Tracing the Circulation of Communicative Objects

Project description

As we travel the web, we all leave traces. When we reference other people’s work, we make statements about value and importance. The web thrives on connections of individuals and many use only a few platforms like Twitter or Facebook to share, connect and keep in touch. This project aims to understand this new environment of communication in regard to journalism. Through the key concept of the circulation of communicative objects we want to retrace the connections that audiences make to journalistic content and media, highlighting the processes, time frames and issues that make certain objects adaptable to different contexts.

Our project will use an iterative procedure of applying digital methods and evaluating the results of different tools in relation to particular case studies. Instead of analyzing discourses or narratives, the term ‘communicative objects’ emphasizes two dimensions of digital communication: the technological formatting of digital objects (e.g. as link, tag, interface) in relation to their status as ‘epistemic objects’ (Knorr-Cetina), as objects of cultural contestation, negotiation and power relations. Circulation of communicative objects then emphasizes that the objects we interact with online are always temporarily and materially defined forms that sustain the creations and reproduction of social relations. Because certain objects are circulated, they remain significant for a group’s or a culture’s identity. As objects fade out of circulation, they become a possible repository of adversarial, disruptive and antagonistic meanings.

Our project is especially interested in these questions:

  • How do different cultures of circulation (journalists, experts, amateurs) circulate objects and what are the implications for the constitution of different kinds of publics?
  • What kinds of digital objects can be traced by automated procedures and what does that tell us about the constitution of communicative objects?
  • Where are digital methods useful for understanding communicative objects and what are their limitations?

Primary researchers

Christoph Raetzsch

Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Journalism Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

Henrik Bødker

Associate Professor, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University

Latest Updates

Qualitative methods for digital data: the seminar

During the summer term of 2016, Christoph Raetzsch taught a bachelor seminar on “qualitative methods for digital data and online archives”. The seminar was based on a grounded-theory approach to understanding data and its relevance in online communication.

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Journalism and the Circulation of Communicative Objects

In June 2016, we presented the project at the International Communication Association (ICA) in Fukuoka, Japan. The panel covered new approaches to understanding digital news in journalism studies. Our contribution on “Journalism and the Circulation of Communicative Objects” sought to redefine the relatively statist and industrial logic of circulation by pointing to the new materialities of digital circulation.

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Want to get involved?

If you are interested in joining this project, send us an inquiry and we will get back to you as soon as possible!