“Cathedral vs. Bazaar”

– Eric S. Raymond

Legacy media is the cathedral.  A diminishing thing of high walls blocking out innovation.  The internet, citizen journalism and collective intelligence is the bazaar.  Everything vying for our attentions, open to everyone and everything.  Does citizen journalism and collective intelligence have any impact on the “cathedral”?

When Wikileaks is entered into a search engine the results are the main site, a Twitter address and a few other related links, but as you move down the results there are news sites including The Daily Telegraph UK and The Guardian that have entire sections dedicated to news from Wikileaks, whether it be the releases of sensitive information or the doings of its founder.  I find it fascinating that professional journalists that work for traditional news sources are following an organisation that allows for citizen journalism and collective intelligence.

Wikileaks is the perfect example of citizen journalism.  It was founded by Australian, Julian Assange, in 2007.  Their ideology is to use the media as a tool for transparency in governments, corporations and the media, therefore promoting “good governance”.  I say citizen journalism because it is independent from every news organisation and company.  Wikileaks conduct themselves much like a news company though.  They have qualified journalists to investigate and write stories about the information they receive, they censor information (to protect lives, of course) and everything goes through a gatekeeper.

I had always wondered how Wikileaks obtained their information.  When Bradley Manning was detained I thought “well, that’s the end of that.”  Meanwhile, Wikileaks continue to release sensitive and confidential information to the public.  How is this possible?  Wikileaks rely on the public and those working for governments and corporations to submit confidential material to them.  This is collective intelligence.  “No one knows everything, everyone knows something” (Lévy, P) Wikileaks have put this into practice.  In a way, this is also another example of citizen journalism.  These “citizens” are taking the release of information into their own hands, they are empowered.  If it wasn’t for those investigating their own workplaces and governments, Wikileaks would not have the information to write about.  Wikileaks is encouraging citizen journalism.

In the past few years there have been changes in journalism and the media.  Shifts in the value of citizen journalism and collective intelligence, from authority to writer and in content.  The shift in content from bundled news to niche content means that as producers we are less likely to sit down and watch or read a news bulletin and more likely to sit down at the computer and actively seek out material that we find interesting, that we want to see.  I have conflicting views on this topic of “bundle to niche”.  Yes, it’s wonderful we can find reliable, in depth, expert information on a small amount of topics.  But how will we learn of new topics while our blinkers are on.  It’s broadening our knowledge, but narrowing our knowledge.

What I’m trying to say, in a confusing way, is there may not be any overlap of topics.  While you are actively seeking out news on sport or finance, you may be missing out on important local news and world news.  We could be shutting ourselves off to information rather than opening ourselves.

How do you feel about traditional media vs. citizen journalism?