Month: May 2015

Critical study of a text

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“Beyond Newspapers: News Consumption among Young People in the Digital Era” is a journal article written by Andreu Casero-Ripollés Castellón, and published in the Scientific Journal of Media Education on the 1st of October 2012. The article aims to analyse the changing role of news media and how it is accessed by younger people. It acknowledges that news media and the way it is accessed has changed because of digitisation. The article states two clear hypotheses at the start that it aims to prove. The methodology used to collect data was a quantitative survey of people between the ages of 16 and 30. It also uses a literature review, and sources other articles that have been written about the same topic. It draws conclusions from these texts, and then looks at its own research as well to prove the two hypotheses.

This article was the winner of a prize at the 5th Edition of the University Research Prize, which was awarded by Asociación Catalana de Prensa Comarcal in 2011. This definitely adds to the credibility of the article, when reading it for the first time.

It is set out in a very easy to read way, broken up into the following sections:
Key words
Literature Review
Results (which was then further sub-divided into the different media types)
Discussion and conclusion.

The fact that this article appears in the Scientific Journal of Media Education suggests that its intended audience are scholars and media researchers, those who are already interested in the topic, rather than a casual reader. Despite the audience of the journal article being quite specific, the style of writing is simple enough that it would be accessible to anyone to read, and does not have excessive use of jargon.
The author is objective in this research, stating clearly what their hypothesis is and how they expect to find it, what others have said on the same issue, and then delivering the results of his own study.

It also uses an extremely wide variety of sources, with over 20 other pieces of literature referenced in this study. This proves that not only does he have his own study to back up his hypothesis, but other studies will also confirm this. This adds a lot of credibility to the study, while also showing that there was thorough research put into it before it was published.

It uses graphs and charts to simply explain the findings of the study, and these are broken up into age and gender, so it is easy for anyone researching based on one of these two demographics to access the information that is most relevant to them.

Overall, this study is thorough, easy to read, well structured, well researched and provides clear evidence to its hypotheses.

Lets get Ethical

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In research, ethics are important for a variety of reasons, including safety of participants, consent, privacy, anonymity and truthfulness. (Weerakkody 2008) This post will look at two case studies where potential ethical breaches have occurred, to see what these breaches were, and why ethics are important in research.

In 2014, Facebook came under fire for conducting research that violated potentially two of these ethical issues – consent, and potential safety of participants. It was found that Facebook had hired an external company to do an Emotional Manipulation Study on close to 700 000 of its users, without their consent. This involved changing what users saw on their timeline so that it contained primarily positive or negative posts, and then studied what effect this had on what the user posted. The Conversation did it by the numbers, to find out the potential safety harm done to it’s users.

It is worth keeping in mind given that 6.7% of Americans suffer from clinical depression. So approximately 46,000 of Facebook’s research base may have been suffering depression at the time of the study, done over a single week in 2012.

With this in mind, if one of the users was having a depressive episode and was shown exclusively negative posts, this could have had a significant impact on their mental health and state of mind. We can see that this was an inherently unethical way to carry out research, breaching the standards of informed consent, and ensuring the safety of participants.

Even more recently, SBS aired a 3 part documentary series called Struggle Street. Set in Mount Druitt, the series followed the every day lives of lower class people. Even before it was aired, there were huge calls about the ethical standards of the show. While, unlike the Facebook research, the participants were well aware that research was being conducted on them, SBS’s representation of the truth has been called into question. In particular, SBS aired part of an interview with 16 year old Bailee, who said she was raped. Concerns were raised over whether she consented to this part of the interview being aired on television. As well as this, an allegation was raised that the documentary producers gave one of the participants $50 to spend on lunch at the servo, and then portrayed this in the show as the participant frivolously throwing away money. These allegations, however, have prompted a defamation legal suit from the producers, Keo Films Australia.
When it comes to ethics, this case is more murky. It is definitely obviously that the participants gave consent to be filmed and identified on television. The safety of the participant Bailee in particular could be called into question, as she admitted to being depressed and suicidal. In this case however, the ethical issue lies in whether or not the documentary SBS aired was an accurate portrayal of the participants day-to-day lives. And this is quite difficult for a third party to assess.

Through these two case studies, we can see that ethical research is important in ensuring the safety, well-being, privacy and dignity of those involved in the research.


Hunter, David, Facebook puts ethics of research by private companies in spotlight

Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi 2008, ‘Research ethics in media and communication’, in Research methods for media and communications, Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, South Melbourne, Vic., pp. 73-91