The changing role of journalism and the media

‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’
(Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian newspaper, ‘The splintering of the fourth estate’, .. via How is the diminution of traditional, and often hierarchical, “authoritative” intermediaries changing the role of publishing in social life? You should choose one broad area of publishing, such as, for example, journalism or music publishing.


In today’s contemporary society, it is clear that the rapid change and evolution of the media environment is having a profound effect on many aspects of social, cultural and economic life. This is highly evident in the field of journalism, where the diminution of traditional and established media intermediaries is changing both the nature of journalism and the wider role and impacts of publishing for our society. The breakdown of transmission style communication, the increased ease of publishing as well as the evolving sphere of communication can all be seen to have a significant effect on publishing and its impacts on social life.


In his speech, ‘The splintering of the fourth estate,’ Alan Rusbridger illustrates that the media industry as a collective is going through a rapid period of change.

“…change is happening much faster – so fast that we are, as an industry, collectively suffering from what deep-sea divers refer to as the bends. We are traveling through a period of extreme change faster than our corporate bodies can cope with. It’s painful – and, if not treated quickly and correctly, can be fatal.”

It is this ‘bends’ that Rusbridger identifies which has significant consequences for established, traditional and authoritative media intermediaries.


The field of journalism has been one established on the notions of ‘the fourth estate,’ a principle where the media act as a watchdog over the actions of those in charge, the government, and ergo protect the citizenry from official wrongdoing, negligence or corruption.

It is this watchdog role that the media adopted in its infancy that lead to the establishment of today’s authoritative and hierarchical intermediaries.


This watchdog media transmitted information to the citizenry, they gave them information that they thought was of crucial importance for the maintenance of democratic cohesion. This model of transmission set the standard for the way in which the media convey their information to their consumers.

Alan Rusbridger cites Raymond Williams in his description of transmission style communication, “”Much of what we call communication is, necessarily, no more in itself, than transmission; that is to say, a one-way sending. Reception and response, which complete communication, depend on other factors …”


It is the digression away from this type of communication that has had significant impacts for journalism and its role as a ‘publisher.’

News organizations are losing their role as the exclusive provider of information to society. They do not solely ‘publish’ in the traditional sense anymore.

We can see that the breakdown of transmission style communication for news organizations has been transformative for their role as publishers, and lead them to focus on the tasks of aggregating and distributing available and relevant information to the citizenry.

They are no longer the provider of information, but collators of information who present it in a manner that is known, accessible and trusted to the public.


The ease with which information may be published has profound consequences on the media and has essentially been detrimental to both its hierarchical structure and its business model.

The ‘media’ as an entity has endured and evolved through many stages where information has suddenly been able to spread faster than was previously thought possible. A historical example of this would be Gutenberg and the introduction of printing to Europe.

The digital revolution we are currently seeing at the hands of the Internet and Web 2.0 is one of the most radical platforms that has ever been available for the public to communicate through.

The citizenry is able to publish, consume, archive, aggregate and re-distribute information in a way that has never been possible before.

The consequence of this for journalism and its role as a publisher of social information cannot be understated.

The flow of information has been transformed from one-way to circular by the advent of Web 2.0 and audience and consumers of news media are now able to actively participate in the information production and publishing cycle.

Whereas formerly the media hierarchies were at the top of a one-way flow of information, they are now forced to compete with potential consumers’ increasing ability to aggregate information for themselves.

Rusbridger acknowledges this when he says, “Instead of trying to write everything ourselves we’re increasingly a platform as well as a publisher.”


Rusbridger raises the point in his speech that, “The digital space is – without going into complex arguments about net neutrality – owned and regulated by no one.”

It is this lack of regulation in the digital environment that contributes to the increasing ease of publishing information.

The legal and regulatory framework within which media organizations must publish information can have stifling effects, especially with matters concern libel or defamation.

The Internet, however, effectively exists outside of these regulations and this has significant implications for how publishing can affect our society and democracy.

An example of this is the website Wikileaks and it’s publication of classified government information. The information that becomes available to the public via Wikileaks, such as footage of ‘Collateral Murder’ or diplomatic cables has a profound effect on the information that is available to the consumer about the actions of international government.

Through Wikileaks publishing this information, they have brought the issue of publishing into the international spotlight and associated it with charges of treason and espionage.

It becomes apparent through looking at this example that not only is this having an effect on the role of publishing, but also what can be published.


The sphere of communication with which the public is interacting is rapidly expanding at the hands of social media including Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

These have proved to change the way in which information is published, being far more instantaneous and far reaching, and have featured considerably in the change and diminution of traditional media outlets.

