Critical Analytics in public service media

Critical Analytics in public service media

I have been thinking and writing about how critical analytics can be applied towards public service media. This sort of analytics measurements become crucial when we are thinking through public issues – a core focus for a democracy supportive institution such as PSM. I am still convinced the digital influencer model can work for public service media, especially if we borrow from the successes and learning from multichannel networks (MCNs).

Below is the abstract for my upcoming paper to be presented at the RIPE conference, in Antwerp:

How can governments and policy makers understand their citizens’ value for their public service media (PSM) organisations beyond traditional audience metrics measurements? Public service media is under attack at the governance, remit and funding levels. This shift in political ideology and media policy towards the beneficial elements of public service broadcasting is strengthened through conservative governments, introspective and disorganised left political parties, hostile media environments, and substantially reduced funding arrangements (Barnett, 2015). Recent scholarship has attempted to promote the significance of ‘value’ of PSM (see esp. the collected edition by Lowe & Martin, 2013), which has been unable to protect the increasingly questioned relevance of public service broadcasting in a neoliberal and digitally advanced communication environment. Often these sorts of value judgements are based on governance structuring, content production and, importantly, audience engagement measurements.

Audience engagement measurements typically rely on historically boosterish and inaccurate audience measurement apparatuses that are incapable of understanding public engagement beyond ‘eyes on screens’. Inaccurate audience metrics are particularly problematic when mapping the relationship between PSM’s purpose, its value and government/subscription funding models. Social media, however, provides a new opportunity to explore audience engagement beyond these basic audience measurements, by being able to track and analyse PSM social conversations. In tracking these conversations in real time, scholars, media makers and policy makers will be able to understand the relationship of a PSM organisation with its citizens via social media, and how social media metrics relate to public service value.

The ABC especially relies entirely on the Australian Government to provide its funding, the level of which is decided by the government-elect. The allocation of funding is associated with the value of PSM to its citizens, which has historically been determined by out-dated and inaccurate audience metrics. Australian government funding agencies measure PSM value through audience engagement in traditional standards, yet the intellectual puzzle this research addresses suggests new evaluation processes are required to understand how audience engagement practices have shifted through social media. As such, this paper explores, how can government-funding bodies identify and use social media metrics to understand public service media value?

However, social media metrics are often associated with what has been framed as vanity metrics. Vanity metrics are those measures that refer to social media likes, fans, followers or friends and can be easily construed by marketing and advertising folk to tell a particular type of story. This approach towards audience metrics is not useful for PSM as measuring how many people might like a Facebook post fails to indicate if the remit of the organisation is indeed performing as they are legislated. Instead, what is useful in this environment to engage social media measuring of what Rogers (2016) terms an issue network, that is a network that is interested in social issues and social issue engagement. It is in this mode that audience research shifts from researching vanity metrics alone, which tell us one unique story, but to an approach that includes critical analytics to clearly understand if the PSM is indeed ‘entertaining and educating’.

This paper uses cultural intermediation as framework to understand a particular subset of intermediaries: digital influencers. Digital influencers provide a unique opportunity to explore how commercial entities, specifically Multichannel Networks (MCNs) have established cutting edge engagement strategies and economic models. While MCNs operate within the commercial sector, the strength of their ability to engage large audiences and influence their opinions cannot be ignored by large cultural organisations such as PSM. While digital influencers construct their business model around what can be termed vanity metrics (Ries, 2009), the strategic benefits can be aligned with what Rogers (2016) terms critical analytics. By incorporating critical analytics into PSM, which relies on monitoring and initialising discussion around public issues, the opportunity to engage new and larger audiences that have since left PSM properties emerges. The challenge is to align digital influencers with appropriate public issues that can be aligned with the remit of PSM. Critical analytics, then, provide us with new audience metrics that can be aligned with the remit of PSM, ultimately providing a new approach towards the value generated by these cultural facilitating organisations.

The significance of addressing the current measurement of the audience’s representation of public service media value and aligning it with contemporary social media practices provides insights of how to accurately allocate taxpayer funding to Australian public broadcaster programming. This research also showcases a new mechanism to highlight what the Australian public consider to be high-value public service programming as discussed in their social media conversations.

Public Service Media, Digital Influencers and Critical Analytics: #dmdscu16 Day one

Public Service Media, Digital Influencers and Critical Analytics: #dmdscu16 Day one

We’ve just had the first day of the Digital Methods for Social Development Summit here at the Chinese University Hong Kong, which brings the digital methods expertise from the University of Amsterdam’s Digital Methods Initiative to the Global South.

