One of the most important global trends is that of citizen journalism. Blogging is one of the most evident forms. The most popular blogs rival the major newspapers’ online sites (see the recent interesting (though controversial) ComScore report for an analysis of blogs and blog readers). Other more structured media such as OhMyNews aggregate citizen journalists’ reports.
The use of images taken on mobile phones by those on the scene at the London bombings has brought the issue to the fore, with now television stations such as CNN and the BBC, as well as other media channels, actively asking their viewers to submit photos and videos from the scene. Now the UK Chartered Institute of Journalists believe that using citizen journalists is irresponsible. Certainly some journalists have reason to be concerned by this trend, but as in other industry shifts, it means they need to shift their role as media gatherers, filterers, and presenters. To give a brief excerpt from my previous book Living Networks, under a section titled “We the media” (published well before Dan Gillmor‘s excellent book by the same name):
The brilliant visionary Marshall McLuhan accurately described the media as an extension of our senses. Your eyes can see what’s happening in your immediate vicinity, your ears can hear what people are saying in the same room as you, but with television and radio as an adjunct to your senses, you can see and hear anywhere around the world. All of the cameras and microphones of the world’s media are an extension of your eyes and ears, and journalists are your personal emissaries to report on their findings and impressions.
Now connectivity is extending your senses to all the connected people on their planet. Media is becoming a participatory sport. You can tap into what any of a vast army of people are seeing and thinking, or contribute yourself to the global flow. This certainly doesn’t mean the end of mass media. Most people will always choose to access a common frame on the world, that gives views of politics, society, and entertainment that provide a basis for interaction and discussion. However the new world of media is at the heart of how the networks are coming to life.
We are now seeing this begin to hit the mainstream. Our senses are everywhere, represented by everyone. The only question that remains is through what filters, channels, and distribution will those extensions of our senses reach us?