Fast Food News And Information Obesity

Article was originally published on the Iras Global Observer as part of a new collaboration project between their site and The Conversation Room

Be it the colossal shift in our diets towards snacking processed food to the life changing opportunities of international travel arising from commercial aviation, history shows that for better or worse human behaviour and consumption patterns are shaped by new technologies.

In 2017, nowhere is technology changing our behaviour more rapidly than through mobile consumption of news and information. The research group Pew found that the number of United States citizens who receive news through a mobile device rose from 54% in 2013 to 72% in 2016.

In their more detailed report analysing the demographics of news consumption, Pew found that:

“While solid majorities of both those ages 50-64 (72%) and those 65+ (85%) often get news on TV, far smaller shares of younger adults do so (45% of those 30-49 and 27% of those 18-29). Alternatively, the two younger groups of adults are much more likely than older adults to turn to online platforms for news – 50% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 49% of those ages 30-49 often do so.”

The data shows the explosive effect of smartphone technology and a global youth migration to social media platforms for news and information. In the past people might skim the morning paper on the train to work or catch the six o’clock news while making dinner but today we have an endless minute by minute drip of news and information at the end of our fingertips.

For news outlets this presents stark new challenges. Rather than only competing with other newspapers and magazines in a shop window, news outlets must now fight on a global scale through the thick grass of cat memes and clickbait to fight for our attention and clicks.

This seismic shift in publishing and consumption was aptly summarized by Katherine Viner, editor of the Guardian and Observer who noted in a recent address:

“The transition from print to digital did not initially change the basic business model for many news organisations – that is, selling advertisements to fund the journalism delivered to readers. For a time, it seemed that the potentially vast scale of an online audience might compensate for the decline in print readers and advertisers. But this business model is currently collapsing, as Facebook and Google swallow digital advertising; as a result, the digital journalism produced by many news organisations has become less and less meaningful.”

Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds contain everything from superficial selfies to news of nuclear Armageddon, delivering content in one messy mashup without significant demarcation between news and fun. Information is not ranked in degree of importance or category but algorithmically ranked in its importance to advertisers and what the hosting platform believe will hook your attention the most.

From annoying, automatic advertisements to eye catching, irresistible clickbait, cynical tactics are employed to suck us into a never-ending cycle of meaningless clicks and consumption.

Viner notes:

“Publishers that are funded by algorithmic ads are locked in a race to the bottom in pursuit of any audience they can find – desperately binge-publishing without checking facts, pushing out the most shrill and most extreme stories to boost clicks. But even this huge scale can no longer secure enough revenue.”

This highlights how the capacity for mainstream media to operate its dualistic goal of being a trusted information outlet and a commercially viable business in the digital age have come into radical reconsideration. Subscription based services have failed to garner significant support and reliance on ad revenue means journalists are evermore replaced by BuzzFeed style “content creators” often pumping out 10 commodified stories a day without making a phone call.

“Where once we had propaganda, press releases, journalism, and advertising,” the academic Emily Bell has written, “we now have ‘content’.” Readers are overwhelmed: bewildered by the quantity of “news” they see every day, nagged by intrusive pop-up ads, confused by what is real and what is fake, and confronted with an experience that is neither useful nor enjoyable.

The information overload is having drastic consequences on our mental health and collective social wellbeing. On an individual level the constant competition for our attention can leave many miserable, anxious and eventually feeling they have lost valuable time and years to aimlessly scrolling through newsfeeds and consuming junk news.

There’s also the superficial egoism which has crept into news consumption. If you share an article from the Guardian about climate change, you are signalling to the world that you are a caring liberal who is concerned about the imminent ecological collapse of our world. Sharing news, just like sharing photos of your food has become all about ego and brand. #Vegan #NewYorkTimes.

From a wider societal perspective, we cannot underestimate the massive loss of a common sphere of news. One of the primary public goods of media is the power to engender public debate and provide a platform for different societal groups to communicate with one another. Yet Facebook is wilfully blind to the interests of community and the public good. All its algorithm sees is individual consumers whose attention can be captured and monetized by concentrating content they know you will click upon.

