A few days ago, as I was having a nice walk around Rome on the city’s 2765th birthday, I posted a series of photos on instagram:
At some point, someone commented like this:
Of course they were joking, as nobody sane in their mind would ever believe for a split second that posting pics taken with a smartphone on a social network equals the actual capability to rule the tourism office of a city like Rome (nor of any other city, for that matter), not even when properly hastagged #2765 #Rome #birthday et al.
On the same day, someone tweeted from the OccupyChicago account this message:
Tweet & spread the message from home if you can’t be in the streets.If you are in the streets,& own a smartphone,youre a citizen journalist.
— Occupy Chicago (@OccupyChicago) April 21, 2012
In my opinion, this is just sloganeering, a distorted vision of something that could be good but, in these terms, only means an overflow of unselected uninformative babble. Owning a smartphone doesn’t make a journalist of you, not even one of the “citizen” sort, as much as owning a video cam doesn’t make a filmmaker of you, nor owning a camera makes you the next Henri Cartier-Bresson, nor posting pics of Rome on instagram instantly turns you into head of its tourism office: owning a smartphone just makes you a smartphone owner. Likewise, if you own a sofa and an internet connection and tweet and retweet stuff for days you can claim you’re a re-mediator of unmediated communication as much as you like, but you still don’t fool me. Too much communication doesn’t necessarily mean good information. A hashtag is not a direction, it’s just a hashtag. There should be method even in citizen journalism, if such a thing has to exist — and I’m not saying it shouldn’t, nor that it is a bad thing, at all, still an excess of enthusiasm doesn’t equal a method. Saying «If you are in the streets,& own a smartphone,youre a citizen journalist» only means two things to me:
- that your grammar is poor, and I judge your (citizen) journalistic skills by that, too (and please don’t try the “but twitter only allows 140 character and the language is evolving anyway” trick on me, it doesn’t work: you should be able to write concise tweets without killing a language.);
- that you really haven’t got a clue, you’re an anarcoid critical mass without a proper direction just like those infamous Neapolitan mariners on a vessel. And yes, I do know that document is just a fabrication of history, but that’s not the point — the point is that without a proper method you’re only making “ammuina” and not providing useful information.
Last week someone else tweeted another message, unrelated with all of the above but somehow very apt to sum it all up:
I desperately want someone – anyone – to go back to thinking inside the box. — Richard Coles (@RevRichardColes) April 17, 2012
Amen to that, Vicar.