BCM332 Case Study Part 2

So if you’ve read my previous post, you’re now aware of the definition and the problem known as the Digital Divide – a whole lot of people in the world have limited or no access to the internet. This is a problem because we’re living in the digital age – an ‘information economy’. Not having access to the wealth of information the internet offers is a very basic and real inequality. And as I introduced in part one, Mark Zuckerberg has proposed a solution: Facebook’s ‘internet.org’ – a.k.a Free Basics by Facebook. While this initiative sounds promising, altruistic and idealistic, it’s incredibly important to deconstruct it and evaluate both it’s strengths and weaknesses.

The biggest argument in favour of internet.org is that at a very basic level, it appears to be a solution to one of the world’s biggest inequalities. As Wired puts it, “Zuckerberg believes peer-to-peer communications will be responsible for redistributing global power, making it possible for any individual to access and share information. People could tap into government services, determine crop prices, get health care. A kid in India—Zuckerberg loves this hypothetical about a kid in India—could potentially go online and learn all of math.” From an idealist perspective, this sounds incredible. Zuckerberg acknowledges global inequalities and is proposing a real, tangible solution to the problem. After all, if we want something done, why wouldn’t we trust in one of the world’s wealthiest and powerful entrepreneurs to get the job done?

Well, here’s a healthy dose of skepticism to argue against that idealistic point of view.

Mike Elgan proposes that internet.org is “nothing more than a customer-acquisition initiative” for both Facebook and it’s partners (such as mobile carriers that have signed up to offer the free service to it’s customers) and that “many of the Free Basics users were already on the internet before they started using the service” and that they are simply using it just to reduce their data bills.

Elgan goes as far to propose that internet.org (or Free Basics, whatever you want to call it) isn’t even offering what it advertises – that it’s not providing actual internet access at all – “When users choose Free Basics, the carrier unplugs them from the Internet and plugs them directly into Facebook’s servers, a walled garden that provides the equivalent of stripped down sites, but is not the Internet”.

Another huge criticism internet.org has faced is that by picking and choosing what websites become available to users via Free Basics, the initiative is violating net neutrality laws. It’s this accusation that saw India ban the Free Basics/internet.org initiative altogether earlier this year (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/08/india-facebook-free-basics-net-neutrality-row), stating that, “differential tariffs arguably disadvantage small content providers…This may thus, create entry barriers and non-level playing field for these players, stifling innovation. In addition, TSPs may start promoting their own web sites/apps/services platforms by giving lower rates for accessing them”.

Evaluating the internet.org initiative has proven to be complex, but ultimately… *FINISH CONCLUSION…

BCM332 Case Study Part 1

GLOBAL MEDIA INEQUALITY:
The ‘Digital Divide’ and the goal of universal accessibility to the Internet.

ORGANISATION:
internet.org – a Facebook initiative.

BLOG POST:
One of the most repeated talking points in a communications and media degree in 2016 is the idea of how we as a society are more globally connected than ever before. The past few decades (particularly the last 10 years) has seen the rise of the Internet, along with the emergence of related technologies, devices and platforms to create an incredibly connected world. The limitations of time and physical space have been mostly overcome, with people all over the world accessing the same online space, communicating with each other instantly and having their presence felt and voices distributed to anyone in the world who also has access. Therefore, one of the biggest global media inequalities that I think should be addressed is the digital divide.

The digital divide is defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as, “the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities”. With two-thirds of the world’s population currently having limited or no access to the Internet, it is an obvious inequality in society. So what should a major global goal be? Universal access.

Enabling the portion of the world that is currently in the dark regarding accessibility, to eventually have the same access that we are afforded would greatly improve their quality of life – allowing them to break down barriers to access global communications and the abundance of information and knowledge that the rest of us have. Luckily (seemingly) for us all, one of the world’s biggest technology giants – Facebook – has launched an initiative in recent years to attempt to combat the digital divide issue and hopefully provide universal Internet access – aptly named, ‘Internet.org’.

So what is Facebook’s Internet.org about anyway? According to their official website, their aim is “To share the internet’s knowledge and inspiration with the world, by overcoming issues of accessibility, affordability and awareness—in hopes that one day, everyone will be connected.”. And how do they propose they’ll do this? By allowing users access to a platform they’ve developed called ‘Free Basics by Facebook’. The platform “Provides people with access to useful services on their mobile phones in markets where internet access may be less affordable. The websites are available for free without data charges, and include content on things like news, employment, health, education and local information. By introducing people to the benefits of the internet through these websites, we hope to bring more people online and help improve their lives.”