When claims that Russia had hired trolls to bombard certain demographics of the U.S population with “fake news” during the 2016 U.S Presidential election the damage caused may have been more subliminal than obvious. It is not that people believe fake stories (well some believed Hillary Clinton was operating a child sex ring in a Washington DC Pizza parlour) but that they are bombarded with so much information that it becomes disorienting and difficult to determine what to believe and who to trust. This misanthropic media landscape of misinformation and mistrust is a serious threat to the future of liberal democracy.

Individuals are following news that never challenges but only reinforces their ideas about the world and tailors a narrative of world events to suit the audience. Thus, once established an online community can be far more important to individuals than their geographical one. Democracy today is waking up to a world where people are physically living beside each other but digitally couldn’t be further apart.

 

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CALL FOR WRITERS

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The Conversation Room has been featuring some great op-eds lately and I’d love people to keep contributing rather than me just giving my opinions and perspective all the time.

We’ve already featured some amazing contributing writers from Kenya to Pakistan, Greece to Spain and are looking to add to the global team.

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Thanks,

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Your Phone is Designed to Control You And Your Life

An alarming new report from The Economist exposes the extent to which tech companies are exploiting our psychological impulses to keep us hooked to our smartphones.

 

It often goes over our head the influence that tech products exert over our behaviour. Former google employee and leader in promoting design ethics in tech Tristan Harris explains:

 “Companies say, we’re just getting better at giving people what they want. But the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Is each one a conscious choice? No. Companies are getting better at getting people to make the choices they want them to make.”

Behaviour Design 

How have companies mastered this? It all stems from the expert study of “Pursuasive Technology Design” an illustrious programme spearheaded by Professor BJ Fogg of Stanford University which has produced everyone from the creators of Instagram to the people at the top of tech in Apple and Google.

Be it the emails that induce you to buy right away, the apps and games that rivet your attention, or the online forms that nudge you towards one decision over another: all are designed to hack the human brain and capitalise on its instincts, quirks and flaws. The techniques they use are often crude and blatantly manipulative, but they are getting steadily more refined, and, as they do so, less noticeable.

And it’s not just tech companies who are adopting this tactic. Even banking and insurance companies have started modelling their customer interface design along the lines of Candy Crush.

“It’s about looping people into these flows of incentive and reward. Your coffee at Starbucks, your education software, your credit card, the meds you need for your diabetes. Every consumer interface is becoming like a slot machine.”

It’s a startling phenomenon of the digital age and something we should all be aware and conscious of. We wouldn’t allow our family or friends become addicted to gambling so why don’t we care about addiction to social media which to the brain is the same thing?

The exciting explosion of smartphone technology has overshadowed the questioning of it’s potentially more pernicious effects and we have nonchalantly accepted the terms and conditions without reading the small print.

Check out Tristan Harris explain how it works in more detail below:

 

Read the Economist article in full here:

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/the-scientists-who-make-apps-addictive

What is The Difference Between Justice & Revenge?

Dr. Cornell West provides some excellent insight into the role of hope, imagination and empathy in carving a better more just world in the face of catastrophe and misery.

Quoting some of the worlds best known dreamers and doers, West offers a compelling vision of justice and how it differs from the bitter and counter intuitive idea of revenge or retribution.

A must watch!

Frankie Boyle on Grenfell Tower, Being Offensive & The “Outrage” Media

 

 

In this riveting exchange Guardian journalist Owen Jones interviews Scottish genius and highly offensive comedian Frankie Boyle. 

Boyle who has a huge social media following is back on the BBC after it was rumoured he was permanently banned for “offensive” material on the queen and autism. Yet he recently returned with a new hit satire show “New World Order” on BBC 2.

He is a well known social commentator with an acute and always fascinating take on the public sentiment. In this interview he discusses the media, morality and political correctness:

“People can see a link between Theresa May’s desire to scrap the Human Rights Act and the inhumane disgraceful treatment of the Grenfell Tower victims; even if they don’t have a media which is willing to convey that”

He further spoke of faux public morality and how “as we live in a country which profits from selling arms to viscous regimes and launders money for financial institutions” we have to create a fake morality based on taste.

“Oh that joke was too much” or “that play should be banned” to create the illusion that we are morally pure.

Whatever you make of Boyle he offers some exciting ideas on morality, political correctness and the media here.

