Tagged: Misinformation

Monitor 05012016

I’m considering my options with objects that can be both physical and digital. I like the idea of being able to touch it in VR, but when you take the HMD off, its still there in front of you. Today’s attempts at texturising the light paths with media have been terrible… An example of how terrible it was is below. (Its an extremely up close image of the American flag, on top of these lines.)


The plan is to make the projectors much smaller, to accommodate the images at that scale. When the first projector makes a stable and identifiable image. It will be a matter of copy and paste, and changing the images.

The focus of these images is on news channels, “talking heads” and the miscommunication between their messages. I’m not sure if anyone noticed yesterday’s fallacy of news reporting that is Sky News. A recent ISIS propaganda film has swept its way through our news even though we don’t want their propaganda to effect our daily lives. Whilst watching Sky News broadcast on the subject, they begin a live interview with a current expert in counter-terrorism. His comments were that we should be aware that ISIS are a credible threat, however we shouldn’t give in to their propaganda…. The interview went on for a good 5 /10 minutes. At the end, the presenter re-iterated what the expert had said, that they are a credible threat and we shouldn’t give in to their propaganda, with a banner above him displaying the man from the video and the title “ISIS release new film”…. The report continued for a further length of time, showing images of the British spies kneeling the jihadists.

This story has continued to be a featured part of the news since then, with comments from David Cameron all over the newspaper yesterday and this morning.

It’s irony is mesmerising, and it happens again and again. This is an example of the misinformation and hypocritical values in the news that I was interested in representing last April with ‘Monitor’. Their persistence of calling them ISIS, (a westernised baddie) against the will of our own parliament who are now recognising them as Daesh (a term they despise.)

Current live news reporting represents a terrifying mistreatment of the freedom of information. Paranoia is created throughout the country, and beyond, through the displaying of these propagandist films. (Exactly what Daesh had hoped for). A friend of mine said recently that they could imagine that the sense of unease and tension in London at the moment could be comparable to the Blitz…. other than the fact that there hasn’t been a similar attack. Whereas the Blitz saw consistent air raids on a daily / weekly basis that caused significant damage and hoards of casualties.

And the source of this paranoia? The representation of these stories in our own media. There’s no doubt that we in Britain are shaken by what has happened around the world, but our public information channels shouldn’t be over-bearing the message to make us feel uncomfortable in our own homes. (The sole purpose of ISIS’s propaganda messages). Surely these should be to inform, and to guide in the event of an attack, as well as to re-assure.

Ex-Security Minister Baroness Neville-Jones said on BBC Radio 4 that she was alarmed at the British public’s lack of awareness to their everyday surroundings….. (Two people have bumped into me today because they were looking at their phones.. )

This story trended in the media. It makes the public aware of the threat, whilst also guiding them to be safer in the event of an attack. Though….. you could also argue that this is exactly the kind of thing that stirs paranoia… either way I’d argue that its better than giving ISIS videos the air-time they want on our public news channels.


It’s interesting that the obsession (or addiction) we have to our online content, and personal devices could, in the event of a terrorist attack, be a threat to our own safety. In fact, it could be a threat during strong winds (falling branches etc..) How can we interact with our personal computers, whilst still remaining alert and aware of our physical surroundings? The only way that seems feasible, would be the inclusion of Heads-up displays, and augmented vision?

Below is a video with a demonstration of what can happen at a busy junction:

The shoes below were first thought of in 2012, but there’s an interesting idea / joke in here. The shoes use GPS to guide you home if your lost… If there were vibrations in each shoe telling you to stop, go left, or right. If they were fed live data from smartphones GPS positioning, perhaps, we could all walk around looking at our phones without having to look up to stop ourselves from bumping into one another…. This or something similar seems to be the one of the only possibilities of us encountering this awareness issue without Heads-up displays.


Just a thought.


Anyway, the low-res images below are a more stripped down version of Monitor, (still with no Textures).




30112015 – 01122015 Virtual Projection Tests

I’ve been looking for a way to do this for some time and FINALLY have made some headway. I’ve wanted to re-create the effects of a projector within Blender. These, as many of my tests are, are very simple and have no conceptual framework. These is proof of process and essential for me to look back at how my skills in this area have progressed.

Looking at the work I’ve done throughout the MA, the impact of the screen and device on the user is an essential element. This interaction between you the physical and what the device presents, the digital has been a perfect example of the imbalance between these polar opposites. I felt that I best achieved this through my work at Digital Meze, especially as it seemed to sum up a lot of images I had created beforehand that focused on the user and the television, or computer monitor.

