When to trust data visualisation (and when not to)

If you ask whether people prefer to see images rather than text to process an information, I’m pretty sure the answer would be a resounding yes. Why?

Because humans are visual creatures.

Research from 3M corporation has found that we process images 60,000 times faster than text. This might explain why we find visual data is more appealing and attractive:

simply because we can understand it quicker.

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This might also explain the increasing number of data journalism we see everywhere we go, whether it’s on TV, social media, and even newspapers. The emergence of data journalism certainly, has not been ignored by journalists or even amateur bloggers.

A staggering number of people and businesses are racing and competing against each other to make the best and most creative infographics that are appealing to the audience.

However, often, at the expense of credibility and accuracy.

As discussed in the previous blog post, there are some problems associated with infographics and data journalism. Fisher’s ‘map of the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries‘ can perhaps serve as a perfect example of how data journalism are often flawed and misleading, yet, it is blindly accepted and believed by millions of people in a heartbeat.

The fact that colours and designs have more impact on people’s perception of messages, rather than the actual credibility of the data source, says a lot about the issue of interpreting infographics.

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So how can this issue be solved?

First of all, it is important for anyone that create infographics or data visualisation to disclose where the sources associated with their data and graphic are coming from, and more importantly, how their data/work should or should not be treated as scientific fact.

And secondly, by raising public awareness about the issue of accuracy in data visualisation, to prevent the spread of fake news or misinformation.

But how do people identify inaccurate/faulty data?

John Burns Murdoch came up with this list you have to check before believing in any data visualisation. It is not anything revolutionary, it is just the kind of thing that people can do mentally and automatically in their mind when seeing a data. If the data failed to check all the lists provided, then it is probably best to not trust the data.

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How Competition Is Shaped in The Age of Platforms?

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In the 21st century, we have witnessed the rapid rise of digital readership. This leads to the struggling of media in the competition with news platforms. However, even news platform also has to fight for their position in the media industry.

Professor Geoffrey Parker, co-author of the book “Platform Revolution” says Platforms don’t shake up markets and incumbent businesses only. They change the very nature of competition.

What are the new types of competition in the age of platforms?

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“It’s like three-dimensional chess.”, says professor Parker.

First, one digital platform fights against another. For example, Facebook competes with Snapchat in terms of news distribution.

Second, a platform competes directly with its own partners. For example, when Tiki, a Vietnam-based online shopping platform, sells its self-made office items, which are also sold by its partner merchants.

Third, two distinct news publishers compete against each other within a platform ecosystem. For example, BBC and CNN fight for a spot in the Snapchat Discover section.

In this fierce race, competitors arm with their own strategies.

Platforms recognize “multi-homing” (one same content posted on various platforms) as a risk. They impede this practice by encouraging loyalty as well as creating barriers and penalties. In his article, Grzegorz Piechota lists out some clear examples. Facebook signed 140 contracts with video producers, including CNN, BuzzFeed, and Vox Media, to guarantee their commitment. Snapchat once banned Yahoo from its Discover section because Yahoo’s news broadcast was old-fashioned and not appealing to Snapchat’s audience. News publishers must follow platforms’ rules if they want to be a part of the joint venture. Platforms, then, can enhance their competitive advantages over competitors.

News Publishers consider collaborating with various social media platforms is both an investment and an insurance policy. This strategy helps them to engage with a wider range of audiences, which, in turn, becomes their competitive advantages.

A Symbiosis Relationship

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Although the competition is fiercer than ever, I believe the normative relationship between news platforms and media outlets should be a ‘Symbiosis‘ or Collaboration.

What media outlets need to consider when joining this symbiosis relationship is not to lose control over their own business. Sangeet Paul Choudary, CEO of Platform Strategy Labs suggests ways for media outlet to protect themselves when working with platforms.

