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Citizen Participation and Technology
OhmyNews International Citizen Reporters' Forum: Session 1
Gregory Daigle (gdaigle)     Print Article 
Published 2006-07-13 22:47 (KST)   
VOD[Session 1] Citizen Participation and Technology / OhmyTV


After Dan Gillmor's invigorating keynote, Amit Asaravaia of Techsoup.org introduced the speakers for Session One: Citizen Participation and Technology.

They are: Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.org, J.D. Lasica, founder of Ourmedia.org and Bryan Nunez, Technology Manager of Witness.org. And as Amit reminded the audience, it's not about the technology but about designing the future.

Craig Newmark

Craig believes that their approach is a very simple one -- and simple is good. Call it Web 0.1 rather than 2.0! Craigslist is primarily a classified ads and discussion board. Yes, it helps people but he personally believes that what's also important is the work being doing for international citizen reporting. Citizen reports help add power to speech.

The changing media landscape is a whirlwind. Lately it's been a marketplace in the ancient sense that it's chaotic, unruly and vividly human. But the landscape also provides a community service run by the people who use it.

As the people at Craigslist run their site they are talking to people all the time. Craig finds that people are generally trustworthy. Sure, there are scammers and harassers of all sorts but mostly people are good.

Craig Newmark and J.D. Lasica
©2006 Greg Daigle
He's also learned that the wisdom of crowds is set against the "tragedy of the commons." That is, the collective conscience of the Internet more than makes up for the abuse that people can bring to a site. So it does require some managing, tending and general watchfulness, just as any genuine democracy would.

There will always be disinformation gangs who use the technology to stage smear campaigns or whisper campaigns. But one singular and incorrect viewpoint never endures on the Internet. Multiple voices make corrections over time resulting in a history that is written by more than just the "victors".

Craig's involvement at today's conference is for himself, not Craigslist. He says that he wants other people to change the world, since they are witness to the many events of the world. Or, he says, he could just be lazy! We don't think so ...

He believes that you need people to speak the truth to empower them. That's important when professional journalists such as Edward R. Murrow risked their careers to tell the truth. Today the risk is just as high. At the same time the professional journalism industry has become a somewhat dulled sword. It is Comedy Central's The Daily Show which is becoming the most trusted news on television, which was forecast by Oscar Wilde who said, "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you."

Craig mentioned several specific efforts in citizen journalism:

  • www.citmedia.org, the Center for Citizen Media) on the state of the art
  • www.daylife.com, a news/trust aggregator built on trustworthy news
  • Sourcewatch 's Congresspedia (a project of the Center for Media and Democracy)

    He also mentioned that the BBC does have a nonprofit effort in training citizen journalists around the world. The BBC wants journalists and any interested people should contact Craig.

    J.D. Lasica

    J.D. contrasts citizen's media with legacy (traditional) media, which is top-down, one-way, centralized, closed, imperious and heavily filtered. In other words something done to you, not for you.

    Ourmedia is a 15 month old nonprofit open source media project. At Ourmedia people can post their media (photos, reports, video, audio) for others to see, hear or read. As an international platform for the global community it has only 20% of its members located in the U.S. Partners include Internet Archives, SFSU and others. Currently there are 110,000 members and 80 moderators from 14 countries involved.

    Their efforts also include a Personal Media Learning Center (launched in mid June of this year) where you can go to find how to use media tools such as video recorders, video editors, audio recorders, podcasts, etc. It also addresses issues of copyright and usage.

    Citizen media is part of a larger personal media revolution including OhmyNews, Wikipedia.org, Myspace, YouTube, Flicker, NowPublic, IndyMedia, Slashdot, Metafilter, KuroShin, Baristanet, Backfence and blog platforms: Sixapart, Wordpress, Glogger and others.

    What is the dichotomy between traditional media and citizen's media?:

    Traditional media gives lecture while citizen's media promotes conversations.

    Traditional media assumes passive consumers while citizen's media empowers users.

    Traditional media is one to many while citizen's media is many to many.

    Traditional media is corporate/autocratic while citizen's media is democratic & collaborative.

    Traditional media is composed of elite professionals while citizen's media is consumer driven.

    Playing nice with others is important since interoperability is key! The Open Media Coalition has forty different programmers combining coming together to create interoperability and sharing resources between different citizen sites. These new standards include xm, media RSS, open APIs, metadata and more.

    Ourmedia wants people to partner with them, showcasing compelling citizen's media content from partner sites on their front page. You can search for media by topic, group, top media, page views, comments and channels.

    One of their partners featuring "bottom-up" film translations is Dotsub.com. At dotSUB you put up any video you may have and others will translate it into other languages. For example, from English to Portuguese. If you are proficient in the originating language and others you can translate it into another language yourself. Right now they offer the choice of translating video into any of 200 languages.

    You can go there to try it out yourself and try creating translations in your own language.
    log in: ohmy
    password: news
    Bryan Nunez

    Winess.org is a human rights organization based in the U.S. Theirs is a human rights perspective but one that employs technology rather than having technology as their focus.

    Bryan Nunez and moderator Amit Asaravala
    ©2006 Greg Daigle
    Witness.org's current model is to equip and train other human rights organizations on the ground with video equipment to capture and document human rights violations. Their first operational model was to establish a few core partners with whom to work and provide strategic guidance in addition to equipment, training and periodic assessments of success and impacts.

    Another model they've more recently employed is "seeding video advocacy" where they address a wider audience than is accessible through the few core partners. They seed communities seeking social justice with ubiquitous technologies such as video cameras (in their various forms). This, in turn, has increased the expectations of various groups as to the beneficial impact of their work.

    On their home page they employ their "Rights Alerts" which are calls to action and video alerts done in partnerships with groups such as Democracy in Action. Such groups provide extended services, such as hosting their petitions, allowing users to sign petitions or write to local representatives via fax or email.

    A new effort, not yet launched, is their Human Rights Video "HUB". The HUB is a complement to the existing WITNESS models. Just as they progressed from core partnerships to seeds in order to cast a wider net, this is a third provision of services. With the HUB they seek to help users create mobile content (employing Web 2.0 technologies) for those who do not have access. To do this they seek greater mobile access for people in the global southern hemisphere. They are looking to social networking and content aggregation by utilizing existing Web sites. Better to use what exists now rather than reinvent it.

    There are definite concerns, such as maintaining human rights standards and securing protection from governments through privacy implementations. Anonymity provides protection against potential dangers, so any technologies that provide anonymity can help prevent unwarranted persecution.

    HUB will be partnering with other groups, including Global Voices online and OneWorldTV to provide greater exposure for their submissions. Because the video may require translation for a larger audience they are working with dotSUB and babel.org to arrange for translation services. In addition, they are working with www.transmission.cc, a group of video makers, programmers and web producers developing online video distribution standards as a tool for social justice and media democracy.
  • Gregory Daigle is a consultant in social technologies and e-learning and has been a professor of industrial design. His articles and blog are at The Unlit Pipe.
    ©2006 OhmyNews
    Other articles by reporter Gregory Daigle

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