Read and Respond – Week 4

January 26, 2011

This week, we’ll be reading about the fundamental unit of online communication (the link), and the human component of connective journalism (the crowd). In chapter 3, Briggs is concerned with the latter. His three focuses are “crowdsourcing,” “open-source reporting,” and “pro-am journalism.” Crowdsourcing is the main one to understand. What’s meant by this? How does it inform the rest, and the world of communication you all are entering into?

The term “The wisdom of crowds” is most recently popularized by James Surowiecki – he even wrote a book – but it’s been around for a while. Sit back and enjoy this short (and catchy) tune on the subject from Nova:

While you’re not expected to eyeball the weight of oxen (at least, not for this class), there’s a useful idea here in what groups can know. On the other hand, others like Carnegie Mellon’s Vassilis Kostakos take issue with “the wisdom of crowds,” arguing that those online crowds are often a very small percentage of highly engaged users. How do these reconcile in your approach to connective journalism?

Next, move on to links and linking. The simple hyperlink is an obvious use of linking, but it’s not the only kind – social media applications employ linking in their own way. So let’s read about links:

  • David G. Post, in this 1997 essay (ancient history!!!), lays out some common questions and criticisms of the humble link that are still pertinent today.
  • Bill Thompson talks about links as the key component of “the semantic Web.” We may argue, as he puts it, “a link is just a link,” yet often there is more going on in the way the link is used.

What do you think about links? What is the nature of a link, and what are the ways in which we use them? What are the similarities and differences of hyperlinks and the social links involved in crowdsourcing? Finally, what kind of ethics and etiquette do you see as necessary for using either of these kinds of links in your journalistic and personal work?

Remember to respond to this post by noon on Monday, January 31. As always, responses should be around 200 words, and links to arguments or evidence on your own blog or elsewhere are strongly recommended.