Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Empowering citizen journalists

In my every-other Friday post for TechLearning last week (“What are you going to do?”) I made a brief reference to the pivotal role citizen journalists play and are likely to play around the globe in the years ahead:

The causes of human rights and self-determination, along with many others, have more potential to be advanced through the diligent work of citizen journalists utilizing these new tools of media publication than perhaps any other communication technologies which preceded them.

The more I experience blogging and the potential of dialog in the blogosphere, the more convicted I become that disruptive technologies like blogs, camera-phone webposts, webvideos, podcasts, and digital social networks are tools of unprecedented power. The Global Voices Online project was one of the first international blogging projects I encountered which explicitly focuses on the use of blogging to foster international understanding as promote universal human rights.

Driving back to Oklahoma today, I listened to the brief speech Peter Gabriel shared on TEDTalks in February 2006.

Peter talked about the WITNESS project, which has the slogan:

See it. Film it. Change it.

He mentioned the Rodney King incident video (now on YouTube and linked from the Rodney King WikiPedia article) as a powerful example of how media captured by a citizen journalist could make a big impact on politics, culture, and race relations.

I am relatively young, and do not remember the civil rights movement in the United States. I have counted this as a blessing in the past, especially to have not faced the wrenching divisiveness of the Vietnam War, but I also have realized (sadly) that so many issues of racial equality and equal treatment remained and STILL REMAIN unresolved in the United States. The US Civil War ended formally in 1865, but perceptions of bigotry and racism were never completely removed from the culture of the United States even a hundred years later. Watching “Reconstruction: The Second Civil War” this past fall really drove that point home for me.

I am convinced there are values and ideals worth struggling and fighting for. That conviction, in part, led me to the US Air Force Academy many years ago, and continues to guide me as an educator and parent. I do not think I have gained literacy as well as technology skills to merely edify myself and provide a comfortable income for my own family. I believe that in the future, and hopefully even today, the work I do on a personal as well as professional basis will empower others to constructively use disruptive communication technologies to positively support human rights as well as advance the ethic of universal literacy.

In exploring the WITNESS site, I’m pleased to see they have launched a human rights video hub pilot with the Global Voices Online project. I am deeply stirred by the $100 laptop project not only because of the educational doors it will open for learners around the globe, but also for the “powerful equipping” it will represent for new generations of citizen journalists. As Peter mentioned in this TEDTalk, the growing ubiquity of cell phones with digital cameras as well as digital video-recording capabilities also bodes well for the equipping of the masses to make a difference as citizen journalists.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

One of my top priorities for 2007 is going to be the completion of my dissertation and PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. After that is finished, I am not sure what the future will hold, but I know I want to write several books and continue my role as a vocal educational advocate. I hope at some point I will be able to teach an undergraduate and/or graduate course explicitly focused on citizen journalism. That would be a great collaborative online curriculum to develop with others!

Technology tools may themselves be value neutral, but as human beings wielding these tools we should never be relavistic or amoral. Rather than merely teaching others how to use blogs and podcasts in a content-neutral, “tool only” format, I would much rather help others learn about the effective use of these technologies in the context of advancing values like human rights, self-determination, and universal literacy.

Check out the WITNESS project and consider joining their work:

WITNESS has been a pioneer in the human rights field for over 13 years. We work in partnership with human rights groups around the world, giving their local issues a global platform through the use of video and technology. And we work with these partners to develop advocacy campaigns that target a variety of audiences, including international media outlets, government officials and decision-makers, activists, and concerned citizens worldwide.

We live in an era of unprecedented communication potential, but the scourges of injustice, corruption, poverty and even genocide still persist. It is up to each one of us, equipped with different skills and gifts, and placed in different contexts, to advance the causes of justice, respect for human rights, self-determination, literacy, and transparent as well as accountable government. Putting blogging and podcasting in that context makes the work many are advancing with web 2.0 seem remarkably important.

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4 responses to “Empowering citizen journalists”

  1. […] Empowering citizen journalists… camera-phone webposts, webvideos, podcasts, and digital social networks are … the work I do on a personal as well as professional basis will empower … with digital cameras as well as digital video-recording capabilities also … […]

  2. Paul Avatar


    Ever wanted to embed within your WordPress blog some interesting Youtube clips, without just linking out?

    I noticed that you use WordPress (as I do) for blogging. I came across a radical new WordPress pluggin I thought you might like. It enables you to place a convenient gallery of Youtube videos in a matrix, which when clicked will play in your main window, all without leaving your own WordPress blog, but still receiving the video feed from YouTube.

    Check it out:

  3. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach Avatar

    Citizen Journalism is a force to be reckoned with as traditional media outlets are trying to rework how all the pieces fit together. They key to all of this is to figure out how all we are creating can be managed to best leverage emancipation of the quieter voices in society.

    Writing well is and has always been the best revenge. 🙂

    Check this out– my original source was Andy Carvin.

  4. Jeff Crigler Avatar

    […] this law would seem like a staggeringly bad idea — even for a country that’s more restrictive with the press than the U.S. is. (Journalists have to be licensed in France.) It threatens everybody from casual bloggers to organized efforts like the WITNESS project, threatening to idle the “tools of unprecedented power” we’ve got […]