We the Journalists

July 26th, 2007
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”’We the Journalists”’

For the longest time, a degree and a job at a private organization have determined whether or not you are fit to tell others of the events of the world around us. Anderson Cooper certainly is qualified. He’s done amazing stories under CNN, made all the more great once a flashy logo and banner were added. Here’s the thing though, all those news outlets (CNN, New York Times, FOX, MSNBC, ABC, to name a few) are private businesses. This essentially means that they control what gets released. The Fox news network is probably the worst offender of this. Anyone who watches Fox news can clearly see a biased spin to their stories, to the point that the network is constantly ridiculed by its peers and sites such as foxattacks.com (whose tagline is “they distort, we reply”)[http://foxattacks.com/] are spawned to counteract the bias that is portrayed in the news. Foxattacks.com is set up to document all the instances of misrepresentation of facts and slander found on Fox news while also petitioning to get advertisers to pull their commercial support for Fox.
The very realization that such a thing can be set up to hold news organizations accountable of the truth is amazing. With the advent of the printing press, ideas were able to be widely circulated more quickly. This has only increased exponentially through time with the radio, television and even greater, the internet. Now, anyone can go online and start a blog, essentially becoming their own publisher and posting their own view of the world around them without fear of an editor or board of trustees. This is the cultural counteraction to news known as citizen journalism.
Citizen journalism, otherwise known as “participatory journalism” or “people journalism” is, according to Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, authors of We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, the act of citizens “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.”[http://www.hypergene.net/wemedia/download/we_media.pdf]
The content is produced by private citizens who are not professional journalists. This can include participating in comment discussion on news articles, posting of personal blogs, capturing images or video and posting them, starting a podcast…the list goes on.
Blogs are particularly interesting because, as stated before, anyone can start one as it is such an easy thing to do. Many sites provide free blog pages, so rather than buy a domain name any person can register with the site and have their blog posted for the world to see. Our traditional mass media outlets have even realized the growing popularity of independent media outlets like blogs and have begun to fashion their news to be more publicly interactive. For instance, CNN has an i-report section on their website in which citizens can upload their own videos of related interest to current national news stories or significant local stories. By including this raw footage, CNN gets more of a “on the scene” feel as opposed to the previous “our reporter arrived 5 minutes too late and is standing outside a police barricade shooting video of a blank wall”. Take the recent Virginia Tech tragedy: student Jamal Albarghouti was able to capture sound of the shots fired by the gunman with his camera phone. This was uploaded into the i-report and widely played by the news channel. The footage is still available in archive and can be more easily found on youtube.
The i-report feature on CNN is a good example of hyperlocal journalism, which is the coverage of community news often overlooked by mass media as we know it. While the Virginia Tech footage is definitely a poor example of this, being the event of international interest that it was, the initial meaning of the i-report is still there. Still another example of this mass media surge for hyperlocal journalism can be found in a recent article for the Washington Post in which it was announced that the Post would be launching Loudonextra.com, a site “combining traditional reporters and photographers with bloggers, videographers and extensive databases on schools, businesses and churches.”[http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/15/AR2007071500648.html?sub=new]
Though citizen journalism can be used to respond to public neglect from mass media, problems occur for the same reason that makes citizen journalism such a great thing, there’s just too much freedom. While some outlets or bloggers may dedicate themselves to holding onto objectivity (“fair and balanced” in the real sense of the phrase), the general population is very opinion based and therefore biased in what gets posted on the web. This is a good example of what I call Bathroom Stall journalism, which is basically a very strong opinion posted on the internet with little or no research behind it, much like the drivel you would find inked in a public bathroom stall. “John is a faggot”. Sometimes the points made on the internet are no more intelligent than that common deduction so often seen in a typical high school bathroom. Don’t believe me? Check any message board on youtube. Discussions on blogs can be just as notorious: a heated political debate can oftentimes turn into snide comments about the others manhood or calling their sexuality into question.
This, I’m sure, is a big reason for civic journalists distrust in reports made by citizens. Certainly, too much trash news is not good news at all and only creates confusion. There are ways around that though. Following in wikipedia’s example is a good way to start. The whole encyclopedia is edited by the community that contributes to it, so for every one person that tarnishes what the community has built, there are thousands of others to clean it up.
Other ideas for solutions are not as easily seen, unfortunately. One of the biggest things that divide a civic journalist from a citizen journalist is the ruling from the Branzburg v Hayes trial of 1972[http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1971/1971_70_85/], which called into question whether a reporter was protected from appearing and testifying in court, should such an act disclose identities of confidential sources. It was decided that it was not a requirement, and as a result there are shield laws set up in over thirty states to protect reporters.
The problem here arises when you give the power for everyone to be a reporter. As slow moving as our judicial system already is, it would move even slower if every witness refused to give testimony by hiding under a shield law. I’m not sure what the solution to this would be, but for now it is a very definite wedge that separates citizen from civic journalists.
The internet has provided a loud voice for civic journalism despite its small flaws and, seeing the growth and prominence it has attained, may provide a way for mass media to be reformed should it continue to be absorbed by news organizations as it has been. This may in turn provide a way for these organizations to reform the internet, making a sort of symbiotic relationship whose idea would make Licklider proud.

