It’s very easy to get worked up about these
connections between stimuli and response when a
Facebook news feed is manipulated. But remember,
Facebook data is really easy to test — there’s a lot of
it, and there’s a clear and direct pathway to show how
a particular intervention produces a specific result.
Most social science is just a little less sexy and
a lot messier. Traditional media effects studies
are harder to do at the same scale and are much
harder to implement. Nonetheless, since World
War II, researchers have consistently studied the
impact of media on behavior. But you’re only
likely to hear about these studies in the context
of headline news like shootings and the impact
of violent video games. The reality is it’s not
just Facebook that affects behavior, it’s all forms
of media. Facebook isn’t different than more
traditional media, it’s just a lot easier to measure
Facebook’s effect, and a lot sexier to talk about an
algorithm than the media psychology behind how
people actually consume information.
So when the next bold claim about a social media
network controlling news and information comes
out, know that there’s more to the story. Algorithms
are made by people, and their decision process is
not unlike the mystery behind the buffet of daily
news that appears in a newspaper. And the effects of
Facebook and other social media networks on people
get a lot of attention, but there’s really not much
new to say about how media impacts behavior.
Be a cautious consumer of the hype and know that
new technology doesn’t necessarily mean anything
new at all.
For works cited: go to www.phikappaphi.org/forum/fall2016
NIKKI USHER-LAYSER is an assistant professor at George
Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. She is a graduate
of the University of Southern California and Harvard University, and the
author of Making News at The New York Times (2014).
ADA I was a lady, moored to a desk.
Eight-inch, 80K floppies in two slots
controlled her devices and stored documents.
She weighed more than I did and she knew less.
She was sufficient.
ADA II had her own brain, one megabyte.
She obeyed my commands right or wrong.
What I put in came out in amber on
a black screen. She didn’t talk, balk, or fight.
Her information is trapped inside/ five-inch diskettes.
ADA III: A mouse on a pad meant fewer keystrokes to learn.
Work saved on those old three-inch disks disappeared.
Now I print what’s important. ADA IV
brought Internet access and weathered the Y2K storm.
CD drives came next.
The twenty-first century isn’t passing me by.
Going from floppy to flash to cyberspace only,
I call my new computer SIRI not ADA.
Her keys are so small that I want to cry.
I’ll master the touch.
A grandson gives me a watch. He tells me,
“Grandma, it’s fun.” I decide to decline.
This gadget’s too much. “Dear grandson,
I’m grateful, but I need a watch I can see.”
Don’t blame the era – Hypatia could Friend her.
I caution the generation they call millennial:
When I was your age, I wrote cursive script
on paper with pen and dialed a rotary phone.
Technological change is perennial.
It’s move on or bust.
Think of me years down the road
when you use a supercomputer
the size of a grain and faster than light:
Wherever else your information is stored,
Put it on paper, or your history’s dust.
A TRIP DOWN THE
BY ILSE NUSBAUM
ILSE NUSBAUM (University of Michigan) is the creative writing instructor at the
Roxbury Community Center in Beverly Hills, California, editor of the community quarterly,
and director of the class poetry chapbook and poetry reading. She studied creative writing
as an undergraduate at Radcliffe College and as a graduate student at Michigan. A child
refugee from Nazi Austria, she returned to Vienna in 2011 to pursue justice for students
expelled from Austrian universities after the Anschluss. Her work culminated in a monument
on the Vienna University of Economics and Business campus, a memorial book, an exhibition
in the Jewish Museum of Vienna, and a chapter in an Austrian history book. The events of
World War II and their consequences were the topic of her 60th Harvard/Radcliffe reunion
symposium presentation in 2015. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.