Comments for blog 12

•November 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Open and Closed System presentation update

•November 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Crowdsourcing: public & participation

•November 11, 2010 • 3 Comments

I choose the first case in Muthukumaraswamy’s article because the Brian Lehrer Show reminds me of a famous lifestyle website in China,, where the ordinary Internet audience can rate a restaurant, write reviews, give recommendations and so on. I think the WNYC case is a typical example of crowdsoucing and citizen journalism, if we don’t intentionally enclose journalism from a professional perspective.

SAFERstation discussed how the Brian Lehrer Show utilized crowdsourcing. Because WNYC is a public radio station, in the very beginning, I wondered how many people would virtually listen to this station in such a metropolitan area. However, as the SUV project is also available online, it can reach a great number of people as a result. SAFER’s article held the opinion that the WNYC project not only “assively open its website and accept any content submitted” but also “shared the Principle of Journalism” with its readers, providing guidance more or less. In my opinion, such a two-way information flow is an outstanding way to absorb wisdom of crowds in that they train people to perform professionally. Coincidentally, Ushahidi site was also mentioned in that article. The other part introduces emergent journalism, which is a hybrid that combines professional journalism and web-based citizen journalism, serving as good illustration of the power of crowdsourcing.

WNYC considers crowdsourcing as its field guide. The article Pushing buttons: covering charged topics deals with another mapping project: “to invite listeners to help us pinpoint sites they suspect of not being developed due to the recession”.

On the one hand, WNYC desires “the most diverse media entries”, which indicates that the project places increasing emphasis on various demographic features and cultural backgrounds. “After all, diversity of participants forms the very essence of a crowdsourcing venture” (p. 60). On the other hand, the article warns that staff should pay attention to maintaining the map to be manageable, since it is somewhat difficult to control the open map-editing process by individual. Therefore, how to tell and treat irresponsible entries?

Muthukumaraswamy summarized the status quo that “more and more people are replacing passive media consumption time with active media participation” (p. 58). The WNYC host, Brian Lehrer considers his talk show as “the direct connection to the local community” and he said “radio meant community to me”. An editor from Capitalnewyork analyzed the connection between user engagement and listener support. According to Gillian Reagan, building a sense of community by discussing local issues is of significance. That’s why the audiences are willing to participate in the mapping project with high-level engagement. When the listeners contribute to the project, they contribute to their block, their community actually, where they could also get benefits. A sense of belongingness is created, and such a connection can let people in and make the crowdsourcing strategy useful and successful.

I think Brian Lehrer Show is a good example under the subtitle “wisdom of crowds in general-interest reporting by recruiting a general audience” because the station locates its striking idea just in local communities. General-interest? Yes. Milk, lettuce, beer, vehicle, these are basic elements in our daily lives. General audience? Yes, they are from various blocks; they work in different industries. They are diverse. The project is for ordinary people and it doesn’t require glorious education or career background. It’s just for the average. The collection of specialists sounds less “crowd” though.

Merriam-Webster dictionary interpreted the word “crowd” as “the great body of people” and “a group of people having something in common”. This reminds me of common good that we discussed previously. Crowdsourcing achieves final success by collective efforts. WNYC just targets the crowd, involving their voice in and synthesizing valuable information back. It really represents what crowdsourcing means and how they actualize the strategy.


Comments for blog 10

•November 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Context: 1+1>2

•October 29, 2010 • 6 Comments

After reading Nielsen and Johnson’s articles, although they present some interesting points of view about collective efforts on making policy which echo with the idea of deliberate democracy, I think it’s still difficult for the massive population to reach consensus when facing public affairs, especially in countries where expressing unpopular opinions or dissents are not banned but welcome.

This perspective can be directly found in Nielsen’s blog post, as he writes:

Many of the crucial problems of governance have large communities of interest and it can be very difficult to get even two people to agree on tiny points of fact, much less values. As a result, we can’t simply open source policy documents in a location where they can be edited by millions of people.

As far as we know, participation is a matter of primary importance with respect to democracy. However, in my opinion, working on political issues together cannot be simply equal to studying out a scientific program. After all, no one can guarantee that the same collaboration will also “help the community aggregate all the best ideas into a fantastic final product”, which is illustrated in Nielsen’s article as an example of “an open source collaboration where problems like this don’t occur”. By searching relevant arguments via Google, I find that Hans Klaus has the same concern:

The most specific and valid critique of deliberative democracy is that deliberative democracy adds too much participation into the deliberation process, resulting in inefficient outcomes… Their collective decision-making processes of the deliberative democracy theory disregards the fact that the whole society cannot participate in the collective decision making process for practical reasons which will be deemed illegitimate from the individuals outside the process. Moreover, the quality of the discourse in the collective decision-making process varies tremendously which leads to a declining in legitimacy under deliberative democracy.

To date, the aforementioned idea seems too theoretical to be applied in real world. However, I admit collaboration on policy-making is a promising idea as this process represents a bright future with fairness and public autonomy. Joe Klein, a writer for the Time magazine, articulates this in the article:

“The public is very smart if you give it a chance,” says Fishkin, 62, who has been conducting experiments in what he calls “deliberative democracy” for nearly 20 years now. “If people think their voice actually matters, they’ll do the hard work, really study their briefing books, ask the experts smart questions and then make tough decisions. When they hear the experts disagreeing, they’re forced to think for themselves. About 70% change their minds in the process.”

Currently, given the fact that the public has already been much more engaged in public affairs, I think to certain extent, this higher level of involvement demonstrates a very good beginning of deliberative democracy. Daniel Little describes the advantage of deliberative democracy as follow:

A greater likelihood of a good decision (because citizens do a more adequate job of canvassing the facts and values that ought to guide the decision); a deeper understanding of the idea of rational deliberation about what to do; and, a greater likelihood of mutual understanding and consensus among citizens.

