New publication: the hyperlinked news ecology

It’s been in process for around two year, so I’m very please to announce that Digital Journalism has just published the article “The Hyperlinked Scandinavian News Ecology. The unequal terms forged by the structural properties of digitalisation“. I’ve co-authored the article with Helle Sjøvaag, Eirik Stavelin, and Michael Karlsson (and I sure shouldn’t claim that the majority of the contributions were done by me).

Here’s the abstract:

The article presents a network analysis of 22,861,013 geocoded external hyperlinks, collected from 230 Danish, 220 Norwegian and 208 Swedish news websites in 2016. The analysis asks what the structural properties of the Scandinavian media systems—including its geography and ownership structures—mean for news outlets’ centrality within the hyperlinked news ecology. The analysis finds that whereas incumbent legacy media occupy central positions, about one third of the network is absent from the hyperlinked interaction, primarily local, independently owned newspapers. A multiple linear regression analysis shows that national distribution and corporate ownership correlates to network centrality more than other predictors. As brokers in the network consist of the large, legacy, capital-based news organisations, hyperlink connectivity is primarily characterised by proximity to the centres of power, corporate ownership, agenda setting incumbency and national distribution.

The study is the first published result from the research project ““The Hyperlinked News Network in Scandinavia” (2017-2020), which is headed by Helle Sjøvaag and funded through a 10 m SEK grant from the Ander Foundation. We are currently working of several studies that pursue similar ideas to the ones in this article.

New position @ the ITU

A bit of personal news: As of today, I join the IT University in Copenhagen (ITU) as Assistant Professor.

At ITU, I will become part of the Digital Society and Communication (DiSCo) section. Closely connected to DiSCo is the DECIDIS research network, which is a strategic priority area aimed at researching “democracy and citizenship in [the] digital society”. In many regards, it’s closely connected to my own research into how digitalization transforms society’s existing (“old”) institutions, even if my focus is on the media sector rather than the political field.

To begin with, I will work on a number of somewhat inter-connected projects: media policy and the welfare state, media innovation, digital subscriptions on news (partly within the framework of the Digitization and Diversity – Potentials and challenges for diversity in the culture and media sector project at the Norwegian Business School in Oslo), data exchanges in news apps, digital adaptation and organizational transformations in newsrooms, the geography of inter-media agenda-setting, journalists’ use of Twitter, and the practices of online amateur-reviewers (part of Nete Nørgaard Kristensen’s FITT project). Many of the projects are collaborations across borders and institutions.

In terms of teaching, I’ll teach the course “Digital Media and Communication” together with Luca Rossi this Fall and then reboot the “Digital Rhetorics” course next Spring. Furthermore, I expect to organize a PhD course on the digital economy in the Fall of 2017.

And finally, I’m involved (at very different levels) in the organization of three conferences in the near future:

For the last two years and a half, I’ve worked at the Centre for Journalism at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best people I know, and the collaborations and friendships opened there will continue. On that note, this picture is from the farewell reception I held with a number of colleagues late in June: fellow Aslak Gottlieb introduces the second-best gin in the world to a bunch of good colleagues, capturing the atmosphere in Odense at its best.

Largely, the research environment at the ITU DiSCo section is shaped by the humanities and the more sociologically informed parts of social science. In that regards, it’s somewhat closer to my own background – even if more hardcore economics is one of the disciplines I’m currently also reaching out to in order to conduct some of my research on the digital economy of the news industry,

This will be fun. Stay tuned.

Update, August 2, 2016: As Turo Uskali correctly points out in the comment below, I will also be involved in the organization of the NordMedia 2017 conference in Tampere, Finland (August, 2017). Since I’m chair of SMiD, I’m automatically part of the NordMedia steering committee. Furthermore, I currently serve as chair of the Journalism Studies division.

New publication: post-industrial cultural criticism

It has been a busy summer in terms of publications as two articles, which I have worked on for quite some time, have finally been published and I have spent a lot of time writing my Danish-language textbook on online journalism (due to serious sickness, however, the actual finishing of the book manuscript is again postponed).

So, earlier this summer, the prestigious journal Journalism Practice published my research article “Post-Industrial Cultural Criticism: The everyday amateur expert and the online cultural public sphere“.

