Audiobooks are my JAM*

 

In case you couldn’t tell from the title and the GIF, I love audiobooks. I love reading and I love performance, so an audiobook is the marriage of those two things into a consumable media that I just devour. Also, they are so handy to read when you’re traveling, doing chores, or cooking. Traveling is a particular draw for me, as the audiobooks I listen to are housed online or on my phone, which means I don’t have to carry any extra weight with me when I travel.  Besides all this, I think they are just super neat! Seriously, of the fifteen non-school related books I’ve read in 2019, eleven have been audiobooks.

But there is phrasing around audiobooks that really bothers me, and it is that, supposedly, when one listens to audiobooks they aren’t ‘real’ reading.

Okay, I say after a deep, calming breath, I’ll bite. What are the reasons that audiobooks aren’t ‘real’ reading? 

““I was a fan of audiobooks, but I always viewed them as cheating,” says Beth Rogowsky, an associate professor of education at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania” in Markham Heid’s article Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading? Here’s What Experts Say.

Rogwsky went on to conduct an experiment in 2016 where she had students read the same section of a book on an e-reader and in audiobook. She found that the retention of information from the reading was the same in both formats, although she did say that that might have been because e-books have been shown to sometimes have a smaller retention rate than physical books (Heid, Are Audiobooks). However, we know that this is not necessarily the truth, thanks to Maria Konnikova’s article Being a Better Online Reader where Konnikova finds that difficulties with retention in reading have more to do with distractions than to do with the physical format (Konnikova, Being).

The most compelling evidence that audiobook reading is not ‘real’ reading, in my opinion, is that the spatial and physical aspects of reading a physical book are lost, leading to poorer retention of material (Heid). However, those issues also exist in e-book reading, and I haven’t heard many arguments that ebook reading is not ‘real’ reading, just that you need to read it differently (Konnikova).

Audiobooks have immense benefits that should not be undermined by negative connotations. They can help children who struggle with reading, as we read about in Linda Flanagan’s article, but they can also help readers with disabilities, like dyslexia and blindness. By writing audiobooks off as cheating, people are also writing off those who benefit from audiobooks as less than as well. Also, people get the story the same way whether it be through physical, audio, or e-book.

Different people learn in different ways– for example, I’m a kinetic learner, (with my audio and visual learning coming in second and third, respectively) which means I learn things best when I’m moving. Audiobooks stimulate this for me, as I can move when I’m listening.

In my opinion, audiobooks are just as much of a reading experience as reading a physical or e-book. By saying otherwise, people might forget the ways in which audiobooks excel where the other formats do not.

*seriously, I don’t listen to music anymore HELP ME

Work Cited

Flanagan, Linda. 2016. How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle with Reading. KQED

Heid, Markham. Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading? Here’s What Experts Say. Time. September 06, 2018. Accessed April 02, 2019.

Konnikova, Maria. 2014, July 16. Being a Better Online Reader. New Yorker.

Pub802 Reflection

Me, looking forward to my new relationship with technology

Before taking Pub802, I had a fairly good understanding of a slice of many of the issues surrounding technology and media, but I wasn’t able to express my opinions nearly as coherently as I can now. I also did not have or use information from both sides of arguments to draw upon for my understanding and discussion. In this essay, I will draw upon the objectives stated in our course syllabus to reflect on my experience and growing relationship with technology. 

Objective One: To whet your appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, especially as it relates to the content we consume

This course whet my appetite in that it made me more aware of the effects of digital technologies. This was particularly relevant during Week 6: Copyright! and Week 10: Digital Reading which both focused on the ways in which the internet enables information (especially copyrighted information) to spread more freely and unrestrictedly through the digital space. I am particularly interesting DRM after Week 10, as I have a deep interest in audiobooks and their growing role in the publishing industry. I found Linda Flanagan’s How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle With Reading particularly fascinating.  

Objective Two: To help you develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology related events and trends

This course laid out the current events and trends surrounding technology in a more approachable and in-depth way than I’d previously been exposed to in my own reading. I found that Alex Singh’s twitter thread On the Web’s transition from nomadism to feudalism particularly thought-provoking. I often used this twitter thread as a “historical” lens to view other topics we covered in class. 

