“The Internet is becoming the town square
for the global village of tomorrow.”
“Few influential people involved with the Internet
claim that it is a good in and of itself. It is a powerful
tool for solving social problems, just as it is a tool
for making money, finding lost relatives,
receiving medical advice, or, come to that,
trading instructions for making bombs.”
“On the Internet, inside information is currency,
and there will always be counterfeiters among us.”
J. Michael Straczynski
The Internet began as a tool that enabled academics and government workers to communicate with each other quickly and effectively. While Al Gore may not have actually invented the Internet, he was influential in expanding the system to be used by the American public and, ultimately, the entire world.
That being said, the Internet is a tool. Like all tools, it can be used for good or for evil. A knife can slice a red, ripe, juicy tomato that nourishes a child or it can be used in a moment of violence to destroy a life. In the same way that we all have knives in our kitchens, most of us have the Internet in our homes. At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to manage these tools effectively so that they have a positive impact our children.
For many years in the late 1980’s, my husband and I lived in virtual isolation. I was unable to leave my home because my oldest son had been injured at birth and was medically fragile to the point where a simple cold could have escalated quickly and killed him. We made the choice to do everything we could to avoid contact with germs. The Internet was in its infancy, but it enabled me to have a remarkable sense of freedom and communication. From my home office in Los Angeles, I taught the first university accredited course in screenwriting via distance learning; I spoke to dozens of other screenwriters every day on the Writers Guild BBS; I could even read my home town paper (The New York Times) on the same day it was printed! All of these things enriched my life and expanded my opportunities.
The Internet is a tool of empowerment for those of us who are positively directed. At the same time, we know all too well that it can serve as a cyberspace cesspool for pedophiles, con artists and thieves. Articles in this section will shine a light on the wonderful opportunities that can be found online and post warning signs about the soft shoulders, slippery roads and falling rocks on the information superhighway.
DIGITAL HOLLYWOOD GIVES US A LOOK AT THE FUTURE
OF OUR MEDIA CONSUMPUTION
November 3rd 2008
When digital media experts gather to discuss the state of technology and content at the point where they intersect with the delivery of entertainment media, you can expect that sparks are going to fly. But this week at Digital Hollywood, the sparks weren’t an indication of exciting discovery or advocacy of one technology over another – they were sparks of frustration over the fact that nearly every aspect of the digital media is in a period of stasis and the economic stagnation that has overtaken our country isn’t likely to help matters.
For the past five years, the buzz words “branded content” have been hailed as the future funding source of most – if not all – entertainment media. But when you take a look at what has actually emerged, you find that it really doesn’t go much farther than “product placement” of branded items “embedded” into traditional entertainment media.
One of the few real “pioneers” of the field is Matti Leshem. As founder and CEO of Protagonist, he is responsible for taking a simple schoolyard game and turning it into the USA Rock Paper Scissors League Champions – and annual event broadcast on ESPN2. His online project – Dew Mocracy (http://www.dewmocracyvoltage.com) offered consumers an opportunity to combine entertainment with a chance to help create a new flavor of Mountain Dew. More important, the site was responsible for shipping an additional 15 million cases of the soft drink. According to every definition of the term, this is effective branded entertainment. Unfortunately for us, the competition is miles behind Leshem’s creative team. When asked what the one year and three year projections for the field are, Leshem predicts: “Next year will be exactly like this year, but three years from now will be exactly like next year.”
We can’t get around the fact that when it comes to using cell phones for anything beyond conversation and the most rudimentary computer/database functions, much of the world is way ahead of us. Third world countries that never had a land-line infrastructure have adopted cell phones at a surprising rate, while the rest of the developed world has been using entertainment applications for years. In the US, the development of entertainment apps has slowed to a crawl. The industry leader is Fun Little Movies (http://www.funlittlemovies.com) and Frank Chindamo, FLM’s President and Chief Creative Officer has been at the forefront of the movement to offer an array of short-form entertainment that can be viewed on the small screen.
