The Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. II No. 5 (Nov. 4, 2004)

 

Exploring the Meaning of Media Convergence
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence.

 

We welcome articles on any topic directly related to media convergence, including academic research or information about convergence experiences in your newsroom. We also welcome information about conferences, publications and related links.

 

Holly Fisher

Editor

convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu

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Feature Articles

 

Postscript: The Digital Revolution Conference

Old Dog Ponders Meaning of New Trick

The Election Connection Continues

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Conference Information

 

Third Annual BloggerCon

2004 Online News Association Conference

Cross-Platform Media Teams

Midwest Political Science Association 63rd Annual National Conference

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Announcements/News

 

Call for Papers

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---------------Feature Articles

 

Postscript: The Digital Revolution Conference

 

By Dr. Augie Grant, Executive Editor of The Convergence Newsletter and Associate Professor in the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, University of South Carolina

 

Looking back on last month’s media convergence conference at the University of South Carolina yields some interesting answers and a few important questions. The theme of the conference was “The Digital Revolution: The Impact of Digital Media and Information Technologies,” and the more than 40 papers, presentations and discussions provided a broad range of insight into the processes and effects of convergent media technologies.

 

Educators from around the world presented a variety of topics, including organizational challenges of digital media, legal and historical challenges, advice on implementing convergence in the classroom, and consumer behavior in the digital age.

 

The strongest aspect of the conference was the “Showcase of Convergent Media Processes and Practices,” which allowed presenters to introduce, discuss, and play with a wide range of new tools. Perhaps the most interesting theme of these sessions was the manner in which new technologies are being used to supplement rather than supplant traditional technologies, which is extending the capabilities of existing media systems.

 

The research papers were the strongest in the three-year history of the conference, with a good mixture of quantitative research, case studies, critical theory and discussion of pedagogical issues. Technology also was used to allow presenters to transcend the time limits of the conference, with conference presentations and papers available on one Web page at www.jour.sc.edu/pages/blog/index.htm and a moblog of the conference available on another site at http://uscconvergence.textamerica.com.

 

The most important question emerging from the conference is: “Where do we go from here?” As strong as the submissions to the conference were, a few patterns suggest that the study of media convergence needs some theoretical and historical perspective. One example of the need for historical perspective was a presentation that referred to the fact that the “first Internet banner ad” had appeared only about 10 years ago. While technically correct, this observation ignored the experiments with online advertising in early videotex and on-line services in the 1980s. 

 

Perhaps more important, the presentations on convergence dealt almost exclusively with contemporary technologies, ignoring the lessons to be learned generations ago when sound and pictures were converged to create a new technology or even further back when pictures and text converged in print technology. 

 

Similarly, the descriptive studies provided a great deal of insight into individual phenomena, but those based on theory were able to connect the phenomena studied with other phenomena, leading to broader conclusions. The theory-based research was good, but more is needed, including applications of theories of audience behavior, audience reception, production of media messages, media effects, and journalistic processes.

 

In the process, both empirical and critical theories are needed to help us not only connect these studies of convergent media processes and practices to other media studies, but also to help in predicting the future of the technologies and processes implicated in media convergence.

 

One final question that emerged was the degree to which our academic institutions can inhibit the sharing of knowledge. All authors were offered the opportunity to share their papers on the conference Web site, but many declined the offer because they feared a journal might consider such sharing to be “publication,” and they couldn’t afford to spend their academic currency on any venue that was not a refereed, printed outlet.  (Many of these authors were persuaded to submit extensive abstracts and/or PowerPoint presentations of their research, so most of the findings are still available.)

 

I’m sure others attending the conference came away with other questions that are as important, but these are the ones that I believe need to be addressed. The first step in addressing them already has been made—the call for papers for next year’s conference (set for Oct. 13-15, 2005, in conjunction with Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, USA) certainly will include a plea for a wide range of historical and theoretical papers.  We are also working to arrange for publication of an edited book from the best of the conference submissions as a means of enticing the best papers exploring theory and research in convergent media.

 

One final note: The biggest difference between this year’s conference and the previous years’ was the discussion of forthcoming books exploring a full range of topics related to media convergence, from writing textbooks to management treatises. Perhaps next year’s affair will need to include a book fair as well.

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Editor’s note: A group of university professors recently participated in moblog training prior to a convergence conference at the University of South Carolina. These professors learned the techniques and idea behind the moblog and went to work documenting The Digital Revolution: The Impact of Digital Media and Information Technologies. This three-day conference included presenters from around the world and was captured in real-time on the moblog at http://uscconvergence.textamerica.com. The following article is one participant’s account of his moblog experience.

