Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News

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At USC Annenberg, we don’t just cover the news, we make it. “Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News” gathers a selection of the week’s news stories featuring and written by Annenberg’s leaders, faculty, staff and others.

Journalism Schools Add Courses in Sports, Emerging Technology

twitter-backgroundThe American Journalism Review recently listed a number of courses taught at USC Annenberg in an article on cutting-edge trends in digital media education.

“Glass Journalism” was highlighted for its experimentation in new technology and a new medium for storytelling. With a boom in the business of sports, AJR noted that sports journalism is one of the fastest growing areas of media, and thus noted the ASCJ course “Sports and Media Technology.”

One of newest trends in journalism curriculum is data analysis. A new ASCJ course being offered this spring,  “Connecting the Dots: Data Driven Storytelling for Converged Communication,” was one such example.

Data-driven stories are not the only form of analysis, however, as AJR noted the increased focus on audience analytics — including the ASCJ course “Real-Time Social Media Monitoring and Analysis for Converged Communication.”


Hollywood and the hackers

Marty Kaplan

Marty Kaplan

The massive Sony hack shook Hollywood for the past three weeks, and Marty Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center, offered insight to Politico most recently, noting that no one is safe from hackers.

“This can happen to anyone, for any level of perceived infraction, or solely out of some perverse glee that people have in bringing down the powerful of pumping up the powerless,” Kaplan said. “You don’t need to commit some sin in order to bring this upon you. All you need to do is have anybody who knows how to hack into servers decide that you’re the victim of the day.”

Kaplan was also interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and wrote two blog posts on the subject, found here and here.


Los Angeles is the Content Future

Robert Hernandez

Robert Hernandez

To close out 2014, NiemanLab asked media professionals to predict what 2015 will bring for the future of journalism. Professor Robert Hernandez offered his prediction, that the City of Angels will grow into “the content capital of the world.”

“You know it for films and TV, as well as video games. But did you know it is also the place for viral web videos?” Hernandez wrote. “YouTube, Vine, Instagram, etc. ‘stars’ appear to be coming from here.”

“Creative content people are frustrated with the industry and creating their content on their own terms.”


USC Trojan Family Magazine: Winter 2014

Willow-Bay

Willow Bay

In the latest issue of the Trojan Family Magazine, two members of the USC Annenberg community were highlighted for their commitment to the advancement of journalism.

Director of the School of Journalism, Willow Bay, was interviewed by journalism graduate student Daina Beth Solomon on the “Next-Generation Newsroom.”

“I would love to see our graduates not just go out and change the world with their reporting, but also to change the world of journalism,” Bay said. “I’d love to see the future of journalism firmly in the hands of journalists rather than technologists, who are our valuable partners, or big companies that are often our funders.”

Sasha Anawalt

Sasha Anawalt

In “Care to Dance? The Future of Arts Journalism,” professor Sasha Anawalt discussed how she works to keep arts journalism alive during the changing media times we live in.

“Instead of competing, we need to join forces by telling stories together and sharing research around a central hub,” Anawalt said. “What better than a university to be that common ground?”


Timing right for U.S. bid to host Games, say experts

Daniel Durbin

Daniel Durbin

Daniel Durbin, professor and director of the Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media and Society, was quoted in a Reuters article on the United States placing a bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

“[G]iven the ‘stunning rebuke’ to NYC, the time is as ripe as it’s likely to get for a bid from a U.S. city,” Durbin said.

He also noted the changes the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made to its rules, which are driven “to a great degree” by the changing media market and economy.

“This still raises challenges for the USOC [United States Olympic Committee] as the IOC doesn’t need to put the games in the U.S. to get a bloated amount of money from NBC for media rights and it pays them back internationally to try to open new cities and countries to hosting.”


From YouTube’s A-List to Hollywood’s B-List

Jeetendr Sehdev

Jeetendr Sehdev

YouTube’s stars shine brighter than those of Hollywood celebrities in the minds of teenagers today. Research by professor Jeetendr Sehdev was highlighted in a Businessweek article on the Fine Brothers.

Sehdev surveyed 1,500 teenagers, asking them to score entertainers on different attributes like reliability and extraordinariness. The top five entertainers in the ranking were all stars from YouTube.


Media Industry Taps Disruptive Tech to Understand, Leverage Fan Passions

AIL logoA recent Think & Do workshop that the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab held was noted in The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal.

The topic of the workshop was “Leveraging Engagement” and focused on exploring new frameworks for fan engagement in a variety of media, including entertainment, music and sports. Irving Wladawsky-Berger attended the workshop and subsequently wrote about what he learned for WSJ.

Wladawsky-Berger concluded his blog post, stating that: “Research studies that take advantage of the technologies and data all around us — like AIL’s Leveraging Engagement — will hopefully lead to many artistic and business innovations.”


Merrill Newman: I didn’t realise North Korea was still at war

"The Last P.O.W." is available now.

“The Last P.O.W.” is available now.

Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the USC U.S.-China Institute and former Asia correspondent for CNN, had his new book excerpted in The Guardian.

The story is that of Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old American tourist and Korean war veteran who was removed from the plane at the end of an otherwise uneventful trip to North Korea in October 2013, and held for almost two months in Pyongyang.

