Media Presentation Analyzation: Design & Ethical Relationships
The war in the Middle East is an example of an on-going media presentation that is covered in the radio, television and on the Internet. More recently covered are the accounts of the beheadings of those kidnapped and in yesterday's news, of numerous people killed or wounded in the Iraqi car blasts in Najaf, Iraq. This paper will examine the design and ethical relationships of the media's presentation of the war in Iraq using the attached article downloaded off the Internet for the analysis. It will examine television and the new media environment of the Web, for both have become central in determining both the design and ethical dimensions of the media's coverage of the war in the Middle East.
Turning on the television means establishing a connection with the place of broadcasting and being literally and continually present at the birth of the picture. The television picture materializes because of a short circuit between the place of transmission and the place of reception. But due to the speed of transmission of the electronic signal, the television picture is practically simultaneous and we do not notice a delay in time. As a result we are able to establish a physical contact with one of the most traumatic events of our time, the situation in Iraq. The individual viewing the television experiences events as though they were happening presently and in close location. This is the case even if the events are thousands of miles away, occurring at a different time and in a different place.
The majority of the television viewers in the United States and Europe know that there is a war raging in the Middle East, and as long as this is documented in the media, it will not be forgotten. However, everyday television reporting seems inconsistent with the logic of television's informative-realistic effect. It seems as though the reports produce fiction, and that the escalation of horrors transforms fact into fiction. Daily reports from the battle zones are not sufficient coverage of the events in Iraq. Our interpretation of the media is experienced through natural interfaces like our senses, organs and being channeled. The television of our time shows that we have the possibility of an artificial interface. In this artificial media space we see that the basic concept of how to construct space and time are examples of non-naturality. The media world is dominated by non-identity or difference. The "real" is replaced by virtual reality. Necessity is replaced by possibility or contingency. This means that the media and television in relation to the war show us all the dimensions of the active reality that is already ideologically and virtually constructed.
Information about the war in the Middle East is not only simultaneously broadcast on television and the Internet, but also simultaneously tolerated in all parts of the world. The war is not only changing the perception of the media as such, but also of the perception of society. Television is not a mirror of society, but society is a mirror of television. The television audience today is the most pervasive type of social community. The most striking turn of television positioning of the war occurred with the kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners in the Middle East. The only means of communication between the United States and other countries and the executioners was by way of the blurry broadcasts on television and the Web. With this turnover television really functioned in the way it was supposed to predicted by theorists, by reaching audiences in and forcing them into action.
Media presentation by way of the Internet faces the issue of determing the credibility of online materials. The attached article, 60 Killed, 120 Wounded in Iraq Car Blasts, was downloaded from the Web, using a generalized search term of the "war in the middle east." This illustrates the Web's difficult and distinctive features that make conventional ways of assessing credibility a problem. The broad characheristics of the Web reveals an ethical dimension to many credibility assessments. One of the most debated topics about the Web is how users can be expected to assess the credibility of information they find there. The sources of information found online are sometimes difficult to ascertain.
The Web seems to offer a global reference resource but, because of its very scope, it seems to overwhelm the ordinary conventions by which people informally judge the merit of what they read or hear. The basis of credibility for my article was that it was from Associated Press, written by a man with an Iraqi-sounding name, who may have been onsite and had a good grasp of the language to understand the events taking place there.
The Web is not an ordinary reference system, and it poses some unprecedented conditions that complicate sorting out dependable from undependable information. How to differentiate credible from fraudulent information is not a new problem, but unraveling these in the context of a vast rapidly changing network system is. Users of the Web have to make credibility judements, such as to reliability, bias, and outdatedness. There are dozens of Web sites already devoted to assessing credibility that offer sensible advice such as using the return address or URL to determine the source of the information. Sometimes these standards fail as issues of greater complexity and difficulty are considered. The article I chose listed the day, time, and year and even the number of hours ago that the event ocurred. Part of my relaibility on it rested on the fact that it appeared to be very up-to-date, actually dated the same day I pulled it up.
A Web search of the war in the Middle East could pull up thousands, or even millions, of "hits" including newsgroups, listservs, and e-mail as sources of information on a topic. The numbers are overwhelming. Referencing and organizational systems are not available. Another problem with the Web is that it is a self-sustaining reference system. In order to determine the credibility of an information source, we frequently must rely on other information within the network. If an article written by an academic group is found, we go to their university Web site to find out more about them or their research and perform a keyword search to see if similar information can be found elsewhere.
When a referencing system operates only internally and has no separate external reference, the other references exist in the same network. I did not perform any other keyword searches, but just browsed down the entries revealed to see what appeared to be recent and relevant. The number of hits was enormous, and I chose the article I did mainly because of the date and time that was listed along with it.
Because the central feature of the Web is the HTML link, the structure of links by which we access a Web resource, and the links it contains, provides a major source for credibility judgments. The link to a page usually provides a primary criterion of whether it is believable or not. It could have been linked to from an authoritative site or an amatuer in the area. A site for news information that only includes links to other sites expressing a similar political point-of-view might be viewed as more credible, especially if one shares that political point-of-view. It could also be seen as less credible if it only presents one side of the issues. Credibility here depends on the pathways through which we have accessed the information and the pathways to which it points. My article was from a news bank with a credible reputation, had it not been, I am sure I would have doubted its' accuracy or origin as well. If I had found an article affiliated with an even greater reliable source, such as a government site, I probably would have chosen the other article.
Another issue is that most of us follow is the belief in the rank order of the posted results after a search. Many users may not know that some search engines "sell" priority in their listings so that the criterion is based on commercial concerns and not necessarily on the quality, reliability, or usefulness of the sites listed. Directories, whether partly automated or driven by human editors, often seek to establish "definitive" sites, selecting, evaluating, and organizing exemplary resources on some topic, and granting through this process a kind of derivative credibility. This order is based on the assumption that these editors are reliable judges of the material themselves. This a point that I found very true- I only skimmed the headings and dates of the first page of results, withour even clicking on the second page of thousands, probably even millions of pages. When a user performs a Web search such as this, it is assumed that the most recent or relevant hits are listed first.
Another dimension of credibility is timeliness. This is not only important in the ordinary sense that much information…