Constant comebacks

I am back!

Was I ever really gone? My words have been consistently available here on WordPress, and I exist on the internet in many forms – on Facebook and Instagram primarily.

I first started to use social media when I was 13 years old. I was not “allowed” to have any presence on the internet, as social media was new and uncharted territory for my protective single mother. When I was 12, my school friends convinced me to break the rules and create my own email address in order to send messages back and forth on the computer during technology class. I didn’t use my real name.

My first social media account was on My Space. I loved it. I felt so cool every time another person whom I knew from school became my friend on the internet. It was a real popularity boost. That is all that it was, a place to gather friends and acquaintances and try to increase how “cool” I was.

Now, I have an account on every social media site because I want to know about them. Yes, this is not a good reason to have a social media account, but if I were not a student of communications I would not have a Twitter account.

I have another reason for maintaining my Facebook account. Despite the fact that my own mother deleted hers in the name of conspiracy theories, I keep it and regularly use it in order to keep in touch with (or rather keep the ability to reach out to) the thousands of people I have met through schools and different places that my career has taken me. If I delete my Facebook account, as much as I would feel liberated, I would also lose the ability to connect with people I know and I value this ability more than I value being “off of the grid.”

I have had bosses tell me to take posts and comments down, I have had family become upset about an opinion I expressed, and I have had friends delete and block me on Facebook. I have also kept in touch with teachers, mentors, and long lost family members, and received valuable news from the same site.

I want to be off of the grid. I want to be able to see an old friend after one year of separation and have to catch up because we did not communicate or watch each other’s lives unfold during that time.

But, I have a confession to make.

I love Instagram.

The app appeals to me. I like to share photos with music that matches the music I had in my head when something occurred, I like to be able to share temporary photos and posts with a small group of followers, and to be able to see how other people are doing things and living their lives through pictures and videos.

My first real job was as a video journalist, and I think I fit in so well to the target audience for Instagram. This is the only social media that I use because I genuinely enjoy it.

There are reports and studies that portray when increases in internet use, leading to increased mobile platform use, cause greater advertising success among other statistics. None of it is surprising at all.

Of course people like to have the internet in their pocket. It puts all of the people we have ever met – and everyone we have yet to meet – in our pockets, with us all the time, which makes us feel safe.

I wonder if most people are like me: using some sites despite disdain, while using others for pure enjoyment.

I wonder if most people are mindlessly scrolling and contributing to the statistics.

Most of all, I wonder if there is a reason that some social media platforms are more successful than others, and what it takes for a platform to end; to lose its popularity and join My Space in the nostalgia column.

What could possibly come next, when there is never any pause or end to what is current?


New class

There is a new class of blogs appearing all over the net.

It’s me again, Savanna Clendining, here to reintroduce myself to the blogosphere. I am not a blogger, nor do I consider myself a writer. I’m barely a student, trying to save the world one communications class at a time.

My journey has brought me to ten different countries in the last year, and back to Word Press. My experience with Word Press has been a series of blogs about seemingly unrelated topics, all in response to assignments from an Intro to Digital Communications class through the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Now I am in the next level class: “Digital Communications Systems,” and Word Press community, I have returned.

I learned a lot about the communications world a year ago when I used to blog – about Cheerio’s commercials, about politics (but not really because I want to remain a good neutral employee of the government and also run for office one day,) about the effects of AI on the health industry, and about 7 other topics that all have roots in the communications industry.

Are opinion blogs still popular?

Does anyone care what other regular people have to say?

There is a new class of blogs going around: politically charged news stories that attempt to provide facts about some official organization that may be presenting falsehoods to the public but there is a superhero with a Word Press account who knows better because they did their due diligence to research the subject. (Ref. “Fact Checking the Press Secretary” by Poet Fury)

I don’t think there is an enterprise to Word Press, but I believe it provides a more valid, more versatile, and more vocal platform for people with something real to say.

“Social media is not a place for educated material.”

Clendining, 2020

I think Word Press is.

I think you do too.

All the Rage

Keeping Up With a Changing Technological World

In 2007, Blu-Ray players were released for public consumption.