‘Monitor’ projected a live stream of BBC News into an altered CRT Television to highlight the complexity of misinformation in the news. Using live news feeds in my work has been an interest of mine for some time, and although this conceptually worked, however the way in which it was presented through ‘Monitor’ wasn’t quite what I’d hoped.

In these tests, I’ve textured spot lights with images and increased the emission value to create the effect. I’ve tested this with screen captured videos of live news feeds but the render time is slow, and will take a while to display the examples. Whether its possible to stream a live news feed within this is not yet known but it feels as if its a crucial step to execute further work.


The Cycles render engine is notoriously difficult to run properly in THREE.JS, and similarly, in Unity. Baking the textures into UV wraps is really the only way forward. This is very possible to produce systems and works with still images of media but including videos or lives streams is a different ball park. It seems possible that if the light source in a Python engine such as Blender can be texturised, a light source in Javascript could be used similarly. I’m yet to establish this though it doesn’t seem impossible.





Social or Media Creatures?

85110403_019425271-1Following on from the work I produced for the pop-up. I want to delve a little deeper into what it means to be a social creature on the internet. The work ‘Empires4Egos’ was an unexpected outcome of looking into the prospects of Virtual Space, (by quite literally making it) and the narcissism of online identities. This isn’t so much to say that I think I’m being egotistical by creating an online gallery with my own work…, but instead reflecting the assumed egotism each social media user takes when creating their profiles. Through creating this page, we give access to others on how we look at our own lives. It’s very rare that users regularly post about the bad times in their life, and subsequently, what is posted, is the manipulated and curated version you wish others to see…. or at least to some effect. As with anything, there’s a spectrum and I’m certainly not saying that all Social Media users think this way. In fact, its mostly the minority extremists or even those who’ve found ways of making money through it who use it in this way. As with anything, you can use to a point of abuse..


Similar to any addiction, the addiction of posting about yourself is a narcissistic thing to do…. unless it actively benefits others. THIS post is really just to acknowledge the complex use of social media. 10 years ago I didn’t think I’d still be using Facebook, and I definitely didn’t think that it would be a necessary tool for me to engage with many of my piers…. but that’s what it is….


I’ve written in the past about Timehop and how it allows you to see what you did on a specific day 5 years / 3 years etc ago. This ability to look back with computerised certainty at your actions on the web and in reality make the idea of a diary very primitive.  Facebook actively ask you if you want to see what you did years ago.. and in some cases its great… but personally I find that I click it simply because its just so weird, and I don’t keep a diary. Its a great strategy to poke you into getting in touch with old friends, and I can imagine it really does work… but its odd. Perhaps not as weird as the videos Facebook automatically creates with photos of you and your friends…. I’m comforted in the fact that its an algorithm and not a person going through these photos deciding the right pictures etc. It would bring a new definition of Facebook stalking if it was one of their employees.




Recently Essena O’Neill, a prominent Australian Instagram model has spoken out against the fake life she portrays online to satisfy the wants and needs of her fans (as well as her lifestyle and living). FINALLY!! someone earning thousands from pictures of themselves is admitting that theres no difference between social media as a platform similar to how glitzy magazines have portrayed models over the last 30 years. The only real difference is that the model has become the photographer, editor and publisher AND the photos they share show them doing “normal” things on just a “normal” morning…. (But thank you Essena, we finally all know that thats just not the truth, and its all a setup to feed the fans).


Its manipulation at its finest. Portraying a person online that you aren’t actually offline. Then again, the media professionals surrounding the worlds biggest stars also force this on  their clients to benefit their image. (Kanye, Kim, Angelina Jolie, Justin Bieber, even Obama, though thats clearly not as grotesque.)

— Empires4Egos —


Even these guys aren’t having as good a time as they portray on social media:


#Monitor 2. 28/29032015

More Bad News 

1980, London, Glasgow University Media Grouo. 

Published by Routledge & Kegan Paul, 

UAL elibrary 

ITN – “the first priority of a television news programme is to pres et the viewer with a plain unvarnished account of happenings, as free as humanly possible of bias, and making the maximum possible use of television’s unique capacity to show these happenings.’

