Tag Archives: Facebook

Lecture: Games Culture

Twitch.

Twitch.

I gave a lecture to second years at the University of Huddersfield on games culture today. It’s part of a module called Digital Cultures, and I spoke to the same group about trolling last term. The presentation I gave this time, complete with inevitable retro Prezi backdrop, can be found here.

Covering gaming and games culture in a single lecture is an impossible task, so by way of introduction I thought I’d give the students a quick overview of four separate areas among the many I could have chosen: games in culture (including the almost inevitable and rather tedious moral panics and stereotyping which still surround gamers in much of the mainstream media), the economy of gaming, gaming communities and games as art.

During the section on communities I got onto the subject of e-sports, and in particular Twitch, the platform bought by Amazon for almost $1bn last year. Only a couple of the students said they’d heard of the site, which was interesting, because when I did a session with some 12 and 13-year-olds last year most said they’d not only seen it but actually used it to watch gamers in action.

In her 2012 book Raising The Stakes, sociologist TL Taylor looks at the increasing professionalisation of gaming. She concludes it’s been a way for hardcore gamers to reclaim their niche, in a world now increasingly dominated by gaming on smartphones and Facebook. As more people than ever play casually, Twitch is the latest and biggest example of some gamers going further to turn their passions into something more serious. It’ll be very interesting to see how this whole area of games culture evolves, and whether more positive coverage for gaming and gamers in the mainstream media will be one result.

Lecture: Trolling

sackbrunt

Having exposed a troll in ultimately tragic circumstances, Sky’s Martin Brunt is now himself being trolled.

I gave today’s lecture in the second year Digital Cultures module here at the University of Huddersfield. The presentation I gave can be found here.

I showed the students some of the most recent high-profile examples of trolling and related behaviour, from the ultimately tragic case of Brenda Leyland to the row involving Dapper Laughs and what happened after he was called out by UsVsTh3m. I then discussed some of the academic research into the motivations that lie behind trolling, before considering the various ways in which government, the police and others have responded to trolling.

I took as the starting point of the lecture a definition of trolling outlined in a paper published this year by Erin Buckels, Paul Trapnell and Delroy Paulhus, called Trolls Just Want To Have Fun. It suggests: “Online trolling is the practice of behaving in a deceptive, destructive, or disruptive manner in a social setting on the Internet with no apparent instrumental purpose.”

It’s not bad as definitions go. Some have suggested that Brenda Leyland wasn’t really a troll, because as the parents of Madeleine McCann aren’t on Twitter themselves, her tweets about them weren’t aimed at them personally. However, I’d say her tweets could probably be considered “deceptive, destructive, or disruptive” – and possibly all three – and certainly existed in a social setting online, so would fall under that definition.

However, the case of Dapper Laughs and the apparent trolling of UsVsTh3m journalist Abi Wilkinson and others by his fans which took place on Snapchat, pushes this definition to its limit. Snapchat is more of a private than a social setting, and you although you access it using the internet, any trolling on Snapchat is done in the form of direct messaging not open to the general public. I suppose the same would go for Twitter DMs or anything sent by Facebook Messenger. It’s not even a year old, but perhaps it’s already time to stretch that definition a bit.

Lecture: Law Refresher And Recent Cases

I gave another media law lecture to the first year journalism students at the University of Huddersfield this week. After giving a series of five last term, this was billed as a refresher. But instead of going over all the same ground, I picked out a few recent legal issues and examined how the laws I’d previously taught them played out in those cases, including the Dave Lee Travis trial.

I also included a bit on election law (well, it is the season), including a reflection on Ofcom’s decision to categorise UKIP as a major party for the first time, at the forthcoming European election. I still think it’s unlikely they will be treated as a major party at next year’s general election, even if they top the poll next month, but real votes in real elections will make them harder to ignore when it comes to the big set-piece TV debates.

The presentation is here.

Using Instagram Video In The Classroom

The new Instafax service from BBC News.

The new Instafax service from BBC News.

I was in Leeds yesterday, leading a practical session for some BTEC media and journalism students at the City College. I thought I’d give them an insight into something new they could expect to learn more about during any future university course they might do, so put together a one-hour workshop on smartphone video, using Instagram Video.

