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Emerging Methods for Digital Media Research: An Introduction

I’m very pleased to be able to announce that the methods-focused special issue of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media (JOBEM) edited with my CCI colleagues Axel Bruns and Larissa Hjorth is out now.

When the original Call for Papers went out we had an extraordinary response, and it was genuinely difficult to sort through so many great abstracts to get to a balanced set of papers, but I am totally happy with the results – this is a special issue that I think really is more than the sum of its parts, making a statement about the state of the art and the forward agenda for questions of methodology in our field. And I know that for sure I’ll be using these papers in my own work in the immediate future.

Thanks to the efforts of the journal’s general editor Zizi Papacharissi the full issue will be made open access later in 2013, but for now it’s behind a paywall. So with permission I’m reproducing the editors’ introduction here.

Bear in mind also that many of the authors work at universities with institutional repositories – it may be possible to access pre-print versions of the articles.

Emerging Methods for Digital Media Research?: An Introduction

Jean Burgess, Axel Bruns and Larissa Hjorth

Now as in earlier periods of acute change in the media environment, new disciplinary articulations are producing new methods for media and communication research. At the same time, established media and communication studies methods are being recombined, reconfigured and remediated alongside their objects of study. This special issue of JOBEM seeks to explore the conceptual, political and practical aspects of emerging methods for digital media research. It does so at the conjuncture of a number of important contemporary trends: the rise of a ‘third wave’ of the Digital Humanities and the ‘computational turn’ (Berry 2011), associated with natively digital objects as well as the methods for studying them; the apparently ubiquitous Big Data paradigm, with its various manifestations across academia, business and government, bringing with it a rapidly increasing interest in social media communication and online ‘behavior’ from the ‘hard’ sciences; along with the multisited, embodied and emplaced nature of everyday digital media practice.

The issue contains seven articles that advocate for, reflect upon or critique current methodological trends in digital media research. It ranges from a discussion of the emergence of a new wave of Digital Humanities (Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman), the potential for digital media research of emerging approaches like Media Archaeology (Frederick Lesage), the role of language in research (Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour), to the ways Big Data is impacting upon content analysis (Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida), digital media methods (Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow) and the large-scale policy research potential of community media archives (Nicole Matthews and Naomi Sunderland).

The special issue begins with Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour’s ‘Language and the Boundaries of Research’ which argues that ‘data-driven research’ has failed to engage with its increasingly internationalized context, especially in terms of its Anglophonic or Western-centric focus. As Kluver et al. rightly identify, the field remains focused upon Western media as a placeholder for ‘global media’. Here we are reminded of the importance of understanding Digital Media in context. While Big Data can often abstract the cultural, social and linguistic nuances of digital media practice, there is a growing pool of researchers exploring interdisciplinary methods such as ‘ethno-mining’ that use ethnography to critique Big Data (Anderson et al. 2009) and situate digital media as part of the complex dynamics of everyday life (Coleman 2010). In their review article ‘The Value of Big Data in Digital Media Research’, Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow provide a critical survey of methodological approaches to media communication and how the field is being reconfigured in an age of Big Data. In particular, Mahrt and Scharkow focus upon the consequences of using Big Data at different stages of research process, in dialogue with the traditions underpinning manual quantitative and qualitative approaches. For Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida in ‘Content Analysis in an Era of Big Data: A Hybrid Approach to Computational and Manual Methods’, by blending computational and manual methods one can gain insight into content. Drawing on a case study of Twitter, Lewis et al. argue that a hybrid method of computational and manual techniques can provide both systematic rigor and contextual sensitivity.

This is followed by Anne Galloway’s ‘Emergent Media Technologies, Speculation, Expectation and Human/nonhuman Relations’ in which Galloway draws on her background as one of the earliest researchers to study ubiquitous computing to discuss the role of sociology in situating emergent media technologies as part of a cultural process involving a range of human and nonhuman actors. Here Galloway focuses upon the often-overlooked aspect of anticipation and expectation in the process of media practice and the production of imaginaries for and of the future. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour, Galloway concludes with some thought-provoking questions for relationships between Digital Media methods and design.

For Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman in ‘The Web and Digital Humanities: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns’ there is a need for the Digital Humanities to understand the complex social, temporal and spatial dimensions of the web. Using the case study of the real-time and archived web (as a dynamic depiction, not simply a copy of what was once online) to illustrate their point, Bruegger and Finneman argue that currently the Digital Humanities is limited in its ability to capture the moving architecture of digital media. Complimenting this discussion by picking up on some aspects of the related field of software studies as well as cultural analytics and media archaeology, in ‘Cultural Biographies and Excavations of Media: Context and Process’, Frederick Lesage argues for a ‘cultural biography’ approach to the study of software as media objects – as ‘things’.

Nicole Matthews & Naomi Sunderland’s ‘Digital Life Story Narratives as Data for Policy Makers and Practitioners: Thinking Through Methodologies for Large-scale Multimedia Qualitative Datasets’ explores the role of community-based digital media narratives (e.g. via digital storytelling projects) in ‘amplifying marginalized voices in the public domain’. It is clear from Matthews and Sunderland’s piece that despite the large numbers of these projects and hence the depth of research potential in the stories they have produced, the effective deployment of this potential in social policy remains a missed articulation with political, ethical and methodological dimensions.

REFERENCES
Anderson, K., Rafus, D., Rattenbury, T., and R. Aipperspach (2009). ‘Numbers Have Qualities Too: Experiences with Ethno-Mining’, http://www2.berkeley.intel-research.net/~tlratten/public_usage_data/anderson_EPIC_2009.pdf
Berry, D. (2011). The Computational Turn: Thinking About the Digital Humanities. Culture Machine, 12. Retrieved from http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/440/470
Coleman, G. (2010). Ethnographic Approaches to Digital Media. Annual Review of Anthropology, 39: 487–505.

Articles

1. Randy Kluver, Heidi Campbell and Stephen Balfour, Language and the Boundaries of Research: Media Monitoring Technologies in International Media Research

2. Merja Mahrt and Michael Scharkow, The Value of Big Data in Digital Media Research

3. Seth C. Lewis, Rodrigo Zamith, and Alfred Hermida, Content Analysis in an Era of Big Data: A Hybrid Approach to Computational and Manual Methods

4. Anne Galloway, Emergent Media Technologies, Speculation, Expectation and Human/Nonhuman Relations

5. Neils Bruegger and Niels Ole Finneman, The Web and Digital Humanities: Theoretical and Methodological Concerns

6. Frederick Lesage, Cultural Biographies and Excavations of Media: Context and Process

7. Nicole Matthews and Naomi Sunderland, Digital Life Story Narratives as Data for Policy Makers and Practitioners: Thinking Through Methodologies for Large-scale Multimedia Qualitative Datasets

My whereabouts, some recent media coverage

I’m writing this from Cambridge (MA, USA; not UK), where I’m a few days into my stint as a Visiting Researcher at Microsoft Research New England. I’m thrilled to be able to spend some quality time with the Social Media group here, including long-time colleagues like Kate Crawford (who has worked with us on our Crisis Communication projects), Nancy Baym, Mary Gray and danah boyd, without a doubt some of the smartest and most collegial social media researchers anywhere. It’s also a very interdisciplinary setting populated by some of the world’s leading computer scientists, mathematicians, and economists. I’m here until mid June, when I’ll return to QUT to continue on as Deputy Director of the CCI as well as taking on a new role as Director of Research Training Programs in the Creative Industries Faculty – so a big, bumper year ahead.

In the meantime, here are a couple of recent media interviews I did and that are still available online (for now).

The first was a live interview on ABC Radio National’s Life Matters program. The story was called Your ‘Posts for Profit’, and this is the ABC’s summary:

There are millions upon millions of Twitter posts every day, a vast source of information for businesses and marketers. Access to this massive stream of data is sold by Twitter to those that can afford to buy it. But should it also be available to non-profit organisations for research purposes, and what will be the ultimate cost if these types of organisations are shut off from the data stream?

Full recorded audio and transcript available at the Radio National website.

The second is a segment on this week’s Queensland edition of the ABC 7.30 report, taking a look at the 2013 Queensland Floods, and how both community and government uses of social media in such situations have changed over the past few years. The video is available here (as I say, for now).

screen grab from 7.30 report interview

Cross-posted to the Mapping Online Publics blog.

Event Announcement: Co-Creative Communities Forum and Lab

Hello!

