Paul Lazarsfeld and Facebook: Re-Reading Personal Influence in an Age of Social Media​

Presented by Prof Tom O’Regan 

Date: 4 May, 2018
Time: 3pm-4pm
Location: Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37) 

Abstract:

When I put into the UQ library "Paul Lazarsfeld and Facebook" I got back 204 results. One was from The Economist in 2007 noting that Mark Zuckerberg’s discussion of  social media was ‘strikingly similar 'to that of Lazarsfeld and Katz 'in Personal Influence’ making it simultaneously  something ‘radically new’ or ‘reassuringly old’.  Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz published Personal Influence in 1955. It was presented as a study of the 'role of people’ which treated interpersonal communication as if it were another medium. As they wrote:

Behind the design of this study was the idea that persons, and especially opinion leaders, could be looked upon as another medium of mass communication, similar to magazines, newspapers and radio. We could study their “coverage”, their effect, and, in a way, their content. (12) …. The individual person, must be studied in the setting of the primary group within which he lives.  (11-12)

If Lazarsfeld and Katz were approaching interpersonal communication and personal networks as if they amounted to medium in their own right; then Facebook and other social media were building a medium out of what was previously evanescent interpersonal networks. For Lazarsfeld and Katz personal influence was so central to the uptake of media, advertising, public opinion that if it a medium it would be the most powerful of all media.   By contrast Zuckerburg was interested in creating a medium of these evanescent networks. Facebook as a medium is built around the organizing, calibrating and recalibrating of personal networks. It pays for itself by monetising these users’ attention. Like commercial television its primary product is its audience commodity.  Personal influence had become a mediatized. The interpersonal network had become enabled, shaped and extended as an advertiser supported social media network. Interpersonal network effects were now a thing in themselves and in their own right. In this paper I want to ponder on the remarkable continuity of thinking connecting Lazarsfeld and Zuckerberg and to think about how each was centrally concerned not with the media providers nor indeed with media users but with establishing “audience measurement” and “metrics”—the pivotal middle bit between media providers and their audiences. 

 

Presenter:

Prof Tom O'Regan 

 

About Research Seminar and Workshop Series

The research seminar and workshop series' occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Unless otherwise advertised, the seminars occur on a Friday afternoon from 3-4 pm in the Digital Learning Space (Room 224) in the Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37).

Semester 2, 2018 Seminars & Workshops

 

Monday, 23 July
3pm-4:30pm

Strategic communication in the age of global information warfare: How it works

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Prof Konstantin Pantserev

Friday, 3 August
3-4pm

Algorithmic cultural recommendation: the coded gaze and Google’s face match up

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Caro Wilson-Barnao

Friday, 10 August
9:30am-11:00am

Researching Media Platforms: A Research Methods Conversation

Seminar Room, Level 4, Forgan Smith Tower, UQ St Lucia

Dr Angela Wu (New York University)
Friday, 10 August
3-4 pm

LNR ethics information session

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

A/Prof Liz Mackinlay

Friday, 17 August
3-4pm

Host community acculturation orientations, ethnic minority communication, and perceptions toward ethnic minorities: Studies of Chinese Hongkongers

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Prof Ling Chen
(Hong Kong Baptist University)

Friday, 24 August
3-4pm

Hey Siri! How should I title my talk?

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Dan Angus

Friday, 31 August
3-4pm

Tastemaking in Post-digital Literary Culture: The Role of Book Blogs

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Beth Driscoll
(University of Melbourne)

Friday, 7 September
3-4pm

Can We Separate the Art from the Artist? Should We? Moral Character, Artistic Creation, and Ethical Criticism

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Ted Nannicelli
Friday, 14 September
TBC
HDR forum; Research Data Management workshop; Postgraduate Student Welcome  
Friday, 21 September
3-4pm

Young Adult Fantasy: Policing Genre Boundaries

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

A/Prof Kim Wilkins
Friday, 5 October
3-4pm

Rethinking Postfeminism (and maybe even recent Australian literary history): Australian Chick Lit as the Novel of Feminine Economies of Signs and Spaces

Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2),
Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)

Dr Marg Henderson