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Jakob, you have published the book “Journalismus der Dinge: Strategien für den Journalismus 4.0”. What is the idea behind the book?
The Internet of Things is starting to change our lives: We live in smart homes, drive networked cars and control smart industrial machines 4.0. But journalism hardly makes use of these technologies. This is the idea of the Journalism of Things: things and animals become reporters. They have a whole new perspective on the world. What does my vacuum cleaner robot think about me? And what about a honey bee?
For the readers who don’t know you that well, tell us about yourself.
I am a classically trained journalist: German School of Journalism, studies, doctorate. With the Internet I have experienced how technology can make journalism better. At some point I thought: The Internet of Things will no longer go away. You have to use that for journalism. That’s how I started to experiment. Ten years ago, things on my desk twittered, the scissors, the notebook (@vicarisdinge). As a freelance journalist you can just try it out.
In our WDR project Super Cows (superkuehe.wdr.de) three dairy cows reported from their lives. Sensor data gave the animals a voice. For example about a rumen sensor. With #bienenlive (bienenlive.wdr.de) this year we took the WDR spectators live into the life of the bees. A simple text robot translated the data into a diary of the queen bees. This is a new, open-ended form of journalism. There I feel passion, which is what I have chosen this profession for.
How can an editorial office implement this?
Editorial offices too often see themselves as rigid entities that have to fill a form again and again. Newspapers and magazines reinvent themselves with every issue. They should make use of this openness. Readers appreciate it when they can help to collect data. They like it if they don’t get ready-made stories, but instead experience how something happens. And maybe even how something goes wrong. With falling circulations, dwindling ads, and the disinterest of many readers, there is no reason not to implement a crazy idea. I give seminars at the ARD ZDF Medienakademie (https://www.ard-zdf-medienakademie.de/mak/seminare/54415/journalismus-der-dinge-neue-empfaenger-fuer-unsere-inhalte) and at the Academy for Journalism (https://t.co/LjBsgmggig).
When it comes to technology, what could cooperative models look like so that technology does not depend on the editor?
When we develop projects, we often work with clients in idea sprints. Programmers, journalists, and designers come together for a week. In such a week you can invent everything. And of course you don’t have to build everything yourself. There are companies that are open to journalism. AX Semantics is a good example.
Which examples in #jot do you like personally?
I really like the wheel measuring device, where Hendrik Lehmann’s team at the Tagesspiegel equipped the readers’ bikes with distance sensors. And I’ve heard that the team from luftdaten.info is now tackling noise after the fine particle reports. An absolutely underestimated topic, I’m very curious whether there will be a journalistic accompaniment. In the research for my book “Journalism of Things” I was surprised how many examples of journalism with sensors there are worldwide.
What are you working on? What is your next #jot project?
In order to advance the idea, we have just organized the first conference on Journalism of Things in Stuttgart. Now we are working on a second edition of Jot-Con (www.jotcon.de). With the start-up tactile.news, which I founded with Astrid Csuraji, we are working on the first toy reporter for the children’s room. And of course I’m working on the input page. There are so many animals out there whose view of the world is worth telling. With the production company Sensor&Reporter we are already developing the next format.
Thank you so much for the interview.
“Journalism of Things. Strategies for Journalism 4.0” was published by Halem-Verlag and costs 29€. (halem-verlag.de/journalismus-der-dinge)
In his blog riffreporter.de/journalismus-der-dinge Jakob Vicari reports on current developments, presents projects and new technologies.
Photo: Jacobia Dahm