Twitter and the future of journalism

Those who awoke yesterday to read of Osama bin Laden’s death splashed across every news outlet could have been in some way better served by following Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) on Twitter who became, in his own virtual words, “the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it”, shown above.

These tweets were an honest description, free from spin and not aimed at achieving fame or writing Pulitzer-winning pieces (he didn’t realise what the attack was about until later).

Even though unwitting, his tweets surpassed much of the outpouring of on-scene journalistic accounts that regularly invade our consciousness.

Is Twitter (and other social media) breaking the mass media’s dominance on world issues and if so, what is the future of journalism? Will the result be a surge of Twitter reporting by ordinary people? And will the media attempt a catch-up by producing even more mind-numbing examples of ‘churnalism’ or will it insted seek a higher quality of reporting?

Of course. all these questions could become irrelevant if Professor Timothy Wu’s arguments about corporate giants taking over the internet and hegemonising it come to pass.

Faith in the digital age…

1966 Time magazine cover

1966 Time magazine cover

We’ve come a long way since the Time magazine cover from, 1966 that asked, ‘Is God Dead?’: the English football team seems to have made a habit of failing to win the World Cup and no band has released an album quite like the Beatles’ ‘Revolver’. Perhaps most surprisingly, God quite evidently is alive and well, not least on the web which features an increasing amount of religious groups that connect with their audiences and reach new ones.

When Time took out their controversial cover (in which they somehow estimated that around half of the world’s population was atheist or irreligious), it seemed genuinely that religion was falling into the graves dug by the competing secular ideologies that (mostly violently) punctuated the planet. However, the words of the great French writer (and committed atheist, despite a fondness for Hinduism) Andre Malraux seem increasingly prescient: “The next century will either be religious or it won’t be”.



A new politics of extremism…

Are we entering a new politics of extremism?

In our guest blog for today, Uzair Choughtai writes about a recent discussion on radicalism in the UK.

The Young Foundation and UpRising recently held an interesting discussion on whether the UK was entering a new state of extremism. The Young Foundation is a social enterprise organisation that seeks to bring together insight, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet social needs, whilst UpRising is a programme that aims to open up pathways regarding leadership amongst young adults.


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“I think Facebook is awful!”…Making kids care about online privacy

The author and blogger Cory Doctorow is a self-described ‘cyber utopian’, who has written of the web’s power for creating a better future: “I conclude that the net is helping millions of people wake up to the fact that they can do something about the causes they care about and that some fraction of those people will go on to do more, and more, and more”.

So it might seem a bit strange that this champion of the internet should be maligning Facebook in such withering terms, even comparing the world’s top social network with the behaviourist experiments of B.F. Skinner. In this TED Talk, Doctorow speaks about Facebook is not simply a value-neutral network created to link people but an online world based on a business model and about making online privacy a bigger issue with younger people.

With all the excellent criticism by the likes of Tim Wu, Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov, it is refreshing to get similar points of view from someone who is an insider and not a professional cyber-critic.

How to get ahead in advertising

This fascinating lecture by Ji Lee, now the creative director of Google Creative Lab, is an inspiration to every frustrated creative out there. Less than a decade ago, Lee was at an ad agency attempting to push the envelope and innovate but, for corporate reasons, was scraping the barrel and stagnating (see how easy it is to descend into a morass of cliches?).

Recognising that he was in something of a rut. Lee did what many of us can only dream of having the courage to: he went out himself. His idea was to extend the cretive process to ordinary people by launching The Bubble Project – a guerrilla campaign that pasted speech bubbles onto adverts all over New York. Eventually, people began to fill in these empty speech bubbles with all manner of creative slogans from the hilarious to the downright silly.

Lee had crested the wave of a new optimism that was coming with the rapid rise of the internet. He had tapped into a participatory mood (we have expressed scepticism about the various claims made for the revolutionary power of the internet but it’s unquestionable that the flow of information precipitated by the web has rapidly increased and unleashed new possibilites) that on the face of it was was comment-free but amalgamated a series of opinions and voices on a host of topics.

The video sees Lee tell us about how he overcame the frustration of his earlier career and how he went about the Bubble Project.

The Information Empire Strikes Back

The next phase in social networking and politics has arrived: states are fighting back

As was noted in our previous blog post –‘Egypt, the internet and the washing machine’, which put the use of social media in the Middle East revolutions in an historical context by reminding us of the use of the washing machine in women’s liberation – the topic of social networking and its effects often provokes fierce debate, with sides regularly and mutually castigating one another. However, some less-publicised developments around the world hint at a second round of hauling over the coals.


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Don’t believe the hype…

It’s hard not to like Jocelyn Bell Burnell. In fact, it’s hard not to love her. A devout Quaker devoted to social and spiritual issues as well as being bone fide genius, Bell Burnell missed out on winning a physics Nobel Prize for her discovery of pulsars (the Prize instead going to her supervisor), to which her response was: “I am not myself upset about it — after all, I am in good company, am I not!”



Animating the revolution…

Following on from our very lively discussion on social media in the middle east unrest, some news ha come to light regarding the use of blogs in Iran.

For some years, blogging in Iran has been an intriguing phenomenon that sees an ever-increasing amount of bloggers despite the poor bandwidth and some high-profile prosecutions. Blogs were something of a precursor to the social media of today that were used to so extensively during the current spate of protests.


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In our courage to speak, we must also have the courage to listen

Hundreds of protesters  gathered in Times Square yesterday to protest against an upcoming hearing by New York’s Republican congressman Peter King on “the extent of radicalisation within the American Muslim community”. The protestors believe that the hearing will unfairly single out Muslims in general rather than focusing on extremists who constitute a small minority.


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The Green Future – Sims style

Thinking about solutions to global warming can be stressful and depressing but this new simulation is uplifting and informative. Pic courtesy of InfoGraphicsShowcase

Nuclear power? Hmmm…high effort but decent output. Any accidents would be tragic. Verdict: Build 13 more power stations, and hope the number doesn’t jinx anything.



A mind once stretched by a new

idea never regains its original



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