While putting the tools of media creation in the hands of digital-savvy members of the general public is not a new idea (hello, Current TV), online experiments continue to point the way towards fascinating possibilities for documentarians and factual producers, and anyone else who wants to capture reality for an audience.
In an earlier blog post, I waxed rhapsodic about an upcoming project from the BBC, then dubbed Digital Revolution, which billed itself as an open source documentary series detailing the impact of the Internet via contributions from the WWW. The series, which came to be known as The Virtual Revolution, lives online here; and is well worth checking out.
Since that blog posting, there have been a number of interesting developments in the open-source, “citizen journalist/documentarian” movement, with a couple of them happening over the past couple of weeks. Of course, there’s YouTube Direct, an initiative co-developed with The Huffington Post and launched by the video hub last November, which enables news organizations and big ol’ media companies to access and use “citizen journalist” clips provided by YouTube users. There’s no word yet on the number of clips requested by major media for talking dogs, LOL cats or young men being hit in the testicles by projectiles. Yes, I’m being facetious – while the debate about whether crowdsourced journalism is dangerously encroaching on ground that to this point has been the domain of “professionals” is, in my opinion, a valid one, services such as this bring a level of engagement and connection between viewers/users and their media destinations of choice that is also worth exploring.
Two more recent online exercises illustrate the potential of bringing the user/viewer to the table when creating content. OpenFile (www.openfile.ca) bills itself as a “collaborative local news site” in which “stories are suggested by readers, selected by editors and investigated by professional journalists.” Created by a team of Toronto-based journalists, some of whom come from “real” news organizations such as The Times of London, the site aims to serve its community – Toronto – in ways that the mainstream media either chooses not to, or just plain can’t.
The other example needs to be accompanied by a warning – don’t click here unless you have a couple of hours to spare. “A Moment in Time” is a truly spectacular undertaking from The New York Times’ Lens blog, in which the work of thousands of photographers from around the world, capturing a snap of their lives at 15:00 PM, U.T.C. on Sunday, May 2, is housed in a snazzy virtual photo album. Pictures can be searched by topic (community, family, arts, etc.) and recommended to friends. It’s a fascinating window on the world, and I’ll be interested to see where they take the idea next.