It is not easy to be a K-pop fan, especially when you are living on the opposite side of the earth with your idol. There is the language problem, and then the time-zone problem. They maybe dropping a new video during your sleep, or maybe have a live broadcast while you are having class. They update their Instagram hours ago and there’s already thousands of comments, while you are still on google translate trying to figure out what the caption means. In these situations, international K-pop fans can’t help but resort to social media and English K-pop news sites.
When I first became a K-pop fan, I rely on Youtube and Wikipedia to know the groups I like. Facebook and Google probably picked up on my browsing history, and started giving me suggestions of K-pop news articles. That is when I began using Facebook as the main platform where I receive all news I need and want to know in K-pop. Three news sites appear most often, in which I decided to ‘like’ them so that they would continue feeding me articles on my newsfeed. They are Soompi, allkpop, and Koreaboo.
While all three sites often post the same news within a few hours of difference, each site offers a different width of coverage within the Korea entertainment industry.
Allkpop is the first K-pop news site I encounter, and it makes sense because this site is very focused on covering only news about K-pop and idols. It is definitely a K-pop fan oriented news site completed with a forum for interactions between fans and a shop for fans to submerge themselves into a complete K-pop experience. Allkpop has the most relaxed and chill atmosphere. Their articles are usually filled with photos, videos, and gifs with short paragraphs explaining. However, I could not bring myself to put full trust on this site for one reason—the lack of source citation. Their news articles often lack a source of where the authors receive the original information, being the official website of the group and company or the Korean news outlet that released it. Another feature in the website that refrains me from trusting it is the inclusion of a page dedicated for memes. It makes the whole news site seems less serious and reliable.
Soompi is another news site for not only K-pop lovers, but also K-drama lovers. They cover a wider spectrum of Korean celebrities in Korea Entertainment industry. They also partnered with some Korean Entertainment companies, which makes their news reliable but likely biased. Most of the articles I read on this news site are opinion based, which is written like blog posts by their individual authors.
Koreaboo is a popular site for K-pop news, but it also publishes news about the Korea society and random news from other Asia countries. I find their articles more trust-able due to the fact that they are actually partnered with a leading Korea News company. Their articles are usually the most updated and has reference to actual Korean news articles published. Whether the Korea news portal is reliable is of course another topic that is not for this essay. Koreaboo’s articles are also more trust-able because of the more professional language used in the writings.
What’s most worth mentioning is that both allkpop and soompi not only has a public forum, but also allows people to ‘submit tip’ to them. This make their news site an open public space that is more vulnerable to the rise of fake information. Marshal McLuhan has said that the medium is the message, and that what the author wants to convey cannot be separated from the method one used to convey it. In the case of K-pop news published in a foreign country, it is important to find a reliable news site to read because there’s no other way for international fans to confirm the facts. Taking allkpop and soompi for example, the fact that it receives tips from the public for their article immediately gives audiences a feeling that their article might not be all reliable, causing them to have double takes or turn away to find another site. Having forums in the website also makes the news site more of a platform for opinion and discussion. Koreaboo on the other hand, does not have any commenting features on the site itself. The only way audiences can leave comment is on facebook, but it would not show within the actual article. While it might seem to be more dictating and single point of view, audiences would not be distracted by comments and opinions by public which may or may not be true.
Speaking of commenting on articles, it is not uncommon to see fans of different groups arguing and competing whose idols are better. We call it fan-wars. I never involve myself in commenting what I thought about the article, it was very interesting reading the hundreds and sometimes thousands of comments from fans defending their idols, or complaining why their idols are not on a Top-10 list. Facebook in a way is a public sphere where anyone can say anything. Habermas explained that a public sphere is a space where private individuals come together to discuss matters of public concern or common interest. For international K-pop fans, Facebook became a nice public sphere for them to talk about matters they care about but have different opinions on.
As Facebook is a public space online, it is inevitable that people would have an online public front. It is a form of Erving Goffman’s theory of dramaturgy, in which everyone has a front stage personality and backstage personality. People performs in specific ways in front of different people, often influenced by the cultural practice of the society, so that it would seem appropriate. Karen Sternheimer has rethought the theory to fit the internet age today. The online front stage of a person is often different from the traditional front stage, in which one would feel acceptable to post things that’s better left in the backstage. I believe it is because of the lack of immediate emotional response that the internet fails to convey completely. It creates enough distance between people for them to react differently than on a face to face basis.
Going back to the commenting culture of K-pop fans, it is very clear how the internet gives them a sense of security that they can say things without considering the influences it has on other commenters and even the idol themselves. I have to emphasize that most of the K-pop fans are encouraging and supportive of all idols, even if they are not their favourite. Extreme enthusiastic and dedicated fans sometimes focus too much on their favourites and ignore the feeling of other fans, causing the increase of tension in the comments. Another type of fans are the anti-fans, who refuses to acknowledge the reported and confirmed truth, and spread false rumour and scandals in hope to taint the idols names. Since it is a public sphere, it is difficult to control the comments. There are cases where the scandals reached so far that it caused the physical and mental health of the idols, and sometimes also their career.
All in all, it is not only the publishers but also the audiences’ responsibility to confirm news and information they received online on public platforms like social media before spreading it.
Marshal MacLuhan, 1968. “The Medium is the Message”
Fake social media accounts have been used to influence a specific audience to make them believe about a certain desired truth. The intents of the user can range malicious to inconsequential in nature. Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter have been the most known culprits to feature fake accounts but they have attempted to crackdown on users who are not masquerading as someone or something other than their real, actual identity. Some users may want to use fake accounts for predatory means such as child luring and “cat-fishing” (pretending to be someone you are not) dating sites. Others may crave attention and just want to feel engaged with their peers through comments, likes, favourites, and retweets all while paying their way to social media fandom. I will look to address each fake social media account incident with a website article that is both relevant to each intent and that is relatively current.
An interesting article by MediaKix, an influencer marketing agency, wanted to see how easy it was to fake the amount of Instagram followers and engagement in order to secure brand sponsorship deals. With a budget of just $300 USD, they created two fake Instagram accounts, 1) a fashion/lifestyle Instagram model and 2) a travel/adventure photographer. The first step MediaKix did was to generate content for either account. For the first account, they used a local model and used content from a one-day photo shoot to amass the entire account’s content. For the second account, they generated content using exclusively free stock photos from the internet in relevance to popular scenic/tourist areas. The next step was to purchase followers from a website follower provider with prices ranging from $3 to $8 per 1000 followers. Ultimately, the more expensive service was more reliable in that they delivered the followers without delay. Within two months time, the fashion/lifestyle account had 50 thousand followers and the travel/adventure account had 30 thousand followers. The last step was to purchase engagement with prices ranging from 12 ¢ per comment and $4 to $9 per 1000 likes. The cheaper service providers would deliver the engagement within 24 hours time while the pricier ones delivered the engagement almost instantly. Lastly, as a result of their supposed influencer status with a substantial follower count, they managed to secure two brand sponsorship deals for each account. Both accounts were sponsored by the same national food and beverage company while the fashion/lifestyle account got a sponsorship with a swimsuit company and the travel/adventure account got a sponsorship with an alcohol brand. Each campaign were eligible to receive either monetary compensation or free product or even both. This social experiment gained traction as UK news outlet The Independent and popular streetwear/lifestyle website Hypebeast both picked up on the significance of fake accounts amassing fake followers and engagement in the hopes of acquiring brand sponsorship deals.
Something of more malicious intent, UK news outlet, The Mirror, posted an article about how pedophiles are using fake social media accounts to pose as chicken nuggets and ice-cream to lure school children. One sex offender even went so far as to pretend to be a “road” outside a girl’s secondary school so that they could accept his friend request and over 400 girls accepted it. Fortunately, he did not contact those students but collected photos, pictures, and selfies of them. As said by Dr. Maureen Griffin, a social media safety expert and forensic psychologist, “despite the success of the ‘stranger-danger’ initiatives, warped offenders have come up with new and novel ways of gaining access to children’s information”. Children’s access to the social media sites has no watchful, real-time moderators regularly monitoring the sites and the safety of its users. These sex offenders are preying on vulnerable, naive kids who are more willing to trust anonymous inanimate object pages rather than a physical human being when in fact they are threatened with the same amount of harm. The veil of an electronic screen provides a sense of anonymity to its users especially if you are posing as someone or something you are not. In contrast, police officers pose as young girls online in order to lure pedophiles and sex offenders out of the safety of an electronic barrier so that they can arrest them. It seems kind of hypocritical because The Telegraph reported on how faking social media accounts could lead to criminal charges. I guess it depends on the purpose and intent of their fake account usage. However, this article is talking about those who enact revenge on others while using a fake online account and would subsequently be charged for harassment.
