Twitter Diplomacy Not Going Away: Taiwan Joins the Twittersphere

I’ve written/blogged about the inevitable rise of digital diplomacy, and the need to adapt to it. President Donald Trumps’ use of Twitter is testing the patience of the foreign policy community in particular, setting many against the wisdom of his use of Twitter, and the value of digital diplomacy in general.

However, this morning’s New York Times piece about the use of Twitter by the President of Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen, is an illustration of its significance, and likely growth. As Taiwan is working against efforts to marginalize the country and even ‘muffle’ news and information about the nation, Twitter is offering the President a means to go global with tweets in English to reach foreign journalists and others within and beyond Taiwan’s borders, including Chinese netizens around the world. th

Interestingly, despite the legends of politicians ranting about President Trump using Twitter, most of those complaining – it seems – tweet!

*See Chris Horton (2017), “Muffled by China, Taiwan’s President Employs Twitter as a Megaphone“, New York Times, 7 July: A6.

The Rise of Scholarship in the Study of Online News

I participated in a symposium that marked the first quarter century of research on digital journalism. It was organized by Pablo Boczkowski and Chris Anderson and held at Northwestern University on April 11, 2015. Titled “Remaking (Digital) News”, the symposium led me to look back on my career in communication and the progress I’ve observed in the study of journalism, and digital journalism in particular. I wrote a commentary for one section of their forthcoming book (Boczkowski and Anderson forthcoming), but beyond this commentary, I thought it useful to share my thoughts on the rise of scholarly research in the field, if only to provoke some comments and corrections to by perspective from outside the field.

Online Journalism
Online Journalism

Roots of the Study of Digital Journalism

Histories of digital journalism can be traced back long before the web. Pioneering two-way cable communication projects – so called “wired city” – projects in the late 1970s and early 1980s experimented with the delivery of news, such as facsimile delivery of local news, using Japan’s Highly Interactive Optical Visual Information System (Hi-OVIS) in Higashi Ikoma (Kawahata 1987). Trials of videotext, bulletin board services (BBS), and online services sought to deliver the news in new formats. Early work focused on whether anyone would use such services given the prominence of newspapers and magazines.

Later, but ever since the 1980s, in the early years of the Internet – then ARPANET – prominent concerns began to be raised about the potential for online news sources to erode the quality of journalism, such as by distributing rumors rather than verified facts. This potential became epitomized by the Drudge Report. Launched in 1996, as an email-based newsletter, it was the first source of rumors surfacing around President Bill Clinton’s “Monica Lewinsky scandal,” which more mainstream media decided to withhold from publication. [The Drudge Report was posted on January 17, 1998, with the headline “Newsweek Kills Story on White House Intern.”]

Ever since that time, the Internet has often been viewed as a Trojan horse that would lower the quality of journalism by enabling unprofessional bloggers – amateurs with lower standards – to enter the news business (Keen 2007). Research has focused significant attention on that potential, but often found that the new news sources, such as social media, complement rather than substitute for professional journalism, with the sourcing of material moving in both directions (e.g., Newman et al. 2012).

In parallel, since the mid-1970s, the rise of the new media, such as two-way cable, videotext, BBS, and the Internet, has fueled concerns over the potential for new media research, or research on the adoption and use of information and communication technologies. Many believed the new media to be ephemeral novelties, mere fads, but that research on these new media would sidetrack more significant research on mainstream media, and potentially erode the quality of media and communication research. Far from a fad, the new media converged around the Internet to become increasingly central to the media and society, and new media and Internet studies have become burgeoning sources of scholarly research in a wide range of fields, including journalism (Lievrouw and Livingstone 2002; Peng et al. 2013; Dutton 2013; Hartley et al. 2013).

Most concerns were raised about the Internet being a questionable new object of study, but there was similar unease about the Internet and digital media introducing new methodological approaches, such as e-research and digital social research, and about the rise of big data analytics. These new methods were also seen as a potential threat to the quality of scholarship generally – not just journalism research (Dutton and Jeffreys 2010: 343–47). Can the scraping of websites ever replace the use of in-depth interviews and qualitative case studies?

This tradeoff has turned out to be a false choice. It seems clear that a developing strength of the field of digital journalism is its pragmatic approach to methods – what might be called methodological eclecticism. Just as journalistic practices are growing in variety, from traditional interviews to data journalism, the methodological range of scholarship in the area has expanded to encompass approaches ranging from ethnographic research and content analysis to computational analytics and related “big data” approaches to discovery – digital social research.