So this sounds really wonderful, right? Super optimistic in a world full of inequality and injustice? Well, that’d be a nice thought. In reality though, it’s important to have a much deeper look at this organisation – it’s supposed mission, it’s methods, it’s founders and the possible underlying motives behind the platform it created and the initiative as a whole. And this is exactly what I’ll be doing in part 2 of this case study. I’ll be critically analysing Internet.org as an organisation, using a number of sources I’ve found to support some theories and problems I’ve discovered. It won’t be entirely negative though, I’ll also be looking at the strengths of the initiative and the potential it has to overcome issues of global media inequalities.

In the mean time, check out this super inspirational video produced by the marketing team at Internet.org, (but keep in mind the highly inspirational thing may just be a powerful tool for propaganda – it really sells it well, right?).

REFERENCES:
Author unknown 2016, Our Approach, Internet.org, viewed August 5th, <https://info.internet.org/en/approach/&gt;

Neesha 2015, Internet.org, viewed August 5th, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F2M0XQp0-E&gt;

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2001, Understanding The Digital Divide, OECD, France, viewed August 5th, <https://www.oecd.org/sti/1888451.pdf&gt;

bcm390 DRAFT – Black Lives Matter Information Packet

MEDIA CONCEPT: RIOTS

CASE STUDY: BLACK LIVES MATTER

FORM: BLOG POST (1000 WORDS), ‘DIALOGUE’ (1500 WORDS)

KEY QUESTIONS AND IDEAS I’LL ADDRESS IN THE BLOG:

  • What the Black Lives Matter movement is (brief explanation).
  • Origins and history leading to the movement (civil rights in the 60’s, Black Panthers etc).
  • Events that triggered Black Lives Matter (Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, etc, etc, etc).
  • How Black Lives Matter gained traction (huge social media presence, was initially a hashtag, majorly through protest music like Kendrick and Beyoncè).
  • Differences in reporting of Black Lives Matter by different media channels, networks, forms etc.
  • What are some major things media coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement misses?
  • Opposing sides of BLM and groups that have emerged out of it (e.g. ‘All Lives Matter’).
  • The importance of Black Lives Matter + the future of the movement.

VoD Streaming In Australia

For my final blog post, I want to expand on an aspect of my topic that I haven’t mentioned much in these blogs or in my seminar presentation, but that I do wish to include in my research report. The rise of the streaming giants is having a significant effect on Australia’s media landscape. Australian’s are well-known for their excessive pirating habits of popular television shows and films – we have, for quite some time now, held the title of world’s most prolific pirates of Game of Thrones. 

However, the introduction of Netflix (and local competitors Stan and Presto) to the Australian market has seen these numbers decrease slightly, a nod to the willingness of the Australian public to legally access content as long it is in fact there to legally access. VoD services provide easy and affordable access to huge libraries of content that were previously harder to find – hence why torrenting figures were higher before Netflix and co were introduced.

While torrenting statistics have gone down, the number of Australian’s using a VPN has increased in recent years due to privacy concerns and the desire to access content from streaming services that are usually made unavailable to us. This leads to another issue that comes with the introduction of Netflix – and that is that it localises it’s content significantly. Netflix in Australia only has approximately 2000 titles in it’s library compared to the US Netflix library of nearly 6000Many Australian users enlisted the help of a VPN to gain access to libraries from other countries including the US and the UK and were disgruntled to find out that Netflix would be taking measures to stop this from happening. However, it’s likely that Netflix isn’t trying too hard to do this and one of their future goals appears to be to make all of it’s content globally accessible, but that just may take some time.

This news comes as a new report by the Australian Productivity Commission came out stating that “Australian consumers should be able to legally circumvent geoblocking restrictions that prevent them from using foreign online streaming services like US Netflix”.

The report also “urges a major overhaul of intellectual property laws” in Australia, proving what a significant impact the rise of VoD services is having on the Australian media landscape.

How Is Netflix Just So Damn Good?!

This topic was decided upon stemming from the thought, “why is so much good content being produced on Netflix?”. Some of my favourite shows in recent years have been Netflix original productions (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black), or Amazon original productions like Transparent. Shows like these have and continue to dominate prestigious Hollywood awards seasons, winning Emmy’s and Golden Globes year after year. The amount of VoD services that have original productions nominated and critically acclaimed grows every year. So clearly, my previously mentioned thought, has some validity to it, despite the fact that the term ‘good’ relative to content can be incredibly subjective.

