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ANZCA 2009

Conference of the Australia/New Zealand Communication Association, Brisbane, 8-10 July 2009.

Monitoring the Australian Blogosphere through the 2007 Australian Federal Election (ANZCA 2009)

ANZCA 2009

Monitoring the Australian Blogosphere through the 2007 Australian Federal Election

Lars Kirchhoff, Thomas Nicolai, Axel Bruns, Tim Highfield

  • 8 July 2009 - ANZCA 2009, Brisbane

This paper examines the observable patterns of content creation by Australian political bloggers during the 2007 election and its aftermath, thereby providing insight into the level and nature of activity in the Australian political blogosphere during that time. The performance indicators which are identified through this process enable us to target for further indepth research, to be reported in subsequent papers, those individual blogs and blog clusters showing especially high or unusual activity as compared to the overall baseline. This research forms the first stage in a larger project to investigate the shape and internal dynamics of the Australian political blogosphere. In this first stage, we tracked the activities of some 230 political blogs and related Websites in Australia from 2 November 2007 (the final month of the federal election campaign, with the election itself taking place on 24 November) to 24 January 2008. We harvested more than 65,000 articles for this study.

The YouTube Debate in the 2008 New Zealand Elections

The final speaker in this ANZCA 2009 session is Bronwyn Beatty, speaking about the YouTube election debate last year, hosted by New Zealand's One News. This follows similar events in other countries, chiefly the US - it is part of an ongoing YouTubeification of politics, some have said.

TVNZ had an agreement with political leaders in New Zealand for three debates between the two main candidates. For the final of these debates, it invited video questions from its audience, uploaded through YouTube. This was framed as participating in the democratic process, and closely followed the model established by CNN for its debates between the US presidential candidates - TVNZ selected 'the best' of the user submissions to show to the candidates.

The Importance of Trust for Public Broadcasters

We're now in the final session of ANZCA 2009, which starts with a paper by Mary Debrett. Her interest is in the politics of accountability and risk-taking at the ABC, and she begins with some reflections on the social value of trust - it serves as social glue, generates social capital, manages social complexity, acts as a solution for risk, and is a prerequisite for forming self-identity. Trust and authority are constantly being raised, invoking active trust in which trust is always contingent.

Trust is an especially important point of difference for public service broadcasters , of course - they need to be seen as independent from vested interests, as delivering fair and independent news, reflecting national culture and identity, serving diversity through representing minority voices, and adressing audences not served by commercial media. Public broadcasters position themselves as trusted brands in the media landscape.

The Power of News Agencies over Journalism

The final speaker in this ANZCA 2009 session is Jane Johnston, whose interest is in the economy of news agencies - and she begins with a couple of hoax press releases which were converted into mainstream news stories by the Australian-based press agency AAP. Such stories were widely published by a number of Australian mainstream online news sites and newspapers.

This is great success for the press release writers, but it was conversion into stories by the AAP which created such wide coverage; it highlights the role of press agencies, and points to the near-monopoly of the AAP as a news agency in Australia.

Opportunities for the ABC Online

The next presenter at ANZCA 2009 is Toija Cinque, who continues the discussion especially of public broadcasting in the online environment. The Net increases the diversity of information available to inform the citizenry, of course - but public broadcasters continue to be bound also by their charters and need to adddress their obligations.

Journalism is now becoming more a process than a product, and this provides journalists with less and less time to ascertain what is true and significant. This may mean that the public now gets more pure opinion than factual detail - and crowdsourcing information from users only adds more problems with fact-checking to this process. This also pertains to the use of hyperlinks on news Websites, of course - one reason why still so few mainstream news Websites link to information outside of their own sites (in addition to the desire not to provide easy avenues for users to leave the news organisation's own site).

New Models for Journalism, beyond the Citizen

The next session at ANZCA 2009 starts with a paper by my colleague Terry Flew, who is also the chair of the conference. He begins by noting the old trope of the journalist as hero (as embodied for example by Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein in the Watergate affair), and its decline (Glenn Milne is the anti-hero in this context). There are substantial impacts of Web 2.0 technologies on contemporary journalism, of course, and there are serious questions about the future role of journalism. News organisations have most trouble, in fact, not in coming to terms with new technologies but with this new lack of deference to their once powerful position.

Medical Makeover Tourism in South-East Asia

The final speaker in this session at ANZCA 2009 is Michael Galvin, who focusses on a number of trends related to medical tourism and makeover culture. There are now a number of operators offering package travel deals which offer makeover holidays that include tourism, beauty treatment, and cosmetic, elective, or even very serious surgery components - often offering trips to destinations like Malaysia where the costs for such procedures are substantially cheaper.

Websites advertising these services provide brochure-style information about the getaway hotels as well as the hospitals involved, and potential clients are positioned both as potential patient and potential tourist - packages offered include the 'mummy makeover', for example, and describe a fairytale makeover story. (The Singapore tourism board similarly has a special 'Singapore health' brochure.)

The Changing Role of Talent Agencies as Global Entertainment Intermediaries

Susan Ward is the next ANZCA 2009 speaker, and focusses on talent agencies - she begins by distinguishing between internationalisation (trans-border flows of goods and services) and globalisation (the creation of global audiences, and global forms of organisation and a global functional integration of processes). This is visible especially in the context of international trade fairs, which are used to conduct business transactions, disseminate market intelligence, facilitate networking, promote an awareness of industry innovations, establish the identities of participants,and promote common assumptions and a common business culture.

Blogging and Democracy in Iran

Bugger: the ANZCA 2009 programme incorrectly listed Brian McNair's keynote for 10 a.m. rather than 9 a.m., so I missed almost all of it - very, very frustrating. Hope someone else blogged it...

So, I'm now in the first panel session of this last conference day, and the first speaker in this session is Nazanin Ghanavizi, whose interest is in blogging in Iran - a very timely topic at this point, of course. She begins by noting that one of the most important factors of social life is being able to give voice to one's ideas. Iranian society is already highly active online, especially by blogging - Persian is a major blog language, with some one million blogs in Persian, even in spite of the comparatively small population of Persian-speakers worldwide.

Future Trajectories for ABC's Pool Project

The final speakers for this ANZCA 2009 session are Sherre Delys and Marius Foley fromthe ABC Pool project. Sherre, its Executive Producer, comes from ABC Radio Arts, and one of the motivations for starting the site was in maintaining a space for radio arts as well as providing one for other forms of (especially collaborative) multimedia work. The overall idea was to open up public media as a conversation, to address the people formerly known as the audience. Part of this was also to partner with Creative Commons Australia and to use open source technology (Drupal is used as the platform for Pool).


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