Tag Archives: Pew Research Center

What’s Up?

You might have heard about the latest information from the Pew Research Center about how most of us seem to get our news these days.  If the study is accurate, you might even have heard about it on Twitter or found it in your Facebook news feed.  You see, according to the study, clear majorities of Twitter (63%) and Facebook users (63%) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family. That share has increased substantially from 2013, when about half of users (52% of Twitter users, 47% of Facebook users) said they got news from the social platforms.  

What makes me a little nervous is what the Pew folks go on to say:

As more social networking sites recognize and adapt to their role in the news environment, each will offer unique features for news users, and these features may foster shifts in news use. Those different uses around news features have implications for how Americans learn about the world and their communities, and for how they take part in the democratic process.

Having worked with professional reporters and journalists, I can tell you that they don’t just report what they see since sometimes appearances can be deceiving.  The problem, both in journalism and in business, is that instant analysis is often wrong – who can forget CNN, The Boston Globe, and others having to retract reports around the Boston Marathon bombing?  When the reportage is immediate from many people who are untrained in evaluating information (what’s the source, how reliable, etc.), the chances of something being way off base increase dramatically.  Couple that with the built-in selectivity, in the case of Facebook, of algorithms which filter what you see unless you dig a little and one can see how “news” found on social media can easily be “rumor.”

I think social media can play a valuable role in surfacing breaking stories.  Twitter is soon set to unveil its long-rumored news feature, “Project Lightning.” The feature will allow anyone, whether they are a Twitter user or not, to view a feed of tweets, images and videos about live events as they happen, curated by a bevy of new employees with “newsroom experience.”  This is a good thing, in my opinion.  What’s not is accepting what we see there as gospel until there are multiple, professionally trained sources weighing in.  Yes, sometimes they’re wrong (see above), but when they don’t try to compete with the instantaneous stuff found in non-professional sources, they generally get it right.  What do you think?

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We’re Feeling Insecure

The Pew folks are at it again. They just released a study called “Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era” and it’s a doozy. Let’s not bury the lede:

Perhaps most striking is Americans’ lack of confidence that they have control over their personal information. That pervasive concern applies to everyday communications channels and to the collectors of their information—both in the government and in corporations.

Big Brother indeed, although Orwell probably didn’t think about it in terms of corporations doing much of the surveillance.  The study makes clear that consumers are skeptical about some of the benefits of personal data sharing, but are willing to make tradeoffs in certain circumstances when their sharing of information provides access to free services. 55% “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: “I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free.” And we know they’re watching:

Across the board, there is a universal lack of confidence among adults in the security of everyday communications channels—particularly when it comes to the use of online tools. Across six different methods of mediated communication, there is not one mode through which a majority of the American public feels “very secure” when sharing private information with another trusted person or organization.

Sad, isn’t it?  More importantly, there seems to be a growing sentiment among consumers to dial back the amount of information they’re making available.  I’ve written before about ad and cookie blocking.  How can the legitimate interests some businesses have for this information – to me that means to make the consumer’s experience better – be served while protecting the consumer’s privacy?  Clearly all of us engaged in data-gathering need to begin to act more responsibly or risk being cut off from the source.  As the report says:

At the same time that Americans express these broad sensitivities toward various kinds of information, they are actively engaged in negotiating the benefits and risks of sharing this data in their daily interactions with friends, family, co-workers, businesses and government.

This is a wake up call.  Are you answering?

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Filed under digital media, Reality checks

Where Are We Going?

I like smart people and I really like when smart people get together and have a think about things which interest me.


(Photo credit: LarsZi)

That happened recently as the folks at the Pew Research Center, and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center set up an online survey to look at the future of the Internet, the Web, and other digital activities. This is the first of eight reports based on a canvassing of hundreds of experts about the future of such things as privacy, cybersecurity, the “Internet of things,” and net neutrality. In this case they asked experts to make their own predictions about the state of digital life by the year 2025.  It’s an interesting document, an overview of which you can read here and which is available in its entirety at this link.

This is a summary of what they found:

To a notable extent, the experts agree on the technology change that lies ahead, even as they disagree about its ramifications. Most believe there will be:

  • A global, immersive, invisible, ambient networked computing environment built through  the continued proliferation of smart sensors, cameras, software, databases, and massive data centers in a world-spanning information fabric known as the Internet of Things.
  • Augmented reality” enhancements to the real-world input that people perceive through the use of portable/wearable/implantable technologies.
  • Disruption of business models established in the 20th century (most notably impacting  finance, entertainment, publishers of all sorts, and education).
  • Tagging, databasing, and intelligent analytical mapping of the physical and social realms.

As one expert summed it up rather elegantly, information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.  But is that a good thing?

I consider myself pretty “wired.”  To the extent I’m not using a technology or am blocking data access, it’s by choice.  I’m not entirely comfortable with the value proposition – my data/personal information/behavioral habits in exchange for whatever it is you’re selling.  Of course I know that proposition is just an extension of the media value proposition – my attention in exchange for entertainment.  But if you’ve read anything about the data collection business (never mind what governments are doing!) you know that there is way too much room for abuse and error, both of which will have a negative impact that negates any value received in my mind.

I recognize I might be of a generation that doesn’t “get it.”  Or maybe we do, since “1984″ was required reading long before the year 1984.  While one of the slogans of the Party is “Ignorance Is Strength” I don’t believe that for a second.  It’s all a matter of what knowledge – data – is owned by whom.  And that, dear readers, is something to ponder.  Will you?

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