Objective Three: To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work

Nothing illustrated this objective to me more than our discussion of how the internet actually works in Week 2: The Web Changes Things. Before this, I never thought of the internet as a physical technology. I also liked the introduction to the intricacies of Youtube in Week 4: Internet Business Models. I’m very interested to see how this particular technology develops and affects society, in both positive and negative ways.

Objective Four: Give you practical experience with three digital publishing tools and formats: blogging (WordPress), wikis (Wikipedia) and annotations (hypothes.is)

My experience with digital publishing tools prior to this course was very limited. I feel like I’m now fairly well versed in word-press and hypothes.is, particularly with the later. I’ve also learned that my online style of annotation is to write many annotations that are on the medium to shorter side, which also mirrors my physical annotation style. One note on hypothes.is; I would like to see an easier way to integrate GIFs. I used them often, but it was difficult to implement them. I have not yet finished my Wikipedia article, but I have finished all of my training and have edited on Wikipedia, which demystified the Wikipedia process a lot for me. 

Objective Five: Allow you to develop and express your own thoughts about various aspects of technology

The blog posts, in particular, were a way for me to thoroughly develop my ideas before expressing them online, as they took a bit more distilling to make them coherent, in comparison to in the class discussion. I do wish that there was a little more direction early on in the blog post assignment. The title was misleading and I felt that it was difficult to express my thoughts in a way that met the assignment requirements. However, as the class progressed I think that my writing about technology became clearer. 

Conclusion

Overall, I thought that the class expanded my understanding of digital technologies and ideas. There were some weeks where I felt that there was a strong overlap of information that perhaps should have been touched on a little less in class. I feel like we discussed data privacy a lot in this class, which is fine, but it meant that we didn’t get to focus as much on other subjects I personally found more interesting. This class did give me a new framework and lenses in which to interact with and view digital innovations. 

I’ll miss these GIFs…

Bibliography

Flanagan, Linda. 2016. How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle with Reading. KQED

Singh, Alex. 2018. On the Web’s transition from nomadism to feudalism. Twitter.

You Either Die a Hero or Live Long Enough to See Yourself Become the Villain (or How to avoid becoming Lex Luthor)

Me, trying to convince myself that I wouldn’t monetize and vastly overuse data-mining as a publisher

If I was a publisher who had access to any data that existed on the internet I think I would be most interested in what readers enjoy about my books and what trends exist in books that sell the best in the long run. I think it is very difficult to predict a bestseller, and even more difficult to get ahold of one as a publisher, but seeing what sells well consistently over time could be a solid plan for your backlist books. This information could be used to pad out your income as a publisher in order to continue to stay open as a company and to take chances on work that is a bit different and is not a sure-in for being a bestseller.

It would also be awesome to tell exactly what will be a bestseller before you spend a bunch of money publishing it, but I think that this particular thing takes a bit more guts than digits, so I’ll leave that for Lynn Neary to debate (Nearly, Publisher’s).

It is easy as a business to fall back on the ‘evil’ practices and just take what you want while your audience is unaware and dazzled by your amazing platform, especially with the commercial success of Facebook and Google to compete with. And it is understandable– unfettered access to people’s private data is a marketer’s candy land and can put tons of money in the bank.

Facebook and Google giving us their business advice

However, I think by being straight forward about what you’re planning on taking and what you’re going to do with it stands on its own as a way for you to prevent privacy violations while still collecting data that can help you as a company. I would plan to be incredibly straight forward with the data I would collect and why I would collect it. I would also try to be straight forward about what I was applying that data too in order to de-mystify the process. Plain language is our friend in this situation.

Another big portion of this question is how the data is being gathered. The only way to ensure that the data is not misused it to collect it yourself and not sell it to marketers, or, if you get it from a company, make sure that it doesn’t go further than your company and that those who have contributed the data know you have it and what you are doing with it. If you go with the first option, it can cost you a ton of money. So unless you have a big income outside of the data mining situation, you could easily be tempted to sell the data you’ve collected to outside marketers. And a lot of times in business the lure of money is too strong to resist, despite your first intentions.

Where everyone using data mining starts out…

Due to this, I think I would be more comfortable collecting the data through a company but making sure that those whose data I  was using were aware I was using it and for what. I also would not collect super personal information, like their address or their names. I would say that a layer of anonymity is needed.