– the rate of image change in the news. Broadcasters assume the attention span and interest of the audiences

Commercial jingles – “the folksongs of consumer society’

“The music emphasises the image the television companies wish to sustain – that the news is balanced and impartial- in no way are the news personnel personally involved. The news occupies a neutral space in the sequence into which events and facts project themselves almost mechanically. The clacketyclack of the teleprinters, the electronic bleeps that have become the predominant themes of news music draw attention tot the processes of news collection and presentation, and reflect the typographical origins of news. The news comes, the music suggests; through neutral air wave on to neutral typewriter, a balanced mix of electronic show business and print.’ P182

“Every image embodies a way of seeing. Even a photograph. For photographs are not, as is often assumed, a mechanical record. Everytime we look at a photograph, we are ware, however slightly, of the photographer selecting that sight from an infinity of other possible sights.” – John Berger, Ways of Seeing.

“The television news audience is invite to watch a sequence of miscellaneous ‘items’, often interspersed with plugs for programmes to be shown later, channel announcements and commercial texlevision, ad breaks” ch10 halting the flow.


“Contrary to the claims, conventions Nd culture of television journalism, the news is not a neutral product. For television news is a cultural artifsct; it is a sequence of socially manufactured messages, which carry many of the culturally dominant assumptions of our society. From the accents of the newscasters to the vocabulary of camera angles; from who gets on and waht questions they are asked, via selection of stories to presentation of bulletins, the news is a highly mediated product’

Monitor #1 27032015

This is the first of a series of posts on the process behind my recent work “#Monitor”

VIDEO: BBC: Future of News, The Way News Consumption is Changing. 


Content / Themes:

Media Consumption

Bring the live news to the gallery – social experiment to see how people react.

Camera filming the participants watching the work. (Did not appear in Digital Meze work, though I’d love to include this in further versions of this work).

Although I aimed to use a series of news channels, due to the size of the television, it seemed better to use one, BBC News.

I’m interested in what live video feeds we can currently experience online. This is part of a wider study into media consumption and habits. There have been moments when I’ve been glued to the news in an almost shameful way.

I can distinctively remember watching the aftermath of 9/11 on the TV of a gym in Golders Green.

In 2011, during the London riots, I remember being on a coach on the way down from Nottingham to London. On route we passed a burning building as we entered London. There was a 15 minutes period where a number of people on the National Express bus received phone calls. After speaking with their friends in London, many of these passengers then passed on the information to others on the bus. Understandably, everyone was shocked, especially seeing as we’d just passed a burning building, though after looking into this further, this was completely unrelated. As soon as I got home, I turned on the news, and watched the riots until the early hours.

I remember thinking at the time that it was captivating. The worst social unrest in my city for the first time in my life. It was exciting to watch,…. but why? This is the first moment I remember starting to truly question the news. My mother has worked in journalism all of her life. I’ve grown up glued to the news. Every night after school, my family would sit and watch the news, as if like clockwork. We constantly monitored daily events, and still do. The big difference between now and then, is that now, we have twitter, and I’m fully aware of how news agencies approach stories from different angles to capture their audience. Unfortunately this usually comes down to ratings, and very rarely do these ratings jump up in the face of good news. Obviously there are exceptions, for example the Royal Wedding in 2011.

In 2012 whilst North Korea was flexing its muscles, ordering pre-emptive nuclear strikes on America….. that went well…… Again, I found the whole story, and still do, fascinating. Although I have no connection with these historical events, having studied the importance of history in the past, I noticed its oddity as a hermit nation in the modern world. Today we can watch historical events live, and although we aren’t present to see what happens, we still witness it, and it still has an impact. When a truly remarkable event unfolds, all of us become aware. In my generation, the majority of people find out through Facebook and twitter, through regurgitated news articles and elusive tweets. This was certainly the case for the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year.

What does this have to do with projecting live news in the gallery?

Well, I want the audience to feel small, a kind of reflection of the complexity and business of daily routine. The news is like clockwork, it doesn’t stop unless broken. As our news providers and interfaces have evolved, so has the complexity of our interest in it. In the mid 20th century, through to the beginning of the 21st, I feel that live news was a sort of gimmicky entertainment that excited the masses as the idea of visual, live feed news was relatively new. At least in terms of news teams being everywhere at once. Now that this incredible force has developed and matured, its hard to think that any breaking story won’t be captured within minutes, and for some cases, hours of it happening. For the long lasting stories such as disease and conflict, news agencies are part of the scenery amongst the events. The news and media use has even become a weapon in some of these conflicts.

