MI2015: Takeaways from Symposium on Media Innovations


The fourth International Symposium on Media Innovations was held in Brussels last week. The event invited scholars and industry representatives to discuss how innovation matters in the media industry. We collected the four biggest takeaways for all of you who had the misfortune of being elsewhere.

Takeaway 1: The relationship between “privacy” and “data” is shifting

The keynote speech was delivered by Ivan Vandermeersch from Belgian Direct Marketing Association. Although he discussed the relationship between privacy and data from marketing perspective, it can easily be applied to today’s journalism studies as well. In a world in the grip of data tsunami, we more and more create our identity through Internet. Vandermeersch noted that 90 % of all data has been created in the last two years. The real challenge in this age of big data is managing the massive amounts of information: cleaning, connecting different sources and linking.

Privacy is evolving, Vandermeersch reminded. Free transmission of personal data can be an opportunity. It can be a mutually positive development for the consumer and the economy. Even sensitive data, like healthcare, can be developed into something valuable to the consumer. All in all, privacy is a balancing act.

Vandermeersch’s rules for collecting data read as follows:

  1. Be honest and fair! Customers need to know why you are collecting data and how you are intending to use it
  2. Respect individuals. The processing must be based on a legal ground and provide individuals their rights.
  3. Be diligent with personal data. Ensure that data are accurate and kept up to date.
  4. Empower the customer with choice. Customers need to have the possibility to express their preference in receiving commercial communication. Those preferences must be respected.
  5. Be accountable. If data processing is even partly outsourced, you are still responsible for ensuring that all legal provisions are compiled.

Takeaway 2: Camera Drones are coming!

The first session of the media innovation day was focused on digital innovations and journalism. Epp Lauk, Heikki Kuutti and Turo Uskali of University of Jyväskylä talked about the remotely piloted air crafts – that is, drones – and how the little aerial aids can change journalism.

They compared on-the-ground recording to drone recording, noting that using drones has both advantages (improves recorder’s safety, target not aware of being under surveillance) and disadvantages (possibility of personal injuries or material damages – that is, drone falling). Drone videotaping is best used to large, distant or random objects.

Lauk, Kuutti and Uskali also presented a concise list of possibilities drone journalism

  1. Drones enlarge the scope of news gathering
  2. Drones increase the safety of journalists
  3. Drones decrease the expenses of aerial videos

However, there are still open questions to be solved: how will policies about media freedom react to drones. Also, more discussion about ethics and drones in journalism is needed.

Takeaway 3: Robot journalism is coming!

Key to automated journalism is data and data analytics. Carl-Gustav Lindén of University of Helsinki talked about computational journalism, an emerging technology that has already faced a lot of (undeserved) skepticism. Lindén claims that mastering data and data analytics will be the new domain skills that journalists will need.

Robot journalism offers many advantages to media organizations and journalists. It can take over boring routine journalism (repeated events or otherwise similar texts) and thus offers journalists time and energy to focus on more complex issues. Lindén suggests that we should think about adding a new category: meta-journalists, who think about processes, problem solving and designing the templates, frames and angles for the algorithm.

Journalists scared for their jobs can breathe more easily now: Lindén notes that more complex forms of journalism are distinctly more difficult to turn into news applications. Journalists’ work should add value to the news applications by providing crucial meaning-making on what is important, reminds Lindén.

Takeaway 4: Content becomes viral when it connects people

Sarie Robijt and Ike Picone of Vrije Universiteit Brussel presented the findings of their study on news items shared on social networks. Studying at 1 237 social media users, who can be considered active news seekers and competent in ICT skills, they surveyed the respondents to find out why they share news online.

The respodents’ motivation seems to be mostly to share useful, important or interesting information with other users. They did not share something because either they don’t have the tendency to share anything or they don’t think the article will be of interest to anyone else.

Robijt and Picone identified four distinct types of online sharers, of which social and reflective sharers were the most common type. Both of these types value social connection above all when sharing.

  1. Social sharer
  2. Reflective sharer
  3. Moderate sharer
  4. Uncaring sharer

See the rest of the program and nearly all of the presentations of iMinds-SMIT’s Symposium of Media Innovation  here, on the symposium’s website.

Disclaimer: Epp Lauk, Heikki Kuutti and Turo Uskali are of University of Jyväskylä, which also is the home of Journalism Research News 

Give us feedback