the following was blogged in August 2009 by @MobileBehavior Tristan
The Iranian crisis put Twitter in the spotlight as an organizational tool showcasing how the online world could be used to communicate and unite people, despite government censorship. Armed with cell phones, Iranians were able to text, tweet, and send pictures and videos to the world community, focusing the spotlight on this world-altering event. Their efforts were not in vain; the international community rose in uproar to defend the democratic principles of Iran, forcing political and religious leaders to publicly discuss the issues.
The universal access and power afforded by digital tools is breeding a new kind of world citizen and establishing this type of “citizen journalism” as a crucial supplement to traditional media. A couple years back we wrote about Dateline’s citizen journalism on Facebook, and the trend has only been growing with the advent of enabling platforms and the increasing prevalence of mobile phones. From protests to war, anyone with a cell phone can become an automatic witness to history and participate in the process–even in a small way.
Speaking to Rachel Sterne, founder of citizen journalism site GroundReport, about the integration of citizen journalism and mobile devices, she emphatically linked the two: “Mobile devices are the perfect tool for on-the-ground reporting: they enable event documentation that is instant, rich and location-based. Tools like TwitPic, a photo publishing Twitter application, the iPhone’s new YouTube video publishing feature, and the Nokia N97′s video streaming ability, empower people to report wherever they are with multimedia capabilities.”
There is plenty of criticism around treating citizen journalism as news, and it has some legitimate grounds. The most prominent ones are the lack of verified sourcing, the often limited analytical skills found in many articles, and devaluation of the professional reporting. But criticism aside, this movement promises to grow as more people around the world connect using their mobile device. “As the trend of ground reporting grows, the challenge for citizen journalism organizations is to distinguish fact from fiction,” says Sterne. “This need will only grow as the world becomes savvier in using mobile devices and content production tools to document events and share information. These are early days for the phenomenon. Eventually, citizen reporting will be just another crucial element of the mainstream news production process, an information source that is part of every journalist’s toolkit”.
Beyond just reporting events, this trend highlights a redefined sense of “me” in the new generation. In the past, community participation often had to dominate the members’ individuality to exist. Within citizen journalism, both the indivudual and the group can coexist. It promotes individual activity and sourcing, while enabling the person to still take part in something bigger than them. It also proves the value of Twitter–and the lifestreaming concept as a whole–beyond telling people what you are eating for lunch.