Noget af det, jeg meget ofte støder på i samtaler med lærere på alle niveauer i undervisningssektoren, er en bekymring omkring fake news (/falske nyheder/bevidst misinformation). Hvad er det egentlig? Hvad kan og skal vi gøre ved det? Og hvordan lærer børn og unge bedst at være mediekritiske? Det er en reel bekymring, og den bør for mig at se være et centralt fokusområde for undervisningssystemet i disse år. For det er i sidste ende samfundet, demokratiet og vor tillid til hinanden, der er i skudlinjen, når misinformation, der ligner nyheder, forurener den offentlige samtale.
Et lille bidrag til denne diskussion er den følgende liste med ressourcer, som kan bruges i undervisningen (eller i hvert fald i forberedelsen af den). Det meste er på engelsk. Listen er egentlig lavet på Twitter, men jeg lægger den ud her, så den er samlet ét sted og forhåbentlig kan være til glæde og gavn for andre også.
Factitious: Et lille spil, hvor man skal gennemskue, om en given nyhed er reel eller opdigtet. Forklarer pædagogisk, hvad man bør holde øje med (efter man har taget fejl).
Fake It To Make It: Endnu et spil – her skal man imidlertid opbygge sit eget imperium for falske nyheder. Illustrerer godt de kommercielle mekanismer, der ligger bag fænomenet.
“Bliv din egen detektor“: Undervisningsmateriale fra DR’s Detektor, hvor man med spil, graf-generator og test kan blive klogere på at gennemskue budskaber og lave egne faktatjek. (Tak til Dennis J. Frederiksen for tippet.)
“Fransk valg: Sådan blev de største fake news-angreb afmonteret“: Et case-studie af politisk fake news ved det franske præsidentvalg i 2017 – og de metoder, der blev brugt til at stoppe og modvirke det. Skrevet af Pierre Collignon, der som fellow på Syddansk Universitet kigger nærmere på fake news og misinformation.
“Kan teknologien redde os fra falske nyheder?“: Video fra et debat-arrangement, vi i april holdt på IT-Universitetet i København. Der er oplæg af bl.a. mig og Natalie Schluter, som forholder sig til teknologiske muligheder for at bekæmpe fake news.
Listen er på ingen måde udtømmende. Har jeg glemt noget vigtigt? Så lad mig vide det, gerne i kommentarfeltet nedenfor.
Yesterday, I gave a guest lecture at the Center for Journalism at the University of Southern Denmark about current developments in the media. Before the lecture, I tweeted one of the slides from my presentation – a slide showing a scene from the immensely popular Danish television drama “Matador” (a shared reference for everyone i Denmark) with the word “disruption” in the upper-left corner.
The tweet had more impact than would have expected; a lot of people have asked for the slides. So, by popular demand, here they are – slightly edited and in Danish: “Forandringer i mediebranchen“.
The irony, by the way, is that I used the opportunity to take a shot at the widespread use of the concept of disruption, which is disconnected from the way Bower and Christensen (1995) defined it in their seminal essay “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave“.
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.
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.
What is the role of digital journalism in journalism education?
It is an important question, and it is one that I have discussed and thought about more than usually since yesterday. The occasion is an opinion piece by Signe Okkels on Journalisten.dk (the trade journal for Danish journalists) where she critiques the journalism study programs in Denmark for not taking the digital dimension serious even though the digital is probably here to stay. Okkels studied journalism at Roskilde University and her point of comparison is a nine-months program at University of Southern California. Her conclusion:
“The level of Danish journalism education must simply be improved, and that calls for a different prioritization of and attitude toward digital journalism.” (translated by me)
It would be easy to just dismiss the critique as anecdotal (“well, that’s just her experience”) and off the mark (what does Okkels know about the other journalism educations in Denmark, including the one I work at?). But I actually think that, to some degree, she has a point – and her piece certainly struck a chord among people in the news industry:
The people tweeting here are obviously ones who pay more attention to the digital and will likely place more emphasis on it than your average editor or journalist (for one thing, they discuss this matter on Twitter…). But that does not disqualify their points of view. On the contrary: they work with the tensions and conflicts that surround the digital in newsrooms on an everyday basis. They know what this is about. For that reason alone, it would be wrong for journalism educators to just discard Okkels’ piece.
