Social Media Promised a Voice For All, Instead We Got Troll Farms

This is a remix of UP Tech Talk S06E02: Trolls, Tales, Twitter, and Thoughts - my conversation with cohosts Ben Kahn and Maria Erb of UP's Academic Technology Services

My preface: I grew up in a different media environment in the fifties and sixties. My information flow was controlled by big corporate media gatekeepers - network TV, record industry, newspapers, magazines, Hollywood.  I taught a media studies class in the seventies and eighties. It was all very McLuhan - how TV was shaping our thought.

When the digital revolution (and later social media) came along, my first reaction: "This is great. The barriers to entry are down and the media gatekeepers are dying off." I was publishing print on demand paperbacks and later multi-touch eBooks with my students. I was blogging, posting "how-to" videos on my own YouTube playlists and excited to network on Twitter chats with colleagues. I was advocating for my students to do the same - be content creators, not just consumers. 

I thought that social media would emerge as a low-barrier way for people to share information and that the "best content" would rise in a "marketplace of ideas." But now I realize that because of the algorithms, we're not in a common media space. We say we're on Facebook, but the Facebook that I see is different than the Facebook that somebody else sees. The social media business models hype "engagement" and the most outrageous content rises to the top. Trolls and bots further game the algorithms and we end up awash in "junk" news.

Maria, Ben and I discussed the current state of social media, where we've been and where we're heading.

Peter, Maria and Ben

“WW III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” ~ Marshall McLuhan, “Culture Is Our Business”, 1970, p. 66

Here's a collection of essential reading on the subject

Made with Padlet

Image credit:  Adobe Spark  - UnSplash / ian dooley @nativemello

iPhone Walking Tour of Historic Japantown Portland

japantownpdx

I’m pleased to introduce you to Japantown PDX, a free iPhone app that I designed with the assistance of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, GammaPoint LLC, and my students at the University of Portland. Explore Portland Oregon’s historic Japantown with this user-friendly walking tour. The city’s vibrant pre WWII Japanese American community is archived in over 125 photographs and audio clips. This GPS-enabled app guides you through Portland’s eight block Japantown, a bustling community in the early decades of the twentieth century – better known today as the colorful Old Town / Chinatown neighborhood. Map

Japantown PDX Judo Obukan

The free iOS app documents the vitality of this once thriving “Nihonmachi” and its sudden disappearance in the spring of 1942 when all persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from the West Coast and placed in America’s concentration camps during WWII. In addition to telling Portland’s Japantown story, the app explores the remarkably diverse Old Town neighborhood in tour stops that honor its African American, Chinese and LGBT roots.

Todd Mayberry, the Director of Collections and Exhibits at Nikkei Legacy Center speaks to the role this app can play in promoting the historic importance of Portland’s Nihonmachi and the need to preserve it from the ever-present threat of historically inappropriate over development.

“This innovative app will guide users beyond the walls of our museum and into the heart of Portland’s historic Japanese American community. Explore our streets and buildings guided by our narrator and mapped collections of photographs. We can’t wait to welcome you back to our home.”

App Features
Our goal was to design a user-friendly app suitable for all technical “abilities.” We began by surveying the Nikkei Center’s rich collection of historic photos for location-specific images. The most notable and well-documented became our tour stops. When we had historic exterior shots we photographed the contemporary scene replicating the view. Thus users can watch historic Japantown street life reappear in “then and now” dynamic photographic dissolves. Each stop has multiple historic and contemporary images, text and an audio narration. We had many historic photos that told the story of a vibrant community, but they lacked location. We decided to include them in the app as a “Gallery Section.” The app also allows users to share image content with built in Facebook and Twitter buttons.

Then and Now Photo Japantown PDX

We also wanted to weave in an underlying narrative – the story of WWII’s Executive Order 9066, the forced incarceration of the neighborhood’s Japanese Americans first at the “temporary” Portland Assembly Center and eventually at the Minidoka concentration camp located in southern Idaho. While the app is location based, we elected to give it an narrative arc that begins with an opening audio greeting voiced by Jean Matsumoto who grew up in the pre-WWII Japantown. Jean and her family were among over 110,000 Japanese Americans that were removed from the West Coast and incarcerated without trial. The app details other stories of forced relocation and re-population of the the neighborhood after the war and invites users to learn more by exploring the exhibits at the Nikkei Legacy Center in the heart of historic Japantown. Map

UP Students Explore Nikkei Center Exhibits

UP Students Explore Nikkei Center Concentration Camp Exhibit

About the Project Team
This app grew out of a collaboration between my Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland and the Nikkei Legacy Center. It was one of three curriculum design projects undertaken by students in support of the museum’s educational outreach. For more see my post Student Consultants Design Museum Curriculum and Mobile App. 