Here is the abstract:

Integrating perspectives from research into cultural and post-industrial journalism, this article presents a pilot study of websites with reviews of arts and culture conducted by amateurs. Such websites constitute a popular space for cultural criticism, and one that challenges traditional hierarchies within journalism. The article maps which Danish websites conduct arts and culture reviews, asks what features these websites have that facilitate public discourse, and measures the actual discussion on the websites. While academic diagnoses of the state of the online public sphere have generally been discouraging, this article argues that this is partly due to a strong focus on politics rather than on culture and illustrates how the cultural public sphere of online reviews constitutes a heterogeneous space for a public discussion about arts and culture. Furthermore, it shows that some amateur reviewers have highly specialized knowledge of culture and, on that basis, argues that the emergence of this type of critic might represent a qualitative strengthening of cultural criticism.

The article is the first tangible result of a long-time collaboration I’ve had (and have) with colleagues from Denmark and abroad in the NOS-HS funded research network Cultural Journalism in the Nordic Countries. The work will continue in the collaborative research project “From Ivory Tower to Twitter: Rethinking the Cultural Critic in Contemporary Media Culture”, which is headed by Nete Nørgaard Kristensen and has just received 6.2 m DKK from the Danish Council for Independent Research.

The article is part of a special issue of Journalism Practice on Cultural Journalism and the Media Reporting of Culture, which is edited by Nete Nørgaard Kristensen and Unni From and will be published in hard copy in December, 2015.

My article draws heavily upon some of the thoughts presented in the report Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present by C.W. Anderson, Emily Bell, and Clay Shirky (2013) – if you have not read it yet, I absolutely recommend it. (Their work, in turn, borrows from an old article on Doc Searls’ blog.)

Because of the publisher’s business model, access to the article requires subscription, but send me an email and I’ll send you an early version of the article.

Theorizing (changes in research into) cultural policy

Earlier this month, I attended the 2nd International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP) in Milan. For thoughts on the conference as such, I recommend Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blog post about his experiences at the conference – the purpose of this post is somewhat different, namely to try to structure some thoughts that I have had since the conference and, thereby, hopefully continue and contribute to the specific discussion I was part of in Milan. (Comments are most welcome below.)

My paper ”Media Policy Responses to the Convergence of News Media Sectors in Denmark” was part of a 13-paper panel on cultural policy organized by Kate Mattocks (City University London) and Lisa Marx (University of Geneva). Mattocks and Marx did a very good job in putting this panel together, and I think everybody learned something from the presentations and discussions.

The most important discussion arose after the section where I presented (but not because of me, I must emphasize!). Here, Clive Gray from Warwick University served as discussant, and instead of offering feedback on the presented papers (which is the normal approach in that situation), he took one step back and asked why all the papers were studies that explored some small instance of cultural policy in some concrete setting instead of asking larger questions about what cultural policy is for, what it is in the first place, and what is actually at stake in the contexts of the studies. I cannot remember the exact way he phrased his critique, but I think it is fair to say that he would have preferred more work that offered critical reflection on these questions than the papers in the panel had done so far.

Gray is right that we might be prone to focus more on “small” empirical studies, where we subject some piece of policy to intense scrutiny, and thereby miss the bigger picture – namely the question about what cultural policy really is, what its consequences are, and how different actors with different interests use the very concept of culture in very different ways. “All uses of the concept of culture can be both attacked and defended”, Gray asserted in his own presentation; cultural policy is a contested area where opposing views and interests compete for discursive hegemony as well as practical influence.

I know Gray intended to be provocative and kickstart an important discussion, so I will just put it out there for the record that while I agree with his overall point, I also think that we should avoid neglecting the value of empirical studies of even very small cases; the larger discussion about “culture” is important, but if we do not have a firm grounding in empirical data and interpretations of them, we risk disconnecting the normative discussion from the facts. But I do not disagree with Gray that we need more critical thinking about the very idea of culture and the implications of using that concept in the ways that we do (Raymond Williams famously called culture “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language“).

What I think would be a most interesting direction to move forward, however, would be to apply Gray’s ambition of addressing the bigger questions to the very tendency of smaller studies.

Rather than lament the absence of papers that asks grand questions about what culture and what cultural policy is, we should ask why 12 in 13 papers in the panel was of an empirical nature. Is it because it is considered easier to do empirical work than to develop theory? Is it because the “publish or perish” paradigm of higher education organizations grants primacy to this type of academic activity, which is often faster to do and can result in more journal articles (which, again, is particularly important for junior scholars who do not yet have tenure)? Is it because we cannot all think the big thoughts?

And is it really a bad thing – or is it necessary for the theoretical development of the field to have these empirical studies to rest upon?

So, while we look forward to the 3rd International Conference on Public Policy in 2017, it might be fruitful to start theorizing not only culture and cultural policy but also the current tendencies in cultural policy research.