Dan Gillmor – the technology’s not the thing…

Dan Gillmor leads off the conference in Seoul with an overview of some of the high points of Web 2.0, including the Bush/Blair lipsynch video, which always gets a good laugh. (What’s Dan going to do if Blair resigns, I wonder?) His point is that audio and video are put together and remixed in ways that seem deeply foriegn to people who haven’t grown up with digital media. (Dan seems to be navigating quite well for someone who’s worked for as many mainstream newspapers as he has…)

He showcases some fascinating new tools which we can imagine helping us navigate the new landscape of participatory media. One of the most interesting is screencasting, a technology pioneered by John Udell, which lets an author walk someone through a set of webpages while playing an audio commentary track. Dan shows off a movie about the Wikipeda “heavy metal umlaut” article, which does a brilliant job of helping explain how Wikipedia articles grow and get corrected.

Cool tech aside, Dan’s point is that “technology is the least important part of what’s going on – it’s about journalistic principles.” Specifically, Dan believes that citizen journalists need to practice thoroughness, accuracy, fairness, independence and transparency, acknowledging that mainstream journalists need to get better about being more transparent as well. The tools we have – RSS, OPML, easy publishing technologies – enable us to about leverage the wisdom of the crowds, roll our own media, and to collect, upload, blog, show video, annotate and argue…

But while the technology is not the core problem of citizen journalism, the technology can get much better, Dan argues. Assuming that Moore’s law continues progressing, that devices to create content get smaller, more pervasive and easier to use, Dan believes we need – and may see – better conversation tools, news finding and reading tools, content creation tools, and pervasive metadata.

Dan’s Center for Citizen Media – allied with UC Berkeley’s Journalism school as well as with the Berkman Center – will help outline the need for some of these tools. But his core goals, as he suggests from his comments on technology and principles, are to ensure that the people building and using these new tools take the core principles that make journalism work.

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