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Trends in New Media Research: A Critical Review of Recent Scholarship

Pavlik, J. V. 2013. Trends in New Media Research: A Critical Review of Recent Scholarship. Sociology Compass 7, 1–12 (available on-line:, accessed 1 February 2013).
Trends in new media research are examined. These trends revolve around four dimensions, including citizen engagement, organizational innovation and adaptation, mobility and content computerization. The following article critically examines this shifting terrain in new media research and its implications for future scholarship.

• Claims to be an overview of some recent research in "new media", but it focuses almost entirely on journalism. As such it has some useful data with regards to readership, advertising spend, decline of newspapers and so on.
• Argues that there may be "a paradigm shift, in the domain of new media" - but this is not carefully argued. This paper mostly presents material from other papers without theoretical or careful critical discussion
• Citizen engagement:
- highlights the Arab Spring and the mobilising potential of new media
- Osama bin Laden and the way in which news breaks very fast on line; "in the networked, mobile, digital 21st century, scoops are almost non-existent, at least for long or for more than a few ?eeting seconds"
- "citizen journalists" (p2) are important, and journalism is changing to adapt to this, e.g. by becoming "curators" (p3)
• Organizational innovation and adaptation
- "alternative ownership structures for established and start-up news organisations." being proposed
- Some evidence that this may be viable e.g. South Korea's OhmyNews
• Content computerization
- This is a better section of the paper, highlighting the role of computers and databases in changing journalism, and tracing this trend back to "computer-assisted journalism" as developed from 1952
- "Locative media is a term that refers to media forms that utilize geographically tagged or encoded content"(p4) - being used more, e.g. by - "not so much storytelling as fact reporting" (p5)
- Diakopoulos - highlighting data-mining as the future of journalism; Berners-Lee (2010) - "Data-driven journalism is the future"
• Mobile augmented reality and journalism
- Also an interesting section, though somewhat narrowly focused on journalism and ignoring other aspects of augemented reality
- Noting how "'Most of the innovation is happening outside news organisations' (Bocskowski 2004; Bradshaw 2010)" (p7)
- NYT's paywall introduced in 2011 has become a standard
- p8: various statistics on state of news industry in USA
- Growth of "Hyperlocal web sites [which] serve principally local residents, and tend to be produced by local reporters or residents" (p9)
• Overall, useful for some up to date data on the USA news industry and new media. Poorly edited with typos and grammatical mistakes.

Please note - these are rough notes only, based on a first reading. They may be useful to someone interested in an alternative perspective on this paper.
However, these notes do not necessarily represent a final opinion, and are subject to revision in the future.

Business Professionals' Perspectives on the Disillusionment of Virtual Worlds

Bateman, P., J. Pike, N. Berente & S. Hansen 2012. Time for a Post-Mortem?: Business Professionals' Perspectives on the Disillusionment of Virtual Worlds. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 5 (available on-line:, accessed 17 January 2013).
Virtual worlds (VWs) are powerful three-dimensional technologies where users can assume identities and interact with others. While designed as open-platforms for creativity, expression, and experimentation by recreational users, VWs were once lauded for their potential applications to business. Today, much of the business community has either moved on from the hype of VWs or struggles to understand whether value can be obtained by using VWs. This paper attempts to provide an understanding of these outcomes through the analysis of assessments written by 59 business professionals, who each spent an extended period of time in a popular VW during the peak of the hype. From these assessments, four broad perspectives on the value of VWs to organizations (or lack thereof) were identified, along with challenges facing use of VWs if they are to become more widely used within business.


• A useful paper – good analysis of hype, why hype did not materialise in the VWs with regards to business opportunities/being a space for business activities

- Notes a prediction in 2007 that "80 percent of active Internet users would have a VW presence by the end of 2011 (Gartner Research, 2007)." (p2)

--> This might have been the key point - if there were loads of people in VWs, there would be business potential (see p11 also). Since there wasn't such an influx, there wasn't - hence the real question might be: 'Why weren't more people in VW?'

