Analysis, citizen journalism, digital natives, digitalage, digitalutopia, experiment, Media, Social Media, technology, utopia

Because reality doesn’t matter anymore……

A digital utopia you say? Well lets break this down. When I think of digital, I think of the year I spent doing computer science and recall all those one’s and zero’s in different arrangements, a language of the digital or virtual realm. Utopia of course sounds like paradise or somewhere pleasant. Combine those two words and you will get a digital space that is perfect. This is both a phenomenon of today’s world and the dreams of some who believe it is inevitable or the solution to many worldwide problems such as fighting for democracy and equality for all. However as long as a gap between the rich and the poor exists, digital equality will not exist (Crimethinc)

Crimethinc defined the digital utopia as:

It would integrate all human activity into a single unified terrain, accessible only via additional corporate products, in which sweatshop and marketplace merged. It would accomplish all this under the banner of autonomy and decentralization, perhaps even of “direct democracy.”

There is a big divide on this idea of a Digital Utopia. Groups like Chrimethinc are the opposition of such an idea while other believe it will bring prosperity and unity to world that is divided on so many different issues. The following video should help put this idea in perspective for you courtesy of Tedx Talks.

What do I really think?
You see personally the idea of a completely connected world reminds me of some sort of Sci-Fi movie, like the Matrix. It seems odd that everything in my life would be connected. I like the idea of having an ‘offline’ life so to speak which a lot of people take for granted. People seem a lot less sociable than they once were since smartphones, tablets and so on dominated their lives. I think everyone has a few friends who will go to the pub with you, order a drink and sit amongst the group but instead of engaging in the group conversation, they are busy on Facebook in another group conversation with people who are not even in the same physical space. Therefore, I think people are too attached to the virtual world seeing themselves as brands and wanting to market themselves to the world either consciously or unconsciously. There will always be a divide in the idea of its existence. One side I can imagine the people thinking that a digital utopia would bring peace and would benefit all while on the other side I can see those who want to detach from the virtual world and be ‘free’.

Smart Cities
Are these cities just the beginning of a digital utopia? Maybe we should consider for a moment that a digital utopia may not just be a virtual realm. Perhaps it coexists online and offline, that is, it will be integrated into our physical homes, transport, infrastructure as well as our social communities online. These smart cities are becoming more prevalent with the surge of technology enhancements. Just think that you could control all household appliances, entertainment, security and so on from a tablet on a wall in your house. It would make life extremely easy. But wait, these already exist. Countries like South Korea have adopted smart home technology. This is just the beginning of a digital utopia.

What next?
After considering this phenomenon, I thought what if social networking became more personal. People already share aspects of their lives through various social media platforms. Imagine this was integrated in real-time and space of our lives, that is, live footage of your day and what you were doing. Imagine your life was like The Truman Show. Scary isn’t it? Breech of privacy has sparked the idea of a digital dystopia.




Analysis, citizen journalism, digital natives, digitalage, experiment, Guide, Social Media, technology

Citizen Journalism: A Pillar of Understanding

Cited in Vanity Fair

Cited in Vanity Fair

The very term Citizen Journalism reminds me of another term known at Citizen’s arrest which in fact dates back to medieval ages where the law enforcers encouraged ordinary citizens to catch law breakers.
Today, ordinary citizens are encouraged to report what they see or what they gain an insight into and share it with the world that has become so gracefully connected.Before going into this in more depth; ask yourself this question: Why do you trust/not trust citizen journalists?

So what is this ground breaking phenomenon? 

Citizen journalism is whereby ordinary citizens report on issues which matter to them and according to The Guardian (2010), the BBC began collaborating with a citizen journalism group known as Global Voices who are a community of writers, analysts, online media experts and translators who give insights and reports from developing countries. You can learn more about this community here.

