As technology has changed, is has also changed the worlds ability to consume information. Most notably, this change is technology has brought with it social media. With social media, anybody can say anything at anytime, which means that anybody can see anything at anytime too. This has proven to be a dangerous trend, because it has introduced the world to the concept of fake news. Fake news doesn’t just come from an ill informed Facebook post from a family member though, fake news can be posted anywhere on social media under a guise of authority. Fake new has become an epidemic online, that it has left internet users wondering what the real news is.
Fake news has been allowed to gain traction as people have changed where they get their news. The Pew Research Centre released an article called “Chapter 7: Where People Get their News”, and upon reading this article, the audience is faced with a series of statistics. This article however, was published in 2007, which means that some of these statistics may be a little bit outdated, but the article is a good starting point to see where people are getting their news. The article starts by stating “The world continues to turn to television for news about international and national issues” (Pew Research Centre). Television poses an issue because not every television network is reliable for unbiased information or reporting. Television is one of the first places where biased and skewed information has be portrayed with false authority. This poses a problem because if masses of people flock to television for their information, and this information is skewed, the skewed information has the potential to travel and stay relevant, giving it the impending possibility to drown out the truth.
Television is a good example of where a lot of fake news originally came from, and it gives a good idea of how news has changed with media. television can also be seen as the starting point for some of the fake news that makes its way to social media, because if people are viewing news on TV, is it very likely they will post about it on social media However, what is most troubling about The Pew Research Centre’s article, and what truly gives the reader an idea about how skewed the world’s perception of news is that the article states that in 2007 “a third or more of the population [turned] to the web (Pew Research Centre), the article is stating that in the United States 35% of people turned to the internet for their news (Pew Research Centre). It is very likely that this statistic has gone up dramatically in the last ten years. This is a worrisome fact, because it begins to paint a picture of how influential fake news is.
The fact that just over a third of the American public turned to the internet for news in 2007, makes it no surprise that fake news was able to find its way into the 2016 presidential election. Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow’s article “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election”, outlines examples of how fake news has influenced American politics. The article states that “American democracy has been repeatedly buffeted by changes in media technology” (Allcott and Gentzkow 211). The article goes on to say that American politics has been influenced by all changes in technology, but that in 2016 “we confirm that fake news was both widely shared and heavily tilted in favour of Donald Trump” (Allcott and Gentskow 212), this article is stating that in the 2016 election fake news ran rampant and was able go as far as influencing the american public. This article also has information on just how many people were influenced by social media, and how many people influenced social media, regarding the election. “115 pro-Trump fake stories that were shared on Facebook a total of 30 million times, and 41 pro-Clinton fake stories shared a total of 7.6 million times.” (Allcott and Gentskow 212), this statistic demonstrates how fake news is purely subjective, those who want it will seek it out and share it as widely as they can. The 2016 election raised questions around whats true and what isn’t. Because fake news ran so rampant throughout the election, people were likely left wondering what was true about their candidates, and very likey voted based on what they thought was true, not the actual truth. However, the fake news of the election became so prevalent, people may never know the actual truth.
The 2016 election is an example of how much power fake news on social media has, it shows that fake news can influence something as national and prevalent as a presidential election. However, there is also evidence that fake news can also influence lesser known things, like archeological sites. Tom Condit’s article “POST-TRUTH SOCIETY AND ‘VERY FAKE NEWS’” states that, in reference to Brú na Bóinne in Ireland, “It is remarkable, however, how vulnerable our knowledge of such monuments can be.” (Condit 3). The article goes on to say that “With an apparently destructive sense of timing”, an article was published that “had the effect of undermining the reputation of one of Ireland’s most internationally renowned archaeological attractions.”(Condit 3). This article again shows the power of fake news, but in a different way, where the fake news of the 2016 American election influenced an entire nation on who their leader should be, this article shows that fake news can also influence the publics opinion on an archeological site. Both of these articles are excellent examples of how social media and fake news can influence the opinions of the public. Those who see this fake news are influenced, and left wondering what is true.
On a lesser scale, fake news leaves its victims wondering when it takes on the form of spam. Spam is fake news that targets a specific person. Private messages stating that an account has been compromised are common, and they usually ask for personal information. Another example of spam on social media is the various links that exist in comment sections. These are both examples of fake personal news, it is news that an account has been compromised, but it is also fake. Roderic Broadhurst and Mamoun Alazab’s article “30 Spam and Crime”, states that “spam takes on many forms and has many varieties” (Broadhurst and Alazab 517). The article also goes on to say that spam is normally “the initial contact for cyperiminals” (Broadhurst and Alazab 517), this initial contact is an opportunity for somebody to use fake news to steal information. However, many types of spam are beginning to look more and more real, which makes it confusing for an unsuspecting person to differentiate between a legitimate link in a comment section, and spam that will likely instal unwanted viruses. As social media becomes more prevalent, so does its spam. weather its spyware links in comments, or a hacker trying to steal access to an account, spam’s fake news is proving to have an effect.
Fake News comes in all sorts of forms. From spam on Instagram posts, to stories that influence presidential elections, fake news has proven to be confusing and often leaves people who consume it wondering what is real. Fake news has grown and gained strength with the growth of social media, this is a dangerous trend that needs to be monitored, because if fake news is allowed to continue to grow, the world may never know what is fake again.
Allcott, Hunt, and Matthew Gentzkow. “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 31, no. 2, 2017, pp. 211–235. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44235006
Broadhurst, Roderic, and Mamoun Alazab. “Spam and Crime.”Regulatory Theory: Foundations and Applications, edited by PETER DRAHOS, ANU Press, Acton ACT, Australia, 2017, pp. 517–532. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1q1crtm.41.
“Chapter 7. Where People Get Their News.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, 4 Oct. 2007, www.pewglobal.org/2007/10/04/chapter- 7-where-people-get-their-news/.
Condit, Tom. “POST-TRUTH SOCIETY AND ‘VERY FAKE NEWS.’” Archaeology Ireland, vol. 31, no. 1, 2017, pp. 3–3.JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/90005343.
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/
I remember sitting outside of the classroom with my friends in sixth grade, just talking as 11-year olds do. At this age, we had stopped playing games because that wasn’t cool, so we’d just ‘hang out’ and talk, like adults. We would talk about all sorts of things but you could always count on someone […]
If I was a stranger who approached you on the street and told you a piece of news that hasn’t been widespread yet, would you believe me? Let’s be real, probably not.
