SEOUL (June 23, 2012) — “Technology is neither good nor bad, and it can be used by good people or bad people,” Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, told participants on the second day of the East-West Center 2012 International Media Conference in Seoul.
Jarvis, who addressed the conference from the U.S. via Skype, said he believes that individuals should have choices to be public or private, and they need to make those choices carefully because governments can use people’s own information against them.
“That’s an important concern that all have. Individuals should have choices to be public or private while the government needs to be public by default,” Jarvis said.
However, he said the reality is the opposite; government is secret by default and public by force.
“The net is in danger,” he said. “There aren’t any norms to get new technology.” As a result, some people want to restrict and delay new technologies, which leads to moral panic, he said.
“If we worry about what could happen, we will never do the best,” Jarvis said.
In order for people not to worry so much about the implications of new technology, Jarvis believes it is important to have a discussion about the benefits of what he termed “publicness.” For example, it can build and develop relationships among people as well as the “wisdom of the crowd,” he said, pointing the Wikipedia as an example.
“The Internet is not a medium for content, it is a platform for relationships,” Jarvis said.
People are too quick to push for regulation of the Internet, Jarvis said: “It’s far too soon to regulate the Net. We have to try to explore its benefits. To believe we can hold back the Net and hold back its progress is foolish.”
Jarvis compared the current stage of the information era to the invention of the printing press, saying that people need to rethink the form of news, relationships and business models.
Jarvis proposed several principles of publicness, including the right to connect, speak and assemble. “Can we fight for the idea that [publicness] is our human right?” he asked.
He said it is important to treat the information of others with respect, as well as to share information if it benefits others: “These are the principles that we must protect as societies, and we in media and journalism stand in a position to benefit. That gives us a responsibility.”
Ross Reynolds, producer of KUOW FM Public Radio, challenged Jarvis’ view on non-regulation, citing online child pornography as an example. Jarvis answered that laws already exist to punish distribution of such material, and people should not restrict the technology but instead regulate behavior. “That way we let the Internet grow while at the same time we still protect against unacceptable behavior like the spread of child pornography,” he said.
Today anyone can post news on the Internet, and Thuc Trong Pham of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi asked whether this trend would result in the decline of journalism as a profession.
“I think there is a role for professional journalists to add value to a flow of journalism,” Jarvis said. “There are clearly new opportunities and new ways to rethink the form, and we have to get ahead of that.”
- Reporting by MinHee Kim, Missouri School of Journalism