Mutation of Media: Transformations in public and scientific communication

Mutation of Media: Transformations in public and scientific communication

In under a decade, the modes of content creation and distribution in digital environments have undergone considerable transformations, reconfiguring models traditionally adopted by culture industries. Four features characterize this evolution and the emergence of a "participatory culture" [Jenkins06]. Firstly, users are now urged to produce and distribute their own online content, a characteristic frequently designated by the expressions user-generated content (UGC) or user-created content (UCC) [OECD07]. Moreover, this participation is made easier by the low level of cognitive and technical skill necessary to explore the tools of these new platforms (even if inequalities in access to and appropriation of these tools still remain). This encourages content creation and exchange practices among ordinary users [LeadMiller04]. Thirdly, these mutations are supported by the development of large online communities of users, networked and without a pre-established hierarchal structure [Suro05]. Finally, these transformations have given rise to original economical models [Gensollen06] based on immense aggregations of individual contributions, which are often minimal. Today, the new participatory forms have multiplied, demanding strategic adaptations of several sectors of the culture industries. The general environment in the content market is one of experimentation, while the best ways to ensure profit are still unclear. This is clear in journalism, where all informational products are to be developed in a single location and under renewed environments of information management. Journalists are expected to know how to daily produce content in and across all media, that should also be ready to be distributed through systems of podcasting, sms, rss and blogging. Scientific communication, too, has been transformed with widespread access to and use of the Internet. The volume and rate of exchange of scientific information has increased exponentially.

Our research program proposes to analyse collaborative practices of content creation and exchange, in order to assess how they are transforming public and scientific communication. The following will be analysed through a case-study approach: Online video: its use as a tool for political communication [Losh08]; Citizen journalism: how new technological developments affect the traditional rules of journalism [JPLeCamPe05]; Online scientific networks: joint creation and sharing of scientific knowledge [Mathieu02]; Scientific blogs: the use of blogs in scientific communication [Bradley07]. This project will generate original scientific knowledge on the different participatory forms of online informational and cultural content creation and exchange. In sum, objectives are to trace the social contours of the emergence of online contribution as a unique social form and, secondly, to produce comprehensive descriptions of instances in which technological innovation is transforming public and scientific communication. This project provides the opportunity to establish a partnership between two important research units in each country, Portugal and Canada, strengthening the ties of what has been until now informal and occasional collaboration. The research team in Science, Technology and Society, led by José Luís Garcia, has developed for 15 years studies and reflection on social, economic and political implications of contemporary technology (ICT) ([Garcia06a], [Garcia06b], [Subtil06], [Silva09]). This group has carried out studies on the effects of technological innovation and new management models on the restructuring of the media industry, concepts of information and journalism, journalistic practices, work environment in newsrooms and transformations of the journalistic profession ([MeiGra07], [Garcia09]). The Canadian members of the team have explored the social appropriation of technologies by users, from their initial research on early users of personal computers [Proulx88], to their work on technical cultures and activism ([ProuxLToth00], [GoldCout07]) for more than twenty-five years. Recent research focuses on Internet uses ([Millerand02]; [ProulxCout06]) and new technologies for the sciences [MilleBow09] as well as on questions of the generation and circulation of knowledge in situations of innovation and heterogeneous collaboration ([HeTayEv02], [Heaton05]). Finally, two consultants will contribute their particular expertise, with a more economic approach [Gensollen06] and a focus on the social impact of ICT [Licoppe07].

This project hence continues research already underway. Our interest in understanding the uses of ICT comes together here with the notion of online contribution. It highlights the new dynamics of participatory use in digital environments, simultaneously marked by the convergence of the media and the installation of collaborative platforms as well as by the significance of an open and free culture.

