Personal web services, that currently are launched by public service broadcasters trigger a number of paradoxes. When users can select the content of the web page, they are promised customer sovereignty, but the page is however still part of the PSB organisation's agenda-setting. The user is only partly free to choose.
In my PhD study I compare four personal PSB web services from respectively the UK, Germany, Slovenia and Denmark. The Danish website from DR has also been studied as a design process during a time span of two years. Via a number of in-depth interviews with editors and project leaders I have gain insights into the strategic dilemmas confronting the PSB organisation.
The personal web services intensify old tensions of the PSB concept. The services illustrate PSB's classic balancing between agenda-setting (enlightenment and distinctiveness) and reach (Nissen), but in a new context of apparent customer sovereignty. The four services have chosen different approaches to the question of giving users what users seem to want: the DR case that offers the user more than 60% external content not originated in DR constitutes the one position to the question. The services offered by WDR and BBC questions reversely the very idea of personalisation.
To assess the degree to which personal PSB websites can be described as "personal", I have developed an analytical framework of the relationship between sovereignty and interaction. It is an extension of Bordewijk & van Kaam's model from 1986, but it looks on interaction on a microlevel in terms a user's possibilities to modify a web page. It uses Harris and Henderson's and Löwgren's concept of pliability. This framework enables a general discussion about the degree of sovereignty of customisable websites and other services in general. My aim is to criticise a priori assumptions about customisable interfaces being expressions of customer sovereignty.
I argue that all customisable services, although they offer the user some options to modify the interface, essentially remain tools for the provider. Although the services e.g. ar named "MitDR" [My DR] or "Mein WDR" [My WDR], a real sovereignty is not provided to the user. If the personal PSB services are gain popularity, the reason has thus less to do with PSB's ambiguous relationship with the WWW and new media, but rather because the very communicational situation of PSBs as recommenders of content does not call for personalised services, but public service. I argue thus also that the “information overflow” argument, which often is mobilised by the providers of the services to “sell” the customisation in reality covers a desire for more audience control.
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Harris, Jed, & Henderson, Austin (1999). A better mythology for system design. SIGCHI conference proceedings 1999
Jensen, Jens F. (1998). ‘Interactivity’ Tracking a New Concept in Media and Communication Studies. Nordicom Review, 19(1), 185 - 204.
Löwgren, Jonas (2007). Pliability as an experiential quality: Exploring the Aesthetics of Interaction Design. Artifact, 1(2), 85 - 95.
Nissen, Christian S. (2006). No public service without both Public and Service - Content provision between the Scylla of populism and the Charybdis of elitism IN: Making a Difference: Public Service Broadcasting in the European Media Landscape (pp. 65-82). Eastleigh: John Libbey Publishing.