Thinking, Writing, Doing
Considering opinion making through the concept of ePunditry
This book examines the varied habits and practices of content creators who specialise in opinion-making online (named the «ePundits») across a number of different fields. Through interviews it explores why each chooses to blog, picture or talk about their subject area and asks: what motivates ePundits? What impact does sharing their opinions and expertise have on their life? What sets them apart from others and makes these varied performances extraordinary?
The backdrop to this new content creation are the broader changes in the media landscapes and knowledge hierarchies that ePunditry both shapes and is shaped by. Within these newly emerging ecologies the way that opinion and knowledge is produced and circulated makes ePundits highly influential but at what cost to the creator? This book explores these evolving opinion spheres from the perspective of producers acknowledging that, in such a ruthless attention economy, to stay relevant they must keep thinking, writing and doing.
Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Prologue: Calling out across digital fields
- Chapter 1: Who or what is the ePundit*?
- Chapter 2: Locating opinion-making within media ecologies
- Chapter 3: Frothing and foaming in the political opinion sphere
- Chapter 4: Opinion-making and expertise in post-truth spheres
- Chapter 5: Writing themselves into being
- Chapter 6: Show then tell: The visual turn within opinion-making
- Chapter 7: Performing punditry
- Chapter 8: The multiple threads that bind us
The ePundit concept was devised by Professor A. S. Duff as part of the Informing the Good Society (InGSoc) project at Edinburgh Napier University. It is with his permission that I use the term here; however, all intellectual property resides with Professor Duff. This project was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (grant number AH/K002899/1).
This book was written across two years of personal and professional upheaval and it would never have been completed without the support, advice and love of my friends and work colleagues. In no particular order, I would like to thank Rhoda, Ruth, Dawn, Chris, Sarah, Craig, Maria and Rowan. Writing is a peculiar creative silo, but particular thanks must go to Leighton, a very wise Welsh counsel indeed. Your encouragement and practical advice from beginning to end was invaluable. Finally, my family were extraordinary in their unwavering support, especially my sister Alex and my mum, Elaine. Your encouragement and unshakeable faith in me has been vital throughout this absorbing yet difficult journey, which at times I really thought would never end. Thank you. I hope I can repay everyone’s kindness one day.
Finally no ethnographic account can ever exist without the ideas of the participants that take part in discussions. They gave their views freely and their time generously and I am hugely thankful for their participation in this project. This book is for them and the millions of others who choose to share their opinions and thoughts online, chronicling their everyday life for others to read.
Prologue: Calling out across digital fields
I sat at my computer desk cradling a cup of coffee and waiting for Joey, one of my participants, to show himself online. We had agreed a time to speak earlier in the week through emails, but that was meant to be twenty minutes ago and I was getting worried that he had forgotten. Or perhaps I had got confused regarding his time zone? I opened up a new window on my laptop to occupy myself with work and made an inner pact that after an hour I would send a message to ask if he would be interested in rescheduling.
No sooner had I begun typing than a notification popped up on my screen to say that he was online. I sent him a brief message to ask if he was ready, then rang through. Listening to the distinctive ringtone of Skype there was a slight delay when I said hello, which was to be expected – I was dialling Beirut. ‘Sorry I was late’, Joey said, ‘the city’s power went out right before I was due to call you’. ‘Does that happen often?’ I asked. ‘Yes, it does’, he said with a resigned sigh. We managed to continue our conversation (just voice rather than video) without dropping any signal and after half an hour we decided not to push our luck and signed off.
Later, after our free-flowing conversation, I thought of Joey’s position as a blogger based in the Middle East: the dangers that self-publishing poses in countries such as Egypt and Israel, the state of the local media and the necessity of local blogs and social media in Lebanon. I was also thinking of some of the dangers that Joey has put himself in over the years by writing his opinions on his blog, as a freelance writer on other websites and on his Facebook and Twitter feeds. Joey explained that when a big story broke he would write around the clock and hardly get any sleep. He would spend hours researching a topic, retrieving the facts from various reliable sources so that his posts were accurate. My thoughts drifted to his writing when it went live: then it was no longer only his work, it became the property of others. His followers might like it, comment on it, agree or disagree with him in their feeds, share, quote or re-tweet, perhaps even reuse his content ← ix | x → in their own work; and so the circle of infinite opinion-making starts over, where their own networks of followers can do the same.
I stared at the blank document I had opened before we began our conversation. One question kept going around my mind like an eagle slowly spiralling on a thermal current. Why? Why did he, or any blogger write? Without the legal protection of an institution (the feather-bed of the journalist or the academic), self-publishing opinions can be a precarious thing indeed. Why would someone write for little or no money, in their spare time, sometimes in other paid time, on difficult and divisive issues? Or, for that matter, on any topic? Who are the ePundits and what does it mean to be a writer-in-the-world?
People aren’t doing anything new … they are doing old things in new ways.
— Anderson and Tracey (2002: 160)
My favourite internet acronym is ‘TL;DR’, which stands for ‘too long: didn’t read’, now put on articles and posts by editors or readers and often accompanied by a one-line summary at the bottom of the page, to save the reader the effort of bothering to read the full thing. Its pithiness captures the frequently sarcastic tone of interaction across the Internet, where things seldom get audiences full attention for very long. However, the quote above by early Internet researchers Anderson and Tracey is my ‘TL;DR’ version of the recurring theme in this book (although as the author, I would like you to keep reading). There are certainly many ‘new ways’ to be found here, at least since Anderson and Tracey examined the habits of Internet users sixteen years ago. There are plenty of new platforms for new commentators, with new technologies to help them say things about new topics. However, I believe the practice of broadcasting opinions, whether via blogging, vlogging, podcasting or indeed any other method, which is collectively termed ‘ePunditry’ within this book, is very old indeed.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2019 (March)
- Opinion-making and everyday life blogging media studies
- Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2019. X, 198 pp.