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Civic media competition attracts a new generation of change agents

A global conversation with finalists in Ashoka's civic media innovation competition.

Civic media and new systems of networked accountability are some of the most dynamic areas in communications right now. My sense is that we’re going to see important new mobile platforms emerge around the globe that will connect us to one another in ways that we have yet to fully appreciate.

Over the past few years, it has seemed at times like the future of journalism was conferences featuring current or former media executives talking about how to keep newspapers alive or syndicate television to new devices. Thankfully, there’s much more happening in the future of news than panels or essays defending institutions. We’re living in a networked age, with the blessings and risks attendant to that connectivity.

I recently moderated two discussions between the finalists in the Ashoka Foundation’s civic media Changemakers competition. The discussions, which spanned time zones and countries, were hosted using a Google Hangout. (While there were a couple bumps using a Hangout for this purpose, including some latency and jitter to limited bandwidth, the platform worked reasonably well.)

We were joined on the first Hangout by Esther Wojcicki from Creative Commons, who served as a judge for the competition. We talked with contestants about their work, what inspired them, what challenges they face in their work, and how current events in the Middle East and beyond are changing the civic media space.

I was excited to speak with these young innovators and I hope you enjoy learning about their projects, technologies and perspectives on civic media. Video of our talks is embedded below:

Projects in the Citizen Media Changemakers contest

The Citizen Media Changemakers contest, which will award $5,000 to four winners, is sponsored by Google. Finalists emerged from a pool of 426 entries submitted from 75 countries. Voting for the winners at Changemakers.org closes on Nov. 23, 2011.

Regardless of who wins the contest, each of these projects is well worth learning more about. The young men and women — and they are all young — offered honest and perceptive observations about the role of civic media in the rapidly expanding global information ecosystem. I’ve embedded a playlist of short videos from each of the founders below:

Here are links to each project in the competition:

These interviews and projects are a reminder that new technologies and ideas are not only changing what’s possible, but that smart, entrepreneurial young people are making those visions come alive, lifting up new voices and connecting humanity to the network of networks.

I’ll embed the video of the second discussion here as soon as it becomes available. (UPDATE: See above.) Their voices — and those they empower — deserve to be heard.

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