“There is an overabundance of content on social networks” – 2024-04-24 16:33:39

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“There is an overabundance of content on social networks”

Ramón Salaverría is a university professor and expert in information management. He offers his perspective on how news content should be handled in times of social media and artificial intelligence.


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Ramón Salaverría believes that the most transformative element at this time in communication is artificial intelligence.  Photo: Courtesy

Ramón Salaverría believes that the most transformative element at this time in communication is artificial intelligence. Photo: Courtesy

Ramón Salaverría is a professor of journalism at the University of Navarra, and coordinator of the Iberifier observatory against disinformation. In the last three decades he has dedicated himself to investigating the transformation in the media and the impact of technology on journalism. In this interview he shares his vision of information consumption in the world, the proliferation of misinformation, and how different events influence decision making.

What has impacted you most about your latest research?

I think the most transformative element at this moment is the impact of artificial intelligence. The ability to generate content artificially and digitally. Incorporating this content into the editorial processes of the media is something that has been anticipated for a few years, but in the last year it has been revealed as an element that is knocking on the door.

What do you think of that element?
I believe that it is an element with enormous transformative capacity that will determine what the media will be like in the coming years and how journalism will be practiced. I think that this area of ​​artificial intelligence and its confluence with journalism is, at the moment, the most important thing.

How do traditional media appear in this analysis?

They have been having a complicated digestion of the digital transformation. Before I was referring to the nineties, since they approached the realm of the internet. Not by choice, but by necessity, since a growing number of citizens demanded information through digital platforms. There has been a certain conversion on the part of those media that have accredited journalistic brands and a consolidated reputation. And they have had this transition process from a classic journalism model to a model adapted to digital technologies. In some countries this transformation has been faster and in others it has not, since they have managed to transfer, to a large extent, that public recognition, that reputation to the digital sphere.

How have audiences changed?

I think that now they are much more promiscuous, the loyalty to the daily reading of a newspaper, to the consumption of a certain radio station, to a certain television channel, has largely expanded. And this is good, because it generates greater diversity in the set of information options presented to the public. I have used the word promiscuity because there is no longer that firm fidelity that existed in the past with respect to journalistic brands, now it is the information itself. Of course, generally the good media, the consolidated media, are also those that provide the most complete, most finished, aesthetic and, formally, most rounded information. And, therefore, they continue to attract large volumes of public. But now the battle must be won in almost every piece of information.

What other factors do you highlight?

I believe that this consumption through mobile devices is another of the factors that has greatly transformed the way of accessing journalistic information in current times.

Does it mean content is still king?

Content is king, of course, because we look for information that responds to our informational concerns. But it is also true that the device is very relevant. Accessibility to content, the possibility of consulting information at any time and in any place.

How do these changes affect decision-making, for example?

It is unquestionable that the digital space has become a communication environment. It is an environment that is relevant in decision-making by public opinion. Perhaps a few years ago the relevance of digital publications or social networks was less valued or considered marginal. The distribution of content on networks is a determining factor in shaping public opinion. To this, we should also add the phenomenon of misinformation. The growing tendency in multiple spaces to deliberately disseminate false content by some political actors, activist organizations or sometimes motivated by other types of communication reasons. There are multiple reasons for the dissemination of disinformation content and this disinformation has also sought and found fertile territory in the digital sphere.

How does it vary from one region of the world to another?

It is true that there are different information consumption patterns between countries, even in smaller environments, because we must not forget that depending on the profile of the information that is being produced, the social profile, the age profile, education, Of course, the economic level also determines certain specific uses in relation to the consumption of digital information. I think that the territorial and regional specificities, in this case, have their weight.

Do you think that in some countries social networks help elect presidents?

I think that establishing a direct relationship between social networks and the electorate is not correct. In fact, the people who intervene on social networks do not correspond to the entire electorate. There are many people who vote and who do not participate on social networks. And it should be added that many times there are voices that appear and are present on social networks that are not voters either. There are organizations that seek an artificial multiplication of their messages through the use of false profiles on the networks. People who have multiple profiles or the use of robots that artificially multiply certain types of messages. In this sense, I would alert citizens that the things that are seen, read, and heard on the networks are not always a reflection of reality. I believe that social networks are a distorted reflection of current information, and if we want to have a complete, orderly idea of ​​what is happening, we should complete the information we receive on social networks with other types of sources outside of those networks.

Do you think that the United States elections will mark a new trend in information management?

The United States always sets a milestone. In this case, there is a fairly close electoral fight after the history accumulated by the two main candidates. So I think that not only through the networks, but also through television, through multiple media, there will be a very close confrontation. The great concern in this case is that beyond the dynamics of viral use of social networks to disseminate certain types of speeches and certain types of messages among citizens, phenomena of disinformation and voluntary and strategic dissemination of content aimed at manipulate the decision that citizens can make. I consider that they are elections that, after everything that has happened, we cannot forget that we are coming from extreme situations, such as the storming or attempted storming of the Capitol. It’s going to be a complicated situation, although we’ll see how things turn out.

What are the formats that could predominate?

The content on the networks has been evolving towards an increasingly predominant audiovisual content. That is evident and now audiovisual formats constitute a large part of the content consumed. From that point of view, those who seek to have an echo in public opinion have learned or are learning and transforming classic formats towards communication models much more linked to the use of social networks, where, I insist, the audiovisual has an increasing predominance. ever greater.

What changes do you see by country or region? In the case of Guatemala, for example.

In fact, a specification must be made in each of the countries, because the evolution of the printed press compared to radio, television or digital media responds to different patterns depending on the country. There are places, for example, Western countries, European countries, the United States, where the printed press has reached a degree of reduction that in some cases has led to local media, small towns or communities having disappeared. And that the figures of Reading of the major newspapers in that particular medium has been drastically reduced. But there are other places where the printed press still maintains significant numbers and, in that sense, Central America in general and Guatemala in particular, is an environment where the printed press continues to have very significant relevance and reach. And then, depending on the peculiarities of each information market, there is radio, a medium with reach, which of all the classic media is the one that has best known how to adapt to the circumstances posed by the digital transformation and the one that has best known incorporate digital strengths. Television is also undergoing a very clear transformation. The formats, the channels, the ways through which audiovisual content is consumed have been greatly transformed and, finally, the digital media, of which we can say that they have been reaching a certain degree of maturity.

Do we have a more or less informed society?

There is an overabundance of content, but that does not mean that we are better informed. There is an overflow of content that is constantly calling our attention, that tries to captivate our interest and that, on many occasions, has us almost hypnotized. But that does not mean that such constant exposure to informational impacts generates better knowledge about what surrounds us.

What can we do to be better informed?

The first thing to do is choose well. Just as we choose the food diet, we should also be selective in the information diet. In this sense, we can have the feeling of being informed only because multiple impacts reach us through social networks. But it is one thing to be endlessly shocked by these types of messages, and quite another to be well informed about the issues with the necessary depth. The second thing I would recommend is a good choice of fonts. You must look for sources that follow professional standards in the processing of information.

How is this consumed?

There are already a series of standardized formats, of consolidated structures that make digital media already recognizable in many markets, which have public relevance and the ability to guide public opinion.


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