I agree with much of what Okkels and her tweeting supporters say. At the journalism study programs, we can do better in integrating digital with everything we do. Or rather, we should stop treating digital as a distinct category and instead teach our students to work with writing, audio, and visuals across all media. Instead of teaching “television and radio”, we should teach “moving images and sound”. We should teach our students about emerging business models, social media skills, WordPress, scraping, and the basic principles of coding as integral parts of the existing curriculum. In many instances, we should get rid of the “digital” prefix – nobody talks about “analogue” or “electronic” journalism, right?
But the thing is – and this is where I respectfully disagree with Okkels’ assessment of current journalism education in Denmark – that we already do much of this. At least at the Centre for Journalism at SDU where I work; what the other institutions do, I cannot speak for. We do not do it all the time, and we do not do it everywhere. But in our “old” MA program, my “J-Lab” course on media innovation and concept development in a transformed media environment is now mandatory. And on the new MA program, which just started on September 1, digital is one of the three cornerstones: the students must make their own websites and publish on it, they learn to write and produce audio and video for whatever platform they choose, and they will spend half a year on a “digital project” in collaboration with media organizations. It is our explicit ambition that these students excel at being digital journalists when they graduate.
I do not mean to be self-congratulatory, because we are not there (wherever that may be) yet. Could we move faster? Yes. Should we move faster? Yes, I think so. Should we be more agile and adapt to changes faster than we do? Yes, of course.
It is one thing that universities are slow organizations with above-average institutional inertia. But Magnus Bjerg from Danish TV 2 raises an important issue in his tweet as does Pernille Holbøll from free daily MetroXpress: not very many students are actually all that interested in the digital. Their observation corresponds with my own experiences from teaching our students and what I hear from colleagues on other Danish universities. Sure, digital is fine and all, but what really matters is getting your byline on the front-page of the printed newspaper or in the evening news. In that context, it is sometimes uphill for educators who actually want to push things in a digital direction (but we can, of course, be better – I am not making excuses). That is also a serious challenge for the news organizations now and in years to come, no doubt about that.
I cannot help thinking that all of this connects somehow to another issue that journalism education at universities must deal with: the theory vs. practice issue. While most professors, themselves socialized in an academic system, are interested in giving their students as much knowledge as possible, most students are interested in practicing journalism and learning the tricks of the trade. They do, after all, study journalism in order to become journalists.
But as Kurt Lewin put it, “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” A theoretical perspective can inform practice and distinguish the reflexive practitioner from the one who is just doing a job. I strongly believe that in times of rapid and profound contingency changes, practitioners are better off with more theoretical knowledge, not less. And I do not necessarily see a conflict between the theory and practice when they can be mutually informing.
You can, with all due respect, always learn to make a timeline with Timeline.js and embed it on your site, but seeing through the communicative structures of the hybrid media system is not necessarily something you can just do just as good without being familiar with Chadwick’s scholarship.
One example (anecdotal, I am afraid): in most of my under-graduate courses, I at some point present Habermas’ theory of the public sphere to the students. Even though I am quite explicit about my reasons for doing so, I cannot escape the feeling that only the smartest of the students actually grasp why this is important (it proposes one very influential framework for understanding journalism’s raison-d’être), and even they would rather be out there interviewing sources for their next piece of journalism… It will sometimes (often?) be years, before they get the “oh, that’s what he was talking about” moment.
The challenge is that theory is abstract, insights come slowly, and this type of knowledge often exists as a reservoir of understandings that help inform what one does but not always in an explicit or obvious way. Practical skills are concrete, they can be acquired on a basic level fast(er), and they are part of everyday professional life. I understand why students (and their employers-to-be) do not always appreciate the need for and relevance of theory here and now when they could improve their practical skills. (By the way, the tension is of course not new. In 1958, it was what kept the conflict going between Doris Day and Clark Gable in the movie Teacher’s Pet.)
