Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
PaperSession-32: Publics and Anti-Publics
Friday, 04/Oct/2019:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Chris Chesher
Location: P504

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4:00pm - 4:20pm

‘Fascism is the new hip’: Online anti-publics and post-normative democracy

Mark Raymond Davis

University of Melbourne, Australia

In this paper I draw connections between two emergent phenomena of the recent past: the growing influence of online ‘anti-publics’ on democratic debate and the emergence of ‘post-normative democracy’. The paper draws on work by McKenzie Wark (1997) and Bart Cammaerts (2007) to further theorise the rise of online anti-publics. It demonstrates how groups such as white supremacist groups, ‘men’s rights’ groups, anti-climate science groups, and ‘neoreactionary’ or ‘Dark Enlightenment’ groups, among others, can be understood as belonging to a loose-knit, diverse online ‘anti-public sphere’. This is a heterogenous space of often fractious social interaction where discourse routinely flouts traditional democratic norms, such as normative ‘public sphere’ conventions of rational-critical deliberation, rules of evidence and argumentation, and requirements for truthfulness, reciprocity, mutuality, and so on, over and above the ways in which democratic debate is properly passionate (Papacharissi, 2016). The paper uses a case studies approach based in discourse analysis of five different groups to theorise their activities in light of their influence on the emergence of a post-normative democratic politics. This includes the normalisation of race politics across the west, attacks on human rights conventions, attempts to undermine legal processes, attacks on the media and journalists, attempts to shore up subvert gains made by marginalised groups, and systematic attempts to undermine trust in institutions. The paper will show how, to advance their cause, right groups have sought to flip established political logic and to reposition fascism as ‘the new hip’.

4:20pm - 4:40pm

'Global, Networked and Collaborative': How the normalization of leaking shaped the identity and practice of investigative journalism

Stefan Baack

Mozilla Foundation + Weizenbaum Institute, Germany

From the Panama Papers to the Migrants' Files, we appear to witness a 'Golden Age of global muckraking'. While cross-border collaborations among journalists are not new, data technologies have dramatically increased their scale and degree of collaboration. Transnational collaborations among journalists are increasingly data-driven operations specialized on facilitating the analysis of huge leaks. In a more dynamic media environment, where traditional identities and routines of journalism are being challenged, data-driven transnational networks help to articulate global standards of investigative journalism and shape journalism's ability to tackle issues in an increasingly globalized and interdependent world.

This paper shows how data-driven journalism networks today are shaped by the ways in which journalists normalized leaking in technological, organizational, and cultural ways since Wikileaks’ publication of the Afghan war logs. The result has been a) the establishment – or evolution – of national and transnational structures that facilitate collaborations; and b) that the concept of ‘leaking’ was moved away from radical transparency advocacy, and into traditional journalistic ethics and identities. The subsequent normalization of leaking is relevant beyond leaking itself, as it more broadly shapes practices around ‘data-driven cross-border collaboration’. This means that the practices, organizational structures and technologies developed around leaking also shape collaborative data collection or data sharing projects. To examine the future of journalism in a more globalized and datafied world, I will conclude with suggesting that media and journalism studies needs to rely more on theories and methodological frameworks that do justice to journalism’s increasingly transcultural nature.

4:40pm - 5:00pm

How Facebook "strangles" the interpretative ability of its users. A qualitative study of the meaning of news posts on Facebook

Marie Palmer

University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Facebook has become a major circulator of news in many western countries. However, Facebook does not author news content. It hosts news produced by traditional media among other content, and it circulates them in a personalised way for each of its users. Through this circulation process, meaning is created. Consequently, news posts are an “augmented commodity”, carrying an additional layer of circulation meaning. The aim of this paper is to deconstruct the augmented commodity to understand the nature of the meaning added by the algorithmically-customised circulation process. To achieve this, the content of the newsfeed of a sample of seven volunteers (approximately 170 news posts) was recorded while they were browsing it. A multimodal analysis of the data showed that each newsfeed presented clear and distinct intertextual characteristics which can be divided into two categories: horizontal intertextuality and vertical intertextuality. Those intertextual links, generated during the circulation process, produced meaning as they create a context of interpretation for each news posts. First, horizontal intertextuality creates a “context of culture” that delimitates a set of available meanings available in that specific cultural context and, second, vertical intertextuality creates a “context of situation” which tends to narrow down the possible meanings in a given situation. As a result, the interpretative ability of the Facebook user when reading a news post appears to be “strangled” towards a preferred meaning. The larger implications of these results are in line with the critical concerns regarding the risk of ideology diffusion without appearing to do so.

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