Dangers to news reporting?

13 11 2013

This recent opinion post in The Australian titled “Lost in the Twitterverse” calls to mind the challenges of a world that can ‘talk back’ to media outlets, policy makers and politicians.

The author states that:

This mad plunge into social media-driven journalism would be mildly diverting if it wasn’t so dangerous to the future of news reporting. Hard-core media values – truth, accuracy, fairness, balance, perspective, objectivity – are being lost at precisely the wrong time, as the news media faces the challenges of falling revenue, distracted audiences and a loss of skilled practitioners. For newspapers, the danger is that many are abandoning their core mission in a democracy, bounding towards meaningless info-tainment and fleeting fashions.

What the author misses, is the fact that publics (the general public, advocacy groups, community groups) have always used any available means to comment about events and to ‘fact check’ information. In Goya’s day it was with illustrations. Where online ‘citizen journalism’ really took hold was in activist spheres, usually as a direct attempt to correct untruths and omissions made by news reports. There are many examples to refer to – refugee activism in Australia, the Arab spring, the  #occupy movement, Anonymous, Gezi Park, and, of course the big precursor to these events/actions – the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999.

A couple of years ago, I went to a Media140 event in Canberra and was quite amused at how journalists were trying to claim authority over social media tools, especially Twitter, as if they were gatekeepers to authoritative information. The truth is, they came late to the conversation and have been behind the game ever since.

I am not disputing other points in this post about journalists needing to connect with local communities face-to-face, that should be a given. For example, the author states:

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are wonderful tools for journalists and the industry as a whole in terms of marketing. They can be used to promote stories, maintain contacts with readers and pass the time on the bus for those with short attention spans. But social media is neither a substitute for reporting nor a reflection of what is important in our democracy. Those reporters who inhabit Twitter – we can think of a legion at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald – rather than getting out into the suburbs of our great cities and towns invariably get the pulse of the nation completely wrong. It’s a path to ruin.

Perhaps. Or maybe it is time for journalists to look at how communities use these tools, and why.  It is clear that connecting with local communities is what many advocacy groups do very well. One only has to look at the Bring David Hicks Home campaign on GetUp to see how grass roots community activism can illicit changes in attitudes and policy. It is worth stating too, that these activities are not designed as forms of journalism, they are designed to get the attention of journalists and policy decision makers to effect the desired changes.

People who source news online want credible and reliable information, which is why many people are looking further than the local newspaper to augment their knowledge of a topic. The real danger to news reporting is continuing to ignore the capability of Joe Average of being able to decipher what is ‘news’. Also social media ‘news gathering’ and citizen reporting is about the transparency of the information – making it more accessible and open.

Something this anonymous author fails to get.

Focusing writing energies

12 11 2013

I have just realised something! Over the last few months, I have been castigating myself for my lack of focus and discipline about writing, spending lots of time trying to find ways to improve the regularity and quality of my writing.  Today, I realised that I do write – and write regularly! But most of it is pointless in a way, beyond keeping in touch with friends and sharing information and commentary around topics.

What am I talking about? I am talking about my interaction of social media channels, especially Facebook and Twitter, where I love to share and discuss information around a broad range of topics.

What I realised is that if I stopped commenting and writing stuff on Facebook, I would probably have at least 500 words a day I could use for some other writing activity. But it is not that easy to do, conversational chit chat is not the same as trying to come up with writing that is both meaningful and elegant. I also enjoy the conversations had on social media and do not want to sacrifice that activity as it helps keep my mind active and in touch with friends and colleagues.

Anyway, it is good to know that I am writing, even if it is not quite what I am aiming for, it is a step in the right direction.


10 11 2013

I have been back home just over a week and trying to adjust to being back in Australia, back at work and trying to refocus my energies.

The garden is not too much of a job catching up, the mulching and weeding we did before we went away was effective, though as any garden, needs attention.

Our little cat Sooks (Genji) has not come home, which has changed the energy of the house somewhat, he is truly a member of our little family and his presence is sorely missed. When we travel and I get homesick, it was always for our little unit of four, thinking of sitting together, out the back on a beautiful Spring day.

Trying to refocus includes a desire to be more routine about writing, starting small, hoping that by regular attention to the practice of writing, that the writing will flow.

In all the blogs I follow is there a consistency about the writing, a discipline that I need to adopt. Writing regularly engages readers, which is the purpose of writing a blog after all.

The thing I love about writing for mediakult is that I can play across many professional and personal areas of interest: media, technology, environmental sustainability, arts, culture and ideas of place (which are also published on geokult.com).