Another incident of the usage of fake accounts is related to Golden State Warriors basketball star, Kevin Durant. He was suspected of using a fake account to defend himself on Twitter for leaving his former team, Oklahoma City Thunder for eventual champions, Golden State Warriors. As reported by sports news outlet, SB Nation and San-Fransisco news outlet, SF Gate, he accidentally addressed himself in third person while using his personal account to defend himself against criticism from critics. I feel it is more embarrassing for Kevin Durant because he could not deal with the insecurities of criticism head on like any professional would and sought to comfort himself by using a fake account to defend himself. Now there is a lack of trust for what Kevin Durant says because he is trying to sway opinion and stir up conversation to get attention for himself.
The three main social media giants Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are subject to fake account users but the intentions are ultimately used to trick people into believing something that is not true. The truth is seemingly up to the recipient and how they want to take that information. The first article talked about how easy it is to fake an Instagram following and engagement to attract brand sponsorship. The second article addressed the scary nature of fake accounts that are run by sex offenders and pedophiles to lure in school-aged children. The last article was about how even professional athletes can use fake accounts to defend themselves on social media from harsh critics. Internet users should be weary of accounts that they do not directly know as they may be run by unsuspecting people with ulterior motives.
Barrett, D. (2016, Mar. 3). Faking social media accounts could lead to criminal charges. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/12180782/Faking-social-media-accounts-could-lead-to-criminal-charges.html
Dator, J. (2017, Sept. 19). Kevin Durant apologizes for fighting with critics on social media using fake accounts. SB Nation. Retrieved from: https://www.sbnation.com/lookit/2017/9/19/16334794/kevin-durant-apologizes-for-fighting-with-critics-on-social-media-using-fake-accounts
hDeggan, G. (2017, Sept. 15). Fake social media accounts pretending to be chicken nuggets and ice-cream are being set up by sick paedos to lure school kids. The Mirror. Retrieved from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fake-social-media-accounts-pretending-11175055
Dike, J. (2017, Aug. 7). This is how easy it is to fake a social media following and get paid for it. Hypebeast. Retrieved from: https://hypebeast.com/2017/8/paid-fake-social-media-following-how-to
Dowd, K. (2017, Sept. 18). The internet thinks Kevin Durant has been defending himself via fake social media accounts. SF Gate. Retrieved from: http://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/internet-thinks-Kevin-Durant-fake-social-accounts-12206411.php
Zatat, N. (2017, Aug 11). Social media experiment reveals how easy it is to create fake Instagram accounts and make money from them. The Independent. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/social-media-experiment-fake-instagram-accounts-make-money-influencer-star-blogger-mediakix-a7887836.html
Social media platforms stand in the forefront as the ultimate shared space for engagement. It is difficult to discount the new media age we are now in and how big of a scale the digital and interactive processes have changed throughout the years. As social media sites have now become the leading source for news, users have become participants as a result by spreading and commenting on these news. According to the Pew Research Center, recent studies show that two-thirds (67%) of Americans get their news on social media (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017). From this percentage, there are people who will believe and share these unverified claims. Having said that, content that initiates discussion is the sole factor that makes social networking sites the outlet for posting trending news. Whether it’d be fake or not, these outlets have no filter. Whose responsibility is it then to filter out these fake news? Is it the responsibility of social media companies or social media news consumers?
Following the 2016 US election, fake stories took a toll on the public where it triggered the infamous “Pizzagate” incident (Fisher, Cox, & Hermann, 2016). Since then, social media companies struggled to make their platform as democratic and as civil as possible. As expected, it is very time consuming and costly for social media companies to address the problem of fake news. However, Facebook has taken the initiative to combat election interference last month as a way to address the fake news situation. Watch Mark Zuckerberg outline the company’s plan to fight election interference in this short video below:
The 9 steps as stated in the video:
Continue working with the US government
Continue internal Facebook investigation
Make political ads more transparent
Strengthen ad review
Increasing election security and integrity
Expand election partnerships globally
Increasing collaboration with other tech companies
Strengthen the democratic process
Continue work monitoring the German election
From what Zuckerberg explained, it seems like providing publisher information is Facebook’s ultimate way at fighting fake news. To put that into action, Facebook has recently launched a new feature where there would be a lowercase “i” next to articles. The “info” button supposedly allows Facebook users to look more into the news sources with just a click (This Is Facebook’s Latest Idea to Fight Fake News, 2017).
What is funny is that the public is reacting negatively to this and calling this “fake news” instead. I found the same video above uploaded on YouTube by many different users and every one of them has as many dislikes as likes. And from what I can see in the comment section, most users are criticizing the nature of the “truth” in the video, claiming that Facebook is the one undermining democracy through censorship and attacking the US government and Zuckerberg himself. Along with their plan, the company handed 3000 Russia-linked ads, which contributed to spreading misleading information before the 2016 election, over to the US congress. Despite all of these attempts to fight fake news, Facebook continues to be criticized for the dissemination of fake stories following last year’s presidential election. Ultimately, the nature of the “truth” is questioned by many people since fake news appears to have the tendency to impact public knowledge. While social media companies like Facebook attempts to address the situation of fake news, many people are triggered by its validity and perhaps, the profit that social networking sites are making is the reason why people have trust issues.
Fake news or not, some social media platforms have no intentions to filter out fake news and they don’t have to. This is because social media companies operate on them. They make money off of these lies and there is an economy that follows it (Fake news and online harassment, 2016). Fake stories get people talking and that is the main reason why social media platforms are an ideal space for engagement. Social media consumers are able to share, like, dislike, comment, post, tweet which creates this online community that welcomes everyone, including their thoughts. People are active and online discussing the topic despite it being good or bad, or true or false, and this type of behaviour brings in money. This is essentially where Internet revenues and profit come from. On Twitter for example, fake news are capable of generating thousands of tweets and retweets. With this significant amount, Twitter is using this engagement factor to get sponsorships from advertisers and to put this into perspective, Twitter earns 85 percent of its revenues from advertising (Fake news and online harassment, 2016). Fake news are strong drivers of profit and if we can’t rely on social media companies to filter out these fake news, can we, as social media news consumers, make a difference? Are we able to identify what is fake and what is real?
How do you identify fake news? Even with social media companies’ attempts to provide tools for users to get more context on the news source, the most reliable tool is to use your own common sense (Annett, 2017). Remember, trust no one.
First, filter out the sites that you don’t know. Ask yourself if you trust the source of the information first. Especially the ones that you don’t normally visit, the ones that just have pure entertainment value, or the ones that you know are the usual suspects of fake news. Trust your instinct and use your common sense because that will narrow down your options of which ones to skip and which ones to trust. Next, look for indicators that verifies its validity and credibility. For example, many social media platforms now have the blue verification checkmark beside their username. Aside from that, look out for misspelled words because that will discount their reliability. Lastly, see if they are in tuned with other news sources because social networking sites can be inconsistent so make sure the details match up (Annett, 2017).
We have all encountered fake news at one point since our generation is so consumed by the new media. Rather than saying the world is getting bigger, the world is actually getting smaller because we are connected to news from different parts of the world through the Internet. We are able to expand our knowledge about the world and stay connected with everyone. Because we are so connected, it makes it easier for us to be exposed to outrageous and unverified claims. And the more we see something, the more we believe it. Since fake news have the potential to become viral, it also makes it easier for us to believe in them. Fake news are everywhere at this point but with the appropriate steps, we can avoid them.
Annett, E. (2017, June 19). What is ‘fake news,’ and how can you spot it? Try our quiz. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/community/digital-lab/fake-news-quiz-how-to-spot/article33821986/?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theglobeandmail.com&
Fake news and online harassment are more than social media byproducts – theyre powerful prof… (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www.salon.com/2016/12/17/fake-news-and-online-harassment-are-more-than-social-media-byproducts-theyre-powerful-profit-drivers/
Fisher, M., Cox, J. W., & Hermann, P. (2016, December 06). Pizzagate: From rumor, to hashtag, to gunfire in D.C. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/pizzagate-from-rumor-to-hashtag-to-gunfire-in-dc/2016/12/06/4c7def50-bbd4-11e6-94ac-3d324840106c_story.html?utm_term=.678557d48678
This Is Facebook’s Latest Idea to Fight Fake News. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2017/10/05/facebook-test-more-info-button-fake-news/
Shearer, E., & Gottfried, J. (2017, September 07). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/
Among the group of the highest-earning people in the world is those that hold a job title that did not exist up until a few years ago: an influencer. The name stems from the idea that they have the ability to influence their social media followings in an authentic, effective way. Thus a serious industry was born for advertising via these influencers. Big or small, influencers can command quite a large sum relative to their audience size.
