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#Eurovision: Twitter as a Technology of Fandom (AoIR 2012)

AoIR 2012

#Eurovision: Twitter as a Technology of Fandom

Axel Bruns, Tim Highfield, and Stephen Harrington

Twitter and the Media: Methods, ATNIX, Citizen Journalism, and the Olympics

Here are some more updates on my recent adventures in the world of Twitter research. First, I’m very happy to report that a new chapter on the impact of Twitter on the long-standing melée between industrial and citizen journalism has now been published. In the article, co-written with my CCI colleague Tim Highfield, we explore how the emergence of Twitter as a middle ground between the branded spaces of news Websites and citizen journalist blogs and other sites complicates the previously somewhat more obvious battle lines between the two sides – extending a process of, if not convergence then at least increasing interconnection, which has been evident for some time (except for the last remaining cold warriors of the blog wars).

The article has been published in Produsing Theory in a Digital World, edited by Rebecca Ann Lind – congratulations on what looks like a very interesting volume. (And on a personal note, it’s also very gratifying to see yet another colleague take up the produsage idea and do interesting things with it, of course.)

Axel Bruns and Tim Highfield. “Blogs, Twitter, and Breaking News: The Produsage of Citizen Journalism.” In Rebecca Ann Lind, ed., Produsing Theory in a Digital World: The Intersection of Audiences and Production. New York: Peter Lang, 2012.

Creating and Marketing Transmedia Stories

Seattle.
The first keynote at AoIR 2011 is by Mike Monello (who was also the producer of the Blair Witch Project). He begins by noting the importance of team collaboration, and says that Blair Witch emerged as a completely organic process involving its principal creators. The filmmakers wanted the dialogue to be completely improvised, and so created a deep mythology for the Blair Witch story; some of the (very realistic) clips recorded for the film were then broadcast on TV, and audiences were encouraged to go to the online community Split Screen to discuss whether what they’d seen was real.

The massive success of this online discussion then led to the setting-up of the Blair Witch Project Website, which contained the underlying mythology – fans speculated on the message boards and developed theories of what was going on, and the filmmakers themselves almost accidentally became involved in the story as filmmakers, therefore. While there was nothing on the site to identify the story as fiction, there was never any intention to mislead – and the site linked to information about the production process, too.

Family Struggles for the Central Entertainment Hub in the Home

Gothenburg.
The next session at AoIR 2010 starts with Rachel McLean, whose interest is how technology configures the home, especially in relationship to the placement of shared entertainment technology. How is the family living room set up, and who controls the technology there, for example? This was examined for families in the northwest of England.

Social practices around the television have changed over the decades. Once, families would gather around the television in the corner of the living room like they did around the hearth; with digital technology, this gradually fragmented, though something of a digital hearth perhaps still exists in some cases. The UK family room in the year 2010 now accesses a wide variety of channels – where children’s TV was once shut down at 7 p.m., for example, some children’s channel will now be available at any time, as is a large number of other channels, as well as video games and other entertainment on demand.

Mainstream Media Use of Amateur Footage during the Iran Election Aftermath

Hamburg.
The next speaker in this ECREA 2010 session is Mervi Pantti, whose interest is in the role of amateur images in the Iran election crisis. This was a key moment for using citizen-created content in mainstream news coverage, and such images became a focal point for the public response to the election aftermath. Such images were also very difficult to verify, however, raising questions for the journalistic process. Mervi examined the coverage of these protests by CNN, BBC One, and the Finnish broadcaster YLE.

Citizen-provided images are used to support the journalistic mediator’s claims about the truth of the event; they are valued as evidence of the events, and provide immediacy and a heightened reality effect. At the same time, they also present a risk to the journalist’s trustworthiness, especially if there is confusion about the origin of these images. Additionally, there are questions of responsibility here – some of the images show scenes which journalists themselves would not have covered or shown, for ethical reasons; amateur footage of violence, for example, can be used as an excuse from standard journalistic ethics. Transparency is the new strategic ritual in journalistic justifications in this context; it serves as a means of letting the audience know where these images come from.

Transcultural Audience Research

Bremen.
The final speaker for the ‘Doing Global Media Studies’ ECREA 2010 pre-conference is Miriam Stehling, whose focus is on doing a comparative study of globally traded television formats; she’ll use the Top Model format as a case study. The key challenge here is to understand transculturality: new forms of cultural phenomena that go beyond or across cultures. There no longer is necessarily a congruence between culture and territory, and binary approaches to researching international communication cannot work here; instead, there needs to be a focus on similarities and connections between cultures.

Transculturality, then, requires new methods for empirical research, differentiating between transculturality as a research perspective and transculturality as practices of discourse and social action. Miriam’s study of global TV formats provides a perspective on this: there is a strategic transculturality that is used to maximise global profits, but also a transculturality of text (a common subject matter that makes sense for diverse audiences), and a transculturality of reception – in the production of transcultural meanings and/or in transcultural modes of reception.

Manual and Automatic Video Coding Approaches

Bremen.
The next speakers in this ‘Doing Global Media Studies’ ECREA 2010 pre-conference session are Tobias Kohler and Jan Müller, whose interest is in the computer-based analysis of television footage from multiple countries. This is part of a larger study into automated TV content processing, covering German, US, Brazilian, and Chinese television content. The material examined here, in particular, are the annual year-end review broadcasts. There are substantial format differences here, of course (in length as well as original placement in the broadcast schedule – German clips are longer stand-alone review shows, while US content was broadcast during news bulletins).

This content was coded by a team of students, annotating videos according to a variety of criteria (presence of key actors, setting, topics, etc.). This was done segment by segment, since a universal coding sheet which was applicable across some very different segment types proved very difficult to develop. This allows for a precise analysis – for example, comparing the amount of broadcast time devoted to media actors from specific countries.

Viewer Engagement with the Interactive Drama of Reservoir Hill

Canberra.
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.

How Much On-Screen Ticker Clutter Is Too Much?

Canberra.
The next presenter an ANZCA 2010 is Jennifer Robinson, whose interest is in interfaces to journalistic content. An interesting case study for this is the cable finance news channel Bloomberg TV, which presents its viewers with multiple concurrent information streams - apparently contradicting the view that there are natural limits to how much information the human brain can process at any one time.

There are different forms of viewing television, for example: staring (over 15 seconds, and not taking in much information); engaged looks (5-15 seconds); orienting (1.5-5 seconds); and monitoring (less than 1.5 seconds). Features that impact on information processing on the screen are clutter (and perceived clutter), intrusiveness of content (e.g. pop-up ads), and the content itself (edits, cuts, sounds, etc.).

Uses of Twitter during Major Events

Singapore.
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.

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