Chinoy spoke with Newman about his experiences, resulting in “The Last P.O.W.” The book’s release was also covered by The New York Times, CNN, and other news outlets.


New Print Magazines Are Embracing Narrative and Finding Their Niche

Dana Chinn

Dana Chinn

Professor and Director of the Media Impact Project, Dana Chinn, spoke with Nieman Storyboard about the need for a highly specific audience for new niche magazines to be successful.

“You’re building a community, an audience who wants to be associated with each other,” Chinn said. She noted that there must be a strategy to not only target the niche audience, but to engage them as well.


Hey, Hollywood: It’s Time to Adopt the NFL’s Rooney Rule — for Women

Illustration of Stacy Smith by Alexandra Compain-Tissier for The Hollywood Reporter

Illustration of Stacy Smith by Alexandra Compain-Tissier for The Hollywood Reporter

Research from USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative continued to cycle through news outlets, including a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter’s women in entertainment issue by MDSCI director, professor Stacy Smith.

Smith wrote: “When a female director is at the helm, audiences see more girls and women onscreen. But across 2013’s 100 top-grossing movies, only two were directed by women. … A Hollywood Rooney Rule would ask execs and studio heads to at least interview women for director jobs.”

In the op-ed, Smith also argued that adding just five female speaking roles would create jobs for female actors without taking parts away from men, as well as the need to “put equity in the contract.”

“Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls,” Smith wrote. “It wouldn’t necessarily mean more lead roles for females, but it would create a diverse onscreen demography reflecting a population comprised of 50 percent women and girls.”

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Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News

640-quoted

At USC Annenberg, we don’t just cover the news, we make it. “Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News” gathers a selection of the week’s news stories featuring and written by Annenberg’s leaders, faculty, staff and others.

Obamacare Discussion on Valley Edition: One Year After The Rollout

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Deborah Schoch

Deborah Schoch

Reporters Deborah Schoch and Emily Bazar, of USC Annenberg’s CHCF Center for Health Reporting, spoke to NPR affiliate Valley Public Radio about the state of the Affordable Care Act ahead of its one year anniversary.

“In California, really the success of the first year has been the numbers,” Bazar said. “Right now we have 11.3 Californians who are part of the Medi-Cal population, which is nearly one third of our population, and that’s monumental.”

Emily Bazar

Emily Bazar

Though Covered California has been beneficial for some residents, Schoch and Bazar said that its implementation hasn’t been perfect.

“There’s still problems, a lot of people are paying more under Covered California,” Schoch said. “So it’s a mixed bag.”

Schoch and her colleagues at the CHCF also recently had their article, “Health Reform In California: A State Of Accelerating Change” published by Valley Public Radio and other news outlets around the state.


Sony’s Hacked Emails Highlight Hollywood’s Problems With Diversity

Smith_Stacey_news.usc.edu

Stacy Smith

The Huffington Post cited a study conducted by Annenberg professor Stacy Smith and the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative Institute in discussing issues of race and diversity in Hollywood as posed by leaked Sony emails.

“The lack of diversity behind the camera is notable as we have again demonstrated an association between the presence of a Black director and the percentage of Black characters on screen,” the survey determined. “While this relationship may be due to the nature of the content that Black directors are given or choose to helm, adding diversity in the director’s chair may influence what we see on screen.”


What’s the value of a fake social media follower?

Karen North

Karen North

Marketplace spoke with Annenberg social media professor Karen North about the practice of companies creating or buying fake followers to increase their social media platforms.

“It’s always interesting to me when a company goes after the fraud, because at the beginning it’s the fraud that helped them,” North said. “It’s like everybody is there, look at all the big numbers.”


Music Hath Charms to Soothe the December Dilemma

Josh Kun

Josh Kun

“All holidays, in many ways, are cultural constructions,” professor Josh Kun told the Jewish Exponent. The article focused on the new exhibition at the National Museum of American Jewish History, titled “‘Twas the Night Before Chanukah,” and the 2012 two-CD set that the exhibition is named after.

The exhibition’s goal is “to raise the big questions of Jewish American pop culture: questions of identity and of assimilation,” Kun said. “Chanukah grew in power alongside the dominance of Christmas.”


Survey shows Internet’s broadening political role

logo The Wall Street Journal reported on a survey released by the Annenberg’s Center for the Digital Future Dec. 11.

The findings of the survey, which is conducted annually, show that 75 percent of Internet users over 16-years-old agree that the Internet plays an important role in the political process.

“We may be entering a realm where the Internet plays a larger role in political campaigns than television does,” said Center for the Digital Future Director Jeffrey Cole.

The survey also polled participants about other Internet usage habits and found that 41 percent believe that all or most of what they read online is reliable, while 56 percent were worried about companies checking what they do online.


Book review: ‘Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life,’ by Peter Ackroyd

Tim Page

Tim Page

Professor Tim Page wrote a review for The Washington Post of the book “Charlie Chaplin: A Brief Life” by Peter Ackroyd.

The biography chronicles the life of the famed silent-film actor and director, who left London for Hollywood in the early twentieth century and soon after became a legend.

“Not surprisingly, some of the best passages are devoted to setting scenes,” Page writes. “Ackroyd has always written lyrically about cities, and his evocation of south London, where Chaplin spent the first 20 years after his birth in 1889, is vivid history.”


