Freedom of False Information

In nature, when you conduct science, it is the natural world that is the ultimate decider in what is true and what is not.
Neil deGrasse Tyson

For countless decades, society has relied on the news as a source of understanding and information about the outside world. However, with the introduction of the Internet and social media, this platform is seeing a shift. Major news corporations no longer have a strangle hold over the information supplied to the public, rather it’s shifted to a state where the news only maintains as much control over the viewer as- either consciously or subconsciously- the viewer allows them to have.
Take the case of the reporting and public awareness of Global Warming and the enhanced greenhouse effect. It has been proven, by countless independent researchers and investigations that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen as an exponential rate since the industrial revolution, and that this has an adverse effect of the Earth’s temperature and climatic patterns. However, there still remains a strong bias on the reporting of global warming as an issue, dependant on the political and commercial interests of the media organisation. (Painter, 2011)
Gina Rinehart and Kerry Stokes both maintain a large investment in Australian media, controlling Channel 10 and Fairfax, and Channel 7 respectively. (Goncalves 2013)Both these media magnates also have a sizable investment in the mining industry.(Bryant 2012) This potentially is one of the motives behind the green-house effect being portrayed as sceptical, with critics without a scientific background’s opinions given as much, or more weight, than the scientific facts, in a process called “false balance”. This is effectively a control of information to reduce awareness of a serious issue, (Whitmarsh, 2011) in order to slow pro-environmental movements that would detrimentally effect the profitability of the mining industry. It makes it harder now for environmentally friendly concepts and legislations to gain weight and public support as now society has engrained misconceptions about the validity of the danger humans are facing, and will face, in the near future.
However, in this technical age the viewer has gained the freedom of choice. Countless online science journals and news databases are available for the public to access if they so desired, from which they can access facts and figures. Many different news services portray climate change differently, and the only real control over viewer’s reality is which of these they choose to expose themselves to, and accept as reality. Whilst bias in the media can have a lasting effect and detrimental effect of the views of society, distracting them from real issues, it is the viewer that maintains control over the public sphere in which they place themselves, thus awareness ultimately becomes the individual’s responsibility.

References
Bryant, N. (2012) WHAT GINA WANTS. The Monthly
Goncalves, R. (2013). “Factbox: Who owns what in the Australian media.” RICARDO’S BUSINESS. Retrieved 27/03/2014, 2013, from http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2012/06/22/factbox-who-owns-what-australian-media.
Painter, J. (2011). Poles Apart: The inter­na­tional reporting of cli­mate change scepticism. Oxford University, Oxford: RSIJ.
Whitmarsh, L. (2011). Scepticism and uncer­tainty about cli­mate change: dimensions, determinants and change over time. Global Environmental Change, 21, 690–700.

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Master of Your Own Intellectual Property

The internet is, as a rule, a nightmare for the regulation and maintenance of copyright and the preservation of intellectual property. Experiment.com recognises this fact, and deals with it by placing the responsibility of how much information the sponsored researcher chooses to release into their own hands. (Luan 2014) This means that researchers, whilst they are still encouraged to share their discoveries- both successes and failures- with their host of sponsors, can also maintain the integrity and commercial potential of their material by withholding the more sensitive or exclusive information.
Experiment.com maintains a hands-of policy on all the information published on, and generated through the funding from the website. This means that the scientists responsible for generating the information- or, more commonly the research group or institution the scientists form part of- remain the sole owners of the information. This being said, there still exists the very real danger of their research idea or finding being stolen and used by others for their own gain, which is why a provisional patent becomes essential to protect the rights of researchers who wish to make commercial gain of their research. (Murray 2014)
There is currently no public disclosure system in place for the website, rather the website advises researchers to consult their institution, organisation or research group about the information that can or cannot be disclosed on such a public forum. However, there are plans in place to develop and on site public disclosure system which will aid researchers in the future.
Whilst the amount of information disclosed on the website is up to the researcher’s discretion, once a project has been posted on the site, it is impossible to delete. When the campaign ends, it will no longer be discoverable by common search engines, but the URL will still exist. (Luan 2014) This means that the information disclosed online must first be carefully considered, as posting too much information, or certain sensitive research, may detrimentally effect the ability for the research to be either sold or published in the future.