It was a great set of presentations from leading people in the field that provided us with stimulus for the coming week of sleeves-rolled-up, down and dirty, digital methods work. I would like to focus on one presentation from Richard Rogers that I think can really develop my current line of enquiry.

After giving my public lecture a few weeks back for Media@Sydney where I was trying to understand how digital influencers are useful for socially good areas such as public service media (PSM). I arrived at a place that highlights why they are useful, but I still have a gap in how to really bridge between the two quite different approaches to highly commercial success and non-commercial PSM.

Richard’s presentation focussed on the concept that takes vanity metrics (followers, fans, etc) to critical analytics which looks at how socially important issues can be measured within a network society. Critical analytics are:

  • Dominant voice (source hierarchy, credibility),
  • Concern (actor presence or absence in the issue space – who is making the issue a concern),
  • Commitment (the longevity of concern),
  • Positioning (the purposive deployment of a keyword – framing for e.g. or the use of a keyword),
  • Alignment (the company a keyword keeps – alliance of the word, how do people use the word #securitywall, #apartightwall)

No while Richard presented this as a one versus the other type of dichotomy, I can’t help but think, in fact feel and know, that this is the way to bring digital influencers towards PSM. If we can look at digital influencers through the framework of critical analytics, I think we are looking into the space that is bringing commercially successful models (cultural intermediation), towards socially relevant projects, in my field of research:public service media.

Looking forward to developing this idea further this week in the lead up to RIPE in September.

CFP: Digital Media Methods @ #ANZCA16

Call For Papers – Digital Media Methods

Australia and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA), Newcastle Australia, 5-8 July, 2016.

Scraping the Political, Economical and Social: The state of digital methods for media and communication research

Media and communication researchers have embraced the computational and digitisation turns (Rogers, 2014), which have notably seen the multidisciplinary inclusion of computer science with the humanities. From early methods that some argued over-claimed their impact, towards contemporary approaches that have been nuanced and improved by researchers and specialists, digital media methods are now a collection of ‘how to’ tools to research social, economical and political sites. Globally, multiple researchers and institutions have developed cutting edge technologies that enable a large proportion of media and communication researchers to interrogate existing research sites in new ways. Additionally, these digital media methods have enabled researchers to find new research environments through data repositories, big data, digital media platforms, and social media, for example. Our interest in digital data will increase further as we see new cultural practices emerge through activities associated with drones, autonomous automobiles, sensors, and the internet of things.

There remains a significant gap, however, in our current media and communication methodologies and the current research technology. While we are able to identify conversations of public concern and how they inform ‘issues’ (Burgess & Matamoros, 2016), there remains the problem of how to integrate cultural context (humour, geography, history, etc.) into our understanding of large social media data sets. Further, the increasing shift away from text-based communication towards visual methods, i.e. Instagram, instigates a methodological conundrum (Highfield and Leaver, 2016). Finally, while the efforts of Wills (2016), Fordyce et al. (2016), Bruns et al. (2016) and Dowd (2016) advance our understanding of ontologies and typographies of social media data, further work needs to be undertaken to standardise our collection and analysis methods of digital media. Collectively, these issues present problems in data gathering techniques, research design, university ethics and access for digital media research methods.

We are seeking contributions from scholars for a ‘progression session’ at the 2016 Australia and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) that can address one or many of the following:

  1. What are the cutting edge examples of digital media methods in media and communication research?
  2. How can we integrate cultural contexts into the broad computational approach of digital platform research?
  3. How can we as media and communication researchers access digital media tools for our own projects?
  4. How should we approach ontologies and/or typologies for digital media research?
  5. How do we negotiate these emerging research areas with our university ethics boards?

Contributions from this panel will form the basis for a collected edition on digital media research methods.

Please send your 400 word abstract to Jonathon Hutchinson at before 26 February, 2016.

#cciss16 Day Five Digital Methods Seminar

#cciss16 Day Five Digital Methods Seminar

Stuart Cunningham – Qualifying the Quantifies Audience

  • Algorithmic turn (Gillespie & Seaver)
  • Calculated Publics (Crawford)
  • Algorithmic Cultures (Striphas)
  • Algorithm as institution (Napoli)
  • Social Media Entertainment (SME) Cuningham and Silver 2013 – mainstream entertainment delivered in a different way, digital platforms, and of course then how we gather data and interpret that
  • Cunningham has some very basic thinking around multi channel networks already
  • NoCal (agile, constant beta, etc) and SoCal (big budget Hollywood budgets) economic models lead to an entire industry of MCNs
  • Good point of YouTube moving away from these economic models by beginning to start the MCN model themselves – refer to Felicity McVay from YouTube
  • Boom Totem and
  • YouTUbe partner program – deal with grassroots level of talent
  • Money generated at value ad level – the socal area
  • ‘They have a threatened lifespan’ – i.e Google want what they have, a very solid generative economy
  • This poses an opportunity for digital methods to engage in the video network – [refer to the Tiz project, i.e. radio play data across YouTube for AoIR] – how do YouTube play videos indicate the flow on – an issue mapping approach – towards record sales?