Media Effects of Violent Video Games

Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins

Research by professor Henry Jenkins was cited in a Gamasutra article on whether violent video games lead to violent behavior.

The qebsite quoted a paper by Jenkins, published on PBS in 2004, in which the professor argues that “the research could simply show that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment.”

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USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future study paints picture of how the Internet is changing American life

logoThe Internet is a growing platform for change in the political process; users’ faith in the reliability of online information continues to decline; and fewer adults approve of children’s online use, according to the annual study of the impact of online technology on Americans by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.

These views about the role of digital technology in American life are among more than 180 issues explored in the 2014 Digital Future Project, the longest continuing study of the impact of digital technology, and the first to develop a longitudinal survey of the views and behavior of Internet users and non-users. The study is conducted in conjunction with Bovitz Inc.

The Internet: the politician’s best friend — and a powerful tool for voters as well

The 2014 Digital Future study found new, higher percentages of Internet users agree that online technology: is important in political campaigns, builds political influence and understanding and gives people more say in government.

The Digital Future study also found a high percentage agrees that the Internet is a tool that can help users gain political power.

“We may be entering a realm where the Internet plays a larger role in political campaigns than television does,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future. “Digital technology is assuming a critical role in politics — both in getting out the vote and for informing voters — particularly for voters under 35.”

“Republican candidates were slow to recognize the role of the Internet in campaigning, and were caught completely off guard by the Democrats in 2008,” Cole said. “But that was a one-time phenomenon; now both political parties understand the importance of digital technology in their planning.

“The question is becoming: Which party uses online technology better? Who has a message that resonates most effectively through digital media, and whose audience is more willing to participate in elections because of the Internet?” Cole said.

The study found the highest-yet levels of agreement with statements about the growing importance of the Internet in several realms of politics.

For example:

  • 75 percent of users age 16 and older agree or strongly agree that the Internet is important for the political campaign process
  • 63 percent agree that going online can help users better understand politics
  • 34 percent agree that the Internet will make public officials care more about what users think
  • 32 percent said the Internet can help users have more say over what the government does

Moreover, 37 percent of users age 16 and older said that by using the Internet, people like them can have more political power — near the high of 40 percent reported in 2005.

Is online information reliable?

Among other key findings in the study: Internet users report limited faith in the reliability of information they find online, even on websites they visit regularly.

Forty-one percent of users in the current study said that most or all of the information online is reliable — the lowest level reported in the Digital Future studies since 2009 (39 percent).

Users have more faith in the websites they visit regularly — 75 percent said most or all of the information on the sites they visit regularly is reliable and accurate — but that percentage is the lowest thus far in the Digital Future studies. More than one-quarter (26 percent) said that half or less of the information on the sites they visit regularly is reliable and accurate — a new high for the studies.

The Internet and personal privacy: government and companies

Not surprisingly, a growing percentage of Internet users are worried about the government checking what they do online — 46 percent in the current study. But an even higher percentage — 56 percent — are concerned about companies checking what they do online.

Almost all respondents age 16 and older — 91 percent — express some level of concern about their privacy because companies can track their online behavior.

Internet use: the right amount of time for children?

The adult view about how much time online is proper for children continues to change, and the general trend is not in favor of Internet use. Even though a high percentage of adults in all of the Digital Future studies said that the children in their households spend the right amount of time online, that percentage has been generally declining, and has now dropped to its lowest level in the studies (63 percent).

The percentage of adults who said the children in their household spend too much time online has been increasing steadily since this question was first asked in 2000, and in the current study reached 31 percent, only one percentage point below the peak reported in 2012.

The USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future: 12 annual studies that explore the digital realm

Since 2000, the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future has examined the behavior and views of a national sample of Internet users and non-users in major annual surveys of the impact of the Internet on America. The center also created and organizes the World Internet Project, which includes similar research with 37 international partners in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Australasia.

The Digital Future Project

The Digital Future Project provides a broad year-to-year exploration of the influence of the Internet and online technology on Americans. Through a longitudinal survey, the project has examined the behavior and views of a national sample of 1,043 Internet users and non-users. The annual survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent.

Bovitz Inc.

Bovitz Inc (bovitzinc.com) is a design-driven research and strategy firm that helps organizations uncover opportunity and drive innovation.

Download the Report

To download the 2014 Digital Future Project Report, visit www.digitalcenter.org.

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Abrahamson Receives First Ever FINA World Journalist Award

Abrahamson at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 21, 2014.  (Brett Van Ort/USC Annenberg)

Abrahamson at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 21, 2014. (Brett Van Ort/USC Annenberg)

USC Annenberg sports journalism professor Alan Abrahamson has received the first ever FINA World Journalist award, presented by the international swimming federation on Dec. 1 in Doha, Qatar.

Abrahamson was awarded the honor in recognition of his “contribution to raise the FINA image” at the Evening of the Stars Gala following a two-day FINA World Aquatics Convention in Qatar.

Earlier this year, Abrahamson received the Track & Field Writers of America Adam Jacobs Memorial Award for excellence in online journalism, and was featured in the Annenberg Agenda for reporting live for NBC from the Sochi Winter Olympics.

“It’s obviously been a great year,” Abrahamson said. “It is humbling and gratifying to get these kind of awards and a privilege to be recognized.”

