Alejo J.

Espinosa Seminar on Communication Research Methods

A Critique on the Preliminary Construction of Quiapo Google and Yahoo are more than just search engines – they are framing machineries driven by marketing, politics, and culture bound definitions of keywords crucial in searching finding and constructing entities like the optical mediascape of Quiapo. (Bantugan, p 144)

This is an unwarranted conclusion and has no basis based on the methodology employed in the research. This critique is composed of three observations and suggestions to Bryan

Bantugan’s paper. A. Where’s the Mediascape? The wikipedia entry on mediascape, describe the term as either of the two quoted below. [A} The term mediascape, may have been coined by Arjun Appadurai(1990), where it was used to offer a way to describe and situate the role of electronic and print media in “global cultural flows,” which are fluid and irregular as they cross global and local boundaries. For Appadurai, mediascape indexes the electronic capabilities of production and dissemination, as well as “the images of the world created by these media” (Appadurai 1990, p. 9). {B} Mediascape is also used as a generic term to describe a digital media artifact where items of digital media are associated with regions in space and can then be triggered by the location of the person experiencing the media. Thus in a mediascape a person may walk around an area and as they do so they will hear digitally stored sounds associated with different places in that area.

The “global cultural flows” referred [A] to by Appadurai seems to be lacking in this research. The researcher was documenting the transfers of the containers, the physical DVDs changing hands rather than what was contained in the DVDs. We have no idea whether the cultural flow is more of hollywood hits, non-mainstream European movies, cable TV fare, rare and old music gems, machinema animation or hard core pornography. Since man is shaped, affected or influenced by the kind of media he consumes, this “sensing” of what’s being consumed -- the “mediascape” escapes the reader. In addition, we cannot deny the distributed nature of this trade which is evident in every major city and “shopping enclaves” nationwide, 1

Alejo J. Espinosa Seminar on Communication Research Methods

such that the FLOW may not really be just a flow but a real large TSUNAMI.

A tsunami of

alternative media, as the population votes with its peso for “better” entertainment to substitute or displace what local broadcasters and movie studios dish out currently. Nonetheless, I would dare say that for the Muslim and other small vendors, they

couldn’nt care less what the contents of ther DVD sold are – for them CURRENCY (pesos) is King not CONTENT is king. SM (short for SA MUSLIM) is the king of DVD retail. As long as these daily wage earners can take their cut from the earnings and turn over the lions share to the shadowy capitalist and ecosystem of police and city hall protectors, then its all in a day’s work.. If we utilize the second [B} definition of mediascape, we still fall short since a DVD patron going through the crowded stalls amidst the swarm of other buyers and the time pressure to select quickly, can hardly be considered a pleasurable experience. While wading through the hundreds of titles available, the buyer is exposed to many risks -- including defective disks

which you may not be able to return if you cant remember the stall location and face of the seller, pickpockets and snatchers, a raiding team pouncing at a moment’s notice. Inevitably a quick gaze -quick pay - leave it to faith regiment may be best. All things considered, perhaps this researcher can just simply refer to his research as the DVD trade. Using “mediascape” can be very misleading since the word connotes something

extensive, sensory-rich and visual, and pleasing. But the P.L.A.C.E. approach shows exactly the opposite. We see a few city blocks, make-shift stalls, street hawkers, and bargain hunters – hardly a “mediascape” at all.

B. Yahoo and Google: Understand the Differences Before Concluding Not all search engines are created equal, just as no single search engine can give you all the desired results regarding a specific subject. One cannot construct a house with just a hammer, instead a set of varied tools are required. So is the case with search engines -- they all 2

Alejo J. Espinosa Seminar on Communication Research Methods

have their strengths and their weaknesses and one MUST recognize these strengths and weaknesses before “constructing”. I, however, cannot accept that conclusion the Google is “framing mechanism” because of my intimate knowledge of how it works. Mechanically retrieving result and listing them for the user is NOT FRAMING. Worse, I am an alumnus of the University of that owns the Google search engine “BACKRUB” and am called upon to clarify its strengths, philosophy and rationale with the researcher lest some misinformation is propagated. Google’s unit is a hyperlink. While Yahoo’s basic unit is 14 Category Taxonomy. Google treats links between web pages as a “pat in the back” or “thumbs up” from the all web pages and has designed an algorithm to “count and weigh” these. Yahoo employs a pool of humans to categorize each web page and fit them neatly under a category and sub-category. From this, we conclude that Google is unbiased and mechanical (by machine) while Yahoo is judgmental and manual (by human). Hence, Google’s BACKRUB is definitely neutral and Yahoo’s, depending on human cognition or error, can introduce bias especially when, by POLICY, Yahoo “force fits” a web page with multiple products or services “into a single classification”. In this light, we note that only the government authorities, lawyers and the media use the word optical media, the man on the street uses DVD, ergo when you search for optical media, then your hits result in the web pages of the institutions that use that phraseology. The search parameter used in this paper begs the result, pure and simple. Truth be told, these is a whole industry called the Search Engine Optimization industry that is gaming Google search engine. These unscrupulous entities create fictitious web pages with many, many links to the web pages of their clients so that their clients “rise-up” in the Google search results. Savvy web users and even Google is aware of this practice and makes adjustments in its algorithm to minimize this bias which is “paid for” by commercial 3

