Alfred Hermida Discusses Mobile Media

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    • 00:05

      ALFRED HERMIDA: Social media is one of these thingsthat when you look at it, people don't tell youif it's social media or not, but itbecomes really hard to define.So everybody knows what it is, but nobody can exactlytell you what it is.And I think part of that speaks to the factthat the media has always being social.There's always being a social elements to the media.

    • 00:25

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Think about your relatives sending youa clipping from the newspaper, somethingthey saw that might be relevant to your studiesor to your hobby.So we've always share news and information.So in some sense, social media has always existed.And the other side to social mediais it really is about us-- humans are social beings,

    • 00:46

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: so we like to communicate.So when we start thinking of what we mean by social media,essentially we're saying, this ishow we communicate with each other.I think what we see now with the sort of technologies, services,platforms that we call social media are formsof communication, tools of communication thatare specifically geared to enable social communication.

    • 01:10

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So rather than a traditional broadcast model,which is a sort of top-down, one-to-many model,we have communication platforms thatenable many-to-many, that are horizontal,and in some ways that change the way we communicate.Because they have certain characteristics that set themapart from the media that's been dominant

    • 01:31

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: for the last couple hundred years,since the rise of the news businessas a business and industry.When we think of the characteristics thatwould help us define what is social media,we're talking about forms of mediathat are open to the public, where you don't haveto be a member of a professional class to have access.Where you have access to distribute

    • 01:52

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: your message, your photos, your videosthrough those platforms and services.These are platforms where it mightbe less about publication, and more about process.Where in some ways, the process of communicationdoesn't and have an endpoint.When we think back to the last 200 years of media,particularly when it comes to journalism,

    • 02:14

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: it's always been about producing these discrete, self-contained,products that represent the news or the news of the day.And when we think about social media,we think of it more in terms as a continuous spectrumof communication, where there is no final endpoint.And where maybe the purpose and the aim of it

    • 02:34

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: is not publication, but exchange of informationthat continues in a fluid form.So I was at the BBC for 16 years before Imoved into an academic career.I went to journalism school.And there, pretty much studied print and broadcast.At the BBC, I worked across radio, television,

    • 02:54

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: was a foreign correspondent in the Middle East for four years,doing the things that foreign correspondents do,like couple military coups, coverpresidential assassinations, get tear-gassed, all that kindof stuff.But when I was a foreign correspondentis when I first got online.And that was in the early '90s in Egypt,where as a foreign correspondent,

    • 03:15

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: I was part of the privileged elite that got internet access.Now, when I mean internet access, I mean one hour a dayon a very slow modem on a very unreliable connection, whereyou would spend the best part about trying to connect,and then when you connected, it was incredibly slow.But despite all of that, connecting to the internet

    • 03:36

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: suddenly gave me this window into the world.Because when you're in a country like Egypt, where I was living,the press is censored, magazines are censored.So, yes, as a foreign correspondent,I have access to all the news, but if Iwant to catch up with what's happening in the musicscene in the US, it's much harder.Because I'll go and pick up a magazine two months later,

    • 03:56

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and it'll be censored.So suddenly being able to connect and accesswhat were very rudimentary websites at the time, suddenlysort of struck me, this is remarkable.This is something that is going to changethe way we communicate.And it's going to change the way journalists do business.So I always had that interest there.I was fortunate to be one of the founding members of the BBC

    • 04:18

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: news website in '97.And at the time, I was working in television.And my almost qualifications, or something like that,was I knew about the internet.I'd been online for a couple yearsand I had an email address-- well, I had two.But almost, when they were looking aroundfor journalists who could move online,they were saying, who has any experience

    • 04:39

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and knowledge about the internet?But I was always interested in exploringwhat you could do through digital media, what you coulddo in terms of storytelling, in terms of reaching audiences,in terms of bringing in new perspectives.And the turning point from journalism to academiawas doing a Knight-Wallace Fellowshipat the University of Michigan.

    • 04:60

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So with these Knight Fellowships,you spend time out of the newsroom doing researchin a community of other journalistswho are also interested in advancingtheir own interests in a particular field.And I was interested in what is happeningaround digital journalism in the US.What could I bring back to the UK?

    • 05:21

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: But, by doing some research, doing some teaching I suddenlythought, hmm, this is really interestingbecause there's thing's going on here.And given my professional background,there might be a perspective that Ican bring that is lacking if somebody doesn't

    • 05:41

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: have a professional background.Especially a professional backgroundworking in radio, television, and thenonline at one of the world's leading news organizations.What struck me was I went to an academic conference,and some academics there, who weredoing some of the early research into online journalism,were doing good work, but they weren't really addressing

    • 06:02

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: the questions that journalists hadat the forefront of their minds.Again, this is very early days of online journalism.Research, it's progressed a lot then.But there's very much a traditional mindsetapplied to online.And I think one of the gaps that struckme was if you want to study something like journalism,

    • 06:23

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: it does help having an understandingof the drain of journalism, especiallyif you're studying a nascent phenomena,such as online journalism and digital journalism.It does help to have been in an online newsroom.And get a sense of if you're trying to think abouthow do these journalists approach their profession?How do they think about storytelling?

