The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.
—William Gibson, quoted in The Economist, December 4, 2003
Cardiff tutor and all round digital hound Glyn Mottershead discussed the digital revolution surrounding us now, and began with the quote above.
I use the quote as a reason to struggle on despite the fact that my digital arthritis has led to a little moat of empty spaces around me in the newsroom for fear of being plagued with my whimpering. But if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain.
In fact the lecture was full of exciting metaphors for this digital revolution. Some say it is an evolution, but things have happened so fast, and disruptive innovation is so strong a tool, and there is such a vivid sense of uncertainty about the future that this smells like the storming of a Bastille full of tightly zipped up pockets of information and not the steady rise of a chimpanzee. If you claim to know the way forward you’re deluded. Who would have ever thought the pigs would do what they did in Animal farm. For sure it will not be what we imagine.
Sorry to go dark on you there.
Glyn quoted Alison Gow, executive editor, digital of the Liverpool Echo and Post making the point that online journalism gives us the opportunity to be a real pioneer in the art of story telling, audience engagement and new ways of sourcing, sharing and developing information. This is exciting and perhaps the nub of how to view all things revolutionary, not focus too much on the revolution but on the equal distribution of the useful tools that are exploding around us.
And now the utility belt metaphor! Journalists can pull out many, many more tools from their professional belts then . Technology is a sort of creative currency, whether it be in sourcing from twitter or producing a page using quark or contacting leading experts on the latest invention. Journalists can give sense to and make sense out of the eternal frictions between the things as they are.
If journalism is about channeling a passion for people and communication into something more useful than having the balls to start a conversation over the urinals, then we should all be very excited about how communication replace old power structures.
Is traditional media just plain antisocial?
Is the future going to be based on User Generated Content and citizen journalism? The BBC has a team who constantly filter stuff being sent to them.
The power of the internet is undeniable when we look at the Iran elections of last year when the Iranian government cut off internet access. The classic gatekeepers, the controllers of the flow of information are nonetheless dropping like flies, and information is no longer a scarce resource.
Perhaps the question to ask is how can journalists distinguish themselves?