A History of the Future: Concepts for telling the story of online PR
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AbstractThe internet has had an impact on public relations that goes well beyond significant adjustments in practice made in response to technological change. Mirroring the emergence of ”Web 2.0” platforms, the discipline is increasingly articulating its purpose and culture through discourse associated with social media. Concepts such as transparency, authenticity, conversation and engagement can be inextricably linked with the mainstreaming of social media practice; although they are not unique to social media, and predate much of the opening up of platforms and channels seen over the last two decades, their meanings have to a significant degree been negotiated across social media fora. Some will want to trace this history through a chronological narrative of invention, innovation and artefact, others through an examination of core concepts associated with online public relations. This paper seeks to explore ways in which the critical historian can excavate, order and interpret the discourse surrounding the commentary provided by influential PR/social media bloggers, and to identify ways in which this might have influenced emerging normative models. Storytelling and co-creation are an important part of the narrative projected by social media evangelists. It is therefore natural to want to see how these concepts helped in creation of normative practice. The chronological narrative around which the research centres will identify the emergence of new terminology, the rate of acceptance of emerging concepts into the discourse, and the drivers that allowed particular words and framings to become part of a shared understanding. (The research would be grounded primarily in close study of the conceptual language and themes that can be identified within the public discourse, and rather than an attempt to reveal the motivations of key players). The proposition to be tested is that the normative discourse defining 'modern' and 'ethical' public relations practice in the 21st century constitutes, to a large degree, an appropriation and reinterpretation of discourses in social media circles.