A World Without Screens

And now for something a little different – for this week’s blog post, we thought we’d ask a different question: is there such a thing as “too much” media in our daily lives? We’ve all heard the polemics: cell phones, laptops tablet – our society is too reliant on “screens,” we need to “unplug” more, modern technology is costing us meaningful human interaction, etc. Many parents are particularly concerned about these effects on their children – interestingly enough, even those who are responsible for the technology themselves. The New York Times reported that in Silicon Valley, California, the major tech executives of companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, and eBay actually send their children to low-tech Waldorf schools. These schools don’t use “screen” teaching tools and instead use “old-fashioned” tools such as pens and paper, knitting needles, and even mud. There are no computers or screens at all, and the school even recommends that students do not use at computers at home. Proponents of this education style suggest that it encourages creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans. At one school alone, three-quarters of the students had parents with a strong connection to the high-tech industry.

At an older age, even students themselves start to become worried about their use of technology. Contrary to assumptions that today’s generation are  all“screen addicts,” some students have started voluntarily limiting their time spent online, for example on Facebook.

An interesting growing trend is the idea of taking a “No-Screen Day” – as the name suggests, taking some time to “unplug” from technology or anything with a screen for a certain amount of time. Students have tried this and documented their experiences, ironically through blogs (yet more screen time!) As one would expect, it is a challenging experience which makes one aware of how much our lives really do revolve around technology and the use of screens. In response to reports that have shown that total contact time between parents and children has decreased by 40% in the past 25 years, some recommend instituting a No-Screen-Day for one’s family, an idea that is probably easier in theory than in practice. There is even an official No-Screen Day website that is currently under construction (again, ironic for a no-screen day to have a website!)

We’ve probably all spent some time thinking about our use of technology and our time spent “on screens” – what do you all think? Let us know!


Advertising in the Digital Age: Real-Time Marketing

Today’s CMS Panel, on Advertising and Marketing in the Digital Age, seeks to answer a number of thought-provoking questions, such as: how is advertising and marketing evolving in the digital age? What does this evolution mean in terms of practices, philosophy, outreach, and design? These are questions that a lot of CMS students might already be thinking a lot about in their classes, such as Media Literacy, Social Marketing, and Gender and Popular Media. The advent of digital media has made possible a myriad new approaches to designing and implementing successful marketing campaigns.

Real-Time Marketing

A new trend in the world of advertising and marketing is “real-time marketing” – the idea of seizing on real-world events to create spontaneous advertising campaigns/ready-made product placement, catalyzed in particular by Twitter. Real-time marketing is based on the idea that today’s customers are no longer on the internet for only a few hours a day, but are spending a significant portion of their days connected to the web through mobile phones, laptops and tablets. If someone sees an interesting product on TV they might Google it or post a question about it on one of their social networks. Companies can take advantage of this exposure by providing responsive information to their clients on an instantaneous basis – for example through a company Facebook page or Twitter account that provides a response right away. A repeated emphasis of real-time marketing strategy is “engagement.” And some companies are finding real-time marketing to be increasingly important – according to one report, “RTM [real-time marketing] should no longer be regarded as ‘icing on the cake’ for modern marketing plans, but rather an integral ingredient for lean-forward communication with impact.”

Even the movie industry is beginning to move toward real-time marketing in advertisements during trailers before films. A darkened room with a captive audience is clearly an ideal advertising platform for companies, but in the past the use of ad reels created by hand could lead to lag times for cinema advertising. With the introduction of digital film, companies can supply ads to movie companies and they can be broadcast much more quickly. For example, the company Tesco ran a campaign promoting apples in September, taking advantage of the faster turnaround time to run ads before the apple season ran out. Previously, opportunities to tie in product promotions to films were often missed – for example, the 2001 sci-fi flick “Evolution” featured a plot line in which aliens were killed by the anti-dandruff shampoo Head & Shoulders. The company found out that the brand was in the film two weeks before its release and was therefore too late to take advantage, though they did later run a campaign with samples featuring the slogan “Use this sample to save the world.”


Another form of real-time marketing is newsjacking – the idea of using topical events to create advertising/product placement opportunities for brands. Newsjacking has become a phenomenon during all types of popular televised events; for example, during the recent Super Bowl XLVII power outage, many companies went to town tying it in to their brands, with the winner probably being Oreo on Facebook:


Oreo: You can still dunk in the dark. Source: hubspot.com

The image received over 19,800 likes, 790 comments, and 6,600 shares to date!

Other honorable mentions: Tide, and the Radiological Society of North America!

