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Governance by and of Algorithms on the Internet: Impact and Consequences  

Michael Latzer and Natascha Just

Internet-based services that build on automated algorithmic selection processes, for example search engines, computational advertising, and recommender systems, are booming and platform companies that provide such services are among the most valuable corporations worldwide. Algorithms on and beyond the Internet are increasingly influencing, aiding, or replacing human decision-making in many life domains. Their far-reaching, multifaceted economic and social impact, which results from the governance by algorithms, is widely acknowledged. However, suitable policy reactions, that is, the governance of algorithms, are the subject of controversy in academia, politics, industry, and civil society. This governance by and of algorithms is to be understood in the wider context of current technical and societal change, and in connection with other emerging trends. In particular, expanding algorithmizing of life domains is closely interrelated with and dependent on growing datafication and big data on the one hand, and rising automation and artificial intelligence in modern, digitized societies on the other. Consequently, the assessments and debates of these central developmental trends in digitized societies overlap extensively. Research on the governance by and of algorithms is highly interdisciplinary. Communication studies contributes to the formation of so-called “critical algorithms studies” with its wide set of sub-fields and approaches and by applying qualitative and quantitative methods. Its contributions focus both on the impact of algorithmic systems on traditional media, journalism, and the public sphere, and also cover effect analyses and risk assessments of algorithmic-selection applications in many domains of everyday life. The latter includes the whole range of public and private governance options to counter or reduce these risks or to safeguard ethical standards and human rights, including communication rights in a digital age.

Article

News Sources and Journalist–Source Interaction  

Caroline Fisher

The relationship between journalists and their sources is central to journalism practice. It is a relationship based on a power struggle over the presentation of information to the public. The nature of that relationship continues to change in response to cultural, social, political, and technological circumstances. Historically, the relationship between journalists and sources has been predominantly characterized as interdependent, oscillating between cooperation and conflict over the control of information. However, the arrival of digital publishing platforms and growing use of artificial intelligence and automation in journalism have significantly disrupted this mutually dependent exchange. It has blurred the boundaries between the two roles by complicating the concept of “source” and “journalist” and released sources from their traditional reliance on journalists to disseminate their messages to citizens. Using digital platforms, sources have the option to bypass the traditional media and communicate directly with the public if it meets their strategic communication goals. Depending on whether the source is trying to reach a specific audience via social media or a wider audience via mass media, they can “opt-in” or “opt-out” of a traditional journalist–source relationship. The shift in power between reporters and sources poses a challenge to the authority and control of journalists who have lost their stranglehold over the means of publication. This change points to issues of accountability and scrutiny and raises questions about the ongoing relevance of journalism’s “fourth estate” role in democracy.

Article

Routines in Journalism  

Edson C. Tandoc, Jr. and Andrew Duffy

News routines refer to patterns of outcome-oriented behavior, structured by ideological and organizational contexts, regularly enacted or invoked by newsworkers engaged in constructing the news, acting individually but thinking collectively. They are enacted by journalists to make their daily work more efficient and invoked to preserve their autonomy. They help make newswork more predictable and journalism more stable. Studies have documented various routines at different stages of news construction. In the access and observation stage, studies have focused on the beat system and journalists’ sourcing patterns, which determine the range of information and events they get to know about. In the selection and filtering stage, studies have examined how news values shape news selection and even deselection of articles. In the editing and processing stage, studies have examined practices associated with writing, such as the use of the inverted pyramid format and the use of direct quotes, as well as with editing and verification. Scholars have also focused on the impact of automation on news writing and editing. In the distribution stage, studies have explored live coverage as well as the use of social media to disseminate news. Finally, in the interpretation stage, studies have explored the tracking and monitoring of audience feedback via web analytics and social media, which also affect editorial decisions. But aside from making work more manageable, news routines also have two main consequences on news work: They drive newsworkers into the arms of authorities who are set up to give them information, and they increase the risk of compromising journalists’ autonomy. While they structure how journalists do their work, news routines are also structured by larger forces. The need for efficiency stems from the motivation for profitability in market-oriented news organizations. News routines also prescribe how news processes ought to be done, distinguishing news construction from other forms of work but also functioning as a form of control. Since they arise out of the practical needs of the organization and the field, news routines will adapt and emerge as journalists are confronted by a changing set of practical needs. Such adaptation opens the way to new information structures and new ideologies.