Monday, May 7, 2012

How A Story Gets Told In 140 Characters

Launched in 2006 Twitter has changed how news travelled and told. If Gutenberg's printing press liberated feudal Europe and enabled the emergence of humanism which freed the people from the clutches of clergy, the slew of social networking tools in the past 10 years has also brought about a liberation of sorts, one that feeds real time information to the people. If anything, it has negated usefulness of the old media. The Twitter world is always abuzz with happenings. Articles, comments and opinions, you find them all on Twitter. I resisted using Twitter for sometime until recently and after jumping on the bandwagon, have found it to be quite amazing.

News go online. They go viral and the 'next change' comes as fast as the real thing. The following is a compilation of tweets about Khalid Ismath, a young man who was one of the 49 wanted by the police for questioning regarding Bersih 3.0. I picked this because the event unfolded and concluded within a day or so and I find this amazing. It's nothing like the traditional news reporting that I'm used to.

A little more background. This young man turned himself in supposedly for some questioning but found himself arrested. And Twitter allowed followers of those people involved to keep us with the development live. I could follow the story from beginning to the end. Now how awesome can that be. The Italic words in green are my comments.

This is one of the earlier tweets about the young man's situation after arrest.
Haziq Abdul Aziz (@HaziqAbdAziz)5/5/12 6:55 PMKhalid bgtau yg dia mungkin direman utk 4-5 hari. Pmbetulan : dia dtgkap krn dsyaki membelasah sorg anggota polis semasa


Before the night is over, we follow that a candlelight vigil was being organized for him. Again this goes viral.... It's a no wonder today's regime can no longer control the amount and type of information that filters through. It's just a gargantuan task!
Solidariti Mahasiswa (@MahasiswaMsia)5/5/12 10:08 PM@khalidismath telah dibawa ke IPD Dang Wangi sebentar td. Skrg Candlelight Vigil akn diadakn di IPDDang Wangi sbg tanda protes!


Then we read that this young man has support from Occupy Dataran, a movement that has been occupying Dataran even before Bersih. The arrest of this young man has apparently become an agenda in their meeting for the night.

#occupydataran (@occupydataran)5/5/12 10:55 PM#SidangRakyat Agenda(3): Kes penangkapan@khalidismath



And we are told that someone was giving the details of the case to the participants that night. Supporters are being won over for the detainee even as he sat in the jail... or details of his whereabout and reason for his arrest are being shared. The tweets ensure that more audience is reached. They are also making sure people know that support is being garnered.
#occupydataran (@occupydataran)5/5/12 10:58 PM#SidangRakyat Agenda(3): Seorang ahli sidang sedang berkongsi tentang latar belakang kes @khalidismath


A motion of solidarity and we find that people were going to sit outside the IPD.
#occupydataran (@occupydataran)5/5/12 11:00 PM#SidangRakyat Agenda(3): #occupydataran patut tunjuk solidariti kpd @khalidismath & turun candlelight vigil di IPD Dang


Then the plot thickens.... tweets highlight the situation as well as what the lawyers perceive as unfair treatment to their client. If he had been guilty, they should have arrested him on the spot.
Latheefa Koya (@LatheefaKoya)6/5/12 9:38 AMhari hari baca utusan! tergamam bila kita tanya knp tak tangkap masa kejadian! RT@afiqmnoor: Saya berbual dgn seorang pegawai polis


By now you get the idea that Latheefa Koya is probably one of the lawyers representing this young man. She opines...
Latheefa Koya (@LatheefaKoya)6/5/12 9:57 AMall i can say if we have a fair judiciary- @khalidismath will be a very rich man! utusan showed frontpage some lookalike saying its


The young man is brought to the court to extend his remand but it was turned down. Almost immediately the tweets go out...
che'GuBard (@chegubard)6/5/12 11:04 AMTerus LAWAN! "@JERIT02: Khalid Ismath;Polis minta 4 hari remand ttp magistrate tolak. Kemungkinan besar akan dibebaskan di IPD Dang


Another (re)tweet confirming the rejection to remand him further
AfiqMNoor (@afiqmnoor)6/5/12 10:56 AMReman terhadap aktivis mahasiswa Khalid Ismath tidak dibenarkan. @LatheefaKoya#BERSIH3.0


Yet one more (re)tweet from another different source
Fadiah Nadwa Fikri (@FadiahNadwa)6/5/12 11:04 AMGreat job! “@afiqmnoor: Reman terhadap aktivis mahasiswa Khalid Ismath tidak dibenarkan. @LatheefaKoya #BERSIH3.0”


And then it gets interesting, you get the feeling that someone might have been watching too many police stories on TV. After the remand was rejected, the lawyers followed the van which was bringing the young man back to the police station. This tweet comes complete with a picture of the back of the van as it was being followed...
Nashita (@NashitaMN)6/5/12 11:14 AMMengekori van polis yang membawa Khalid dari lokap Jinjang ke IPD Dang Wangi.yfrog.com/h7u8eexj


Somewhere, a supporter 'yays' the release. I am sure there are many tweets with negative stuff too.
S.Gobi Krishnan (@SGobikrishnan)6/5/12 11:16 AM@FadiahNadwa @LatheefaKoya @afiqmnoor #BERSIH3 hebat. Hakim tolak dr diperalat rejim UMNO BN!


