Returning to my little universe after the Beyond Broadcast conference in Harvard this weekend, my take-away is that we all face the daunting challenge is how to re-invent our institutions in a digital age.
For public broadcasting, this means incorporating new technologies to better serve their communities with relevant content and to better invite them into the conversation. For activist groups, it means finding ways to empower your members with knowledge and tools to distribute both the work and the credit to a wider constituency. For educational institutions, it means opening up the academy to the idea of strategic sharing of knowledge outside of the ivory tower in ways that enhance the learning experience and the richness of research.
Some people I encountered this weekend who seem to me to be on the right track:
- "Radio Open Source," which bills itself as a "blog with a radio show" is a good example of a well-produced public interest program that crafts its content from feedback and suggestions they receive from a vibrant community of commenters on their blog.
- Global Voices: an aggregator of the blogs from around the world designed to give people a richer understanding of the lives of individuals in the developing world.
- Witness: moving beyond providing camcorders to human rights activists around the world to hosting digital video uploading from citizen’s cell phones and digital cameras in real-time. The folks at Witness are using ICT’s to literally save lives.
- The University Channel: A Princeton University initiative to make available videos of academic lectures and presentations from around the world on the internet.
Charles Nesson, founder of the Berkman Center at Harvard, summarized it so well when he said that the future of public media rested with "the wisdom to imagine a future in which institutions such as Harvard are being generators of open knowledge and collaborators with other
educational institutions in the creation of an open commonwealth of
At the end of the day, our goal is to give people the tools to tell their own stories and to make their own decisions in an informed and considered manner. A "digital public sphere" is one that gets us closer to the ideal of a polity that can interact with each other through rich media, be producers as well as consumers of knowledge. A space with more bridges and less walls.
Call that techno-utopianism if you wish. But I just got my first text message from my mom, telling me thanks for the lovely Mother’s Day present. This from a woman who doesn’t use email and hates talking on the phone. So I’m feeling pretty jazzed about new media right now.
Beyond Broadcast photo by Dan Phiffer. More Beyond Broadcast images available on Flickr.com.