Exploring media ecologies: a workshop exercise

December 20th, 2012 by Jerome Turner in Hyperlocal Research | no comments

As part of our research into hyperlocal news publishing practices, we are focussing on two case study areas: Cannock in Staffordshire and Castle Vale in North Birmingham. We recently undertook workshops with members of the public in both areas to explore their consumption and use of news media. The workshop involved various discussion areas, but also a number of exercises, one of which I’d like to highlight here as it was something we devised from scratch and that worked well with the participants.

All credit due, we were inspired by the idea of timelines, and some of the media labels we’d seen our colleagues use in their earlier workshops. We knew we wanted to get people telling similar stories, but as they might not be used to discussing their media and news consumption habits, we wanted to stage the exercise out in a way meaningful to them. It’s worth noting these were members of the public who had to: be from the area; have some experience of computers (for a later part of the workshop); have at least a passing interest in news media.

In an earlier part of the workshop we had people discussing how they’d heard about large news events, so we got them thinking in the right direction. Next we gave each person a piece of flipchart paper (A1) with a horizontal line marked with hours of the day from 5am to 12am at night.

We asked them to first of all simply block out what makes up their day. When they are at home with family, when at work, when at the pub, etc. This was an easy task as an icebreaker and would give them a frame of reference as the exercise continued. Three of the powerpoint slides we used for this workshop were used as reference points, useful those who might need help but didn’t want to ask outright. You can download the slides here.



Then we presented them with stickers for various kinds of news media: radio, internet, email, face to face, telephone, Twitter, etc. In essence these were all methods of ‘finding out what’s happening around you, or in other words, news. We asked them to mark on each hour when they thought they were using these media by placing the stickers, and if they had time, noting more details. e.g. which newspaper or radio station. As you can see, there were various interpretations, all useful. Some used multiple stickers to represent an ongoing passage of consumption, others used arrows or umbrellas.

The final part of the exercise was to look back at those stickers they’d laid out and with an additional sticker to mark them, note which were instances of local news.

As we start to interrogate our data ongoing within the project, it becomes clear that this kind of exercise, whilst it can’t produce an ‘average’ profile of a citizen in Cannock or Castle Vale, can unearth issues through exploring these individuals’ media practices. By using these tools, we can certainly explore this much more easily and fluidly than if we had asked them directly ‘describe your everyday media ecologies to us’. People were happy to contribute to this part of the workshop, were engaged, and found it useful as a jumping point to continue the discussion. Even those who proved quiet in discussion were able to eloquently, and with detail, complete this exercise.

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