Faculty of Social Sciences

How mobile took over the media – and education

The mobile phone has become the journalist's primary tool. New technologies are being integrated in the journalism and new media studies at the University of Bergen.

Workshop with mobile journalist Yusuf Omar at the University of Bergen in Norway in January 2017.
MOBILE INNOVATIONS: The so-called selfie-journalist Yusuf Omar inspired journalism students and academics alike when he held a workshop at the University of Bergen in January 2017.
Astrid Gynnild, University of Bergen

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“To be ready for tomorrow's communication challenges, our students must prepare for the unknown. This is why we emphasize active learning and let students explore new journalistic tools,” says Professor Astrid Gynnild from the Department of Information Science and Media Studies. She is head of the journalism studies at the University of Bergen (UiB).

Media organisations discover Snapchat

At the conference "Mobile-spotting in the media", in Bergen in January 2017, 16 journalism students explored the use of Snapchat as a news platform. They collaborated with the world-renowned mobile journalist Yusuf Omar, who put together snaps from the students to create a mini documentary that was screened at the conference close.

“Snapchat is the fastest growing social media platform among people below the age of 30,” said Astrid Gynnild.

She pointed out that Norwegian daily VG recently started experimenting with Snapchat as part of its news coverage on Snapchat, and that this would trigger others to follow.

“Having a Snapchat guru such as Yusuf visiting, we were able to add three days of Snapchat training as part of our teaching. Exciting days with a steep learning curve for our students.”

Students receiving practical training

According to Gynnild, the journalism students at UiB are familiar with being thrown in at the deep end when it comes to practical training.

“It means a lot when you master new practical tools from day one. This provides an opening to discuss new approaches to what is quality content and the ethical dilemmas that journalists are confronted with on a daily basis. Journalism is a high risk sport and requires advanced integration of practical skills and analytical thinking,” she says.

At the conference Gynnild introduced the expression mobile-spotting.

“Mobile-spotting refers to a world where images via smartphone increasingly control our actions. To "spot" is about noticing something. To discover. Journalists are constantly looking for quality content, unusual material, special or of importance to society. It's about focus and giving particular attention to one thing above something else,” says Gynnild.

“But what are we spotting with our mobiles? How do we use photos and videos? And what is the goal of what we publish? Incidentally, mobile-spotting is not just something a challenge for professional journalists, but a challenge for anyone who owns a smartphone. We use new technology that hardly sets limits to what we can focus on and explore. We snap, click and tweet, and there is an audience for everything. Mobile journalism undoubtedly increases the power of activists and grassroots movements. It allows more voices to be heard.”

The challenges of mobile journalism

She does, however, point to darker sides of our increasing use of mobile media.

“Our dependence on mobile is a challenge for traditional edited media in relation to sources and the rise of selfie-journalism. When anyone can use their smartphone to record anything and anywhere, this also makes us vulnerable to surveillance, which is hard to regulate properly,” says Gynnild.

She points to an ironic paradox in our indiscriminate use of smartphones and social media.

“This is no longer about a minority monitoring a majority. A lot of this is about an increasing number of people who voluntarily let themselves be monitored through social media. This is why it’s important to explore and understand the use of new technologies as part of our journalism studies programme,” she believes.

In August 2017, the media and knowledge cluster Media City Bergen opens. UiB will offer six profession-oriented Bachelor and Master programmes (in journalism, media and interaction design, and film and television). The studies will be located alongside a number of companies within the media and media technology industry. This gathering of media professionals will provide students with an even better offer in journalism and new media as well as opportunities to work closer with industry.