Since 2007, (really since 2002,) I have been watching DVDs on my Play Station 2. I also have a hybrid VHS and DVD player, but the DVD player half never quite worked right and would often skip, or freeze.

The year is now 2019.

My Play Station 2 is still prominently displayed below my hand-me-down 65 inch tube TV, fully functional with one regular and one wireless controller. I still have a handful of games, and I still use it to watch DVDs.

When my friends come over, they laugh and express nostalgic excitement for my PS2.

My boss leant me Game of Thrones Seasons 1 and 2 discs because I have not seen them.

When I brought the discs home, I discovered that Season 1 is on Blu-Ray discs. I called my cousin who lives nearby and I said, “What is Blu-Ray?”

Her response was, “They’re old high definition DVDs that nobody uses anymore.” I said they are new, and that I am not using them yet.

I called my neighbor to see if they have a blu-ray player, and if I could borrow it. Coincidentally, they had just loaded their two Blu-Ray players into their car and were about to drive to the thrift shop to donate them, so they gave me a hybrid Blu-Ray and DVD player and said, “The blu-ray part works, but not with new Blu-Ray discs.”

I said, “All Blu-Ray discs are new.”

I brought the player upstairs, elated at the new addition to my entertainment system. When I inserted the first Game of Thrones disc, it did not play. It must have been a ‘new’ Blu-Ray disc.

Eventually, I acquired a Blu-Ray player that was able to play the discs. So, now there are two Blu-Ray players on my living room table: a technological revolution for me.

Very soon after, in my online Introduction to Digital Communications, 600 level Master’s class through Syracuse University Newhouse School, my professor presented a slide deck that discussed technology in 2007, what led up to it and what came shortly after.

Blu-Ray was in the ‘what led up to 2007’ section of the presentation.

I snuck a photo of the class screen on my 2013 iMac with my iPhone SE (the version that came out after the 5C, before the iPhone 6), and thought, how do people keep up?

When I sent my cousin the photo of the class presentation, she said, “You can automatically tell something is old because it says, ‘all the rage.’ Nobody says that anymore.”

As a student of digital communications, I choose a piece of equipment that works, and I take care of it so that I can have it for a long time, because equipment is expensive.

In 2014 I bought a Canon Rebel T5 DSLR camera in order to start my undergraduate studies in Communications at Le Moyne College. Now, that camera is old. It still works just fine, but there is less compatible software and hardware, and a line of better Canon cameras available.

My laptops are from 2011 and 2012. They are not able to process things the way they used to. In fact, my 2011 Toshiba PC recently deleted its own desktop and I effortlessly lost everything that I had on it. I have used the 2012 MacBook Pro for the Adobe Suite, and now it faces similar issues. It deleted my background photo on its own, and freezes with rainbow snow in the background if I open more than three applications at once.

My iPhone SE, having been charged with 210 volt electricity instead of 120 volt on multiple occasions, often freezes and creates and sends its own messages instead of simply autocorrecting.

I imagine I could afford to upgrade one of these devices, if I could sell all of the old equipment that I have, but nobody should buy it.

What happens to old technology? Is there a realistic way to keep up with the changes? Am I hopeless, or can I upgrade all of my technology? If I do upgrade, how much time before I have to do it all over again?

I have learned a lot in ICC-602, but the last thing that I learned was that I have some catching up to do. I am proud of my devices, but I imagine life is easier for those who keep up with the changing technological world.

Me, 3/15, questioning my life choices including class at 3 am every Friday.

Public Relations or Advertising?

Why must we choose?

Public Relations (PR) and advertising have always been considered two distinct areas of the communications field. Students must choose between them, professionals are expected to stay in their lanes, and the communications industry works to keep a line, though blurred, between PR and advertising.

Why, though? Why do we make sure to distinguish between PR and advertising instead of embracing both, or being better-rounded (an increase in well-roundedness)?

Difference between PR and advertising in 2019

The differences between PR and advertising are few, but important. Here are the major differences, there are many more particular differences than listed:

1. Money

“Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media.”

