Citizen journalism (also known as “public”, “participatory”, “democratic” or “street journalism”) is the concept of members of the public “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.” Wikipedia
On Wednesday, CNN frequently showed amateur videos, with a graphic that labeled them “unverified material.” It showed a YouTube video of the aftermath of an apparent raid at Tehran University. The video showed rooms that appeared to have been burned extensively. New York Times
Citizen Journalism took on a very clear role this week as the Iranian government continued to deport journalists admitted with temporary visas (to cover the Iranian elections). As western journalists were told reporting on the demonstrations and protests against perceived election fraud was illegal (“We warn those who propagate riots and spread rumors that our legal action against them will cost them dearly,” a statement from the military force said), the burden of reporting fell on the shoulders of Iranian citizens participating in the demonstrations.
Most of the reporting comes in the form of videos uploaded to YouTube, email, and updates to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The reporting is generally a recording of events, which is then commented upon by western news media.
During the 1993 Russian Constitutional Crisis citizen journalists used email and Usenet newsgroups to transmit near real-time updates on activities as the Army moved to occupy the White House, and many Russian citizens were killed or injured. This supplemented the very limited news media, which was not officially allowed near the events. Perhaps one of the first examples of the “Internet Age of Journalism.”
Even in the United States, visual accounts of events involving police brutality become instantly available to the rest of the world. This was clearly demonstrated when Oscar Grant was shot on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train platform News Years night. Dozens of citizens recorded the incident on their mobile phones, uploading the images to YouTube and social networking sites directly from the platform within seconds of the event.
Now as mobile phone and computerized video files continue to flow from Iran to the rest of the world, keeping people up to date with events in Iran, we can reflect on changes taking place in the Internet age of information. CNN reporters, who have been with us providing news since the 1980s, are now barred from providing real time views of Tehran. They are taking “iReports” provided by Iranian citizens, and providing commentary on videos that cannot be independently verified. We need to assume that video being used is an accurate record of events – perhaps a big assumption in a world also well known for use of media deception and propaganda.
However one message is very clear. Regardless of the validity of visual and citizen provided accounts of events, it will be very difficult for governments to contain or suppress news in the future. The Internet has provided a means to instantly globalize information and news. Governments will forever be held accountable for their actions in the court of world opinion.
John Savageau, Long Beach
MISSION – Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.
Josh Elman, Senior Platform Manager at Facebook, shared some of the ideas and visions behind one of the fastest growing and most successful social networking sites in the world.
The monthly meeting of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association (SVPMA) provided the stage, and around 150 interested attendees gathered to learn some of the techniques used by Facebook to recruit more than 200 million members within the space of only two years.
Josh emphasized that Facebook tries to promote a truly global community by “giving social groups and like-minded people a way to find each other.” He went on to describe an idea which may be unique in the product marketing world, which is to not only have a company mission statement, but also a user mission statement:
USER MISSION – Create opportunities for people to share, and make the world more open & connected.
To accomplish the task of bringing people together, Facebook promotes a three stage process for new members:
- Create your identity. The most important thing about Facebook identities is to create credibility. Once people know who you are, and are confident you are authentic, it is much easier for them to make a connection and bring you into their community.
- Establish a network of friends.
- Begin sharing.
The word “sharing” is a common thread in all Facebook discussions. You share your ideas. You share your personal status. You share your interest through joining groups of other people sharing similar interests. You share your interest in Internet marketing, and suddenly you are a member of a community of 100,000 others around the world who share your interest in Internet marketing.
As you continue expanding your presence and circle of friends, the power of community becomes exponential. If your interest in eating sushi brings you into a community of 5000 others who like sushi, and each of those people is connected to 100 others, then your community is one step away from extending into a very large number of potential contacts. Facebook refers to the multi-dimensional extended community as their “social graph.”
If you are familiar with the ideas of one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communications, Facebook takes that concept and adds the ability to take any of those ideas and build them into three-dimensional clusters. This is the idea of many, many-to-many relationships all interconnected through common human or social group conduits.
Josh used the example of Facebook communications during President Obama’s inauguration as an example of how quickly Facebook can be used to spread a message. While online, more than 2 million comments and status updates were made through one-to-many messages, with spikes of more than 8500 status updates per second during Obama’s speech. Obama-related messages touched a majority of Facebook users, making this perhaps the fastest, most effective information or message distribution platform, ever.
Communicating with the Global Community
Just a few years ago life for many was restricted to a small geographic area, where your community consisted of others sharing your own culture, language, and traditions. When outsiders entered the community communication was strained, as there may not have been a common language, and cultural differences created a lot of stress.
Even in a global community, it is still difficult for a native Japanese speaker to easily communicate with a native French speaker – particularly if the common language (probably English) is not native to either speaker.
Facebook tries to break down those cultural and language barriers with a dynamic translation engine that allows members to communicate in their own language, while the other party receives the message their own native language. This makes, at least the language part of a relationship, transparent to both communicating parties.
Josh Elman is the perfect evangelist for Facebook. With prior experience in companies such as LinkedIN, he has the social networking technology down cold. Combine that with his enthusiasm in bringing both Facebook, as well as the vision of creating a connected world together, and you have an uplifting evening that would motivate even the most skeptical web user.
John Savageau, Long Beach
The Silicon Valley Product Marketing Association (SVPMA) meets every first Wednesday of the month at TechMart in Santa Clara. “The Silicon Valley Product Management Association (SVPMA) is an organization that was founded to address the needs of Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers and other professionals working within the Product Management field.”