It’s time to take the wraps off a new project from the Digital News Test Kitchen: the Disruptive Media Guide (DMG), “A legal and ethical guide to using digital media innovations.”
If you click on the link above, you’ll see our preview site with a limited number of reviews of “disruptive” digital-media tools and apps. We’ll be populating the site with more reviews as we get into 2012, as our reviewers return from winter break.
Key point No. 1: Keeping up with the tools you can use
You’d have to live in a cave with no Internet access not to know that every week brings new digital tools, web services, and mobile apps that do amazing things. Technology entrepreneurs can’t stop innovating, of course, and many of their new creations have grand potential for journalistic use.
Some are designed with news in mind: say, Emphas.is, a crowd-funding service that allows photojournalists to describe assignments they want to do, and ask for money to support completing the work. The idea behind the service is that “the crowd” decides what stories get done by voting with their wallets. … For others, the tech entrepreneurs have other, non-news applications in mind, yet their tools and apps obviously have value when used for journalistic purposes: say, GigWalk, a crowd-sourcing smartphone app and service that creates a virtual mobile workforce ready to take on, and be paid for, executing a variety of tasks that can be accomplished with a smartphone. GigWalk’s website hardly mentions its potential for news use, for example by editors asking “GigWalkers” to snap some photos or shoot some video because they happen to be near a news scene or a location mentioned in a story. (Both those services are among the early reviews posted on DisruptiveMediaGuide.com.)
The site will regularly post reviews of new apps, tools, and services that we recognize as having value to journalists. And not just professional journalists: Our reviews will be useful to anyone who finds themselves in a situation where they are acting as journalists — say, as eyewitnesses to a major news event or natural disaster, and carrying a mobile media-capture device (i.e., a smartphone) and handy media-capture and -sharing apps.
Key point No. 2: We all need legal and ethical guidance
What we’ve recognized is that some of these disruptive (and I’ll explain our use of that word further on) apps and tools can be dangerous to their users if not handled with care and thought. An example is a smartphone app called Yodl, which also is reviewed on the preview edition of the DMG site, from a Boulder, Colorado-based start-up called Subversive Software. With the Yodl app on your phone, with one click you can begin live web-broadcasting whatever sound the phone is picking up. It’s not difficult to imagine the trouble that a naive Yodl user could get into, such as secretly live-broadcasting and archiving a private conversation, or an encounter with a police officer; or a thoughtless reporter live-streaming an interview with a source who is not a public figure without informing the person, thereby invading the person’s privacy.
We aim to keep you out of legal and ethical trouble, while also educating you on how best to ethically use these new apps and tools
Of course, a tool like Yodl has many valuable uses for journalists and others. It’s our intent with the Disruptive Media Guide to offer information and analysis of the legal and ethical considerations of using apps and tools like Yodl. We aim to keep you out of legal and ethical trouble, while also educating you on how best to ethically use these new apps and tools.
DMG reviews are a joint effort of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Journalism & Mass Communication program and the School of Law. Journalism graduate students specializing in media and digital ethics are our principal writers on ethical considerations sections of the reviews; Law School students are researching and writing legal considerations sections. (For the latter, it is important to get across that what our Law writers are offering is legal information, not legal advice. Their work is for informational purposes only, so website users who want definitive advice should consult an attorney.)
Serving as editor-in-chief of the Disruptive Media Guide is Professor Paul Voakes, a media-law and media-ethics specialist (and former dean of the CU School of Journalism & Mass Communication).
About the reviews
Each of our reviews offers all the information you’ll need to safely and positively use new digital-media tools, apps, and web services:
- An overview of the digital app or tool, explaining how to use it and potential news applications
- Video tutorials produced by our reviewers (on selected reviews), and/or videos from other sources
- An ethical considerations essay meant to guide users toward ethical use of the tool or app
- A legal considerations article, citing relevant laws to be aware of when using the tool or app, in order to stay safe
We also hope to collect experiences by users of the tools and apps that we review, especially case studies of good uses of disruptive media tools or apps by journalists and “citizen” or eyewitness journalists.
About that word: Disruptive
Many if not most digital-media innovations these days are disruptive of old business models or traditional ways of doing things. Let’s use GigWalk as an example. In the past, if a business wanted a photograph or a video of something (say, the interior of a new building), a photographer would have to be hired. A newspaper editor might need a shot of a home designed by a local architect that just won an award, but the house is in another state. The editor probably would have had to hire a freelance photographer in the distant city, or hope that the architect would share a photo for publication. With GigWalk, to fulfill those assignments would require only posting a “gig” on the site and offering a modest fee ($10 would probably get the job executed, quickly) to get several photos of the house from a GigWalk user in that city who gets notified of the assignment because she’s nearby the award-winning home. That’s disruptive.
Another review in our preview site is of Google’s Hangouts feature of Google+, which supports up to 10 people holding a virtual video meeting. Hangouts is free to use for everyone participating. A Hangout could suffice in place of a team traveling to get together in person, in some cases. It definitely could replace using web conferencing services that charge fees, such as WebEx or AdobeConnect. Hangouts also have been used by journalists experimenting with this new technology to conduct online video “talk shows.” That’s disruptive.
Perhaps not every app or tool that we review will be fairly described as “disruptive,” but most probably will be.
If you know of a new or recently released web service, mobile app, or digital tool that has journalistic implications or uses, and you think that we should review it, please suggest it. On DisruptiveMediaGuide.com, at the top right of every page there’s a link: “Suggest an app, website, etc. that should be reviewed.” (If you prefer, leave your suggestion in the comments section of this article, below.)
A final word: Help!
We currently are approaching funding sources to help support the Disruptive Media Guide, and enable us to produce regular reviews on new journalistically significant digital-media services, tools, and apps. We also intend to publish e-books of the reviews, and hope to share the information we’re collecting and advice as part of a larger conference or a dedicated workshop or conference. If you share our view that this is an important effort, please contact Digital News Test Kitchen program director Steve Outing, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, visit our Giving page. Thank you.