But if I started up a professional looking site and posted something about it on my website, would you believe me? Maybe not, but there is probably a higher chance – even if it is just a slim one – that you would than if I just approached you on the street.
Almost a year ago, my friend came to me upset because she had an argument with her friend. She claimed that she was tired of her friend being so opinionated, but with opinions that were not even hers.
At first I was confused, but she told me that she would read news or editorials online and believe everything she read. Her opinions were easily swayed, maybe even nonexistent.
I understood her frustration since I know a lot of people are quick to jump to conclusions after seeing articles online. Anderson (2016) noted that in the 2016 election, 20% of social media users modified their stance on a social or political issue or views on a particular candidate because of content they read on social media about candidates and their platforms.
So why do some of us lose our common sense when we stumble across articles online telling us about how eating some new food will make our lives longer, going blonde will indeed guarantee us more fun, or the key to happiness is achieved through this list of activities?
Social media is so impressive because we have access to all sorts of information worldwide within minutes. Unfortunately, without proper precautions, anyone can sound like an expert on the internet so our opinions can be swayed with greater ease.
While there are a lot of sketchy things floating around in the web, social media has always been my go-to source for current events. The weird thing is, I do not even find myself looking for news purposely.
I can find out about the hottest local or international news within 24 hours of their occurrence/broadcast because of my social networks and their involvement in sharing. Why? It is like the spread of gossip. Someone see something then shares it with their friends, who shares it with their friends, who shares it with their friends, and it continues on. Occasionally I’ll be scrolling through my feed on Facebook and I will see a news article being shared by multiple people or people posting statuses if something has happened. Naturally when I see it, I am curious and end up looking into it. I guess I’m not the only one who experiences this. In 2014, 78 percent of the the people who read news online just found articles incidentally through networking and sharing (Desilver, 2014).
Personally, the first thing I do when reading news I find on social media is talk to someone nearby (that I know, obviously, whether they are the friend I am currently with or my parents). I like to see their reaction, whether they have heard about it or not, and discuss their take on the issue. It is a form of small talk that is easy to engage in. People often believe me before asking where I found out. Since we know each other well, they view me as a trusted source of information. For that reason, when friends spread news, we are more likely to trust the links they share. Therefore, it is also more likely to elicit a response from us to share this information whether online or offline, online being sharing it to your social networks, offline being discussing it with friends or family in person (Bialik & Matsa, 2017).
The more people in your social network that see these shared posts, the more the posts may potentially be shared. As a result, you may end up seeing the articles pop up multiple times through different people and on different social media platforms. According to a recent undergoing academic Yale study, familiarity plays a role in our belief of fake news (Pennycook, Cannon & Rand, 2017). The more often we see it, whether it is shared by our friends or pops up as a trending topic on various social media platforms we use, the more likely we are to believe it because it is so widespread.
While it may seem like a many of us are easily swayed by information we find through social media, Bialik & Matsa’s (2017) research says otherwise – only 5% of web-using U.S. adults have high trust in the information found on social media. Personally, before reading a news article, I usually look for sources such CBC or equivalent well known news channels that broadcast on TV as well – I can thank my teachers and professors that have tried to guide me in the right direction when it comes to reliable sources. However, I can see how it is extremely easy to encounter fake news. While scrolling my Facebook feed, often I encounter articles articles that appear with a header “Articles you might like” with no indication that these articles were shared by my friends. Generally it is a site I’ve never heard of and is clearly an opinion or one of those blogger sites rather than factual information with backup evidence.
The spread of news through social media is like back in high school when you heard a piece of hot gossip from you friend – it brings you excitement, you feel informed on the school’s current events, and it gives you something to talk about. You’re not sure if it’s true or not, until you talk to someone “reliable” – ie: the popular girl in school who is claimed to know everything, the person directly themselves, their best friend they might have confided in, etc. In the end, when compared to this analogy, maybe we haven’t lost common sense from going online. Maybe we just never had any… and just moved the discussion from in person to online.
Just kidding, I’m sure most of us have moved on past those childish tendencies in high school… or at least I hope so.
Stay skeptical kids.
Anderson, M. (2016). Social media causes some users to rethink their views on an issue. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/07/social-media-causes-some-users-to-rethink-their-views-on-an-issue/
Bialik, K., Matsa, K.E. (2017). Key trends in social and digital news media. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/10/04/key-trends-in-social-and-digital-news-media/
Desilver, D. (2014). Facebook is a news source for many, but only incidentally. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/04/facebook-is-a-news-source-for-many-but-only-incidentally/
Over the past decade, social media has taken over the communicational landscape as most users interact online to discuss their personal lives, upcoming events, and most importantly, the news. As a result of looking to social media for their daily news, users are subjected to both true and false accounts, which has recently become a problem because the websites have large audiences who are, in most instances, unaware of the validity of the content. Alexis Madrigal’s, “Google and Facebook Failed Us” (2017) highlights Google’s role in promoting false stories claiming the Las Vegas shooter who killed 59 people was a Democrat who despised Donald Trump, when the identity had not even been revealed yet. It was later confirmed by authorities that the shooter was Stephen Paddock, who had later been found dead in his hotel room (Ohlheiser, 2017). The story originated on 4chan, a popular source of racism, hoaxes, and misinformation. Nonetheless, Google played a major role spreading the false information, better known as ‘fake news.’
The term, ‘fake news’ refers to content that helps spread misleading, low-quality and false information (Hern, 2017). It is a major barrier to the dissemination of information online, considering the influence of social media on public opinion. As of 2017, two-thirds of U.S. adults look to social media for their news content. Considering how much the role of technology has increased and evolved over the past decade, this is not surprising (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017).
Google, which is one of the world’s largest tech companies, has a massive audience to whom they are subjecting to false information. Less educated and older Americans are increasingly using social media to follow the news (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017), which makes them more malleable because they may not know how to properly evaluate the validity of sources Therefore, the likelihood of fake news infecting the minds of readers is likely, especially with such a website as Google, which has a large audience.
