19 April 2007

Exploring New Technology 2: Digg

Main stream media has not been sharing the most positive news with us as of late and to be honest, I have been left feeling quite despondent: the killings at Virginia Tech, the Supreme Court's abortion decision, the continued arming in Sudan. Not a lot of good stuff out in the world, at least presented by the main stream media. It seems like the perfect time to get to know Digg a bit better.

My first understanding of Digg was incorrect: it does not rate websites, it rates news stories. Essentially, you submit a news story, podcast, etc., and if people like it, they "digg" it. As Digg puts it, they are a digital media democracy.

As usual, there are things I love about this and things that make me tilt my head to one side and say "hm." First off, the notion that individuals decide what is most important to them and there is no "editor" imposing their values or sense of relevance to the stage is exciting. I especially appreciate their efforts to keep us in the loop by recognizing how much information comes to pass on a daily, or even hourly, basis (check out their FAQ and read up on Cloud View).

However, when I showed this to my husband, he responded by saying, "Isn't it just a popularity contest?" Good point. For example, let's look at it from where we are right now, as I type. The top two stories on the New York Times this morning are the Supreme Court's ruling on banning partial birth abortion and another insight into the mind of the VA Tech killer. The top rated stories on Digg as of right now, 9:17 am, is "Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) has officially been released!" and "Woman sues after doctor mistake leaves her pooping out her vagina." (Graphic, I know but what is most popular...keep reading.)

It's hard to pinpoint what I see as the problem here. To be honest, I am disappointed in the main stream media's continuous attention to the killer of the Virgnia Tech community. The kind of attention this desperate and sick individual is getting, to my mind, gives credence in some way that to get attention, you have to do drastic things. I would much rather have attention focused on those that died, how the community is coping, and what the rest of us can be doing to ensure things like this don't happen again. But that's just me. And I guess that's the point. To me, both the Digg stories are superfluous and irrelevent (especially the story of the unfortunate lady). If we want to talk about unfortunate ladies, why not focus on the millions of women whose right to choose "their reproductive destiny", as Justice Ginsburg calls it, is now in jeopardy.

I guess that while I am sometimes dismayed by what the mainstream media presents or frustrated by what they don't present (is anyone ever going to give Africa the coverage it deserves), I do find myself in line with their value judgments more than I am in line with the "digg"-ers. I think that there are valuable lessons to be taught from looking at them together, as this morning shows. I know which media outlet best suits my needs and values: what about my students? And if it is a democracy, how do you make a difference? The call to action, to submit stories that they think are important and should be brought into the public eye would certainly be a way for them, or any of us, to participate in the creation of media and the education of the masses.

See what I mean: I like it and I still have my head tilted.

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