Liveblogging and Other Civic Media Strengthen Social Bonds

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on April 13, 2012

in Media

What is civic media? At MIT, civic media means everything from technologies for civil disobedience to phone-texting systems that allow instant voting.

In fact, the MIT Center for Civic Media, a joint effort between the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, defines it as “any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents.”

Civic Media head Ethan Zuckerman

Civic Media head Ethan Zuckerman

The center, headed by Ethan Zuckerman who cofounded the citizen media community of Global Voices, conducts research projects, builds tech tools, and publishes blogs that dance on the forefront of this new territory beyond traditional journalism. Maybe, though, the best way to explain what they do is to point to some recent blog posts:

How to Liveblog Events with a Team, a blog post by Matt Stempeck, research assistant.  The topic is just right for the center since Zukerman, who coauthored Tips for Live Bloggers, believes virtually all events should be liveblogged. Given that, it should be done well. Here’s an excerpt from the blog post:

“Liveblogging collaboratively, though certainly stressful on days with three different events, has a number of benefits. It produces artifacts of meetings with great people, it documents the work they’re doing, sometimes in ways they haven’t had the opportunity to, and it greatly expands the audience of a given event from those who could be in the room in Cambridge, MA, to anyone following our blog or our Twitter feed. People have even begun watching us liveblog events as passive participants in our Etherpad. Sometimes our liveblogging complements a streaming video of the event, with Etherpad lurkers watching the transcript unfold in realtime.”

Five Tech Ideas for Explanatory Journalism was posted by Research Assistant Nathan Matias, who was taking the Participatory News class. How can technology help journalists make sense of complex issues and explain them to the public in a clear, understandable manner? “Explainers” do that work. Here is an excerpt:

“NYU’s Explainer class focused on two things: presentation and conversation. They talked to cognitive psychologists like George Lakoff to learn how audiences take in what we read. They highlighted numerous presentation examples—videos, timelines, infographics, mini-sites, aggregators, podcasts, interactive guides, flowcharts, and even a picture book by Google! The class at NYU also pointed out that explaining is often a conversation. In their journalist’s guide to developing FAQs, the class suggests techniques for discovering what people need to know. I loved their advice on listening to readers.”

Jay Rosen’s Three-Layer Journalism Cake reports on a joint talk by Zuckerman and Jay Rosen, director of NYU’s Studio 20, a master’s level journalism program. The talk focused on the cascade of new journalism sources and the efforts of journalism professionals to make sure that reliable, high-quality journalism will be available and valued. Here’s an excerpt:

“Today, there are professionals, amateurs, and pro-amateurs all doing journalism. The practice of what they do is journalism. But that’s different from the underlying media system that the practice runs on. The media system is television, newspapers, and radio. But that can be separate from the actual practice of journalism.

“The third thing we should pull apart is the institution of the press. The press as an institution is different from country to country, because it’s very much a product of the law. If you don’t have freedom of the press, you don’t have much of a press. In Holland, broadcasting and news were for a long time organized around the pillars of society: there was a Catholic channel, a Protestant channel, a Social Democrat channel, and so on. The entire system was organized like their society….

 Learn more on the MIT Center for Civic Media website.

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