Editor’s note: We have been knocking at this door (hand held telecoms for brining people together, including as aubiquitous transportation interface) for some time, and if you share an interest in seeing what they come up with, you might want to check out their work space at http://www.digitaldivide.net/community/mobcasting.
When Mobile Podcasting Leads to Mobcasting
By Andy Carvin, Program Director, EDC Center for Media & Community, acarvin @ edc . org
I've been thinking a lot about podcasting over the last few weeks, particularly in terms of the role podcasting can play as a tool for civic engagement and citizen journalism. To date, many of the podcasts you'll find online today tend to be oriented towards discussing technology, entertainment and the like. A few pioneers like Brian Russell of AudioActivism.org have started to challenge us to think about ways the medium can be used for positive social change, but otherwise, notions of civic engagement have just begun to enter podcasting discourse.
This weekend, I came up with a way to create podcasts with only a smartphone. It's fairly straightforward for those of us with a little bit of tech savviness, but I wonder if it's easy enough for the average Jane Q. Citizen with no previous blogging or podcasting experience. Hard to say - perhaps I'll have to encourage a few members of the Digital Divide Network to give it a whirl and see if it's an easy solution or not. Even if it's not the best strategy for creating MoPodcasts (mobile podcasts) on-the-fly, at least it's a start.
But it makes me wonder what the Internet will be like when literally anyone with a mobile phone can publish audio, video and text to the Internet. In the past I've written about projects like Witness.org and OneWorld TV, which empower activists and the public at large to capture socially-relevant content, from civil rights violations at protests to war coverage, with a video camera and a website to host it. But with the proliferation of video-enabled smartphones, it seems that it would be a natural progression to mobilize the millions of people who are buying these tools with an easy, no-nonsense way to capture socially-relevant footage and get it online in near-real time.
Think of the role played by people using mobile phones and SMS during the ousters of Slobodan Milosevic and Joseph Estrada respectively. Now empower them with video phones, 3G mobile telephony, and a Flickr-like tool for uploading audio and video to RSS-enabled websites.We're no longer talking about mobile blogging or podcasting now - we're talking about a social revolution. We're talking about mobcasting.
What do I mean by mobcasting? Well, it's really a double entendre, if you will: a play on both mobile podcasting and Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold's notion of viral-like social coordination enabled by information and communications technologies. Smart mobs got a lot of hype last year in the mainstream media, usually in the form of surrealistic group performance art initiated over the Internet. But smart mobs are much more powerful than just a group of college kids showing up in an art gallery at 12:15pm, standing on one foot and yelling "Tevye, get off the roof!" before dispersing without further comment. Like the case of SMS use during the anti-Estrada demonstrations in the Philippines, smart mobs can be any form of group social action enabled by ICTs.
A quick example: imagine a large protest at a political convention. During the protest, police overstep their authority and begin abusing protesters, sometimes brutally. A few journalists are covering the event, but not live. For the protestors and civil rights activists caught in the melee, the police abuses clearly need to be documented and publicized as quickly as possible. Rather than waiting for the handful of journalists to file a story on it, activists at the protest capture the event on their video phones -- dozens of phones from dozens of angles. Thanks to the local 3G (or community wi-fi) network, the activists immediately podcast the footage on their blogs. The footage gets aggregated on a civil rights website thanks to the RSS feeds produced by the podcasters' blogs. (Or perhaps they all podcast their footage directly to a centralized website, a la OneWorld TV but with an RSS twist.) This leads to coverage by bloggers throughout the blogosphere, which leads to coverage by the mainstream media, which leads to demands of accountability by the general public. That's mobcasting.
Smartphones are getting cheaper every day, and 3G networks are now commonplace in Europe and the Pacific Rim (sorry America, we're running behind yet again, but at least community wi-fi is still a possibility). As blogging software becomes more mobile-friendly, more people should soon have the ability to create mobile podcasts without too much effort. And thanks to mobile-to-Internet services like Flickr, I hope we'll soon see push-button-easy methods for videophone owners to capture footage and post it to podcast-enabled websites. Perhaps all the pieces are already out there and we just need to connect the dots. Either way, it won't be a huge technological leap to reach that point. The bigger challenge will be encouraging activists and socially-conscious members of the public to embrace the idea: that they too can do their part to contribute to civic journalism.
Mobcasting. Power to the people.
Posted by acarvin at January 16, 2005 09:42 PM