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How USC Annenberg’s #GoogleGlass course is teaching students about more than just tech

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USC students and faculty beta-test the Glass Genius app Nov. 18 (Robert Hernandez)

As finals are around the corner and another semester comes to an end, it isn’t often that students can match an instructor’s energy and enthusiasm for a class. In USC Annenberg Professor Robert Hernandez’s first-of-its-kind Google Glass course, however, class engagement remains high, especially as students anxiously awaited the beta testing of their very own Google Glass app.

After months of hard work, the 11 undergraduate and graduate students, who represent a diverse mix of majors that include journalism, computer science, interactive media and more, were able to see their efforts brought to life during nearly three-hours of beta-testing their Google Glass application on November 18.

“The successes or the failure of this class was on our shoulders―not my shoulders―our shoulders, and everyone was on board,” Hernandez said of the work his students did on the project leading up to beta testing. “The students have all stepped up and really added to this whole experience.”

Fellow students, faculty and Google Glass geeks from around USC were invited to try out the application called Glass Genius which aims to help enhance user knowledge when wearing Glass during conversation, and provide feedback to the students who spent months designing the program. That was just one of three projects the class created over the course of the semester.

Earlier this year, every student pitched two ideas for the development of an application throughout the semester. In addition to a class vote, about two dozen members of the public also voted for the winning idea. When no idea emerged as the unanimous choice, Hernandez and his students decided to move forward with three projects: Glass Genius, the backend content management system used to create the application, and a hands-free augmented reality application created for use during CicLAvia.

The decision to focus the class on three distinct projects was fitting, as Hernandez primarily chose three different types of students for the course; journalists, developers, and so-called “misfits,” who are studying or are interested in other areas such as public relations. Some of the students already owned or were familiar with Google Glass going into the class, while others had no experience with it all.

The idea for the course came about after Hernandez attended a talk at USC last year by Google Glass creator Babak Parviz, and heard some students express interest in a course dedicated to the technology. From the start, Hernandez knew that he wanted to keep the class small and diversified across majors due to his own experience with tech collaborations.

“I’ve gone to hackathons and meetups where the balance is out of whack,” Hernandez said. “There are all these people with ideas but no one can build, or all these builders but no one has an idea or content. The other thing is I wanted the right culture; I wanted people to default to work as colleagues, not ‘I’m content, you’re coding’, or vice versa.”

For students, this approach translated loud and clear to the classroom setting, which was structured as a discussion rather than a lecture. From the beginning, students were encouraged to bring their particular skill sets to the table, and work collaboratively to learn from their classmates, as well.

“At first I was a little bit nervous that I didn’t have as much to bring to the class because I couldn’t develop the app, and I find that’s something that even my friends or people who ask me about the class don’t understand,” said Anna-Catherine Brigida, a senior Print and Digital Journalism major who helped provide content for the Genius Glass application. “Being in this class you realize that there’s all these other things that go into it, and we all need each other to make this all come together.”

Brigida said that, while she’s learned a great deal about Google Glass throughout the course, it’s been a really informative to collaborate and work with peers across multiple disciplines throughout the project.

“This class doesn’t necessarily have to be about Glass,” Brigida said. “If it was building an app for a smartphone or other wearables, I think the experience of working together across different areas of expertise and thinking about news in different and more innovative ways, is the big takeaway from the class.”

Even if the Google Glass course becomes a one-time offering at USC, Hernandez said that he wants to continue exploring emerging technology such as wearables and augmented reality. Hernandez led a class in designing an augmented reality application for the Los Angeles Public Library this past spring, and he wants to do the same for the Los Angeles City Hall in spring 2015.

Graduate journalism student Sinduja Rangarajan, who previously took a class with Hernandez, also sees great value in the structure and the learning opportunities provided by the Google Glass class―even if the specific concentration of the course varies.

“This is probably the first course where people from different disciplines are coming together to develop an app,” Rangarajan said. “Basically the future of journalism, the way digital journalism is going, is to have programming skills, to work with people on the programming side, and develop apps like this. This is actually a reflection of what is happening in the industry.”

Those interested in testing out Glass Genius for themselves are invited to join Hernandez and students, as well as a Google Glass team, for the application’s official launch this Saturday, Dec. 6.

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Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News

640-quotedAt USC Annenberg, we don’t just cover the news, we make it. “Quoted: USC Annenberg in the News” gathers a selection of the week’s news stories featuring and written by Annenberg’s leaders, faculty, staff and others.

Journalism professor Marc CooperMagazine’s Account of Gang Rape on Virginia Campus Comes Under Scrutiny

The New York Times quoted USC Annenberg Associate Professor Marc Cooper in a story about the questionable reporting methods of a recent Rolling Stones piece about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.

The story has come under fire as the victim is only identified by her first name and no effort was made to contact her attackers. However, Cooper defended the story and said the magazine did nothing wrong by not contacting the men accused of the crime because they were not named in the story.

He also pointed out that nobody would be asking questions if the article had been written as a first-person account.

“I don’t think there’s nearly as much at stake as people think,” Cooper said.


Blowback: Jonah Goldberg’s questioning of university rape story falls flat

Diana Crandallwho is pursuing her Master’s degree in journalism at Annenberg, wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times online forum “Blowback.”

