Friday, 22 July 2011

Voyeurism, commentating & real time reporting

Voyeurism: An obsessive observation of sordid or sensational subjects

Oslo just exploded. Or, rather, a building within Oslo has just exploded. And as the national TV station opens its doors to the world and allows us all in, so does Twitter allow us into the hearts and minds of those directly affected by such events.

It's like watching real time moral erosion. Everyone scrambling to 'play their part'. Everyone scrambling to be the authoritative commentator/collator. And it's not just the news agencies, any more, because the news agencies can't react as quickly as citizen journalists on the ground and so suddenly, we have people reporting in real time with no training and almost, I believe, such an obsessive focus on documenting that any decision which once would have been made that something was somehow 'too much' to show on TV, is suspended.

Social media has almost made it impossible to pause for long enough to consider content, and instead has become entirely focused on 'absolutely everything and right now'.

Of course, that implies the fault lies with the citizen journalists. Which it does not, because, quite simply, no one would bother if no one was watching. And where once upon a time news was consumed locally and nationally and then internationally as Reuters did its job, now we have no filter, we have no unbiased news agency, the role of Reuters has almost become unnecessary. So essentially, the drivers for this constant feed of news, from social media and from 24 hour news channels, is us.

All of us.

We are the consumers. We are the voyeurs. The people who demand to know and right now and who cares if there are body parts and blood dripping and mothers utterly distraught. Who cares if there are pictures of dismemberment and destruction. It's not for the sake of worried families we are shown this, that we view this - words could assuage fears just as easily.


They are for us.

And can we please, please, please all have a bit of a think about that and decide whether we are entirely comfortable with that? Because I am not. And if I am alone in that, then fine, I concede and promise to keep quiet. If I am not, then can we self moderate just a little?



  1. I just got home. I heard a short BBC news bulletin on the car radio. I logged onto Twitter and found Joseph Stashko was putting together a Storify. Somebody on Twitter rolled their eyes at Kay Burley talking about Norwegians talking "whatever language it is". I RT'd them.

    I haven't noticed any 'moral erosion'. I haven't seen body parts or blood dripping, or heard anybody telling a 'hearts and minds' story. Sixteen injured, two dead. That's the p[olice report, and people are piecing together more facts to give us the context.

    I'm curious about this story, because some reports say a bomb went off, while others say a man with a gun began shooting. I guess you're looking at different media than I am; that's your choice. But you're also telling me what "we" are doing, "all of us". And it's a story I don't buy, a picture I don't recognise. All I get from this post is that you're complaining about people doing and saying stuff you don't like - just as you were twenty-four hours ago, on an entirely different topic.

    I don't want you 'promise to keep quiet'. This is a conversation, and we all have our points of view. I'd justlike you to think about people who don't agree with you, but might feel sympathetic towards you, and how we might have a better conversation.

  2. I find it very interesting that people keep assuming this is about Joseph.

    Myself and Joseph have been having a very interesting two way conversation (I am capable of them) about what news collation is and isn't. Reuters post very difficult content sometimes, but they never comment, they present the facts your honour. I distinctly remember an image of bodies hanging from a bridge being posted there not so long ago - the remnants of a drug territory dispute in South America - I accept that sometimes life is distasteful.

    No. Instead, this was a mixture, as stated in the post of Norwegian television showing what looked like bodies and pools of blood in real time. I remember when images like that used to be prefixed with warnings - perhaps only the BBC does that these days, I don't know. It was a result of someone tweeting that someone was on a train bound for Oslo and if I wanted updates I could follow that person. I thought 'god she must be absolutely frikking terrified right now, but can I help by following her?'

    And that's what this is about. The blurring of acceptable norms, of acceptable intrusion, of acceptable voyeurism.

    I'm not accusing Joseph of voyeurism. It's far far bigger than that. It's about the steady erosion of acceptability of that intrusion, to me and the fact no one else is raising this and calling 'hold your horses there a bit', says I might be in the minority.

    Now it's one thing calling something and another being right. I posted this to sound people out because, frankly, I've not discussed this with anyone in real life so I don't _know_ what group think might be on this and who the hell am I to be your conscience. No one, is who.

    I hope this explains a bit better.

    Finally, delivery is always driven by demand.