10 takeaways from this week’s conference on civic media via @michaelmaness

Over three days, the innovators and thought leaders at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference talked about data and drones, opengov and algorithms, and even ventured into the possibilities robots might have for the future of news.

In the closing session, Michael Maness, Knight’s Vice President of Journalism/Media Innovation, wrapped up how these conversations explored the intersection of where data meets a compellig narrative. 

 “These are not my moments of profundity,” Maness said. “They’re based on all of you, and on conversations we’ve had over the past several days.” 

In the video above, Maness pulls out the following 10 takeaways from the conference:

1Is the fury of collecting, are we dismissing the story? In the rush to gather, share and analyze data, are we leaving the story by the wayside? Are we at risk of losing the narrative as we focus on archiving and documenting everything?

2. Fingerprints are all over data. Data isn’t neutral. It’s created by humans with a specific purpose in mind, and subject to our biases. 

3. Wrestling authenticity and the rise of trust networks. With the increasing streams of information, who has authenticity, objectivity and credibility in journalism and storytelling? How do you go about building that trust? At the same time that people are wrestling with determining where authenticity lies, it’s human nature to create trust in your own networks – online and off. We’re beginning to see this rise of trust in networks when it comes to issues around reporting and news. 

4. Data is not magical.  There tends to be a sense of data as savior, able to swoop in and save the day. It can’t. But data can provide trends, give context and help increase transparency.

5. (Re)placing localities: the unfixed community. Place and locality have become unhinged from geography, which is now being layered in new and important ways. Even defining what locality means anymore – is it your diaspora community, your virtual community, where you’re from? We need to better understand the notion of what “place” means.

6. The humans aren’t dead: ground reporting matters. Data is important, but you can’t overstate the need for the “boots on the ground” providing the human perspective.

7. Past is prologue. New media is pre-aggregated newspapers. Is the way we tell stories now different from the era before newspapers dominated? Newspapers formally served a crucial role in storytelling, aggregating content for easy distribution. With the rise of the new media environment, we now have the ability to tell stories in multiple threads and in new and different formats. 8. Pace and the chase: is speed killing story? Are we losing the art of storytelling? How can we make sure that we’re taking the time to create more stories and better understand their context?

9. St(data)ory. There’s a lot of discussion of what comes first, the story or the data. Many believe they happen at the same time. We need to better explore how to combine data and stories more seamlessly.

10. A mystery spot between data and insights. Generating insights out of data is complex…perhaps we need to explore a new set of data literacy skills to better understand that mystery spot. 

Learn more about the conference through the liveblogvideos of each session and photos.