Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Change Blindness Plus (YouTube via Schneier)

The Schneier On Security blog points today to an interesting video (embedded below) that demonstrates and discusses the phenomena of Change Blindness:

There are several good videos and resources on this effect and you can find them all here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Biggest News Stories Of The Year Are Not What You Think (GOOD via Neatorama)

If you are a regular reader of this blog...well, thank you!

More importantly, though, you are probably better informed about what is going on in the world than the average Joe or Jane.

While this is a good thing, it is not a universal good. It probably also creates a cognitive blind spot as well. What do I mean? Well, most people think that other people think the same way they do. This applies particularly to what is "important".

For example, I remember coming back to the US after having worked the Balkans issue for a number of years and being totally taken aback by the lack of news on the situation there. It was the most important thing in my life and I did not understand why it was not important to people in the US as well.

To put things into perspective, then, (and, note, I did not say proper perspective...) comes the "Biggest Stories Of The Year" infographic from the online magazine, GOOD (via Neatorama). The screenshot below just gives you a taste of the level of detail embedded in this image (you can either click on the image or go to the site to see the chart in all its full, glorious interactivity-ness).

The data for this chart comes from US media exclusively but it includes a wide variety of sources (Fox News and MSNBC, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, Limbaugh's radio show, Beck, O'Reilly, Hannity and Olbermann's TV shows, etc.).

Check out the relative importance placed on various stories. It is no surprise that the Economic Crisis and Health Care received a lion's share of the time but look at how they dominated print and the air waves. Eyeballing it, I would say that those two topics alone accounted for 40% of the stories. Worth it? Maybe...

Some of the comparisons are even more revealing. Iraq got 3-4 times less coverage than the death of Michael Jackson, Russia got about as much coverage as the White House Party Crashers and Tiger Wood's Adultery was about as important as the Mexican Drug War in the eyes of the press.

This is not, in my mind, the result of some vast international conspiracy of either the left or the right. It represents, I think, what Americans wanted. These media outlets are supported by advertising and advertising is supported by eyeballs and ears. If people aren't reading, watching or listening then these outlets can't survive.

It is, then, a reasonably accurate reflection of what Americans were interested in and, arguably, what they cared about in 2009.

Something worth thinking about in the new year...