Mediactive: Dan Gillmor’s ambitious project

Dan Gillmor is at it again.

He started the first blog for a mainstream news organization when he was a technology and business columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Then he wrote  We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People in 2004, an important book that remains relevant today. His work has always been about democratized media, about tapping into the power of the crowd and harnessing the power of digital communication to create a more informed reader, and one that is empowered to publish, too.

MediactiveHis new project, Mediactive, continues that effort and appears to be a promising next step. The goal is to create a user’s guide to newtworked media, according to the site, and “help people become active and informed users of media, as consumers and as creators. We are in a media-saturated age, more so all the time, and we need to find ways to use media to our — and our society’s — best advantage.”

Gilmor, now director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is combining a blog, website and book into one project.

“I’m pretty confident, given the huge amount of experimentation in journalism and business models we’re seeing already, that we’ll have an ample supply of news and information even after the current shakeout in traditional media,” Gillmor told me via email. “I’m less confident that we’ll have the right kind of demand — that is, active users of media instead of the mostly passive consumers we were trained to be in the past half-century. We need better journalism, of course, but even more we need better audiences who demand more of information providers, and of themselves. This isn’t an eat-your-spinach (assuming you don’t like spinach but know it’s good for you) exercise. Being an active media user is rewarding and, sometimes, a lot of fun.”

In a welcome video, he suggests the project will also be “exploring the nature of what a book is” and I look forward to that. The book component has a compelling outline and will be hugely helpful in classrooms and in general (the book is due out in March). One of the complaints about the digital age I hear often is how little the audience understands about media now that they are part of it, too. So I especially like chapters 5 and 6:

5. Why everyone needs to be a publisher about him/herself: If you don’t define yourself, others will define you in this increasingly public world. How to create and maintain your Web presence.

6. Why journalism still matters: The methods and best practices for people who aren’t journalists but who may occasionally commit a random act of journalism, which is to say almost everyone.

This is important work, for journalism, for media and the future of information. Gillmor is the right person for this ambitious project, but he can’t do it alone. So make Mediactive a part of your RSS reading habit or follow Dan on Twitter (@dangillmor).

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