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Gatewatching and Citizen Journalism

A Call to Action on Social Media Archiving (and More)

Briefly back in Australia, yesterday I went down to Sydney to speak at the Australian Society of Archivists’ 2011 Symposium (staged at the fabulous Luna Park venue). My paper was meant as an urgent call to action on the question of archiving public activities in social media spaces – so much material which will be of immense value to future researchers is being lost every day if we don’t get our act together very soon; we can’t wait for the lumbering beast that is the U.S. Library of Congress to do the job for us, however fulsomely they’ve promised to archive the full public Twitter firehose. The truth is, here in Australia we already have the technologies for capturing and archiving large datasets of public communication on Twitter and elsewhere – but someone with the necessary public standing and archivist expertise (the National Library, the National Archives, …) must now take the initiative; the sooner, the better.

My paper (with audio) is below:

Twitter as a Tool for Pro-Am Journalistic Practices

Wow – we’ve already reached the final session on the final day of AoIR 2011; time has passed very quickly. I’m in a session on Twitter, and Gabriela Zago makes a start. Her focus is on the possibilities of Pro-Am news media work on Twitter, focussing especially on the newspapers The Guardian and El País.

New tools and Web services appear online all the time; these tools are appropriated in different ways by different social actors. One possibility is appropriation for news-related uses, pursuing Pro-Am collaboration opportunities. Such Pro-Am models combine professional journalists and amateur news users and produsers. Twitter is currently being appropriated in this way – this is a form of extending news media for multiplatform news delivery as well as for other purposes.

Citizen Journalism in Brazil

The next speaker at AoIR 2011 is Raquel Oliveira, whose focus is on citizen journalism. The very definition of that term remains disputed, of course, and discussions over what citizen journalists are able to contribute continue apace. Citizen journalism is a phenomenon rather than a fully defined concept. Individuals use journalistic – and especially online – tools to make contributions which are of journalist interest to other. A related question is whether the Net is able to advance democracy by making possible practices such as citizen journalism.

What such practices do is to change traditional news production models, shifting the balance of power further towards news users. Raquel’s work examines the use of two citizen journalism communities which do this – Viva Favela and Índios Online: the former of these was greated in July 2001 and focusses on issues of interest to poor communities; the latter started in 2004 as a project coordinated by an NGO, and is now run autonomously by native Indio communities.

Mapping Online Publics on Twitter (DIATA11)

Düsseldorf Workshop on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twitter Analysis (DIATA2011)

Mapping Online Publics on Twitter

Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, and Stephen Harrington

  • 14 September 2011 – DIATA11 workshop, Düsseldorf

Open Innovation in the News Industry

The next speakers in this session at the Future of Journalism conference are Tanja Aitamurto and Seth Lewis. Their focus is on open innovation in the news industry: the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate innovation. Such innovation is necessary in news, due to the continuing increase in media platforms, the shortening of product lifecycles, the rapid change of consumer habits, and the diminishing resources available.

Tanja and Seth have identified three cases which exemplify such innovation. How does such innovation manifest in the news industry, and what implications does it have in research and development work? At the macro level, one such example is the Knight News Challenge. It is a high-profile competition examining the future of news, and can be seen to be setting the agenda for journalism innovation; overall, it has wide influence in journalism. Knight follows an inside-out process by providing funds, reports, and signals to the industry, as well as an outside-in process that taps into the wisdom of actors outside of journalism; this results in a coupled process which straddles the boundaries of journalism by linking journalists and technologists.

Twitter as a News Source during Natural Disasters

Leslie-Jean Thornton finishes the session at Future of Journalism by discussing the spread of information on Twitter. She points us to the San Diego fire and the #sandiegofire hashtag, which really was a breakthrough for the use of hashtags on Twitter; this was the first time that hashtags were successfully used for the coordination of discussion around major crisis events.

It is interesting for such breaking news stories to examine the timeline of events on Twitter, of course; this also requires detailed qualitative, even ethnographic work. Early on, journalism on these events hasn’t even emerged yet, so we can study how events are being characterised by the users who just raised them; especially at these early stages, gatewatching and citizen journalism practices may be able to be observed particularly clearly.

Journalistic Use and Verification of Twitter-Sourced Information

The next session at Future of Journalism 2011 starts with the fabulous Alfred Hermida, whose focus is on the shift of news organisations to digital, networked environments, with specific reference to Twitter. How do journalists find a place in this, and especially, how do they deal with verifying information on those platforms?

Twitter is used for a variety of purposes, of course, and the volume of messages on this platform is immense. This represents the lives, interests, and views of its users – and includes acts of journalism; Twitter can be seen as a platform for ambient journalism, therefore. This challenges established ways of communication for journalism, usually about current things, and it disrupts the way we think about space and time, private and public. For journalists, it disrupts truth (or the pursuit of truth, which they have elevated to their ultimate professional goal): discovering and reporting truth by journalism is seen as essential to the profession.

Futures for Journalism

If it’s Thursday, it must be Wales: I’ve made it to the Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff, which starts with a keynote by Emily Bell. She begins by noting that discussions about the future of journalism only started in the UK with the Murdoch papers’ move to Wapping, and it has been mainly about the role of technology in the transformation of journalism; before then, there was a strong commitment to continue doing journalism as it had always been done.

Today, journalism is becoming less defined by the business models that support it, and more by the activities which it consists of – types of journalistic activity are now scattered widely across many domains. Journalism is a craft, and arguing over who might or might not be a journalism today is futile. If Julian Assange or Rebekah Brooks say they’re journalists, or a random citizen taking first-hand footage does so, who is to say they aren’t? We may gather random forms of activity, and ask whether they are journalistic, but there’s little point in doing so any more.


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