Mediations comments on public relations theory and practice, with an emphasis on social media and communication ethics. Philip Young is project leader for NEMO: New Media, Modern Democracy at Campus Helsingborg, Lund University, Sweden. All views expressed here are personal and should not be seen as representing Lund University or any other organisation.
Faced with a huge pile of marking the last thing I needed was to be pointed to an addictive game. Thanks to Liz Bridgen, I now have a detailed knowledge of Lufthansa's flight network.... Click here to play
European Communication Monitor explores future trends in public relations and communication management. It is an international research project conducted by ten universities, conducted through an online survey which runs until June 30.
Here's the announcement...
The European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), a network of leading scholars from more than 30 countries, announced the start of the most ambitious survey in the field of communication management and public relations. The "European Communication Monitor 2008" addresses PR professionals in organisations and consultancies throughout Europe. The online survey at www.communicationmonitor.eu runs until the end of June. It will take about ten minutes to answer the online questions. All participants will receive a full report of the results and be included in a draw for three Apple iPod Shuffle music players. The project serves solely academic purposes; privacy is fully respected.
The public opinion market in Europe is converging and so are the public spheres where information is shared and reputation is built. Lead researcher Ansgar Zerfass, professor at the University of Leipzig, remarked, "Public relations is facing new challenges. Our survey tries to identify strategies and approaches that are relevant for future business."
The survey will be conducted for the second time. It attracted more than 1,100 participants last year and showed up a number of valuable results. This year's topics include strategic issues, upcoming communication channels, new media, corporate social responsibility, evaluation, agency relationships etc.
European Communication Monitor 2008 at a glance: - online questionnaire: www.communicationmonitor.eu - survey period: May 30 until June 30, 2008 (4 weeks) - target group: public relations professionals and communication managers in corporations and institutions; professionals in communication consultancies - research conducted and advised by professors from: University of Leipzig (GE); Leeds Metropolitan University (UK); University of Amsterdam (NL); University of Ljubljana (SI); University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid (ES); IULM University, Milano (IT); University of Bordeaux 3 (FR); Mälardalen University (SE); University of Oslo (NO); Poznan University of Economics (PL) - supported by: Communication Director - Magazine for Corporate Communications and Public Relations - supported by: Cision - a leading global provider of media monitoring, distribution and evaluation services - contact: mailto:email@example.com
The full title of cyberlaw scholar Jonathan Zittrain's The Future of the Internet And How to Stop It is stencilled across yellow and black warning stripes. The message is clear: something terrible is going to happen - unless...
Whoever pitched this book is trying too hard. It is by no means an easy read, rather a fascinating exploration of the internet, bringing together sociological insights with business history, and set in a framework of a fast moving and elusive legal structure. OK, he does say that if we all go on like this it will all end in tears but Zittrain's is not a hand-wringing, why-oh-why condemnation, rather a highly intelligent analysis of a digital world stretched seemingly to breaking point by the tensions between creative, open collaboration and closed but efficient business models.
The essential conflict is between what Zittrain terms generative platforms which can be reprogrammed and repurposed by almost anyone and tethered appliances that pretty much controlled by the manufacturer. It's the difference between a PC and TiVo or a toaster. PCs were designed to run software written by other people unlike appliances which are tied to (tethered) and ultimately controlled by the supplier.
A similar pattern emerged when the internet took off. Some prioviders, such as CompuServe tried a walled garden approach, but the infinite flexibility and range of possibilities offered by the Net hugely outpaced the creative endeavour of controlling proprietary networks.
Initially at least, this generative creativity was good - until people began relasing bad code, either from folly, carelessness or less forgivable motives.
"Generative sources are built on the notion that they are never fully complete, that they have many usages yet to be conceived of and that the public can be trusted to invent and share good uses." So far so good, but "generativity also brings a capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences." People do bad things.
Viruses, trojans, worms, surveillance programmes and identity theft are part of online life; mobile phones and sat-navs can be remotely controlled to eavesdrop on conversations and track our movements. Computers atre not necessarily our friends - and, especially when they are networked, the potential threats are mushrooming.
One way forward is increasingly to opt for tethered appliances that pretty much do what they set out to do and can't be reconfigured by the average owner. In effect they are rented rather than owned, but this puts a huge power into the hands of the manufacturer who can withdraw or reprogramme applicances at any time. Zittrain suggest a scenario whereby Kodak owned the rights and uses to pictures taken on its cameras - few consumers would go for this, but most of us keep increasingly large amounts of personal and business information on external netwroks rather than on our own computer.
The implications for this abrogation of control have enormous implications for personal privacy, and Zittrain's chapter on Privacy 2.0 is a must-read.
Google mail trawling personal emails to help target advertising is one thing, but can we be comfortable as it becomes possible to configure use image recognition technology that processes tagged photos on Facebook and Flickr to automatically label label all future images of that individual. Zittrain speculates plausibly about the impact of mashups using such techniques to instantly cross reference people emerging from a clinic or taking part in a demonstration.
"Public" and "private" are increasingly becoming blured and vague terms that lack the subtlty to describe our new world. As Zittrain observes: "For privacy the public is variously creator, beneficiary and victim of this free-for-all."
"As people put data on the internet for others to use or re-use - data that might be about other people, as well as themselves - there are no tools to allow those who provide the data to express preferences about how the data ought to be indexed or used." As he warns, even those who are equipped to make rational decisions about sharing personal information in the short-term might underestimate what might happen in the futire as it is re-used and repurposed.
Sometimes Zittrain writes like a lawyer and he is certainly not afraid to make the reader do the work, but this a powerful book which I will return to again and again. Read it!
Nick Davies seemed to surprise a few people with a scathing critique of modern journalism which he characterised as Flat Earth News. Certainly he highlighted some pretty shabby practices in a curate's egg of a book - one minute I was right behind him, the next shaking my head in frustration...
One of Davies's key messages was that modern news organisations lack the resources to do their job properly. Starved of cash, newpapers are filled with PR-driven 'churnalism' and even apparently decent journalists have little choice but to rush out a mishmash of half-baked, barely checked information. It is a sorry tale: "Journalism without checking is like the human body without an immune system."
In Can You Trust The Media?,Adrian Monck has a rather different take on fairly similar terrain. His answer to the trust question seems quite simple - a resounding No. And his reasoning is compelling: why should you?
His mission is to 'burst the trust balloon'. "We need to teach people to live in a world where trust is something that is withheld. People need to be sceptical as a matter of course. Then they won't be so disappointed."