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ANZCA 2010

Australia / New Zealand Communication Association conference, 9-11 July 2010.

In Search of Australian Blogs: Determining the Extent of the Contemporary Australian Blogosphere (ANZCA 2010)

ANZCA 2010

In Search of Australian Blogs: Determining the Extent of the Contemporary Australian Blogosphere

Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess

  • 8 July 2010 - ANZCA conference, Canberra

Blogs, and the networked systems of blogging known as "blogospheres", are now part of the landscape of public communication in Australia. However, much of the research into Australian blogging has focussed only on selected genres and topics of blogging - political blogs (Bruns, 2008), personal diaries, knitting blogs (Humphreys, 2008), fiction blogs (Thomas, 2006) -, but is unable to provide a more comprehensive overview of the relative interest in and interconnections between these topics and communities. As part of a three-year ARC Discovery project that assesses the contribution of blogs and other forms of user-created content to public communication, this paper discusses the methodological challenges in developing a more comprehensive list of Australian blogs which may be used by researchers to study the Australian blogosphere in a more systematic and inclusive manner.

Civil Conversations on Facebook during the 2009 Indonesian Presidential Elections

Finally at ANZCA 2010 we're on to Hamideh Molaei, whose interest is in the use of social media during the 2009 presidential elections in Indonesia. Social media have impacted on political processes, of course - social media are used for networking and fundraising, political discussion, and the dissemination of political messages. Facebook has been used in this way in a number of contexts, of course - both by politicians and ordinary citizens.

Six social media sites - including Facebook - are amongst the ten most popular sites in Indonesia. The last presidential election there was held on 8 July 2009, as the second direct election after the end of the Suharto regime, it was won by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Facebook was used as a venue for advertising and disseminating election-related material. Candidates had personal pages; there were election education groups; and a variety of independent pages were also set up.

e-Government? First Educate Politicians about ICTs

The next speaker at ANZCA 2010 is Julie Freeman, whose interest is in impediments to local e-government development. She suggests that there needs to be further education about ICTs of policy makers; one of the councillors of the city of Casey, in the south-east of Melbourne, whom she interviewed asked whether email was considered to be Internet use, for example.

The current population of Casey is around 256,000 residents (on 400 square kilometres), and continues to grow; some 89% are under 60. There are 11 councillors representing residents in the city council. The city has an extensive and sophisticated Website (with multilingual information and mobile versions), and its Twitter account (@CityOfCasey) has some 500 followers; there are significant visitor numbers (over 700,000 in 2008/9), while call centre calls are slowly declining. There is also a civic networking site, and the overall e-government costs are around $10,000 per annum.

Use of Citizen Sources during the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks

The next speaker at ANZCA 2010 is Serene Tng, whose interest is in the influence of citizen journalism on journalistic reporting; her case study are the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Citizen reporting is increasingly important in such major news events; this is social media in action. Serene examined the coverage of the attacks across four major international newspapers, in order to examine how citizen reporting affects the traditional dominance of standard institutional sources.

The role of the media is fundamental in any terrorist acts: the media could be seen as promoting the terrorist cause by reporting acts of terror, but government sources tend to dominate in the reporting and framing of such events; especially in breaking news, however, government sources are often backgrounded in favour of voices from the scene, and this may affect how stories are framed at such times.

Viewer Engagement with the Interactive Drama of Reservoir Hill

The final session at the ANZCA 2010 conference starts with Carolyn Michelle, whose interest is in the TVNZ programme Reservoir Hill, released weekly as an online interactive drama and advertised on TV and buses; the story was about a teenage girl moving to a new city who resembled another girl from that community who had gone missing. Each of the Webisodes lasted some 6-10 minutes.

Viewers were encouraged to text in with comments and advice to the main character, and extra bonus scenes were created from this; they were also incorporated in further episodes, and viewers' names were acknowledged. There was also a video blog by the character, as well as Facebook and Bebo pages. Initially, the show had an audience of some 20,000, but gradually this audience declined; it also won a Digital Emmy.

Harnessing Community Resources in Public Policy

The next paper at ANZCA 2010 is by Jocelyn Williams, who shifts our interest to the question of opinion leaders online. This is in the context of a qualitative study of free Internet access for low-income school-based families, which also pointed to other difficulties and barriers for Internet uptake by low-income families; what can account for differences in uptake even between different case studies in this research project?

One likely explanation is the role played by key individuals who had influence on their peers and may have acted as role models in taking up Internet usage. What needs to be considered as a framework here is the study of the social dimensions of knowledge or information - society plays a central role in the knowledge formation process. Knowledge is socially constructed by people in relation to one another, within specific contexts; research therefore also needs to consider multiple realities, stakeholders, and angles on the research problem.

Improving the Print Literacy of Apprentices?

The next paper at ANZCA 2010 is by Frank Sligo, whose focus is on how apprentices develop print literacy. Modern Apprentices is a New Zealand government programme to help apprentices find places in various industries in the country. However, print literacy, language, and numeracy was identified as a key problem in apprenticeship training. This is why a new network of literacy support providers was set up across the country. Apprentices could access up to 30 hours of tuition time. The research project set out to evaluate this programme.

CCTV and Public Transit Officers

The next session at ANZCA 2010 starts with a paper presented by Christine Teague, on the impact of CCTV in public transport. She conducted an ethnographic research project examining - through participation in initial staff training, participant observation from the CCTV monitoring room (video only; no audio) and by directly working on track - the experiences of public transit officers (who have similar powers to the police on railway property, but not outside it).

CCTV cameras send their images back to a central control monitoring room, where operators follow the live feeds from stations, platforms, car parks, and other railway infrastructure. These cameras can be operated locally and remotely (including zooming and panning) - not all camera feeds are visible on the monitors at the same time. The cameras operate and record 24 hours a day.

The Shape of an Emerging Monitory Democracy

Another day at ANZCA 2010, another keynote: we're starting this last day of the conference with a keynote by John Keane, whose theme is monitory democracy. He begins chronologically, in 1945 - when there were only 12 parliamentary democracies left in the world. Democracy was a beleaguered species.

John himself is in search of a 'wild category' - a category that provides a new way of seeing conventional wisdom, provides alternatives to traditional ways of ordering thought. We need a new term for describing the dynamics, changes of language, shifts in institutions, of democracy - and monitory democracy is the term he offers. We need a new term to describe these novel trends (which exist all over the world, especially also outside the traditional democratic countries), and in particular to better understand the intersections of democracy and communication forms.

New Approaches to Journalism Education

The final ANZCA 2010 paper for today is presented by Felicity Biggins and Christina Koutsoukos, whose focus is on journalism education. There have long been calls for journalists to adapt to a changing media environment in which anyone can be a journalist - so what is the value of journalism education? Online, citizens can participate in unprecedented ways - and are sometimes called citizen journalists, as opposed to 'professional' journalists - in the case of major events, anyone with a mobile phone can become a journalist. If the value of journalism comes from the underlying value of journalistic activity, that value is now near zero, some contend.


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