Advertisers pay for space in which to advertise, but PR representatives build relationships with media outlets in order to earn space in their publications. (Wynne, Forbes).

2. Goal

Advertising focuses on selling a product. PR is focused on creating a positive image for the brand. (Surbhi, Key Differences).

Ultimately, an advertisement should make the company look good too, and the PR positive image for the brand should lead to selling a product.

3. Creative Control

The advertising company can produce exactly what they want as an ad, because they paid for the space. In PR, a media company has the freedom to use as much or as little of a press release as they would like. The PR representative does not have control over how their message is recreated once they push the press release. (Surbhi, Key Differences).

4. Product

An advertisement uses imperative language to tell the consumers to buy a product. A press release is a “no-nonsense news format” including the 5W’s about the brand. The expectation of sales exists for advertisements, but it would be unexpected to see sales pitches in a press release. (Duncan, The Balance Careers).

Advertising and Public Relations are very similar otherwise.

“Public relations and advertising are similar in concept: both are designed to raise awareness of a company or product in a positive manner. Another similarity is that in both cases the company will often target its message toward a particular audience. This could be people living in a particular location; people of a particular age, gender or social background; or people with particular interests or hobbies.”

Lister, Chron

What if, instead of drawing a line between the two, communications industry professionals embraced the benefits of each simultaneously?

What if, an advertisement highlighted the positive image of the brand behind the product, or a press release mentioned the best products offered by a brand?

Can we combine the creative control provided by advertising space, and the format and credibility (Mudd, Axia) of public relations products, to build a super message-sender?

What if we didn’t have to choose between advertising and PR, and students could study how to use both paid and unpaid space to push a message, rather than trying to figure out the nuances of staying in one lane (i.e. you are a PR rep, you cannot buy ad space to put a video about your brand, leave that to the advertisers, who don’t know how to do that because they learned analytics and how to sell a product instead.)

A fitting advertisement, Google Images

Imagine a world where a company can more easily gain the trust of their intended audience, and sell products through proving themselves as a company that benefits humanity.

Cheerios Cause Marketing

78 years of selling a progressive message, and also cereal.

In 1941, General Mills invented Cheerios as an alternative to oatmeal. They were called Cheeri Oats and were novel as the first oats that did not need to be cooked. Today, Cheerios is a recognized household name boasting at least ten flavors. (Bhasin, Marketing Mix of Cheerios.)

Cheerios’ success comes partly from their quality product, with 12 vitamins and minerals inside (Bhasin), but also from innovative advertising that has remained consistent despite more recent controversies.

78 years is a lot to look at, considering Cheerios has created 112 television commercials. You can watch many of the modern commercials at this website:

Let’s break down the highlights from the past six years, instead.


In 2013, Cheerios, along with Saatchi & Saatchi, a partnering advertising company, created two commercials with an interracial couple and their mixed daughter. The commercials sought to normalize integration, promote tolerance of all types of families, and also sell more Cheerios.

Watch the second commercial and read about both, here:

The interracial family commercials caused a controversy, but ultimately increased Cheerios’ “online branding by 77%” (Heine).

These ads created such an impact in the media world, that an MSNBC social media representative lost her job for discussing the divisive partisan nature of the ads, saying “‘the Rightwing’ will hate” them (Thielman).


The next year, Cheerios released several ads about parenting and also showed support for the LGBT community.

The first commercial, “3rd Shift” was a short spot about a little boy waking up in the middle of the night to eat breakfast with his father who works nights, showing support for blue collar workers.

(Beltrone, Adweek)

The second was a Canadian ad about Andre and Jonathan, two dads who adopted a little girl. They talk about how they met and what it means to them to be a parent, while their daughter eats Cheerios patiently.

(Stern, Outward)

The third, “How to Dad” is a longer commercial in which a father shows, and tells, his take on fatherhood of three children, with his wife. He says being a father is awesome, just like Cheerios.

“How to Dad” US Version


Later, Cheerios, with the creative help of Matt Smukler, released a spot about a grandfather who is moving in with his children. He is visibly apprehensive about the situation, but when he arrives at his daughter’s house, his granddaughter has arranged a display of every flavor of Cheerios for him. She says her mom told her that he liked Cheerios, but not which kind.