    • 06:45

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: What are the pressing issues theyface, in terms of fulfilling their normative rolein society?And that's what sort of brought me in, was thinking,well, I think I might be able to contribute somethingby having that professional background,having an interest in the impact of new technologies,and thinking about how journalism develops and evolves

    • 07:06

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: in an age where the control of the media is shared,and where the media space is shared.When journalists look to social media,they're looking at a media system thathas a very different logic to the media systemsin which they've operated.Traditionally, journalists have been in the role of gatekeeper,in the role of deciding not just what is news,

    • 07:27

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: but who am I going to talk to, what informationam I going to use, who is a legitimate, credible sourceof that information, how am I going to present it,how am I going to frame it.I don't tell-- journalists don't tell the public what to think.But they do tell them how to think about what's in the news.So that's sort of the mindset that journalism has come from.

    • 07:49

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And in social media, your facing a spacewhere that control of the messageis no longer a monopoly, where it's much more open mediaspace, where there's much more a marketplace of ideas,and where people who might not be considered credible,authoritative sources can emerge as prominent voices

    • 08:10

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and affect the shape of the conversation in those spaces.So we have the idea of an open, shared media space.We have a dilution of the traditional gate keepingrole of the journalist.We have the idea that participation matters,that it's not just about an audience receiving information.And I wouldn't say-- I don't like

    • 08:31

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: to talk about passive audiences, because audiences were neverpassive.They always did something in their interactionswith the media.But the ability to interact and, in a sense,affect the process of journalism,the process of knowledge-making through this thingcalled journalism.So when journalists look at social media,it can be quite scary.Because they're operating in a space

    • 08:52

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: where they've come from their fortress journalism.They think they know the walls, they know what's out there,they know who's living out there.But they can retreat to their fortressand they know they are in a commanding position.And instead, they have a fortress,but it's not quite as powerful, it's not quite as strong.The walls aren't quite as tall.And there's multiple entrances in this fortress.

    • 09:14

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So it's not so much of a fortress anymore.And I suddenly began thinking, howdo you then operate where you can be questioned,what others are trying to craft narratives?Where you still have a position of authority,you still have some institutional powerbecause you're a journalist and youmight be working for legacy news organization.

    • 09:35

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So you still have a role there, but what is that role?If your role is not simply to filter informationfrom a mass of details into these neatly discreet packages,like the daily newspaper that wouldhave all the news that's fit to print.But obviously, there's more news than appears in a newspaper.

    • 09:58

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And when we talk about fit to print,it obviously depends on the valuesof that newsroom journalists' own perceptionsof what's important.So given that you then have this shared media space,how do you operate there?And perhaps the most scary thing for journalistsabout social media is that it's much more personal and public

    • 10:22

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: then their professional side.So journalists have always operated in public,but it's always been behind a professional persona--the byline, the television correspondent.You appear on screen and you're speaking as yourself,but I'm not, when I was a foreign correspondentand I went on TV, I wouldn't be talking as myself,

    • 10:43

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: I'd be talking as the BBC's man in Cairo,the BBC'S man in Algiers, the BBC'S man in Tunis.Now on social media, yes you're still related and connectedto your organization, but there'san expectation from audiences that you will have a pulse,you will be more human-- that that

    • 11:04

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: an institutional, abstract voice of authoritydoesn't quite work so well.So then it's navigating how far of your public personabecomes more personal.How far do you allow some private informationto filter through and come out through there?

    • 11:26

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: How far do you tell your audiencethat every Sunday you take the dog for walk?And then when they've got really muddy,you have to take him home and give him a really good bath.Now that might not be considered journalism,that might be considered frivolous.But yet it's a way of letting your audience,your reader, the public to know you are like us.

    • 11:50

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: You take-- I take the dog out for a walk,they get really dirty, I always haveto clean it up-- the car's a mess.And I have to then wash the car, as well,because it's covered in mud.So there are benefits there, but it's very hard for journaliststo square that against a traditional professionalpractice.Where it's been very much you having a professional identity

    • 12:11

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and subjugating the personal privateto the professional public.With any form of media, we alwayscontrol our representations of who we are.We act in different spaces.We act differently in different spaces.So the way somebody puts on their personawhen they give a conference presentationor when their teaching his class,

    • 12:31

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: is different to the persona they willhave at home with their partner or with their children.So we do that already.There's nothing surprising that we would do thisthrough these platforms called Twitteror Facebook or Pinterest or anything else.So we always manage our identities.I think the real question here is the collapse of front stage

    • 12:55

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and backstage, to paraphrase Erving Goffman.So the idea is, whereas in the past, we were very consciousof the spaces in which we operated.So we knew that if I was in front of a class of students,that was my professional persona as a professor.If I was in a newsroom with a bunch of other journalists,

    • 13:17

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: that was my professional persona as a journalist.And if I went home, that's a different personathat I'm playing.And these will seep into one each other.There not sort of discrete identities,but we choose which ones to privilege or prioritize.The challenge with social media isthat it makes it much harder to navigate those boundaries.So if you're on Facebook, every friend is equal.

