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June 30, 2013

Are there journalists?

Jeff Jarvis [twitter:jeffjarvis] has a good post asking us to think about journalism as a service provided to a culture, rather than worrying about who is or is not a journalist:

Thanks to the Snowden-Greenwald NSA story, we are headed into another spate of debate about who is and isn’t a journalist. I’ve long said it’s the wrong question now that anyone can perform an act of journalism: a witness sharing news directly with the world; an expert explaining news without need of gatekeepers; a whistleblower opening up documents to sunlight; anyone informing everyone. It’s the wrong question when we reconsider journalism not as the manufacture of content but instead as a service whose goal is an informed public.

There are of course times when we have to make a decision about who is a journalist and who isn’t. For example, who do you let into a press conference? But almost always those are decisions forced by the limitations of the physical world, and it’s a shame to let those limitations drive our understanding. Jeff’s way is more useful.

Why more useful? First, because it can forestall a whole bunch of pointless arguments premised on the idea that there is a precise definition of “journalist” that we can establish, that’s useful, and that we can agree upon. That’s not how language works. Second, and more important, worrying about journalism-as-service rather than who is a journalist lets us think about how to build an ecosystem that enables the maximum amount of useful journalism no matter who is doing it. From my point of view, this is a way of thinking about how we can build better and better knowledge networks for understanding what’s happening now in the context of history and a pluralism of cultures.

Now, the very best such ecosystem well might have paid professional journalists in it. In fact, I’ll be shocked if it does not. But thinking about journalism-as-service (or as ecosystem or as network) seems to me to be the more inclusive frame.

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June 13, 2010

Every color is miscellaneous

I’m embarrassed to say that I just read Randall Munroe’s fabulous color survey from early May. Readers were asked to supply names for colors. It’s a rich experiment: Naming and discrimination, gender differences, hacking, tagging, spamming, hilariousness. The results also seem to support prototype theory’s idea that we agree on what the “real” (prototypical) colors are, at least within a culture: This is blue, but that one is a variant that needs a modifier in front of it (“light blue”) or for which we use a variant name (“teal”).

Randall writes the webcomic XKCD, of course, which is the Doonesbury of his generation, except while you can imagine Garry Trudeau writing a satiric HBO series, you can’t imagine him running and analyzing a color survey.

(I heard about Randall’s color survey via the Mainstream: Christopher Shea at the Boston Globe blog. Christopher also points to Stephen von Worley’s color map. BTW, that post by Christopher also has a great note about iPad censoring a graphic version of the oft-banned James Joyce’s Ulysses. Anyway, I’ve really got to do a better job keeping up with XKCD.)

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