By Alok Verma
The news videos that we see on a regular basis from across India illustrate the potential of citizen reporters to not only document under-reported stories, but to do so from remote parts of the country that have long been either inaccessible to reporters or for the lack of their mind-share.
The ability to hear and see breaking news from such remote regions presents an incredible opportunity, but plenty of challenges as well. At the same time if citizen are provided with adequate tools and skills, the potential of trusting their videos will enhance tremendously.
For ever-hungry news consumers, the deluge of videos from far wider locations covering events that were under wraps until this while has opened up a new canvas for news consumption. But without the right tools to tag footage, translate, and make sense of it, the volume of videos can become a curse. With more than 100,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every day, finding the right audiences to watch them remains an unsolved riddle.
But I wonder whether human-led curation efforts will be able to keep up with the exponential growth of citizen videos from all corners. In what ways can technology address this dilemma? Perhaps some form of a campaign is necessary to raise standards of those involved in hosting and distributing their video footage for better and wider user experience.
The verification strategy of Storyful, which uses a combination of social media, satellite imagery, and bootstrap reporting to corroborate citizen videos, is one way of addressing this challenge. Another is InformaCam, a mobile app in development by WITNESS and the Guardian Project that securely embeds metadata from mobile phone technology onto images and videos to imprint information such as where and when the files were recorded.
A hallmark of traditional news media was the institutional gatekeepers who determined what stories to expose, and whose voices to amplify. Today, there are fewer gates filtering the voices. It is a great moment of challenge and opportunity to all of us eager to listen.