Google’s role in spreading the fake news was a result of a change they made to their algorithm in late 2014, in which they chose to include non-journalistic sources in their “In the News” box instead of taking the sources straight from their news feed. This allowed for search results to include content from Reddit discussions, blog posts, videos, and more from non-news websites (Sullivan, 2014). It does not make sense for discussion posts to be included in their news feed when they provide no credibility as to whom the source is and their credentials. Most times, discussions include opinion and are of an anecdotal nature. Regardless of that, it cannot be guaranteed whether discussions have a factual basis or not and with Google’s fault algorithm, this misinformation can seep through the cracks and into the communication channel.
Being that social media takes place online, there is no need to wait for articles to print when they can be posted immediately. Whenever an event occurs, the content is immediately posted. The 4chan post that incorrectly identified the shooter came up in the search results because it was recent. Immediacy works for and against social media because on one hand, social media helps to inform the public of news events as they are occurring, but on the other, the possibility of misinformation is high because not enough time is given to provide evidence to back up points that are made.
Within hours of the 4chan post having been shown on Google, it was algorithmically replaced by results that were more relevant to the story. Google acknowledged their mistake in allowing for content in the “In the News” feed to be, in part, derived from the newness of the content (Sullivan, 2014). Google was very irresponsible for allowing such content to surface on their website, knowing that it was not confirmed by authorities and that it came straight from 4chan. They are one of the most powerful information gatekeepers in the world, however, they fail to take accountability for the role they play in damaging the quality of information that they present to the public. They have continually been accused of allowing the spread of propaganda and the promotion of fake news and low-quality content on their websites in order to reach larger audiences (Levin, 2017). Rather than take ownership and accountability for their actions, Google’s response was to blame it on their algorithm and promise that the appropriate moves were being made to ensure that the incident would not occur again. They not only displayed fake news regarding the Las Vegas shooting without flagging 4chan as a questionable source, they also increased the visibility of the inaccurate posts through curated pages (Chaykowski, 2017).
Through social media, people are helping to inform the people in their social networks of news stories. But they are also able free to express their opinions and insight in these forums, regardless of their expertise or education on the topic. This is a much larger scale of communication than the traditional word of mouth (Napoli, p. 755). One of the major issues with getting news from social media is that the users are not always looking at the most credible or trustworthy websites because of their lack of knowledge regarding source filtering and moderation. Consequently, these individuals arrive at websites that are of low-quality, reporting stories without any factual basis or witness testimony.
The Need for Moderation
It is surprising that 4chan was never blocked or blacklisted as an unreliable source by Google, considering their history and user base. Google has to understand that their algorithm lacks the ability to tell right from wrong and that at this point in time, human moderation is the only solution. Their past problems regarding the spread of fake news can no longer be shrugged off, their algorithms have showed that they are incapable of dealing with breaking news events and thus, it is in their best interest to implement humans into their decision-making process.
Social media does not compare to journalism nor does it try to. But for websites like Google to group news with social media is unjust and irresponsible. Journalists take their time to construct the stories have the proper education and knowledge that is required to do so. They know how to develop and present a story from getting witness accounts to providing essential data to supplement their points.
Google was responsible for displaying false reports on the tragedy in Las Vegas, underlying their failure to manage information properly. Social media is great for interacting with friends and providing opinions on stories and events, but it should stay at just that. Websites like Reddit, Facebook, and 4chan have no place in the realm of news dissemination because of the lack of control and moderation they have over the content posted.
After acknowledging their involvement in spreading fake news, Google announced that they were going to try moderating the circulation of fake news by allowing users to report misleading content to improve the algorithmic results (Hern, 2017). They also said that they would refine their search engine to provide more trustworthy pages and less low-quality content in response to the spread of fake news. Google continues to rely heavily on algorithms to provide news to their readers, but with the growing amount of digital news, it would be in their best interest to implement human moderators into the filtering and dissemination of the news content.
Chaykowski, K. (2017, October 2). Facebook And Google Still Have A ‘Fake News’ Problem, Las Vegas Shooting Reveals. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathleenchaykowski/2017/10/02/facebook-and-google-still-have-a-fake-news-problem-las-vegas-shooting-reveals/#eed157d7138f
Hern, A. (2017, April 25). Google acts against fake news on search engine. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/25/google-launches-major-offensive-against-fake-news
Levin, S. (2017, October 2). Facebook and Google promote politicized fake news about Las Vegas shooter. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/02/las-vegas-shooting-facebook-google-fake-news-shooter
Madrigal, A. C. (2017, October 2). Google and Facebook Failed Us. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/google-and-facebook-have-failed-us/541794/
Ohlheiser, A. (2017, October 2). How far-right trolls named the wrong man as the Las Vegas shooter. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/10/02/how-far-right-trolls-named-the-wrong-man-as-the-las-vegas-shooter/?utm_term=.98ce6181bc5f
Shearer, E., & Gottfried, J. (2017, September 5). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/pi_17-08-23_socialmediaupdate_0-02/
Sullivan, D. (2014, October 6). Google’s “In the News” Box Now Lists More Than Traditional News Sites. Search Engine Land. Retrieved from https://searchengineland.com/googles-news-listings-beyond-traditional-205213
I remember the night of the 2016 US Presidential Election like it was just yesterday. I could not believe my eyes while watching the results live on my laptop during the lecture. And just like many other people, I thought that Trump’s victory was one […]
Social media has not always been what it is today. Facebook, for example, was first launched in February, 2004 to university students in eastern parts of the United States. By the end of 2006, Facebook has become available to anyone with a registered email address. Ten years later, Facebook is no longer just a social media site that connects people. It has become a way for people to advertise, make money, gain attention, and disburse information and also receive information. With a large amount of people on social media around the world, it is easy for everyone to receive the same information in a short amount of time. Although the speed of which information spreads can be seen as an advantage, there are, however, some drawbacks of having information spreading quickly. According to a survey done by Facebook, there are over one billion daily users on Facebook in 2017 and is growing every year (Facebook, 2017).
With a large network, some people see this as an opportunity and take advantage to make personal gain. This creates changes for people who create genuine content, spread noteworthy news, and collect credible information on the internet in today’s time.
When someone creates content to be put online, they always have some sort of intention to make something public. Some may have the intention to make money through advertisements. This is most seen with an article that has headlines similar to “You Won’t Guess What Happens Next” or “Seven Secrets Doctors Don’t Want You To Know”. The creator’s intention is to attract curious viewers to click on the link so that they will be exposed to advertisements. Because of click baits and fake news circulating the internet, viewers are now more reluctant to click on links and advertisements as they see advertisements are not trustworthy for a variety of reasons as outlined by a survey done by the Advertising Standards of Canada.
