Highlighted Selections from:

Citizen Journalism, Citizen Activism, and Technology: Positioning Technology as a ‘Second Superpower’ in Times of Disasters and Terrorism


Meraz, Sharon. “Citizen Journalism, Citizen Activism, and Technology: Positioning Technology as a ‘Second Superpower’ in Times of Disasters and Terrorism.” Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism 1.1 (2005): 15–32. Print.

p.15: This paper presents a qualitative assessment of citizen journalism and activism efforts through the times of the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, the 2005 London Underground and Bus Bombings, and the 2005 US Hurricane Katrina disaster in an effort to examine how the technology industry and the associated industry of journalism is being affected by a new ethic in production and dissemination. This ethic, which welcomes the involvement of amateurs, hackers, giftgivers, and the non-elite community, has created a plethora of open source tools for blogging, wiki development, mobile phone Web publishing, and Internet telephony. These tools were vital to the formation of global citizen journalism and activism initiatives, allowing bottom-up and emergent disaster management support systems to arise from distributed and decentralized global efforts. The immediacy and widespread availability of these tools allowed citizens to function as unintentional, accidental, and incidental journalists, providing first-hand reports when the mainstream media were absent. Citizens stepped forward to lead and develop open source tools to aid missing persons and disaster recovery efforts. A critical assessment of these technologies in terms of access and usage is provided as it relates to participatory journalism, mainstream journalism practice, and global disaster and terrorism initiatives. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.15: It is widely considered that the chief trigger event for the growth of the American blogosphere was the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City. In commenting on the impact of 9/11 on the phenomenon of blogging, widelyread conservative blogger and University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds (2005) highlighted that “the blogosphere traditionally rallies in crisis.” -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.16: This ethic, expressed in the direct shaping of technology, encourages the donation of free talent, the inclusion of amateur involvement, and the gift-giving of talented hackers and experts to the selfempowerment of citizens. Using science studies theories to frame the disruptive effects of empowering technologies and open source technologies, this paper will examine the actual usage and shaping of technologies as tools for empowering citizens to tell their own stories, create media, and develop community-based tools for citizen mobilization and empowerment outside government and Big Media in times of disasters and crisis. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.16: On a more theoretical note, this paper engages in a critical assessment of the technical advantages laid out by open source advocates and technology enthusiasts as it relates to disaster and terrorism contexts. This paper poses the big question: can technology be positioned by socially minded technologists to work, in the words of Moore (2005), as a “second superpower” in times of disasters and crisis? How can open source software solutions, working in conjunction with existent technological infrastructures, harness the emergent intelligence and wisdom of communities to enable citizen involvement in framing responses to disaster management? How can technology be creatively used to empower citizens to self-organize outside the auspices of government and Big Media in times of disasters and terrorism? Does everyone have access to these technologies in vulnerable times? -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.16: Understanding the momentum for open source technological development and shared modalities of production as an alternative to price-based, market value determination is best aided by the appeal to science studies and to the historical intersection among the variables of science, technology, capitalism, control, and power. Though there are some scholars that believe in technological determinism or a technology-led theory of social change, a fair amount of science studies theorists espouse the significance of examining the social factors that shape the choice, development, deployment, and usage of technology through looking at both the stakeholders (insiders) and those denied access (the outsiders). -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.16: The ability to shape a technology is also impacted by when one enters in the development process. Hughes (1987) noted that systems, which have developed momentum or maturity, appear to be tools of technological determinism because they function more as shapers of society due to closure, stabilization, and the technology’s role as an infrastructural base for other emerging technologies. Hughes highlighted that the best chance for shaping a technology exists in the early stages when the technology is being negotiated among competing social groups. Referring to the infrastructure of the Internet, Star and Bowker (2002) noted that new media infrastructure, once settled, becomes invisible, and provides an installed base for future developments. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.16: Theorists who decry technological determinism in their exploration of the social forces impacting on the choice, development, and deployment of technology have shown the evolution of technology to be derived from the interrelationships among social variables, often intersecting with science, productivity, progress, capitalism, power, and control. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.16: The opportunistic service of science to capitalism was clear in the ideas of Scientific Management and Taylorism, finding later expression in the Fordism automated assembly line. Through Scientific Management, the application of scientific principles to factory control management methods was devised to organize and control labor through the divorce of the task from the brain (Braverman, 1974). Management dictated to the worker the precise manner in which work was to be performed, robbing the worker of any decision making potential, ideas, imagination, or craft, all in an effort to squeeze as much productivity from the worker as possible. The destruction of the importance of tinkering and self-discovery through amateur exploration was essential to the capitalist period in which the worker was robbed of all control or brainpower over the direction of production. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.16: Fordism, whose relative or internal mobilization regimen is described by Robins and Webster (1999) as “a megamachine that paced and disciplined the workforce,” enabled capitalism to thrive and consumerism to flourish as demand increased to keep pace with the ever increasing supply bolstered through mind-deadening automated assembly line work. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.17: The luddists were dissenters fighting against the inherent destruction of a way of life by industrial capitalism, control, and a negative social reorganization that robbed them of freedom and values. The revival of neo-luddism as a form of resistance in 20th century America has at its core the notion that there is more than one way to resist the tyranny and oppression of technology outside outright rejection of technology. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.17: However, there was no automatic guarantee that the Internet would improve democracy through expanding usage to the common people. As an initial tool of the military and defense, Edwards (1996) highlighted that the Internet was first developed under a command-and-control communications architecture. Before 1991, the lack of a friendly graphical user interface left the Internet in the hands of experts—engineers, programmers, scientists, and academics, who dictated its development. It is during the 1980s before the development of the World Wide Web that the free software revolution, inspired by the MIT researcher Richard Stallman, was initially started as a protest movement against the black boxing of computer software code, commonly called source code. Opposing the commercial and capitalist impulse to market and profit from software development through keeping the source code invisible to tinkering, Stallman’s notion of offering free software through public release of the source code under the General Public License was part and parcel of his stance on the natural rights to which individuals are entitled, popularized by the slogan “free as in speech, not as in beer”. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.17: It was in the late 1990s after the development of the World Wide Web and HTML by Tim Berners Lee that an alternative movement, the open source movement, would gain legs, bolstered by the earlier development of Linux in 1991 by Linus Torvalds (Torvalds, 1999). The open source movement shared some of the similar principles of the free software movement, with the exception that it was designed to be friendlier to business interests through more flexible licensing. Aware that Stallman’s innate freedom maxim was off-putting to business and commercial interests, the open source movement sold its philosophy through language designed to pose less of a threat to the commercial business models of software engineering. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.18: This new spirit of collaboration and generosity finds expression in such terms as the gift economy, peer-to-peer development, bazaar design, and the hacker ethic. This new proposed model of social sharing, exchange, and cooperation in technological development stands as a new modality of production (Benkler, 2004; Saveri, Rheingold, and Vian, 2005 ) that is not price-based, firm-based or state-based. This form of social sharing system gained expression in Raymond’s (1997) coining of the “bazaar” form of software development as opposed to a “cathedral” style of top-down management. The new measure of wealth is now conceived in the development of networks and the fostering of conversations that reap benefits larger than the sum of each individual person (Reed, 1999). Leadbeater and Miller (2004) describe this pro-amateur revolution as a “new distributed organizational model(s) that will be innovative, adaptive, and low cost.” -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.18: Aligning with the emergent democracy concept, Moore (1993) related the Internet and technologies that create global web-enabled initiatives, to a second superpower, where deliberation “is done by each individual—making sense of events, communicating with others, and deciding whether and how to join in community actions.” The second superpower is distributed and bottom-up in organization, flexible and agile in response to outside events, and responsive to the individual wisdom of each person. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.18: This paper examines blogs for evidence of how technology was both shaped and used by ordinary citizens, technologists, and global activists to provide avenues for citizen journalism, citizen activism, open-source software solutions, relief, aid, and an environment for self-organization, mobilization, and storytelling. Since 1999, blogging platforms have inspired an increase in the development of technologies that enable citizens to publish outside the auspices of traditional media newsrooms. In addition to citizen blogs, this paper also relies on the accounts of mainstream media—newspapers, television, radio—for analysis of how technology was creatively used by citizens to self empower. Finally, this paper examines the open source technological development strategies used during these times of disasters and terrorism as a tangible citizen response to self-mobilization, both locally and globally, in order to assess its strengths and weaknesses during these vulnerable times. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.19: According to Mark Glaser of the Online Journalism Review (2005), “the watershed for online journalism has been laid bare. Hurricane Katrina brought forth a mature, multi-layered online response that built on a sense of community after 9/11, the amateur video of the Southeast Asian Tsunami disaster and the July 7 London bombings.”[3] Like the two previous incidents, the US Katrina Hurricane disaster, which affected mostly the southern areas of New Orleans, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, wreaked havoc in terms of causing over 1,300 deaths, displacing many of the residents of the New Orleans city to neighboring states. Residents who remained trapped were mostly the poor black population, confounding the significance of the tragedy as the country assessed its racial and class divides when help was slow in coming to these people. These divides were also manifested in the access to technology. The dangers of a broken telecommunications infrastructure was all to evident in the stories of exaggerated criminal behavior and surreal rumors in the overcrowded Superdome and Convention center where these trapped residents were given shelter. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.20: This pervasive “see, snap, send” impulse identified by Cascio,[17] promoted through mobile devices such as the network-connected digital camera and the wireless camera phone, was elaborated upon by the said author at the 2005 MeshForum conference in Chicago: This won't simply be a world of a single, governmental Big Brother watching over your shoulder, nor will it be a world of a handful of corporate siblings training their ever-vigilant security cameras and tags on you. Such monitoring may well exist, probably will, in fact, but it will be overwhelmed by the millions of cameras and recorders in the hands of millions of Little Brothers and Little Sisters. We will carry with us the tools of our own transparency, and many, perhaps most, will do so willingly, even happily. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.22: Losing vital infrastructure related to its print publications, the New Orleans’s NOLA turned its entire newspaper into a blog, allowing citizen contributions to be added, unedited to its site, while providing a major public service both to its citizens and to the New Orleans police department looking to rescue trapped survivors. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.22: Several citizen journalism blogs arose to record first-hand experiences of the Katrina disaster,[34] with many providing a platform to voice strong opinions on governmental neglect, as well as race and class issues. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.24: Rotary World Peace Scholar at the University of Queensland, Sanjana Hattotuwa (2005) acknowledged that though technology is often critiqued because of its limitations when ground infrastructure is destroyed, ICT’s can play an important role in medium to longterm needs within developing countries. These needs include technology’s role in nurturing change processes, creating mobile telephony and early warning systems, coordinating work of aid and relief agencies, and building secure virtual collaborative workspaces for a discussion of both short-term and long-term knowledge networks both within regions and among relevant diasporic communities. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014

p.25: An official open data exchange format called the PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF)[65] or XML technical specification for exchanging people information was developed to facilitate all of the various databases syndicating information into a single database. The success of the project was its ability to chunk data into record sets of 25 persons, permitting volunteers to donate only small amounts of time to complete defined tasks. The distributed and collaborative nature permitted over 620,000 data records to be scraped and manually entered by over 3,000 volunteers, distributed and disconnected, between September 3 and September 19, resulting in the data being used by both the Red Cross and Microsoft. -- Highlighted apr 29, 2014