If you live in the Illawarra, you would be more than familiar with this iconic event:
The demolition of the Port Kembla Stack was a significant moment for the Illawarra community and reflects the growing popularity of citizen journalism in today’s participatory culture. While extensive live coverage was offered by traditional news media outlets, the event was brought to life by the interactions of audiences who uploaded and shared their own photos and videos and engaged in Twitter conversations. This led to a public collective intelligence which provided real-time updates on the imminent demise of the Stack, interspersed with personal reflections and shared memories (not to mention many remixes and memes).
Citizen journalism has also proven to be an effective part of news gathering and dissemination during critical international events such as the Arab Spring, whereby conventional broadcasting mediums were banned and censored by powerful regimes. At the same time, however, this has created new challenges for mainstream media, with its focus on accuracy, regulations, professionalism, ethical standards and gatekeeping conflicting with citizen-generated content which emphasises immediacy. This can be seen in Reddit’s coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombings, with the site’s Find Boston Bombers thread wrongly accusing several people as suspects and leading to the harassment of innocent parties. Similarly, during the conflict in Syria, citizen journalists posted videos of rows of dead children lying in a mosque with bloody shorts and T-shirts. This highlights the implications of minimal top-down filtering, with sensitivity, privacy and ethical standards all at risk.
The advent of citizen journalism is closely associated with the wider trend towards user-led content creation, referred to as produsage. 3D printing, for example, utilises this model of production, translating industrial age ideas into an informational age of collaboration and creativity. No longer are complex creations reserved for the expertise of professionals, with amateur artists now able to download designs and customise and print them to their own unique tastes and ideas. Increasingly, individuals and teams as producers are being replaced, with larger groups of participants producing, sharing and consuming content in open source communities. The products themselves are no longer finished, discrete objects in the traditional sense, but are continually under development and improvement in collaborative partnerships. Copyright holders are reconsidering licensing and the strict regimes of ownership, enabling users open access to their designs and creations.
This is only the very beginning of a future that will be led by empowered citizens, built around knowledge communities and dependent upon active participation.Giverny