“Nobody knows everything, everybody knows something”
If we don’t know something, we ask our peers and nowadays, we can go online to find out.
A Crazy Little Thing Called The Internet
Approximately 74 percent of people in developed countries are connected to the internet, its integrated into our lives so thoroughly. Social media is a big part of a lot of people’s social lives, plenty of people shop online, multiple types of jobs are built around the internet and even most education systems rely on the internet.
What makes the internet so great? The simple answer is; it’s ease of access. The internet has an absolute minimal cost of entry, next to no quality filter and no immediate risk of use. Books are the opposite. They cost to publish, print and ship, publishers may edit or ‘filter’ a book before release and if the book is a failure, money is lost. These qualities are what make the internet a huge success in attracting millions upon millions of users.
Chances are you’ve at least heard of the K-pop sensation “Gangnam Style”. Released in July of 2012 the song has broken Youtube view records. As of December 2012, Gangnam Style had accumulated $2.4 million from iTunes sales, $870 thousand from Youtube ad income but only a relatively minute $50 thousand from CD sales. This is a prime example of how the internet’s popularity has overcome alternative media platforms.
Newspapers are much like books. They’re published, shipped, monitored and are subject to damaging criticism. As well as this, Newspapers are limited to what they can show because of size, often smaller, insignificant stories are completely missed to accommodate for “all the news that’s fit to print” (New York Times). Considering that newspapers are mostly paid for with advertisements, a lot of room is taken up on the pages for ads instead of articles.
So why do we still use newspapers if they’re so flawed? Because, it’s generally accepted that newspaper articles are the most trustworthy source of information for current affairs. I know I make sure to not trust everything I read on the web and until recently I’ve always trusted newspapers to give me accurate (even if it can be biased) information.
It’s beginning to become that the story itself is just as important as the information. It’s all good to find accurate and up-to-date information on the conflicts in the middle east but what about local news? There’s local newspapers but as I’ve explained earlier, newspapers are limited. This is where the internet shines. Anyone can upload accurate up-to-date information to the internet and freely broadcast it to a broader audience than any newspaper.
We Will Participate
Citizen journalism is a phrase relating to regular citizens playing a role in gathering, analyzing and reporting information. While it’s generally disliked by the legacy media, citizen journalism is a great concept for processing and gathering media faster than ever before, broadcasting to a wider (and participatory) audience through various platforms and a greater range of views and opinions.
April 15 saw horrific bombings at Boston’s annual marathon (And my heart goes out to all those involved). In the wake of the disaster, news stations all over the world have covered the event, with the help of citizen journalism. A large majority of the footage used in the news covers are submitted by citizens. Youtube has launched a video page to encourage people to submit their videos in attempts to gather information in a single point.
“Sites such as Flickr for images, YouTube, Jumpcut, and
Revver for video, and ccMixter for audio, as well as a
plethora of blogs and collaborative publishing
environments for text, now provide a rich and diverse
range of user-submitted creative content” (Bruns, 2007)
Somebody To Lie
That’s all it takes to undo the beauty of citizen journalism, a bit of mis/dis-information (Bruns, 2007). The internet is so free that it’s ‘free-ness’ is its ultimate weekness. Anyone can post anything without fact checking or even purposely causing disruptions by reporting false information. Restrictions to the freedom of the internet such as censorship and copyright laws are also capable of disrupting the citizen journalism system.
A 2005 article in the journal ‘Nature‘ documented a study of Wikipedia and The Encyclopedia Britannica. The study had multiple equivalent pages from each encyclopedia sent to experts for peer reviewing, the experts had no knowledge of which platform each article was from. Only 4 serious errors from each encyclopedia was found (serious errors such as misinterpreted concepts) but 162 and 123 factual errors were found in each encyclopedia, Wikipedia and Britannica respectively (Giles, 2005). When I went through high school I was told repetitively NEVER to use Wikipedia because it is crowd sourced and open to misleading information but as this study shows, other sources are open to mistakes as well. Although this does not justify the use of Wikipedia as a legitimate source simply because it is not peer-reviewed, it has little to no authority.
Don’t Stop Seeking Information Now
Whether something is fact-checked and peer-reviewed or crowd-sourced so vastly that it has the knowledge of a million users does not mean it is ‘perfect’. citizen journalism is just as effective in some cases as it is not effective in others, it often comes down to backing up your facts with evidence.
In the future I expect to see legacy media utilizing crowd-sourcing as a means of gathering and processing information quickly and effectively without completely tearing down what makes legacy media so powerful, it’s authority.
Hsu, J 2009,Wikipedia: How Accurate Is It?”, Live Science, Weblog Post, 06 November, Viewed 18 April 2013, <http://www.livescience.com/7946-wikipedia-accurate.html>
Guiles, J 2005, ‘Internet Encyclopaedias Go Head To Head’, Nature, Vol. 438, No, 900-901.