Well, at least radiologists can work in the dark. Source: hubspot.com

RSNA: Well, at least radiologists can work in the dark. Source: hubspot.com

Tide: We can't get your blackout. But we can get your stains out. Source: hubspot.com

We can’t get your blackout. But we can get your stains out. Source: hubspot.com

Companies clearly came prepared to take advantage of Twitter buzz created by the recent 2013 Oscars. Here are some of the night’s highlights:

US Cellular: How to get red carpet-ready. Source: hubspot.com

US Cellular: How to get red carpet-ready. Source: hubspot.com

Charmin: Don't forget to look down before your speech. Source: hubspot.com

Charmin: Don’t forget to look down before your speech. Source: hubspot.com

Kellogg’s made light of long acceptance speeches while launching a new snack line:

Kellogg's: We're gonna need a shorter speech. Source: hubspot.com

Kellogg’s: We’re gonna need a shorter speech. Source: hubspot.com

And Oscar Mayer paid tribute to James Bond:

Oscar Mayer: Bacon not stirred. Source: hubspot.com

Oscar Mayer: Bacon not stirred. Source: hubspot.com

Interested in doing this kind of thing for a living? It’s important to keep in mind that working in social media isn’t just writing clever tweets. There are many other, perhaps less exciting aspects to social media marketing such as community managing and developing social strategy, but this is certainly a trend to keep aware of and stay up to date on.

Stella: That's all! Goodnight. Source: hubspot.com

Stella: That’s all! Goodnight. Source: hubspot.com

Life in a Dying Industry

Source: imdb.com

Source: imdb.com

Most Tufts students have an eye on the future, on “what happens” after Tufts (whether or not they want to think about it!) For many communications and media studies students, this means finding a job in the media/journalism/publishing worlds, no small task as many people know. The CMS Program recently held an event for students in just this situation, “How to Land a Media Job: Tips for Seniors” (if you missed it don’t worry, you can check out the audio on the CMS Program homepage – you don’t even have to be a senior to access it!) Many of the speakers emphasized that increasing your own social media presence can be key to getting a job in some of these industries – a great excuse to start blogging on the CMS blog! (You don’t want to be left out in the cold from the digital world like Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson).

Everyone has heard at one point or another the standard cliché that the journalism/publishing worlds are “dying industries” or “dead-end careers.” For example, journalism has been described as the “fastest-dying industry in America.” The struggling publishing industry has been made light of in similar ways.

Barbara Ehrenreich, widely-known journalist, social critic, columnist, essayist and author of 21 books including the famous Nickel and Dimed, described some of the ups and downs of her own experiences in the world of journalism in her piece “Welcome to a Dying Industry, Journalism Grads.” In Ehrenreich’s view, the truth about the journalist’s calling comes down to this:

Journalists “are not part of an elite. We are part of the working class, which is exactly how journalists have seen themselves through most of American history – as working stiffs. We can be underpaid, we can be jerked around, we can be laid off arbitrarily – just like any autoworker or mechanic or hotel housekeeper or flight attendant. But there is this difference: A laid-off autoworker doesn’t go into his or her garage and assemble cars by hand. But we – journalists – we can’t stop doing what we do. As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won’t stop us. A dying industry won’t stop us. Even poverty won’t stop us because we are all on a mission here. That’s the meaning of your journalism degree. Do not consider it a certificate promising some sort of entitlement. Consider it a license to fight.”

Some, however, don’t see jobs in media/communications as necessitating quite such a degree of personal martyrdom. For some, the benefits of a career pursuing one’s true passion, whether or not it lies in a so-called “dead-end career path,” are obvious: being able to do something you love for the rest of your life. For others, the choice between well-paying work that you you hate vs. poorly/non-paid work that you love is not so black and white: there are ways to find writing/social media jobs that pay, for example opportunities in freelance blogging. A quick Google search turns up instantaneous wikiHow articles on How to Get a Social Media Job in 7 easy steps, or an infographic on How to Get a Job in Social Media in 5 Minutes (the infographic itself is a great demonstration of someone’s social media skills!)

What do you think? Is it possible to find love in a hopeless place? Are there careers out there where it is possible to combine a passion or calling for media/journalism etc. with the ability to make a comfortable living? Let us know!

Ethiopian Media 101

Editor’s note: the author is a first-year graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. Prior to coming to Fletcher she worked for several months in Ethiopia. She was recently back to visit over winter break.

Keeping true to our word about staying plugged in to the broader “real world” of media outside of Tufts’ doors, for this week we’re going international – to Ethiopia, to be exact. We thought it’d be interesting to get a perspective on the media there, and hopefully later in the semester we’ll be getting some perspectives from more far-afield places like the Czech Republic.

The media world in Ethiopia

Source: ecadforum.com

The news in Amharic. Source: ecadforum.com

In Ethiopia, the mainstream media is highly-influenced by ETV, the government-owned television station, which broadcasts three channels and is a major source of news for the TV-owning population. ETV broadcasts nightly news in Ethiopia’s four major languages: Amharic, Tigrinya, Afan Oromo, and Somali, as well as English. In addition, the network broadcasts talk shows, question and answer shows, and other popular entertainment, in particular music videos. The Ethiopian music industry is thriving and has one of the most loyal domestic fan bases on the continent; both modern and traditional Ethiopian music is extremely popular across generations, as well as music from the “Golden Era” of Ethiopian jazz in the 60s. Virtually every region has developed its own traditional dances and musical forms, which are popular with Ethiopians across the country.