I’ll put it in layman’s terms:

Essentially, anyone can now upload content online whether it is through a Blog, YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr or other platforms that is of a journalistic nature. Mobile devices such as smart phones have given rise to this phenomenon as well as the likes of newspapers being under financial risk (Nikkanen, 2012) due to the rise of the digital age. This gives viewers faster, and perhaps more up to minute information on developments that concern the said viewers (Fuller, 2014). For instance I can upload a video whereby a large riot occurred in the city centre of Dublin. I could develop on that video and explain what is happening, why it happened and the aftermath of the event a lot like a journalist would capture it, perhaps less professionally. The point being, there exist pros and cons to this form of journalism which need to be understood and its only natural that there would be a divide in thoughts with regards to it. Here is a short video discussing the phenomenon that is Citizen Journalism:

So what are the advantages of Citizen Journalism? Noted by Fuller (2014), the following benefits can come from this type of writing. 

‘Gives another perspective on news or concerns’. Because anyone can report and provide insights for viewers, these journalists are somewhat more connected as digital natives which is part of the global community. Therefore viewers may be more interested in what a normal citizen has to say on topics being discussed online.
For instance, I read a post on the Global Voice which makes contrasts and comparisons between the ongoing Ferguson dilemma in the U.S and what is occurring in the Ukraine. Some shocking similarities were made between justice, human rights and the level of police force used in both locations which are oceans away. You can read more about this here

Cited in Brand Watch

Cited in Brand Watch

‘It helps to get local citizens more engaged in issues affecting their lives’. A prime example would be the recent marches and protests due to the introduction of water charges in Ireland. Videos were uploaded to YouTube showing Gardaí using excessive force during peaceful protests by citizens who stood witness. This did not only show people what was occurring but it also sparked more people to get involved in such matters by joining the protests and rallies.

‘For activism’. Of course citizen journalism can help shed light on issues effecting people’s lives but it also has a domino effect creating activism in a given society. The recent Ferguson dilemma which saw a spread of activism across the U.S is a perfect example of how videos, micro Blog’s and other content can connect people concerned and give rise to an aim of bringing about political, social and legal change. Noted by Buckley (2012), citizen journalism can help shed light on current affairs in society and give viewers ongoing information of the affair in question. Activism can generate much discussion between the citizen journalists and the viewers of the reports which also bring about trending hashtags etc providing a pool of opinion and discussion on such matters.

Citizen Journalists can report on affairs or occurrences that mass media may have no access to or may have missed a portion of a story or event. For example, when the earthquake effected Japan causing the displacement of much of the population and of course the loss of human lives, mass media only had so much information to use when reporting the disaster. People who were trapped due to flash floods and so people trapped video recorded much of the occurrences on hand-held cameras or phones. When these were released, viewers had access to raw footage depicting the sheer gravity of the situation. Additionally, a former news caster Jun Hori revolted by tweeting uncensored material regarding the displacement of 80,000 citizens and the clean up of the area where the nuclear spill occurred (Fukushima) which. Jun Hori explained that ‘“I am a newscaster, but I couldn’t tell the true story on my news program” as the  company restricted commentary on the affair. Due to be restricted warned on what he could report by his supervisors, he quit and set up his own citizen journalism website. He noted that this disaster and censorship surrounding reporting of the event shows that there is a need for people to be proactive in retrieving and releasing information. Nikkanen (2012) mentions that citizen journalists take on tasks previously undertaken by professional journalists but come under pressure from hostile governments. You can read more about his astonishing story here.

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There are obvious disadvantages to citizen journalism. 

To become a journalist, one needs to do a course, study in the field of journalism or receive some formal training. Therefore we need to ask ourselves what formal training have citizen journalists gained? This was noted by Fuller (2014) as one of the cons of citizen journalism. Personally I believe you don’t need training or degree to inform the online community of an issue that you share through Blogging, Micro Blogging, Video Blogging and so on. You are simply the voice, the listener is your audience. I also think that I would listen to a citizen journalist on current affairs but perhaps not issues relating to science etc which require expertise in the field. I would listen to a professional in a field regarding affairs that surround their area of expertise.

Because anyone can become a citizen journalist, ones opinions or interpretations can be biased and inaccuracies of information can exist (Kirkwood, 2013) . I can understand how this is a disadvantage though opinion and critical analysis of situations are valuable facets. Personally, I think that this is an opinion to deter people from relying on citizen journalist reports. Coined by Nikkanen(2012), citizen journalism has become nearly indistinguishable from professional journalism as technology allows immediate transfer of knowledge and information between digital natives.