Rusbridger acknowledges that many journalists and media practitioners are dismissive of these social media forms and their role in journalism. However he makes the point that, “We can be sure that the motivating idea behind these forms of open media isn’t going away and that, if we are blind to their capabilities, we will be making a very serious mistake, both in terms of our journalism and the economics of our business.”

The motivating idea behind these forms of open media forms the basis of a new attitude toward communication, publishing and the flow of information.

The way in which information of received and transmitted is no longer unidirectional, with the help of these social media platforms it can now be seen as a sphere in which information is simultaneously published, distributed and aggregated.

Rusbridger highlights some of the benefits of these social media forms for publishing as changing notions of authority, community creation, being a formidable aggregation tool and a wonderful tool for distribution.

In terms of changing notions of authority, Twitter and other social utilities create a virtually unregulated realm where the opinion of the expert is not sought each person who publishes is recognized as being on an even playing field.

As Rusbridger puts this, “As this ability of people to combine around issues and to articulate them grows, so it will have increasing effect on people in authority. Companies are already learning to respect, even fear, the power of collaborative media. Increasingly, social media will challenge conventional politics and, for instance, the laws relating to expression and speech.”


The effect of these new social media platforms can be seen most prominently in the attempt of the hierarchical and established media intermediaries to incorporate them into their organizational and business models.

Alan Rusbridger explains the ways in which the Guardian, a highly revered international media source, has attempted to incorporate the open and social media platforms into their news distribution and aggregation strategy.

“Distribution, breaking news and aggregation? At the Guardian and Observer we have more than 450 people on Twitter, together with 70 different single-subject sites or section feeds. Our journalists are out there, reaching a different audience from the core Guardian readership, seeking help, ideas, feedback, joining in the common conversations.”

Journalism is one of the oldest and most established arms of publishing, and the changes that this practice is making to its structure is demonstrative of the impact that these media forms are having on publishing.


The role of journalism and media organizations has fundamentally and perhaps permanently changed.

The established, ‘authoritative’ media intermediaries are no longer solely depended on by society for the transmission of relevant communication. Platforms such as social media have proven to be effective distribution and aggregation tools that allow the news consumer to customize the published content that they interact with. The news environment is increasingly about interaction.

This has shifted the role of the news media organization from sole provider of information to joint aggregator and distributor using both its own media and the new media that it now competes with.

“We’re now competing with a medium that can do many things incomparably faster than we can,” says Rusbridger.


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Seventh Blog, Platforms

With the rise of online life, online activity and social media, publishing has become increasingly ubiquitous in its ability to traverse multiple platforms and reach new audiences on a multitude of levels.

This can largely be attributed to the platforms through which people are choosing to publish.

Publishing today can be contrasted with a historical perspective on publishing, where to provide anyone else with information via text required the physical production of the print and its distribution to as many people as could be found.


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Eighth Blog, Aggregation

If I were trying to relate the processes of distribution and aggregation to my own life the most basic example I could think of would be my tendency to aggregate as much information as I can onto my phone.


I aggregate platforms through which I am able to archive information that is relevant or useful to me and ultimately the platforms allow that information to traverse across a multiplicity of other platforms.


I have a facebook application, which by itself (and rather annoyingly) tries to aggregate information about me in order to distribute to third parties, and I use this app to collate the details of people I may need to contact for university, as well as being able to keep in touch with my friends and distribute and publish things to them that I want them to see.


When I open up other applications on my phone they also attempt to have me connect my activities with that app to my facebook app and inform me about how I can aggregate my usage of that app into my facebook account.

This gives me the shits big time, and so I aim to filter and customise these applications so they don’t constantly bug me with trying to collate data about me.


I think I was most successful by deleting my facebook app altogether, however now I cant use many of my other applications because I wont allow them access to my information.

My ability to aggregate and utilise platforms has been limited by my refusal to share my information without friction.


Essentially, platforms have us moving away from the single document, but I have come to think of my phone as the ‘new connected document.’ It is still a static thing in my mind because I can hold it in my pocket and its always there, but at the same time it is linked across multiple aspects of my life and allows me to simultaneously receive and contribute to these different areas.


I am not sure if I am wrong in thinking that although we have progressed from the static document, perhaps our notions of the document have also changed to accommodate platform technology.

Although I am aware that the move to the platform has pretty much been superseded by a move to baseless information distribution and ubiquitous computing.


I thought it was quite a lovely way to summarise the notion of a platform in the lecture by thinking about the alphabet as being a platform for expression.

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Sixth Blog, Visualisation and My Presentation

Our data visualisation

Me and Matt, my presentation partner, created this visualisation from primary data we collected on how many people crossed the road at the traffic lights in comparison to how many people jaywalked.

We thought that this traditional form of data visualisation was helpful in wholly and comprehensibly communicating the information that we had obtained.

