Last month 75 students from all over Colombia, ages 18-24, and various disciplinary backgrounds, met at the at the Centro Ático of Universidad Javeriana in Bogota to participate in the Hackaton “Los jóvenes desafían los medios” (Youth defies the media). Working in 7 different teams, these youths collaborated during 36 hours in the design of mobile apps that could support a critical reading of current events and foster a more customized flow of news according to young people interests. The mobile apps designed by the different teams showed several creative solutions to the crisis of representation and trust that is not only pervasive in the Colombian news media ecosystem, but also in the media ecosystems of other democracies around the world.
The hackaton was part of UNESCO’s Media and Information literacy week (October 24-31) and had the support of the Colombian MinTIC (Ministry of Information Communication Technologies) and the Universidad Javeriana faculties of Arts and Communication and Language. I participated in the discussions that helped to craft the hackaton challenge, and had the opportunity to talk with members of Centro Atico about the different kind of media practices that youth is developing in our current networked environment. In this context, the development of media and information literacies is essential for supporting active citizenship and fostering democracy.
In the middle of the social upheaval that is going in Colombia and Latin America, leaded in part by university students, it is clear that there is a disconnection of youth with the mainstream media and the official sources of news. Disinformation, lack of diversity, centralism, biases, propaganda, and media concentration are some of the problems that characterize the Colombian ecosystem and that weaken democracy. However, the networked media environment and the technologies available to most of the citizens, and particularly youth, also provides opportunities for producing, circulating, and consuming information and news in a more critically, conscious, and civic-oriented manner. Exploring those opportunities was precisely the challenge that each team had to confront in the hackaton.
How do the media communicate with youth? Do the mainstream media connect with youth interests, cultures and languages? Do the media fosters critical thinking, intercultural dialogue, pluralism, community building and inclusion? Addressing these questions, journalists members of Presunto Podcast opened the hackaton, revealing the wicked problem that the seven teams had to tackle.
The hackaton challenge was generative. Proof of that are the features of the mobile apps each team designed. Despite their differences in scale, aesthetics, and technology implementation, all new apps supported community building, multilingualism, transmedia narratives and collaboration among users. Thanks to having participants from different indigenous communities (Wayuu, Muisca, Awá, Arhuaco, Kankuamo, Zenú, Pastos, Inga, Kamëntsa, Sáliba) each of the seven team had the opportunity to address the plurality of languages and cultures, and critically engage in the need for democratizing the production and circulation of news.
Moreover, all the seven apps that were pitched at the end of the hackaton tried to cope with the diversity of regions of the Colombian territory and with the issue of centralism, promoting in different ways the production and circulation of hyper-local news. For instance, the team that designed the Chasqui app leveraged the technological affordances of mobile devices to support the geolocalization of news production and consumption. Another app, named Gakumano Tejido, took advantage of the geo-web to create an interface based on the map of Colombia, and built features that allowed the users to visibilize the location of the different news. Meanwhile, the app developed by team Lapü Anass, which won the second place in the hackaton, proposed the implementation of an AI system for supporting news search, recommendations, and moderation of the content created by the users.
However, it was the app ResuMEME the one that won the first place in the hackaton contest. Designed by the team SumaCipacuaKaugasul, this app based its experience on the use of memes, allowing users to share memes that are linked to news about current events. Moreover, ResuMEME supported community and network building by allowing users to evaluate the quality of the news and to engage in a fact checking process in a collaborative manner.