How do analytics rationalize journalistic work? Rutgers University researcher Caitlin Petre spent six months at the newsroom analytics company Chartbeat doing ethnographic observation and interviews. The author looked at discursive strategies and design elements used by the company to influence journalists’ views on the issue.
The newsroom analytics dashboard differs from a “Taylorist” stopwatch in the sense that in addition to managers, it must be alluring to journalists, many of which might resist such tools.
The dashboard’s communication and design were done in a way that appealed to journalists’ authority as professionals and to traditional journalistic values. It creates a flattering and emotionally compelling user experience, the author writes.
The analytics dashboard was designed so that it produces heavy users and a habit-forming user experience. The tool can extract increased productivity in a way that obfuscates managerial influence in the newsroom. The experience can be understood as a mode of manufacturing consent, Petre concludes.
The article “Engineering Consent” was published in Digital Journalism and is available on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
Picture: Cityscape and traffic light trails by Thaddaeus Lim, license CC0 1.0