#4: The Future of TV

Millions of people tuned in last Sunday to watch the Super Bowl. Some for the actual game, some for the halftime show and some for the commercials. It’s repeatedly the most watched TV broadcast of the year. And also the most expensive. A 30-second ad went for fifty million dollars this year. But there is no shortage of companies who will pay to have their ad featured.

Why is that?

Social Learning Theory could help explain such a phenomenon. Advertisers know that people learn by modelling the behavior of others. We operate in a culture of consumption and companies are ready to spend millions in order to be featured on TV.

If we learn by modelling others, why not use TV? After all, television is the most used communication technology in the United States.

One of the greatest tools of socialization has been the television. Since its inception, people have used it for specific agendas. Political leaders have used it for propaganda in order to rally support for wars and policies. Companies use TV to get us to buy their products or use their services.

Television programming evokes responses from audiences in many ways. A great TV show can spur sentiments stronger than patriotism for the story and its characters. A show can create an entire empire by selling its merchandise. TV ads can stir controversy and spur nationwide boycotts.

Celebrity endorsements are another example of the power of social learning theory. If a respected celebrity with a large following endorses a product, subtly or covertly, sales usually increase. The more people like a celebrity, the more in-demand that person is.

We learn by watching others.

Even if we were to take the programming aspect of TV out, the physical object itself still influences our decisions. If someone you know buys the newest Samsung TV with the curved screen you might be inclined to purchase one yourself (once the price goes down, of course). TV gadgets like TiVo can initially encounter hesitation but once people see their friends using it and enjoying it, people gain the desire to own it too.

Back to programming, social learning theory works here too. A lot of new shows gain popularity through word-of-mouth. This is especially true of shows that don’t broadcast through traditional networks. I started watching Stranger Things because my friends kept telling me how amazing it was. Orange is the New Black, Mozart in the Jungle, and Narcos have become hits despite not airing on traditional networks.

There has also been a switching of conduits. Once a TV show has gathered a following on traditional broadcast but for some reason has been cancelled, on-demand services like Netflix pick them up. For example – Black Mirror. It originally aired on the British Channel 4 but was then taken over by Netflix. The show got an even larger following once American audiences began to watch it and tell their friends. This is also true of Breaking Bad which became a hit in the UK once it was uploaded to Netflix.

With services like Netflix and Amazon, television reaches even larger audiences giving producers more people to socialize. A dark aspect of social learning theory is that media can often reinforce negative stereotypes in regards to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on.

People learn about others by watching TV. Millions of people get information via news channels and as much as audiences like to think that they are receiving unbiased news – they’re not. Television news stations continue to shape the way we view the world which can sometimes lead to  a type of mean world syndrome where people believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is.

Politicians use this to their advantage, utilizing fear as a tool to push their agendas. One of the downsides of social learning is that technology like television can be used to dehumanize certain groups. People watch and emulate others, sustaining the status quo.

Because TV is such a powerful tool of socialization, there is no decline in its horizon. Television is the most used commtech and is the second most owned. Whether it will oust radio in the latter regard remains to be seen. But one thing is certain – social learning is propagated through television which gives executives, producers, and companies no reason to not invest in its future.

People may think traditional television is threatened by Netflix or Hulu but I think these services enhance TV. Television can exist without Netflix, Netflix can’t exist without television. TV is still going strong and I doubt that will change in the years to come.

 

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#3: CommTech and Education

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In elementary school, I remember using the colorful, round iMacs pictured above. By the time I graduated high school, we had a lab full of the latest iMac computers all of which were huge and sleek.

As Professor Esrock stated, communication technologies like computers and the Internet have been an integral part of millennials’ education. And in the future, the role of communication technologies in education will only increase.

Concerning my experience with commtechs in education, I think they have greatly facilitated learning. Things like the Internet and computers have spurred a wider array of classes being offered. Now there are classes focused solely on mastering use of communication technologies. In fact, my high school was a business and technology school that had a student help desk.