In 2017, an estimated “$1 billion was spent on Instagram influencers alone” (Asano, 2017), which is why it is no surprise that more and more people want to find their way into this industry. Genuine, good quality content isn’t enough to warrant being paid for your Instagram content though. They need to be paired with high numbers in your following and engagement. It’s easier than you think to produce the above though. More and more people want to take advantage of the growing demand for influencers and so, ethically “grey-area” practices are now commonly employed in order to compete in the market to the point that I would argue that some of these influencers are fake/fraudulent. To what extent depends on the extent these methods were used.
Out of all the methods, purchasing followers probably doesn’t just fall under the ethical grey-area, but blatantly wrong. Accounts using this method to “grow” are essentially fake influencers populating their following count with fake followers. Buying followers and engagement is not necessarily costly either (it can actually be rather cheap) and is an “investment” that pays for itself rather quickly if you can manage “to secure paid brand deals” (Asano, 2017) with these fake numbers. To prove this, influencer marketing agency, Mediakix, executed an experiment where they created two fake accounts that they grew using only bought followers, comments and likes. By the end of their experiment, they secured two paid brand deals for each of their accounts. Ethical? No. Easy? Unfortunately, yes.
Popular automation service, Instagress and Massplanner may have recently been shutdown at the request of Instagram, but services like it do still exist. The service is this: for a fee, a bot will go around Instagram on your behalf to comment and like (or even follow) based on a list of hashtags you provide. All this is done to “take the hard work out of attracting followers on Instagram” (Chafkin, 2016). Once again, this service was not very expensive, averaging at around only $10 per month. Bloomberg writer, Max Chafkin, conducted an experiment that used this method on his Instagram account. These kind of services can be seen as sending spam, which is against Instagram’s Terms of Service, hence why Instagress and Massplanner were shutdown. Nevertheless, automation was and still is a very popular means influencers may use.
Traditionally, Instagram giveaways were hosted by a singular influencer and brand. To enter the contest, one would have to follow both the influencer and the brand and complete some steps like tagging a friend in the comments. The prize in these contests would be modest, and the purpose was usually for an influencer to indirectly give back to their followers. Loop giveways is this on steroids. Instead of following just two accounts, it is a chain of influencer accounts (often ranging from 20-40) where you have to follow each person in the chain until you arrive back to the post you started at. The result? Thousands of people entering a contest (meaning that an influencer in the loop could gain thousands of “real” followers overnight, which you can clearly see by looking at an account’s SocialBlade analytics) of which their odds of winning are next to none. On top of that, normally the people that enter these contests have no interest in the content of the 30 something accounts they have just followed, and thus the influencers don’t really influence these people in any way. I myself have received hundreds of emails inviting me to join a loop, and from this I can tell you that there is a hefty buy in price to participate in a loop, ranging from $300-700. Loop giveways only recently gained popularity and though are widely accepted, is a morally questionable method. The organizers have certainly taken advantage of the demand influencer’s have to grow their accounts quickly.
Pods Nicknamed the “Instagram Mafia”(Melotti, 2017), engagement pods were created by influencers in an attempt to help one another beat the algorithm. A pod typically includes 15 people (the maximum amount of people that can be in a group Instagram direct message), and whenever someone posts a new picture they send it to the group message, and everyone in the group comments and likes the photo. This was meant to help support one another with their tanking engagement thanks to the new Instagram algorithm that doesn’t show chronologically. It’s also a means to inflate engagement, and depending on how many pods someone is, can make an influencer look like there is a lot of people engaged in their content when in actuality, all the engagement stems from these secret pods.
Some people took it to a whole other extreme, where they took these groups to Telegram or Whatsapp where hundreds of people can be in a single pod. To be involved in these groups, “you have to post at the same time as everyone else” (Melotti, 2017). At the specified time, the hundreds of people in these groups will post their photo and then proceed to engage on the other posts. The hope is to boost your engagement enough within the first half hour of posting that it would go on the Instagram Explore page, where it would be seen by thousands upon thousands of people, leading to thousands of likes.
It’s not just the numbers that people are trying to cheat. There are even ways to fake authentic, quality content.
Along with their purchase of followers and engagement, Mediakix’ experiment included setting up one of the accounts using all free stock photos. This is easy to pull off for accounts that are travel based where the influencer may not even need to appear in their photos. For Mediakix, they chose to personalize the account by having their fake influencer appear in the photos “by using stock photos of blonde girls that showed only the back of their heads” (Mediakix, 2017). Accounts that use this method don’t even have to go through the work of going out to take and edit their photos which has both a time and money cost. Rather, they simply source their content for free online. The content can be of high quality, as stock images are normally taken by photographers, but it is not authentic or genuine.
Amelia Liana, who has 477K followers on Instagram, was caught earlier this year “doctoring images on her Instagram feed by superimposing her silhouette on sceneries that don’t accurately depict the cities she’s traveled to” (Wong, 2017). The images created were indeed beautiful, but the large issue raised here was that she continues to deny the excessive use of editing. It’s no secret that influencers display a highlight reel on their accounts, and that photos are normally all edited, “but denying it isn’t ethical” (Rodriguez, 2017).
Influencers of all sizes are getting paid. It is hard to vet accounts, and so the quick rise of fake and fraudulent influencers, whether partially or fully, is difficult to combat. Some would consider these methods as strategies, but I would argue, isn’t it actually ad fraud?
Wong, V. (2017, July 19). This Instagram Star Faked Her Travel Photos, But Why Are People So Mad? Retrieved from http://www.refinery29.com/2017/07/164148/amelia-liana-photoshop-pictures-response
Asano, E. (2017, August 11). This Influencer Marketing Shop Created Fake Accounts to Prove That the Industry Is Full of Ad Fraud. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/digital/this-influencer-marketing-shop-created-fake-accounts-to-prove-that-the-industry-is-full-of-ad-fraud/
Chafkin, M. (2016, November 30). Confessions of an Instagram Influencer. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-11-30/confessions-of-an-instagram-influencer
Hosie, R. (2017, June 06). Are you following a fake Instagram star? Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fake-instagram-star-following-social-media-spam-followers-influencer-a7751696.html
How To Be An Instagram Influencer For $300: A 2-Month Study. (2017, August 08). Retrieved from http://mediakix.com/2017/08/fake-instagram-influencers-followers-bots-study/#gs.Bs_s6eE
Melotti, S. (2017, June 02). Instagram Created a Monster: A No B.S. Guide to What’s Really Going On. Retrieved from https://petapixel.com/2017/06/01/instagram-created-monster-no-b-s-guide-whats-really-going/
O’Connor, C. (2017, April 10). Earning Power: Here’s How Much Top Influencers Can Make On Instagram And YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2017/04/10/earning-power-heres-how-much-top-influencers-can-make-on-instagram-and-youtube/#656779bc24db
With the rapid growth and development of technology, there is no doubt that social media platforms continuously influence the public opinion, touching on the economic, cultural and social aspects of society. Stated from News Use Across Social Media Platforms, “two-thirds of Americans report they get at least some of their news on social media” (Shearer, 2017). Because of Facebook’s large user base, being a dominant force, it takes the lead on every other social media site as a source of news: a whopping 66% of Americans use Facebook on a daily basis (Shearer, 2017). For many, the social media site remains as an important news outlet source that has made digital communication more transparent and malleable. As a regular social media user, it is crucial to understand the impact of social media because of its creation and impact on social life.
Digital communication tools are the source of facilitating the exchange of information across platforms, resulting in the manipulation and distortion of truths. Consequently, the misinformation leads to what is known as the creation of “fake news”. False stories have been becoming hugely popular online with deceptive titles that attract the reader into believing as real news. Recently, in the last three months of the US presidential campaign, fake news outperformed real news. As a result, a blur between what is genuine and what is false is increasingly becoming harder to differentiate because in a world of easily accessible digital devices, consumers have the ability to play a role in being producers of information. The creation and circulation of public opinion affects social life on two standpoints: cultural and social. Not only does public opinion have the competency to corrupt traditional values, it can alter the audience’s perspectives. Thus, public opinion is ever-changing: it is persuaded and influenced through social media — making it more achievable, yet uncontrollable.
The distribution of fake news on Facebook carries uncontrollable and disruptive ramifications on an individual’s life. Take for example: a photoshoot to promote plastic surgery became viral when false stories began to spread quickly on Facebook, leading to a long-term consequence of a Taiwanese model, Heidi Yeh’s career. The photo shows Yeh posed in a family photo with three kids who were purposely made to appear “ugly” with small eyes and flat noses. Little did Yeh know, she would soon became a victim of a viral internet meme that put a toll on her personal life and career. False claims stated that her supposed husband in the photo sued her (his wife) for deceiving him when he discovered that she had undergone plastic surgery before they met because the image shows a lack of resemblance between the children and the parents. The Taiwanese model felt destroyed by the media, claiming she felt hesitant to continue her modelling career because of the public embarrassment. Serving as a real-life example of the uncontrollable outcomes of public opinion, as a result, the model’s job offers slowed down for three years and shattered her relationship with her then-boyfriend. Subsequently, the situation clearly got out of hand when threats to sue began to emerge.