I may have mentioned at some point that I’m one of several
Chief Investigators on an Australian Research Council Linkage project called Community Uses of Co-Creative Media which aims to connect Australian community arts and broadcasting via digital storytelling (and other things); I’m crossposting this from that project blog.

The research has been very busy over the past several months conducting background survey & interview research with key project stakeholders, as well as completing the Digistories sub-project –  a broadcast distribution experiment conducted in collaboration with 31 Digital and well worth a blog post on its own at some stage soon.

A lot of energy has also gone into planning for our first major project event, which combines a future-oriented public forum with a workshop/lab-style activity targeted specifically at selected co-creative community media practitioners looking to improve knowledge, gain skills and develop new partnerships.

Details below, please pass them on to all who might be interested!

Co-Creative Communities: Storytelling Futures for Community Arts and Media

Thursday 8 November – Friday 9 November 2012

Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

How are community media and arts organisations responding to the challenge of digital convergence? What is the role of storytelling and storytellers in this evolving landscape?

This two-day event brings together storytellers, broadcasters, filmmakers, artists, cultural workers, activists and researchers to discuss the challenges and opportunities that digital convergence and participatory media present for communities.

DAY 1 FORUM
Thursday 8 November, 8.30am – 5pm

Broadcast Yourself?

Find out how public and community media innovators are responding to the challenges, changes and potential of participatory media. Speakers include Sue Schardt (Association of Independents in Radio, USA) Cath Dwyer (ABC Open), Jodie Bell (Goolarri Media Enterprises), Kath Letch (Community Broadcasting Association of Australia) and Indu Balachandran (Information & Cultural Exchange).

Impact Effects Evaluation

Leading researchers, practitioners and activists discuss the different models and best practice principles for working with communities to help tell their stories and creative positive change. Speakers include Sam Gregory (WITNESS, USA), Mimi Pickering (Appalshop, USA), Andrew Lowenthal (EngageMedia), Dr. Lachlan MacDowall (University of Melbourne) and Change Media.

Platforms & Publics

Explore how arts and media organisations are connecting with communities across new platforms, and how they might harness the power of next generation broadband. Speakers include Feral Arts, Assoc Prof. Jean Burgess (QUT), Colin Griffith (Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation) and Helen Simondson (ACMI).

Storytelling Futures

We consider the enduring appeal of storytelling, the role of the storyteller and storytelling institutions in a changing media landscape, and the importance of community-based storytelling. Speakers include Prof. John Hartley (Curtin University), Scott Rankin (Big hART), Jesse Cox (All The Best, FBi) and Elias Nohra (CuriousWorks).

To book tickets to the forum and to download the full program visit the ACMI event page.

DAY 2 CO-CREATIVE MEDIA EXCHANGE

Friday 9 November, 10am- 2pm

A half-day lab for selected participants to workshop new projects; receive feedback, advice and support from our national and international speakers; participate in peer-to-peer mentoring; and make new connections across community arts and media.

Participation is via application. For more information on how to get involved or to register your interest in the lab, email digitalstorytelling@acmi.net.au

This event is presented by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the Queensland University of Technology with support from the Australian Research Council, the Australia Council for the Arts, Goolarri Media Enterprises, Swinburne University of Technology, Curtin University, 31 Digital and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia.

ACMI will also be hosting a Digital Storytelling express workshop in conjunction with the forum on Saturday 10 November, 10am – 5.30pm. More info at the ACMI website.

Who’s @theqldpremier?

So, I’m sure Australian readers will have noticed that some things changed in Queensland over the weekend.

Sometime yesterday I noticed that now ex-Premier Anna Bligh’s Twitter account, @theqldpremier (which had been going great guns, by the way, and props to her for that among many other things), looked all wrong:

There had already been plenty of half-joking speculation as to what was going to happen to the Twitter account. At first, like several other people, I thought that somehow amid the adrenaline rush, sleep deprivation and media frenzy of the election, that Anna Bligh’s team had ceremonially handed over her Twitter account along with the custodianship of the State. Perhaps there was a Social Media Account Handover Policy sitting somewhere in a filing drawer in Parliament House?

Then I dug around a bit and realised that Anna Bligh still had her account (and therefore her history and followers, etc), but had simply changed her username – which is something anyone can do at any time, of course:

But then I thought, hang on. Campbell Newman seems to have taken over the @theqldpremier handle instantly. Automagically, even. Did someone really organise this? Surely his team has better things to do the day after the election? Maybe social media really has arrived.

