After 9/11 and the birth of “citizen Journalism” there was a great hope for turning the world of journalism upside down: To reform its structure and make it bottom-to-top instead of top-to-bottom. There was no more the need for a biased journalist, always belated, to report what was already witnessed by the “locals”. Stuart Allan in his article named “Blurring boundaries : professional and citizen photojournalism in a digital age” discusses how the invention of cheap digital cameras led to the birth of citizen journalism and how it effects on news agencies in covering the most important events in early 21st century. 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami was not covered by photojournalist traveling to the devastated area days after tsunami happened but by low quality images taken by people who experiencing it. Also, while the officials was ignoring the crisis in its first moments of bombing in London Subway in 2005, passengers trapped in stations recorded shaky videos when nobody else has access to the site.
These events revealed the great potential in citizen journalism. it was not from a single perspective but multiplied one. It was not recorded by an outsider. It was from the point of view of the people who experiencing the event, thus closing the distance between the event and audience. And, not less important to all these journalistic benefits, it was cheap. Not cheap, even free. There was no need to hire and send a photographer to a site. To pay the travel expenses. The most thing that these citizens may request was to mention their name as the photographer. With the advances in digital platforms specially social media and also digital cameras and their integration inside cell phones, it seemed that citizen journalism is reaching its bloom.
However, as the history of capitalism shown us already, the system devours the alternatives. Even if the photographs are taken by citizens, the decision of showing them or not is at the hand of news agencies. They have become curators. With social media, everything is now live, everything is recorded in a quantity that each maybe only visible for few seconds. And the role of a citizen has been reduced to witnessing. We have already seen the clips of one dying in front of other human beings whom their social responsibility is reduced to recording and sharing. Most importantly maybe, we have became viewers not witnesses. Cause witnesses also testifies in the future. Our video and photographs are no more documents since they are not getting archive.
This is where Lara Baladi’s project, Vox Populi become crucial and show the potential of citizen journalism and revive it as a social act.