Because there is significant distrust for digital content, creators would find themselves in a more difficult position to build a good online reputation. Eric Sachs, however, provided his insights about building an online reputation in the Entrepreneur Magazine with his article “How to Build Your Online Reputation” (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/290927). He first talks about the effectiveness of using blog posts to publish and provide readers with “tangible, actionable solutions to relevant issues”. Sachs then goes onto talking about social media and that it is important to engage with your audience, as it will “inject some humanity into your social media accounts. Sachs finally goes into talking about public perception and managing online reputation. He says that a strategy is to pursue reviews from people, because “if you can convince 10 people who had fantastic experiences to leave reviews, your overall online reputation won’t take such a massive hit after a negative review”. It is obvious that in the twenty-first century, distrust in digital content has become an issue to creators, however, there are ways to overcome distrust and create a strong online reputation.
Fake news also has the ability shift people’s perspective on a particular subject. Such is the case during the 2016 United States presidential election, where social media and the dissemination of fake news had a major impact. With the low cost of creating a social media account, it gives more encouragement to create malicious user accounts that can be used to spread fake news. According to a survey done by Morning Consult, 78% of respondents use Facebook as a source for news (Morning Consult, 2017).
This makes Facebook a very sought-after market to spread any information whether it is true or false. In Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow’s journal article “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election”, it was estimated that among the 248 million American adults, there was “38 million shares of fake news…[which] translates into 760 million page visits, or about 3 visits per US adult” (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017). However, it is important to know that social media follows like-minded people, and thus, one will see content on their newsfeed that they favour. For example, for a committed Republican supporter of the election, he or she would see more content that is pro-Republican. Another similar concept is called selective perception, where a person would believe content that aligns with what they believe and ignores all opposing viewpoints. Selective perception has become a way of how fake news is spread around. When one person believes in a fake article because it aligns with their own beliefs, they are more than likely to share it with others, thus spreading fake news. It is true that social media has, in some ways, taken over our minds by feeding us what we want to see, but it is by human nature that we react a certain way towards certain news compared to others.
With the emergence of fake news in our internet, looking for decent information has also become more difficult. Often times, when people go look for information, they only look at the credibility to determine if the information is good. However, creators of fake news have found ways to make their articles look more accurate than what they actually are. Some news articles make themselves look more professional by quoting an expert or referencing to a past study, and people would automatically select that article without thinking twice. However, it is important to assess many more issues when determining whether a piece of information is good. Relevance is one thing to assess as sometimes background information may not be in a similar context as the news given. Recency is also important to assess because results from a survey can change over a lengthy period of time. Thus, if a news article, for example, refers to a survey that was done ten years ago, it would be a good idea to question the accuracy of the news article. Ensuring that the information collected is good information can be the difference maker in one’s own reputation.
In conclusion, social media has completely changed the way how news and digital content is created, disseminated, and collected. The uprising of fake news has blurred the lines between what is real and what is fake. Social media has altered the way for people to fully verify if the information is good. It has hidden information from people by personalizing the content to the specific recipient. And finally, fake news social media has required creators to put in more effort in order to build a strong, positive online reputation.
Advertising Standards Canada. (n.d.). Leading reasons why consumers perceive online advertising as not trustworthy in Canada as of January 2015. In Statista – The Statistics Portal. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www-statista-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/statistics/472391/canada-reasons-for-not-trusting-online-advertising/.
Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election. Journal of Economic Perspectives,31(2), 211-236. doi:10.3386/w23089
Facebook. (n.d.). Number of daily active Facebook users worldwide as of 2nd quarter 2017 (in millions). In Statista – The Statistics Portal. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www-statista-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/statistics/346167/facebook-global-dau/.
Morning Consult. (n.d.). Frequency of using selected online news sources in the United States as of July 2017. In Statista – The Statistics Portal. Retrieved October 16, 2017, from https://www-statista-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/statistics/706177/online-news-sources-frequency/.
Departing from the age of television, social media platforms have taken as the primary source of news for most people. This technological shift has raised several issues on both the side of the audience and news distributors. Not to say that news on television is of absolute reliability, there is often an ambiguous amount of authenticity behind the sources in online news sources. The most significant issue that has been raised in light of the 2016 political election questions the level of reliability in news articles circulated in social media. This stands as an issue because unreliable, misleading, sensationalized, biased, or even false information in news can shape public knowledge. With this, I believe that online news media follows an extremely biased political agenda.
Although news bias is not a new problem in the news community, the contraction of professionalism that came with the shift from television news to online news has caused many online news corporations to lose integrity in their content. This is especially prevalent in newer “news” companies that seem to not only have an agenda, but are often caught using unreliable sources to back their content. This point raises the following question: Can a company that is reputable for its entertainment articles be considered a reputable news source? One of the most prevalent and controversial examples of this is BuzzFeed. As a company that was founded upon the onset of the digital age, BuzzFeed is considered by Bloomberg as a “social news and entertainment company.” (Bloomberg, 2017)
With these factors about the company being considered, a review on some of BuzzFeed’s recent articles regarding the politics reveals that they are more interested in giving audiences what they want to hear rather than showcasing a mature, practical and critical perspective on the issues they are trying to discuss. Although It is common knowledge that although Donald Trump won the most recent American presidential election, the majority of people who are savvy enough to be active on social media are rather progressive and disagree with the political agenda that Trump represents. Although there may be merit to their opinions, it is very obvious that there is a lack of critical perspective in news articles that examine the topic of contemporary American politics. For example, BuzzFeed produced this article about how celebrity J.K Rowling “roasted” Donald Trump on Twitter. (Woodward, 2017) Although most of their content may be factual in the sense that they provide direct links to the Tweets in question, this whole article has almost nothing to do with politics. Other than the fact that the receiver of these “roasts” is the most publicized figure 2017 in western media (even outside political discourse), the discussion in the article has little to no relevance to politics. At the same time, almost all of the audience knows what Donald Trump represents: conservative, uncool, racism, misogyny, negativity, etc. With this, it is evident that BuzzFeed is not interested in constructively dissecting Donald Trump’s political discourse or even who he is as a person, but is more concerned about labeling him as a bad person because it is the crowd-pleasing thing to do.
