My PhD dissertation “The Paradox of Personalisation” analyses how three European public service broadcasters used media personalisation, more specifically a “Netvibes”- like customisable webpage. The three cases that I analyse are: 1) DR in Denmark: “Mit DR”, 2) WDR in Germany: “Mein WDR” and 3) BBC in the UK: the BBC frontpage.

It also discusses why all these three projects failed – none of the customisable webpages became a success among the users:

Were the PSB editors too optimistic about the users need for webcustomisation?

Did the editors go too far in the direction of seeing the PSB listener / viewer / user as a picky customer instead of a citizen?

Were the customisation projects strategically calculated attempts to enter into the competition with commercial web 2.0 media or were the customisation projects just a reasonable step to keep PSB up-to-date with the technological development?

These questions are interesting, but the dissertation tries to reach for a more structural explanation of the failure. The three projects I have analysed have namely quite different approaches to the questions above, however – they all failed.

Thus I search for more fundamental reasons for the PSB customisation to fail. I claim thus that traditional PSB webpages and broadcasts have what I call a narrative value that webcustomisation not has or not to the same degree. This is also the case if the PSB organisations – as some considers – would make personalised recommendations like, Amazon etc.

I discuss also the legitimacy of public service broadcasting in today’s apparently media saturated landscape. With Foucault’s concept of Governmentality (1991) and the concept of “techno-paternalism” (Spiekermann & Frank, 2006) I hypothetically develop a new concept for publicly funded media, that I call “personalised enlightenment”. Subsequently I discuss why this concept challenges ideas of the public sphere and democracy.

If you like to read the dissertation, you can download it here (35 mb). If you prefer to read the summary first, you’ll find it here. If you prefer to read the summary in Danish, it is availble here. The appendices (10 mb) are available here.

If you have any comments or questions, contact me at (Aalborg University, Copenhagen – Center for Media and Information Technologies)