Will Baltimore push for the expansion of Broadband services?

In recent history, Baltimore has been locked in an effective monopoly of service provision for high speed internet access, with the major player being Comcast, and the only other option a small company called Port Networks, which functions on Comcast’s network. The stranglehold of network choices causes issues of speed and equity across the city.

Baltimore has operated under what is called the “Comcast Franchise,” defined as a non-exclusive agreement, since 2004. Comcast pays 60 cents per cable TV subscriber per month plus 5 percent of gross revenue for cable TV services for the right to use public property to deliver its product. Comcast is required to pay additional fees when using city conduit or poles. (Baltimore Sun, 9-22-16). The key is that it is non-exclusive, but we have not seen Verizon Fios, the other major provider of broadband internet come to the city. Comcast is operating on copper wire systems, unlike many regional cities and competitors with a fiber system, and thus the speeds are spotty and unreliable. (Source)

Comcast is popular for having one of the worst customer service experiences, and it turns out it extends to their agreement with Baltimore as well. In a recent editorial, The Baltimore Sun exposed just some of the issues with the “franchise” agreement, such as Comcast not adhering to agreed upon customer service wait times, and coding errors which lead to Comcast underpaying fees associated with the agreement. These fess could have gone to improving the network, but due to accounting errors may be hard to recover. (Baltimore Sun, 3-1-16).

Often thought to have been stopped by the city and the franchise agreement, Verizon Fios is believed to have made the business decision not to expand to the city, and has mostly stopped expanding its fiber networks nationwide. Even after citizen activism to try to encourage Fios to expand in 2013, they still would not commit to Baltimore. (Source)

One question we can now consider is whether Verizon’s refusal to expand their network to Baltimore city is now a violation of net neutrality rules, which essentially require the major service providers, as common carriers, to provide service equally. Does this apply to regional areas? Can Verizon be forced to adapt, or penalized because of the lack of effort? These are some new questions which will hopefully be answered soon, and we can encourage the FCC to look into this matter.

What are the options to prevent Baltimore from being left behind in broadband speed more than it is already? One option Baltimore considered in the past was building its own fiber network, but this didn’t get very far. Could Baltimore ultimately revisit building its own network? Will a change in leadership in the mayor’s office and city council bring a difference to the city? These important issues will likely unfold beginning this Fall, and we should all be paying attention (on our rather slow compared to everywhere else in the state internet connection.)

 Matt Achhammer

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

Referenced links:

Comcast’s Franchise w/ Baltimore ends December, 2016 & there are no competitors. Hearing December 1 at 6:30 PM at the War Memorial building across from City Hall.

https://www.reddit.com/r/baltimore/comments/3uruoh/comcasts_franchise_w_baltimore_ends_december_2016/

Better broadband should be part of Baltimore’s Comcast negotiations

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-comcast-contract-20160301-story.html

Broadband got its hearing in City Council, but improving it won’t be easy

http://technical.ly/baltimore/2016/03/03/broadband-got-hearing-city-council-improving-wont-easy/

Redlining high-speed Internet service

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-verizon-letter-20160202-story.html

Activists call on city leaders to push Verizon to bring FiOS to Baltimore

https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2015/07/30/activists-call-on-city-leaders-to-push-verizon-to-bring-fios-to-baltimore/

Comcast’s Monopolistic Hold on Baltimore City

http://www.splicetoday.com/baltimore/comcast-s-monopolistic-hold-on-baltimore-city

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A Digital Burn Book

In the most Jesuit fashion – given the heat and corruption during this scandalous election, most especially – what a pivotal time for us all to pause, observe, and reflect. Of course, this not only applies to our immediate physical surroundings but, now more than ever, we’re presented an opportunity to reflect on what (of ours) is potentially floating around the vast digital universe. From our parties’ polarizing rhetoric flashing the media daily to personal emails being hacked on an international scale, it seems every word – written or otherwise – is deemed “hackable or discoverable” today within the global village (IL Senator Richard Durbin). Former National Security Council spokesman to President Obama, Tommy Vietor, perhaps put it best indicating how “the volume of hacking is a moment we all have to do a little soul searching.” Sure, why not soul search a little since we’re fully transparent and privacy is obsolete. Do you actually believe those snaps are erased from the Internet after ten seconds? How about those passwords into your online bank accounts?