BuzzFeed’s content is not only under scrutiny by their audience, but also by scholars and other news corporations. News corporations such as The Guardian has raised concerns about the reliability of BuzzFeed’s political content. This article criticizes BuzzFeed’s article in which it actually has a disclaimer about the evidence behind their own article being “unverified and potentially unverifiable.” (Carroll, 2017) In an ethical standpoint, it should go without saying that when it comes to educating an audience, content should not be seriously conveyed without logic or evidence. With this, why would BuzzFeed produce an article where they cannot confirm their sources? (Bensinger, 2017) Moreover, BuzzFeed themselves are perfectly aware that their sources are not reliable, yet they put out the article anyway!
This all comes down to the fact that websites such as BuzzFeed are producing articles for the sake of making more money through clicks and increasing their popularity at the cost of public knowledge. I firmly believe that people like myself who are swarmed with articles like these on a daily basis dulls critical thinking, and people start to bandwagon on opinions based on unreliable news content instead of developing their own through critical analysis. Ultimately, this causes people to develop inaccurate opinions which can translate into people doing adverse things such as voting for an unideal candidate for an election.
With this, it needs to be brought into light that BuzzFeed’s content being “social news” should not be taken seriously. Because BuzzFeed’s entertainment content is circulated so frequently in social media, many people get the impression that they are a reputable source of news just because their name pops up a lot. With BuzzFeed’s entertainment content being considered, I feel that their entertainment content is very good at what it is trying to achieve: entertaining. When it comes to attempting to cover more serious topics such as politics where real consequences can come from inadequate opinions, BuzzFeed should take a step back and take on a more critical outlook and ensure that their sources are reliable instead of being trigger happy with their content just to make their audience happy. I strongly believe that agile and accurate opinions come from resistance; If there is just one dominant opinion being expressed through an agenda, we ignore why the opposing opinions are wrong and ultimately deteriorate the integrity of public knowledge and democracy.
Bensinger, K. (2017, Janurary 10). These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia. (BuzzFeed) From BuzzFeed News: https://www.buzzfeed.com/kenbensinger/these-reports-allege-trump-has-deep-ties-to-russia?utm_term=.gjMQmq8QK#.dnxK3WLKb
Bloomberg. (2017, October 17). Company Overview of Buzzfeed, Inc. (Bloomberg) From Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=46607363
Carroll, R. (2017, Janurary 11). BuzzFeed publishes unsubstantiated Trump report, raising ethics questions. (The Guardian) From The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/10/buzzfeed-publishes-donald-trump-russia-documents-ethics-questions
Woodward, E. (2017, October 7). J.K. Rowling Just Roasted Donald Trump On Twitter Again. (BuzzFeed) From BuzzFeed: https://www.buzzfeed.com/elliewoodward/jk-rowling-just-dragged-donald-trump-after-he-said-he?utm_term=.tjqJNmKJX#.lo14AYK47
Contrary to the popular idea that only the young generation would read news on the social media, PEW research center reports that the social media platform become major news sources for over half of the Americans age 50 or older. (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017) In fact, Twitter and YouTube are two of the most favorite social media people use to receive news updates. However, social media is not a reliable source of news and users should not only rely on it to get news.
News and opinions on social media are not filtered or validated by the website before posting. It is easy to express your opinions on social media, all you need to do is type in the text box and hit the post button. Apparently, Twitter or Facebook do not consider whether true or false before publishing the things you type. Thus, it is extremely easy to publish fake news. Besides, the news outlets aim to draw in readers. Due to competition with other media news sources, publishers are likely to post their stories once they obtained information without precise validation. Experts explained that Google’s search results are able to detect the links that have more views and move it up to the top of the page. (Roberts, 2016) This facilitates fake news from gaining exposure when more and more people click on it. Most people assume that Google is a trustable source for searching news. In fact, Google’s searching algorithm increases the chance leading people to false news, which tricks them into believing what they read from “top searched” websites are true.
Receiving news from social media websites could cause confusion and panic among readers. Social media allows users to create and disseminate digital content, however, it also provides a convenient platform for hoaxes to spread like wildfire. After the Las Vegas shooting happened, a number of rumors or false accusations were circulating on the internet. This includes wrong identification of the gunman and victims. The New York Times reported, “Social media has been a tangled web of users expressing legitimate concern for missing loved ones and pranksters polluting social streams with fakery.” (Qiu, 2017) Social media users tend to believe what they read without questioning its reliability. Especially during dire times, users may panic and share breaking news they receive through social media. Their intention is to spread the word, reaching out to the victim’s family but they unintentionally share misinformation along the way. This relates to the user’s awareness of the source of news. A respondent from a study claimed that he does not pay much attention to the reputation of the news publication while reading the news. (Curry, 2016) This shows that many users would not bother to confirm the source before sharing the post they read. Consequently, resulting in spreading confusing and irrelevant news on the internet.
News from social media can narrow your viewpoint. What kind of post you would most likely to scroll through or read is tightly related to the algorithm the social media website uses. Most of the social media websites choose an algorithm that sort posts which relate to user’s previous readings or posts that the user’s friends had read or liked before. According to lead author Nic Newman, social media users have a higher chance to overlook other perspectives if they allow algorithms to choose news for them to read. (Wakefield, 2016) Social media work as an echo chamber to many users. People would prefer to participate in environments where their opinions are continually supported. University of Southern California clinical professor Karen North claimed that confirmatory information is important to many people, they want their opinions to be reassured by like-minded people. (Wakefield, 2016) If social media users constantly receive bias opinions through the echo chamber, they may eventually strengthen certain beliefs. Users may also neglect the importance of looking at the whole picture which consists of different viewpoints. Therefore, social media plays an important part in shaping the public opinion that brings a certain amount of impact to the society. As a news source, any media should publish content that is fair and without bias.
Although social media is the most convenient and popular way to read the news, people should not entirely rely on it. The echo chamber shapes opinions on social media but users are suggested to consider and respect other opinions as well. Users are reminded to be aware of whether the news source is reliable or not, and they should check on other reputable news websites before sharing any news that they receive. By doing so, we could stop misinformation from spreading on the internet and minimize the negative impact of the fake news.