Eszter Hargittai – Challenges of Studying Online Particiaption

  •  Who benefits most from digital media use?
  • Question around the significance of big data
  • Historically, we should look for trends in data

Agent Based Modelling

  • Download Netlogo for Mac:
  • Computational modelling: looking at phenomenology from different levels: comparative models through maps etc
  • Why computational modelling? Constructing simulation of real world phenomena to tell us how things work – rely on agents, or agency
  • We are creating data, not importing it, which is based on our interpretations of the real world
  • Just picked up some tips through discussion: Inductive and deductive research approaches, broad sociology research methods
  • Agent based modelling useful for heterogenous agents

NetLogo 5.3

  • Formation strategies: one is to engage actors with randomness, the other is to engage with actors that are popular (randomness slider)
  • How many actors to connect with (Connect slider)
Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.42.19
All the purties… But means nothing at this stage

With a little more detail:

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.43.45

Data that describes who is in the network, how they are connected, and the sort of topology (degree) of the network. So this describes nodes are connected with highly popular nodes – degree isn’t very useful in this measurement.

Creating a model:

In code panel, write:

to new-turtles
crt 1 [
setxy random-xcor random-ycor

to setup
crt 1

to go
ask turtles [
forward 0.2
right 10 – random 20

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 12.43.29

  • You can add variables to perhaps understand how to agent interact

#cciss16 Day Four Digital Methods

#cciss16 Day Four Digital Methods

Mark McLelland

  • Cool Japan – the fashion, the culture, the animation that has captured the interest of youth
  • Student fans – online fans engaging with technological realities building on aca-fans (Jenkins)
  • Student users ignore rating systems, drive the culture behind this, McLelland focusses on the explicit and sexual aspects of this culture
  • Puni Puni Poemy is an example of explicit sexuality, the text has been read in various contexts and banned becuase of the connotations that it promotes – i.e. sexual coercion and sexual conduct
  • This seems to be because of how people who aren’t familiar with the contextual text
  • Example of showing an episode of South Park to Sudan – the text is so intertextual, in that it refers to animation before it, contemporary texts and cultures
  • This is the problem of the local interpretations of films like Puni Puni Poemy
  •  Dolls Fall is the example that is used as one text that was deemed ‘child pornography’ by CNN, but is actually supernatural/horror genre – massive fan backlash on this
  • ‘enabling texts’ – the idea the a ‘gateway text’ will effect people with cognitive disorders who might be triggered by a particular reading of a text
  • There are issues around animation content being legally seen as ‘a real person’ which is in contradiction to the idea of Japanese anime

Software and App Studies – Ben Light, Jean Burgess, Stef Duguay

  • ‘The Walkthrough Method’ – a way of exploring the app explosion and a way to observe and understand them
  • ‘Thick description’
  • Design principles at at the centre here – users testing for example, emerging from HCI
  • Whereas this brings in social science approaches – not so much what is supposed to happen, but why things actually do occur
  • Mediation is something that transform the process, i.e. your experience – how the interface mediates the experience
  • I guess Latour (i.e. ANT) is a useful text here
  • I understand The Walkthrough Method as user testing, but for social scientists drawing on their theoretical area of interest
  • Aesthetic aspects are the starting point, followed by the political economy – a holistic approach. This includes how it is framed, its business model, governance, platforms validating through other platforms i.e. Facebook, the marketing model

Our walk through – Figure 1

IMG_0979I’ll do the user walkthrough:

  • Standard sign up process, except it asks my speciality, i.e. ‘Physician’, ‘medical resident’
  • Option to have notifications turned on
  • Users post pictures of their patient cases and ask the hive for their input. Additional users can comment, favourite or follow the thread, also share via message, FB, Twitter, WhatsApp, Email, ‘More’
  • Users then respond with their take on the question/update
  • The users are accredited and non-accredited
  • Their is a folksonomy tagging system


Issue Mapping – Jean Burgess and Ariadna Matamoras Férnandez

  • There are broad public issues, and controversies are distinctive moments (acute) that will form new emerging public issues
  • This is happening online
  • The public issue is Charlie Hebdo
  • TouTube tool (via DMI):
  • This = rad!