 

Old Dog Ponders Meaning of New Trick

 

By Jeff Wilkinson, Associate Professor, Regent University

 

In the race for relevance, professors in journalism and mass communication must constantly re-tool themselves. Although we publicly state that the essential tools of journalism are timeless and never change, the technology and techniques are ever-changing, and even a master chef now has to figure out microwaves and food processors.

 

Recently, some of us learned the art and technique of creating mobile weblogs (moblogs). When it was first explained to me, I didn’t really see the relevance to what I did as a professor in journalism. To me, blogging was a fad, something that teens/twenties did, not the eternally 39s. After a three- to four-hour training session, a dozen of us were essentially thrown into moblogging a three-day convergence conference. 

 

When first given this assignment, my gut reaction was resistance. My attitude was that I first needed to know the goals, purposes, and WHY we were going to moblog the conference (after all, we had our own presentations to worry about). So for about the first 10 minutes of our assignment I needed a minor attitude adjustment before getting over it and focusing on the task at hand. Oh well. Good old-fashioned professorial pride (harrumph!) wanted to take the easy way out rather than actually “do” something new and different (and possibly meaningful).

 

So I soldiered on and helped direct and build our moblog of the first conference session. I was immersed in focused-attention tasks such as editing captions, building links to Web pages, and loading photos of the speakers. Honestly, I didn't hear a word that was said the entire 90-minute session. This is the bad side of moblogging. Like the tourist who videotapes the ride and misses out on the experience, I was so busy capturing the moment that I missed the moment's meaning.

 

But I stuck to it until the technology/technique became transparent to me. By the last session of the last day, I could take a photo, post the image, write the caption, fill-in the proper links—and still have enough mental energy to enjoy the moment, listening and processing the dialogue in the room.

 

Hindsight being the wonderful teacher that it is, I now see what we were supposed to learn, and can grasp some of the problems and unsolved mysteries surrounding blog creation. There are many promises hidden in the technique. In my opinion, the best thing about the moblog is (a) it builds a story in real-time, (b) it allows you to enhance your text with images, (c) it is relatively easy to do—it’s the easiest “content” I’ve created in a long time.

 

The downside or criticisms are (a) you can miss the meaning because you’re so busy chronicling the moment, (b) the content can be trivial and uninteresting because frankly, most moments are pretty uneventful.

 

Here are some larger issues I believe are worth considering:

 

What is the "killer application" and what are the valuable secondary applications? I’m convinced there is something that this does “best” but I’m still not quite sure what it is. Perhaps it's best for something that (a) happens in real time and can be captured as-it-happens, (b) is an event where video is not practical or allowed. I’ve kicked around a few thoughts, and the closest I can come is something “breaking” (unplanned), someplace with limited access to bandwidth (remote area) and no means for editing video (so only still images are practical). So as a fallback means of catching something unexpected as it happens, this lends itself quite well. 

 

A related issue is identifying the secondary applications, the ones that will help us incorporate this technique into daily newsgathering operations. TV news has maimed itself with “live just because we can” reports. Moblogging chronicles moment by moment of … what? People talking? Professors speaking? Yes, it’s relatively instantaneous—but is there an existing technology or technique that does this better? When is camera-phone coverage superior to the ubiquitous DVCam, and why? Stated differently, when should we reject this new technique in favor of an older one that's actually better suited to the task? 

 

Once we answer these questions, we can address questions of implementation. To create these sites, we had to take on a different set of skills. Our new job descriptions included “newsflow editor” who is sort of a producer, the “storybuilder” who develops the individual blog-segments with links and text, and the “news resourcer” who conducts searches and gathers contextual information through the Web. Add-in the photographer/reporter who takes images and/or audio, and that’s a team of four. If you only have one or two people available, what does this mean for the moblog?  How are the tasks divided up, and how does this impact the quality (a problematic term) of the moblog?  For this technique to be permanently adopted by news organizations, these questions will have to be answered. Management must be educated on moblog utility and cost-effectiveness. In TV, we watched news crews shrink to the one-man-band and the one-man-bureau. Again—what are we doing all this for, anyway?

 

In the near or distant future, wideband wireless will perhaps enable us to send video in real-time to bloggers/storybuilders. The next generation of converged field journalists will use video-phones to send wireless feeds directly to the news-clearinghouse facility.  The feed may be presented twice. One version will be “live and uncut” while the other will be processed and edited by the storybuilder. The packaged account will offer added value because it will be edited and contextualized, offering soundbites and detailed text information to provide readers/viewers the context for the event and its meaning. It's up to us to anticipate these changes and equip our students for tomorrow's job today.

