Tag Archives: wikipedia

Will Wikileaks Revolutionize Journalism?

I’ve been keeping my eye on Wikileaks over the past few months, as a potential source of eyewitness footage and contextual documentation for news stories that we’ve covered on NowPublic.

Although the site maintains some similarities to Wikipedia, the community-edited, online encyclopedia, Wikileaks bills itself, first and foremost, as an “international transparency network” that exists to allow documents to be leaked anonymously and made available for public analysis. In principle, the site’s express purpose is to bring to light global injustices and to bring attention to oppressive regimes around the world.

The site offers secure, encrypted methods for documents to be posted to the site anonymously and untraceably and the Wikileaks organization itself is comprised of a group of editors, journalists, programmers, and advisors, who are effectively unknown to one another.

All of this makes for a unique online space wherein allegedly leaked documents or information can be freely shared, distributed, and subjected to the collective review and analysis of the site’s editorial team and Wikileaks’ online community. Nevertheless, many journalists are approaching the site with a requisite amount of skepticism, given its ‘open source’ mandate and necessary questions around the authenticity and reliability of information disclosed through its platform.

What’s your take on Wikileaks? Can and should its model of ‘collective wisdom’ be trusted as a reliable source of news and information? What place do such documents and disclosures have in our contemporary media landscape?

Encouraging & protecting whistleblowers

If you’re not familiar with Wikileaks, you should be because, since it debuted last year, the international transparency network behind the site has forced governments and news media to take notice, most recently with the posting of whistleblower documents that indicate “thousands of sterilizations, and possibly some abortions, took place in 23 Texas Catholic hospitals from 2000 to 2003,” as reported by the Catholic News Service in the wake of the leak.

Exposing oppressive regimes

Wikileaks describes itself as a site that’s “developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact.”

Besides having been briefly banned by a judge in the U.S. (the site appears to be based in Sweden), the anonymous founders are international computer geeks who know how to hide in cyberspace and get around things like the Great Firewall of the government in China. In fact, Wired magazine notes that one of Wikileaks’ advisers, security expert Ben Laurie, “doesn’t even know who runs the site — other than (co-founder Julian) Assange (who lives in Kenya) — or where the servers are.”

Wikileaks as a news site

What makes Wikileaks a unique “news” site is that instead of “breaking stories,” it publishes leaked documents, now boasting “over 1.2 million documents … from dissident communities and anonymous sources.”

An early criticism of Wikileaks was its posting of anonymously leaked documents without running it through an editing process and without providing any context — something that many industry insiders (and military brass), including prominent open government advocates like Steve Aftergood, view as “irresponsible,” at best.

While Wikileaks Web masters seem immune from government and press criticism, they’re not unresponsive, having changed the site a bit since it first hit the net in January 2007. The home page now features analysis of recently leaked documents, as well as “fresh leaks requiring analysis.”

The site also notes: “Wikileaks is not like Wikipedia. Every submitted article and change is reviewed by our editorial team of professional journalists and anti-corruption analysts. Articles that are not of high standard are rejected and non-editorial articles are fully attributed.”

Authenticity and Document Analysis

“Wikileaks believes that the best way to determine if a document is authentic is to open it up for analysis to the broader community — and particularly the community of interest around the document.”

“So for example, let’s say a Wikileaks document reveals human rights abuses and it is purportedly from a regional Chinese government. Some of the best people to analyze the document’s veracity are the local dissident community, human rights groups and regional experts (such as academics). They may be particularly interested in this sort of document. But of course Wikileaks will be open for anyone to comment.”

“Journalists and governments are often duped by forged documents. It is hard for most reporters to outsmart the skill of intelligence agency frauds. Wikileaks, by bringing the collective wisdoms and experiences of thousands to politically important documents, will unmask frauds like never before.”

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Citizen Curators vs. Creators

As the evolution of web 2.0, social networks, user-generated content, and ‘citizen media’ continues, I’ve shifted my focus from thinking of the ‘user as creator’ toward what I think is a far more viable and sustainable model for engaging users and communities: as citizen curators.

