Electronic Components And Human Interventions: Distributing Television News Online
This manuscript examines distribution of television news products online, and includes case studies from observation and interviewing at the sister companies, MSNBC.com and MSNBC TV. In particular, I focus heavily on the cases of The Rachel Maddow Show, a news program that created a unique and highly popular Web presence; a team of Web producers at MSNBC.com responsible for handling television content; and Newsvine, a subsidiary of MSNBC.com that has built much of the infrastructure on which MSNBC television sites are based. I argue the forging of distribution paths is best understood through the frameworks provided by the sociology of socio-technical systems, and using the cases at hand, illustrate the implications of this perspective for sociological perspectives more commonly used to study media organizations. I use John Law's framework of heterogeneous engineering, in tandem with insights from other sociologists of systems, as a springboard to examine the manner in which MSNBC.com has assembled diverse resources into a working, but highly dynamic, system of online distribution for television. I argue large contemporary media organizations are best understood, not as single, monolithic system builders, but as assemblages of myriad heterogeneous engineers pursuing related, but provincial objectives. In particular, I explore what MSNBC looks like if we examine it, not from a top-down, hierarchical point of view, but as a collection of resources enrolled in various ways in distinct systems assembled by Newsvine and The Rachel Maddow Show. I demonstrate that what a system looks like and who counts as a system builder are relative notions that depend on the vantage point of the observer, and argue as a result that organizational boundaries are in many ways problematic as analytical categories. Rather, organizational boundaries are actor categories-resources that do work on behalf of particular system builders, and the agents responsible for distribution often span them. I examine what it means to think about distribution systems in this way and explore some common strategies for circulating information in such an environment. I conclude by exploring the implications of this extended examination of distribution for our understanding of the contemporary media landscape.
television news; online distribution; heterogeneous engineering
Gillespie, Tarleton L.
Lewenstein, Bruce Voss; Cosley, Daniel R.; Hilgartner, Stephen H.
Ph. D., Communication
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis