An interesting discussion has taken place today about citizen media. The discussion started on Twitter (so that’s what it’s good for!) and moved on to a few blogs: One was on Jay Rosen’s Press Think, where he hazarded a definition of citizen journalism:
When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism.
Another was Dan Gillmor’s Center for Citizen Media Blog where Dan Gillmor looked into the origins of the term.
Citizen journalism is an idea of the 2000s that grew out of the public journalism movement of the 1990s. I won’t go into the differences here, but a commonality is in the understanding of “citizen” in “citizen media.” As I commented on Jay Rosen’s post,
The political idea of “citizen” in “citizen media,” etc. is not about being a documented citizen of a particular country but about having agency in a political community, using the power one has as a member of the community to shape the direction of the community. The term citizen is better [than] “person” because it has a political connotation. Prior to digital media, people’s power was pretty limited (remember mimeographed underground papers?). So the delightful double effect of citizen media today is that the media technologies actually help turn people into citizens.
Jeff Jarvis is proposing replacing the term citizen journalism with networked journalism for lots of good reasons (e.g., to get away from the divide between citizens and professional for professionals are citizens, too). But this proposal somehow loses the potency of how members of a political community can use and develop agency through new forms of communication.