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