Thursday, 13 December 2012

Person of the Year

How will history books remember 2012 a century or a millennium from now? I have no idea; I don’t even know if there will be anything like history books by then (or anyone to read them, for that matter). However, if you were to ask me in the here and the now what 2012 is to be remembered by, my vote would go for it being the year journalism as we knew it officially died.
Sure, the journals of yonder still exist. But half if not more are controlled by a single person and those as well as many others act as the voices of their limited interest owners. Paywalls now encompass many of them, and not just the Murdochs. The Age, once at the forefront of Australian journalism, has shed most of its journalists and outsourced its editing. What was once one of the main sources of Australian journalism has turned into a rather pathetic public announcer of PR releases; exceptions, while they do still exist, are few and too far apart.
Thus traditional media, as we knew it, ceased to exist. It still tells us of the cat that got stuck up the tree or that incident on the train last night. It will even tell you what someone conjured to be your horoscope for the day. What it will not tell you, though, are the things that truly matter. The Internet had killed the institution of the big company supplying the masses with news.
Once the defeat of the old ways is accepted, the question then turns to where should one be looking for in order to keep one informed. Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) already told us where to look in her zombie sci-fi Newsflesh trilogy, but it took me a while to see it for myself. Newspapers may still exist, and some may still do a decent job (e.g., The Guardian); however, the bearing of the torch has now passed to a new breed, the individual blogger. Particularly the blogger that covers the news, aggregates the news, and from time to time even becomes the news through their work. I like to refer to them as the blogger activist.
In this field of blogger activists there is one about whom I kept on hearing. It started with Wikileaks and progressed through the Occupy days, but through her Twitter account Asher Wolf evolved to become my number one source of news I need to know about but can’t find elsewhere. Thus Wolf had become the natural candidate for this blog’s person of the year.
There is a lot to be said in favor of Wolf. To start with, she does not blink in the face of adversity; she may not be able to visit the USA any time soon (through the fault and the loss of the latter), but she would still gladly take the big guns, be they international or Australian. And unlike, say, yours truly, who will gladly tweet about the injustices of this world from the comfort of his sofa, Wolf does not shy from acting. Through her initiative, crypto parties – where people of all nominations gather to learn how to use the Internet to their favor – have taken place all over the world. Wolf’s efforts on this front and others have been acknowledged by the likes of many, including Cory Doctorow.
It has to be said that all of this international activism is taking place in my backyard, almost literally. Asher Wold resides in Melbourne, which brings me to shamefully confess that despite numerous opportunities I am yet to meet her in person. I hope to unlock that achievement soon (hey, if I could do Richard Dawkins, I can do anyone), but regardless – to me, Asher Wolf is the embodiment of how information can be freed in these times we’re living at. And for that she fully deserves to be this blog’s person of the year.

Image: Asher Wolf

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