Beyond Broadcast Conference: What is the Community Dimension of Media?

FRI, MAY 12, 2006 (1:17)

Ethan Zuckerman leads off with a fast forward history of the Internet from 1969 that demonstrates how a technology not meant for personal communication became a site of incredible, spontaneous creativity.

Presenters show off a range of participatory sites that intersect with but go way beyond public broadcasting. One recurrent question is about the role of public media professionals as curators, aggregators and organizers. How much editorial control should public media have over community content? Are these sites community-driven? Three test cases are reviewed:

Brendan Greeley, blogger-in-chief at Radio Open Source, "a blog with a radio show", talks about the project as a site of dynamic public participation. His suggestions include: permalinks for talkback; using Technorati; acting like you mean it; not asking for links, but for opinions.

Gather.com, the brainchild of Tom Gerace, a public media project where users create and organize content that brings together communities, raises questions that reverberate throughout the conference: How can we bring public media strengths (credibility, trust) into a changing media landscape and maintain that audience? How can we transform a listening audience into a broad source network? Editorial control? How do we monetize traffic?

Listenup.org, a space that brings together a network of youth organizations around the world (117 in North America) to share resources and funding to create productions seen on TV (including public media) and elsewhere, demonstrates its ideology that "video production is a team sport". Rhea Moklund describes its roots as a public service campaign for broadcasters, and evolution from PSAs into a "real space for youth media," helped out by its creative use of unused PBS server space. This closed network is curated by the young people who use the site (no addresses, etc), with only hate messages censored.

+ BIO: Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman's main affiliation is with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. Geekcorps was his main project until quite recently. It's an international non-profit organization that transfers tech skills from geeks in developed nations to geeks in emerging nations, especially entrepreneurial geeks who are building small businesses. Zuckerman co-founded the organization in early 2000 with a number of friends who were interested in bridging the gaps between the geek world and the international development world.

In 1994, he dropped out of graduate school and joined a couple of friends in Williamstown, MA in building one of the first "pure" dot.com companies - Tripod. As the only person on the team who knew HTML, he became the "tech guy" - later outclassed by guys who could program circles around him, Zuckerman became "bizdev guy", "legal guy", "customer service guy" and "R&D guy" before settling, briefly, on "retired guy".

He lives with his wife Rachel in Lanesboro, MA, a rural town of about 3,000 in Berkshire County. Zuckerman currently serves on the board of the foundation, which works to help artisans in developing worlds support their communities and families. He is also on the boards of the Prospect Foundation, an organization that works on technology training and workforce development in the Berkshires, and RadioVoodoo, a technology company building cool interactive voice systems for radio stations and other industries.

+ BIO: Brendan Greeley

Brendan is Open Source's blogger in chief. He has written for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine and the Wall Street Journal Europe. He is the radio editor of John Hodgman's Little Gray Book Lectures, and his audio work has been featured by Transom, Wonkette!, Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish", the Irish broadcaster RTE, Radio Netherlands and US public radio stations. Before Open Source he was the site editor of the Public Radio Exchange; he has been quoted on blogs and podcasting by The Economist, the BBC, the AP, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

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