Who the storyteller is has a lot to do with the kind of story you're likely to hear. That's why citizen media is important: we need to learn to think in new ways about a wide array of interconnected and emerging problems, and to do that well, we need a wide array of perspectives on those problems, and channels for the introduction of possible solutions. In the public debate, no less than in ecosystem science, diversity promotes resilience.
Luckily, we find ourselves with more tools for citizen storytelling than ever before, and more citizen journalists are rushing to use them. From zines to blogs, pirate radio to podcasts, independent filmmaking to video journals, immersive fiction to sms text message campaigns to machinima, the tools and methods are proliferating.
Three trends seem especially worth noting.
First, as these tools get cheaper, they enable people who never before had a global voice to find one (indeed, for some of the best in perspectives from far-off places, check out Global Voices, the website run by our board chair, Ethan Zuckerman). That, in turn, is beginning to change the way we talk to one another on a global scale, even the choice of subjects we talk about. In the very near future, though, as these tools spread, we should expect to see some dramatic shifts in what the world chooses to show and say, hear and see.
Second they allow us to cheaply and easily record more of what's happening around us and turn it into stories. To some extent, this is the emergence of the participatory panopticon, the trend through which all of our lives are increasingly recorded by one another; but in a larger way, this is also about freeing the power of social documentation, much the way that cheaper cameras allowed portraiture -- which for most of history was a means of building the status of the wealthy and powerful -- to become a tool for the depiction of injustice and the advocacy of social reform. Whether we're talking about the human rights group Witness, the photos of hooded prisoners from Abu Grahib, the Blair Watch project or cellphone images from the streets of New York's protests during the last Republican convention, these tools are making some of the shadowiest parts of our societies visible.
Third, they allow us recombine the words and images over which we have control into new forms which illuminate that which does not yet exist: they allow us to share the fruits of our imagination as never before. They allow us to engage in future-making. And the ability to suggest a possible future is an extremely powerful political tool.
Could you tag the 21 Principles stories or otherwise link to them from the original post? Something like that would make them so much handier to read as a whole.