(Smukler, Vimeo)


In 2017, Cheerios shifted from messages about families, to saving the declining bee population. They shipped a free packet of seeds to everyone who asked for one. They also used the hashtag #BringBackTheBees in order to raise awareness for the cause and inspire action. (Jones-Mitchell, WordPress).

In order to get more people to notice, Cheerios took “Buzz,” the mascot on the box, and “removed” him by making his picture all white instead of a picture of the bee. This helped show the world that there may be no more bees unless we collectively take action to aid in conservation, and that no bees means no Honey Nut Cheerios. (Johnson, Associations Now)

FOX 13 News


This year, Cheerios has released a series of animated shorts discussing families, bullying, individuality, and inclusion. If you haven’t clicked on any of the links in this blog yet, please choose to click on this one: Cheerios’ newest campaign is the most relevant to our society right now, in early March of 2019.

If the past six years of Cheerios marketing isn’t enough to convince you that Cheerios is a brand willing to stand up for inclusion and tolerance, maybe their 2002 “Spoonfuls of Stories” campaign in which they gave books to children, will. Or, maybe their 2009 endorsement by gymnast Shawn Johnson will. Maybe you’re more health conscious and would like to know that Cheerios stopped using Genetically Modified ingredients in 2015. (Bhasin, Marketing Mix of Cheerios).

Whatever your cause, whatever your motivation to improve humanity, Cheerios has an ad campaign for you.


What does it mean to be a Journalist in 2019

There is a whole list of responsibilities that comes with being a journalist today, that did not even exist two decades ago.

I became a Public Affairs Broadcast Specialist (aka Broadcast Journalist) in 2014 through training at the US Defense Information School.

My class learned broadcast writing and announcing for television, radio, and how to shoot and edit news and feature packages or documentaries.

(Private First Class Savanna Clendining, 2014)

Another class, known as the Public Affairs Specialists, were photojournalists. They learned how to compose photos and write for print.

I did not learn how to write for print until taking journalism classes in college in 2015 and 2016. It was also not until then that I learned strategies to compose a Tweet, or how to use social media to generate ‘clicks.’

Journalists are expected to do significantly more than they were five, ten, and twenty years ago. Here’s a short list of ten things we, the public, expect from them today.

1. Writing

Writing still is and always will be the cornerstone of journalism. According to Bright Network, print competes with online written articles such as blogs and social media posts. However, it makes more sense to think about it all working together. John Oliver explains that television and online media companies cite information from newspapers very frequently, and without print news, there would be no basis from which digital news could build. A journalist must know how to write, to do so coherently, and to do so quickly.

2. Photo

“Pics or it didn’t happen,” right? We, the digital consumers, expect journalists not only to tell us what happened, but also to show us. Apps and websites like Instagram have changed the culture of journalism, making pictures an expectation, according to Bree Wild of City Journal. Since George Eastman’s work, photos have always been a journalist practice along with writing – it is not a new expectation.

3. Video

“Any technology that can capture footage and collect data with great mobility at a low cost will always be attractive to media professionals,” Melissa Rowley writes for Cisco. Today, there are so many cameras available to journalists and also to everyone, that it is an expectation to include video whenever possible with a story. Cell phone cameras are everywhere, Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras almost all shoot video now, and GoPros and drones make taking video anywhere even easier. The journalist must find a way to integrate their story with the video footage collected.

4. Social Media posts

What news company does not have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account? It would be tough to answer that question, where would you look? You can find all of the major news companies on these kingpin social networks. But why? One answer is because that is where their audience is. Billions of people have accounts on these networks, and it is free to view content posted by the news companies. This is a new expectation for journalists, and a time consuming one. Not only do they have to write the story, but they also have to re-package it into a social media savvy piece that will grab the attention of as many people as possible.

5. Responding

This is a major reason why Social Media posts are time consuming for journalists. The story doesn’t end once it is published. Now, journalists are expected to respond to comments, update the story in real-time, and if necessary, do their own damage control.

