BitDepth 741 - July 27

Speaking to young journalists about technology reporting, I explore what this column has been about over the last fifteen years.
What is BitDepth?

BitDepth was an elaborate pun on the resolution of old colour monitors, which grew clearer as you add more bits. This photo deepens the arcana of that wordplay. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Preparing to give a talk on technology reporting to a group of young journalists, it became clear that I’d have to explain what I’d been up to in this space over the last fifteen years. Damn.
While reporting is only one of the things I’ve used the rather wide ranging columnists’ licence to quill to do, reporting has always been at its core.

So what is BitDepth about? It is, ultimately, about tools, the newest tools of the present and if I get it right, the ones that will play a role in our future.
All technology stories are ultimately stories about tools, about objects and socially lubricating services that provide a lever of change in the world we live in.
We’ve come some distance from ploughs and combustion engines, but each of those tools was a powerful leveraging technology in its time, allowing the power of a human being to multiply its impact beyond our body’s muscle limitations.

The role of a technology reporter is a relatively recent invention in the world of journalism. The rate of invention and acceptance of tools was measured in decades and longer in the centuries prior to 1900. It’s only been since the 20th century that the speed of technology development and applied science has accelerated to the point that it could be considered something worth chronicling in anything other than almanacs and annuals.
The increasing pace of technology invention, adaptation and adoption has created remarkable opportunities for learning and, more compellingly, the extension of the human mind as a leveraging force.

The students, technocrats and philosophers of today benefit not only from access to more information than any human beings at any time in the human race’s time on the planet, they also have the advantage of computing fulcrums that leverage the relatively puny capacity of our brains to retain information.
For the first time in history, the playing fields of knowledge are open to anyone who can use a computer in a democracy of information that’s fundamentally changing everything about human potential.

Reporting on these changes is roughly equivalent to being able to take notes while Oppenheimer sealed the casing of the first atomic bomb or holding Einstein’s chalk duster while he worked through his theory of relativity.
But reporting on today's technology can be demanding particularly if a reporter wishes to establish some authority in the field. This column, for instance, never discusses gaming, one of the most popular technology subjects. I'm bad at games and don't understand the nuances of the sector well, so I choose to spare readers palpable evidence of my ignorance and ineptitude.

Sources of information are plentiful, but they can prove misleading if we choose to falter in the journalist's responsibility to multiple source information and falter in the effort to get the story right.
I’m not sure that any of the young journalists I spoke to had one whit of interest stoked by my talk on the subject, but you can catch the presentation, which I’ve posted as a vidcast
Let me know what you think.

Postscript: BitDepth got its genesis in the pioneering computing technologies that former Guardian CEO Alwin Chow pressed for in 1989. It was there, between late 1989 and 1992 that I got my deep immersion into technology as applied to the business of photography, journalism and publishing. Nothing was ever the same again for me afterward.
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