A con that I have seen, however, is the these same technologies can be used as a crutch and hinder education. For example, teachers can use online programs as a crutch without putting in as much effort as traditional education. Same goes for students. Students can fall into the trap of relying too heavily on the Internet for answers, in effect ‘taking the easy way out.’

Finding a good balance is a responsibility of the educator and the student. There is nothing wrong with using the internet, computers, or cellphones to help supplement lecture. The relationship needs to be complementary on both ends.

There are now hybrid courses which combine Internet lectures or activities with in-class teaching. A lot of language courses do this. I am currently enrolled in a hybrid course for Arabic. This course is four credits versus three due to the online component. Hybrid courses represent a balance that universities are testing out.

Another commtech that has been slowly emerging as a medium of choice is the e-book. Anyone with a computer screen can access e-books which have many benefits.

E-books tend to be less expensive and better for the environment. They are paperless so there is less waste as a result. In addition, if they are part of a cloud service you can access your books from any device with an Internet connection. Or log in to an account that has your ebooks saved. E-books are easier to search through and the devices for them are relatively inexpensive.

So why aren’t they in the hands of every college student?

Again, I will refer to the cost vs benefit equation. The cost for a e-reader can be much less than the cost of a physical textbook. It’s easier to search for specific passages or quotes and e-readers are better for the environment. According to this theory, e-books should be the hottest mode of reading.

However consumers just aren’t used to them.E-textbooks are a cheaper option, but students remain skeptical. Many people, myself included, find it better to have a physical  book. It’s easier to take notes and write sticky notes. They also strain your eyes less whenever you’re studying late at night. This is a case where individual preferences may outweigh price/benefit calculations. In the USA Today article, many students shared their varying opinions on e-books and their future. Some people have really caught on to e-books and use them regularly. Others see the benefits but want to keep traditional.

College courses are also straying from the traditional. Recently, Massive Open Online Course(s), or MOOC(s), have emerged as an innovative change to the traditional lecture. MOOCs are offered by edX, a MIT-Harvard University nonprofit, free of charge to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. These MOOCs have been raising questions as to just how much they will change higher education.

In “How Online Learning is Reinventing College,” the article identifies the candid question behind the camera which is where is this all leading?

I agree that MOOCs are a great way to reach people that universities might not otherwise engage. In the words of Horace Mann, education is the great equalizer. Now, students in under-served areas can access MIT courses for free. Hopefully, this will have a positive effect on literacy and math rates across the county. Of course this cannot count as the sole solution to education reform but it can be one of many.

Some people think universities will go bankrupt as a result of online learning. Others think it cheapens that value of a degree. Still others are cautiously adopting this technology in their own courses. Like any technology before it, it is hard to predict the success of MOOCs.

I think there is a valid point in the article that digital learning can’t provide the intimacy of the classroom or the social experience of the campus. I think again this is another example of individual preferences outweighing predictions. A student who is not engaged on campus and doesn’t get involved may as well take an online course. But a student who is active on campus may find it better to stick to traditional courses.

There are many questions still left unanswered regarding the future of MOOCs and e-books. Years later we might look back and see that they did fulfill predictions made today. But in our ever-changing now, it continues to be extremely difficult to tell just how successful these technologies will be.

 

 

 

#2: CommTech and Music

Music and communication technology have been intertwined for centuries. From the phonograph to the cellphone, music has inhabited a vast array of communication technologies.

Having grown up during the very late 90s and early 2000s, I listened to music on various devices, most of which are moot now. Currently, my two main devices for music are my phone and car stereo. This wasn’t always the case, obviously. Growing up in the age of technology has been a wild ride especially looking back on all the technology that endured and those that did not.

I first listened to music on cassettes and CDs. My parents loved those things and we would play them in the car or on a stereo. I was ecstatic when I got my own CD player. I remember the heartbreak of having accidentally left it outside in the rain. During this time, I also used mini radios which  I got from Mr. Gattis. It was so cool to be able to have the radio in your pocket and have it to where only you were listening.

