Sunday, December 7, 2008

Trials and Tribulations of Covering the OJ Simpson Trial

Is the information in a given article accurate?

The information in the article about OJ Simpson's trial is accurate according to court records. However, the information is undeniably biased. Simpson is receiving a lot of media coverage for a crime that wouldn't normally be covered at the national level if it were committed by an average citizen. His previous trial is brought up many times as well.

Is there missing context that might undermine the premise of a given article or television segment?

I don't believe there is context missing, but rather content that was included that should have been omitted. Covering a story on OJ Simpson is difficult because the memories of his infamous murder trial in which he was acquitted is fresh in the minds of everyone. Popular thought is that he should have been convicted of murder. Years later, Simpson is being tried on different and unrelated charges. His past charges should not be brought up to influence the vote of the jury. On the other hand, it was a significant trial and should not be entirely excluded when the media is covering this new story. Even before his trial, the media was painting Simpson as criminal. Although many believe that to be true, they should not let their personal opinion influence other readers.

Which experts are quoted--and, in turn, who isn't allowed to give their opinion what does this leave out?

The article appears to be rather fair and well balanced. There are quotes from Judge Glass who sentenced him, OJ's lawyer, Yale Galanter, and Simpson himself from the trial. Even though OJ's side of the story appeared to be well represented, the quotes chosen from him and his lawyer were not terribly strong. The lawyer was quoted as saying, "It could have been a lot worse.." and went on to say that they were expecting life and were grateful for the 9 year minimum. Coming from his lawyer, this already paints Simpson as guilty. Quotes from Simpson from the court room describe him as being naive by repeatedly saying he was sorry and that he was not aware that he was doing anything wrong while committing the crime. Judge Glass was quoted scolding Simpson for his "stupidity and arrogance" before sentencing him. Judge Glass was also quoted as saying that Simpson's previous murder trial did not influence her or the jury's decision at all. However, that trial was still referenced to repeatedly in that one article, proving that the media does give it much attention and it was difficult for Simpson to ever get a fair trial. Quotes from all sides of the story are included, however, the quotes chosen sensationalized the story because it was a celebrity and did not give a fair portrayal.

When TV news shows (or newspaper/internet editorials) feature a point/counterpoint debate, what political spectrum is offered?

Featuring a counter debate allows the viewer/reader to see the full spectrum and not focus in on one side that is being offered. The media tends to be harsh when judging OJ Simpson. Although he was convicted of being guilty, he deserves a fair and un-biased trial as much as any other man convicted of a crime. Seeing counterpoints may help the reader to understand that.

Is the selected media simply reinforcing the status quo on a given topic, even though there may be no reason to assume that it is correct?

Certainly the "status quo" for OJ Simpson is that he is a celebrity who was acquitted for a crime that many believe he committed and now he is in trouble with the law yet again. Simpson was acquitted for his last trial and although most of the country believes he was guilty of murder, he wasn't, and there is no going back to fix that. Therefore, his previous trial should not impact his recent one.

What are the consequences of not having balanced coverage in the media -

In this case, not having balanced and fair media coverage could have influenced the sentencing of a man's trial. The amount of evidence against Simpson was overwhelming and therefore we can only hope that he was sentenced fairly. The same problem occurs everytime a high profiled figure is on trial and the media needs to know how to cover the story accurately and balanced and not to let popular opinion influence their coverage.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Media bias - in class assignment

Hi...I worked with Jessica McClanahan on this assignment. Our post is on her blog.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Growing Up Online

“Growing up online” explores the lives of today’s teens – the first generation to grow up completely dependent on the internet. While my generation was growing up, the internet was still evolving. While my friends and I are rather internet savvy, today’s teens surpass us in their knowledge of the web and dependency on its features.