I am also hoping that writing in this public context will help me with writing in a personal context, like as Virginia Woolf describes writing a diary as “a method of practicing or trying out the art of writing.”

Although the practice of writing sometimes frustrates me, it is also driving me in a way, there is a need to get better, to explore more, to learn as a writer. One thing is to learn balance, between the passive activity of writing and to be actively discovering new experiences and places.  Also, how to write while travelling, is a skill I would like to improve on. I have not yet perfected the art of regularly writing every day and I blogged very little on our last trip overseas, which was unusual compared to earlier journeys.

Being grounded I find is both a positive and negative thing – it gives you a chance to breathe, to take stock and clear one’s mind for fresh ideas and energy. On the other hand it can grind you, bringing you down by slipping into the repetitive routines and behaviours lived at home.

My little writing effort is to avoid that monotony one experiences about the every day grind, it is a chance to explore possibilities and think outside of the routine of working life.

Email newsletter available

2 06 2013

Over the weekend I put together a newsletter including some great articles that I found on Scoop.it The bytetime newlsletter covers many areas relevant to mediakult, including social media strategy, new tools, media art and the work of media artists.

For many people this is a more convenient way of keeping up-to date, which is why the newletter has been created.

This is the 1st edition

The plan is to publish one once a fortnight and they will be archived under news.

If you would like to register please let me know. Also, if you have received the newsletter in the first post and would like to unsubsxcribe, please contact me – apologies for the spam!

I hope you enjoy keeping up-to-date via this new channel.


New book!

2 04 2013

Thanks peeps from INC!


Hope the Unlike Us conference went well 🙂

“Unlike Us” conference and reader

14 03 2013

Are you over all the hype of social media networks like Facebook? Are you tired of reading all the delusional self marketing that goes on? Perhaps a bit jaded by all the cat memes? If so, and you are in Amsterdam, then you might like to get along to the third Unlike Us conference March 22 and 23, 2013 at TrouwAmsterdam.

Unlike Us #3 Mini Poster

Unlike Us #3 Mini Poster

Unlike us is a project that was conceived by Geert Lovink (Institute of Network Cultures/HvA, Amsterdam) and Korinna Patelis (Cyprus University of Technology, Lemasol), which is designed to “analyze the economic and cultural aspects of dominant social media platforms and to propagate the further development and proliferation of alternative, decentralized social media software.”

The project is supported by the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam, founded by Geert Lovink. You can check out more information on my earlier post Unlike Us: Understanding Social Media Monopolies and their Alternatives

To complement the conference,  Unlike Us will also be launching the first-ever Unlike Us Reader at the event. Here is some information about the reader:

Unlike Us #3 has “Social Media: Design or Decline” as its theme and will be centred around the following sub-themes: “Theory and Critique of the Social‚” “Are You Distributed? The Federated Web Show,” “Political Economy of Social Networks: Art & Practice‚” “Mobile Use of Social Media” and “Facebook Riot: Join or Decline.” Speakers include Bernard Stiegler (FR), George Danezis (UK), Reni Hofmüller (AT), Arvind Narayanan (US), Spideralex (ES), Benjamin Grosser (US), Tobias Leingruber (DE), Simona Lodi (IT), Hester Scheurwater (NL), Nathan Freitas (US), Marion Walton (ZA), Miriyam Aouragh (UK) and many more. Additionally, there will be a set of workshops: Facebook Resistance and the Social ID Bureau with Tobias Leingruber, and a ‘hackathon catalyst’—all held at the MediaLAB Amsterdam.

A full list of speakers, more information about the program and details on locations and tickets can be found here on the Unlike Us website: http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/unlikeus/3-amsterdam/ .

Gephi and making charts with Facebook data

13 03 2013

Last semester I signed up for a Social Network analysis course with coursera, which unfortunately I never had time to do. This semester, I have reenrolled and have been watching the lectures and starting to play with Gephi with my facebook data which has been fun.

I created this image of my  first visualization.

Gephi - My Facebook data

Gephi – My Facebook data

The big cluster or ‘connected components’ are mainly artists, writers, cultural workers and academics. The cluster up the top is all my Facebook friends based in Central Australia, mainly from Yuendumu. The smaller networks in the middle are friends from school, family and work. The colours refer to gender, green for male, blue for female and not defined is red. The size of the nodes represent the degrees of connection (the friend who has the most friends in common with me), which happened to be good friend  and writer Linda Carroli.

I also came across this link to an article discussing the top 20 data visualization tools which discusses some really cool looking tools and even the tried and true, like Excel.