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Why German Audiences Don't Use Participatory Features

Well, after all that, the final ECREA 2014 session starts with Nele Heise, whose project examined conceptions of the audience at German news media. There are increasing forms of audience participation at German news sites, but only a minority of users regularly engage with such media. Do such features represent an interactive illusion?

The project used online surveys, interviews with journalists and audience members, and analyses of journalistic content. It found notable differences in the percentage of non-users across the different formats: the print services saw more engagement. This may also be due to their own outreach activities to users, as well as the visibility of participatory features on their sites.

Towards a New Communism to Fix the World

The second plenary speaker at ECREA 2014 today is Christian Fuchs, who takes us back to Hegel and Marx. He introduces Hegel's relational concept of the world, where everything exists only in relationship with other things, and through this relationship development becomes possible. Marx built on this by examining the interrelationships between societal forces, and used it to explore the internal contradictions of capitalism.

Modern technologies, for example, become tools for improving life, but also for the further domination of workers. The rate of surplus value, and the organic composition of the production process (the technological intensity of production) have both been rising consistently, while wage share has decreased substantially over time as capital share has risen. Further, corporate taxation is virtually inexistent in Western countries.

From Media Logic to a Logic of the Public

The final plenary on this somewhat eccentrically scheduled Saturday at ECREA 2014 begins with Kees Brants, who says his intention today is to debunk himself. There is a dominant discourse of mediatisation at present, and politicians have to respond to this – we may therefore be seeing a shift from a political to a media logic, as Kees has suggested in previous work. But is that perspective correct, or may it be challenged?

Historically, the concept of media logic emerged in 1979, twenty years later, mediatisation emerged properly as a concept. However, mediatisation must necessarily precede media logic: the increased shaping and domination of society by the media makes only possible the emergence of media logics. Witho mediatisation, we would not see European football competitions, Ebola panics, or the global response to the downing of MH17.

The Industrialisation of User Recommendations

Cécile Méadel and Francesca Musiani are the final speakers in this ECREA 2014 session. Their interest is in the Industrialisation of user contributions through online platforms: this includes recommendations, information, and advice. The Internet reconfigures the mechanisms by which goods and services are assessed by others; this creates an economy of qualities.

The process has been increasingly automatised through contemporary Internet technologies, and this allows new practices. This is an industrialisation of user contributions, drawing increasingly on 'big data' approaches that create links between a variety of different data points.

Crowdsourced Images in the Boston Marathon Attack

The next speaker at ECREA 2014 is Anssi Männistö, who shifts our focus to the Boston Marathon bomb attack. Mobile social media played an important role in covering this attact: tweets and mobile media were no longer just sources of information, but also tools to very facts and photos and to identify potential suspects, through image recognition software and other facilities.

In Boston, journalists rapidly discovered the first reports and images of the attack from Twitter, and soon came to use them in their own coverage. Such material was then used in official investigations, unofficial hunts for the culprits, and in the media coverage. These each drew on a massive amount of mobile photos; on the real-time publishing of such content in social media; and on crowdsourcing of activities through social media.

Visualisations for Doing Good with Data

Ok, so I've boycotted the stupidly early 8.30 a.m. paper session at ECREA 2014. My day starts, consequently, with a paper by Helen Kennedy and Rosemary Hill, whose focus is on data visualisation. Data-driven decision-making remains out of reach for those who cannot work with the data directly, and data visualisation may help here.

There are now visualisation agencies such as Periscopic which specialise in data visualisation for social good. The idea here is to mobilise data graphically, to make data useful to a greater audience. Such visualisations include the work of The Guardian's Data Blog, for example, and may tackle serious as well as lighter themes.

But in order to make sense of such data-driven visualisation processes, we need to know more about the moment when a person encounters such visualisations. There is widespread discussion about how to optimise visualisations, but very little research into users themselves; much of this remains a debate by experts for experts.

Models for Facilitating Social Engagement through Online Media

The final speaker in this ECREA 2014 session is Nico Carpentier, whose interest is in how civil society uses online media to facilitate social engagement. This addresses the problems with much current debate, which is either outright utopian or speaks forever in potentialities. A solution to this is to focus on a discourse based on the diversity of possible models.

Online media, civil society, and social engagement are the defining concepts for this inquiry. The project began with a conceptual map, identified good practices in international and Belgian civil society organisations, and engaged with Belgian CSOs to gather what they thought was good practice. This resulted in some 176 possible concepts.

Political Action in Non-Political Online Fora

The next speakers at ECREA 2014 are Daniel Jackson and Todd Graham, who are interested in the use of online third spaces for political action. This is especially important at a time of austerity which tends to let citizens fend for themselves rather than providing government support. To what extent does political talk in these spaces lead to political action, then?

The study looked at the discussion fora of Money Saving Expert, Digital Spy, and Netmums to explore the presence of political talk in these otherwise non-political spaces and identify the presence of commitments or calls to further political action.

Commenting on UK News Organisations' Facebook Pages

The next speaker at ECREA 2014 is Iñaki Garcia-Blanco, whose focus is on discussing the news on social media, and specifically on Facebook. This is important given the perceived crisis of democracy, which requires greater levels of deliberation. Social media bring together access to the news and facilities for discussing it, and Facebook is increasingly important in this.

The research examined the news stories published by leading UK news sources on their official Facebook pages over the course of a single working week (some 1650 articles in total). Human interest and lifestyle stories were strongest in numbers, while commenting on international politics was disproportionately strong.

The Perceived Efficacy of Connective Action on Facebook

The next speaker in this ECREA 2014 panel is Cédric Courtois, whose interest is in individual action and collective efficacy on Facebook. Within Facebook, there are plenty of constraints, but we are nonetheless navigating these constraints to engage in connective action. What motivates people to do so, and what is their perception of the efficacy of such activities?

Possible explanations for engagement through liking, commenting, and content creation could be genuine involvement in an issue, and a perception that such involvement will effect change. Self-presentation as someone interested in specific issues may also play a role.

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