Friday, July 08, 2005

Citizen Media 1: Bombs in London

I live in London, Al Qaeda bombs America. I live in America, Al Qaeda bombs London. So far, I seem to be living life by Ted Williams' maxim, "Hit 'em where they ain't."

Speaking of where they ain't, traditional media can't be everywhere -- but ordinary people can, and are, and increasingly can record and report on what happened. The Washington Post was so surprised that people would actually use cameraphones to take pictures that they wrote two more or less identical pieces on the same subject, and then threw in a gallery of cameraphone images for good measure. Some decent analysis in the second piece -- Robert Macmillan nails the point that this is simultaneously no different from the Zapruder film, and entirely different from anything that has gone before.

Interestingly, history has always had the jump on the news media for citizen participation -- while in the past two centuries it's been hard for individuals to compete with the speed and long-distance capabilities of news, the humble letter or personal account is often the core document from which history is constructed in all its textured glory and narrative magnificence.

Dan Gillmor is right -- we are on the cusp of being able to report the news ourselves as it happens, across all media (audio, visual, textual) and this is going to change the existing channels of information tremendously.

However, we still have a long way to go -- hats off to Technorati for trying, but this falls short of the precise conveyance of information that I get from the New York Times; but Flickr did a great job of highlighting recent tags like londonbombblasts.

To quote William Gibson, the future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet.

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