Social Networks & Information Gatekeepers

A real tension exists between hockey bloggers and mainstream media (MSM). Both groups have their strenghts and weaknesses, but far too often it has become a childish argument of who produces better quality and which is a better source of knowledge and information.

Placing everyone tied to the game of hockey in a giant network diagram, you can start to see why this tension exists. Include in this giant web the fans, team owners, players, sports journalists and anyone else with some relationship to the game. Strictly based on communication patterns, these individuals are tied to one another with short linkages representing close ties. Information would be shared much easier and more often across closer ties. Based on relationships and goals, individuals would group together and maintain ties.

Communication being the exchange of information, is of high value to fans. They are active individuals who demand this information for their personal interest, knowledge and engagement with the game. Over different mediums, fans connect with sources of information and share what they know and understand with others.

The network they’re a part of is a fluid and dynamic stucture. The size of the network changes, links are formed and broken, and groups gather and disband. But within this network are numerous gatekeepers who decide what information will enter the network. In this case, these gatekeepers are the team, their employers as well as mainstream media outlets.

Professional sports teams are major businesses, so the information they have is closely guarded. Hockey clubs are competing with one another and must do whats best for their own operations. The information teams share must adhere to the goals of their organization, with sponsors and investors in mind. Media outlets that cover the team must follow the direction of teams if they want to continue having access to players and managers. Withholding information from a social network, as well as releasing half-truth material, will cause tension between bloggers and MSM. But it’s their actions, and inactions, within a social network that maintains it.

Gatekeepers are active in the social network as consumers of information, but fail to reciprocate. Bloggers and readers can get together and discuss a topic out in the open for everyone, including gatekeepers to read. Yet these gatekeepers will not share what they know as honestly and openly as the rest of the social network.

Second, gatekeepers attempt to control what members and groups of network know, understand and experience about the game. If a team loses badly, their official website may report on the positives instead of particular reasons why they lost. This would be an attempt to divert negative reaction, maintain a positive outlook on the team and keep fans coming back. The problem with trying to control what people know is that in a social network filled with links for information exchange, knowledge is being created, developed and shared.

The social network that these gatekeepers are trying to influence will generate knowledge with or without them. If what a team releases goes against the knowledge of that network, they’ll feel an instant backlash. Web technology and communication tools have made this network highly advanced in terms of knowledge development about the game. As a result, gatekeepers are seen with some suspicion and resentment for their contributions to the network.

University of Twente. (2010, September 7). Gatekeeping. Retrieved from
http://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20clusters/Media%2C%20Culture%20and%20Society/gatekeeping.doc

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