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Coming Attractions

It’s that time of the year again – I’m frantically working to get ready for my October overseas trip, which will take me through much of northern Europe. Here’s what’s on the agenda – if you’re in the neighbourhood, say hi (and connect with me on Dopplr to make catching up easier).

My first stop is in Berlin, where we’ve scheduled a couple of workshops for our Mapping Online Publics ARC Discovery team (involving my CCI colleague Jean Burgess as well as our partner researchers Lars Kirchhoff and Thomas Nicolai from Sociomantic Labs). From there, I’m heading on to Bremen and Hamburg, where we’re presenting our blog and Twitter network mapping at the ECREA 2010 conference (Hamburg, 12-15 Oct.) and its Doing Global Media Studies pre-conference (Bremen, 11-12 Oct.). Afterwards, we’re returning for our second round of project workshops with the guys from Sociomantic.

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.

Beyond the Active/Passive Media Dichotomy

The next speaker at ICA 2010 is Roger Cooper, who introduces the distinction between uses and gratifications (audiences are active and goal-directed, motivated to satisfy needs via media; analysis is on an individual level) and stuctural theories (audiences are passive and constrained, bound by availability, access, scheduling, and awareness of media - mainly TV - content; analysis is on the macro level).

There is a need to integrate both approaches, but how? First, nobody is simply active or passive - everyone is both, to varying degrees in various situations. Also, convergence weakens the influence of structure in the way it's been traditionally thought of; there is an abundance of media choices, and more control over them - media users increasingly employ search, ratings, links, and other ways of accessing content; they continue to function within constraints of time, cost, and access.

Attitudes towards Active Audiences in Norway

The next speaker at ICA 2010 is Espen Ytreberg, whose interest is in active audiences; does convergence and digitalisation empower users and make them more active and independent? The term itself certainly has spread far beyond academia, although interpretations may vary between different users of it. Espen's focus is on the attitudes at the management level in Norwegian media.

One working notion is characterised by statements such as 'the audience want to be active', and if it is held by media workers it has consequences for the future shape of media products regardless of whether it is true. It has become an institutional discourse - it is language doing work and creating new media models. Espen explored these processes through 45 interviews with managers in Norwegian TV, radio, and press who were decisionmakers on media products.

Professional and User-Generated Book Reviews and their Effects

The final speaker in this session at ICA 2010 is Marc Verboord, who shifts our focus to the book market. Traditionally, book reviews in the conventional media had paramount authority; today, there are a number of alternative, peer-produced sources online - customer ratings and recommendations on Amazon, for example, as well as recommendations through social networking sites. So, is this part of a decline of cultural authorities? Does it democratise the market, from the grassroots up? Does it lead to (or result from) a larger, long-tail market for a wider range of books?

Music Video Parodies as Fair Use

The next presenter at ICA 2010 is Aymar Christian, who continues our focus on YouTube: his interest is on music videos on the site, and he argues that music video remakes shared on YouTube are almost always fair use. User-generated music videos (riffing on official videos) are amongst the most popular genres on YouTube, following in a long tradition (also incorporating professional work, such as the Weird Al videos); music videos and their remakes stand in a postmodernist tradition that may critique representation and reject standard Hollywood narrative (not least also characterised by the emergenceof MTV.

Video Parodies as Memes on YouTube

The next presenter at ICA 2010 is Limor Shifman, who shifts our focus to YouTube and notes the rapid increase in the number of videos shared on the site (some 2000 more by the time this presentation is finished). There's a massive amount of people spending a massive amount of time on creating such videos - many of whom draw on existing videos by imitating and replicating them. YouTube videos which are taken up in this way are memes.

Memes are understood as similar to genes, reproduced by copying and imitation and undergoing subtle mutations in the process. The Net has further multiplied and accelerated memes; it is a paradise for memes (and for people who research them). Some such memes spread with no significant variation (Susan Boyle's Britain's Got Talent performance is one such example), while some serve as the basis for extensive user-generated parody and derivation.

From Convergence to Divergence

Mel is followed at ICA 2010 by Jack Bratich, who highlights the importance of convergence outside of media convergence, and also introduces the idea of divergence as the opposite of convergence - what are the conditions for social antagonism as a form of divergence, and how is such antagonism dissuaded and diverted? Reality TV, for example, is a set of dividing and organising practices that might produce a new kind of antagonism around the programme as a kind of subject.

Second, as media are now incorporated into more conventional practices (warfare and the military is one example), what are the conditions of dissent? Jack introduces the idea of polemology as the study of warfare (which gave us de Certeau's work on strategies and tactics, for example), and suggests that Jenkins now argues that fans have already won the war, so there is no longer a clear antagonism between fans and producers; Jack suggests, by interest, further research into the phenomenon of user-generated discontent.


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