She criticizes a story from Times writer Jonah Goldberg that questions the veracity of the Rolling Stones piece about an allegation of brutal rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.

“Sadly, Goldberg’s piece is the type of ill-informed berating that makes victims of sexual assault afraid to come forward in the first place,” Crandall wrote.


Taplin_180pFiber fight: Broadening broadband Gig City touted as model in broadband debate

Professor and Annenberg Innovation Lab Director Jonathan Taplin was quoted in a Bloomberg story about Chattanooga, Tenn., and their development of the first citywide gigabit-per-second broadband service in the western hemisphere.

The service was developed by the city-owned Electric Brand Power (EBP), which recently partnered with the Annenberg Innovation Lab.

“What we’re going to try to do is bring some of the brilliant people from Warner Bros., Fox, Disney and IBM down here to Chattanooga to help them get their heads wrapped around this notion that you’ve got to stop worrying about scarcity,” Taplin said at a recent conference in Chattanooga on “Envisioning a Gigabit Future.”

He cited a performance of “The Wild Side of Life” by Grammy Award winner T-Bone Burnett in a Los Angeles studio and BR549 founder Chuck Mead on stage in Chattanooga last year as an example.

“They sang a song together over 2,000 miles apart,” Taplin said. “That’s the power of gigabit Internet. I think we’re just beginning to think of the possibilities of what this thing can do.”


Females in film: Less than a third of speaking characters are women, study finds

MDSCIStacy SmithProfessor Stacy Smith was interviewed by KPCC’s “Take Two” to discuss her research with Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative about the underrepresentation of women in film.

In 2013, Smith and her team found that only 29 percent of speaking characters were female. As a solution, Smith proposed adding five female characters — saying at least one line — to every film over the next four years.

While some would call that “less than ambitious,” she said, “It’s really important because you have to look at all the different levers that you’re going to have to pull and push in Hollywood to create change.”

She added that the film industry is seeing the importance of female leads with films such as “The Hunger Games” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” but “when it comes to the entire demography of a story, there’s no reason why it can’t match the population.”

Smith’s research was also cited in a story from the Atlantic.


Hernandez-Glass_275.ashxCan Glass Genius Save Google Glass?

Professor Robert Hernandez’s journalism course on Google Glass was featured in West Journal. The story highlights Google Genius, the app created by the class this semester.

Also known as “The Real-Time Audio Knowledge Engine,” the app detects key words being said aloud by the user and anyone they’re talking to and will display content related to the topic, with resized text and images for the smaller screen.

But Hernandez said, while the class was excited to build the app, “the goal of this class was bringing three different types of cultures together, and having them collaborate and work and get excited and build one bigger inclusive community and culture.”

The class was made up of journalists, developers and what Hernandez called the “misfits,” which were public relations students, web developers and entrepreneurs.

Hernandez also admitted — like many others have — that Google Glass has lost steam and is struggling to maintain relevance.

“The biggest challenge isn’t the hardware or the battery life, it’s the social acceptance,” he concluded.


northGrumpy cat: Hollywood icon?

Karen Northdirector of Annenberg’s Digital Social Media program, was quoted in a BBC story about the celebrity power of internet sensation Grumpy Cat, which she described as “phenomenally successful.”

“One of the most popular activities online is displaying images with snarky captions,” North said. “People take an event or a piece of media or an image on a digital platform and they mash it up, or they parody it or they adapt it.”

But, she questioned the staying power of internet celebrities, comparing them with “enduring images” like Hello Kitty and Garfield.

North added, “The world audience is somewhat fickle. Most of these characters don’t live on for a long time. They’re a fad. That’s why agencies are coming in to try to manage the brand.”


Under-SpringLA needs a Department of Interstitial Spaces

LA Observed featured passages from Assistant Dean of Public Affairs and Special Events Jeremy Rosenberg’s new book “Under Spring,” which “chronicles the extraordinary history of the transformation of the space under the Spring Street bridge between 2006 and 2013.”

Castells_275pThe passages included quotes from Annenberg Professor Manuel Castells.

“This site in general, and Los Angeles in particular, is so full of destitute people and destitute places that the effort to rescue these destitute places and regenerate them is probably one of the most crucial projects,” Castells told Rosenberg, for “a new kind of city and a new kind of society. Because we have made too much use of a policy of scorched lands in our cities. We’ll call it a disposable city. You use it and throw it away.”

However, Castells added, “another city is possible, and even in Los Angeles, another Los Angeles is possible.”


Kaplan

God Gave This Land To Them

Professor Martin Kaplan wrote a story in the Jewish Journal about the lyrics Pat Boone wrote using the theme song heard in the 1960 film “Exodus.” Boone wrote the lyrics a year after the film release and titled the ballad “The Exodus Song.” It became an instant hit for musical artist Andy Williams.

Kaplan focused on the lyrics and cited that “some people embrace the literal meaning” behind them. He used the line “God gave this land to me,” as a primary example. In the story he also used Nina Paley’s 2012 animation — which shows a succession of cultural groups conquering each other — as an example to demonstrate how others have “also [believed] this land is theirs.”