Youtube and CNN: Making TV Interactive

July 24th, 2007
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So, we watched the Democratic debate hosted by CNN and Youtube streamed LIVE over the internet. Candidates were asked questions from Americans via video uploaded onto Youtube. Entrants were allowed to create a video under 30 seconds in length which could pose a question to a specific candidate or the whole group. An added kick was that the entrants could personalize the video in true Youtube culture fashion: the result of which were the standard webcam video of the questioner or even a more creative approach of song or animation. One such question was and animation of a snowman that was used to kick off the debate on global warming…which I thought was actually counterproductive in that it took what should have been a serious subject and made it seem more trivial (didn’t Kucinich yell something about making sure our snowmen had a future?). I stray though…this debate allowed for Americans to pose questions to candidates without having to travel to South Carolina. Being able to actually personalize your questions was a huge step as well. If someone had handed me a microphone to ask a candidate a question and I pulled out a guitar and started singing, officials would have grabbed it back, broken my guitar and shown me the door. With youtube, this sort of thing was ENCOURAGED and because of it, I’ll bet people watching will remember the questions because of their personality and the answers it received. There was one video in particular where the questioner was able to point out the flags of his grandfather, father and oldest son that had lain on their coffins before asking what the candidates were going to do to insure that his youngest son wouldn’t have to die in war. This makes questions that much more powerful and, once again, memorable.

More Final Project Analysis

July 10th, 2007
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Alright…so, talked to Dr. C about my project and decided it would probably be best if CCTV were dumped from the list. This leaves blogging and citizen journalism together, and those two mesh rather well so I think this project has gotten less hectic. I found new sources in Technorati.com and was told to see what wikipedia has to say about citizen journalism in general. I guess I really just have to build out what I want this project to answer and make it…well…inspiring so that I’m not staring at my computer with a blank look and hating every minute I spend working.

Last night was probably one of the most interesting discussions we’ve had, and we left on many tangents. From the quote “faked interaction can be an annoyance” we went off on several tangents, one of which being if ignorance was really bliss. We also talked about the best way to receive information, be it in bite-sized pieces or large chunks that leave room for more questions to be asked. This was all very opinion-based and it seems like both ways work rather well, it just depends on how they’re presented. This actually seems to be the case with a lot of arguments.l..two sides think of two different ways to approach a problem and it turns out both are right in their own context, yet wrong when being applied to other things. It’s odd that we seem to always want to try to find one “right” answer to a problem when there is usually more than one right way to solve the problem. Each side never seems to be happy unless their way is used in its totality, so compromise is never reached. Not that compromise should be reached, because that leaves room to throw out bits of the solution…there should just be a way to accept answers where applicable. This all feels rather jumbled in my head so I’ll leave it at that for now…which is actually an easy cop out of pursuing a subject more but the whole thing really frustrates me.

Figuring Out This Final Project Thingy

July 9th, 2007
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Let’s see….looking at my notes now…there isn’t much on there for me to write about. I’m seeing a doodle of a mouse, a mushroom, the mad hatter and the march hair with the phrase “Feed Your Head!” floating above the mouse.  Seeing as that’s that, today’s blog will be brainstorming for the final project.

