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Gatewatching and Citizen Journalism

Open Innovation in the News Industry

Cardiff.
The next speakers in this session at the Future of Journalism conference are Tanja Aitamurto and Seth Lewis. Their focus is on open innovation in the news industry: the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate innovation. Such innovation is necessary in news, due to the continuing increase in media platforms, the shortening of product lifecycles, the rapid change of consumer habits, and the diminishing resources available.

Tanja and Seth have identified three cases which exemplify such innovation. How does such innovation manifest in the news industry, and what implications does it have in research and development work? At the macro level, one such example is the Knight News Challenge. It is a high-profile competition examining the future of news, and can be seen to be setting the agenda for journalism innovation; overall, it has wide influence in journalism. Knight follows an inside-out process by providing funds, reports, and signals to the industry, as well as an outside-in process that taps into the wisdom of actors outside of journalism; this results in a coupled process which straddles the boundaries of journalism by linking journalists and technologists.

Twitter as a News Source during Natural Disasters

Cardiff.
Leslie-Jean Thornton finishes the session at Future of Journalism by discussing the spread of information on Twitter. She points us to the San Diego fire and the #sandiegofire hashtag, which really was a breakthrough for the use of hashtags on Twitter; this was the first time that hashtags were successfully used for the coordination of discussion around major crisis events.

It is interesting for such breaking news stories to examine the timeline of events on Twitter, of course; this also requires detailed qualitative, even ethnographic work. Early on, journalism on these events hasn’t even emerged yet, so we can study how events are being characterised by the users who just raised them; especially at these early stages, gatewatching and citizen journalism practices may be able to be observed particularly clearly.

Journalistic Use and Verification of Twitter-Sourced Information

Cardiff.
The next session at Future of Journalism 2011 starts with the fabulous Alfred Hermida, whose focus is on the shift of news organisations to digital, networked environments, with specific reference to Twitter. How do journalists find a place in this, and especially, how do they deal with verifying information on those platforms?

Twitter is used for a variety of purposes, of course, and the volume of messages on this platform is immense. This represents the lives, interests, and views of its users – and includes acts of journalism; Twitter can be seen as a platform for ambient journalism, therefore. This challenges established ways of communication for journalism, usually about current things, and it disrupts the way we think about space and time, private and public. For journalists, it disrupts truth (or the pursuit of truth, which they have elevated to their ultimate professional goal): discovering and reporting truth by journalism is seen as essential to the profession.

Futures for Journalism

Cardiff.
If it’s Thursday, it must be Wales: I’ve made it to the Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff, which starts with a keynote by Emily Bell. She begins by noting that discussions about the future of journalism only started in the UK with the Murdoch papers’ move to Wapping, and it has been mainly about the role of technology in the transformation of journalism; before then, there was a strong commitment to continue doing journalism as it had always been done.

Today, journalism is becoming less defined by the business models that support it, and more by the activities which it consists of – types of journalistic activity are now scattered widely across many domains. Journalism is a craft, and arguing over who might or might not be a journalism today is futile. If Julian Assange or Rebekah Brooks say they’re journalists, or a random citizen taking first-hand footage does so, who is to say they aren’t? We may gather random forms of activity, and ask whether they are journalistic, but there’s little point in doing so any more.

What Drives Issue Spill-Overs from Online to Offline Media?

Reykjavík.
The next speaker at ECPR 2011 is Barbara Pfetsch, whose focus is on media agenda building in online and offline media. She suggests that research is needed to assess the impact of the Net on public debate: how could one go about this work? There have been hopes that the Net may lead to greater public participation and deliberation; also, however, what is the discursive opportunity structure which is provided by the Net? What is the potential for new civil society actors to enter the debate, and how may they be included in the process?

What theoretical and empirical approaches may be suited to researching these questions? First, there is an elite bias in traditional mass media; they tend to exclude ‘outside’, non-mainstream actors, and the hope is that the Net removes such biases. Second, media agenda building depends on local contexts: the political system, the media system, and the constellation of current conflicts in a country, for example. How does traditional media agenda setting change because of the Internet, as new challengers make their views heard?

Towards an Ontology of the New Hybrid Media System

Reykjavík.
The next paper at ECPR 2011 is by Andrew Chadwick, whose argument is that old and new media scholars often talk past one another, and that political communication scholarship as well as Internet studies need to draw on one another’s ideas more effectively. The interrelationship between old and new media, in particular, needs to be examined more closely. This requires system-level perspectives and a conceptual understanding of power which can be illustrated empirically.

So, we need a hybrid media system perspective, recognising the technologies, genres, norms, behaviours, and organisations of all its components. Power relations between them are based on adaptation and interdependence, and actors create, tap, or steer information flows in ways that suit them.

The Internet and Media Pluralism in Luso-Africa

Reykjavík.
From the very intensive ten-day workshop with our research partners in Münster which started this trip (more on this on the Mapping Online Publics site some time soon) I’ve made it to the ECPR conference in Reykjavík. There’s more parallel sessions here than could be comfortably wiped out by a single exploding whale, so my conference blogging from here will necessarily follow my own interests, more or less; don’t take it as an accurate representation of all that’s going on here.

I’m starting the day with a panel on comparing digital media and politics across regimes, which begins with a paper by Susana Salgado, whose interest is in the impact of digital media in African countries. What kind of democratic impact is there; is the Net promoting participation; is it repeating the history of other media? Susana’s focus is on Portuguese-speaking Luso-African nations (Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde); these are very impoverished nations, and Internet penetration is generally very low (Cape Verde was up to nearly 30% Internet penetration in 2010, Mozambique is below 3%).

CeDEM Lightning Talks, Part 2

Krems.
And here’s the second part of the five-minute lightning talks which conclude this CeDEM 2011 conference, which starts with Mark Thamm. He presents a case study of online debate about nuclear power which was facilitated and tracked by the WeGov group through established social networking platforms; this involves kicking off new discussion topics as well as tracking contributions to existing topics. WeGov staff also respond to existing posts from the general public to create further discussion. This process enables policymakers to engage with such debate through an intermediary service.

Next up is Andras Szabo, whose interest is in social news and bookmarking Websites like Reddit, Digg, and Newsvine. These sites generate compilations of news reports from professional media and other sources, levelling the playing field between mainstream and alternative news organisations; they create strong public places, and enable meaningful participation.

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