“This openness to historical reality doesn’t diminish the idealism and right to self-determination of that nation’s founders, doesn’t mitigate the horror of the Holocaust that impelled its establishment, doesn’t accept the tragic spiral of terror and counterterror visited on its inhabitants,” Kaplan said. “But it does make it harder to hold fast to origin stories in which right always battles wrong and never battles right.”

Kaplan ended by saying that people believe stories whether they are true or not. Although he would like to continue singing the “The Exodus Song” because he thinks it’s a powerful origin story, he believes that “a fable is not a fix.”

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Discoveries: Examining How Youth Approach Political Participation

discoveries-640USC Annenberg Ph.D. students are intellectuals who seek to create and design innovative and theory-driven work. With the help of experts university-wide, they have been able to organize dissertations on notable topics. “Discoveries” is a story series highlighting their research.

Neta Kligler Vilenchik, USC Annenberg Ph.D. candidate, shown moderating a panel back in 2012.  (credit: Kim Fox)

Neta Kligler Vilenchik, USC Annenberg Ph.D. candidate, shown moderating a panel back in 2012. (credit: Kim Fox)

During every major political election, people observe new ways political campaigns try to encourage and promote young people to vote. More often than not, young people are thought to be disinterested when it comes to politics, but a USC Annenberg doctorate student is determined to have that mentality change.

Neta Kligler Vilenchik, a Ph.D. candidate, is looking at the way young people in the United States — between ages 15 to 25 — engage and view politics. Her dissertation topic is titled, “Alternative Citizenship? From Online Participatory Cultures to Participatory Politics.”

According to Kligler Vilenchik, older generations believe that there is a decrease in youth engagement because young people just don’t vote. She described this as the “decline narrative,” which is the idea that youth aren’t interested in political participation and are not engaged. However, her approach to the “decline narrative” is different. Its one that claims that what’s happening is not so much a decline in voting, but rather a difference in participation style.

“The ways young people chose to participate politically is changing,” Kligler Vilenchik said. “They’re changing in terms of their modes of participation, in terms of the topics they’re interested in and also in terms of their ideas of what it means to be a good citizen.”

Kligler Vilenchik has analyzed the ways some organizations are bridging cultural interests, which include fan culture and popular culture, to help build a platform for civic and political participation of young people.

One of the programs she’s worked with is the Harry Potter Alliance. It’s a group that uses metaphors from the Harry Potter narratives to get young people to become engaged, Kligler Vilenchik said. She’s been conducting this research through the Youth and Participatory Politics Research Network, which is funded by the MacArthur Foundation. The foundation seeks to understand the political lives of young Americans.

Younger people want to express their own voice through participation and often connect to popular culture, Kligler Vilenchik said. Still that kind of approach baffles certain individuals, and it’s been something Kligler Vilenchik has occasionally struggled to present in her research.

“With the Harry Potter Alliance, people would say ‘Why do you need to make a link to a fictional narrative to understand why politics matter?’” Kligler Vilenchik said. “But for some young people its that link to a fictional narrative that help them understand why politics do matter. It helps resonate for them.”

When it comes to political participation, often time, people have normative ideals or expectations of what they think it should look like, Kligler Vilenchik said. The challenge for her has been helping connect these distinct viewpoints to a broader audience.

Kligler Vilenchik was the recipient of the Dissertation Completion Fellowship last May. The fellowship helped Kligler Vilenchik focus on shaping her dissertation, and it’s allowed her to integrate the different feedback she’s received along the way.

When Kligler Vilenchik first came to USC Annenberg, she was interested in researching collective memory. But she kept an open mind about which direction she wanted to take her dissertation topic in. Eventually, she became a research assistant to Henry Jenkins, provost professor of communications, journalism and cinematic arts, for the program Civic Paths.

As a research assistant, she became fully engaged with the research being done by Civic Paths on the Harry Potter Alliance. Kligler Vilenchik eventually asked Professor Jenkins if she could take up the study as part of her own dissertation research.

Professor Jenkins, who is on Kligler Vilenchik’s committee board, explained that Kligler Vilenchik has been involved in the Civic Paths team from the very beginning. He added that she has helped the group think about what they call “civic imagination.”

“Before you can change the world, you have to be able to imagine what an alternative world would look like,” Jenkins said. “You have to recognize that the world is subject to change, to see yourself as a political agent, and to develop some empathy for people in different circumstances than your own.”

Jenkins added that Kligler Vilenchik is co-author to his next book, By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Particular Politics. He explained that Kligler Vilenchik has made core contributions at every stage along the way.

Throughout the work that Kligler Vilenchik has done, she stresses the importance of understanding the ways young people approach politics, even if it seems unconventional.

“I think it’s really imperative for us to open our eyes and to learn about the new ways young people are participating,” Kligler Vilenchik said. “Even if it seems strange or different, don’t disregard it. Try to understand what its value may be and also how to support it.”

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Annenberg in LA: Leimert Phone Company Honors the Past and Embraces the Future

Annenberg-in-LA-640Since 2012, Annenberg Professor Francois Bar, the Annenberg Innovation Lab and an entire community of artists, musicians and creators in Leimert Park have been working together to find ways to preserve the history and culture of the area, as well as promote civic engagement.

