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Journalism

Some New Publications

It’s been some time since I last posted an update on my latest publications – though you may have seen that on the front page of this site, I’ve updated the banner of the most recent books I’ve been featured in, at last. There is quite a lot more work in the pipeline for the immediate future, including a major new collection which I’ve edited with colleagues in Norway and Sweden – more on that soon.

For now, though, you wouldn’t go wrong if you started by checking out the new journal Social Media + Society, which I’m delighted to be involved in as a member of the Editorial Board. We launched issue 1.1 with a collection of brief manifesto pieces that outline why the study of social media and their impacts on society is so important, featuring many leading researchers in this emerging field. And what’s more, the whole journal is open access! For what it’s worth, here’s my contribution:

Axel Bruns. “Making Sense of Society through Social Media.Social Media + Society 1.1 (2015). DOI: 10.1177/2056305115578679.

Along similar lines, my QUT Digital Media Research Centre colleagues and I have also continued our critical engagement with social media and ‘big data’ research methods and approaches, which has resulted in two new book chapters recently.

Postdoc Position Available: Public Sphere Theory and Social Media Analytics

In addition to the PhD position I advertised last week, I am now also offering a two-year, full-time postdoc position on the same project at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia (international applicants are very welcome). If you’re interested and qualified for the position, please submit a detailed application through the QUT jobs Website, responding to the selection criteria. Full details for the job can be found there, and below I’m including the key details from the job description:

Position Purpose

This appointment supports an ARC Future Fellowship research project investigating intermedia information flows in the Australian online public sphere. The emergence of new media forms has led to a profound transformation of the Australian media environment: mainstream, niche, and social media intersect in many ways, online and offline. Increased access to large-scale data on public communication online enables an observation of how the nation responds to the news of the day, how themes and topics unfold, and how interest publics develop and decline over time. This project uses such observations to trace how information flows across media spaces, and to develop a new model of the online public sphere. It makes significant contributions to innovation in research methods in the digital humanities, and provides an important basis for policies aimed at closing digital and social divides. Research on the project commenced in April 2014.

The Postdoctoral Research Fellow will contribute to project management and undertake specific research tasks and will also be involved in the supervision of one of the PhD students associated with the project. The position will be based at QUT in Brisbane, and will support the timely analysis of public communication activities which relate to current debates. The presence of this full-time staff member will ensure the project’s agility in responding to unfolding events, and substantially enhance its ability to engage in and impact on public debate over the lifetime of the Future Fellowship.

Call for PhD Applications: Social Media and Public Communication

We’re now looking for the second PhD student associated with my current ARC Future Fellowship project. The PhD student will receive an annual stipend of A$25,849 over the three years of the PhD project. If you’re interested in and qualified for the PhD project, please contact me by 1 May 2015, directly at a.bruns@qut.edu.au with your CV, names of two referees, and a detailed statement addressing the Eligibility Requirements below. We’ll select the candidate on this basis, and will then ask you to formally apply for the PhD place through the QUT Website.

Full details are below – please pay particularly close attention to the Eligibility Requirements.

The Project

We are seeking a highly motivated candidate to participate in an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship project which draws on several ‘big data’ sources on Australian online public communication.

This PhD project provides an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the flow of information across the Australian online public sphere at large scale and in close to real time, within a world-class research environment. With an ERA ranking of 5 (well above world standing), Creative Industries at QUT is the leading institution for Media and Communication research in Australia, and ARC Future Fellow Professor Axel Bruns is an international research leader in the area of Internet studies.

Regional and National News Commenting Practices in Finland

The final speaker at ECREA 2014 is Veera Kangaspunta, who notes the importance of studying the audience behind online news comments. Traditionally, journalists have seen online news as a sideshow to the real news business, and online comments are thus a sideshow to the sideshow – but this is changing. While the quality of online commentary is often limited, and discussions may drift, they may be studied to reveal a great deal more about audience attitudes.