The real news in this medium can be summed up with an adaptation of an old term to a new state of art – LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Everyone who is setting themselves into place to become a major player is focused on GPS. That’s right – the little thing we have in our cars to get us to where we’re going can also be used by the phone companies to tell them where we are. Mind you, they really don’t care where we’re going – they just want the ability to develop “location based targeted advertising.” You see, if they know that we’re in a mall that has a Gap – and their database can tell them we’ve previously purchased items from or searched for Gap online – we might want to know that there is a sale on spring jackets.
Guess how they’ll sell it to us? We’ll be able to use location apps to know exactly where our kids are at all times. Here’s my prediction: phone service providers will offer Find-A-Kid as a fully sponsored free application for moms – because, coincidentally, moms account for more than 60% of all purchasing decisions in American households.
Here’s the second big trend to watch for in the mobile space. If you buy something on a mobile phone, you have to pay for it some way. Rather than use a credit card, you can opt to have the payment processed through your phone bill – either land line or mobile. Right now, Payment One (http://paymentone.com) is the leader of the pack. While other companies will undoubtedly grab a significant market share of this area, I have a particular fondness for the fact that Payment One is a privately held company run by a dad. Rob Uhrich has a lot of kids, so he understands that the ability to track (and control) the media purchases our kids make is a major selling point for parents.
In this respect, the news is good and getting even better. First of all, it seems that they’re going to stop suing our children for “theft” of music, movies and television. It’s still on us to teach them that stealing is not right – even when there is nothing more tangible than some digits that are flying through the Ethernet. But the industry has finally realized they if they price a product reasonably and make it easy to purchase and readily available, our kids – and the rest of us – will do the right thing and pay for the product.
Throughout the conference, it seemed as if everybody I talked to has a “new and exciting” social networking application they’re adding to the array of services they offer. The problem is, I can’t seem to find much that differs between them. If you look at the aspect of business networking, LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com) remains the top contender with Plaxo (http://pulse.plaxo.com/pulse) and the rest bringing up the rear as somewhat annoying copycats. The problem they all share is that they maintain the position that you should only network online with people you already know. That seems to defeat the purpose of networking for business.
At the same time, Facebook (www.facebook.com) is the leader in real social networking by focusing on personal profiles. It’s no coincidence that its origins as a college campus tool has kept the IQ level a bit higher than the competition. MySpace seems to have slipped from grace given the overwhelming push to monetize corporate owned properties through it.
But the ultimate application that will allow social networking to make sense and be more user friendly has yet to materialize. There’s no indication when an effective tool that would enable you to create ONE social networking profile and ONE professional networking profile and then quickly upload it to fit all the sites – without any proprietary frames that have to be filled out in a specific sequence – will enable the impact of social networking to increase more rapidly. As a last note on the topic, shall we have a show of hands of all those moms who feel a compelling need to become involved in social networking around a specific product or service?
Breaking Trend – Moms Love Gaming
What a surprise it must have been to the gaming industry to discover that after our kids go to bed we frequently slip into the click-trance of our own gaming world. The industry has caught on and is reaching out to women (moms?) who want to develop more games with women in mind. Naturally, advertising is moving into this world, too. But, who would have thought that one of the presidential candidates (can you guess which one???) would have campaign ads embedded into online virtual worlds? Okay, so it was just a matter of time.
Digital Hollywood – The Future
If you’d like to become part of the excitement, Digital Hollywood hosts a number of conferences across the country. For more information, visit www.DigitalHollywood.com.
The menu is tiny and hard to read, but the quality of this event is well worth the effort.
The MySpace Case: Do Mean Girls Ever Grow Up?
May 16th 2008
In one way or another, at some point in our wonder years we all had to deal with the mean girls. They were conceited – “stuck up” – and thought they were better than we were. They made fun of how we dressed or how we ran in phys ed, or just about anything else in our lives that presented itself as an opportunity for their mockery. When they discovered that we liked a boy, they were the first one to tell him – and to mock him, too, if he didn’t react like he thought it was gross – thereby sabotaging our chances with Prince Charming and getting another laugh at our expense. They traveled in packs, bonding over our anguish. But being a mean girl didn’t guarantee that another mean girl wouldn’t make you her target – in fact, some of the meanest girls welcomed the challenge of a more evenly-matched victim.