Leimert Phone Company, a joint collaboration between USC Annenberg and local art space Kaos Network, has done so by repurposing old payphones.

lpc-logoUSC Media Arts + Practice PhD candidate Karl Baumann explained that the symbolic Sankofa bird on the logo “flies to the future while constantly looking back towards the past.” Baumann, who helped found the project, said it embodies the “conceptual framework” for Leimert Phone Company.

Over the last few years, a number of brainstorming workshops and classes have been held. The first was a five-week pilot period during which a group of USC students and Leimert Park residents met twice a week — once at USC Annenberg and once at Kaos Network.

Kaos Network owner and Leimert Park community member Ben Caldwell said that he sees Kaos Network as a “community leader and liaison” with USC Annenberg in their “co-teaching relationship.”

“We are not simply bringing USC to the community, but providing means by which the community can communicate and collaborate,” said USC Annenberg PhD candidate Andrew Schrock. “In this way, Leimert [Phone Company] serves as a facilitator to amplify the voice of Leimert Park as a whole.”

The collaboration continued with a spring 2013 test course at USC. Students and Leimert Park community members pitched prototypes through “concept videos.” Ideas included using the keypad to play local music, audio stories about the neighborhood and information about local art.

Sankofa Red (Photo by Wesley Groves)

Sankofa Red (Photo by Wesley Groves)

At the end of last year, the project unveiled its first physical prototype: Sankofa Red, a payphone that has been completely rewired on the inside and redecorated on the outside.

Combining aspects of the earlier prototype ideas, it has a screen on the front, a speaker on the top, a microphone on one side and numerous outlets on the other side. Users can plug in Mp3 devices, do karaoke or pick up the phone to hear and record stories, as well as listen to the music of Leimert Park.

“It’s kind of a whole art performance piece,” said Bar.

The Sankofa Red operates through the “Raspberry Pi” — a circuit board created by Schrock specifically for the project. It connects to the keyboard of the phone and detects any action by the user.

Sankofa Red resides in the Kaos Network space until sturdier versions of the prototype can be built, sponsored by local businesses and left on the street, but the prototype is brought out for community events, such as the monthly Art Walk.

It was also brought out for a event at Kaos Network held by Bar’s tactical media course (IML 404) through the Cinema school this past spring. The course introduced students to the project and had them develop prototypes using other types of public fixtures such as newspaper boxes and street benches.

Students showcased their projects to gather support for a Leimert Park People St. plaza proposal that has since been approved by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s program that plans to transform under-used areas of Los Angeles into “active, vibrant, and accessible public space.”

Most recently, the Leimert Phone Company team also used their experimentation with payphones as the basis for an urban game called Sankofa Says. It was selected and presented at this year’s Indiecade — an annual festival for independent game designers held Oct. 9 and 10 in Culver City. The game used payphones to educate people on the history of Culver City.

“Think of it as a treasure hunt which helps people meet each other and discover the place they’re in,” Bar said.

Players registered for the game over the phone and were given a personalized code. They would then visit various places throughout Culver City where payphones resided. At each place, players would pick up the payphone, enter their code and receive clues for a nearby activity. After completing the given task, they would use the payphone to answer trivia questions and receive points for correct answers. The game also incorporated group tasks that would require players to connect with one another.

Bar said that duplicating the game in Leimert Park is one of the project’s next goals.

The other is to create additional prototypes, exploring new ideas for engaging the community. This will be the basis for a 2-unit, experimental class taught by Bar for seven weeks in the spring — ASCJ 420: Annenberg Collaboratory (HackLab). He hopes to attract students from all academic areas of USC to bring new perspectives to the project.

Bar said that the collaboration between USC students and the Leimert Park community has been instrumental over the years.

Students have benefited from getting to “discover the area around campus in a way that really allows them to understand culture and take advantage of all the opportunities they have here,” Bar said.

Additionally, the community — made up of artists, musicians, and creators —have brought necessary skills to the project, skills that Bar’s students didn’t necessarily have. In turn, USC students have brought ideas about communication, game design, and engineering to the community.

Bar described it as creating a very diverse team that’s about to play together and work together towards a goal that’s, in this case, a little bit whimsical.”

Caldwell echoed his sentiments toward their collaborative relationship, saying that “[Bar’s] team of people has been really good to work with and [he hopes] to continue work with those types of people to engage the community better.”

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Minor Key: Annenberg Embraces the Future of Advertising

640-minor-keyAccording to Adjunct Advertising Professor Laura Shute, the future of advertising is about convergence — especially at USC Annenberg.

The Advertising minor is offered jointly by the Annenberg School of Journalism and the Marshall School of Business, and it explores how topics such as marketing, public relations and media work together within the industry.

SwerlingKOS_300p

Advertising Professor Jerry Swerling

Since coming to Annenberg in 2000, Shute has helped Professor Jerry Swerling develop courses that address the changing industry and provide students with an understanding of the advertising community from both the client and agency side.

Shute’s introductory course — JOUR 340: Introduction to Advertising — details the various positions at advertising agencies, brings in guest speakers to discuss real world issues and culminates in a group project that involves pitching a product against one another.

The structure and content of the course urge students to consider whether advertising is something they really want to pursue, according to Shute.

She also pointed to JOUR 343: Advertising Design and Production and said that the course helps students “understand how creativity operates within an advertising agency.”