Global Universities and the Demonstration of Scholarship

Just as journalism was in the center of concerns over studies of, and with, new technologies posing threats to scholarship and practice, the field faced more general trends across universities to become more focused on high-quality scholarship. Across disciplines, since the 1970s, universities have faced pressures to become more competitive in the metrics of scholarship, such as publication in high-quality journals, and good citation counts. Higher education has become more global. The days of local and regional monopolies in attracting students were seen to be declining, not only because of inexpensive travel, but also because of the increasing availability of informative websites that were fast becoming one of the student’s first points of contact with universities. Scholarly rankings were likely to increasingly challenge the role of geographical proximity in student choices of institutions of higher education.

 

All of these pressures have combined since the early 1980s, to move journalism schools, particularly in universities across the United States, to transform themselves from journalism training to placing a greater priority on scholarship, focusing effort on developing journalism research and producing top scholars of journalism to join and complement practicing journalists. Top journalism schools in the United States have long cherished their prize-winning journalists among their faculty. However, while practicing journalists once made up the lion’s share of most journalism faculties, they have given ground over the years to a rising number of academics who view journalism as an object of study rather than their own profession.

There remains strong support for recruiting successful journalists to teach the art and techniques of journalism, but there is growing interest in attracting scholars who also view the practice and role of journalism in society as an object of study from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Scholarship, as opposed to the practical arts, is not new to journalism. A number of major scholars of communication have developed within the field of journalism: scholars like Michael Schudson come to mind. It seems clear that the number of scholarly researchers among the ranks of journalism faculties has risen over the last twenty-five years.

However, as noted above, as this transformation in journalism faculties was developing, the Internet enabled a new technical approach to journalism – online news and digital journalism – that posed another threat to the very practice as well as the study of journalism. In introducing new technologies, such as the Internet and related blogging and social media technologies, digital journalism has bumped up against the traditional journalist’s skills and toolkits. In addition, the study of digital journalism became inherently more multi- or interdisciplinary, by requiring a greater understanding of the production and reception of new media as well as more mainstream journalistic practices. Also, like other interdisciplinary fields, the study of digital journalism has been problem-focused by its very nature, rather than focused on refining particular theoretical frameworks or concepts. As an interdisciplinary field, it was therefore not developing as a mainstream discipline, which also made it more problematic to build its scholarly reputation.

The concurrent rise of Internet studies and interdisciplinary research has helped support the study of digital journalism. The symposium provided many examples of digital journalism drawing theories and methods from a multitude of different fields, underscoring how digital journalism is advancing as a field of study just as the future of online journalism appears to be gaining a certain sense of inevitability, despite continuing concerns over the business models and economic bottom lines of supporting high-quality journalism.

References

Boczkowski, P. J., and Anderson, C.W. (forthcoming), Remaking the News. Book in progress.

Dutton, W. H. (2013) (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Dutton, W. H., and P. Jeffreys (2010) (eds), World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Kawahata, M. (1987), HI-OVIS. In Wired Cities: Shaping the Future of Communications, edited by W. H. Dutton, J. G. Blumler, and K. L. Kraemer, 179–200. Boston, Mass: G. K. Hall.

Hartley, J., J. Burgess, and A. Bruns (2013) (eds), A Companion to New Media Dynamics. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Keen, A. (2007), The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture. New York: Doubleday.

Lievrouw, L. A., and S. Livingstone (2002) (eds), Handbook of New Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Newman, N., W. H. Dutton, and G. Blank (2012), “Social Media in the Changing Ecology of News: The Fourth and Fifth Estates in Britain,” International Journal of Internet Science, 7(1): 6–22.

Peng, T.Q., L. Zhang, Z.-J. Zhong, and J. Zhu (2013), “Mapping the Landscape of Internet Studies: Text Mining of Social Science Journal Articles 2000–2009,” New Media and Society, 15(5), 644–64.

A University Network that Worked: Universitas 21 Graduate Research Conference (U21)

I just participated in a Universitas 21 Gradudate Research Conference – this one held around the topic of our digital future and held at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), China, from 9-12 June 2015. It was organised by SJTU’s School of Media and Design in collaboration with the university’s Division of Cooperation and Exchange.

It was the first experience I have had with this scheme, even though it has been in operation since 1997. I left very impressed with the idea and its implementation. It brought together a strong international set of graduate students from an amazingly diverse range of disciplines, from Internet studies to chemistry.