ISIS and their professional propaganda have flooded the news. These well-made videos of beheadings and torture are repulsive, yet there is a clear allure to watching them.  These videos and images circulate around the world. This voluntary act of watching these propaganda films has the power to certify their brutality to the viewer, or to capture the imaginations of extremist sympathisers. ISIS use our media consumption as a way to infect us with their message. Those who travel over to help the Caliphate, glorify this propaganda. On the other hand, those that don’t travel, and simply sympathise with their cause exemplify the fact that they are using online media as a tool to build trojan horses in the hearts of opposing nations, i.e. US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were sympathisers in almost every country in the world. Their message is cancerous, and is spreading quickly, particularly in North Africa. Looking back at Goebbels impact on Nazi propaganda, I can’t help but draw comparisons. Only here, the size and breadth of the internet works in its favour, allowing their messages to reach all corners of the globe. Using the second largest religion in the world as a foothold, these barbarians can and have easily grabbed attention from those already disgruntled in their day to day lives. They do not practice Islam. This is radicalism at its highest level. The vacuum of power created by the pre-longed wars in Syria and Iraq have given birth to this extremism. Its seemingly romantic, religious and well-organised regime act as an attraction to those who already show signs of extremism, and not necessarily just Islamic. There are numerous stories of Christians and atheists converting to this false form of Islam, particularly in prisons. This regime’s ideology to tackle the dominance of the West and reclaim the Middle East after years of war, is an allure to any anti-Western activist. Then again, all of the above is based on information provided by international news services, whom seem to contradict themselves daily. Only the intelligence community know the true extent of the problem at hand. The information provided to the public merely scratches the surface, for better or for worse. The one fact is that the rise of media consumption, and the necessity we hold for information can and is being used against us.

Ukraine – There were reports of some Pro-Russian Rebels firing upon Ukrainian occupied villages if they hear that journalists are present. This is most definitely in response to the huge media activity that has circled Ukraine over the last year. Whether the Russian government are involved in the organisation and supply of the rebels or not, the accusations from either side exacerbate the crisis, particularly when these stories conflict and are heard about by a large number of the world’s population. All of a sudden, everyone has an opinion, depending on whose story they watched or read. If you live in Russia and only watch and listen to Russian news, you will obviously believe Putin when he says that, other than Crimea, he has no involvement in Ukraine. If you are in the US, you will be told that it is in fact Russian soldiers fighting the Ukrainians. The situation has become a tangling of overt message from either side contradicting each other. To the less informed public, such as myself, this creates the illusion that there is no solution, though, behind the scenes, there must be a number of forms of amicable contact and agreement.

History is a fascinating subject to study. Understanding the impact of events from the past for me is crucial to question the events unfolding in front of your eyes. Today, this is nearly every publicly known disaster, catastrophe or celebration! All day and all night hundreds of news teams around the world are working for us to have the information about these events when they happen. Im simply fascinated by the natural desire to know whats happening in the world and its evolution from the information age. Then again, in the same respect, there are many who ignore it more than ever, in reaction to its occasional deceit. Even with these people, if something extraordinary happens, it does draw them in, and all of a sudden Twitter and Facebook is flooded with the same regurgitated messages from people who feel its their social responsibility to inform their followers. I love to share funny videos and oddities of the net, but sharing stories that everyone will inevitably get to know, is a little strange to me. I’m fascinated by how access to live information affects people, particularly in how they react.

In the reception areas of many city offices, there is very likely a TV or a number of TVs showing the news and business news of the day. In a waiting room environment, these can be blissful, but what about the gallery? The exhibition is to show work, though I’m interested in the reaction to live media in this context. I don’t think it’ll be positive, but there really is a number of reactions that could occur, and the one I’m most intrigued by is the people who simply take it for granted and just begin watching the news. The familiarity of the format can almost force you to forget where you are. If a story that your interested in is on, you will automatically been drawn in. Then theres the slightly bigger question. What will be on? Obviously I have no idea, though if theres nothing breaking, as the exhibition will be a week before the election, there will be a lot of political strife on the British channels.

#Monitor looks to visually capture these ideas. Posts on its process are to follow.

Below are images and articles relating these concepts:

1-640x480-Newscast WatchingTelevisionNews-52784

Gumtree freebies: Could work for this sculpture.






Associated Press offers simultaneous live video feeds to news websites

By Roy Greenslade:

The Associated Press, the US-based news agency, has expanded its video services in response to growing demand by media outlets.

It will enable its customers – meaning, in the main, American newspaper websites – to stream more than one live event at a time.

In a press release announcing the initiative, AP says it has seen a huge increase in demand for its video hub service since its launch in 2012.

It reports that in the fourth quarter of 2013 the platform delivered 39 live events. By the fourth quarter of 2014 that had risen to 125 live events.

