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Contribution to Moodle Discussion Board

MC411 – Global Media and Communications

Student number: 62371
Date of posting on discussion forum: 2-Nov-2007
Discussion forum topic: Social Media's Role in Transforming News: Person to
Total number of posts by the students: 2
Totel number of replies to the post: 1


There was a moderate earthquake(1) in the San Francisco Bay Area on
October 30th, and for many people in the high tech industries there, their first
instincts were to spread the news(2) of this geological activity through one of
the tech darlings of the Bay Area, Twitter(3).

A prominent Bay Area tech blogger, Robert Scoble(4), wrote "What a lot of
people on Twitter realized was there was MUCH BETTER information flowing
through Twitter than on any other media." (source(5))

As the USGS link at the top shows, the earthquake was detected at 8:04:54.
While it took the mainstream Bay Area newspapers from half an hour to
several hours to get reports up on their websites (see San Francisco
Chronicle(6) and San Jose Mercury News(7)), the user 'tweets' came within
seconds of the event(8) (indeed, they might have been filed while the
earthquake was continuing!)
While it's certainly true that many or most of the user tweets contained no
more information than the fact that an earthquake had or was happening, in
an event like this that sort of basic information can often have life-or-death
consequences. Indeed the value of individual experiences of the earthquake
is significant enough that the United States Geological Survey is actively
soliciting information(9) from people who felt the tremors, which is useful in
supplementing their measurements and future disaster planning.

I'm not generally one to take the idea of user-generated news to an extreme,
with blogs, news aggregators and collaboratively-produced news replacing
professional journalism, but I think that this is nevertheless an interesting
example of how new channels of information flow are proving to be more
rapid, and hence more useful, in some circumstances.
What do you all think?

1: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/eqinthenews/2007/nc40204628/
2: http://www.mdoeff.com/blog/2007/10/30/tracking-the-quake-on-twitter/
3: http://www.twitter.com
4: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Scoble
5: http://scobleizer.com/2007/10/31/twitterquake-sitting-with-techmeme-
6: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?
7: http://www.mercurynews.com/search/ci_7325260?nclick_check=1
8: http://twitter.com/Sofia/statuses/376658042
9: http://pasadena.wr.usgs.gov/shake/STORE/X40204628/ciim_form.html

[[PLEASE NOTE: I've made some minor edits to this posting to remove a
cross-posting notice from the beginning, and a sample of 'tweets' related to
the earthquake that I described from the end. I also changed the address of
(1) to reflect the new location of the USGS report. My own contribution
remains the same as it was originally posted. You can see the full, unedited
version on Moodle: http://moodle.lse.ac.uk/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=2759]]