Posted by: listonjoe | October 9, 2014

Mediating Reality and Social Media

It wasn’t more than a few moments after reading the explanation of ‘mediated reality’ (the third chapter of ‘Mediating the Message in the 21st Century’) that I began to wonder about the effect of today’s social media environment on this concept, as I understand it.

For example, how do social media outlets, like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook today mediate reality differently than traditional media? The book itself asks whether a personal observation provides you with a more ‘truthful’ view of what is being presented, versus what the media portrays. What about thousands, or even millions of nearly-real time reports from individual ‘reporters’?

Thinking back on the Boston Bombings, which I followed closely on Twitter and traditional media, I found myself following individuals and police in that area, along with the more traditional media outlets. Understanding the reality of that horrible event involved sorting through what might be rumor and speculation, with kernels of actual truth sprinkled throughout. Absolute reality to me was the validated reports that the traditional media reported on after the fact.

Perhaps even in a world with millions of voices, we still rely on organized, traditional media to mediate our reality and present the truth.

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Responses

  1. “Thinking back on the Boston Bombings, which I followed closely on Twitter and traditional media, I found myself following individuals and police in that area, along with the more traditional media outlets.

    […]

    Perhaps even in a world with millions of voices, we still rely on organized, traditional media to mediate our reality and present the truth.”

    Yes, this.

    In fact, the response during the atrocity that occurred in Boston has become a staple of a case-study in how the government communicates information to its citizens. Click through for some interesting information/statistics:

    https://blog.twitter.com/2013/the-boston-bombing-how-journalists-used-twitter-to-tell-the-story

    Being citizens on the West Coast we are entirely removed from the immediate effects of the reality that was unfolding on the streets in Boston. Being able to tap into live feeds of information from individuals and institutions was instrumental in forming a frame of mind. Like you pointed out, “the reality of that horrible event involved sorting through what might be rumor and speculation, with kernels of actual truth sprinkled throughout. Absolute reality to me was the validated reports that the traditional media reported on after the fact.”

    To some degree, one could argue that this deciphering of information from various outlets is treated as, for lack of a better term, a sort of intellectual cat-and-mouse game. It’s as though there is a theatrical production unfolding in which we, as the removed audience, take part in trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t. We become more than a passive audience, we take form as investigators and researchers as we tap into different channels and discuss with our peers. We then cross-check what we have learned and hypothesized about w/ reputable institutions as a form of critical analysis of our ability to perform educated guesses.

  2. I think you raise a very interesting question; one that professional journalists have been trying to answer since the advent of social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… allow people to post up-to-date information about current news, like the Boston bombing n your above provided example.

    One of the advantages to doing this is that the public can be instantly informed about what’s going on in situations like these, but one of the disadvantages is that a lot of the information provided through social media is not accurate. People often post what they think, rather than factual information about the situation.

    When it comes to examples like the Boston bombing, I think people tend to lean toward traditional media outlets because they have a large reputation for reporting truthful, and accurate information. Journalists as these kinds of companies heavily research what’s going on during events like these, often having access to officials and other public figures that members of the public do not have.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think social media is both a blessing, and a curse to journalists who are trying to distinguish what information is accurate, and what is just people’s personal opinions on the matter during events like these.

  3. “One of the advantages to doing this is that the public can be instantly informed about what’s going on in situations like these, but one of the disadvantages is that a lot of the information provided through social media is not accurate. People often post what they think, rather than factual information about the situation.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Text posts on social media and other online forums can be false. In fact, we found that out specifically in the aftermath of the Boston bombing, when poetasters on Reddit named an innocent person as an accomplice.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10012382/Boston-bomb-Reddit-apologises-for-identifying-wrong-suspects.html

    In fact, the Twitter hashtag #BostonBombing was held up after the fact by The Atlantic as a shining example of BAD journalism.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/04/-bostonbombing-the-anatomy-of-a-misinformation-disaster/275155/

    Photos and video are much harder to fake or get wrong than written information. In our class, guest speaker Brenda Buratti of KGW revealed that the TV station reposts user-hastaggged Twitter photos to its own website as eyewitness testimony without contacting second sources. She assumes photos are not going to be doctored by sources, and indeed, they probably won’t be. The technical knowhow required in a short span of “breaking news” time is too great. Somebody will eventually burn us with this, of course.

    In any case, a photo or video uploaded to Twitter will generally be a lie or the truth, not opinion or hearsay.


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