American Attitudes About Science from AAAS

apples2The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released a 66-page report, AMERICANS’ ATTITUDES ABOUT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: THE SOCIAL CONTEXT FOR PUBLIC COMMUNICATION, prepared by Matthew C. Nisbet and Ezra Markowitz. Topics covered include the public’s use of media, the audience for science news, partisan publics and their news habits, science literacy, knowledge gaps, and public trust of government and scientific research.  After laying this foundation the authors look more specifically at public attitudes about some of the big science issues of the day–climate change, food biotechnology, infectious diseases and epidemics, and antibiotic resistance.

March CommQuote

Ethan Zuckerman’s blog, … My heart’s in Accra, features a fascinating little piece on Ben Franklin.  Zuckerman doesn’t claim to be an historian and gives full credit to Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media for how profoundly interesting he knows this particular blog entry is!  Get this:

The Post Office Act established the right of the government to control postal routes and gave citizens rights to privacy of their mail – which was deeply undermined by the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but hey, who’s counting. But what may be most important about the Post Office Act is that it set up a very powerful cross subsidy. Rather than charging based on weight and distance, as they had before Franklin’s reforms, the US postal system offered tiered service based on the purpose of the speech being exchanged. Exchanging private letters was very costly, while sending newspapers was shockingly cheap: it cost a small fraction of the cost of a private letter to send a newspaper. As a result, newspapers represented 95% of the weight of the mails and 15% of the revenue in 1832. This pricing disparity led to the wonderful phenomenon of cheapskates purchasing newspapers, underlining or pricking holes with a pin under selected words and sending encoded letters home. BenFranklinStamp

The low cost of mailing newspapers as well as the absence of stamp taxes or caution money, which made it incredibly prohibitively expensive to operate a press in England, allowed half of all American households to have a newspaper subscription in 1820, a rate that was orders of magnitude higher than in England or France. But the really crazy subsidy was the “exchange copy”. Newspapers could send copies to each other for free, with carriage costs paid by the post office. By 1840, The average newspaper received 4300 exchange copies a year – they were swimming in content, and thanks to extremely loose enforcement of copyright laws, a huge percentage of what appeared in the average newspaper was cut and pasted from other newspapers. This giant exchange of content was subsidized by high rates on those who used the posts for personal and commercial purposes.

This system worked really well, creating a postal service that was fiscally sustainable, and which aspired to universal service. By 1831, three quarters of US government civilian jobs were with the postal service. In an almost literal sense, the early US state was a postal service with a small representative government attached to it. But the postal system was huge because it needed to be – there were 8700 post offices by 1830, including over 400 in Massachusetts alone, which is saying something, as there are only 351 towns in Massachusetts. 

–Ethan Zuckerman (February 2016)







Telemedicine Resources

telehealth_wordcloud_480x339My favorite regular feature in  ACRL’s  (Association of College and Research Libraries) College & Research Libraries News is Internet Resources, which I like to “repost” if at all communication-related.  This month’s focus is on telehealth:  Telemedicine: A Guide to Online Resources (C&RL News, Volume 77, Number 3, March, 2016) by Angela K. Gooden.  Ms. Gooden calls on the American Telemedicine Association for a definition of telemedicine, which is the “use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status….includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.”

The Guide sorts the topic by History/Infographics, Government/Policy, Academic Resources, State Programs, Scholarly Journals, Telehealth/Telemedicine Providers, Organizations, and Blogs.

Incidentally, of the four titles rounded up in the Scholarly Journals section, three of the four can be accessed through Penn Libraries:

International Journal of Telemedicine and Applications

Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare

Telemedicine and e-Health

And Smart Homecare Technology and TeleHealth is an open access title. That’s batting a thousand I’d say.

