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Democracy versus Transparency?

The second plenary speaker at ECREA 2014 today is Diogo Pires de Aurélio, whose interest is in the status of state secrets in the current media and communication context. A tacit agreement between governments and media to protect state secrets which – despite occasional leaks – has held for centuries is now increasingly being challenged; while leading mainstream media may still hold to it, the idea that there may be state secrets that the public has no access to has become increasingly comprehensible to the public.

Media and Communication Research in the Current European Context

Today's plenary session at ECREA 2014 starts with Kirsten Drotner, whose interest is in research policy for media and communication studies in Europe. There are plenty of interesting current debates about media and communication studies directions, and research policy and research organisations serve as the infrastructures to facilitate such research.

This is also related to the hybridisation of media and communication research, with infusions from related disciplines, challenges from new methodological trends, and the emergence of new digital media technologies and resources, including 'big data' and their commodification. In some ways, there is an organisational and educational diffusion and dispersal of media and communication research across a range of related contexts, then, but such research remains a significant success story in its own right, too.

BP's Nasty Strategies for Silencing Criticism Online and Offline

The final paper in this ECREA 2014 session is by Julie Uldam, whose focus is on the silencing of critical voices in the online public sphere; this is an argument for an agonistic perspective of the public sphere. Antagonism tends to be anticipated and silenced by corporations monitoring social media, often using user profiling strategies.

Her example here is the UK climate justice movement, which reacted to BP's unlikely role as a 'sustainability partner' in the 2012 London Olympics; one of its protests was the Reclaim Shakespeare Company, which riffed off BP's sponsorship of the Royal Shakespeare Company during the Olympics festivities, invading the stage before the official performance and circulating the footage via social media. Leaked emails from BP show the company's tracking of protestors and anticipation of further actions.

Activist Facebook Pages as a Fifth Estate in Finland

The next ECREA 2014 speaker is Niina Niskala, whose interest is in Finnish uses of Facebook. Are there communicative power groups that can be seen as examples of social and political movements or even as a 'fifth estate': a network of online individuals able to collaborate to an extent that it challenges the other estates and creates real-world power shifts?

The project gathered data from those of the most popular Finnish Facebook pages that support specific causes or missions or engage in political protest or support. These were analysed for a number of key attributes, and later analysis focussed on the six largest and six smallest of the groups.

Patterns of Discussion on Twitter around the German NSA Surveillance Scandal

Next up at ECREA 2014 is Sanja Kapidzic, whose interest is in how the NSA scandal was communicated in Germany via Twitter. The public sphere is seen here as having a triadic structure, between journalists, official spokespeople, and citizens. Traditionally, this has been dominated by the mass media, but shifts toward online communication have changed this balance; direct bidirectional communication is now possible between all three points of the triad.

This is especially notable in social media environments such as Twitter; however, new hierarchies and elites may also emerge here. What are the new structures of influence in this context, then?

Four Models of Media Pluralism

The next speaker at ECREA 2014 is Daniëlle Raeijmakers; her interest is in media pluralism. The concept itself is widely supported, but tends to be poorly defined; there are a number of different conceptions that may be used to understand it.

The first of these is a liberal model: democracy functions through social heterogeneity, and media are expected to cover such differences authentically. The second, deliberative model expects that media do not just contribute to a politician consensus, but provide the public debate to construct the consensus, serving as a public forum. The third, agonistic model positions media as sites of struggle, which should cultivate political debate but do not necessarily produce a concensus.

The Three Phases of WikiLeaks

The second day at ECREA 2014 starts with a paper by Christian Christensen, on WikiLeaks. He's interested in the implications of WikiLeaks for the wider media reform movement: WikiLeaks and Anonymous are an expression of the disenchantment with mainstream commercial media, even in spite of such media's occasional ability to engage in impactful investigative journalism.

The Impact of Trust on News Selection on Social Media

Finally, Kristin van Damme is back with another ECREA 2014 paper, on the role of trust in news selection through social media. Social media platforms now play a role as news aggregators where users as well as the platforms are sharing the news; Kristin surveyed Flemish news users on their use of news and social media to explore these issues.

Instrumental and Normative Influences on Users' Media Repertoires

The next ECREA 2014 speaker is Dennis Reineck, whose interest is in distinguishing instrumental and normative approaches to news consumption. Tabloids are a great deal more popular than broadsheets in most countries, for example, but such actual media consumption is at odds with social norms, as people nonetheless agree with standard criteria for what constitutes quality journalism.

Tracking News Use in Flanders through a Unified Media ID

The next speaker at ECREA 2014 is Kristin van Damme, whose interest is in the news media repertoire used by audiences. Audience activities across multiple platforms are a challenge to news publishers, which in Flanders have begun to introduce a unified Media ID audience tracking system across multiple news sites; this covers the entire Flemish news ecosystem.

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