Luan, D. (2014). “Crowdfunding for Science.” Retrieved 27/03/2014, 2014, from http://www.experiment.com.

Murray, J. (2014). “Crowdfunding – Legal Issues for Small Businesses.” Retrieved 24/03, 2014, from http://biztaxlaw.about.com/od/financingsources/a/Crowdfunding-Legal-Issues-For-Small-Businesses.htm.

United on the Controversy

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
Philip K. Dick

In everything we see in life, to understand we must first comprehend. This comprehension in turn is affected by our concept of reality, personal life experiences and personality type. Signs are a visual tool used to convey messages, however due to this difference in interpretation, the message may be warped or misunderstood (or sometimes completely missed) by different members of society. (Adedimeji 2004)
This loss or deformation of a message appears most frequently in controversial images. The “Unhate” Campaign for example, released a series of images of different members of society kissing. With the picture “United Colours of Benetton” As a case study we can see how the message of acceptance is-or isn’t- conveyed to the public. In the picture (see below) shows the President of the USA and the Paramount Leader of the People’s Republic of China kissing.


From this the intended interpretation suggests love or animosity between the two parties, and with both parties being of different races but same genders, is meant to be shown as support for people of all walks of life, regardless of sexual preference or racial background. The simple addition of “Unhate” is easy for most viewers to convey the concept of acceptance, and coupled with the image of two world leaders- both symbols of power and guidance- the point is given more force and legitimacy(Ravelo 2011).
This however is the ideal interpretation, and is not always the message conveyed to viewers. For example, someone who is homosexual or passionate about gay rights may see this only as a campaign encouraging equality for their cause- which, while is it, misses the aspect of equality for all members of society, pertaining to racial equality too. Others may find this image offensive, due to religious or social motives, and may instead react with an aura of disgust rather than the intended acceptance. This illustrates society’s ability to- usually subconsciously- pull apart signs to derive meaning which corresponds with their concept of reality.

References
Adedimeji, M. A. (2004). “SEMIOTICS: THE SCIENCE OF SIGNS.” Retrieved 25/03/2014, from http://unilorin.edu.ng/publications/ADEDIMEJI/SEMIOTICS%20%20THE%20SCIENCE%20OF%20SIGNS%20%20now.htm.

Ravelo, E. (2011). “Unhate.” Retrieved 25/03/2014, from http://erikravelo.info/unhate/.

Experiment.com: Scienctific Power to the People.

Throughout the ages the internet has been a tool for generating revenue for countless businesses, charities and events. With the introduction of experiment.com, scientific research has entered the rat race to cash in to the millions of pockets that lurk the web every day. Scientific research is as a rule slow moving, due to the laborious and expensive nature of the research and experimental equipment, making grants for new research almost impossible to secure. What funding that can be secured often comes from private business sectors, which can lead to bias in the research’s results to favour the supporting company.(2008)
Experiment.com addresses this by being an open platform crowd funding website, where members of the public can choose to donate to certain areas of research that they think are important or interesting, thus helping advance the research of countless scientific groups that would otherwise have to wait a number of years.
The beauty and simplicity of the site is that there is little room for exploitation of the public’s generosity, with all the potential projects being carefully scrutinized and moderated to ensure legitimacy, and validation of the success of the funding is shown when results-either negative or positive- are produced and subsequently shared with the sponsoring members. Experiment.com has created a safe, trustworthy environment capable of advancing scientific research to greater levels than were ever possible without the aid of the public, free from any industrial interests or bias.
However, the site only remains successful with the continued generosity of the public. Without enough donations to reach the set goal within the established time period, the project in question will disappear in to the null zone, potentially halting its progress indefinitely.(Luan 2014)
Nevertheless, whilst it receives adequate support and donations, the site offers power to the public to decide what scientific issues are important. This leads to the development of research relevant to the wants and needs of the general public, rather than what academic boards and commercial sectors defines as pertinent.

