The „Social Europe Journal“, an online journal “debating progressive politics in Europe and beyond”, offers a wide range of established opinions on European and global social and economic policy in past, present and future. Different authors discuss facts, occasions and developments and give opinions on these which are in several cases uncommon, new, provoking.
The head title of the website, as written on top of it, is: „Social Europe Journal – debating progressive politics in Europe and beyond“ (short form: SEJ). But as the tag title, „Social Europe Journal – Europe, democracy, politics, economics, globalization, political economy and international relations“ appears. On the first page of the first online published issue, the journal has furthermore the subtitle „the journal of the european left“. This subtitle vanishes in Volume 3 Issue 3 in spring 2008.
1.3. Date of realisation:
The electronical journal was founded in late 2004; the first publications are dated on spring 2005: The first Issue of the journal, Volume 1 No. 1, goes online and is published in May 2005. Its headline is „The European Constitution in Focus“.
1.4. Date of last update:
The SEJ team does not post when the website was updated the last time. The latest article is from 15 February 2013, the last tweets are from 17 February 2013.
Excluding weekends, there is at least one article uploaded on almost every day. The copyright is dated on 2013 as well. So although the website is created for a journal being published only four times a year, it stays up-to-date. The texts are
Furthermore, there belongs a twitter account to the website, which tweets are as well visible on the website itself, in a column on the right side. Several tweets are written every day.
1.5. Author(s) and 1.6. Institutional editor:
The „Social Europe Ltd.“ is responsable for the website. As editorial board, several notable persons, most of them politicians, are mentioned. Beside them, the European Social Journal has a lot of different authors. In fact, anyone can become an author by sending his/her article or blogspot to the journal. Then, one of the SEJ editors has a look on the article, and there is a decision made whether or not to publish it. Though, of course, the author gives the SEJ the right to publish his article, he keeps the final copyright (giving the SEJ a licence for the publication) and responsibility for what he/she wrote:
„All articles published on Social Europe Journal only represent the opinions of the respective author(s) and NOT the opinion of Social Europe Ltd.. Any comments on articles are only the opinions of the respective commenters.“
The sub-pages of this website are not easy to count because almost every day new articles, texts, tweets, blog entries etc. are published. The website is – naturally – structured regarding their contents and constantly updated. What can be stated is the following:
– Eight sub-pages give a general structure to the website (such as „Home“, „About“, Archive“).
– Seven sub-pages give a structure to the published articles regarding the kinds of texts (such as „Essays“, „Columns“, „Blogs“). Three of them are again classified into several thematic subjects (such as „Themes“, „Debate“).
– In addition, there is a sidebar, where the social networks with SEJ presence, video clips, books and the current tweets are presented, and a part at the bottom of the page with links, recent comments, RSS feeds and tags.
1.8. Modalities of access:
There is free access to the whole content of the website. Furthermore, a possibility exists to receive the published articles via e-mail. This possibilitiy requires nothing but a short and simple registration, as well for free, asking for nothing but the name and the e-mail address of the interested visitor. No password and no account is to be created. Texts, books and any issue of the SEJ that is yet published can be downloaded without creating any kind of account and without giving any information about oneself.
1.9. User statistics:
There is no information on the website itself mentioning how many people visit the website per day, no visitor statistic at all. But on http://digsitevalue.net/s/social-europe.eu, some information can be found: There is said that www.social-europe.eu has 847 unique visitors every day, what ranks it #228 524, of website’s popularity, on the internet. On this statistic page, there is as well stated how many pageviews these visitors make (1101), what earnings the SEJ website has, what its IP address is and where the server stands.
Of course, it is furthermore possible to see how many followers the SEJ has on the several social networks where it is presented (what are the „classical“ ones: Facebook, Twitter etc.).
1.10. Date of analyse:
The website was analysed between 10 and 17 of February.
The website was analysed by Mechthild Herzog, student of the Master in European Contemporary History at the University of Luxembourg (2nd semester), as a task in a seminar about Digital Humanities.
The Social European Journal is an online journal and forum dealing with current political questions concerning Europe, especially the European Union. The articles are as well about intern as extern problems and developments – of course, subjects of globalisation and international relations play an important role, though not always taking place on the European continent, because they have an influence on European countries or the EU.
The articles do mainly deal with social and, being often connected to that, economic questions. Of course, the current crisis in the EU is an important subject, being covered in several articles. Some authors think about how the social system in Europe can be improved in post-crisis times and already now, how unemployment can be fought, how democracy can be developped. Next to this – dominating – subject, articles are published, e.g., about the social side of the environmental crisis: how societies can be built that respect and protect the environment, and what political and social apsects influence this crisis.
