Week 8. Ownership from 3 Perspectives

Welcome back to our routines.

Those who joined the Google Hangouts received F2F feedback on the exam. Others will get their scores by the end of the evening

The topic of ownership will act as a specific case study of the principles of media governance, and the (related) outlooks to it. The key words are: Control, Impact, and Identity.

At the same time I am seeking to respond to two-and-a-half requests about topics, those that emerged during the Hangouts. One is about ownership: who really owns what in the media? The other is about governing one’s own media use and contents. The half is about the relationship between the current US administration and media governance. (I will continue addressing these themes in the future, and address other requests as well.)

(I made some changes in the syllabus, to reflect your wishes — and also to change some sessions slightly. I had not anticipated to have  many same students in ICM810 and ICM835 so I had included a policy brief assignment for both. We will address policy briefs as a part of a broader session on Strategies and Tactics. )

Hope you enjoy the 3 levels of ownership!

Please Read Freedman W8 and Pariser W8 as a background (in our Drive).

Macro-level: Governance of Control

Concentrated media ownership has become an increasingly salient issue in the context of global demands for social justice and democracy.

Ownership, and its cousin, Content Control, are age-old communication governance questions. This is the field of political economy, asking us to follow the money, and to see how monopolistic and oligopolistic ownership systems may control content diversity and skew mediated representations. The shrinking number of mass media companies has been a concern for several decades. Now we are here:

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… But has the digital era changed much? The Economist has famously talked about The Game of Thrones between the four BIG that are trying to conquer each other’s functions and develop a variety of new ones – Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. Similarly, the scholar Dal Yong Jin has argued that the Hollywood-era cultural imperialism of the U.S. continues today — not because all content is American, but because the intermediaries distributing content are:

At a glance, the massive switch to the digital economy has provided a surplus for several emerging powers, including China, India, and Korea with which to challenge the longer-term U.S. dominance … These countries have presumably competed with Western countries, and they are sup- posed to build a new global order with their advanced digital technologies. However, there are doubts as to whether non-Western ICT corporations have reorganized the global flow and constructed a balance between the West and the East. The panacea of technology may reduce imperialism and domination to vestiges of the past; however, technology will always be the reality of human hierarchy and domination, and digital technologies have buttressed U.S. hegemony.

In particular, when the debates reach platforms, non-Western countries have not, and likely cannot, construct a balanced global order, because Google (including its Android operating system), Facebook, Twitter and Apple’s iPhones (and iSO) are indices of the dominance of the U.S. in the digital economy. These platforms have penetrated the global market and expanded their global dominance. Therefore, it is not unsafe to say that American imperialism has been continued with platforms….

So, late last year, the investigative team at the National Public Radio got curious: What is the relationship between legacy and “new” media? Their result: ownership control and consolidation is happening, and fast…

This might be accelerated by the current administration. The newly appointed chairman of the Federal Communication Commission  seems to think that ownership regulations in the US are far too strict, as he indicates in this recent interview.

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(FCC is the body that “regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications laws, regulation and technological innovation.)

Meso-level: Governance of Impact

The question of ownership can also take quite another direction when looked at from organizational angle. If you search for media governance templates and guidelines the focus is often on ownership and safeguarding one’s assets. By this I mean governing the impact of (social) media, and this often in terms of avoiding crises.

Media governance, including but not limited to, reputation management, wasn’t really an issue for organizations in the times of mass media. Yes, there have been situations in which the PR firms have fiercely promoted a company and conducted crisis communication management. But, as we know, in these days of viral information and blurring boundaries of privacy, plus infinite number of content creators, are ever so much challenging. — Those who attended Kara Alaimo’s lecture on Trump’s impact in the reputation management plans of companies can see a connection to the new administration as well.

