SWOTing at Humane Newspaper Based Research Practice – A Three Act Dialogue

They have been called a first rough draft of history.  They relied upon child labor. They have seen advertising dollars and established business models erode.   They have transformed from offline to online artifacts, leading to both newer formats and issues of excitement and challenge tied to access, preservation and observation.  They are relevant for all disciplines.  Newspapers continue as key information bearing entities collected by physical and digital libraries and examined by scholars and students in the humanities.   Some of you also may contribute to them as author, journalist, archivist, editor, entrepreneur, publisher, technologist, blogger, photographer, videographer, designer, advertiser or subscriber.

I am proposing a ninety minute session (one hour if scheduling consensus recommends) called SWOTing at Humane Newspaper Based Research Practice – A Three Act Dialogue. 

Our “Playbill” for this talk session will employ a loose dramatic metaphor, with conversation in three parts. This talk will include a few game-like cue card elements meant to enable brainstorming.    Any directorial guidance will feature a light touch, and participant actors at this session can contribute not only activity within the three acts, but suggestions on re-shaping the acts entirely.  Borrowing from the management field, we’ll employ a twist on the framework for a SWOT analysis (“strengths,” “weaknesses,” “opportunities” and “threats”).  Along those lines, our chat will consist of these two meta-questions.  These will not be the only questions we explore, but they will animate our back-story. 

1)    What are strong & the weak attributes tied to your interaction with newspaper sources originating from any historical time period? If you prefer to think in terms of an extended dramatic metaphor, one might ask, what characteristics exist within our protagonist and antagonist?  What abilities and obstacles, excellence and flaws reside in our main character, which character may be “you” the scholar, who personally intersects with newspapers online or offline? Alternatively, that character may be a newspaper title itself, or perhaps all newspaper titles past and present, both extant and extinct.

2)  What points of view might our collective share about opportunities and threats linked to newspaper creation, dissemination or preservation? If you prefer the dramatic metaphor, once again, what factors external to our drama, and the literal mounting of our work today, impact our expectations and experiences pertaining to newspaper based information and research practice, including economic, historical, social, educational, military, political, technological and personal influences?

What might we think if Facebook owned or generated a newspaper?  Perhaps they already do?  Or Amazon?  Is YouTube a newspaper?.   Does privacy decrease with an overall online news increase?  We may find ourselves brainstorming ideal newspaper information systems or creative projects to take place at future THATCamps meant to further address these issues.  We’ll consider technological elements, in light of the humanities and perhaps even some social justice factors.  We shall also address our posture as to news environments we have never experienced, and those quite familiar, and will reach for conclusions tied to the two meta-questions at the heart of the session.   As newer technologies continue to intersect with this very well-known format (or need that be re-examined as well), we’ll chat about what works and not within established and emerging news environments.   How do humanities scholars and students wrestle with the ontology of what we now call “newspaper?”


Categories: Libraries, Session Proposals, Session: Talk |

About Michael Pasqualoni

I am the librarian for public communications and political science at Syracuse University Libraries. I also have a professional and educational background that intersects with the arts, arts administration, television and film production and law.