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“The New Media Landscape: What Should We Be Most Concerned About?”

May 15, 2010

“The New Media Landscape: What Should We Be Most Concerned About?”

McChensey opening statement, citing from the Political Economy of Media

The FCC was required by the 1996 Telecommunications Act to review the existing media ownership rules every two years, and it had fallen behind schedule.  These rules limited the number of government-granted monopoly broadcast licenses a single firm could own, locally and nationally.  They also put limits on how much other media, specifically newspapers, a company waves could own.  The spirit behind these rules was to have as much ownership diversity as possible.  The long-standing rules were popular with everyone, except the big media conglomerates that were salivating at the thought of expanding and lessening competitive pressures.

The three Bush appointments to the five members FCC all made clear their support for the relaxation of the media ownership rules even before any research had been done, and they had the votes to pass the reforms they wanted.  With Congress also under Republican control the matter looked all but lost in the spring of 2003.

With the frustration with media came forth when people gained the recognition that our media system was not natural, but the result of the policies and subsidies, that had been made in their name but without their informed consent.  This was when the opposition to the proposed relaxation of the media ownership rules exploded, seemingly out of thin air.  Within a year at least two million people, had contacted the FCC and Congress to protest the relaxation of the rules.  The protests came from across the political spectrum and for a variety of reasons; anger against the media coverage of the buildup to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was certainly a large factor.  This birth the media reformed movement.

The media reform movement concentrates upon policy activism, it is closely linked to groups creating independent media, which has exploded on the Internet, and to those who provide criticism of the mainstream media.  Those doing independent media need success in the policy realm to assure they have a possibility to be effective while those doing criticism and educational work do so with the ultimate aim of changing the system.  I believe the Internet had magically “solved” the problem of the media.  This is our moment in the sun, our golden opportunity, and as political economists of the media we must seize it.

Daniel J. Solove opening statement, citing from The Future of Reputation:  gossip, rumor, and privacy on the Internet

Privacy in Overexposed World…

What is privacy and what is privacy in the digital new media age?

Today, privacy goes far beyond whether something is exposed to others.  What matters most is the nature of the exposure and what is done with the information.  There is a difference between casual observation and the more indelible recording of information and images.  A second difference involves the degree of anonymity we expect in our everyday activities.  A third component of our expectations involves our understanding of context.  Fourth, much of our daily lives occurs in realms that are neither purely public nor purely private.

Most of us have moments when we’re in public where we would not want a photo taken of us, much less placed on the Internet.  Most of us have times when we expose personal information to others but do not except it to be shared more widely.  We frequently have conversations in public that we don’t expect to be overheard.  When we chat in a restaurant, we don’t except others to be straining to eavesdrop on our discussion about the din of other dinner conversations.  At most, we might expect one or two people to hear fragments of what we’re saying, but we certainly don’t expect to see a transcript of our conversation appear on the Internet.

Thus merely assessing whether information is exposed in public or to others can no longer be adequate to determining whether we should protect it as private.  Unless we rethink the binary notion of privacy, new technologies will increasingly invade the enclaves of privacy we enjoy in public.  Privacy is a complicated set of norms, expectations, and desires that goes far beyond the simplistic notion that if you’re in public, you have no privacy.

Jonathan Zittrain, opening statement citing from The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It

Solving the Problems of Privacy 2.0

Cheap sensors generatively wired to cheap networks with cheap processors are transforming the nature of privacy.  How can we respond to the notion that nearly anything we do outside our homes can be monitored and shared?  How do we deal with systems that offer judgments about what to read or buy, and whom to meet, when they are not channeled through a public authority or through something as suable, and therefore as accountable, as Google?

The central problem is that the organizations creating, maintaining, using, and disseminating records of identifiable personal data are no longer just “organizations” – they are people who take pictures and stream them online, who blog about their reactions to a lecture or a class or a meal, and who share on social sites rich descriptions of their friends and interactions.  These databases are becoming as powerful as the ones large institutions populate and centrally define.  Yet the sorts of administrative burdens we can reasonably place on established firms exceed those we can place on individuals.  The administrative burdens of complying with telecommunications law are well beyond the abilities of a regular citizen.  Similar, we should create regime so complicated as to frustrate generative development by individual users.

Ken Auletta opening statement, citing from Googled: the End of the World as We Know It

Google’s servers now contain a tremendous amount of data about its users, and this database grows exponentially as search and a variety of Google services multiply.  With the latest techniques to discern what really motivates consumers – often categorized as “behavioral targeting” – companies and advertisers will know even more.  Some forms of such targeting are widely seen as helpful, such as when Amazon extrapolates form the browsing and purchase histories of a customer to recommend books.

Google’s web site acknowledges that it collects information about its users, but not names or other personally identifying information.  It does, however, collect the names, credit card information, telephone number, and purchasing and credit history of those who sign up for such features as Google Checkout.  Google said it “will not sell or rent your personal information to companies or individuals outside Google – unless individuals give their “opt in consent.”

My response to McChensey

I appreciate you providing us with the historical breakdown of the media and how the media reform was birth.  Based on my research with the 1996 Telecommunication Act, it has severely affected the minority media ownership and localism.  I definitely agree that the Internet has allowed more diversity among media, however I don’t agree that it has solved the problem with media.  Traditional media as known as legacy media is still the most influential media to reach and influence an audience, a culture.  Yes, more people are going online and producing content but then you run into the problem of creditable – are these content creators trustworthy; the noise of the Internet – finding and searching for “good content” can be very difficult because of all sifting through different sites to see if they are reliable sources.  Yes, the Internet has caused a threat to legacy media but I believe the Internet is next to be endanger by the ownership of “big media”.  With Net Neutrality, the continual theme this year and with the merger of Universal NBC and Comcast, legacy media is figuring out a way to control the Internet.  I suspect that the merger of Comcast and Universal NBC ultimate purpose is to no only limit the diversity of content on mainstream media, but to have their hands on Hulu, which is an online site that post television shows and movies that is a big with Web users.  My question to you is what is the media reform movement doing to protect not only the public airwaves of traditional media but also, make sure the Internet remains an open-source to the public?

My response to Zittrain and Solove

Both of you brought up the reoccurring argument of privacy on the Internet, which is becoming a major issue since the explosion of social media.  Social media is not only becoming a place where individuals to converse, share information, and post pictures but now Web social etiquette is a factor.  Do you believe in the future of the Internet, that moderators and/or Web police will be needed to sift through content determining what’s deem appropriate and what’s not, what laws are being broken with privacy statues, etc?  If so, how will this play a part with the first amendment Freedom of Speech, and is there really anyway the government and control or govern the activities that are going on the Web, especially since the Web a global tool.

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