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Global Media Forum Day 3: Serious Games

GMF public in the plenary hall / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

GMF public in the plenary hall / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Ever since the earliest of ages, the human being has been a player. The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga knew what he was writing when he entitled his 1938 book “Homo Ludens“.

Huizinga defines the conceptual space in which play occurs. And some of the serious games today create the virtual universe in which conflicts occur.

There is nothing you cannot make a game about. What is a game, after all? To create a game, you just need a topic and a virtual universe. You then put people in it and assign them tasks.

Combining virtual experiences with the act of reporting games can be a way of representation. Take Dafur is Dying as an example. And yes, Darfur is a special case because coverage is there, but we do not know why so very little has happened.

When it comes to serious conflict gaming, a big question remains open: How do we deal with the exposure offered by such interactive games?
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ISN Weekly Theme: The 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China

Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China / photo: McKay Savage, flickr

On the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China, the ISN takes a closer look at the events and consequences of the pro-democracy protests.

  • In the ISN Podcast we interview Professor Arne Westad from the London School of Economics and address the causes and historical roots of the protests, as well as looking at the consequences and some of the deeper political contradictions that are rooted in those events.
  • Also, in our Policy Briefs, Under Foreign Pressure, Chinese Support Their Government argues that most Chinese accept the CCP’s social contract: continued one-party rule and an emphasis on social harmony, including limited political freedoms, provided the authorities continue to expand opportunities for economic prosperity.

Global Media Forum Day 2: What is InJo?

GMF opening address by Director-General of Deutsche Welle Erik Bettermann / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

GMF opening address by Director-General of Deutsche Welle Erik Bettermann / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Innovation Journalism” (InJo) – the word combination does not yield any Google search results before 2002.

The term was truly – and academically – introduced in 2003 by Stanford Professor David Nordfors, his main point being that journalism and innovation are each other’s driving forces.

Today at the GMF workshop offered by Stanford University, we took the concept of  “Innovation Journalism” apart.

How do we define journalism?

If you have a look at the Oxford definition of the word “journalist”, you find the message defined by the medium: newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. By offering such a definition we are bringing Marshall McLuhan back in, and we don’t necessarily want to do that. Strangely enough for our perception, the word “internet” does not appear in the Oxford definition.

Today’s medium is separated from the message, i.e. the content. A new definition of a journalist should refrain from this occupation’s relation with a medium and focus on the audience, Nordfors says. Journalism is all about offering issues of public interest to the broader audience.

And what do we mean by innovation?

Innovation is more than inventing. It’s the process of creating and delivering new value. As defined by Nordfors, innovation stops being exclusive and elitist. For him, innovation is a “language thing,” not a “tech thing.” It’s mostly about language, Nordfors argues, because any new product needs a name, a definition, a business model and a narrative. And all these things are made of pure words.

Innovation and journalism – the missing link

Innovation journalism can be understood in two ways: It’s journalism that covers innovation; but it can also mean journalism that is innovative.

Why is it important for journalists to cover innovation?

To answer this question, Nordfors builds a bridge between democracy and innovation. Democracy implements ideas in society, innovation plants ideas on the market. In the end, innovation also plays an important public role in shaping societal behavior. To exemplify this latter thought: the iPod is deciding how we will relate to music in the future. It’s not parliaments that decide that. The link between democracy, innovation and journalism is that journalism, according to Nordfors, is key for connecting the innovation economy with the democratic society.

And what is innovation in journalism?

To picture this, think of a refurbished newsroom. Traditional newsrooms use strict categories such as science, technology, business, politics and culture. Now, how would you categorize a story, appropriate to postmodern times, relating simultaneously to particle accelerators and modern ballet? Would such a story actually exist?The point is: innovative journalism should write such stories. Journalism crossing categories is innovative.

Global Media Forum Day 1: First Encounters

Global Media Conference poster in Bonn / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Global Media Conference poster in Bonn / photo: Cristina Viehmann, ISN

Once the capital of West Germany, the city of Bonn appears unexpectedly modest and tranquil today. However, some converted official buildings and the placards reminding of the 60th anniversary of the Federal Republic do actually bring back the city’s important steps in Germany’s democratic history.

Despite its apparent modesty, what Bonn represents today is a perfect conference city. Exempli gratia, more than 4,000 participants are meeting these days in Bonn for the Climate Change Talks.

These talks are taking place very close to the World Conference Centre, hosting the 1500 participants that have registered for this year’s Global Media Forum. (Just as a side note: I was told by one of the organizers that 1500 will unfortunately not be the real number of participants. Numerous registrations from African countries were more of the fictive kind, since visas were only accorded to the very few.)

My first insightful encounter was with the people from U-Media, a Ukranian Internews project. Internews is an NGO fighting for the independence of information by empowering local media. As for U-Media, its goal is to develop a more robust media sector that works to serve the interests of independent media in the Ukraine.

U-Media staff explained how difficult it is to attain such a goal in country whose economy is about to fall. And yes, the good news is that bad media – as they call it – is disappearing. But the bulk of the biased media is not – it remains in the hands of oligarchs. As for the support of new media, it is very hard for U-Media to make its way through in a country with an internet penetration of only 22% (you can compare it to the 53.9% in the neighboring EU member country Romania.)

Like the USAID-sponsored Intermedia, the Thomson Foundation trains and supports journalists throughout the world. With the Thomson Foundation representative I discussed the case of Mizzima.com, the New Delhi based news agency run by Burmese people in exile offering coverage on the country. A Deutsche Welle reporter for Hindi told us about his idea of India supporting Mizzima to establish a rebel radio for Burma.

Many ideas in the air, as you can see. Looking forward to the conference itself and to more encounters tomorrow.

One Person’s Dream and Another’s Nightmare

When in Milan last week, my eyes were seduced by big posters showing picturesque coastlines and romantic sceneries with ruins of antique temples in the foreground. Pure beauty, a pleasure for the eyes and the traveller in me craving. „Tunisia“ it said on the posters, „la vacanza piu’ vicina ai tuoi sogni“ – the holidays closest to your dreams.

Screenshot of tunisiaturismo.it

Screenshot of www.tunisiaturismo.it

My emotions still captured by the beautiful images, I started to realize that these were the work of the Tunisian tourist industry, which was running a big scale advertisement campaign in the Metropolitana, the Milanese underground. But not only there: On a piazza close to Milan’s famous Duomo Tunisia Turismo had built a tent where it presented the destination with music, food and folklore.

Whereas the latter seemed corny and did not appeal to me the posters did. But there was one problem. The beautiful images clashed in my head with the notion of Tunisia being a country where civil liberties have been restricted and where government censorship and self-censorship has infected the society. Over the last decade or so, Tunisia has become an autocratic regime under the rule of the president with the poetic name Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Nevertheless, in times when the Italian people seem to be hit hard by the economic crisis, the advertisers have a very good argument: “Tunisia, un Paese vicino, dall’atmosfera esotica”. Even though Tunisia is very close to Italy (read inexpensive to visit), it is an exotic place.

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