Category Archives: Media

Map of the day: The underwater wired world web

From Views of the World, the blog of British geographer Benjamin Hennig, a look at the undersea cables that keep world communications connected [with a much larger version of the map at the link]:


More from the blog:

Despite satellite technology, global communication heavily relies on undersea cables to keep people connected. “A submarine communications cable is a cable laid on the sea bed between land-based stations to carry telecommunication signals across stretches of ocean.” (Wikipedia) Undersea cables are the backbone of the internet, so that being connected determines a region’s ability to participate in global communication flows.

The following cartogram shows data from Greg’s Cable Map reprojected onto an equal population projection, giving a perspective of how people rather than land areas are connected to the global communications infrastructure. Landing points where the cables connect to land are marked as red dots in the map, while the background also shows very faded shipping lanes (over sea) as well as the gridded cartogram projection (over land):

While many people take internet availability for granted, a UNEP/WCMC report states that “there is a common misconception that nowadays most international communications are routed via satellites, when in fact well over 95 per cent of this traffic is actually routed via submarine fibre-optic cables. Data and voice transfer via these cables is not only cheaper, but also much quicker than via satellite.

The first submarine cable – a copper-based telegraph cable – was laid across the Channel between the United Kingdom and France in 1850. Today, more than a million kilometres of state-of-the-art submarine fibre-optic cables span the oceans, connecting continents, islands and countries around the world. Argably, the international submarine cable network provides one of the most important infrastructural foundations for the development of whole societies and nations within a truly global economy.”

Carrie Fisher dies, and Disney profits

Every cloud must have a silver lining, goes the old saw, but for Disney, the lning to the cloud of Carrie Fisher’s death is pure platinum.

From the Independent:

Disney is expected to be awarded one of the largest insurance payouts in history after reports it took out a $41m policy on Carrie Fisher.

The company, which bought Lucasfilm in 2012, took out a policy with Lloyds of London to protect it from any losses if the actress was unable to fulfil her contract to appear in the new Star Wars trilogy, trade magazine Insurance Insider reported.

The 60-year-old, who renewed her role as Princess Leia – known as General Organa in the 2015 film The Force Awakens – died in hospital four days after suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.

In her one-woman show Wishful Drinking, which we watched earlier tonight, Fisher mentioned that Disney owns all the rights to her image, and given that they already digitally recreated a younger Princess Leia for Rogue One, Disney doesn’t need her live performance before the camera for the final Star Wars film, so her death represents almost a pure windfall for the company that’s done most to ensure draconian intellectual property laws at home and abroad.

Headline of the day: They want to own you forever

It’s every employer’s dream.

Thanks to digital technology, Hollywood studios are able to resurrect the dead so they can keep toiling for their studio masters even after their corporeal incarnations have turned to dust.

From the London Daily Mail:

Actors rush to protect their image from ‘digital resurrection’ after they have died following eerie Star Wars: Rogue One reanimation of Carrie Fisher

  • Filmmakers are tapping advances in digital technology to resurrect characters after a performer dies, most notably in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Features return of Grand Moff Tarkin, first played by long-dead Peter Cushing
  •  The trend has sent Hollywood actors in the here-and-now scrambling to exert control over how their characters and images are portrayed in the hereafter

Social media survey reveals Latin American hunger

And now for a story incorporating elements of our last two posts, media and health.

It’s a story about the failure of governments to ensure which should be the prime directive: the health and well-being of their citizens.

From El País:

Some 57% of people in Latin America who use social media did not have enough to eat either “occasionally or often” during the last 12 months, a new study conducted for EL PAÍS in conjunction with the Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean of the Inter-American Development Bank has revealed.

In addition, 51% of users of social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube did not have running water in their homes, the study of the technological habits of more than 20,000 people in 18 countries in Latin America shows.

Latin America has experienced an economic bonanza in the last decade, with the high prices of natural resources driving growth, and this has led to a slight reduction in poverty. However, 28% of people in the region still live in extreme poverty according to the latest figures from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

But during the same period, the number of people using the internet jumped from 17% in 2005 to 53% in 2015.

Headline of the day: A really, really good law

The creation of email spawned a number of consequences.

But for millions of us, email created a way for bosses to intrude in our lives at any time or place.

We suspect the reason is that while phone calls are direct human contact, complete with vocal tones and inflections signalling anger and disgust at intrusions into our private lives, emails are simply blips dispatched into an impersonal mediasphere, free of all that human messiness.

And for all of us who’ve been badgered on nights, weekends, holidays, one country has passed a law giving workers the right to be emauil free off the job.

Vive la France!