Data analytics and collection is a very controversial topic. Although it is a very uncomfortable subject for many, it is easy to see yourself becoming the villain in a situation where you envision yourself as the business doing the data collection. The best way thing to do is just be honest and upfront about what you’re doing, and to allow your visitors a way to opt out, if they so choose.

 

Work Cited

Neary, Lynn. “Publishers’ Dilemma: Judge A Book By Its Data Or Trust The Editor’s Gut?” NPR, NPR, 2 Aug. 2016, www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/08/02/488382297/publishers-dilemma-judge-a-book-by-its-data-or-trust-the-editors-gut.

🎶Don’t Wanna Be an American Idiot 🎶 (looking at you, Congress)

Overall, I am unsurprised by the lack of data privacy online. I’ve known for a while now that something is tracking what I’m doing as I do it, whether it be Google, Facebook, or Apple. However, it is a bit frightening to see it all laid out in places like Dylan Curran’s twitter feed and to see how google maps tracks our movements throughout the day. What frightens me more than either of these things is what unregulated entities might do with that data on a personal and political scale.

Although I would like to believe the government is attempting to regulate big businesses like Facebook and Google, every day we see that they are focusing on the wrong things. In the Google Congressional Hearing, held on December 11th, 2018, the American Congress had the change to question google on how it abuses data privacy and its way of handling that data after compiling it. Instead of doing that, however, the members of congress decided to focus on things that had nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with the more self explanatory algorithms almost anyone under 50 can understand (Lapawowsky, Congress).

Footage of me watching congress date itself to the age of the dinosaurs

This not only proved that Congress is incredibly out of touch (watch this video for evidence- these congress people are ridiculously embarrassing) but that the government in general is focused on only the superficial issues surround tech giants because they do not understand the more pressing matters. Not to mention, the big companies do not want regulation and we know that big companies have a big stake in government, regardless of what people say.

We’ve seen how companies like Facebook an influence political situation through the 2016 election, with the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. But on a more personal note, a lot of these companies gather data about buying habits that can negatively impact people on a day to day basis. In this case, I will refer to the experience of Gillian Brockell, a woman who continued to receive ads as though she gave birth to a baby after delivering a stillborn child (Kindelan, Woman).

She posted on twitter, stating;

“Please, Tech Companies, I implore you: If your algorithms are smart enough to realize that I was pregnant, or that I’ve given birth, then surely they can be smart enough to realize that my baby died, and advertise to me accordingly — or maybe, just maybe, not at all […] We never asked for the pregnancy or parenting ads to be turned on; these tech companies triggered that on their own, based on information we shared. So what I’m asking is that there be similar triggers to turn this stuff off on its own, based on information we’ve shared…” (Kindelan).

This is just the tip of the iceberg on the way that data mining infringes on privacy. Situations like the Google hearing and like Brockell’s situation (in which I doubt much has been done to change the algorithm, despite public outcry) make me doubt that any government backed venture or internal change is likely to happen any time soon. Until then, I’m just going to accept that I have to be careful with my searches and try to limit what I put online.

 

Work Cited

Kindelan, Katie. “Woman Demands Change from Tech Sites like Facebook, Instagram after Receiving Parenting Ads after Stillbirth.” ABC News. December 13, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Wellness/woman-demands-change-tech-sites-facebook-instagram-receiving/story?id=59799116.

Lapowsky, Issie. “Congress Blew Its Hearing With Google CEO Sundar Pichai.” Wired. December 11, 2018. Accessed March 13, 2019. https://www.wired.com/story/congress-sundar-pichai-google-ceo-hearing/.

A Study in Fair Trade

The question of fair use and fair trade is a hotly contested subject in publishing today, as we’ve seen from our discussions during emerging leaders week, as well as with other guests in previous classes. This post will be focusing on the case of Lenz v. Universal Music Corp or the ‘dancing baby’ case. This case followed the experience of a mother who posted a 27 second video featuring her child dancing to the artist formerly known as Prince’s song ‘Let’s Get Crazy’ for approximately 20 seconds (“Lenz”). The video and audio were reported as being fairly bad quality and the music could apparently barely be heard distinctly in the video.

