What does a public right to hear mean in networked environments, and why does such a right matter? In this talk I’ll describe how this right to hear has, in part, historically and implicitly underpinned the U.S. press’s claims to autonomy and, more fundamentally, models of democratic freedom. I’ll trace how this right appears in contemporary networked news production, and show how three networked news organizations have used Application Programming Interfaces to simultaneously listen to and distance themselves from their readers. A modern public right to hear — and thus the press’s claims to autonomy — depends, in part, upon networked technologies and practices that mediate among different groups and professions struggling for identity and legitimacy through what Bowker and Star (1999) call “boundary infrastructures.” It is through these technosocial systems — powerful yet often invisible infrastructures that I call “newsware” — that the contemporary, institutional press signals how it is willing to listen to, with, and for publics.
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