6. Live blogging or reporting

I’ll let The Guardian, the world’s number one journalism source, talk this one. “‘Live blogging’ is becoming increasingly prevalent across news sites. Somewhat taking its shape from the over-by-over or minute-by-minute text sports commentary, these are rolling articles on a topic updated during the day as a story unfolds. There seems to have been a particular focus on them for this year’s [2016] election campaign. At The Guardian, Andrew Sparrow has been leading the way.” Journalists are expected to keep the facts up to date in real time. The best way to do this, currently, is to live blog, live report at events, and use video stand-ups to constantly stay on top of updates. Digital consumers expect instantaneity in society now and journalists must live up to that expectation or they will be viewed as slow and outdated.

7. Stories

One way for journalists to continuously update a story is to use the “Mobile Story Formats” feature available on most social networks now. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, notably allow short story clips to be posted to an account for anyone to view.

8. Podcasts

Sam Dolnick, New York Times writer, explains that the Times “made a major push into audio because [they] saw a giant opportunity to reinvent [their] journalism in a medium that is quickly rising in importance. We are living in a world where the mobile phone is dominant, and audio, which doesn’t require your eyes or your hands, is the ultimate mobile medium. [The New York Times] launched The Daily in February [2017], and it immediately became [their] best push toward rebuilding the daily habit of print reading. It’s really working. The Daily was the top downloaded podcast in Apple podcasts in 2017.” So, now journalists need to learn the audio editing world of digital media and try to re-package their message without visuals.

9. Unbiased, non-partisan responsibility

Here’s a list of ethics that journalists follow, without contract, which can be summarized in one word: truth. Journalists are taken seriously if they follow a moral and ethical code, consistent across the board for all media. Nothing says they have to, but it is clear when there is a violation of a moral or ethical principle, and the public is quick to notice a journalist’s faults. They are expected to be the moral standard for society.

Interestingly, has a different idea about the journalist’s code. “The overarching ethics of journalism should not override each individual journalist’s personal ethics and conscience. A good news agency should allow reporters to have differences of opinion, as this can lead to more diverse reporting, according to Pew Research.”

Overall, the more bias a journalist allows into their story, the more likely their audience is to label something liberal, conservative, or ‘fake news.’ This limits the audience and corrupts the message being sent. A journalist’s goal should be for both political parties, all races, genders, etc. to read/watch/listen to their story and receive the same information. This is how we maintain the checks and balances between the government and the people in the United States of America.

10. New technologies

Finally, journalists are expected to keep up with changes in trends and technological developments. Here is an example of a job description from a generic job website, Essentially, it leaves room for change. If a new social media app update comes out, journalists are expected to learn and use it right away so that the public can see that it is already integrated into their society, and they will feel better about using something new. Additionally journalists as a whole are working toward incorporating Artificial Intelligence into their process. It is expected to aid in data analytics as well as collecting all of the different parts of one story that are created by different journalists and making them more easily accessible by grouping them together, which will speed up the process for journalists who may not have been on scene to take a photo or video.

Google Images

This list is only one that I made up. There is a lot more to being a journalist, including timelines, late nights, broadcasting live on scene and on set, editing, etc. Let this be only a sketch, or an overview, of a journalist’s duties.

Next time something happens in the world and you get the story from a journalist, please take a moment to appreciate all that is expected of them. He/She/(Other pronoun) made the choice to become a journalist despite the fact that even just 5 years ago there were delineations between each facet of journalism, but now one journalist is expected to be a jack and master of all journalistic trades.

Existential Criticism

(…of the internet.)

Lately, I have been searching for meaning in a time and place where work is paramount and minutes are sacred.

I called my mom. I told her that I am having an existential crisis, that I do not understand why we work so hard in life, when nobody is going to know or remember us in one hundred years anyway. We are just a speck of dust trying to be successful, however success is subjectively defined by your sector of society, living in a time that is the length of a speck of dust in the grand timeline of even just our known world. How can I cope with this?

My mom told me that she never thought about this because she had a child.

I don’t want to have a child right now, so that was an under-helpful answer.

The best answer I have heard so far is that we are all trying to “better the human condition,” to improve humanity.

