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

 


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

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

Friday, 5 March
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - What Has Streaming Done to Television? Platform Interfaces and Contemporary Viewing Dr Elliott Logan

Friday, 5 March
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - Building cultural citizenship through drama: A study of The Community Theatre in Singapore Dr Natalie Lazaroo

Friday, 23 April
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - Passing as White (Collar): Jim Crow’s Typewriter and the Harlem Renaissance Dr Tamlyn Avery

Friday, 7 May
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - HDR Roundtable: Ethical or exploitative? The representation of violence and trauma in literature and screen media  Bonnie Evans, Taryn Bashford, Jasmine Sandes, Meg Vann

Friday, 21 May
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - Converging Professions or Practices? Shifting Dynamics in a Digital Communication World Toning Down the Antagonism Between Communication and Journalism Dr Franzisca Weder

Friday, 4 June
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - Facilitating co-innovation towards sustainable livestock systems in Timor Leste – pulling out all the (communication) stops A/Prof Elske van de Fliert

Friday, 18 June
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar -  Holograms and (Dis) Embodied Intimacy in an Era of Ubiquitous Computing Dr Samantha Lindop

Friday, 6 August
1-2pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - All Scripts are Adaptations? Michael Eaton MBE

Friday, 27 August
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - Chilling Effect: The law, lawyers, journalists, and editorial processes Dr Richard Murray

Friday, 10 September
12-1pm

Online via Zoom

Research Seminar - Mrs America’s Prosthetic Feminist Memory: The ‘Discovery’ of a Cool Feminism for Postfeminist Times Dr Marg Henderson and Dr Anthea Taylor (USyd)

Friday, 24 September
1-2pm

Online via Zoom

In coversation with Laura Elvery A/Prof Stephen Carleton

 

Venue

Room: 
Digital Learning Space, Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)