I’m making a conscious distinction here between social media marketing and social media governance. Admittedly, if we understand governance as power, having positive impact (from fantastic print advertising campaign to great search engine optimization) is having power over media and communication. Therefore, one could perhaps conceptualize the relationships as follows (my humble attempt):

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But, perhaps because mass media era had created a legion of marketing professionals (departments, agencies, and so on), discussion on media governance focuses on what I call feedback (by which I mean all unsolicited communication by clients or anyone else, whether positive or negative) and internal impact (by which I mean social media actions by the employees, whether in relation to an organization’s internal communications, external communications, or  as “private” persons).

Another reason is, as a few of our colleagues in this course have noted, that while an organization might not be actively engaging in “marketing”, the other aspects of governance may be important (just think of court cases, for example).

Accenture consultancy company sees social media governance essentially as risk avoidance. Here’s their scheme:

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So how can this be addressed? An illustation, and a more operational take on the meso-level governance , is presented below:

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In the graph, the marketing (external communication, “push”) is obviously absent. Instead, the elements include:

  • Social strategy: What is the overall philosophy in terms of social media? What is to be achieved (or avoided) in terms of social media?
  • Social media policy: The concrete action plan and rules that pertain to how the organization, and its employees, use social media.
  • Social governance framework: Who “speaks” for the organization and in which platforms; who monitors which platforms for internal compliance and for feedback?
  • Regulatory – compliance: What are the measures if policies are not followed?
  • Social resilience and crisis management: How to respond to unwanted/negative “feedback”? How to do that quickly and efficiently?
  • Data Privacy and Control: (Depending on the nature of the organization) How is company, employee, and client data protected?
  • Policy Awareness and Training.

Here’s a similar framework expressed by Deloitte consultancy company in WSJ.

(In your Mid Term, you have already explored some concrete examples of social media policies.)

Micro-level: Governance of Identity

Control and impact are not only issues of media systems or specific organizations. Control over one’s privacy, and one’s impact on social media, are equally relevant to individuals. I leave you with perhaps the most famous, and tragic, case:

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.

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(Make sure to check out the commentary, 1500+ comments, as well. They tell us a lot about today’s communication culture and the need for media governance.)

So how do we take ownership and control, in the micro-level? By being mindful, to start with. Many tech blogs, news sites, and others offer tips for personal privacy protection. Dedicated non-profits tend to quickly react to any perceived threats, such as current issues with digital privacy when traveling to and from the U.S. And, online reputation management for individuals (not only corporations) has become big business…


Assignment: Filter Bubbles and Diversity

Ownership concentration used to be viewed as a problem as it was expected that same owner = same/similar content in many outlets. (Also, it was feared that news, owned by big media conglomerates, would not dare to report negatively on the owners.)

Now we have an infinite amount of content, that we, too create. How is diversity doing? Instead of being challenged by new things and different views, services recommend  us more of the same based on our previous consumption, and offer news and opinions that we and our friends like. We live in filter bubbles.

Test your filter bubble! If you are on Facebook, and use Chrome, let this tool  help you.

Alternatively, test at least 2 of these tools that help you in self-governance of fake news, i.e., that help you to identify them.

Write about the results of your experiment below, 1-2 paragraphs. Due, as always, in a week.


PS: In case you are interested: A documentary of Rupert Murdoch, ownership concentration, and the emergence of FOX news as the first mainstream partisan news outlet…

Note that the documentary, too, is partisan. So take everything with a grain of salt….


PS 2: Talking about ownership and control, some of us might be interested in this self-governance tool

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14 thoughts on “Week 8. Ownership from 3 Perspectives

  1. I never considered I lived in a filter bubble because while I just naturally have friends, and mutual friends, that share the same political ideas as I do, I find that I’m very open to other ideologies. That being said, I was very surprised at the results of the PolitEcho extension. I have few friends that deviate from liberal political views, but they are completely neglected from my news feed. It’s understandable that Facebook wants your newsfeed to be filled with content that is the most relevant for you, but in doing so, it creates the illusion that my views are hegemonic. I’d prefer to be exposed to differing opinions to gain more perspective.