--> Surely, e.g. in gaming, there are many opportunities for advertising, but in a relatively limited market?

• Data derived from an exercise done by postgraduate students in business course who were asked to go into Second Life and develop opinions as to the usefulness for business. Only those with prior business experience were used

• Overall (p7) – 36.8% saw it as having some value, 41.4% no value, 14.3% contingent value, 7.5% future value

- Most value seen as advertising platform, enhance customer experience, training, meetings

- Main problems seen as need to learn the platform, inability to control the environment, technology no fast enough, wrong kind of users

--> This actually suggests the need for a limited form of virtual world, tailored for business users only. On the lines of LinkedIn or something.

• The argument revolves around affordances, and how the technologies are relevant in one context but not in another [i.e. relational] – thus SL is good for people who want freedom, gaming environment, but this is not useful for businesses

--> The environment of freedom etc. actually is not what businesses want… In fact, businesses thrive on limited social openness - i.e. they need to lock people into certain discourses, perceptions, etc which will lead them to directed purchase decisions [- this must relate to the markets approach somehow – Callon etc…. i.e. markets are about developing assemblages with particular dynamics…]

• Good point about hype (p11) – that for much research

- "the primary focus is on how business might use VWs, not if. This approach creates an unspoken assumption underlying prior work – creation of affordances naturally leads to business utilization. However, capabilities of a technology do not determine use (Wasko, et al., 2011). In fact, additional capabilities and functions afforded by virtual worlds have been found to be harder to utilize, even for experienced users, thus reducing willingness and expectations of use for business activities (Luse, Triplett, & Mennecke, forthcoming)." (p11; original emphasis).

--> Good point I think - i.e. hype-discourse assumes the potentials will be used, and thus develops a number of positive scenarios. By focusing on a couple of examples, e.g. IBM, this is taken as proof that they will be used, hence the positive assumption is taken as justified and then developed

Please note - these are rough notes only, based on a first reading. They may be useful to someone interested in an alternative perspective on this paper.
However, these notes do not necessarily represent a final opinion, and are subject to revision in the future.

"There's an app for that" - women and mobile technology

Frizzo-Barker, J. & P. A. Chow-White 2012. ‘There’s an App for That’ Mediating mobile moms and connected careerists through smartphones and networked individualism. Feminist Media Studies 12, 580–589 (available on-line:, accessed 21 December 2012).
The ubiquitous use of mobile smartphones and Internet-based applications commonly known as "apps," can be viewed as simultaneously empowering and constraining for women's experiences and identities due to their potential to foster "always on" forms of sociability in both public and private spheres. We conduct in-depth interviews with women who daily use smartphone apps to understand how they use and make meaning through social media and popular apps to do with parenting (using the "Total Baby" app), fitness ("Runmeter"), finances ("Mint") and daily tasks ("Evernote") through Judy Wajcman's technofeminist approach, which suggests that people and artifacts co-evolve, and technology can facilitate and restrain gender power relations.


• Quite a short article (relatively) and with less discussion of the feminist angle than I expected – i.e. how apps help a woman/mother in her daily caring duties, but also reproduce patriarchal structures etc.

- This article contains more a number of interesting examples of app usage although nothing that I didn’t expect.

- Basically arguing that apps/smartphones get used in different ways that reflect women’s roles in society, and are integrated into their household management

• Interesting bit about a certain ‘computer logic’ [my term]

- “Smartphone apps add an additional layer of logic to the execution of daily tasks. In her ground-breaking study of computers and automation in the workplace the 1980s, Shoshana Zuboff (1988) highlights the distinction that computers “informate” tasks; that is, they produce precise information about the tasks in such a way that the data takes on a life of its own. We found evidence of how smartphone apps motivate women’s daily practices with information about their finances, health and fitness.” (p586)

--> The way in which the smartphone organises the information that it gathers (e.g. about organising calendar, details of the child’s vaccinations etc., have an effect in organising the user’s life too [though to be sure people don’t always do what the apps say, and one wonders how much the respondents are talking of ideal situations, rather than in practice forgetting to check and so on]