Essentially, some 29 universities collaborate in this U21 network. Members propose topics for conferences that they will administer, and SJTU proposed a topic for this particular meeting on our ‘Digital Future’. Once a theme or topic is accepted, each university in the network solicits proposals from graduate students across their respective universities. Each university then reviews the proposals and selects one to three students, for whom they support travel to attend the conference. The hosting university then provides facilities and support for local food and lodging.

Given an increasing focus on interdisciplinary issues, such as digital futures, this scheme merits consideration. Most other seminars and conferences I’ve attended around similar topics are more confined to a few disciplines or fields, as they are more likely to be organized by networks within particular fields. This university-centered, rather than disciplinary-centric, approach seemed to have yielded a truly interdisciplinary set of students of high quality. Chosen by their respective universities, it was apparent that they were excellent presenters and model students to the person.

Of course, so much depends on the topic, the location, the timing, management, and much more, but the approach of this U21 network merits consideration.

I am not part of this network, beyond speaking at this particular conference, but more information about Universitas 21, which calls itself ‘the leading global network of research universities for the 21st century’ is available online, of course, at: http://www.universitas21.com

Media & Design at Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Media & Design at Shanghai Jiao Tong University
U21 Poster and Participants
U21 Poster and Participants

Innovation and Digital Scholarship Lecture Series

About this series

Scholars collaborate online. Data are collected, delivered, analysed, and distributed via the Internet. Communication, both formal publications and informal exchanges, have moved online. Yet face-to-face conversations are still valued, seminars and lectures retain prestige, conferences proliferate, and frequent flyer miles accumulate. This lecture series will provoke a rich discussion of innovations in digital scholarship with an international array of scholars, examining implications for the sciences, social sciences, and humanities and for libraries and publishing.

The series is co-convened by UCLA Professor Christine Borgman, Visiting Fellow and Oliver Smithies Lecturer at Balliol College; Professor William Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies at the OII and Fellow at Balliol College, and Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian and Fellow of Balliol College.

Sponsors and Partners

The Digital Scholarship Lecture Series is organized by Balliol College, the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and The Bodleian Libraries with support from the ESRC’s Digital Research Programme, based at the Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford.

Agenda

21 February 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor Alyssa Goodman, Harvard University

Respondent: Dr Chris Lintott, Department of Physics, University of Oxford

Title: Seamless Astronomy, Sea Monsters, and the Milky Way

Abstract

Most astronomy researchers use online travel tools like Kayak and Expedia, yet they don’t expect such integrative services in their research.  Instead, they use “modernized” versions of old technologies, such as sending each other email in lieu of paper letters.  Some astronomers, however, are leading the way toward a future that has much less precedent in a pre-internet world.  In this talk, I will explain elements of what future-leaning astronomers mean by “Seamless Astronomy,” a term which effectively describes an ecosystem for scholarly research as smart and streamlined as Kayak is for travel.   I will also explain why more traditional astronomers are not always quick to appreciate or adopt “Seamless” principles–even though they use its products (including a wealth of well-organized, interconnected, literature and data) all the time.  To make the theoretical situation more real, I will organize my talk around an ongoing astronomical research project that concerns a long so-called “infrared dark cloud” named “Nessie” and how it can be used to map out the skeletal structure (“Bones”)  of our Milky Way.  The 10-person collaboration working on the Nessie/Bones project includes researchers whose preferences range from traditionalist to futurist, and so offers no end of anecdotes with which to illuminate the Seamless Astronomy story!

For previews of this talk’s content, see projects.iq.harvard.edu/seamlessastronomy/ and milkywaybones.org.

 

Biographical Sketch

Alyssa Goodman is Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, and a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution.  Goodman’s research and teaching interests span astronomy, data visualization, and online systems for research and education.

In her astronomical pursuits, Goodman and her research group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA study the dense gas between the stars. They are particularly interested in how interstellar gas arranges itself into new stars.

In more computationally-oriented efforts, Goodman co-founded The Initiative in Innovative Computing (IIC) at Harvard, and she served as its Director from 2005-8. The initiative created an university-wide interdisciplinary center at Harvard fostering work at the boundary between computing and science.   More recently, Goodman organized a diverse group of researchers, librarians, and software developers into an ongoing effort known as “Seamless Astronomy,” aimed directly at developing, refining, and sharing tools that accelerate the pace of scientific research, especially in astronomy.  Current Seamless projects include Glue, Authorea, the ADS All Sky Survey, the Astronomy Dataverse, and the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program.

Goodman’s personal research presently focuses primarily on new ways to visualize and analyze the tremendous data volumes created by large and/or diverse astronomical surveys, like COMPLETE. She is working closely with colleagues at Microsoft Research, helping to expand the use of the WorldWide Telescope program, in both research and in education.   In 2009, Goodman founded the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program which pairs PhD-level researchers with educators and outreach professionals to improve STEM teaching.

