Tuesday 10 August 2010

MED104 - 3.2 Networks of information: blogging, citizen journalism & collective intelligence

Melissa Wall, (2005). Blogs of war: weblogs as news. Journalism 6 (2), 153-72. (Electronic databases)
Wall analyses the cultural conditions that gave rise to blogging, situates it with regard to “old media” and then analyses the ways in which blogs reconfigure journalistic discourse, specifically in relation to blog coverage of the Iraq war.
Gordon, J. (2007). The mobile phone and the public sphere: mobile phone usage in three critical situations. Convergence 13(3), 307-319. (electronic databases)

This week's readings examined the emergence of blogging in relation to traditional journalism. As discussed last week, traditional journalism practices have evolved over the last century, from detached and neutral reporting of facts in a basic manner in the early 20th century to a writing style that imitated fiction and included character, scene and dialogue around the 1960's, to a focus on entertainment toward the end of the 20th century. This was largely due to an increasing concentration of ownership which has resulted in the majority of today's news being controlled by a relatively small number of extremely large corporations whose major focus is profit.

Blogging emerged in the late 20th century but didn't really achieve great popularity until weblog services such as Blogger emerged, which allowed anybody to become a content creator without any technical capabilities. In the words of Rebecca Blood in 2002 "Blogs allow ordinary people to become content creators, able to publish and potentially globally distribute their writing" (The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. Cambridge, MA: Perseus).

In my mind (and as discussed in last week's entry) blogging presents an alternative to traditional journalism but I don't really think it will replace it - actually, I think it enhances it. Traditional journalism is a passive medium aimed at the largest possible audience, and therefore the content is tailored in such a way as to appeal to the majority. Blogging is an active, two-way medium where the audience is encouraged to respond via comments, but much of the time it is simply re-presenting information that the mainstream media is using, in different ways. Bloggers don't have the spectre of corporate sponsorship hanging over their heads so they are not afraid to offend and don't need to try to neutralise information. Professional journalists are supposed to present news in a neutral fashion that ensures that both sides of the story are told - although this doesn't always happen these days! Bloggers, on the other hand, can present more personalised and opinionated views which often only tell one side of a story.

One area where blogging has proven to be useful is with regard to "citizen journalism" - times when ordinary, everyday people actually break news or present news that hasn't previously been presented by the mainstream media. The two readings used examples including the 2003 US-Iraq war, where bloggers from Iraq were blogging about the situation from the Iraqi side, and also the Chinese SARS outbreak (2003), the south-east Asian tsunami (December 2004) and the London bombings (July 2005), all events where bloggers provided sources of information, including images, that the mainstream media did not have. However, it was when the mainstream media took that information and broadcast it that the greatest media saturation occurred.

I tend to utilise a combination of traditional journalism including TV and newspapers, and a couple of blogs. These days I hear of most news via Twitter, which often links to either blogs or mainstream online news, and then I watch that news on the TV that night. I find blogs such as Crikey and Smartcompany to be interesting, because both include lots of opinions about what's happening in the mainstream media, and I also follow Mashable's Social Media Twitter stream so I can read blog articles that I find interesting from there. I can't really envisage a situation where I would ever rely on just one source of information, so having a combination works well for me.


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