Howard R. Debs, The Blogger returns!

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I’m actually an optimist, but I’m heading the same way Sandburg did.

I’m back, occasionally.

Yes, for those who have missed me during my ramblings, for those who have yearned for more erudition about the things that matter most, I am back to post! Hey, that rhymes. Which is appropriate, since one of the many errands that took me away from this mission to explicate on the verities and related matters, was my penchant for  creative writing and determination to hit the literary trail. As The Little Einsteins say at the end of an episode, “Mission completion!” (yes I actually watch and enjoy The Little Einsteins); the mount of literary publication has been reached and you can go to a separate page on this site to see a selected list of publications graced or soon to be so with my presence. But enough about me.

This site was and is devoted to advancing the art and science of communications.  Now, in posts to come, I intend to expand on the subject matter to be covered, using this bedrock principle as a measure for all that appears here: if it can contribute to better more effective communication, private or public, it shall be admissible.

So thanks for allowing me back into your virtual hearth and home, I will try to make my stay pleasurable and productive. Stay tuned.

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Quick Takes: social network fatigue

(Introducing the new feature “Quick Takes” on this blog; very brief posts on very timely topics with more detailed discussion to follow as warranted.)

A recent survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that while 45% of the U.S. population across all age categories are positive regarding using computer and mobile devices for social networking, fully 48% are essentially “not so inclined”, feel tech devices are overwhelming to them, and often steer clear of internet use.

The bottom line: there may be a point of no return – in terms of “return on investment” so to speak in regard to the networking phenomenon. Twitter “tweets” and Facebook “status updates” may not constitute the “quality” interactions we really crave.  Some studies in the field of psychology and social psychology indicate that a real rather than virtual conversation with an “actual” friend is much more fulfilling than the 140 character maximum communication of a  “tweet”.

Read more related to social networking at:  http://www.pewinternet.org/

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/04/10/quick-takes-social-network-fatigue/

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“Sexting”: Is it public or private communication?

This will be a short post. I am not a legal expert, my field is communications. But the recent legal action being taken against some teenage girls, and the legal process which is moving forward in connection with the cases in question, may ultimately have an impact on the matter of what constitutes public vs. private communication in this new communications age. The facts  are these: In New Jersey, a 14 year old girl has been accused of child pornography after posting explicit nude pictures of herself on MySpace.com; the girl supposedly posted the photos because she wanted her boyfriend to see them. In northeastern Pennsylvania, a prosecutor recently threatened to file child pornography charges against three teenage girls who are said to have taken sexually suggestive cellphone pictures of themselves which showed up on their classmates’ cellphones.  “Sexting” by the way is the term used for such activity when done by cellphone.

Technology has in some ways made the “wall” between what is public and what is private much more porous, it’s more like a curtain now, waving in the breeze. But technology isn’t the culprit here, perhaps it’s more a facilitator. Years ago, long before my time, when the telephone was really still in its infancy, there were party lines, shared by a number of subscribers, such that one’s conversation could be overheard by others, who “inadvertently” might listen in. There is some comparability between today and yesterday in this.

The cases noted probably don’t hinge at all on the public/private issue, but rather matters pertaining to legal definitions of “knowingly” committing a crime, and the minor status of the “perpetrators”.

On Monday, a federal judge blocked the prosecutor in the Pennsylvania case I have cited from filing charges against the girls involved. The American Civil Liberties Union sought the temporary restraining order on behalf of the girls. The prosecutor said he would consider seeking an appeal. This case and others like it should be followed closely; these  legal uncharted waters may have ramifications, including first amendment ramifications,  for us all.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/31/sexting-is-it-public-or-private-communication/

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Culture and communications

It has occurred to me that some visitors to this site may ask why there are posts covering the news of the day, matters involving politics, popular culture, etc? What is the relevance to a blog dedicated to communicators and communications? Before plunging ahead, let me assure you that this post is about as technical as this blog gets. One of the guiding principles for this blog is that: it shall be generally understandable to all who seek to gain from its information. This is carved in stone. So bear with me on this one, because in order to make the point, I have to get “technical”. Here goes. 

There is, first of all a hint in the name of the blog itself. “Communicators” are individuals who have messages to transmit in some way, through media, public speaking, and so forth. By and large I am using the term to refer to those who have a public presence in this regard, for example say, President Obama or Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (more to come on Mr. Geithner in a separate post).

Now one of the accepted definitions of “culture” is: “an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning” (taken from Wikipedia, keyword: “culture”). So “culture” and “communication” are inextricably connected.

In fact, the basic premise of the bestselling text MediaMaking: Mass Media in a Popular Culture is that: “mass communication cannot be studied apart from the other institutions in society and the other dimensions of social life – each is shaping and defining the other.” (quoted from the Amazon.com editorial review of the book). My position is that this applies to communications in general, and this theory, if you will, is paramount to a basic understanding of communications overall. In every post, I endeavor to address the matter undertaken from a communications perspective.  That’s as it should be with a blog named “Communicators & Communications”. We now adjourn sine die.

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/22/culture-and-communications/

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President Obama on late night TV

I raised this issue in a previous post: https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/12/franklin-roosevelt-invents-the-fireside-chat/


namely, what is the most effective means President Barack Obama can use to communicate with and to the American public in this present crisis environment? I’m not talking here about the usual and customary. These are not usual and customary circumstances we face as a nation. What’s needed is a creative solution to the urgent requirement for the President, as “Communicator in Chief” as I have previously referred to the role, to garner the confidence of the citizenry that we will prevail against the economic travail we have encountered; granting the content of the message is of utmost importance, the “packaging” of that message, is almost equally important as every Marshall Mcluhan fan knows, for indeed the medium is the message. (See previous relevant post ) https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/07/marshall-mcluhan-revisited/

So what’s the right setting? We have the townhall meeting format – that’s been tried; we have the primetime televised press conference – that’s been tried; and now we have the late night talk show – chalk up that one.

