Universität Zürich

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Modelling Contemporary Gatekeeping. The rise of individuals, algorithms and platforms in digital news dissemination

2017

Julian Wallace

In: Digital Journalism, online first. doi: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1343648

Gatekeeping theory struggles to describe the rise of algorithms and users as information selectors in digital spaces. Algorithms and users may co-exist as decision-makers and reach high visibility through decentralised gatekeeping mechanisms. Classic gatekeeping theory is no longer adequate in describing contemporary news selection processes online and recent gatekeeping approaches at theory-building are isolated and have not been synthesised in a coherent gatekeeping theory. This theoretical paper addresses this issue and develops a digital gatekeeping model in three steps. First, four gatekeeper archetypes are identified that differ in access, selection criteria and publication choices. Second, gatekeeping frequently involves platforms on which gatekeepers operate. These platforms either apply gatekeeping mechanisms controlled by a central authority or rely on collaborations between many micro-level interactions to publish news. Third, a digital gatekeeping model is derived to model the four gatekeeper archetypes and their selection processes in relation to platforms employing collaborative gatekeeping mechanisms. This proposed digital gatekeeping model extends previous research on gatekeeping by synthesising classic gatekeeping theory with contemporary approaches and by providing a framework for future research on information control and dissemination.