PBS NewsHour: Crowd-sourcing project

03Sep12

PBS NewsHour: Crowd-sourcing project

PBS NewsHour has undertaken a rather massive but unique project for itself this election season.  Determined to do things in a new way in the world of new media, it is working on a crowdsourcing project, along with its project partner Amara (formerly the Universal Subtitles and also working on crowdsourcing subtitles for Netflix and TED talks), which allows volunteers from across the world to get involved by means of adding subtitles of different languages to politically themed videos originally in English.

The article claims that since early this year, “PBS NewsHour has built up a community of hundreds of dedicated volunteer translators across the world, and videos have been translated into 52 languages.”  Such efforts in the direction of building communities for its people has become crucial for media organizations. As Jenkins and Deuze (2008) note in their response to  “what is a media company?”  in the editorial for Convergence Culture:

“Traditionally, media companies would be seen as audience aggregators: engaging in the production of content aimed at mass audiences. Considering the social, technological, and economic trends discussed here, such a definition is problematic. Instead of ‘audiences’, businesses talk about ‘networks’, emphasizing media work as a practice that would (or should) generate endless opportunities for people to form ‘communities of interest’ around content.”

Such formation of  communities of interest around content seem to be a successful way to involve people as the article also notes that “…the volunteers who are involved are really, really involved” and help maintain the quality of video by reporting use of inappropriate words in translation.

“People are just excited because they feel like they want to be a part of something, and they feel like they’re contributing,” says Joshua Barajas, a production assistant at PBS NewsHour.

Moreover, for their yet another crowdsourcing project, PBS is hoping to partner with language classes in universities.

Interestingly, this sort of crowdsourcing to an extent also decides which point of view (republican or democratic) gets more visibility around the world. Also, there is an unequal distribution of languages among the videos – that is some languages like Indonesian have more videos representing a varied and probably more comprehensive view on an issue. Therefore, while this process is unlike the agenda setting of media organization, the consequences are almost similar.

“The most frequent languages besides English are Spanish, French, Indonesian, Chinese, and Korean,”  observes Barajas.

This PBS NewsHour project makes for an interesting case study to examine the concept of ‘crowd-sourcing’.  Crowdsourcing is what happens when the logic of Web 2.0 gets applied to the design and manufacture of physical goods and services (Jenkins & Deuze, 2008

Study of such projects is also crucial to understanding the dynamic relations between the producers and consumers of media content.

– Namrata

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