fredag 27 november 2009

Bloggers and the social/mass media ecology


Thesis proposal

Points of departure:

- The 20th century industrial (mass media) information economy now has competition from the 21st century networked (Internet/social media) information economy.

- There is a huge volume of new ”voices” being accessible in the (social) media landscape, but are they heard? And what drives these authors to spend time on blogging/being non-commercial non-market information producers?

- What is the relationship between traditional mass media and social media?

Most blogs have few readers, many have some and a few have many. With the arrival of social media, there are now possibilities that never existed before of ”narrowcasting” news and information of any and all kinds. It is all of a sudden possible to get access to a large variety of opinions, experiences and points of view besides the traditional (few) channels available in the mass media landscape. Instead of the traditional high-cost, high-volume model, anyone can now ”own a printing press” and publish on the Internet. Most authors/publishers migh have little to say that it of general interest, but some have and thus fill the previously empty space between interpersonal and mass-media communication.

What follows are examples of possible thesis projects that are organized in clusters. Each cluster is large enough to house not just one but several possible thesis topics. You should probably contain your thesis question(s) to only one cluster.

Thesis cluster1.

Who are these non-market non-commercial publishers? What are their motivations? What does their ”careers” as amateur/semi-professional bloggers look like? How much time do they spend blogging? What are their aspirations (if any) for the future? What is their relationship to, and how do they think about and position themeselves in relation to traditional media?

Thesis cluster 2

What does the ecosystem of small, medium-sized and large nodes/hubs/blogs look like? Choose a limited, topically related area/cluster (for example a specific hobby or a specific area of interest) and quantitavely measure the connectedness of members to other member of that same cluster. Who do they link to on their blog/web page (”blog roll”) and in their texts over a set period of time (for example a month)? Which blogs are the ”small fish”, which are the hubs, are there any superstars in the area that you have chosen to study? (Is it possible to identify characteristics of hubs/superstars that make them superstars inside a topically related cluster?). Here is an example of a cluster:

There is a cluster is (critical) economy blogs. Traditional economic journalism has sometimes been accused of cooperating a little to closely with the companies they are supposed to exaine and of not being critical enough of business and financial markets. But there are nowadays a variety of critical voices on the Internet who pick up and report on economic news from another (oftentimes critical) angle. What does this cluster of independent, critical economy bloggers look like and how does this cluster function? How do ”news” get picked up (from other blogs of from mainstream media), propagated and become commented upon within that network?

Thesis cluster 3.

What is the relationship of actors in the traditional mass media circuit (individual journalists and editors as well as radio stations, newspapers and television stations) to social media? How do traditional actors use social media (for example a radio program with its own blog). How do they use or even link to social media sites (journalists reading (perhaps specialized) blogs to keep up with a complex issues and/or reading eye-witness reports from an area that has been hit by a disaster)? Interview journalists and editors!

Thesis cluster 4.

How do we as media consumers protect ourselves against this barrage of information? How do we chose our information channels in a world of abundant information? Choose one or a few blogs in a topically related cluster of you choice and try to get hold of their readers (”followers” or people who subscribe to the blog feed). What does their (traditional and social) media habits look like? What do they get out of blogs/social media that mainstream media does not/can not satisfy?

For this thesis, suggested reading for getting started is:

- Benker, Jochai (2006), ”The wealth of networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom” (read primarily part 2 of the book - the whole book is available online for free)

- Gillmor, Dan (2006) "We the media: Grassroots journalism by the people for the people"

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