Key thoughts from the day

  • Issue mapping will be really useful to apply across multiple platforms, but always to compliment deep qualitative reading.
  • Performing Twitter research across large sets should be an iterative process (think #koinuntukaustralia and the categorisation process: continually refine the research question).
  • Incorporating the geovisualisation work *may* be useful when mounting a case on the strength of PSM.

Moving Convergence Culture Towards Cultural Intermediation: Social media and cultural inclusion

Moving Convergence Culture Towards Cultural Intermediation: Social media and cultural inclusion

[Original image by Tom Waterhouse, published CC BY NC]

I have a new article coming out in Continuum that explores the idea of cultural intermediation, that moves through existing cultural studies and convergence theories, but attempts to integrate social media ideas and concepts.

This is the result of the ‘Cultural Studies: What now?’ conference that three of my colleagues, and friends, facilitate in Melbourne in 2013. I’d very much like to thank James Meese, Jenny Kennedy and Emily van der Nagal for their tireless efforts in bringing this collection together. Can’t wait for the print version!

In the meantime check out:

Jonathon P. Hutchinson (2016): Moving convergence culture towards cultural intermediation: social media and cultural inclusion, Continuum, DOI: 10.1080/10304312.2016.1143161



Raymond Williams noted culture is specific to each society, where ‘the making of a society is the finding of common meanings and direction’. Cultural studies provide a foundation for an array of emerging research areas that seek to explore those mean- ings and directions, such as convergence culture. Recent humanities scholarship has called for researchers to move beyond the marvel of convergence culture, with its potential for increased social inclusion and cultural diversity, to a more nuanced understanding of networked participation. This paper uses empirical research data gathered from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to argue that embedded cultural industries research can contribute, through the cultural intermediation frame- work, to cultural studies and the political, economic, and practice-based strengths of the creative industries. It also argues that in a contemporary institutional social media environment, cultural intermediation is a useful framework to understand convergent media practices.

#cciss16 Digital Methods Day Three

#cciss16 Digital Methods Day Three

Here’s my blow by blow on the third day of the Digital Media Research Centre’s (DMRC) Summer School on digital methods:

Heather Ford

  • Big data capabilities, messy landscape
  • We use the same tools to search the worlds we explore
  • Methods enable us to reflect on how we operate as researchers
  • Cracker article about digital methods and ethnography
  • Trace Interviews
  • Netlytic – to analyses and draw conclusions between users across multiple social media platform
  • How do we study reception when the audience is considered a ‘text’ in the digital age?
  • Entry through fan studies because of the emotional investment- belonging, communities, etc.
  • first wave of fan studies: communities – networks – personalisation
  • second wave of fan studies: using Bourdieu, construction of hierarchies
  • third wave of fan studies: integration of sociology, fandom as empowering (really?)
  • Sport fans never talk about the team, but about themselves, ie. Chelsea fans
  • What does reception studies mean if its about agency?
  • The boundaries are blurred of between the text and the receiver – classical visual art is clear (i.e. a frame around a painting), but digital media is difficult because (?) of paratext
  • Methods – we should move through the methods
  • Integrate digital with qualitative
  • The design of comparative studies to triangulate 

    Brenda Moon – GitHUB

  • Set up a GitHub account
  • Download GitHUB desktop client
    Github = version control
    Why version control?
    Keeps track of files
    allow which changes shoudl be allowed (called a commit)
    Keeps the metadata (short description of the change)
  • mulitple versions can be created and then merged
    complete history of your changes are kept
  • So when teh desktop client is all working, you speak in branches in this space, where every change is a branch that needs to be committed
  • If it is file that is in the commit and you change the file, GitHub recognises the change and has one uncommitted change

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 11.55.18

  • So here is my GitHub repository:

Forking a repository

  • find the repository, press fork and then download the files to your local computer to work on in the GitHub desktop

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.44.39

#BNEdata race

  • All teh fun and feels that a sunny city in QLD can offer, while running around with mobile tech
  • We also did some geolocative stuff too😉
  • Points of the day
    > Digital methods are never complete – it is how they are integrated with other approaches, i.e. ethnography
    > There is a huge gap to get to digital methods – we are provided with data sets to get going. I guess this is necessary for the purposes of running workshops, but it does also highlight the difficulty for entry level to digital methods for new scholars coming to this area
  • Many of these seminars are well worth presenting to our department colleagues and will hopefully motivate new approaches to existing areas of enquiry