Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

The Mediascape & The London Bombings

Friday, July 08, 2005
Just as the Tsunami disaster last year illustrated the significant impact and utility of citizen journalism, the tragic London Bombings have highlighted collaborative grassroots media reporting. The Wikipedia entries on the London Bombings and the Responses to the Bombing are among the most detailed and reliable sources on the tragedy and its immediate aftermath, updated collaboratively and regularly. The WikiNews sister site also has detailed items on the Coordinated terrorist attack in London. Boing Boing also points to many examples of Flickr, Wikis and the blogosphere more generally showing many facets and faces of these terrible events.

The BBC reports that while the mobile phone network couldn't meet the demand in the first few hours after the blasts, the blogosphere and online news services were where many people turned to find out what had happened and to make sure their loved ones were alright:
According to blog tracking service, Technorati, there were more than 1,300 posts about the blasts by 1015 GMT [less than 2 hours after the blasts]. With mobile phone networks suffering congestion, blogs and news websites are the way many are gathering detail. [...] Earlier in the morning, one blogger wrote: "Scared now. There's no one in the office. "I managed to get as far as Edgeware Road before being thrown out of the tube. Passed about 15 fire engines on the five minute walk from there." Another said: "Our outbound landline call carrier is down, according to the people that manage our offices. I can't make calls with my mobile at all. Nada." Many blog posts are expressing concern for people who might have been caught up in the explosions, while others are précising and pointing to online news coverage. Some are offering roll-calls of people who might normally be in London, as well as posting safety advice from the police. [...] Flickr, the online photo sharing website, has also started to see images from people of the blasts.
For Flickr images, from website and tv screenshots to raw photographs from the scene, a combined Flickr search for the London and Blast tags brings many visuals, some very, very sad.

In the aftermath of September 11th 2001, the mainstream TV news service was the place most people initially turned to find out about the tragic news; by 2005 the best place to start appears to be online and, increasingly, collaboratively authored citizen journalism sites as much as mainstream news sources.

Update (5.45pm, 8 July 05): Rebecca MacKinnon has posted a roundup of Muslim blogger's responses to the London Bombings, and the New York TImes has an article about the influence of amateur photographers and photosharing services like Flickr in documenting the attacks.

Update 2 (10.15pm, 8 July 05): BBC news article on blogs, moblogs and Flickr in the aftermath:
Hundreds of mobile photos and several mobile videos have surfaced documenting the moments after the four blasts. Blogs, photo sharing websites, online news sites, and TV news used their images in the minutes and hours immediately following the attacks. Many people commenting on online photo sharing community site Flickr said it was their first port of call to get news and images. Within minutes and hours, news of explosions filtered through other blog sites and many moblogs - blogs which use mobile phone photos - collected the images.
The Sydney Morning Herald has something similar:
Among the more striking photos appearing online after Thursday's coordinated London explosions was one of a double-decker bus, its front intact but its sides and top ripped open. The image, on the BBC's website, came not from a staff photographer but from an amateur who happened on the scene with a digital camera. [...] Ms Taylor said reader-submitted accounts from the September 11, 2001, attacks were mostly text while the BBC received several hundred photographs on Thursday and used about 70 on its website and TV.
For more poignant shots, visit the 7/7 Group on Flickr.

Update 3 (6pm, 11 July 2005): Rob O'Neill in The Age sees the London Bombings as the harbinger of citizen journalism:
... even before the emergency services reached the injured, and well before the horror was broadcast to the world, was one of the most amazing developments in the history of media. From deep underground, or while leaving the scene, victims and witnesses were taking pictures, posting them, sending texts, emailing and phoning in eyewitness accounts to mainstream media organisations and to friends and bloggers around the world. This had happened before, but never on the scale or with the effectiveness achieved in London last week. Until then, "citizen journalism" was an idea. It was the future, some people said. After London, it had arrived.
[My italics; Via New Media Musings]

Emily Bell's opinion piece in the Guardian Unlimited sees a similar trend from a more intimate vantage point:
Like everybody who had been in transit in London on Thursday morning, my mind was full of "What ifs?" once the extent of the mayhem was known. No fan of the underground at the best of times, I could not guarantee that, stuck in a smoke-filled carriage, I would have had the presence of mind to record the drama via phone camera, or any other device. Yet dozens of people who were not reporters shot remarkable pictures of their ordeal and then shared them via television, newspapers and websites. With the tsunami on Boxing Day we saw the power of the "citizen journalist" in providing instantaneous footage of events when no camera crews or photojournalists were present. But last week marked another step in the disintegration of media hierarchies. When the tsunami happened, people were holidaying, often with video cameras to hand, in a frame of mind in which they were thinking of recording events for posterity, even if they had no inkling of what a very different experience they would be bringing home. The explosions in London happened at a time when commuters and other travellers would not have expected an event, when they would have had to search in their bags or rummage in their pockets for phones. But within an hour of the explosions, according to Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news, the corporation had received 50 images from members of the public. It was a similar story at ITN and Sky; even at the Guardian's website we had images sent from users' phones. We linked to citizens' galleries of images on websites such as flickr where dozens of images were logged within hours of the events.
Bell's piece goes on to speculate about the influence of citizen journalism on traditional media sources in the near future, highlighting the very real problems that will need to be addressed, but concluding optimistically that it is far better to start making the attempt to integrate citizen journalism and traditional media as soon as possible (which, of course, The Guardian has begun to do with its use of blogs and other new media tools). [Via SmartMobs]

Finally, in a Wagner James Au reports in his New World Notes that the Second Life virtual community have errected virtual monuments to the people and places hit by the London Bombings.

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