Digital media can provide lifelines for homeless people. This article explains that Brianna Karp wrote The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness about her experience of being homeless. In an interview, she says that
‘people are still amazed to see homeless people utilizing resources, or conclude that they must not “really” be homeless. Why should a person entering a crisis like homelessness be expected to give up items they may already own, like a cell phone or laptop, which may be their most valuable tools for finding work and digging their way out?’
She also says that through her blog she met other homeless people and activists.
She advises other homeless people that
‘Technology and social media are your friends, so use them. With them, a world’s entire wealth of information is at your fingertips.’
Realising that I don’t regularly use one or two particular providers any more (eg 3 News or The Herald) is quite a surprise. These days I get a sense of what’s going on through a mosiac of sources fed to me from a few social media applications. When we discussed digital media and news in class last week it was pointed out that news is no longer an ‘event’, it is now ambient background noise.
Google news presents me with headlines nearly every day, and headlines from several news providers on facebook (One News, 3 News, The Dominion, The Herald, The Guardian etc) just merge with everything else in my news feed. If any of the headlines interest me, I click on the link to find out more.
I also ‘follow’ quite a few news providers on twitter and if there is a big news story I’ll often search twitter to find links rather than going to the website of a particular news provider. It seems I’m not the only one. When this article asked the question ‘what is twitter, a social network or a news media?’ it discovered that 80% of tweets are derived from some sort of ‘permanent’ news item. So despite its frivolous name (and reputation), twitter can be a reliable source of credible news. It isn’t that twitter actually provides news, it just provides headlines with links, and twitter users do the rest.
In our class there was some discussion of whether digital news media are effective at prioritising important news stories. The concern is that people tend to be exposed to news items they are interested in, and either actively (or through ignorance) ignore the rest. The effect of this is to Balkanize or fragment society into several factions that are only exposed to news items that confirm their existing worldview. It seems to me that a frequent twitter user (for example) would be exposed to really important news items whether they wanted to be or not, because of the tendency for users to retweet important information frequently, creating ‘trending topics’. In other words, the importance of a particular news item would be gauged by its ‘retweet’ frequency.
The following ‘retweet tree’ (from the article ‘what is twitter…?’) illustrates that a news item (in this case about an ‘air france flight’) is often retweeted many times as people receive then send the information.