    • 13:42

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: You're connected to every friend justabout equally, unless you go into the minutiaof your privacy settings and start calculating whenever I'mposting a picture of my dog, should that just goto my close friends but not my professional friends.Most people don't do that.So then what we have is these front stages and back stagesare collapsed, which makes it much harder then

    • 14:03

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: for us to manage our identities.And we do you manage them.We do try to present ourselves in a good light,because we want other people to like us.We want other people to see us well.We want to show that we are doing well.But people also do talk about someof the bad stuff in their lives.But they might do them in more private spaces, where

    • 14:24

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: they can maintain some front stage and backstage.That's really the sort of the, I think, the key questionwhen it comes to thinking of presentations of the selfin social media is not that we try to present certain personasor others, but rather managing and negotiating these personas.And accepting that we might, at a certain point, try

    • 14:49

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and transgress an expectation of how we're supposed to behave.But perhaps that's a moment of honesty.And I'll give you an example.So the BBC prides itself on impartiality and accuracy,and the fact that its reporters do not take sides.So its advice to journalists and social media is well,

    • 15:11

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: you can be personal, but you shouldn'tdo anything that affects how the public mightsee your impartiality and your commitmentto evidence-based reporting.There was a case where a BBC producer sent out a tweet.There was a meme-- a political meme-- going around on Twitter.She joined in that and made fun of a right wing

    • 15:33

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: party in the UK.She just joined in the fun.Of course, this was seen as being critical and takinga political position-- being critical of the right wingparty.So the BBC responded by taking that producer off anythingrelated to political coverage, because the perception mightbe they're biased.

    • 15:53

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Now I look at something like that and I say,well, they were joining in this meme.They were joining in snark, whichis what is very popular on social media--and very amusing, I have to say.But in some ways, she-- that person-- was essentiallysaying, this is what I personallybelieve-- how I see this.

    • 16:15

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: It doesn't mean I cannot be a professional.And in some ways, in journalism there's always been thisassumption that well, to be an impartial journalist,you cannot have any views.You're somehow this automaton thatdoesn't have certain values, and doesn'tbelieve in certain things.Which of course is ridiculous.Every journalist has a set of values.

    • 16:37

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Every journalist as a viewpoint.The key thing is saying, when I am reporting,producing, editing as a journalist,I am a professional bound by this code of ethicsand I will behave in a professional manner.So I think that's an example where sometimes social mediacan bring out some of the personal aspects.And our reaction is to say, don't do that.

    • 16:58

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: You can't do that.Whereas actually, maybe we should get to accept,no, journalists are people too.Journalists have thoughts, they have opinions,they have feelings.They're not just these automatonsthat produce the news.The reason there's been such an embrace of social mediais because it taps into our innate human desire

    • 17:20

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: to be social, to communicate, to connect with other people.So we could always do this-- we could send letters,we could collect scrapbooks, we couldtalk about things at a dinner party.But now, we have these very easy to use,mostly free technologies, that essentially enhance and expand

    • 17:42

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: our ability to be social.So it's hardly surprising that given the capacityto do more of what we love, we will do more of what we love.And I think here you can learn from sortof the psychology of sharing.You know, why is it that people feelcompelled to tell others about what they had for lunch?

    • 18:02

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Well, because this is just human communication.Usually, first thing when you meet a friend yousay, what's up?How are you doing?When Twitter started, it prompted its usersby saying what's happening?Very much this kind of casual conversation--what are you up to, what are you doing?If I had a really good meal, I would probably tell my friendsabout having a really good meal.

    • 18:24

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Now, instead, I post a picture of it because it's easier.It's simple.It's more immediate.It has value.In fact, most of the messages that we exchangeare what we would consider mundane, trivial stuff.That if you wrote it all down, you'd go,well, that's completely irrelevant.But actually that's the fabric of society,

    • 18:45

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: the way we communicate and make connections with others.By telling each other I had this great meal,or I had this terrible meal, or look at this viewhere, or look, it's raining in Seattle,what a surprise-- these sort of very casual, mundane thingsthat actually form, weave togetherthe fabric of our society.Now the difference here with social media

    • 19:05

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: is it we see it written down.We see it as text.And we're not used to seeing these casual exchanges thatare ephemeral, that are rarely captured in text.Somehow when we see it in text, itgives it a certain permanence.We're used to seeing text for things

    • 19:25

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: that are important-- for the newspaper,for books, magazines.Because of the sort of the media funnel,things that made it into print werejudged to be important, to be significant.Now somehow, now we can see a vast ray of communicationin text format on Facebook, on Twitter.

    • 19:47

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And we've come from 200 years where to get into printwas very hard.Only certain people got to be in print,and it was only the important stuffor what certain people thought wasimportant would make it into print.So it's hardly surprising that we go in social media and say,but it's irrelevant.People just talking about nonsense.

    • 20:08

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Because we're not used to seeing those form of communicationsin that format.But we as humans, we want to do that.We want to represent ourselves.We want to tell others about what matters to us.We want to connect with other peopleby looking for common interests.Hence, the embrace of social media topologies.I'm always very cautious about saying that a technology causes

    • 20:32

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: human behavior, and rather, think of it in termsof communication technologies as mirroring human behavior.So there's a process of mutual shaping.We will shape these tools, but the toolsallow us to do certain things, and thenthey shape our behavior.So I recall a couple years back, The New York Timesreported in a study that, again, sort of claimed

    • 20:53

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: that Facebook was making us a more narcissistic society.But that study had looked at college students-- students 18to 21-22.And it occurred to me, so you surveyed the most narcissisticpeople in society at a time when they'renegotiating their identity, where they'rein these unusual contexts because they're out