  • Publishers should ensure the right to access to data about user interaction with their content on the platforms.
  • Publishers need to ensure that they can engage and build a strong relationship with their readers through that platform.
  • Think of the scenario whether the platform can exploit the data collected from user interaction with publishers’ content for their own purposes and be careful.

Learn the rules of the game, then play better than anyone else! That’s the way we fight off all competitions!

Crowdfunding – Could it be a “lifeboat” for Investigative Journalism in Vietnam?

This week, we discuss how technology changes news business models in terms of funding. This inspires me to think of crowdfunding as a solution to funding investigative journalism in Vietnam.

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I’ve been a journalist for 4 years in Vietnam. And do you know what makes me mad? It is when we find out the government is doing something wrong. (And this happens all the time).  We meet our boss and say our newspaper needs to investigate those issues. Their mind goes blank and they shout “No”.

In Vietnam, journalists have to face with heavy-handed censorship. And because every press agencies are state owned, journalism cannot say anything against the government. Investigative journalists in my country are struggling to find both funding and distribution channels. Could we break this impasse?

Fundraise

David Appel, a freelance reporter, succeeded in raising fund for his investigative weblog. His project, then, reveals that sugar companies tried to lobby the Congress to stop funding WHO because WHO”s activities pose a threat to these companies” interest.

In 2007, one of the biggest news stories in the US — the Bush administration’s firing of a group of U.S. attorneys — was covered by the reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo.

Crowdfunding has been the answer for investigative journalism around the world. In his article,  Paul Bradshaw has pointed out three models for online funding investigative works, including foundation support, viewer donation, and licensing/advertising. Usually, the reality is a combination of all three.

However, attracting readers and financial support is never an easy task. Since 2000, various non-for-profit media groups has sprouted across the world. Crowdfunding nowadays is like a fierce of starving carnivores. Only whom with the best strategy and tactics could be the survivors.

Since 2011, Knight Foundation has annually released the report “Getting Local: How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability” analyzing many nonprofit investigative news sites. The report finds that the most successful models are those having a long-term strategic plan, annual budgetary goals and a corresponding development plan with specific metrics.

However, no successful stories can be a normative model. With consideration to Vietnam’s socio-political nature, there are two major concerns. First, the notion of philanthropic support for nonprofits is still strange in Vietnam. Second, freedom of speech is still a controversial issue.  These are big obstacles needed to overcome first!

Technology Criticism – How it shapes the future of Technology?

By Ngan Nguyen – z5119704

In his article “Tech journalism needs to grow up”, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that tech publications such as The Verge, Engadget, etc. are doing nothing more than consumer guide. It is a culture of “unboxing-porn”.

Technology journalists need to free themselves from the press releases. We need more critical analyses of technology trend and their socio-historical implications.

There are several reasons why tech journalists are not interested in critical analyses discussed in Eric Jackson article. Some of the most interesting reasons are:

1. It’s easier to report the news than having an opinion on it.

2. Young tech journalists don’t have much confidence in criticism topics.

3. Any reporter assigned a particular company to cover can’t bite the hand that feeds it. An obvious example is the suspicious relationship between Apple and Chris Ziegler, founding editor of The Verge. As the result, The Verge finally had to fire him.

4. Tech is ever-increasingly complex and that makes it difficult for reporters to stay up to date.

People, or even tech journalists, tend to think of tech criticism as something like Facebook is making us lonelyGoogle is making us stupid, or stories criticizing tech companies, then feel afraid of this topic.

But it is wrong!

Sara Watson proposes a new approach of tech criticism called “constructive tech criticism”. Criticism technology needn’t imprison itself in the world of gloomy stories. Instead, its role is to shape the future of technology.

Constructive technology criticism aims to bring stakeholders together in productive conversation rather than pitting them against each other… It offers readers the tools and framings for thinking about their relationship to technology and their relationship to power. Beyond intellectual arguments, constructive criticism is embodied, practical, and accessible, and it offers frameworks for living with technology.

