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Citizen and Hyperlocal Journalism as the Fifth Estate

As it turns out, I have two papers in this post-lunch session on the last day of AoIR 2008 - in competing sessions. Luckily, Lars Kirchhoff and Thomas Nicolai are on hand to present one of them (I'll post the slides for this as soon as I get them from the two) - and I'm here to present my paper with Jason Wilson and Barry Saunders on hyperlocal citizen journalism (understood here in a relatively broad sense).

The first speaker here is William Dutton from the Oxford Internet Institute, whose aim is to move beyond terms such as Netizen and citizen journalism and towards an understanding of various political uses of the Net as forming a fifth estate, in addition to the press as a fourth estate in society. Such uses promote social accountability in business, industry, government, politics, and other sectors.

Status Hierarchies in Web 2.0 Environments

The post-lunch session here at AoIR 2008 starts with Paul Emerson Teusner, presenting on the presence of emerging religious movements in the blogosphere. How do authority rankings in the blogosphere affect the standing of such religious bloggers? Paul focusses here on a sample of 30 blogs in the Australian blogosphere, examined between July and October 2006.

This is backgrounded by the rise of Web 2.0 and its growth in user-led content production, of course, as well as by the merging of public and private spheres through social networking technologies. However, the effects of these phenomena are not so strongly felt in the religious blogosphere as yet - traditional religious authorities have not yet been replaced by any form of user-led religiosity, in other words. What is common to the blogs studied is an understanding that any culture war between Christianity and secularism has been lost, so the focus is not on missionary efforts but simply on developing a sustainable arrangement with the secular mainstream.

The Future of Journalism Arrives in Brisbane Next Week

The Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (the key union for Australian media workers) has recently begun to organise a series of events titled "The Future of Journalism", bringing together industry and citizen journalists, academics, and other media experts to explore future developments in the news media. The first of these was held in Sydney in May, covered by Jason Wilson at Gatewatching and Rachel Hills at New Matilda, and now it's Brisbane's turn - at QUT's Gardens Theatre on 13 September 2008.

Is There an Australian Blogosphere?

A few days ago Geert Lovink contacted me with some interview questions regarding our research into the Australian political blogosphere - this is for a new book, Blog Theory, that he's working on with Jodi Dean for release on Polity Press. Here's what I had to say:

GL: You have just done research into the Australian blogosphere. Do you think there is something like an Australian blogosphere and how would you characterize it?

Well, let me start by saying that 'the blog' is simply a media technology (similar to 'the book' or 'the television'), which can be used in any number of different ways. And similar to those other media technologies (where we also don't speak of a 'booksphere' or 'televisionsphere', I've long argued that we're well past the point where to speak of 'blogging' as a unified form makes sense any more.

Approaches to Collaborative Production

The next day at ISEA 2008 has started. The first presentation this morning, by Susan Kerrigan, is about a creative research PhD project related to Fort Scratchley in Newcastle, New South Wales (which went through a number of names before the current name stuck). The fort guarded the harbour entrance for some time before being shut down and becoming a public space; it was recently restored.

The story to be told about it is both a military and a broader story, then. The approach to this work, then, is a rational, not a romantic approach to creativity, rejecting the auteur model and instead adopting a confluence model that brings together the individual, the field, and the surrounding culture. Susan came out of ABC TV, bringing those individual skills; cultural aspects included the body of knowledge already existing in the context of her project (not least also the local history relating to the fort); and the field within which she operated included the cultural intermediaries acting as gatekeepers, stakeholders, and collaborators. She also had to work with various institutional stakeholders, of course - from Newcastle City Council to various other bodies with a connection to the site and its history.

Network Politics, Political Networks

The first full day at ISEA 2008 starts with a number of parallel paper sessions - and the first paper in one of these sessions is mine (that is, the paper I've co-authored with Jason Wilson, Barry Saunders, Tim Highfield, Lars Kirchhoff, and Thomas Nicolai). I've posted the slides below, and will try to record the audio as well the audio is up now, too.

The next paper is by Atteqa Malik, who begins with a political rock video from Pakistan that has now been parodied by the Pakistani lawyers' movement (replacing rock musicians with lawyers, etc.). That movement, and other online and offline protests, is in response to the takeover of mainstream Pakistani media during the Musharraf regime, of course - indeed, there has been an explosion of media channels in Pakistan in recent years. One further catalyst for such developments was the 2005 earthquake, which created a strong response from younger generations.

Jill Walker's Blogging

It looks like I received my copy of the book even before the author herself did, but with the excitement of the CCi conference last week, I haven't got around to acknowledging it yet: Jill Walker Rettberg's book Blogging is now out. Congratulations!

Jill, of course, is one of the world's best-known academic bloggers, and so I was very pleased to offer an endorsement for the back cover. Here's what I wrote:

Beyond the Pro/Am Schism: Opportunities for Collaboration betw. Professional and Citizen Journalists under a Produsage Framework

CCi 2008

Beyond the Pro/Am Schism: Opportunities for Collaboration between Professional and Citizen Journalists under a Produsage Framework

Axel Bruns

  • 25 June 2008 - CCi 2008 conference, Brisbane, Australia

The emergence of citizen journalism, and the challenges it poses for the conventional journalism industry, have been well-documented over the past decade. Citizen journalism has been hailed as a new "Estate 4.5" (Singer 2006), acting as a watchdog for a journalism industry increasingly compromised by commercial and political agendas; it has been seen as making possible a return to a more dialogic, deliberative engagement with the news (Heikkilä & Kunelius 2002) in which a broader range of perspectives are represented and engage with one another; it has been described as shifting focus from the global and generic to the hyperlocal and specific.

Futures for Journalism?

The next plenary speaker in this very enjoyable session on day two of the CCi conference is Margaret Simons, asking the question "What are journalists for?" She begins by noting the role of the Australian Press Council, long perceived as a publishers' poodle, and recounts how she has recently been contacted by a researcher at the APC inquiring about the development of journalistic staff numbers in Australian publishers - publishers themselves were not interested to share these numbers, presumably because there is a strong decline in numbers in the current, distressed context of the journalism industry.


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