Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Newspapers as Social Networks

I get the Seattle Times news feed in my reader...it's a good "paper" and it makes me feel connected to the Emerald City. Several days ago Brier Dudley crafted a piece entitled "Newspapers as Social Networks" where his central thesis seemed to revolve around an adamant claim that newspapers (and "traditional" news sources like NPR) still matter and that they can be construed as social networks. This seems right-headed and I buy in, but I can see how folks might now assume the term social network to mean what used to be referred to as online social network (OSN). This is, of course, fair play since language leaks, changes, and morphs in response to shifting contexts and paradigms. Web 2.0 has certainly fostered many shifting contexts and practices...realities do look differently these days.

In reading Dudley's piece, namely where to responds to Mark Anderson's tacit claim that newspapers are dead, I could not help but think of the video Googlezon EPIC 2014.

The faux documentary profiles the demise of print media and the acceleration of web-enabled hyper-consumption. Check it out.

While form has certainly changed (i.e., print) the utility of content has not. Analysis and information that comes from content is still valued and sought after, maybe now it's just in digital form. Who authors such analysis has changed too. Sure Web 2.0 allows unlimited authors, some dopes and some well-qualified pundits, but the best analysis does still matter. This assumption is akin to the claim that Google is making us "stoopid" (see previous post); and, it assumes that when authorship was a function of power and access and print was the dominant medium that people were enlightened and ever-critical. Now that the form has changed and there's more content all of a sudden everyone's confused, lazy, and more doltish than ever. That's a tough sell for me.

My take on Dudley's reminder that newspapers still matter, though they matter differently, is buttressed by a belief that "reading" as a discursive practice still happens and the communities that do this are increasing (not decreasing). I guess, I'm arguing that "reading" matters and its definition (like that of social network) changes too. Indeed, it should also be noted that merely "reading" is not a cure-all for ignorance or unenlightenment; critical engagement with any text happens beyond mere deployment of a technical literacy act. I hope and believe that people do want incisive commentary and useful information, they just forage differently for it. The social network is still there, it's not new--just sustained by a digital form now...one that requires new acts and practices of reading, and of community.


Anonymous said...

I also assumed when Dudley said that "Newspaper as Social Networks" that he was referring to online social network. Then I thought more in depth, and I would also agree that newspaper is like a social network because it reaches out and informs people. Although the readers may not be able to comment directly on the article like a online social network can, but readers will still have ideas and comments within that they would think about or maybe even discuss with their friends.

katiemoore said...

I really like the idea of newspaper and other media sources being a sort of alternative social network. In Durham, where I'm from, there has recently been a massive shift in subscription from the Herald Sun (the Durham paper) to The News and Observer (based in Raleigh). There was a lot of dissatisfaction with the Herald Sun because of its failure to provide quality local Durham news, and when a lot of people switched, it was a much bigger deal to a lot of people than I would have imagined. The paper you read seems like it becomes a part of your self, and people identify strongly with the fellow readers of "their" paper. Also based in Durham, The Independent, is a fantastic example of a newspaper as a network. It is full of local news, music information, and caters to a very specific subset of the Durham population. Seeing someone else reading a copy of the Indy signals that they probably share a lot of the same viewpoints as you.

Keyachtta said...

This blog parallels to our discussion we had in class about Newspaper companys going out of business. More people are shifting to digital sites, leaving more newspapers out there. It brings up the question? Do newspapers still matter. Personally I think they do; for example, I still have my sports articles that were in the newspaper. These serve as memories for me. But we must realize that within the next decades, newspapers may not even matter anymore.