And so………..

This new phenomenon is clearly becoming more of a normality in today’s society. While I appreciate the reporting by citizen journalists, I still think that professional journalism is required for non biased reporting. Additionally, I find curator journalism astounding and to have a paramount effect on citizen journalism is future years. Curator journalism was also mentioned in an article by Nikkanen (2012), stating that these journalists organise, interpret, fact check and join together posts of citizen journalists to make sense of the abundance of information from several sources for the online audience. Basically, professional journalists taking the credible information of citizen journalists towards their own publishing. Despite this sounding like stealing, it is more of a collectivist approach to information gathering and publication. BBC Brazil blog follows this approach by tapping into social media for news stories . Finally Citizen Journalism allows for the exposure of the truth. A prime example of this is Wiki Leaks whose goal was to release confidential information or records that could be of interest in the public sphere. You can read more about Wiki Leaks as a form of citizen journalism here.

I feel that my own opinion nor other opinions of writers were enough to encapsulate this new phenomenon. I met with an acquaintance Mr. Kim Farrelly to get another insight into the concept of Citizen Journalism. The following is a Q&A with Kim:

Q1. Have you shared or reported online with regards to current affairs of otherwise?

A1. Yes, as a professional photographer I occasionally get paid to take photos of events under a brief from the photo editor.

Q2.Do you think we can trust the information provided by people in the public sphere?

A2. Generally people are trustworthy, however a good gossip in a public sphere can lead to misinformation.

Q3.Because of the digital age, traditional journalism is being challenged and somewhat compared with citizen journalism. Do you think professional journalism will die out and be replaced by citizen journalism?

A3. I don’t think that traditional journalism is being challenged. Print media is for sure. The values that a professional journalist should have would and should never be under threat. There are aspects of the professionalism that will always remain so I don’t see citizen journalism replacing those.

Q4. Search for the truth. Does the case of wiki-leaks as a form of citizen journalism compel you to seek the truth of events?

A4.  The singular and most important part of journalism is fact checking. Leaks from people in their work place have always been a huge part of reporting on events and scandals. These people are vetted and put on record by very experienced professionals. This is a process that is being washed away in recent times by the need to get more competitive in the marketplace by the main new outlets and the drive to get the report out ‘as it happens’. Pushed further by social media as a news stream, this instant news goes without this layer of experience and that is a dangerous shift that could all too easily lead to the control of the news as without true investigative journalism there are a lot of actions out in the world that might never get to light.

Q5. Why is it important for regular people to inform the online community of events? Do you think mass media is censored and journalists are simply following what to report on?

A5. There are always interests to be found in any business, whether they are financial or political, opinions are published based on fact but usually fall on one side or point of view. So I think that there is a place of the ‘regular people’ to report on events as long as point 4 is given the chance to work. The search for truth is often a questionable one.

Q6. Would you encourage people to participate in citizen journalism?

A6. Yes I would, but it only takes the word of two men to hang one – so there has to be responsibility for all and recourse for all too.

Analysis, digital natives, digitalage, experiment, Media, Social Media, technology

Man survives 48 hours without technology….

So what is technology fasting?

It actually is harder than it sounds. It involves giving up a number of different devices for an extended period of time (in this case 48 hours). You can give up  your phone, laptop, tablet, email, internet and so on. You can give up all or some but the idea is simple: You need to gain an understanding of how much you rely on technology. I am going to level with you people. I did not want to do this and I really was not going to do this. However, I lost my phone over the weekend and I came home the following morning to realize that my laptop needed to be repaired.There is a growing body of research which indicates that technology fasting can benefit you substantially and according to  another blogger Richard Louv (2012), getting in touch with nature while fasting helps reboot the brain and excite the senses which you can read about here.

How I will break the experience down for you: I will talk about the pros and cons of not having the devices. Additionally I will break down the time of the fast in sections of 12 hours each. For example, the first 12 hours, the following 12 hours and so on. In this day and age I would rather call these devices necessities.  Before going into the details of the experience, I will give you a clear picture of my dependence on the two devices.


