Is it a disability thing? Community interactions and the BBC’s Ouch!
It is a disability thing?Community Interactionsand the BBC‟s Ouch!E. Anna Claydon(University of Leicester)
Introduction Part of a larger IDeoGRAMS research project at Leicester with Barrie Gunter and Paul Reilly A re-evaluation of Negrine and Cumberbatch (1992) on representations on TV in the late 1980s is to be reported on in ESRC event Mediating Disability (UoL, Nov 9 2012) Examines and analyses not only the representations of disability and impairment seen within the media but also how these representations and presentations are considered and responded to by those affected by impairment and disability itself. Asks: to what extent are these representations today, given previous research has generally concluded in the positive, disabling?
Research Aims and Questions For this analysis, the aim was to: Evaluate the community interactions with BBCOuch! Compare the content of the BBCOuch! Blog and Twitter Examine if the community discussed experiences concerning: specific policy changes in UK law, healthcare the representation of impairment or disability in the media The Research Questions: How many blogs or tweets are there in the sample month? How many authors? What references are there to: policy/law, healthcare, representations in the media? What references to new media are present? What participant interaction is evident? Where is there evidence of connectivity between the corporate website and the twitter-feed? Working Hypothesis: There is significant interaction on twitter (followers are over 5000) which takes discussions away from the limits of BBC editorial control.
Context: Approaches to Analysis In 1992, Cumberbatch and Negrine, were focussing on what we now call „old‟ media and framing representations within terminology that even twenty-years ago was already beginning to sound antiquated. However, whilst Cumberbatch and Negrine were examining drama, the area which they analysed which is most relevant in going forward for this specific analysis is how „news‟ was represented. What „news‟ is, though, is something which the last two decades of increased media convergences and divergencies, has made multivalent as the audiences increasing shapes and defines the newsworthy rather than the patriarchal narrator: and this is a principle effect of the immediacy of the internet and the ability of participants on the world wide web to shape the news; it is an effect of the rise of the citizen journalist.
Online participant „ethnographies‟ New work on the representations of impairment and disability must take account of the participatory role of those who watch or listen those representations in shaping what is seen, heard and/or understood. A repeated question by sports commentators and newscasters across UK television during the Paralympics, to athletes with impairments has been “Will this change anything in terms of how disabled people are seen?” To which the typical answer has been “I hope so” In short, for new research on media representations of disability and impairment to move forwards, not only do new programmes and texts need to be analysed but new media and methods of viewing incorporated into the sources. A combination of text-based and observer and/or participant ethnography is required to position online research such as this as part of audience discourse and analysis. Thus, methodologically, if participant-based research, virtual „ethnography‟, is to be performed ethically, key responsibilities must be borne in mind, such as the typical identification of a person with an impairment as „vulnerable‟ within any research ethics assessment.
Methodology 1 month analysed - selected based upon number of blogs on the BBCOuch! Website (November 2011 had 20, average was 17-23) Content analysis of text content of blogs and tweets (virtual observant ethnography) Coding based upon focussed research questions Data collected with a view to further work to develop a detailed discourse analysis but this stage is focussed on the numerical evidence All tweeters anonymised apart from @bbcouch! Blogs treated as public journalism To read tweeted conversations being a follower was required, hence becoming a closed, if large, circle. Thus treated as private communications
BBC Ouch! Website Until August 2011, BBC Ouch! was a website run by the BBC which offered an online magazine and meeting point for media audiences with interests in impairment and disability related issues. Both a platform for the BBC‟s own output and a space in which media and political debates around disability were played out through articles, podcasts and the forum. Unfortunately, as a symptom of the same cuts that led to the attempt to close BBC Radio 6, the website, whilst still functioning, has been reduced to a series of weekly blogs, the connected twitter feed and facebook pages, administered by a skeleton staff (only two names appear on the website, for example). The cuts also impacted upon the BBC‟s other impairment related programming, such as the magazine show See Hear which is more like an expanded local TV news insert with signing than the deaf viewers‟ Panorama it use to be.