I think, or rather hope, that is what people are trying to do by inventing new technologies, increasing personalization of virtual space, and collecting data on internet users in order to give them the best possible experiences.

Google Images

What if new technologies are actually deteriorating the human condition? What if the existence of virtual space is evaporating the human condition? What if data collection is violating some basic rights of humanity?

Maybe the internet leaders ought to consider existentialism.

“A philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.”

Oxford Dictionary

When private companies persuade people to use their device, site, or service, and then collect information on their search and activity patterns, the individual person is still free but the responsibility for their development changes over to the agent behind the data analytics screen.

What is Big Data’s purpose and intent? Why are they making these changes to society? How has the outcome been beneficial or detrimental to the human condition?

Their intent could be capitalistic. It could also be to provide knowledge, facilitate connections, save time, and increase efficiency. A case could be made to support all of the above.

Data can show us patterns, like what people buy before a storm so a store can stock up on those things during periods of bad weather (The Economist, A Different Game). Conversely, tracking and recording personal information, and search and activity patterns seems like a violation of privacy.

To what extent does the individual control what information Big Data gets?

This website offers tips and links to privacy settings and standards:

Individuals have the ability to minimize data collection, but not eliminate it. They control what, where, and how often, they search for something too. An individual can even choose not to use a device or internet platform. The individual has complete responsibility for the information they give to Big Data. The issue, then, must be if they are doing it willingly and consciously, or not.

Start being a conscious device and internet platform user.

Start critically thinking about what you provide to strangers behind your screens.

Start using the internet to improve the human condition.

Now We’re Cooking

More privacy for the information we willingly give to social media companies.

The current CEO of Apple Inc., Tim Cook, is speaking out against Facebook and Google’s recent increase in consumer data analysis.

Facebook and Google used a service that allowed them to “collect large amounts of data on private users,” and the process went against Apple’s Terms, so Cook decided to shut down the iOS versions of Facebook and Google apps for a few days until the privacy violation was resolved (Beres, Medium).

In October of last year, Cook spoke to data regulators from the European Union and explained his position on personal user privacy (Neidig, The Hill):

“We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States.”

– Tim Cook (The Hill)

“Users should always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for…. This is the only way to empower users to decide what collection is legitimate and what isn’t. Anything less is a sham.”

– Tim Cook (The Hill)

Now that Facebook and Google have taken a step further into tracking and using consumer data, Cook has moved from words to actions.

Discussion about whether Apple has too much power, and whether Apple users will switch to Android in order to have uninterrupted use of Facebook and Google, is fear-based and unrealistic.

Apple needs its users, and Cook knows that Apple users want Facebook and Google (Dierickx, Forbes).

The Sunday Times and Forbes both quote Cook’s view on privacy, that it is a “fundamental human right.”

How can people expect their information to be kept private when they willingly provide it to Facebook, Google, and any social network that asks for it? People know that these companies are privately owned, and they are not a given right to use but rather a private service. How can we give them demands?

1. Ethical codes

One answer is the ethics behind the companies in question.

Cook says, “The truth is, [Apple] could make a ton of money if we monetised our customer — if our customer was our product,” but they choose not to because of their values as a company (Sunday Times), which have allowed them to create a loyal group of users since their beginning.

2. Follow Europe’s example

The European Union (EU) instated a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) last year that gives users more control of their information and more equal opportunity to all companies trying to access user information (European Commission).

One of the more noticeable effects of the GDPR is that a website must inform you if it collects ‘cookies,’ each time you open it.

“It is time for rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead.”

– Tim Cook (The Hill)

3. Common sense

In the mean time, while deliberations over regulations work their way into US government meetings, users should stay informed and cautious.

Do not put information that you do not want someone else to have onto a public profile on a social network that is run by a private company. If you do, expect your personal information, your search patterns, or your locations and friendship trends, to rightfully belong to that company just as if you had written it all down for them and handed it over – because that is exactly what we are doing…

and it is not necessarily a bad thing. These companies are using our data to create better, more personalized, user experiences. This means that you will see more things that you like and that you agree with. That means that you must remember to look for other sources of information so you do not become ignorant to other perspectives.