So here’s what this bad boy seems to be encompassing: Closed-Circuit Television, citizen journalism and blogs. The CCTV is probably going to be the most difficult to tie into my other two topics, seeing as only the proper authorities can view it and a citizen is going to have a rough time getting hold of the kind of visual information captured by CCTV cameras. Citizen journalism and blogs are easy to tie together since they pretty much go hand in hand. CNN and MSNBC have blog portions to their websites (as I’m sure all network news does) and journalists even seem to be turning to credible looking blogs to use as sources. It would probably be pretty easy to set up some sort of blog page with images and video I had captured. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be breaking any important news over the web, seeing as I never seem to find myself in the wrong place at the right time (I’m not complaining). I could even do faux news as an example or find something to do a citizen report on around Fredericksburg (News Flash: Beverage Served Mildly Hot at Best at Local Coffee Shop). The only way I can see tying CCTV into the other two is if I do an informational blog to the pluses of CCTV and the minuses of Big Brother watching you, always. All three topics are pretty damn important to new media, seeing as CCTV opens up a way to solve crimes faster (somebody gets murdered, watch an instant replay) yet also comes at a time when digital manipulation is getting better and better. Hmmm…the same actually goes for citizen journalism. Cameras at the scene provide a more personal view of breaking news when compared to the sterile camera work of news stations that arrive later after the matter, but also opens up the door for manipulation to take place without nosy editors poking in and interfering. Credibility of these sources is attacked in this way. Then again, what really makes “the news” more credible than what we can produce without them? A big fat paycheck, that’s what. Next to that, nothing.

This even got me thinking that these more personal accounts open up more bias to reports, seeing as everyone has their own opinion on matters……this is getting more and more complicated.


My Vacuum Isn’t Speaking to Me Right Now

July 4th, 2007
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So we talked briefly on giving emotions to machines. For instance, making a vacuum afraid to go near stairs for fear of falling down them. I thought that was a cool idea till I imagined my vacuum screaming bloody murder that one fateful day it fell down the stairs. Then what if it thought I wasn’t meeting its emotional needs? Would I wake up one morning and find a note on my pillow saying, “Goodbye, I’m sucking on someone else’s rugs now.” ? Running to the door, I’d see it swaying open in the breeze and the truth would hit me: my vacuum is gone, gone forever. Falling to my knees I’d weep with my head in my hands. I’d then call my vacuum every day and leave sobbing messages asking for it to come back. It would ignore me for a while, but then eventually would realize I wasn’t really that bad and come zipping right back. Yeah, yeah….that’s how it would happen.

Anyhow, that whole discussion on man/computer interaction opened a whole new door in my brain. Not only did it make me realize that Star Wars really must have taken place along time ago…considering they were still mashing buttons WITH THEIR FINGERS to set off their planet-destroying death ray rather than just telling the central computer to ignite those suckers on Alderaan. Do you even remember the computers on that damn thing?? Not only was their search engine miserable (they had to plug a damn robot into the wall trying to look up the princess….I mean, come on!), but it took R2 like…5 minutes just to turn off all trash compactors on the detention level. My shoe has faster processing speed than that!

After reading Poincaré’s thoughts on creativity, I found it interesting how it could mesh with Licklider’s thoughts on Man-computer symbiosis. For instance, when describing his journey on Fuchsian functions, he notes a particular amount of mathematical work that had to be done following a moment of inspiration. Licklider, at the beginning of his article on symbiosis, notes that the development of man-computer symbiosis will have men setting the goals, formulating hypotheses, determining the criteria, and performing the evaluations while computers did all the “routinizable work that must be done to prepare the way for insights and decisions in technical and scientific thinking.”(74).

Time being the huge factor for man, seeing as we don’t have much of it, it’s incredible to think about the advances that could be made if we came up with an idea, had a computer run the complex, scientific processes (seeing as they seem prone to make less mistakes in logistics), and then viewed the results of those processes to determine the next route to take if that particular idea didn’t mesh out. How much time would be saved in research and how many advances could one great mind make in a lifetime with enhanced interaction with a computer? The thought is astounding.

True Love

White people + religious tolerance + smallpox – Indians = America

July 2nd, 2007
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As a designer I am supposed to communicate, visually, a message. Be it to get the general population to buy a certain brand of soap, navigate easily to a news article or bring down the government with a series of well placed, ingenious posters. That’s why I’m in school right now, that’s why I give Belmont University over $20,000 a year and that’s why I am a bootstrapping young man. As far as the institution of education goes anyway…I’m learning to be a better designer, finding different ways to solve problems with the tools I’m given (pen, paper, x-acto knife, photoshop), perhaps by even creating my own device or using the standard tools in an unconventional way. This whole concept didn’t really fly too well with me my first semester at school…I slacked off a lot and had a 2.5 GPA, which really blew. Eventually I realized I was an idiot and got my act together, struggling through typography, grids, hierarchy, the adobe suite and illustration until I finally Grokked everything during an all-nighter which began with me as a frustrated mess but ended with a stroke of genius and then a long nap. I became a better learner and began to look at projects differently instead of being pissed off that we were getting such stupid assignments. I didn’t realize these things at the time, but the last few class discussions have thrown my subject into a new light. I’m very taken in particular to the “all creativity can be understood as taking in the world as a problem” quote. The whole idea of being inspired by a problem is really…for lack of a better word….cool. It is damn cool. Rather than letting the problem own and dissuade you, make it your muse. So yeah. That’s how I’ve figured I’m related to the web 2.0.

