Transparent society and how to write for it

Here goes again: a blogger has published a photograph of two people who allegedly assaulted her and her husband (in Finnish). The police are looking into this, but she has taken matters in her own hands and is asking if anyone knows these guys.

This is an example of the Transparent Society in action: normal people, armed with cell phone cameras, recording MP3 players, and low-cost publishing tools are getting an unprecedented amount of power. The signs are everywhere, and stuff like this seems to be more often recently. And this worries quite a lot of people, including me.

I have a certain belief in the general goodness of people (perhaps naïve, perhaps not), which is why I am willing to link to pages such as that "wanted" -page. But this general goodness can turn into something that becomes quite evil, even if nobody really meant it - the story of the Korean shit-girl as an example. I guess the original purpose of the people who snapped the photo was just to give a snap on the wrist to the girl, but the whole thing went quickly overboard.

The internet (and blogs in particular) allow huge, uneducated masses to move extremely rapidly from one extreme to the other, without any filtering at all. This is neither good nor bad; it just the truth. This, I believe, is the key difference between personal publishing and journalism: the training to tell a good story from a bad one, and the knowhow to treat one properly. A proper journalist would approach a flammable story with proper respect and asbestos gloves, whereas the angry internet mob will just embrace it and lift it to a pedestal.

It's difficult to write about this: on the other hand, I like privacy. My privacy and the privacy of others. I even understand the need for NDAs and corporate secrets. I agonized over whether I should link to the article or not, and risk possible angry internet mob against two guys who might be guilty; we have only one person's account for it. (And I feel like a hypocrite for linking to to it. I would also feel like a hypocrite if I didn't link to it. I feel even like a hypocrite for even talking about my thoughts about linking. How's that for a crisis?) But on the other hand, I do see the push towards a more transparent society, where everybody becomes the police's little helper. The proliferation of digital, always-on cameras and other recording devices will allow everyone to become watchmen of the society. And seeing how an angry mob can destroy a person's life does not exactly make me feel warm fuzzies over the thought.

The idea of an angry mob defining the culture is almost as scary as the idea of a corporate-owned culture. But portable recording devices have great benefits as well: Flickr is full of wonderful pictures that enrich our culture, and will continue to do so for many years to come: Imagine, if you could delve into a similar archive from the 1890's! Or 1700's! The people of the future (or at least anyone doing their thesis) will thank us for storing our daily life. (Many people doing Powerpoint presentations these days thank Flickr already.)

For many years, many people have told us that we need to know how to read the media right: how to do proper source criticism, how to "read between the lines", how not to be lead like blind sheep. But I think that with this new, personal, writable media we need to learn also how to write the media right. Everyone should know what is legal and what is not - but even more importantly, understand what could be the consequences of writing. I don't think we should get into a discussion of what is morally right or not, as that will lead only into a conflict of different world-views, but I think there should be a document somewhere in the internet, that would spell out in clear, friendly letters the practical, everyday things a blogger should consider - and the probable repercussions of those. Let people then adapt those to their own morale and code of ethics, but people need to understand that they are writing in public and what that means.

I'm almost half-tempted to start working on something like that myself, but if anyone has any good tips on such sites, please drop a comment below. Don't want to do duplicate work... (I've already suggested to samik that the Pinseri Wiki could be re-adapted to such a purpose for Finnish users.)


Ihan ensimmäiseksi minulle tulivat mieleen Journalistin ohjeet . Ei tietenkään niin, että noita käyttäisi suoraan, mutta ainakin tuossa on ohjeita julkisesti kirjoittaville.

"Kansalaisjournalistin ohjeet" voisi olla nimeksi vähän hankala, ihmiset eivät välttämättä tiedosta itseään journalisteiksi blogatessaan.

--, 21-Jul-2005

Joudun nyt peesaamaan ja sanomaan, että laittamattomasti sanottu, koko asia ja teksti.

--Merten, 22-Jul-2005

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"Main_blogentry_210705_1" last changed on 21-Jul-2005 12:36:38 EEST by JanneJalkanen.