Journalism and blogging: leave it to the machines?

October 23, 2009

In science and science fiction there’s a moment when it all goes to custard for the human race. It’s the singularity – often defined as the time when machines begin to out think humans.

We’re not there yet and I’m comfortable with predictions that it might happen 200 years after my demise. But you can never really trust futurist predictions.

We’ve already got smart(ish) bots hurtling around the interWebs chewing up data and spitting it out again in a clickable and commercial form, so I’m not too sanguine about what’s gong on in the DARP labs and other murky salons where “mad” scientists and uber-smart geeks tend to gather.

Anyway, there is evidence of not-so-smart machines out there already aggregating, redacting and posting prose that fills the holes between advertising links on some remote outposts of the blogosphere.

Take, for example, Biginfo, the website with the unbeatable cyber-catchline: “All of your info, on one page”.

Isn’t that the holy grail of the Internet? Isn’t this slogan the absolute bottom-line misison statement for Google?

We won’t need humans any more if Biginfo succeeds.

I  know about Biginfo because the site has linked to a post here at Ethical Martini. As you do, I went to check out why the site was linking and pushing some traffic my way.

This is what I found:

What is More Ethical Blogs or News Media?

20 October, 2009 (15:10) | News And Society | By: admin

// your advertisement goes here

We are chance more and more that readers conceive the aggregation contained in Blogs is more trusty than the indicant programme media. (I don’t conceive a candid comparability between the electronic media and Blogs makes such sense, so my comparability is direct: cursive touchable vs. cursive material.) While I encounter this agitate in ‘believability’ to be somewhat surprising, I staleness adjudge that I don’t conceive I personally undergo anybody that reads the production without a nagging distrustfulness and a taste of doubt. Even more, I move to be astonished at the ontogeny sort of grouping I undergo that do not modify pain to feature the newspaper.

The long post goes on in this vein for some depth. Here’s another of my favourite paras:

I module substance digit appearance on the supply of blogs vs. newspapers. A blogger, aforementioned me, is attractive the instance to indite most an supply that I poverty to indite most and that I see passionately about. Question: so, what most the mortal of ethics? Answer: I do not hit a deadline, I hit no application that is biased, and I modify intend to indite my possess headline!

I am willing to believe that this is a machine-translation of something written in another language (possibly Chinese?) by a blogger or someone and that in it’s original iteration it makes great sense. Also, if it had been translated by a moderately proficient human it would probably also be readable and cogent.

Are we redundant? Should we retreat and leave the web to dribblejaws who find it a convenient medium to feed their conspiracy theories and ugly prejudice?

I certainly hope not, continue reading if you’d like to know more about the singularity.

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A useful account of Twitter and tweeting journalists

October 22, 2009

My Australian colleague Julie Posetti at the University of Canberra has written a good piece in The Walkley Magazine about how journalists are, should and might make use of Twitter as a tool.

Why journalism’s all a-Twitter, Walkley Magazine Oct 2009

Julie’s piece highlights some of the professional and ethical issues that arise when Twitter enters the newsroom, but I agree with her that attempts to stop journalists from using Twitter is over-kill.

It raises a difficult issue though: when using social media, where is the line between a professional and a personal persona?

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Media empires, the fall of Rome and the digital sublime

October 14, 2009

But now, anyone can instantly publish on the web. And as long as they have content people want to see and read they will reach millions. The extent of the revolution could not have been seen – the extent of the transformation.

Mark Scott, The Fall of Rome: Media after Empire, 14 October 2009

A nice thought isn’t it? Anyone can now reach an audience of millions if they have content that people want. It’s pleasant to imagine this world; a place free of the media barons, where simple souls like us can wield the once unassailable power of the moguls.

Too bad it’s just a digital myth at this point.

It is an aspect of what Vincent Mosco calls the “digital sublime”. a mythology that he says is sustained by the “collective belief that cyberspace was opening a new world by transcending what we once knew about time, space and economics” (2004: 3).

It is this mythology that leads many commentators to suggest that citizen journalism, or what I prefer to call “user-generated news-like content” is going to transcend and eventually replace the news industry of the 20th century.

But you know what, the media empire is an adaptive beast and while Rome wasn’t built in a day, it didn’t collapse overnight either.

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