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Gatewatching and Citizen Journalism

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.

Towards Computational Journalism

I'll admit that I've skipped the ANZCA AGM to check out the (excellent) Museum of Australian Democracy in the front wing of Old Parliament House - well worth a visit, and I can now say that I've crossed the floor in both houses of parliament. The next session at ANZCA 2010, then, starts with a paper by Anna Daniel, whose focus is on computational journalism: a response to the changes in news consumption and production through the greater use of software and technologies that support journalistic work. The belief is that this approach can benefit the quality of journalistm, and in doing so set apart papers which use it from their competitors.

Publication Update: Three New Chapters

With the Internet Turning 40 and International Communication Association conferences completed, I'm briefly back in Brisbane, before setting off for the Australia/New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) conference in Canberra next week (hopefully with a recharged audio recorder!).

In the meantime, here's a quick update on some new publications I've been involved in - a number of my recent book chapters on a range of topics have now been published:

First, with a chapter on "News Blogs and Citizen Journalism" in e-Journalism: New Media and News Media I'm introducing my work on gatewatching and citizen journalism to an Indian readership - the book was edited by Kiran Prasad, who was my office mate at the University of Leeds while I was there in 2007 to do some research for the produsage book, and was published by B.R. Publishing in Delhi. I don't think the publisher actually has a Website - but there's a good overview of the collection at Cyberjournalist, and it also includes contact details for BR Publishing.

Studying Political Blogs in the Netherlands

Finally we move on to Tom Bakker in his ICA 2010 session, who has undertaken a content analysis of political blogs by citizens. Tom notes that there are a variety of terms to describe this citizen journalism, and that political Weblogs still tend to be seen as an archetype for this field; hence the focus on Weblogs. Who are the people who start such blogs, and what are they doing? Is it really 'everybody', as Clay Shirky has said?

In the first place, though: how do we find them? Tom began by using five blog search engines (Google Blogsearch, Technorati, Blogpulse, Icerocket, and Truthlaidbear) to find active Dutch blogs authored by citizens; these were narrowed down to political blogs by examining how the blogger or blog described themselves, and by checking whether at least two of the last five posts dealt with political topics. For the Netherlands, this ultimately resulted in a list of some 163 blogs - so, hardly 'everybody', but actually a fairly small group.

Attitudes towards Journalism Shield Laws amongst Journalists and Bloggers

The next speaker at ICA 2010 is C.W. Anderson, whose interest is in debates over the US shield law for journalists. Can we see a process of professional boundary maintenance in this (protecting definitions of who is and isn't a journalist)? The shield law debate emerged from questions about what legal protections were available to journalists who were suppoenaed to release information gathered from confidential sources; the law would protect journalists and their sources and grant them immunity from particular forms of prosecution.

Differences in Content between Legacy and Citizen Journalism Sites

The next speaker at ICA 2010 is Salim Al-Habash (?), presenting on behalf of the paper's actual authors. He begins by noting the large number of blogs now in existence; some 44% of online news users have their pages customised to include news sites; 75% of Americans get news via email and social network sites; 51% share their news in this way, and 52% get news from their followers on social network sites. We can also categorise types of blogging: founder/manager (single-authored blogs); hybrid sites (volunteers, part-timers, outside participation); and open sites (overseen by administrators).

Journalism and Inclusion in the Network Age

I'm afraid in the battle between lunch and the second plenary, lunch won out, so I'm skipping Ien Ang's keynote at ICA 2010, and jumping right to the first of the post-lunch sessions. I may miss some of those as well as I've got a few meetings in the afternoon, but we'll see how we go. We start the afternoon with a paper by Wiebke Loosen from the fabulous Hans-Bredow-Institut in Hamburg, whose interest is in the relationship between journalism and its audiences. One of the key issues here is the change in the sender/receiver relationship - always a complicated and paradoxical relationship (journalism provides a service and needs an audience, but that audience plays a subordinate role - journalists are often oriented more towards their colleagues than towards audiences).

The Drive towards Journalism 2.0

Hong Kong.
The final speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Alice Lee, who continues the focus on online news. She says that online news sites in a Web 2.0 operate like a digital marketplace where people get together and exchange news, and explores how Web 2.0 has affected these sites. The format of online media is particularly important, in other words - the breaking of previously existing boundaries which has occurred with Web 2.0 has upset the previous equilibrium and led to significant changes.

Political Blogs and Transparency

The second speaker in this EDEM 2010 session is Evgeniya Boklage, whose interest is in the impact of the political blogosphere on communicative transparency. Transparency is crucial for interpersonal communication; it is an existential prerequisite for deliberative processes, too. If we consider the public sphere as a communicative system, the key functions are transparency (input), validation (throughput), and orientation (output), and Evgeniya focusses on the first of these here.

Political Discourse from Truth to Truthiness

The final keynote of AoIR 2009 is by Megan Boler, editor of Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times. She begins by noting the shared sense of aporia at the conference. What do we do as we face the rapidly changing environments of social media - do we feel let down by the Internet, do we daily have to renegotiate the changing visage of the Internet? Megan is particularly interested in exploring this in the context of war, and especially the war on terror - so much especially of the material produced from critical perspectives is dismissed as noise here, so how do we make what we feel is important audible and visible? (To illustrate this, Megan shows a video compiling the repetitive use of certain keywords - September 11, Saddam Hussein, war on terror, terrorism - by US leaders.)


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