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The Election Connection Continues

 

In a 48-hour election blitz, student journalists from American University, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina covered the Presidential election with camera phones, filing to a mobile weblog (moblog).

 

This was the fourth and final chapter of Cingular's Wireless Election Connection (http://wec.textamerica.com). Earlier in the year, student reporters covered the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary. Then over the summer, student reporters from other journalism schools joined USC students in covering both national political conventions. All of the work has been edited in the Ifra Newsplex at the University of South Carolina, where Newsplex Director Randy Covington oversaw the project. As The Convergence Newsletter went to press, we debriefed Covington.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: How does it feel to be an experienced moblogger?

 

COVINGTON: If someone a year ago had told me I would cover the race for the Presidency with a camera phone, I would have thought they were crazy! However, that's exactly what we did and we have amassed a fair amount of experience with moblogging as well as a substantial body of work. The Election Connection moblog now has nearly 1,300 individual postings.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: What are the lessons you have learned?

 

COVINGTON: I think the most important lessons are immediacy, quantity and quality. I worked in TV news for three decades and a good moblog is a lot like broadcast journalism. It is very immediate and it gives the news consumer a good sense of the "experience" of a story. But to accomplish this result, a moblog must be constantly updated with rich content.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: How hard is it to moblog?

 

COVINGTON: Just ask our reporters or the faculty members with whom we have worked. On the surface, it seems really simple--you take a lot of pictures, write short captions and then send them in. However, the process is more difficult than it first seems. The best postings are more than cute pictures. They actually mean something. The key point is to drill down to find the story. Then you have to summarize it in two or three sentences.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: What are the limitations to moblogging?

 

COVINGTON. I think they are fairly obvious. Moblogging doesn't do very well with depth, context or perspective. I don't think it is likely to replace traditional journalism. Plus on a moblog, it sometimes is hard to follow a story because of the haphazard way in which pictures are posted in the order they come in. That's part of capturing the "experience" of a story, but it sometimes makes it hard to follow.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: How do you address that problem?

 

COVINGTON: The themes, or what we sometimes call “threads,” become very important. I don't think the average person is going to wade through more than a thousand postings. However, that person might click on a thread that is of interest and look at 10, 20 or 30 postings. Organization, in my opinion, is critical to the success of a moblog.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: How hard was it to work with schools elsewhere and students you had never met?

 

COVINGTON: It wasn't all that difficult. We worked with strong journalism programs and some terrific student reporters. There is a learning curve that we see every time we do one of these things. Initially, reporters are confused by the operation of the phones and the expectation that they text message their captions. It takes a few hours to figure out that the phones and text messaging really are not that difficult. Then, comes the journalism. Initially, most captions are short and thin on content. However as the reporters become more comfortable, they realize they can use the format to tell meaningful stories.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: What are you most proud of?

 

COVINGTON: I think some of the convention threads were first-rate, themes like how the homeless in Boston viewed the race for the Presidency, how people in Massachusetts viewed John Kerry, and how the Alabama delegation experienced New York City. With the election itself, a number of postings stand out for their photographic quality as well as insights.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: What do you see as the future for this format?

 

COVINGTON: I think moblogging has considerable application for the Web sites of traditional news organizations. Thanks to companies like Textamerica, which provided the back end for the Election Connection, the process of editing and posting is fast and easy. So a news organization can aggregate fresh content for the Web with very little cost or effort. Your readers, listeners or viewers can capture their school games and plays, file them to the Internet and then comment on them. What's not to like about that model?

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: Is this really journalism?

 

COVINGTON: I think so. When you mention the word "blogging," a lot of people think about somebody sitting at home in his undershirt, pounding out his opinions on the computer with steam coming out of his ears. That's one model. But we think a good moblog, while certainly a new journalistic form, should meet old journalistic standards for accuracy, fairness, etc. In fact, I would suggest those standards are even more important in the blogosphere, where it is hard to know whom you can trust. We insisted that the Election Connection be edited by faculty members from the USC School of Journalism.

 

CONVERGENCE NEWSLETTER: Any final words?

 

COVINGTON: This is an exciting time to be working in new media.

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---------------Conferences

 

Third Annual BloggerCon

Nov. 6, 2004

Stanford Law School

Palo Alto, California, USA

http://www.bloggercon.org/iii/register

Join other bloggers to discuss the role blogs and citizen journalism played in the Presidential election. There also will be sessions on blogging in education, science, the arts and daily life. BloggerCon is a user's conference about technology and a forum for the use of technology.

