People as Media

August 15, 2017 | Author: sir jj | Category: Crowdsourcing, Digital & Social Media, Social Media, Journalism, Mass Media
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People as Media: Campaigns and Actually Existing Democracy By Daniel Kreiss In Ground Wars, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen makes an important contribution in revealing and analyzing an important trend in political campaigning that has taken shape over the last two decades: the increasing investment in face-toface political communication through field efforts. Nielsen describes how over-saturation in advertising markets, media fragmentation, and signature social science field experiments have lead to candidates at all levels of office engaging in “ground wars” fought by volunteers and paid canvassers going door-to-door to identify the partisan affiliations of and deliver messages to voters—all in the hope of bringing sympathizers to the polls on election day. In light of these findings, Nielsen shows how much political communication scholars have overlooked in focusing so much attention on television advertising and press coverage. Indeed, Nielsen shows how extraordinarly “mediated” political communication actually is at the congressional level, where candidates have small advertising budgets and receive scant coverage from journalists. Even more, in an era when numerous sociologists, communication scholars (including myself), and political scientists have focused on new and social media as the primary drivers of electoral innovation and mobilization, Nielsen reveals the enormous time and effort campaigns and the parties in service to them have spent building technical and organizational infrastructures to gather and coordinate the necessary labor required to deliver messages to voters. One of the signature achievements of this book is methodological. For one, by engaging in participant observation Nielsen reveals both the strategies of campaigns and the divergent springs of civic participation, as committed partisans, volunteers with high-minded ideals, and paid canvassers working for hourly wages gather and enact their democratic roles under radically different logics. Even more, Nielsen’s careful case selection makes Ground Wars a more representative study of contemporary electoral campaigns than scholarship that focuses on extraordinary efforts such as well-resourced presidential campaigns like Obama’s 2008 run, which are few and far between. Through a careful design that is clearly specified in a brilliant methodological section that should be required reading in qualitative methods seminars, Nielsen provides a rich empirical portrait of actually existing democracy. What is the state of this actually existing democracy? There is both reason for optimism and pessimism. For one, Nielsen shows how the same democratic practices (such as canvassing) are performed under radically different logics, from civic ideals to market transactions. Compared with “air wars” conducted through broadcast advertising and attempts at gaining earned media, ordinary citizens both can participate, and (looked at most charitably) lowincome citizens even receive subsidies to do so. Normatively, these forms of participation, even at their most scripted, are desirable according to many democratic philosophies (although Jeffrey Green and Jeffrey Alexander have both sought to reevaluate the virtues of spectatorship). The voices of citizens, from campaign workers and volunteers to paid canvassers, often diverge from the scripts provided by campaigns—no matter how strategically they seek to use people as media. Canvassers talk to people not on voter lists, go off-message, provide poor information, engage in authentic dialogue, and record shoddy data, despite the best efforts of harried field staffers. Even more, at least at the level of comparatively under-funded congressional campaigns, as party infrastructures have eroded staffers are reliant on struggles to mobilize the resources of vast and messy assemblages cobbled together from party networks made up of many actors with often divergent goals. In revealing the actual contexts of democratic engagement, Nielsen’s work offers an important corrective to many accounts that suggest how data and its associated technologies of targeting and tailoring are denuding the polity of robust discursive forms. Despite this, it is not clear that these sorts of civic participation further the democratic ideals of equality and voice. Nielsen shows how in the realm of institutional politics ground wars are about turning out partisans, weakly committed sympathizers, and, at times, making persuasive appeals. These forms of civic engagement do not necessarily further the political voice of the powerless, as inequalities exist in the aggregate both among who participates and, more importantly, who possess the capital to contribute. Even more, Nielsen makes the important point that campaign assemblages are temporal and instrumental entities, with clear metrics for success, and lack the institutionalized forms of democratic decision-making that characterized the parties of yore with established foundations that persisted across election cycles and imparted civic skills. In other words, these forms of civic engagement may matter to the individuals and campaigns involved, but perhaps not in the way of creating stronger representative systems or policy outcomes that are responsive to the needs of Americans without the time or especially the financial resources to influence policy makers. Still, Nielsen offers a useful quotation from Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days—“There is so little one can do. One does it all. All one can”—to capture what he characterizes as “the strange practicality, power, and potential pointlessness of personalized political communication —and politics more broadly—especially in its tentative, hesitating, doubtful claim that one does all one can.” Empirically, then, this is a study of what political actors do when they try to do all they can. Through the lens of this unfolding presidential race, Nielsen provides a framework for understanding and interpreting the enormous investments in practical citizen activity that campaigns are making in field campaigning, as well as the extraordinary behind the scenes infrastructure-building, technical development, and organizational-planning that it is premised upon. As Nielsen suggests, the actual electoral work during this campaign cycle is decades in the making. Understanding this work, and the comparative strategies of each party, requires both an appreciation of the history of these electoral efforts and close, in-depth observation of the prevailing ways that Americans connect with and enact democracy. In the end, Nielsen’s book shows how much of what we think of as “political communication” proceeds through campaigns using humans as media. It is striking that considerable technological change is being tied to those oldest forms of political mediation: human voices and flesh.

