Ministry of CyberSpace
It could be an after effect of the ten hours of “Homeland” episodes I binge-watched recently, but this month I’ve been working on a theory about crowd sourcing the creation of content that I’m about to test out. The first question I’ve been asking myself is whether information gathering on the Internet works best under the traditional, journalism model, or whether it should be handled as if we are all a part of a vast community of intelligent agents, like with the CIA. I’ve studied Journalism and lived in that world, so it has always seemed to look at the Internet like a reporter, an editor, or a publisher. This perspective has actually served me quite well in the past.
But, as the technology has gotten better, and communication becomes easier, it seems like we are destined to spend more of our time sifting through all of the information that comes before us. On Facebook, I spend most of my time pushing an interesting post from my newsfeed to someone else’s--via the Public Share button. What value am I really getting if I am reduced to a conduit from one end of Facebook to another? What value am I offering my friends?
The second question I’ve been asking myself is, So what? We share a lot of information via social media networks, but because it can be so easily broken down into blurbs and snippets, I don’t know that we spend enough time reflecting on what’s being shared--either on our friends’ profile or our own.
This brings me back to the idea of a citizen-run intelligence community. Based on my very rudimentary understanding of how the CIA and FBI works (I watched all of the seasons of “The X-Files,” after all) it occurs to me that social networks like Facebook and Google+ have turned our friends and family into informants. The Internet is becoming both The Source of news and entertainment and the water cooler we once stood around as we talked to each other about the latest thing we heard on TV or read in the news.
My plan is to take this idea of our friends being informants, borrow a little bit from the CIA, and then form my own intelligence-gathering organization which I call the Ministry of Cyberspace. The mission of the MOC is to survey the Internet for reliable, verifiable information and help it bubble up above the common noise of the Internet. The MOC does this through its information gathering branch, the Group of Researchers, Investigators, and Digital writers, or G.R.I.D. (You don’t even want to know how long it took me to think that up). Because you can’t have a secret society of web researchers if you don’t have a public organization to govern it.
Now, a lot of this is just made up, but that’s part of the fun of what I’m planning. I tried asking people to help write materials for the web, but without a unifying purpose it was really hard to keep their attention. With the MOC and G.R.I.D., people can feel like they are a part of something bigger. If I can get enough participants, then maybe the fictitious can gradually become a real one.
All of this reminds me of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which centered on a character who researched information for a fictional publication. Without the premise of there being that publication, you not only wouldn’t have a title but you also wouldn’t have a story.
So, I could see this going in many different directions. Eventually, I’d like to publish a collection of articles and stories written by MOC/GRID as an ebook. I think there is also potential for a fiction book about characters who are agents of G.R.I.D. There is also the possibility for some role playing, as people who join up can be called agents and be sent on “assignments.”