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AI, News, and the Transformation of the Public Arena

AI, News, and the Transformation of the Public Arena

Project Contents

Main photo credit: Created with OpenAI’s DALL:E.

Overview

Artificial intelligence is increasingly being adopted in the news industry and journalists in various countries and organisations are embracing the potential offered by AI for their work. However, we still know little about the specific implications of AI for news-work and journalism. It is largely unclear how AI might reshape the work of journalists and how the technology will alter news organisations’ publishing and distribution processes, as well as the broader democratic implications of both.

Previous research has shown that technological innovations in how the news gets made and distributed change the news people get to see. This also ultimately re-shapes the public sphere or arena—the common mediated and imaginary space, where different parts of our societies exchange information and discuss matters of common concern—and therefore processes of democratic deliberation. In other words: We already know that technology changes journalistic work, that this affects how people receive and consume news, for example, about politics, and that this has implications for democracy. What we do not know is, however, the role played by AI in all this.

How AI potentially reshapes what news people get to see and the mechanisms of how they get to see it (the so-called gatekeeping process), how journalists react to a technology that is claimed to profoundly change the way they work, and finally who gets to control and shape this transformation—all this will be crucial to understand, given journalism’s key role in shaping and representing modern societies and its importance for democracy itself. To date, despite their critical nature, these questions remain largely unexplored.

This project addresses this gap. Focusing on the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, it studies the adoption, use, and effects of AI in commercial and public service news organisations in these countries using a mixture of interviews, document analysis, and ethnography. At a moment when the news industry is in flux—reeling simultaneously from the contractions of the ongoing erosion and transformation of its business models, increasing attacks from political actors, and various reckonings about its significance and long-held beliefs—to name just a few—it is vital to understand what AI will and can, and perhaps more importantly, what it will not and cannot do for and to the news and journalistic work. Similarly, in times when worries about the health of the public arena abound, the question of if, how and to what effect AI will reconfigure news work, the news, the structural conditions of the public arena and thus deliberative democracy merits our attention.

Main photo credit: Created with OpenAI’s DALL:E.

Key Information

Funder:
  • Dieter Schwarz Stiftung gGmbH
  • Project dates:
    November 2022 - October 2023

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