So in general, current subjects are considered under a social point of view, what gives new perspectives on aspects the reader may have thought to be only economic or financial. As well political subjects are handled, e.g. elections – considering their influence on European societies.
What is obvious in the title of former issues of the SEJ, a politically rather left point of view can be found in some articles. But the journal offers a wide range of different opinions. Furthermore, it is important to mention that the authors are from all over Europe, what gives as well a very wide range of different opinions (regarding this fact, it is not possible to call the journal an entirely left one, because left parties are quite different in the different European countries). If there are articles about single countries, these are the ones being in public interest anyway – because of the crisis (there are articles about Spain and Greece), because of their special role in Europe or the EU (there are articles about Great Britain) etc. But the journal is not entirely well-balanced international: Smaller EU and European countries are, as usual, not as often mentioned as those with greater political influence. Furthermore, the SEJ is part of the „Guardian Comment Network“ – the „Guardian“ is a rather left-liberal British newspaper (today as well with an US American edition). This does not make the SEJ a British journal/website (as well because the Guardian is not only read in the United Kingdom), but that is anyway a national sign on the website.
With regard to current European and global developments, there are published interviews, essays and other kinds of articles almost every day.
For such an up-to-date journal, it is not easy to talk of one or another disciplinary approach to European or EU history: In several articles, historical facts are mentioned and included to show developments and preconditions for a today’s situation. But of what kind they are depends on the subject of the article. Of course, due to the general subject of the SEJ, they are of a rather social, economic and/or political content.
The main aim of the SEJ is not to inform on European topics and developments, but to give an opinion on them so that the visitor and reader can understand them better. For that, the journal tries to be not another general newspaper or forum, but to present exceptional views and thoughts: „We are committed to publishing stimulating articles by the most thought-provoking authors.“ The range of opinions is not completely open, but – as already said – of a politically rather left point of view. The journal offers backgrounds, interviews, discussions, recommends as well books and further links to similar subjects. Furthermore, it offers to take part in the discussions via comments and even to become an author oneself (as described earlier, anyone can send an article to the SEJ, and if it is interesting, well-written and fitting to the SEJ subjects it can be published by the journal). The website is not the only way to get to know the SEJ subjects – via several social networks, that is possible as well.
The visitors and readers of the journal are – so can be supposed – from all over Europe and from the US, maybe even from other continents (there is no list, statistic or any other kind of information about that on the website, but it can be guessed by the list of authors and subjects). The journal aims to make as many visitors active participants in discussions and communication about the different subjects. Regarding the comments under most of the articles, that works quite well.
2.3. Published Material:
Most of the publications on the website are – as usual for a journal – articles. They have different forms: essays, interviews, discussions, reviews, blogs etc. Almost all of the publications on the Website are texts, with at least one picture of the author or of something concerning the described subject. To some of the articles the authors offer diagrams for better understanding. There are as well a few videos on the website, but they are not entirely made by the SEJ team, instead as well by partners to whom the SEJ gives place to advertise their sercives and products. At the bottom of the „Home“ page, right before the list of further links, recent comments and tags, there is a sub-headline „Latest SEJ Videos“, where at least one video clip of the SEJ team can be found.
The published issues of the journal can be downloaded for free; the website offers further the download of a few digital versions of books.
There is an „Archive“ rubric on the website, but it leads to nothing really. What is instead kind of an archive is the list of the already published issues since spring 2005, downloadable as PDF documents. But there is no overview over all articles that have been published on the SEJ website so far.
Because the website is no primarily historical website, there are no archives of primary sources.
2.4. Context in which the material is offered:
There are no primary sources, so there cannot be said anything about the philology.
2.5. Historiographic theses:
As there is no historiographical content on the website, there is no historiographical thesis represented. There are some political and sociological points of view that could be assigned to one or another school – but even there it would hardly be possible to find one dominating point of view because of the wide range of authors, including politicians, scientists, economists, employers, representants of labour unions etc. What is possible to say is that one may probably not find a very conservative or politically right opinion on the website.
As written earlier, there are published new articles on the website on almost every day. As they deal with current topics and questions, the texts are all up-to-date, though not every opinion described there may be revolutionary. What is once published is not corrected or updated again – if there is reason for new opinions or the change of old ones, there are new articles written and published.