The increase is hardly a surprise, confirming that streamed live content drives more traffic to news website, thereby significantly increasing the time people spend on the site.

Aside from simultaneous streaming, AP is pledging to provide more content and also to focus on video as “a primary story-telling tool”.

The agency says it will cover more regional interest stories, from papal visits to US politics and EU summits; more technology events, including all the key annual shows; as well as more entertainment, culture and lifestyle content.

Sue Brooks, AP’s director of international products and platforms, says: “Live is starting to play a larger role within our customer’s editorial strategy and they want to include more of it in their site’s content”.

AP launched a live news service in 2003 in its coverage of the invasion of Iraq. But it was a very different event, says Brooks, that put the service on the map.

“Live really came into its own in 2013 ahead of the birth of Prince George, when we streamed a shot of the hospital’s front door to many of the UK’s online newspaper sites who saw terrific traffic and engagement,” she says.

Other successful events have included the Oscar Pistorius trial, the Hong Kong protests and coverage of the conflict between Isis and the Kurds over Kobane.


Want To Be More Innovative? Don’t Watch The News.

By Mike Maddock

Some of the most creative people I know decided long ago not to watch TV news. I used to find their decision curious. This past week, I decided it was brilliant.

After a few minutes of tears on Friday, I decided that watching sensationalized news for more than a few seconds violates my commitment to remain boyishly optimistic. My decision was reinforced over the weekend. Every time I surfed past a news channel, I immediately felt the optimism being sucked out of me. Bickering politicians arguing about metaphoric cliffs, sordid details of kids being gunned down, and smarty-pants journalists deeply committed to forcing each and every issue under the left and right lens threatened to squash the ideals of the most committed optimists.


Einstein said, “The most important decision a man will ever make is whether he lives in a friendly universe.”

Since I spend my days with people committed to changing the world, I can tell you that Einstein’s words are fundamental to entrepreneurship and innovation. Great leaders believe they live in a friendly universe. They believe the world is conspiring to make it successful. What about you? If not, perhaps you’re watching too much news.

Years ago, I heard a wonderful story about two shoe salesmen. As the story goes, they were both sent to a third world country—at the time, probably China—to sell shoes. After a couple of weeks, the sales manager calls the first salesperson and asks for a progress report. “It’s terrible over here. Nobody wears shoes!” reports salesperson number one.

But the second salesperson’s report is completely different. He says, “It is unbelievable over here. Everybody NEEDS shoes!”

People who believe they live in a friendly universe are looking for opportunity at every turn. People who believe they live in an unfriendly universe look to be persecuted. They live in fear, and fear is the enemy of creativity.

There is goodness all around if you are looking for it. You may notice that people are living almost twice as long as they did 200 years ago. You may notice that there are tens of millions of children being equipped with education and information never before available to them. You may notice the power and availability of technology to change the world—for good or evil,depending on the lens we choose to create.

This is not a media-bashing piece. News directors have made a choice that is totally understandable in our capitalistic system. They want to attract as many people as they can so they can get the most money possible for the commercials that run within their broadcasts. And so, as every young reporter is told from day one, “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning the bigger the tragedy the bigger play the story will receive.

I understand their choice. I simply think it is wrong. More important, I am aware of the negative effect it has on my friends and me. And so, with this awareness comes choice; and I choose to ride the remote when misery makes money.

Here’s a question I’d like to end with. Is our media helping to create a country of optimistic believers or fearful nonbelievers?

I think you can answer that question with another. Would you let your 7-year-old watch the news? If the answer is “no,” then perhaps you should opt out for the same reason.

We need people who believe that they can change the world. At age seven, I bet you thought you could change the world. I’ve got news for you. You still can.

Follow me on Twitter @theideamonkey or read my Forbes blog here.


News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier

BY Rolf Dobelli, Guardian

In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.

News misleads. Take the following event (borrowed from Nassim Taleb). A car drives over a bridge, and the bridge collapses. What does the news media focus on? The car. The person in the car. Where he came from. Where he planned to go. How he experienced the crash (if he survived). But that is all irrelevant. What’s relevant? The structural stability of the bridge. That’s the underlying risk that has been lurking, and could lurk in other bridges. But the car is flashy, it’s dramatic, it’s a person (non-abstract), and it’s news that’s cheap to produce. News leads us to walk around with the completely wrong risk map in our heads. So terrorism is over-rated. Chronic stress is under-rated. The collapse of Lehman Brothers is overrated. Fiscal irresponsibility is under-rated. Astronauts are over-rated. Nurses are under-rated.

