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He Scoops, They Score!

Youdecide2007.orgSometimes things just come together. We've only done a soft launch of the Youdecide2007 site which will provide hyperlocal citizen journalism coverage of the upcoming federal election in Australia, with a number of electorate profiles, interviews with local citizen and MPs, news releases, and opinion pieces now available on the site - but that hasn't stopped the site from attracting a good number of visitors, some press coverage, and now even a mention in parliamentary question time. A little while ago, Jason Wilson did a phone interview with Liberal Party member for Herbert, Peter Lindsay (available on the site as a nice YouTube clip overlaid with images from the electorate). In the interview, the MP rather appears to digress from his prepared talking points (about half-way through the clip), and makes the somewhat general claim that "young people today are financially illiterate", thereby causing themselves unnecessary mortgage stress. The federal opposition was quick to pick up on the story, and the Honorable Kevin07 engaged in some opportunistic political point-scoring on the basis of the statement.

Mainstreaming Citizen Journalism in Australia: YouDecide2007

As we're slowly approaching the official start of the Australian federal election campaign (not that the unofficial campaign hasn't already started...), we're also getting very close to the launch of our citizen journalism site to accompany the election. This is the first major project in a three-year ARC Linkage research programme around citizen journalism which involves SBS, On Line Opinion, Cisco Systems, the Brisbane Institute, and my colleagues and me at QUT Creative Industries.

Mobiles and the Public

Sydney.
The post-lunch session at Mobile Media 2007 is started by Janey Gordon, who focusses on the use of mobile phones in critical situations, contributing to the public sphere; she's focussing especially on the SARS outbreak in China in 2003, the tsunami in the Indian ocean in 2004, and the London bombings in 2005. SARS was initially underreported, and news about it was restricted by the Chinese government, until a Beijing doctor became a whistleblower about the crisis; in this context, the mobile phone became a key tool for the spread of grassroots information about it. SMS messages were later also used to send out blanket information to the public in order to manage public knowledge.

The Cult of the Professional

There's been a certain amount of publicity recently for Andrew Keen's book The Cult of the Amateur, which roundly criticises citizen journalism, Wikipedia, and pretty much anything else associated with 'Web 2.0' and user-led content creation for 'killing our culture'. Looks like it's striking all the right chords with the usual moral panic crowd who find it hard to accept that anyone but themselves could be in charge of determining what's good and worthy - or indeed, that users themselves, as the participants in culture, might want to have a say in such decisions.

Keen's one-man cultural crusade is reminiscent of the Discovery Institute's 'Teach the Controversy' campaign against the science of evolution, which similarly relies on clever marketing to disguise the fundamental flaws of its 'scientific theory' of intelligent design; or in a related comparison, he's establishing himself as the media industry equivalent of a climate change denialist, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to discredit his overgeneralised hyperbole. Some industrial journalists, of course, love anything which attempts to take the shine off their citizen counterparts. So, I was reasonably concerned what I saw Keen pop up in the weeknightly podcast of the BBC's NewsNight programme - but thankfully, they had Charles Leadbeater at hand to inject some reason into the debate:

[NewsNight video at the BBC - what, no embeddable version?]

Political Blogging in Australia

Boston.
In addition to the various vodcast-based means of staying up to date with political developments in Australia and the world even while in the sadly news-starved U.S., I'm also a regular reader of Larvatus Prodeo at the moment - one of the most consistently insightful Australian political group blogs. (The Prodeans are having a great deal of fun at the expense of the Canberra press gallery punditariat at the moment - very enjoyable.)

So, in that context it's very timely that my article on mapping the Australian political blogosphere using the IssueCrawler research tool has just been published in First Monday. This analyses my David Hicks case study, some of the outcomes of which I've published here in the past, with a particular view to outlining possible methodological opportunities combining IssueCrawler and Technorati. I'm very grateful to Edward Valauskas and the First Monday team for turning the article around so quickly - beats print journals any time...

From CNN to Democracy TV

Boston.
One of the cultural icons of the 1980, MTV has come in for some criticism in recent years for its ever-decreasing coverage of the world of music, in favour of sit-coms and reality TV. Actual music videos, the stuff the MTV empire was built on, are featured these days at best as interstitials in between re-runs of The Real World and Punk'd. Having spent almost a month here in Boston and exposed to U.S. television now, I think much the same can safely also be said about CNN: actual news stories are few and far between an endless stream of pundits, 'expert' commentators, and unmitigated political pontification by hosts acting not as news reporters or even merely as news anchors, but as media spectacles (think trainwrecks, not fireworks) in their own right. (Pointedly, the New York Times TV schedule classifies most of CNN's and Fox News' content as 'talk / tabloid' rather than 'news'.) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did a nice job on pointing out the journalistic travesty of CNN's coverage of Queen Elizabeth's recent visit to the U.S., for example (watch it now, before Comedy Central does its thing and the video disappears from GooTube):

Media in (Continuing, Accelerating?) Transition

Boston.
We're now in the last plenary here at MiT5 - a summary session drawing together the many threads of research and practice explored at this conference. Suzanne de Castell is the first contributor to this panel, and she notes the increasing fluidity of previously more solid cultural forms. We have moved beyond text as our primary mode of representation in multiple ways, and have left behind the cultural logics of print; this is challenging especially for the educational environment. Remix, in particular, with its various aspects of plagiarism, reappropriation, adaptation, and inspiration, is a particularly important issue for education to address; we must move far beyond cut'n'paste in our embrace of remix approaches, and education is going to be instrumental in this context. We must also pay particular attention to what is being held on to, and what is being left behind - Suzanne notes that much of the input into what are seen as valuable remix projects is still highly gendered and canonical, ignoring a significant number of other sources. The concept of remix itself must be adjusted by looking at the remixing practices and approaches in cultures other than the male-dominated Anglo 'high' culture. Knowledge is always situated, always accountable to its communities, and always under ongoing construction.

Web2.0 Critiques

Boston.
(I'm afraid I accidentally deleted a couple of comments here last night - please repost them if you can!)

It's the last day of MiT5, and we're in the first session of the day. Mary Madden from the Pew Center is the first speaker, on Socially-Driven Music Sharing and the Adoption of Participatory Media Applications. She notes that the term Web2.0 is imperfect but convenient for summarising many of the current developments in the online world. Tom O'Reilly defines Web2.0 as harnessing social effects; it may not be a revolution, but there have been important changes. We now need to think critically about how and why it emerged as a major force in the first place.

Produsing Culture: Implications of User-Led Content Creation

Boston.
My colleague Jean Burgess is the first presenter this morning at MiT5 - we have an all-QUT panel going this morning. She begins with a nod towards Andrew Keen's recent book The Cult of the Amateur, which provides an argument not based on a deep understanding of Web2.0, but is mainly a response to the increasing hype around Web2.0 (providing a kind of hysterical anti-hype which in itself still adds to the hype, though). Jean's own work on vernacular photography provides a more intelligent, nuanced look at some of the Web2.0 phenomena.

Some More Eyecandy from IssueCrawler

Hot on the heals of my research into blog coverage of the David Hicks case, some more of my IssueCrawler crawls have completed recently. Eventually (when a number of followp-up crawls I'm planning for the coming weeks also complete), I'll analyse them in some more detail, but for now, here are a few preliminary observations. Larger images of the network graphs are on Flickr; click the respective images to see them. I've also uploaded the interactive SVG graphs; you'll need the Adobe SVG viewer plugin in Internet Explorer to display them correctly...

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