OpenWatch is already well known citizen media with active users. Basically it is intended for citizens and their issues and offers place to upload the content anonymously. Mobile phone is the backbone of this project as well as two OpenWatch apps. More about this amazing media you can read below.
We have the pleasure to share our interview with Rich Jones about OpenWatch and their work.
Q: Introduce us your project OpenWatch .
A: OpenWatch is a suite of software for mobile devices and landlines that enable people to record all of their encounters with authority figures. We also analyze the data which this software collects to report on regional trends on police enforcement.
Q: Why and when did you get the idea to start OpenWatch ?
A: I had numerous friends who had been in serious trouble with the police because they couldn’t prove that the police were lying. I couldn’t imagine that they were the only ones. Smartphones were just coming onto the scene, so I wrote some software. It caught on, and I added the networked recording component, and now here we are!
Q: What was your inspiration for the name ?
A: OpenWatch is Open Source software for “Watching the Watchers.” Hence, OpenWatch.
Q: Tell us about your apps, how they work ?
A: You install them. You press a button and it starts recording. The app goes ‘invisible.’ When the recording is stopped, you can describe the incident and send it back to our servers, where we scrub your identity out and put the recording online.
Q: What is your opinion about citizen journalism and media ?
A: Citizen media and citizen journalism are two very different things, and I think they get conflated too often. Citizen media are the recordings that people make, citizen journalism is the investigation and analysis performed by non-professionals. Professional journalists can report on citizen media and vice-versa.
We’ve seen a very large flood of citizen media, but not enough citizen journalism, in my opinion. It’s a hard problem because there is a lot of citizen media out there, and it’s hard to figure out what stuff is worth reporting on, what’s genuine, etc. We’re hoping that by offering datasets and verified information, we can improve that situation.
Q: Are citizen and social media, as members of the new media, enough to increase news transparency ?
A: Absolutely not. We must be more vigilant and demanding. The media should be the basis of aggressive journalism. I think we’re letting them get off very, very easily.
Q: Do you think that traditional media will in recent future start to accept citizen media more ?
A: Absolutely, but that’s nothing new. They love it. It means less work for them. CNN has had it’s ‘iReport” citizen media for years and years now.
Citizen media which serves to prop up softball mainstream journalism is absolutely uninteresting. Document-based journalism which reports and confronts undeniable truths and injustices is what we want to build instead.
Q: What were your expectations at the beginning of the project, and what are now for the future?
A: No expectations! I just thought it was a funny concept, and it took off. Pretty cool stuff.
We’re having serious problems processing the data at this point, unfortunately. We have a massive archive without the resources to process all of the recordings. We need either a financial grant or an influx of volunteers to help us process all of it.
I’d also like to keep developing technology. I have a ton of ideas about the way we can improve the quality of the data we produce. If anybody out there is interested, please get in touch!
Q: The way you see future of citizen journalism and citizen media .
A: The way I’d like to see, or the way things are actually going to be?
I’d love to see a shift towards data-driven, scientific journalism. Citizen media can play a large part in that, as can citizen journalists. However, it won’t simply just happen. We must demand it.
Technology will play a role in this, as we are now unbound by the length of a page, but it will not be the holy grail. We need to seriously reconsider what journalism means. We need to become smarter and more aggressive. No more anonymous sources. No more letting questions be side-stepped. No more letting ideology be an acceptable answer for questions about hard facts. Evidence and analysis!
In terms of citizen media, I hope that people recording authorities will become the norm, not the exception. It really benefits everybody, and it can very directly lead to a better world.