A Discussion of Mobile Technologies and News Making

    by Paul Lamb
    February 2, 2008

    Here is an interesting academic review of how mobile technoligies are changing the news landscape. A number of important points are made, including…

    1) The notion that mobile technologies in the hands of the public may be resulting in event-driven news overtaking institutionally based news. See this monster of a study on this topic. but here are some interesting stats from the BBC on how the public is engaging news organizations directly:

    “…In the aftermath of July 7 (2005) bombings, [14] BBC received 20,000 written accounts via e-mail, 1,000 photos and 20 videos from citizens. Similarly, in the summer floods in the UK in June 2007, t15 he BBC News website received more than 10,000 images of the floods providing insights into the story. The Tsunami disaster, the 7/7 bombings in July, Madrid bombings and hurricane Katrina brought to the fore the role of mobile telephony in reconstructing events and in aiding the media in constructing its narratives”


    Is it that event driven news is overtaking institutional reporting or that institutional reporting is attempting to understand, leverage, and respond to increasing public participation in news making all at the same time…a thorougly confusing state which sometimes gives the appearance of mainstream media being pushed along? But who is doing the pushing?

    2) Mobile technologies offer an alternative archiving and storage of historical events

    “Mobile technologies and new media platforms offer spaces of storage where a proliferation of narratives and images provide avenues to read history differently away from the institutionalised spaces of museums and official archives.”


    The personalization of history is an interesting trend indeed, but one wonders if unofficial “mass archiving” through individual mobile device capture of events is doing anything more than offering infinitely more choices of information that will mostly go unnoticed and unorganized? Is organization important?

    3) Democratizing event creation.

    There is no doubt that more people recording events and responding to them openly on the Web means that the pool of news contributors is expanding. But is the growth in participation actually contributing to a thriving democracy or does it just mean more unfitered noise in the public space? Great that we have more news makers, but are the majority of folks really making news or just making noise?

    The paper concludes with the following…

    “The act of bearing witness through mobile telephony and potential to publicise it through public platforms such as the internet are creating new forms of dependencies between the media and the audience who bear witness. The act of bearing witness through mobile telephony transcends some dichotomies between the producer and audience but equally the domain of event creation has incorporated new forms of looking and gaze where these signify new and evolving power relationships between media and the act of bearing witness. The gaze of the citizen or the lay person who bears witness incorporates new image economies where images can convey different vantage points and perhaps new forms of framing intimacy and distance as well as apathy.”

    Indeed new dependencies are being created. I just hope that such dependencies will result in higher quality and more meaningful reporting and not just change the dynamics of who and how many create the news.

    Tagged: mobile media news making technologies

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