Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Focus on Turkey's freedoms as #OccupyGezi hits the world's media

As soon as I think of Turkey, I think of how George Friedman describes its potential in his book The Next 100 Years. Here's a summary from The European Institute:
“The European image of Turkey is fixed at around 1960 as a vision of impoverished, semi-literates coming to do construction work.” In reality, says Friedman, Turkey has the largest and most competent army in Europe. It has influence in the Baltics, in the Caucasus and in Central Asia. “I know of no European country that is acting as confidently and as unilaterally as Turkey,” says Friedman. “Turkey is not a future power,” says Friedman. “Turkey is a power.” Accession to the EU – which is unlikely to happen – is important to the secularists in Turkey who want “to nail down secularism.” But much of the country, including Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogen, can “take it [the EU] or leave it.” Friedman says Turkey was lucky NOT to be in the EU during the financial crisis, since it has recovered much more quickly and robustly than Europe.
Yet, freedom of speech and press issues have been looming especially large in recent months. In April 2013, top Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say was accused of denigrating religion via Twitter and given a 10-month suspended prison sentence. Freedom House has more information. Obama's trip in mid-May (ostensibly focused on Syria) brough further focus on the region and its administration. A report published through the Center for American Progress at the same time (while naturally biased) has some very interesting points.
"The issues of press freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey have for several years attracted a great deal of attention and provoked extensive debate both in Turkey and in other Western countries. Dozens of journalists critical of the government have been jailed, and hefty fines have been levied against media outlets seen as opposing the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. The perceived deterioration of the situation has raised concerns about the course and character of Turkish democratic development."
Protests today seem to revolve around polarization and against a perception of increasing authoritarianism. Saturday June 1st's New York Times leads with...
"The police action was the latest violent crackdown by the government against a growing protest movement challenging plans to replace a park in Taksim Square, Istanbul’s equivalent of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, with a replica Ottoman-era army barracks that would house a shopping mall. But while the removal of the park, which is filled with sycamore trees and is the last significant green space in the center of Istanbul, set off the protests at the beginning of the week, the gatherings have broadened into a wider expression of anger against the heavy-handed tactics and urban development plans of the government and its leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His party, now in power a decade, is increasingly viewed by many Turks as becoming authoritarian."
Back to the American Progress report and we find a complicated picture, especially regarding the press:
"But the blame must not be placed solely on the government, which is laboring under an outdated constitution and must deal with a stubborn opposition that mistrusts its intentions. Turkish politics must continue to address the wider problem of a political culture where the line between personal insult and outdated notions of honor and legitimate criticism or debate is blurred. Turkish society has also not fundamentally decided what balance of security and freedom of expression is right for their country—should reporting on bombings or carrying the statements of separatists be considered criminal? The question of media ownership is also thorny, with no indication that the trend toward consolidated ownership of news outlets by large conglomerates is slowing." 
The story is unfolding (and with that come the inevitable fake photo RTs). Follow the #occupygezi and #direngeziparki hashtags. Live streams come and go, check Twitter for the latest.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Designs for a networked beat (in Mozambique)

Jay Rosen's thought-provoking article on the 'networked beat' has been doing the rounds for the past few days, and it dovetails nicely with our work here in Maputo. With @Verdade, a hybrid, community-driven media organisation covering Mozambique, we're building a community reporter network (and the toolset to power it).

Jay's eight hallmarks of a networked beat map perfectly with how things will work as we're monitoring the Mozambican elections.

My eight steps to a networked beat follow: 
Step 1: Define the right combination of news flows for this particular beat.
Step 2: Put an intelligent filter, made for multiple uses, on the combined flow.
Step 3: From smart filters on combined streams, make a series of simple and useful products.
Step 4: Start to register, verify and make contact with the best independent sources on the beat.
Step 5: When they’re good enough hook the filtering tools up to the work flow for beat coverage.
Step 6: Launch your “inbox on steroids” and prove to the users that it works.
Step 7: Bring key sources (from step 4) and fellow obsessives into co-production. And be prepared to compensate.
Step 8: Go pro-am. Try some campaigns. Crowdsource from an earned crowd.

Read Jay Rosen's article here, or check out our beta snapshot video here...

Friday, 17 May 2013

How open is open? Sourcework and community verification.

Yesterday was your typical project delivery day... early start, unpredictable tangents and roadblocks, a sense of achievement and a late evening.

Battling with bandwidth has been an issue all week. It's clear we need to work further still on optimising our citizen reporting tool for web use in low-bandwidth conditions. However, the SMS component is working fantastically well. @Verdade have set up a shortcode that allows anyone on the two biggest cell networks in Mozambique (soon to be three) to text a report for free. Citizen Desk aggregates these and allows the editorial team to see at-a-glance all incoming SMS, tweets, facebook posts, YouTube videos and more.

Using our open liveblogging software, they can then post these with context to the web, either for community verification, or as a 'signal' blog (as opposed to the 'noise' of their Twitter and Facebook backchannels).

Of course this is a hot topic. As I wrote in yesterday's article...
"@Verdade do a lot of their source work in public, especially on Facebook, pushing out reports to the community for verification and backstory. Once clear details emerge, an article is created on their website and the url is posted back across to Facebook. Comments from their 30,000 followers rack up quickly. But, of course, many people are not online. @Verdade gets round this by having a blackboard outside their office where the articles of the day are posted. People respond in chalk with comments; the best of these are then photographed or transcribed and posted back to @Verdade's social network communities."
We wanted to build a tool that gave media the option on how and where to do their verification. To define their own community model.

There's a strange bias against certain media organisations however. When people like the amazing Andy Carvin do their sourcework in the open, it's seen as revolutionary. For other media organisations, they are seen as untrustworthy or not adhering to journalistic standards of verification. Why is that? Where do we draw the line between rumour and networked journalism?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Spectacle Podcast #8 on net neutrality and internet bricks

Ben and I saw in May's show with more music from the netherwebs, plus massively uninformed opinions on net neutrality, ad-hoc internet generators, James Blake (AKA dubstep’s Lionel Ritchie), The Knife’s new stage show and a podcast must-listen list to die for.

Featuring tracks from Jon Hopkins (Open Eye Signal), Seven Davis Jr. (Thanks) James Blake (Retrograde), The Knife (Without You My Life Would Be Boring), Phantogram (Don’t Move), Pan American (Project For An Apartment Building), Dark Sky & Breach (The Click) and Midland (Trace).