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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Acceptability of Deepfakes for Trivial Corrections: The Thin End of a Wedge?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Clearly deepfakes are unacceptable, yes? It is morally unsound to create a fake video of someone saying or doing something, and to play that off as a real recording of that person doing it.

But, what about a minor correction? I recently saw a video about personal development, talking about how people move through various stages of life, and making a number of very positive points and pieces of advice. I thought that this might be useful as part of a professional development session to show to a group of students. But, there was a problem. At some point, the speaker talks about life changes, and talks about adolescence, including a reference to “when people start to get interested in the opposite sex”. The heteronormativity of this made me flinch, and I certainly wouldn’t want this to be presented, unadorned, to a group of students. This is both because of the content as such, and because I wouldn’t want the session to be derailed onto a discussion of this specific point, when it was a minor and easily replaceable example, not core to the argument.

I suppose what I would typically do would be to use it, but to offer a brief comment at the beginning that there was something not germane to the main argument, but which was problematic, but on balance I thought it would be good to use this resource despite the problematic phrase. I might even edit it out. Certainly if I was handing out a transcript rather than using the video, I would cut it out using an […] ellipsis. But, these solutions might still focus attention on it.

So—would it be acceptable to use a deepfake here? To replace “when people start to get interested in the opposite sex” with “when people start to develop an awareness of sexuality”, for example? There seems something dubious about this—we are putting words into someones mouth (well, more accurately, putting their mouth around some words). But, we aren’t really manipulating the main point. It’s a bit like how smoking has been edited out of some films, particularly when they are to be shown to children—the fact of the character smoking isn’t a big plot point, it was just what a character happened to be doing.

So, is this acceptable? Not acceptable? Just about okay, but the thin end of the wedge?

Abbrvs (1)

Friday, October 10th, 2014

I didn’t realise that the Guardian had started censoring swear-words:

Friends at 20: How 6 Cs were the basis for a comedy masterpiece


Thursday, December 1st, 2011

A cod-definition that I used to trot out in my media computing course; I still rather like this, it is provocative:

“Multimedia is a failed attempt to combine two or more media.”

Handling of a University Press Release

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Here is an interesting example of how the media handles a University press release:

It appears clear from the content that this came from some kind of media release put out by one of the universities or the funding council involved, with the intention of gathering positive publicity as well as engaging the public about the topic.

It looks as though the last four paragraphs are taken word-for-word from the release; they are positive in tone and informative. However, a spin has been put on them by the headline and the opening paragraph. The words “handed” and “costs” have a somewhat pejorative spin to them—there is a tone of this costing an excessive amount of money.

This mark an interesting divide between the academics’ view of this money and the public’s. In academia, having a large-value project (this isn’t a very large one) is seen as a validation, that people with influence in the field trust you with a project of that scale. Here, though, it is being touted as a cost: “What are we going to get with this money? Why should this “handout” have been made? Why does a poll cost so much?”

Some Reward for Loyalty…

Monday, September 5th, 2011

It struck me a while ago that loyalty to TV shows is actively unrewarded. Shows that have a loyal following can be shoved hither-and-thither around the schedule, postponed for three weeks because of the bloody snooker, and so on—trufans will always follow. By contrast, shows that have a more casual following get punished for such manoeuvres by reduced audience.

Are there any other examples of this phenomenon?

Decline of Physical Mashup

Monday, September 13th, 2010

There is this screen in St. Pancras station:
Sky News Screen at St. Pancras
(indeed, there are lots of these around at stations). When I first saw these screens, they offered a rolling news service, alternating periods of news display with periods of advertising. I’d often watch them for a while, a quick chance to catch up on news and weather whilst waiting for a train.

I rather liked the way that this mashed up online information with the physical world. It certainly felt futuristic—like Bladerunner, but in a good way! This idea of mashing up the physical with the online is rather appealing, and whilst I wouldn’t want to see the urban environment dominated by such things, it was good to see some examples of this just as a day-to-day thing rather than an experiment or artwork.

Unfortunately, this seems to have stopped doing anything interesting now. It just displays dull 20th-century stylee ads for the Sky channels. It has become another thing on the “to ignore” list, redolent of a dull TV ad break from the era when we didn’t timeshift TV rather than something futuristic. I want my future back.

Update 2010-09-22. Live news and weather is now back at St. Pancras Station. The future is back on track.

Shoddy Video

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

A thought—one of the positive effects of YouTube and similar services is that they have accustomed the general public to low production quality video. This is a good thing because it means that video can be more widely used across the web et cetera.

Ages ago amateur video used to be just that – very amateurish by comparison with even the low end of professional video. Contrast, say, local TV news with the productions of a student TV station, even one that is trying hard. The contrast is vast in terms of production quality – camera work, lighting, editing, …

Consider an organisation that wants to use video for publicity or training. A number of years ago most organisations would have shied away from this—either it could be done on a shoestring, causing negative associations by contrast with professional video work, or it could be done at great expense resulting in lumbering productions that were used for many years afterwards to justify their production costs (a good example of the sunk costs fallacy).

Now video has been democratised—not just in the usual sense that the means of production of video is available to many more people and organisations, but that the expectations of audiences concerning video have been calibrated appropriately to the day-to-day use of video by low-budget and low-skill organisations and individuals. This means that finally the power of video as a communication medium can be used more fully.

Puntastic (1)

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Excellent punny headline on the local paper this week. The story is about the local council clamping down on noise made by pets. The headline? “Cock a Doodle Don’t!” Puntastic!

Newspaper Simplifications (1)

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

“One in Six NHS Patients Misdiagnosed” was the gist of a headline on a couple of papers yesterday. Not a good thing, obviously. But, what is the alternative? Arguments such as this seem to work on an assumption that the alternative is everything working perfectly. This is clearly not the case: a complex process such as medical diagnosis, whilst capable of improvement, is clearly going to have systematic inaccuracies that are not the failings of individual doctors in the system.

In such cases what, seriously, is the proposed alternative? That we give up doing medicine until everything is perfect? I can understand a willingness to make progress, but the assumption that the only reason hard problems are hard is human error seems to be a significant misunderstanding.

The willingness of commentators to assume that the only source of non-perfect performance is human error or lack of skill is evidenced by the
article in the telegraph today, which blames some of these errors on doctors being “too quick to judge patients’ symptoms”. Clearly this an error that is made some of the time, but to prioritise this explanation over the more systematic explanation that diagnosis is difficult seems to misunderstand the situation. (In its favour, the article does move on to talk about keeping a national registry of misdiagnoses, which seems a very sensible plan if the data can be analysed sufficiently well).

Alternative headline: “83% of patients receive correct diagnosis.” Given that we all acknowledge that medicine is difficult, this alternative take seems reasonably positive.