Somewhere along the way, however, the concept got washed over by a sea of organizations simply distributing Flip Video cameras and expecting amazing content. Who needed a journalism degree?
Promoting local voices is important, and it's easier than ever to have those views be heard. However, "community journalism" has another important word in the phrase -- journalism.
The Tiziano Project provides community members in conflict, post-conflict, and underreported regions with the equipment, training and affiliations necessary to report their stories and improve their lives. We knew early on that we wanted to focus as much on the journalism component as the tools and have since developed an online Classroom filled with openly available training curricula and lesson plans to help easily infuse journalism into any project.
For each of our in-field training programs, we send professional journalists to instruct on everything from ethics, to interviewing techniques, to how to write an article before we even pick up a camera. By the time our students get their hands on the gear, they already have a solid understanding of exactly what it means to be a journalist.
The Tiziano Project 360 Platform
But obviously, it's not just about training. Running a community journalism program is also about promotion and distribution.
Last summer, we conducted our second program in Iraqi Kurdistan and worked with 12 students of Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian decent. The workshop culminated in the launch of The Tiziano Project | 360º Kurdistan -- an immersive, nonlinear platform for exploring the culture of the region from the perspectives of both local and professional journalists.
We like to think of the website as a "Documentary 2.0" model -- a choose-your-own-adventure way to explore the stories produced during our program.
An award from the Knight Foundation is going to allow us to further develop the 360 technology into a scalable platform that other organizations can use around the world. We will then curate these future 360s on an interactive map and develop a communication layer that will sit on top, allowing visitors to participate in a universal dialog with our students.
Our goal with this platform is to provide other organizations like ours with quality tools for disseminating locally produced content, while at a global level, we seek to foster direct lines of communication and information sharing to help change perceptions of conflict and post-conflict regions.
From Online to Offline
One of our best moments came just after we launched, when an American student emailed us saying he planned to volunteer in Iraqi Kurdistan during the upcoming summer. His parents were understandably upset and more than a little concerned about his decision.
He sent them a link to the 360 Kurdistan.
His parents explored the site for more than an hour and, in the end, were not only excited for him to go, but actually wanted to visit. The community voices in the 360 Kurdistan had actually shifted his parent's perception of Iraq.
We love the idea that our work can actually influence the way people perceive these regions, and one of our goals is to further this effect by bringing what we do online into a real-world exhibition space.
Our first multimedia exhibit is currently at the Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle. The exhibit features 32 images and 16 video displays.
At the opening reception, one of our students addressed the crowd of nearly 200 people via videoconference from Iraq, and I was excited to hear numerous people citing that as one of the evening's highlights.
For future exhibits, we hope to host virtual office hours in which patrons will be able to communicate live with our students in real time through the duration of the installation. For now, we'll settle for a quick Skype conference.
If you're in D.C., the exhibit will run at the Iraqi Cultural Center (1630 Connecticut Ave NW # 200) until Sept. 1. Hope you can stop by to check it out!