Apple Inc. and Tim Cook will help us stay in the know, and be more aware of when our data is being analyzed.

The bottom line is that we must be responsible distributors and consumers of the internet.

Supreme Social Media

How Social Media Affects the World’s Understanding of the Current Transgender Military Ban

The Supreme Court made a decision in regards to President Trump’s ‘transgender military ban,’ and the world took notice. The phrase popped up again all over social media sites overnight after January 22nd, 2019.

On Facebook, links to articles and personal Twitter accounts with testimonies from transgender personnel appear. It became both a forum for outrage toward the policy and for discussion and support of transgender service members.

Very little factual information about the policy can be found on Facebook, but there are plenty of opinions about people who are transgender and their value in the government workforce. search (updates continuously)

You can type “Transgender military ban” in the search box on Facebook and find many opinions from both the left and right in regards to, not the policies or the Court, but transgender people and the President.

There are many Supreme Court cases that the public generally does not know about, but this case is different. It is not listed with the other recent cases on the Supreme Court Website, yet people and organizations are opening it up to discussion on social media sites. They are not only sharing the information, but also asking for opinions in public forums. (see caption above)

On Twitter, the hashtag #SCOTUS is just as popular as #TransMilitaryBan, and many news organizations have tweeted their version of the story.  (Tweet no longer found)

Like Facebook, people are using Twitter to give personal testimonies. Social media also makes it possible for anyone in the world to share these personal statements and for one person’s perspective to become a point of view of many.

Social media platforms give a colocated voice to the government, media, and to the people. This allows any isolated event to be related to other events globally, and lead to a full-scale human rights discussion.

What really happened?

In 2017, President Trump asked then Secretary of Defense Mattis to create a plan that would reverse the ability for transgender citizens to serve in the US Military, which was only just granted during the last presidency. (Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al., v. Jane Doe 2, et al., Case No. 18-677).

For reference, during the Obama Administration, Secretary of Defense Carter created a plan for transgender people to serve as long as they were properly enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, more commonly known as DEERS, with their corresponding gender. The military followed suit, and allowed transgender people to serve and transition (Case No. 18-677)

In 2018, President Trump directed Secretary Mattis to make a new plan that banned transgender people from serving (Case No. 18-677). On March 23rd, 2018, Mattis released an implementation plan. He would create a policy in which transgender people must be “willing and able to adhere to all standards associated with their biological sex,” must not “require gender transition,” and even that they would not be able to join the service if they have gender dysphoria (Palm Center).

If you’re looking for a comprehensive article about the transgender  military ban specifically, I recommend the Palm Center article.

President Trump brought the issue to the Supreme Court, but not in the way everyone on the internet seems to believe:

This is a complicated question.

To break it down, the President (Government) wanted to enforce the transgender ban, but there was a “preliminary injunction,” or a temporary hold on its implementation until Mattis’ plan was completed and reviewed. The Government tried to remove the injunction and implement the ban, but district courts did not let them. The Supreme Court had to decide whether it was Constitutional or not for the district courts to keep the Government from removing the injunction.

The Supreme Court was not looking in to the Constitutionality of transgender military service, but rather the legality of the Government and district court’s implementation of the ban.

“While this case does raise important constitutional issues, now is not the appropriate time for this Court to consider them.”

Introduction. Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al. v. Jane Doe 2, et. al.

The Supreme Court discussed the fundamental civil rights aspect of the transgender military ban anyway.

“The military has universal standards for enlistment, deployment, and retention…. Because transgender servicemembers must comply with those standards, having a separate policy that bars them from service because they are transgender serves only to exclude individuals who are fit to serve.”

Reasons for Denying the Petition, Section III. Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, et al. v. Jane Doe 2, et. al.

In the end, the Supreme Court had to vote on the Constitutionality of the district court’s denial of the Government lifting their own injunction of the transgender military ban, and nothing else.

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 that the Government could remove the injunction while the issue continues to be debated in district courts, meanwhile allowing the military to make whichever decision it deems best for accomplishing the war-fighting mission (BBC).

