Bottom-up & Open: Theory and Practice of Innovative Citizen-Journalism

Now that journalism has entered a digital era, programmers become more important. They pave the way of this development. But not alone. They work in cooperation with journalists. Together they develop new participatory formats that benefit from collaborative and open principles. Together they find audience-friendly solutions for the processing of increasingly large masses of data. Yet, as groundbreaking as this liaison may be, over the last 20 years it has not lost its avantgarde appeal. bottom-up & open (#buo)* explores its potential as a standard for collaboration involving the citizens of the world.


Often programmers and journalists hinder each other, because both know too little about each other’s work. Too, they see each other only as agents for their own vision, but not as equal partners. On top of that the psychology of competition informs their relation – even more so in the age of media crisis: Does the programmer displace the journalist, because fully automated publishing formats merge?

The potential for cooperation between journalists and programmers can only be exploited if they develop a shared vision at eye level. Both must learn to see through the eyes of the other and adapt the other’s mindset. For example: Journalists could learn to work more process oriented as do programmers in the learning by doing as well as the trial and error mode. Programmers in turn could learn from journalists to do their work with a more profound sense of social and ethical responsibility.

The emerging collaboration model is the starting point for collaboration in all sectors of society. It can serve as the blueprint for an open hierarchy of various specializations (activists, business angels etc.) and as a blueprint for a bottom-up process of education and professionalization: student, intern, professional. In short: a vision for the active cultivation of an innovative ecosystem in which all citizens play an active role.

In bottom-up & open (#buo)* gathers actors from the broad field of citizen journalism. Beginning with a two-day hackathon-style workshop on May 4th and 5th (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and concluding in cooperation with re:campaign with a public talk at re:publica on May 6th at 6:30 p.m. The goal is to initiate exchange and learning processes and to define common goals as well as projects with regard to two aspects:

1) The ground-breaking innovations that result from the collaboration between journalists and programmers are brought forth only partially under the umbrella of large media companies and global IT corporations. Often the global players in the media industry only deploy what has already been developed and tested in citizen driven bottom-up cultures. Here, where the practice of sharing (Open Source, Creative Commons, etc.), the peer-production (Wikipedia, etc.) and the information freedom are crucial, they can find common values for their passions as well as common grounds to promote their ideas.

2) As universal as the collaboration between programmers and journalists may be as a future trend – the trend in each region takes shape in different ways. Politics, society and culture are set up differently from area to area and pose a variety of challenges to the collaboration between journalists and programmers. Hence it is all about learning from regional best practice examples in order to contextualize the work of journalists and programmers in terms of political, social and cultural issues.

Now let us have a look at the programmers and journalists joining this project from Romania, Portugal, Serbia, Austria, Germany and Japan as well as the Berliner Gazette team in charge of the project (bottom row):

When you roll over the photo with your mouse, the name of the respective person pops up. When you click on the photo, you see a larger version of the image and find the name linked up to the profile of the respective person.

Mission of the initiator

How can the internet be used to foster a thinking „outside of the box“? How can it bring people together across boundaries? Those questions lead Berliner Gazette to analyze groundbreaking features of the Internet and to test them in practice. Against this backdrop the nonprofit and nonpartisan association of journalists, researchers, artists and programmers weaves its social networks – offline and online, locally and globally.

In 1999 we began to publish in German under a Creative Commons-License – with more than 800 contributors from all over the world. For thrirteen years now we also organize conferences, seminars, workshops, edit books, etc. „Digital Backyards“ is a kick off event for a series of meetings. Ideas will be honed and tested for application.

bottom-up & open (#buo)* is curated and organized by It is funded by the EACEA Culture Programme and supported by re:campaign, sourcefabric and TAB Ticketbroker. This workshop is part of the initiative “Aesthetic Education Expanded”: a project curated by,, Kontrapunkt, Multimedia Institute and Mute – funded with support by the European Commission. In this context already organized the conference Digital Backyards.

* The central hashtag of bottom-up & open is #buo. As this event is linked to re:publica and its sub-conference re:campaign we are using for context specific posts the following ones in addition: #rp13 / @republica and #rc13 / @recampaign

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