Universal Music Corp. which held the copyright to ‘Let’s Get Crazy’ issued a request that the video be taken down, which Youtube agreed to do. Lenz replied to youtube, stating that the song’s use was covered under fair use and youtube agreed, reposting the video online. However, this was not the end of the story. Elmo Keep writes that the artist formerly known as Prince declared that he was going to “‘reclaim his art on the internet’ and planned to sue The Pirate Bay, eBay, and others. He also hired Web Sherriff, a company that specializes in wiping copyrighted content from the web, and went about doing just that—thousands of videos with Prince’s music in them disappeared from the internet” (Keep). Both Universal Music Corp (with Prince) and Lenz appeared in court, with UMC arguing that the video was a copyright infringement and Lenz arguing that it was fair use. The court sided with Lenz, allowing the video to reposted on youtube. The video is linked below– it is truly a sight to behold.

 

As much as I love Prince, I have to agree with the court’s decision here. The video is clearly fair use and it is strange to me that UMC and TAFKA Prince decided that this was a venture worthy of their time and money. To me, this seems like more of a publicity stunt by TAFKA Prince to raise awareness for piracy on the internet and to reclaim his brand. This case happened in 2007, when Prince was just beginning to re-enter the public spotlight (2007 was when Prince played an AMAZING half time show at the Super Bowl, see video below) and I think that this particular case might have been a bit of a promotion stunt in order to enter the public conscious again.

Work Cited

Keep, Elmo. “Why Prince Didn’t Want His Music on the Internet.” Splinter. July 24, 2017. Accessed February 28, 2019. https://splinternews.com/why-prince-didnt-want-his-music-on-the-internet-1793856339.

“Lenz v. Universal Music Corp.” Wikipedia. February 17, 2019. Accessed February 28, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenz_v._Universal_Music_Corp.

 

Patreon and the Business Model Question

I think that the biggest challenge and consequence of particular business models becoming dominant is that they are seen as the only options, in the same way that we talked about how capitalism is seen as the only option by many Westerners because it is the most prominent and visible choice.

Many times, lack of diversity leads to abuses of the system at the top, which limits the ability of the creators and the consumers. We can see that in instances like Facebook or Tumblr, where there is a complete disconnect between the admin and the users, but there isn’t really anywhere else that users can go to access the same content.

We can also see it in the case where decisions made on the corporate side of Patreon could affect the way that users could monetize, sending them scurrying to find a new way to collect money from people online but there was nowhere for them to go. Ko-fi is not as widely used as Patreon and it is difficult to set up their own secure methods of monetization on websites.

Many creators rely on Patreon for a significant portion of their annual income in order to continue making their art. When Patreon announced that it was changing its fee structure there was general outcry from creators. Natalie Luhrs scathingly wrote, “The solution, however, seems to be one which is designed to put significantly more cash into Patreon’s pockets as well as the creators’.”

If Patreon had decided to go through with their change, Luhrs states that it would pretty much make any contributions under $5 obsolete. She attaches the graph below with numbers she ran to contrast the proposed fees from Patreon with the current system and states that ” The difference is glaringly obvious” (Luhrs).

If these changes had gone through the users of Patreon would be given a hard choice– either abandon the platform for something else (something unknown, as there are no players in the market currently who seem to be able to compete with Patreon) or accept a big cut to their monthly income.

Luckily Patreon backed out of their decision because of the outcry from creators. They posted a stumbling statement with a title that reads more like a desperate boyfriend trying to get their girl back after they fought than a company apologizing to their users, “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change.

This is clearly a choice they made because they knew that their business would collapse if their creators abandoned the platform. In the article, Jack Conte lists all the problems that the fee created for Patreon users as though they didn’t know about them beforehand and it was only brought to Patreon’s attention because of the outcry, but I find that difficult to believe. This is another instance where the disconnect between admin and users can lead to abuses in the system.

Until more models with different services arise I believe there will be a power imbalance between those who run websites and those who use them/ create content.

Work Cited

Conte, Jack. “We Messed Up. We’re Sorry, and We’re Not Rolling out the Fees Change.” Patreon Blog. December 13, 2017. Accessed February 17, 2019. https://blog.patreon.com/not-rolling-out-fees-change.

Luhrs, Natalie. “Funny Money, Patreon Style.” Pretty Terrible. December 12, 2017. Accessed February 17, 2019. https://www.pretty-terrible.com/funny-money-patreon-style/.

