Ubiquitous computing and communications and the changing face of the news
Yesterday I posted a note that began with people in Port au Prince sharing words and images out of the heart of their earthquake disaster with the world, and starting in the immediate aftermath of that disaster before any formal new agencies could get there (see Ubiquitous computing and communications and the implications of always on.)
I did not, however, present this story from that perspective. I write this posting with that perspective in mind. I will add that I also find myself thinking in this context of the many and growing number of news stories that come from or are augmented by video or voice and video that originates in the general public, and even in the stark public depiction of official misconduct such as police brutality. This flow of news information begins with handhelds and goes to the standard news outlets, but at the same time this flow of information and raw news goes to YouTube and to blogs and a growing range of other direct from the public outlets too, and increasingly it goes there before the news organizations pick up on it.
As a slight digression here, I would offer an updated definition of a repressive regime.
• A repressive regime or government is one that seeks to block this growing, multiple source, unregulated voice and vision as being unpatriotic or against public or governmental interests – their interests however worded.
I will add that governments that repress by this definition are doomed to fail, and in perhaps significant part simply because they act in defiance of the basic nature of the people and populations they would seek to govern, and in ways that are inherently unstable, long term.
Yesterday I wrote of the underlying technology enabling this and even in times of crisis and disaster. Today I write of the pressure to develop and maintain that capability as a means of allowing public expression and free will. But this posting is not primarily about individual and public creation and sharing of news information in the face of governmental repression and censure as important as that is in many countries. It is about how this newly expanded flow of information and from all directions is reshaping news as it has traditionally been viewed and experienced and as it is created, capital letter News by the media.
I start with a basic distinction, not at all original with me that I have cited many, many times and certainly in this blog. The traditional Web 1.0 oriented Internet follows a simple, unidirectional central publishing model and the emerging Interactive Web 2.0 breaks with that and supports multiple direction publishing and without any need for centralized filtering or editing. Web 1.0 is simply the traditional News of print and then print, radio and television as reformatted for the Internet. The first online web site forms and other early, still 1.0 oriented expressions of feedback carried in them the seeds of what has followed and for what is to come in this in turning 1.0 into 2.0. And when I write “and other” there I include channels and options for communications that go back to before the Web per se too. The basic needs and pressures behind this shift are not new.
This posting with its focus on this multi-directional, multi-voiced world strikes to the heart of what ubiquitous computing and communications is and of what drives it –empowerment and offering a wider audience the chance to be more than just audience and to share their vision and their concerns and priorities with the world too.
That is why a passerby with a cell phone camera would film and share a view of a scene where a police officer is breaking the law and causing harm to someone they do not know – even where that police officer has a gun and they are alone. That is what would prompt someone to approach an earthquake weakened building where an aftershock could arrive any second to film and share word and image of the disaster, to strangers in places they have never been. Web 2.0 and in a larger context ubiquitous computing are developing and being adapted into everyday life as quickly as they can be, because they address basic human need. This has to have impact on our systems and bodies of government and on the way we create, share and view news. It certainly has impact on our political processes and it impacts on the marketplace and in how we do business, blurring the traditional distinctions between business and consumer as consumers come to hold a significant voice in basic business mission and processes, and of strategy and priorities for meeting them.
One of the clearest windows of this, however, is in our News coverage where even the major outlets now have to do Web 2.0 and share leads and even bylines with those who in a 1.0 world would still simply be passive recipients of preselected and pre-filtered information – raw news and editorial frequently blurred into one. That shift is where the rest of these changes stem from.
In this the move to ubiquitous computing and communications simply offers a long sought capability to a larger public, and from anywhere to anywhere, where coverage has always been much more limited at best.
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