In a TED talk in 2010, Tim Berners Lee—inventor of the World Wide Web—proclaimed 2010 as “the year that open data went worldwide.” In his presentation, he stressed the importance of linked data. Even prior to this TED talk, progress had already been made to link similar data together. The idea is to create an interconnected or web-like platform that will give shape to the random pockets of data floating around cyberspace. With information that is related, yet disparate and sitting alone, uncatalogued on separate servers, linking it together establishes relationships among data and creates accessibility to information to a larger audience.
Knowledge is not an inherent characteristic of being a human and it does not come with the territory. It must be acquired by some and disseminated out for the consumption of others. And in the age of Internet, too much information has made stumbling upon sound information in a jungle of chaos nearly impossible. Anyone with half a brain and a computer can digitally publish, anything, to the world. This makes linking together data imperative in the age of the Internet. But who will take up the responsibility?
From the beginning of time, the few controlled access to information dissemination and, in a sense, controlled knowledge. This has remained true even up to the 20th century where news media controlled both print and television. Yet today, with the advent of the Internet, the monopoly over information dissemination technologies no longer resides in the hands of well-established institutions. Bloggers the world over are beating the News Industrial Complex at their own game: presenting current events…first. This is causing quite a stir and has created a new dilemma for those at the helm of the news industries. No longer do they have a monopoly on information formation and dissemination but they also no longer have the capacity to cover news stories faster than those within geographic proximity of the live event who possess either a smartphone or laptop.
It has become quite apparent that the News Industrial Complex has only one viable and efficient option on the table if they hope to maintain their central role in news and that is to welcome in their competition to the table. Jeff Jarvis, in his blog Buzz Machine, exclaims to these institutions that the time has come to “Cover what you do best. Link to the rest.” Now at first this may seem like a loss of authority for the news industry giants or admittance to the end of their once imperial conglomerations. But in fact, it is no such thing. In fact, deferring to those bloggers and reporters who have already covered the story and produced quality information builds trust among one’s readership. By acting as street “traffic officers,” (guiding the internet highway verses a city street, of course) and directing traffic safely this way and that, large institutions can build relationships of reciprocity by direct web traffic in the right direction. As institutions build trust, they build loyalty. Nowhere is this sentiment clearer than in Miracle on 34th Street. In this short movie clip, you will see the power inherent in being truthful and resourceful to your audience and customer base. And when such doings becomes company policy, the effects can be widespread.
So let us, bloggers and institutions alike, do as Tim Burners Lee and Jay Rose, a director of NYU’s Journalism program, say and link data; realizing that by bringing together information and cooperating in the act of bringing people to the information they seek, we are doing everyone, including ourselves, a great service.