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Rushes Sequences - Arianna Huffington interview - USA (Video)

Arianna Huffington is the co-founder of the influential news blog The Huffington Post. Aleks Krotoski and the Digital Revolution programme one team met with Arianna to discuss the rise of blogs and citizen journalism, and the effects the web is having on politics and political activism. She also discusses the development of hierarchies and 'trusted editors' for online content.

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Transcript:
(Please note that this transcript is the 'raw data' text we receive from a transcription company. It is a tool commonly used in production to facilitate editing and review the content. We publish it for users in that same spirit, rather than it standing as a 'perfect' representation of the content.)

Aleks I'd like to take a step now towards politics.  You mentioned the election erm obviously the Huffington Post was erm a very important news source during that period.  Erm, of course, the very first question in the Obama presidency was directed to a Huffington Post reporter, which must have been quite an exciting moment, erm not only for social media in general, and new media in general, but, but for you.  How did it feel when you when the first question was asked of the Huffington Post reporter?

Arianna Erm, when erm it wasn't the first question of the press conference, but it was erm a question asked of Sam Stein, our White House correspondent, during the presidents first press conference.  And I felt that it was really an acknowledgement by the President and the administration of the maturing of new media, I don't think it was just about the Huffington Post.  I think it was really erm an acknowledgement of the role that new media had played in the election of Barack Obama, I mean I, I would argue, that were it not for the Internet Barack Obama would not be President, it wasn't just because of the new media, it was about the way that he used the Internet, erm to fund raise, to organise, erm to really break through, just the traditional ways of doing politics.  So, in that sense he wanted to demonstrate that he was also going to govern differently, and that's been harder than erm than he and we thought.  And erm there are still many attempts being made you know to have a, erm a White House website that erm is much more transparent, erm to continue using the millions of people that have come together during the campaign, to organise for legislation, its still not at all what it can be, but there are different ways to govern, that are being tried right now.

Aleks Which steps would you take, personally, if you were in charge of the new media strategy, at the White House, to erm to erm to gather that potential group together, those millions of people that supported him on-line?

Arianna Well here's what is so interesting about that.  Erm you can't really galvanise people without a clear message.  Its not just a faction of technology it's the combination of message and technology.  And because the Presidents message, around lets say the health care debate has been ambiguous as he himself considered, it's been much harder to organise around it.  Because if you don't have a particular plan, but multiple plans, then its hard to say to people go and knock on doors, go have erm, erm parties and bring people together to campaign for the election of Barack Obama, yes, that's obvious, erm the passage of work.  Erm a plan with a public option, a plan without a public option, a plan with co-ops, a plan with erm insurance reform, you know, so that has demonstrated the, the sort of weakness or organising around an ambiguous message.  At the same time, erm you see the conflict between transparency, which is an essential part of new media, and an administrations desire erm to keep decisions made behind locked doors, and not really be as transparent as the administration had arguably would be during the campaign.

Aleks Well it's interesting that you say that, because one of the themes of this particular programme is the emergence of hierarchy by a new media.  And I'm wondering how you feel, whether, whether you feel that, that new media, that the Internet, that this very open platform still the hierarchy emerges.  You know you have gatekeepers who may galvanise me, you know galvanise a public through messages, or erm they may be needed to, to gather people together.  What do you think about the hierarchy's that have emerged on the web?

Arianna Well that's a great question, I mean we see what's happening with Wikipedia, Wikipedia is now going to have a sort of layer of editors.  Erm I believe in editors, I believe erm that erm the, the hybrid future that I'm envisioning is going to include millions of voices, but is not going to eliminate editors.  In fact editors will be more important than ever in terms of erm, erm sifting through these voices.  Now the editors are not all going to be erm professional editors, they can be editors whom the community has erm designated as editors, who have earned the trust of the community.  But what is so different now, is that for the first time, erm what is being debated is not being dictated by hierarchy erm at the top of a newspaper or erm a television erm, erm operation, but is really being much more organic in terms of what is on people's minds and what they care about, and what they're passionate about.