Social media sharing, news and opinion leadership: Recent research Tags: facebook, news, twitter

Research Findings

Facebook diffusion cascade (Facebook Data Science Lab)

Although social media channels have not yet become the primary way that the public at large accesses news, many recent reports and studies confirm that social networks are fast becoming a major part of news distribution and engagement. The opportunities are substantial, despite the fact that social media companies are increasingly asking customers to pay to reach large audiences. In a June 2015 report, the firm SocialFlow analyzed 8 million posts shared by its clients — which include many media companies — and concluded that these posts had generated 116 billion impressions and billions of additional engagements or interactions with content. SocialFlow, which uses algorithms to optimize the reach of content, notes that the dynamics of these networks, particularly with respect to Facebook, have changed fairly dramatically over the past 18 months. This has benefited many media companies, even as it has made life more difficult for marketers of other products: Indeed, many media companies have seen their reach for average posts increase two-fold over that period, “revealing that Facebook is not only allocating more reach to each post, but growing overall reach for media companies as well.” Still, the potential disadvantages of audiences encountering their news primarily through social channels are also significant. The Pew Research Center has noted that website visitors who come through social media channels often spend much less time with stories, and that audiences tend to have lower levels of trust in content they discover through social media. Scholars have also been studying variables, such as the recency of information, that may affect perceptions of credibility for information shared on social networks. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, “News Recommendations from Social Media Opinion Leaders: Effects on Media Trust and Information Seeking,” analyzes the results of an experiment in which several hundred college students gave permission for researchers to examine their Facebook accounts and to see their responses to various story types. The researchers — Jason Turcotte of California State Polytechnic University, Chance York of Kent State, and Jacob Irving, Rosanne M. Scholl and Raymond J. Pingree of Louisiana State — constructed the experiment in such a way that a treatment group saw a news story recommended from a real friend of theirs, while a control group saw the same story, but without an associated social recommendation. The

researchers in the study also asked subjects to evaluate the real-life friend selected to make the news recommendation in terms of his or her knowledge and trustworthiness. The news came from a local news outlet on a local topic. The study joins a long-running debate among scholars about the operation of opinion leadership, the filtering of information through networks, and how dynamics may be changing in a digital age. The study’s findings include: 

The social cues in the experiment had a strong impact on subjects’ views on a particular news outlet: “Social recommendations from people perceived as quality opinion leaders led to an increase in outlet trust. Alternatively, social recommendations from people perceived as poor opinion leaders decreased the reader’s outlet trust.”

The data also suggested that such recommendations may generate new habits: “Receiving a cue from a strong opinion leader increased attitudes related to future information-seeking behavior. The opposite effect was found among readers who received a cue from a person perceived as a poor opinion leader.”

The impact of this powerful social-recommendation phenomenon may have wide-reaching consequences: “Socializing news habits have direct implications for improving not only public trust in the news but democratically desirable behaviors. This research also reinforces the importance of opinion leadership in the new media environment; those perceived as high on opinion leadership amplify the effect of increasing intention to follow future news covered by the traditional media outlet. In other words, both news professionals and opinion leaders shoulder the burden of informing and educating the public in the age of digital journalism.” “The finding that news shared by a friend on Facebook is perceived as more trustworthy than stories received directly from the media outlet may inform how news organization elect to grapple with increasingly inattentive news audiences in the age of digital and social media,” the study’s authors conclude. “Thus, understanding the effects of social recommendations on Facebook, assessments of news trust in particular, gives insights into how the 1.26 billion Facebook users interact with news organizations and one another.” Keywords: news media, social media, Facebook, Twitter

Writer: John Wihbey | Last updated: July 1, 2015 Citation: Turcotte, Jason; York, Chance; Irving, Jacob; Scholl, Rosanne M.; Pingree, Raymond J. “News Recommendations from Social Media Opinion Leaders: Effects on Media Trust and Information Seeking,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, April 2015. doi: 10.1111/jcc4.12127.