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2004 Online News Association Conference

Nov. 12-13, 2004

Hollywood, California, USA

http://www.journalists.org/2004conference/

Digital journalists will gather for the 5th Annual Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet. Two full days of panel discussions and keynote speeches focused on the best practices for digital news will culminate with an elegant banquet and the announcement of the 5th Annual Online Journalism Awards.

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Cross-Platform Media Teams

February 13-18, 2005

Reston, Virginia, USA

http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/

 

Sponsored by the American Press Institute, this workshop focuses on strategic thinking for a multi-platform world. Covers content, revenue and convergence for online-offline teams, departments and companies.

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Midwest Political Science Association 63rd Annual National Conference

April 7-11, 2005

Chicago Palmer House Hilton Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, USA

www.mwpsa.org

 

This conference will include a section on Mass Media and Political Communication, featuring panels and papers about the nature, origin and impact of mediated messages. The Midwest Political Science Association is a national association of researchers with an interest in politics and policy. The MPSA was founded in 1939 and publishes one of the top journals in the discipline, the American Journal of Political Science (www.ajps.org ), as well as hosting a national conference with over 3,000 presenters on about 600 different panels.

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---------------Announcements/News

 

Call for Papers

 

AEJMC Midwinter Conference

February 11-12, 2005

Kennesaw State University, Georgia, USA

https://webspace.utexas.edu/mark43/www/

 

Participating Divisions/Interest Groups: Communication Technology & Policy, Media Management & Economics, Cultural and Critical Studies, Mass Communication and Society, Visual Communication, Civic Journalism, Entertainment Studies, and Graduate Education.

 

Submission Requirements: Authors are invited to submit research paper abstracts or panel proposals to be considered for presentation at the 2005 AEJMC mid-winter conference.  Submissions can address any aspect of mass communication & society, and may include work in progress.  Work that addresses both mass communication & society and issues of interest to other participating co-sponsors is encouraged. Graduate student submissions are strongly encouraged. Here are some specific guidelines for submission:

 

All proposals must be submitted by Dec. 20, 2004.  Send proposals to MC&S vice head at jdgreer@unr.edu. Use a standard word-processing format (preferably RTF) for all attachments.

 

Research paper or panel proposals should include a 300- to 500-word abstract. In addition, each panel proposal should include a list of potential panelists.

 

Identify the paper's author(s) or panel's organizer(s) on the title page only and include the mailing address, telephone number and e-mail address of the person to whom inquiries about the submission should be addressed. The title should be printed on the first page of the text and on running heads on each page of text, as well as on the title page.

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Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters 2005 annual meeting

March 4–5, 2005

Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA

 

Programming will include communication topics. Send submission form and two copies of each abstract to the chair of the appropriate section by Nov. 11, 2004. Contact information for section chairs is available at http://www.umich.edu/~michacad/2005chairlist.html.

 

Authors of papers accepted for presentation will be notified by section chairs and the Academy office in December. Presenters must register upon acceptance to be placed on the program. (Note: Proposals for presentations by undergraduate students should be sent directly to the Academy office by Nov. 11 with registration fee of $40 attached.)

 

Abstracts of all papers presented at the Academy meetings are published in the spring issue of the Academy's quarterly journal, the “Michigan Academician.” Articles submitted for the other three issues of this multidisciplinary journal undergo peer review.

 

For more information, visit http://www.umich.edu/~michacad/2005gencall.pdf.

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---------------Interesting Links

A Day in the Life of a J-School Student—Journalism students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., USA, are documenting life in a modern day journalism program via journalism’s latest medium—the blog. Under the direction of professors Doug Fisher and Ernie Wiggins, students are providing an honest look at what it means to study journalism. They capture the good and bad and the ugly, from making it to class on time to surviving a challenging editing course to struggling with such lofty questions as “why am I here?” This is reality TV for journalists and an interesting read. Check it out at http://jschoolyear.blogspot.com.

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---------------Copyright and Redistribution

 

The Convergence Newsletter is Copyright © 2004 by the University of South Carolina, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. All rights reserved.

 

The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The Center for Mass Communications Research at the University of South Carolina, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. It may be redistributed in any form – print or electronic – without edits or deletion of any content.

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---------------Submission Guidelines/Deadline Schedule

 

The Convergence Newsletter welcomes articles of all sorts addressing the subject of convergence in journalism and media. We also accept news briefs, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academics and professionals, and the publication style is APA 7th edition. Feature articles should be 750 to 1,500 words; other articles should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be 200 words. All articles should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter Editor at convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu. Please include your name, affiliation and contact information with your submission.

 

The Convergence Newsletter is published the first week of each month (except January). Articles should be submitted at least 10 days prior to the publication date. Any questions should be sent to convergence-editor@mailbox.sc.edu.

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