Ah yeah, until class tonight, I had rather thought of the computer as no more than a very creative toaster. Thinking about it in a new light, as something malleable and able to become anything I want, I’m very curious as to if it will finally start going in the direction Engelbart originally thought it out to be.

Also, Dr. C’s idea of a system being unable to be made without some sort of flaw got me thinking a lot about my previous post of wanting to destroy the internet as it is now. I hereby retract that statement. Unless mankind somehow figures out how to not be mankind, the systems we put in order will continue to imitate our behavior. I’m sure our founding father’s had a very different America in mind than what we have today at the end of the Revolution. No doubt the colonials had a different idea of what their new country would be and going back further, I’m sure the Native Americans never suspected a few white people would eventually turn into gifts of blankets coated in smallpox. These odd sort of things just happen, nothing seems to ever turn out exactly as it was intended. The world and, getting bigger, universe is a constantly changing being. Perfection is a ways off.

2 hours before 4th class and spanking out my 2nd blog

July 2nd, 2007
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Sooo last class we spent a lot of time talking about time and how humanity responds to it since it is our inevitable fate to grow old, have young people think you suck and smell bad, and then die. First of all, young people, when I was your age we respected our elders…or stuck it to them because they were the man. One of those. Anywho, the greatest revenge for old people is when arrogant young whippersnappers themselves pass through the threshold of youth and into their golden years. Which in itself is a weird term. “Golden years”: When you have to take pills everyday to hang on for a few more years and all your friends start dying. Depressing. Gray years. Dammit. Moving on…

Yes, we talked about the problem with time. Our society is built on thousands of years worth of information that has been passed on through writing, song and interpretive. More recently, we have hung up our tap shoes and pens in favor of bowing down in glory to the internet: man’s fanciest new way of storing information. Through this we also talked about how many specializations there are and how because of this, even with something like the internet, communication is dwindling between people, as they are less likely to talk to someone from another specialty. This goes back to the previous class where we talked about how human innovation moves forward when the creative and the logic intertwine.

Somewhere along this line we started talking about how we (mankind) would be able to create something to take the internet to the next level of where Engelbart believes it should be right now. Seeing as, from Dr. C’s comments, Engelbart seemed disappointed by the internet and how flooded it is with…how should I say….crap, the idea of creation from destruction popped into my head. I can’t take that any further just yet, but I thought it might be interesting if there were someway to blow up the internet and build it right. Filter out the BS and all that.

A Blog for all Occasions

June 27th, 2007
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So…when it comes to blogging I am rather like my sister. I’m still pretty new to this whole “write down your thoughts for everyone to see” thing. I’ve got a myspace account which allows me to blog as well, but so far in the last 3 years that I’ve had my account I’ve written probably six blogs. Most of my writing style revolves around being sarcastic, so most of what I have to say is a running commentary of whatever annoys me enough to write.

Class was interesting last night. I was afraid for a while that the course would be lecture based, which boded poorly for me as I am known to stealth nap in such classes. Fortunately, it turned out to be very discussion based….nay, engaging discussion based, so I’m thinking that this will be a better month than I mapped it out to be.

In particular, I liked our whole tangent we broke off on with the “all creativity can be understood as taking in the world as a problem” quote. I did not think much of the quote until the discussion was opened up, but then found myself rather pleased at how much could be said about such a short sentence. It made me think in particular about my design major and how I’m often faced with an uninteresting project. Mostly I get frustrated and produce a half-assed solution which just barely gets me by. The discussion in class opened up the possibility of fixing the problem of the uninteresting project by making said problem inspiring. So simple! Unfortunately, the number of solutions available are many, so that produces a whole new obstacle to be overcome.

I also liked the idea of the braided path and intertwining creativity and logic to solve a problem. So much of our society functions on the idea that there is only one way to solve a problem. When two different groups have two separate ideas on how something should be solved, say democrats and republicans for instance, they seem to be too stubborn to work as a team and mesh their ideas, rather opting to clash violently and bring everyone else down with them. This is basic stuff we learned in kindergarten, people! Share your ideas, work as a team, stop fighting and eat your damn snacks!


For Real

June 26th, 2007
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I swear I have a blog! I swear!