    In terms of fake news, I really enjoy the Politifact website – which I used often during the debates of the 2016 election season. There is no bias in facts and I think that’s why this website is so important. With the increasing dissemination of fake news, it’s important to know that what you’re reading is the truth. Whether you’re reading a left or right leaning news website, the ultimate goal should be to reach the truth I also enjoyed AllSides because it gives that differing perspective that everyone should seek when dealing with politics. I enjoy that it gives the same story – told from each side. For instance, the framing on the stories about the new republican healthcare bill definitely show bias. The left talks about the amount of skeptics of the bill, the right talks about how bad Obamacare is, and the middle presents the facts, with little deviation into opinionated content.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely live in a filter bubble according to the PolitEcho tool and how I sort of choose to live my life. Although I will say that the extension maybe be slightly inaccurate because I don’t really use Facebook, I more so use Instagram, so I think that if it were monitoring my Instagram then it probably would have been a lot more accurate. I am most definitely liberal but more so on the far left then most liberals so maybe on the more progressive side and my results definitely reflected the liberal side of me and also the more underground liberal side but a bit less then how much that really is. The weird thing about is, that I do have a really close friend who is conservative and voted for Trump and obviously being the opinionated person that I am, I always interact with her Facebook more then anyone else’s because of our varying opinions. Although I found it weird because the tool did not pick her up at all, meanwhile it picked up someone as the largest influencer whom I have never interacted with before, so I am not really sure how that works. But it was definitely right about choosing my more liberal friends. I think I do live in a filter bubble in my own life as I do tend to get information from the ideas I resonate with and rarely ever explore anything beyond that. Although every now and then I do like to see what the other side is thinking and how they feel about certain things especially during this past election and ever since Trump has come into office, but that is a very rare thing of me to do.

    When it comes to news I honestly just go to people who I really feel like I can trust. I usually just use my intuition in deciding who to trust. I really believe in the power of our natural intuition and I think it’s super important to be in tune with it as to not have to rely on people outside of ourselves for validation of the truth. But I decided to check the fact checkers anyways and I thought they were really cool and easy to use. There wasn’t anything that I really saw that I was surprised about and their wasn’t anything that I thought was true that proved to be false. As a matter of fact their were many things that I thought were false that proved to be false. But I found it interesting how many of these figures come out and say so many false things.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This experiment was very interesting and fun to do! The AllSides website was great because it lines everything up which makes it easier to follow and see all sides quickly. Also I think AllSides was the most informative of all 3 websites therefore I will most likely utilize this site again. The Politifact website was very fun to experiment with because it allows you to pick sections based on individuals, topics and the sections of the “Truth-o-meter” and “pants on fire” were very funny. I really liked the PolitEcho because you get to see what all of our Facebook friends like all at once and the fact that it provides you with a “confidence” rating makes the Google Chrome extension trustworthy.

    These 3 sources provide a great way to see different people’s opinions and perhaps create a better understanding of all of the sides in the political world. This experiment was not very eye opening for me because I lived in a conservative part of the midwest of the United States for about 13 years. The college I attended was even more conservative so I was not surprised by the filter bubbles of the media world. I also download right wing and left wing news applications to keep track of Mr. Trump’s buffoonery. However, I will definitely show my friends in the Midwest these 3 sources because unlike me they only see one side! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As Eli Pariser can be quoted saying, “the internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.” It was interesting to hear such an idea with once thinking that the Internet’s ability to collect metadata and apply it to my overall use of the internet would be useful. With having taken my studies further and investigating such features, I have come to realize how invasive it can be. It went from innocently personalizing my searches for clothes, food, etc. and turned into a tool that personalizes my way of thinking-without my full consent. With being one that is open to debating, discussing, and learning from opposing views, I find that my filter bubble has been limiting my ability to fully learn and interact with my peers. Instead having access to all forms of information, I find that have been shielded from a world that the internet believed was unfit for me to view. With algorithms constantly disseminating specific information it feels I’d prefer to read, myself and millions of Internets users have been limited to only see one side of every story.

