68th ICA Conference in Prague—Voices

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Between 24-28 May, thousands of communication scholars from all over the world gathered for the 68th International Communication Association Conference in Prague, Czech Republic. The College of Communication Arts & Sciences had a particularly strong presence at the conference with more than 80 faculty and students presenting their research. The Quello Center’s Assistant Director Bibi Reisdorf and Research Fellow Laleah Fernandez were among those presentations with some of the results from the Quello Search Project.

Dr. Fernandez presenting about The Vulnerables at ICA 2018

As part of the large program, the team working on the Quello Search Project, Grant Blank (Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford), Elizabeth Dubois (Department of Communication, University of Ottawa), Bill Dutton, Laleah Fernandez, and Bibi Reisdorf, put together a panel on “Personalization, Politics, and Policy: Cross-National Perspectives”. Despite the early morning start (8am) on the day following all the big ICA receptions, a good crowd turned up to hear about our results pertaining to how people make use of a diverse range of media to find information on political matters. The papers presented in this panel ranged from a focus on personalization of search, to a critical discussion of algorithmic literacy, from exploring “the vulnerable” (i.e. those who have low search skills and little interest in politics) to discussing the policy implications of citizens’ complex media habits. The panel presentations were followed by a critical discussion of the presented results by Cornelius Puschmann, Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research.

Immediately after this early morning panel, Bibi Reisdorf also took part in a panel on “Filter Bubbles: From Academic Debate to Robust Empirical Analysis”, which she co-organized together with Anja Bechmann, Aarhus University, and Oscar Westlund, University of Gothenburg & Volda University College. This panel paid specific attention to empirical evidence of the extent (or lack thereof) of filter bubbles around the globe. Despite different foci and datasets, all four panelists, Anja Bechmann, Aarhus University, Axel Bruns, Queensland University of Technology, Neil Thurman, LM University Munich, and Quello’s Bibi Reisdorf, presented findings that supported results from our Quello Search Project, which showed that although filter bubbles and echo chambers do exist, the magnitude is largely overstated and the resulting panics are unnecessary and unhelpful. The results were discussed and responded to by MSU’s very own newest ICA Fellow, Prof. Esther Thorson, who pointed out that this type of research needs to be more closely investigated and critically evaluated in light of existing communication theories, such as Uses and Gratifications or Confirmation Bias, to name just a few.

Dr. Reisdorf presenting about Algorithmic Literacy at ICA 2018

Overall, the conference was a great success for the Quello team, who also participated in a pre-conference workshop on survey design and survey questions on internet use organized by Prof. Eszter Hargittai, University of Zurich. In addition, we took a few hours each to enjoy beautiful Prague and the amazing culinary treats, including, of course, the fantastic beer and wine that can be found in this beautiful region of Europe.

Now, back in East Lansing, the team is busy finishing up a few book chapters and journal articles that revolve around the issues that were discussed at the ICA conference. Our next big conference will be TPRC in Washington, DC in September, where Laleah Fernandez will present some of our exciting results from the Detroit Study.

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Social Media for Social Good or Evil: 2017 International Conference

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As a member of their advisory board, I would also like to invite scholarly and original submissions that broadly relate to the 2017 conference theme on “Social Media for Social Good or Evil.” The organizers welcome both quantitative and qualitative work which crosses interdisciplinary boundaries and expands our understanding of the current
and future trends in social media research. See the call for proposals at
https://socialmediaandsociety.org/2016/cfp-2017-international-conference-social-media-society/

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Another Successful Meaningful Play Conference

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Johannes Bauer on Meaningful Play 2016

Thanks to Brian, Casey and Carrie (the three co-chairs of Meaningful Play 2016) as well as all other faculty and students (among them Valeta, Will, Andrew, Luke, Jeremy, Ricardo, Robby, Wei, Constantinos, and many others) who were involved in organizing the conference, the program committee, and the onsite logistics! Beth gave an inspiring keynote that concluded the conference on a high note! I was equally impressed by the quality of theoretical and applied research and the innovative nature of the many game projects reported and exhibited.

The conference was a great forum for the growing number of MSU researchers with a shared interest in games to interact and network with other MSU researchers and with the attendees from the US and abroad. Until this conference, I was not fully aware of the size and diversity of the group of MSU researchers. I interacted with individuals from the Colleges of Social Science; Education; Arts and Letters; Lyman Briggs; and our college (and am sure there probably were more). Also rewarding to see that several of them are graduates of the Serious Games Certificate Program. screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-17-03-51

Johannes Bauer, Chair
Department of Media and Information

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Re-inventing Journalism: A Report on a Conference in Switzerland

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Re-inventing Journalism
by Avshalom Ginosar

“Re-inventing Journalism” – this was the title of an international academic conference that took place in Winterthur, Switzerland (15 minutes from Zurich by train), on February 5th-6th. More than an hundred scholars, most of them from Europe, attended the conference.

Most of the 23 different workshops and presentations addressed, in one way or another, the transition of journalism onto the online world. It seems that this issue occupies not only the industry of news which keeps looking for the successful new business model, but it is an issue of great confusion and concern for the academic community as well. Scholars from different countries and different academic institutions are looking not only for new definitions of journalism and journalists; rather, they question the traditional theories of journalism and look for new theoretical directions, more suitable to the digital era of journalism. In fact, in all the sessions I attended, I heard more questions than answers.

The highlights of the conference were two keynote talks by Prof. Jane Singer of the City University in London, and of Wolfgang Blau, who is ‎now the Director of Digital Strategy at the British Guardian, and previously was the editor of the online version of the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. These two figures knew about digital journalism than most of us attending, and both raised questions about its future. However, both of them certainly did not bury journalism as an occupation or as a social activity. On the contrary, both are very optimistic regarding the future of journalism in the digital and mobile world although as a journalism that will be quite different from the journalism to which we have grown accustomed for decades.

I would have welcomed more clarity on visions of that future, by these experts, but of course, they were journalists, not futurists. Perhaps readers might be able to suggest future directions or steer us to insightful work in this area?

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