Online News Commentary Patterns in Sweden

The next presenters in this ECREA 2014 session are Susanne Almgren and Tobias Olsson, who continue the theme of user comments on online news. Digital media offer new forms of co-existence between producers and users; indeed, there is a new media ecology of participation emerging.

User-generated content has always played a part even in traditional media, of course, in the form of letters to the editor or telephone call-ins. The current environment simply makes such harnessing of user-generated content a great deal easier. Online newspapers are a particularly interesting case for this, given their long institutional history.

How Users Comment on Danish News Organisations' Facebook Pages

The next speakers at ECREA 2014 are Jannie Møller Hartley and Mads Kæmsgaard Eberholst, who examine how users are now intervening in journalistic processes. Their approach is a quantitative content analysis of seven Facebook pages of different Danish mainstream media outlets. Data collection was in real time to avoid subsequent moderation, and this resulted in 149 posts and 3,800 comments over one week, which were coded manually.

Newspapers mostly posted news items on their Facebook pages, focussing on domestic issues and politics. Items came largely from internal reporting, not from agencies. Most content was posted on weekdays, and the publishing rate varied widely between pages. Some 49% of posts were neutral news updates, 30% asked questions, 11% were ironic; questions generated the longest comment threads, followed by ironic comments and neutral updates.

Whither Photojournalism in Spain?

Up next at ECREA 2014 are Virginia Guerrero and Bella Palomo. They begin by noting that mobile phones are now omnipresent and can become tools for a form of pocket journalism that transforms audiences into potential creators of journalistic content. This takes place against the backdrop of funding declines in the mainstream media, and has raised questions about the continuing need for professional photojournalists.

Even as photojournalists are being laid off, then, the importance of images in journalism continues to increase. Does this jeopardise the profession of photojournalism? The project conducted interviews with 12 Spanish photojournalists at local, regional, national, and international levels.

The photojournalists noted the change to their profession. As soon as journalists are being asked to take photos as well, this trespasses on their field; but they also note the fact that photojournalists are often self-trained and have no formal professional association that might represent their interests. They feel the current crisis to be worse than any before, and many of them are beginning to make alternative plans or are taking on increasingly more dangerous assignments abroad, especially in conflict zones.

Why German Audiences Don't Use Participatory Features

Well, after all that, the final ECREA 2014 session starts with Nele Heise, whose project examined conceptions of the audience at German news media. There are increasing forms of audience participation at German news sites, but only a minority of users regularly engage with such media. Do such features represent an interactive illusion?

The project used online surveys, interviews with journalists and audience members, and analyses of journalistic content. It found notable differences in the percentage of non-users across the different formats: the print services saw more engagement. This may also be due to their own outreach activities to users, as well as the visibility of participatory features on their sites.

From Media Logic to a Logic of the Public

The final plenary on this somewhat eccentrically scheduled Saturday at ECREA 2014 begins with Kees Brants, who says his intention today is to debunk himself. There is a dominant discourse of mediatisation at present, and politicians have to respond to this – we may therefore be seeing a shift from a political to a media logic, as Kees has suggested in previous work. But is that perspective correct, or may it be challenged?

Historically, the concept of media logic emerged in 1979, twenty years later, mediatisation emerged properly as a concept. However, mediatisation must necessarily precede media logic: the increased shaping and domination of society by the media makes only possible the emergence of media logics. Witho mediatisation, we would not see European football competitions, Ebola panics, or the global response to the downing of MH17.

Crowdsourced Images in the Boston Marathon Attack

The next speaker at ECREA 2014 is Anssi Männistö, who shifts our focus to the Boston Marathon bomb attack. Mobile social media played an important role in covering this attact: tweets and mobile media were no longer just sources of information, but also tools to very facts and photos and to identify potential suspects, through image recognition software and other facilities.

In Boston, journalists rapidly discovered the first reports and images of the attack from Twitter, and soon came to use them in their own coverage. Such material was then used in official investigations, unofficial hunts for the culprits, and in the media coverage. These each drew on a massive amount of mobile photos; on the real-time publishing of such content in social media; and on crowdsourcing of activities through social media.

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