Thursday, November 27, 2008

Faster than a Speeding Bullet

Stories such as "Mumbai attacks reported live on Twitter, Flickr" and "Real Time Citizen Journalism in Mumbai Terrorist Attacks" document the fact that coverage of political violence and terrorism that unfold in transnational environments is being shaped by the fact that participants have ubiquitous computing technologies, which they are able to deploy even when held hostage or under siege. In this case, the twenty-four-hour television cable news cycle that broadcasts images from outside the security perimeter may get comparably less attention from computer users, because netizens across the globe are gripped by the drama of bulletins coming from within.

In the Steven Livingston's book The Terrorism Spectacle, he argues that television has uniquely contributed to stateless combatants’ tactical shift from rural guerrilla campaigns to spectacles of urban terrorism that afford greater publicity, and even suggests that terrorism and the network news media exist in a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship. As coverage of these kinds of violent and jarring events becomes fragmented and diffracted through the perspectives of multiple participants in a distributed network, it is important to ask whether such coverage will feed such acts of terrorism or undermine them.

(Thanks to Tedra Osell for noting on Facebook that Twitter and Flickr became an important part of the story of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.)

Update: The New York Times is now covering this angle in "Citizen Journalists Provide Glimpses into the Attacks."

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