New Genres of Political Information

About the Author:

Muzammil M. Hussain, PhC

Muzammil M. Hussain, PhC

Department of Communication, University of Washington / @m_m_hussain on Twitter

Problematic aspects of the democratization of truth in digital media are directly related to the leveling of gatekeeping actors in political communication environments. At the University of Washington, collaborating with the Department of Communication and the Information School researchers, we have tracked the most important viral election videos in 2008 (278 million views) and the “known-universe” of blogs linking (13,000 links) to them. This meta-database has allowed us to examine many aspects of networked gatekeeping (see: www.retroV.org for latest findings). One of the most relevant issues to truthiness in digital media that our research has raised is: How do networked gatekeepers co-produce new genres of political information that appeal strongly to a vast cross-section of contemporary (young) online citizens?

Because a decade of news research indicates that mainstream news media teeter on the edge of relevance to average US citizens, understanding the civic cultures of information-seeking citizens is critical. It is true that the digital media landscape has evolved in interesting, and both promising and problematic ways. But we must contextualize the systems-shifts in the digital ecology, with an awareness of who the new gatekeepers are and what they do,along with a deeper understanding of their motivations and appeal to contemporary citizens. With a greater variety of available content, citizens are no longer forced to rely on traditional news media to learn about public life. What is most relevant to understand this is exploring what these new genres of political information are being created, and which audience/citizen segments prefer these genre (and more importantly, why) – the beginnings of this agenda are analyzed in “Journalism’s Digital Disconnect: The Growth of Campaign Content and Entertainment Gatekeepers in Viral Political Information.”

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