We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press. Watching an airplane crash on television is going to change your attitude toward that risk, regardless of its real probability. If you think you can compensate with the strength of your own inner contemplation, you are wrong. Bankers and economists – who have powerful incentives to compensate for news-borne hazards – have shown that they cannot. The only solution: cut yourself off from news consumption entirely.

News is irrelevant. Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career or your business. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to you. But people find it very difficult to recognise what’s relevant. It’s much easier to recognise what’s new. The relevant versus the new is the fundamental battle of the current age. Media organisations want you to believe that news offers you some sort of a competitive advantage. Many fall for that. We get anxious when we’re cut off from the flow of news. In reality, news consumption is a competitive disadvantage. The less news you consume, the bigger the advantage you have.

News has no explanatory power. News items are bubbles popping on the surface of a deeper world. Will accumulating facts help you understand the world? Sadly, no. The relationship is inverted. The important stories are non-stories: slow, powerful movements that develop below journalists’ radar but have a transforming effect. The more “news factoids” you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand. If more information leads to higher economic success, we’d expect journalists to be at the top of the pyramid. That’s not the case.

News is toxic to your body. It constantly triggers the limbic system. Panicky stories spur the release of cascades of glucocorticoid (cortisol). This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High glucocorticoid levels cause impaired digestion, lack of growth (cell, hair, bone), nervousness and susceptibility to infections. The other potential side-effects include fear, aggression, tunnel-vision and desensitisation.


News increases cognitive errors. News feeds the mother of all cognitive errors: confirmation bias. In the words of Warren Buffett: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” News exacerbates this flaw. We become prone to overconfidence, take stupid risks and misjudge opportunities. It also exacerbates another cognitive error: the story bias. Our brains crave stories that “make sense” – even if they don’t correspond to reality. Any journalist who writes, “The market moved because of X” or “the company went bankrupt because of Y” is an idiot. I am fed up with this cheap way of “explaining” the world.

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers. But it’s worse than that. News severely affects memory. There are two types of memory. Long-range memory’s capacity is nearly infinite, but working memory is limited to a certain amount of slippery data. The path from short-term to long-term memory is a choke-point in the brain, but anything you want to understand must pass through it. If this passageway is disrupted, nothing gets through. Because news disrupts concentration, it weakens comprehension. Online news has an even worse impact. In a 2001 study two scholars in Canadashowed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Why? Because whenever a link appears, your brain has to at least make the choice not to click, which in itself is distracting. News is an intentional interruption system.

News works like a drug. As stories develop, we want to know how they continue. With hundreds of arbitrary storylines in our heads, this craving is increasingly compelling and hard to ignore. Scientists used to think that the dense connections formed among the 100 billion neurons inside our skulls were largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. Today we know that this is not the case. Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. The more news we consume, the more we exercise the neural circuits devoted to skimming and multitasking while ignoring those used for reading deeply and thinking with profound focus. Most news consumers – even if they used to be avid book readers – have lost the ability to absorb lengthy articles or books. After four, five pages they get tired, their concentration vanishes, they become restless. It’s not because they got older or their schedules became more onerous. It’s because the physical structure of their brains has changed.

News wastes time. If you read the newspaper for 15 minutes each morning, then check the news for 15 minutes during lunch and 15 minutes before you go to bed, then add five minutes here and there when you’re at work, then count distraction and refocusing time, you will lose at least half a day every week. Information is no longer a scarce commodity. But attention is. You are not that irresponsible with your money, reputation or health. Why give away your mind?

News makes us passive. News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic. The scientific term is “learned helplessness”. It’s a bit of a stretch, but I would not be surprised if news consumption, at least partially contributes to the widespread disease of depression.

News kills creativity. Finally, things we already know limit our creativity. This is one reason that mathematicians, novelists, composers and entrepreneurs often produce their most creative works at a young age. Their brains enjoy a wide, uninhabited space that emboldens them to come up with and pursue novel ideas. I don’t know a single truly creative mind who is a news junkie – not a writer, not a composer, mathematician, physician, scientist, musician, designer, architect or painter. On the other hand, I know a bunch of viciously uncreative minds who consume news like drugs. If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don’t.

Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers truth. But important findings don’t have to arrive in the form of news. Long journal articles and in-depth books are good, too.

I have now gone without news for four years, so I can see, feel and report the effects of this freedom first-hand: less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, more insights. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.


