New research at NCA; updates from an island.

I’ve updated this page to include upcoming presentations at the National Communication Association (NCA). I’ll be presenting work on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which leverages website tracking data extracted from the NSF Internet Archive project. This is new research, and looks at the organizational structure created by the connections between websites. In addition, Heewon Kim, a graduate student at Rutgers, will be presenting our research on virtuality in a large technology consulting organization.

Looking to next steps, what better way to percolate new grant ideas than to lock up a bunch of academics on an island for a few days? I’ve had the privilege of spending the past few days on Bainbridge Island just outside of Seattle at an NSF-sponsored workshop on large-scale data, politics and organizations (among other topics). The location is beautiful, and it’s wonderful opportunity to reflect on research and develop new ideas. Among other things, it’s given me a chance to think about upcoming planned research on the impact of algorithms on the operation of newsrooms; we’ve had a lot of discussions about the impact that algorithms have had on automating the production of and distribution of news content in many major newsrooms. NYT is one example of a newsroom where this has been occurring, but it happens on a much smaller scale (see, for instance, the NJ Star Ledger, where this has also been happening).

At organizations like the Star Ledger, the majority of decisions regarding coverage of news are still made in the page one meetings, and by the editors – this generally hasn’t changed across the board. However, during the day the order of articles throughout the website is somewhat fluid. Stories change in terms of prominence on a web page based on the topic, the number of clicks, the length of the article, and a number of other factors; the automatic organization of the web site is algorithmically determined. In my opinion, the most important aspect of this trend is that the algorithm is designed and implemented by the engineering team, and the editorial board is generally not directly involved in the process. Thus, the process of news distribution is automated without editing.

I’ll start to post more on this as I continue to develop this work.
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Photo: The morning view from Blakely Harbor, Bainbridge Island, WA.