How did the photo get distributed to become a global meme? The talent advertising agency stated the ad would be featured in newspapers and magazines by the initial cosmetic clinic only, according to Yeh (Willett, 2015). However, the agency later allowed another clinic access to the image for their website, claiming their copyright ownership and intention to promote plastic surgery in a humorous manner. When Yeh threatened to sue the cosmetic clinics, they responded by claiming that she damaged their reputation and demanded for an apology from Yeh. Soon enough, it was all over Facebook news feeds and it is because of these stories that Facebook has moved towards the implementation of algorithms to optimize users’ news feeds in order to cease the prioritization of fake news without restricting the accurate content. The attention that has caused Facebook to take action proves that public opinion is largely influential and is not taken lightly. Therefore, social media and the internet encourages and enables collaboration through the exchanging of knowledge that builds and influences societies.
Shearer, E., & Gottfriend, J. (2017, September 7). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news- use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/
Social Media: Shaping The Way We See the World or Shaping the New World Itself? (2013, February 19). Retrieved October 11, 2017, from https://astanatimes.com/2013/02/social- media-shaping-the-way-we-see-the-world-or-shaping-the-new-world-itself/
Willett, M. (2015, November 06). A Taiwanese model said her life was ‘ruined’ after she was turned into a plastic-surgery meme. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/taiwanese-model-plastic-surgery-meme-2015-11
Music has the capacity to change the way we see the world. At its core, it has arguably more universal ability to evoke emotion than any other art form available. Many find refuge through music. Many find excitement, solace and inspiration for their own daily lives through the complex melodies hitting their eardrums – a notion that has been around for centuries and spans across most, if not all worldwide civilizations. The genre of folk has stood the test of time throughout history, with many different cultures creating unique definitions of the word through their own interpretations of musical communication. In the twentieth century however, folk music began to gain momentum towards becoming a cornerstone of the rapidly expanding music spectrum in Western culture.
Through the act of strumming a guitar and crooning a simple combination of melodies and lyrics, an unfathomable number of new genres were born. The emotional connectivity and intimacy of the performances appealed to a demographic of individuals seeking a sense of relatability and authenticity within their choices of music and with such technological innovations such as the record player becoming more widespread, these songs were able to reach listeners on a scale much larger than ever before. Before the infiltration of mass marketing, political opposition and genre fragmentation there was the humble practice of presenting one’s emotions through song – the core of this practice becoming the pinnacle of authenticity that would constantly be pursued by many of the subsequent folk artists to come. Rodnitzky (1999) states that when the great Pete Seeger was asked to define folk as a genre, he replied saying,
“If folks sing them, they’re folk songs.”(p.105).
The notion of storytelling through song has long been one favoured by the traditional definition of folk music across a spectrum of cultures and continues to be a factor imperative in securing a proper place amongst the ranks of iconic folk songs.
The revitalization of folk music in Western culture came at a time where individuals belonging to a society that emphasized conformity and compliance spurred on a phase of creative revolutions that gave way to some of the most profound musical movements in history. The notion of using music to appeal to the masses, project a message of opposition and seek a greater sense of authenticity is something the world of folk has been able to boast more prominently above the rest.
The following pages will dive the folk revival period of the twentieth century and into the modern music built out of the genre spanning from the early 1940’s into present day.
In this paper I will explore the evolution of folk music as it relates to certain ideologies of authenticity and comments on mainstream music culture. Furthermore, I will argue that folk music, even through evolving digital advancements and changing consumption patterns, exists as a commentary and opposition to the generic elements of mainstream music culture.
The early part of the twentieth century’s entertainment landscape created an emphasis on big band, orchestral and spectacularly theatrical genres of sound to maintain the spotlight when it came to the musical tendencies of the masses. The era of post-WWII paved the way for a new stripped-down version of music to become more readily available, a banner marking the beginning of a series of sociocultural movements signifying the rejection of conformity among a society that swayed towards tradition.
Cohen et al. (2014) describe the beginning of this revival, discussing how folk music played a role in the 1950’s cultural shift, with many wrongly characterizing this era as “the bland leading the bland.” They go on to discuss how folk, along with other variations of rock and roll such as rockabilly, doo-wop, country and rhythm and blues were all large parts of the ubiquitous counterculture beginning to emerge following the Second World War and eventually gaining more traction towards the explosion of musical counterculture during the Cold War era (p.3).
With artists such as Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly paving the way for the acoustic guitar and lyrics pairing to gain prominence, the folk scene was quickly beginning to develop a growing community of followers and churning out a repertoire of songs with such a depth, that they continue to be covered and redone today. Lead Belly’s versions of ‘Goodnight Irene’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’ embody what folk purists might describe as core examples of authentic music and have remained incredibly iconic to both listeners and fellow folk icons – with both songs being covered by bands such as The Weavers and The Animals, respectively.
Additionally, Cohen et al. (2014) provide an example towards the first conceptions of the protest song coming to fruition, through the medium of folk music, around the latter part of the 1940’s. They state, “In late 1945, (Pete) Seeger, fresh out of the military, formed ‘People’s Songs’ with a group of left-wing musicians, such as Woody Guthrie, which promoted a musical agenda supporting labour unions, civil rights, economic justice and world peace.” (p.15).
This type of organization towards the concept of peaceful protest through music would only be a small taste of what was to come in terms of the genre becoming a beacon of oppositional power. The fifties established a standard of what folk music was supposed to bring to the table in terms of formal structure, but allowed for the genre to constantly revamp itself, eventually into a vessel for change and social revolution.
As the ball kept rolling and the folk community began to realize the influx of popularity that came with instilling a sense of authenticity within the listener, there was an expectation of what the medium was to bring to the table in terms of artistry.
The classic string instrument, microphone, voice and lyrics cocktail was something of an established tradition within folk music culture as it drifted into the 1960’s. However, the historically telling aspect of folk culture is that it is constantly challenging the norm. The paradoxical effect of a culture pushing the envelope of change while upholding a preconceived notion that the music should stay ‘pure to it’s roots’ was exactly what it took to create such a controversy over Bob Dylan’s iconic performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Music festival.
At this point in time, halfway into the sixties and seeing music as an absolute force to be reckoned with when it came to lighting the flame of oppositional social activism, it boasts somewhat ironic to see just how shaken up the folk community could become at the slightest modification of musical ‘norms’.
When Dylan took the stage in 1965, the crowd turned to chaos when he cast his typical acoustic troubadour persona aside and began to play ‘Maggie’s Farm’ with an electric guitar a full band accompanying him. The audience, accustomed to seeing Dylan with no more than a microphone, harmonica and an acoustic guitar strapped to his chest, were thrown into what Wald (2015) describes as a “maelstrom of conflicting impressions.” He discusses the night further by referencing a New York Times piece stating that Dylan was “roundly booed by folk-song purists, who considered this innovation the worst sort of heresy.” Additionally, Wald claims that in several accounts of the story, “Pete Seeger, the gentle giant of the folk scene, tried to cut the sound cables with an axe. Some people were dancing, some were crying, many were dismayed and angry, many were cheering, many were overwhelmed by the ferocious shock of the music or astounded by the negative reactions (Par. 2).
This type of commotion alone highlights just how much American folk artists had begun to etch themselves into the timeline of music history. Moreover, it brings to light the paradoxical effects that came with an audience so devoted to a genre built on change and revitalisation, but refusing to accept any modifications towards the standards of music set out by a handful of iconic artists at the time.
Hillstrom and Hillstrom-Collier (2010) cite music critic Robert Palmer, stating, “What Dylan in 1965 managed to do was blast himself free from the intellectual complacency of the folk scene while daring the rock fans to listen [to the lyrics]” (p.28)
The musical landscape was shifting so rapidly and so dynamically that the notion of inspiring change through such a powerful force became the forefront of youth culture in the 1960’s. With folk artists gaining popularity in the times leading up to the sixties, once the presidential epochs of Lyndon Johnson/Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War took hold, they quickly became a beacon to a demographic of frustrated and unsettled masses, seeking a way to provoke change and oppose the powers of government.
Protest Through Song
Youth culture during the 1960’s had become a force unlike anything society in modern Western culture had seen prior. The small post-war grace period was over, industrialization and the pressure to a build a life upon a direction of compliancy was no longer something the up-and-coming generation was willing to tolerate.
The children of the baby-boomers were either on the cusp of, or had reached adulthood and most prominently, the United States government’s escalation of the movement to fight communism in Vietnam had provided a massive catalyst for the launch of music as a way to counter violence and oppression.
Candaele (2012) describes this phenomenon, stating that “youth ‘counterculture’ carved out new spaces for experimentation and alternative views about what constituted a good society, while a New Left made up of civil rights and anti-war activists developed as the war in Vietnam dragged out and became increasingly bloody, confounding, and ultimately unpopular (Par. 6).
