Call for Papers – Pre Conf: Mapping AI Actor Constellations in New Media and Journalism

Mapping AI Actor Constellations in New Media and Journalism Critical Perspectives on Power (Im-)balances, Limited Autonomy, and Reconfigured Practices.

Pre-conference to the 10th European Communication Conference With the endorsement of the ECREA Journalism Studies Section September 24, 2024 – University of Ljubljana

Conference Topic

AI, algorithms, and automation are increasingly becoming part of newsrooms, influencing nearly every aspect of journalism (Cools, 2022; Zamith, 2020). Both the pervasiveness (Thurman, Lewis & Kunert, 2019) of these innovative tools and their disruptive potential in restructuring news work and professional roles become central elements worth studying (Lewis et al., 2019). Even more so as the pervasiveness of automation entails new relational dynamics in the newsroom (Wu, Tandoc & Salmon, 2019), but also with the audience (van Dalen, 2012), and other intermediaries and tech companies. This process leads to creating a new hybrid scenario (Porlezza & Di Salvo, 2020), where the boundaries of journalism are increasingly contested, and new skills and competencies are required. In this context, journalists are forced to renegotiate their communicative space as news work is confronted with shifting human-machine relationships that could result in ‘shared decision-making’ between the ‘human’ and ‘the machine’. Similarly, AI, algorithms, and automation also lead to new actor categories and professional roles such as programmers, designers, legal, and cybersecurity experts, both internal and external to media organizations. These changes entail both opportunities and challenges regarding journalistic relevance and authority (Amigo et al., 2023; Carlson, 2015; Wu et al., 2019), the internal organization of newsrooms (Thurman, Dörr & Kunert, 2017), and ethical (Porlezza & Ferri, 2021) as well as governance issues (Porlezza, 2023).

The pre-conference aims to explore new AI actor constellations in the journalism field to identify central players and map new interrelations, power imbalances, new dependencies, potential instances of boundary crossing, or even dissolving boundaries in the wider journalistic field. Overall, the pre-conference aims at overcoming newsroom-centered perspectives on the design and use of AI in journalism by focusing on emerging actors such as tech companies as well as intermediaries, who exert an increasing social and economic influence on journalism and the news industry (Simon, 2022). The pervasiveness of AI in the whole news cycle and the restricted capacity to develop AI systems on their own is likely to increase the news media’s dependence on tech and platform companies, challenging not only journalism’s autonomy, but also the news making process itself in terms of shifting practices, roles, and an ethical as well as responsible design and adoption of these systems. Such an approach aims at challenging predefined conceptions about the impact of AI in the news while expanding our understanding of how the technology reshapes actor-related questions about autonomy, dependence, and governance:

Submissions may focus on – but are by no means limited to – the following themes and perspectives

 ● What kind of actor constellations (within and outside the news organization) deal with AI systems and their development and/or implementation? ● Which actors are involved, what kind of roles do they have, and how are they contributing to the development/implementation processes regarding AI systems? ● What kind of AI literacy skills and competencies are required to navigate a datafied media environment?● What kind of practices, skills, and knowledge are involved? ● How are ethical issues dealt with in such an AI actor constellation? ● What kind of governance structures are needed to avoid power imbalances?