Citizen Journalism – The Debate

This week in DIGC202 we looked at how Web 2.0 and ‘New Media’ have impacted the field of  journalism, specifically focusing on the rise of citizen journalism.

Bruns (2009, pg 2) states that ‘conventional models of media production, distribution, and consumption are no longer relevant’ due to our networked society and the many-to-many information flows that can now occur.  This has resulted in what Bruns describes as a ‘more equitable media environment’ as we all have the ability to send and receive information, which is the driving force behind the rise in citizen journalism and the movement away from the traditional gatekeepers of modern media conglomerates.

Citizen journalists utilise social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogging sites such as WordPress.com, to create and publish news content.

Debates about the value of citizen journalism surround the following opposing questions:

  • Does citizen journalism democratise news media and should the content created by citizen journalists be considered a valid news source?

OR

  • Does citizen journalism result in an excessive amount of inaccurate and improperly researched news reports of poor quality which clutter the Internet?

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FOR: Citizen Journalism is a valid form of journalism

The main arguments in favour of citizen journalism suggest that citizen journalism democratises news media as every person has the ability to disseminate news content.  Whilst traditional news media must consolidate reports to fit time restraints, and act as gatekeepers by deciding which stories to print, there are few restrictions on citizen journalisms; this allows citizens to have access to a wide variety of news stories, each contributing a small part to our overall understanding of a news event.  In addition, it is argued that citizen journalists hold traditional news outlets accountable. As Bruns (2009, pg 10) states,  citizen journalists have become ‘watchdogs for the mainstream media, identifying and correcting misunderstandings, misreporting, and misinformation’; he cites Singer (2008) who suggests that citizen journalism be considered ‘Estate 4.5’ .

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AGAINST: Citizen journalism is not “real” journalism

The arguments against citizen journalism centre on the perceived lack of quality and accuracy of citizen news reports.

Ron Steinman (2009), a critic of citizen journalism, claims that citizen journalists lack the training required to publish quality news content. He defends the notion of the traditional media  ‘gatekeeper’, suggesting that they serve an important function as they ‘impose standards that make for good journalism’. His views directly align with that of Keen (2007), who vehemently argues that amateur content producers are clogging up cyberspace with inaccurate and low quality material. Both Keen and Steinman believe that content creation should be left to the professionals. News-reporting was once considered a skill that required years of training; however, Web 2.0 has given billions of citizens the ability to imitate professional journalists without the code of ethics or the regulatory environment that official journalists must operate within.

So what do you think? Is Citizen Journalism Estate number 4.5?

Thanks for reading!

Katie

 

Academic references:

Bruns, A 2009, ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’, accessed 15/9/2012 via [http://produsage.org/files/News%20Blogs%20and%20Citizen%20Journalism.pdf]

Steinman, R 2009, ‘Citizen Journalism: A Recipe for Disaster’, accessed 15/9/2012 via [http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0912/citizen-journalism-a-recipe-for-disaster.html]

Keen, A 2007, ‘The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values’, Broadway Books

Image sourced from here.

Week 9 Blog: Earth to Google!

La Perouse Sydney

GE screenshot of Bare Island - Blue icons are Panaramio Photos

This week’s article by Munster (2008) discusses ‘Google Earth‘ (GE), a revolutionary program in Google’s forever expanding artillery of internet products.  GE  allows users to ‘travel the world through a virtual globe and view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, and much more’ (Google Earth 2010).

Munster (2008) considers whether GE can be viewed as ‘sociable media’, identifying that whilst using the program is a solitary process which distinguishes it from sites such as Friendster, the social aspect of GE  ‘resides elsewhere and adjacent to the virtual globe’ (pg  131). The community can be found on the online Google Earth Community site, as well as on unofficial sites such as Google Earth Hacks (Munster 2008).

Unlike Munster, I believe GE is a form of sociable media due to a few capabilities it possesses. Zoning in on my local area, I noticed that clicking a logo over the hospital leads to an excerpt from the hospital’s Wikipedia page; similarly, the local sports club has a logo which leads to an excerpt from its Yellow Pages business listing. Most striking, however, is the ability for users to upload photos – after creating a ‘Panaramio’ account, I decided to upload a picture that I took at La Perouse and  mark its location on the satellite images. Once my image has been reviewed, it will appear on the GE program. I would consider this ‘folksonomy’ as there is the ‘user-generated tagging of content’ (Warschauer and Grimes 2007, pg 2). I think that this strengthens the argument that GE is a form of social network; tagging functions provide a link between the separate GE community and the actual GE globe, ensuring that the social aspect of the program is not necessarily removed from its visual environment.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Munster, Anna (2008), ‘Welcome to Google Earth’, Critical Digitial Studies: A Reader, eds Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, pp. 398-416

Warschauer, Mark and Grimes, Douglas (2007) ‘Audience, Authorship and Artefact: The Emergent Semiotics of Web 2.0,’ Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol 27, pp. 1-23)

Google Earth 2010, ‘About Google Earth: What is Google Earth?, accessed 18/9/2010 via http://earth.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=176145

Image is a screenshot from Google Earth

Week 3 Blog: Social Research with New Media Technologies

Survey

This article by Murthy (2008) focuses on ethnography and the reluctance of academics to utilise the internet and technological methods of research to gather information and data for analysis.  I agree with Murthy’s conclusion that a combination of digital research methods and traditional, physical ethnography is necessary to achieve a balanced, comprehensive study.

Murthy’s article links with the Warschauer and Grimes (2007) article as it explores how the affordances of Web 2.0, specifically online questionnaires, digital video, social networking sites and blogs, provide amazing potential for ethnographers.  Murthy indicates that offline questionnaires were an ‘extremely costly and labour intensive affair’ (2008, pg 842); however, Web 2.0 allows researchers to easily construct polls and analyse associated data, and users to complete these polls without difficulty. Social networking websites give researchers greater access to suitable respondents and the ability to ‘invisibly observe the social interactions of page members’ (Murthy 2008, pg 845).  Blogs provide a platform for researchers and respondents to engage in communication, and digital video allows researchers to gather video data and to upload and embed videos into their blogs.

The potential that these technologies provide social researchers is great; however, I agree with Murthy that they should be used with caution.  Ethical issues such as lurking (2008, pg 840) and the use of the words of Internet users without their permission (2008, pg 845) must be addressed. In addition, the Internet does not represent an accurate stratification of society – a divide exists due to differences in internet accessibility, disabilities, language barriers and age (2008, pg 848).  This further strengthens the notion that digital and physical ethnography used simultaneously would result in more meaningful social research.

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Murthy, Dhiraj 2008, ‘Digital Ethnography: An Examination of the Use of New Technologies for Social Research’, Sociology, vol 42, no 5, pp.837-855.

Warschauer, Mark and Grimes, Douglas (2007) ‘Audience, Authorship and Artefact: The Emergent Semiotics of Web 2.0,’ Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol 27, pp. 1-23)

Imaged sourced from http://www.axiom-mr.com/online-surveys/

Week 2 Blog: A Generational Change – Communicating with Web 2.0

Social Networking

Web 2.0 has introduced new concepts of audience, authorship and artefact, characterised by heightened levels of participation, collaboration and accessibility to publishing functions. This week’s article by Warschauer and Grimes (2007) analyses this transformation, focusing on blogs, wikis and social networking sites in order to demonstrate how our understanding of the Web has been altered.

I found the focus on social networking sites interesting, including how the Web has transformed from an individual publishing focus with limited sharing and collaboration, to a massive web of communication, information, resources and, most importantly, people. This suggests that the new generation of the Web is ‘no longer about the technologies per se but about the communities that have grown up around them’ (Jenkins 2007).

The major changes include the ease of usage and participation and the ‘semiotics of ranking and tagging mechanisms’ (Warschauer et al 2007, pg 14). Web 2.0 enables users to easily engage in social interaction with each other. Sites such as YouTube, FanFiction.net and Flickr allow users to easily upload and share content. Harnessing the functions of ranking of tagging, these sites can statistically analyse ranked data, affecting the content which is displayed on the site. This is, in part, what the article means when it refers to ‘emergent semiotics’ – the meaning of the website is influenced by filtering and the input of the community.

Such a networked Web has positive implications for education. If harnessed correctly, we can create a knowledge community because ‘What we cannot know or do on our own, we may now be able to do collectively.’ (Jenkins 2006, pg 27)

– Katie Challita 3663620

References:

Warschauer, Mark and Grimes, Douglas (2007) ‘Audience, Authorship and Artefact: The Emergent Semiotics of Web 2.0,’ Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol 27, pp. 1-23)

Jenkins, Henry  (2007) ‘From YouTube to YouNiversity.’ The Chronicle of Higher Education 53.24 (2007). Academic OneFile. Web. 6 Aug. 2010.

Jenkins, Henry (2006) ‘Convergence culture: where old and new media collide’, NYU Press, accessed 5/8/2010 via Google Books

Image sourced from http://www.smallbusinessbranding.com/1178/how-to-mine-social-conversations/