Pictures and videos from Iran, recently taken by individuals using mobile phones, raise issues we don’t want to face.
Despite Iran, China and other oppressive regimes seeking to stop the flow of information, it continues to grow–not from the eyes and ears of “journalists,” but from people like you and me. The mobile Internet and social media are creating a new form of journalism.
Joe Wilcox, a blogger, wrote a powerful post called “Iran and the Internet Democracy.” Wilcox shows disturbing YouTube videos and pictures of angry Iranian protesters who oppose their government.
He also describes how corporate news organizations are losing media power to individuals, who snap pictures and record videos with mobile phones, write tweets and transmit all of it over the mobile Internet in real time. The reality of one person electronically communicating to the world resembles Edward R. Murrow’s “This is London” during World War II.
It’s striking how quickly things change in our digital age. A year or so ago, Twitter was relatively unknown, FaceBook a novelty and, if you wanted video entertainment, you visited YouTube. These three Internet sites remain, but how people use social media has forever changed in digital history.
They’re now over 200 million FaceBook members (60% outside the U.S.). Twitter is the place to go for information and events happening now. And YouTube? Perhaps a replacement for the 6 p.m. TV news? Some would argue that the Web not only reduces government power, but democratizes the news. In an age of tweets, blog posts and reality video, who needs ABC when the mobile Internet rules?
Obama’s moves toward “transparency” may have already started before he took office. Exasperated by the recession, governments around the world have found it more difficult to shield the public from undesirable information. Somehow in a globally-connected age, the Washington press core finds it harder to filter government information. We’re now living in glass houses.
As my thesis project in graduate school, I studied how employees at a large hospital communicated in task networks that faintly resembled the org chart. What I discovered was not only interesting from a research viewpoint. It greatly surprised hospital management. The main conclusion of the study:
People communicate, using a variety of channels, to get their job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Unlike the classic tale of the Xerox consultant, when asked by management to figure out why sales were dropping (too few sales people), my free presentation to management was greeted with a touch of apprehension. “Why were nurses speaking with radiologists?” “How come janitors didn’t follow protocol when they needed toilet paper for restrooms?” Why was this happening? The answer from workers: “I do what I need to do to get things done.” Da…
The hospital communication study isn’t too far off from Iran and other countries, nor the loss of power by corporate communications’ giants. Unlike slogans such as “power to the people,” loudly yelled by children of the 60′s, today’s younger, mobile phone-equipped youth are both the observers and the observed. It’s almost mystical. Young, angry teens in Iran snapping photos, taking videos and micro-blogging via text messages. It’s surreal.
As Joe Wilcox said in his post:
“What happened on the streets of Tehran this week foreshadows dramatic changes, as citizens report the news in real time. The best reporting wasn’t from CNN or many news organizations but Flickr, Twitpic, Twitter and YouTube. The tweets (hashtag #iranelection), images and videos poured out in real time. Where is CNN getting some of its best material? Citizen journalists, like this story and images from CNN’s citizen-driven iReport.”
The changing of the guard continues.