3.STRUCTURE AND LANGUAGE OF COMMUNICATION
Nothing like that could be found on the website.
3.2. Logic organisation of space and content:
The website is organised in a reticulate kind. To get an overview, on the top of the page are two lines, one giving a rather structural, the other a more content-related order (as described in 1.7. Dimension). But the published articles are not only found in one of the given categories: Every of them is filed under several of them, regarding the kind of text as well as its content. Furthermore, they are tagged with key words leading to related articles, so that the reader can get more information about a subject.
On whatever sub-page one is – the sidebar on the right side, with links to the social networks, videos of partners, e-book offerings and current SEJ tweets as well as a field to subscribe for getting information about new articles on the website via e-mail, and the head of the website always stay visible, together with the bottom part, offering further links to partners and interesting institutions for the reader, presenting recent comments and giving the most important tags. And there is a bottom line, assuring the copyright and giving a link to the used WordPress theme, what is the „Magazine Theme“ on „Genesis Framework“.
The wirst site one is led to via the link www.social-europe.eu is, as usual, the „Home“ site. On the top of this side, there is a little slideshow presenting five important articles of the last days with a big picture and a headline. Under it, the visitor finds a list of the seven latest articles, always presented with headline, date, author, number of comments and the first lines of the text. Then, two columns present the latest entries in the categories of „News & Events“ and „Blogs“, and another sub-headline proposes the „Latest SEJ Videos“. At the bottom of the „Home“ page, there is another box giving further links to subject-related institutions and websites, presenting recent comments, RSS feeds and an overview over the most important tags – and at the very bottom, there is another line with the copyright and the name of the WordPress theme.
The chosen design is, in general, a quite typical one for WordPress pages. It offers a lot of possibilities for intern linkage what makes it quite easy for the visitor to find articles that interest him/her. Every article is linked in several categories, regarding its kind of text (blog/essay/column etc.) and its content. These two aspects are organised in a second sub-line under the website’s title line, categorising the published articles. In the first sub-line, a rather general organisation is made: By clicking on one of the article-categorising keywords, only a list of articles opens. But the first, rather general sub-line leads to several sub-pages, such as a page „About“, explaining what the SEJ is, or „Article Submission“, explaining to (future) authors their possibilities, rights and duties.
On whatever sub-page or category the visitor is currently, appears visible for him in the head part of the website: The keyword is, instead of the normal grey/white, red.
To return to the „Home“ page is quite easy: either by clicking on the word „home“ in the first sub-line, or by clicking on the big red title-line with the name of the website, „Social Europe Journal – debating progressive politics in Europe and beyond“, on it.
As well the intern linkage between different articles works quite well: Every article offers at its end a list of keywords leading to related subjects, where the visitor can read more. In addition, under every article four more articles are „Recommended for you“. Regrettably, they are rather seldom related to the subject of the article above, and seem more like a random choice.
One more part of the website – the sidebar on the right – will be closer examined in terms of extern linkage.
3.4. Language of communication:
There are no sounds, special graphics or images besides the pictures (=photographs) to the articles – only one little thing could be remarked here: There is a little symbol, a kind of a little speech bubble, for the comments, whose number is stated under every article’s headline. And there is a calendar symbol for the date when the article has been published on the website, a file symbole for the categories under which the article is filed, and a little tag symbol for the tags.
The language that is used, especially in the general texts of the SEJ team, is rather formal. As typical for a journalistic website, the sentences are not too long, but concise. The diction is not too „dry“ and scientific, instead it tries to catch and keep the attention of the visitor. This can be said as well about most of the articles, though there are some that contain a little too many terms, so that only people who know the subject very well can understand anything. But most of the texts are not difficult to read. Stylistic figures do appear in several of them – but because of the number and wide range of authors, it is hardly possible to call one or the other a typical one for the website.
As the website claims to offer a wide range of partly provoking opinions, it is not surprising that sometimes the choice of words is capturing, trying to convince the reader between the lines – what is as well quite typical for a journalistic medium, even more one being focused on presenting opinions, not only facts. In the choice of words, it is also possible to find the website to be indeed a little politically left biased: E.g., in the category „Themes“ one can open a list of articles concerning „Capitalism“, what would in this way probably not appear in a more conservative medium.
