Creating Sarai in e-journalism

First published: July 07, 2006

Just finished reading an interesting piece on cyberactivism by Henning Ziegler. He puts forward many valid ideas, but one stood out in particular for e-journalism. The notion of Sarai – an enclosed space in a city or beside a highway, where travelers and caravans can find shelter, sustenance and friendship might be a useful metaphor for the facilitative aspects of e-journalism. In the pursuit of the formation of a useful public sphere for citizen to find engagement, the idea of a virtual space where one is somewhat protected and allowed to express themselves is crucial. With the current Internet culture being one of aggression (flaming) or intimidation (wit-testing) among other qualities, e-journalism wants to create a space for engagement to take place where, as Habermas says, rational-critical discourse can take place. The first step would be the elimination of nicknames and user identification that is verified, not simply assumed to be a “true” identity. This is a critical step forward as e-journalism seeks to allow individuals to be themselves and not someone else – a most crucial part of any serious discourse.

He also talks about The Sarai Project, which understands public space differently. “A domain comes into being whenever people gather and begin to communicate, using whatever means that they have at hand, beyond the range of the telescope or the merchant, and outside the viewing platform of the microscope of the censor”.

The sarai might serve as an ideal setting for storytelling, as a representation of shared beliefs that are characteristic of communications as a ritual.

The sarai is a metaphor for the kind of public space we need to combine knowledge networks on different levels, amateur, street knowledge, technical knowledge and critical academic discourse alike.

While citizen media types will be quick to jump on the concept as a valid one for its aims, it is the concept of storytelling that is most significant. E-journalism seeks to gather people’s stories – either by providing space for these stories to be told by the individuals involved or through a facilitated process where journalists seek to assist through interviewing, providing technical expertise or by choosing the best media to best tell the story.

This is a very useful metaphor.

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