Last night’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” featured President Obama, and there were a number of “firsts”: First time a sitting president has appeared on a TV Program like The Tonight Show, first time as a sitting president Barack Obama makes an unseemly comment about “special olympics” (more about that later). This is all very serious. What the President’s team is obviously doing is experimenting. I don’t believe this is trial and error – not for a minute. Each “media decision” is carefully considered beforehand and carefully analyzed afterwards.

I reject the notion suggested by some that putting President Obama on late night television is primarily an attempt to pump up poll numbers.

I think ultimately, a combination of “outlets” will emerge that serve the communications strategy at hand.

Is it beneath the dignity of the office of president to appear on a late night talk show, and joke around at that? This is a Twitter and Facebook absorbed society. It is important to put a “human face” on the person who holds the highest office in the land. In fact, because we live in a Twitter and Facebook culture, President Obama needs to establish this kind of closer personal connection with his fellow Americans in order to communicate convincingly – an essential goal in order to move us forward as a nation. In an earlier post I wrote: “What is needed is to re-invent the “fireside chat” circa 2009.” That is what I believe the Obama communications team is attempting to concoct.

On the matter of the gaffe involving “special olympics”, now apologized for, I have personally spent a great deal of energy in community service on behalf of those with disabilities over the years, and I was indeed truly disappointed by the President’s remark. Let’s hope that errant comment will be turned into an opportunity to advance the cause of those with special needs. In any case, we need to move on with this larger “experiment” which is, advancing the State of the Union.

 

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/20/president-obama-on-late-night-tv/ 

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Jurors, a new hope for the new Information Age

Today’s New York Times article by John Schwartz http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/us/18juries.html?_r=1

 raises a number of important questions regarding for example the seeming dichotomy between traditional jurisprudence and contemporary information technology which is really the thrust of the story. But then there is, as Paul Harvey always said (may he rest in peace, see my previous post on Harvey) “the rest of the story”.

 What I want to focus on here is the quest for enlightenment beyond the confines of the courtroom for which the as many as nine jurors reported about clearly thirsted.

 “…conducting Google searches on the lawyers and the defendant, looking up news articles about the case, checking definitions on Wikipedia and searching for evidence that had been specifically excluded by the judge. One juror, asked by the judge about the research, said, “Well, I was curious,” according to Mr. Raben.”

 Peter Raben is the defense attorney for the case in question. “It was a heartbreak,” Mr. Raben added.

 Au contraire, mon amie. (caution: accumulating French flourishes ahead in this post)  In a recent post I cited the book True Enough by Farhad Manjoo. In his book Manjoo points to a concerning trend that people are accepting as gospel any pronouncements made by those they “follow” to use the Twitter idiom. This is great for the Russ Limbaughs of the world who actually laud this characteristic by giving it credence through the use of such terms as “dittohead”.

But in terms of our future as a society, I would much rather the Socratic Method be extolled.

 Well, lo and behold, these nine jurors are practicing intellectual curiosity don’t you know. Wow, what a concept! Yes there needs to be a rapprochement between the justice system and the new ways of accessing and sharing information and from some of the article’s content it seems we are groping our way in that direction, but I must say: la curiosité, c’est magnifique!

 

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/18/jurors-a-new-hope-for-the-new-information-age/

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A Jurassic Park kind of world

In many of today’s opinion pages, be they online or in print, readers were treated to a very insightful article by Kathleen Parker, titled “Weird new media world” in which, it seemed abundantly apparent to me, she was putting forth the premise that newspapers are a core communications vehicle of American society and conducted appropriately constitute the bedrock on which a free society is maintained. So granting necessary reshaping to conform to technological and cultural changes (I advisedly here avoid the term “advances” to describe such changes) the medium is important to retain. In her own words:

“Whatever business models emerge…newspapers have to focus on their traditional core of fact-based, serious reporting. We might add to that formula the need for a serious populace informed about the fragile thread that connects a free press to a free future. “

A number of considerations emerge from careful reading of her piece. Yes, I don’t have much need for the TV guide section of my local paper now that I have a TV guide accessible on my TV; so newspapers need to define themselves based on their “root” purpose to borrow a term from the computer age. A “root” directory in computer file systems is the first or top-most directory in a hierarchy. It can be likened to the root of a tree – the starting point where all branches originate. (Paraphrased from Wikipedia). This is basic Marketing 101 of course. Amtrak isn’t in the business of running trains, they’re in the business of transportation. Find the “root” and stick to it she seems to be urging, and keep a first amendment bulwark in place in the bargain.

What is fascinating, is the “spin” this gets in the “comment room”; I just checked out one: http://townhall.com/columnists/KathleenParker/2009/03/15/weird_new_media_world?page=2 and the majority of comments at this site are made by fire breathing persons who seem to have read only one word of her article, that word appearing as the last word of the article’s third paragraph and spelled b-i-a-s, “bias”. But the real bias, as I see it, is on the part of the commenters; which leads me to the book True Enough by Farhad Manjoo. The Publishers Weekly review of the book puts it this way: “Salon blogger Manjoo…in his perceptive analysis of the status of truth in the digital age, critiquing a Rashomon-like world in which competing versions of truth vie for our attention.” The book deserves more attention in a separate post, and the book deserves our attention in general because it presents a pretty disquieting picture of our future as a society of many different groups of “Dittoheads” as referenced in paragraph two of Parker’s article!

https://communicatorsandcommunications.com/2009/03/16/a-jurassic-park-kind-of-world/

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