The work of the curator, as Antony Mayfield from Open points out in his excellent post on “Creators and Curators” within the context of the marketing industry, is to bring together content from diverse sources — to research, organize, and select it. Few people (let alone paid and respected bloggers) have the time to post daily, long-winded and high-minded philosophical diatribes on the inherently narcissistic pursuit of bettering one’s Technorati ranking and the like. Just look at the massive growth in microblogging and Twittering, since its debut at last year’s SXSW, for further evidence. Not only is time being spliced into ever smaller increments, so too is the time allotted for content creation.

It’s far easier to post a link to an article, Flickr photo, or YouTube video that you’ve stumbled upon, than it is to actually create a new and unique piece of content. Sites like Twitter and the slightly more evolved blogging platform Tumblr.com acknowledge this shift in attention and have responded with a simple architecture to grab content from around the web and repurpose it on one’s own site with a few snappy editorial comments added for good measure.

Indeed, the percentage of users who actively contribute to Wikipedia, YouTube, and every other UGC site you can think of, pale in comparison to the number of users who actively curate content from these sites by linking to, highlighting, quoting, and commenting items they find compelling, entertaining, or worth discussing.

I believe that users would rather curate from the existing and infinitely expanding universe of available content, rather than take the time to write, research, and create their own unique works. This is not to say that there aren’t, and won’t be, those for whom the act of creation will remain important and ritualistic, but rather to suggest that we should be creating sites, widgets, and applications that enable and facilitate the user experience of curating content.

At heart, this provides a simple means for users to demonstrate and be recognized for their knowledge, expertise, status, and time spent sorting through the endless of ocean of information, products, and fascinating detours that comprise the internet. Rather than simply exercising our ability to add to the webnoise and informationchaos, let’s try being selective for a change.

This is the Movie of Your Life

This “everyone’s got a story to tell” business is getting out of hand. What if you could make a documentary film about your very own life, or better yet, what if you could create an ongoing reality series devoted exclusively to the Cult of You? You could actualize the implicit power and potential of “iMovie” by hollering “Action!”, enacting the “i”, and casting yourself as You!

This isn’t a joke. You can really do it. You can be the star of your very own Truman Show. Who needs Jim Carrey, You play a better You, anyway.

Why let others exploit your banal existence when you can exploit yourself? Live out your ordinary fantasies in real-time. Live life onscreen, in perpetual documented beta.

What better place than here? What better time than now?

Live from the 16th Annual Aspen Institute Roundtable on Information Technology, Arturo Artom, CEO of Your Truman Show, Inc., announced the public beta of the company’s online broadcast network. Artom was invited to discuss the future of online video along with Chad Hurley, co-founder of Youtube.

YourTrumanShow.com empowers real people to tell their stories to the world through their own reality series while also encouraging producers to connect with other storytellers. The site extends the fiction of life-on-camera into a new and fun network of tomorrow’s online reality stars. It gives them a publishing platform and a broadcast channel to migrate from generating single videos to developing an ongoing multi-episode series.

Source: 901am

Of course, this idea isn’t without precedent. I’m just concerned about how pervasive this form of narcissistic self-surveillance, or sousveillance, is becoming.

Assignment Zero First Take: Wiki Innovators Rethink Openness

The first crowdsourced-created AZ feature on Citizendium has just been published at Wired.com and it looks great! Congrats to everyone who was involved in getting it done on such a short timeline.

Now, for the rest of us at AZ, we’ve got a few short weeks to pull together a hefty list of interviews and assignments – but it’s an excellent vote of confidence to see that the crowd can produce Wired-worthy news.

Keep on!

Remix the Mashup: the future of music and film

Today I am posting a call for contributors that has just been sent out to everyone involved with AssignmentZero, as I think it offers the most current and concise summary of what we’ll be covering for AZ’s film and music pages. Have a read and get in touch if you’re interested in contributing.

In 1987, a pair of young producers/radio DJs, known as Coldcut, stormed the UK dance music scene with a pioneering, sample-based style that featured a barrage of reworked rhythms and sound collages, set to a live accompaniment of synchronized film and video clips.

Who could have anticipated that, twenty years later, this hybridized aesthetic would give rise to a cultural movement in remixed music, mashed-up film, and crowdsourced art?

