Hyperlocal Information in Karlstad Municipality2022-03-10
How does the flow of news and information differ among citizens in different residential areas? In the article “The Media Day, Revisited: Rhythm, Place and Hyperlocal Information Environments”, Henrik Örnebring and Erika Hellekant-Rowe study six areas in Karlstad municipality.
If you thought that newspapers and news via radio and television – also called traditional media – were dead, you need to think again. They are very much alive. What is new, of course, is social media, which functions as a coherent flow where people discuss news and information that they pick up during the day.
The idea to study people’s relationship to news feeds and information came from a study conducted in the city of Leeds, UK.
- The study in Leeds described the city, how it has changed and what the media situation looks like, explains Erika Hellekant Rowe from Karlstad University. We were curious about whether it was possible to do a similar study in Karlstad. In our study, we wanted to focus on the hyperlocal, that is, the local news feed that you have around you in your everyday life. We chose to look at six residential areas with different socio-economic backgrounds and traditions in Karlstad municipality.
Was it easy to apply the Leeds study to a medium-sized Swedish municipality?
- Yes and no, says Henrik Örnebring, Professor in Media and Communications at Karlstad University. The Leeds study was conducted over a period of several years, while our study was conducted for a shorter period and includes an interview section and a focus group section. Our study also includes social media, which was still in its infancy when the Leeds study was made.
How has social media affected the way we pick up news and information?
- There is, of course, a big difference before and after social media made an entrance, says Henrik Örnebring. Our study shows that people spend much of their time as before – they listen to the news on the radio, watch the main news programmes on TV and read the newspaper in the morning. Traditional media is still very important to a lot of people. It is we who work with social media and in one way or another have a professional relationship with social media who are of a different opinion. For a lot of people, social media is a flow that is added to the already established consumption of television, radio and newspapers.
- The differences weren’t as big as I thought they would be, says Erika Hellekant Rowe. Many of the teenagers who took part in the study use traditional news channels, even though it may not necessarily be printed newspapers.
A media day
In conducting the study, Henrik Örnebring and Erika Hellekant Rowe created a media day for the participants, who in turn represented the population structure of Karlstad in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. The residential areas were selected to provide a mix of urban/rural and city centre/suburban representation. The participants were asked to log what happened at different times during the day and describe what their media consumption looked like. First from a bigger perspective where news and news channels were mentioned. The questions then moved on to the hyperlocal that not all of the participants had reflected on that they were consuming. It turned out that, for example, notes with information pinned to apartment building noticeboards and the checkout assistant at the local supermarket affect how we absorb hyperlocal information and thereby get an idea of what is going on in our immediate surroundings.
- The Leeds study was not conducted in this way, so we have a small methodological innovation in our study, says Henrik Örnebring. We thought a lot about how to capture the description of rhythm and everyday life. We did not want to ask what media they used, but rather where they get information from. That way, the answers would not be as controlled or restricted. It turned out to be an interesting approach.
- We analysed the timelines and created a media day where we tried to identify times and places that function as hubs for these different sources of information. In the article, we visualise the participants’ media day. At the start of day, the morning paper is important. When they get to the workplace, they talk about current news with their colleagues, and when out walking later in the day, with the dog for example, many liked to listen to podcasts. Our findings revealed an interesting flow.
Traditional media still has a strong hold
The visual parts of the article clearly show that traditional media remains incredibly strong. It will not go away easily and calling it dead is an exaggeration. The rhythms with a newspaper, radio and television are routine in many people’s lives. Social media is something that is going on constantly through push notifications, etc., and you can always pick up your phone to check your social media to pass time. Henrik Örnebring found many parts of the study to be interesting.
- Several of the participants said that it feels natural and relaxing to sit down with the family and, for example, watch TV. The flow in social media feels stressful and many turn it off in an attempt avoid this. It is easy to think back to the 50’s when television was seen as something new and unfamiliar that was bad for you. That the family sat down to watch TV was considered destructive and not something that you should do. If you go even further back to when printed media came along, it was considered dangerous to read a book. Especially women could be affected negatively by getting new ideas that would infringe on genuine elements like singing and play. I imagine that there will be a study in fifty years time where they talk about a retro clone of the Facebook app that people use for recreational purposes.
“The Media Day, Revisited: Rhythm, Place and Hyperlocal Information Environments” has highlighted elements that both Henrik Örnebring and Erika Hellekant Rowe would like to investigate further. Hardly surprising, social media is included as an area of interest.
- Facebook groups, the flow that exist within them and how they are organised, contain many interesting things for further study, says Erika Hellekant Rowe. Facebook groups are central today and have a great impact on the way hyperlocal information travels between people.