refers to himself as a “real-life introvert yet an Internet extrovert.” He met his wife, Ilka, an American Muslim, online.
Ghonim drew on his considerable skill and knowledge as an online marketer while running the “We Are All Khaled Said” Facebook page. Early on, he decided that creating the page, as opposed to a Facebook group, would be a better way to spread information. More important, he knew that maintaining an informal, authentic tone was crucial to amassing allies. People had to see themselves in the page. “Using the pronoun I was critical to establishing the fact that the page was not managed by an organization, political party or movement of any kind,” he writes. “On the contrary, the writer was an ordinary Egyptian devastated by the brutality inflicted on Khaled Said and motivated to seek justice.”
He polled the page’s users and sought ideas from others, like how best to publicize a rally — through printed fliers and mass text messaging, it turned out. (“Reaching working-class Egyptians was not going to happen through the Internet and Facebook,” he notes.) He tried to be as inclusive as possible, as when he changed the name of the page’s biggest scheduled rally from “Celebrating Egyptian Police Day — January 25” to “January 25: Revolution Against Torture, Poverty, Corruption and Unemployment.” “We needed to have everyone join forces: workers, human rights activists, government employees and others who had grown tired of the regime’s policies,” he writes. “If the invitation to take to the streets had been based solely on human rights, then only a certain segment of Egyptian society would have participated.”
As the youth-led Tunisian upheaval further inspired young activists in Egypt, Ghonim was arrested by the secret police. For nearly two weeks, he was held blindfolded and handcuffed, deprived of sleep and subjected to repeated interrogations, as his friends, family and colleagues at Google tried to discover his whereabouts. That he was released as quickly as he was demonstrated the power of Revolution 2.0.
A year after Mubarak’s ouster, it remains to be seen exactly how and when — or whether — Egypt will transition to a better democracy. What Ghonim’s book makes clear, however, is that revolution begins with the self: with what one is willing to stand for online and offline, and what one citizen is willing to risk in the service of his country.
Jose Antonio Vargas has written for The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and The New Yorker. He is the founder of Define American, a multimedia campaign for immigration reform.