A wee spot of forensics ensued – it looks like someone (@samueljacksonmp) unconnected with the Newman team noticed the username was free, had the foresight to grab it for himself, and passed it on to the new Premier’s team (who have yet to really do anything with it). I also note that it isn’t a ‘verified’ official account, and never has been I don’t think.

Anyway, here’s some screenshots from my little expedition:

I’ve no way of verifying that this is how it happened, but it makes a lot more sense than the Official Social Media Account Handover Policy theory.

CCI Winter School (or ‘summer school’ for northerners) – apply now!

In my new role as Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation (CCI for short), I’m excited to be leading the team that’s organising our most ambitious PhD and Early Career Researcher activity to date – the CCI Winter School, to be held in balmy Brisbane in late June this year. It’s a selective but free event (you or your institution only need to cover your travel), involving a fairly small group of promising PhD students and early career researchers from around the world. Applications close on 31 January 7 February – don’t miss out!

CCI’s 2012 Winter School (coinciding with summer in the northern hemisphere) offers selected doctoral students and early career researchers a week-long program of interdisciplinary study, collaboration and social interaction in the broad area of creative industries and innovation research, drawing on the Centre’s expertise in media, cultural and communication studies, economics, education, policy and law, in relation to the creative economy.

We welcome applications from emerging scholars working on related topics including, but not limited to:

  • Cultural, media and creative industries policy
  • Digital society
  • Community arts and media
  • New business models in the creative economy
  • Innovation studies
  • Economics of the creative industries
  • The creative industries in Asia
  • Transmedia
  • Internet studies
  • Copyright and intellectual property
  • The challenges of ‘big data’
  • Creative careers and creative labour

Participants will work with leading researchers, engage in intensive workshop activities and receive direct feedback and individual mentoring on their own work. Social activities will provide additional opportunities for participants to get to know each other and form collaborative relationships that will last for years to come.

For all the info, lists of mentors, an indicative program and the online application form, visit the CCI Winter School website.

YouTube book: now out in Polish

The Polish edition of our YouTube book landed on my desk this morning, and has now joined the English, Italian and Portuguese versions on my bookshelves. That’s 3 languages down…

polish youtube cover image

The publisher didn’t supply an English translation of the new preface by Edwin Bendyk (time to call in a few favours from my Polish-speaking friends, I guess!), but here’s a link to the Google Translate version of Edwin’s blog post where he discusses the book.

Back to work on the second edition, which will be coming out next year and will contain significant revisions and updates…

Transforming Audiences Keynote

[crossposted at the Mapping Online Publics blog.]

On the 1st and 2nd of September I was in London at the third Transforming Audiences conference, hosted by CAMRI at the University of Westminster. I was one of four keynote presenters – alongside Nancy Baym, Patricia Lange, and Adriana de Souza e Silva. I had a great time, and I’m very grateful to David Gauntlett and the other conference organisers for inviting me. The keynotes were all video-recorded, and I’ll post the video of mine here once it becomes available. In the meantime, here are my abstract and a copy of the slides (mostly pictures, as is my practice when giving these kinds of talks).

From ‘Broadcast Yourself’ to ‘Follow Your Interests’: Social media five years on

When YouTube started to become popular in 2006, it had little functionality beyond the uploading and sharing of videos, and the invocation to ‘broadcast yourself’. Around the same time, Twitter first invited users to share everyday updates with friends and colleagues in response to the simple question ‘What are you doing?’. In 2011, YouTube is a central player in the contemporary media ecology, extending well beyond amateur videosharing; and Twitter plays an increasingly central role in the origination and dissemination of real-time news, largely as a result of social, cultural and technological innovations originally introduced by the user community. At the same time, the ongoing commercial evolution of these and other ‘social media’ platforms has gradually repositioned us – as ‘users’ – in new ways. In this presentation I trace some common trajectories across several social media platforms, and discuss their consequences for the future of participatory culture.

PhD scholarship in Digital Storytelling and Co-Creative Media

I’m one of the Chief Investigators on a project called Community Uses of Co-Creative Media (for short), and we’re offering a scholarship to support a PhD student commencing in 2011. Please pass this information on to anyone who may be interested and eligible!