Curry, K. (2016, September 30). More and more people get their news via social media. Is that good or bad? Retrieved from Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/09/30/more-and-more-people-get-their-news-via-social-media-is-that-good-or-bad/?utm_term=.3f072802d11e#comments
Qiu, L. (2017, October 2). False ISIS Connections, Nonexistent Victims and Other Misinformation in the Wake of Las Vegas Shooting. Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/us/politics/viral-claims-and-rumors-in-the-las-vegas-shooting.html
Roberts, H. (2016, December 10). Google made changes to its search algorithm that unintentionally made it vulnerable to the spread of fake news, sources say. Retrieved from Business Insider UK: http://uk.businessinsider.com/google-algorithm-change-fake-news-rankbrain-2016-12
Shearer, E., & Gottfried, J. (2017, September 7). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. Retrieved from PEW Research Centre: http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/#fn-64440-1
Wakefield, J. (2016, June 15). Social media ‘outstrips TV’ as news source for young people. Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-36528256
FAKE NEWS!! I’ve bet you’ve heard that term within the last year more than once. Albeit, probably from the worrisome leader of our neighbours to the south, but to throw a plot twist at you, I wont be talking about him today, well not directly anyways. Instead, I want to tell you about the troublesome issue of fake news and I thought what better way than to scroll through my Facebook feed and find you an example. Let me tell you, it didn’t take long.
After scrolling for a couple a minutes the day after the Las Vegas shooting took place, I came across an article titled Las Vegas Gunshot Victim Believes There Were Multiple Shooters (The Blast, 2017). Now this article presents the misinformation in a deceiving way. By interviewing an individual, Rocky Palermo, who was in the vicinity when the shootings took place, a sense of insider knowledge or expertise is offered to readers. The fact that Palermo is not trained for situations such as these nor does he have any tactical knowledge of bullet trajectory still does not stop him from claiming there were multiple shooters. But not just multiple shooters, at least 3-5 shooters according to his insider knowledge. This is all the Internet needed to spark a wildfire, and let me tell you, that thing spread faster than a snow cone melts in hell.
Enter conspiracy theorists.
Within hours Facebook groups such as Las Vegas Shooting Uncensored Talk and Las Vegas Shooting Investigation were started, pulling in members by the hundreds. Here an open discussion board fuelled the fire of misinformation as thousands of people turned Facebook into an echo chamber, reiterating their own beliefs and custom interpretations, with no regard for fact checking or the truth. Confirmation bias is a funny thing isn’t it? To add to the chaos, Facebook and Google alike promoted several false news stories surrounding the shooter, some claimed he was a Trump hating Democrat, but most startling, false news stories surfaced of wrongly identifying the shooters as Geary Danley (Levin, 2017). The origin of the misidentification of the shooter are unclear but that didn’t stop the false accusation from being spread across social media platforms. His name was quickly embedded into the algorithms of Facebook and Google and thus the sites promoted the rumour by having it remain at the top of the search results for anyone searching his name.
The police have come out publicly stating there was only one shooter, Stephan Paddock, and have emphasized this point in spite of all the conspiracies claiming otherwise (Qiu, 2017). And let me tell you, boy are there a lot of conspiracy theories starting up, just a quick google search and you’ll find more than your fair share.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this leads me to question how this fake news was able to spin out of control so fast and gain so much traction. Let’s look at the news source, in 2016 it was reported that 62% of adults use social media platforms, such as Facebook, as their news source. This has increased by 13% since 2014 (PEW Research Center, 2016), an unsettling trend to say the least. If that doesn’t freak you out than how about this, 44% of Facebook users use the platform as a news source, two thirds of their users (PEW Research Center, 2016), I’ll break that down further for you, there are 2.01 billion Facebook users, this means that approximately 884400000 people use Facebook as their primary news source. Were you too lazy to read that number? It is 884.4 MILLION people, let that resonate.
But wait! It doesn’t stop there, nearly 6 out of 10 Twitter users receive their news from Twitter and get this, 7 out of 10, 70% of Redd It users use that site as their news source, REDD IT! (PEW Research Center, 2016). As a communications student, I’m sure my fellow students will agree, the first thing we learn is to take every news article you read with a grain of salt, if you are getting your news articles from Redd It, I suggest you down the entire 1kg box of salt with it. (Please don’t actually ingest 1kg of salt).
If I haven’t already lost you in the numbers, I have one more to throw at you, 31% of these users get their information from this social media platform. Wait for it. Tumblr (PEW Research Center, 2016). Honestly, I wasn’t even aware that Tumblr even posted anything news related, let alone have that many people use it as a news source. I’m just going to say it, bring back the newspaper! Evidently, we are in desperate need of it.
Blast Staff, The. (2017). Las vegas gunshot victim believes there were multiple shooters. The Blast.
Gottfried, J., Shearer, E. (2016). News use across social media platforms 2016. Pew Research Center.
Levin, S. (2017). Facebook and google promote politicized fake news about las vegas shooter. The Guardian.
Qui, L. (2017). No, there was not more than one gunman in the las vegas shooting. The New York Times.
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.
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 […]
I’ve always been a natural at telling stories. Not so much in the verbal sense – I’m often the type of person who gets on a long-winded tangent only to discover that based on the mildly confused looks on people’s faces, it was a “you had to be there” moment. I never really cared though, sometime my stories were hits, and sometimes they were misses. It was only when I started jotting my thoughts down on paper, I found that I had much more control over the things I wanted to say. I didn’t truly know it yet, but this process would eventually become my voice.
As much as I consider myself impartial to the opinions of others, I often find myself taking into account what other people think about me. I know that’s not an incredibly a profound or unique concept, but as a writer, it has become much more of a prevalent factor than I ever considered it would be. In the past, anything I wrote that was mildly personal would be tucked away in a journal or a private folder on my computer, I was only willing to share whatever pieces I came up with that reflected the image of myself I wanted to project. Ironically, my parade of insecurities led me to only post superficial nonsense, letting the good stuff gather dust in its hiding place.
On a coffee date with a good friend last October, we discussed this class she was taking and how it had given her a vessel to share her incredible wit to the world. She explained to me that it was expected of students to simply blog about whatever they chose, once a week, for the entire semester. I was intrigued, thinking that maybe if there was a grade at stake, perhaps I would be more inclined to share the thoughts that I had spent so much energy trying to conceal. After I enrolled, I had spent the first weeks of the semester grappling with what I wanted my image to be. I tried so hard to find a niche that would allow me to be just vulnerable enough to seem authentic, but removed enough so that the carefully constructed idea of myself I wanted to convey would still remain.
