By Me, On OpenLearn… Communications Around Significant Localised News Events

I did a quick thing over on OpenLearn about how communications systems cope when faced with an unexpected surge in folk trying to make phone calls or get onto the web, pondering the question: “What role does communication technology play in emergency events such as the Boston Marathon explosions?” (Emergency news – A changing communications landscape).

To pull the post together, I drew on a Guardian Technology editor Charles Arthur’s retweets over the course of the evening, which provided an interesting technological slant on the news as it was breaking/developing.

The event also prompted a series of posts on the role of Twitter in reporting breaking news. Twitter and news: The canary down the mine compares the dynamics of Twitter in a breaking news situation in the context of the “news funnel”:

One of the theories you learn when you train to be a journalist is the “funnel” of news. Imagine a funnel. It’s getting all the information about a certain news story poured into it – from the top. Wild rumours and hard facts. Witness accounts alongside back-of-a-cigarette packet theories,

The funnel is the journalist. And the funnel’s job is to take all the information, from the crazy and the correct, and pour it, with a measure of control, into the story. Take out the impurities, crush up the lumps, and make the resulting article a distillation of the thousands of snippets, with no errors.

It seems to me, very often these days, that Twitter is the funnel turned upside down.

All of those disparate ingredients are poured into the nozzle. The narrow part. And they are not filtered, not regulated, not tested. But they come out of the wide part of the funnel. They are spread across a large area. Indiscriminately.

And that’s how Twitter appeared to me on the night of the Boston marathon bombs.

Another review of the event used a form of topic analysis to explore the semantic textual content different waves of Twitter activity using a Twitter accession count timebase – The evolution of discussion around the Boston Marathon events.

PS in the context of Twitter and the news, I note that Guardian Datablog editor Simon Rogers is going to work for Twitter, to be replaced at the Guardian by James Ball… I also spotted a few days ago that ex-of the Guardain data intereactive designer Alastair Dant had also moved to the New York Times.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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