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Google Yourself! Measuring the Performance of Personalised Information Resources (AoIR 2008)

AoIR 2008

Google Yourself! Measuring the Performance of Personalised Information Resources

Thomas Nicolai, Lars Kirchhoff, Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders

  • 18 Oct. 2008 - AoIR 2008 conference, Copenhagen

Full Paper

From Produsage to Produtzung: Guest Lecture in Hamburg

After the excitement of AoIR 2008 in Copenhagen, I've travelled south to Germany for a few more events, and to catch up with my family here in Hannover. Before getting to Hannover, though, I've spent a couple of fabulous days as a guest of the Hans-Bredow-Institut for media research at the University of Hamburg. My host there, Jan Schmidt, invited me to speak at the university as the first talk in a lecture series on Web 2.0, and I think this won't be the last collaboration between us. I'll add audio for the talk later, but for now, here are the slides: Here are slides and audio recording (slightly noisy, sorry):

Gendered News, Gendered Technologies

It's the final session here at AoIR 2008. I've come in a little late for Lisa McLaughlin's presentation; she's been working in Malaysia to examine the Multimedia Super Corridor project which incorporates the Cyberjaya (technology) and Putrajaya (administration) districts.

The project was initiated in 1996 with much fanfare, but met with limited success as companies approached to develop representations there were initially reluctant to do so as the availability of a highly skilled technology workforce was doubtful. There was also strong skepticism about the project from the local community, not least because the building of the MSC required the displacement of existing communities of Tamil plantation workers. If knowledge societies require 'fast subjects', then these existing communities were now pushed into a position of 'slow subjects' providing menial services to those working and living in the MSC.

Citizen and Hyperlocal Journalism as the Fifth Estate

As it turns out, I have two papers in this post-lunch session on the last day of AoIR 2008 - in competing sessions. Luckily, Lars Kirchhoff and Thomas Nicolai are on hand to present one of them (I'll post the slides for this as soon as I get them from the two) - and I'm here to present my paper with Jason Wilson and Barry Saunders on hyperlocal citizen journalism (understood here in a relatively broad sense).

The first speaker here is William Dutton from the Oxford Internet Institute, whose aim is to move beyond terms such as Netizen and citizen journalism and towards an understanding of various political uses of the Net as forming a fifth estate, in addition to the press as a fourth estate in society. Such uses promote social accountability in business, industry, government, politics, and other sectors.

Competing Logics of Emerging Sentient Urban Spaces

The final keynote at AoIR 2008 is by Steve Graham. His interest is in the politics of urban space in the context of ubiquitous computing. He begins by noting utopian projections of the future, where everything is mediated profoundly through digital technologies - what Dana Cuff has called 'enacted environments'.

This includes visions of augmented reality (involving the delivery of location-specific information), and builds on ideas such as the 'Internet of Things', the use of RFIDs, biometrics, tracking systems, computerised surveillance, security discourses about e-borders, geolocation, GPS tracking, etc. This relies also on machine-readable entities, with sensors linked to databases that recognise and track individual objects of interest.

Examining the Role of the Internet in Korean, Australian, and Danish Elections

We're starting the last day of this very enjoyable AoIR 2008 conference already. This one is going to busy for me, as three of my papers are scheduled for today - two of them, in fact, in competing sessions (but luckily my colleagues Lars Kirchhoff and Thomas Nicolai, who are the lead authors, are able to present one of them). This morning, we're starting with a session on the online dimensions of national elections across a number of countries.

The first presenter is Yeon-Ok Lee, whose focus is on last December's presidential election in South Korea. The previous election to this, of course, was won by a small margin by the liberal underdog Rooh Moo-Hyun, due in good part to the activism of Korea's Netizens and to coverage by citizen journalism site OhmyNews. This made the 2007 election a particularly interesting case for further research.

Australia's Political Blogosphere in the Aftermath of 2007 Federal Election (AoIR 2008)

AoIR 2008

Australia's Political Blogosphere in the Aftermath of 2007 Federal Election

Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders, Lars Kirchhoff, Thomas Nicolai

  • 18 Oct. 2008 - AoIR 2008 conference, Copenhagen

Australian political bloggers and citizen journalists appear to have played an important role in the 2007 federal elections. They provided a highly critical corrective to mainstream journalism, seemed to influence public opinion on key election themes, and offered a coverage of political events which diverted from the customary focus on political leaders and bellwether locations only. Bloggers were wooed by political parties (such as the Australian Labor Party with its Labor First blog site), mainstream media (such as the online arm of public broadcaster ABC, which ran several blogs of its own), and journalism researchers (through projects such as, which provided a space for a hyperlocal citizen journalism coverage of the campaign in participants' individual electorates).

But what remains unclear to date is exactly how information travels within the distributed network of the blogosphere itself, and from here to other (online) spaces of citizen and industrial journalism. To trace such movements may underline (or undermine) news and political bloggers' claims of influence and importance; it would highlight the extent to which blogging operates merely as an echo chamber for the political cognoscenti, or has impact in the wider population. It would provide insight into the extent to which news bloggers and mainstream journalists feed off and respond to one another's work, and outline possible avenues for mutually beneficial collaborations.