    • 21:15

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: of the home with strangers.And each of them is trying to be special and different.So they have the propensity to be narcissistic.And then you're asking them, thisis a tool that enables you to do whatyou want to do and be narcissistic.And you're being narcissistic.Well, self-fulfilling prophecy.So I think we have to be very careful about allegations

    • 21:37

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and claims that we're becoming more narcissistic or not.I think that the real question hereis that those kind of behaviors are far more visible than theyhave been in the past, because these sort of thingswould have been seen just by a select group,or would be an ephemeral and never captured for posterity.But yet, these technologies are also

    • 21:59

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: technologies of record-- technologies of archive.So what we then have is all these narcissistic behaviors,which we would do anyway, are actuallybeing captured and made much morevisible to far more people in far more ways than ever before.So when we look at that again, we look at itand go, everybody's more narcissistic,

    • 22:21

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: when it's actually, we all want to be heard.We all want to have a voice.We all want to make an impact in the world.These technologies in a sense reflect the factthat we want to make a difference.We want to have an impact.And it could be interpreted as being narcissistic.

    • 22:42

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: But perhaps that's because we're notused to seeing these behaviors in such a visible way.Now that's not to say that technologydoesn't affect behavior.Because something like the selfie phenomenon,the technology makes it much easier.But the selfie is a self portrait.Self portraits have existed for hundreds of years.

    • 23:05

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: It's not a new phenomenon.Except we only would see a self portraitif it was someone like van Gogh.A famous artist would see their self portraits.You wouldn't see the self portrait of an eight-year-oldkid or a 20-year-old student, because they wouldn't do onebecause it would be terrible.Now the technology makes it much easierand, some ways then, makes it much more democratic

    • 23:27

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: to take a self portrait.Again, something that used to be the preserve of a handfulof experts and professionals becomesavailable to the masses.And yes, some of it is going to be terrible.Some of it's going to be not of interestto anybody except that person.But it's not inherently bad.Why do we think the ability of people to take self portraits

    • 23:49

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and show them to the world is inherently a bad thing?You know, we're bringing a set of biases and prejudicesto those judgments.So there are several aspects to this.One has to do with cultural expectations.Society changes-- what we considered acceptable behaviorin the '50s, changed in the '60s, changed

    • 24:10

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: in the '70s, changes now.So in some ways what we're seeingis behaviors and expressions of those behaviorsand representations of behaviors,that then we consider unacceptable today.If it becomes the norm to have pictures of youwhen you were passed out drunk in your '20s-- because if you

    • 24:34

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: ask anybody, chances are they've probably been there.Now I can understand that, yes, I was fortunate to comein a generation when, no, there aren't.Those pictures might exist, but they are probablyin somebody's drawer somewhere.They're not on Facebook or somewhere else.But I think part of it is as cultural norms,we're not used to seeing these forms of behavior.

    • 24:56

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And in some ways, it might be a case of, you know,we just have to accept that, yes, at some point,somebody in their twenties getting rather drunkand passing out could be seen as a rite of passage--as a way of allow them to fail.Nobody's perfect.And sometimes the way you learn about the excesses of alcoholis by going to the limits of the excesses of alcohol.

    • 25:18

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And then you realize I never want to be there again.So we're bringing a set of cultural valuesand cultural norms in the way we judge these activities now,which may evolve and change in the future.But the other side of this is thinking, again, bringsthis sort of normative assumptionto what we think is appropriate to share.

    • 25:38

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So people talk about over sharing-- TMI, too muchinformation.Over sharing doesn't exist.Over sharing does not exist.Over sharing is a cultural construct.It's a personal construct.Because what you might consider as over sharing,is not what I consider as over sharing.

    • 25:58

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: We bring our own set of assumptionsinto what we think is appropriate behaviorin appropriate context to appropriate audiences.And that's really when people talk about over sharing,what they mean is they saw something from somebody thatmade them feel uncomfortable.That doesn't mean that person necessarilyfelt uncomfortable sharing that.

    • 26:19

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: It meant we felt uncomfortable.So are they over sharing?No, it's just something that comes upagainst our cultural, societal norms.So this is why I say it doesn't exist,because we bring it into being ourselves.So if you did focus groups and asked different people,you might get different answers in terms

    • 26:40

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: of what would be considered as too much information.Because, again, that's a social, cultural construct.And what might be considered as too much information within onegroup, might not be with another with different cultures,different ages, different demographics.So the question here is less about are people over sharingor was that too much information,

    • 27:02

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: but are people aware of the consequences of what they'resharing, the context in which that sharing is taking place,and then the potential audiences for that material.Because what happens here is what social media does,as well as sort of breaking down the front stageand backstage personas, is that it also

    • 27:22

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: brings into being these invisible audiences.That when we act, when we behave,when we share something, we might have in mindan audience for what we share, for the materialthat we posted on Pinterest, on Tumblr, on Facebook.But what we don't know is who are these invisible audiences

    • 27:43

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: who might see that material.So there have been various cases already around this.There was a famous one in the UK a few years back,when somebody was is taking a flight to Birmingham.He was snowed in because it was a very bad winter the UK.And he sent out a tweet saying hewas going to blow up Robin Hood Airport,

    • 28:04

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: unless they got his flight on time.He was making a joke.He had a handful of followers on Twitter, mostly his friends.So to him, that was like joking with his friends in the pub.An airport employee, an invisible audience,saw the message.It was a "threat."The employee didn't think it was credible,