Ten Principles That Power Social Journalism It’s been almost three months since Storyful was acquired by News Corp. Today, Storyful’s CEO Mark Little reflects on the state of social journalism and outlines the ten key principles which will continue to guide the company. Does anybody else feel like the business of journalism just reached a tipping point? I’ve absolutely no hard stats to back this up, but my hunch is that the number of established media brands making big, bold bets on social, mobile and video just recently exceeded those who are not.

Every day brings news of a fresh partnership between a pioneering start-up and a traditional media brand. Disruptive concepts and companies are being funded, acquired or partnered with at an exponential rate. The distinction between new and old is blurring at an equally rapid clip. Such is the speed of adoption, our language struggles to keep up. Words and phrases like citizen journalism, crowdsourcing, UGC, and curation, just don’t cut it anymore. It’s time we started talking of social journalism as a unified concept, playing a distinct and coherent role in a range of global media industries, from news to marketing. To my mind, the definition of social journalism should embrace all reporting tools and workflows that treat the realtime web as both a primary source and the ultimate delivery mechanism. Any Unified Theory of Social Journalism must incorporate any person or platform that turns content created by users of social networks into stories consumed by them. Social journalism is a direct response to a revolution in the means of production. Not so long ago, you needed a printing press or satellite dish to ‘make’ news. Today, all you need is a smart phone and a social network. In an age where everyone is telling a story, social journalists help us find the people worth listening to and rescue their stories from an ocean of noise. Social journalists don’t work exclusively for news organizations. A wide spectrum of professional storytellers – from brands and advertisers to humanitarian groups – are increasingly reliant on social content to engage the communities that matter to them. Social journalism has forced everyone concerned to rethink the concept of a newsroom. The most forward-thinking see it as a place where developers, coders and data junkies are an integral part of the editorial process and where editorial staff embrace a revolutionary cultural sensibility. Reporters used to be an elite speaking to a passive audience; in the social newsroom, they are only as good as the depth of engagement with their online community. Traditional media brands initially responded to revolution with incremental steps, which is both prudent and understandable. But the rise of social journalism has allowed them to imagine what their businesses would look like if they started from scratch. Storyful was my new beginning: a social news agency which used advanced technology and journalistic expertise to find and verify content that newsrooms and brands could quickly turn into stories that matter. In December 2013, Storyful was acquired by News Corp and became part of a global business in the midst of reinvention. The first months as members of the News Corp family have been liberating. The exhortation is bigger, better and different. Celebrate what you have achieved but imagine what you could build. With great opportunity comes great responsibility. Storyful will fulfill its potential only if it remains a disruptive and innovative force. That means sticking close to the principles that got us this far. Those principles group themselves rather into a ten-point list. Since they emerge from my personal experience, they are completely subjective. But I would hope they have some objective value to those who believe social journalism is a movement whose time has come: 1. There is Always Someone Closer to the Story: Storyful’s founding commandment. With the advent of the social web, we never have to settle for second-hand sources. The currency of social journalism is authenticity not authority. We are not experts in every subject. We find the people who are. We cannot witness every event but we can find the person who did. 2. Stories Not Content: Being the first to find a compelling tweet or image in a sea of noise is very cool, but what’s cooler is telling a story. Social journalism adds the narrative and context that transforms a unit of content into a story worth listening to.

3. We Kill Hoaxes: The social journalist must enjoy the sensation of killing a story as much as they relish breaking one. There is no greater joy than extinguishing the life of an internet lie. 4. Stop Talking, Build: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have unanimous agreement on the need to verify social media content. Let’s move on. Time to build and scale the collaborative tools needed to do the job. 5. Embrace Contradiction: Technologists and journalists occupy opposite ends of the social spectrum. The hyperfocused traits of the coder contrasts starkly with the reporter’s attention-deficit… oh look, a shiny thing!! In social journalism, those opposites attract. A newsroom where developers and journalists work side-by-side is more than the sum of its parts. 6. With UGC Comes Responsibilities: Newsrooms who use User-Generated Content (UGC) have obligations. The uploader of a video deserves credit, and where appropriate, compensation. Social journalists owe a duty of care to UGC creators in hostile environments. UGC is governed by the same legal and ethical code as any other content. This is just the beginning of a very long list. 7. Worship the Holy Trinity: Social, Mobile and Video. Whether you work for a newspaper or TV station, there must be a place for stories that can be watched on any digital device and shared on any social network. 8. It’s Not All About News: All media businesses are storytellers. Brands share a hunger for the authenticity of content emerging from the social web. Core elements of a sustainable business model for journalism will be content marketing and native advertising. 9. Fail Fast: In building out our business model, we will screw up. Own your mistakes. It’s how you learn. Take lots of small risks, fail fast and learn quickly. 10. Obsolescence is Success: Social journalism is a transitional force. Its sole purpose is to help great journalism survive an age of historic disruption. When new business models are fully formed and a culture of innovation is embedded in every mainstream newsrooms, social journalism will become, simply, journalism.

