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Wikipedia's Role as a Gatekeeper

The next ASMC14 speaker is Heather Ford, who shifts our focus to Wikipedia. In its early days, the site was seen as an underdog challenging existing publishing models – this includes news publishers, and Wikipedia was seen as a challenger to the conventional gatekeepers. It was also shown that the quality of its content was not necessarily any worse than that of traditional encyclopaedias, even though it had been collaboratively compiled. Nonetheless, a persistent view of its inaccuracy due to this collaborative model remains.

Wikipedia itself offers a range of self-definitions, which inter alia point out that Wikipedia is not a social network (or even a dating service), so personal profiles should be kept short; not a soap box from which to promote personal views or original research. Wikipedia also defines reliable sources which should be used as evidence for its articles, and in doing so for the most part explicitly rules out self-published media (blogs, etc.) as unreliable.

Journalists' Reluctance to Engage with New Media

The final day at ASMC14 starts with Chris Anderson, who begins with noting the strange, halting, and unexpected adoption of new digital tools in journalism; there has been treat reluctance to engage with some technologies, while others have been adopted much more quickly. For example, the New York Times has one of the best data journalism operations in the business, but on the other hand only began to hyperlink to other sites about a year ago – why this strange imbalance?

This likely has something to do with professional culture and attitudes in journalism, deeply embedded with journalists' own understanding of how they maintain their cultural authority. Journalism arises from the valorisation of a socially odd form of work, and from a particular vision of the public. This interacts in complex ways with the organisational routines in journalistic practice. The current crisis of news, then, is one of management, economics, and technology, but also of culture, authority and professional identity.

Entering the Age of the Generative Algorithm

The final keynote at ASMC14 for today is by Bernhard Rieder from the Digital Methods Initiative, who stepped in at short notice for Tarleton Gillespie who could not be here. He begins by noting the role of algorithms in our experience of information and media; they select what information is considered most relevant to us, and are now a crucial part of our participation in public life. This raises a number of questions – and starting with search engines, such algorithms have been considered increasingly by researchers.

One way to approach algorithms is by considering the question of knowing: what style of reasoning do algorithms implement, and how do they connect this to forms of performativity. Bernhard has been one of the chief developers of the Digital Methods Initiative, and in this role works closely with as well as thinks critically through algorithms; this is also a process of opening the black box of the algorithms which shape our online experiences.

Social Media Use by BBC World Service and Russia Today during the Sochi Games

The final speaker in this ASMC14 session is Marie Gillespie, whose interest is in the tweeting of global events – she focusses here especially on the controversial Sochi Olympics in early 2014, which were also affected by the unfolding political crisis in Ukraine.

One player in the media environment around the Olympics is the Russian state broadcaster Russia Today, whose mission is to present a Russian perspective on world news. It receives $300m per annum, at the same time that comparable public diplomacy broadcasters like BBC World Service or the Australia Network are being downsized or discontinued.

Social Media as a Backchannel to Television in Palestine

The next speaker in this ASMC14 session is Rhiannon Were, whose focus is on the use of social media alongside public broadcasting in the Palestinian Territories. People there feel very powerless towards their leaders, given the lack of effective governance and accountability frameworks, and two political talk shows with ancillary multiplatform elements, conducted in part in collaboration with BBC Arabic, have been created to address this problem. The shows reach an audience of some 500,000 viewers, and research is underway to inform programming, evaluate the project, and generate evidence of impact.

Making Sense of TV Tweeting: The Case of #qanda

Next up at ASMC14 is Philip Pond, whose focus is on tweets during televised political debates in Australia. He takes a particularly temporal perspective to his research, and highlights the impact of electronic media on our experience of time and space; there is a kind of hyper-fast network time which is qualitatively different from its predecessor, the time of the clock.

Philip's focus is on the Australian political talk show Q&A and it's associated hashtag #qanda, which has a weekly audience of around 900,000 viewers. It invites journalists, politicians, and other panellists to its conversations (centred around largely pre-scripted questions), also streams live online. Its hashtag attracts some 20,000 tweets per week, and some 50-100 tweets from this are superimposed onto the live broadcast as the show airs.

Patterns in Social TV in Italy

The next session at ASMC14 is about social media and TV, and Donatella Selva is the first presenter, examining social TV in the Italian context. Television remains the main source of information for the Italian population, while some 44% of people use Facebook and some 10% are using Twitter. However, Twitter is also an elite medium attracting especially influential users, including journalists and celebrities.

Clear definitions of social TV are difficult. 'Hard' definitions focus on the technology, while 'soft' definitions point to the use of social media alongside television. It is also possible to distinguish between mere access, participation, and interaction with TV through social media, and it's necessary to think through what the social media publics around television actually constitute.

Protest Hashtags as Contested Ground: The Case of #idlenomore

Today's first keynote at ASMC14 is by the excellent Alfred Hermida, who uses the Canadian protest hashtag #idlenomore as an example of contested media spaces. In such spaces, which voices are being listened to, and what coverage does this enable?

The #idlenomore movement for Indigenous rights had been going for some time, but really went off when one of the Canadian Indigenous leaders went to meet with PM Stephen Harper about the issued it raised – a move condemned by the protesters who felt that this leader did not speak for the protest movement, since the movement had not emerged from organised Indigenous groups. That condemnation was especially strong on Twitter, with protest leaders actively encouraging followers to tweet their indignation.

Sourcing News Stories from Social Media

The final speaker in this ASMC14 session is Ansgard Heinrich, who explores the use of Twitter as a sourcing tool. Social media can be sources of information (and misinformation), a device for comments (and rants), a tool for organising social movements, and an instrument for civic groups to promote their messages. Which of these functions are affecting the journalism industry, then?

Ansgard focusses here on the Egyptian revolution, which was described by some commentators as a 'social media revolution'. While this may have been an overstatement, what role did social media play, especially in comparison to journalism? Activist networks use social media to promote their causes and organise protests, of course; journalists also utilise social media, especially to cover live and breaking news events.

Tweeting Along with Political Talkshows

The next speaker at ASMC14 is Evelien D'heer, whose focus is on the use of Twitter as a backchannel to a Flemish political TV talkshow, Terzake. The show has now appointed a 'conversation manager' to guide the Twitter discussion, following a public Twitter spat over the quality of the programme: after criticism of the show's quality by a user, a patronising tweet from the programme makers was widely criticised, and the conversation manager is meant to improve producer/audience relations again.

In this case, then, social media and journalistic logics co-define the programme and its meanings. Evelien's project investigated this process by conducting interviews with programme makers, newsroom observations, network analyses of the Twitter conversation, and interviews with tweeting audience members. This approach is able to compare stated expectations with observations of actual behaviour, on both sides.

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