Regardless, it seems Former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, will be diving deep into his soul after his colorful freedom of speech was recently exploited in the national limelight. Hacked directly from Powell’s personal Gmail account, explicit language surfaced regarding a wide array of public figures, concerns facing our national security, and much more. His comments included, but were certainly not limited to, Hillary’s greediness and “national disgrace” Donald Trump “taking it to the convention” as a result from the media desperately chasing higher ratings.

Piggybacking off of Clinton’s latest breach, and weeks following the DNC chairwoman and Former CIA Director being found in the exact same predicament, clearly no one – no matter how powerful – is safe anymore. But were they ever safe to begin with, especially when their work is magnified onto a national stage? Even amid yet another prospective Russian hacking encounter, some government officials are finally barking at the media with an appropriate counter: Don’t blame Russia – blame yourself. Often whimsical SC Senator Lindsey Graham, for instance, commented tongue-in-cheek on the ever-evolving privacy issue with, “I’m, like, ahead of my time,” since he’s allegedly never emailed before in his professional career. Emphasis on allegedly – only time will tell.

Despite his many critics in this media-blitzed culture, Graham’s “solution” to hacking actually triggered agreement among others, including former chair people of Goldman Sachs and the Federal Reserve – some of which even operated in their roles (admittedly) under an email pseudonym for their own protection. Furthering discussion abroad in Pakistan, in sharp contrast, most political leaders agree to speak to the press only when the batteries are removed from their devices or they “[cover] the microphones with a pillow.” And rightfully so, considering everyone’s legacy is continually questioned and remains at risk for international scrutiny – even, unfortunately in this day in age, posthumously. So are these tactics to remain secure and private becoming the new digital norm?

Entertainment and popular culture, too, has their hands in the hacking debate. Television’s Mr. Robot is quickly gaining traction atop the Emmy stage, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight took an admirable stab at encryption policies, and The Washington Post coupled Secretary Powell’s overt comments with passages from the Mean Girls’ burn book. Whether you believe President George W. Bush actually made out with a hot dog or read into Powell’s jarring comments on President Bill Clinton’s ongoing infidelity, these digital burn books sell at precipitous rates. But this frequent gossip and public shaming inevitably led to more overarching questions regarding our freedom of speech and, more importantly, our privacy – or lack thereof. Ironically, while these issues have been brought to the forefront of public policy, the individuals who would be spearheading the strategic plans are the epicenter to the concerns in the first place.

Since there is such a fine line between showcasing a few juicy emails from a political candidate and having complete access to someone’s identity, hacking remains a watered-down federal felony; this is seen, firsthand, with how seldom the media tracks these hacking investigations in the public eye (and whether they are happening at all from the FBI). Plaguing the front pages with Secretary Powell’s or Clinton’s solicited opinions has led to insurmountable interest from audiences ethically posing the question if hacking legalities – for the media, especially – actually trumps their imminent publicity in seeking stronger ratings. Likewise, will the 2016 election season be the worst (or perhaps the best?) we see of it, or will it only be exacerbated in the years to come for every industry exposed with digital media presence? Where is the limit – and when will it be drawn? Given the ubiquity of emerging media today – or according to Mean Girls, at least – the limit does not exist, yet.


Doug J. Umberger

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

 

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The Hype Cycle: Christmas 2016 is Judgment Day for Virtual Reality?

Within the past few years society has slowly become exposed to innovative technologies such as 3D Printers, 360 Cameras, and VR/AR equipment such as the Oculus Rift. Although the capabilities of these technologies can be seen across the span of the digital domain, these unreleased devices still seem very new and foreign to common society. With that being said, Gartner’s Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies factually proves that these technologies are going to influence society much sooner than we think.