I have realised that I’ve failed to mention that I intend on presenting my final project in the form of a research report. Therefore, I have also realised that I need to get crackin on a literature review. Luckily for me, I have come across an academic thesis written by Henry Zhu Tang in 2014,The Collaborative Filtering Effect of Netflix Ratings for Indie Films versus Blockbusters and Heavy Users versus Casual Users. This source is incredibly valuable to me as it incorporates many of the themes I discussed (and intend to expand on) in my previous blog post. Tang writes about the way Netflix uses recommendation algorithms to assist it’s users in finding content they presumably would be interested in and how this correlates to the type of content Netflix chooses to buy and also fund production of. Before reading this, I wasn’t even entirely aware of this connection. Everyone knows about the recommendation algorithms, love them or hate them, if you use the service, you are subjected to them. Personally, I don’t know where I stand on the privacy issue of Netflix knowing intricate details about my personality based on my TV and movie taste, but I do like a good recommendation. I hadn’t thought deep enough about the connection to how they utilise the recommendation algorithm for the type and quality content they offer. As it turns out, Netflix started out in 1997 as a service dedicated to providing more alternative content:

“In 1997, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded Netflix, an online DVD-by-mail retailer that usurped the traditional brick-and-mortar model. At once, a wider library of titles had become available to consumers than ever before. Netflix introduced a proprietary recommendation system, powered by a collaborative filtering algorithm, to select movies to watch for its customers, a feature it continues to use for its global video streaming service today. This collaborative filtering algorithm would further highlight indie or niche films that could not be found (or were prohibitively difficult to find) in stores.”

Many of the ideas Tang writes about are connected to 4 of my 5 main talking points so far:

  1. Content with better diversity.

      2. Creators having more freedom around the production of content.

      3. VoD services content favouring audience viewing habits.

      4. Netflix buying up the rights to more low budget, yet ‘prestigious’ films at Sundance.

Due to how supportive this thesis is to my talking points for my report, I will likely go ahead and rely heavily on it throughout.

The Disruption of Video on Demand

Due to my influx of thoughts on the topic of cyberculture and Hollywood (particularly VoD), this blog post is going to consist of me spitballing all the ideas I’ve been having in regards of what I may wish to include in my final project. From this, hopefully I can begin to better craft an outline of a legitimate research report.

  • Better diversity in Netflix/Hulu/Amazon produced content in regards to gender and race. E.G. A huge cast of women from many different backgrounds in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black and Amazon’s Transparent (a show created by Jill Soloway that centres on a trans woman and her family). As this Inverse article states, “Like Fox in the 1990s, Netflix has turned ‘diversity’ into a winning formula, but this time, it looks to be a strategy that will have some longevity. While Hollywood is still full of pledges and apologies, Netflix is proving in practice what studies have shown for years: representation matters.”
    There’s also a brilliant Decider article on the proliferation of female-lead content on Hulu: “while Hulu was investing huge amounts of money to secure the talents of Hollywood’s most-esteemed male producers, women were morphing into the most potent creative forces behind their new original content slate. Realising this made me sit up for one big reason: It’s not the norm. For decades, the narrative has been that Hollywood — whether we’re talking television or film, comedy or drama — is a hostile environment for creative female forces. Hulu had quietly assembled a programming slate where women were not only equal to men behind-the-scenes, but often in charge of them”, going on to then suggest a theory about why streaming services tend to show more diversity in their original programming: “The hiring system in Hollywood tends to favour cronyism and advancing up-and-comers who agree with the establishment’s take on things. If Hulu has managed to think outside the box on this score that’s probably because Hulu, like its primary competitors Netflix and Amazon, grew out of the start-up culture of Silicon Valley”.