• Definition of apps: “small stand-alone software that connect to Internet data without using a web browser portal.” (p580)

• Notes the rapid spread of mobile technologies – overtaken fixed lines

- “over 60 percent of the worldwide population has access to wireless communication (Manuel Castells 2010)” (p580)

- “Mobile phone subscriptions surpassed 3.4 billion globally in 2008, eclipsing landline telephone connections in the early 2000s, as the most rapidly diffused among all human communication technologies in history (Castells 2010).” (p582)

• Draws upon Castells’s ‘networked society’, ‘networked individualism’, and Wajcman’s technofeminism

- “Where networked individualism depicts the freedom to connect to various community networks, technofeminism draws attention to women’s often overlooked role in cultivating and maintaining these community networks.” (pp582-3)

• Interesting tensions and guilt feelings relating to using apps/smartphone

- “paradoxical double standard—they felt guilty letting their children use a smartphone while they completed a task, and also while using their smartphones when with their children.” (p586)

• Also note that it's in a special issue that deals with feminism and new media

Please note - these are rough notes only, based on a first reading. They may be useful to someone interested in an alternative perspective on this paper.
However, these notes do not necessarily represent a final opinion, and are subject to revision in the future.

Labouring lifestyle: assembling the lifestyle blog

This is a Prezi of a paper I presented last year at the 6th Asian Graduate Forum On Southeast Asian Studies at the NUS Asia Research Institute.

Here is the abstract:
Whereas the great majority of blogs are of the 'personal' genre - i.e. diaristic accounts of individuals' lives - academic research has focused mostly on the 'social-political' blogging genre and its relevance to the democratisation of the public sphere. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and drawing upon anthropological critiques of economic theory, this paper discusses the complexities of the articulation of personal blogging with existing models of media advertising in Malaysia. By conceptualising personal bloggers' provision of advertising space and 'advertorials' (paid blog posts), this paper argues that the monetisation of personal blogging has resulted in a new blogging genre, the 'lifestyle blog'.

The advertising industry in Malaysia has responded to the destabilisation of the advertising market enabled by blog affordances by seeking to internalise the bloggers who represent "voicy consumers" in the "economy of qualities" (Michel Callon). Robert Foster has argued that surplus value is created for brands "through the everyday practices in which consumers use branded goods to create social relations and shared meanings and affect." In effect, the diaristic practices of personal bloggers create both an opportunity for this process to take place and, for the more popular bloggers, a platform for advertisers to reach significant portions of a younger, more affluent, audience. By paying bloggers to incorporate brands in their blog posts, the advertisers seek to entangle the brand with the bloggers and their audience's shared network of meaning, or dynamic assemblage.

While these findings are based on the Malaysian context, they have particular relevance for Singaporean blogging, as well as potential relevance for blogging worldwide, which has seen an increased interest in blogs as an advertising platform embedded in local and contextualised markets.

Keywords: advertising, affordances, anthropology, blogs, Malaysia, marketing, media

Visualising assemblage

I've been hesitating for a long about putting this up. But I hope that someone will give me some feedback on it, and it may help those who - like me - spend a lot of time trying to work out what exactly an assemblage is.

The most comprehensive definition that I found is in A thousand plateaus:
On a first, horizontal, axis an assemblage comprises two segments, one of content, the other of expression. On the one hand it is a machinic assemblage of bodies, of actions and passions, an intermingling of bodies reacting to one another; on the other hand it is a collective assemblage of enunciation, of acts and statements, of incorporeal transformations attributed to bodies. Then on a vertical axis, the assemblage has both territorial sides, or reterritorialized sides, which stabilize it, and cutting edges of deterritorialization, which carry it away. (Deleuze & Guattari 2004: 97-8)

deleuze guattari assemblage diagram visualisation
The two segments on the horizontal axis are in "reciprocal presupposition" (Bogard 2009: 16) - they exist because of each other, but neither causes the other. On top, the territorialisation seeks to define boundaries and stabilise the assemblage. The arrows leading out from the bottom are the lines of flight, cutting through the assemblage and engendering new ones.