Sara Watson’s approach defines a new way for journalists to devote their works. It emphasizes tech criticism’s capacity of opening a public sphere for people to discuss the future of technological societies and how we can go further.

Wired’s consultancy business might be a good example of this “constructive tech criticism”. This model paves way for a new approach to tech journalists’ duty and capacity. Instead of merely reporting tech news, tech journalists can use their critical knowledge to help tech companies overcome their obstacles, shape their future strategies, benefit consumers and foster the future of technology.

What do you think of the role of technology criticism? Feel free to share us your idea in the comment section below.

Fake News crisis: Digital media vs Mainstream media – who should be blamed?

 

“You’re a fake news man. Start acting like one!”

This line tells us the whole story!

When people change to get the news from online sources, and non-traditional outlets started to have considerable readerships, we have to face with a new crisis. Fake news!

Remember the news crisis during 2016 US presidential election? It might be one of the worst examples of “Fake news” crisis in this digital age.

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During the election, fake news about both Trump and Hillary were spread like a tsunami across social media platforms. People become confused about what they can believe. However, the shares, comments, and reactions to these fake stories never stopped.

Fake news has become a true nightmare.

Who should be blamed for this crisis?

According to Canberra University News & Media Research center, an increasing number of people depend on social media as their main source of news. More than 30% of us love sharing photos, videos, news and current affairs on social media. Nowadays, social media give users full power to freely produce and distribute information without censorship. That’s why many believe that social media are the culprits for the “fake news” crisis. In the effort to control fake news, Germany even threatened to bring in legislation to fine social media sites that let fake news and hoaxes flourish. Facebook and Google also had plans to fight against fake news sites.

But did we catch the right culprit? Should mainstream media also take responsibility?

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In recent years, more and more people have lost their faith in mainstream media. Instead, they rely on social media as news publishers. This shift of trust happens even more popular in countries where almost news corporations are state owned like my country, Vietnam. Mainstream media are widely believed to be led by political agenda. People turn to voices and news sources that echo to their concerns and prove to be free from political controlled. This paves the way for fake news on social media to immerse.

What are the solutions? Let’s watch this video

Media-literacy: Whenever encounter any news source, these questions should be kept in mind: What kind of content I am reading? What evidence is provided and how was it checked? What might be an alternative understanding or explanation?

In this digital age, mainstream media also need to improve their journalism quality. Rebuilding public trust is crucial.

In your opinion, who should be blamed for the fake news crisis? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

The blurry line between bloggers and journalists

In the age of digital media, it is evident that social media has profoundly disrupted the news media, from one-day print cycle to 24/7 news cycle.

According to a new study from Pew Research, two-thirds of Americans claimed to get their news from social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or other online news sites.

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Now with the rise of independent bloggers sharing from breaking news to celebrity gossips, there is only a thin line between bloggers and journalists.

Traditionalists may regard the term journalist is reserved to those who work in a traditional news outlet, and consider bloggers to be unreliable, and often flawed sources of real news.

As mentioned by Tim Knight in his watchdog column,  Watching the Watchdog, he believed that citizen bloggers are not journalists, he added that journalists are trained, experienced and reputable people who wrote news with great accuracy supported by analytics and data, unlike bloggers.

However, the reality is not that simple. There have been numerous bloggers who investigated and conducted research tirelessly that made it to news media, and reputable journalists that reported inaccurate, fabricated news as fact (read Jayson Blair on The New York Times).

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Although there are no such requirements or standards to be bloggers as compared to becoming journalists, there should not be a debate of whether one is better than the other. As both of them generally do the same thing (reporting news), in a slightly different way.

Bloggers tend to offer their own opinions and write in a more casual way, while journalists tend to involve experts opinions and hard facts.

In a way, all journalists can be bloggers simply by creating a blog, but not all bloggers can be journalists. But that does not necessarily mean bloggers couldn’t engage in an act of journalism.

And for people like me, I couldn’t care less if the articles I read were written by journalist/blogger, as long as it’s not fabricated..