Aleks Some might argue though that the Huffington Post itself has emerged as one of the new gatekeepers, through the aggregation, through the investigative journalism that your beginning to fund, how would you respond to that?

Arianna Well I would say that we are putting an enormous amount of effort and resources into citizen journalism.  Our new project of Izaniers for examples is erm is, is every day are putting erm questions and raising issues with our community, which is now about 23 million people, and which is very active and very engaged.  And erm and we get tremendous information coming from that.  Erm at the same time we see in with erm new erm tool that we introduced, called Social News that in conjunction with Facebook.  Erm that we are creating a kind of digital water cooler, where people can see at a glance what they're friends are reading, what they're friends are commenting on, and they're friends can see what they are reading, although there is also a stealth function so that if you are reading something you don't want your friends to see, you can actually click the stealth function and then you can read in peace and without anybody knowing.  But that is another new way to interact around news, because people don't want just to consume news, they want to engage with news, they want to sort of talk back, and erm and give they're own opinion around what they are reading.

Aleks Erm one of the criticisms of information on the web, and how people gather on the web is that they, they gather in order to erm confirm they're own opinions, that there's almost a cyber balkanisation as it were, and I'm wondering how you feel about that, do you envisage that people will simply seek out that information, they come to the Huffington Post for a particular type of information.  Erm they go to the Drudge Report for another type of information.  What effects do you see that having in the future on how we consume, and in fact the social effects on our attitudes and opinions?

Arianna Well at the Huffington Post one of our big editorial goals, is to get beyond the right left way of looking at the work.  We welcome different opinions, we challenge the way that term journalists refer to what's happening in terms of right versus left, and we argue consistently that the big issues of our time cannot be seen through the right left prism.  Let me give you some examples.  Afghanistan, erm you can no longer say either in England, or in the States, that those who oppose our erm military engagement in Afghanistan are on the left.  George Will, one of our most conservative commentators has recently come out and said that American troops should leave Afghanistan.  So those who continue to look at this issue through that prism are really stuck in a paradigm that's obsolete.  Erm health care, why are you supposed to be on the left if you want some form of, of universal health care.  There are many, many businesses that recognise that without some form of universal health care they're own health care costs are increasing to the point where they're going bankrupt.  Erm Wall Street, there are many editorials in the Wall Street Journal that argue against what has happened with erm the bail out of erm firms like Goldman Sacks and City Group that are now making multi million dollar profits, while still receiving tax payer guarantees.  And those who believe in free markets know that's not free market capitalism.  Erm that's basically a form of Oligopoly, where the government picks winners and losers and where you socialise erm losses and privatised gains.  So you know what I'm saying, there's a hugely fascinating erm re-examination of erm the biggest issues of our time and how we approach them, and to keep looking at them through right versus left or this is a right wing side or is it a left wing side, is to really miss the ferment that's going on at the moment.

Aleks And additionally erm some people may say that the new media's challenging this notion of nations even, you know the idea that whether we're looking right versus left or whether we're simply saying that this is the U.S. perspective or the U.K. perspective.  Do you see new media, do you see the Huffington Post as dealing with a, dealing with an international audience, dealing with an audience that's engaged at a different level than say people who are in the United Sates?

Arianna Well of course that's in the nature of the technology, that erm we can reach people anywhere, and its actually really wonderful when our bloggers erm will often write to me and say, I can't believe that you know my high school teacher who now lives in Australia has read my blog and I reconnected.  And that's of course, one of the most exciting things about the web, the fact that you don't know who you are communicating with and how far they are.  Erm, they, they are brought right next to you, erm because of, of the way we can now communicate.

Aleks Those aspects though that you mentioned before of the social media, the transparency, the accountability, the immediacy, some may even argue that those are erm those are very American points of view, that it's a, that it's a western idealism, that's in fact being pressed out across the web for you mentioned Iran for example and how they've locked down the web, or China, that's a big stories about how they've locked down the web.  Do you see a problem with this notion of the American imperialism and these, these ideals being spread out or do you think that you know how do you feel about them?

