This summer a number of news organizations announced new projects designed to rethink how readers engage with the news. Some will fail, no doubt, and all of them need more testing and development. However, these are all creative responses to critical questions about how journalists relate to their readers. I look forward to following each one. Continue reading
As a parent, I think a lot about the world we are creating for our children. As an advocate for press freedom and digital rights I think a lot about the web we are creating for our children too.
A lot of my work centers around creating more democratic structures and policies that shape our media, and pushing back on the companies that want to assert more and more control over the Internet. But I also think a lot about how the Internet changes the ways we communicate with each other, and thus the ways we relate to each other. When I get sucked into a Twitter fight, see a particularly ugly comment thread, or hear about bullying and harassment online, I wonder what kind of web my kids will inherit from us.
That’s why I was so struck when I read Jeff Jarvis’ blog post “We get the net—and society—we build.” Jarvis’ post (a response to this post from Amanda Palmer on “Internet hate” – also a must read) puts into words a few things I have been feeling in my gut for sometime. He writes:
“We are building the norms of our new net society. It can go either way; there’s nothing, absolutely nothing to say that technology will lead to a better or worse world. It only provides us choices and the opportunity to show our own nature in what we choose. Will you support the fights, the attacks, the hate? Or will you stand up for the victims and against the bullies and trolls and their cheering mobs who gleefully tweet, ‘Fight! Fight!’?”
Jarvis’s post is a profound reminder that each of us is making the web as we go along. Our tweets, our Facebook posts, our Instagram photos, our Reddit comments are both literally and figuratively the links that hold the web together. Online our actions don’t speak louder than words, our words are our actions, and we should make them count. Continue reading
In Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, he documents how the Internet has helped people accomplish amazing things by leveraging the power of new networks and connections. “We are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action,” he writes, “all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations.”
However, most of the examples of social and political change that have been amplified or catalyzed via social media are episodic, not lasting (which isn’t to discount their importance). This is in part the nature of social media. The same velocity that makes social media campaigns and memes so powerful, also makes them, for the most part, short-lived or best suited to making immediate change.
As we spend more and more of our time and energy on social networks – recent stats suggest that almost 20% of all time online is spent on social networks with the average person spending 7 hours on Facebook a month – I wonder how we can build a more consistent civic layer over the new digital public square.
Instagram’s Terms of Service changes are the most recent in a long string of events that remind us of the deal we make when we embrace “free” commercial platforms online. As one person put it – if your aren’t paying, you are the product, not the customer. Plenty has already been written about the changes, what they may or may not mean, and now Instragram is going back to the drawing board and revising at least the framing if not the rules themselves.
However, rather than wait for Instragram to get it right (or perhaps wait to be disappointed when they continue to get it wrong), perhaps we should think about making something different. Maybe it’s time to get serious about creating more community-driven noncommercial public space on the web.