2017 #SMSociety Theme: Social Media for Social Good or Evil

Our online behaviour is far from virtual–it extends our offline lives. Much social media research has identified the positive opportunities of using social media; for example, how people use social media to form support groups online, participate in political uprising, raise money for charities, extend teaching and learning outside the classroom, etc. However, mirroring offline experiences, we have also seen social media being used to spread propaganda and misinformation, recruit terrorists, live stream criminal activities, reinforce echo chambers by politicians, and perpetuate hate and oppression (such as racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic behaviour).

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Sunday, July 30 • 14:00 - 15:00
Panel 5B: Social Media And The Transformation of Journalistic Practice

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Panel Speakers: Nicole Cohen, Brian Creech, Errol Salamon and Maggie Reid

Abstract: This panel presents research examining the complex and often contradictory relationship between journalism and social media, drawing on political economic and critical perspectives as well as empirical research. As media industries rapidly adapt to a digital environment, journalistic outlets are increasingly using social media as a core component of news production. Social media is a reporting tool, a means of circulating and distributing news, and a mechanism for freelancers and precarious media workers to obtain and sustain work. This panel contributes to a growing body of research attending to the relationship between journalism and social media. Through four related papers, panelists interrogate the way the use of social media in news production is shaping journalists’ working conditions, transforming journalistic practice, altering the relationship between journalists and their subjects and sources, and enabling journalists to defend against labour precarity. The papers provide four entry points for researching the intersection of journalism, social media, and labour. 

The first paper reports on the results of a pilot study of digital-first journalists in North America labouring in networks of high-speed information production and circulation. The paper tracks the rise of the “social media journalist” and suggests several concepts for understanding this shift, including measurability, affective labour, speed, and commodification. Attending to the gendered dimensions of social media journalism, both who does this work and the qualities of the work, the paper argues that a re-gendering of journalism is underway. The second paper considers the political economic and postcolonial implications of Western journalists’ use of social media to engage in the "distant witnessing" of international conflicts, through tools and practices such as Twitter sourcing, cross-platform verification, and various analytics. It argues that social media tools are implicated in, and perhaps even accelerate, a longstanding power imbalance between the western journalistic gaze and the non-western bodies that exist in proximity to international violence. The third paper examines the dynamics of a shift toward entrepreneurial journalism, particularly the role social media plays in this new paradigm, which aims to foster among journalists entrepreneurship, business skills, and personal branding. The paper examines the risks and rewards of combining entrepreneurship and journalism and proposes a reconceptualization of the “audience commodity” and digital labour in the context of journalistic professionalization practices that include social media use. The fourth paper presents a case study of the role of digital technologies such as social media in the struggle for “e-lancer” rights. It analyzes the role of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in representing and advocating for freelancers in a digital political economy and its use of social media to do so. The paper analyzes two IFJ social media campaigns and discusses how these industrial struggles provide evidence of the “e-lancer,” an internationally and electronically connected group of journalistic workers that temporarily resists restrictive copyright laws. 

Sunday July 30, 2017 14:00 - 15:00 EDT
TRS 1-075 - 7th Flr Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C9