Twitter came of age in America this week. The citizen journalists of twitter far surpassed the real time coverage of cable television of the events during the Boston and Watertown siege. Those like @michaelskolnick, @diggaduh, @wesleylowery, @sethmnookin, and many others too numerous to name, rocked. They were individually and collaboratively monitoring police scanners, reviewing multiple feeds, often standing in the streets, and tweeting live coverage, thereby, emerging the victors of the news cycle spoils. It was fascinating to watch, and an honor to participate.
This was guerrilla crisis management in the streets come to America. Remarkably, Fox News rose to the occasion getting their helicopter up in the sky over Watertown Thursday evening, while CNN limped along with a sleepy and often foggy Jake Tapper. Given the sheer volume, it is perplexing that only the next morning did the authorities notice and move to shut down the twitter feed for security purposes during the continued manhunt.
To put this in context, we know that all facets of social media (predominately twitter) came to fruition during the Arab Spring. But that was over two years ago, and social media has matured, grown in power, penetration and numbers from platforms to smart devices. Moreover, this act of terrorism in Boston and the surrounding area was a first on domestic soil, except for 9/11 over a decade ago. Times definitely have changed, and now twitter is giving cable and television news a real run for the money in because:
• Smart phones have grown in numbers, and feature capability
• Video has become a primary mode of communication
• Platforms and supporting networks have matured and are robust
• Young, tech savvy communities surge in terms of growth
The mere fact that the FBI, and other intelligence agencies, solicited cell phone pictures and video from the explosions earlier in the week at the Boston Marathon suggests a fundamental shift. Indeed, it could be contended that the world pivoted on its axis, not only recovering from the shock of these atrocities but because of social media, and all of it promise. Perhaps, the long awaited dawn has come to organizations like musician Peter Gabriel's ten-year-old witness. Their sole purpose was to document bad things that happen around the world through pictures and video. The great irony is that it is coming to fruition because of events happening right here in this country, not the third world.
Yet, it remains to be seen to what degree each of these factors contributed to this frontal challenge to old media. The question still remains -- if all of these factors are true, how do we make sense of the fire hose of information flooding in from the citizen journalist pipeline, aka twitter? Has the time come for that odd word often relegated to museums --"curation"? In fact, is curation the missing piece of the puzzle? And with this surge of user generated content, how do we play nice, and share with government agencies in times of national security?