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Workshop: Traditional Roles in Transition

We are facing deep impacts of the internet and information technology on structures of media systems and public communication in general. Traditional roles of intermediaries of public communication, like journalists, are in transition and moreover tend to loose their underlying functions.

The draft papers
The workshop was divided into two sections, each of one based on a draft paper prepared for the Symposium. In the first part of the workshop Christopher Anderson presented his thoughts on “Algorithm and Journalism”. Wolfgang Schulz followed with his perspective on “The new Structural Transformation of Public Spheres”.

Please find the latest version of each paper under the following links:



The workshop
The idea of the workshop´s first part was to consider algorithms as a new object of news that intersects with both journalistic practices and products, and ultimately affects the very definition of journalism itself. Therefore, the workshops aimed to bring together scholars from the fields of e.g. computer science, law and regulation, and journalism studies to discuss and research that fundamental development.

Christopher Anderson started giving a theoretical overview, describing algorithms as hybrid between human and machine. He outlined a series of six lenses through which an approach to computational journalism might be carried out. Four of these lenses are drawn from Schudson’s classic typology of the sociology of news—economic, political, cultural, and organizational approaches. In addition, the author adds Bordieuean field approaches and technological lenses to the mix. In each instance, the author discussed how particular approaches might need to be modified in order to study computational journalism in the digital age.

Lorentz Matzat added his practical contribution to the potential for data journalism given by the enormous number of sensors that collect all kinds of information around the world.

The workshops second part focused on the structural change of publicity as the result of new forms of online communication, especially social media. Wolfgang Schulz outlined that media publicity as the traditional monopoly on social observation tends to lose its function. New types of publicity emerge such as search engine publicity, private public spheres (Jan Schmidt) or flash publicity. All of this leads – according to the author – to challenges for information law as policy makers have to identify the different types of information services and judges need to gain knowledge of different types of public or private spheres.

Karl-Heinz Ladeur underlined these thoughts criticizing jurisprudence not acknowledging actual developments of the fragmentation of public spheres.

Discussion and remarks
The discussion during and after the workshop yielded interesting remarks, particularly addressing further suggestions and pointing out challenges for future research. We want to emphasize three of them:

How are algorithms practically influencing journalistic work?
Are algorithms becoming a risk for journalism? (How) Can journalistic criteria be implemented in algorithms? What is the role of the journalist? How can data be made useful? Do algorithms need to be better known? Should e.g. Google be forced to publish the basic underlying principles of their search algorithm

The “right to forget”
Do we need to put an expiry date on data? Do we want to keep some data (for history)? Which one?

How do new public spheres look like?

How is it possible to identify new forms of public/private spheres?

Is everybody who is administrating data an intermediary?