Teens today spend hours on the internet, glued to their keyboard. Marketers are aware of their growing addiction and have constructed ways to personalize advertising on the web to appeal on the individual level. Cookies in one’s computer records the sites you visit. From those, advertisers know what you are or may also be interested in. MySpace is one of the more popular social networking sites. With it, users can create an entirely personal account, deciding what their name will be, what their photos look like, which features they wish to add, and who their friends are. In addition, marketers have enmeshed advertising banners and logos on the MySpace page. Some are for all users to view, while others are personalized to that individual. By seeing items that they desire, teens are roped in even more into their online lifestyle. Advergaming is a technique that advertises through video games. Throughout time teens have always been the target audience of advertisers. They are fully submerged in pop culture and entertainment and drive “the next big thing.” This is why marketers spend so much time trying to see how they can capture their attention when they are spending so much time getting lost in the World Wide Web.

The report in “Growing up Online” did not surprise me. The teens featured in this video remind me of myself when I was their age. Web 2.0 features had not caught on yet, but I clearly remember spending hours, much to my parent’s dismay, on different websites and AOL Instant Messenger. Parents do not understand this addiction because they did not grow up this way. They worry that their children are diving too deep into the world of the Internet and not protecting themselves against its dangers. One interesting point made in “Growing up Online” was that teens are not in fact the victims of online predators, but are participants. When surveyed, an overwhelming majority of teens were aware of who to stay away from when online. When teens participate in activities that put them in a position of risk, it is often because they consciously chose it. The internet is no longer a new and scary place. Those who grow up using it may be addicted to their computer; however, they know it so well that they know their boundaries as well.

Although I have never used MySpace, my friends in college and I all actively use Facebook, another equally as addicting social networking site. I agree with the teens when they say that they use MySpace to create a personal online life that is entirely for them. They do not want their parents to intrude, not because they are engaging in questionable actions, but because it is invading their personal space. Teens especially need an outlet. I remember being an awkward 14 or 15 year old, and it’s a period where you constantly question yourself, your identity, and who your friends truly are. While “Growing up Online” featured some of the downsides of creating MySpace accounts, it should be noted that many introverts have found solace by being able to express themselves online when they cannot in high school.

I do worry that the increased use of the internet will lead to society losing touch with key interpersonal skills. The important thing to remember is that as more and more generations grow up using the internet, there will be more regulations and parents will become more informed. When my generation has children, we will already know the ins and outs of the internet and how to teach our children to use it wisely. Even though the internet is becoming an increasingly significant part of teens’ everyday lives, I do not believe it is a trend that will continue into their future. It is easy for teens to become completely absorbed in the internet and obsess over its many features because they have minimal responsibilities. It is only natural that as teens mature their addiction will subside.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Losing Faith in the FCC

In his article, Dunbar describes how the FCC has become a heavily lobbied government institution. His theories of “The Spinning Door,” “Frequent Flyers,” and “Behind Closed Doors,” describe how FCC officials have handled their business in a questionable and unethical manner, becoming too close with the industry they are supposed to be regulating. “The Spinning Door” theory describes how FCC officials are often former industry executives, or vice versa. By employing officials who have their hands in both the industry and the government agency, it makes it impossible to properly perform independent investigations of the industries. “Frequent Flyers” describes how FCC members accept travel and entertainment money from the industries they are supposed to be regulating. Over the past eight years, the FCC has accepted almost $2.8 million from outside sources. The agency defends these gifts by saying it is important to educate regulators on important issues, and those regulators may have not been able to afford the trips otherwise. Doubts are still raised, however, that there is an improper, relaxed relationship between the FCC and the industry. Furthermore, FCC officials often conduct business meetings in secret, as described in the “Behind Closed Doors,” theory. It describes how these meetings, while legal under FCC regulations, are not recorded and minutes are not taken. The FCC states that they wish to conduct their meetings out of the public eye, while others are still skeptical.

