Ethan Zuckerman’s thoughts on Global Voices turning 10:
Global Voices started as a project that rounded up blog posts from around the world, when possible organizing them into themed stories illustrating an aspect of the social media conversation in a country or region. Over time, we began offering citizen media perspectives on breaking news through the eyes of publicly readable citizen media: blogs, tweets, videos and public Facebook posts.
I’m starting to wonder whether we’re going to be able to keep operating this way in the future. Increasingly, citizen media is private, or semi-public, which raises really interesting questions about how we use it in our journalism. For example, in China, many political discussions shifted from Weibo (which is primarily public) when the company began verifying the identities of users. Many of those discussions moved to WeChat, where groups with hundreds or thousands of members feel like listservs or bulletin boards.
I’ve been working on a piece that I’ll hopefully complete and publish soon about our collective and slow migration from bloggers and individual netizens to joining platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I know many bloggers whose personal platforms were felled by Twitter and Facebook. I don’t know if it is the ease of having a built-in audience or the difficulty of maintaining one’s own WordPress blog, or both, but many of us are starting to publish only on these “free” platforms. I know this because as much as I’ve wanted to blog regularly, of recent I’ve found myself penning more and more thoughts on my Facebook wall that I could have easily posted here.
I worry about this trend in light of Facebook’s internet.org‘s efforts in Africa to train young surfers into synonymizing the open internet with Facebook. The danger is that instead of creating our own platforms, we’ll default to simply joining pre-existing platforms. This will further erode our ability to create and innovate.
I like the idea of us approaching the internet as a blank slate and letting our imagination be our guide: what’s missing, we create; what we deem inadequate, we re-invent. It is hard to do this when you don’t own the platform. When you, as a person, become a tradable commodity for your platform of choice, it becomes harder to extricate yourself from it.
Thinking broadly, it is a rather sad trend: we’ve spent much of our recent history as property of one empire or another, and now as we emerge in the digital age, instead of staking our claim we are voluntarily surrendering our independence to the new (benevolent) digital emperors.