    In regards to the two tools known as Allsides and FactCheck.Org, each were unique in how it helped identify fake news. With the tool Allsides, I found that articles were separated by its view on politics, whether it be liberal, moderate, conservative, etc. and how strongly it showcased that political stance. I enjoyed this tool because it gave me the option to view articles from a centered perspective that isn’t biased of one view over the other, which is difficult to find on my own with having filter bubbles that lead me towards more liberal articles. With the tool FactCheck.Org, I had access to numerous political articles and materials that had been verified for its accuracy. It was interesting to use because I got to look at the correct information for many controversial statements that have been made by many government officials and media outlets.These tools as well as the other three are great for those such as myself who have recently felt overwhelmed by the increased publication of fake news with its ability to sort through it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Massive corporations dominate the U.S. media landscape. Through a history of mergers and acquisitions, these companies have concentrated their control over what we see, hear and read. In many cases, these companies control everything from initial production to final distribution.
    The result of the US Presidential election should never have been a shock. Facebook data clearly showed the popularity of Trump and the rise of a plethora of news sources outside of the mainstream – if you knew where to look. People have heard the term “filter bubble,” but what are its effects on a macro level?Step behind the curtain of the Facebook newsfeed algorithm and see how it has changed the entire media landscape of the US and beyond. Using billions of rows of data, media data analyst Steve El-Sharawy will reveal the pattern of polarisation across US media both before and after the 2016 Presidential election.
    The filter bubble and its effect on the election has been well documented by now. Donald Trump had a massive turnout at the general election in November, much to the surprise of coastal liberals.
    For the uninitiated, the filter bubble is the “bubble” of information and misinformation created by social media platforms that prize engagement over veracity. It could be argued that social bubbles have always existed. The theory of “selective exposure” shows that people gravitated toward information reinforcing their existing views before electronic filter bubbles were recognized. However, the internet has massively amplified these extant tendencies.
    Some platforms are also prone to emergent bias, which only reveals itself once the platform has reached scale. At the micro level, or during a beta test, it’s hard to tell how large an impact articles with unfounded claims will have on Facebook; but at scale in 2016, it became enough of a problem for Mark Zuckerberg to explicitly address the issue.


  6. I am not sure that if my case is typical, or useful. I started my Facebook account two years ago, and there are only few friends. Most of them are my classmates, and FB is not my primary source to receive information either. However, i did realize the power of filter bubbles after i saw almost all the blue dots. Perhaps there is an inevitable liberal bias exists, since i live and study in New York. Nevertheless, i hardly thought about in this way before. When i saw a title interested me i would click it and read a little bit, but i would not care about its neutrality and objectivity. To be honest, this analysis shocked me. It is not hard to deduce that how a large number of people live in a world that is full of biases in digital communities, which can make a great influence in our political lives.

    I think i have a good habit, which is download many different news applications in my mobile phone. When an arguable event happens, it is funny to see how they fight each other and i am the intermediator. In fact, individuals can get closer to the truth of news in this way. Admittedly, filter bubbles will the development of people’s independent thinking, and you cannot simply judge a thing through merely one side. Like the Ted presentation mentions, no one can make the decision for you, especially by a program. It is pretty ironic. This case reminds me a series i watched last year, and there is a brilliant clip that argues between liberals and conservatives. It is so great, please take a look if you have the time.

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  7. WOW! I like the Politecho Tool. It was very accurate. Most of my friends are Democrats, like Michelle and Barrack, CNN, Daily News and Buzz Feed. There were very few friends that shared different political leanings. Moreover, I was not surprised at all at this outcome. I would not want a T***p follower on my News feed posting things all day. That would ruin my mood. So that was a great way for me to actually test the accuracy of this tool. So yes I am living in an extreme filter bubble but like they say “Great minds think alike…ehn ehn”’ and I like it. I am constantly feed topics that I am interested in and also living in New York, university studies at one of the most diverse institutions it just shows how my environment is very controlled.

