Dr. Abby Goodrum of the Ryerson School of Journalism started The Mediasphere and the Blogosphere research project in January 2006.  I’m Dr. Goodrum’s research assistant, Susannah Schmidt. I’m a j-student in the 2 year journalism program for university grads at Ryerson. 

The first job Abby gave me was starting this blog to keep track of developments, process….so the blog consists mainly of my notebook scrawls and ideas for Abby and I to go back to.

There’s an academic abstract below about the project’s aims.

We’re examining mainstream on-line national news media in Canada and its relationship to blogging. To start, we’ll track how on-line national news providers (CBC, Radio Canada, CTV, Global, Globe and Mail, The National Post, Maclean’s) rely on or reference blogs in hard news, and how political and news bloggers relate to mainstream media.

Yes, some of these terms are vague. That’s why Abby suggested we start by defining them!  More on that in the weekly blog postings, where I’ll share what questions and directions are emerging.

Je vous invite de partager vos pensées en Francais si ca vous convient.

Academic Abstract

This project examines the influence of blogs on the mediasphere by mapping their social and practice networks as well as the perceived roles that each brings to these social and practice networks by looking at relationships of connectivity. The study builds on recent work by Bruns (2005) that analysed the similarities between the mediasphere and blogosphere, and that examined participatory and collaborative online newsmaking in relationship to traditional journalism.

Weblogs account for a very small percentage of internet traffic. Only 4% of Americans online report going to weblogs for their information, news and opinions (Pew Internet Project, 2003). Nevertheless, Weblogs occupy an increasingly important role in the provision of online news. Recently, weblogs have uncovered important or underdeveloped aspects of news stories. Bloggers’ rapid dissemination of information, and bloggers’ and journalists’ scrutiny of personal blogs of public figures have exposed the blogsphere as an influential site for shaping public accountability.

For example, in the U.S., Trent Lott resigned as Senate Majority Leader after bloggers focused attention on racist remarks Lott made at a party. An American blogger initially broke the story of a major Canadian political sponsorship scandal. In Canada, during the recent national election, one party member was forced to resign after a journalist focused on racist content on his blog. In response to competition by bloggers for news audiences, many newspapers, magazines and broadcast news networks have set up their own blogs (hybrid blogs), or have created links to influential blogs. These indicators of political and journalistic influence pose several interesting questions for research:

Specifically, why do blogs have any influence at all given their small number, decentralized nature, and general lack of consistent long term funding? How is this influence manifest? Are there patterns of influence? What factors contribute to this influence? This project focuses on the interactions between significant blogs as identified by Shirky (2003), and traditional media outlets along the following dimensions: Influence, Networks, and Motivations. Traditional news media blogs are also be included in this study, but have been coded as a hybrid entity (part of the research seeks to understand how their influences, social and practice networks and perceived roles differ from or are similar to both traditional media outlets and independent bloggers).

Method

Social network analysis and graph theory are used to explore community structures as a means of understanding influencing behavior. Linkage patterns among blog entries and traditional online news sources are used to explore explicit community structure. Implicit community structure is explored through analysis and mapping of blog and online news media content.

Comparisons are made between independent blogs, online news media outlets and hybrid media blogs to examine the following questions: What are the implicit and explicit communities implied by content and link structure? How does information move through news media and blog networks? Who are the influential bloggers whose voice is echoed by others both within and without the blogging community? In seeking to understand the networks and connectivity exhibited by media outlets and influential blogs, the study utilizes link density and co-link analysis of significant blogs, online news sites, and hybrid blogs.

Additionally, a survey of media elites is being conducted to determine which (if any) blogs they read, how frequently they read them, and what motivates their reading.
Finally, the study employs role theory (Biddle & Thomas, 1966) through the administering of a survey that adopts the operational definitions of Johnstone, Slawski and Bowman (1996) and Weaver and Wilhoit (1996) to identify role conceptions. 

A final paper will present results comparing perceived roles and professional identity construction between bloggers, online journalists, and hybrid bloggers.
 

References
Biddle, B., and Thomas, E. (eds.). (1966). Role Theory: Concepts and Research, New York: John Wiley & Sons. 

Bruns, Axel. (2005). Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. 

Johnstone, J.; Slawski, E.; and Bowman, W. (1976). News people: a sociological portrait of American journalists and their work. IL: University of Illinois Press.

Pew Internet Project, 2003 http://www.pewinternet.org/index.asp

Shirky, C. (2003). Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequalityhttp://www.shirky.com/writings/powerlaw_weblog.html

Weaver, D., and Wilhoit, G, (1996). The American Journalist in the 1990s. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

One Response to “About the project”


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