News in Oromo. Source: ecadforum.com


News in Somali. Source: xaajo.com

The Ethiopian privately-owned media sector is still relatively nascent, and it is unclear exactly what role private media will play in the future. The radio and newspaper sectors are also growing. Though there are relatively few radio stations across the country, they broadcast in several of the local languages. There are a variety of print newspapers, particularly in the capital, Addis Ababa, and they can be found in Amharic, other local languages, and English.

Meles Zenawi

Source: author’s own

Another widespread form of mass media is billboards, displaying everything from advertising campaigns to government campaigns. There are currently massive billboards around the country in memory of the former Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, who passed away last fall.

Social Media in Inauguration 2013


Source: usmagazine.com

Like so many of today’s major national events, Inauguration 2013 featured an unprecedented level of social media coverage. At 10 am on the day of, according to Twitter, there had already been more tweets in the previous 90 minutes than during the actual 90-minute inauguration ceremony in 2009 (see ABC News). Of the major sources of Twitter chatter, some of the most popular: Aretha Franklin’s hat (from Inauguration 2009), Michelle Obama’s bangs, Malia Obama’s dance moves, and, of course, Beyonce. (The Borowitz Report at the New Yorker released a tongue-in-cheek “news” report that congressional Republicans called on Obama to resign after Beyonce lip-synced the national anthem.) Other topics of interest: Michelle Obama throwing “world-historical shade” at John Boehner during the post-inauguration luncheon. Also, 23 Reasons Why Sasha and Malia Stole the Inauguration, including wearing complementing monochromatic outfits and “photobombing” their parents kissing. The Washington Post had an interactive panoramic photograph in which users could tag themselves and their friends alongside the officials and VIPs the Post had tagged.

Other more symbolic or emotionally poignant moments of the day also received significant social media attention. President Obama’s historic mention of gay rights in his inaugural address, with the words “our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” prompted plenty of Twitter reactions from all sides. On one side: “Happy to hear POTUS include gay rights in his #inauguration speech on MLK day! It IS a civil rights issue!!” On the other end: “Obama linking gay rights to civil right is bold because frankly many from the civil rights movement resist the comparison #inaug2013”. The official website WH.gov/inauguration was overflowing with photo galleries, live streams, podcasts, and blog posts, including a video entitled “Everyone Has a Part to Play” at whitehouse.gov/engage highlighting ways for “Americans to raise their voices and join the national conversation.”

Did social media make you feel more of a connection to Inauguration 2013? Do you think the social media revolution has changed the way we experience “historical” events? Let us know your thoughts!


Welcome to Plugged In: Tufts Communications & Media Studies blog! This is a place for you to get plugged in – to what’s going on in the CMS program, to other like-minded students with opinions to share, and to the broader “real world” of media.

  • What can we learn about media interpretation from the TV show Homeland? Or Gossip Girl? Or Glee?
  • Is any film that Steven Spielberg puts out an automatic hit?  What accounts for the phenomenal success of Lincoln in its first weeks?
  • Can today’s elections be influenced by an internet meme?
  • What is the future of journalism – is it really a “dying industry”?
  • Where can I find jobs in freelance blogging?

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering the answer to these questions – or many more like them – then come join the conversation. Participate as a reader, a writer, or a commenter – answer a question, or pitch an idea of your own.

So join us and continue the conversation!

From the New Yorker -

A few quick things to keep in mind:

  • While the blog can be used as a forum for discussing ongoing events in the CMS program, it is not a forum for singling out specific individuals, including professors. Only mention specific individuals by name with their explicit permission. Do not use the blog as a forum to complain about individuals/professors/classes etc, but certainly use it as a way to continue the conversation of interesting issues that might arise in your classes.
  • Similarly, we encourage you to use blog postings to reflect on or comment about things you see, hear and read in media, but not to launch unjustified invectives.  Critique is fine; defamation is not.
  • In the words of the “Bloggers Code of Conduct,” take responsibility for your words, and never say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.
  • While it is not our intention to censor, blog administrators retain the right to refrain from posting anything that goes against this code.


Serving as initial blog editors/contributors will be student workers and members of the CMS staff and faculty, who will help get us started.

A little about us:

  • Claudia Schwartz: I’m a first-year graduate student at the Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, studying international business and conflict. I’ve been a student assistant in the CMS program for about 6 months.
  • Julie Dobrow is Director of the CMS program and will be contributing periodically to the blog.
  • John Ciampa is Staff Assistant of the CMS program and will be a regular contributor to the blog.

You’ll also be hearing from other student workers and members of the CMS staff and faculty in the coming weeks, and of course we’re excited to hear from you!

Hello world!

“We come together as a community – in our sitting room, in sacred space or in a coffee shop. We share our joy and pain, our surprises and disappointments, successes and failures and we try to make some sense of it all. We listen to find some way to connect.  We give reassurance or advice.  Sometimes we say nothing because just being there is enough.  Storytelling is that moment when we are not alone.” – Louise Erdrich