Launched last summer, Instagram’s video function allows users to stop-and-start their way to little 15 second clips that be easily shared. Its rival, Twitter’s Vine, lets you make six second videos which loop. This last point seems to give Vine the edge for creativity, but BBC News recently began experimenting with Instagram Video for a service it calls Instafax. They’re little mini-bulletins featuring some still images, a bit of text and background music, currently sent out about three or four times a day.

It’s too early to say whether others will seek to copy Instafax, but with 130 million active monthly users, Instagram appears to be too popular for media companies to ignore.

In yesterday’s session, after rattling through some of these points and explaining why smartphone video is another important piece of kit in the toolbox of the modern journalist, I gave the students ten minutes to make their own short clips on anything topical they liked.

I’d hoped to send them outside, but I turned out to be giving the session on the 11th floor, so I just got them to see what they could find in the corridors. One made one on the lift which wasn’t working, which seemed like a newsworthy enough story to me having walked up 11 flights of stairs! Getting the students to save the clips on a particular hashtag meant I could use one of the many Instagram desktop viewers to take the group through some of their work and give a bit of feedback.

The presentation I gave is here.

Lecture: Copyright Law

I delivered my latest media law lecture to the journalism and media first years at the University of Huddersfield this morning. It was on copyright law, with a particular focus on the law as it applies to social media.

It’s a bit of a challenge making copyright law interesting enough to sustain the attention of several dozen students in a large lecture hall for close to an hour. But I did my best, using clips and examples ranging from the IT Crowd, the recent plagiarism row involving Carly Fallon and the Press and Journal, the familiar story of Peter Pan and Great Ormond Street Hospital, as well as who exactly owns what on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Wikipedia, Flickr and all the rest.

The full presentation is here.

Lecture: Social Media And PR

I’m teaching some first year classes on public relations this semester, and as part of the course I gave a lecture last week on the role of social media in PR.

I decided to make the retail battle for Christmas the central theme of it, which naturally meant showing the John Lewis bear and hare advert. It’s up to ten million views on YouTube now, ten times what Marks and Spencer’s similarly big-budget offering has managed, and 100 times more than the effort by Debenhams.

Not that YouTube views necessarily translate into cash in the till. But in just a few years of these adverts, John Lewis has apparently managed to supplant Coca-Cola as the big brand that ‘says’ Christmas. That’s except for viewers in Scotland, who still seem to love Irn Bru’s version of the Snowman best of all.

Here’s the full Prezi presentation.

Using Buzzfeed In The Classroom

The BuzzFeed Community dashboard.

The BuzzFeed Community dashboard.

We’ve had a group of A-level students from Sheffield College at the University of Huddersfield today, having a Focus Day in the Journalism and Media department. They’ve each taken part in a series of hour-long workshops on different aspects of our teaching, and I led the sessions on social media.

Thinking about how best to tackle this in such a short time, I decided to get each group to contribute to a single Buzzfeed list. Partly because it avoids the hassle of having to get everyone set up on the same social network at the start of each workshop (almost everyone was on Twitter and Facebook, but one or two said they’d left for various reasons), and partly because I thought teaching the students about how to comb YouTube and Flickr Creative Commons for material might be a useful skill they’d take away with them. And besides, I reckoned they’d all have at least seen Buzzfeed, so would quite enjoy it.

There were four groups, and here are the four lists they made. I told them to promote their own on social media over the coming week, to see which ends up with the most views (access to these analytics being one of the advantages of Buzzfeed’s Community feature, another being its dead easy CMS).

8 Things We Hate About Sheffield

8 Signs You Grew Up In Sheffield

What Not To Do In Sheffield

8 Best Bands In Sheffield History

Here’s the Prezi I used to run the sessions. After a bit of a preamble about the changing media, I introduced them to Buzzfeed (most had seen the lists before through social media shares, often without realising the website itself was called Buzzfeed), got them to pick a topic and gave a brief overview of searching on YouTube and Flickr. Then after they’d found something each, I put the list together on the board with input from everyone. It seemed to go pretty well, and as an activity it fitted into an hour quite nicely.

“Is this what you actually do in lessons?” someone asked. Well, not all the time.

The Facebook Beheading Videos Row

blog

The university’s View from the North blog.

As the controversy about beheading videos on Facebook restarted this week, I wrote a post about it on the University of Huddersfield’s View from the North blog, on which academics write about assorted current events. I’ve reproduced the post below.