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
No
Entidades: 
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Keywords: 

Internet, Contribution, Journalism, Scientific communication

In under a decade, the modes of content creation and distribution in digital environments have undergone considerable transformations, reconfiguring models traditionally adopted by culture industries. Four features characterize this evolution and the emergence of a "participatory culture" [Jenkins06]. Firstly, users are now urged to produce and distribute their own online content, a characteristic frequently designated by the expressions user-generated content (UGC) or user-created content (UCC) [OECD07]. Moreover, this participation is made easier by the low level of cognitive and technical skill necessary to explore the tools of these new platforms (even if inequalities in access to and appropriation of these tools still remain). This encourages content creation and exchange practices among ordinary users [LeadMiller04]. Thirdly, these mutations are supported by the development of large online communities of users, networked and without a pre-established hierarchal structure [Suro05]. Finally, these transformations have given rise to original economical models [Gensollen06] based on immense aggregations of individual contributions, which are often minimal. Today, the new participatory forms have multiplied, demanding strategic adaptations of several sectors of the culture industries. The general environment in the content market is one of experimentation, while the best ways to ensure profit are still unclear. This is clear in journalism, where all informational products are to be developed in a single location and under renewed environments of information management. Journalists are expected to know how to daily produce content in and across all media, that should also be ready to be distributed through systems of podcasting, sms, rss and blogging. Scientific communication, too, has been transformed with widespread access to and use of the Internet. The volume and rate of exchange of scientific information has increased exponentially.

Our research program proposes to analyse collaborative practices of content creation and exchange, in order to assess how they are transforming public and scientific communication. The following will be analysed through a case-study approach: Online video: its use as a tool for political communication [Losh08]; Citizen journalism: how new technological developments affect the traditional rules of journalism [JPLeCamPe05]; Online scientific networks: joint creation and sharing of scientific knowledge [Mathieu02]; Scientific blogs: the use of blogs in scientific communication [Bradley07]. This project will generate original scientific knowledge on the different participatory forms of online informational and cultural content creation and exchange. In sum, objectives are to trace the social contours of the emergence of online contribution as a unique social form and, secondly, to produce comprehensive descriptions of instances in which technological innovation is transforming public and scientific communication. This project provides the opportunity to establish a partnership between two important research units in each country, Portugal and Canada, strengthening the ties of what has been until now informal and occasional collaboration. The research team in Science, Technology and Society, led by José Luís Garcia, has developed for 15 years studies and reflection on social, economic and political implications of contemporary technology (ICT) ([Garcia06a], [Garcia06b], [Subtil06], [Silva09]). This group has carried out studies on the effects of technological innovation and new management models on the restructuring of the media industry, concepts of information and journalism, journalistic practices, work environment in newsrooms and transformations of the journalistic profession ([MeiGra07], [Garcia09]). The Canadian members of the team have explored the social appropriation of technologies by users, from their initial research on early users of personal computers [Proulx88], to their work on technical cultures and activism ([ProuxLToth00], [GoldCout07]) for more than twenty-five years. Recent research focuses on Internet uses ([Millerand02]; [ProulxCout06]) and new technologies for the sciences [MilleBow09] as well as on questions of the generation and circulation of knowledge in situations of innovation and heterogeneous collaboration ([HeTayEv02], [Heaton05]). Finally, two consultants will contribute their particular expertise, with a more economic approach [Gensollen06] and a focus on the social impact of ICT [Licoppe07].

This project hence continues research already underway. Our interest in understanding the uses of ICT comes together here with the notion of online contribution. It highlights the new dynamics of participatory use in digital environments, simultaneously marked by the convergence of the media and the installation of collaborative platforms as well as by the significance of an open and free culture.