    • 28:25

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: but by law they have to pass on any threats at airportsto the police.The police then go and arrest this guyPaul Chambers for making a bomb threat.Because legally he made a bomb threat.Of course, this went through the courtsand eventually he was convicted and thenit was quashed because it was seen

    • 28:45

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: that you have to take the context in which these commentsare made.And you can't just take the literal interpretationof the words because in the contextit wasn't a bomb threat, it was a joke.But he fell victim to the fact that he did notrealize there was an invisible audience for this material thatwould see it.And the other side of this is that invisible audience doesn't

    • 29:07

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: necessarily have the context to make sense of that message.So Paul Chambers, at the time in the context of being snowed in,that was a joke.Somebody else seeing it, reading the wordswith no other context, sees it as a bomb threat.

    • 29:28

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And there's very little way to evaluate the credibilityotherwise, just based on that message.So this is the idea of context collapse.That somehow, when we take our messages through social media,they can spread in a way that they are taken out of context.So that was a case with The Colbert Reportwhere Comedy Central took a clip from one of his diatribes,

    • 29:52

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: and just clipped it into a tweet.That was interpreted as a racist comment.Because separated from its context,it came across as a racist comment.But in the context of a three-four minute diatribe,making fun of racism, it was completely appropriate.And you had his intonation, you had his expression.

    • 30:13

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: You had all these clues and contextto realize this was not racist comment.Yet, when it comes out as a 140-character tweet, separatedfrom the show, it gets interpretedas a racist comment, and a campaignstarts online to cancel the Colbert show.The issue of context is less than the factthat things won't be taken out of context,

    • 30:34

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: but being aware that there are certain medialogics of different media spaces.So Twitter is very different to Facebook--operates very differently.So it's thinking about what is the context in which I'mproviding a message, who is the audience for this,how is it going to be disseminated,how can it be re-appropriated or re-articulated

    • 30:56

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: in a way that takes it out of its original meaning?So with something like Twitter, it's very easy for peopleto take 140 characters out of context.But again, that also betrays the way we think of the media,where we think media as these discrete entities.

    • 31:16

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So we're used to having the newspaperthat we recognize as a product-- as a newspaper.The news bulletin-- again, a fixed product,has its own structure, a certain order.We recognize those formats-- the book.When we look at Twitter, we see a tweetand we look at it as, oh, a tweet.Now a tweet is not just a tweet in isolation.

    • 31:39

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: A tweet exists in a networked communication sphere.So actually, when you think of context in Twitter,it's not necessarily just in 140 characters,but in all the messages that came before that,the messages that came after that, the connectionsthat that message has made.Who else was connected to that person?So there's actually an amazing degree

    • 32:01

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: of information and context in Twitter.It's just much more fragmented than we're used to.So I've compared it to the French school of pointillism,where a painting is made up of these tiny, tiny dots.So if you're really close up to the picture--to the painting-- all you see are dots or dabs of brushes.

    • 32:22

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: You don't see anything.You have to step back to see these amazing works of art.Twitter's a little bit like that.And when we look at Twitter, we tend to look at all the dots,like we're pressed up against the glass.And we're not taking that step back to see the whole picture.Now part of that is because of the waywe think of media as discrete objects.

    • 32:43

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Part of that is because the tools to take a step backand see the complete picture are not really there yet.So in some of these we need technologiesto help us contextualize, filter, aggregate, assimilatethis information.It's challenging not to bring our own cultural biasesand media experiences and history of media and media

    • 33:05

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: logics in the way of interpreting and seeingnew forms of media.So one of the elements we have is the public availabilityof so much data about us-- big data, to give it a name.And it's not so much that-- we've alwaysshared private data with companies, with governments.

    • 33:27

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: But it's more the fact that all these datasets can be connected and queried--and algorithms used to draw and tease out correlations,to tease out assumptions.So I think this is, when it comesto thinking about privacy, we're in uncharted territories.Because if we think about privacyas the right to control what people know about us,

    • 33:50

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: we've essentially surrendered that right, unwittingly.Because not only have we supplied that informationto governments, to the supermarketfor their supermarket card, to Facebook when we signed up.These data sets are being connected and can be queried.And suddenly, the use of technologies

    • 34:11

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: to handle big data sets and to beable to analyze them and almost say, well,we can identify people who are interested in xy,have a dog, go take him to walk him between 8:00 and 9:00AM on a Sunday in this area of Vancouver.Political parties are doing this nowin terms of targeting their electoral voters,

    • 34:33

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: finding out very much.Almost saying, well, we don't needto target the entire electorate.We can identify Ohio.And in Ohio, this town.And in this town, this particular subset,who want to hit this particular message.And in some ways, I don't think the public, as a whole,

    • 34:54

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: is really aware of that sort of manipulation.Because, essentially, by analyzing and correlatingbig data, we're giving companies, governments,political parties tools to influence us,without us knowing we are being influenced.

    • 35:14

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And that, to me, is rather worrying,because we have given up our privacyin terms of controlling or information.And instead, the best we can hope foris that we will have privacy through obscurity--that we will be private because nobody will seekto pay any attention to anything we've done.