3D Printers, are today’s flagship innovation that has unrestricted potential to influence the future of physical object production. Today, 3D printers have the ability to design and manufacture an unfathomable amount of physical objects in the comfort of a users home that eliminates the traditional manufacturing supply chain. Not enough users truly understand the power of 3D printers, the ability to create house hold materials in a matter of minutes. Having access to a 3D printer is ideal for users in creative and engineering fields who want to envision their ideas and thoughts as physical prototypes, the potential for empowerment across multiple homes, industries, and fields is endless.

Tech Crunch sheds light on an even more eye opening concept:

“Similar reasoning holds true for 3D printed edibles. We’re already living a future consisting of smartwatches that can track our vitals. Sending that data to a food-based 3D printer would allow the machine to prepare the optimal meal or nutritional supplements for each individual throughout the day. Who wouldn’t want to replace the microwave in their kitchen with a new appliance that was capable of producing meals near-instantly, personally compiled from fresh ingredients?”

It’s evident that the potential for home and corporate 3D printing is tremendous, and we have not even scratched the surface of what is in store for society. The question remains, how and when will we see widespread adoption of 3D printers in the home of American consumers?

Unlike 3D printing, VR and AR tech inches closer and closer to redefining video content across the digital environment.

In 2008 Gartner reported that Augmented and Virtual reality was 10 years away from from mainstream adoption. Academic individuals were hasty to dismiss this as true, but within the next year major companies allocated multimillion dollar investments into the research and development of AR technology in smartphones. Over time companies such as Blippar and Aurasma changed public opinion by entering the market through AR browsing technology. Jump a few years in time, Gartner’s statement held true, translation companies such as Quest Visual, and Google translate have incorporated AR functionality into their optical tools. Additionally, emerging AR companies are focusing on print and packaging for marketing purposes and are ultimately finding success in the online domain.

Today, more and more consumer brands are dipping their fingers in the ocean that is an augmented online browsing experience. This is just the start of the potential craze for AR to exist in online markets, browsers are currently expanding their products to fit the emerging digital environment – allowing these companies to input their original strategy, and new technology into existing markets to ultimately end with the same result.

 

Although Gartner predicted a rapid adoption to the consumer market, VR is leading the race towards widespread consumption. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a annual technology and broadcasting conference held by the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas. At this event I personally experienced the vast span of existing technology, software and equipment that to support Virtual Reality in a mainstream setting. If there was one reoccurring theme that was consistent within the presentations of the industry’s product specialists, it was that VR is going to catch on like wild fire, and it’s going to ignite the gasoline that has been embedded within the digital domain for the past ten years.

VR, simply put, is the future of online video, companies have developed the technology to facilitate this new experience, and the content is being created, everywhere. Most non-tech savvy individuals view VR as silly because of the cheap cardboard aesthetic of the initial devices such as Google Cardboard and Google Glass. These individuals have simply not been exposed to the potential of the beautifully created technology that is impending on society. In reality, 360 video and VR are perpetually progressing with the curation of creative, amazing content from all over the world. YouTube has been supporting 360 video content for quite some time, and it seems to only be growing in both popularity and awareness.

What’s more exciting, is that VR is booming at the professional level, young influencers such as Ben Curtis are proceeding with large scale VR deals and talent to facilitate a bright and influential future of mainstream VR content. This means we should see VR integrated into the world of cinema entertainment on an even deeper level than the content created by VR companies themselves—VR is eagerly waiting the opportunity to enter into a diverse set of industries and make its impact on mainstream society.

Ben Smith, a former Google and YouTube Exec, is an active investor in VR and Digital Media. He has laid out a set of factors as to the imminent adoption of conventional society:

  1. The Content is happening- content is being developed on an international scale, just waiting for VR to reach eyes, ears, and minds of the average user.
  2. The Incentives are all there – Tech companies leading the innovation of VR software and hardware are making strides towards furthering consumer platform adoption. Ben predicts that by Christmas of this year, VR tech from Sony, Oculus, Samsung, and HTW will be widely available and ready to be wrapped up in holiday cheer.
  3. VR Startups are generally 6 months into 18th month funding cycles- Startups tend to operate in 18-month funding cycles, knowing that a large mass of VR startups was funded in mid 2015, we can assume that VR startups have used less than half of the money raised this past year. Logically, this leaves a large sum of capital for these companies to make drastic improvements and implementation decisions within the next 6 months to gain traction for seeking more capital investment.

