Technology, participation and values: how to design innovative news things

Skye Doherty
4 min readJul 8, 2022
Technology is material that can be designed for participation and journalistic values.

Designing stories for public interest values, participation and to exploit technological potential is one way to drive journalism innovation.

Despite widespread recognition that innovation is needed for public interest storytelling to prevail, there is less consensus about what innovation looks like beyond adopting new digital tools, or how to exploit those tools while maintaining a commitment to core journalistic principles.

However, as the internet of things, mixed reality platforms and responsive environments become more mainstream, it is vital that journalists not only work out how to make use of these novel technologies but do so independently of major platforms.

Independence is key to ensuring public interest values are at the heart of journalism innovation.

In a new paper, Jane Johnston, Ben Matthews and I aruge that rather that constantly adapting to new tools and platforms, journalists need to engage in a designerly process of configuring, exploring and imagining how to exploit technological change in a way that serves the public interest.

We propose a process model of material exploration that involves working with technology, participation and values to design new types of stories and news experiences. The model sees these three components as materials that can be configured, designed and made into new things.

The process of configuring, or making things by combining technology, participation and values can not only lead to new news products but also reveal what needs to change to support those new ideas.

Values

By values we mean the principles of research rigour, objectivity, transparency, autonomy, and ethical practice that underpin public interest journalism as well as the values of communities and news audiences. Seeing values as material to work with means that transparency or minority voices could be privileged over story reach or number of clicks. Imagine if Facebook had been designed for verification, transparency or balance.

Participation

Journalism has embraced the idea of participation through commenting, sharing and liking, but these measures of engagement tend to come at the expense of…

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