BBC Ouch! Blogs 1-13th Nov 2011 19 TV/Radio Listings Hotspots Nov 2011 4 authors Weds 2nd Nov 3 programmes featured or named Weds 9th Nov outside the listings (includes 1 Weds 16th Nov repeated x 3) Weds 23rd Nov 6 charities mentioned (1 twice) Weds 30th Nov 3 references to policy or law (reforms twice) 18 newspapers referred to (8 online) – range of 9 16 references to BBC news (1 TV) 7 new media references 25 references to specific impairments 10 references to healthcare
BBC Ouch! Blogs14-21st Nov 2011 22-30th Nov 201112 TV/Radio Listings 19 TV/Radio Listings4 authors 3 authors6 programmes featured or 5 programmes are featured or namednamed outside the listings outside of the listings(includes 1 film) 6 charities mentioned2 charities mentioned 8 references to policy or law2 references to policy or law 10 newspapers referred to (3 online)9 newspapers referred to (2 10 references to BBC newsonline) 8 new media references5 references to BBC news 17 references to specific impairments5 new media references 7 references to healthcare17 references to specificimpairments4 references to healthcare
Twitter Sample November General Results: 144 tweets 120 by @bbcouch 4 male, 14 female, 5 unknown (other than @bbcouch) 24 retweeted by @bbcouch 48 conversation participants Hotspots: Thursday 3rd Nov (15 tweets) Wednesday 23rd Nov (37 tweets) - Thursday 24th Nov (15 tweets) Wednesday 30th Nov (20 tweets) Main content descriptors: @bbcouch seeking information Participants responding to these Participants retweeting @bbcouch posts
InformReithian concepts for the BBC: to educate, inform and entertain. Howdoes the BBCOuch! Website and the @bbcouch twitter feed fulfilthese? The twitter feed often refers back to the blog (note the hot spots are Wednesdays (when the TV listings are posted) or Thursdays – as readers catch-up). The feed often refers followers to other links (other twitter feeds, youtube clips, websites etc…)
EducateDoes the status of @bbcouch add anything distinctive? Peer-education Advice passed downwards and upward Fact or experientially based commentariesYet these are components of most twitter feeds which are issue basedanyway.
EntertainIf the majority of people see social media as an entertainment,how does @bbcouch! entertain the communities reading it? The number of followers (over 5000) and participants in conversations proves that @bbcouch! reaches an audience but that it is comparatively small. 25% of those participating on the twitter feed are repeat participants. It can be therefore extrapolated that whilst the 48 participants in conversations represents <1% of the 5000 followers, it is likely that a similar proportion are repeat readers of the twitter feed (25% = 1250).
Findings Hypothesis proven or disproven? H: There is significant interaction on twitter (followers are over 5000) which takes discussions away from the limits of BBC editorial control. R1: Interaction is much less than expected but the tone is friendly and informal. R2: Discussions are focussed upon topics generally triggered by BBC bloggers and tweeters and signify the editorial component (hence extensive coverage of Life’s Too Short). Surprise findings This study had been begun prior to the news of Jimmy Saville‟s abuse of people across the country in vulnerable positions but the sample coincided with his death and the blog and twitter contact (albeit brief) was an interesting extra component. The number of radio programmes highlighted by the blog help confirm that radio is an area which requires further study regarding the representation of impairment and disability.
Ethical Considerations Treating online text as text permits linguistic contents analysis and a sentiment analysis based on this but does not permit further in depth consideration of why people are using BBCOuch!/@bbcouch beyond the words they write. The ability of users to make contributions confidential within the twitter feed enables people to „opt out‟ or signal their vulnerability. For a virtual ethnography to go deeper, the participants need to be engaged more directly but at his level, the best comparison is as observer ethnography from which the ethnographer can only extrapolate generalities and patterns of behaviour. We have therefore statistical evidence of participation but not of the integration of communication types (as such further work could consider this level of online-bulletins-f2f interactions within communities).