The course has students design ad layouts, which are then critiqued by the professor and classmates, “giving them a good sense of what it’s like from a creative standpoint to have [their] work reviewed, reviewed against strategy [and] reviewed for creativity.”

JOUR 342: Advertising Media and Analysis — taught by Adjunct Professor Kyle Acquistapace — explores the relationship between advertising and media buying.

“In today’s ever-changing media landscape, he does a great job talking about what’s new, what’s important, but also what’s old from a media standpoint and what’s relevant,” Shute said about Acquistapace.

Maddie Kirkland, a junior Communication major, said that some of her favorite classes at USC have been for her advertising minor.

“All of my professors have been so passionate about their field and are most concerned with seeing their students succeed,” Kirkland said. She added that she got her internship at Deutsch LA last summer through one of her advertising professors.

Kirkland said she’s always been interested in advertising and the minor curriculum has allowed her to explore the various roles available to her.

“Now, I feel like I’m closer to choosing a career path I’m passionate about,” Kirkland said.

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Discoveries: A Field Experiment Using Communication Technology for Healthier Eating

discoveries-640USC Annenberg Ph.D. students are intellectuals who seek to create and design innovative and theory-driven work. With the help of experts university-wide, they have been able to organize dissertations on notable topics. “Discoveries” is a story series highlighting their research.

Jinghui Hou conducts research for her dissertation topic on communication technology. (credit: Xiao Ma)

Jinghui Hou conducts research for her dissertation topic on communication technology. (credit: Xiao Ma)

For the past five years Jinghui Hou, a doctorate student at USC Annenberg, has been interested in researching the impact of communication technologies. In that time, she’s thought about how the effects and usages of technology can influence social behaviors.

Those thoughts lingered in Hou’s mind until they eventually shaped her dissertation topic titled, “Leverage Social Influence Bias to Design Online Crowdsourcing and Network Platforms for Healthy Eating: A Field Experiment.” Hou believes that technology and information can be used to create a better world through social relevance and social behavior.

Hou is exploring how technology-based environments have an impactful role in shaping social ideas and decision-making. She’s concentrated her topic to healthy eating habits and is trying to see if designing effective technologies will sway people to make healthier eating decisions.

To test her theory, Hou has developed a food ordering website.* The hope is that the technology will persuade people to make better choices when it comes to eating.     

“It’s a dynamic website,” Hou said. “Participants can see other participant food choices and order quantity. They will use other people’s choices and decision making as reference points.”

It can most readily be compared to a simpler version of GrubHub, a food delivery website. Her website allows participants to order both healthy and unhealthy snacks. And while the website doesn’t necessarily suggest healthy food choices for its participants, it does alert the users on how much food intake they are taking. Subsequently, users will take that information and, ideally, make sounder choices.

She added that most people have a tendency to seek information about the types of things they should do — or in this case eat. For that reason she’s taken note on what people have ordered on her website and made that information visible to its users.

Professor Margaret McLaughlin, who is on Hou’s advisory board, explained that the website tests the idea of social influence by giving users, in a sense, a hint about choosing the healthier option.

“She has created a ‘social buying’ platform and is looking at how different types of web design can influence choice behavior,” McLaughlin said. “For example, creating a drop down menu of consumer choices and making the ‘default’ choice the healthiest or most sensible one is a form of behavioral ‘nudging.’”

McLaughlin added that after a few trials, Hou will see whether different types of behavioral nudges will be effective in leading people to the best food choice.

Part of Hou’s motivation for her focus was based on the obesity rate in the United States and in other parts of the world.

The website has assisted Hou in keeping track of the eating choices her participants have made, especially because keeping track of a real life environment is harder to manipulate, Hou said. People might choose to eat less based on whom they eat with, Hou added.

“There are a lot of studies that show that social influence has a huge effect on how much food people eat and what they eat,” Hou said. “For example if you eat with the opposite sex, you are more likely to eat less than you would if you were by yourself. Sometimes there’s that pressure of making a good impression.”

More data needs to be collected for Hou’s project before completing it in the next couple of months. She admits that one of the challenges she’s faced while working on her dissertation was creating the website itself. Hou explained that she had no prior experience with website developing or programing.

“It was difficult at first but I want to do high quality research, which requires me to know something about website developing,” Hou said.

She credits the faculty on her committee board, which in addition to Professor McLaughlin includes Peter Monge, Professor of Communication and Director of the Annenberg Doctoral Program, and Wendy Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and business. Hou explained that their help and encouragement has been instrumental for her project.

“Jinghui is supported by an outstanding committee who bring their considerable expertise to her dissertation committee, alerting her to new developments and new ways of thinking as she planned her research design,” McLaughlin said.

Last May, Hou received the Oakley Fellowship — a yearlong fellowship that has financed some of her research expenses. The fellowship also encouraged Hou, especially when she was considering steering her topic in a slight different direction.

“When I got the fellowship I knew that I would continue with the same plan,” Hou said. “It’s a big encouragement to get the fellowship because it showed the merit of my research.”

While the hope is that the website will lead to better food choices, that’s just the beginning. In the larger scheme of things, Hou hopes that people will take her study and begin to think about how communication technologies can influence social conduct for the better.


* Editors Note: Due to the ongoing research, Hou did not want to share her website until the project meets completion.

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