Arianna I think that everyone will benefit from them, the spread of transparency, immediacy and accountability through the web, I think these are forces definitely for good.  And erm that's why so many totalitarian regimes are resisting them.  And erm and doing everything they can, and sometimes its pretty complicated to block the, the free flow of information on the Internet.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The Huffington Post has plugged a gap in American political discourse. Whereas news was previously filtered through the television news networks and East/West coast newspapers, almost all of which have a centre-right viewpoint, the Huffington Post has given a platform to left-ish points of view. I have certainly never seen so many articles and posts from an American news source that have endorsed socialism, unions, public utilities and criticised rampant capitalism and globalism - quite an eye-opener for those who assume that US politics thought is mostly rootin' and, indeed, tootin'. It is now possible to read views from both ends of the political spectrum, which is surely a healthier situation than existed before. Debate is the lifeblood of innovation.

    However, the Post is still dazzled by showbusiness - too many actors and musicians are given space to promote their political views simply because they have a high public profile. (I should add that some of my favourite people are actors and musicians.) More substance, less soap on the front page, please. It was encouraging to hear Arriana Huffington talk about citizen journalism, and thus raise hopes that the power of the internet can ferret out what readers so desperately crave and what the media, both left and right-wing have signally ignored in recent years: facts. To get all Gradgrindian for a moment, we readers need facts, facts and more facts. Reams of analysis are all very well, for they help readers to collate arguments, but without the bedrock of facts all analysis is so much puffery.

    So the HuffPo is now part of the hierarchy - but at least the hierarchy is now more balanced. I'm amazed that Republicans haven't developed an equivalent to the Post; the Drudge Report can't compare. Mind you, they do have Fox News...

    The great strength of the web is that it allows users to swerve past information hierarchies and find out for themselves. I look forward to the day when similar online newspapers across the world use the power of the web to respond and adapt, thanks to the proddings and provocation of their querulous readership who can now contact them or vote with their mouses and go elsewhere.

    Regarding Western imperialism, I'd like to think that transparency and accountability are universal qualities; they are concomitant with everyone's desire for justice. The web is moving apace in South America and the Middle East - both areas are surely developing their own web culture, and Africa is going to be fascinating. As for immediacy, well, some cultural differences will remain, which is surely a cause for celebration. :)

  • Comment number 2.

    Dear DigRev,

    Please give us an "edit" button. I've just noticed numerous typos that I can't correct. I even got "Arianna" wrong. Oh, the shame of it...

    :$

  • Comment number 3.

    @Catchingthewaves -
    'The great strength of the web is that it allows users to swerve past information hierarchies and find out for themselves. I look forward to the day when similar online newspapers across the world use the power of the web to respond and adapt, thanks to the proddings and provocation of their querulous readership who can now contact them or vote with their mouses and go elsewhere.'

    Interesting idea to pick up, as part of our programme is questioning that very 'swerve' - considering the problems of confirmation bias that the web's information aggregators and search results may provide. Is the instinct to 'swerve' always there with web users, or is there a sense that the large 'old media'-style sites and players will be easier to fall into for info and so the information 'business as usual' is resumed online?

    'Please give us an "edit" button. I've just noticed numerous typos that I can't correct. I even got "Arianna" wrong. Oh, the shame of it...'

    I often wish - preview button is as good as it currently gets, I'm afraid! As a possible salve for your shame, I recommend reading the rushes' rough transcript to make yourself feel better about typos ;)

  • Comment number 4.

    @Dan Biddle

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your reply.

    The will to "swerve" (are we inventing a new web term?) depends on whether web users wish to replicate their "old-media" experiences. The same old newspapers, magazines and television channels are there should they be needed; what's different about the web is that it not only encourages curiosity but facilitates it. Emails, downloads and search engines (so long as the savvy can navigate SEOs) enable web users to explore what a daily publication of, say 48 pages, can't. Yes, it's very easy to rely on the same old sites like, dare one say it, the BBC, (and I certainly do) but there are other news sources and not all of them are conglomerates. Some are the archetypal man on the street.

