News, media & communications

Tuned in but switched off

In the US 25% of children aged between six months and two years old have a TV next to their cot. In the UK the average eleven to 15-year-old child watches a screen (TV, computer or game monitor) for seven hours per day. These are some figures from a new book called ‘Remotely controlled: how television is damaging our lives and what we can do about it’ by Dr Aric Sigman. So is TV really damaging our health? There have been numerous studies over the years but so far hard links are difficult to find. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t there. The brains of young people are profoundly influenced by what they see and do in their first 36 months and many children are now receiving more information from TV than from their parents. Watching TV is easy and that might be part of the problem. When we’re watching TV, or playing games on a computer, it requires no effort or work – the brain is essentially shut down. And if you don’t use your brain it can atrophy. Moreover, there is credible evidence that watching too much TV can lead to violence, not necessarily because we see violence on the screen but because we are losing the social skills and physical communication necessary to avoid violence. Additionally, the fast scene changes and edits used in so many cartoons and videos have been linked by some researchers to the increase in Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) – one study found that for every hour of TV a child watches the incidence of ADHD increased by 9%. In contrast using your imagination makes your brain work hard and as a result it gets stronger. If any of this is proven (and the proof gets past the interests of media companies) we may well see government recommendations for viewing times in the future.
Ref: Sun Herald (Aus) 15 January 2006, ‘Tune in, turn on, miss out’, S. Webster.
Links: TV, television, children, kids, ADHD

Reader created news

A newspaper in the US has taken the idea of customer co-creation a step further by asking its readers to choose which story is printed on the front page each day. The Wisconsin State Journal (the state’s second biggest selling newspaper) allows readers to go online between 11am and 4pm each day to vote for one of five top stories. The ‘winner’ usually appears on page one the following morning. Consequences? Sports stories have started to appear on page one. We’ve seen reader-created newspapers in South Korea and a magazine for MTV and Nokia in Europe that’s written and illustrated by customers but this appears to be a first.
Ref: The Age (Aus) 25 January 2006, ‘Paper lets readers choose front page stories’.
Links: newspapers, co-creation, customer made, open source innovation, media trends

What is a mobile phone?

What is a mobile phone? The answer used to be easy – a portable phone for making and receiving calls. These days the answer is a bit trickier. Mobile phones (like computers) have converged with communications and it is difficult to see where the join is. Mobile phones are mailboxes, cameras, video cameras, entertainment centres, newspapers, music centres, TV sets, messaging systems, scrapbooks – and devices you can make and receive calls from. A book called Thumb Culture: the meaning of mobile phones for society’ asks this question to a cornucopia of 25 technology experts and academics and comes up with some interesting answers. Two of the more interesting ideas are whether mobiles are anti-revolutionary and whether blogging (mobile blogs or moblogs in particular) are journalism or just exhibitionism.
Ref: Spiked Online (UK) 4 January 2006, ‘Thumb culture and the meaning of mobiles’, J. Bristow.
Links: mobiles, cell phones, definitions

Internet video and video on demand

Of all the media trends that are around at the moment the biggest is digital video.
This is variously called video-on-demand, mobile video and Internet video. Whatever you call it, it’s changing the media landscape forever thanks in part to devices like Apple’s video iPod and tie-ups like the recently announced deal between Pixar (owned by Steve Jobs) and Disney, which could put Apple firmly in the driving seat when it comes to unlocking Disney’s digital attic. Of course there are still issues like bandwidth, but the rapid uptake of broadband will partly solve that problem. Implications? We’ll be watching a lot more ‘old’ (retro) TV and film content as the digital archives are opened up. We’ll also be watching what we want, when we want it on whatever device we want which will lead to a further decline in families sitting down to watch TV together. Families will still be watching TV but they’ll be watching different shows on different devices in different places.
Ref: Various including: PR Week (US) 5 October 2005, ‘10 media trends to watch’, E. Iacono, Red Herring (US) 19 December 2005, ‘Top 10 trends: Internet video’.
Links: video on demand, internet on demand, apple

Granny phones

With well over 70% of young and middle aged people owning mobile phones in some countries, mobile phone makers are turning their attention towards seniors aged 60+ who either don’t own phones or find existing handsets a bit of a handful. Cue cheap phones stripped of all but the most basic functions (like sending and receiving calls), phones with big buttons and phones that monitor the user’s location and alert care workers or relatives if the owner has stopped moving.
Ref: Nikkei Weekly (Japan) 31 October 2005, ‘Mobile phone services ringing up senior citizens’.
Links: seniors, mobiles, cell phones