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Published On: Wed, Feb 13th, 2013 at 12:52pm

Edinburgh Napier University to study online commentary

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Study to chart rise of ‘e-pundits’

Online commentators’ impact on society explored

The rise of the online pundit is to be explored by Scottish researchers at Edinburgh Napier University.

Communications experts will look at how the influence of newspaper columnists is being eroded by bloggers and other online voices – a phenomenon they have coined ‘epunditry’.

The project is part of a wider three-year study called ‘Informing the Good Society’ (InGSoc), which will examine the role played by information in society and how it can act as a positive force.

“With fewer and fewer people buying newspapers, the reach of traditional columnists is falling while blogging and other forms of online expression are experiencing phenomenal growth,” said Dr Alistair Duff, a Reader in Information and Journalism at the university’s Institute for Informatics and Digital Information.

“The project will tackle this shift, and examine whether electronic modes of commentary have replaced the traditional ‘op-ed’ and what the implications might be for the social role of the pundit, and for both the press and its supposed successors.”

Dr Duff pointed to Westminster blogger Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, who was recently signed up as a Sunday Sun columnist, and to Instapundit in the US as examples of increasingly influential online commentators.

He added: “While the Leveson Inquiry has returned standards of news reporting to public attention, the question of the quality of political opinion-writing is also one that is of major significance for a healthy, informed democracy. That then leads on to wider questions about where expertise lies in an information-saturated society.”

Funded by a £200,000 Arts & Humanities Research Council grant, the study will also look at how population censuses are coping with the transition to a paperless society – as well as their ethical and political ramifications.

A case in point, said Dr Duff, was the use of a British subsidiary of C.A.C.I. International – under fire for its alleged complicity in torture at Abu Ghraib prison – in the recent Scottish census.

The third thread of the study will address information issues facing modern democracies – such as freedom of information rights, internet governance and the digital divide – from a philosophical perspective.

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About the Author

- Founding Editor of The Edinburgh Reporter. Edinburgh-born multimedia journalist, and always available for freelance work. A keen iPhoneographer!

Displaying 7 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Steve Feldman says:

    All doors lead to


  2. Jacknut says:

    Is the study this project a part of really called Ingsoc? Really? No one’s “taking this piss” as you folks like to say?

  3. Paul Wright says:

    Oh, very well done! You’ve chosen the name (InGSoc) that PRECISELY mirrors the societal system of Orwell’s 1984, Ingsoc. Couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

  4. Matt Wilson says:

    InGSoc? Seriously? Is that intended as a pun?

  5. Toby says:

    £200,000 of taxpayer money to study how better to ‘inform the good society’? This is an unbelievable misuse of public funds.

    We can guess what the results of this particular Ingsoc study will be.

    Learned analysis will inform us that independant opinion-writers on the internet are frequently ‘dangerous’, ‘misinformed’ and so forth. There will be a call to control access to their sites ‘for the greater good’. The study will red-flag independant thought on the internet and recommend Government funding of left-wing media. 200 grand well spent.

    Ingsoc was the totalitarian ideology of Orwell’s 1984. I’m not remotely suprised that government-funded marxists have unthinkingly adopted the same acronym.

  6. Karen says:

    “…the influence of newspaper columnists is being eroded by bloggers and other online voices” You say that like it’s a bad thing? When reporters stopped being impartial, they lost the right to not have their writing critiqued. It’s called freedom of speech. It’s a new concept for socialistic societies but you really should try it. It’s put some of the worst newspapers out of business.

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