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Closing thoughts at the Knight-Civic Media Conference

A note – I’m waaaay behind on liveblogging because I’ve been on stage throughout much of the Civic Media conference. But I promise to catch up and post a set of notes on sessions yesterday and today, though possibly not until Monday.

One of the signature events of the Knight-Civic Media Conference has become the “collaboration contest”. This is a chance for the folks attending the event to brainstorm innovative collaborations and allow the group to vote on their favorite ideas. Knight provides microgrants (from $1000 – $3000) for the most innovative and promising ideas, as judged by the group.

In third this year is VOMU, the Vehicle of Many Uses – the idea of turning a truck like the Clover Food Van into a system for collecting photos and stories while handing out ice cream. Streaming Screaming won the second prize with a project to use Public Laboratory’s balloon technoloogy to provide live video streaming of protests in Chile. And the big winner was Visual Voice, which wants to expand the trend of public radio programming taking on a video component.

Michael Maness, Knight’s VP of Journalism and Media Innovation, offers his summaries of two days of talks and presentations. His themes include:

Single versus scaling: We’ve seen a lot of one shot case studies, but rarely a path to scale.

Virtually lame: Meeting in the streets still beats online connections for action.

Making Audience a Community: Individuals think they’re alone until they meet like-minded others.

From Vote -> Fan -> Support: It’s not enough to “like”something – you need to move up the value chain to a position of more active support.

Social Media Theater: “Civic Fiction” can have value, but it depends on intention.

Media as a Mirror: The media often mirrors corroboration producing an echo chamber.

Desperately Seeking Sources: Developing unknown online voices is the new process for lead generation – we might need to cultivate communities of people who can help us understand and report certain stories.

Watching the Detectives: Distributed Investigative Reporting is impacting the media narrative.

“ATION Building”: Social media uncovers stories, and broadcast media gets involved with verification, curation and amplification

Hashtag Agreement: There’s a confusion over what hash tags to use, and then they get overloaded and contested

Event Literacy: When news breaks, there’s a need for context, definitions and background information to understanding breaking news.

Twitter’s fast, broadcast is context: Michael shows a graph that suggests the utility of participatory media like Twitter is very high early on, and lower as there’s more curation and context, at which point broadcast seems to be increasingly valuable.

We open the discussion to the room, both for identifying themes and getting feedback on the conference.

Alex Howard sees the conference as a celebration of the toolmakers, hope that comes from the idea that there’s a group of people excited to build the new tools. Jonathan Stray wonders if we’re overfocusing on broad audiences and suggests that we need to think about finding the audiences for stories, rather than finding stories that reach a global audience. Dharmishta Rood observes that many of the people in the room are Bostonians and suggests that we need more fora to get together.

One of our guests praises the conference for having a sense of humor and a sense of fun and encourages us to continue in that vein. Another points out that we’re light on projects grounded in the developing world. Leo Burd encourages us to focus more on highly marginalized populations and populations that aren’t on the web. Someone suggests that we need an action plan, some sense of collective action as we work between conferences. Alex from Sochi Reporter proposes a union of civic media participants. Wendy from LinkTV encourages us to look for collaborations between journalists, technologists and end users.

Lexi, a documentary filmmaker from Indonesia, suggests we get a better understanding of the profit structure behind media. A participant suggests we need to open our community to scientists working with large data sets, and people who work within bureaucracies.