Citizen journalism's role in the hive mind

by phil on Sunday Jul 6, 2008 4:46 AM

When I see technology coming down the pipe, I like to think about how it makes the global brain better. That becomes my measure of progress. What can we, collectively, do that we weren't able to do. How are we maturing.

I think of the cognitive capacities of the whole. For example, This American Life had an episode called Two Steps Back which aired in 2004 about an outstanding high school teacher who is leaving teaching because policies have changed. What's great about the Internet is that now we can have follow-up. That episode aired four years ago, but I can make it relevant right now. I can Google and see that other people are wondering, "so what happened to that teacher?" This is an important step in maturity for the overall hive mind. Memory isn't just archiving information. We've had libraries since the Library of Alexandria. What we're doing now in our "information age" is we're developing an active memory, where relevant histories can be continuously coughed up and indexed faster than it used to ever be.

This is what citizen journalism really adds to the world. It'll never replace old journalism, which to me is paid, direct observation. Old journalists are the eyes. Citizen journalists are the follow-up on what the eyes saw. The newspapers will only report flash points, but to get the follow-up, the blogosphere is just so much better in perseverance or obsession over the topics that were reported last week. The blogosphere keeps stories alive much better than anything out there.

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