What happens when everyone has the ability to publish? One thing that happens is the traditional media industry loses much of its power, over both the content that people read and the advertising that helps support it — but the other thing that happens is a profusion of content of all kinds, from “citizen journalists” to brands and advocacy groups and everything in between. How can media entities take advantage of this phenomenon without losing their way in the process? In a nutshell, that’s the dilemma that Ed Sussman tackles in a recent post on Pando. Sussman, CEO of a site called Buzzr, is a former president of who helped turn the website into an early hybrid of publisher and platform — or what Jonathan Glick of Sulia has referred to as a “platisher” (a horriblesounding term that I sincerely hope will never catch on). As Sussman notes, one of the most commonly criticized models of what he calls “social journalism” is the Forbes magazine website, which chief product officer Lewis D’Vorkin has turned into a giant platform for bloggers of every stripe, from marketers to entrepreneurs. In total, the site has over a thousand writers, many of whom write for free — or in return for

compensation that is based in part on the traffic and engagement they are able to generate. Open platforms are the new normal

Lewis D’Vorkin, Chief Product Officer, Forbes Media paidContent Live 2013 Albert Chau / While Forbes gets a significant amount of flak for this approach — especially when writers get involved in situations like the one Sussman refers to in his post, in which writers were allegedly paid as part of a “pump and dump” stock scheme — D’Vorkin pointed out in a recent site update that the Forbes model is arguably working better than many other media experiments, at least in the sense of actually compensating writers: “Individually, 60 made as much or more in 2013 than the $45,250 a year the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is the nationwide average for a professional reporter or correspondent. Five or so have built big enough loyal audiences to top $100,000. We probably pay more writers than most news startups combined.” For me, and I think for Sussman as well, the kind of model that Forbes is trying to build (or arguably has already built) isn’t some bizarre new internet invention — it’s the new normal for the media world, whether we like it or not. It may have become obvious when the Huffington Post came along, but it started with blogs and social media, which gave anyone the ability to create their own custom magazine or newspaper made up of whatever sources they wanted to hear from. This is what Om has referred to as the “democratization of distribution.” What we’ve seen more recently are variations on that idea, whether it’s Medium’s editorial/platform mix or Gawker’s commenter-as-blogger Kinja model, or even Facebook’s (s fb) attempt to create a newspaper-style app with Paper. The bottom line is that we can’t go back to the “good old days” when a single outlet like the New York Times was considered the pinnacle of media and all that was necessary. It just doesn’t work that way any more.

All that matters is how you manage them

So how do we manage this new environment? Medium founder Evan Williams has admitted that his model means “people are going to publish crap,” but that readers will ultimately sort it out. For his part, D’Vorkin points out that Forbes does a lot of due diligence before it offers someone a blog on the site, and that advertisers who make use of the platform are identified as such — in the same way that BuzzFeed identifies users who post content as “contributors.” In his post, Sussman provides a few examples of ways in which publisher/platforms can manage usergenerated content and outside contributors — given that they will likely be unable to monitor every submission — including: — Guidelines: “Establish clear guidelines on conflicts-of-interest that anyone posting content needs to read through and electronically agree to before they post.” — Labels: “Label contributors prominently. E.g. Staff Writer. Staff Columnist. Staff Curator. Expert Contributor, Expert Curator, Guest contributor. Reader Contribution.” — Tools: “Consider Wikipedia-like reader tools for suggested changes, ranging from grammar to fact checking (subject to the approval of the writer, curator or editor.) Quora does this well.” — Algorithms: “Algorithmically determine the best content by tracking time per page, social shares and user ratings/votes, etc. Either automatically promote it as part of recommended content or have it queued up for a curator to evaluate for promotion. BuzzFeed does this well.” — Deletion: “If content has been rejected by curators, or not socially shared, or has poor engagement time and few up votes, screen it for deletion. Provide feedback to contributors facing deletion.” As Sussman notes, social journalism “is not a replacement for professional journalism — it’s an addition.” Although many traditional journalists and media outlets see these new kinds of platforms as competition, they should be seeing them as an opportunity, a potential new model that could not only support existing forms of journalism but broaden the pool of potential talent (something Gawker has been using to its advantage for some time). Are there flaws in these new models? Of course there are. But then, what we see now as traditional journalism was horribly flawed for years — even decades — after it first became

commonplace, and we seem to have survived that fairly well. Everything worth doing is flawed at some point. Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Thinkstock / Digital Vision, as well as Albert Chau and Shutterstock / artjazz