The project

Applications are invited for a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Faculty-based scholarship to support a PhD project (3 years) that investigates the links between community arts, media, storytelling, and creative participation. This Research Higher Degree (RHD) project will be undertaken in conjunction with an Australian Research Council-funded Linkage with industry. The successful applicant will work with Creative Industries Faculty Chief Investigators – Drs Christina Spurgeon, Helen Klaebe, Jean Burgess, John Hartley and Brad Haseman – to devise and undertake a research project that will contribute to establishing and improving ‘best practice’ knowledge of co-creative media in Australian community media and arts networks. The candidate will participate in project activities including fieldwork, experiments, and symposia, contribute to scholarly outputs of the project, and will have access to a team of nationally and internationally recognised researchers, as well as national and international academic and industry networks.

Availability

The scholarship will be awarded in the QUT 2012 scholarship round which closes on 14th October 2011. Potential applicants should contact Dr Christina Spurgeon (c.spurgeon@qut.edu.au ) well before this date, and allow sufficient time to complete the application form. The successful applicant would be expected to commence between January and March 2012.

Value

The Scholarship will be equivalent to a QUT Postgraduate Research AWARD (QUTPRA) and is valued at $22,860 pa (2011 rates, tax exempt and indexed annually) for 3 years. QUTPRA rules will be apply. Further information about QUTPRAs can be accessed from here: http://www.qut.edu.au/research/rhd/scholarships/qut/info/qutpra.jsp

Research Information

The ARC Linkage Project focuses on digital storytelling as a means for propagating creative productivity across the broad population. It investigates the extent to which existing agencies and networks in community arts and community media use co-creative techniques such as digital storytelling to achieve their own aims. The research explores the tensions between new media and existing infrastructure, amateur and professional creativity, and the role of community-based agencies in extending digital literacy, especially among at-risk, remote, and under-served populations. In cooperation with the project’s Industry Partners, we will devise a model for evaluating best practice in the production, adaptation and use of non-professional innovation in creative content. Industry partner organisations are the Australia Council for the Arts, The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Goolarri Media Enterprises, Queensland Community Television and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. Additional information about the project and participants can be accessed from here: http://digitalstorytelling.ci.qut.edu.au/linkage

Eligibility

The scholarship is open to domestic students and tuition fees will be covered by the Government’s Research Training Scheme (RTS). The successful applicant is expected to hold a First Class Honours Degree (or its Australian equivalent) in a relevant area. International applicants may be also be eligible if their tertiary education is deemed equivalent to an Australian First Class Honours Degree. The proposed research project must align with the ARC-funded project. Applicants must qualify for entry to a PhD program with the Creative Industries Faculty.

How to Apply

If you are interested in this opportunity please contact Dr Christina Spurgeon in the first instance (email: c.spurgeon@qut.edu.au) by 23 September, 2011. The scholarship application form and instructions can be obtained from here: http://www.qut.edu.au/research/rhd/apply/

Other information

The successful applicant will be based at the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus, Brisbane, Australia.

a (very) short history of social media taglines

Lawson Fletcher has written a very insightful post about a funny little Twitter exchange I had with various people last night, prompted by some observations I made about the way social media taglines have changed over the past 5 years or so. Go over there to see how it all started.

While it was mostly a lot of fun (largely thanks to Kate’s lightning-fast wit and #soylentgreen references) it seems it was also interesting to people, so here’s some thoughts on what is behind my interest in the evolution of social media, via the taglines.

As I said at the time, I think taglines (think YouTube’s ‘broadcast yourself’) are interesting and important: they’re the ‘slogans’ that tell us what the platform owners want us to think platforms are ‘for’; and decisions to change them prompt us to notice what else has changed – the layout of homepages, the weight and usability given to various affordances, and indeed the business models themselves. I’ve been paying attention to these things for a while, beginning with Flickr (in my own PhD), more recently Twitter, and of course YouTube (even more so now that Josh and I are working on a second edition of our book).

My summing-up tweet was:

social media taglines over the past 5 years: from infantile self expression, to narcissistic cosmopolitanism, to networked consumption.

I’ve written about these shifts in the representation of the ‘ideal’ user in relation to the self, to the social network and to ‘the world’ in an as-yet incomplete and unpublished paper, and I’ve pasted an excerpt at the bottom of this post so you can get a sense of my most pointy-headed angle on it.

