Open source and journalism: Toward new frameworks for imagining news innovation

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A presentation by Seth Lewis and Nikki Usher at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, May 26, 2012, Phoenix, AZ.

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Open source and journalism: Toward new frameworks for imagining news innovation

  1. 1. Open Source and Journalism: Toward New Frameworks for Imagining News InnovationSeth C. Lewis, Ph.D. Nikki Usher, Ph.D. (U of Minnesota) (George Washington U.)
  2. 2. Intersecting phenomena: The rise ofprogrammer-journalists in the newsroom
  3. 3. Intersecting phenomena: The rise ofHacks/Hackers and similar collaborations
  4. 4. Intersecting phenomena: The tech sector’sinterest in journalism as a ‘problem space’
  5. 5. Underlying all of this: Open Source• Many of these ventures (but not all) focus on open source computing framework• Also emphasize pro-social hacking culture from the open source software movement — i.e., doing good by making data open and accessible• But the history of ‘computational journalism’ is one of normalizing tools to suit existing practices• How might a tech-focused approach to open source lead to rethinking journalistic norms?
  6. 6. Open Source: What is meant• “A collective noun for all software with available source code, adaptable by all, under the limitation that the adaptations should be made available to others” – (Wynants & Cornelius, 2005)
  7. 7. Open Source: Architecture & Culture• Code structured as “open”• Infuses a culture – Software works best when it is collectively created – non-market, non-contractual transfer of knowledge
  8. 8. Open Source: Normative values• Transparency• Tinkering• Iteration• Participation
  9. 9. Normative values: Transparency• For open source, it’s the idea that you’re coding in the open….• For journalists, transparency has traditionally been about other institutions• Can journalism be more of a process rather than a product?
  10. 10. Normative values: Tinkering• Playfulness, “maker culture”• Small changes – just for fun or for the better
  11. 11. Normative values: Tinkering• Journalists are makers• But too often they get caught up in same old patterns of storytelling• And their organizations are afraid to play with the traditional model just to see what happens….
  12. 12. Normative values: Iteration• The freedom to fail• Beta-testing• Community feedback is crucially important
  13. 13. Normative values: Participation• Open source: distributed collective input – “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”• Journalism: to what extent can the ‘software’ of news go beyond token forms of user input?
  14. 14. New frameworks: Story as code
  15. 15. New frameworks: Journalism as knowledge management
  16. 16. In closing: Caveats• Open source tools may normalize journalism• Open source projects may fail• Many of them are cathedral, in the end• Silicon Valley culture might be toxic to the newsroom• Who is behind all of this, and why?
  17. 17. Open Source and Journalism: Toward New Frameworks for Imagining News InnovationSeth C. Lewis, Ph.D. Nikki Usher, Ph.D. (U of Minnesota) (George Washington U.)

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