 

  • VoD services producing original content often lends more freedom to the artists in control of making the content. Writers are free to write an entire season of a TV show from beginning to end without the worry of episodes airing weekly as they’re still writing. Therefore there’s less influence from audience opinion on storylines. Also, not being subject to the opinions of advertisers frees up much of what can be included in a TV series and when storylines can occur. For example, the protagonist on Hulu’s The Mindy Project, Mindy Lahiri gave birth to a child early in the fourth season of the show, something that would be unheard of on a traditional network sitcom. As Decider puts it: “Traditionally, sitcom babies are only born in November and May. Why? Well, November and May are when ‘sweeps’ are. That’s when networks try their best to boost ratings so they can boost advertising dollars. Since everyone loves babies, they’re considered ratings gold. Hence, why you don’t see too many big births early in a sitcom’s season…Now that Mindy Kaling doesn’t have to write a show to fit network protocols — or please advertising schedules — she’s free to have her little bundle of joy as soon as she wants on her show”

 

  • Consumer habits favouring the content produced and bought by online streaming services. Everybody loves a binge-watch. Everybody loves Video on Demand. Audiences choose what they want to watch, when they want to watch it and for how long. This isn’t to say that traditional broadcast TV is dead – yet. Some people still enjoy the nostalgia of appointment-like TV watching. But even traditional television has been clued onto the consumer habits of wanting to chose when and how they watch content for quite some time. Hence the many years the ability to record, pause and rewind shows has been around.

 

 

  • Internet regulation and how Australian’s in particular have and continue to interact with online consumption of content. The introduction of Netflix to Australia has affected a number of things. 1) Piracy – Australian’s are pretty good at it, numbers are supposedly declining since VoD services entered the market2) The issue of Australian Netflix subscribers using VPN services to access content available in other countries – Netflix supposedly trying to ‘crack down’ on this behaviour, but is it really? Will they actually dedicate themselves to this issue or will they ease up on it? This issue leads to the discussion on making more content global. 3) Discussion regarding Australia’s terrible Internet quality. Slow speeds, poor connections, not up-to-standard infrastructure in general. In world where VoD services are only growing, Australia’s internet cannot keep up with the demand of such services.

 

Looking At Cyberculture and Hollywood

DIGC335 is a class I’m not afraid to admit I feel a little out of my depth in. I am interested in digital media and the tech world in general, but for the most part my involvement is limited to reading the occasional Wired article and discussing how cringe-y the Twitter accounts of most politicians are. I do not know how to code. I only recently figured out what the ‘dark web’ is. Please forgive me for this. I have much to learn.

I sit in our DIGC335 seminars and marvel at the information being thrown around about Artificial Intelligence and cyborgs and for quite a while I was paralysed trying to think of a topic I could devote myself to for my research project. I was relieved to eventually settle on something that I actually do have a vested interest in. For my final research project, I’m going to examine the way cyberculture is infiltrating Hollywood. More specifically, I intend on looking at the major online Video on Demand (VoD) streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and even YouTube. Some of the areas I’ll be looking at include how VoD services are affecting:

  1. The creative process and production of content.
  2. The type of content being made.
  3. Distribution of content.
  4. Consumption of content.
  5. Government regulation relating to Internet access and quality of infrastructure.

From the top of my head, so many of my favourite writers, producers and actors from both television and film are not only accepting of the rise of streaming services, but are straight up benefitting from it. There’s a huge cast of diverse women on Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project moving to Hulu after being dropped from major network Fox, Broad City being picked up to series by Comedy Central only because it was initially a successful web series launched on YouTube. The examples of cyberculture enabling artists and resulting in good quality content in the film and television industry are endless.

From the onset, I do not believe the rise of Netflix will see the death of Hollywood. I do, however, believe that it has, and will continue to significantly disrupt the traditional entertainment industry. I am interested in examining how streaming services came to find such major success in recent years, what that currently means for film and television, and what it might mean in the future. For now, here’s Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s take on it (8min 15sec – 8min 40sec):

Meet: The Dirty Two

Photo courtesy of www.thedirtytwo.com

Photo courtesy of www.thedirtytwo.com

In an effort to escape their lives of complacency and corporate work, Perth natives Brendan Doyle and Tom Lucey, also known as ‘The Dirty Two’ have decided to pack up and embark on a 15+ month long expedition like no other. They’re planning on travelling approximately 11000km through the Americas, from San Francisco to Patagonia. Oh, and did I mention their chosen form of transportation? Pushbikes.

Journeying on pushbikes with only the “bare necessities” and their surfboards, The Dirty Two are seeking to be seen as travellers rather than tourists as they cycle their way down the West coast of the Americas, immersing themselves in the cultures of the communities they travel through.

So, what’s the plan?