From online remix/mashup music communities like SpliceMusic.com, to collaborative film productions like A Swarm of Angels, the art of making art has been radically transformed by the crowd. Songs are being written collaboratively by musicians located around the globe, and films are being funded using crowdsourced donations and created through public participation in every stage of production. Artists are increasingly embracing the ethos of open-source, and joining Coldcut with a call to: “Let the data be free!”

These are the new forces driving open-source culture: projects that cultivate “participatory experience” by allowing public access to art, artists, and creative processes; projects that enable creative collaboration between people regardless of location; and projects that can be downloaded, remixed, mashed-up, and shared.

What kinds of songs are being written collaboratively? What kinds of films are being crowdsourced? What are the benefits of creating art in this way?

AssignmentZero is interested in examining how the languages of sound and cinema are being transformed by crowdsourcing. If music and film are your passions and you can volunteer between 5-10 hours over the next three weeks, please join me in looking at the future of free music and art.

How to get involved:

* Choose your focus. Music? Film? Or both?

* Sign up to the right team. If it’s music, visit AZ’s crowdsourced music homepage and click on ‘join team,’ or write me back and put “music” in the subject line. If it’s film, go to the film homepage and chose ‘join team,’ or write me back and put “film” in the subject line.

If you’ve got some spare time today, check out the assignments on the topic homepages and get started. Or send an email to me, the editor, introducing yourself: jarrett.newassignment@gmail.com

Over the course of the next month, those who sign up will be working closely with me and our film and music teams. I am particularly passionate about these topics, as my background is in media and arts production, and I am a producer, editor, cultural critic, media host, and musician based in Montreal, Canada.

Together our group will work toward producing several pieces that will be submitted to Wired.com for publication on June 5.

If music and film are your passions and you can volunteer between 5-10 hours over the next three weeks, please join us to explore the future of the collaborative arts.

AssignmentZero: Calling All Culturites!


As some of you may know, I’m very interested in emergent citizen journalism initiatives that are pushing the idea forward in exciting and dynamic new ways. I’ve been involved with the NowPublic.com site as a contributing editor to their culture section, and this week I’ve signed on as the Culture Editor of AssignmentZero – a really exciting crowdsourcing journalism project headed up by Jay Rosen in collaboration with NewAssignment.net and Wired Magazine.

If you haven’t heard about the project, you can read Jay’s original Wired article here. The main question that AZ is hoping to address is this:

“Can large groups of widely scattered people, working together voluntarily on the net, report on something happening in their world right now, and by dividing the work wisely tell the story more completely, while hitting high standards in truth, accuracy and free expression?”

Sound familiar? If you know anything about NowPublic.com, then I’m sure you’ll see the parallels and similarities.

Interestingly, however, AZ has decided to focus on a time-specific project of 6-8 weeks, in which various contributors, writers, researchers, and editors will work together to cover a wide range of topics and stories related to the concept of crowdsourcing.

The site has attracted almost 1,000 contributors in its first few weeks online, and there is a great roster of talent on-board to edit topics on crowdsourced: politics, news, law, ideas, design, Second Life, journalism, media and publishing, science, technology, Wikipedia, graffiti, international stories and, my personal favourite, arts & culture. Quite the list.

No one’s sure exactly what will be produced in the process, or exactly what the process will be, but that’s entirely the point. The finished articles, interviews and pieces will be featured online in a new and expanded AssignmentZero website, possibly in the print edition of Wired Magazine, and perhaps beyond.

For my part, I will be working as the Culture Editor on the project, and helping to guide coverage of stories on: webTV, film, art, funding, music, and whatever else we decide is exciting and important to explore.

And this is where you come in.

There are some fascinating stories to cover and we’re looking for contributors to get involved with researching, writing, and editing stories – and you might even end up in Wired Magazine!

I’m specifically looking for other like-minded ‘culturites‘ to get on board with the Culture section – but there are plenty of ways to be involved.

For my part, I’m hoping to focus the AZ culture section on several key ideas and stories, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about where we should take them:

Are you involved in any of these projects? Have you worked for, or contributed to, CurrentTV? Do you have first-hand experience as a cultural creator (artist, filmmaker, online video producer), or as part of an arts organization trying to get a crowdfunding project off the ground? I’d like for us to cover these topics through a a blend of: interviews with key people, first-hand accounts of experience with these topics, and researched features on how these topics are developing and evolving.