Soon after came the first iPods and MP3 players. Those changed the game completely. Services like Limewire and Frostwire popped up. I got my first iPod in the form of the iPod nano 5th generation. I still used CDs though and I remember getting a bunch of burned CDs from my cousin. Those CDs soon got left in the dust in favor of my nano.

The iPod touch was quickly overshadowed by the iPhone and many other Android devices. Now, my iPod nano sits in the recesses of my drawer and my phone/ computers are my go-to for music listening. This is largely due to streaming services like Spotify, 8tracks, and Pandora. I couldn’t stream on the go when I had an iPod. The closest thing was the radio option the iPod had but that was still inconvenient due to the excessive commercials.

Nowadays, I listen to music on the go or in conjunction with another activity like cleaning my room or driving. Rarely do I ever just listen to music.

My desire to indulge in personal digital audio has a lot to do with uses and gratifications. Not only does it shape my environment but streaming music is entertaining and convenient. As was said in class: Music can transform urban journeys into pleasurable and private spaces. I can walk across campus in my own personalized space in time just by putting on headphones.

I listen to music because I need entertainment. I also like to keep up with my favorite artists. Music is one of the best ways to bond with people. Music has the power to bring all kinds of people together. I love music and I can’t imagine my life without it.

Now that I can look back at the evolution of audio devices, I can see how displacement theory works. I traded in my CD player for an iPod. Then my cellphone replaced any MP3 player I owned. It is so much easier to listen to music now. I don’t have to go to iTunes and buy tracks. I can listen to the music I want whenever I want. In the case of Spotify, I can even download music to listen to offline. It is so much simpler now.

The time that I spend listening to Spotify takes away from the time I had to take to download individual songs to my iPod. When I’m listening to Spotify in my car I’m not giving attention to AM/FM radio. I now use XM Radio in conjunction.

In my previous post I mentioned the price v benefit calculation. The price for Spotify and other streaming services is at a healthy balance with the benefits it gives us. I don’t currently pay for XM radio so I get the benefit of listening to dozens of stations anywhere in the country.

Modern communication technologies that involve music have shown the characteristics of new media technology. They are interactive, demassified, and asynchronous in ways that audio tech has never been.

I don’t miss my iPod or my CD players. And I wonder if one day I’ll look back and not miss my cellphone.

#1: The Future of Radio

Previously, I focused on my travels and various opinions and recommendations on this blog. Now, I will shift to focus on communication technology and its impact on our past, present, and future.

When I think of ‘communication technology,’ not a single item comes to mind immediately. The name itself is a bit redundant. Both ‘communication’ and ‘technology’ are broad terms. Put them together and you get a very broad category. That’s why when I think of communication technology, I just focus on technology. Is technology itself not inherently a mode of communication? In my opinion – yes.

I’m not a person who constantly seeks out “new electronic toys.” I enjoy reading about them and seeing videos of prototypes. However, I don’t feel a need to have the newest phone or smart watch or virtual reality set. Mainly because I’m a poor, college student but also because adapting is a lot of work. Setting up is a lot of work. I don’t want to have to start over with a new device. Although, there are now apps that can easily transfer all your data from one device to another like Samsung Switch. Nowadays, it seems like people upgrade or buy new gadgets just because they’re newer and a different color. But, personally, technology is like the old adage: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

One commercial communication medium that has endured the test of time (nearly 100 years) is the radio. I use the radio daily whether it be AM/FM/XM in the car or Internet radio on my phone. I even used to use it to listen to music from my phone before I had an aux cable or Bluetooth. My friends use it the same way I do. My family uses AM/FM radio in the car and maybe even on a stereo when they’re feeling nostalgic. As you can see, generations of Americans* have lived with radio in their daily lives.

The point is, radio didn’t peak and then get left behind. Instead, it evolved alongside the internet. It survived modernization whereas the VCR, DVD, and CD did not. The radio has been around since the age of Roosevelt and shows no signs of going away today.

So what does the future hold for radio communication?

First and foremost, it’s hard to predict the rise and fall of technology. People said the iPhone would fail, TV wouldn’t last, and that no one would ever need a PC. So how can we make predictions about the future of radio?