Japantown PDX Map view

My class served two roles in the app development – the entire class became our focus group – discussing what they thought needed to be in the app – both from the perspective of user experience and their growing knowledge of the history of Portland’s Japantown. Three student’s worked more directly – narration (Aram Glick), audio recording (Collin Soderberg-Chase) and logo (Samuel TS Kelly). I worked closely with Todd Mayberry to select content and images.

The other key team member was GammaPoint LLC a Portland-based mobile app developer and designers of my favorite workout app - WeatherRun. GammaPoint was interested in designing a user-friendly platform that would allow organizations to develop their own tour apps with a minimum amount of assistance. Our project served as their beta. We worked with GammaPoint on developing the tour design, generating prototypes which were then evaluated by my students and Nikkei Center. For example, we discovered that while we had a wealth of video interviews of former Japantown residents, their file size bloated the app. We used plist files to upload data to GammaPoint and tested their new web-based upload tool. It has now evolved into GammaPoint’s App4Tour which promises to be an affordable way for users to create their own multi-media rich tours with minimum of technical assistance.

Get a iPhone 5s Or Switch to Android?

ios-android-war-iphoneindia

My iPhone 4s is coming off contract soon and before I replace it with the iPhone 5s / iOS 7, I thought I should do some research on Android-based smartphones (no interest in Windows mobile, sorry Steve).

My good friend Mike Gwaltney had great idea to end the guesswork – try an Android for awhile before I get caught up in next week’s iPhone launch frenzy. So two days ago, I took his advice and bought a Nexus 7 at Best Buy (two week return policy).

What follows is my initial experience with the Android OS. Keep in mind that I’m a Android newbie and I’m not certain how much of the Nexus 7 experience will carry over to an Android smartphone. Nor am I interested in the Nexus 7 hardware – my real goal is a new smartphone not an Android tablet. The superb audio and video Netflix stream on the Nexus 7, doesn’t tell me much about the Android smartphone experience. Android or not, the Nexus 7 goes back to Best Buy next week. (I enjoy creating multi-touch iBooks – can’t view them on a Nexus 7)

I was already using many Google services – Chrome, Gmail, G Drive – all that content was on the Nexus as soon as I logged into Google. But I’ve never used Google for contacts and calendar – they’re hosted on iCloud and synched between my Mac, iPad, iPhone and MacBook Air. My first goal was to get those over to the Nexus 7. I found a very easy (and free) solution for for moving contacts to Google – the (free) Bump app. I loaded Bump on my iPhone and Nexus 7 and did the bump. Selected all contacts and over they went. Looks like Bump can also move photos and audio files. (Though there must be better ways to do that.)

Moving to Google Calendar was much more challenging. I looked online at discussion groups and searched “Help” at Google and none of the solutions seemed to work. Eventually I found the SmoothSync app ($2.86 at Google Play). It moved my calendar to the Nexus 7, but strangely my appointments don’t show up in the desktop versions of Google Calendar. Haven’t fixed that yet, but my iCloud and Nexus 7 calendar are syncing with new updates in both directions.

I downloaded a bunch of my key apps to the Nexus 7 – Dropbox, Evernote, 1Password, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. For the most part they look and behave like their iOS counterparts. LinkedIn somehow manages to have an equally confusing notification system on both platforms. The only app the varied greatly between platforms was 1Password. The Android version does not support selecting specific sections of text for copying to clipboard in the secure notes or attachments – very challenging if you have any important data stored that way,

Finally I tried my hand at customizing the home screen. I’d been impressed with all cool themes, wallpapers and widgets that I had seen online. So many to choose from, though some customizations didn’t function very well. When I tapped on the cool non-skeuomorphic icon for my calendar, I didn’t see my appointments, I was offered more settings for customizing the calendar icon widget. After wasting a few hours trying to trick out my home screen I ended up creating something that in retrospect looks a lot like my iPhone home screen.

So I’m 48 hours into Android. If I had to make a decision right now, I’d stick with the iPhone. So far I haven’t found any big advantages with Android. And getting my wife and I moved over from iOS and still maintaining synch with our Mac desktops seems like far too much work. But I’ll give it a few more days.

Update Sept 20, 2013
Returned my Nexus 7 to Best Buy a few days ago.
Here’s me waiting in line to get the new iPhone 5s 64GB (Black  - No bling for me).
Note: I’m the only Mac FanBoy reading an actual book.

mac fan boy line

Image credit Flickr: George Thomas/ios-android-war-iphoneindia

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