    The Fake news wave is certainly on the internet all day everyday but the three tools provide information that have been fact checked and reliable. I think that this is important because throughout the course of history we have seen how a popular story not necessarily a fact checked and reliable one can cause havoc…and especially in politics… a hotbed of passion were emotions and conviction can really be used to react to a situation…. even religion so it is great that fact checker had political stories that were fact checked and reliable.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. According the readings I would definitely say that I live in a filter bubble. Everything that we do is filtered by the government in some way or another and we are unable to truly express our selves in every atmosphere even throughout the terms of the internet. One key element that can be related to the filter bubble is this past years elecruon when it can to choosing our current president.

    It showed how much of a filter bubble we live in accordance to a larger world view and perspective. In relation to the tools used it shows how in the world today we can turn something into nothing and visa versa.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m not an avid user of Facebook, however this experiment really changed my mind about the social media giant. I do admit, it is very difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Especially on Facebook, where people are motivated strictly by their current feelings. Heat of the moment posts are typically not packed with facts therefore the filter bubbles were fun to see.

    In the past I have visited sites like Politifact. It is a great site that measures truth from blatant fake news. In an era where fake news seems to be all around us, or propaganda just wants us to think it is. To be honest, our generation is in a tough dilemma. We have lived our entire life on the web, and we are conditioned to believe everything we read. I think this administration is changing our generations reflexes, in the way that we are more willing to check facts and stories for ourselves. In essence we are the arbiters of fake news, we decide by doing the research. Also, perhaps we are all becoming independent reporters, since we research on our own time.

    In conclusion, the filter bubble extension is a new and exciting way for people to use the web and trust what they read. I will use this extension in the future and I want to thank you for introducing me to it.

    Also, fun read this week and see everyone next week!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ownership of media is ownership of our societies ideology. Vast resources have given the media an unprecedented amount of influential power. As we attempt to govern our identities with efforts to protect ourselves from social shaming, we are subjecting ourselves to being brainwashed. As shown in the 2016 election everyone thought Hillary Clinton was going to win and that was no mistake. The algorithm used by Facebook that manages the content shown on our newsfeeds strategically shapes the way they want us to believe society feels, aka “filter bubble”.

    Princton computer science student Zachary Liu and his team built an impressive governance tool, PolitEcho. In just under 20 hours they were able to create a platform where this infamous filter bubble we live in can be exposed. I was not surprised to see that when I experimented PolitEcho with my Facebook page most of “friends” were on the blue (left/liberal) side, leaving just a couple of red (right/conservative) loudmouths on the other. I for one do not use Facebook as much as other people, like my dad, do. Facebook has become a place for people to put their thoughts that no one really wants to hear so I chose not to waste my time with it and I am much happier because of it. Sometimes when you hear or read what someone posts it makes you look at them differently (judge them) and I do no want to be blinded by the way people want others to see them. The Self control website that you sent us limiting the amount that we can use is really cool and come finals week I might just install it. Hey maybe that’s a way of governing social media, by limiting the amount allowed to be used..hmmmm


  11. As I suspected, my filter bubble is saturated with blue on the PolitEcho App. Approximately under 7 percent of my friends are right-wing, and none of them show up on my news feed. I was surprised at the likes of a cousin of mine, but she has always lived far away and I’ve only met her once. Expectedly, I was in disbelief watching the election results. My social media feeds gave them impression that Hillary would have won by a landslide. We are more likely to seek out information that supports our own points of view, so Facebook’s algorithm reveals that they are prioritizing the public’s comfort instead of presenting objective information. I don’t know if they are aware of the potential damage to public opinion this could cause, consistent and respectful discussion is essential to becoming well rounded. It seems we may be only getting one side of the story.

    After watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but feel the opposing side has dominated the traditional information mediums for their own benefit with little to no regard for journalism. This is bringing a concrete example to the Freedman reading, which suggested that media ownership needs to be brought to the center of media governance regulation conversations… specifically more regulation is needed. Less regulation comes about as a result of corporate lobbying, motivated by profit based goals. The government should exert more energy in ensuring at the very least our basic news journalism is objective enough for us to lead an efficient democracy. If we do not have full information, how can we make effective choices?

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