What made Google rise to power was its ability to make sense out of the vast information pit on the Web. Similarly, individual blogs can be viewed as the beta version of Web 2.0 We Media. The next generation is stepping up to pick out the relevant gems and organize the growing clutter of voices. Harnessing the voices of bloggers (and others netizens) along with new technologies, emerging collaborative news websites are moving beyond the beta version and mashing together alternative sources of content. In various degrees they are allowing the public to define and create what is news while simultaneously establishing a mechanism to organize, interact with, and sort through the noise.
Outside of blogs, in the new media ecology there are numerous ways for citizen’s to engage in the production, distribution, and discussion of news and information. Bowman and Willis provide a useful taxonomy of platforms for participatory media including discussion groups, user-generated content (via web-based forms, emails, feedback systems), peer-to-peer applications, weblogs, XML syndication, and collaborative publishing. This paper narrows in on this last group (which increasingly encapsulates the others).
Defining Collaborative News Models
Axel Bruns provides a short and sweet definition of collaborative news websites as “news sites which largely rely on their users as information gatherers, editors, or commenters.” He further notices that collaborative online news production falls on a continuum including meta-blogs, blog network channels, group blogs, and individual blogs.
All of this terminology is dizzying, however to avoid confusion, I will further specify. The collaborative news sites I follow in this study have the following characteristics:
* Allows the public to contribute in content sourcing, production, distribution, and/or discussion (this includes writing/posting, commenting, flag/tag/rating, and/or editing).
* Is a central place where content is aggregated, managed, published, and/or supplemented (regardless of whether all content is hosted on the site server or not.)
* As opposed to algorithm based meta-blogs and aggregators, the filtering is driven by human decisions (perhaps aided by programming.)
This is a narrowed yet still broad sub-category. More significantly, this corner of the news media ecology has implications for both offline and online, purely human and purely technology-driven models. These websites create what Howard Rheingold called virtual communities and provide rich material for discussion on the implications of group engagement with the news.