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Internet audiences are not as gullible when it comes to hoaxes says Curtin professor

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Internet audiences are not as gullible when it comes to hoaxes such as the Chk-Chk Boom incident as they are thought to be according to a Curtin professor.

Associate Professor Matthew Allen who is the Head of Department for Internet Studies said Internet audiences are actually the most active and engaged media audience in terms of creating, manipulating and commenting on what they see and read on the web.

Professor Allen said they are not passive audiences but instead have short attention spans.

‘They are certainly more active in terms of selecting what they read and watch … commenting on and circulating to their friends what they’ve seen and read … but perhaps they are more distracted and fragmented in their attention to what they see on the Internet,’ he said.

He said this new way of interaction with the media through the Internet and other digital mediums proves that users are in fact very active but that the Internet celebrity’s short time of fame highlights their short attention spans.

According to Professor Allen in instances such as the Clare Werbeloff stunt demonstrates this interaction and said it was actually clever as she could see the way news is run and used this not only to “poke fun” at it but also to get her fifteen minutes of fame.

‘She’s basically poking fun at journalism and not journalism in the sense of individual dedicated journalists but the kind of hype and hyperbole that you see on programs like Today Tonight.’

He said that Ms Werbeloff’s hoax and other similar cases are due to the change in the way the media is run and presented to audiences.

‘Now stuff tends to go live to air so much more and then as soon as it’s on the Internet it’s everywhere.’

When it comes to the younger generations he said historically there has been a fear that the media is making the world a bad place because the younger generations don’t understand it, a point he disagrees with.

‘I think they’re very aware, but whether they do anything with that awareness is perhaps the issue. There comes a time when being aware of how artificial and constructed news media is needs to lead to an action [to become] more engaged with the real world outside of the artificial view that the media might give us.’

Consumers of the Internet combining their knowledge of the medium with the desire to be famous, like Miss Werbeloff, creates a whole new type of celebrity.

‘Now people are famous because they’re famous and in that culture people who observe and consume the media like Clare start to see how they might also be famous for being famous.’

‘Internet celebrity is a fairly short lived and tenuous thing because to be consistently famous you probably need a lot of time and money to expend on being famous. But people can be famous for a few minutes and enjoy that and then go on with their everyday lives.’

Professor Allen thinks the problem is not the Internet or its users, but rather the way it is used.

‘Consumers can become part of the journalistic profession by uploading photos. These things all work together to change the relationship of society and the media. The Internet is just one part of that, and in many ways can even be seen as a relatively secondary part of that, to in a sense a change in the view that individual people have about whether they are watching the news, being part of the news, or making the news.’

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