And, although the site Sellaband is already being covered by Jeffrey Sykes, I think there is still some ground for us to cover in the area of crowdsourced music. I’m particularly interested in looking at some emergent music/web 2.0 hybrids like the revenue-sharing music site AmieStreet.com and the self-described “hip-hop 2.0” site RapSpace.tv.

How are these sites changing the way a crowdpowered 2.0 community of users interacts with content? Who is getting involved in these sites and who are they being marketed to? What kind of content is most valued on the site and how does the crowd drive its success?

More generally, and perhaps somewhat philosophically, I’m also interested in the ‘experiential’ aspects of crowdsourced culture, both from the perspectives of artists and of the public. In parallel with AZ’s nascent, open -editorial processes of producing ‘crowdsourced journalism’ which, will be well-documented and much blogged about, I’m also interested in considering what the experience of actually making these new kinds of art is like. How is it similar or different to other forms of artistic collaboration?

What new forms and ideas could emerge from engaging with art and culture in this way? And are there dangers of these projects being co-opted or (mis)guided by outside interests, corporate or otherwise?

All of this and a whole lot more, I’m sure. We’ve got until the end of May to produced finalized features and content – so it’s a highly compressed timeline, but there is some great work ahead, and much that is already in progress/process.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved with the Culture section. I’m at jarrett.newassignment@gmail.com and you can keep up to date with AZ culture developments on my blog at http://zero.newassignment.net/user/jarrettmartineau.

If you’d like to be contribute in other ways or to other topics at AZ, please get in touch with managing editor Lauren Sandler.

It promises to be quite an adventure!

The Principles of Citizen Journalism

The good folks over at the Citizen News Network have just launched a very timely project that outlines five essential principles of citizen journalism to “help citizen reporters master the fundamentals of the craft in a networked age”. By focusing on concepts that address “the core values and tenets of quality journalism at the grassroots level”, the group has identified its key principles as follows:

The KCNN site provides an excellent and comprehensive list of web resources for established and aspiring citizen journalists that includes text-based summaries of key issues, as well as screencasts, podcasts, and video and audio interviews with notable social media/web 2.0 heavyweights including: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, fêted blogger Jason Calcanis, and NYU professor Jay Rosen, among many others.

I’m pleased to see that efforts such as these are being undertaken to initiate an important discussion regarding the emergent roles and reponsibilities of citizen journalists in the evolving worlds of newsgathering, reporting, and news media. Thankfully, the aim of this project is not to regulate the practice(s) of citizen journalists but rather to begin an “ongoing conversation” that portends toward a set of shared principles that can be actualized through journalistic practice.

As I’ve discussed previously, opportunities to put such ideas into practice have been multiplying at a dizzying pace.

Back in May 2005, Cyberjournalist.net compiled a list of 81 prominent citizen journalism sites and noted, even then, that “so many citizen journalism initiatives are cropping up…it’s hard to keep track”. Since then, two years have elapsed and we have uploaded our way into an era dominated by the multiplicity of You and the singularity of Me.

A billion people are now online. You are now the tube, the space, and the creator. Content is now user-generated and crowdsourced. Journalism is now participatory and civic. And journalists are now citizens, as never before.

We are in the process of effecting an important shift in the way individuality is created and disseminated by digital means; and it is imperative that some shared ethics and standards of practice be developed (and ideally agreed upon) by the practitioners of these new forms of journalism to reflect this shift. But will citizen journalists heed these principles on ethical grounds, as they have been proposed, or discard them in favour of ‘individualized’ standards of practice, perhaps even contingent on compensatory revenue models?

As “content creators” have come to be valued as much for the content they have already created as for their creative potential, the nature of content has been changed. Our words, images, ideas, and selves now constitute a new currency of exchange; one whose value depends on both a shared system of valuation and a common set of practiced principles. But will the principles of accuracy, thoroughness, fairness, transparency and independence help to standardize and embolden responsible journalistic practices or will market forces crack the very “bedrock foundations of journalism”?

What will this new currency be worth?