Objectivos: 
The project aims to trace the social contours of the emergence of online contribution as a unique social form and, secondly, to produce comprehensive descriptions of instances in which technological innovation is transforming public and scientific communication. The research team builds from the hypothesis that behind the diversity present in the cases to be studied, a unity can be found, since collaborative practices share certain common characteristics. Following the latest work being developed on the subject, we seek to identify the specificity of what we refer to as online contribution and what it implies for traditional modes of content production.
State of the art: 
This research project is situated at the intersection of the field of information and communication sciences and media studies on one side, and that of science and technology studies (STS), on the other. Several contemporary studies on communication, culture and media describe digital environments (resulting from the convergence between computer science, audiovisual media and telecommunications) as privileged spaces for cultural creation by the many. <p>Moreover, in recent studies on the use of technological innovations, the user is now perceived as being at the centre of these devices while playing an increasingly active role in the innovation process. In the beginning, this body of work described the capacity of the lead user to identify correctly &quot;their needs&quot;, then to invent a satisfactory technical solution, and finally, to build and test a prototype in actual conditions of use. These studies have been prolonged by taking into account a broader base of users susceptible to contribute to the process of ascending innovation: Von Hippel has spoken - wrongly or not - of a &quot;democratization of innovation&quot;. Our approach on contributory uses on the Internet follows the same line as these works on the uses of innovation in digital environments.</p><p>In contemporary world, intentional human actions are predominantly implemented by technical devices, incorporated in programs and automatized technical systems, which undergo restraint from the technical dynamism that pervades and reconfigures the different dimensions of the social life. In a way, human actions, and certainly the ones most relevant in their social impact, are today predominantly co-actions. Therefore, social sciences cannot consider technical devices only in terms of efficiency and productivity. They should, on the one hand, understand current technical-human co-actions through their uses and mechanisms of production of unforeseen consequences and by-products and, on the other, seek to make clear the global human and historical meaning of these present processes.</p><p>Following a movement which began mid-20th century, especially after World War II, communication now comprehends not only the traditional media sector, but also telecommunications and computers. The convergence - through digitalization - of ICT with other technical and economic sectors is based in the incorporation of information and knowledge, the driving force of the commonly designated &quot;knowledge economy&quot;. This set contains logical and ideological traits inherent to the incorporated technical spheres and their close ties to industrial sectors involved in the new procedures of knowledge production and management. In journalism, the technological environment, in association with the renewed political economy imposing itself on news rooms has begun to interfere with its fundamental premises, that is, with how the &quot;interpretative community&quot; of journalists understands their role and their profession.</p><p>As a theoretical framework, our program will draw from: (1) approaches to lead users developed in sociology of use and economic sociology; (2) studies on the uses and digital cultures, from information and communication sciences and media studies; (3) &quot;the paradigm of the gift&quot; - whose origin lies in the anthropological work of Marcel Mauss - is essential to think the &quot;form of contribution&quot;. Because he opposes utilitarianism, which reduces the individual to the result of a rational calculation, the model of the gift seems more respectful of the wealth of motivation at the source of contributory use; (4) philosophical theories on recognition will also hold a significant position in our program; (5) a perspective inspired by the sociology of scientific knowledge, exploring the role of technological artifacts in building shared understandings of knowledge problems in interdisciplinary contexts.</p><p>To describe these practices of creation and exchange, our analysis framework will include four dimensions: (a) the notion of communication in social sciences; (b) the level of expertise which internet contributors have to display and their relation with professionals; (c) the inclusion of such contributory uses in the context of an economy of the immaterial and of a process of exchange non-rival goods.</p><p>a) The discussion on communication, focusing the sociological complexity of this concept, contrasting different traditions of communication as culture: the Great Community, communicational reason, hermeneutical communication, communication as argumentation.</p><p>b) The assessment of the quality and the actual degree of expertise of regular contributors, while at the same time examining the processes by which the figure of the &quot;expert&quot; can (re) emerge in the group of users, paying particular attention to the recognition of contributions and collaboration between users.</p><p>c) The description of an economy of attention, that of mass media, an economy of free content and transfer of value to facilities and services necessary for their collective use, highlighting the possible risks of instrumentalization of goodwill during the formation of groups that organize and manage the corpus. The owners of collaborative platforms currently have the right to use the information, which can be employed to increase market efficiency.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Filipa Subtil
Patrícia Silva
Sara Meireles Graça
Serge Proulx
Florence Millerand
Lorna Heaton
Anne Goldenberg
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/02/2010
End Date: 
31/01/2013
Closed