Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forSeptember, 2010 | back to home

27 September 2010
Filed under:Academia,Personal,Privacy,Weblogs at11:37 am

I have argued in my thesis (and hope to argue at greater length in book form) that protection of online privacy in practice is not simply a matter of offering the right controls but for users is a complicated balancing of different priorities and values. I would like to chronicle my children’s lives online for a select audience of friends and family but it’s not clear where and how I should do it.

Livejournal offers good privacy controls so I tried using that but I couldn’t get enough of the people I wanted to be able to read it to sign up and remember their passwords and visit.

Facebook now has enough of my desired audience on it to make it worthwhile to publish there and it does allow me to make sophisticated choices about who can read any status update I post, which makes it convenient, but it is also more or less transient (one can read updates well into the past but getting to them is not easy). I would like what I write to remain private but easily accessible and archived.

For me the best security solution so far for pictures and video has been Picasa’s which provides ‘good enough’ security through obscurity (non-search-indexed and un-guessable URLs but doesn’t require visitors to register to view.

What would probably be ideal for me is if there were a blog platform that to enable me to blog semi-securely Picasa-style and more securely (on a post by post basis) to friends who are registered using Facebook Connect or Google Accounts (which most of my would-be viewers have). Any free solutions like that out there?

24 September 2010
Filed under:Academia,journalism at9:27 am

An interesting article in the latest issue of Media, Culture and Society by Andrew Mullen suggests academics have systematically under-examined the Propaganda Model (sorry the article is behind a paywall). I have tended to think Chomsky’s Propaganda Model (PM) is one of the better known and more discussed recent theories, perhaps because of the critical media scholars I tend to hang out with or perhaps because at least the outlines of it are reasonably well known among the general public (at least those who are interested in the media). It seems however that in a sample taken from ten media and communication journals between 1988 and 2007 only 2.6% of the total “attended to” the PM model and according to Mullen most did little more than cite it. Similarly 43% of media and communication textbooks he surveyed didn’t mention the PM, and 22% only discussed it briefly.

Whatever you think of the PM it is reputable enough to at least be worth engaging for the benefit of students who will have encountered it, and if as scholars assert its tenets need updating and would need to be applied differently in different national contexts more work could usefully be done to try to gather the empirical evidence necessary to see whether and to what extent it remains applicable in different countries and since the advent of the internet.

15 September 2010
Filed under:Academia,new authorship,Old media,research at12:59 pm

I missed this when it first came around in April – according to Bowker who owns ‘Books in Print’, the publisher in the US which published the most titles – 272,930 – very close to the number of new titles published by all traditional publishers – is Bibliobazaar, which was then written up by Publisher’s Weekly. Turns out they specialise in packaging and reselling out of print books via print on demand. More evidence of the long tail in action, though of course each book probably only gets a few new readers and it is not clear if the figures for these new publishers mixes new titles with newly reissued titles and with any title from their back catalogues which makes comparison difficult. It would be interesting to know more about what sells well and to whom in that market if there are discernable patterns and how this differs from mainstream publishing.

9 September 2010

Interesting – I just stumbled across a blog post about the demographics of contributors to Global Voices – the source I know best of news and information in blog form from a non-Western perspective. The post reveals among other things that “the Global Voices community is highly educated. Over 85% of respondents indicated they have completed a university degree, and more than 40% have a post-graduate or doctoral degree.” This does suggest alas that while groups like Global Voices have a valuable role to play in making voices heard that might not otherwise have a platform, blogging to and for a wider public still remains an elite activity.

8 September 2010

There has been much concern about people selecting only news and information they already know they are interested in and that agrees with their point of view via the internet. I have found that increasingly the “omnivore” blog from bookforum.com has been fulfilling that role for me, bringing me articles every week on the future of books, of journalism or of academia. Unfortunately, I am starting to suffer from punditry fatigue. Read too much on the same subject from newspapers and magazines – even if the subject is important to you – and it all starts to blur together after a while. In truth, it shows up the problems even with good journalism as compared to academic work. There is copious opinion but often little reference or only selective reference to new data or even to new arguments or approaches to the issues. Yet I feel I still need to read or at least skim it all in case I miss some new piece of information. Perhaps I would be better off just relying on the stuff that my peers circulate via the blogosphere and twittersphere?

6 September 2010
Filed under:journalism,Old media,Online media at11:32 am

The NYT just ran a piece on how various high profile US newsrooms use web traffic figures to inform their judgement about the news. Most seem to claim that low traffic stats don’t cause them to withdraw resources from stories that aren’t getting traffic but interestingly there is buried in there some evidence from the NYT itself that its blogs don’t have the same status as that paper’s traditional product. According to its executive editor, Bill Keller, “we don’t let metrics dictate our assignments and play because we believe readers come to us for our judgment” but “Mr. Keller added that the paper would, for example, use the data to determine which blogs to expand, eliminate or tweak.”

5 September 2010
Filed under:Academia at9:51 am

After adding most of what reviewers and friends asked for and subtracting the policy implications part that paid a significant role in motivating me to do this research in the first place, I still find my paper is 15% too long. It’s hard to believe as an ex-journalist used to turning out work in 1-2,000 word chunks that I am finding 7,000 words is too constraining these days! Of course it doesn’t help that this particular paper contains the work I am most pleased with from my thesis so is in a sense a distillation of one of the key findings from a 100,000 word work.

And just to discourage me further I wouldn’t be surprised if it took the resulting paper a year or two to see the light of day…