Friday, September 22, 2006

News, networks and information

Yesterday, I attended an extremely interesting discussion at MIT titled " News, Information and wealth of Networks." This was organised by the MIT communications forum.
The discussion was centered around a number of concepts that have been hot topics of discussion in our sessions as well- grassroots journalism, blogs, information networks, online communities etc. The two main speakers, Prof. Yochai Benkler from Yale and Dr. Henry Jenkins from MIT raised a number of interesting points.
Prof. Jenkins traced the change in information dissemination from a primarily top down approach to an increasing bottom-up approach. He observed a trend where a lot of knowledge is based on collective intelligence. He commented that we are living in a society where although nobody knows everything, everyone who knows something is willing to share it and add to the pool of information. Giving wikipedia as the best information of this phenomenon, he observed that there has been a perceptible tilt in power from big corporations and powerful media organisations to the common public.
He also said that large corporations earlier enjoyed a sense of power, being disseminators of information. However, corporations now actually take efforts to camouflage their messages to make them look like they originated at the grassroots( Example: Lonelygirl 15).
Answering a question a from a member of the audience, he clarified that the present phenomenon will certainly not mean the end of newspapers. He said that though blogs may package and repackage information, they are still dependant on newspapers and other mass media as the source of information. He said that as new media evolves, we will stabilise at a point where there is a healthy balance of mass media as well as participatory culture.


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