Much has been written about the rise of the citizen journalist, the intrepid micro blogger with camera phone and bicycle, snapping images and Tweeting about breaking news. This was not always the case. In the Second World War, news crews would travel to far flung war zones, craft their reports and use unwieldy wooden cameras to capture carefully framed imagery to accompany the words. The resulting images and audio were edited up and shipped around the Empire to spread the news. A highly curated, edited and crafted story.
At one end of the spectrum, we have carefully constructed and considered pieces, at the other, much more ‘off the cuff’ reporting that lacks the space for reflection and revision.
Clearly there are benefits to both, but not if we get them confused. The challenge today is not that there is too little information, but rather that there is too much, but equally it’s not that there is too much analysis and reflection, but rather too little. Technology has facilitated the rapid publication of ‘news’, but removed the editorial barriers that may give us a more considered version.
This is all well and good if we reinsert those editorial controls during consumption, but it’s not something that we can take for granted. Just as patterns of publication have changed, so have patterns of consumption. It’s rare today to sit down and read the daily paper from cover to cover, even on a lazy sunday afternoon. Rather we are more inclined to consume media at speed, from multiple sources. As our attention spans drop, our access to sources grows, although the quality may be variable and we are increasingly reliant our our ability to discern the valid from the speculative.
Within learning solutions, we are often still trapped at the model of just creating one narrative, rather than providing multiple sources and asking learners to partly construct their own narrative. Learning solutions are often presented as linear, whilst in ‘real life’ they are increasingly non linear and multi source.
Clearly there are challenges for for us as designers and broadcasters of learning (or news), but there are also challenges for us as consumers. To what extent do we need to cultivate our critical faculties? How willing should we be to accept one source, and what’s our ability to determine the credibility of those sources.
As for reflection, it’s something that seems to be in increasingly short supply these days. In the news, the reflection is often done ‘live’ as a story unfolds. The speed of publication, the need to stay ahead with the latest revelation has undoubtedly damaged the credibility of the story. Within learning, we need to strike the right balance, to build in time for learning, but to build in time for reflection as well.