    Newsagents can't stock everything; the net can.

    Of course, newspapers don't have edit buttons either. Not much of a revolution, is it, Dan? ;)

  • Comment number 5.

    If I was going to produce a news aggregation app I'd absolutely call it Swerv (obviously you have to drop the last vowel - 2.0 rules dictate...!)

    And I tend to agree with your points above - the knowledge journey possibilities are monumental compared to the days of print, and the opportunities to sample from a hundred different bowls of truth punch are there - both wonderful and dangerous it might be argued from different sides. (I particularly enjoyed the Jimmy Wales example of the conflicting entries around the first aeroplane flight across the language versions of the site.)

    But, your last comment about 'not much of a revolution, is it?' is something Aleks has been wrangling with across the production, and that the programme will consider, from the inception of the internet and then the web, to possible futures.

    A question set is: technology has changed radically, but have people changed radically with it? Some would argue yes - again, a discussion thread across all the programmes, culminating in programme four's main themes of humanity online.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hello all,

    This week, there will be a change to how you leave comments on this blog - we're upgrading our current registration system to a new and improved one.

    When you sign in to the new system, you will be prompted to upgrade your existing account, and you should be able to do that with a minimum of fuss.

    The only thing to mention is that if you have more than one BBC membership registered to one email address, make sure you upgrade your favourite one. More details on this can be found on the BBC Internet Blog post: Welcome to BBC ID.

    Please leave comments below if you have any problems, or email digital.revolution@bbc.co.uk if you get really stuck.

    Many thanks for your patience,
    Dan

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks for this update Dan, I see the changes will be rolled out across the different online resources this Winter.

    Is going to cause some hilarity/consternation over on the BBC Autumnwatch Message boards where some of the group 'a fancy of packham swooners' will only have one last chance have to amend their msg board id's and maybe loose the 'swoon' tag that's evolved for this series. Or maybe not, as is an avowed aim to get this lovely word Swoon back into circulation ...... See the power of the web is being brought into use yet again and just for gentle fun this time. Anyone's interested in how it came about, for proof that Presenters do read message boards and just why Geeks have a certain appeal:

    Cor Wow Packham Yes Please!
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbsn/F14197738?thread=6973188&post=87779153#p87779153

  • Comment number 8.

    I haven't commented previously on the segment on the nation state, but here's an observation.

    There is a gargantuan orange tarantula on the Web (or "great white elephant in the room" to use a more common analogy). We're questioning the risks to the nation state from the Web from these perspectives:

    * privacy
    * democratic opinion online
    * security
    * Big Brother measures
    * free or pay before you can play and have a say

    Interestingly, the Web's risks to the nation state to-date are actually beyond these issues. As influential as the HuffPost, Facebook, twitter et al presume themselves (or are presented by socmedia commentators) to be as conduits of opinion, none of them actually affect bottom line policies or the real actual loss of societal value.

    The Web has changed and directly impacted nation state(s) in a way which has not been commented or analysed yet. It facilitated the movement of global capital and complex financial instruments across connected platforms in a way not previously modelled or accounted for by Adam Smith, JM Keynes or current governments.

    Now, the reality is that US$ trillions worth of actual value effects pose real risks to nation states.

    What is surprising is that there's not been analysis or recommendations to examine this risk. Governments seem to believe that quantitative easing and bail outs are all that are needed. They apply out-dated monetarism measures from textbook Smith & Keynes whose models don't take the Web into account --- principally because the Web did not exist in their times.

    In fact, there's a serious need to examine how the Web is facilitating capital flows and corporate transactions and how that impacts on nation states and their ability to formulate and implement policies, and generate societal value.

    Just an observation........



  • Comment number 9.