Pain Communication Research

It’s always nice to see good communication research getting picked up in the broader media, as in the case of Elena Gonzalez- Polledo‘s work on how social media users–in this case, Tumblr– communicate about chronic pain. The Social Media Cure: How People with Chronic Illness Use Memes, Selfies, and Emogis to Soothe Their Suffering by Amanda Hess appears in (March 4, 2016). You can read the original research, Chronic Media Worlds: Social Media and the Problem of Pain Communication on Tumblr, by Dr. Gonzalez-Polledo in Social Media and Society (January-March, 2016) here. Gonzalez-Polledo

Abstract for Chronic Media Worlds…:

This article explores dynamics of pain communication in the social media platform Tumblr. As a device of health communication, the Tumblr platform brings together a network of behaviors, technologies, and media forms through which pain experience is reimaged through and against mainstream biomedical frameworks. The article develops an interpretative approach to analyze how, as social media platforms reorganize affective, emotional, physical, and temporal frames of experience, communication about chronic pain and illness is reimagined in its capacity to create social worlds. Drawing on ethnographic theory to reimagine the relation between politics and poetics in pain communication, the article explores the issue- and world-making capacities of social media.

Dr. Gonzalez is also the author (with Jen Tarr) of The Thing About Pain: The Remaking of Illness Narratives in Chronic Pain Expressions on Social Media  which appeared in New Media & Society (November 20, 2014).


Black Lives Matter and Online Media

Beyond the hashtags: #Ferguson, #Blacklivesmatter, and the online struggle for offline justice,  Deen Freelon, Charlton D. McIlwain, and Meredith D. Clark‘s full 92-page report for The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University on the #Blacklivesmatter movement’s uses of online media in 2014-2015, has just been released. blm


IN 2014, a dedicated activist movement—Black Lives Matter (BLM)—ignited an urgent national conversation about police killings of unarmed Black citizens. Online tools have been anecdotally credited as critical in this effort, but researchers are only beginning to evaluate this claim. This research report examines the movement’s uses of online media in 2014 and 2015. To do so, we analyze three types of data: 40.8 million tweets, over 100,000 web links, and 40 interviews of BLM activists and allies.

Most of the report is devoted to detailing our findings, which include:
» Although the #Blacklivesmatter hashtag was created in July 2013, it was rarely used
through the summer of 2014 and did not come to signify a movement until the months
after the Ferguson protests.
» Social media posts by activists were essential in spreading Michael Brown’s story nationally.
» Protesters and their supporters were generally able to circulate their own narratives on
Twitter without relying on mainstream news outlets.
» There are six major communities that consistently discussed police brutality on Twitter
in 2014 and 2015: Black Lives Matter, Anonymous/Bipartisan Report, Black Entertainers,
Conservatives, Mainstream News, and Young Black Twitter.
» The vast majority of the communities we observed supported justice for the victims and
decisively denounced police brutality.
» Black youth discussed police brutality frequently on Twitter, but in ways that differed
substantially from how activists discussed it.
» Evidence that activists succeeded in educating casual observers on Twitter came in
two main forms: expressions of awe and disbelief at the violent police reactions to the
Ferguson protests, and conservative admissions of police brutality in the Eric Garner and
Walter Scott cases.
» The primary goals of social media use among our interviewees were education,
amplification of marginalized voices, and structural police reform.

In our concluding section, we reflect on the practical importance and implications of our findings. We hope this report contributes to the specific conversation about how Black Lives Matter and related movements have used online tools as well as to broader conversations about the general capacity of such tools to facilitate social and political change.

February CommQuote

cliveMathew Ryan Smith in afterimage: THE JOURNAL OF MEDIA ARTS AND CULTURAL CRITICISM (Volume 45, Number 3) interviews Toronto-based artist Clive Holden, who creates digital paintings, web works, and videos by “combining new digital technologies with lo-fi analog formats.”  His latest project called Internet Mountains is ongoing (2014-present). In it he incorporates found digital objects from the World Wide Web with moving imagery to create surreal landscapes.  Here is a snippet from the issue’s feature piece, Climbing ‘Internet Mountains’: A Conversation with Clive Holden.” (pp. 8-9)

MRS: The video work INTERNET MOUNTAINS Video 3 (2015) is set against an opened book representing a mountainscape with a small cabin in the foreground. Rose-colored orbs, white sunspots, and blue arrows sometimes pulsate and at other times dart across the visual field. Can you talk about the relationship between these forms and the found imagery in your video works?