I collected data for an hour between 9 and 10 am, whereas Matt collected data between 2 and 3pm. This allowed us to have information that represented two busy times of day, one where people were arriving by bus to enter the university, and another where people were crossing the road as they exited university.

I think that our data visualisation communicates the information in a way that is easy and familiar to follow, and it encompasses information from different times of day and presents it in a manner that can be consumed by the eye in one look.

Although this event would have existed if we had not recorded it, i think that our visualisation captures the event and in a sense creates the comparison. The contrast between jaywalking and crossing at the lights at these times of day did not exist and was not accessible to people who were not there at the time.

Since we published this visualisation, the information is now readily available.


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Fifth Blog, Infotention

Rheingold’s concept of ‘Infotention’ has deep implications for my understanding of the archive.

Whereas my understanding of the archive defines it as any place or thing in which information is stored, ‘Infotention’ makes it seem like all the information in the world has started to jump out at us, to the point where we need an inbuilt filter to syphon out all the crap that is out there.

Where formerly we had to seek the information in the archive, now we must repel unwanted information and in esence archive ourselves for what we wish to know and what we do not wish to know.

Just a thought.

I wasn’t really aware of what metadata was until the lecture and it is a weird thought that even as i type this now i am leaving behind a stream of information that paints an online picture of me.

I found the concept of the archive being destructive of the past intriguing, that the photography of an event changes it.

My parents archive photos of me and my sister when we were children and have many photos of things i don’t remember. I look through the archive (photoalbum) and use it in order to construct a picture of what my childhood was like.

If my childhood was archived with the media technology that is currently available, would i have a different retrospective experience of my childhood? The manner in which an event is documented, or series of events, can be detrimental or essential to how the event itself is remembered.

My childhood is not a series of photographs yet i rely on them for my interpretation of my childhood.

Still dwelling on this idea.

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Fourth Blog, Archive Fever

Considering the Archive and Derrida’s idea of Archive Fever, it makes you see a lot of things around you that you never even noticed before, not that they didn’t exist I just hadn’t thought of them in terms of publishing or the archive.

Really archive was just a word to me, i never actually thought of it as a concept or having the social implications that it does.

Considering the archive and its construction of identity, it hard to tell whether we are responsible for constructing the archive or it constructs us and our identity. I think that it is ultimately up to the context of the archive itself.

If you were the actual creator of an archive, like your notes held in your phone or the notes that you take in a notebook, then you are obviously the creator of the archive and are in charge of what it beholds.

However, if you are accessing archives that were created by others and consuming the information or substance within these archives, like a public library, then the archive could be seen to have significant impact on the construction of your identity.

Derrida’s Archive Fever highlights how archives can have significant impact on the cultural importance of information or things and implications for the flow of power within society.

If i am to create an archive that details information about myself, like Facebook for an overused example, i am determining what i want people to be able to learn about me and not including what i do not wish the to know.

IN a wider context, the inevitable exclusion of certain information by the creator of an archive creates a top-down power structure in which the creator holds the power over what information is to be published and what is able to be retrieved.

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Third Blog, ANT and Assemblage

Im entering this blog late only because I was very unhappy with my original entry for this week and after the tutorial I thought a was better concept-equipt to have an opinion on assemblage.

The readings for this week made ANT and assemblage, as concepts, seem a lot harder to grasp than they actually are.

I feel that Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is a good way to look at publishing, both its history and where it is today, and it helps to make sense of all the developments, shifts and progression in publishing.

The concept of ANT helped me clarify my thoughts and interpretations on the history of publishing  and the manner in which it came to be what it is today. Although I already had this concept as a basic idea, it was different to think about non-human actants as having agency and a contribution effect on the state of publishing.

Although humans are ultimately responsible (i think) for the state that publishing is today, it is hard to imagine its progress without the aid of such things as the printing press, the computer, writing, the e-reader and many other similar media.

These technologies and media have a significant role in the publishing dynamic and have been integral in its development throughout the course of history.

It is through this that i was able to understand the idea of agency and equality between human and non-human actants.

There was one criticism levelled at ANT that did make me think.

The Wikipedia page on ANT suggests that the theory is at risk of becoming alike the six-degrees of separation theory in that everything can be connected eventually and everything can play a small role in the assemblage of one thing.

Me and my work-partner thought about this in the tute in relation to watching a DVD.

Obviously you need a DVD, a DVD player, a television and somewhere to watch. However, we also thought that you need someone to have and idea for a movie, actors to be in the movie, someone to direct the film, someone to make the television and the DVD player, production companies and alike to finance these activities, people to invest in said companies  and also these people require the economic means to be able to invest.

Where does this chain end?

If there was to be an immeasurable number of actants involved in the assemblage of this scenario, do they all have equal importance?

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