Government officials have always, and will always, be lobbied by outside forces. However, at some point one needs to say enough is enough. It’s personally disappointing to hear how extreme these actions are. FCC members should act with integrity and uphold some moral practices, whether they are technical legal within FCC guidelines or not. Taking extravagant trips, holding private meetings, and hiring those involved in the industry make it virtually impossible to regulate the industries properly. It’s disheartening to know that our taxes are paying for corrupt agencies. At the end of the article, Powell states that sometimes the lobbying gets out of hand and has gone too far. If Powell has publicly acknowledged this, then he is aware that the conduct of the FCC with the industry is inappropriate and should come to an end. This article was written in 2003. Five years later, I am not sure that anything significant has happened to change the internal workings of the FCC. I agree with Powell, however, that the FCC “needs to do their work rather than hear pitches.” I can only hope that future FCC regulations will prevent these questionable practices.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Merchants of Cool

The methods of marketing, advertising, and branding have changed over time. The basic concept remains the same; promote your product to gain the most profits. However, the techniques and goals of the marketers on their target audiences have changed radically. The traditional way to market an item was to show its value and why it should be bought over its competitors. However, society has caught on to conventional marketing schemes, leaving the audiences disillusioned and the tactics no longer effective. Marketers now have to try to use psychological approaches to marketing to reach audiences on a subconscious level. These techniques have proven to be widely successful. However, marketers are not only shaping the brands, but an entire culture, making many wonder what the future will hold with the continuation of modern marketing.

Branding is the way marketers develop descriptive attributes to associate with their product. There are a number of modern techniques they can use to develop this idea of branding, or creating a culture around a product. Neuromarketing is a new form of marketing that studies the brain and why consumers make the choices they do, whether they are conscience of it or not. This form of marketing reaches the cognitive level to determine a consumer’s preference. Emotional branding is a branding technique that makes the consumers have an emotional attachment to the product. It is not just something they like, but something they love. Narrowcasting, cool hunting, and product placement are just a few other examples of ways in which marketers try to appeal to audiences. They try to discover what is “cool” and then feed it to the masses.

The goal of marketers is to know what the next “big thing” is, or what is “cool.” Teens are often the most sought after audience and also the most unpredictable. Therefore, marketers follow teen trends and use different marketing techniques to reach them. Cornerstone Marketing uses under the radar marketing to understand what teens think is cool. Their workers go to parties and subtly promote their product, or enter chat rooms to see what the new trends are. This kind of marketing is not overt so the teenagers aren’t aware that something is being sold to them. Another example was a strategy used by Sprite. Instead of using a traditional commercial segment to advertise their soda, Sprite partnered with MTV to host an MTV televised concert and party with Sprite products used. In this way, Sprite is seen as cool because the MTV audience sees fellow teens on television drinking it.

Television has developed cultural characters to appeal to younger age groups. Men are perceived as crude, rude, loud and aggressive. Shows such as the Tom Green Show, Jackass, and South Park perpetuate these stereotypes. Women are viewed as premature adults and are consumed by appearance. They are proud to reveal their midriff and flaunt their sexuality, even if they are too young to understand it. Fruit of the Loom often seeks models as young as 13 who embody sophistication. These images are often not representative of the teenagers. However, teens are trying to become these icons.

The consequences of these marketing tactics are a culture where TV and brand icons begin to blur with reality. Audiences are receptive of the images and are feeding them back by embodying them. They are becoming what the marketers were selling to them. Some teens and older audiences fight the images of marketers by influencing counter cultural movements, such as non traditional looks or music. Perhaps in time, more teens will catch on to these new marketing schemes and the counter cultural audience will grow. This will pose a new challenge to marketers, to have to reach the teens at a different level and appeal to them in different ways, and the cycle will be never ending.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the wireless war

1)CWNs are community wireless networks that promote and develop decentralized, community owned networks. By offering wireless networks that are open to communities, CWNs can help bridge the “Digital Divide.” This divide is the gap in societies between the wealthy with quick access to the internet and those who do not. Creating a wireless network that can span an entire community will allow internet access to those who normally do not have it. This type of a community can be paid for through tax dollars. When everyone can access the internet, communities can promote more local content and a more democratic culture.