Manuel DeLanda also discusses assemblage extensively in New Philosophy of Society, noting in particular the "relations of exteriority" - i.e. that the constitutive components are discrete and linked in contingently causal relations that do not imply 'logical necessity' (2006: 10) - and that an assemblage only becomes one (as opposed to a collective of interconnected components) when there are emergent properties that affect the constitutive parts (ibid.: 38). He adds a third axis "defining processes in which specialized expressive media intervene" (ibid.: 19), but I haven't included that above.

In terms of methodological insights, it is worth considering the original French word that has been translated into ‘assemblage’: agencement is a word that designates something that is put together with a particular goal in mind, a desire to construct something which has an order to it (see also Palmas 2007: 1-2). An assemblage, as apprehended by the analyst, can only ever be partially understood and - because it is traced back from its effects - the danger is to see telos in its apparent direction. One should not however assign teleological essence to something that has already moved on.

For example: Rain is not bound to finish in the ocean, and rivers have no purpose - nonetheless, there is a clear causal pattern that results in a riverbed that carries rainwater to the ocean. The river territorialises the land it flows through, enabling the growth of plants, supporting fauna, and so on. The river is an assemblage of earth, water, fish, gravity and more, and its operation is rhizomatic - it is never the same, and may overflow its banks or change direction at any given moment in response to movements of deterritorialisation or lines of flight engendered by, for example, an earthquake; or human pollution.

A blog is an assemblage too. This blog, as you see it, has been put together by me, and suggested by the affordances coded into it by a collective of programmers. I created it and I can delete it, but it also escapes me: there are copies in archives online, and it operates autonomously - displaying itself to you right now, with components recording the time you stay on this page, which website you linked here from (if any), what browser you're using, etc. It offers you the possibility to comment below, but recently I also have to delete multiple spam comments daily - both your comments and the spam are 'lines of flight', they are deterritorialising movements that reduce my own terrtorialising influence.

Anyway, I would much appreciate any comments on the visualisation above. Or anything else. Thanks :-)

BOGARD, W. 2009. "Deleuze and Machines: A Politics of Technology?" In: Deleuze and New Technology (eds) D. Savat & M. Poster, 15-31. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
DELANDA, M. 2006. "New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity". London & New York: Continuum.
DELEUZE, G. & F. GUATTARI 2004. "A thousand plateaus?: capitalism and schizophrenia" (trans B. Massumi). London: Continuum.
PALMAS, K. 2007. "Deleuze and DeLanda: A new ontology, a new political economy?" presented at the Economic Sociology Seminar Series, Department of Sociology, LSE, 29 January (available on-line:, accessed 22 November 2010).

Pecha Kucha Kuala Lumpur

I was kindly invited by Niki Cheong to take part in a 'Pecha Kucha' event organised by the British Council - this is an evening where people get to talk about what they want, but they are limited to twenty slides with one image on each one, and each slide moves forward automatically after twenty seconds.

It's a great idea, but I mistakenly thought that it would also make the planning of the slides a lot more straightforward. Not at all! For someone like me who tends to ramble on and likes to talk only with notes and then ad-lib a bit, restricting myself to twenty seconds per slide is tough.

But I did it (though it was late, sorry organisers). I decided to talk about the ancient past, and the future of social media. It's made me well nervous, and then I went over to look at Niki Cheong's website (check it out, it has all the relevant information) and saw the list of luminaries who will be speaking too, and I've just got more nervous! Argh! I just don't feel too confident about the slides... I like the idea, but I don't know if it's going to work.

Anyway, here's one image to give you an idea
tambum rock paintings Ipoh malaysia

Yes it's prehistoric rock paintings. What has that got to do with social media? Well, come along and find out! :-) Click here for the Facebook event page.


The 15-minute blog post.
I like to blog, but I can't afford to spend a lot of time on it. Solution: limit myself to 15 minutes per post.
One link, one picture maximum.
All comments, critiques and corrections are welcome. Thank you.