    As for HuffPost itself, there was this article on Gawker about HP's citizen journalists back in Jan 2009:

    * http://gawker.com/5131784/arianna-huffington-lays-off-12000-citizen-journalists-hires-godson


    Whilst I'm pro-democratic opinion from diverse audiences, the question still remains, "How can we put the content into context? How can we differentiate that the person commenting is of a particular political persuasion and how does their comment translate into actual policy that benefits society? Does voicing an opinion actually lead to an electoral participation or a policy change? Are there ways of tracking this? Are people engaging in policy formulation or simply shooting the breeze about their political perspectives and that's all?"

  • Comment number 10.

    "Technology has changed radically, but have people changed radically with it?" Dan.

    This suggest sadly that they haven't; or perhaps the connected world means we now have to 'toughen up', as we're exposed to more people and their views. e.g.

    "Think I may have to give up on Twitter. Too much aggression and unkindness around," Stephen Fry.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/oct/31/stephen-fry-leave-twitter-fans

    Tangentially related. Many people don't have a high rationality quotient, even if they have a high IQ.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427321.000-clever-fools-why-a-high-iq-doesnt-mean-youre-smart.html?page=3

    Also on this topic:
    http://educationinjapan.wordpress.com/education-system-in-japan-general/rationality-more-important-than-intelligence-iq-tests-miss-detecting-some-rational-thinking-skills-totally/

  • Comment number 11.


    For Programme 4 and the question of online humanity and global consciousness, we definitely should reference Dr. Larry Brilliant and Dr. Vint Cerf's Google Tech Talk of November 2008. It's available on YouTube under the search terms "Google Tech Talk consciousness" in Parts 3-5. The panel discussion with them confirms that technology hasn't radically changed since the invention of the Web and that more ACTION is needed along with all the awareness.

    Connected with this are Peter Thiel's comments at the Singularity Summit, October 2009. He voices concerns about the Singularity not happening fast enough as well as the pace of technological progress not being where it should be:

    * http://www.hplusmagazine.com/editors-blog/singularity-summit-peter-thiel-his-single-greatest-fear

    As for IQ, there was an interesting anecdotal article on the Timesonline:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article6888049.ece

  • Comment number 12.

    Dame Wendy Hall's comments in that Times article may be the most approp' for those wondering whether the Web has indeed increased our intelligence:

    "I don’t equate intelligence with cleverness. I think people who are intelligent have a touch of humanity about them. Their ideas, insight and vision set them apart from others, but they also have an understanding of what makes the world tick and how their ideas can impact for the greater good. Interestingly, as the World Wide Web has evolved so has the concept of collective intelligence, which is best encapsulated in the evolution of Wikipedia. This is a new form of intelligence that could lead to new insights into our understanding of the key challenges that face us as an increasingly global society."

    Some commentators (aka "trolls") go onto social media sites and believe that by virtue of expressing their sardonic / cutting opinions or belonging to a group following a well-known "Brain the size of Mars" like Stephen Fry somehow validates their own intelligence.

    I believe Dame Hall is right; true intelligence has a touch of humanity. Therefore, anyone online who is inconsiderate to their fellow participants is...not particularly bright.

    On the question of how democratising citizen journalism is, it's notable that during times of crisis there is a "flight to quality" whether it's stocks or media updates. The Wall Street Journal, RGEMonitor and the FT were the sites that provided strong coverage. Countless blogs of citizen journalists simply did not have the analytical capability or the access to senior people who could and would share their direct insights on how it happened.

    Oh and as helpful as that New Scientist article is it's been fairly self-evident that high IQs don't necessarily equate with rationale or sense-making. The IQ power of politicians, regulators, bankers and management consultants is high; most are Ivy League / Oxbridge / top MBA school / top 1 percentile. Yet the global financial crisis happened because ego and political point-scoring were allowed to over-ride rationale and sense.

    There is definitely a truth in Professor Greenfield's comment on intelligence: it's the ability to put information into context with something else.

    The information about the economic bubble build ups and imminent blow-up was there. The key decision-makers simply didn't (or were unable to) connect the dots and contextualise it. Unfortunately, they still can't because the tech tools are not sufficiently smart enough yet.