Folk music had gained such a vast audience through the sheer amount of emotion evoked during such a tumultuous time, that the community had begun to stray away from creating music to counter the generic aspects of pop culture and towards creating anthems leading the masses into a frenzy of social, political and cultural change.
Protests, marches and picketing were on the rise all across college campuses, and eventually branching out into the general American public. The youth of America had began to shift their focus onto voicing their opposition towards the acts of what they interpreted as senseless violence, particularly hitting closer to home due to the implementation of a conscription process for the men belonging to this generation of opposers.
Carr-Wilcoxson (2010) discusses one particular showing of protest at the Washington Monument on April 17th 1965, when over twenty thousand civilians arrived to show their solidarity against the war effort, most notably including folk icons such as Judy Collins, Joan Baez and Phil Ochs. The singing of era anthems such as “We Shall Overcome” and diplomatic attempts at anti-bombing negotiations marked this event as one of many sizeable organizations for peace throughout the years that would follow (p.28-29).
Moreover, songs such as “Blowin’ In the Wind” and Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” directly address the prevalent issue of conflict in succinct and authentic terms, allowing for listeners and fellow artists alike to latch onto the words and drive their cause further through the inspiration that was being handed to them:
Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing
-Bob Dylan, 1964
Dylan’s poetic patterns of song writing allowed for not only previously established fans of folk music to identify with the call to change in songs like this one, but also created a sense of emotional authenticity and relatability that was easily taken on to define a generation of peaceful – yet forceful – anti-war involvement.
As Hillstrom and Hillstrom-Collier (2012) explain, “these songs did not just react to events, they actually inspired new actions and levels of participation in the anti-war and civil rights movement.” (p.23)
Taking the protest song movement even a step further, was the song “For What It’s Worth” By Buffalo Springfield:
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
-Buffalo Springfield, 1966
Highlighted by Carr-Wilcoxson (2010), these lyrics followed by the refrain that sings “I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down,” not only provide a commentary on the goings on of protest culture, but boast the need of awareness into the issues.
The lyrics emphasize a need for goal-oriented opposition, not merely allowing for each side to stand against each other, wave their picket signs and expect change to simply come as it may (p. 59).
Additionally, the discussion regarding mass gatherings of youth counterculture through music would be a falling short if not to examine the 1969 phenomenon that was Woodstock. The iconic three-day music and arts festival held on a dairy farm in the town of Bethel, New York, brought to the stage some of the most iconic rock and folk artists of that time, singing their songs of social change and defining the era of non-conformity through loud music, free love, mind-altering drugs and togetherness.
“The ‘counterculture’ emphasis on ‘doing your own thing’ and rejecting the ‘uptight’ morality of older generations was in full swing at Woodstock (Hillstrom, Hillstrom-Collier, 2010, p.74). With folk acts like Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performing alongside rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Santana, the festival was the ultimate gathering of some of the iconic talent that defined a generation of change.
The sixties and early seventies brought some of the most massive and influential social revolutions of the twentieth century. The groundbreaking method of using song as one of the most forceful catalysts for activism was not a new concept, however it grew to a level unseen before this time. An era of non-conformity matched with a level of political unrest and distrust from one of the biggest demographics of that time created a new use for folk music – to speak the truth of the people, provide a non-violent vehicle for political opposition and to contribute to the revitalisation of youth counterculture as a whole.
Modern-day Folk and Musical Subcultures
Almost fifty years after the golden age of folk, the mainstream concept of music has shifted substantially. Gone are the days of young Dylan and Baez inspiring thousands to rise up against the oppressive institutions and gone are the days where only a small handful of artists, boasting an even smaller repertoire of folk-inspired genres, ruled the popular music scene. A sense of authenticity and intimacy no longer seems to be valued in today’s popular music scene, with factors such as mass commercialization, digitization and genre fragmentation contributing to their downfall.
However, as it always has, folk music has learned to adapt with its circumstances and take on a new set of standards and values. Although the mass influence of protest music and folk singers gaining legions of fans may no longer be the norm, folk music and the demographics that consume it have figured out ways to maintain the sense of authentic emotional connectivity with the songs, lyrics and artists that create them.
Musical subcultures have been around since musicians had desire for uniqueness and listeners had ability to demand choice. McGwin (2013) discusses musical subcultures in a sense that they are “acting as a solution to a problem or contradiction in the dominant culture, and served as a way for its members to resist through ritual and style” (p.1). Although this notion of counterculture is not nearly new, the difference between the sixties and today is that folk music is no longer striving to resist political power, but is instead striving to counter the generic, mass consumer culture attached to much of today’s pop music.
Over the last half-century, the shift in digital technology has been astounding. The patterns of rapid introduction and replacement of old technologies has been a massive contributor to the changing landscape of music production, with the main form of music playing technology becoming almost obsolete every ten to fifteen years. From records to tapes, from tapes to CDs and from CDs to file sharing and digitally downloaded content, the music industry and genres within it have had to fight to adapt in order to remain relevant.
In today’s media market, music is no longer something that remains tangible in the same ways it was back in the days of obtaining albums by simply walking down to the local record shop. We can be selective about the content we want, we can select songs individually to add to our repertoire and we can access all of this for free via the many copyright evading loopholes that file sharing provides.
This, in addition to the ever-growing emphasis on consumer culture, had contributed to the mass commercialization of popular artists. Meier (2006) notes that within this social climate of consumer culture, many mainstream artists have taken on co-marketing strategies for themselves and they products they align themselves with.
The use of mediums such as television to advertise products, all the while promoting the faces and music of mainstream performers as a brand for the product, provide a marketing cycle financially beneficial for both the artist and the big corporations (p. 55). This type of cross promotion has become wildly prevalent in modern music, creating a culture built upon emphasizing capitalist promotion of products over emotional connectivity and authentic content.
Furthermore, content is being created and churned out so frequently that musicians now have to fight to stay relevant. In a culture that upholds the process of constantly searching for the next best thing, it can be next to impossible to maintain an attentive and devoted group of followers when the content is generic and easily replicated like many pop songs are.
This is where subcultures come in. Over the decades, subcultures have existed in opposition to something – whether that’s to a system of power, a set of constructed values or even another genre of music.
As aforementioned, the subculture of folk music no longer relies on political resistance as the forefront of their audience appeal. By upholding similar standards of authenticity however, they have managed to maintain a sort of refuge from the tendencies of disconnect that can come with generic, mass produced mainstream music.
Although the digitization of music culture has created widespread fragmentation within the genre itself, the folk community has managed to take this in stride by widening the boundaries of what can be defined within it.
Additionally, with much more of the population straying towards pop music and consumer-directed content, folk music has learned to adapt to smaller fan bases by maintaining the sense of intimacy through performing. Smaller venues, crowds and followings may have come with the effects genre fragmentation, but if a community devoted to avoiding the mainstream wants to stay true to its core values in a digital consumer world, this is sometimes means sacrificing the mass followings that once defined a prior generation of folk artists.
In conclusion, the last century has brought about a massive shift into what can be defined as folk music. Through the diffusion of genres, the rise of musicians at the forefront of political movements and the digitization of the music industry itself, folk has managed to adapt and remain malleable to the ever-changing landscape of musical expectations.
It has inspired the creative processes of thousands, thrived as a beacon of hope during tumultuous periods of history and provided a cornerstone of counter-culture within a world so devoted to exploiting music for its consumer properties.
Although it is not to say that the folk community had not resisted the processes of revitalisation in the past, as devotees occasionally have had the propensities to cause a commotion over breaking a set of standards set out by a small handful of musical pioneers. What has remained true however, is the sense of peaceful opposition the twentieth and twenty-first century folk music has maintained over the course of its lifetime.
Whether it is a differentiation from societal norms, conformist culture, political oppression or mainstream consumer habits, folk music has upheld its values of fighting closed-mindedness and resisting power. A sense of authenticity within both the musician and the listener comes from the place of intimate emotional connectivity that folk music thrives upon and is not something that cannot be branded, mass produced or diminished by anyone who chooses to oppose it.
Candaele, K. (2012). The Sixties and Protest Music. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.gilderlehrman.org
Cohen, R. D., & Donaldson, R. C. (2014). Roots of the revival: American and British folk music in the 1950s. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.
Hillstrom, K., & Hillstrom, L. C. (2013). Woodstock. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.
McGwin, Katharine, “Music Subcultures Online: The Indie Folk Scene and How Facebook Influences Participation” (2013). Open Access Master’s Theses. Paper 44. http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/theses/44
Meier, L. (2006). In Concert: The Coordination of Popular Music, Youth Practices, and Lifestyle Marketing (Master’s thesis). Simon Fraser University.
