Doctoral student in Media and Communication Studies, NODE
Joanne, tell us about your background
- I am originally from China. At the Communication University of China, I studied documentary filmmaking and broadcast journalism. I went on to work as a journalist, editor, and news anchor in Macau before earning my post-graduate degree under the Erasmus Mundus Master’s in Journalism, Media and Globalization at City University of London and Aarhus University in Denmark.
My academic interests stem from a curiosity about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how this technology will impact journalism.
What will be your research area within NODE at Karlstad University?
- My research proposal is currently titled Artificial Intelligence in Chinese Newsrooms. This proposal is based on my master’s dissertation from 2019, which showed many Chinese media organizations’ eager embrace of technological innovations against the backdrop of China’s national strategy to become a global AI superpower by 2030.
In my research, I will ask the following questions:
- What is the motivation behind the Chinese media’s use of AI?
- How are the Chinese newsrooms leveraging AI?
- What are the implications of the Chinese media’s use of AI for journalism and for society in general?
These questions are well worth researching, as they contribute to the understanding of how Chinese newsrooms are implementing journalism innovation in China’s unique context. A deeper analysis is necessary to forward the important discussion on the technological challenges and ethical concerns involved in the Chinese media’s use of AI. Furthermore, delving deeper into these questions would greatly add to the conversation on China’s role in global governance of AI, butalso among other issues involving the media industry.
Karlstad University and NODE is the perfect home for my research. Sweden and Karlstad University are at the forefront of research on journalism. I am grateful to have to opportunity to enjoy the time, resources, and world-class facilities this department could provide.
Is it a complex subject to research?
- AI is a trendy topic, but it’s relatively nascent in journalism studies. I expect to be innovative with my research method and collaborations.
I find the challenge moving beyond my background as a journalist and filmmaker and into the academic sphere. I will have to suspend my experience in the day-to-day of the journalism workforce, particularly after witnessing issues firsthand, such as the public’s loss of trust in journalism, the fierce competition in the attention economy, and fragmentation and polarization in the media ecosystem and public sphere. I want to contribute to the media industry by dedicating my time to researching these issues carefully. Joining academia is a deliberate decision.
I’d also like to introduce the Chinese context into European/American research. It will be hard not to talk about politics when it comes to the media, and it can be a sensitive topic to explore.
So, yes, conducting research in this field will be complicated, but I think my research is worthwhile and I look forward to the challenges.
Why is research on the use of AI in journalism important in 2021?
- My interest in AI comes from very fundamental questions. The questions I ask are:
- What can AI do for us?
- What do we need to be cautious about in the algorithmic age?
- If there’s something that AI can do, do I still need to do that?
- What is the meaning of being human and living with AI?
In journalism, a lot of journalists use various AI-powered tools to gather news from different feeds, transcribe interviews, auto-generate texts from news bots, and for algorithmic distribution to reach the right target audience.
Certain positive effects are becoming clear. Journalists can be liberated from the mundane labour and focus on investigative journalistic works, or building connection with their local community. But at the same time, there are some concerns. For instance, we can see that algorithmic distribution leads to very personalized items that may push people into filter bubbles and echo chambers.
Algorithms could also contribute to bias and discrimination against vulnerable groups and minorities. In other words, it’s high time we study these aspects of an increased use of AI. Where technology is involved, there are some things we need to think about beforehand instead of trying to plug the holes afterwards.
Do you think AI-generated texts should be labelled to show that they were written using AI technology?
- I think there are no good reasons not to label them. I’ve interviewed AI developers who told me, “The audience comes here for the content, does it matter who wrote it?” But there are problems concerning authorship, copyright, accountability and transparency. If an AI-generated text contains errors, who should be held accountable? So, I think it’s much better to show that the text was made using AI and written by a bot. I think it’s crucial to be straightforward and transparent about this technology and it’s in this way that trust can be built.
What do you expect from your work with NODE at Karlstad University?
- It’s a bit weird to move to a new country and start a new chapter of my professional life amid a pandemic. But so far it’s been a positive experience, with the support from the department and my colleagues. I just expect to be integrated in this research environment and to be able to focus on my research. I am also looking forward to teaching, which I expect to help with consolidating my knowledge.