The Power of Ignoring Mainstream News

By Joel Gascoigne

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” – Thomas Jefferson

Around two years ago I stopped watching and reading mainstream news. I don’t read a single newspaper, offline or online, and I don’t watch any TV at all. I  mentioned this on Twitterand Facebook, and it created a lot of discussion, so I wanted to expand on my thoughts and experiences.

When I first started ignoring news, I felt that I was simply making an excuse, that if I had more time I should read the news. Today, however, it is a very deliberate choice and I feel consistently happier every single day due to ignoring the mainstream news. It just so happens that the last two years have also been the most enjoyable and productive of my entire life and have contained some of my greatest achievements. Here are a few reasons I think we should stop consuming mainstream news:

News is negative

“The news media are, for the most part, the bringers of bad news… and it’s not entirely the media’s fault, bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news.” – Peter McWilliams

The most interesting fact I learned in the last few years about mainstream media is that almost all news reported is negative. Studies have shown that theratio of bad news to good news is around 17:1. That means that 95% is negative. This is a massive number, and I’m sure if you stop to think for a moment about the most recent news you watched, it has also been overwhelmingly negative. In my experience, 95% is absolutely the correct ratio in the news. However, 95% is a very bad reflection of the real ratio of good to bad in the world. Many great things happen, they just don’t sell newspapers.

Mainstream news report about wars, natural disasters, murders and other kinds of suffering. It seems the only natural conclusion of watching or reading mainstream news is that the world is a terrible place, and that it is getting worse every day. However, the reality of course is the complete opposite: We live in an amazing time and the human race is improving at a faster pace than ever before.

The effect of negative news

“When you turn on the television, for instance, you run the risk ingesting harmful things, such as violence, despair, or fear.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Another very interesting thing I’ve learned in the last few years is the incredible impact that being around the right people can have on your trajectory to achieving what you want. This comes down essentially to your environment, and while it can mean some hard decisions to change our environment, we actually have a lot of control over it.

I believe these two aspects—that we are subconsciously affected by our environment, no matter how much willpower we believe ourselves to have, and that we have much more control over our environment than we realize—have been key factors of some of the success I’ve had in the last few years.

In a TED talk titled “Information is food”JP Rangaswami compared eating McDonald’s for 31 days, as in Supersize Me, to watching Fox News for 31 days. In essence, mainstream news is the fast food of information. There are much healthier types of information we can and should consume.

The opportunity cost of watching news

The other key thing that I think it can be easy to overlook is what you could be doing in the time you are spending watching the news.

I remember as a kid, my parents always used to watch the 6 o’clock news. It became so ingrained, it was what would always happen at exactly 6pm, and if we didn’t watch it, we would surely miss out on something vital that could affect our lives.

As a teenager, over time I managed to gradually escape that more and more often. At first, I simply turned to something I enjoyed. I played games online in the evenings instead of sitting with my family and watching the news. The most interesting thing, however, is that my passion for gaming turned into a powerful hobby of learning to code, and I accredit this for a lot of my startup success.

Not only is watching news going to put an out-of-proportion amount of negative thoughts in your mind, which will affect what you can achieve, it is also valuable time where there are many amazing and meaningful things you could be doing:

Try a month off mainstream news

Abstaining from mainstream news has been one of the single best decisions I’ve made in the last two years for both my productivity and my happiness. If you’re still in a habit of watching or reading news, I strongly recommend you take Thomas Jefferson’s advice and try a month off news:

“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”

Do you read or watch mainstream news? Have you thought about stopping consuming it? Have you also given it up and felt better? I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit: Jon S

This post originally appeared on my personal website, Joel.is. If you’d like, you canbrowse the archives there for more stories on startups, life, learning, and happiness.


City University London – The Future of Breaking News Online?

By Neil Thurman + Nic Newman

PDF is saved on computer.


University of Oxford Digital News Report 2012

Types and Formats of News Consumed Online

A key question for researchers and news organisations relates to the types and formats of news consumed online. Many news organisations are now putting significant resources into creating and curating live blog pages, which they update throughout the day for major news events. There is also more and more expensive audio video content being produced – but does the investment justify the cost? Are these formats attracting new users or simply super-serving existing audiences?

These data offer insights into some of these questions by showing how different content initiatives resonate with consumers across the demographic groups. In this sense they can help define how online channels can best complement offline content such as newspapers and broadcast channels.