Rodnitzky, J. L. (1999). The sixties between the microgrooves: Using folk and protest music to understand American history, 1963–1973. Popular Music and Society,23(4), 105-122.
Wald, E. (2014, July 24). The Night Bob Dylan Went Electric. Time Magazine.
Before this spring in 2017, I never imagined I could do my own online publication. Publication has been quite an abstract form for me, and I had always believe that this process would probably involve many different professional people with abilities of typing, editing and printing. The most important part I can imagine is printing. However, the fact exceeded my imagination that I created my own online publication and able to let people from all over the world to access it without printing. At the same time, I learned a lot of skills and gained experiences of online publishing.
At the beginning, I didn’t know that to build a blog is also the way of publication. Blog creation becomes a fashion that started more than ten years ago, I can still remember that I built my own blog when I was in middle school. what’s more, people who create very popular blogs can even gain lots of earnings which is quite similar to the popular instagramers. For the website I created this time, I started with registered the domain name, and at the same time, make decision of the subject of the website and this teaches me a lesson. Since my domain name is “yunkecpub” which involves yunke that is my name and pub refer to publication, but the subject of the website is movie and film review which took me two weeks to finally make the decision and has no connection with the domain name. I believe this could be one of the reason why this website don’t attract much audiences, it’s better for the domain name to register after setting up the subject of the website.
There are two important tools I learned about online publication, they are Google Analytics and Google AdSense. These are the new technology that I didn’t have any knowledge before. And I was very surprised by the function and convenience of them. It’s very easy to install both tools, just by registering and adding both tools on the administration page of the website, they can be used for free. For the Google Analytics, it’s a tool that can monitor the viewers of your website, and summarize statistics about what devices the viewers were using, where were they, what language were they using, when did they view the website and more. This is very helpful when people want to make adjustment of their website and want to check their actual readers. The Google AdSense is a tool that can implement advertisements on your website, and it can help you earn money automatically. Although not every website can earn lots of money when this depend the click rate and flow rate of the website, it gave me an idea of how to cooperate advertisement sponsors with online publication.
Since the subject of my website is movies and film reviews, I was actually inspired by a Chinese website which allow many people to leave movie reviews and book reviews. This website has a name—–Douban, it is a big website involving information about music, movies, books and so on. When I want to know more information about the movie, especially when I want to know other people’s opinion of the movie, I sometimes check this website. By reading film reviews online, I can get more ideas about the stories and the logics that I don’t understand. This is why I want to create a website that post my blogs and film reviews.
For my imagined public, I expected they are readers who love to watch movies, who interested in movies that comes out recently, and who love to share views of movies. Nevertheless, in the earlier stage of the website creation, the most of my actual publics are my friends, classmates, instructor and people who accidently dropped in. There are some more expected readers gained later when I have more and more information on the website. By checking the Google Analytics, something surprised me that my readers are from all over the world, viewers came from countries include Canada, Malaysia, Brazil, Egypt, the United States and so on. However, there are still fewer viewers of my website than I expected.
For the appearance of this blog, I choose dark color as the background. This background can leaves viewers an impression like watching a movie. And I used one of the famous fantasy movie picture as the head image of the blog, especially when the expressions of the characters on the image are quite catching, lead people’s interest into the blog. For the content of the blog, I’ve post four film reviews from the movies I watched during this season. There are all coming out recently. I think I’ve providing a resource for people to get to know something about the new movies and at the same time, know something about me and about my personal views.
After created this website and learned skills of building up online publication for this term, publication became a much more solid idea for me. Publication is not just only the form of printing, it’s now also digitalized and integrated in every individuals’ life. I would continue work for my online publication, not only to attract readers but also to gain more online publishing experiences in order to correspond to the current trend.
豆瓣. (n.d.). Retrieved April 07, 2017, from https://www.douban.com/
F. (2012, September 07). On Self-Publishing and Amazon. Retrieved April 07, 2017, from http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/post/31026577075/on-self-publishing-and-amazon
Erin Kissane for Issue № 4. (n.d.). Contents May Have Shifted. Retrieved April 06, 2017, from http://contentsmagazine.com/articles/contents-may-have-shifted/
This semester may be coming to an end yet, my online publication will go on. Over the last three months, I was introduced to the world of online publishing and given a chance to create a place that was solely mine – sukhisthename.com. It became a place to share my favourite recipes, new beauty regimes, and […]
Although I was aware of what this course was called, as well as the content it would consist of, I never really thought that I would be able to consider myself an online publisher by the end of this term. But really—that’s what I’ve been doing this whole time. In some respects, that’s what I have been...
First of all, I would like to start with introducing my online publication. My website is about my life as a barista working at a café in Vancouver. I have two main categories on my website: Coffee and Stories. My purpose for the first category is to introduce some basic knowledge on coffee via YouTube video links and to introduce some featured cafés in Vancouver to my audiences. I aimed to write down some interesting stories in our café and to encourage my audiences to share their stories with me under the second category.
When I first created my website, I did not think thoroughly about who my potential audiences could be. It was designed for myself as an online cyber infrastructure to reflect on my working life. I told my colleagues and my friends about this course and this website so I assumed that my potential audiences could be them. Also, since a lot of my blogs are on coffee so I assumed that some coffee lovers in Vancouver could also be my potential audiences. In sum, I want my audiences to know that they are viewing the life of a real person and I hope that they could find something in common with me.
To fit my topic on coffee and to fit my potential audience, I purposely customized my website. The theme I chose is called “Pique Café”. This theme was originally designed for small coffee shops so its head image and its background color are matching with my topic. However, I customized it for my own plan. For example, I edited the “About Me” page to make sure that any potential audience would be clear on who I am and what the website could be. Also, for each post, I tried my best to use images from my real life to emphasize that the website is about me, a real person in real life. Moreover, I also tag each of my post by using keywords such as coffee, café or barista to make it more searchable online.
I think I have provided some values to my colleagues. After viewing my site, one of my colleague once told me that he felt very satisfied to be a barista and to do what he loves to do. I am very glad to hear it. Also, more importantly, I think this website provided a lot of values to myself. Before taking this course, I have no experience with creating and maintaining a blog. Now I have learnt how to apply for a domain, how to customize a theme and how to solve some technical problems by myself. Also, before taking this course, I did not often write personal narratives in English. Now this website helps me to practice my writing
Looking back, I found one important problem with my website. It is too self-oriented. First, I focused more on how to write a nice story which is for self-expression. I did not think a lot about how to design the website to fit the needs of my audience. Also, I was somehow reluctant to learn about the commercial side of publishing. When we were talking about the marketing and monetization of the website, I actually felt not very comfortable to think about making money from my website. Perhaps, this reflected the idealistic I who believed that as a publisher, we should focus more on content. If we created valuable and responsible content, then it would attract audiences by itself.
During our classes, I have learnt that design matters. As we discussed in class, typography had different personalities and we should choose wisely according to our content. An interesting research supported this by showing that people who saw the statements in Baskerville were more likely to agree with it. To contrast, Helvetica and Comic Sans are not able to inspire confidence.
Also, from the data on Google Analytics and the data on WordPress, I found that my website was only viewed by a few people. I realized this may due to my reluctance to marketing my site. For now, as a personal blog, it may seems acceptable. However, what if I need to promote a professional website? While I was reading the two course materials on the shutting down of The Toast, I found that the reason for shutting down, as the Co-founders Nicole Cliffe and Mallorie Ortberg announced, was that they couldn’t make enough money to continue. I started to rethink about the meaning of publishing and to reconsider about monetization.
I still believe in the significance of content. What I am afraid is that publishers spend too much time on marketing and on monetization that they forgot to maintain the quality of content. As Travis Gertz criticized in her post, nowadays too much content are produced every day and publishers tend not to actually care about content. They only care about what content can do for them. In my opinion, valuable content and monetization should not be in conflict with each other. It is our responsibility to maintain the balance between the two.
Carpenter, Shelby. “The Toast Is Toast: Literary Humor Site Shuts Down Over Ad Revenue Woes.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 13 May 2016. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.
Gertz, Travis. “Design Machines.” Louder Than Ten. N.p., 10 July 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.
Thirteen weeks later, hours spent on end, and after many changes of the website’s layout, theme, and intended audience, www.chunkofkevin.com is created as a platform for technologically driven individuals, family, and close friends to find out a bit of my own life, such as my passions, and interests in a website blog format. As an online publisher in this inclusive and open space, I have learned a multitude of lessons, including a variety of different perspectives, monetization aspects, and analytical tendencies that have bolstered my understanding of what was needed to build a website for a professional and leisure setting. At no point, would I have thought that publishing content could be this difficult. Specifically, I will be discussing the difficulties of creating my website in detail, such as the creational aspects, finding a targeted audience, designing captivating visuals, understanding analytics and monetization strategies, as well as underlining the ways in which publishing has impacted my outlook on my own life.
