Planning to study automation and the future of news production

We (Kevin Crowston, Jeffrey Nickerson, Lydia Chilton and Keren Henderson) received an NSF Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier planning grant (20-26583), "Planning to study automation and the future of news production".

This planning grant supports multidisciplinary teambuilding and the refinement of a research plan for convergent research on the future of work involving humans and technology. The specific focus is the work of journalists who create articles, videos and other content to inform the public. Journalism has long been affected by new technologies, including printing, internet distribution, and automated curation, in the form of social media news feeds. Emerging artificial intelligence technologies capable of creating texts, statistics, videos, diagrams and data-driven animations are anticipated to further impact the profession. Understanding these impacts is important because journalists perform the socially important function of informing the public about events and activities that affect their decision making.

This project convenes an interdisciplinary team of scholars to a develop a proposal for sustained research addressing the future of news production, considering technologies such as natural language processing, crowdsourcing, information visualization, and artificial intelligence, taken broadly. The team members? backgrounds span a range of disciplinary areas, including information science, computer science, economics, sociology, communications, and design. The planned work includes refining the project vision and theoretical framework, recruiting field sites and an advisory board, conducting pilot research to identify relevant technologies and impacts and planning of convergent research activities. Pilot research will include observation, interviews and focus groups with journalists to understand the impact of current technologies and possibilities for future technologies.