Even this BBC article displays and expands upon Twitter posts.

According to Jessica Gresko from Time magazine (online), the Supreme Court decision means that “the Pentagon can implement a policy so that people who have changed their gender will no longer be allowed to enlist in the military.”

It does not mean that the Supreme Court has imposed a transgender military ban, though they have legally allowed for the Government to do so.

Social Media makes it seem like something else.

Social Media users can not only create and share their opinions about a transgender military ban, but transgender people including service members can also easily distribute their opinions and perspectives.

This provides social media users the tools to feel sympathy toward transgender service members who are facing the possibility of discharge at this time for no merit-based reason.

It also provides a voice to those against transgender military service.

The two polar sides of the discussion are colocated on the major social media sites, which is influencing what the public thinks is happening in the government – the Supreme Court, in the local courts, the military, etc. – rather than providing facts and allowing people to make informed decisions on the actual details of the event.

Quibbling Over Semantics

The Semantic Web, What Is It and How Can It Revolutionize Health Care definition of Semantics

The Semantic Web is “an extension of the existing World Wide Web, which provides software programs with machine-interpretable metadata of the published information and data.” (Ontotext, “What is the Semantic Web“)

It “may seem petty stuff,” but this would mean a website or machine could independently use the internet to find a piece of information or draw a conclusion. We, speaking for the human race as a whole, have created a network with more information through which we are not able to sort quickly. Having a piece of technology do the work of searching through all of the existing websites and databases would greatly speed up the process.

We see this phenomenon already every day with technology like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa. A human asks a question, and the machine provides an answer in a matter of seconds, based on supporting evidence from the World Wide Web.

What if a doctor could ask a machine for an answer?

In the health care world, the multitude of information is, presumably, terribly difficult to remember. Books and notes help, but take considerable time. In a profession where time is vital, what if doctors and other medical personnel were able to ask a machine to help find an answer quickly?

Remember IBM’s “Watson” from Jeopardy?

Watson, the Artificial intelligence machine, competing against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy, in 2011.

Watson has a cousin, also named Watson, who is designed specifically to contain a database of medical information, and assist with diagnoses and answering doctor’s questions.

“Unlike its Jeopardy counterpart, healthcare Watson also has the ability to go online – not all its data has to be stored. And while Watson had two million pages of medical data from 600,000 sources to swallow, it could still make use of the general knowledge garnered for Jeopardy – details from Wikipedia, for example.”

Jo Best, “IBM Watson: The inside story of how the Jeopardy-winning supercomputer was born, and what it wants to do next”

According to Best, new technologies have emerged from IBM’s work with healthcare Watson, “Interactive Care Insights for Oncology, and the WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer.” However, these programs are limited to helping with treatment plans for cancer. They are unable to aid in diagnoses, primarily because Watsons are speech and text based, and cannot process data from images like X-rays.

In the future, a machine with access to the Semantic Web would, in theory, be able to provide an educated answer or diagnosis when given the patient’s symptoms. It could search through every scholarly article and even WebMD much faster than the health care personnel, saving time and, in turn, saving lives.

The Semantic Web could also increase interoperability in health care systems.

There are so many private systems that store medical records, knowledge, and processes, but they are all built with different frameworks.

“’One of the most challenging problems in the healthcare domain is providing interoperability among healthcare systems’ (Bicer, Laleci, Do-gac, & Kabak, 2005)”

Semantic Web Standards and Ontologies in the Medical Sciences and Healthcare

The medical community has protocols in place to standardize the way health care personnel communicate, to make it easier for the average consumer of health care to understand the information at their disposal.

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 created a basis for a standard to be followed by health care providers. Still, information is stored in separate locations and in different ways (what-when-how).

The Semantic Web would allow one site or one machine to access all of the different medical systems and connect them (W3C), providing health care personnel with the ability to harness more relevant information quickly.

The bottom line is that doctors could use a machine like Google Assistant, or a master Semantic Web website, to ask about an unusual symptom occurring in an oncology case, and find that the same symptom has occurred in patients in six different states, as well as find what other doctors did about it.

They will be able to save more lives.