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Internet, an evolution or a revolution

Eva-Maria Jacobsson MA, BA
PhD project

The main question for this doctoral thesis & project is to evaluate the development of the Internet and to see whether it can be seen as an evolution or a revolution. To compare the Internet with more traditional media is a way to try to determine whether it can be seen as a new medium or not and to evaluate its existence. The belief is that especially the people working in the field (researchers, developers etc) will take an interest in the results. For academics as well as professionals (and everyone else) it is important to better understand and be able to evaluate the meaning of new media, as well as traditional media, in order to take full advantage of the possibilities it presents in a communcative and technological aspect. The inspiration and background knowledge for this research comes from my time as a student (BA & MA student in Communication science) and as a professional in the Internet industry (Working with Telias Internetproject “Passagen”).

The thesis will be divided into four main areas:
1. Could the Internet be seen as a new medium? If so (or not), why? A comparison will be done between traditional media’s development and the Internet. The definition of the term media has to be approached and this area surrounds all of the research.
2. The Gender perspective on the new media. Is gender relevant for the development and if so, how, and to what extent?
3. Economic development and its relevance for the new media evolution (and Internet specifically). Is the role of the Internet to be a provider of free and unbiased information? Does the Internet differ from traditional media, and if so how?
4. The possibilities and consequences of interactivity.

As can be seen, area 1 is general and important for all of the research areas. Area two is concerned with how the media evolution is constructed and whether it is determined due to gender or not. A masters thesis has been supervised within this area by Eva-Maria and Sören Lenman at CID, “www - För Kvinnor och Män?” by Lisa Wiberg. Another masters thesis, “A gender perspective on the media evolution and production”, is now being authored by Tove Åström (Umeå Universitet); supervisor is Eva-Maria at CID. The result of this work intends to investigate the belief that gender is an important factor in the production as well as the usage of new media. Another important aspect of the gender issues is represented in the Mitiorproject. The Mitior project will be examining the working enviroment in IT-companies. The project is a cooperation between CID & The Natonal Institute for Working life. How is gender represented in various IT-companies? A research is being done at present to evaluate recent changes.

Freedom of the press and economic development (area 3) is an ongoing project with the Department of Economics at Stockholm University. “Freedom of the Press and economic development” has until now been accepted and presented at the conferences “Capitalism and communication in the 21st century”, London, June 2002 and “17th Annual conference of the European Economic Association”, Venice, August 2002. The paper and ongoing research has also been presented at seminars at Stockholm University and CID.

Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones in a democracy. Much has
been written on the dangers of the commercialisation of the media, and we
recognise these dangers too, however, we wish to make an argument for the
benefits of commercialisation, which tend to be forgotten. Empirically,
wealthier countries tend to have more media freedom than do poorer
countries. We provide a theoretic model, which sheds some light on the
connection between economic development in a country and the press freedom
in the same. We use the economics literature by providing a game theoretical
model explaining how a country’s economic wealth (and how this wealth is
distributed) affects media freedom. We also look at the literature in media
and communication for theories on the importance economic factors in the
media sector. We investigate the mechanism by which economic wealth attracts
commercial advertising, which in turn makes media financially stronger and
less dependent on political financing. The commercialisation of the media
thus provides, at least theoretically, means for politically independent
journalistic work. Our theoretical results are thus at odds with the fears
of commercialisation, however, very preliminary data on economic influence
on media (which would constitute the basis of the fears of
commercialisation) tend to support our theory.

The least researched area in this thesis so far is interactivity. The common perception is that almost everything has to some extent to be interactive in order to be valid. However, my question is; how do we really use the term and is interactivity present in the new media? Interactivity is a well used term and a very frequently used one when we discuss new media. The issue about interactivity is thus a general and important part of the thesis/project.


Uppdaterade 2003-03-05

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