 CH: That video shares a photo background with my digital painting INTERNET MOUNTAINS #18 (2014) – a scan of an open book from an online archive. The strong vertical of the book’s spine is important to both works, along with the reflected scanner shine. These show the nature of the book as an object, and the moment the new image was born during the scanner’s process. Both echo and subvert the strong illusion of depth in the original photo.  This illusion is extended by the graphic illustration objects that float throughout the skybox’s described 3-D space. The original photo is from the Rockies in Montana and visiting there at the time would have been a rare experience. Adding the digital graphic objects helps to highlight the strange beauty of that original landscape.

 MRS: These works have a surrealistic quality to them. They’re both here and otherworldly. Do you see these as surrealistic or is it something else entirely?

 CH: The protest and humor at the heart of Dada and surrealism still shows up in the dichotomy between the commodification of conservative art processes, and the always shifting forms that are striving to maintain artistic independence. A dichotomy at work in INTERNET MOUNTAINS also lies between the conservative nature of landscape art and the changing sight of digital, geometric forms engaging in mock battle. I’m glad you’ve used the term “otherworldly,” because while making INTERNET MOUNTAINS Video 3 I found myself adding multiple suns to the sky one day, and that term popped up. I did know that multiple suns was a science fiction trope. But I read recently that it’s been proven to be nonfictional – in fact, it might be more common than our single-sun solar system.

Political TV Ad Archive

Last month the Internet Archive launched its new Political TV Ad Archive.  Just in time for the kickoff of primary season.  So far the site has amassed over 30,000 ad airings, each accompanied by underlying, downloadable data on how often it has aired, where, and when in 20 TV markets throughout eight key primary states. But that’s not all–ads are also linked to fact-checking and follow-the-money journalism by the project’s partners: the American Press Institute, the Center for Responsive Politics, the Center for Public Integrity, the Duke Reporters’ Lab,, PolitiFact, and The Washington Post’s Fact Checker.  Explains Nancy Watzman, Managing Editor of the Internet Archive’s Television Archive:  “The ad collection also gathers instances where news broadcasts have played excerpts of ads or even entire ads as part of their reporting — in other words, “earned media.” For example, Trump’s first ad, which focused on immigration, was aired several times as part of news reports. Political TV Ad Archive 01On the new website, each ad is archived on its own page, along with downloadable metadata on how often the ad has aired, on which TV stations, where, and when. These data also include information on who is sponsoring the ad, the subject(s) covered in the ad, which candidates are targeted in the ad, and the type of legal designation of the sponsor — e.g., super PAC, campaign committee, 501(c), and so on.”

The website also features links to other complementary resources such as Political Ad Sleuth and the Wesleyan Media Project, and a blog with informative posts such as Five negative ads with big air time in New Hampshire and  When is an ad an ad? Or, lessons along the way, to pull up two recent ones.

It’s been a pleasure to watch the resource environment for political campaign ads steadily grow over the years but with this archive tracking not just ads but airing instances, including how particular ads reverberate in the media, I’d say the research landscape has been transformed. Students used to pose questions about political advertising influence but for lack of data would often have to back off and pursue more general questions and approaches, or stick to content analysis.  Now they can dive into specific markets and see which ads are doing the heavy lifting or combine content analyses with broadcasting data that is free and right at their fingertips.

Super Bowl Reading

nflLines of Scrimmage: Selling and Contesting the NFL in Contemporary Media Culture is the title of a special issue of  Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture (Volume 14, Issue 1, 2016).

Writes issue editor, Thomas P. Oates, in the Introduction: Shifting formations: The NFL in uncertain times:
This special issue of Popular Communication directs a critical focus toward the league’s efforts to expand its presence and the possible obstacles to its growth. The broader context for this struggle is a set of economic/political/cultural shifts that have created new modes of producing and distributing popular culture. New forms of citizenship stress the pragmatic and often moral virtue of free markets, the importance (and fun) to be found in what Randy Martin (2002) describes as the “financialization of daily life” (p. 3). Despite claims of a new postracial, postfeminist environment, this cultural formation, as Lisa Duggan (2003) notes, “has a cultural politics” that “organizes political life in terms of race, gender, and sexuality as well as economic class and nationality, or ethnicity and religion.(p.3)”

The articles that make up the issue represent a rich variety of perspectives on NFL football.