Garners hype cycle suggests that VR hype and attention will slow down by mid summer of this year, but will quickly skyrocket in the fall as PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and Vive launch their products into the consumer market. By the end of 2016, VR startups will see the end of their 18-month development cycle, which is a perfect for the ecosystem to create and define itself to consumers on a large scale.

As a result of the facts that have been presented by Gartner, and the status of these VR startups Christmas of 2016, will truly be the deciding event that predicts the future of Virtual Reality technology and the potential empowerment of all facets within society.

If you want to stay on top of all things VR as December 25th 2016 gets closer, keep these thoughts in your peripheral vision:

  1. Watch for the emergence and evolution of YouTube and other VR video platforms
  2. Which company will be the initial players in the market, and how quickly will these VR devices diffuse within society? Which company will be the defining brand for this innovation, think of how the iPhone defined the smartphone market.
  3. How will VR handle their application and application content? How flourishing is their portfolio? How easy is it to access?

All I can say is that I’m excited for what is to come, I think we’ll see extensive progress in both content and technology development to make this more and more attractive for the average consumer. For those of you who are worried about the price, access and functionality of VR tech it is safe to say your bases are covered. These companies have taken extensive time to make sure these products are consumer ready and available on a large scale at the point of launch. As for price, it will be reasonable but will have a price tag that would be expected of an emerging technology.

Before you know it, VR and AR content will be popping up in the Facebook and Instagram feeds of the masses ready to change the world.

John Acunto @johnnyAVisuals

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

Sources:

http://www.thevideoink.com/features/opinion/quickly-will-online-video-transition-vr/#.VyPI1KMrLdf

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gartnergroup/2015/10/30/digital-humanism-trends-to-watch-in-gartner-2015-emerging-technologies-hype-cycle/#4a44098838b9

 

http://techcrunch.com/2016/01/26/whats-next-for-3d-printing-hype-cycle/

http://www.nanalyze.com/2016/04/affective-computing-and-ai-emotion-recognition/

 

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Blurred Virtual Lines

tech.png

Technology is going to change human connection forever with the creation of Virtual Reality and Second Life online worlds.  “Researchers believe new immersive technology could lead to isolation, but maybe when social needs are met online, people won’t need in-person interaction as much” (Kim).  These online worlds are a place for people to escape their everyday lives to live the life they’ve always wanted.  “With VR, it is possible that instead of simply escaping reality by focusing on a TV show, for example, people may choose to replace an unhappy reality with a better, virtual one” (Kim).  Second Life gaming has been around since the 1990’s with the creation of the Sims videogame.  Both children and adults alike played this videogame.  Some saw it as just a videogame, but others saw it as their way to escape reality and live their lives through the characters.  Second Life is now a virtual world instead of just a video game like is has been in years past.

The newest videogame craze is World of Warcraft.  This game is similar to Sims, but has proven to be much more addictive and actually quite dangerous and unhealthy.  Two extreme addictions to World of Warcraft have caused death because players lose themselves in the universe.  “In 2004, Zhang Xiaoyi, a 13-year-old from China, reportedly committed suicide after playing WoW for 36 consecutive hours, in order to ‘join the heroes of the game he worshipped” (Kim).  Another reported death took place in 2009 when “a three-year-old girl from New Mexico tragically passed away from malnutrition and dehydration; on the day of her death, her mother was said to have spent 15 hours playing the game” (Kim).

Virtual Realities and Second Life world are so dangerously unhealthy and addicting, that a WOWaholics Anonymous has been created in order to bring the 60+ hour-a-week users back to reality.  “The Internet and virtual realities easily satisfy such social needs and drives—sometimes [they are] so satisfying that addicted users will withdraw physically from society” (Kim).  As Virtual Reality and Second Life continue to grow, the worlds will probably become so realistic that it will be nearly impossible to tell the different between Virtual and real life.   Are people really willing to trade in real life physical relationships for online transactions with people they will never actually meet?

