Keith Hammonds from the Ashoka Foundation has an interesting guest post on DigiDave on how new technologies are changing the way we consume, produce and disseminate news. As he correctly cautions and points out,
Only now, we’re appointing new agents of trust – professional colleagues, friends, friends of friends, whomever we’ve decided to follow on Twitter: these self-constructed social networks act as our editors, essentially determining by committee not just what’s truthful, but what’s most urgent and most valuable to us at any given moment.
Which may be at once compellingly democratic and flat-out dangerous. Democratic, because we enable as information participants a ton of people who weren’t in the game before. Dangerous because many of them don’t know what they’re doing: the risk, we agreed, is that a largely news-illiterate crowd will accept and distribute information that’s “just true enough.”
That’s troubling because of the increasingly tight linkages between information and action. More and more, Paula noted, news will assume and inform action, becoming more of a continuum; information will, in fact, activate communities.
That phenomenon, of course, could go either way. We could see historically passive audience members transformed into active, effective citizens, joining in networks whose use of truthful, trustworthy information strengthens and advances democratic society. Or we could devolve into an era of self-interested hype, sensationalism, and propaganda.
This is a note of caution I’ve struck earlier and I’m glad to hear others echo. Technology is no panacea to problems created my women and men. But just as it can and is known to exacerbate, technology can heal and reconcile. These aspects, less known and harder to capture and define, is why I bear witness to Sri Lanka’s current events and processes using new technologies at my disposal. Deriving hope from the power of people in the know, yet acutely cognisant of the violence of repressive regimes, we may not change the world as it is today through our work. But bearing witness may help someone change it for the the better tomorrow?
Disclaimer: I am an Ashoka News & Knowledge Entrepreneurs Fellow.