At Harvard, Goodman teaches courses on astrophysics and on the display of data, including one called The Art of Numbers. 

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28 February 2013, 17:30 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor Dieter Stein, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf

Respondent: Victoria Gardner, Taylor & Francis Group, UK

Respondent: Wolfram Horstmann, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Title: Open Access Electronic Publishing: A View from the Frontier

Abstract

Most discussions of the cultural changes linked to the Internet are holistically focused – discussing the effect of technical changes on the characteristics of as a system as a whole. This talk will take a complementary perspective by focusing on how cultural change is being shaped from the bottom-up “makers” “, sufferers” or “perpetrators” of Open Access publishing.

The main part of the talk will give an insider’s perspective, as a case study, of the decisions, motivations and constraints of individuals and stakeholders at different points in the development of a major Open Access publishing project in linguistics.  The perspective will then be widened to situate this particular development in the larger development of a “publication” as one functional element in the concept of open science.

Biographical Sketch

Dieter Stein is Professor of English Language and Linguistics at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf (Germany). He obtained degrees (Staatsexamen) in Geography and English at Saarbrücken University (1972) and a Doctorate in English Linguistics at Saarbrücken (1975).

After being part of a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Sonderforschungsbereich on electronic language research and computational linguistics, he taught Applied Linguistics and Translation at Heidelberg University (until 1982). After his Habilitation at Aachen (1982) he was appointed professor for English Linguistics (text- and discourse linguistics) at Justus-Liebig-University Gießen and transferred to Heinrich-Heine-University Duesseldorf in 1990, where he has taught since then in courses for teacher training, as well as general Masters, BA and MA courses. He has served in most administrative capacities, including dean and several terms as chairman. He has also taught at various universities in the United States, Canada, Spain and Italy, was invited scholar at UCLA, Berkeley, UBC Vancouver and Stanford.

His publications are on a broad range of topics ranging from the theory of linguistic change, via applied linguistics, the linguistics of discourse, to language and communication in the Internet, the theory of genre and the language of law and the development of modern English. He was President of the International Society if Historical Linguistics, he is currently President of the International Language and Law Society, he is also editor-in-chief of the Linguistic Society of America’s digital Publication Portal “eLanguage”. He was the organizer and conference director of a number of major international conferences, including “Berlin 6”, the Max Planck Open Access conference at Duesseldorf. He was also involved in organizing “Berlin 9”, the Open Access conference at Howard-Hughes Medical Institution, Bethesda, Md, USA.  His current main research areas include: Language of the Law, Computer-Mediated Communication and language development.

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21 March 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor James Evans, University of Chicago

Respondent: Professor Ralph Schroeder, Oxford Internet Institute

Respondent: Dr Eric Meyer, Oxford Internet Institute

Title: Choosing the Next Experiment: Tradition, Innovation, and Efficiency in the Selection of Scientific Ideas 

Abstract

Abstract: What factors affect a scientist’s choice of research problem? Qualitative research in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science suggests that the choice is shaped by an “essential tension” between a professional demand for productivity and a conflicting drive toward risky innovation. We examine this tension empirically in the context of biomedical chemistry. We use complex networks to represent the evolving state of scientific knowledge, as expressed in digital publications. We then build measurements and a model of scientific discovery informed by key properties of this network. Measuring such choices in aggregate, we find that the distribution of strategies remains remarkably stable, even as chemical knowledge grows dramatically. High-risk strategies, which explore new chemical relationships, are less prevalent in the literature, reflecting a growing focus on established knowledge at the expense of new opportunities. Research following a risky strategy is more likely to be ignored but also more likely to achieve high impact and recognition. While the outcome of a risky strategy has a higher expected reward than the outcome of a conservative strategy, the additional reward is insufficient to compensate for the additional risk. By studying the winners of major prizes, we show that the occasional “gamble” for extraordinary impact is the most plausible explanation for observed levels of risk-taking. To examine efficiency in scientific search, we build a model of scientific discovery informed by key properties of this network, namely node degree and inter-node distance. We infer the typical research strategy in biomedical chemistry from 30 years of publications and patents and compare its efficiency with thousands of alternatives. Strategies of chemical discovery are similar in articles and patents, conservative in their neglect of low-degree, distant or disconnected chemicals, and efficient only for initial exploration of the network of chemical relationships. We identify much more efficient strategies for maturing fields.