Alejo J. Espinosa Seminar on Communication Research Methods

corporations and institutions. In layman’s terms you pay for your hyperlinks to increase your web site’s visibility in Google. An alternative methodology would be to search for Quiapo first, then from the first say 50-100 or so results count the “contexts” where Quiapo is mentioned in cyberspace. Then from there “extract” the contexts like culture, religion, entertainment, piracy, photography and other contexts. I have attempted to use this approach for blogs in section C of this paper. In this manner, we can see the “displacement” of the old projection of Quiapo in the context of religion and the Black Nazarene with the “emerging” projection of Quiapo as a DVD piracy haven. The conclusion is further made untenable by the phrase “driven by marketing, politics, and culture bound definitions of keywords” . No discussion of marketing arrangements or revenues was presented other than a few banner ads for product and services and journalistic institutions. But all of these are from Yahoo’s banner ads. The undeniable fact is that Google does not use BANNER ADS and therefore it is LESS “VISUALLY FRAMING” (awkward term) as Yahoo. This fact and distinction was glossed over in the research. Politics-wise, there was no discussion about this whatsoever, ergo, it is strange that this term is introduced in the conclusion. The word politics is appears only once in the entire document, on page 144 to be exact, so how can that be a conclusion. As for the culture specific terms, we introduce the term “folksonomy”. Our culture would call the containers “pirated DVD” instead “not pirated optical media” which now opens up nuances in search. The mere use of “optical media” is right away problematic because it biases the result towards the formal, legal institutions (government, the courts, police authorities, journalists, media) in contrast to Juan de la Cruz.

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Alejo J. Espinosa Seminar on Communication Research Methods

C.

Enter Juan de la Cruz: The Blogger Since, the researcher was attempting a textual construction of Quiapo in cyberspace to

complement the P.LA.C.E. analysis. Perhaps the blogs of “Juan de la Cruz” and Technorati could have been used in the construction. Google and Yahoo are strong at indexing and

retrieving web pages. These web pages are constructed by companies, enterprises, institutions, and authorities. Technorati is the “Google for blogs and the blogosphere”. Technorati indexes the blog posts and harvests the tags of tens of millions of blog postings. Blogs are the statements, expressions, and projections of individuals who have something to share with the rest of the world. Instead of links, the TAGS, are most crucial feature of blogs because it is in these TAGS and AGGREGATED TAG CLOUDS that the meanings and constructions of the blogosphere takes shape. (In my humble opinion. this should have been the better cyberspace tool used by the researcher) Technorati Search: “Quiapo” only >> 3,180 hits (See Annex A) A search of “Quiapo” in Technorati results in 3,180 hits. A cursory look at the Top 50 hits reveals Quiapo is mentioned in blogs within the context of religion and holy week (please note this search was undertaken during Black Saturday). There were only 2 hits in the Top 50 that mentioned Quiapo in the context of piracy. We can infer that there are many in the blogosphere that blog about Quiapo in the context of culture and religion, rather than business and piracy. Technorati Search “Quiapo and Piracy” >> 68 hits (See Annex B) Using Quiapo and piracy yields only 68 hits. Taken within the context of the 3,180 hits in the previous search, we can conclude that only 2.1% of the blogs relate Quiapo and Piracy together. In short 97.9% of the mentions of Quiapo in the blogosphere have no mention of piracy. This result is one indicator for the “pulse” and perception of the bloggers about Quiapo.

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Alejo J. Espinosa Seminar on Communication Research Methods

Owing to the fact that blogging is a very recent phenomena in the country, it is understandable that many netizens have not yet been able to appreciate the significance, potential, as well as limitations of blogging.

Conclusions To rely merely on the search results from Google and Yahoo for a textual construction of Quiapo in cyberspace is like seeing the tall tees in forest without looking at the flora and fauna of the creatures lurking in the forest ecosystem. Blogs are the small flora and fauna which should also be considered and Technorati is the search engine that aids the “constructor” in making sense of the entire forest including the small critters, insects and microscopic plants that abound. Put another way, blogs are like water lillies in a pond, in the beginning they are small and even fragmented, but in a couple of weeks, they cover more and more of the water surface. Before you know it, in a month or two, they happen to cover the entire pond. Similarly with Quiapo and the DVD trade, perhaps the blogosphere will eventually overwhelm the old projection of Quiapo and its religious significance with the new one of a “Mediascape Mecca” but for now, it is still too early to conclude so. But then again, this paper does not do justice to the term “mediascape”. Over-all, the documentation, specially, the first half, is professionally done. As for the cyberspace construction part, the methodology can stand a lot of improvement. I am reminded of the adage “little knowledge is dangerous knowledge” as shown in this case when one utilizes Yahoo and Google without appraising its strengths and weaknesses and relies on it as a swiss knife solution to every search problem.

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