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Parodic Self-Censorship in Singaporean Online Discussion Fora

The final presenter in this session at ANZCA 2010 is Michael Galvin, whose focus is on Singaporean politics - and he begins by pointing to Manuel Castells's discussion of power and counterpower in the network society during his 2006 ICA keynote. Castells's proposition is that the development of interactive horizontal communication has contributed to the rise of 'mass self-communication', shifting the public sphere from the institutional realm to the new communications space.

Michael's study applies this thesis to the online site for citizen journalism of the Straits Times newspaper in Singapore, STOMP. While the Times is essentially an organ of the Singaporean government, which has long openly promoted self-censorship in the media, this site for horizontal interactive communication - according to Castells - should provide a space for the operation of counterpower; for Castells, this is a given and indeed a result of a 'natural law' of society.

Patterns of Activity in Political Online Discussion Boards in South Korea

The next speaker in this ANZCA 2010 session is Sora Park, whose focus is on online participation behaviour in South Korea. As part of a larger study, she conducted a content analysis of online discussion boards - which are a major site for political discussion and organisation in the country. How is information exchanged, diffused, and consumed online through such spaces?

Korea has one of the highest levels of broadband penetration in the world; some 90% of the population use the Net daily, and some 29% participate in online discussions. During the political riots in 2008, online discussion boards were important for organising activities, but there are also concerns about the lack of balance in political discussion - a spiral of silence may be present here, reducing the presence of alternative voices.

Patterns in Online Debate on SBS's Insight Fora

The final speaker in this session at ANZCA 2010 is Georgie McClean from SBS, whose focus is on cultural participation in a multicultural context. SBS has a brief to enhance cultural exchange and understanding, and with the move from public service broadcasting to public service media there are new opportunities for this through the use of new participatory media platforms. However, while some barriers to access are lowered, many constituencies can still be left out of the process - those already engaged may be those most likely to profit from new forms of engagement, too.

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.

Effects of the Size and Diversity of Personal Networks on Civic Engagement

The final presenter in this session at ICA 2010 is Homero Gil de Zúñiga, whose interest is in civic engagement. How is this related to interpersonal and computer-mediated networks, and how does this play out differently for weak and strong ties in the networks? Is the effect of interpersonal and computer-mediated networks mediated by access to weak ties? Which setting is more predictive of civic engagement?

Past research in this area has shown connections between demographics and civic engagement; social orientations and civic engagement; and media use and civic engagement; the presence of citizen communication networks also has a positive effect. Finally, there are differences between strong and weak ties: being exposed to a wider range of connections through weak ties can variously have positive and negative effects - providing a greater diversity of information that may spark civic action, for example.

Uses of Twitter during Major Events

Finally in this ICA 2010 session we move to Yvette Wohn, talking about how people tweet about TV. When TV was first introduced, it was seen as a social medium, as families gathered around it to watch; later, it was seen as creating a social gap, as enabling people to disengage from reality, as increasing individualism, and (when multiple TVs in the same home became more commonplace) as fragmenting families.

Today, people watch more TV than ever - now also online, on mobiles, and on timeshift devices. At the same time, TV use may be becoming more social again - echoing some of the early commercial attempts to introduce greater immediate social dimensions for television by adding a (telephone, online, ...) social backchannel to the television set or media device: today, it is social media that are adding that backchannel.

Communication Styles on Twitter

The next speaker at ICA 2010 is Chih-Hui Lai, whose focus is on the Facebook newsfeed, the Twitter feed, and similar feeds as social awareness streams (SAS) - consisting of messages which are public or semi-public, short and consumed in streams, and transmitted through articulated networks that structure communication. Twitter is a typical example for this, and his is what the study focussed on.

Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds are quite similar in style, in fact - both offer a kind of phatic communion, a communicative means of opening communication and maintaining relationships. This is also shown in the inclusion of emoticons and other elements. At the same time, the strength of SAS also lies in their use for quick information sharing - and while most research focusses on the use of such SAS for special events (crises, political developments, etc.), the phatic elements are just as important.

Social Media Responses to the Virginia Tech Shooting

The next ICA 2010 speakers are Deanna and Timothy Sellnow, whose focus is on the use of social media in crisis events - here, the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. Such events are cosmology episodes, where understanding is lost, and people ask where am I, what happened, and who can help me understand what happened. They need to rebuild understanding through the process of sensemaking - and this moment of cosmology must be dissected to reduce uncertainty. Social media - especially Facebook - had a prominent role in this.

Comments on South Korean Politicians' Profiles on Cyworld

The next speaker in this session at ICA 2010 is Se Jung Park, whose focus is on the use of the Korean social networking site Cyworld by politicians. South Korea is a leading country for Internet access, of course, but sites like Facebook and Twitter are not very popular; YouTube, in fact, is partially censored. So, Cyworld is the main space for social networking - including for politicians.

The present study examined the comments left on the Cyworld 'mini-hompys' of Korean politicians during April 2008 and June 2009; from the total number, some 200 comments from each politician's space were randomly selected, and a semantic sentiment analysis was then conducted. There were obvious spikes in commenting during the recent mass protests against the reintroduction of US beef imports.

Hypercoordination in a Post-Convergence Environment

The next speaker at ICA 2010 is Emil Bakke, whose interest is especially in the mobile uses of Facebook in a post-convergence environment. What drives convergence, presumably, are the users, not just the techological possibilities, but what are the processes here? Emil notes that people operate in clusters of technology, and this depends also on the context of use.

Technology clusters, especially, really matter: users and non-users operate in a multiple media environment (accessing services through various devices, but not necessarily with great awareness of the features of the various technologies and media features available to them); any single communication technology will have diminished importance because of a user-driven environment; and technological affordances and user preferences intersect in various ways.


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