The KJF Initiative has applied for the 2011 Knight News Challenge .
By guaranteeing universal access to journalism, we can secure the fairness and depth of healthy democratic processes around the world. By creating the conditions for a more autonomous journalistic field, we can be an instrument on a shift at the heart of the balance of power.
Over the last 9 months we have been working on the understanding of new journalism in the era of mobile technologies and the wed 2.0. Many questions have come across this journey and a big effort has been made to tackle these issues. Far from the scenario we want to reach we have been constantly sharing the KJF Initiative with people in the media, students, professors and software developers.
Thanks to the support of the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne and Professor Nikos Papastergiadis, we have started with the design of a workshop series program. The idea is to create a team focused on specific goals that can strengthen the purpose of this project.
Our aim it to congregate software developers, journalists and academics to foster compelling ideas that can make the KJF Initiative an interesting, sophisticated, well structured and altruist approach to the new era of news.
This is another small step towards the real internet revolution we are claiming for. We want to create a group that works collectively to create new technology available for bloggers and independent media outlets. We want to know what journalists think about this idea, whether they are independent or work for mainstream media organizations. We want to encourage academic research regarding the relationship between news and the philosophy behind the web 2.0.
Newspapers should think about us, their audience, in terms of friendship rather than in terms of consumption. I believe that will make a big difference. The Internet has opened an opportunity for sharing and has closed the gap of time and space. These new dynamics need to be understood in wider contexts. New technologies have changed the business model of the music, news and any other media industry. Internet and mobile media are playing a defining role in the realization of new strategies for monetizing media production. However, there are different threats that stifle this possibility.
According to Jon Ippolito in his lecture in the Art & Technology Lecture series at Columbia University, new groups such as musicians, artists, activists and programmers
“… depend on easy access to each other’s time and labor. Entrenched media monopolies, on the other hand, aren’t interested in frictionless networks; their business model is based on maximizing the points of contact. Whenever a musician pays the producer, a producer pays the publisher, or a publisher pays rights holders, there’s a lawyer with his hand out skimming cash from the exchange. In fact, the more friction in that exchange, the more money lawyers make–a fact you know if you’ve ever worked with lawyers in a negotiation.”
Following Ippolito’s argument, this new stage where consumers were aware of the possibility of acquiring music, news, movies and so on for free, and where media companies were seeking to maintain their profit levels through lawsuits against any attempt of creating any sort of independent distribution system, evidenced two important outcomes.
First, technology started to offer technical resources to create photos, texts, blogs, private radio shows (podcasting) and videos. This, combined with the internet, PCs and less expensive and user-friendlier media, opened the gates for experimental and amateur producers.
Second, big corporations needed to access these new forms of distribution to keep the grip on business. Thus, the NASDAQ crash in 2000 was the perfect opportunity for media companies to offer funding or content licenses to start-ups in exchange for equity. Big corporations obtained internet distribution infrastructure below the market value and also saved costs in research and development.
To understand these two opposite results some academics state that existing media have differentiated the delivery of technologies and by so doing have formed central constraints on the consumption patterns. Nevertheless, a new type of content, or what some call digitized information, enabled the transmission among common channels through common reception technologies.
In this turmoil, both consumers and producers commenced to change their roles by adopting a less static position within the economy of the music and news production for instance. Lower production and distribution costs originated new delivery channels, and enabled consumers to archive, appropriate, produce, mix and circulate media content in powerful ways. The term ‘prosumer’ was coined by Alvin Toffler in 1980 in his attempt to visualized the society in the long-term. This is a paradoxical word since it breaks the capitalist definitions of consumer and producer. Likewise, this new character (prosumer) represented the major change in the applicability of media. These changes gave consumers the power to convert personal media into mass media.
The center for future civic media at MIT has been working on its project Open Park: A Model for Collaborative Online News Production
“As newsrooms across the country and beyond are grappling with the new economic realities of reduced budgets and news media professionals are busy drafting and testing plans for new models of news production and distribution, the little-explored practice of ‘Don’t compete, collaborate!’ is well worth considering.”
I argue that we need to take this philosophy farther, not only collaboration but friendship and really make an effort in understanding what is happening with the internet and mobile media. We need to create spaces for participation and create this link of friendship and collaboration between audiences and news organizations.
If news outlets manage to do that, the voluntary payment will make much more sense. Would you download the first released album of your very talented friend for free even if you can? given that its good “stuff” wouldn’t you pay for it?
The media and some academic institutions have made an effort to tackle what they consider the problem of newspapers: A business model that can allow them to continue in the internet age. Seminars and workshops sponsored by philanthropic organizations, universities, NGOs, newspapers and so on, are focusing their time on designing new marketing strategies to find new niches for news outlets.
Megan Garber on her article published on June 1st 2010 in the Nieman Journalism Lab‘s website: “Parsing Panera: Could a name-your-own-price model work for news?” seems very skeptical when it comes to visualizing a model where people pay for the news they have access to according to what they feel like paying.
