The day that social media became the news: James Surowiecki on TED.com

Posted by: Tedstaff

On this pivotal day, as Americans tweet, blog, IM, and update our Facebook status about the election, we take a look at the event that first showed the world the power of user-created media. Journalist James Surowiecki pinpoints the moment when social media became an equal player in the world of news-gathering: the 2005 tsunami, when YouTube video, blogs, IMs and txts carried the news — and preserved moving personal stories from the tragedy. (Recorded February 2005 in Monterey, California. Duration: 16:59.)


Watch James Surowiecki’s talk from TED2005 on TED.com, where you can download this TEDTalk, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances from our archive of 300+ TEDTalks — including more talks about social change.

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Comments (2)

  • Dean Hovey commented on Dec 8 2008

    If it’s possible to have even less faith in “market forces” than pre-Crash, please place my name in that column.

    If the six remaining media owners cannot be trusted to disseminate the news we need to understand the world (and they clearly cannot), what alternatives remain? Certainly not more news empires. Independents, small and quirky as they may be, perhaps can provide what we need–but only if we sift the news ourselves. Our kids ought to be learning to be smarter consumers of the news, in any case; that is, they should be learning to be doubters, if not skeptics. [My generation ("we won't be fooled again"?) has let independent news slip through its fingers.]

    A multiplicity of sources, through which we sift our news for reliability and relevance, is not such a bad thing. Of course, it takes effort. If “market forces” or “peer pressure” dictate that we take our news homogenized, as now, I’m sure television technology no doubt will accommodate that direction. In any case, the splintering of the old markets has been going on for a long time now; for just as long, media seers have been predicting that a public accustomed to ultra-thin slices of reality would lose all sense of the “commons,” from where (presumably) the three networks and the major print media monitored our world and chose their representative samplings.

    Surely (I hope), YouTube, FaceBook, and MySpace are never going to replace the late-lamenteds, Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather, and neither (if we’re lucky) will reincarnations of the three networks.

  • David Lockman commented on Dec 6 2008

    When the eventual shakeout occurs in the social media space, it will leave behind a lot of unsuccessful experiments, just like the first dot-com bubble did when it finally burst. If a social media / citizen news service can’t provide reliable, useful information, it’s simply not going to survive. People eventually vote with their feet (or mouse clicks) when they are served nothing but rubbish. We may be seeing the beginnings of that turning point, in the coverage of the tragic events in Mumbai last week. Either market forces or peer pressure (probably both) will eventually shape citizen journalism into a trustworthy source of news. But I don’t expect it to happen overnight, not even in Internet Time.