Sunday, August 15, 2010

Info overload, the new journalist, so why become a journalist?

Imagine in 2030 - all outside kiosks, plasma screens, holodecks will be showing data like this one - a view of captured in an article on Apple Pro. If we're surrounded by data what's the role of the journalist?

The concept of the journalist of the 21st century has still to be resolved. At some point like all industries, networks will get smaller, new citadels will usurp others, funding becomes unsustainable and then what happens when the next information wave hits, where more data than ever is available, what then the role of this arcane 16th century profession, journalism?

There is such a thing as information overload. It was the french Philosopher Baudrillard who gave it a universal currency, but in order to qualify what is an overload we must ascertain what our limits are in the first place - for it fundamentally affects are notion of journalism.

Meanwhile inside the BBC circa 1999, I had finally met with one of their senior execs, lunch! He reviewed my CV, made some remarks and uttered, lets get you in and see.

This image of me at various workplaces is also an allegory for the way, I, even you have come to imbibe data.

If you follow the development of media: Traditional medial - Cable and Satellite media - Digital Media - The Net, each occasion we take to its form, we're met with new data in which previously our cultural ways had no means of accommodating

Think about it. Pre-web, you worked, went out for a drink, home made VHS movie and slept. Today we have an assortment of gadgets that impinge, and require us to alter our social habits.

Social habits that have been built up over long periods are now met with the sudden challenge of, ok instead of looking at my favourite game on a Sunday, I'll blog.

This predicament is most acutely on display in lecture rooms, where students access facebook, twitter and the likes while a lecture is in progress. Our choices have boiled down to: all monitors off or lets reinvent a new way of lecturing where you're able to multiskill. Personally now, I give 10 min FB windows after a 40 min lecture.

Devised in the 1920s, will it celebrate a 100 years in good shape? That's a political answer.
So I didn't get into the BBC as a roving reporter, maybe that was my fault. Should I have pursued my contact some more? But I knew I was doing something right. A piece of advice given to me by an ol' time manager rang in my ears: "if you're wanting to be a journalist, do something, bring me something that the other person wouldn't do, or couldn't do, and people might want and don't endanger your life doing it"

The networks had to find a way to mediate what they felt we the public needed. They couldn't and wouldn't be able to show us all the world's woes.

It's impossible, that would be overload, but instead of finding a means to facilitate our increasing penchant for news, their attitude was still 1950s" "the news is fine as it is". They by and large still think that way, when I think other than our desire for stories, news has become cause and effect.

News is fine as it is ? It couldn't be: the web has showed that with a new breed of citizen journos, determined not by wise counsel sitting yonder, but by you and me, has room to bring us news.

The big shift
What's happening? We've culturally shifted our access to information absorption. MIT Henry Jenkins talks more about this in his writings. However it's still pretty much an unregulated system; they all are when they start, which in time we'll find a way to manage.

So if you can find something that the other person wouldn't do, or couldn't do, and people might without and endangering your life doing it, I reckon the road to the next elevated stage will be short in coming.

What makes the networks work well is their access to data and unquestionably some bright people mediating and delivering that.

The latter is something the best citizen journalists easily do. If all those clever people that couldn't or wouldn't want to get into a network set up their own, or all the people who left a broadcast network did so, we've the makings of some powerful new mediators.

We've started that adhoc already, with blog lines and tweet followers; we still like our repositories. So a new line of journalists, semi-pro, becoming pro not by earnings, but by their knowledge acquisition is on the rise.

The next thing is knitting a structure together and a good friend of mine Steve Punter has produced a document that does just that.

Did I mind I never think I fulfilled my potential? Well it depends whether potential= working for the networks. No, not any more. All the rejections I had accrued made me develop alternative ways of working.

David presenting at SXSW on IM Videojournalism from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Segment of a SXSW presentation that showed we've done all these things before. There's nothing new in multiskilling

A decade ago, the idea that someone could or would do as many things constituted an overload of sorts. Today we take that for granted, until that is the next spike occurs, perhaps - the outernet - where info isn't locked on the web, but like air all around you.

A student called it the "information wave". She's not wrong, then what kind of journalists will you be then - curatorial is not a bad start.