 Biographical Sketch

James Evans is Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute, Associate Professor of Sociology and member of the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. Evans work explores how social and technical institutions shape knowledge—science, scholarship, law, news, religion—and how these understandings reshape the social and technical world. He has studied how the Internet and Open Access shapes knowledge in society.  He has also investigated the relation of markets to science by examining how industry collaboration shapes the ethos, secrecy and organization of academic science; the web of individuals and institutions that produce innovations; and markets for ideas and their creators.  Finally, Evans is interested in using digital scholarship to identify biases in research and discovery and then using these as statistical instruments to identify promising but under-appreciated hypotheses and unasked questions. He is currently working on related projects in biology, chemistry, and medicine that explore these possibilities. His work uses natural language processing, the analysis of social and semantic networks, statistical modeling, and field-based observation and interviews. Evans’ research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Mellon and John F. Templeton Foundations and has been published in Science, American Journal of SociologySocial Studies of ScienceAdministrative Science Quarterly and other journals. His work has been featured in the EconomistAtlantic MonthlyWired, NPR, BBC, El Pais, CNN and many other outlets.

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25 April 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Dame Lynne Brindley, former CEO, British Library

Respondent: Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodleian Libraries

Respondent: Professor Christine Borgman, Balliol College and University of California, Los Angeles

Title: Future of Research Libraries in the 21st Century

Abstract

Great libraries are facing both major challenges and opportunities,  now and in the next decade. Research libraries operate in the context of global complexity in a digital information world that envelops scholars, researchers, consumers and citizens. The ‘data deluge’ and ‘always on’ digital culture combine to be awesome in global impact, unprecedented in terms of innovative possibilities, and yet inhuman in many dimensions. The speaker will consider core values of research libraries, whether those values continue to be relevant, and how they might be manifest in new ways. Questions to be addressed include what information should be preserved; whether the physical library still important; whether a new balance can be achieved between information as a public or private good; and how libraries can still be relevant to many disciplines.

Biographical Sketch

Lynne Brindley was Chief Executive of the British Library for some twelve years until Summer 2012 when she stepped down from the role. She was responsible for opening up the BL in its new flagship home, as one of the world’s greatest resources for scholarship, research and business, to a much wider global audience, through major digital programmes and cultural and educational activities. She had previously spent much of her career in UK higher education, as Pro-Vice Chancellor at Leeds University and at the

London School of Economics and Aston University. She had a spell in the private sector as a senior consultant with KPMG. She is now a non-executive Board member of Ofcom (UK Communications and Media Regulator), a member of the Arts & Humanities Research Council, a member of Council of City University, the Wolfson Trust Arts Panel, and the Court of the Goldsmiths’ Livery Company. She holds a BA in music from Reading University, an MA from UCL and was made a Dame in 2008 for services to the British Library and to education.

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16 May 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Dr Frances Pinter,www.pinter.org.uk

Respondent: Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodleian Libraries

Title: New Open Business Models for Academic Book Publishing in the Post-Finch Era

Abstract

The 150 page Finch Report has less than three pages on books. It takes the view that just as with journal articles any publication arising out of public funding of research should be made publicly available free to the end user. However, as the traditional book business models differ significantly from journals other types of solutions need to be considered.  Finch encourages experimentation. Open access book publishing is being tried in a very tentative way by a few publishers. So far there are only a handful of models all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Dr Frances Pinter will provide a review of these approaches. She will also present an overview of her own new initiative Knowledge Unlatched.

Biographical Sketch

Dr Frances Pinter is the founder of Knowledge Unlatched, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) devising and implementing a new open access model for scholarly book length publications. (knowledgeunlatched.org). She was the founding Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic and ran the Churchill Archive digitisation project. Frances is a visiting fellow at both the Big Innovation Centre and the London School of Economics. Previously she was Publishing Director at the Soros Foundation (Open Society Foundations). In the late 90s she devised the business model for EIFL, one of the world’s largest library consortia. Earlier she founded Pinter Publishers that also owned Leicester University Press and established the imprint Belhaven Press.  She has been active on a number of publishing trade boards and committees. She holds a BA from New York University and a PhD from University College, London.

23 May, 17:00-18:30 TENTATIVE

 

Dr. Salvatore Mele

CERN – Head of Open Access – http://www.cern.ch/oa

SCOAP3 – Interim Project Manager – http://scoap3.org

INSPIRE – Strategic Director – http://inspirehep.net

 

5 th or 6th June
Prof. Christine Borgman, Oliver Smithies Lecture

Big data, little data, no data: Research data as a lens to view the evolution of digital scholarship