Author Archive | Alex Burns

Select Issues with New Media Theories of Citizen Journalism

Australian investigative researcher Barry Saunders recently asked me to write an article on Citizen Journalism for M/C Journal ‘s ‘Vote/Citizen’ issue he co-edited with Graham Meikle and Jason A. Wilson.

I use Clayton Christensen & Paul Carlile’s framework on management theories to suggest that ‘citizen’ and ‘journalism’ are problematic. I discuss Citizen Journalism as a viable trend in New Media, as a Web 2.0 form of New Media populism, what can be learned from event-driven and civic journalism, and the prospects for Citizen Journalism-driven mergers & acquisitions. Finally, I argue for a practice-based approach and suggest possible questions for future researchers.

This is the latest in a series of self-reflections that began with New Media Trip: Disinformation & Editorial Ethics (2000).

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TED 2008: How Good People Turn Evil, From Stanford to Abu Ghraib

Stanford Prison Experiment leader Philip Zimbardo tells TED 2008 the lessons he learnt from that ordeal about evil and how it applied to Abu Ghraib: rather than change the person, focus on the circumstances that give people the opportunities to engage in ‘evil’ behaviour, avoid responsibility for their actions, and to rationalize away the repercussions. Zimbardo discusses with Wired Magazine the difference between understanding and explaining or condoning evil; the situational factors at Abu Ghraib; the comparisons between the Stanford Prison Experiment and Abu Ghraib; and how the heroism of individual whistleblowers needs to evolve into a coalition of at least three people to have an impact in organizational change. In unrelated news, Christopher McQuarie will release a Stanford Prison Experiment-themed film in 2008.

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How Banksy Gave Swiss Embassy An Image Makeover

Swiss ambassador Bruno Spinner asked a group of graffiti artists in 2001 to help deal with Switzerland’s public relations challenge: how Swiss Banks held Nazi Gold in World War II. Spinner let the graffiti artists create new works in the Swiss embassy car park as an image makeover, and the artists held a rave. The Guardian reveals today that one of the little-known artists was the provocateur Banksy, and that his previously secret art in the car park is now valued at over 1 million English pounds. View a video of Banksy’s vintage artwork.

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Fred Kaplan: Welcome to the Quagmire

Slate‘s Fred Kaplan surveys the likely situation for the winner of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. Iraq’s presidential council has vetoed a law that called for provincial elections in October 2008. The “Sunni Awakening” militia forces formed to drive Al Qaeda jihadists out of Baghdad are having second thoughts. Finally, U.S. military commanders are reconsidering their timeline to end troop pullouts for “the surge”. Collectively, these three developments point to a power struggle between different Shiite factions, and undercuts the possibility of a post-U.S. election withdrawal. Kaplan concludes that John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will each face a more complex security situation in Iraq, and more difficult decisions on the deployment of U.S. military forces, than the Bush Administration has faced to-date. Just don’t mention the situation in Afghanistan . . .

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Google ‘Recession’

‘Shares of Google are down 5 percent today, adding to a slide of more than 35 percent since the stock traded above $700 in early December.

‘The growing fear is that even the search behemoth, which once could no wrong as far as investors were concerned, is not immune to fallout from weaker internet spending as the economy slows.

‘As Sam Gustin reported earlier, that worry was underscored by a note from Ben Schachter, an analyst with UBS, who lowered his expectations for Google’s 2008 and 2009 revenue by 1 percent and cut his price target for the stock to $590 from $650.’

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The Wal-Mart Puzzle

‘Given the economic headwinds, one would think that a retailer catering to lower-end consumers would be doubly slammed. As the subprime-mortage mess shows, people at the bottom of the income ladder are struggling. And as for the retail sector generally, don’t ask. Retail sales have been sluggish in recent months, and national chains are shutting down stores by the dozen. From Nordstrom down to Target, fourth-quarter profits have been disappointing.

‘Which brings us to the mystery of Wal-Mart. The nation’s largest retailer, which caters to working-class customers, seems to have something of a sweet spot.’

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Self-Publish Boom Challenging Old Order

‘While sales within America’s multibillion dollar book marketplace stagnate – Harry Potter excepted – the once somewhat disrespected world of self-publishing is blossoming.

‘A slew of companies are now bundling together internet-based technologies that have taped into a rich vein of printer’s ink.

‘Five-year old publish-on-demand pioneer Lulu says it is doubling in size every year. Even though it won’t release specific revenues or profits it does say that globally as many as 15,000 people register at its site each week mostly to create books but also calendars, music and DVDs.’

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Post-racial: Even White Supremacists Don’t Hate Obama

‘David Duke was on the phone, talking about Barack Obama. Yes, that David Duke: After a query lodged at his website, the infamous ex-Klansman had responded via a mysterious e-mail address–he appeared in my inbox as “info45.” (Duke regularly changes address to combat hate mail–the kind he doesn’t like, that is.) Duke said he was traveling in Europe, where he often meets with fellow Holocaustdeniers, and agreed to discuss the possibility that the United States might soon elect a black president.

‘Putting it mildly, one would not expect Duke to applaud this development. During Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign, after all, Duke said Jackson’s election “would be the greatest tragedy ever to befall this country.” Warning that “the white majority in this country are losing their rights,” Duke announced his own counter-candidacy, one whose main purpose seemed to be hounding Jackson.

‘Yet, far from railing at Obama’s rise, Duke seems almost nonchalant about it.… Read the rest

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American Idols

‘Credit Barack Obama. He’s said that his view of the presidency doesn’t allow for those powers. But credit him, too, for building a far more powerful cult that Bush was able to manage without a catastrophe. In his speeches Obama jokes about just how much people love him after they hear him speak. “A light bulb will go off,” he says, “a beam of light will shine down, and you will say to yourself, ‘I need to vote for Barack.’” You can see why this sends steam shooting out of John and Hillary’s ears. You can see why Republican-leaning pundits are finally starting to turn their guns away from the Clintons and onto this pied piper.’

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