    WE will need to radically change our own constructs of intelligence and consciousness before we have any chance of programming the machines to be truly intelligent and conscious enough to solve the world's biggest challenges: climate change, equivalence in education, universal health provision, eradication of cancer, appropriate wealth distribution, and more.

  • Comment number 13.

    If the Rational Quotient (RQ) test in the New Scientist article is indicative of how we're supposed to test for intelligence moving forward, then I'd point out that RQ is a component of IQ rather than a robust enough stand-alone replacement of it. Those three questions can be found in the numerical reasoning section of standard IQ tests. Anyone who's good at simultaneous equations and binomials would have absolutely no problems getting the answers right.

    Intelligence is more than what we are currently testing for: RQ (numeracy), spatial reasoning, LQ (literacy quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient). It's already been commented that there are cultural biases in IQ tests. What hasn't been commented on is that there's also a SENSORY BIAS. IQ tests test our VISUAL capacity to read and interpret questions. With the exception of when IQ testers are dealing with prodigious children and use physical blocks with pictures on them, we don't test for our TOUCH intelligence. We are also not tested for our AURAL or OLFACTORY (taste and smell) intelligence.

    Why are these important constituents of intelligence? Well because each adds perspective and context to our ability to MAKE SENSE of ourselves, our relationship with others and our wider world.

    Specifically for rationality, instead of posing text-based questions that require numerical reasoning, testers should put their sample populations into fact/reality-based (rather than hypothetical scenarios) like these:

    (1.) We are at a junction. We want to get to the sidewalk diagonally opposite us. There are two options available to reach that destination: (a) cross the first road, then the second road; (b) cross diagonally even though there are no traffic lights which control traffic for us to cross (we have to apply our own "stop, look and listen".

    Of course, numerical reasoning would say that Pythagoras applies in scenario (b) - time and distance to cross are less - so logically that's the route we should take. However, rationality would advise us to opt for scenario (a) because there we have more control over the traffic lights and, by extension, cars stopping to let us cross. Hence a higher probability of surviving the road crossing without injury.

    (2.) Here are three beakers of three colorless liquids. One is an acid, one is an alkali and one is water. Which one is rational to drink and how do we test for which is which?

    The obvious answer is to SMELL them. That's an example of current IQ tests not capturing a core part of our intelligence, right there.

    (3.) Here is a wire. Typically, a 1 metre wire can conduct 100Wph. This is a 25m wire. How much electricity can it conduct in 3 hours?

    Well, if we could TOUCH it our intelligence might tell us an answer about that wire the question doesn't. Firstly, what material is the wire made of (metal, plastic or silicate)? Secondly, what is the per metre cubed conductivity of each material. Finally, is this wire suspended in a vacuum environment or attached to the right + and - connections on a
    battery?

    In conclusion, intelligence and testing for it requires a synergy of us having all the FACTS as catchingthewaves mentions as well as the recognition that humans have FIVE senses plus consciousness whereas IQ tests tend to focus mostly on our visual ability to read questions.

    The facts element is important because it does affect informed decision-making. Unfortunately, although social media has increased perspectives and participation it has also increased noise and inaccuracies (or opinion passing as fact). This means, for example, that if business people were to model future projections about the traction and influence of social media, they'd need to cross-verify differently than before and also take some of the hyperboles with a good amount of
    salt.

    Another aspect of citizen journalism that's different from traditional journalism and it's standards are related to legal issues and membership of recognised bodies for codes of conduct. Traditional journalists tend to be trained in what constitutes libel and defamation. They're mindful of that and their Editors also have access to and call upon legal advice to ensure they don't put the publication into unnecessary risk of facing legal actions. Certainly, I remember that during Web 1.0 everything I published online was cleared by Legal&Compliance.

    Now there are millions of blogs which don't observe those traditional journalistic standards wrt legal aspects. It will be interesting to track the Stephen Fry situation and how the Press Complaints Commission deals with the comments relating to the online disagreements Fry had with one of his followers.

