Back from ECREA 2014

Back from a couple of interesting days at the 2014 ECREA conference in Lisbon.

I was on a panel organized by Jakob Linaa Jensen called “News Across Media : The Production and Consumption of News in a Cross-Media Perspective”, along with Bente Kalsnes, Mads Hvas Jensen, Einar Thorsen, and Jacob Ørmen.

Below is the abstract of the presentation (developed with Kim Schrøder) that I gave.

Changing forms of cross-media news consumption in Western Europe

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Roskilde University and the University of Oxford) & Kim Schrøder (Roskilde University)

News use across Western Europe is rapidly changing as traditional sources of news are increasingly supplemented and sometimes supplanted by digital media, and as relatively passive forms of media use are sometimes complemented with new forms of sharing, commenting, and creating.

In this paper, we analyze similarities and differences in news media use across Western Europe on the basis of data from a ten-country international survey (the Reuters Institute Digital News Report), examining, amongst other issues, the rise of mobile news as smartphone penetration in the span of a few years has surpassed fifty percent in many countries—including countries like Italy and Spain where internet use has otherwise lagged behind the EU15 average. The region is intellectually interesting because countries in Western Europe, despite their relative economic, media-technological, and political similarity continue to differ when it comes to how news is used, providing amble opportunities for comparative work on “political information environments” (Curran et al, 2009; Aalberg et al, 2010; Esser et al, 2012).

Based on a “most-similar” comparison looking specifically at data from within Western Europe, we identify three particularly important similarities in how news is used across the region, namely (1) the continuing centrality of “old” or “renewed” (Chadwick, 2013) media, (2) the parallel rise in the overall importance of digital media in an increasingly cross-media news environment, and (3) the increasing centrality of US-based global digital intermediaries like Google, Facebook, and Apple. We also, however, document significant country-to-country differences in the degree to which (1) citizens have embraced more active and participatory forms of news use and (2) the degree to which the digital incarnation of legacy news media retain a dominant position in terms of digital news provision.

We suggest that the differences identified can be related in part to interactions between new technological developments and inherited differences in the “media systems” (Hallin and Mancini, 2004) and “media cultures” (Hepp and Couldry, 2009) found in the countries in question, as well as to differences in overall confidence in the political institutions that most news coverage focuses on (Norris, 2011).

 

Starting new job as Director of Research and Development in Oxford

In January, I’m taking up a new job as Director of Research and Development at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and moving back to the UK.

My role is to expand the institute’s internationally-oriented, practically-relevant academic research agenda and develop further ties to practicing journalists and media industry professionals around the world.

I’m excited to take up this position and work with colleagues both at the institute and in the news industry, as well as throughout the very strong academic environments at the University of Oxford, including partners in the Department of Politics and International Relations, the Oxford Internet Institute, and the Saïd Business School and elsewhere.

I am taking a leave of absence from my faculty position at Roskilde University but will continue to collaborate with my many good colleagues there, including our Center for Power, Media, and Communication, which is involved in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report project.

Digital Keywords Workshop – essay on “democracy”

My friend Ben Peters has organized a terrific workshop on “Digital Keywords” hosted at the University of Tulsa October 10-11 (check out the Twitter account and the hashtag #digitalkeywords for discussion).

I’ve written a draft entry on democracy. It is more an essay on how we might think about the relationship between digital technology and democracy than an overview-type etymology/conceptual history etc (Raymond Williams entry in his original Keywords provides that (PDF here), those looking for a history can look at John Keane’s rich and sprawling book “The Life and Death of Democracy”).

The whole entry is available here, the excerpt below gives an indication of the thrust of it—

“…much of the discussion around the relationship between digital information and communication technologies and democracy has focused too little on the question of what connections exists between digital technologies and actually existing, minimalist-vision democracy and too much on extensive discussion of the possible connections that might potentially be established between digital technologies and alternative, maximalist visions for democracy.”

I couldn’t make it to the workshop in person but Skyped in for two hours of discussion, and got tons of useful feedback and comments, especially from Guobin Yang who served as my discussant.

My idea of a great Saturday night (skyping into conference)

My idea of a great Saturday night–Skyping into Tulsa conference 9pm-11pm my time.