Through it all, a painful reality perpetuates the cycle of girl-on-girl bullying. Anyone who willfully (and, in this case, gleefully) inflicts pain on another is acting from a point of pain in their own life. At the very core, a mean girl’s pain is wrapped in anger. Unable to fight back or control the cause of her own anger, the mean girl strikes out at a victim that cannot return the aggression. It’s a simple act of psychological transference, yet it leaves an immeasurable amount of anguish in its wake.
Most of us grew up and moved on. Some of the mean girls found redemption and changed their ways. Some just disappeared – left town or transferred to another school, never to be heard from again. But some of them grew up to become mean women, their core of pain wrapped in anger now grown to extreme proportions. When they get married and have children of their own, some of them perpetuate the cycle of meanness against their own daughters, while others enlist their offspring as partners in crime.
This week, Lori Drew – a 49-year-old mother in Missouri – was indicted in Federal court in Los Angeles, charged with “conspiracy and accessing protected computers without authorization.” After setting up a phony myspace page under the false identity of a boy named Josh Evans, Lori, her 13-year-old daughter and her adult employee took turns using that false persona to befriend, seduce and ultimately belittle Megan Meier, an emotionally vulnerable girl who had just emerged from tween to teen. It was such a middle school mean girl thing to do – pure, classic vengeance. We can only imagine the fun that was had by these three generations of mean girls as they sat around the screen, laughing at Megan’s innermost thoughts while devising the most manipulative response to her, through Josh. What a bonding experience that must have been – mother to daughter, daughter to mother, employee to boss, etc.
When Josh’s final message suggested that “the world would be a better place without you,” Megan became so distraught that suicide seemed like the only way to stop the pain. Shortly after the final post from Josh, Megan hanged herself in the perfectly pink room that was no longer enough of a cocoon to shelter her from the pain of the mean, outside world.
Whether it was intentional or not, Lori Drew embedded a clue into the messages, but not one that a 13 year old girl could be expected to readily pick up. According to The Cognitive Science Laboratory at Princeton University (http://wordnet.princeton.edu/ ) the name “Josh” can be a play on words:
- S: (v) kid, chaff, jolly, josh, banter (be silly or tease one another) "After we relaxed, we just kidded around"
The mean girls were just “joshing” around with Megan – just playing a joke on her to get even for a schoolgirl disagreement she’d had with Lori Drew’s daughter. But the mean girl deck was so stacked against Megan that the final “josh” was more devastating than a little girl could imagine recovering from – and so the mean, unfunny practical joke ended with a deadly punch line.
If convicted, Lori Drew faces 20 years in prison. Federal sentences are hard time – no allowance for good behavior or time served – which means that Drew might be released around the time that Megan (and Drew’s own daughter) would have celebrated a 35th birthday. No matter how much time Lori Drew spends in jail, It won’t bring Megan back – and it certainly won’t help Drew’s own daughter get through the rest of her life, wearing this experience like a kick-me sign on her back. In so many ways, the ultimate victim of Lori Drew’s disgusting mean girl joke is her own daughter.
We can only wonder how many more false myspace identities have been created for heinous reasons. Perhaps we moms should all sign up for myspace pages – clearly under our own names and identities, of course – and start checking out our kid’s pages and their friend’s pages. Invite your kids and their friends to become your myspace friends. It’s a less-than-subtle way to let them know that you’re watching them and watching out for them.
It is admirable that myspace has taken the initiative to pursue prosecution in Federal Court, but it should also be noted that News Corp (owner of myspace) is doing what corporations do in situations like this – they are protecting the value of their brand. In spite of this tragedy, myspace knows that millions of its users are children under the age of 16. While there is a disclaimer, myspace does not shut down users who list middle schools in their profiles. In fact, myspace enables middle school children to participate by allowing them to list their age as “99” and making their photo gallery and other information “private” after the profile page. Nevertheless, sexual and emotional predators have a golden opportunity by approaching young children through a false profile. When one of them knocks with an invitation to become a friend, will your child let them into their “private” space?
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