John Suler’s (2004) article regarding the online disinhibition effect brought to light some of the issues I was struggling with during my process. I was still so stuck on what my audience might look like, how many people my words would reach, and most importantly, how they would interpret them. Suler describes the concept of solipsistic introjection as how one infers the messages of others either online or in text, as well as how each interpretation can be reflected differently based on the type of voice we assign to the writer. He goes on the explain that our understanding of this person is interpreted by how they present themselves, as well as how our own thoughts, wishes and needs can manipulate the way see the person behind the words. The reader will often insert the characteristics and individuals of their own life into the words of the author in order to create a more relatable vision (par.5).
This concept worried me. If I made my work public, how would people interpret it? Would reading through my vulnerability change the way people perceived me? Would it open up a brand new vehicle for judgment?
The insecurities that had held me back rang loud in my ears as I tried to forget about the people who could be reading what I wrote. It was only when I started receiving an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from readers did I realize that perhaps I have been assuming the worst of people – I was slowly discovering that being vulnerable online wasn’t the worst thing in the world and through my words, I was helping others express their own vulnerabilities.
Although positive reinforcement from others remained as a ego-boosting push to keep on sharing my innermost thoughts and emotions, I found that I was now able to discern when I was writing for me versus when I was writing with a specific audience in mind – I’ve spent the last four months trying to bridge that gap. The pieces that just started to flow were written at times when I literally had no other intentions in mind other than just word vomit, and eventually I started to build up more and more courage to press the ‘post’ button without a second thought.
These posts helped me discover things that made me passionate, opened up channels to be critical about certain aspects of my life that needed changing, and work through issues that I hadn’t quite figured out how to communicate properly anywhere else. Most importantly, it showed me just how simple it could be to start building a repertoire of content I could look back upon as the starting point of a future career. As Jesse Thorn (2012) states, in order to take steps forward towards making a living based on the things you create, you need to start making things now. Planning is fine, but making stuff is how you build audiences, improve and get closer to building a career around it (par. 14).
However, this also brought me to a bit of a crossroads. If I were to be relying on this site as a career builder, using my articles as pieces of reference for future magazines or publications I would aspire to work at, then is it okay for me to remain truly candid as a twenty-something figuring her life through posts online? How could I feel comfortable talking about sex or heartbreak when I thought about the hypothetical beings of authority that might be getting an up-close window into my personal life? As Van Dijk (2013) states, “promoting and branding the self has become a normalized, accepted phenomenon in ordinary people’s lives (p.203). Once I began to think about my content as my own personal brand, the insecurities flowed back in again.
Although it may seem like I’m an open book sometimes, I’m deeply private about my true emotions and my love life. It comes from years of feeling too much and scaring people off when I get intense about how I feel, so I learned how to shape these feelings into a more subdued version of how they actually occurred to me. Writing has helped me ease up on the amount of time I spend pushing down my true feelings, and through some intricate self-reflection and practice, has allowed me to forgo the thoughts of others and share the parts of my life I usually keep hidden, in fear of the opinions of others. So what if future employers choose to read about the weekend I had a one-night stand, or if an ex-boyfriend finds the poem I wrote about what I felt in the weeks after we broke up? If the people who read my pieces are too caught up in the personal tidbits to recognize the purpose of why I write, then they shouldn’t be people I worry about anyways.
My ‘brand’ won’t be minimized to writing in a certain style, niche, or directed to a certain audience. I’ve created an outlet for myself to be honest about the things in my life that affect me, and I’m glad I’ve been able to recognize the fact that I shouldn’t have to change that for anyone.
This class has taught me much about myself, my writing and my presence online. It has helped me tackle insecurities that come with a creating a public internal monologue, as well as giving me the tools to be able to be successful in turning my words into a potential career. Although I may not be there yet, and I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to feeling truly comfortable being myself online, I believe that this whole process has given me the skillset and the confidence to keep nurturing the part of myself that just wants to tell stories.
Going into PUB 101, I honestly had no idea what to expect. When I first heard that we were going to be making our own blogs, my first thought was “cool!” My second thought was “what the heck am I going to blog about?” In order to figure out the theme of my blog, I found the vision board to be very helpful. I essentially took my interests and combined them with my personality traits to discover that I wanted to create a blog about nature, incorporating my reflections and thoughts into my various adventures and sights. One of the very first things we learned and were encouraged to think about was the idea of a personal cyberinfrastructure. This was a way to think about our blogs as areas of the web where we are building our own webs, resources, tools, and personal connections without pre-existing templates (Campbell, 2009). What I took away from this is the importance of creativity and not being afraid to try new things when it comes to my blog.
When I first established my blog, and after making my first couple of posts, I will be honest, the idea of an ‘audience’ was the farthest thing from my mind. In the beginning, I made design and content decisions without considering anything else expect my own opinions. However, once we started discussing the idea of publics in class, I then began to consider who my own ‘public’ might be. My (imagined) public is individuals who enjoy nature as I do and thus may find enjoyment through reading about my experiences. I feel that I am addressing this audience by trying to keep them in mind and staying true to my blog’s theme when making my posts. If there was an abrupt change in what I started to blog about, this would go against my audience’s expectations and may drive them away. The value that I believe I am providing is thoughtful and meaningful insights into nature-related topics that may be enjoyed or shared by others. I had decided against incorporating ads into my site through Google Ad Sense, as I felt that my blog did not need advertising due it being more of a personal reflection blog. In fact, I think that ads may have actually turned audience members away, as they may feel betrayed by an attempted monetization of a personal reflection platform.
