Digital ethics: Photojournalism and the public sphere in the age of citizen journalism and the camera phone
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Conventionally the media industries have a long history of being one-way transmitters of information, chief arbiters of public sphere discourse - closed fortresses regarding input from the public. An inevitable aspect to this agenda-setting paradigm underscores meditation on 'news' issues that are omitted in selection process - matters thus 'edited out' of public sphere parley. In recent years, technological advancements such as the mobile phone and attendant Web 2.0 technologies have called in to question what can be seen and heard, and challenged too who can dispatch with this 'news talk'. Broadly speaking, the term 'user-generated content' (UGC) is ascribed to material of this nature, while those who tender submissions to news and media organizations have been tagged as 'Citizen Journalists'. The result is that participatory media technologies that allow for the creation and distribution of UGC, overturns traditional notions of an all-powerful news media that have restricted for so long a largely passive audience. The camera phone too is fast becoming an exemplar device in its own right, one that propels images and videos, 'photojournalism clips' in real-time fragments across the globe, crisscrossing geopolitical borders, hurdling in and out of nation states. Moreover little appears sheltered from the roaming eye of the camera phone and a growing army of citizen journalists of a global order. Yet, the ethical 'turn' of citizen journalism has been less than plain sailing, receiving its most stringent criticism from the very media industries which it serves - that is to say - the professionals. The ever-growing corpus of emerging research indicates that this phenomenon is a surely a topic de jour as attempts are made to grapple with benefits, drawbacks or definitions of this newfangled sensation. This exploratory study follows a similar trajectory, drawing on a news media event which took place during the research period of study as a method in which to test these hypothesis'. Thus - the extensive aim of this dissertation is to interrogate citizen journalism from a broad perspective, examine claims and counter-claims that have been made about the practice to date, and in doing so, explore how the practice subsequently intersects with ethical issues relating to the generation of content for the news media industries.
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