bluefluff's blue fluff

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Smoke signals

Interesting piece of analysis on the BBC news site about the role played by User-Generated Content (UGC) in their coverage of the Buncefield oil depot fire.

Apaprently a record 6,500 photos, taken by "ordinary people" on mobile phones & digital cameras, were sent in to the BBC site in the aftermath of the explosions. Many were used; none were paid for, except by the fleeting glory of public acknowledgement.

Not surprisingly, professional photographers are none too happy about this rise in "citizen journalism", but isn't it just another manifestation of the Smart Mobs phenomenon, a sign of digital democratisation?

We only need specialists/experts/professionals when we can't do something adequately as amateurs. Once technology enables us to bypass that need for training & skills, protectionism can only hold back the tide for a little while. De-skilling may come with a high human cost for the individuals left behind with obsolete skills, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. It doesn't even mean it shouldn't happen.

I'm reminded of an observation made by Thomas Hardy over 120 years ago, in the face of rural industrialisation (which he saw as regrettable but inevitable, & not without its advantages):

It is only the old story that progress and picturesqueness do not harmomise. They [agricultural labourers] are losing their individuality, but they are widening the range of their ideas, and gaining in freedom. It is too much to expect them to remain stagnant and old-fashioned for the pleasure of romantic spectators.

I feel this ties in with other cultural shifts I've been looking at recently: the broadcast paradigm, & the culture of exposure, with their essentially optimistic perspective on the "connected society". (Yes, I should probably be cross-posting this to my serious blog!)

Buying into digital technology may be conveniently funding the globalised megacorporations who currently supply much of it, but maybe, just maybe, the "innovation commons" Rheingold writes of is a step nearer to becoming reality.

I promise to post something trivial tomorrow :-)


  • At 14 December, 2005 23:56, Blogger Daydreamer said…

    We wouldn't be here today without progress and the breaking down of specialisms would we?

  • At 15 December, 2005 01:59, Blogger Bluefluff said…

    Exactly, Daydreamer. Personal computers came through the same process, & so did the Internet. So did reading! It's foolish to think those barricades are worth defending.

  • At 11 January, 2006 15:12, Blogger SilylD said…

    Nice take on the topic of UGC.

    It was just a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right kit (I never normally have the camera with me, I never usually sit 6 rows back so the stewards couldn't tell me off, I usually can't get a window seat as they're taken by the time i get on the plane, I on that day happened to be flying at a time that allowed pics to be taken, i chose on the ground to sit on the left hand side of the plane and not the right and remembered to take my camera down from the overhead locker before take-off).

    It would have beeen difficult to get a professional up there as soon as I was fortuitously there and so I took the pics and my first thoughts were to send them into the BBC as they were pretty unique.

    Progress is great isn't it :-)

  • At 12 January, 2006 02:45, Blogger Bluefluff said…

    Thanks for the comment, David - yes, progress has its moments :-)


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