Change, or transformation, is the natural order of the world, even when it is slow and over such a long period of time that it is imperceptible to short-lived and impatient human beings. We, of course, are constantly engaged in a process of change, just by living, but also by the exertion of our will and in particular, the imposition of our inventions, our cultures and our economies on the world.
In this issue of Transformations we have focussed on some changes that are occurring in the media, especially on the production of news. During the past decade, the growth of digital technology has led to the burgeoning of on-line and mobile communication technologies. There has also been an associated reduction in the cost and size of equipment available to the media while its capacity and capability has also improved. Moves to dismantle the boundaries between traditional news production areas because of the use of new technologies have begun to transform the way news is produced, received, accessed and interpreted. Traditional definitions of news are challenged by these new and emerging technologies, especially those that demand faster responses or reconstitute traditional work values, practices and processes.
There are many issues to contemplate and assess in relation to this subject, but here we provide a small but effective contribution to the debate on how new technologies are transforming the news media, and how the media then affects us all, wherever we are.
The contributing authors explore the impact of the transforming tendency of new technologies on news content and news practices and discuss the implications of the introduction of specific new technologies.
The article, News Connections: Regional newspapers and the Web, raises some salient points concerning the slow uptake of the Web by Queensland regional newspapers. Its author, Jacqui Ewart, suggests ways in which newspaper websites might be used to enhance relationships with local communities. Regional newspaper editors and publishers could benefit from her suggestions. In Weblogs, warblogs, the public sphere, and bubbles Gary Thompson explores the idea of the web, and, in particular, weblogs as a democratising agent. He raises the important point that weblogs do not always facilitate wide-ranging, multi-view point discussion. The new and emerging field of mobile news media is the focus of Collette Snowden’s article, What’s Happening? Mobile Communication Technology and the Surveillance Function of News. This article explores the relationship of mobile technologies to people’s interest in news and examines the potential impact of mobile communication technologies on the production of news and information. In the article, New Media Technologies and the Making of the New Global Reporter, Geoff Craig explores the changing identity of journalists as a consequence of the introduction of news technologies. His suggestion that technologies influence the production of a journalistic self should interest journalism educators, especially those using such technologies within their courses. The last two articles take a related, but slightly different approach to the theme of this issue of the journal. In The Backyard Blitz Syndrome: the emerging student culture in Australian Higher Education, Judith Langridge looks at the complex relationship between patterns of disengagement in the Australian Higher Education system and media representations of transformation. Her discussion of the transformation of student attitudes towards higher education will strike a chord with those readers of the journal who lecture or tutor at universities. In a slightly different approach to the theme of the journal, the application of technology to the production of music is examined in a cross-cultural context in The Technology, Aesthetics and Cultural Politics of a Collaborative, Transnational Music Recording Project: Veiga, Veiga and the Itinerant Overdubs by Denis Crowdy and Karl Neuenfeldt. It is included here because it is a fine case study of how the use of technologies can transform media practices and processes
Collette Snowden and Jacqui Ewart
News Connections: Regional newspapers and the Web
This paper examines key discussions occurring in relation to three issues currently affecting the news media both globally and locally. They are: an apparent disconnection between the media and their publics; declines in circulation and readership; and the increasing role and influence of new technologies on news media. These issues are considered in the global context and applied at the local level through an examination of their impact on, and consequences for, regional newspapers in Queensland. The study reviews the websites of Queensland regional newspapers and suggests methods by which these publications might use the web to address the issues they face. In particular, the paper focuses on ways of connecting regional newspaper readers, especially geographically disperse publics, with each other, regional journalists and newspapers.
Key terms: Web, regional newspapers, technology, disconnections, public, regional journalists.
Weblogs, warblogs, the public sphere and bubbles
During the past two years, weblogs have come to the attention of the public via mass media as a rhetorical form between private and public. The ease with which weblogs are created and maintained extends the Internet’s potential for democraticised access; recent news events in the US, specifically the brief scandal surrounding US Senator Lott and the war against Iraq, have provided a sense of weblogs’ capability to influence discussion of events in a virtual public sphere. However, the large numbers and openly ideological quality of weblogs tend to limit their audiences to those who agree with their points of view, keeping writers and readers in bubble-like isolation from opposing perspectives.
Key terms: Weblogs, warblogs, public sphere, internet, news, discourse, opinion.
What’s Happening? Mobile Communication Technology and the Surveillance Function of News
This paper discusses the argument that news has an important “surveillance function” that allows people to monitor the environment for both threats and events of interest in the context of the widespread and increasing use of mobile communications technology (MCT). It also discusses some of the issues that will arise for the production of news and information in relation to the use of MCT.
Key terms: mobile communication technology, surveillance, news, media, telepresence, mobile privatisation.
New Media Technologies and the Making of the New Global Reporter
This article considers the figure of the new global reporter and her/his engagement with new media technologies. Through a discussion of the Urban Jungle Pack and the working environment and culture of Bloomberg financial news reporters, the article argues that while the work of contemporary reporters is partly defined by the uses of new technologies, it more fundamentally involves the production of a journalistic self. There is, then, an emphasis in this paper on the human figure of the reporter and an understanding that the job of reporting involves the manufacture of contexts, or fields of proof, where personal and professional skills work together with technological validation.
Key terms: Reporters, new technologies, urban Jungle Pack, Bloomberg, reporting practices.
The Backyard Blitz Syndrome: the emerging student culture in Australian Higher Education
This paper discusses the transformation of the learning/teaching culture in a tertiary education environment brought about by the evolution and application of digital communication technology. In examining how technological development has altered the way in which study materials are delivered to, and accessed by students this paper outlines changes observed in student attitudes to the tertiary learning experience over a ten-year period at a regional university.
The paper argues that an intensely private and absorbing multimedia world has emerged in which many contemporary university students – acculturated as they are to an electronic visual environment – acquire information in short chunks as and when they need it. It also argues for the possible use of the technology that has helped create this cultural construct – The Backyard Blitz syndrome – to transform the way in which academics interact with multimedia savvy students in order to engage their interest in studying theoretical material they often find boring and irrelevant to their needs.
Key terms: Higher education, teaching culture, digital communication technology, online learning, regional university, student engagement.
Denis Crowdy and Karl Neuenfeldt
The Technology, Aesthetics and Cultural Politics of a Collaborative, Transnational Music Recording Project: Veiga, Veiga and the Itinerant Overdubs
This article describes and analyses the aesthetic, technological and cultural processes informing the cultural production of ‘Veiga, Veiga’ a song recorded by 73-year-old Australian Torres Strait Islander, Henry (Seaman) Dan. The song in its ‘final’ version appears on his CD Perfect Pearl recorded and released in 2003. However, achieving that version required considerable collaboration, but often at-a-distance, between songwriters, musicians and producers based in Australia (Cairns, Sydney and Thursday Island) and Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby). The main foci here are the process of collaboration and also the assumptions and challenges of cultural production. It discusses the essential use of multi-track digital recording software to the recording of ‘Veiga, Veiga’. In the multi-track musical recording process used to produce the song, primarily Protools™ software, the relatively new technology was used to good effect to facilitate trans-national and cross-cultural collaboration.
Key terms: ethnomusicology, world music, collaboration, new media, cultural production, recording.