2) Wireless companies are set out to protect their monopoly by eliminating competition. Companies are preying on public ignorance to sell poor products and maintain control over a wide range of electronic and wireless devices. For example, the Centrino notebook bundle is advertised to suggest that a consumer must buy the entire bundle to receive its advantages. However, many of the laptops have superior wireless services provided by other companies. The consumers, however, buy the bundles because it is convenient and they believe they must buy the same brand to have the advantages of the laptop. Often times tech companies will make their hardware not compatible with another brand's hardware to force the consumers to buy their products. Bundles do not guarantee the consumer the best services.

3) Through corporate consolidation, fewer companies are controlling more of the wireless market. This consolidation is creating a dangerous monopoly over wireless networks. When companies buy out each other and consolidate into one, they set the prices and rates over both networks, eliminating competition. For example, Cingular now includes AT&T under its umbrella. Cingular now sets the price for former AT&T customers. Oddly enough, they are alsso using Sprint networks. When competition is removed the corporations have a dangerous advantage over the customers where they can raise the prices to provide poor service.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Money, Money, Moneyyy

Paul Grignon created a video in a simple, cartoon form to explain the complexity behind our monetary system. His video traces the history of money back to the era of the goldsmith. Money used to be tangible. Then bankers began the interest system to generate more money to make a living and maintain bank operations. This simple system has spiraled into our society and others living in perpetual, accelerating debt. Banks are using debt to create loans. They are essentially creating money that is not backed up in paper. When the loans are paid back with interest, the bank profits and seemingly no one is affected by this trick.

If I wasn’t shown this video in class I would have continued to live a life of ignorant bliss, completely unaware of the corrupt, damaging system around me. As a communications and journalism major, numbers are not “my thing.” I pride myself when I balance my checkbook and cringe when I think of my own personal debt I’ve accumulated. I’ve taken out many loans for my education and haven’t given much thought as to where this money was coming from. I assumed my lender, Sallie Mae Student Loans, was this wealthy lending tree handing out large sums of money to students each year. They too are apparently handing me worthless checks that I’ll be paying them back for over the next ten years of my life. It’s a difficult concept to grasp how businesses can sustain with the constant cycle of loans, debt, and accumulating interest.

3. How can a money system based on perpetual accelerating growth be used to build a sustainable economy?

As radical as it seems, society and the economy could not do without debt. This perpetual cycle of debt, loans, and interest is needed. However, this system is effective in moderation. When the loans are paid back in a timely manner with interest, money is created and banks profit. The loans are used to help citizens further the economy either by using them for educational or business purposes. It is a win-win situation. However, when too many loans are given out and not paid back in a reasonable time span, the debt that is created grows exponentially. A sustainable economy is dependent upon using resources properly, increasing investments, promoting stability along with competition, and developing skills. Debt in moderation can promote these factors of a sustainable economy. However, when it gets out of control, the nation will cripple and it will be up to the government to make the money, not the elite group of dominant bankers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dear FCC...

The debate over media broadcast ownership is ongoing. The FCC is making efforts to localize media because the public deserves the right to diverse, competitive, representative media. Their efforts have been small, however, as citizens are still expressing their concerns. The people want to reclaim the airwaves and determine what is played and who has ownership. The FCC is still faced with some critical questions...

1) Do broadcasters use radio and television to quickly and effectively respond to the local communities needs and interests? Give examples to support your answer.
Broadcasters are on the right track to localise media, but they are still not there yet. The large majority of television stations are national stations, such as NBC, CBS, MTV, Food Network, etc. I believe there may be one or two television stations that cater to my specific region, but they are underfunded and rarely show programming that is of any use to me. Radio tends to be more localized, although all radio stations follow the same cookie cutter format. In 2003, Powell created the Localism Task Force to allow citizens to tell the members of the FCC how their broadcasters were serving localism and diversity. However, Powell made no effort to loosen the ownership rulings. The people of San Antonio were outraged because the FCC was not making decisions in their best interests. I feel that if the FCC were to come to my hometown, they would be received in a similar fashion because our media is simply not localized.