But I think it will be a slippery slope to just focus more on the practical skills, even though they are in high demand, at the expense of the theoretical dimension. Rather, I think we need to re-calibrate the journalism study programs in line with what I have mentioned above. I think we are doing the right thing with our new MA program. And I think we as researchers and educators at journalism study programs could be better in articulating why theoretical approaches can be useful for the students and the news industry. American scholars like NikkiUsher and Mark Coddington are extremely good at this; we can learn from them.
The critique from Okkels and others has two dimensions, one that has to do with what we do (where I actually think we might be a little more digital than we are given credit for) and one that has to do with our pace of adapting (where I think we could be better). Within the structural framework of universities, we – and again, I cannot speak for other than myself and my closest colleagues – try to work with these issues in a way that does not compromise scholarly quality; as C.W. Anderson has argued, one of the unique features of academia is that we actually have time and are expected to think hard about our objects of study, which takes a lot of time. Sometimes the slow approach is the best way to generate new insight, even though it obviously clashes with rapid and radical transformations that take place here and now. I do not mention this as an excuse, rather as an explanation. And it does not exempt us from being digital enough in our teaching. We can do more in that area.
If I should wish for something in return, it would be that our students embrace the digital more than they do today. It is, in all likelihood, where many of them will spend their entire career, but it is all too rare that a critique such as Okkels’ is put forth.
Full disclosure: The Danish community of journalism educators is small, and the circle of people teaching and researching digital journalism is even smaller. For this reason, I know the people Okkels critiques and even consider many of them good friends. I hope this has not clouded my judgment on this matter.
Update, September 15, 2015: The discussion has continued today, and I have added the tweet by Pernille Holbøll above. Furthermore, Filip Wallberg and Mads-Jakob Vad Kristensen have contributed to the discussion on their respective blogs; their basic argument is that starting one’s own medium should be mandatory for all journalism students.
How can members of the audience contribute to the production of online news? In two new videos (which are in Danish) called Digital kildeinddragelse, the online editor of Danish newspaper Information, Nicolai Thyssen, and I give some answers to that question.
The basic argument I present in the video is from one of the research articles of my PhD dissertation: audience participation in the production of online news can be divided into four different types. 1) Information privision. 2) Collaboration, where members of audiences conduct journalistic work. 3) Conversation, where there is a more social interplay between journalists and readers. 4) Meta-communication, where audiences focus on the very production of the news, highlighting issues of transparency, etc. That article is currently in review in both a Danish and an English version.
I’m happy to announce that in the Spring semester, we’ll welcome Ben Falk as a visiting lecturer at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication. Ben is an English journalist, currently teaching journalism at London Metropolitan University, and in the week of February 25, 2013, he’ll participate in teaching activities at my department. The visit is part of the European researcher exchange program LLP/Erasmus.
Ben will participate in three arrangements here in Copenhagen: First, he’ll give a lecture on my MA course about news and journalism in Denmark. Second, he’ll visit Marianne Lentz’ course on practical journalism writing, drawing upon his experience as a journalist. And third, he’ll participate in the open seminar “The production or arts and cultural journalism” alongside associate professor Nete Nørgaard Kristensen from my department. This seminar will be held on February 28 from 10am to 12pm in room 22.0.11 at the Southern Campus of University of Copenhagen. Admission to this seminar is free of charge and registration is not necessary, so everybody is welcome.
The best ideas and the most interesting projects are often conceived in the company of people with different perspectives and backgrounds. For this reason as well, I look forward to welcoming Ben to Copenhagen.
This is a public service announcement: next Spring, after having handed in my PhD dissertation in January, I will be teaching two courses at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication on the University of Copenhagen. Even though both courses will be in Danish, students can take their exams in English, so foreign students shouldn’t hesitate to contact me if they’re interested in the subjects.
The first course is called Nyheder og journalistik i Danmark [News and journalism in Denmark] and will be on MA level. It is an elective module and will be about my key research-interest, namely news and journalism and their place in a broader societal context.
The other course is a compulsory course for our BA students and is called Faktateori og -analyse [Non-Fiction Theory and Analysis]. Years ago, when I was a student myself, this course (then taught by my excellent colleague today Nete Nørgaard Kristensen) played a very important part in turning my interest towards journalism, so it’s fun for me to now come somewhat full circle and be the one teaching it.