 Stephanie Smith  @Smith32Steph

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

 

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Don’t Like This Post? Keep It to Yourself!

Another presidential election cycle is upon us, and the mudslinging, name calling, and outright rudeness is reaching new heights. Today, candidates are using the digital frontier to extend the reach of their campaigns, connect with supporters – and broadcast their anger and venom to new levels.kid

While Republican nomination-seeker Donald Trump is often at the center of name-calling exchanges with his opponents, society has been on a clear path toward greater language impropriety since long before he declared his candidacy. The use of swear words and crude speech in the public sphere has been on the rise for centuries, as Melissa Mohr documents in a 2013 Salon article. Bit by bit, once-shocking words have become more socially acceptable.

What’s novel about the 21st century is that emerging media gives our basest instincts a borderless outlet. Crudeness spreads quickly, festers, and invites more people – from celebrities to ordinary citizens – to join the conversation. Three factors make this environment so fertile:

  1. Online forums enable free, unedited expression. Emerging media are hailed for their capacity to empower the individual. Comment on that article you’ve just read or share the latest news story with your Facebook friends – let your voice be heard! Pauline Wallin, in a blog for the Society for Media Psychology & Technology, cites the ease of replying to online material instantly as one accelerant of digital rudeness. Because it’s so simple to post what we think, a person can readily give in to emotional impulse and say online what they might never say in a face-to-face conversation.
  2. Discourtesy loves company. Users who fire their internal editor aren’t likely to encounter external censors, either. On the contrary, online communities of like-minded individuals develop easily, with people encouraging one another and fueling the heat of debate, language be damned. Social networking sites are, by definition, communities of individuals who share connections with one another. Sometimes those connections are as unsophisticated as a tendency toward vulgarity.
  3. Anonymity is a two-way street. Scroll through the comments section of a web page and you’re likely to see users who cloak their identities in digital anonymity. Using a pseudonym is the easiest way to shield oneself from being accountable for online rudeness. But the impersonal nature of online communications can also lie at the heart of what’s prompting that rudeness. Art Markman, psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told one writer that the distance imposed by the computer screen makes it easier to get angry at what one reads. “People tend to antagonize distant abstractions more easily than living, breathing interlocutors,” he explains. In addition, he says, it’s simply “easier to be nasty in writing than in speech.”

Where does all this insolence end? New technologies do not change human nature; they merely give our basest instincts a different outlet. Unless we find a way to rewire some of those instincts, the derision is likely to endure far beyond the November election.

Paula Moore @pemberley_manor

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

Cirilli, Kevin. “Trump Repeats Vulgar Audience Taunt Used to Describe Cruz,” Bloomberg Politics. February 8, 2016. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-02-09/trump-repeats-vulgar-audience-taunt-used-to-describe-cruz

Ellison, N. B. & boyd, d. (2013). “Sociality through Social Network Sites.” In Dutton, W. H. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 151-172.

Mohr, Melissa. “The Modern History of Swearing:  Where All the Dirtiest Words Come From,” Salon. May 11, 2013. http://www.salon.com/2013/05/11/the_modern_history_of_swearing_where_all_the_dirtiest_words_come_from/

Wallin, Pauline. “People Post Things Online That Most Would Never Say to Someone Face to Face.” Society for Media Psychology & Technology. October 2012. http://www.apadivisions.org/division-46/publications/newsletters/the-amplifier/2012/10/online-rudeness.aspx

Wolchover, Natalie. “Why Is Everyone on the Internet So Angry?”, LiveScience. July 25, 2012, http://www.livescience.com/21837-internet-comments-angry.html

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Gone WaX!

Spring Break 2016 began like most others with students excited about being off from school and traveling to other cities to sight see and or just relax.  Washington, DC is always a great place to visit, with all the history, monuments, museums, parks, Cherry Blossoms and people from all over the world.  Despite the craziness of the world, people are still venturing out and traveling. green room.png

One of the coolest Museums that you don’t want to by-pass or pass-by is the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum located at 1001 F st. in Washington, DC.  The attraction opened in 2007 and features real look-a-like wax sculptures of famous figures from politics, culture, sports, music, and television.  The musuem features all of our presidents and some of their famous wives.

