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Category Archives: Hype

Spin doctors and the ‘Ministry of Truth’ go back a long way

There’s a new way to do spin, and it comes packaged from the Ministry of Truth. (Poor Edward Bernays. The so-called father of spin, must be doing somersaults in his grave.) Modern day spin is much more insidious that doublespeak, or ‘Newspeak.’

We the hoipolloi have a ‘scientific’ way to deal with spin. It involves making air-quotes whenever we use a word or a term generated by the Ministry.

I take on this delicious topic in my May column in LMD Magazine, titled, Alternative facts from the Ministry of Truth

Read it here.

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Spinners – Stress reduction fad or potential STEM tool?

Gadgets fascinate me, especially those that have levers, sensors or even gyros. So the Spinner, a ‘momentum toy’ also known as a ‘fidget toy‘ looks promising.

If not for the fad factor.

Every kid finds it irresistible, no different from how yoyos, or Rubik’s cubes were hard to put away. But the Spinner is also seriously hyped, being claimed to solve many problems. Stress, ADD, and whatever seems to fit. But we better make a distinction between a sensory aid and a gadget that could be used just to show off. Not to mention it becoming a distraction device, rather than solving an ‘attention’ problem.

Having said that, I could envisage how with a few add-ons and variations of the Spinner design, it might be used in a STEM lesson. I’ve seen at least one teacher use the rotations and spin time as variables for math challenges. My colleague and I just discussed how this could become part of a robotics-related lesson, being a mechanical device, after all. No apps required, please!

The field is wide open. Let’s hope we don’t get steamrolled by the fad, and it doesn’t evaporate like…. last Summer’s Pokemon Go.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Hype, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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Pepsi lesson: Our B.S. detectors still work

Brand storytelling can be too fixated on featuring celebrities, weaving them in for name recognition, rather than for something they represent.

So why did Pepsi take this latest tack with Kendall Jenner? After all it had decades of insight, having used people from Michael J Fox to Michael Jackson. (Remember this one, in which Michael J Fox braves traffic, and rain?)

Inserting Jenner into a protest movement means nothing to Millenials. Unless Pepsi assumed they would fall for the fake anti-establishment story line. (Throwing in a head scarfed photo-journalist into the mix.) Or they thought most young people would like to see a can of soda solve a street crisis. Maybe they were trying to borrow from the iconic image of that calm activist in Baton Rouge who walked up to armed police.

It reminds me of the cringe-worthy tweet by Kenneth Cole in 2011, trying to hijack the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt with a brand message about its spring collection.

Writer Eric Thomas called out the lame Pepsi ad as “the holy grail of offensive media.” He dissected, frame by frame, what Pepsi got so wrong. He noted that as storytellers, we owe it to ourselves to “fight for more understanding” –and by this he means coming up with course corrections for other storytellers. “Millennials have hyper-advanced B.S. detectors,” warns Thomas.

To me there was positive that emerged out of this brand story. The hoi polloi detected the B.S. and told Pepsi in no uncertain terms.

 

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Which is worse? Conspiracy Theories or Fake News?

It’s impossible to miss the conspiracy theories swirling around us whether it’s politics, technology or pop culture. You may have heard of Google News, delivering fake news snippets via a Google Home speaker.

Perfectly timed, because this month my LMD column you’ll find my wacky take on conspiracy theories, including the many tall tales concerning the Illuminati.

Titled:“Stop spreading fake news. Worry about Beyonce instead!”

(I discussed the topic here on this blog in January, while working on the article stating that news fakery is nothing new and dates back to the civil war.)

 

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Hype, LMD, Media, Social Media

 

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Shouldn’t we ignore the tweets of the second social media president?

You may have forgotten this. In April 2013, a hacker broke into the Twitter account of the  Associated Press and sent out a tweet about “explosions at the White House.”

Reuters noted then that the Twitter ‘report’ caused the S&P 500 index to fall, wiping out  $136.5 billion of its value.

We didn’t call it fake news then – just a bad prank. It demonstrated the power of ‘news’ that the world was beginning to consume in 140 characters or fewer.

Today, the ‘hacks’ and pranks seem to come from both outside (fake news perpetrators) and within establishments. They’re still using short-form journalism, which is easily spread by headline-hungry readers.

Trump tweets (a busy search term, for sure) have become worthy of analysis at the highest levels, and not just in the media. As Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum notes, these tweets “…are not for you. They are not for the press. They are not for Congress. They are for his fans.”

Meaning, I suppose, ignore them.

One group not ignoring them, and busily documenting them, must be journalism students. They must be relishing the fact that somewhere in this is ‘Twitter torture’ is a real-time study leading to a Masters dissertation. There have been similar dissertations on the rhetorical analysis of campaign tweets. But what began on 20th January is a treasure chest.

 

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Virtual Reality meets Happy Meals meets Education

Is Virtual Reality going to become the next toy? It was going to happen, when marketers rediscover the immersive experience that they never got to realize when the wonders of Second Life never materialized.

Now that McDonald’s has got into the game, letting children re-fold the Happy Meal box into a VR headset (just like the Google cardboard model, but a different template), you could expect many to follow. WIRED reports that these ‘Happy Goggles’ (ugh! I just don’t dig this name), will be available at 14 McDonald’s restaurants across northern Sweden.

Coke has also experimented with similar headsets.

Now, to be sure the Golden Arches says they want to be in the education space. How that will go is left to be seen. Edutainment might be more appropriate.

Nevertheless, VR is well suited for educational experiences like we have never known. Unlike a computer screen, the wearable experience could be used differently. We don’t need ‘toys’ in class, though. Just tools.

 

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White House goes Cheesy, hashtags and all

It’s that time of year when communicators have too much time on their hands. Consider how: North Korea is pretending to prove it has a Hydrogen bomb (various sourcessay this was a damp squib); the sports minister of Sri Lanka is claiming he’s received ‘scandalous’ pictures of cricketers in New Zealand (hotels are denying this), and Google’s ‘self-driving’ cars are supposedly dangerous (drivers have sometimes had to stop them from crashing).

Perhaps it’s that down time after the Christmas season, when there’s a news hole that needs to be filled. With Cheese, for instance. The White House is hosting a humongous cheese party. The hashtag being #youfetabelieveit. It’s called the Big Block of Cheese Day. It’s been created after Andrew Jackson’s 1837 event, for which he trucked in a 1,400 pound block of cheese and had citizens come and mingle with the occupants. A sort of Open House event.

I don’t know how Mr. Jackson managed to handle this without a Tumbler account, but it sure goes to prove that sometimes all you need is a piece of cheese to get people to hang out with you. Unless you don’t mind keeping away the lactose intollerant.

 

 

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