January 3, 2012

Andy Carvin and Clay Shirky spent an hour on WBUR’s “On Point” program Tuesday morning discussing Twitter’s impact on media and the world. In one of several insightful exchanges, Carvin explained how Twitter helps him cover the Arab spring uprisings:

“What I find Twitter most useful for is seeing my Twitter followers as my newsroom, because I don’t really have a staff of people who can help me do research and serve as producers for me or editors for me.

So when I’m trying to capture what’s going on in Syria, or Libya, or Egypt, my Twitter followers come out of the woodwork and they translate for me, they do research for me, they track shipping lanes and flights going in and out of airports. It’s incredible the skills that people bring to the table. They may not be experts in the entire Arab spring, or a specific country, but they have either one area of expertise or local knowledge that allows them to contribute to the greater part of my newsgathering.

So I don’t really see my Twitter account as a news wire, per se, I see it as sort of an open-source newsroom that anyone can come and participate in, or observe the process.”

Later in the interview Shirky fielded a question, recently en vogue, about the potential for personal overload from all the social networks and digital channels now available. His response: It is possible to over-consume real-time media, just as it is to overeat.

“The technology is never going to step away from us, we are going to have to step away from it … half an hour a day, or an Internet sabbath one day a week. It is one of those cases where, since the environment now offers us all of this volume, exactly as with food, we certainly have to take a discipline on in ourselves that we didn’t have to take when either food or information were sparse.”

Earlier: How Carvin keeps his sanity

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Jeff Sonderman (jsonderman@poynter.org) is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

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