This is all work-in-progress and as Julia Sonnevend rightly noted in the discussion, given the equally minimalist thrust of my presentation on journalism in Groningen in June (which I’m also revising and elaborating on) there is a bit of a theme emerging here.

Nice new review of “Ground Wars”

New review out of my book Ground Wars: Personalized Political Communication (Princeton University Press, 2012).

Dennis W. Johnson writes very kindly:

This is a groundbreaking study; I have learned much from it and believe it will be an important addition to the field of campaigns and elections. It will be just as valuable as Green and Gerber’s Get Out the Vote, with its analysis of various communications techniques and ground-war activities. The Obama presidential campaigns set the gold standard for technology and ground-war effectiveness, and many other state and localcampaigns have followed suit. As campaign technology becomes more sophisticated
and the ground war becomes more of a strategic tool, other scholars should be looking into this important field as well.
Full review (in the International Journal of Press/Politics) here.

Taking over as editor of the International Journal of Press/Politics

January 1, 2015, I’m taking over as editor of the International Journal of Press/Politics after Silvio Waisbord.

I regard IJPP as the premier journal for genuinely international and comparative work focused on the intersection between news media (broadly conceived) and politics (equally broadly conceived) and as a journal dedicated to publishing theoretically and methodologically diverse social science work of high quality focused on substantially important problems.

At least that’s what Sage has published so far under Silvio and other previous editors, so now I have something to live up to. An “important but tough job” as one experienced colleague told me. I’m looking forward to it.

Nice review of “Political Journalism in Transition”

LSE Review of Books has a nice review of Political Journalism in Transition: Western Europe in a Comparative Perspective (I.B. Tauris) which I’ve edited with Raymond Kuhn.

The final verdict by Joseph Peralta:

Political Journalism in Transition remains one of the most comprehensive, interdisciplinary comparative analysis of political journalism that is currently in print. Any analysis that features these confounding and intersecting historico-political elements could have easily resulted in a heady, impractical work, but this bipartite anthology offers a complete resource that is straightforward and digestible. It is a handy, relevant resource for scholars of political journalism and critical media studies worldwide, as well as for news and public affairs practitioners who stand to gain from a nuanced understanding of the factors, both obvious and overlooked, that are shaping political journalism today.

Whole review here. Book also available on Amazon.

New article out “Political communication research: New media, new challenges, and new opportunities”

A new special issue of MedieKultur has just been published.  It includes an article by my based on a keynote lecture I gave in November 2012 at the Danish Association of Media Researchers’ Annual Meeting.

The talk and the article deals with how the field of political communication research might benefit from embracing the theoretical and methodological diversity that characterize the broader field of media and communications research, including intellectually adjacent and overlapping “sibling” fields like journalism studies and audience research.

It builds on the same line of thinking I’ve developed with David Karpf and Daniel Kreiss elsewhere (including our chapter in this book, based on our paper from ICA 2013) and that was part of the motivation for the preconference on the role of qualitative methods in political communication research that we organized with Matthew Powers for ICA in 2014.

As always, I’m grateful for our ongoing conversations.

Abstract below–full text (PDF) here.

Political communication research: New media, new challenges, and new opportunities

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

Abstract

The rise of new media and the broader set of social changes they are part of present political communication research with new challenges and new opportunities at a time when many think the field is at an intellectual impasse (e.g., Bennett & Iyengar, 2008). In this article, I argue that parts of the field’s problems are rooted in the way in which political communication research has developed since the 1960s. In this period, the field has moved from being interdisciplinary and mixed-methods to being more homogenous and narrowly focused, based primarily on ideas developed in social psychology, certain strands of political science, and the effects-tradition of mass communication research. This dominant paradigm has contributed much to our understanding of some aspects of political communication. But it is struggling to make sense of many others, including questions concerning people’s experience of political communication processes and questions concerning the symbolic, institutional, and technological nature of these processes—especially during a time of often rapid change. To overcome this problem, I argue that the field of political communication research should re-engage with the rest of media and communication studies and embrace a broader and more diverse agenda. I discuss audience research and journalism studies as examples of adjacent fields that use a more diverse range of theoretical and methodological tools that might help political communication research engage with new media and the new challenges and new opportunities for research that they represent.

Keywords:political communication, new media, digital politics, theory, method