Well, first we look at price vs. benefit. Currently, AM/FM radio is free. There is no cost and you get all the benefits such as entertainment and information. Radio that you pay for (XM, Pandora, Spotify) offer free trials with the added nuisance of ads, something that is not much different than the traditional radio. If you choose to pay for Internet radio or XM radio, you enjoy streaming free of ads that is usually $10 or less a month. You also get the added perks of listening on-demand and downloading music to listen offline.

There is currently a good balance between the price of radio and its benefits. In addition, usually new technology succeeds at the expense of old technology. You would expect AM/FM radio to die down with the introduction of online radio. But that’s not the case because AM/FM is free to all who have a signal and that alone keeps people listening.

Radio has also adopted the characteristics of new media technology. It is now interactive because you can listen on-demand to stations customized by/for you. XM radio has demassified, now adopting niche radio stations such as Alt Nation, CNN, and even Kidzbop.

Taking all of these things into consideration, I think it’s safe to say radio is here to stay.The popularity and use of radio won’t change unless it becomes privatized. Currently, it is optional to pay for radio services. You don’t have to pay for XM or Spotify if you don’t want to. But, once AM/FM is no longer free, then I suspect there will be a sharp decline in use and it will join the VCR in the has-been category of communication technology.

*Americans, meaning, from the Americas

 

 

Rethinking Mexico: Grutas Tolantongo

One of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had happened this summer. All the places I visited in Mexico were beautiful. But one of my favorite places was in Hidalgo, Mexico

It’s kind of a funny story how I ended up going to one of the places on my bucket list. I was with my aunt and her friend and he suggested the trip on the spot. We weren’t sure if we should go but I figured I may not have another opportunity and agreed.

This is the picture that comes up when you search the place on Google:

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How could I say no?

We packed our bags and left at midnight. What we thought was a 3 hour drive turned into a 6-7 hour one and we were travelling in a tiny truck.

We stayed at one of the hotels which was really cheap (~$40/night) but considered expensive in Mexico. It was clean and had great service.

The next day, we were excited to finally get there. We had to buy special water shoes to protect our feet from the sharp rocks in the river.

The ride to the actual resort is long, narrow, and dangerous. It takes extreme caution to drive it safely.

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My picture of the river.

Once there, we discovered that it was packed and that the hotel had no empty rooms. We had to stay in tents that the resort rents out which come with sleeping mats and blankets. All of this for a night is under $50 for more than one tent.

The resort includes hotels, pools, campgrounds, a restaurant, and even a zip-line.

The campground is near the river which has naturally warm water. In fact, you can see the steam rising on cool mornings.

The river is very long and shallow. It only went to my waist but you could lie down and it felt like a Jacuzzi.

Another place you can go that is included in the cost of admission are the grotos. I went to two – one that was like a sauna tunnel and another that was a cave where the hot water came down from the canyon.

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This place in particular has two parts – an upstairs that leads you to a cave/tunnel thing. You have to be in a single file line. It is cramped and the temperature of a sauna.

I stopped halfway through because to get to the end you had to cross a deep (natural) pool that was up to your neck. It wasn’t worth it.

The only thing they do is let you see the end and then turn you back around.

The lower part is like a cavern filled with warm water and a falls in the middle. There is another cave inside where it is completely dark. To get there you have to hang on to a rope in water that is neck-deep. The current is so strong it pulls you back.

I had to get help but what is so weird is that once you get through that part, somehow the water gets more shallow and only reaches your knees.

The part of the resort that I was most excited to experience were these:

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I tried many different pools. I’m proud of this picture.

You have to travel back up the road near the entrance to get here. It’s so worth it. The view is amazing! You get a fantastic view of the mountains as well as the other pools.

The water is still warm so it feels a lot like sitting in a hot tub. I saw a lot of foreign tourists here too.