More confirmations with tweeter's opinion inserted. You get added info.
Nashita (@NashitaMN)6/5/12 11:11 AMDari lokap Jinjang selepas reman ditolak, Khalid dibawa balik IPD dang Wangi. Akan dibebaskan di sana. Utusan Malaysia dan


And more while waiting for the release. Ah! And I discovered that his father is quite a firebrand of a character too.
Nashita (@NashitaMN)6/5/12 11:38 AMDi IPD Dang Wangi menunggu Khalid dibebaskan. Teringat setahun lepas ketika kami juga menunggu di sini bila En Ismath ditangkap demo Libya.


Some snippets of other information. We can infer from this tweet that they've been made to wait rather long for something that has determined by the court. Many I think can identify with this feeling of exasperation (??)
Latheefa Koya (@LatheefaKoya)6/5/12 1:11 PMMajistret tlh tolak permohonan reman @khalidismath- dia dibawa semula ke IPD DangWangi-patut sudah bebas- knp lama sangat? k'ga menunggu!


And the development continues. From this tweet, we learn that they waited 2 hours after the court rejected the request for remand. By now, the reader will feel a sense of injustice too.
Nashita (@NashitaMN)6/5/12 1:17 PMAzan Zuhur sudah berkumandang di IPD Dang Wangi. Keluarga masih menunggu Khalid Ismath dibebaskan. Lebih 2 jam selepas dibebaskan Majistret.


It gets more interesting... a spontaneous comment. I guess this might be the kind of tweet that will enrage people in quiet ways cos there'll be people who can identify with such situations. It does not paint the police in a good light at all.

Nashita (@NashitaMN)6/5/12 1:49 PMBila ditanya di kaunter mana Khalid, polis jwb "dia tak ada di lokap. IPD Dang Wangi besar bnyk pejabat, kami tak tau dia di mana." What??!!


And finally this... ah! Disappointment in missing the release.
Nashita (@NashitaMN)6/5/12 3:25 PMKami terlepas aksi bagaimana Khalid Ismath diselamatkan bila Arul tiba. Kami keluar untuk makan sekejap.


The drama ends. The young man is out. And we get the impression that this tweeter is your regular Malaysian who enjoys shopping on her weekend, just like many of us. How not to identify with them.. LOL!

Nashita (@NashitaMN)6/5/12 3:36 PMSelesai drama pembebasan Khalid Ismath. Sekarang masa melayan @asiahlatif yg bersabar sejak semalam. Jalan-jalan di SOGO.


Throughout the whole incident which happened over a period of slightly more than one day, tweets from people involved enabled me to keep tab. There were a few sources. In Bersih 3.0's case, the input was even more extensive. Acts of violence were recorded, speeches reported live.

It is really marvellous how tweets have changed the face of news reporting, though it is also quite easy to conclude that the sway of the news' direction can be influenced too, like mainstream media. At the same time too, it is hard not to see why mainstream media is losing their credibility. The 'truth' no longer comes from only their lenses. There are just simply too many people out there, reporting as citizen journalists... and many false information too. Journalism is no longer limited to the chosen few.

We become our own censors. While people can be led to believe certain things but given time, most truth usually finds their way out into the open. This is simply because it is difficult to exert control over so many sources, many who act independently. And I think this augurs well where accountability is concerned. The many independent sources will also make it easier for information to be known.

If the 1990-91 Gulf War brought the war into our living room via the television, news follow us everywhere in a more pervasive and also intimate way two decades on. We were only privy to snippets of the earlier wars of the 20th century. And prior to that, it was only based on information passed down. Today, a constant barrage of information keeps coming in.

The invention of digital social networking is probably heralding in another era of revolution, one where there is dynamism and fluidity and demands the constant reorganization of the mind. If it had been the traditional print, we'd have to wait till the next day, if at all it gets printed. By then the news might have gone through a few rounds of laundry before it is deemed suitable for public consumption. Call it micro-blogging, Internet SMS or Twitter or any other name. Stories can get told in 140 characters, in spurts of 140 characters that is.

Interesting, isn't it?

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