2) Are there certain kinds of local programming (Public Media Values) that should be available, but are not being provided by broadcasters? what could some examples of these be?
It is important to localize media so the entire nation is not being fed the same homogenized information. At Marist College, we have the campus news station, MCTV. This station serves as a channel for students interested in radio/tv/film to produce their work. However, during difficult times on campus, such as an emergency, MCTV has been used as a vehicle for communication. For example, three years ago when I was a freshman, a student died due to meningitis. The station served as a channel to remember the student and to warn other students how to protect themselves against such an illness. This channel is not enough, however. I live in CT and I only know of one station that occasionally shows programs catered to my neck of the woods. Similarly, when there is an emergency in my county there should be a local TV station to turn to to get the inside scoop. Informative stations desperately need to be more localized, although I don't think it's necessary to localize entertainment shows, unless they are highlighting town events.

3)What could the Federal Communication Commission do to promote localism in broadcasting? Explain three of these examples of public-service-oriented projects that are already in process across the US.

There are a number of public-service-oriented projects set in motion across the US to promote localism. One example are municipal broadband systems and community wireless networks. These systems provide inexpensive access to up to date technology parallel to public utilities. Another example are public-interest wireless broadband projects. This allows the public to access the airwaves with high-speed as opposed to sectioning it off for different users. This is a cost effective way for universal broadband access to television, voice, and the Internet. One public service project that is facing controversy are noncommercial community radio stations. Many of these have been shut down, however, out of fear by the National Association of Broadcasters that these stations will cause air wave interference and take away from their listeners.

These public-service-oriented projects are facing many obstacles. They need to get the support they need to aid in the effort to localize programming. This is a subject that has outraged the nation and it is time the FCC starts listening.

The 2008 Presidential Election as Seen through the Struggling Free Press

Robert McChesney makes a number of claims of how the press system is failing in America. His arguments can be related to one of the most important political issues of the moment, the 2008 presidential election. This election is dominating every mass media communication channel and in many ways the candidates have become pop icons and their campaigns have become a reality series. The press influences the public and is responsible for the information they receive. The relationship between our democracy and the press is strong and therefore there needs to be a great deal of responsibility with the press in terms of what material they deliver.

McChesney notes that the majority of Americans who vote are wealthy, upper class citizens. Every election, politicians and celebrities alike encourage the public to go out and vote. However, come Election Day, it appears to be mainly that upper echelon of Americans who actually do. This results in a dangerous cycle of political corruption. Each candidate claims to be the man of the people. In the third 2008 presidential debate, Obama continues to stress his dedication to the working, middle America class. McCain does that same by expressing his desire to reach all Americans and let them experience the “American Dream.” One of the most notable figures from the debate, perpetuated by the media as well, was “Joe the Plumber.” Joe the Plumber is a celebrity in his own right now, as the whole nation is debating whether he’s your average, working American being cheated by high taxes, or an overwhelmingly successful citizen whose quarter of a million dollar a year income puts him above and beyond the classification of working America.

The media is very much responsible for how the candidates, and even Joe the Plumber, are viewed by the public. Media corporations are responsible for creating negative ad campaigns and for airing them. News stations themselves are undeniably biased as well. If you chose to watch the debate on MSNBC, you’re going to get drastically different post debate coverage than if you watched Fox News.

It is important to restore honesty and integrity back into the media. With the demise of mainstream media comes the demise in the success of our political system.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Strange Culture

After the sudden death of his wife, Steve Kurtz suddenly came under fire when officials got suspicious of scientific equipment in his house. The FBI became immediately involved in what became a whirlwind investigation into Kurtz’s private life. Kurtz was a professor at SUNY Buffalo and was doing research as an amateur scientist into the dangers of the bio tech industry and food. He had been doing research for years and now the FBI was pulling at anything to link Kurtz to a case of bio terrorism. They arrested him on a mailing fraud, claiming he and his partner, Ferrell, did not produce the proper paperwork for the bacteria they had ordered. They also became suspicious at the minimal Arabic writing found on an invitation to an art show.