The incorporation of Google Analytics provided me with a whole new perspective on the idea of audiences. I have been completely fascinated by the ability to see so many details about the make-up and behaviour of the users that visit my blog. Looking at the entire history of my viewers, there are some interesting statistics to note. I installed Google Analytics at the end of January and for the first month, I never had more than a couple sessions per day, with page views being relatively low as well. However, in March, I can see a significant spike in page views and sessions, with 33 page views on March 7th and 43 on March 21st specifically. Also on March 21st, I had 9 sessions, which is the highest I have had in one day. Upon closer examination, I can notice a clear correlation with the timing of my posts and the corresponding increase in views/sessions. This was something that I learned to focus on as the semester progressed, and it has prompted me to think deeper about my content. The location of my audience in overwhelmingly in Canada (with the majority in BC). However, 20% of my sessions have been from the United States and I have also had some from India and Russia. In looking at audience behaviour, my most popular post by far is my essay on fake news. Interestingly, this was the post that gained quite a diverse audience in terms of location and language and there was a significant spike in traffic around the time that I posted it. My topic was relevant to the current political climate and I incorporated many embedded links so these may have been contributing factors. Finally, in terms of acquisition, the majority of my users found my site through direct. The second highest was organic search and I had 11 from referral. I was surprised to see an overall increase in the amount of organic searches for my blog. I think this is due to my consistent timing of posting and constantly using words like ‘nature’ and ‘happiness’ within my posts.
I only have a few comments on my blog and they are solely from Susanne and other class members. I highly enjoyed reading these comments and it made me want to put more effort into my posts. I do wish that I had received at least a few comments from people that I did not know; however, I am pleased to know I at least gathered a somewhat diverse audience through analyzing Google Analytics, even if they did not comment.
One of the most important aspects about keeping a blog is design. Over the course of the semester, I learned more and more about design practices as well as the importance of it. In class, we learned the idea of affordances, which is where things are intuitively designed so as to afford easy use (Kaptelinin, 2013). This was an important idea in shaping how I laid out my menu and categories; I went back and forth many times about this before I settled on my current layout. I find that design is a continual learning process – you are constantly tweaking things here and there, learning what does work and what does not work. Oddly enough, I learned a lot about design for my own blog through doing the peer reviews. I think that through critiquing elements of someone else’s blog in order to analyze what works from an audience perspective, it makes me think about my own design through the same lens. Often times, I turned to online resources in order to help me figure out how to accomplish specific things that I wanted to do. For example, to make link open in new tabs, I turned to this post which walked me through the process I needed to go through.
My overall thinking surrounding my blog has definitely changed from an inward-focus to more of an outward-focus. As mentioned above, I did not used to consider my audience when making posts or undertaking design decisions. However, as my blog gained more traffic, I started thinking more about writing to a perceived audience. I also began providing more embedded links in posts so that those who may be interested in learning more about a particular topic or in reading my other posts could have the opportunity to do so. I have not currently decided if I want to continue my blog past the end of the course. At first, my intention was to only maintain my blog for as long as required. However, now that I have put so much time and effort into it, I am considering keeping it.
I have learned so much through creating and maintaining a blog. PUB 101 has proved to be immensely valuable. Digital skills are so important today and I know that I can take the skills and knowledge that I have learned throughout the semester and apply them to future jobs.
Barnes, A. (2016, May 17). How to open external links in a new tab on your WordPress site. (Web log). Retrieved from https://allyssabarnes.com/open-external-links-new-tab/
Campbell, W. (2009). A personal cyberfrastructure. EDUCAUSE Review, 44(5), 58-59. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2009/9/a-personal-cyberinfrastructure
Kaptelinin, V. (2013). Affordances. In M. Soegaard & R. F. Dam (Eds.), The encyclopedia of human-computer interaction (2nd ed.). Retrieved from https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/affordances
My entire life I’ve been lucky to have a strong baseline of confidence. From a young age I knew that regardless of my appearance, I was valuable, important, and worthy of love. This can only be credited to my parent’s incredible words and values they have taught me over the years; I sure as hell know it wasn’t society’s doing.
Growing up confident has been an incredible blessing for me, and I fully acknowledge my privilege in my upbringing and positive view of myself. That being said, I will explore in the next couple paragraphs the bumps in the road I’ve encountered that I credit to this very blessing.
I grew up a confident, self-assured child, and being the youngest of 4 girls, the three above with substantial emotional needs, I grew a toughness to compensate for my lesser need of attention. At the time, I don’t remember this being a big issue for me, but looking back now I know that it has caused a few setbacks.
In high school, a time of self discovery and definitely a time of heightened insecurity, I was known amongst my friends and colleagues as the confident one. Now this wasn’t credited to vanity or cockiness, but rather a humility and grounded energy that I’ve natural had. This title made me feel proud, but it also placed me into a box.
When my friends would take turns talking about feeling insecure, or wanting to change this, become better at that, I was left feeling unable to express myself in the same way. When I didn’t have a prominent physical feature to hate myself for, my friends began to discredit the things that did make me feel insecure, and I began to stop talking about them.
Holding these insecurities in when around my friends didn’t enhance my insecurity as my family has always been an outlet for me to talk to when I feel down. I do, however, feel I missed out on opportunities to be vulnerable with my friends. Vulnerability is scary for everyone, but I feel like sharing deep thoughts and insecurities with your peers allows you to relate to them on an intimate, human, vulnerable level, which in turn strengthens your ability to be completely transparent.
Perhaps it’s foolish of me to think that talking about myself more in my teen years would somehow change the way I feel about vulnerability, but I guess I’ll never know. Today I will push myself to do 3 things that make me feel uncomfortable and over exposed.
My awkward post hair-cut selfie.
Selfie: I’ve always had a complex with posting selfies… I think as much as I try not to, I care about what people think of me. If I post a picture that someone else took of me, I feel less vulnerable because there’s no level of vanity in being photographed spontaneously by others. When I take photos of myself, I feel exposed. Sometimes I think I need to learn to be more vain… self-love doesn’t have to be understated.
Secret: My secret doesn’t apply to those close to me, but may come as a surprise to the world around me. The truth is, I’ve never been in a relationship. This is something small, but for me it’s been a topic of conflicting feelings, thoughts, and ideas. On one hand, I don’t think this is in any way weird or shocking. On the other hand, however, I can’t help but feel less than, or undesirable for this reality. In admitting this truth online, I’m surprised at the indifference I feel towards it…perhaps this really isn’t as unusual as I think it is.
Story: It’s a Man’s World“…After exploring with fruitful delight, my sister and I decided to sit in a park before visiting the Giotto Scrovegni Chapel. We sat on a bench in front of a fountain, a man sat across from us listening to music. At first I didn’t think much of the young man in front of me, but after a few minutes I felt the burn of his stare across my chest…”