Citizen Kane? No, Citizens Gilmour, Shifferes and Kelly

So, as promised. Dan Gilmour started off with a telling remark, that citizen media is ‘evolution, not revolution’ (with ev pronounced as such, not ‘eev’), and continued with a presentaiton that took us through the world of citizen media, including some great examples (not least the classic Bush/Blair video; he noted that others, including Lawrence Lessig, use this to talk about copyright, but he used it to showcase remix culture) and with an underlying theme of moving from the “Daily Me” (as criticised by Sunnstein et al) to the “Daily Us” – a nice explanation.

Dan outlined some principles towards the end of the talk, and they’re worth reproducing in some more detail. People (as audiences) should be sceptical, adjust their ‘trust quotient’ for each site, keep reporting, and learn media techniques. While acting in the journalism sphere, they should be thorough, accurate, fair, independent (in thought), and in particular transparent.

Of course, this is difficult, but not entirely new. His example was the infamous JFK film – user-created influential content from over 40 years ago – but it’s not hard to find others. The difference, he argued, was a mixture of technology, business models, the practice of journalism, and more. Both Gilmour and David Ardia (from the floor) highlighted the importance of journalism rather than journalists (or from institutional focus to behavioural focus), the latter in response to my questioning on the importance of ‘status of journalists’ law in the development and growth of citizen media (while noting that in particular areas, e.g. shield laws, actual malice standards etc, things are still quite unclear).

Steve Schifferes spoke about his experiences in the BBC – he has clearly had a lot of fun in his capacity as a Reuters Fellow, doing research on the BBC web presence. He took us through statistics on site use during the last election – I love the fact that there are huge spikes from people looking for election data (stats, counts, swings, etc). God bless the digital swingometer. He also highlighted a demographic difference (more male, more middle-class, younger), and the various attempts to promote user-generated content and interactivity.

Dan was quite good in pointing to the ups and downs of new forms of media – much more nuanced than is sometimes portrayed, it was certainly not a paean to the YouTube world, but there was a positive tone to the talk.

In the second session, John Kelly did talk a wee bit about his Usenet research (mentioned in the preview post from this morning) but the bulk of the presentation was newer, blogosphere work – with even more complicated and colourful graphs and visualisations of linking, tagging, buzzwords etc in blogs. A presentation rich in data, often surprising, and the author was very good at engaging with the material, asking for predictions/explanations etc before defining the graph or parameters (an old pedagogical tool, but often overlooked by statisticians!). As with the earlier discussion, Sunstein’s critique of people talking to their allies was part of the backdrop. Among the many points mentioned and illustrated were: conservative and liberal bloggers who link to ‘intellectual’ sources show more in common with each other than with their ideological bedfellows; ‘moonbat’ is a common term of abuse in conservablogging circles; the greatest amount of links go to the New York Times (i.e. the supposed other world of mainstream media).

Partisan LinkingA striking diagram was setting links ‘to the same side’ against ‘from the same side’ – with a huge majority of plotted points being in the top right corner (i.e. high proportion of incoming and outgoing links to/from the ‘same side’) – and the fact that this differed from patterns of actual discussion (‘attentive clusters’ etc). I’m impressed that Kelly does his own research, spidering, and so on – i.e. not relying on Technorati or Google.

He’s working on mapping out other languages and wants to do a book on the ‘global blogosphere’ and actively sought collaborators for this – I’m not an expert in the area but I’d love to read or review the book if it comes together…



Finally, do note this progress report from Dan Gilmour on the study of citizen media. Great timing, from my point of view 🙂

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