I don’t know what hyperlocal media is, but I’ve stopped worrying about that

A note on my PhD, and an invitation to talk to me about your practice at TAL12. Part 2 is here

You may or not know this but I’ve been working away for some time on PhD research into hyperlocal media in the UK. That’s harder than it sounds, not because it’s a PhD but because it’s pretty hard to nail down what hyperlocal media is anyway.

There are two places I can go to nail that: academic literature and media commentary (from within and without hyperlocal practice). And you know what? All of those wise heads can’t really agree on what hyperlocal is either.

One of the biggest chunks of academic work that is specifically on hyperlocal (Kurpius et al 2010; Metzgar et al 2011) spends most of its time dealing with media operations that represent entire US state. By comparison, much of the attention within practitioner communities in the UK is on individual placeblogs that might represent just a few streets. The quest for consensus becomes more problematic when you introduce the idea that “hyperlocal” is in fact a way of working rather than a quality of an organisation or a media text (Hartley 2010). So hyperlocal is a big thing and a small thing and a personal thing; it’s a network of stuff, a small activity near you, and just a way of working.

When you’ve spent some time looking at this, you realise that just pinning down the terms is a huge job.

At this point an academic could go one way and try to define all the sub-genres of hyperlocal. That’s tempting, because everyone likes a table with a taxonomy and lots of clever labels (link and citation bait, I’d wager). So I could spend a few years working to justify a table that says things like “Commercial Aggregator — Draws in content from many placeblogs, commercially operated” to describe those hyperlocal operations that work across whole states and countries. That’s one thing I could do.

The other thing I could do is not worry about that, and work with the fuzziness. That’s where my work is pitching right now, and it would be great if you could come and join me in this fuzziness.

What is hyperlocal media to you, the practitioner? Just what is it you’re doing, what are you making and why?

I’ll be pitching to have this conversation at TAL12 tomorrow. If I don’t get through the panel picker at the start, I’ll be buttonholing you at lunch for an interview. And if I don’t get you there, I’ll be asking for you to spout off in the comments below.

References

HARTLEY, S. (2010) 10 Characteristics of hyperlocal [Online]. Available: http://sarahhartley.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/10-characteristics-of-hyperlocal/ [Accessed 9/12/11].

KURPIUS, D. D., METZGAR, E. T. & ROWLEY, K. M. (2010) Sustaining Hyperlocal Media. Journalism Studies, Vol 11, No 3, pp. 359-376.

METZGAR, E. T., KURPIUS, D. D. & ROWLEY, K. M. (2011) Defining hyperlocal media: Proposing a framework for discussion. New Media & Society, Vol 13, No 5, pp. 772-787.

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By Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org