- Pablo Boczkowski (Northwestern University) email
- Christopher Anderson (College of Staten Island - The City University of New York) email
This panel aims to overcome the relative lack of focus on materiality, artifacts, and technology in mainstream scholarship news production by drawing on concepts central to Science and Technology Studies (STS).
In most classic scholarship about journalism and most of the classic research about how the news is made, what it consists of, how it circulates in society, and what effects it has on politics and culture, most likely you will find an account of words, the people who wrote or said them, and the organizations they belonged to and interacted with. Virtually ignored, in the mainstream research tradition, are the transformations in the material conditions of news production, distribution, and reception of information that have marked the past few centuries of journalistic production.
This closed panel session, drawing on an edited book manuscript featuring some of the leading scholars in the field of journalism studies, attempts to overcome this relative lack of focus on materiality, artifacts, and technology in the realm of news production. In doing this, it aims to synthesize emerging research about the relationship between technology and news production, as well as push this research in new directions. Each of the papers in this panel discusses how the field of digital journalism studies relates to (a) traditional journalism scholarship in the pre-digital world (b) scholarship in other fields such as sociology, political communication, anthropology, cultural studies, and science and technology studies and perhaps most importantly and (c) what big ideas, findings, or concepts digital journalism research provides these external bodies of scholarship, rather than what it simply imports from them.
This track is closed to new paper proposals.
A manifesto of failure for digital journalism
This presentation argues for the need to pay attention to failure in the study of digital journalism. Scholarship has focused on success over failure; and on innovation over resistance to change. Such an emphasis may render actual practices invisible, constituting an epistemological blind spot.
This presentation argues for the need to pay attention to failure in the study of digital journalism. The field of journalism studies has frequently focused on new technology over old; on success to the detriment of failure; on innovation over resistance to change, and on the cutting edge over the conservative. Yet such an emphasis may not be consistent with understanding the plethora of actual practices, and may therefore constitute an epistemological blind spot. This is not to suggest that failure has been entirely ignored in journalism studies and related areas. Here we can learn from the growing body of work on journalism practice in todays' complex media ecology, which has traced difficulties in adapting to new realities. Further, we can enrich our methods for studying failure by drawing on the insights of other social science fields which have long taken it seriously, as an integral part of social life in general and organizational change in particular, including complexity theory and the sociology of scientific knowledge.
The presentation seeks to set out a research agenda based on taking failure seriously. Such a research agenda needs to pay attention to power relations within and between news organizations, and the ways in which particular - and often less privileged -- forms of news practice might be more likely to fail. Here, I see inattention to marginal and unfashionable practices as part of a broader problem of neglecting failure, but one which it most urgent to address.
On the Worlds of Journalism
Making a conceptual provocation about the “worlds” of journalism, we argue that, to understand technological change, it is useful to bring into focus the collective nature of journalism—including ambient, data, and algorithmic forms—and the relative status afforded to certain actors and activities.
This paper makes a broad conceptual provocation about what we call the "worlds" of journalism. We argue that, to understand the nature of technological change in journalism, it is important to adopt a lens that brings into focus the collective nature of journalism—its interconnected people, processes, and products—as well as the relative status, or valuation, afforded to certain actors and activities. Drawing on symbolic interactionism as a theoretical framework, and in particular Becker's (1982/2008) application of its ideas to the study of "art worlds," we call for considering journalism and specifically ambient, data, and algorithmic journalism as a series of distinct but intersecting "worlds." These worlds represent networks of social actors, labor activities, material infrastructures, and patterns of production that collectively enable and legitimize particular forms of journalism. Seeing journalism in light of worlds, we argue, accentuates at least three things: (1) the heterogeneity that exists among social actors (humans) and technological actants (machines) and their activities; (2) the development and negotiation of various conventions that give shape to certain creative works; and (3) the resulting arrangements that, while constantly in flux, lend distinctive value (and thus status) to certain people, practices, and products. Such valuations matter ultimately in shaping understandings of and expectations for journalism as a social enterprise that is increasingly technological in orientation.