    • 35:35

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Nobody will seek to correlate all our datato find out something and predict behaviorsthat we're going to do the future.Police forces are doing this with dataaround crime, and by human behaviorto try to predict where crime is going to take place in cities.And in some cases, it's lead to a reductionin crime, which is a good thing.

    • 35:57

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: But it's also rather worrying whenwe think about who has our data, who has access to that data,how is that data being used, how that data arebeing interpreted.Because we don't know what is happeningwithin these algorithmic black boxesthat predict that crime is going to behigh in this area in a week's time,

    • 36:19

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: so you should deploy more police cars in that area than not.Now we can all agree that's a societal good.But there are questions there in termsof who has the data, how are they handling it,how has it been interpreted, and how is itbeing used in ways that we're not aware of?I'd say one of the biggest ones is that somehow social media

    • 36:42

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: means everybody has a voice.And the answer to that is, well, yes, everybody has a voice.But everybody already had a voice.It's not about having a voice, it is about being heard.So one of the biggest misconceptionswhen it comes to social media, isthat it's this remarkable tool for democracy and freedomof expression.

    • 37:04

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Because, yes, you can have a voice,but that's not the key factor.The key factor is anybody listening?Are you being heard?So it's really about attention, not expression.And that's one of the big myths of social media that somehowbecause people can express their opinions, somehowthat is the end of the story, that somehow society

    • 37:26

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: is better for that.Yes, it is a good thing that peoplecan express their views and opinions.But really, we need to take in contextof are they being heard, and how are they being heard,and how they being interpreted?When you look at various studies lookingat attentional social media, what you then findis that you actually can't divorce it from society.

    • 37:48

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: It's not this other thing that operates independentlyof society.It's embedded in society.So actors with institutional powerwill grab the lion's share of attention on social media,because they're actors with institutional power.When Michelle Obama tweets about "#bring back our girls,"

    • 38:09

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: that gets a lot more attention than the original tweet comingout of Nigeria did, because it's Michelle Obama.Social media levels the playing field,because it allows everybody to have a voice, yes.But it's not a level playing field,because it exists within society.And institutional power seeps into that network,certainly on Facebook and all the other ones.

    • 38:30

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Now the difference with social media,is that there are ways to challengethat institutional power.And there are ways for people within the networkto say these are the individuals we are listening to,through processes of what's called network gate keeping.Where through something like the retweet mechanism,

    • 38:50

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: people can say, this person is sharingvaluable, important information.We will vote for them.And then others vote for them.And then these individuals that may nothave that institutional power, rise to prominence.So we have during the Egyptian uprising,the case of Gigi Ibrahim, who was a college student who

    • 39:13

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: was out there on the first day of protests.She was tweeting about where the police brigades were,how to get to Tahrir Square, what roads were being blocked,et cetera.So she was providing valuable information.She was getting retreated.But then she also was retweeted by some peoplewith institutional power, such as Mona Eltahawy,

    • 39:34

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Egyptian author and journalist.So suddenly, you have somebody who is a 20-something collegestudent, gets noticed within the crowd--gets noticed by prominent elements within that crowd.Then gets noticed by the Western media.And then they're feted as the voice of the revolution.So different actors can emerge through these processes,

    • 39:57

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: but it's remarkably complex.And this is a case where we reallyneed to look into what is happeningin these different contexts.And maybe adapt research methods to say,how do people gain attention?How do some voices rise to the fore?How do some things get the public's attention and othersimilar things don't?

    • 40:17

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Even thinking about YouTube-- viral YouTube videos.Why is it that some cat videos get huge attention and othersdon't?And if you did a study and assessed themon how humorous they were, how cute the cat was,you might get very similar results.But yet, one of them would suddenly lead to prominence,and another one doesn't.

    • 40:40

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And this an area where in communications and mediastudies, we really need to look to computerscience and information science.So that researchers are looking at the disseminationof information within these very complex network systems.And particularly when it comes to Twitter,a lot of the research finds that it's

    • 40:60

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: very, very hard to get attention.And that there is an element of randomnessand then an element of chance.That actually, most things don't go viral.Most things don't reach beyond a very small circle of contacts.So that's one of the myths we might think about social media,that because I've tweeted something,

    • 41:21

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: the world is going to see it.Actually, chances are, a handful of people will see itand then it will die a death.So that the competition is much harder.The marketplace is much tougher.And when we're trying to look at the survival of the fittest,it's not only the fittest, there'sall these random elements that come into play.There's also individuals with institutional power,

    • 41:45

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: institutions of power that interact with the network.So the diffusion of information--who gets attention-- is remarkably complex.And in some ways, the ways we've approachedlooking at power and communication in society,might not transfer that well we analyze these networks.One of the challenges in the field of journalism studies

    • 42:06

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: has been that it really came out of a print tradition.So when we started looking at online journalism,it very much tended to be through a print lens.And much of the literature has beenbased on studies of print newsrooms, organizations,journalists.And so we need to understand that digital media is not

    • 42:28

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: print, not broadcast.There may be some similarities, but they're alsoremarkable differences.So some of our approaches might not work that well.And also that the approach of just looking atsay journalists as a discrete group,and try to find the answers, might notwork so well when we're studying a space in which they're

    • 42:49

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: one of many actors.So they're still a prominent actor, a significant actor,but how do this group of actors then interactwith all these other actors, including technologies,including institutions, including corporations,including the businesses behind the technologies to effect

    • 43:10

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: meaning and the interpretation of society.When it comes to thinking about future directions,I think there's much to be learnedfrom looking at fields beyond journalismand beyond communication studies-- certainly,studies in computer science and networkanalysis and information science.There's been a lot of interesting work done

    • 43:32

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: in crisis informatics, so lookingat the diffusion of information at times of crisesthrough social media.Which is really helpful to journalistsand from a journalism perspective,because you can then see how do you get the vital informationthat people need right now to them at the right time.

