Two New Projects in Civic Media and Citizen Journalism

I’ve been meaning for a while to blog something about the YouDecide project and website, which is part of a major ARC Linkage project based here in the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT, in partnership with SBS, On Line Opinion, and the Brisbane Institute. In short, YouDecide2007 is a citizen journalism initiative, providing a forum for seat-by-seat coverage of the 2007 Australian federal election. From the website:

as much as this is an experiment with a new kind of political coverage, its also a chance for you to hold local representatives accountable and renew parliamentary democracy. Its also a chance for you to be creative, and provide us with the kind of news coverage you’d like to see. We’re accepting multimedia content, including text, video, audio and photos, so featured content could include:

– short, print-style reports
– longer opinion pieces.
– video or audio vox-pops in your local area.
– personal opinion pieces to webcam
– recorded interviews with candidates and opinion leaders
– slideshows combining photographs and audio
– photographic essays
– comment on other people’s articles

Already, the project has had an impact in the wider public sphere, partly because of an interview conducted by Jason Wilson with Peter Lindsay, in which he said that mortgage stress was partly caused by consumers’ ‘financial illiteracy’ and that in his day he had ‘sat on milk crates’ until he could afford furniture. This fantastic sound bite apparently prompted a question from Kevin 07 in parliament, sparking a debate on housing affordability and delivering YouDecide’s first ‘gate’: you guessed, they’re gleefully calling it ‘crate gate’. Fantastic stuff.

I gather there is still plenty of room for citizen journalists to sign up to cover the campaign and related issues in their local seat, so if you’re anywhere in Australia, do check it out.

Here’s Jason introducing the project:

In the citizen journalism session at the Australian Blogging Conference last week, we had some very interesting and robust discussion – focused around the YouDecide project – about citizen journalism, what counts as citizenship, and – my own particular interest – strategies for engaging citizens who are not ‘political junkies’ but who may be very actively engaged in local or interest-based issues.


The team over at MIT have launched a blog for their new Center for Future Civic Media:

Bridging two established programs at MIT—one known for inventing alternate technical futures, the other for identifying the cultural and social potential of media change—the Center for Future Civic Media is a joint effort between the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program. It has been made possible by a four-year grant from the Knight Foundation. The Center for Future Civic Media will work to create technical and social systems for sharing, prioritizing, organizing, and acting on information. These include developing new technologies that support and foster civic media and political action; serving as an international resource for the study and analysis of civic media; and coordinating community-based test beds both in the United States and internationally.


Henry Jenkins discusses what ‘civic media’ might mean as read through the priorities and activities of the Center, why it isn’t synonymous with citizen journalism, and the ways in which we might re-imagine everyday uses of social media as civic media in this entry. He also very kindly refers to some of my work on Flickr and cultural citizenship as part of that discussion. Looking forward to seeing what develops out of the Center as the work there goes forward.

Update: See also Chuck Tyron’s thoughtful article on YouTube and (US Federal) politics in the new issue of Flow.

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