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Blogs and Blogging

Political Blogging in the 2008 US Elections

I've made it to the Association of Internet Researchers conference in windy Milwaukee, and promptly managed to seriously upset my stomach - so let's see how we go today. The first speaker in my first session at AoIR 2009 is Aaron S. Veenstra, whose focus is on political blogging during the 2008 US elections. He notes the emergence of what he calls 'new' new media - YouTube, Facebook, Twitter - and these have affected the way we think about political blogging, too.

Overall, too, blogging itself is increasingly difficult to define as technical definitions are dynamic and blogging genres are inconsistent at the top end and incredibly varied at the bottom end. The top tier of blogs may now be separating from the field, and liberal and conservative blogs (in the US) are growing apart; additionally, it is also important to distinguish between community and individual functions.

Critical Voices in the Australian Political Blogosphere (AoIR 2009)

AoIR 2009

Critical Voices in the Australian Political Blogosphere

Axel Bruns, Tim Highfield, Lars Kirchhoff, Thomas Nicolai

  • 7-10 Oct. 2009 - Association of Internet Researchers conference, Milwaukee

This paper provides an update on an ongoing research project which maps and investigates the Australian political blogosphere, and expands on work presented at IR9.0 in Copenhagen (Bruns et al. 2008). The project is situated in a growing tradition of quantitative and mixed-method research into the shape and structure of national and international blogospheres (cf. e.g. Adamic & Glance, 2005; Kelly & Etling, 2008; and a number of the studies collected in Russell & Echchaibi, 2009), which utilise a combination of link crawling, data scraping, and network visualisation tools to map interconnections between blogs and analyse their contents. However, our work also addresses some of the limitations of these studies.

Swedish Business Journalists' Attitudes towards Blogs

The next speakers at Future of Journalism 2009 are Maria Grafström and Karolina Windell, whose interest is in business news and the portrayal of corporate images as influenced by the relationship between media and business, with bloggers throw in as another complication. This is connected also with research into the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which has become better-known in recent years especially as a result of being promoted by the media.

The way the media have portrayed specific corporations is changing as a result; corporations are framed in different ways depending on whether a CSR perspective is included or not. To understand such different portrayal it is necessary to understand the production of business news, too, and to investigate the sources for different articles. Blogs now play a growing role in this context, and the study presented here especially examined articles about blogs in the business press (print, online, radio) as well as interviewing and surveying business journalists in Sweden.

Blog Discussions about the Framing of Science

The final session at Future of Journalism 2009 starts with Stuart Allan, whose focus is on science journalism. One important question here is one of framing - a discursive strategy used to define the nature of a public event; a contested process between journalists and their sources and within news organisations. Frames determine how claims made by sources are selected (or not) as newsworthy, and influence public perception - sources are very aware of this and will try ensure that their comments are seen in the appropriate light.

Successes and Failures of Citizen Journalism in China

The second session on the second day here at Future of Journalism 2009 is the one I'm in as well - but we start with Xin Xin, whose focus is on grassroots journalism in China in the context of the country's social and technological changes. This ties into the long-standing debate on the relationship between journalism and democracy, framed traditionally mainly around established democracies - so what's the story in a rapidly transforming society like China?

Xin suggests that the progressive role of Web 2.0 technologies and citizen journalism in the authoritarian society of China should not be overstated; rather, there is the need for a realistic assessment of citizen journalism in the wider journalistic context of the country. Current issues facing China are a growing gap between rich and poor, and attendant social injustices and conflicts; these divides are opening up in the context of technological changes which have led to China now fielding the largest - and on average, youngest - online population in the world (which remains somewhat disconnected from outside sources and critical voices due to the 'great firewall of China', though), and of a tightly controlled news media environment which is also increasingly marketised.

New Media as Digital 'Pavement Radio' Promoting Political Change in Zimbabwe

The final speaker at the Transforming Audiences conference is Dumisani Moyo, whose interest is in citizen journalism in the age of digital pavement radio in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe, of course, has experienced a series of crises in recent years, which can be traced back to the democratic deficits inherited from its colonial history.

The shrinkage of communicative space in Zimbabwe has been widely documented in recent years; this was driven by legislative and other means. How have ordinary Zimbabweans adjusted and reacted to this? Media remain seen as important elements in the country's political discourse, and were noted as such in the agreement that led to the establishment of the current unity government. There has also been a rise of various forms of citizen journalism, which supported the political shifts in recent years and continues to push for further change; even here, however, professional journalists have objected to the idea of citizen journalism and see the concept as undermining their own professional roles.

Blogging as the Collaborative Produsage of Sociality

The next presenter at Transforming Audiences is Stine Lomborg, examining blogging as a form of collaborative produsage. She focussed on three personal Danish blogs, and examined six months' worth of posts and comments for this study, as well as interviewing the authors. The produsage angle of this study examines blog-based communication as an ongoing collaborative development of a shared text; this is combined with socio-cognitive reception theory in which genre is seen as a socially distributed cognitive architecture. The texts themselves were studied using conversation analysis.

Performances of Self by Female A-List Bloggers in Sweden and their Readers

The post-lunch session at Transforming Audiences starts with a presentation by Mia Lövheim, whose study examines young (18-30 years) female A-List bloggers in Sweden. The interest here is not in link-blogging activities, but in the content created by the bloggers themselves, and the way they create identity and maintain personal relationships through these blogs; bloggers and readers in a way are co-creating the bloggers' identities here. How does this take place for A-List bloggers, though, whose popularity means that their posts are read by the established community of regular readers as well as by a much larger, more casual audience?

Citizen Consultation from Above and Below: The Australian Perspective (EDEM 2009)

EDEM 2009

Citizen Consultation from Above and Below: The Australian Perspective

Axel Bruns and Jason Wilson

  • 7-8 Sep. 2009 - 2009 Conference on Electronic Democracy, Vienna

In Australia, a range of Federal Government services have been provided online for some time, but direct, online citizen consultation and involvement in processes of governance is relatively new. Moves towards more extensive citizen involvement in legislative processes are now being driven in a "top-down" fashion by government agencies, or in a "bottom-up" manner by individuals and third-sector organisations. This chapter focusses on one example from each of these categories, as well as discussing the presence of individual politicians in online social networking spaces. It argues that only a combination of these approaches can achieve effective consultation between citizens and policymakers. Existing at a remove from government sites and the frameworks for public communication which govern them, bottom-up consultation tools may provide a better chance for functioning, self-organising user communities to emerge, but they are also more easily ignored by governments not directly involved in their running. Top-down consultation tools, on the other hand, may seem to provide a more direct line of communication to relevant government officials, but for that reason are also more likely to be swamped by users who wish simply to register their dissent rather than engage in discussion. The challenge for governments, politicians, and user communities alike is to develop spaces in which productive and undisrupted exchanges between citizens and policymakers can take place.


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