Brendan Doyle (BD): We’re starting in San Francisco, buying our pushbikes there just because logistically it’s easier, we’ll have trailers for our surfboards and we’ll start off cycling down the coast. We’ll go down Highway 101 until we hit San Diego and cross the boarder into Mexico then keep going down to Patagonia. There’ll be stages where we will need to catch boats; we’re going to ride down the Baja peninsular (Mexico) and when we get to the bottom of that we’ll need to catch a boat across to mainland Mexico. We actually want to hitchhike across the ocean at this point and we’ll be doing the same thing from Panama to Columbia.

You’re bringing your surfboards, what else is on the checklist to take with you?

BD: We’re bringing some guitars with us as well but apart from that, just the bare necessities really. We’ve consulted with other people for advice and we won’t really have much, just one pair of pants, not too many t-shirts. As little as possible.

What has the preparation been like? Have you done a lot of research?

BD: We’ve spoken to a lot of people who have done similar trips with similar routes. We Skyped these guys from Holland who gave us advice on what gear to take with us, where’s safe, how you find out what places are safe and what places are not. We also had a conversation with some Perth girls who did the trip starting from Alaska and got advice from them. Other than that, we’ve been working on gaining some exposure and promoting the trip. A friend created the logo and media release for us and we’ve been in local papers and on local radio stations for interviews. We’ve been training physically for it too. I’ve been cycling 50km a day by riding to and from work and getting some physiotherapy. There are lots of different facets of preparation, I guess.

What are your feelings before setting off?

BD: Pretty apprehensive, especially now after telling so many people and getting some sponsors to back us. With all the press and radio interviews we’ve been talking a lot about it but we haven’t actually done anything yet.

So you’re feeling the pressure?

BD: Yeah, and there’s some push to document everything, so we’ve got to take photos and film… basically, we’ve said we’re going to do a lot of things and now we have to do them. We will, obviously and it’ll be great. It’d just be different if we had told no one, we wouldn’t have anything to prove- we still don’t really- but now we definitely have to do it, which is good because we definitely want to do it.

But yeah, most definitely feeling nervous and everything like that. It’s going to get tough sometimes and you can’t really prepare for those times anyway because there’s no way of knowing what’s going to go wrong. There’s obvious things like the bike will break, things like that so that’s the kind of stuff we’re preparing for- learning how to fix tyres.

Would you say that you’re just going to ‘roll with it’?

BD: Exactly, exactly.

Any reason in particular why you chose the Americas to cycle through?

BD: Yeah, as apposed to somewhere else? I’d really like to have done Africa but we felt that would have been kind of another level of dangerous and out there. Then there’s Europe, but Europe’s probably a bit too much like Australia, it’s relatively developed. So Central and South America felt like a good in-between. Starting in the States, spending 6 weeks there in an English-speaking country, getting to understand our bikes and our gear will kind of ease us into the trip. Crossing the border into Mexico is when the trip really starts, speaking a different language and entering a different culture.

Are you planning on giving back or raising money for any causes throughout the journey?

BD: Yeah, we’ve gotten in contact with this European based non-profit called the One Percent Club. They have a whole range of projects on their website so basically say we’re travelling through a small town, we can help try and raise, say $500 to help fund a well or something like that. We get to actually visit the people and communities that the money is going to.

That’s awesome, as you’re raising money, it’s goes towards the communities that you’re travelling through?

BD: Yeah. Obviously all other charities are great, but we want to give back to communities that we’ll be directly in contact with on our travels. We’re pretty keen to get involved with local projects.

It kind of feels more authentic, considering you’re travelling through these communities and having direct contact with them rather than just raising money and then sending it off.

BD: Yeah, exactly.

Lastly, what’s the whole reasoning behind the trip? Why did you guys decide to get up and go and do this?

BD: Well I’ve been working the corporate world now for nearly 4 years and I’ve already done the standard Europe trip so I decided I wanted to travel a bit different. I hitch-hiked around New Zealand doing nearly every major hiking trail and I really liked that form of travel, getting by on your own means and interacting with the locals more. I enjoyed doing that so I wanted a similar experience.

Then I ended up meeting a lot of people who had done bike touring so that’s where I got the idea of the bike- it’s different, it tends to be a conversation starter and the more I heard about it the more I thought I just had to do it. I suggested the idea to Tom and he loved it.

You wanted to live life at a different pace?

BD: Exactly, that’s turned out to be one of our mottos. We want to get away from TV’s and the Internet and go back to a really basic way of life.

You can follow Brendan and Tom’s journey at thedirtytwo.com.