Putting the New Media Ecosystem into Practice

kentbye's picture
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The New Media Ecosystem that I propose here is pretty abstract, but to me this model is a lot closer to being real than theoretical. I'm going to do the best that I can to succinctly convey how close I am to actually applying this ecosystem to the post-production of my documentary.

This model will be applicable to the for large mainstream news organizations as well as for other hyperlocal and national citizen journalist outlets. But it can also be implemented for the collaborative post-production process for my investigative documentary. Before this theory can be applied on a larger scale, there needs to be a "proof-of-concept" with The Echo Chamber.

I plan on creating a collaborative website that facilitates centralized labor via CivicSpace. I have a Drupal developer who is volunteering some of his time to help get the project off its feet. But I hope to use as many open source solutions as I can as I put the project together.

I also hope to recruit a team of aggregating analysts who could centralize the input that may be coming from decentralized sources (i.e. the larger blogosphere beyond EchoChamberProject.com).

Each of the boxes in the flowchart need to be broken down into smaller puzzle pieces where the inputs and outputs are clearly defined as well as the process of each step. I have an idea for what will happen in each box, but I haven't written out all of the procedures or defined the data structures for the inputs and outputs.

Below I will briefly describe how each box applies to my documentary -- I've actually overcome a lot of the hardest obstacles and it will be just a matter of piecing everything together with the software, and analytical methods and collaboration procedures.

* Asking Questions -- This phase is already completed since we interviewed 15 journalists, 4 media critics, 3 journalism professors, 7 think tank scholars, 4 international lawyers, 4 retired government analysts, and 8 other perspectives.

* Transcripts -- I have 45 interviews, and I've been having volunteers help transcribe these interviews. I have 28 completed transcripts out of the 31 that I've sent out, and only 6 of them proofread and posted on my website so far. I hope to get the others proofread or loaded and transcribed after I transition over CivicSpace and get more advisors and institutional support.

* Public Record -- I've created a news database with over 10,000 entries with links to government transcripts, mainstream and alternative news sources for the 30 weeks leading up to the war in Iraq from August 26, 2002 to March 19th, 2003. This virtual historical portal can be used for researchers to excavate relevant facts. I've also aggregated other research resources -- such as all of the pre-war talking points from the White House.

* Researchers -- I have recruited some researchers, and I plan on recruiting more people to do different distributed research tasks. Each researcher will get a blog on CivicSpace that will have an RSS feed.

* Analysts -- I also plan on recruiting a middle-layer of analysts who sift through the researcher RSS feeds in order to feed extracted facts into ACH matrices or inductively form new hypotheses for what happened. These analysts will also have many other inputs to other sections as indicated in the flowchart.

* Hypothesis Generation -- I've taken a first crack of generating a bunch of hypotheses for what happened and why. This is my thematic taxonomy, but it is open to being refined. What will probably happen is that analysts will read over the interview transcripts and help me form broad thematic categories, and then divide those up into subcategories. I've already taken a shot of doing this, but it won't be intuitive to others until they read through the more of the source material that I've gathered.

* Extract Facts -- Once the researchers familiarize themselves with the hypotheses, then this will serve as the taxonomy that determines how the facts will be categorized. They can go off and extract confirming or disconfirming sound bites from the interview source material or from the public record. It'll be up to the analysts to make sense of their inputs and to do further categorization into the ACH matrices.

* Interpret Evidence -- I already have a lot of interviews with experts who do their own interpretation of the evidence. It'll be up to the analysts and researchers to help gather facts that either confirm or disconfirm these preliminary conclusions.

* Analysis of Competing Hypotheses -- I've written about this section more extensively here. I imagine that this will be some sort of wiki database that is either moderated by analysts or open to input from anyone. This is probably one of the more complicated pieces to implement since it is fairly complex and receives inputs from many different sources. There are other steps involved here that I haven't fully explored or elaborated on for the sake of space and time.

* Hypothesis Evaluation -- At this point, I see analysts evaluating whether or not a given hypothesis is consistent with each fact, but this step could also be open to voting from researchers as well. For example, there could be a relatively simple Yes/No voting system open to the public. This task could be a low-barrier to entry to doing other research tasks.

* Hypothesis Selection -- I have many interviews with experts who have already selected which hypothesis they think is the best choice for explaining what happened and why -- This will involve some reverse engineering involved to determine whether these expert conclusions can be supported with evidence or not. If they can't, then I need to be able to show the objective evidence that supports my subjective decision to not include their perspective in the film.

* Deception Detection -- I've laid out the concept of deception detection here. I already have a lot of quotes from experts claiming that there was political deception on a number of cases. Again, it'll be a matter of using their claims of a starting point in order to use the ACH process to see if their claims could have been detected had Mitre's counter-deception additions to ACH been applied.

* Non-Linear Dialogue and Behavior Mapping -- I mentally did this before interviewing people for 7 straight weeks this past summer -- I did quite a bit of research into the justifications given for the war and all of the available counter-evidence that was available at the time. In my databases of news articles, I've isolated a number of occasions where skeptics were raising cautionary warning signals -- and we tracked down and interviewed a number of those skeptical journalists and retired government officials. It'll be a matter of linking skeptical sound bites together from the set of interviews and juxtaposing these with the sound bites coming from the Bush Administration's public statements and behavior. There are mapping capabilities within wikis, but this is another step that is very complex and has a lot of inputs from other sources so I'm still not sure how this puzzle piece will come together.

* Intersubjective Perspectives & Linear News Analysis -- These boxes describe what my documentary film will be. I will be juxtaposing intersubjective perspectives with news clips and other source material in order to create a piece of linear news analysis. All of the other non-linear background information will be on the website. But the linear documentary is what I will use to reach the masses -- It'll be old news for everyone who works on the film because they'll be familiar with the material, but it'll still be new in the sense that the brain processes visual and auditory information differently than reading text. All of the strong conclusions about the media will be able to be included in the film, and the supporting evidence will be available in a user-friendly manner on the website.

This should give a better idea for how I plan on applying these concepts. They're a little bit more concrete for me because I'm sitting here waiting to get the software and methodologies worked out in order to start putting these new media theories into practice for the production of my film.