Dan Gilmor, Director for the Centre for Citizen Media, and I had a brief conversation today on the role of new media & citizen journalism in disaster relief operations. The recording only worked properly on the third attempt, an important reminder that reliance on technology in the middle of a chaotic ambience is rife with fallibility.
In conversations prior to this brief recording, Dan emphasised the point that new media does not in any way take away from an emphasis of traditional media in disaster relief. Both old and new media he felt had equally important roles to play. He cautioned against the cacophony of citizen journalism – the tragedy of the commons as he called it, where information anarchy led to the distrust of citizen journalism driven information generation and dissemination and generally fed to the chaos in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Instead, he said, citizens journalism and new media needed to strengthen the relief process by providing decisions makers with information from the grassroots.
Dan also underscored the importance of social networks over the technology itself. He also said that SA III was very useful to help him better understand the way in which the edge in information networks (usually the first responders) could help gather information from the farthest reaches of a region and feed it back into data centres that where then able to generate a better picture of the needs and resources on the ground. Dan also said that the connectivity issues that SA III has been plagued with (I had extremely poor connectivity today, 72+ hours after the operations centre began from a cold start) was useful for most of the technology solutions providers present at SA III, since it was usually typical of conditions that could be expected in a disaster response.
The full podcast of the interview can be found here.