3.5 Personal and public communications

Information technology has significantly changed all forms of communication - from personal communication using smart phones and social networks to the creation, broadcasting, and consumption of news media. These resources address all aspects of this topic.

Development of smart phones

Exercise 2.1: The Development of Smart Phones

How Smartphones work (HowStuffWorks) may help students with this exercise. The article explains the development of smart phone devices and related technologies such as PDAs, laptops, and MP3 players. It also covers the underlying developments that have enabled these technologies, such as lower powered processors.
Updated: 2014-10-02
Television broadcasts

Published and broadcast information: Television

Like it or loathe it, the TV show Big Brother draws huge audiences, many of whom are eager to find out more about the show online. Without hefty technology, it couldn't be done. Computer Weekly explains how it is achieved in Claranet cloud powers Channel 5's Big Brother.
Updated: 2014-11-07

Published and broadcast information: Newspapers

Online Paywalls and the Future of Media: A Few Hard Truths and Papers worldwide embrace web subscriptions discuss the increased use of paywalls as news organisations struggle to make money in an online world. Would you pay for online news? discusses the demise of the printed edition of TIME magazine, explains some of the challenges faced by newspapers, and asks whether paywalls will simply push readers to other news sites.

Meanwhile, interactive newsprint may be the future of "printed" news...
Updated: 2014-11-07

Published and broadcast information: Social media and news

This multi-award-winning short film makes a great lesson starter. It imagines how the classic tale The Three Little Pigs might be told in today's modern news and social media. Really smart and fun, it is an excellent resource for generating discussions.

Updated: 2014-11-07
Citizen journalism

Published and broadcast information: Citizen Journalism

One of the most notable examples of citizen journalism is the famous image of US Airways flight 1549 moments after it landed in the Hudson river in January 2009. The image was taken by a Janis Krums, a passenger on a nearby ferry, and quickly spread around the world. Other famous examples include citizen reports on the 2005 terrorist attacks on London transportation systems, with major news organisations featuring eye witness submissions and even video clips from the Underground trains (which professional journalists could not access). The most famous image from these events - that of a number 30 bus moments after a bomb ripped it apart - won the first prize in awards set up by Nokia and the UK Press Gazette.

Citizen journalism also played a major role in the 2011 'Arab spring' uprisings in Syria and Egypt.
Updated: 2014-11-07
Olympic broadcast technology

Broadcasting Technology and the Olympic Games

Live! Broadcasting the Olympic Games gives an overview of the technological developments in broadcasting that have taken place during the last 116 years. Not all of the developments relate to information technology, but there are many great examples for ITGS - from live replays to 4K broadcasting and Internet streaming.

How the Olympic Torch Relay is Broadcast Live (BBC) details some surprising technologies that are sometimes used in live, mobile broadcasting.

Sports Technology: IT and the Olympics contains resources explaining how technology is changing the Olympic Games themselves.

Unfortunately, the Rio 2016 Olympics will not be broadcast in 4K, with focus instead being directed as streaming content to mobile platforms, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Updated: 2016-02-15
Online newspapers and paywalls

Online newspapers and Paywalls

In February 2016 The Independent newspaper announced that it will be the "First UK national newspaper to embrace a global, digital-only future". Of course, in reality sales of their printed edition have fallen drastically - from a high of over 400,000 daily copies to less than a quarter of that in recent years - and the move to digital was seen by many as inevitable. Several publications have faced similar sales pressures in the last few years and have moved to online-only versions. Examples include:

  • The Independent will become online only in March 2016.
  • Newsweek magazine went digital only in December 2012.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica stopped producing its famous printed volumes in March 2012.
  • The Financial Times, previously using a soft (metered) paywall system, moved to a hard paywall in 2015.
  • The New Yorker, which implemented a paywall system for subscribers in 2014 (though it continues to produce printed magazines).
  • The New York Times has had several attempts at creating an online paywall (though it continues to produce printed newspapers).
  • German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel started a new paywall initiative at the end of December 2015.
  • Although over 100,000 people paid for online access to The Times and The Sunday Times, overall web traffic fell by 87% after its introduction of a paywall (BBC article).
  • British newspaper The Sun launched a paywall in 2012 but then reversed the decision in October 2015, allowing free access. Within months it was reported that there had been a huge increase in readership.
  • In February 2016 Newsweek - which previously moved to an online only model after falling profits - removed its online paywall to allow free access to 'most' of its articles.
  • Although perhaps not the most recognised name in publishing, the Winnipeg Free Press has developed an interesting take on online subscriptions using micropayments. Users are charged 27 cents (13 pence) for each article they view. Crucially, users have an opportunity to decline payment for content by clicking a button at the bottom of the page and explaining why they did not find the content payment-worthy. The newspaper also offers more traditional subscription models.

Online 'paywalls'

Up against the paywall is a detailed article from The Economist that discusses the difficulties news organisations face when trying to make money, both in print editions and digital editions. Packed with examples, the article discusses different strategies, including both 'metered paywalls' and 'hard paywalls'.

Peddling news through tired business models will get you nowhere (The Guardian) discusses why newspapers' traditional monetization strategies - including subscription fees and advertising - do not work in the online world.

Soft paywalls retain more users than hard paywalls - by a big margin is a useful resource with statistics concerning the use of soft paywalls (which allow limited access) versus hard paywalls (those which allow no free content).

Updated: 2016-02-16
Facebook logo

Policies: Policing social media

Policing a global web service such as Facebook or Twitter is clearly a difficult task, and there are many social impacts and ethical issues to consider. Most obviously, different countries, regions, and users have wildly different standards regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable. Content also spreads extremely quickly online, while new situations constantly arise, requiring companies to make quick policy decisions. Below are examples of situations where material has been removed (and sometimes reinstated) by social media sites. These issues are also a great opportunity to link ITGS and TOK, with many knowledge issues surrounding censorship and filtering.

In May 2017 a Facebook document was leaked which revealed their internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence. Finally, ITGS students might be surprised to learn who makes the decisions about removing content - The dark side of Facebook explains this.

Updated: 2017-07-12