From BBC News:

French workers get ‘right to disconnect’ from emails out of hours

  • France employees are getting the legal right to avoid work emails outside working hours.
  • The new law, which has been dubbed the “right to disconnect”, comes into force on 1 January.
  • Companies with more than 50 workers will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails.

Mainstream media, Silicon Valley gave us Trump

Donald Trump took his ego, his sociopathy, his wealth, his brand, and his unparalleled skills at playing the American mass media and parlayed them into a new domicile, and hopefully one he can’t brand.

No other president-elect has revealed his major policy decisions, his appointments, and his outrageous opinions o Twitter, bypassing the press corps and forcing them to dance to his tune.

Consider, then, this essay, titled “10 ways the tech industry and the media helped create President Trump,” from Damian Radcliffe, Caroline S. Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon, writing in The Conversation, an open source academic journal written for the general public:

Three weeks after Donald Trump won a historic victory to become the 45th president of the United States, the media postmortems continue.

In particular, the role played by the media and technology industries is coming under heavy scrutiny in the press, with Facebook’s role in the rise of fake newscurrently enjoying considerable coverage. This represents a shift from earlier in the campaign, when the volume of media airtime given to Trump was oftenheld culpable for “The Apprentice” star’s political ascendancy.

In truth, a Trump presidency is – in part – a reflection of the status and evolution of the media and tech industries in 2016. Here are 10 ways that they combined to help Trump capture the White House in a manner not previously possible. Without them, Trump might not have stood a chance.

Inside the tech industry’s role

1) Fake news looks a lot like real news. This is not a new issue, but it’s a hot topic, given the social media-led explosion of the genre. As BuzzFeed found, fake news can spread more quickly than real reporting.

President Obama has weighed in on the problem, as have investigative reporters. And The New York Times found that fake news can “go viral” very quickly, even if it’s started by an unassuming source with a small online following – who subsequently debunks their own false story.

2) Algorithms show us more of what we like, not what we need to know. Amazon, Netflix and Spotify demonstrate how powerful personalization and recommendation engines can be. But these tools also remove serendipity, reducing exposure to anything outside of our comfort zone.

Websites like AllSides, and the Wall Street Journal’s Red vs Blue feed experiment – which let users “See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side” – show how narrow our reading can become, how different the “other side” looks, and how hard it can be to expose ourselves to differing viewpoints, even if we want to.

3) Tech doesn’t automatically discern fact from fiction. Facebook doesn’t have an editor, and Mark Zuckerberg frequently says that Facebook is not a media company. It’s true that Facebook content comes from users and partners, but Facebook is nonetheless a major media distributor.

More than half of Americans get news from social media; Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla. “The two-thirds of Facebook users who get news there,” Pew notes, “amount to 44 percent of the general population.” But its automatic algorithms can amplify falsehoods, as happened when a false story about Megyn Kelly trended on Facebook this summer.

4) The rise of robots. It’s not just publications and stories that can be fake. Twitter bots can look the same as real Twitter users, spreadingfalsehoods and rumors and amplifying messages (just as humans do). Repeat a lie often enough and – evidence suggests – it becomes accepted as fact. This is just as true online as it is on the campaign trail.

My mother always warned me not to believe everything I read in the papers. We need to instill the same message in our children (and adults) about social media.

5) Tech has helped pull money away from sources of real reporting. Google, Facebook, Craigslist and others have created new advertising markets, diverting traditional ad revenues from newspapers in the process.

Meanwhile, programmatic advertising, which uses computer algorithms to buy – and place – online ads, is changing the advertising dynamic yet again. This canmean companies unintentionally buy ads on sites – such as those from the alt-right – which don’t sit with their brand or values; and that they would not typically choose to support.

The media played its part, too

1) Fewer ad dollars means fewer journalistic boots on the ground. Data from the American Society of News Editors show that in 2015 the total workforce for U.S. daily newspapers was 32,900, down from a peak of 56,400 in 2001. That’s 23,500 jobs lost in 14 years.

Though some of these roles have migrated to online outlets that didn’t exist years ago, this sector is also starting to feel the cold. A reduced workforce has inevitably led to less original journalism, with fewer “on the beat” local reporters, shuttered titles and the rise of media deserts. Cable news, talk radio, social networks and conservative websites – channels that predominantly focus on commentary rather than original reporting – have, in many cases, stepped in to fill these gaps.

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Mexican company introduces “digital detox” resorts

From CCTV America, the inevitable next step in capitalizing on distraction:

Program notes:

When it comes to work, being connected to the internet 24 hours a day has its benefits. But some people need help disconnecting when they’re on vacation. One business thinks it has the answer. A so-called digital detox program was started at two of Mexico’s beach resorts, but it’s still struggling to get people to unplug.CCTV America’s Martin Markovits reports.