How Technology Changed Race and Identity

The New York Times article, A Greater Understanding of Race and Identity Through Tech, starts off talking about what the most important tech for work is and writer mentions that due to the constant loud and busy atmosphere, noise-canceling headphones are crucial. The noise-canceling headphones allow individuals to focus while completing tasks. While using the headphones, the writer discusses how he listens to a podcast called Ear Hustle. Ear Hustle is a podcast that is about San Quentin State Prison in California. The podcast talks about what life is like in the prisons and provides different perspectives of mass incarceration. The U.S. has the most individuals incarcerated and a majority of them are black and brown, and the writer talked about how listening to the podcast made he view black and brown people differently and made him rethink the system. The podcast isn’t the only media that changed his perspective on black and brown people, he says that social media also played a huge part. Social media created a sense of community for the black and brown people, especially after the killings of black and brown boys by police. Social media allowed personal content and footage of these events to be seen by the world and support you or not support you. Social media has many positive advantages, but it also has some disadvantages.

We are feeding machines with information everyday, and the information we choose to provide says a lot about who we are — our racism, our values, our strengths, our weaknesses.

This platform has become an outlet for outrage and outrage is the present. Outrage, at times, has brought awareness to communities and have helped move forward Black Lives Matter and outrage has also brought to light that racism through technology is a problem.


Netflix at 2 times speed?

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Netflix is the golden standard for streaming content. The relationships they have with their audiences and the actors and talent that works for them, there has never really been a divide. Fast forwarding may be that issue. Netflix has confirmed that they are starting to test out a feature that lets you play content at faster or slower speeds. This feature that has already existed on DVD players for years and more recently sites like Youtube, seems to be drawing a dividing line among creators and audiences. 

Audiences have recently started using the fast forward feature for content like podcasts and videos online but not the streaming giant Netflix. Media creators like Aaron Paul and Judd Apatow have been very direct in opposing adding fast forward controls. Giving those controls to the audience would allow them to alter how we see the content and how the directors and creators wanted us to see the content. Creators take a lot time to put together their work and take great pride in showing their work or story their way. Taking this away by giving controls that let you change the pace cold see many content creators that are Netflix staples move their content elsewhere.

Even with content creators calling for Netflix to scrap this idea, Netflix has confirmed that they are moving forward with testing on mobile devices. This trial period could be more than just testing out new software but also testing out those relationships that could go somewhere else if this feature reaches the global Netflix platform.


Shonda Rhimes Moves to Digital

Shonda Rhimes, the producer known for her ABC dramas series Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder stepped into the streaming world back in 2017 when she signed a deal with Netflix to produce a minimum of eight new shows. Her latest step was into the world of podcast, her production company, Shondaland, and iHeart Radio recently announced their new partnership. Within the new deal, Shonda Rhimes will produce more than a dozen new podcasts through her talented ways of storytelling that has gained her a tremendous follow of viewers and listeners. Shonda Rhimes’s division of the iHeart Podcast Network will be called Shondaland Audio. Shonda Rhimes has had a taste of the podcast life in the past with her podcast called Katie’s Crib which discusses motherhood and that show will now be apart of the iHeart Podcast Division with her future podcasts.

“Just beginning our digital journey” – Shonda Rhimes

This move to podcasts and deal with iHeart seems like the right move for Shonda Rhimes; iHeart Radio has been ranked #2 on the podcast measurement firm Podtrac with 268 shows downloaded 147 million times. With Shonda’s storytelling talent, it seems that she will be able to grab the attention of listeners and viewers on this platform. The president of iHeart Podcast Network, Conan Byrne, believes that Shondaland Audio will attract “an engage, smart female audience” and established major brands will want to advertise on her podcast for the best results.

iHeart can predict this audience because women tend to love to see women win and this is no different.

“Descript” Application Revolutionizing Podcasting: And Possibly The Spread Of Misinformation

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Whether an amateur or even professional podcaster, all these individuals are well aware of the painstaking process of editing that takes place behind the scenes. Specifically, the copious errors behind human speech patterns and the precise editing to correct these mistakes require large amounts of time/experience to fix.

“Load up the audio. Listen. Drag. Delete. Listen again. Restore the original audio. Hone. Delete again. Re-listen. It’s exhausting. And that’s just for the little things. There’s a better way” (Laforme, p.1).

Descript has become one of the most popular and innovative editing platforms specifically for the production of podcasts. This tool creates a text transcript of audio files and as users delete or rearrange the transcript, the same tool edits the audio file to match it exactly essentially eliminating a whole area of editing required to produce clean production. Formerly, the application required users to pay for every new production they would create, but recently the company has moved towards paid monthly subscriptions for unlimited edits/projects.

The application announced over the weekend that its new version update will add a number of new autonomous podcast editing tools, but most importantly  the software is also being integrated with Lyrebird, a “text-to-speech tool that the internet lost its mind over in 2017.” Podcast editors who use Descript will now have the ability to simply type text into the application and have a custom audio generated sound produced.

While this new integration with Lyrebird could prove to help editors drastically such as allowing them to fill in a missed word or two on their audio tracks, many are worried about this software that could allow users to “clone” someone else’s voice.

Misinformation has been a growing problem over the internet and news sources as the spread/access of information continues to grow increasingly more powerful every day. Podcasters using Descript have expressed significant amounts of concern towards this new update in fear that auto generated voicing could lead to editors cloning other individuals voices and releasing their productions online.

A great example of this potential danger could be unleashed in the upcoming Democratic candidate race. With leading candidates such as Biden topping the boards, this kind of auto voice generation could make it easy to clone the sound of his voice releasing false statements all over the internet. Though many can refute this concern by saying the voice generation was fake, a cloud of misinformation and productions could make it increasingly more difficult to differentiate between fact or fiction.

Descript claims to have recognized this potential threat in media and released an ethics statement on its new update saying “We are committed to modeling a responsible implementation of these technologies, unlocking the benefits of generative media while safeguarding against malicious use” (Descript).

Although still early in its development/innovation, auto voice generation software is growing increasingly more strong and clean, making it easy to mimic another entities voice. When combined with a growing media industry such as podcasting and presented with the motivation of saving time on editing, the spread of misinformation could hit the industry like a title wave. Accurate information and statements is a growing area of concern in today’s society and media experts believe applications like Descript although intending to do good, are potentially pushing this issue further.