Yesterday saw the launch of The Guardian’s new ad campaign for their new ‘open’ approach to journalism. In terms of a newspaper which is metamorphosing into a digital information platform, this means:
The newspaper is moving beyond a newspaper. Journalists are finding they can give the whole picture better.
The Guardian is ground-breaking; this is their identity, their ecological niche. Here they are finding new ground to embrace. The idea(ls) of ‘open’ is the hyperplane expansion resulting from the intersection of the journalism and technology. But wait. Hold on. What do I mean by this?
First things first, I studied Theoretical Physics, Zoology and Anthropology (don’t ask). So most of my thinking will be a mixture of physical constraints, natural selection and sociological observations. So let me talk to you about doxa, hyperplanes and the intersection of journalism and technology.
Doxa ia a term coined by the sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu. One way of understanding doxa and how it fits into the hyperplane model of social thinking is cars. The invention of the automobile was a paradigm shift in the concept of personal travel. This then shaped our physical landscape. The car industry then became intertwined in the performance of major economies. A car became not a machine, but a culture. It says as much about you as the job you have, the area you live in and the clothes you wear.
What makes a paradigm shift disruptive to society is the idea of scale. What the car has done to society it does to the individual in their lifetime. You need to learn to drive a car and once you do it, it becomes second nature. It becomes part of your bodily doxa. There is a threshold for a which a paradigm shift is worth this investment, but once that threshold is broken on a large scale, the whole of society becomes embroiled.
The internet spawned the hyperplane of information travel. The personal computer expanded this plane. But it was the smart phone which ignited the big bang. New dimensions of information travel, network and connectivity emerged. And the hyperplane expanded to intersect others. One being news, media and journalism.
But this was an intersect, not a merge. Where journalism and information technology collide are the inputs and outputs. Gathering news and sending it out, from either end of the production chain. What The Guardian has realised is the shaped of this collision is that of a curved plane colliding head on with a flat plane. Think of two paper plates, one flat and one bent so that the middle curves inwards. Smash these two together and where they hit first will be at the edges. Information technology is hitting at either end but as it moves closer, it’s the middle, the production process of news, that is being enveloped.
This production process, on both planes, is being shaped not by the information gatekeepers but by us; the receivers. Open source and open journalism embraces the fact that the plane is expanding faster than traditional models within them can progress. As these dimensions merge, it’s time that is causing problems. Because we are forming networks and producing and passing on information in realtime, the new age of digital journalism cannot keep up if it is using linear time. We need to work in parallel; with tools and the community they contain.
There is something really beautiful happening within the planes of technology and journalism. Open means the digital age is not just about silicon chips and realtime news. It’s about what we as a society choose to do with them. It’s about admitting that no one has the right to claim territory. It’s about the power of being able to let go of power.
In that sense, open journalism is not something The Guardian is trying to make happen. It is something that is happening to journalism and The Guardian is realising it. In this case, The Guardian is breaking ground by realising the power of adapting to the changes that we are creating.