This afternoon I’ve dug up a few more snapshots of the Twitter homepage using the wayback machine, and here they are. (And by the way, the Wayback Machine is a godsend and an essential resource for tracking the history of the web platforms we use daily and that tend to change incrementally but unnoticed right in front of us.)

September 2006
The tagline (in the page header) was “A Whole World in Your Hands”; and then

“Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing.”

September 2007
Tagline: “What are you Doing”; and then

“A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or right here on the web!”

I haven’t been 100% thorough, but it seems that “What are you doing?” persisted until sometime in 2009, when the landing page looked like this [click to enlarge]:

And now, suddenly:

For those interested, here’s the promised chunk from the unpublished paper that will now have to be completely revised because I think the latest shifts make what I’ve said pretty anachronistic:

In early 2006, co-founder and then-CEO of the Flickr photosharing service Stewart Butterfield outlined the new corporate vision of the website in an official blog entry. He introduces the post with some self-deprecating asides about what it’s like to work in “big companies”, referring to Yahoo! as Flickr’s “ever-loving parent”, gently mocking the burdens corporate culture places on creatives. He evokes the “powerpoint ‘decks’, spreadsheets, long meetings” and other “crazy processes” – like being asked to come up with mission statements – that infest it. Butterfield writes that the process of coming up with a mission statement was something he initially saw as an imposition on time that could be better spent “fixing stuff” or adding “needed features”, but then quickly shifts into manifesto mode, declaring that “after thinking about it for a while, the vision was obvious”: “The Eyes of the World.” The elaboration that Butterfield goes on to provide is as neat an encapsulation as any of the ways in which ordinary or everyday life, creativity and the cosmopolitan come together in the discourses around social media:

That can manifest itself as art, or using photos as a means of keeping in touch with friends and family, “personal publishing” or intimate, small group sharing. It includes “memory preservation” (the de facto understanding of what drives the photo industry), but it also includes the ephemera that keeps people related to each other: do you like my new haircut? should I buy these shoes? holy smokes – look what I saw on the way to work! It let’s you know who’s gone where with whom, what the vacation was like, how much the baby grew today, all as it’s happening.

And most dramatically, Flickr gives you a window into things that you might otherwise never see, from the perspective of people that you might otherwise never encounter.

In what has since become a recognisable pattern of curatorship on the official Flickr weblog, Butterfield goes on to provide a number of carefully selected examples of Flickr images that bear out this vision: images of the 2006 Paris riots snapped and uploaded in real time (as an example of ‘citizen journalism’); photographs of vernacular architecture, mundane details of the urban environment; and of course some visually appealing photographs featuring the dominant subjects of contemporary vernacular photography: babies, kittens, flowers and sunsets.

The metaphor ‘the eyes of the world’ works in two distinct ways. First, the publication of personal photographs on the Flickr website preserves and publicly remediates those aspects of ordinary life that a large number of citizens see and choose to capture (the eyes of the self, as it were). Second, and as a consequence of this, the Flickr website also functions as a window on the worlds of others. There is a complicated notion of the ‘global’ underlying this idea of the ‘eyes of the world’; one which connects with various points along what Ong (2009) has called the ‘cosmopolitan continuum’: the ideal user of Flickr is invited to connect with both intimates and strangers on the basis of the mundane; and is further invited to engage with the world of the global ‘other’ on the basis of spectacular events, visual aesthetics, and the cultural distinctiveness of everyday life.

This moment in the development and growth of Flickr also marks a distinct moment in the evolution of digital culture and the discourse around it more broadly, precisely because it brought together within one media platform both of these modes of making and experiencing media. On the one hand, participation in Flickr is constructed as involving self-expression and the documentation of one’s own experience (the eyes of the self) and, on the other, participants are invited to experience social connection and global awareness (a window on the world).

