Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Confessions of a media manipulator

The media is in the evil position of needing to go negative and play tricks with your psyche in order to drive you to share their material online. For instance, in studies where subjects are shown negative video footage (war, an airplane crash, an execution, a natural disaster), they become more aroused, can better recall what happened, pay more attention, and engage more cognitive resources to consume the media than nonnegative footage.5 That’s the kind of stuff that will make you hit “share this.” They push your buttons so you’ll press theirs.
Things must be negative but not too negative. Hopelessness, despair—these drive us to do nothing. Pity, empathy—those drive us to do something, like get up from our computers to act. But anger, fear, excitement, or laughter—these drive us to spread. They drive us to do something that makes us feel as if we are doing something, when in reality we are only contributing to what is probably a superficial and utterly meaningless conversation. Online games and apps operate on the same principles and exploit the same impulses: be consuming without frustrating, manipulative without revealing the strings.
For those who know what levers provoke people to share, media manipulation becomes simply a matter of packaging and presentation. All it takes is the right frame, the right angle, and millions of readers will willingly send your idea or image or ad to their friends, family, and coworkers on your behalf.

Iv-B journalism needs to be deterministic, to push buttons and create chaos that spreads like a contagion across social media. The strings are like roots and branches and need to be hidden to work best. 

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