Ways of accessing online news

PercentageGlanced at headlinesRead storyVideo clipsLive videoTV news programmeLive radioPodcastLive news pageRead blog0102030405060Ways of accessing online news
[Any video: 39%; Any radio: 16%]Q15 Thinking of the way you looked at news online this week, in which of the following ways did you access news online?
Base (n=2173)

It is no surprise to see that glancing at headlines and reading full stories are the most common types of online news consumption, but watching video news is quite close behind, with nearly two-fifths of the sample claiming to have done so in the past week. Online radio news consumption lags far behind, with only 16% of the sample claiming to have accessed any radio news online in the past week.

Men are more likely than women to engage in all of these behaviours except glancing at the headlines. The biggest difference is around video news: 47% of men engage in at least one of the video behaviours, compared to just 32% of women.

Over 45s are much more likely to say that they’ve glanced at the headlines online, and much less likely to say that they’ve read a full news story online, than younger age groups. This fits with online being a secondary platform for news consumption amongst this age group.

Millennials say keeping up with the news is important to them — but good luck getting them to pay for it

The new report from the Media Insight Project looks at millennials’ habits and attitudes toward news consumption: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”

Most millennials don’t seek out news on social media, but the vast majority of them get news from social networks once they see it there, according to a report released today by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Only 47 percent of the millennials surveyed said consuming news is a major reason they visit Facebook, but 88 percent of the respondents said they get news from Facebook at least occasionally. 83 percent said they get news from YouTube on occasion, and 50 percent found news on Instagram. Next in line: Pinterest at 36 percent, Twitter at 33 percent, Reddit at 23 percent, and Tumblr at 21 percent.

“Simply put, social media is no longer simply social,” the report says. “It long ago stopped being just a way to stay in touch with friends. It has become a way of being connected to the world generally — to send messages, follow channels of interest, get news, share news, talk about it, be entertained, stay in touch, and to check in and see what’s new in the world.”

The study found that of those who get news from Facebook, 57 percent do so at least once a day; 44 percent said they did so multiple times per day. That’s a far more regular habit than other social networks induce: The once-a-day number was for 29 percent for YouTube and was 26 percent for Instagram. And Twitter? Just 13 percent of millennials said they use it as a daily source of news.


The report emphasizes that millennials don’t exclusively get their news only from Facebook or other social media. In virtually every news category included in the study, millennials said they have multiple pathways to find information.

The survey asked respondents how they accessed 24 different news topics, from national politics and government to style, beauty, and fashion. Facebook was either the number one or two source of information for 20 of the 24 topics, and in nine of those topics it was the only source cited by a majority of respondents. Search was the second most popular source of information, ranking first or second in 13 of the 24 news topics.


For hard news topics, like economic news or local crime coverage, millennials tended to look directly toward original reported sources for information, as opposed to looking on social media or through curated sources like Google News or other aggregators.


About 75 percent of millennials said they turn primarily to social media for coverage of lifestyle topics. 91 percent of millennials, for example, use social media as a primary source for coverage of pop culture and celebrities. 84 percent of respondents also said social media is a primary source for style, beauty, and fashion topics.


“There are also a few topics for which there is no favored path, or for which people use at least two of them equally,” the study says. “For instance, Millennials have no clear preferred path to news about science and technology. Social, curated, and reporting platforms are cited equally for these topics.”

The study found that millennials of all ages get news from various sources, but that their habits vary. More than half of millennials older than 30 describe themselves as mostly proactive consumers of news; only a third of millennials under 25 say the same. There was broad support for the idea that keeping up with the news had value — 85 percent of millennials surveyed said it was at least somewhat important to them.

Will they pay for news? From the report:

When it comes to paying for the news, 40 percent of Millennials report paying for at least one subscription themselves, including a digital news app (14 percent), a digital magazine (11 percent), a digital subscription to a newspaper (10 percent), or a paid email newsletter (9 percent). When subscriptions used but paid for by others are added, that number rises to 53 percent who have used some type of paid subscription for news in the last year.

Interestingly, this digital generation is more likely to have paid for non-digital versions of these products. For instance, 21 percent say they have paid in the last year for a subscription to a print magazine, and 16 percent for a print newspaper, rates that are higher than for digital versions of the same products.


In addition to the broader survey data, researchers did deeper interviews with 23 millennials in three different locations around the country. Those interviews revealed a reluctance among some interviewees to pay for news online.

“I don’t think you should pay for news,” Eric, a 22-year-old Chicagoan, said. “That’s something everybody should be informed in. Like, you’re going to charge me for information that’s going on around the world?” And then there’s 19-year-old Sam from San Francisco: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”


There are a lot of articles out there saying Stop watching the news, stop killing your creativity! I find this fun, as obviously the news is something that has sparked an interest for me to create.