I think Daniel’s words reflect the commonplace book idea somehow, as both are leading to mutual understanding and new values, depending on individuals’ backgrounds respectively. Despite Johnson’s article doesn’t deal with the collective decision-making process directly, his words stress on the “connective power of the web” by offering the textual analysis as a whole.

When text is free to flow and combine, new forms of value are created, and the overall productivity of the system increases.

As a result, I think collective efforts on public affairs will be achieved in the future, but now, we still have a long way to go.

Activism online: an ideal place?

•October 16, 2010 • 11 Comments

In the very beginning, I’m not sure that I know one exactly, so I go to Wikipedia to do the research and find a list of political organizations in alphabetical order. Another problem is, I cannot tell which one is belong to political party, thus I choose one named China Support Network (CSN), which cannot be an official websites led by CCP (Chinese Communist Party), and in the meantime, this is certainly blocked in Mainland China.

According to Rohlinger and Brown, and many previous scholars, compared to traditional media outlets, Internet is a well-know platform for public voice and higher-level citizen engagement. Since political shocks like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 result in increasing fear and risks perceived by activists, anonymity, a principal nature of the Internet, “enabled respondents to voice dissent but in a much less public way” (p. 142). However, what the respondents said surprised me somehow as they mentioned they worried about “anonymity was not guaranteed” or “is this being tracked by someone” (p. 143). I don’t know whether American people would equal this kind of surveillance to censorship, as the latter is always linked to China context. In other words, there is no pure, absolute freedom and democracy even in cyberspace; is it reasonable to say the so-called free space might be just an “illusion”?

When China Support Network is juxtaposed with MoveOn, it’s easy to recognize that MoveOn puts more emphases on moving individuals “from the armchair to the street” (p. 134) by creating diverse political action such as Eat, Call Win Party. Both online and real-life participation are crucial for activists within MoveOn community.  Furthermore, participation contributes a lot to democratic process. But CSN seems like more “silent” by only posting some news articles and video clips. However, I just wonder whether CSN’s online protests actually have impact on current political climate. Does Chinese government really care about what the activists say overseas? I doubt.

In addition, weeks ago we found online political discourses often shaped polarized viewpoints. How about online political organizations? I have to say CSN is sort of egregious radical, at least for me. I don’t like their wording such as “Demand to Chinese government” or the slogan “Free Tibet”, it’s more anti-China than activism. When people discuss about democratic society, they always suppose government should allow diverse voice. But I don’t think it’s reasonable for government to allow everything—this is misunderstanding of democracy.

Burma’s issue reminds me of Iran’s protest via Twitter. It’s necessary to notice that “we don’t like things they way they are doesn’t mean we don’t like our country” (p. 144). Therefore, how to deal with being both patriotic and liberal is the crux. With respect to Rohlinger and Brown’s case study, MoveOn provides collective sense of belongingness while I think CSN does the same. But all the content on CSN is based on Tiananmen Square issue in 1989; without this historical event, CSN talks about nothing. This point makes its oppositional opinions less grounded and sound. Finally, it’s less risky for activists to conduct any action in a foreign country rather than in home country. Therefore I think CSN is a much more transnational community whereas MoveOn is definitely a local one.

Increasing political knowledge?

•October 10, 2010 • 12 Comments

I think I am a typical passive viewer in this “less politically interested” population labeled by Xenos and Becker. Even in my home country, political news was not my priority, no matter for watching television or browsing websites online.

Xenos and Becker introduce an alternative way to be more involved in political news. For me, it’s the first time to watch The Daily Show. The first episode is talking about “CNN fires Rick Sanchez, and Sam Harris discusses science’s role in determining morality.” To be frank this task is more difficult than reading political blogs in that there’s no caption, let alone the culture differences, which make me feel so odd when I hear lots of laughter. I watched this episode twice but still cannot fully understand the core idea. Therefore, searching more information via Google is a must. Thanks to Google news, I learn more about this kick-out issue. CNN ex-anchor Rick Sanchez who was born in Cuba indicated that current US media was controlled by Jewish like Stewart, however, minorities was oppressed. Also Sanchez labeled Stewart as “bigot”, which was a serious case, following was result of getting unemployed from CNN. The same to Rahm Emanuel and the book The Moral Landscape.

The second one was even more difficult to understand. Undoubtedly, again, results from Google news shoulder the responsibility of complementarities. Therefore, for me, searching relative news content from other media cannot be only explained as internal political interests are activated. After all, being curious about unknown or unfamiliar things is just usual and pervasive.

Discussed by Baum, the relationship between political comedy consuming and increasing political knowledge reminds me of social learning theory and cultivation theory. The former suggests that audiences learn about real-life issues from media content while the latter explicates that audience’s perception of certain image is cultivated by passively receiving media content.

Looking back to my experience with The Daily Show and Google news, I don’t think I am representative in that seeking factual information from other media is not due to the stimulus is shown. In fact, I was kind of forced to do more research online mainly because I didn’t understand the political comedy, but the subjects in Xenos and Becker’s study could know political world better.

In my opinion, when people are exposed to hard news, they believe in what they see and hear since the content are presented by official, reliable media organizations in a traditional way. Although hard news doesn’t have the power as “magic bullet”, it is more convincing. However, if it is replaced by soft news like political comedy, I think it is natural for people to seek extra factual information to help them further develop relative stories, or maybe confirm their thoughts. In other words, if the subjects were exposed to other stimulus, they might look for pertinent materials as well. Thus I agree with Xenos and Becker’s conclusion that what Jon Stewart offers is “largely as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, traditional hard news” (p. 319).