    Certainly, I've read threads and citizen posts online (although not relating to Fry's case) which clearly breach legal
    definitions of libel and basic humanity.

    There are merits to the free flow of information but there are also, clearly, noise and negatives.

  • Comment number 14.

    Here is another aspect of citizen journalism compared with paid-for journalists. If a paid-for journalist is considered to have contravened the media laws of the country from where they're reporting, they will have their media employers and union of journalists to support them. In some cases, as in the scenario of those two American journalists detained in North Korea, they may even have a former President to negotiate their release.

    Citizen journalists don't have the same rights or support.

    Therefore, whilst increasing transparency would be considered a positive step, it's also worth bearing in mind that citizen journalists operate under diverse media law regimes - which may not be in the same jurisdictions as the likes of HuffPost, Twitter and other US-origin social media. In which case, citizen journalists face risks for posting without a media employer, trade union or political body supporting them if anything goes wrong.

    I'm particularly conscious of this because a friend is currently in Tehran and has recorded materials on the political atmosphere. They are not journalists, politically oriented or have a media giant to call upon for support. As much as I appreciate the benefits of transparency, my concerns are first and foremost for their personal safety.

    This is why I'm advising them NOT to blog or post any material if it will attract the attentions of the authorities and affect their freedom of movement out of the country. Yes, blogs and citizen journalism have their pros. However, we also need to appreciate that bloggers post from different media law regimes. The Fifth Amendment and the fifth estate are specific to the US. In some countries, there are penalties and risks for providing information that are markedly different to the US and other Western democracies.

    Friends of "citizen journalists" have a responsibility to remind them that they don't have the same benefits and protections as paid-for or officially employed journalists. First priority is to keep them personally safe, way before any breaking of news. They're not Woodward & Bernstein. They don't have a media proprietor to back them up, a contingent of lawyers to double-check the legal issues associated with their reporting and they're not being paid to put their lives at risk to "get the scoop".

  • Comment number 15.

    It now looks as though Fry has relented.
    http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/the_web/article6898420.ece

    A lot of good points and links PNAB. "Some commentators (aka "trolls") go onto social media sites and believe that by virtue of expressing their sardonic / cutting opinions or belonging to a group following a well-known "Brain the size of Mars" like Stephen Fry somehow validates their own intelligence."

    I think many people simply get swept away by outbursts of rage, prejudice, hatred etc. Best illustrated by some comments of YouTube, (possibly because its a predominantly younger group of commenters); insults and profanity take the place of argument. As if they're being pulled back (down? into a primitive, primate way of responding. Too many people are emotionally-incontinent; their 'thinking' governed by emotional response without any semblance of logic or rationality.

    I New Scientist link I gave above was for the 3rd page of the article, which might confuse some. Here's the link to its first page.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427321.000-clever-fools-why-a-high-iq-doesnt-mean-youre-smart.html?page=1

  • Comment number 16.

    I should have written that since New Scientist opened its article questioning George W. Bush's intelligence, it may be worthwhile to watch 'Scarborough: Is George Bush an Idiot' by MRDTalk on YouTube.

    How is this all related to HuffPost and Arianna's rushes? Well, as she points out: "Erm you can't really galvanise people without a clear message. It's not just a factor of technology. It's a combination of message and technology." The historical reality is that there are photogenic, charismatic and articulate people who translate their intelligence well across digital media like the Web and then there are those who don't. They may suit non-digital eras and that's not necessarily applicable exclusively to Presidents.

    Edgar Allen Poe in written word works and seems intelligent (if occasionally unintelligible) whereas on an onscreen basis he doesn't transfer as readily as Dickens or Chandler's writings. Likewise, Chekhov's plays are compelling on stage but not as appealing or translateable to digital interpretation as Shakespeare's.

    Regardless of the era or the field, the talent and their message need to match the medium.

    Now, tying in that Times's article on intelligence, one of the commentators (John Ledbury) wrote: "Emotional and social fluency are not "intelligences", this is merely a euphemism designed to make dim folk feel better about themselves."