    • 43:54

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: How do you assess veracity and accuracy at times of crises,when reliable information is at a premium,but also when arrival information isone of the hardest things to come by?Some of this work has not being done in journalism studies,but in crisis informatics by information scientists.

    • 44:16

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So we can learn from that.But I think one of the other areas of researchis looking at who are then the actors in this space wecall journalism?And I deliberately talk about a space we call journalismbecause I would say journalism is notjust now the work of journalists.In fact, journalism is happening all around us all the time.

    • 44:39

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So I talk about ambient journalism.One of things social media has enabled,is the steady stream of news information,entertainment trivia in the background.And some of this is not-- it's notjournalism as a sort of fully reported story,but it has a fragment that would go into what would then

    • 45:01

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: become a work of journalism.So we have all these fragments happening all around us.They're ambient.They're in the background.When we pay attention to them, much like with ambient music,is when the tone changes.So Twitter is a perfect example of this.It's in the background.It's in the periphery of our awareness,

    • 45:22

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: much like ambient music might be in the background.We know it's there, we're not paying much attention to.Occasionally you might go, oh, that sounds familiar.Oh, yeah, that's a really bad version of my favorite song.Twitter operates a little bit like that.This news, information, entertainment triviais flowing in our periphery.Occasionally we pay some attention.

    • 45:42

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: But what we do notice is when there'sa change of tone, when there's something a discordant note,that tells us there's something weshould be paying attention to.And usually, then, this evolves around a news event--somebody's death, a disaster, a dramatic announcement.And you see this in the corresponding spike

    • 46:03

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: in messages.So that ambiance is broken and then we pay attention to it.So that's one of the ways we can think abouthow do we study journalism in a contextwhere it's not just happening at discrete times of the day,but happening around us and at certain timescomes to prominence in a certain way.

    • 46:25

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: How do those voices come to prominence?How do we evaluate the informationthat's coming through there?What are the mechanisms we can use to evaluate that message?How do journalists responds to, say, sharing informationin the moment, knowing that in an hour's time,it's likely to have changed?

    • 46:46

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: But you want to inform people of what you know now.So one of the things it does is take journalismfrom being a product, into a process.Where instead of saying, well, here'sthe definitive account that's goingto be published in tomorrow's newspaper of what happenedyesterday, what you are then instead doing is saying,

    • 47:07

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: here's the journalism as it is happening,as I'm collecting information, as I'm sourcing it,as I'm verifying, as I'm checking it.Social media becomes more the newsroom, rather thana news wire.And journalists then operate in public.And the process of in some ways making

    • 47:28

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: that journalistic product, happens in public.Now that is something very, very different from the wayjournalism's been practiced in the past.A handful of journalists have done that.Not many have, because on the other sidethat you then have an audience that alwayshas to understand that this is not journalism as product,

    • 47:49

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: but journalism as process.And that's very, very different.One other direction for research islooking at the interaction between especially nascentgrassroots social media, media technologies, and journalism.And we've see this through the Arab Spring,through Occupy Wall Street.

    • 48:09

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Some of these movements, they weren't created by technology.They weren't created by social media,but social media helps because it does various things.It removes pluralistic ignorance.So I might feel that there's problems of inequalityin the US, but I don't know that other people, who I don't know,

    • 48:30

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: feel like this.Social media enables you to find other people whofeel like this.And suddenly you realize, I am not alone.And that is going to change your behavior.It makes it much easier to find those people,to connect with them, to mobilize and organize, and thenamplify your message.So we've seen these through these grassroots movements.

    • 48:51

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: But what it also does is then makeit very difficult for journalists to report on them.Because they're not traditional institutionsthat are taking action.But rather, a sort of ad hoc issue public, that'scome together.Where they almost deliberately don't have leaders,because that's the nature of the movement.

    • 49:12

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And journalists like to have leaders.We need to know who is the spokespersonfor the organization, what are your objectives, whatare your aims?And what we've seen with some of these social movements--Occupy Wall Street, Getty Park, Idle No More in Canada-- theyhave this set of broad objectives,but it largely is a message of, no,

    • 49:33

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: we don't like what is happening.As opposed to very well defined political agenda for change.That makes it very hard for journalists to cover.So some of the research I've been doingand others have been doing is lookingat what are the dynamics within these social movements.How do they interact and use social media?

    • 49:53

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And can we look at, through processesof network gate keeping, who are the problem voicesthe arising within those movements,within those groups of engaged individualsthat others are listening to-- people with voices thathave credibility within that movement.Because as journalists, you'll be

    • 50:14

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: looking for credible sources, legitimate sources whocan be said to represent that voice.So maybe by looking at the dynamics of interaction,the dynamics of filtering, the dynamics of retweeting,you can get some idea in terms of who are the sourcesthat people are turning to engaged with this movement.And then enable journalists to better represent that movement

    • 50:37

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: by saying, they're listening to this person.They're listening to this person.They're not a traditional spokesperson,but they have some influence within that grouping.Because their message is resonating much morethan somebody else's message, and that means something.So when it comes to actually representing

    • 50:58

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: these nascent grassroots movements,that can possibly help to give a better representation, betterjournalism.So I think there's a lot of research thatcould be done in that nexus of journalism, social mediatechnologies, and these social movements.One of the challenges when it comesto thinking about media literacy is our conceptionof digital natives.