Firstly, I wanted my website to be strictly for business professionals who want to explore and learn more about other businesses, specifically large institutions that are already established. My initial impression was to sift through company’s financial statements and identify ways in which a business can increase their efficiency, which can come in the form of cutting down the supply chain costs and optimizing their pricing strategies. It was a tall task, but I thought I could do it. The first to weeks were the hardest as content creations became more and more difficult and ambiguous. The decision to explore the financial statements of businesses was exciting, however, siphoning through business statements became time consuming and endlessly tiring. Instead, I ended up creating an article on “Vainglory” as an upcoming “eSport” in the gaming scene and its possibility to penetrate the mobile gaming market, as an official “eSport”. After that, the content creation process translated into my life and how it related to technology. I created several articles on my PC gaming build experience and have thoroughly enjoyed creating biweekly content that engages the audience to keep reading new articles that come out. In the end, content creation became less of a chore, rather, it was a way to update my following with new things that have happened in my life.
In regards to the design aspects, Matthew Butterick’s quote on, “send[ing] all your readers to [the] Medium, [and] hav[ing] your work permanently entangled with other stories [on] [the] Medium” (Louderthanten, 2015) provided me a new perspective on seeking to improve the design of my website. Rather than creating an enticing visual aspect to my blog, I realized that my visuals and theme needed to be consistent with my actual content and was required to match my vision. As a way for people to identify and connect with my life, each article post was quite lengthy and provided a lot of effort to create, which was also why I ended up changing my theme from an ordinary blog style into large visuals that catered to fostering emotional connection and investment into the author from the home page. Much like any other website, the content matches the theme very well.
In terms of adding value, my website is a place where people can identify with, connect to other people, and gives an update through the lens of technology to the reader. Looking at the last few weeks in which Google Analytics took its time to find the viewing patterns of the normal viewer, I identified a few key characteristics that stood out. Usually, when a viewer looks at the website, the behaviour tended to remain consistent, where he/she would click through to 3 different pages before exiting my website. Furthermore, it indicated that my previous design model was counter-productive, where a curious reader had to dive deep into links before finding what he/she wanted off the front page. So, I decided to hide posts on the first page to reveal my most important posts that people enjoyed viewing in the past. In regards to monetization, a quote from a Forbes article on “The Bread”, which is a famous blog that amassed 1 million unique visitors in the year of 2014, underlined the situation of online revenue generating ads as “stretching [the] [company] too thin” (Forbes, 2016) where people would often use AdBlock to ignore ads that the website places in front of them, reducing the effectiveness of ads. With this, I targeted my monetization techniques by focusing on paid affiliations with brands and sellers such as Amazon and NCIX, providing a link to the readers to purchase these orders directly with a personalized link that gives a percentage of the purchase as a commission. I believe that as my website grows, I will be able to use a variety of methods to allow for multiple outlets for advertising, such as subscribing to a weekly newsletter that has targeted advertisements as well as creating a YouTube video to generate a larger following.
I have been asking for feedback from my family, specifically my dad, where he really liked the large visuals and attracting font usage for the site. Having heard that feedback, I really enjoyed the idea of people commenting, so I added a little paragraph at the end of each post that encouraged commenting or emailing me any questions regarding to a new PC build, questions, and struggles with their tech problems. This has influenced me to become more aware of my surroundings and to recognize the valuable perspectives of others, instead of maintaining a small focus on my way of running a website. Although I fully agree on the New Yorker’s perspective that “anonymity can boost a certain kind of creative thinking and lead to improvements in problem-solving” (New Yorker, 2013), however, in many cases, a level of trust must be established before hearing and interpreting feedback that is constructive to the environment. Using this, I plan on using both an anonymous input form as well as email to receive a larger and more diverse comment base that can help improve both creatively and constructively.
Overall, my website has been a great learning experience that continues to push me forward to create engaging content to my following. Ever since the beginning of the term, I have learned that there is more than meets the eye, as there is so much work behind the scenes to maintain, update, and change constantly for a website that thrives off the viewership of others. In the future, I plan on keeping my website as a place to store my interest of technology. In the future, I plan on looking for affiliations, as well as ways to adapt my webpage to be more suitable for all devices, which include mobile users and tablet users alike to create a more integrated platform to view my content.
Fake news are not the products of the modern era. In the past, politicians also use propaganda to fit their own needs. Also, in some countries, traditional media such as newspapers and magazines are controlled and censored by the government who would only approve contents that are not against the government. However, the reason why fake news became an important issue was due to the development of Internet and social media platforms as we are entering the digital era. Fake news always exist but their power grows when the method to spread information changed.
How Did Internet and Social Media Platforms Influence Fake News?
The development of Internet and social media platforms had cleared a lot of barriers on the publishing and the spreading of fake news. In an article from The Telegraph, the author James Carson summarized three ways how social media revolution influenced fake news.
First, the creation of Facebook, Twitter and WordPress decreased the cost to publish and to distribute news. For traditional paper media, it may take hours or days to collect information, to edit content and to print those contents on paper. However, with the assistance of social media platform, it would save a lot of time and money to publish information. Second, various social media platforms had increased the accessibility of fake news to a large amount of audiences. Also, because of the lowered cost, publishers of fake news would not worry about the building of trust and the consequence of losing trust. Third, it was difficult to regulate online social media by law. Most publishers of fake news are anonymous individuals. Without regulation and restriction, online publishers would not worry about taking responsibility of their behaviors.
In my opinion, I agree with the author. The social media platform had speed up the information exchange in a good way. However, speeding up the sharing of fake news was one of its side effect.
How Powerful is Fake News?
A group of scholars from Stanford University had conducted studies on the role of fake news on 2016 US presidential election.
First, in order to test the significance of social media, they conducted a post-election online survey among 1200 people. The results showed that only 14 per cent of Americans considered social media as the most important sources of information during the election (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). Later, they also used fake stories and placebo stories to conduct an experiment. After a series of calculation, they estimated that a single fake news story had a persuasion rate equivalent to seeing 36 television campaign ads (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017).
In my opinion, we are surrounded by high technology and digital products in urban cities. We become attached to online social media platform to the extent that we ignored the other sources of information. We became biased and even tend to omit the fact that there are certain per cent of people who still rely on newspaper or TV as dominant source of information. Therefore, I believed that the power of fake news could be huge but it was also limited only to people who frequently use social media platforms.
What Can We Do with Fake News?
Understanding the role of social media platforms on fake news and the limited influence of fake news, the next question would be what we could do with fake news.
As a person who could not live without social media platform, I would suggest myself and other users of social media platform to raise awareness of fake news. This is the first step. Lipkin is the executive director of National Association for Media Literacy Education. She believed that “Education is key and is our most powerful weapon against falsehoods.” (Padgett, 2017). We should understand that somehow we are more or less biased but the key to avoid falling in the trap of fake news is education.
On the other hand, I think it was also the responsibility of the social media platforms to make regulations on their users’ online behaviors. Some may worry that it could damage the freedom of speech of their users but I believed that our online behavior should be regulated as our offline behaviors. Purposely spreading false news should be identified and banned. Recently, Facebook began using third-party fact-checkers and gave its users the ability to manually report fake news posts (Tarantola, 2017). It is unsure if the solution would work but it indicated that at least, social media platform companies had moved towards solving the fake news problem.
To conclude, I found that fake news always exist but during recent years, Internet and social media platforms had amplify the power of fake news. However, according to studies, the influence of fake news may not be as huge as we expected. To minimize the damage of fake news, social media users should educate themselves and social media companies should make policies to manage their online communities.
Allcott, H., Gentzkow,M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Retrieved from https://web.stanford.edu/~gentzkow/research/fakenews.pdf
Carson, J. (2017). What is fake news? Its origins and how it grew under Donald Trump. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/fake-news-origins-grew-2016/
Padgett, L. (2017). Filtering Out Fake News: It All Starts With Media Literacy. Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/it/jan17/Padgett–Filtering-Out-Fake-News.shtml
Tarantola, A. (2017). Facebook now flags fake news. Retrieved from https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/06/facebook-now-flags-fake-news/
Incorporating a business into the world of social media can be challenging. The competition to grab the attention of people scrolling through their newsfeeds requires more than bright colours and click bait. Your content has to be relevant and easily accessible. But more importantly, your content should be something that people want to hear about. Otherwise the backlash can be staggering. Recently the Donnelly Group, an independent business based out of Vancouver that owns pubs such as the Bimini and the Lamplighter, made another shift in their business by purchasing the now closed Railway Club. The Railway Club had been a Vancouver staple since the 30s, but fell out of business after it’s last owner couldn’t keep it up. Then when he couldn’t see it they shut it down. When Vancouver local Jeff Donnelly decided to buy the club one would think enthusiasts would rejoice, right?