I want to go back someday and enjoy it again. Although the trip was spontaneous and had its bumps, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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Views from Tolantongo. (also my pic pls don’t steal)

My Netflix Recommendations

Thanksgiving break is fast approaching and we all know what that means – eating, sleeping, capitalism, and avoiding responsibilities by watching Netflix.

However, a certain dilemma also pops up. What the hell do I watch?

It seems as if Netflix has a never-ending array of possibilities yet none of them seem appealing. Fret no more – I’ve compiled a list of movies and shows that I recommend for your viewing pleasure.

(These are in no particular order)

  1. Black Mirror

    I talked about Black Mirror in my previous post so that should give you an idea of what it’s about. Basically, each episode is independent of the other. They’re about the dark side of a technologically advanced world that’s not so different from our current one.
  2. How to Get Away with Murder

    This show is a wild ride. The main character, Wes, was Dean in Harry Potter. He’s grown up a lot as you can tell. The storyline is suspenseful and the show is super addicting with lots of twists and turns.
  3. Stranger Things

    I’m sure you’ve heard about this show or have watched it already. It’s so freaking good. There’s only eight episodes in the first season so this is perfect to watch over break.
  4. Tucker and Dale vs Evil

    Okay, so despite what the trailer may make this movie seem, it is surprisingly hilarious. In short, ” In the vein of Shaun of the Dead, Tucker & Dale is a wild, wonky tale of two hillbilly buddies trying to survive their vacation in the woods when they are mistaken for killers by a gang of college kids.” What ensues is hilarious.
  5. Bob’s Burgers

    Bob’s Burgers is a great show if you wanna laugh and lift your spirits. It centers around Bob and Linda Belcher and their three kids Louise, Tina, and Gene. You don’t have to watch it in order so there’s no strings attached. Although it’s animated, it’s not really a show for kids.
  6. That 70’s Show

    As you can see from the clip, it’s super funny. It’s set in the 70’s and features a group of friends going through life in Wisconsin. Like Stranger Things, the show does a good job on making the setting look as real as possible.
  7. Arrested Development

    Arrested Development was picked up by Netflix for it’s fourth season. The show changes a little in format but it’s still pretty hilarious. It centers on a dysfunctional family in California. Basically,  Michael Bluth finds himself forced to stay in Orange County and run the family real estate business after his father, George Bluth Sr., is sent to prison for committing white-collar crime. He tries to juggle the wants and needs of his spoiled and eccentric family while being a good role model for his teenage son, George Michael.
  8. Wilfred

    Elijah Wood is nothing like his Lord of the Rings character. He tried to commit suicide but survived (you’ll know why in the first episode) and then sees his neighbor’s dog as an Australian guy in a costume while everyone else just sees a dog. It’s really funny and a little crude but worth watching.
  9. Dexter

    Dexter is a blood splatter analyst by day but a serial killer by night. Miami is the perfect backdrop for his story. Granted, I haven’t seen it all but it’s incredibly addicting and has a lot of unexpected twists.
  10. Rebelde

    For all my Spanish speakers out there (or anyone, you can use subtitles), this show is LIT. It was my favorite show growing up and I was obsessed with the band. It’s kind of hilarious looking back at it but I don’t even care, it was really good. It’s like a Mexican version of High School Musical meets Hannah Montana meets Degrassi. Only 1000000x better. Netflix has all the episodes (I think) but be warned, there’s like 300.
  11. Breaking the Magician’s Code

    So my friend recommended this show and I was skeptical at first but then  I was hooked. It’s about the secrets behind all the magic tricks you see in magic shows. It gets kind of addicting. The narrator gets progressively creepier in his comments about the assistants but the tricks make you look past that.
  12. Make Happy or what.

    Bo Burnham is pretty freakin funny. I had heard about him from friends but I didn’t really pay attention until my friend got me to watch Make Happy. Honestly, I wish I had watched it earlier. I haven’t gotten around to watching what. but I’m sure it’ll be just as funny. It’s great to watch when you feel down.

This list is not at all comprehensive. Honorable mentions are Parks and Recreation, Orange is the New Black, American Horror Story, Law and Order: SVU, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

So, hopefully this list helps you as you binge-watch and eat leftovers. I know that’s what I’ll be doing.