(2008). “Who pays for Science?”. Retrieved 15/03, 2014, from http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/0_0_0/who_pays.

Luan, D. (2014). “Crowdfunding for Science.” Retrieved 14/03/2014, 2014, from http://www.experiment.com.

The science behind the “Media Effects” model.

A model is defined in the Collins dictionary as “a simplified representation or description of a system or complex entity, esp one designed to facilitate calculations and predictions.”(2014) Being a scientist at heart, in trying to understand the ground work research which has led to the development of this model, I find myself somewhat disappointed.
The very use of the word “model” is confusing, in that it seems that researcher haven’t yet properly described the effects of the media on the behaviour on the masses, and for the most part can’t even define at what point an act becomes violent. Most attempts to apply the concept of the “media effects” model have come up with conflicting results (Gauntlett 1998) and, as scientific research goes, most of the “research attempts” have been made completely invalid by their poor design and failure to account for variables. For starter, their attempts to define what is the cause and what is the effect is in the most part shallow, most often twisted to the results they hope to produce. Never has any study conclusively proven that it is in fact the exposure to violence in the media that causes a affinity for violence, rather than an affinity for violence causing viewers to choose more violent programs, which lies at the heart of the issue. The model also fails to take into account the complex and variable nature of the individual, choosing rather to attempt to make generalizations for the cohort as a whole.
In any good scientific experiment or act of research, for it to be valid and reproducible, all variables must be carefully controlled (McCloughan 2001). Due to the nature of the human experience, any experiment or attempt to control all the variables of humans’ reaction to something such as violence in the media, such as their age, gender, social status, family life, economic and emotional welfare becomes somewhat of an exercise in futility. Any attempts to take a generalized approach to society as a whole by testing all the different individuals and coming up with an average result will lead to the creation of a model that works of the large scale, but fails to accurately predict the response to media violence of any one individual. Which raises the question, if no one individual will react as the model indicates, what purpose does the model serve?
Even the act of collecting the data when conducting research into “media effect” changes the accuracy of the results. For example, a young male might answer differently to a female interviewer than if it were and older male doing the interview. Even if the results are collected via the simple, non-obtrusive manners such as observation, several studies have reported inconsistent relationships between personality variables and such responses to violent or anti-social scenes.(Zillmann 1994)
To sum it up in so many words, the main flaw with the “media effects” is that it aims to put the science into something, for the most part, scientifically undefinable.

(2014). model. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition, HarperCollins Publishers.

Gauntlett, D. (1998). Ten Things Wrong With the ‘Effects Model’, in Approaches to Audiences Approaches to Audiences – A Reader. London, Arnold.

McCloughan, G. (2001). “Reliability and validity – what do they mean?” Curriculum Support 6(3).

Zillmann, J. B. a. D. (1994). The Question of Media Violence. Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research. Hillsdale, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

A quick introduction

Hi members of the internet!

My name is Sarah Frazer and I’m studying a b.Communication and Media Studies along side a b. Science, which is where my true passion is. I have one older sister, and mother and father and two adorable sandy cats which I had to leave at home when I left for university.

As for the rest of the introduction, I could tell you about my favourite colour or list my top five icecream flavours-which I may actually do at a later date- but for now I’ll keep to the bare minimum. I’m 18 years old, and when I finally feel like I’ve grown up I want to be a science communicator/presenter/teacher or any other career that lets me teach others about the magic that is science.

Other passions include tea-the loose leaf drink of gods- and being outdoors-not outdoor exercise as such but just breathing in the ambiance of the natural environment (hopefully from the comfort of a chair). I’ve done drama for the last ten years, and love performing arts.

Hopefully that gives you a nice little packet of information through which you can form a dashing opinion of me, and ’till next time have a wonderful day.