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Old controls in an era of new media

Guy Berger's picture

Laura Pinto has named her website for the temperature at which paper burns.

There's a bit of schizophrenia here at the Deutsche Welle conference in Bonn, in a session that's dealing with journalism education. On the one hand is my experience of Twitter and Qik, and on the other I’m giving a presentation about old-style attempts to regulate journalism education (and journalism) in Kenya and Tanzania.

There are probably 20 people doing live tweets about this conference, making it a richer experience than your normal passive listening to a speaker. You can read other people's summaries and comments as the speeches unfold, real-time.

It could be a full triangular experience here, however, if the individual tweeters were more inclined to converse with each other about their comments. One fellow Twitterer I spoke to, Laura Pinto (above) of, said that to have such a simultaneous "back-channel" discussion, it would be better if we were all using Facebook and a comment thread would then be visible and encouraging of dialogue.

Another point that my colleague Harry Dugmore made is that people are filing from different, parallel sessions. That also contributes to limiting the extent of conversation - on the other hand, through following the common hashtag #dwgmf on Twitter or Google, you can keep tabs on debates in these simultaneous sessions.

All this is transforming my experience of mult-processing while at a conference - and I haven't even mentioned when a selected tweet includes a URL of relevance, which you can surf while listening and tweeting yourself.

I've also been introduced to Tweetdeck, which offers brilliant functionality - so I can even seamlessly translate the tweets that are posted on the conference in Spanish by Laura Pinto, or German by some other twitterers.

Besides these experiences, I also experimented with interviewing Laura on my Nokia N95 using software which I downloaded a short while ago. Presto, it was streamed live. Hey, this is so easy. It portends so much online video content…

But back home, things are more sober. I just presented on the moves in East Africa to (apparently) upgrade journalism schools and root out fly-by-night operators. What’s troubling about these initiatives is that they entail statutory regulation as to who can teach journalism, as well as instituting licences for journalism schools. Couple this with registration of journalists and media houses, and you have the whole value-chain being stitched up in a cartel that could also be politically abused.

That all really seems to me to violate freedom of expression. So, instead of establishment regulation by vested interests, let there be genuine self-regulation amongst those African j-schools which are serious about making a difference and willing to provide a meaningful stamp of approval based on criteria like the UNESCO ones.

In fact, I can’t see the compatibility between these old-order attempts to restrict public communication in East Africa, and the burgeoning of masscomm devices available to the general public. J-schools should be ahead of all this – not fall prey to the control paradigm of old-media thinking.

Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum Berger paper final.doc86 KB
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