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10th February 2009

Before many of the news casters got their Helicopters to the scene of the car chase the TwitterSphere was actively engaging in the event. Messages began to circulate that the driver of the Bentley was DJ Khaled based on photos. The story suddenly became Twitter News based on the amount of participants. With nothing on Google, Twitter became the go-to place for information outside news feeds which at the time was not live.
User Generated News in a Twitter Format

The change here is that there was no editorial control over the events as a news item on Twitter. Based on a bottom-up approach the TwitterSphere decided that this was the hottest item in the news and it prompted Google searches and TV News to engage in the Story. The event suddenly became news.

The suggestion here is that users of Twitter made the event news outside the general dissemination route of journalism. By the multitudes of users producing 140 character messages that were distributed and re-distributed before being consumed – the users decided that this was generally a news item.

In this way the story came together in a very bizarre Fashion (almost like a William S. Burroughs’ book) – In Old Media a news story is usually a summary of events that has happened filtered through the perception of a small number of individuals. In new Media and Social media the event felt more like a happening where a multitude of people engaged in building the event by the use of small pieces of information that were distributed randomly. This spilled out of the TwitterSphere and onto other media platforms from Google, YouTube to TV Coverage and traditional print media.
 
 
Multitudes and Information Overload
It was interesting to see a bottom-up approach to news generation - where the actual users are delivering the story in 140 character pieces. How-ever it was extremely confusing trying to follow the story using twitter in the sense that it was almost information overload. Users constantly had to make judgements on whether they had already digested the information or if it was a new piece of info or if it was actually a "real" piece of the news story.

One of the problems was that when it was wrongly identified that the person in the Bentley was DJ Khaled it propagated itself and became real for the TwitterSphere. Since there is no function to evaluate information on Twitter Users are forced to make judgement on the integrity of the information supplied. This could also be part of how users themselves manage to create the new-worthiness of the event. (Need to investigate this point further – any ideas let me know jrm @ mechanosphere.com)
The ability to shift through the amount of information that a Twitter Feed can provide is beyond individuals. The consequence of this is that information can not be filtered or evaluated and any piece of information can propagate itself within the community.  This is the basis for information overload.

“Information overload refers to an excess amount of information being provided, making processing and absorbing tasks very difficult for the individual because sometimes we cannot see the validity behind the information [1]. As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are logging onto the internet to conduct their own research [2] and are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites [3][4]. […]. Users are now classified as active users [6] because more people in society are participating in the Digital and Information Age [7]. More and more people are considered to be active writers and viewers because of their participation [8]. This flow has created a new life where we are now dependant on access to information [9][10]. Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation [11][12]. […..] As a result, there is a downfall or a negative impact within this issue [14]. Together with the amount of information being produced from various people on the net, the problem of Information Overload arises.”(LINK - Accessed 11th February 2009)

This analysis of information overload can be applied to many forms of social media from Facebook, to MySpace and Twitter. In order to make Social Media relevant as a search and news medium it needs to be able to harness its power of crowd-sourcing better.
  
New Media News vs. Old Media News
What are the differences/benefits searching for instant news on Twitter vs. Google?
This comes down to defining events vs. news. If news is a summary of events that has happened filtered through the perception of a small number of individuals then the Google search provides news for users. If news is an event generated by user participation then Twitter offers the right platform for User Generated News. 
The problem with User Generated News at the moment is the information overload factor. If it is possible to let bottom-up approaches distil the information for individual users then it will improve accuracy of the information and reduce information overload. This would enable the multitudes to determine what is news rather than the top-down approach of Old Media.

 

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