Wrong. Shortly after the news broke the CBC released an article interviewing partner Chad Cole on the future of the club, where in the interview he stated that “unfortunately [live music]’s not going to be a core element of this new pub.” The news of the Donnelly Group buying out the club spread like wildfire over Facebook and the comment sections of Georgia Straight articles and those done by Vancity Buzz were alive with internet rage. Comments ranged from “For most people The Railway Club is synonymous with live music…to bring the place back without live music is very disappointing” to “I’d rather tear it down than turn it into another generic vapid soulless chain bar. Not going” to calling out employees who work there: “…then the greasy, little floor manager comes over and says “how can I make this right for you?” What a joke”.
The anger was on. But despite the complaints of no live music, the article continued to explain that there would in fact be live music, just not as frequently as the venue had in the past. A follow up article was released emphasising that there would be at least four nights of live music a week due to the backlash. As for the “bad beer, worse food”, the Donnelly Group actually sources almost all of their beer and food locally, and is a proud supporter of local breweries and sponsor of Vancouver events. If any of the commenters had attempted to do the smallest bit of research into this new group that was reviving their so-called favourite establishment when nobody else would, they would learn all of this. This is the effect of social media news.
People have gotten used to bite sized pieces of information. Today things are limited to 140 characters, 7 second videos and status updates to express huge events in our lives. When our attention span has been trained to be so short, all we read is the headline. The drawback is that these headlines can be misleading and often don’t give people the correct information. Pre-conceived biases people hold can be triggered by a negative headline they don’t agree with or enlightened by one that they do. How many times have you “liked” or reacted to an article’s headline without clicking on the link? According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 62% of U.S. adults get their news on social media. NPR reported that a Stanford survey conducted found that 80% of middle schoolers in 12 states couldn’t tell the difference between fake and real news. Based on the comments sections of certain Facebook articles, I’d wager that percentage would only be slightly less for adults. Fake news is effective because people believe what they want to believe. They want something to talk about, and when everyone has their own internet soapbox, it’s easy to yell your opinion into the void, however misinformed it may be. People see a title that supports their way of thinking and because it’s a “published” piece of writing, they cling on to that.
Publishing has changed now that Facebook is in play. In the Columbia Journalism Review’s article “Facebook is eating the world”, writer Emily Bell states “The future of publishing is being put into the hands of the few who control the destiny of the many.” Facebook’s power of news distribution is huge, and who can say what will and will not be published when people’s views of the truth have become so obscure, and even the president is spewing lies in national addresses. The technological powerhouses such as Google, Facebook and Apple have all started to dip their toes in the new industry, with Apple recently launching “Apple News” to add to the growing list of sources.
“When facts don’t work and voters don’t trust the media, everyone believes in their own truth.” claims Katharine Viner in her essay for the Guardian, published in July of last year. For a piece written over six months ago, the statements couldn’t be more true now. The world of publishing and how we receive and even accept our news is changing, and people blowing a restaurant chain out of proportion is just a small example. Incidents like #pizzagate that start off ridiculous and lead to shootings could just be the tip of the iceberg if people don’t start being more responsible for the news that they choose to regurgitate.
But the public doesn’t always believe they have time, or even consider looking deeper into the articles they’re being fed. In an attempt to stop the catcall of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, websites like Teen Vogue and Slate are attempting to educate their readers on how to spot false articles, with Slate even going so far as to create a Chrome extension that actually highlights articles on your newsfeed as possibly false if they come from uncredible sources. Despite this attempt, Slate’s headline for the announcement gives off the real message: “Only you can stop the spread of fake news.” The message is clear, and if people have a duty to themselves and to those around them to believe that the truth is not subjective when it comes to delivering facts. In the end, that’s what news media has always been and what we must fight to make it today.
1. Bell, Emily. “Facebook is eating the world.” Columbia Journalism Review. March 7, 2017. http://www.cjr.org/analysis/facebook_and_media.php.
2. Colglazier, William. “The Best TIps for Spotting Fake News in the Age of Trump.” Teen Vogue. January 17, 2017. http://www.teenvogue.com/story/the-best-tips-for-spotting-fake-news-in-the-age-of-trump.
3. Domonoske, Camila. “Students have “dismaying” inhibility to tell fake news from real, study finds. .” NPR. November 23, 2016. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/23/503129818/study-finds-students-have-dismaying-inability-to-tell-fake-news-from-real.
4. Gottfried, Jeffery, and Elisa Shearer. “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016.” Pew Research Center. May 26, 2016. http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/.
Oremus, Will. “Only You Can Stop the Spread of Fake News. .” Slate. December 13, 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2016/12/introducing_this_is_fake_slate_s_tool_for_stopping_fake_news_on_facebook.html.
5. Viner, Katharine. “How technology disrupted the truth.” The Guardian. July 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth.
You want your opinions to be right, but why stop there? What if there was a place where you could always be right, where your beliefs were continuously validated and there was an endless supply of proof supporting your claim; Welcome to Facebook. Facebook is an omnipotent social media platform which collects data about its user’s online habits, then places misleading or false news articles onto people’s newsfeed; with few users being able to distinguish fact from sponsored fiction, this confirmation of bias (Norman, Lecture week 6) has far reaching consequences into people’s lives, and democracy on a whole. This paper will examine how confirmation bias works through Facebook’s algorithms, and the risk it poses to individual people, as well as farther into society. Forty-five percent of American’s get their news from Facebook (Shearer, Gottfried, 2017), giving the website unprecedented power to curate what news people see, shaping world views by trapping users in heavily filtered bubbles.
Scrolling through Facebook is not as innocuous as it seems; every image you hover over and every article you share is being recorded. Even your location is prime data for Facebook to sell to ad companies to help that company sell back to you. This process is the first step in steering up a confirmation of bias. This works through a myriad of ways, detailed by Barbara Ortutay, in the INC. online magazine article, “Tips on how to avoid Facebooks new ad tracking” (2014). Ortuay described the process, starting with how advertisers pick from a series of “attributes such as age, gender … and language” to best target the user. From there, Facebook works in affiliation with “outside analytical firms” to track what websites and apps a user goes to in a process known as “interest-based targeting.” For instance, if a user was to click on a Facebook news story which linked out to Breitbart, a far-right American news site which endlessly propped up Trump with misleading articles, Facebook would collect that information and use it to show ads related to your ‘interests.’ Perhaps a product from the Breitbart website would appear on your news feed – something such as a, Safe spaces are for snowflakes, bumper sticker, or even more sinister, a false news story fed to them simply because it matches the user’s pervious interests. The user is now trapped in a cyber world of their own creation, constantly re-affirmed by Facebooks algorithms.
The cycle of confirmation bias doesn’t end with far-right neo-Nazi sympathizers, imprisoned in a hate bubble. Out of the 245.3 million adults living in America, PEW research center deduced that 45% of them get their news solely from Facebook (Shearer, Gottfried, 2017). 110.4 million Americans lives in danger of being lead into false articles. Although sixty-four percent of American’s believe that false news leads to real-life confusion, thirty-nine percent claim they can recognize fake articles online, thus negating the negative effects (Barthel, Mitchell, Holcomb, 2016). However, a 2016 study conducted by Stanford Graduate School of Education found that eighty percent of participants were unable to separate sponsored content from real news stories (Donald, 2016). With half of American’s using Facebook as the primary source of news, and many unable to differentiate between real and false, the cycle of confirmation bias only grows stronger, and more dangerous as it leaves peoples personal lives and affects public decisions, such as who to vote for.
The 2016 American election steals a lot of limelight as the poster child for the hazards of Facebook’s fake news and confirmation bias. However, the “electoral battle ground” Facebook provides utilizes the same “media filter bubbles and algorithms” which effect every election, as well as our collective sense of democracy (Hern, 2017). If a Facebook user cannot distinguish between a real and sponsored story about veganism, the misinformation that could spread within their personal lives is fairly benign. More malignant is false news centered around governments and political candidates. The Journal of economic perspectives published an article from Stanford university on fake news affecting elections, detailing how fake news makes it increasingly difficult to “infer the true state of the world” (Allcott, Gentzkow, pg.2, 2017). In fact, the article goes on to suggest that “Donald trump would not have been elected president were not for the influence of fake news” (pg.2). Fake news, perpetrated by algorithms trapping users in a cycle of confirmation bias pose a massive threat to life off the internet.
Facebook has a multitude of tactics used to continuously confirm biases as a news source. Whether its algorithms to track a user’s interests, or filters to only show high paying sponsored content, there is real danger in people not being able to distinguish between real and false, dangers that could even threaten our sense of democracy. Facebook must either accept responsibility for the effects of over-curating content, or users must learn how to spot fake news for themselves. Society needs to be able to trust our published news for a democracy to thrive.
Allcott, Hunt, Gentzkow, Mathew. (2017) Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal of economic perspectives, Vol 31. (Issue 2), pp. 211-236)