Highlight from 10 December 2009 – discourse analysis on the fight between Murdoch and Google, and Ian Forrester on BBC backstage

At the session on 10 December, we touched qualitative research methods including discourse analysis, ethnographic observation and qualitative interviewing. Objectivity is a widely known problem of conducting qualitative research methods. Collecting qualitative data sounds easy (by talking to people, hanging out in a social setting, reading some texts), but reflecting critically and constructing theoretical frameworks based on what’s been observed are the difficult task which is also difficult to teach.

I led the students to do discourse analysis on a very tiny corpus I built. The corpus consists of four news articles (two from the Times and two from the Guardian) on Google’s decision to provide limited access to paid news content. Students did well in spotting the metaphors that Google and Rupert Murdoch used. For example, Murdoch called news aggregators such as Google “thieves”, and claimed that people shouldn’t expect “free” news content as in “free lunch”. Google, on the other hand, said they are just “a virtual newsagent, not a parasite”. The students also identified the different ways in which the Times and the Guardian covered this event: the Guardian drew a lot on Google’s statement and positioned Google’s move as their autonomic decision, while the Times implied that Google has conceded and that Murdoch’s request was not unreasonable because other newspapers have been doing the same (charging audience  to read content) – for example, Johnston Press launches paid-to-read online service.

Ian Forrester came over to speak to us about BBC backstage and open innovation. He blended several concepts with backstage’s work perfectly well: open data, creative commons, community, user-generated content, remix, mash-up, many-to-many broadcasting, open platforms, open standards, playful experiences, building social networks, social capitals and reputation. He introduced the P2PNext integrated project that backstage is involved at the moment – real-time streaming of HD content (requires a lot of bandwidth). He suggested people to read the Cluetrain Manifesto which inspired his friend to blog. Chnnelography is amazing – I never realised subtitle data reveals so much information. People remix, mash-up, repurpose BBC interview clips (e.g. blip.tv, E20). People can take down all the clips and download the videos at http://www.bbc.co.uk/digitalrevolution/ (although the “rights” (licences) are tricky, so he still suggested people to shot their own footages).

Asked how backstage measures its impact, he said it’s difficult to measure the impact especially if the goal is to achieve societal and cultural change. But there’s a website to see whether the BBC is hitting the right audience or not – How in touch are the BBC.

Ian’s suggestions for further reading:

Jonathan Zittrain’s “The Future f the Internet”

EPIC 2014

Also, he said this is fun!

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