Professional Culture, Technology, and Innovation in the News Industry
Our contribution tackles the question of professionalism using both a historical and a contemporary setting for the investigation of entrepreneurship and innovation in journalism.
Given the profoundly precarious condition of the news industry and the corresponding casualization of the journalism labor market, it should come as no surprise that a significant focus in the field of journalism studies is directed toward innovation and entrepreneurialism. This focus runs the risk of ignoring the past, as innovation has been key to structural developments in journalism. It also tends to come with a barely contained normative agenda, in that innovation and professionals becoming entrepreneurial tends to be seen as a good thing. The research focus tends to align with a treatment of entrepreneurialism and innovation in strictly managerial, economic and business terms, following a neatly boundaried institutional agenda, focusing largely on legacy news organizations and the content they produce. What gets lost in the shuffle is a dimension of research that is central to the object of journalism studies: professionalization, the development of a professional identity, a news culture (particular to a country, a news organization, or division), and of an occupational ideology that works in different ways for a wide variety of practitioners professionally involved with gathering, selecting, editing, publishing and publicizing news. Our contribution tackles these questions using both a historical and a contemporary setting for the investigation of entrepreneurship and innovation in journalism. The emergence of a new journalistic genre on television in the fifties and sixties is compared with the emergence of the current startup culture in journalism. This comparison is used to highlight particular challenges and opportunities for doing journalism studies in a dynamic field.
The Whitespace Press: Designing Meaningful Absences into Networked News
An analysis of how the contemporary press could create meaningful absences by creating networked whitespaces that help guarantee a public right to hear.
Dryzek (2002) wrote that the "most effective and insidious way to silence others in politics is a refusal to listen." (p. 149) But listening often fails to register as full-fledged participation, neglected among democratic institutions focused on helping people speak, publishing stories, adding to the marketplace of ideas. The press is one such institution. With its increasing dependence upon networked, technological infrastructures, an opportunity exists to reimagine the networked press as a listening institution - to create infrastructures that not only create speech but also opportunities to listen. In this paper, I show how and why the networked press might re-imagine its democratic mission by reconfiguring its material infrastructures in ways that engender and encourage listening. In this paper, I describe the conceptual underpinnings of a democratic theory of listening, focused on affirmative theory of speech freedom; review how domains other than journalism—from graphic design to musicology—use whitespace to create meaningful, material absences; trace traditional meanings of absence through historical studies on news institutions; and present a typology of contemporary, networked absences in today's journalistic infrastructures. I argue that the contemporary press could create meaningful absences by creating networked whitespaces that help guarantee a public right to hear.
Dryzek, John S. (2002). Deliberative democracy and beyond: Liberals, critics, contestations. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Words and Things: Technology and the Futures of Journalism Scholarship
This paper argues that a journalism studies ought to be more more sensitive to technology, materiality, and socio-technical culture and discusses the ways to enact this research agenda.
In most scholarship about journalism and most of the classic research about how the news is made, what it consists of, how it circulates in society, and what effects it has on politics and culture, most likely you will find an account of words, the people who wrote or said them, and the organizations they belonged to and interacted with. Virtually ignored, in the mainstream research tradition, are the transformations in the material conditions of news production, distribution, and reception of information that have marked the past few centuries of journalistic production.
This paper argues that a journalism studies research agenda more sensitive to technology, materiality, and socio-technical culture ought to emphasize two overall areas. First, it needs to rethink its relationship with other fields of study that also concern themselves with communication and technology, particularly in terms of the degree to which it imports the finding of other theories rather than providing its own insights to other fields. Second, it needs to rethink where exactly the boundaries of journalism lie, and how technological artifacts and practices reconfigure our understanding of what journalism is and how to study it.
This track is closed to new paper proposals.