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You won't believe what I did with AI last week!
Clickbait prevails all the time . . . and what we can do is limited
As media educators and researchers, we know clickbait always prevails.
After all, who wouldn’t like to have his or her mind ‘blown away’ once in a while? We all get excited when we are let in on ‘a little secret’ nobody else is yet to know.
I’ve been teaching how and why clickbait works for over a decade.
Occasionally, I have a chance to ask former students if the knowledge they gained in my class about digital advertising, social media algorithms, fact-checking, journalism, and all that, had any impact on their attitude toward clickbait.
Many of them say they still enjoy those headlines appearing on their feed and click them every so often. Some say most clickbaits are harmless entertainment; others say some headlines are just irresistible.
I must admit, when some random posts challenge my intelligence by saying only people with very high IQs can solve certain puzzles, I tend to go for it as well . . . even though I know the content has perhaps nothing to do with anyone’s intellectual ability at all (yes, I do check link’s safety first, thank you very much).
To me, the point of talking about clickbait in media literacy class is like discussing junk food in health education.
Many of us know eating potato chips/crisps, or drinking sugary soda, could be harmful to our health. Yes, excessive consumption can cause all sorts of serious health problems in the long run.
Meanwhile, we also know that fruits and vegetables are much more nutritious and beneficial to our health. But does this mean junk food must be absolutely prohibited and people should be allowed to eat only healthy food?
No, right? But knowledge about junk food perhaps subconsciously helps us make better decisions, watch our diet, and observe modesty.
I think we can say the same about many aspects of media literacy education, including clickbait.
My ChatGPT experiment will blow your mind!
In one of the take-home activities I often give to my students on this topic, learners need to:
find a couple of clickbait headlines;
give names to the techniques used;
briefly explain why each technique entices people
As an experiment, I have put together all of the writings from the students in the past three years — about 500 clickbait headlines! — and loosely grouped similar techniques together with the help of my colleague (thank you, Purple Romero!).
I ended up with a list of 56 items. Naturally, many students have given different names to the same or similar techniques, and our grouping was a loose bundle of approximation.
I then fed those arbitrary names coined by my students along with our list to ChatGPT — in the same fashion that I wrote about summarising students’ discussions in the previous newsletter.
I asked the generative AI to consolidate them, come up with a list of 20 clickbait writing methods, and give a name to each based on students’ ideas.
Sensationalism: Using exaggerated or shocking statements to grab attention.
Urgency: Creating a sense of urgency or scarcity to encourage clicks.
Curiosity Gap: Provoking curiosity by withholding information, leading to a desire to click for more.
Emotional Appeal: Tapping into readers' emotions, such as fear, anger, or excitement, to drive clicks.
Shocking Statistics or Facts: Using surprising or hard-to-believe statistics or facts to draw in readers.
Question Headlines: Posing a question that provokes thought or interest.
List-Based Headlines: Using a list format to provide bite-sized information that is easy to read and engage with.
Personalisation: Using the "you" angle or addressing readers directly to make the headline feel more personal.
Misleading Information: Providing false or misleading information to get clicks.
Controversial Statements: Making bold or controversial statements that challenge conventional wisdom.
Bad News: Focusing on negative events, outcomes, or consequences to draw attention.
Outrage-Baiting: Preying on readers' emotions and desires to create a sense of anger or outrage.
FOMO: Creating a sense of fear of missing out to encourage clicks.
Celebrity Angle: Using celebrities or public figures to draw attention, including referring to them in headlines, using their images in thumbnails, piggybacking off their fame, or quoting them.
How-To Headlines: Providing a solution or promising to teach the reader something new.
Cliffhanger/Mystery Angle: Creating a sense of mystery or intrigue by withholding information.
Exclusivity: Offering exclusive access or information to drive clicks.
Face Reveal: Using the promise of revealing someone's identity to drive clicks.
Pop Culture References: Using current events or pop culture to make the headline feel relevant and timely.
Superlatives: Using extreme adjectives to make a headline more eye-catching.
Not bad, right? When I have a chance, I would like to show this list to the students and see what they think about it.
As a follow-up activity with the students, it would also be interesting to discuss, and maybe categorise, each item in terms of its potential harmfulness with actual examples — something that AI may not be able to do (or can it?).
What I actually did in the last two weeks
Almost all travel restrictions are gone from Hong Kong and many APAC countries (yay!).
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Bangkok to attend a three-day training and then flew to Bali the following week for a long weekend.
Before the pandemic, on average, I travelled to two different countries in our region almost every month — for conferences, workshops, guest lecturing, teacher training, research fieldwork, project meetings, and so on and so forth.
I can feel that many of us are finally getting back to the pre-COVID spirit and ready for more collaborative projects in 2023.
The image below shows the result of the poll in our last newsletter. About 40% of us are already using ChatGPT in class, and 20% are thinking about it.
I would love to hear how you’re using generative AI for your teaching.
It would be great to have a workshop or some sort of get-together where we share our experiences and exchange ideas, teaching activities, lesson plans, etc., in the near future.
Does anybody want to host such an event? Or will you come if ANNIE organises one? I will definitely pursue the possibility if there is an interest.
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