    Well, that's interesting because I'd present the case that President Obama's emotional and social intelligences contributed to his nomination and electoral successes. From recollection, he didn't campaign by focussing on his Harvard education, high IQ, intellectual connections with elite thinking or cognisance of complex structures. Instead his speeches and interactions with audiences were about EMOTIONAL connections and journeys he was travelling like Joe Public electorate: his search for his own identity; his educational opportunities and challenges; his mother's health issues and how that affected his understanding of the work doctors and nurses do; etc. It was that emotional fluency, magnified by the medium of the Web and his grassroots campaigning knowhow - rather than any Vulcan / Deep Blue / Wolfram Alpha-type of logic intelligence - that explain the nomination and election successes. Those emotional experiences probably have and are informing his perceptions, values and visions of democratic society as much as his rational understanding of the functions and operating procedures of the various branches of US legislature.

    Personally, I think emotions are core to our perceptions, intelligence, consciousness, values and actions; this includes political choice through to actual consumption of goods and relationship behaviors. It is as primary to our intelligence as numeracy, literacy, dexterity, olfactory, communication and interpersonal skills.

    Unfortunately, at present, the emotion dimension isn't being factored into models that matter:

    (1.) Economic.

    It's not enough to proviso that "We know humans don't make rational choices...so it's a given that markets are imperfect and inefficient and, therefore, sometimes bound to collapse."

    NO. We need our economists to approach this in a more evolved intelligent way. We need to ask:

    * what are the QUALITATIVE contributors to human decision-making, including consumption choices, as well as the quantifiable information like production output and GDP;

    * what are the specific EMOTIONS that determine decisions and influence risk-taking;

    * how can we capture and track an individual's emotions towards an array of options, over time?

    Incidentally, I don't mean plugging them up to gizmos which measure their heart-rates, adrenaline, serotonin, endorphin or neural electrical activity alone. I mean being able to collect their emotions with online tools and no I don't mean scraping or extrapolating that info from sentiment engines either.

    (2.) collective intelligence and consciousness online.

    Instead of successive social media "flavors du mois" facilitating the propagation of noise and content confusion, we need to find ways to FILTER IN emotions as a contextualization mechanism. If we can build the tech tools, then possibly we'll convert what seems to be the angry mob / disaffected out-of-tune drum banging on some of the threads like HuffPost / YouTube / Twitter / etc into intelligible and intelligent action recommendations.


    Final observation for now relating to intelligence and IQ tests: to-date it's been the social scientists (psychologists and cognitive psychoanalysts) who've developed the IQ tests --- rather than the natural scientists (neuroscientists, geneticists and clinical doctors). It may be that once we uncover more empirical understanding of the brain, it will become clearer that IQ tests are subjective, socially-biased imitations of what human intelligence is when what it should be is an objective, culturally-cognisant tools that are attuned into the entire spectrum of human intelligence.

    Now.........THAT would be quite something, especially if someone could build that tool online and it would not only inform bankers PRIOR to them making irrational decisions, it would also inform political choices, consumption actions and relationship behaviors.

    Fingers crossed some technologists step up to the plate!

    *

  • Comment number 17.

    LOL and it was completely unintentional and coincidental that I posted that preceding comment at........1:01.

    Ha ha. Sleep time, me winks.

    :*)

  • Comment number 18.

    This is HuffPost's coverage on the US embassy anniversary:

    * http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/04/iran-on-us-embassy-annive_n_345070.html


    The number of comments is lower than during the Iranian elections last summer. Generally, there doesn't seem to be the same coverage in the Western media.

    My friend tells me there's been fighting on the streets for days. The authorities have stopped the ability to make long-distance phone calls, shut down several ISPs (even as ordinary people are hacking their ways around this) and access to social media sites like twitter, Facebook is patchy. There is only one messaging channel by which they can communicate to family and friends.

    My advice remains the same: stay safe. Let the reporting be done by those who are trained and paid to put their lives at risk.

 

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