We Need to Talk About ‘Black Mirror’

Warning: This post contains spoilers. PLEASE WATCH THE SHOW!

Black Mirror is a British sci-fi anthology show that Netflix has since picked up. It began in 2011 and was created by Charles Brooker. It’s a collection of stand-alone dramas where each episode is self contained.

Each episode features a whole new cast, setting, plot, and even universe. Some fans theorize that they all take place in the same universe but Brooker has said they’re not connected. Although you can make your own decision on that.

Black Mirror is about the dark side of a technologically advanced future. It explores the possibilities humans can draw up with technological power. It’s often been compared to The Twilight Zone.

Since this post is addressing those who have seen Black Mirror already I’m assuming you’re as emotionally distraught as I am after watching it.

Granted, I’ve only seen season 1 and the first episode of the second season but that’s enough. For the sake of length I’m going to focus on the three so far that have messed me up the most.

3.”The National Anthem” Season 1, Ep. 1

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This episode messed me up. I was thinking about it for days afterward. I wanted to vomit thinking about it.

The thing about this episode is that this is something that could definitely happen today. A princess getting kidnapped, the prime minister being forced to do an act of public humiliation in order for her safe return – all of it is plausible.

Michael Callow faces pressure from the party, the palace, the people, and his wife. What gets me is that they definitely could have avoided the outcome.

Do DNA tests really take that long? And why didn’t the princess try to send a message that the severed finger wasn’t hers? Why weren’t people stationed outside so that they could see when the princess was released? Is it fair that they omitted the part of the report where the princess was released 30 minutes before the broadcast? SERIOUSLY WHAT THE HELL BRITAIN?!

Honestly, this episode made me hate everyone. I was disgusted by humanity in those moments.

I honestly couldn’t begin to imagine the trauma Callow had to endure. It was sick. And then his wife hates him for it? That’s some bullshit.

2. “Fifteen Million Merits” Season 1, Ep. 2

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Okay, so the universe in this episode is fucked. Like, you live in a cell where you are relentlessly bombarded with shows. You have to spend “merits” to skip them. If you’re low on merits you are forced to consume everything that pops up.

The only way out seems to be to ‘compete’ on a talent show. Then apparently you live a more luxurious life and maybe get to see the outside world.

Bing and Abi’s little relationship is cute. He really wants the best for her. And then his good intentions lead to her degradation.Honestly, how messed up is that.

This universe gives me so many questions. Why are people forced to be on bikes all day? How did this come to be? Who enforces these rules? What happens if you try to escape? Is escape even possible? Is the forest in the final scene real? Do ‘celebrities’ not interact with each other? Does government exist?

I think it was these unanswered questions that made the episode all that more striking. I still wonder what will be their ultimate fate.

1. “Be Right Back” Season 2, Ep.1

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What’s so interesting about Black Mirror is that the time setting is so ambiguous. You have hints of a highly advanced technological future, with very advanced AI and phones, but you still have remnants of today.

This lets us shift the focus to the plot. Which made me cry.

Martha is grieving her deceased lover when she finds out she’s pregnant. Her friend informs her of a service that lets you ‘talk’ to your loved one. It analyzes all the things they have ever posted to simulate how they would talk.

It gets creepier as she moves further into the program. She goes from texting to speaking on the phone to actually having a clone of him.

Of course the clone doesn’t have the exact personality that Ash does. But what’s so creepy is his human-like demeanor.

I like the parallels between her natural life giving process (pregnancy) to the artificial life she’s given Ash’s clone.

Ultimately, it’s not enough for her. It’s too fake. So she commands it to jump off of a cliff. And then he starts begging for his life after she unwittingly tells him to do so. The we skip forward and see she’s been hiding him in her attic for years.

The story was so heartbreaking on many levels. I could just imagine being in her shoes. Losing someone you love would be devastating. But could we honestly resist the temptation of ‘bringing’ them back to life?

I guess we’ll see in the future.