The Future Of News and How To Stop It

A crowd around a newspaper with headline that says fake news

Today we have an abundance of information resources undreamed of in past centuries, but are exposed via the Internet to more disinformation than any previous generation. Digital media technologies are being massively leveraged to spread propagandistic messages designed to undermine trust in all forms of information, and to stimulate strongly affective responses and an entrenchment of political, cultural, and social divisions. The critical demands of the digital age have outpaced development of a corresponding information literacy. Meanwhile journalists are accused by authoritarian leaders of being “enemies of the people” while facing layoffs from newsrooms no longer supported by a sustainable business model. Short of reinvention, professional journalism will be increasingly endangered and the relevance of news organizations will continue to decline. In this paper I propose a new collaborative model for news production and curation combining the expertise of librarians, journalists, educators, and technologists, with the objectives of addressing today’s information literacy deficit, bolstering the credibility and verifiability of news, and restoring reasoned deliberation in the public sphere.

Through a Digital Glass Darkly: Early English Books Online

Image of early english book pages

The digital artifact known as Early English Books Online (EEBO) is a resource for research on British history and literature between 1473 and 1700. EEBO is a collection of 146,000 mostly English works accessible via an online database, available by subscription from ProQuest. In this article I first review the history of EEBO, which began with cataloging efforts more than a century ago, through the processes that developed the online version used by so many scholars today. I then critically review its limitations, and discuss some of the challenges and drawbacks inherent in the transformation of analog source materials into digital form, including information distortion and loss, format obsolescence, and the challenges of digital preservation.

Fueling the AdTech Machine: Google Analytics and the Commodification of Personal Data

Digital Marketing technology diagram

This paper concerns the role of online analytics in facilitating the rise of today's ubiquitous programmatic advertising, referred to herein as "AdTech." Most criticism of AdTech has focused on online tracking which captures user data, and digital advertising which exploits it for commercial purposes. Almost entirely lost in the discussion is the role of analytics platforms, which process personal data and make it actionable for targeted advertising. I argue that the role of analytics is key to the rise of AdTech, and has not been given the critical attention it deserves. I wrote this paper while pursuing my research as a PhD student at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences. It has not been peer-reviewed or published elsewhere, and I’m posting it here to invite comments, criticism, and suggestions. Please feel free to send me email at jackb at illinois dot edu, or twitter message me @ jackbrighton.