This paper presents findings from an ongoing investigation into the inner workings of the Australian political blogosphere, which is based on a long-term process of gathering and archiving new content on a large number of Australian blogs and news sites. Such content is then analysed using a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures which enable the identification and visualisation of page and site interlinkages within and beyond the network of sites examined, and the tracing of themes and memes across the corpus of data gathered by the project.

The paper will outline the underlying research and data gathering methodologies, and highlight key findings from its investigation. In particular, it will examine the shift in online political communication in Australia as the country switched from election to post-election mode, and seek evidence of a paradigm shift in terms of key themes, issues, and opinion leaders as the defeated conservative Coalition government of John Howard was replaced by the incoming Labor government under new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Building Spaces for Hyperlocal Citizen Journalism

AoIR 2008

Building Spaces for Hyperlocal Citizen Journalism

Axel Bruns, Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders

  • 18 Oct. 2008 - AoIR 2008 conference, Copenhagen

One of the perceived Achilles heels of online citizen journalism is its perceived inability to conduct investigative and first-hand reporting. A number of projects have recently addressed this problem, with varying success: the U.S.-based Assignment Zero was described as "a highly satisfying failure" (Howe 2007), while the German appears to have been thoroughly successful in attracting a strong community of contributors, even to the point of being able to generate print versions of its content, distributed free of charge to households in selected German cities.

In Australia, citizen journalism played a prominent part in covering the federal elections held on 24 November 2007; news bloggers and public opinion Websites provided a strong counterpoint to the mainstream media coverage of the election campaign (Bruns et al., 2008)., a collaboration between researchers at Queensland University of Technology and media practitioners at the public service broadcaster SBS, the public opinion site On Line Opinion, and technology company Cisco Systems, was developed as a dedicated space for a specifically hyperlocal coverage of the election campaign in each of Australia's 150 electorates from the urban sprawls of Sydney and Brisbane to the sparsely populated remote regions of outback Australia.

YD07 provided training materials for would-be citizen journalists and encouraged them to contribute electorate profiles, interview candidates, and conduct vox-pops with citizens in their local area. The site developed a strong following especially in its home state of Queensland, and its interviewers influenced national public debate by uncovering the sometimes controversial personal views of mainstream and fringe candidates. At the same time, the success of YD07 was limited by external constraints determined by campaign timing and institutional frameworks. As part of a continuing action research cycle, lessons learnt from are going to be translated into further iterations of the project, which will cover the local government elections in the Australian state of Queensland, to be held in March 2008, and developments subsequent to these elections.

This paper will present research outcomes from the project. In particular, it will examine the roles of staff contributors and citizen journalists in attracting members, providing information, promoting discussion, and fostering community on the site: early indications from a study of interaction data on the site indicate notably different contribution patterns and effects for staff and citizen participants, which may point towards the possibility of developing more explicit pro-am collaboration models in line with the Pro-Am phenomenon outlined by Leadbeater & Miller (2004).

The paper will outline strengths and weaknesses of the Youdecide model and highlight requirements for the successful development of active citizen journalism communities. In doing so, it will also evaluate the feasibility of hyperlocal citizen journalism approaches, and their interrelationship with broader regional, state, and national journalism in both its citizen and industrial forms.


Bruns, Axel, Jason Wilson, and Barry Saunders. "When Audiences Attack: Lessons from the Australian Poll Wars." Leeds: Centre for Digital Citizenship, 2008.

The Taken-for-Grantedness of Technologies as Social Facts

We're now starting the second keynote here at the AoIR 2008 conference in Copenhagen, by Rich Ling. He begins by asking how technology has become part of the 'social woodwork', how it is being domesticated. The Internet, he suggests, is actually a quasi-broadcast medium, in spite of rhetoric to the contrary - a one-to-many metaphor holds sway for many of its services (excepting email, of course, but certainly this applies for many Websites).

Mobiles, by contrast, are a point-to-point form of communication - SMS and mobile voice communications account for the vast majority of usage, and the mobile telephone enables individual (rather than geographically fixed) addressability. Mobile phone communication is also a relatively intimate form of communication - and while new phones and new services may change this, most people use relatively old and limited phones which do not cope with such services particularly well (the most popular phone in Norway, for example, belongs to a now discontinued and comparatively ancient line of phones).

Netizens and Citizen Journalists around the World

The post-lunch session here at AoIR 2008 begins with a paper by Ronda Hauben. She notes that 2008 is the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of Michael Hauben's seminar article on the 'Netizen' concept - a concept emerging from Michael's research that spread rapidly and widely, and (especially in Asia) still has a great deal of currency. The concept had a great deal to do with the fight against commercialisation of the Net which was prominent then; today, for the same reason the concept has been suppressed to some extent by those interested in a more commercial Internet.


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