As I purused the museum, I expected to see everything that was advertised, I knew or at least heard of some of the look-a-like sculptures, but as I was exited the museum their was one exhibit that caught my eye.  Two young men pushing and tugging at each other.  Who are they? I wasn’t alone, as many of the on lookers asked the same questions that I had – Who is or what is “SMOSH?”                                                                    http://www.businessinsider.com/youtube-smosh-video-millions-2014-12

As I read the signed affixed beside the sculpture, I came to understand the significance of this team.  The online comedy duo ‘Smosh’ – Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, long-time school friends, took the internet by storm in 2005 – becoming one of the first Youtube sensations.  green room sign.png

According to Tech Insider, the two claimed over 7 billion views across six YouTube channels on more than 3,000 videos. Their original Smosh channel is currently the fourth most popular YouTube channel. An original site, Smosh.com, launched in 2002, averages 30 million monthly unique page views. Hecox and Padilla, now both 27, even have their own film, “Smosh: The Movie,” which recently premiered at VidCon in Anaheim, California and is available on video on demandhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wKs143wB8U

What started out as child’s play is now the #5 in the 25 highest paid YouTube stars, worth over $6M, with 4.5B views – http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/celebrity/the-25-highest-earning-youtube-stars/.

SMOOSH has not only Gone Viral, they’ve Gone WAX!

“I’m going to wish for something, to become famous on YouTube for absolutely having no talent, except good hair.” – Ian Hecox

 

Cherry A. Maxwell @CMSgtMaxwell

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

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How Black Twitter Exemplifies the Strength of an Imagined Community

As we all know, social media has become a seemingly-essential part of society and our everyday lives. Described as a “micro-blogging” platform, Twitter revolutionized online communications by blurring the lines between interpersonal and mass communication. As social media scholar Danah Boyd explained, sites such as Twitter serve as networked publics; “the space constructed through networked technologies and the imagined community emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice.” Imagined communities are not exclusive to Twitter; the Internet has always enabled people to identify under a shared group identity without coming into physical contact or knowing the rest of the group.

In recent years, “Black Twitter” has been an increasingly popular phrase. Nearly gone are the days when people would ask, “is that different from Twitter? Is it a different app?” Black Twitter is just one of the many imagined communities active on the social media platform. It does not represent all black people but it does extend beyond the United States. Mark Luckie, Twitter’s former Manager of Journalism and News, describes it as a “loose network of people that are discussing African-American-related issues, both newsy and fun.” Black Twitter

From #PopeBars to #ThanksgivingClapback to #AskRachel, some of the most humorous trending topics can be traced back to Black Twitter. Besides humorous takes on society and pop culture, the imagined community has proven that hashtag activism is more than just a digital version of “slacktivism.” The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag gave birth to a full-blown political movement with influence in the 2016 presidential race.  Without Twitter, the mobilization and coordination of protests around the nation would have been difficult.

blm.jpg

Source: Black Lives Matter

In January 2016, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came under heavy fire for the lack of diversity among the nominees for the Academy Awards, as critically acclaimed films like Creed and Beasts of No Nation were missing. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag sparked a national conversation about the kind of roles available to actors of color. Within a few weeks, the Academy’s Board of Governors unanimously approved “a sweeping series of substantive changes designed to make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse.”

Within imagined communities on social media, there is a form of affirmation, as individuals realize that they can relate to the experiences of others. This affirmation within certain communities results in amplifying the marginalized voices around, resulting in social change.

Tobi Mobolurin @oomobolurin

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

 

Works Cited:

  1. Boyd, Danah. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Print.
  2. About – Today in #BlackTwitter.” Today in BlackTwitter. Mark Luckie,. Web.
  3. “ACADEMY TAKES HISTORIC ACTION TO INCREASE DIVERSITY.”org. Academy of Motion Picture Films and Sciences, 22 Jan. 2016..
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