Information to a democracy is like drinking water to a human body: it is essential for survival, but if polluted can lead to sickness and sometimes death. As with human health, technological advances can be a boon or a bane. And the needs of democracy can be invoked to be more inclusive, or make claims about groups, publics and imagined communities such as ‘the people’ that may or may not exist. The project’s point of departure is thus that what we get from our news media is never ‘just’ information. It is financed by a generous grant from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) and runs 2019–22.
This study explores representations of social inequality, and threats to our communication rights, in the content of television newsrooms with global audiences. The research question it seeks to answer is how such representations vary according to the site of representation (country, region and place), newsroom culture, and time. Building on previous research by the ji team, it is unusually broad in scope, spanning the years between 2009 and 2022 and including Al Jazeera English, BBC World, CNN International and RT (formerly Russia Today).
As well as content, the project explores how news workers themselves perceive, make sense of and talk about the challenges of reporting inequality, and their responses to such challenges. When it comes to threats to our communication rights, these professionals are on the front line. The right to inform needs continual protection, as journalists – not least women – face physical and online threats on a regular basis. At the same time, journalists’ relationship with technology changes, and may alter news workers’ understanding of their audiences and the issues that matter to them. This study asks how journalists who report to national and global publics perceive social and informational inequality, and what responses they deem feasible and appropriate.
Voice and agency have always been central to an understanding of the relationship between communication and inequality, but have taken on new urgency – and complexity – in the age of Artificial Intelligence. This project component explores how civil society actors concerned with AI – both enthusiastic and critical – see technological developments as dampening or amplifying voice. Combining interviews and textual analysis, it maps an emergent discourse of professionals and activists with hybrid roles and missions, with implications for the shape of (in)equality in mediated communication in our increasingly techno-centric future.
We have an ongoing commitment to ensuring that our research is conducted in an ethical and professional manner. Moreover, we see research as a dialogue. We conduct interviews to learn from the people who know more about the topic than we do. You can find our ethical guidelines here.
Alexa Robertson (PI)
Department of Media Studies,
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