Aside from my shock and sadness at the scenes of the last few days as London and other towns and cities arorund the UK have been looted and vandalised, I have found it really interesting to see how different channels and tools have been used to create, curate and share what has been going on.
First it is worth noting that the mobile phone takes centre stage as the tool for creation – it has been a part of the organisation of the troubles (Blackberry’s messaging app) and key to its documentation in text, audio, video and pictures and broadcast via Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc.
Twitter – this has been the news channel for the riots. The #londonriots hashtag shows how Twitter has been used to tip off others about trouble hotspots. On the downside it has also shown itself to be great for spreading rumour, which has been quite unhelpful.
Adam Westbrook wrote a great post on the pros and cons of scoial media in the reporting of these events. One thing to come out of this – and maybe this is an area of opportunity for journalists – is the need to be able to follow trusted sources. Following on from that, it has been a revelation to see how the Great Manchester Police force has used Twitter. All at once we have a huge range of voices broadcasting as events unfold.
Within Twitter there are picture toolks such as Yfrog and Twitpic (and now Twitter itself) that ave also enabled users to share pictures quickly. Images have played an important part of the coverage – just check out the BBC website. And the same too of video – with snippets from smartphones being posted into Youtube and FB.
Images from the riots are now being used to help identify culprits.
As well as content from the front line we then have analysis and discussion which has taken place everywhere – on Twitter, Facebook, in blog posts, articles, comments on articles etc.
The big news brands such as the BBC and national newspapers used live blogs to curate their news stream – here is the BBC and the Guardian, for example. And so did niche local blogs.
Plus we saw some sites aggregating images of people caught on camera with their loot. That’s how quickly you can set up a Tumblr site and use Twitter and Facebook to get it noticed. And then we had the sites set up to help victims of the looting.
Seems strange to have a separate heading for sharing as the tools and channels that have broadcast the riots as they have unfolded have all been built on the ability to be able to share. Twitter again, through links, has been very effective at pointing me to other relevant content – in particular interesting analysis that would have been hard to find.
From a personal perspective, I have found myself feeling a lot closer to the action than if I had simply been watching this unfold on the TV. The Twitter stream especially has been very emotionally charged and I really felt it – be it anger, fear, sadness, panic. I have really had a sense of an emotional rollercoaster even though I wasn’t there. That is a new layer to the old-style broadcast news.
The filtering of so much ‘live’ information is now so important to the news cycle.
It feels as if the way we report on such events has changed forever and a new way of creating and participating in the coverage of news is now emerging. And in all of this the role of filtering – or curating – what we see seems to becoming ever more important.