What Is Crowdsourcing? 1 Comment




Email Last Updated May 1, 2008 5:41 PM EDT Despite the jargony name, crowdsourcing is a very real and important business idea. Definitions and terms vary, but the basic idea is to tap into the collective intelligence of the public at large to complete business-related tasks that a company would normally either perform itself or outsource to a third-party provider. Yet free labor is only a narrow part of crowdsourcing's appeal. More importantly, it enables managers to expand the size of their talent pool while also gaining deeper insight into what customers really want.

Why It Matters Now: With the rise of user-generated media such as blogs, Wikipedia, MySpace, and YouTube, it's clear that traditional distinctions between producers and consumers are becoming blurry. It's no longer fanciful to speak of the marketplace as having a "collective intelligence"—today that knowledge, passion, creativity, and insight are accessible for all to see. As Time explained after choosing the collective "You" as the magazine's 2006 Person of the Year, "We're looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it's just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy."

The idea of soliciting customer input is hardly new, of course, and the open-source software movement showed that it can be done with large numbers of people. The difference is that today's technology makes it possible to enlist ever-larger numbers of non-technical people to do ever-more complex and creative tasks, at significantly reduced cost.

Why It Matters to You With a deft touch and a clear set of objectives, quite literally thousands of people can and want to help your business. From designing ad campaigns to vetting new product ideas to solving difficult R&D problems, chances are that people outside your company walls can help you perform better in the marketplace; they become one more resource you can use to get work done. In return, most participants simply want some personal recognition, a sense of community, or at most, a financial incentive.

The Strong Points Crowdsourcing can improve productivity and creativity while minimizing labor and research expenses. Using the Internet to solicit feedback from an active and passionate community of customers can reduce the amount of time spent collecting data through formal focus groups or trend research, while also seeding enthusiasm for upcoming products. By involving a cadre of customers in key marketing, branding, and product-development processes, managers can reduce both staffing costs and the risks associated with uncertain marketplace demand.

The Weak Spots Crowds are not employees, so executives can't expect to control them. Indeed, while they may not ask for cash or in-kind products, participants will seek compensation in the form of satisfaction, recognition, and freedom. They will also demand time, attention, patience, good listening skills, transparency, and honesty. For traditional top-down organizations, this shift in management culture may prove difficult.

Key People Like the concept itself, crowdsourcing belongs to no one person, but many have contributed to its evolution:

Jeff Howe, a contributing editor to Wired magazine, first coined the term "crowdsourcing" in a June 2006 article and writes the blog

Don Tapscott, a well-known business guru, has recently become an evangelist for mass collaboration in his book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.

Key Practitioners Netflix, the online video rental service, uses crowdsourcing techniques to improve the software algorithms used to offer customer video recommendations. The team or individual that achieves key software goals will receive $1 million.

Eli Lily and DuPont have tapped online networks of researchers and technical experts, awarding cash prizes to people who can solve vexing R&D problems. lets the public submit ideas for software products, vote on them, and collect royalties if a participant's ideas are incorporated into products. allows amateur and professional photographers, illustrators, and videographers to upload their work and earn royalties when their images are bought and downloaded. The company was acquired for $50 million by Getty Images. lets online members submit T-shirt designs and vote on which ones should be produced.

How to Talk About It Crowdsourcing nomenclature is still in flux, but related terms include:

Ideagoras: Democratic marketplaces for innovation. Proctor & Gamble taps 90,000 chemists on, a forum where scientists collaborate with companies to solve R&D problems in return for cash prizes.

Prosumers: Consumers who have also become producers, creating and building the products they use. The hit online game Second Life lets its user/residents write and implement software code to improve their virtual world.

Worksource: Tapping a crowd of people to complete repetitive tasks or piecework projects. Amazon's Mechanical Turk is a worksource initiative for tasks (such as sorting or classification) that are best served by human oversight.

Expertsource: A narrower form of crowdsourcing that involves soliciting input from technical experts in various fields.

Further Reading Wikipedia: Written by a crowd of contributors, the Wikipedia definition of crowdsourcingincludes many examples of companies practicing the concept.

Crowdsourcing: A blog by Jeff Howe, contributing editor at Wired magazine, who coined the term in June 2006.

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