This moment foreshadowed a much more extensive trend, now also represented by the near-ubiquity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. At the time of the ‘eyes of the world’ statement, Flickr was at the height of its early fame in the technology media as one of the darlings of the ‘Web 2.0’ moment. Much of the industry rhetoric around Web 2.0 was focused on the new development of web-based platforms that not only allowed individual users to upload their own content, but also provided the means for the user community to organise and evaluate that content collectively, via the now quaint-sounding principle of the “folksonomy” (O’Reilly 2005). But with the exception of blogging, even in the most enthusiastic accounts of these developments in the technology press, there was little indication that social media might come to play as significant a role in media culture more broadly – that is, beyond ‘web culture’ – as is now increasingly the case. In the years since, it has become clear that social media are not only enabling individuals to more conveniently access publishing technologies, but that they are also playing a significant role in global public communication; in some cases at a scale that far exceeds the original intentions of the founders of the platforms concerned.

As a demonstration of this shift, Flickr’s slogan in 2004 was rather modest and primarily focused around its technical affordances for individual web users: potential participants were invited simply to “Share pictures in real time!”. Now the tagline on the home page much more ambitiously reads: “Share your photos. Watch the world.” This shift in social media from personal technology to public communication is also borne out by the similar evolution and widespread popularity of the short-message sharing social network site Twitter.com. Twitter recently changed its tagline (the short slogan which acts both as invitation to users and an evocation of the platform’s overall purpose) from the ‘me-centred’ “Twitter is for staying in touch and keeping up with friends no matter where you are or what you’re doing” – which users could do by answering the question “What are you doing right now?” in 140 characters or less – to something more akin to a global mission statement built around real-time events: “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.”

These examples demonstrate that there is a shift occurring in the way that the role of everyday communication and personal media use are thought to figure in public discourse; and this shift has accompanied the widespread (but by no means universal) uptake and usage of social media platforms, alongside the increasingly global ambitions of the businesses that provide these services. Via user-created content networks and social network sites, the everyday lives of individuals are being remediated into new contexts of social visibility and connection – through Facebook and Twitter status updates, videos uploaded to YouTube, and photos contributed to Flickr. [etc]

Oh, and something else I tweeted later in the evening:

SCORE! on Flickr’s current homepage (without logging in): “Community. Flickr is made of people.” #soylentmedia

Travel Gazette 1: Ankara & Istanbul

I’m still near to the beginning of a five-week research trip through Europe – I get home at just about the end of October. I’m going to do a series of gazettey blog posts, both as an aide-memoire and a way of sharing my trip given the patchiness of internet connectivity that goes hand in hand with travel (and hence the inability to tweet incessantly!).

So, John Hartley and I spent most of last week in Turkey at the very kind invitation of our colleague and PhD student Burcu Simsek, who is both a member of staff at Hacettepe University in Ankara, and a CCI doctoral candidate. Thanks to Burcu we had an excellent tour of both of Hacettepe’s campuses, as well as all the must-see tourist stuff: museums, the older bazaar streets, and plenty of excellent food.

The main purpose of the trip for John and me was to do one keynote presentation each, as well as a joint panel on Digital Storytelling, at Bilism 2010, a big national IT conference. My presentation on YouTube discussed the ways we might use YouTube’s 5 year history and its competing futures to think about current controversies concerning the future of the Internet more broadly – tensions between various nationally-specific ideologies of ‘openness’, in tension with equally different norms of ‘control’ was what I tried to boil it down to. Of course giving a paper on the popular uses of YouTube in a country where it is currently blocked by official legislation was slightly surreal, but given the number of people who were already familiar with Charlie Bit my Finger and Susan Boyle, (and how easy it is to bypass the block), I think it went OK.

John, Burcu and I also presented a joint panel on Digital Storytelling, which Burcu has introduced to Turkey via a very productive partnership between Hacettepe University and the womens’ organisation Amargi. The digital storytelling workshops she has run so far are also the primary fieldwork component of Burcu’s PhD on digital storytelling and womens’ participation in the Turkish public sphere. In fact the panel was kind of the first public launch of digital storytelling in the Turkish context, so it was pretty exciting to be part of that.

At the end of the conference all three of us flew to Istanbul for the most intensive day of touristing I have ever experienced, including among many other things 2 hours of awe and wonderment at the Hagia Sofia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (video below), and the Sultan’s Palace.

After all that (and of course more food), we survived what has to be the world’s best example of Extreme Shopping: the Grand Bazaar; and finally, a brief dip into Istanbul’s extremely lively nightlife, finishing up with a gig (part of the Akbank Jazz Festival) at Babylon, a pretty important insitution in the local music industry, with its own magazine, record label, and so on.

Next up: Urbino, where I’m writing this!