Under the Patriot Act, the FBI was able to use any trace of evidence in an attempt to convict Kurtz of being an agent of terror. The charges were eventually dropped, however it is arguable that if Kurtz was not a professor and a public figure in the Buffalo community, he would not have had the resources to overturn the charges. The FBI was manipulating their evidence and punishing Kurtz and Ferrell for nothing more than collaborating, sharing materials, information, and trust. This is a huge violation of the justice process and an abuse of power by the FBI. Kurtz’s influence in the community made it possible for him to raise awareness and support. However, an everyday citizen may not have the same power to voice his thoughts if he came under the same investigation.

Cult of the Amateur

Thursday, October 2, 2008

IBM...Monitoring your every move

Never did the idea of Big Brother become clearer than when I interned with IBM this past summer. There are over 400,000 people working for IBM globally. One would think there would be some sense of anonymity working for a company that large. On the contrary, this corporate giant has found ways to track every move and thought from its employees, often without them knowing.

A friend of mine, a fellow IBM communications intern, worked in Somers, New York this past summer. She was a hard worker and skilled graphic designer. Her manager, however, was notorious for being flakey, unprofessional, and was going through a divorce and brought his emotional problems to the office far too often. My friend often emailed her manager for guidance on certain assignments or would come to his office when he was available. The manager would respond inappropriately, with questions about her personal life or comments about music he would hear that reminded him of her. My friend was quiet and preferred to not make waves and just deleted the emails and quietly worked on her assignments. At the end of the summer, upper communications management contacted her boss about an assignment that had not been completed. He placed the blame on his “irresponsible” intern. My friend stood up to him and said that she had contacted him numerous times about the assignment and his responses were not constructive. Though the emails had been deleted, upper management was able to access the old emails that were embedded in the system and were able to see everything exchanged between the two employees. I was not around to hear the end of the story in August, although I believe there was talk to have the manager fired.

Accessing emails isn’t the only way IBM tracks its employees. Every employee has a badge with a magnetic strip. Every time you enter a building, hallway, cafeteria, printer hub, and often times a bathroom, one must swipe into it, and somewhere there is a huge database collecting the information on every step we take. Another feature on the IBM intranet service is a program called “Blue Pages.” This is a reference guide to contact every employee in the company. It is mandatory upon hire that employees fill out this page to make communication easier. Although I often loved the freedom to reference phone extensions and email addresses quickly, I often felt uncomfortable having a page display my photo, my cubicle location, the hours I worked, and where I went to school. In addition to Blue Pages, IBM has a number of internal social networking sites that are often made mandatory for employees to use. Many of these policies were made to ensure the safety of its employees or to make the flow of communication easier. It doesn’t, however, protect us if there is a bad egg in the company who will abuse this personal information.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

CNN Joins the Web 2.0 Bandwagon

CNN, the reknown organization offering up to the minute, impartial news, is now joining the Web 2.0 revolution by adding the subset iReport to its website. The addition of iReport allows viewers to contribute news and be involved with the dissemination of news through a major media vehicle. With the world of blogging taking over conventional forms of news, this move to include iReport into their website can allow CNN to keep up with the changing trend.

There are many differences that can be spotted between the traditional CNN format and iReport. The CNN homepage is divided into geographic regions and top stories are separated by topic. Politics dominates the headlines, although other hard hitting news and significant human interest stories are featured as well. The stories are updated regularly and are constantly being rotated as news is breaking.

iReport is supported by submissions from readers, and therefore it is difficult to determine how often the news is updated. The news featured on iReport is personalized material that may not be considered newsworthy by conventional terms. iReport also incorporates many different features of the Web 2.0 revolution, including Twitter and Second Life.

-Marion Herbert & Jessica McClanahan

Baby Steps Towards Blogosphere Credibility

Millions of citizens are regularly updating their blogs or posting YouTube videos with the idealistic hope of being “the one” who exposes the truth. They dream of being a hero among amateur writers by posting what they believe will shed light on a scandal with the government or a corporate giant.

