Dan Gillmor in Cape Town: Transparency is key

Pics by Tino Kreutzer

Dan Gillmor, author of We Media and acclaimed citizen media advocate, was in Cape Town to speak at the University of Cape Town’s Business School about the publishing revolution of the digital age, also known as Citizen Media. Gillmor is co-founder of Dopplr, a social networking service that allows users to create itineraries of their travel plans and an investor in Jimmy Wales’ Wikia.

We know that media no longer controls the information highways. People are bypassing big media via their own blogs, broadcasts and networks — and that is altering the very fabric of society in many senses. Some say this shift in society is comparable to the revolution in the feudal ages which saw power move away from the aristocracy to the people through the invention of the printing presses and mass media.

Usual criticism of blogs brushed aside
Gillmor also had some good answers for the same old criticisms of citizen media that we hear over and over again. He noted that both formal media and traditional media often get it wrong — and that in the digital era of information overload, we need to develop a kind of new media literacy to help us work out whats good and bad. Readers have to be skeptical about what they were reading, no matter what the source.

Gillmor listed some key principles audiences should follow when reading content online, either from formal media or the citizenmediasphere:

  • Skepticism
  • Judgement
  • Research
  • Free thinking (Look at alternatives)
  • Techniques (Readers must be aware that advertising can be manipulative and how it works)

Gillmor reckons that this is the era where transparency is key. It’s now “harder to keep secrets” because of evolving personal media, so companies, media, bloggers — everyone in fact — should be transparent in their conduct.

He said that now is best time to be an entrepreneur: “Innovation is inexpensive. We should be inventing our own jobs. Journalists should be inventing their own jobs.” He reckons there are countless opportunities around micro publishing and niche topics.

Media companies are realising they can work with bloggers and be “guides” as opposed to the “oracles” that they were in the era before the internet. Media organisations can work with their readers to create content, but Gillmor doesn’t approve of media not paying readers for their contributions.

Gillmor has just returned from online journalism conference Highway Africa in Grahamstown, where he was their keynote speaker.

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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