Research news

Prof. dr. Slavko Splichal has received the 2023 Media and Democracy Karol Jakubowicz Award

Photo: Tonja Jerele

Publish Date: 26.05.2023

Category: Researchers in focus , Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 4 Quality education, 16 Peace, justice and strong institutions (Indicators)

Academy member Slavko Splichal has received the 2023 Media and Democracy Karol Jakubowicz Award for his book Datafication of Public Opinion and the Public Sphere: How Extraction Replaced Expression of Opinion, which was published last year by Anthem Press in London and New York.

The Selection Committee explained that Splichal's work is "an excellent example of turning existing studies and empirical data into new critical normative conceptualisations." The volume explains the risks and opportunities for democracy in digital and data-driven societies through an in-depth review of theory in a wide range of sociological and political sciences. The book can contribute significantly to the media and democracy as the societal contexts of algorithms and data become crucial to understanding the impact of high technologies on shaping public discourse and fostering democratic deliberations.

"This book primarily deals with technological limitations, among which I highlight two. The first is what has long been considered a revolutionary discovery in the social sciences: the use of surveys to study public opinion, which goes back nearly a hundred years and which also caused an enormous change in understanding what public opinion was. Today most people associate public opinion with opinion polls, which they even refer to as public opinion studies, even though they have nothing in common with public opinion. The second limitation is the new, digital technology that has become very effective through the development of the internet, where billions of people express their opinion without being aware that it is being "harvested" and stored in huge data warehouses and used for a wide variety of purposes. On the one hand, there are those who have produced this opinion and don't know what it's actually used for, and, on the other hand, there's the fact that we don't have access to this data because it's privately owned (what is especially painful for us researchers). I think the key problem is that all social sciences are now dealing with data that has been created and collected to be processed, independently of the research social scientists conduct to find answers to the key questions of modern society. It's vital to ensure researchers gain access to data, most of which is stored in private data warehouses. On the other hand, it's important for algorithms, which are also predominantly used in private corporations, to become accessible to the public. That has important implications for research and even more important implications for society," academy member Slavko Splichal explained in the A1 broadcast on Radio Slovenia 1.

splichal tekst 1

“At a time when democracy is being challenged, regardless of geography and the traditional divisions between Western and emerging democracies in the Global South, Splichal's book is especially relevant. Moreover, it has successfully transformed a multi-layered analytical approach into a narrative that appeals to everyone," members of the Selection Committee added, explaining their decision for the award. 

As Splichal explained for the STA, the book draws on the ideas of the public introduced during the Enlightenment, analysing the historical changes in key manifestations of the public and the opportunities, conditions and obstacles related to the development of the public sphere in which the public reflexively creates, articulates and expresses public opinion.

"Balanced reciprocity is duplicated prejudice. Agreeing to this logic results in the fact that the only thing that is heard about the most controversial and important issues is a narrow range of opposing, often extreme views and voices, among which consensus cannot be reached and which cause polarisation in society. As a rule, balanced reporting focuses on a party/political conflict to the detriment of objective journalism, which has to provide the much-needed context required to understand the relevant developments; that is the first precondition for the reasonable formation of opinion and discussion." Among the factors contributing to the deprofessionalisation of journalism and the loss of its good name, Spichal ascribes special importance to the idea or, as he calls it, ideology of "balanced" reporting, which, according to him, is nothing but giving up the journalistic responsibility for what is published. Spichal adds that objective journalism is praiseworthy, whereas "balanced" reporting is dangerous: "When the weight of evidence indisputably points in one direction, balanced reporting is simply misleading. Responsible journalism simply will not balance solid scientific evidence showing that climate change is caused by human activity with the opinion of climate change deniers,"Slavko Splichal commented in Delo.

  splichal tekst 2

Our sincere congratulations to Professor Splichal for receiving this international award, which was founded in 2018 and is conferred every year for outstanding scholarly contributions in democracy, human rights, media ethics, media policy and public service media! 

For more information, see this link


back to list