Allowing the average Joe to voice their opinions so freely through the Web 2.0 revolution has had a twofold effect. In some respects, it provides additional checks and balances on our government, major media vehicles, and big corporations. The downfall is that most of these postings are based solely on opinion without credible sources. Without integrity, these writers are almost immediately cast off as being radical conspiracy theorists. Some postings are simply perpetuating rumors, while others make valid points but with little to no proof to back them up.

I found one blog on that I found to hold some validity. The blog was originally posted on, a medical student’s blogging site to discuss medicine and genetics using Web 2.0 tools. While politics and pop culture can be heavily debated, I still like to believe that science can provide irrefutable facts and I therefore turned to a medical blog to seek some truth.

The blog discusses Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, and his announcement that he has a predisposition to Parkinson’s disease. Brin claims to have discovered this through the use of 23andMe, a personalized genetic company co-founded by his wife. In Brin’s blog, he exaggerates and sensationalizes his findings and claims he has an 80 percent chance of having Parkinson’s later in life, and goes on to say how happy he is he discovered this early through the use of 23andMe.

The blog refutes Brin’s claims by having Steve Murphy, a genetics fellow at Yale University, analyze Brin’s data. Murphy claims that Brin’s statements were completely embellished. Brin does not carry the gene that is the leading cause of Parkinson’s, and if he did, it would not ensure him to have an 80 percent chance of contracting it.

This blog did not receive an outrageous amount of press attention. There were no books written about it or guest spots for the author on any late night talk shows. However, his well organized, logical posting did expose the Google founder as a man who misinterpreted genetic data to gain media attention for his wife’s cause. If more blogs could be this rational and fact based, blogs may be accepted as a legitimate source of information and more credit could be given to the amateur.

Despite this blog and other’s significant findings, I still prefer good old fashioned articles and books, like the glory days of Woodward and Berstein, to crack a conspiracy theory.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hi, My name is Marion and I am a Google User

The Web 2.0 revolution has democratized the media, allowing everyone, despite their credentials, to post information onto the web. With no guardians double checking the facts, there is no guarantee that the information you are finding is valid.

I unconsciously tested this theory this past weekend. As much as I would like to think that I am not one of the millions of blind followers using and abusing the web for quick references and information, I was guilty of just that when I found myself actually “Googling” another homework assignment on Plato’s theory of knowledge.

In my course we have three textbooks; three credible, reliable, thorough textbooks with a plethora of facts and cited examples to successfully inform any reader of an overview of Plato’s early political theories. However, these textbooks, with their lofty language, excessive footnotes, and hundreds of daunting pages, can be a bit tedious to sift through. For my political theory class, I needed to study for a quiz and brush up on Plato’s theories of justice and knowledge. My notes were scattered and the textbook discusses the topics briefly in each chapter. I was hoping for answers. I wanted the breakdown of knowledge and justice theories in a condensed, clean, crisp form, something my textbook wasn’t offering me.

My natural instinct is to Google this information. I first typed in “dekay,” one of Plato’s examples of justice, and found my number one Google hot spot to be a blog by a dancer and chemist from Munich, Germany who writes about tango topics ( I then refined my search to try look for “Plato justice knowledge.” The fourth source down the list offered by Google was a link to AntiEssay, a free essay website where anyone can post any essay they want regarding any topic ( These essays, written by amateurs, are posted as factual, reliable references, although they are not. The author of this particular essay had completely inverted the Divided Line theory of knowledge, placing imagination after belief. According to my textbook, this is completely wrong and destroys the entire concept of the Divided Line theory. Being no Plato expert, there could have been countless other mistakes in the essay that I didn’t even realize were false.

It’s important for this generation to kick or Google addiction. This high powered search engine does not always generate the most credible sources of information, and we are suffering for continuing to use them.

My textbook reference….

Klosko, George. History of Political Theory: An Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Political Theory. Wadsworth: California, 2002.