Chapter 1 : Starting life without a phone : 0-12 hours

It was about 6pm by the time I realized that I had lost my phone at the festival. Therefore I am going to talk about the first 12 hours without a smart phone. The disadvantages became abundantly clear from the beginning. I could not contact my friends during the festival, I could not take photos of the fun filled evening and so on. However the advantages definitely outweighed the disadvantages on an emotional level. I could roam the festival at my own pace, make new friends, bump into people I knew and go see the acts that I wanted to see instead of stuck in a group for the evening. You can see my list of pros and cons in greater detail here. The major disadvantage of not having a phone at this point in time was that I could not call my friends to find out how to meet them after the festival ended. Eventually, I did find them though it did take some exploring.

Chapter 2: Wake up Call: 12-24 hours

Cited in Raw Girl Toxic World

Cited in Raw Girl Toxic World

The following day it dawned upon me that I would have to fork out another few hundred euro for a new phone. I also realized that I had a lot of work to do with regards to college assignments, event organizing and so on. I thought I would turn on the laptop until I was told by my brother that it was out of action and it needed to be repaired. I let the fact of not having either device sink in for a moment. Not only could I not do basic things such as check my email accounts or social media sites, I could not commence any work on any assignments.
So what did I do? I improvised. I starting digging through the leaning tower of college books I had accumulated over the years an found material related to my modules which I could use as substitutes of not having devices to access the internet. This still let me limited to extent. I could not access materials for assignments. Once I came to the realization that I could not do much work, I had to find other activities to fill up my day. I decided to make dinner for the family and let me tell that I had forgotten how therapeutic cooking was. It really helped relax me and I started to remember different techniques I picked up from cooking with my father (who use to be a chef). I made a beautiful Chicken Tarragon with fresh pasta and homemade garlic bread.  Then it hit me. The fact that I spent a considerable amount of my time on devices trying to communicate different messages simultaneously for different aspects of my everyday life, I had forgotten one of my hobbies. This was where I started to realize that there may be a point to this fasting idea. If it helped me to start picking up old hobbies, who knows what it could do if I gave it up for another day.

Chapter 3: The Book Case: 24-36 hours

I was never a massive fan of reading as an activity outside of academic stud. I’m not like Kanye West or anything who is famous for saying “I’m a proud non-reader of books”. However, without a phone or a laptop I was limited to television or  a book. There is only so much television I can watch, especially when channels generally repeat old episodes that I have seen countless times. So I decided to pick up a book called ‘I am Legend’. I remember buying this book after going to the cinema and seeing the movie starring Will Smith. I actually bought the book at the time because I was dissatisfied with the movie but I guess I got distracted or lost motivation to actually read it. Back to the matter at hand, I sat down in my room, put on some music and started reading the book. Surprisingly I got half way through it before putting it down that night and read the rest the following day. I came to the conclusion that reading actually helped me relax and get ready for a good nights’ sleep and I woke up at a reasonable hour which is very unlike me. In fact I found out that using laptops etc is not a good idea before bed which you can read about here.

Chapter 4: The Calm: 36-48 Hours

By this stage, I had not really even thought about my phone that was lost nor did I think heavily about when my laptop would be returned fully repaired. I went out in the evening to get some fresh air and call over to friend. Because I had no phone meant I had no music to listen to for the duration of the walk but that didn’t seem to bother me. Instead I just enjoyed the peace and quiet as I walked up the streets. It actually made me think about how much I am usually surrounded by noise and bright screens. It was almost like a snapped out of a zombie state and back into the real world. I think during the last few hours of this fast I really reflected on how much I rely on technology in general. It has made me think about cutting down the amount of time I spend on my devices especially due to the health benefits that such a commitment can produce.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

I think the technology fasting was beneficial but I don’t think it should be a simple 48 hour experiment. Not only should it help you realize your dependency on technology but it should serve as a starting point to help you reduce the amount of tie you spend everyday on the different devices and platforms. I still have no phone and I actually am a bit glad I don’t have one for the time being. It means I  am not on social media sites as much so I waste less time aimlessly checking news feeds and more time utilizing online resources with purpose and scope. There is my two cents and to wrap it up, here is a song that rather aptly applies to the point of this post. ENJOY!