Following Megan’s argument, a nonprofit restaurant that belongs to the Panera Bread chain’s store, leaves it to customers to decide what they will pay. The question she asks is “Could Panera payment model work for news?”
In her analysis she describes how this model can work in some situations where consumer behavior is monitored as in the case of the restaurant One World Everybody Eats. “In One World’s case, the accountability point is a simple donation box. One that is situated — explicitly, purposely, unavoidably — in public. And that makes a big — and perhaps all the — difference.” She continues … “when the accountability is negotiated in private — when there is only, as in the case of online news, the glare of the computer screen to cast light on our shoulders’ angels and devils — our willingness to drop dollars in the donation box certainly becomes a more open question.”
In Melbourne, Australia there is a restaurant called Lentil as Anything. This year they are celebrating what they consider “10 years of a miracle and a unique dining experience.” Nicolás Mendoza decided to write a paper for one of his classes at Melboune Uni to understand a bit more what he defines as “To feel like paying and the anomaly of happiness.”
In his audience research he interviewed a patron at the restaurant who told him the story of the extra coffee cup:
“… somebody had left, and so they walked by with the coffee and said ‘oh would you like it’, and as a matter of fact, I did, but it wasn’t my coffee. So, it was nice to get a free coffee, so I paid a little bit more for that. Like thirteen dollars or something, ummm…coffee and cake, which is nice”
As Nicolás states, in a conventional restaurant, the extra coffee cup would have made a round trip to the preparation area where it would have been probably discarded. The reason beyond rather throwing it away than giving it for free, is that in conventional restaurants the waiter, the cook and the patrons have specific and limited roles. However, in Lentil as Anything such roles tend to disappear, opening a space for creativity, autonomy and teamwork.
The architecture of this information society offers us the same possibility. The important issue at stake is that we refuse to acknowledge the structural changes that the new digital era is bringing with it. Major participation throughout the internet is something that we should be proud of and that we should embrace.
Jonathan Zittrain exposed it clearly in his conference in NY in 2008 when his book “The Future of the Internet How to Stop it” was about to be released. He pointed out that the cases of napster and skype for instance never had a business model. The people who created these platforms were just people that assumed that people in the community were good, and they were expecting the best of them and vice-versa.
They acted as the waiter and the patron in Lentils as Anything. They understood that producer and consumer are not two separate entities but quite the opposite, they are part of the same game and they need each other to continue playing. So why don’t we just assume that we are good and that we want to be happy? Why don’t media trust us and accept the strength of the interaction between humans and technology? At the end, all these great achievements can be undermined by our idea of being fixed to former dynamics that in their time were appropriate but fortunately not anymore.
Lentil as anything
“Is a unique vegetarian restaurant that is run as a not-for-profit community organisation and largely staffed by volunteers. Our philosophy is to allow the customer to decide what they want to pay for thier food and drinks. You decide the worth of the food, the experience, and the philosophy then upon leaving put an anonymous donation into the box on the counter. At Lentils, we aspire to provide a new model of community organisation.
One that addresses social isolation experienced by new migrants and socially isolated people. We provide support and training for refugees, youth and other members of our community who are struggling to find an opportunity in their new social environment. All four locations also operate as training facilities for trainees to enter the hospitality industry. Lentil as Anything started in 2000 and now has four locations, one at Blessington Street, St. Kilda, another at the Abbotsford Convent in St. Heliers Street, Abbotsford and a new local has opened at 233 Barkly Street, Footscray. It also runs the canteen at the Collingwood College, the first ever school canteen to be run in this manner. Lentilians believe Australia’s strength is in its multiculturalism and social inclusion.
We want to develop and encourage ideals of trust, generosity and respect. We provide food to countless people without drawing attention to their financial circumstances and encourage the interaction and involvement from people from all walks of life. Lentils seek to encourage interaction, cultural exchange and community growth. It is also developing programs in addition to its restaurants, using our unique community development model to address the hardship of inequality that would normally be experienced by the people who come to and work at Lentils. We provide Immigration Support via a dedicated Imigration Consultunt and allocation of cultural exchange visas. We also provide long term term emergency accomodation for our volunteers.”
Last Sunday, May 2, we attended the 3rd Trampoline event in Melbourne. Being an event that seeks to encourage the flow of ‘amazing’ ideas, we felt like it was just a perfect setting to get the conversation about KJF going among the programming crowd.
The event is a sort of ideas conference, much like a TED Talks event, but within a much more relaxed framework. They define themselves with the following words:
“Trampoline is a self-organising event for those who find the world interesting, have something to offer and share, and have an inquisitive mind.”
Link to the event’s site: http://trampolineday.com/
We had the opportunity to show our project to a highly select crowd, and got amazing feedback from our audience.