 

Frankie has been a long term proponent of having more female comedians on the public airwaves and his show features two of the best in Britain right now, Katherine Ryan & Sarah Pascoe – you can watch the latest episode here:

Homi Baba: Why We are Still Afflicted by Colonialism Everyday

Author: Anand Bose

Homi Baba is one of the foremost thinkers of Post Colonial Criticism and belongs to the school of thought known as Post Structuralism.

Homi Baba has made intrusions into the philosophy of language where texts become constructs for post colonial criticism. For Baba Colonialism has not been a straight forward clique between the oppressed and the oppressors but an evolving semantic machine marked by psychological anxiety and tension between the oppressor and the oppressor.

Here in this article I would like to articulate some ideas of Homi Baba on Post Colonial Criticism. They are hybridization, mimicry, uncanny, doubling, difference, ambivalence and anxiety. For Baba, a nation is always in the process of evolution and a nation is not a fixed entity.

Hybridization is a process through which cultures interact, mix and develop new cultural and evolutionary tendencies. A common example can be taken is that of the English language. For example Black English has evolved by fusing many dialects of the native black with the colonizer’s English. Indian English has absorbed native English words and has also adopted words borrowed from Indian Language. British English consists of many Gaelic and Latin and French words and therefore if we look at English, it is always going through a process of change or hybridization. Hybrid English is a transnational language and is always adopting new vocabularies into its lexicon. Another common example would be that of Dance and Music. Dance and Music have fused various elements of the Orient and the Occident.

Mimicry refers to the process through which the colonized mimic the language and culture of the Colonialist. Mimicry is a powerful tool, a coping mechanism of the colonized to resist the rule of the colonizer. The white other becomes the subject of my gaze and I adumbrate his or her cultural moorings into my possessive outlook. For the white, the discourse of the Orient has been a fragmented one, a one of bitter misunderstanding. According to Edward Said, the discourse of the orient has been a philosophical and intellectual construct drawn out from occidental narcissism and fantasy.

mimicry colonialism

A lexical meaning of the word uncanny would be something strange, mysterious in an unsettling way. For the white, oriental culture and religion has been marked by the strange or the uncanny. Baba also discusses the problem of migrant cultures. Migrant cultures to the Occident bring into it uncanny elements. Uncanny also represents a misunderstanding of the mass psyche of the colonized. For example let’s take the Blues. Blues a form of Black Music emerged as an uncanny one, a one to show solidarity and protest against the whites. Mahatma Gandhi’s behaviour as a political protester of the English rule was an uncanny one. The British simply could not understand and tolerate the half naked fakir. The occult aspects of the Australian aborigines were ostracised and many were made converts into Christianity.

Doubling as used by Homi Baba refers to the process in which duplicates of the Colonized were created. The colonized were trained in the language and culture of the Colonizer, mainly to suit them for administrative purposes. For example India as a British colony needed a large army of clerks to run their administrative regime. Doubling became a headache for the Colonizer as these doubles soon realized their self worth and started protesting against colonial rule.

Difference is a term taken from Derrida’s Deconstruction. The term incorporates the understanding of semantic binary divide by differing and deferring. Colonialism has marginalized the brown and the black by privileging of the white. This marginalization has been violent and autocratic. There is a conflict between the racially superior self and the racially inferior other. The White self’s Christianity is a racially superior religion than the religion of the Red Indians, Africans and Aborigines. Language has bifurcated texts into binary divides of the self and racial other. For me Colonialism is still an ongoing process. For example let’s look at Native Speakers of English being imported into South East Asian Countries to teach English. A native speaker of English is privileged over whites and browns who are adept in English.

Anxiety as a term used in postcolonial criticism referring to the tension of the colonizer when he is dealing with the colonized. We can use the example of Non Violent struggle against British rule espoused by Mahatma Gandhi. The British simply could not understand what the principle Ahimsa (non-violence) was and used ruthless force to subjugate the peace movement. Their ambivalence and complete lack of understanding of the native people, only strengthened the struggle for independence. Colonial domination was not straight forward but was clearly marked by anxiety and ambivalence.

Anand is a blogger from India who’s blog explores, philosophy, fiction and poetry. You can visit his excellent blog here: