Citizen Journalism

We live in the global society where even ordinary people can transmit information globally and anyone can report about anything that happened to anyone anywhere. As a fairly recent phenomenon, citizen journalism still causes confusion in terms of interpreting the term itself. I found a very helpful citation for understanding of the term. New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen (2008) said that: “when the people formerly known as the audience, employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism.” It would be also fair to say that it is hard to imagine such a significant development of citizen journalism without technological innovations. As I mentioned previously, MOJO goes hand in hand with technological advancement. Before only large media corporations had an exclusive and unique right to provide and disseminate information. However now, with the rise of the World Wide Web (as many would agree citizen  journalism can  be mostly found online on personal home pages, blogs, social networks and other web-related information that made citizen journalism possible to a larger extent) and with the development and proliferation of mobile market, the number of alternative media grows exponentially. Large media corporations and news agencies nevertheless are not going to give up the right for editorial news control, agenda setting and gatekeeping functions. At the same time, more and more mainstream news organizations come to realize that the first-hand video footage of the witness of any catastrophe or an accident can largely benefit and increase the value of the news report in terms of intensification of emotions, dramatization of events and speed and urgency that the message was delivered with and aired. It is important to repeat again that  the first reporters come from on-the-spot witnesses especially in the times of crisis and catastrophes. Most quoted examples of eye-witnessed testimonies are photos, texts, emails and videos submitted by the citizens from the locations: Iraq war, Tsunami in South Asia in 2004, hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2004, London bombings of the underground in June 2005 etc). But also an interesting example to be noted is collaboration between the largest Philippines broadcasting news corporation like ABS-CBN and its affiliates with citizens in order to cover the first automated national 2010 elections.  This example campaigned towards attaining honest and trustworthy elections, reminded me about the essence of professional journalism that appeared in the 20th century as an indissoluble part of democracy. And if in the reality of  corrupted journalism, numerous press, news and video releases, citizen journalists have a shot to create and sustain truly democratic society with a chance of proliferation of trustworthy and credible news , I will seriously consider a possibility of becoming one.

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The New Social Movements

Ecology and protection of environment, racial discrimination, gay rights, gender inequalities and feminism: for those who consider these issues of their primary concerns, for those groups of people who reject mainstream political ideologies, for those who are objecting to or campaigning against particular issues, who found themselves under the influence of political choices and who are eager to make a social change,  internet can be considered as a perfect platform that gives voice to everyone who has anything to say and who want to engage into political discussion and adopt political  do-it-yourself strategies.

As we know uses of internet range. For globally diffused new social movements the Internet has a great potential to create interactivity and participation for all the activists of any social movement in particular, to form a community and facilitate its mobilization, to give opportunity for the construction of knowledge and direction and management of political actions. Non-hierarchical and decentralized in its nature, Internet may remind a similar organizational structure of the new social movements, thus it facilitates equal participation in debate and decision-making process and as it was already mentioned above let everyone who is affected by political decisions voice their opinions regarding many different issues. It is a well-known fact that media functions as an effective tool for a state-control; it is even a better-known fact that the Internet gives people power to circumvent this control. Therefore, the new social movements, actively and effectively use it to produce and circulate the news at a very low-cost. Nevertheless, online participation is not only a great opportunity to by-pass traditional media and disseminate alternative media accounts and images of protest but also to a greater extent an effective mechanism for moving people to particular actions in the offline world. A good and a very well-known illustration which incorporated all the characteristic features of the new social movements listed above would be a ‘Battle of Seattle’; a mass protest campaigned against the Third Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle during November 1999. A movement that made a great use of alternative Internet websites (for example Indymedia, also known as Independent Media Centre) in order  to contrast alternative media reports, audio and video footage and images to those presented by the mainstream media  and to secure greater global awareness of the movement and gain wider global support.

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Mobile Journalism

I cannot help but wonder what is going to happen with the journalism in five or ten years from now. Who will be engaged in the process of news production? Who will be the reporters and from where people will read the news reports? I believe this question has crossed people’s minds ten or fifteen years ago as well, especially journalists’ minds. Could they possibly think of an opportunity to have news report done by a passerby with the help of one single gadget and then have it transmitted on the main broadcasting channels or all over the Internet? Nowadays one can build a career in professional or citizen journalism all because of the technological advancement that has transformed the whole perception of journalism. Although there is still a lot to take in, but undoubtedly, mobile journalism has a great potential. Everyone would agree that mastering the profession of journalist has become a lot easier in the era of MOJO. To put it crudely, anyone with a mobile phone camera can go all the way from being simply a witness to a reporter. In the reality of not very costly equipment (which happened to be possessed by almost everyone nowadays), free softwares, numerous applications and comprehensive materials available online about note-making, editing or uploading video or audio files to the Internet, increasing number of public wi-fi hotspots, anyone can become a journalist.

It is not just an exciting and thrilling experience, but it is also an opportunity to bypass and undermine the power of state-controlled media and give a way to alternative voices. Advancement in technologies goes hand in hand with the advancement of citizen journalism. Social media is already used as an additional source of information, and large bulks of user-generated content is used professionally nowadays. But here we are talking about the opportunity of having your name flashing on the screens of PCs, laptops or TVs owing to your first-hand footage uploaded to the Internet. This reality gives you the chance not simply to contribute to the journalism, but be a journalist yourself.

It is early days to predict the volume of change in journalism and to foretell when and whether a full transition to mobile journalism will take place. Perhaps, it might take a while to let a shift in people’s consciousness happen towards the idea of mobile journalism. But with ever-expanding mobile phones market all over the world MOJO has a great future.

 

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Is Internet really that emancipating?

New digital connectivity can seem as an amazing tool to eliminate mass illiteracy. With free-floating information on the internet, free access to it and, above all this, impressive development of the e-book industry, it seems that all conditions are being created for the intellectual flurry of the population. Internet owing to its emancipating nature, gives us greater freedom in terms of access, storage and transfer of the information. It is interesting to notice, how these practices (like transmitting, storing and creating the information) moved from the physical world of Universities to the online world of the Internet. Therefore, it is fair to assume that the walls of universities are not that impermeable as it might have seemed before. Thus, search engines may function as librarians who provide the information one requires. Unlike librarians in the universities though search engines are lacking in transparency.  However, immediate delivery of the results to the search query may dim user’s eyes with its convenience and successfully distract their attention from asking essential questions like: what are the criteria that will explain how search engine ranked the results. Many users stay unaware that the web site they are about to open was chosen out of thousands of others with the help of mathematical algorithm and not, let’s say, in terms of its academic relevance to a search query or that it was optimized in order to get a better ranking position or that it was even paid for.

And those who advocate democracy of knowledge and decentralized nature of information dissemination over the internet must be reminded that Internet, as originally American creation, largely draws global attention to American websites. The biggest search engine operators as Google, Yahoo and MSN are American. The biggest digital libraries projects that are known are also developed on the base of American Universities (University of Michigan, California, Stanford, and Cornell’s University). Globalization of the Internet, its English-language-centric nature and American dominance speaks about the Internet being biased. For other countries and nations it means unequal access to information. So in the context of colonization, standardization and commercialization of virtual and physical world by American culture, we can now speak not only about McDonaldization and Disneyization but also about Googleization of the society.

They say knowledge is power. However, even regarding virtual reality of the Internet, it is still up to elite (as businesses and government organizations) to decide what would be the quality of knowledge and the amount of power ordinary mortals like us can obtain.

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Micro blogging: pros and cons.

Micro blogging. This relatively recent web service functioning as broadcasting medium has gained popularity among the internet and mobile users over the last 5 or 6 years. The active users are starting to take it for granted and cannot imagine not having it. However, in the same line with some obvious advantages there are some things to be concerned of. It was very well put that micro blogging fame that spread so quickly internationally should be rather considered as a double-edged sword (Li Xing assistant editor-in-chief of China Daily, 2011).

Many netizens has acknowledged the ‘beauty’ of micro blogging. The advantages are obvious. It is a convenient and fast. It is a way to keep in touch with all of your friends sharing the information, thoughts, news, opinions, or leave your comments. However, there is a lot more things that one can say about micro blogging.  Many would agree that it has also become an essential platform for advertising and marketing. For companies micro blogs became a mine of customer’s complaints on its products, performance and services. For bigger industries customer satisfaction indeed plays an important role for maintaining company’s success and brand reputation. Therefore there are so many of them, who tap into the discussion that the netizens engage in, deal with their complaints and leave them satisfied. A good illustration of it would be an example of Japanese giant automaker corporation, Toyota that communicates with customers on Twitter. Large micro blog websites like Twitter, or in Chinese context as Sina Weibo is a brilliant opportunity to reach large number of users hence probable customers of the companies.

However, let’s not forget about another edge of the sword. With more people who engage in social media every day, the number of the users exposed to false information and phony facts automatically grows.

Another alarming thing about the phenomenon of micro blogging, that even though it allows to reduce the distance between the ordinary citizens and public personas (actors, artists, singers or even government officials) it also manages to increase the distance between user’s close surrounding. Even when face-to-face encounters actually take place some ‘heavy’ users of micro blogs forget to switch to the offline mode and stay ‘wired’. In other words, messages are transmitted not by means of verbal and non-verbal communication, but communication can occur strictly by means of blogging.  Maintenance of social networks via internet and mobile phones can lock people in to internet access as a key social tool.

Everyday life experience is now powerfully affected by technology. Generally speaking, much of decline in face to face communication has arisen from one technological change to another.  I do not suggest that social networking has a direct threat to extinction of face-to -face communication as we know it; however it is important to stay conscious as the number of users who remain continuously connected to the online world grows exponentially.

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