Universit├Ąt Z├╝rich

IPMZ - Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research

Media Change & Innovation Division

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CH-8050 Zurich
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Online Gatekeeping Theory

PhD project Julian Wallace

 

The media change induced by the proliferation of the internet has challenged the role of journalism as the gatekeeper to the public sphere. Whereas journalistic actors are still the influential selectors, highlighters and shapers of news, non-journalistic individuals and algorithms on social networks and news aggregators become creators and powerful intermediaries of digital news. This project aims to include these new actors and their influence on a digital public sphere by developing a new online gatekeeping theory that is better suited to explain multiple and distinct selection processes in networked news diffusion.

 

Based on traditional and contemporary gatekeeping approaches, the first part of the project focusses on the discrepancies between theory and practice, thereby redefining central terms such as “Gate”, “Gatekeeper” or “Gatekeeping”. Based on the perspectives of Actor-Network Theory (ANT), technological artefacts such as algorithms and individuals with specific sets of attributes and relations are conceived as actors in networks, allowing for a classification of gatekeepers based on their attributes and their role in the news diffusion process. Moreover, gates as the central hubs of networked communication serve as the physical platforms on which actors execute gatekeeping, thereby administrating the rules and modes of communication. 

 

The second part of the project applies online gatekeeping to a networked diffusion process of news that is modelled after the diffusion of innovations by Rogers (2003). Online gatekeeping as a process is dependent on the news itself, its communication by members (gatekeepers) of a social system, the used and possible channels (gates) and time. The influence of different gatekeepers, gates and social systems on the news diffusion process is hypothesized and empirically tested.

 

This research project is based on theoretical and empirical work on gatekeeping theory, news diffusion studies, actor-network theory, social media and participatory journalism research.