3.5. Extern connectivity:
Effectively all extern linkages of the SEJ are put together in two parts of the website that are always present for the visitor, no matter in which category he is or which article he is reading. First, there is the sidebar on the right side. There are symbols with links leading to several other websites and networks: On the top of the sidebar, there is a blue box saying that the SEJ is part of the „Guardian Comment Network“ (as already written in 2.1.Subject), leading the visitor the the „Guardian’s“ website. Then, there are little symbols leading to the account or channel of the SEJ at several social networks, as Facebook, Twitter etc. Twitter gets some more space of this sidebar: The lowest third of it is filled by the current tweets of the SEJ.
Further, under the social network icons, two videos are showed, announced as „ETUI Advertisment – The Crisis and Inequality“. Under these two Youtube links, two e-books are offered. Both of them are not entirely by the SEJ team, though there is one that was obviously initiated and mainly written by the SEJ team – in collaboration with and with support of some partner institutions.
The second important place for extern linkage on the website is the bottom box: Here, the SEJ presents links to extern websites of partner institutions and institutions dealing with similar subjects. The SEJ only presents the names of the certain institutions, which are linked to the related websites.
Sometimes, the authors offer extern links, giving sources or further information to their articles – e.g. „Does The Richness Of The Few Benefit Us All?“, by Zygmunt Bauman. Of course, if authors offer sources etc., they do not only present links, but as well books.
3.5.1. Role of the user:
The visitor’s/user’s role can as well be an active as a passive one: First of all, the SEJ offers articles to be read, videos to be watched. So if the visitor only wants to inform himself, he can stay entirely passive, with the only active part of clicking from one article to the next. If he is not only interested in one article or subject, but in the general work of the SEJ, he can get a little more active by subscribing with his name and e-mail address in a sign-up-box that is part of the sidebar. This way he gets news about new articles etc. on the website via e-mail. If he wants more, maybe shorter or more current information, the visitor has furthermore the possibility to follow the social network links, to follow the SEJ on Facebook, Twitter etc.
The SEJ offers its readers to participate in the discussions, to give their opinion to the authors’ ones. So there is the very simple comment function under each article: Under the big headline „Leave a Comment“ there is a box; in this box one can write one’s comment. After filling in ones e-mail address and name and, if wanted, a website, one can simply post the comment. If one stays interested in the further process of a debate, one can demand to get informed about follow-up comments via e-mail. If a visitor wants not only to comment an article, but reply to an other comment, that is possible as well.
The greatest possibility of playing an active role on www.social-europe.eu is, of course, becoming an author onself. The way to that is described in the category „Article Submission“ and further mentioned and detailed depicted in the chapters 1.5.Author(s) and 2.2. Aims.
If a visitor wants to contact the SEJ, there is an own category named „Contact“, offering a field where the personal message can be written. As in the former cases of participation, the visitor has to give his name and e-mail address. Beside this contact form, there is no other possibility to get in touch with the SEJ team, nor with an author – no address, no e-mail address, no phone number. Further contact is only possible via the social networks.
3.5.2. instruments of navigation:
Beside the already described possibilities of commenting and participating in discussions, there are no more interactive aspects on the SEJ website. The visitor can download the PDF issues of the journal or some offered e-books – but there is no intern message service, no social component beside the comment function. Intern research is not possible, what is indeed a deficit of the website. The only remark about research can be found in the „Archive“:
„Our archive search function is powered by Google. Please use the search bar below to search for articles in our archive.“
But, as written earlier, there is no such search bar – so the only way to really do some research on the SEJ website is via Google or other online search machines.
4. CRITICAL JUDGMENT
The „Social Europe Journal“ is an online journal that concerns itself with mainly social and economic subjects, which can be as well national as European or even global, but are in any case of importance for at least several European countries, mostly for the EU or Europe in general. As those fields are, especially today, rather political ones, the journal is political as well, presenting to the social and economic subjects political opinions, developments, politicians etc.
Though it removed its political attitude from its title, its attitude remains a rather political left one, what is visible in the choice of politicians that are interviewed (e.g. Peer Steinbrück, German chancellor candidate of the social democratic party), of institutions which are examined (e.g. „The Socialist International“), of thematic categories (as the already mentioned category „capitalism“), and as well by the range of authors, being or having been in several cases politically active themselves, in parties, labour unions etc.