On Using Historical Metaphors for Technological Change

Overall, the reflections that this weeks reading inspired in me haven’t necessarily changed my perceptions of the internet rather than strengthening a lot of my old perceptions and beliefs. I’ve known for a long time that the internet is not the ideal that a lot of people want it to be. That isn’t to say that it is bad, it just isn’t necessarily a place of free information where kings & popes have the same rights as serfs & fools, so to speak. Based on that horrible joke, you can infer which of the metaphors I liked most for the internet in this week’s reading. 

I really enjoyed the twitter thread by Alex Singh that compared the internet of the early days to the nomadic system and our current situation to a  more feudal system. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that summed up and clarified my image of the internet better. I must admit that I am a major history nerd, particularly medieval history, so I found this reading to be very interesting. I particularly liked the observation about the internet “nomadism” where people “had to navigate the web like nomads: from point to point, from link to link” and the comment about more tech-savvy users working as a kind of priestly privileged class that can navigate more freely than other users (Singh). This metaphor does a brilliant job of illustrating the power that companies like Facebook and Google hold over the proverbial layman of the web, ie the common user. The feudal lords do everything in their power to limit the power of the people by offering them something like a house, land or free internet space. The layman has no idea that he is getting the bad end of the bargain, only that he is being supported by the feudal lord. I think this idea makes it very clear just what kind of system we’re working with. 

It also makes me excited for what possibilities exist for the future. If we are now in the feudalistic part of the historical timeline, how will we advance? Will we become a democracy? A communistic system? A meritocracy? A constitutional monarchy? I think that by examining tech through the lens of history we revitalize it in many ways. We also give it historical significance, which is super important, especially in days like these with the news mirroring the 1940s and 50s in dark twists. 

I also really liked the fact that Singh didn’t really favor either of the systems. He had pointed things to say about both nomadism and feudalism. I really like this perspective, as I think it is the most realistic and unbiased, allowing readers to make their own judgments about both systems. 

Work Cited

Singh, Alex. 2018. On the Web’s transition from nomadism to feudalism. Twitter.

My thoughts on the Never-Better, Better-Never, and Ever-Wasers

In Gopnik’s article, he classifies three different ways people respond to technological advancement which are generally defined as follows: the Never-Betters- the optimistic view, the Better-Nevers- the more pessimistic view, and the Ever-Wasers- the middle ground.

As a whole, I think that I fall in with the Never-Betters. I think technological advancement is generally a good thing, if it is tempered with common sense and left without altruistic intentions. I know that this isn’t often the case, but I think humans are capable of being good to each other and thinking of the common good.

As a society, I think we are divided pretty solidly between the three classifications. The older generations and the general news circuit usually fall into the Better-Nevers, as they focus pretty extensively on the failings of new technology and the dangers of the next generation of tech. Although there are negative aspects of tech, I think a lot of the media/political coverage about technology aimed at older people is an attempt at fear mongering. A good example of this is the recent Google hearings, where the head of Google was interviewed by government officials. Although the hearings did have an important purpose (to investigate how google stores private data, etc) it turned into a media frenzy, where older politicians asked incredibly ignorant and personalized questions about Google search.

Young people seem a little more optimistic about the possibilities of the internet. This optimism seems to be changing a little bit, with the current political climate and the state of social media. I think, more than being distrustful, the younger generation is more aware of the “rules” of technology. There are certain social norms on the internet that have grown, despite the “lawless old west” vibe it exudes. Generally, younger people know to double check their sources and to be more skeptical of the internet in and of itself, but they generally utilize new technology more than the older generations.

There have always been dire warnings about the power of new technologies. These warnings have presented themselves through the generations in books like 1984 and The Time Machine and now in TV shows like Westworld and Black Mirror. In many ways, 1984’s predictions have come into being, with devices like Alexa and the Russian bot interference in the 2016 US Election. These warnings make us distrustful of technology, but in a way that doesn’t disparage it completely. The robots in Westworld are often more human than the human characters. The robots in the show are used to hold up a mirror to society in a way that modern technology can be used to hold up a mirror to us.

I think a community’s view of technology often corresponds with what they want to see, rather than what is truly there.