Reaching the kids: NFL youth marketing and media / Jeffrey Montez de Oca, Brandon Meyer & Jeffrey Scholes
“Together, We Make Football”: The NFL’s “feminine” discourses / Victoria E. Johnson
America’s game: The NFL’s “Salute to Service” campaign, the diffused military presence, and corporate social responsibility / Adam Rugg
The 12th Man: Fan noise in the contemporary NFL / Mack Hagood & Travis Vogan
A rant good for business: Communicative capitalism and the capture of anti-racist resistance / Abraham Iqbal Khan              
Reframing concussions, masculinity, and NFL mythology in League of Denial / Zack Furness

MEF Streaming Videos

Did you know that Media Education Foundation movies can now be streamed from Penn Libraries? MEF produces and distributes documentary films and other educational resources to develop critical thinking and promote conversations in the culture about the social, political, and cultural impact of the mass media. “From films about the commercialization of childhood and the subtle, yet widespread, effects of pornography, pop-cultural misogyny and sexism, to titles that deal with the devastating effects of rapacious consumerism…,” MEF’s mission is to help students understand “the hyper-mediated world around them.”  killingus

Penn’s collection of MEF titles stands at 148 videos. Instead to coming to the ASC Library or the Van Pelt Circulation desk to borrow the DVDs students and faculty are a few clicks away from viewing them anytime anywhere at this link.

Look for “best sellers” as: Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women; Tough Guise 2: Violence, Manhood & American Culture; Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood; The Mean World Syndrome; Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People; Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power; Stuart Hall: Representation & the Media; Brand New You – Makeover Television and the American Dream; Pornland: How the Porn Industry Has Hijacked Our Sexuality; The Codes of Gender: Identity and Performance in Pop Culture.

More broadly, the MEF collection resides on the Kanopy platform that includes over 14 thousand educational films from other suppliers such as PBS, the BBC,  The Teaching Company, New Day Films, Media Policy Center, HBO, Sport Videos, and Soundworks (which features political speeches).   In addition to film directors and suppliers, Kanopy titles can be searched by categories–Media & Communications, Social Sciences, Film and Popular–and sub-categories within those.  Within the Arts category is an Experimental/Alternative Media section.  So it’s worth clicking around a bit. 


January CommQuote

So let’s start off the new year of CommQuotes with song.  There’s a lot of research and concern in the culture about multitasking and screens, including the distraction of phones, is there ever. The issue goes down so delightfully smooth in the hands of  Eriykah Badu in the song Phone Down. The lyrics are perfectly simple, emphasis on perfect. 

Listen along hereerykah.



I can make you put your phone down
I can make you, I can make you
I can make you put your phone down
I can make you put your phone down
I can make you, I can make you
I can make you put your phone down
I can make you put your phone down
I can make you, I can make you
I can make you put your phone down

[Verse 1]
I can make you put your phone down
As we cruise through the city
I can make you put your phone down
You ain’t gonna text no one when you wit me
I can make you put your phone down
So you can show me attention
And I’ll cut mine off too
Boy that’ll help when I listen
I can make you put your phone down
Baby we don’t need it
Every time you get a message
Act like you don’t see it
I can make you put your phone down
Tell me do you copy
I can make you put your phone down
Boy that ain’t gon’ stop me

I can make you put your phone down
I can make you, I can make you
I can make you put your phone down
I can make you put your phone down
I can make you, I can make you
I can make you put your phone down

[Verse 2]
Make you not wanna check that again
I could make you put your phone down
Ridin in a drop hair blowin’ in the wind
Baby I will put my phone down
Cause when you talk imma listen
I can make you put your phone down
Leave it at the crib guarantee you wouldn’t miss it
I could make you put your phone down
And it wouldn’t leave your pocket
I can make you put your phone down
Probably wouldn’t even know how to unlock it
I could make you put your phone down
I see your friend callin but forget em’
I can make you put your phone down
Your mama probably think you out there missin’

I can make you put your phone down
I can make you, I can make you
I can make you put your phone down
I can make you put your phone down
I can make you, I can make you
I can make you put your phone down

I can make you put your phone down
I can make you, I can make you
I can make you put your phone