In different forms of texts (as essays, columns, blogs etc.) and sometimes even video clips, the SEJ brings up subjects bothering Europe – and such ones it finds important and worth bothering about in presence and future. Of course, an often returning, detailed analysed subject is, since months and years, the economic and financial „crisis“. That can already be seen by only glancing at the current important tags presented at the bottom of the website: Keywords like „Eurozone“, „austerity“, „crisis“, „EU“, „ECB“ and „euro“ directly catch the reader’s eye, and so do some countries’ names which play an important role in these times – Greece, UK and Germany. Being closely bound to the European economic and financial situation, as well the US appear very big. As well several of the last journal issues, downloadable as PDF documents, are dominated by articles about the crisis. But the SEJ is not entirely focused on it: The summer/autumn issue of 2011 deals with „Justice and Equality in the Good Society“. And several articles on the website deal either with current problems (as one about the horse meat scandal ) or with questions of a rather general kind (as one about „The World in 2030“). But whatever the texts are about, they are never simply reports, but always aim to illustrate the author’s opinion and to help the visitor building himself an own one. The worth of this will be argued in the next chapter; the content and structure of the website is further and more detailed described in the former ones.
The „Social Europe Journal“ offers a wide range of established opinions on European and global social and economic policy, in past, presence and future; not seldom connecting these. In different kinds of articles it discusses facts, occasions and developments and gives opinions on these which are in several cases uncommon, new, provoking. As far as this can be said by a non-professional on these thematic fields, the articles are well researched and well-founded. This may not only be proved by the pro and contra in the articles, by links and footnotes, but as well by a look at the authors’ CVs: Many of them are or have been professors of different fields of political science and economics, partly at universities of very high esteem; many of them are working in the domain they are writing about. Another point making the website trustworthy is the collaboration with other well-known, acknowledged institutes.
The visitor is not only invited to read what is published on the website, but to give his own opinion to the different discussions via comments – or even to become an author himself. As well in this step, the reliability of the website and the publications remains preserved, because nothing is published without being checked by a SEJ editor.
Though the SEJ offers very interesting opinions and articles on many subjects, it is not appropriate to be one’s only source about European and global facts and developments in social and economic matters: Things that happened or are about to happen are hardly simply described and classified. They are rather the initial point for further thoughts, for opinion constructions, searching quite often for coherence, deeper connections. To have articles like this may be very important to get some background knowledge and to become able to think further then the status quo. But the SEJ offers no possibility of quick updating about current news, not even really via its Twitter account, where basicly currently published articles are given notice.
Anyway, there are probably enough possibilities in the today’s media world offering up-to-date news.The only gap the SEJ could have filled might be to post news in exactly their – social and economic, especially European – domain. But what the journal does instead is exactly what several voices predict as the journalism’s future: to give background and opinion so that the reader can classify the mass of information and news reaching him every day, especially via the internet.
The SEJ is written entirely in English (in older PDF issues, there are links to translations, but they are not working). But as English is one of the three official EU languages and a worldwide spoken and understood language, that is no real disadvantage. What is not as easy as understanding English is to understand any abbreviation given especially in the short texts about the authors. If the reader is not expert or at least well-read on the subject, he may have problems with understanding. That is not only the case because of abbreviations, but because of some passages in articles that are only hints and that may be well-known for a professor of the field, but not necessarily for a random visitor. But these cases stay rather single ones; most of the articles are well-written and their subjects and contents well explained.
By reading SEJ articles, the visitor has to be aware that this website is no neutral one. As already said, the arguments are in most of the cases well developped, and there are several articles and several opinions to many subjects. In some cases, the articles are of a rather populist kind. But these articles are usually put in a clearly opinion-determined category, as the column, so that the visitor can see from the beginning with what kind of text he is dealing, and no opinion will be imposed on him if he keeps that – and the slight political orientation of the website – in mind. And this is a precondition for the reception of any kind of media.
The structure of the website is in general very clear and easy to understand. It works well together with the content, with its sub-pages, categories and linkages. There are only little aspects that can be criticised: If one opens the category „Themes“ by holding the cursor on it, not every theme is visible (because the list is too long) except if one scrolls down as much as that the second sub-line of the website with the categories is at the last possible point to be seen. Of course that may depend on the visitor’s monitor – but especially in times of smartphones (and there is no special mobile version of the website) such a detail is not very practiable. Another structural lack of the website is the non-existing search function: One is supposed to be in the „Archive“ – but the promised „search bar“ does not appear. So if the visitor is searching for a special article, he has to go via online search machines. But all other functions are working quite well: the comment function, the contact form, the possibility to subscribe for SEJ articles, the links to the social networks, the download area of the PDF issues and the download of offered e-books.
In general, the „Social Europe Journal“ is a recommendable website for people who are interested in social and economic policy and development on national, European and global level. It offers well-structured, up-to-date background information and a wide range of interesting opinions, presented by a list of expert authors.