‘Politainment’ as election coverage

If the US Presidential primaries are anything to go by, elections are great entertainment. Donald Trump has the world gasping at his arrogance, contradictions and hairstyle. Hillary Clinton bustles on like a granny intent on organising her household. Bernie Sanders gruffly pushes the line that not to elect him could be a disaster for the Democrats.

trump hillary and billWell, I guess if Hillary is indicted for breaching national security with her home emails, it will be a disaster. If the FBI doesn’t get her first the Republicans surely will try to impeach her if she becomes President.

These characters on the political stage become one-dimensional cartoons of themselves as the media try to reveal their strengths and weaknesses but only succeed in boosting their showmanship. Policy issues go hang. Here’s a new word: Politainment.

municipal elections 2016But my concerns lie closer to home. South Africans may soon go to the polls to elect new local councils at municipal level. I say they “may” because, while the date of 3 August has been set down by President Jacob Zuma, the Constitutional Court has yet to rule on whether the election can take place.

A minor trifle that millions in the electorate have no recorded home addresses (which opens the way for fraud and bussing-in) has the ConCourt tied in knots. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng doesn’t want to disenfranchise these millions or Continue reading

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How’s your app strategy?

dilbert how to succeed bdayYou can build a mobile app yourself, but beware – the devil is not in the detail, it’s in the overall concept. Graeme Addison explains DIY apping.

An amusing Dilbert cartoon in Business Day says it all: Stop doing what you’re doing because it isn’t working! I’m not suggesting that mobile apps – or for that matter websites – are a waste of time. Far from it. But unless you have a clear, integrated strategy for pulling in users you may be spending more time and money than it’s all worth.

At the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Johannesburg I’ve just led a 3-day workshop on DIY App creation. If you want to do it yourself, the main question is how – what buttons to push – but this is really not the question you should be asking. It’s actually quite easy to sign up on one of the many online DIY app builders and get the technical job done.

These cloud-based services may cost you anything from $3 to $750 per month or more, but they are specifically designed to make apping easy. It’s Apps for Dummies, or the Idiot’s Guide to Going Mobile with your idea. One of the first such services to be successful was Infinite Monkeys, ainfinite monkeys logon ironic name chosen because the theory goes that an infinite number of monkeys given enough time and keyboards with word-processors could produce the works of Shakespeare. (They since changed this name to Appmakr, possibly because it was an insult to their users!)

You are probably no monkey but you may be an idiot when it comes to computer coding. At a loss, anxious, befuddled and wanting to make a good splash but not knowing how, you opt for one of the easy client management systems and hope it will do the job for you.
It won’t. It can’t conceptualise what you want, and Continue reading

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Media must pursue these creeps

We are all targets of information managers who lurk behind seemingly innocuous networks and apps. Graeme Addison highlights a new direction for investigative journalism.

Do you get the creepy feeling that you are being watched – but don’t know by whom or how? Increasingly, all of us are being watched by digital spies, be they advertisers, government agents, perverts, or even our own “friends”, who use social media and apps to profile us and unwittingly declare our weaknesses to the world.

shorenstein logoThe Shorenstein Centre on Media Policy, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard has published a fascinating summary of a research paper on holding digital power accountable. The paper from the University of Maryland explores the emerging field of reporting on algorithms and lays out definitions, strategies and key issues for journalists.

Incidents recounted in the study include Apple’s apparent schoolmarmish attempt to suppress words like “abortion”, “rape”, “arouse” and “virginity” on the Apple iPhone’s spell-checker.

It’s time investigative journalists took this seriously and acquired the tools to pursue digital evil-doers.

A friencan of doomd of mine once wrote a wonderful poem about a cockroach with a creepy feeling. A man was sneaking up behind him with a can of DOOM. Little did the man know that God was creeping up behind him with a gigantic can of FATE.

It was good for a laugh but it has stuck with me.

Our digital fate may be decided by backroom techies who write the programmes that allow us to see, or not see, what concerns us.

Your fate may be decided by Continue reading

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