WATCHING VIDEOS of people being beheaded is not a pleasant experience.  I remember once mistakenly seeing unedited footage of a beheading in Iraq, as it came into the newsroom of a TV channel I was working for.  The main lesson I took from it was to do what I could to avoid seeing another one.

But if I really wanted to, I could now satisfy my curiosity by visiting Facebook.  The social network has quietly reversed its previous ban on the posting of beheading videos.  Quietly that is, until today, when the change attracted the full attention of the media.  David Cameron even used Twitter, Facebook’s bitter rival, to condemn the decision as “irresponsible”.

It’s not especially controversial to say that beheading videos are bad in general, and that watching them is probably bad for us too.  But the dilemma facing Facebook is more complicated than that.  It comes down to this: is Facebook a publisher, or a platform?  Or put another way: is it more like ITV, or a simple transmitter?

If ITV broadcast the beheading video currently being shared on Facebook, it would be subject to potential sanctions from its regulator, Ofcom.  But in Facebook’s case, there is no regulator.  Nobody can fine it or take away its licence, even though members of the public have accessed the video using Facebook as surely as a theoretical TV viewer might access it using a particular channel.

The argument made by social networks that they are merely platforms for others to post content is fine up to a point.  But where Facebook in particular gets on to crumbly ground is when it refuses to censor beheading videos on one hand, but steps in to enforce its own ‘Community Standards’ on the other.

It rules all sorts of things out of bounds, from fake accounts to pictures of self-harming. You can understand the reasons why. But Facebook knows the more it intervenes, the more it edges away from the transmitter towards the publisher.  That could mean extra responsibilities for proactively policing material across its one billion users, which would be extremely costly in time and money.  Facebook would much rather leave it to us.

 

A Brief Lesson On The Power Of Buzzfeed And Facebook

My Buzzfeed opus on Aberdeen.

My Buzzfeed opus on Aberdeen.

You’ll be familiar with Buzzfeed and its listicles, the eminently clickable posts which have helped turn the site into one of the internet’s rising stars. But you may not be aware of Buzzfeed’s Community feature, which lets anyone put together posts for the site. As a bit of an experiment yesterday, I thought I’d have a go at doing one, to see how quickly it spread.

Calling on my hazy memories of my hometown and scanning Flickr’s Creative Commons for pictures, I quickly put together 31 Signs You Grew Up In Aberdeen in what I hoped was a suitably Buzzfeed style. I tweeted it once, Facebooked it once, stuck it on the Aberdeen subreddit, and waited.

But I didn’t have to wait very long. I was soon receiving emails from Buzzfeed telling me that the views were piling up. Helpfully, I didn’t have to take their word for it, because the Buzzfeed Community pages allow you to personally check the analytics for your post, so I could see it all for myself. Within 24 hours, it had 45,000 views.

My post made it onto the front page of the UK site for a while, and the BuzzfeedUK Twitter account promoted it once too, but the analytics show that it’s been overwhelmingly spread using Facebook. About two-thirds of total views are from Facebook, and almost all the rest are either clicks on the Buzzfeed site itself or are classed as Dark Social – sharing via email, third party Twitter clients and the like. Views from Reddit are only in the dozens, although that may be because the Aberdeen subreddit is not exactly one of the busiest pages on there. Views from search engines are in even smaller numbers, so far at least.

At the risk of reading too much into one little experiment which I did for fun (seeing friends I know on Facebook sharing the post without realising who’d actually written it was certainly that), it’s been a reminder to me of the persistent power of Facebook. We in the media might snark about it, but ordinary people are still on there in large numbers. And it seems ordinary people like listicles.

Leeds MA Course Lecture 5, Social Media And The Arab Spring

I gave the last of my five lectures to MA International Journalism students in Leeds today. It was on social media and the role it is, and isn’t, playing in the ongoing uprisings of the Arab Spring.

As a journalist rather than an academic, I thought the students might appreciate a journalist’s perspective on it all. After putting the Arab Spring into a bit of historical context, I examined some of the ways in which social media and other new technologies were used, and looked at the response of the mainstream international media to the material being generated and shared in this way, including from citizen journalists.

But I told the students not to get too carried away with the notion of a ‘Facebook Revolution’ – just as the Romanian Revolution in 1989 wasn’t caused by people watching Yugoslavian TV in secret. It played a role as a way of spreading information quickly, but it was just one factor among many.

Here’s the full presentation: http://prezi.com/t1az4bd0nwoq/ma-lecture-5-university-of-leeds/