    • 51:19

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Yes, we have a generation that grew upwith these technologies.But that doesn't necessarily mean they are media literate.The analogy I often use with my students is saying,you've all got a smartphone, you've all got a camera,you've all taken a picture.Does that mean you're all photographers?Does that mean you're all photo journalists?

    • 51:40

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And the answer is, of course, no.Just because I've taken a picture,doesn't make me a photographer.Just because I've shot a video, doesn't make me a videographer.So digital natives doesn't necessarilymean an understanding of the media to the degreethat you have some level of expertise or mastery over it.

    • 52:03

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: So you might understand the technical aspects,but do you understand the cultural, societal, political,ethical implications of what you are doing?I think that's when I think of media literacy,I think it is having an understanding of the mediatechnologies not so much in terms of what they allow youto do, but the impact of those technologies.

    • 52:29

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: What is it about Facebook that isdifferent to Twitter or to Pinterest?Why are you using Facebook's more than Pinterest?Or why is it that you tend to sharecertain things over others on Facebook?What is the motivation behind that?Part of what I do with my students

    • 52:49

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: is explore the psychology of sharing,so that they can make meaningful decisions whenthey are on Facebook about what they share.And when I talk to them about this, some of themalways have that aha moment when theygo, oh, so that's why I do much more of thisthan I do much more of that.

    • 53:11

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: And why my friends do much more of this than of that.But by sort of peeling back and saying what'sthe rationale, what's the motivation, what is itthat drives you?Why is it that certain things trigger a response for youto share that or not?Why is it that Facebook as a like button but not a dislikebutton or and angry button?

    • 53:32

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: You know, how is Facebook trying to make you feeland why is it doing that?Well, for its own motivations, but then thataffects your behavior.That, to me, is media literacy.It's really understanding the terrainin which you're navigating.And teaching that level of media literacyis much harder than just teaching how to use a tool.

    • 53:55

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: You want to know what are the implications of usingthis tool.What happens when you use it in particular ways?How does it affect you, those around you?And certainly with students, thinkinghow does their representation online, particularlythrough social media platforms, wherethey are mixing the personal, the professional, the private,

    • 54:15

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: the public, how does that affect how they are seen by others?How does it affect how businesses might target them,by taking that information and collate it togetherto create a certain persona of who you are,that then becomes who you are.Even though that's not who you are.That is a representation of you.

    • 54:35

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: I think the big area of growth is drawing infrom other disciplines.Because when you look at digital media,we are looking at a field that reallyhas areas that are outside the expertise of communicationscholars.Increasingly, we see communications scholarsworking on network analysis, computational methods--

    • 54:56

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: computational science being broughtinto the social sciences.So given that we have a society thatbecomes increasingly media-tized,that that media becomes increasingly technological,increasingly digital.To understand that we need to drawfrom other disciplines, such as computer science or information

    • 55:17

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: science.And in some ways, challenge some of the assumptionsthat we have about how communication works.In communication we've had-- the idea of the two stepflow of communication, the role of influences,all these sort of things.Well, when you look at social media, those kind of models

    • 55:37

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: don't hold up that well to scrutiny.So perhaps, something that worked very well in a broadcastera, that was used as a model to understand communicationsof media in that society, doesn't work so wellin the social media model.In some ways it's not to say there isn't value

    • 55:58

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: in looking at previous models and theories,but rather to question them.We're almost in a position where we need to question everything.We need to look and say, do our assumptions,do these theories still hold in the context of mediasystems that have very different logics to them.

    • 56:21

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Audiences, publics that use media and interactwith them in different ways than they have done in the past.Attitudes changing, governments thatuse media as tools of surveillance and oppression.This is not new, but can they do this in new waysthat are somehow affecting what we doand how we represent ourselves.

    • 56:43

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: Companies that can learn everything about you,without you actually knowing they know everything about you.And then make predictive choices about whatit thinks they think you're going to do or like.So there's a tremendous area for research here.And another thing I find with communication and media studiesnow is there's way too many interesting things to look at.

    • 57:08

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: There's such a wealth of material.And to study it, we want to draw from the past.We want to learn from what we have already.Be we also want to question that and say,how do some of the assumptions we have,some of the theories that we've built, some of the hypothesisthat played well in previous studies,how do they apply and work here?

    • 57:29

      ALFRED HERMIDA [continued]: When we look at information flows,when we look at who is prominent in networks,how ideas are shaped, why do certain things resonate,why do others don't?How do people interact with these technologies?What are the expectations of them?There's just so much here to look at.

Alfred Hermida Discusses Mobile Media

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Abstract

Expert Alfred Hermida discusses how we interact with the media, how social media affects journalism, and what it means to be a digital native.

SAGE Video Experts
Alfred Hermida Discusses Mobile Media

Expert Alfred Hermida discusses how we interact with the media, how social media affects journalism, and what it means to be a digital native.

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